Part 4 out of 12
But Mr. Hart had as yet told nothing. Mr. Hart was playing some game of
his own, in which he would assuredly be foiled. The strong hold which
Augustus had was in the great infirmity of his father and in the
blindness of Mr. Grey, but it would be settled. It ought to have been
well that the thing should be settled already by his father's death.
Augustus did feel strongly that the squire ought to complete his work by
dying. Were the story, as now told by him, true, he ought certainly to
die, so as to make speedy atonement for his wickedness. Were it false,
then he ought to go quickly, so that the lie might be effectual. Every
day that he continued to live would go far to endanger the discovery.
Augustus felt that he must at once have the property in his own hands,
so as to buy the creditors and obtain security.
Mr. Grey, who was not so blind as Augustus thought him, saw a great deal
of this. Augustus suspected him as well as the squire. His mind went
backward and forward on these suspicions. It was more probable that the
squire should have contrived all this with the attorney's assistance
than without it. The two, willing it together, might be very powerful.
But then Mr. Grey would hardly dare to do it. His father knew that he
was dying; but Mr. Grey had no such easy mode of immediate escape if
detected. And his father was endowed with a courage as peculiar as it
was great. He did not think that Mr. Grey was so brave a man as his
father. And then he could trace the payment of no large sum to Mr.
Grey,--such as would have been necessary as a bribe in such a case.
Augustus suspected Mr. Grey, on and off. But Mr. Grey was sure that
Augustus suspected his own father. Now, of one thing Mr. Grey was
certain:--Augustus was, in truth, the rightful heir. The squire had at
first contrived to blind him,--him, Mr. Grey,--partly by his own
acuteness, partly through the carelessness of himself and those in his
office, partly by the subornation of witnesses who seemed to have been
actually prepared for such an event. But there could be no subsequent
blinding. Mr. Grey had a well-earned reputation for professional
acuteness and honesty. He knew there was no need for such suspicions as
those now entertained by the young man; but he knew also that they
existed, and he hated the young man for entertaining them.
When he arrived at Tretton Park he first of all saw Mr. Septimus Jones,
with whom he was not acquainted. "Mr. Scarborough will be here directly.
He is out somewhere about the stables," said Mr. Jones, in that tone of
voice with which a guest at the house,--a guest for pleasure,--may address
sometimes a guest who is a guest on business. In such a case the guest
on pleasure cannot be a gentleman, and must suppose that the guest on
business is not one either.
Mr. Grey, thinking that the Mr. Scarborough spoken of could not be the
squire, put Mr. Jones right. "It is the elder Mr. Scarborough whom I
wish to see. There is quite time enough. No doubt Miss Scarborough will
be down presently."
"You are Mr. Grey, I believe?"
"That is my name."
"My friend, Augustus Scarborough, is particularly anxious to see you
before you go to his father. The old man is in very failing health, you
"I am well acquainted with the state of Mr. Scarborough's health," said
Mr. Grey, "and will leave it to himself to say when I shall see him.
Perhaps to-morrow will be best." Then he rung the bell; but the servant
entered the room at the same moment and summoned him up to the squire's
chamber. Mr. Scarborough also wished to see Mr. Grey before his son, and
had been on the alert to watch for his coming.
On the landing he met Miss Scarborough. "He does seem to keep up his
strength," said the lady. "Mr. Merton is living in the house now, and
watches him very closely." Mr. Merton was a resident young doctor, whom
Sir William Brodrick had sent down to see that all medical appliances
were at hand as the sick man might require them. Then Mr. Grey was shown
in, and found the squire recumbent on a sofa, with a store of books
within his reach, and reading apparatuses of all descriptions, and every
appliance which the ingenuity of the skilful can prepare for the relief
of the sick and wealthy.
"This is very kind of you, Mr. Grey," said the squire, speaking in a
cheery voice. "I wanted you to come very much, but I hardly thought that
you would take the trouble. Augustus is here, you know."
"So I have heard from that gentleman down-stairs."
"Mr. Jones? I have never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Jones. What sort
of a gentleman is Mr. Jones to look at?"
"Very much like other gentlemen."
"I dare say. He has done me the honor to stay a good deal at my house
lately. Augustus never comes without him. He is 'Fidus Achates,' I take
it, to Augustus. Augustus has never asked whether he can be received. Of
course it does not matter. When a man is the eldest son, and, so to say,
the only one, he is apt to take liberties with his father's house. I am
so sorry that in my position I cannot do the honors and receive him
properly. He is a very estimable and modest young man, I believe?" As
Mr. Grey had not come down to Tretton either to be a spy on Mr. Jones or
to answer questions concerning him, he held his tongue. "Well, Mr. Grey,
what do you think about it;--eh?" This was a comprehensive question, but
Mr. Grey well understood its purport. What did he, Mr. Grey, think of
the condition to which the affairs of Tretton had been brought, and
those of Mr. Scarborough himself and of his two sons? What did he think
of Mountjoy, who had disappeared and was still absent? What did he think
of Augustus, who was not showing his gratitude in the best way for all
that had been done for him? And what did he think of the squire himself,
who from his death-bed had so well contrived to have his own way in
everything,--to do all manner of illegal things without paying any of the
penalties to which illegality is generally subject? And having asked the
question he paused for an answer.
Mr. Grey had had no personal interview with the squire since the time at
which it had been declared that Mountjoy was not the heir. Then some
very severe words had been spoken. Mr. Grey had first sworn that he did
not believe a word of what was said to him, and had refused to deal with
the matter at all. If carried out Mr. Scarborough must take it to some
other lawyer's office. There had, since that, been a correspondence as
to much of which Mr. Scarborough had been forced to employ an
amanuensis. Gradually Mr. Grey had assented, in the first instance on
behalf of Mountjoy, and then on behalf of Augustus. But he had done so
in the expectation that he should never again see the squire in this
world. He, too, had been assured that the man would die, and had felt
that it would be better that the management of things should then be in
honest hands, such as his own, and in the hands of those who understood
them, than be confided to those who did not not understand them, and who
might probably not be honest.
But the squire had not died, and here he was again at Tretton as the
squire's guest. "I think," said Mr. Grey. "that the less said about a
good deal of it the better."
"That, of course, is sweeping condemnation, which, however, I expect.
Let that be all as though it had been expressed. You don't understand
the inner man which rules me,--how it has struggled to free itself from
conventionalities. Nor do I quite understand how your inner man has
succumbed to them and encouraged them."
"I have encouraged an obedience to the laws of my country. Men generally
find it safer to do so."
"Exactly, and men like to be safe. Perhaps a condition of danger has
had its attractions for me. It is very stupid, but perhaps it is so. But
let that go. The rope has been round my own neck and not round that of
others. Perhaps I have thought of late that if danger should come I
could run away from it all, by the help of the surgeon. They have become
so skilful now that a man has no chance in that way. But what do you
think of Mountjoy and Augustus?"
"I think that Mountjoy has been very ill-used."
"But I endeavored to do the best I could for him."
"And that Augustus has been worse used."
"But he, at any rate, has been put right quite in time. Had he been
brought up as the eldest son he might have done as Mountjoy did." Then
there came a little gleam of satisfaction across the squire's face as he
felt the sufficiency of his answer. "But they are neither of them
"You cannot please men by going wrong, even in their own behalf."
"I'm not so sure of that. Were you to say that we cannot please men ever
by doing right on their behalf you would perhaps be nearer the mark.
Where do you think that Mountjoy is?" A rumor, had reached Mr. Grey that
Mountjoy had been seen at Monte Carlo, but it had been only a rumor. The
same had, in truth, reached Mr. Scarborough, but he chose to keep his
rumor to himself. Indeed, more than a rumor had reached him.
"I think that he will turn up safely," said the lawyer. "I think that if
it were made worth his while he would turn up at once."
"Is it not better that he should be away?" Mr. Grey shrugged his
shoulders. "What's the good of his coming back into a nest of hornets? I
have always thought that he did very well to disappear. Where is he to
live if he came back? Should he come here?"
"Not with his gambling debts unpaid at the club."
"That might have been settled. Though, indeed, his gambling was as a tub
that has no bottom to it. There has been nothing for it but to throw him
over altogether. And yet how very much the better he has been of the
two! Poor Mountjoy!"
"You see, if I hadn't disinherited him I should have had to go on paying
for him till the whole estate would have been squandered even during my
"You speak as though the law had given you the power of disinheriting
"So it did."
"But not the power of giving him the inheritance."
"I took that upon myself. There I was stronger than the law. Now I
simply and humbly ask the law to come and help me. And the upshot is
that Augustus takes upon himself to lecture me and to feel aggrieved. He
is not angry with me for what I did about Mountjoy, but is quarrelling
with me because I do not die. I have no idea of dying just to please
him. I think it important that I should live just at present."
"But will you let him have the money to pay these creditors?"
"That is what I want to speak about. If I can see the list of the sums
to be paid, and if you can assure yourself that by paying them I shall
get back all the post-obit bonds which Mountjoy has given, and that the
money can be at once raised upon a joint mortgage, to be executed by me
and Augustus, I will do it. But the first thing must be to know the
amount. I will join Augustus in nothing without your consent. He wants
to assume the power himself. In fact, the one thing he desires is that I
shall go. As long as I remain he shall do nothing except by my
co-operation. I will see you and him to-morrow, and now you may go and
eat your dinner. I cannot tell you how much obliged I am to you for
coming." And then Mr. Grey left the room, went to his chamber, and in
process of time made his way into the drawing-room.
MR. GREY'S OPINION OF THE SCARBOROUGH FAMILY.
Had Augustus been really anxious to see Mr. Grey before Mr. Grey went to
his father, he would probably have managed to do so. He did not always
tell Mr. Jones everything. "So the fellow has hurried up to the governor
the moment he came into the house," he said.
"He's with him now."
"Of course he is. Never mind. I'll be even with him in the long-run."
Then he greeted the lawyer with a mock courtesy as soon as he saw him.
"I hope your journey has done you no harm, Mr. Grey."
"Not in the least."
"It's very kind of you, I am sure, to look after our poor concerns with
so much interest. Jones, don't you think it is time they gave us some
dinner? Mr. Grey, I'm sure, must want his dinner."
"All in good time," said the lawyer.
"You shall have your dinner, Mr. Grey. It is the least we can do for
you." Mr. Grey felt that in every sound of his voice there was an
insult, and took special notice of every tone, and booked them all down
in his memory. After dinner he asked some unimportant question with
reference to the meeting that was to take place in the morning, and was
at once rebuked. "I do not know that we need trouble our friend here
with our private concerns," he said.
"Not in the least," said Mr. Grey. "You have already been talking about
them in my presence and in his. It is necessary that I should have a
list of the creditors before I can advise your father."
"I don't see it; but, however, that is for you to judge. Indeed, I do
not know on what points my father wants your advice. A lawyer generally
furnishes such a list." Then Mr. Grey took up a book, and was soon left
alone by the younger men.
In the morning he walked out in the park, so as to have free time for
thought. Not a word farther had been said between him and Augustus
touching their affairs. At breakfast Augustus discussed with his friend
the state of the odds respecting some race and then the characters of
certain ladies. No subjects could have been less interesting to Mr.
Grey, as Augustus was aware. They breakfasted at ten, and twelve had
been named for the meeting. Mr. Grey had an hour or an hour and a half
for his walk, in which he could again turn over in his mind all these
matters of which his thoughts had been full for now many a day.
Of two or three facts he was certain. Augustus was the legitimate heir
of his father. Of that he had seen ample documentary evidence. The word
of no Scarborough should go for anything with him;--but of that fact he
was assured. Whether the squire knew aught of Mountjoy he did not feel
sure, but that Augustus did he was quite certain. Who was paying the
bills for the scapegrace during his travels he could not say, but he
thought it probable that Augustus was finding the money. He, Mountjoy,
was kept away, so as to be out of the creditors' way.
He thought, therefore, that Augustus was doing this, so that he might
the more easily buy up the debts. But why should Augustus go to the
expense of buying up the debts, seeing that the money must ultimately
come out of his own pocket? Because,--so Mr. Grey thought,--Augustus would
not trust his own father. The creditors, if they could get hold of
Mountjoy when his father was dead, and when the bonds would all become
payable, might possibly so unravel the facts as to make it apparent
that, after all, the property was Mountjoy's. This was not Mr. Grey's
idea, but was Mr. Grey's idea of the calculation which Augustus was
making for his own government. According to Mr. Grey's reading of all
the facts of the case, such were the suspicions which Augustus
entertained in the matter. Otherwise, why should he be anxious to take a
step which would redound only to the advantage of the creditors? He was
quite certain that no money would be paid, at any rate, by Augustus,
solely with the view of honestly settling their claims.
But there was another subject which troubled his mind excessively as he
walked across the park. Why should he soil his hands, or, at any rate,
trouble his conscience, with an affair so unclean, so perplexed, and so
troublesome? Why was he there at Tretton at all, to be insulted by a
young blackguard such as he believed Augustus Scarborough to be?
Augustus Scarborough, he knew, suspected him. But he, in return,
suspected Augustus Scarborough. The creditors suspected him. Mountjoy
suspected him. The squire did not suspect him, but he suspected the
squire. He never could again feel himself to be on comfortable terms of
trusting legal friendship with a man who had played such a prank in
reference to his marriage as this man had performed. Why, then, should
he still be concerned in a matter so distasteful to him? Why should he
not wipe his hands of it all and retreat? There was no act of parliament
compelling him to meddle with the dirt.
Such were his thoughts. But yet he knew that he was compelled. He did
feel himself bound to look after interests which he had taken in hand
now for many years. It had been his duty,--or the duty of some one
belonging to him,--to see into the deceit by which an attempt had been
made to rob Augustus Scarborough of his patrimony. It had been his duty,
for a while, to protect Mountjoy, and the creditors who had lent their
money to Mountjoy, from what he had believed to be a flagitious attempt.
Then, as soon as he felt that the flagitious attempt had been made
previously, in Mountjoy's favor, it became his duty to protect Augustus,
in spite of the strong personal dislike which from the first he had
conceived for that young man.
And then he doubtless had been attracted by the singularity of all that
had been done in the affair, and of all that was likely to be done. He
had said to himself that the matter should be made straight, and that he
would make it straight. Therefore, during his walk in the park, he
resolved that he must persevere.
At twelve o'clock he was ready to be taken up to the sick man's room.
When he entered it, under the custody of Miss Scarborough, he found that
Augustus was there. The squire was sitting up, with his feet supported,
and was apparently in a good humor. "Well, Mr. Grey," he said, "have you
settled this matter with Augustus?"
"I have settled nothing."
"He has not spoken to me about it at all," said Augustus.
"I told him I wanted a list of the creditors. He said that it was my
duty to supply it. That was the extent of our conversation."
"Which he thought it expedient to have in the presence of my friend, Mr.
Jones. Mr. Jones is very well in his way, but he is not acquainted with
all my affairs."
"Your son, Mr. Scarborough, has made no tender to me of any
"Nor, sir, has Mr. Grey sought for any information from me." During this
little dialogue Mr. Scarborough turned his face, with a smile, from one
to the other, without a word.
"If Mr. Grey has anything to suggest in the way of advice, let him
suggest it," said Augustus.
"Now, Mr. Grey," said the squire, with the same smile.
"Till I get farther information," said Mr. Grey, "I can only limit
myself to giving the advice which I offered to you yesterday."
"Perhaps you will repeat it, so that he may hear it," said the squire.
"If you get a list of those to whom your son Mountjoy owes money, and an
assurance that the moneys named in that list have been from time to time
lent by them to him,--the actual amount, I mean,--then I think that if you
and your son Augustus shall together choose to pay those amounts, you
will make the best reparation in your power for the injury you have no
doubt done in having contrived that it should be understood that
Mountjoy was legitimate."
"You need not discuss," said the squire, "any injuries that I have done.
I have done a great many, no doubt."
"But," continued the lawyer, "before any such payment is made, close
inquiries should be instituted as to the amounts of money which have
"We should certainly be taken in," said the squire. "I have great
admiration for Mr. Samuel Hart. I do believe that it would be found
impossible to extract the truth from Mr. Samuel Hart. If Mr. Samuel Hart
does not make money yet out of poor Mountjoy I shall be surprised."
"The truth may be ascertained," said Mr. Grey. "You should get some
accountant to examine the checks."
"When I remember how easy it was to deceive some really clever men as to
the evidence of my marriage--" began Mr. Scarborough. So the squire
began, but then stopped himself, with a shrug of his shoulders. Among
the really clever men who had been easily deceived Mr. Grey was, if not
actually first in importance, foremost, at any rate, in name.
"The truth may be ascertained," Mr. Grey repeated, almost with a scowl
of anger upon his brow.
"Well, yes; I suppose it may. It will be difficult, in opposition to Mr.
"You must satisfy yourselves, at any rate. These men will know that they
have no other hope of getting a shilling."
"It is a little hard to make them believe anything," said the squire.
"They fancy, you know, that if they could get a hold of Mountjoy, so as
to have him in their hands when the breath is out of my body and the
bonds are really due, that then it may be made to turn out that he is
really the heir."
"We know that it is not so," said Mr. Grey. At this Augustus smiled
"We know. But it is what we can make Mr. Samuel Hart know. In truth, Mr.
Samuel Hart never allows himself to know anything,--except the amount of
money which he may have at his banker's. And it will be difficult to
convince Mr. Tyrrwhit. Mr. Tyrrwhit is assured that all of us,--you and
I, and Mountjoy and Augustus,--are in a conspiracy to cheat him and the
"I don't wonder at it," said Mr. Grey.
"Perhaps not," continued the squire; "the circumstances, no doubt, are
suspicious. But he will have to find out his mistake. Augustus is very
anxious to pay these poor men their money. It is a noble feeling on the
part of Augustus; you must admit that, Mr. Grey." The irony with which
this was said was evident in the squire's face and voice. Augustus only
quietly laughed. The attorney sat as firm as death. He was not going to
argue with such a statement or to laugh at such a joke. "I suppose it
will come to over a hundred thousand pounds."
"Eighty thousand, I should think," said Augustus. "The bonds amount to a
great deal more than that--twice that."
"It is for him to judge," said the squire, "whether he is bound by his
honor to pay so large a sum to men whom I do not suppose he loves very
"The estate can bear it," said Augustus.
"Yes, the estate can bear it," said the attorney. "They should be paid
what they have expended. That is my idea. Your son thinks that their
silence will be worth the money."
"What makes you say that?" demanded Augustus.
"Just my own opinion."
"I look upon it as an insult."
"Would you be kind enough to explain to us what is your reason for
wishing to do this thing?" asked Mr. Grey.
"No, sir; I decline to give any reason. But those which you ascribe to
me are insulting."
"Will you deny them?"
"I will not assent to anything,--coming from you,--nor will I deny
anything. It is altogether out of your place as an attorney to ascribe
motives to your clients. Can you raise the money, so that it shall be
forthcoming at once? That is the question."
"On your father's authority, backed by your signature, I imagine that I
can do so. But I will not answer as a certainty. The best thing would be
to sell a portion of the property. If you and your father will join, and
Mountjoy also with you, it may be done."
"What has Mountjoy got to do with it?" asked the father.
"You had better have Mountjoy also. There may be some doubt as to the
title. People will think so after the tricks that have been played."
This was said by the lawyer; but the squire only laughed. He always
showed some enjoyment of the fun which arose from the effects of his own
scheming. The legal world, with its entails, had endeavored to dispose
of his property, but he had shown the legal world that it was not an
easy task to dispose of anything in which he was concerned.
"How will you get hold of Mountjoy?" asked Augustus. Then the two older
men only looked at each other. Both of them believed that Augustus knew
more about his brother than any one else. "I think you had better send
to Mr. Annesley and ask him."
"What does Annesley know about him?" asked the squire.
"He was the last person who saw him, at any rate, in London."
"Are you sure of that?" said Mr. Grey.
"I think I may say that I am. I think, at any rate, that I know that
there was a violent quarrel between them in the streets,--a quarrel in
which the two men proceeded to blows,--and that Annesley struck him in
such a way as to leave him for dead upon the pavement. Then the young
man walked away, and Mountjoy has not been heard of, or, at least, has
not been seen since. That a man should have struck such a blow, and
then, on the spur of the moment, thinking of his own safety, should have
left his opponent, I can understand. I should not like to be accused of
such treatment myself, but I can understand it. I cannot understand that
the man should have been missing altogether, and that then he should
have held his tongue."
"How do you know all this?" asked the attorney.
"It is sufficient that I do know it."
"I don't believe a word of it," said the squire.
"Coming from you, of course I must put up with any contradiction," said
Augustus. "I should not bear it from any one else," and he looked at the
"One has a right to ask for your authority," said his father.
"I cannot give it. A lady is concerned whose name I shall not mention.
But it is of less importance, as his own friends are acquainted with the
nature of his conduct. Indeed, it seems odd to see you two gentlemen so
ignorant as to the matter which has been a subject of common
conversation in most circles. His uncle means to cut him out from the
"Can he too deal with entails?" said the squire.
"He is still in middle life, and he can marry. That is what he intended
to do, so much is he disgusted with his nephew. He has already stopped
the young man's allowance, and swears that he shall not have a shilling
of his money if he can help it. The police for some time were in great
doubt whether they would not arrest him. I think I am justified in
saying that he is a thorough reprobate."
"You are not at all justified," said the father.
"I can only express my opinion, and am glad to say that the world agrees
"It is sickening, absolutely sickening," said the squire, turning to the
attorney. "You would not believe, now--"
But he stopped himself. "What would not Mr. Grey believe?" asked the
"There is no one one knows better than you that after the row in the
street,--when Mountjoy was, I believe, the aggressor,--he was again seen
by another person. I hate such deceit and scheming." Here Augustus
smiled. "What are you sniggering there at, you blockhead?"
"Your hatred, sir, at deceit and scheming. The truth is that when a man
plays a game well, he does not like to find that he has any equal.
Heaven forbid that I should say that there is rivalry here. You, sir,
are so pre-eminently the first that no one can touch you." Then he
laughed long,--a low, bitter, inaudible laugh,--during which Mr. Grey sat
"This comes well from you!" said the father.
"Well, sir, you would try your hand upon me. I have passed over all that
you have done on my behalf. But when you come to abuse me I cannot quite
take your words as calmly as though there had been--no, shall I say,
antecedents? Now about this money. Are we to pay it?"
"I don't care one straw about the money. What is it to me? I don't owe
these creditors anything."
"Nor do I."
"Let them rest, then, and do the worst they can. But upon the whole, Mr.
Grey," he added, after a pause, "I think we had better pay them. They
have endeavored to be insolent to me, and I have therefore ignored their
claim. I have told them to do their worst. If my son here will agree
with you in raising the money, and if Mountjoy,--as he, too, is
necessary,--will do so, I too will do what is required of me. If eighty
thousand pounds will settle it all, there ought not to be any
difficulty. You can inquire what the real amount would be. If they
choose to hold to their bonds, nothing will come of it;--that's all."
"Very well, Mr. Scarborough. Then I shall know how to proceed. I
understand that Mr. Scarborough, junior, is an assenting party?" Mr.
Scarborough, junior, signified his assent by nodding his head.
"That will do, then, for I think that I have a little exhausted myself."
Then he turned round upon his couch, as though he intended to slumber.
Mr. Grey left the room, and Augustus followed him, but not a word was
spoken between them. Mr. Grey had an early dinner and went up to London
by an evening train. What became of Augustus he did not inquire, but
simply asked for his dinner and for a conveyance to the train. These
were forthcoming, and he returned that night to Fulham.
"Well?" said Dolly, as soon as she had got him his slippers and made
him his tea.
"I wish with all my heart I had never seen any one of the name of
"That is of course;--but what have you done?"
"The father has been a great knave. He has set the laws of his country
at defiance, and should be punished most severely. And Mountjoy
Scarborough has proved himself to be unfit to have any money in his
hands. A man so reckless is little better than a lunatic. But compared
with Augustus they are both estimable, amiable men. The father has ideas
of philanthropy, and Mountjoy is simply mad. But Augustus is as
dishonest as either of them, and is odious also all round." Then at
length he explained all that he had learned, and all that he had
advised, and at last went to bed combating Dolly's idea that the
Scarboroughs ought now to be thrown over altogether.
MR. SCARBOROUGH'S THOUGHTS OF HIMSELF.
When Mr. Scarborough was left alone he did not go to sleep, as he had
pretended, but lay there for an hour, thinking of his position and
indulging to the full the feelings of anger which he now entertained
toward his second son. He had never, in truth, loved Augustus. Augustus
was very like his father in his capacity for organizing deceit, for
plotting, and so contriving that his own will should be in opposition to
the wills of all those around him. But they were thoroughly unlike in
the object to be attained. Mr. Scarborough was not a selfish man.
Augustus was selfish and nothing else. Mr. Scarborough hated the
law,--because it was the law and endeavored to put a restraint upon him
and others. Augustus liked the law,--unless when in particular points it
interfered with his own actions. Mr. Scarborough thought that he could
do better than the law. Augustus wished to do worse. Mr. Scarborough
never blushed at what he himself attempted, unless he failed, which was
not often the case. But he was constantly driven to blush for his son.
Augustus blushed for nothing and for nobody. When Mr. Scarborough had
declared to the attorney that just praise was due to Augustus for the
nobility of the sacrifice he was making, Augustus had understood his
father accurately and determined to be revenged, not because of the
expression of his father's thoughts, but because he had so expressed
himself before the attorney. Mr. Scarborough also thought that he was
entitled to his revenge.
When he had been left alone for an hour he rung the bell, which was
close at his side, and called for Mr. Merton. "Where is Mr. Grey?"
"I think he has ordered the wagonette to take him to the station."
"And where is Augustus?"
"I do not know."
"And Mr. Jones? I suppose they have not gone to the station. Just feel
my pulse, Merton. I am afraid I am very weak." Mr. Merton felt his pulse
and shook his head. "There isn't a pulse, so to speak."
"Oh yes; but it is irregular. If you will exert yourself so violently--"
"That is all very well; but a man has to exert himself sometimes, let
the penalty be what it may. When do you think that Sir William will have
to come again?" Sir William, when he came, would come with his knife,
and his advent was always to be feared.
"It depends very much on yourself, Mr. Scarborough. I don't think he can
come very often, but you can make the distances long or short. You
should attend to no business."
"That is absolute rubbish."
"Nevertheless, it is my duty to say so. Whatever arrangements may be
required, they should be made by others. Of course, if you do as you
have done this morning, I can suggest some little relief. I can give you
tonics and increase the amount; but I cannot resist the evil which you
yourself do yourself."
"I understand all about it."
"You will kill yourself if you go on."
"I don't mean to go on any farther,--not as I have done to-day; but as to
giving up business, that is rubbish. I have got my property to manage,
and I mean to manage it myself as long as I live. Unfortunately, there
have been accidents which make the management a little rough at times. I
have had one of the rough moments to-day, but they shall not be
repeated. I give you my word for that. But do not talk to me about
giving up my business. Now I'll take your tonics, and then would you
have the kindness to ask my sister to come to me?"
Miss Scarborough, who was always in waiting on her brother, was at once
in the room. "Martha," he said, "where is Augustus?"
"I think he has gone out."
"And where is Mr. Septimus Jones?"
"He is with him, John. The two are always together."
"You would not mind giving my compliments to Mr. Jones, and telling him
that his bedroom is wanted?"
"His bedroom wanted! There are lots of bedrooms, and nobody to occupy
"It's a hint that I want him to go; he'd understand that."
"Would it not be better to tell Augustus?" asked the lady, doubting much
her power to carry out the instructions given to her.
"He would tell Augustus. It is not, you see, any objection I have to Mr.
Jones. I have not the pleasure of his acquaintance. He is a most
agreeable young man, I'm sure; but I do not care to entertain an
agreeable young man without having a word to say on the subject.
Augustus does not think it worth his while even to speak to me about
him. Of course, when I am gone, in a month or so,--perhaps a week or
two,--he can do as he pleases."
"But it is so. While I live I am master at least of this house. I cannot
see Mr. Jones, and I do not wish to have another quarrel with Augustus.
Mr. Merton says that every time I get angry it gives Sir William another
chance with the knife. I thought that perhaps you could do it." Then
Miss Scarborough promised that she would do it, and, having her
brother's health very much at heart, she did do it. Augustus stood
smiling while the message was, in fact, conveyed to him, but he made no
answer. When the lady had done he bobbed his head to signify that he
acknowledged the receipt of it, and the lady retired.
"I have got my walking-papers," he said to Septimus Jones ten minutes
"I don't know what you mean."
"Don't you? Then you must be very thick-headed. My father has sent me
word that you are to be turned out. Of course he means it for me. He
does not wish to give me the power of saying that he sent me away from
the house,--me, whom he has so long endeavored to rob,--me, to whom he
owes so much for taking no steps to punish his fraud. And he knows that
I can take none, because he is on his death-bed."
"But you couldn't, could you, if he were--were anywhere else?"
"Couldn't I? That's all you know about it. Understand, however, that I
shall start to-morrow morning, and unless you like to remain here on a
visit to him, you had better go with me." Mr. Jones signified his
compliance with the hint, and so Miss Scarborough had done her work.
Mr. Scarborough, when thus left alone, spent his time chiefly in
thinking of the condition of his sons. His eldest son, Mountjoy, who had
ever been his favorite, whom as a little boy he had spoiled by every
means in his power, was a ruined man. His debts had all been paid,
except the money due to the money-lenders. But he was not the less a
ruined man. Where he was at this moment his father did not know. All the
world knew the injustice of which he had been guilty on his boy's
behalf, and all the world knew the failure of the endeavor. And now he
had made a great and a successful effort to give back to his legitimate
heir all the property. But in return the second son only desired his
death, and almost told him so to his face. He had been proud of Augustus
as a lad, but he had never loved him as he had loved Mountjoy. Now he
knew that he and Augustus must henceforward be enemies. Never for a
moment did he think of giving up his power over the estate as long as
the estate should still be his. Though it should be but for a month,
though it should be but for a week, he would hold his own. Such was the
nature of the man, and when he swallowed Mr. Merton's tonics he did so
more with the idea of keeping the property out of his son's hands than
of preserving his own life. According to his view, he had done very much
for Augustus, and this was the return which he received!
And in truth he had done much for Augustus. For years past it had been
his object to leave to his second son as much as would come to his
first. He had continued to put money by for him, instead of spending his
income on himself.
Of this Mr. Grey had known much, but had said nothing when he was
speaking those severe words which Mr. Scarborough had always contrived
to receive with laughter. But he had felt their injustice, though he had
himself ridiculed the idea of law. There had been the two sons, both
born from the same mother, and he had willed that they should be both
rich men, living among the foremost of their fellowmen, and the
circumstances of the property would have helped him. The income from
year to year went on increasing.
The water-mills of Tretton and the town of Tretton had grown and been
expanded within his domain, and the management of the sales in Mr.
Grey's hands had been judicious. The revenues were double now what they
had been when Mr. Scarborough first inherited it. It was all, no doubt,
entailed, but for twenty years he had enjoyed the power of accumulating
a sum of money for his second son's sake,--or would have enjoyed it, had
not the accumulation been taken from him to pay Mountjoy's debts. It was
in vain that he attempted to make Mountjoy responsible for the money.
Mountjoy's debts, and irregularities, and gambling went on, till Mr.
Scarborough found himself bound to dethrone the illegitimate son, and to
place the legitimate in his proper position.
In doing the deed he had not suffered much, though the circumstances
which had led to the doing of it had been full of pain. There had been
an actual pleasure to him in thus showing himself to be superior to the
conventionalities of the world. There was Augustus still ready to occupy
the position to which he had in truth been born. And at the moment
Mountjoy had gone--he knew not where. There had been gambling debts
which, coming as they did after many others, he had refused to pay. He
himself was dying at the moment, as he thought. It would be better for
him to take up with Augustus. Mountjoy he must leave to his fate. For
such a son, so reckless, so incurable, so hopeless, it was impossible
that anything farther should be done. He would at least enjoy the power
of leaving those wretched creditors without their money. There would be
some triumph, some consolation, in that. So he had done, and now his
heir turned against him!
It was very bitter to him, as he lay thinking of it all. He was a man
who was from his constitution and heart capable of making great
sacrifices for those he loved. He had a most thorough contempt for the
character of an honest man. He did not believe in honesty, but only in
mock honesty. And yet he would speak of an honest man with admiration,
meaning something altogether different from the honesty of which men
ordinarily spoke. The usual honesty of the world was with him all
pretence, or, if not, assumed for the sake of the character it would
achieve. Mr. Grey he knew to be honest; Mr. Grey's word he knew to be
true; but he fancied that Mr. Grey had adopted this absurd mode of
living with the view of cheating his neighbors by appearing to be better
than others. All virtue and all vice were comprised by him in the words
"good-nature" and "ill-nature." All church-going propensities,--and
these propensities in his estimate extended very widely,--he scorned from
the very bottom of his heart. That one set of words should be deemed
more wicked than another, as in regard to swearing, was to him a sign
either of hypocrisy, of idolatry, or of feminine weakness of intellect.
To women he allowed the privilege of being, in regard to thought, only
something better than dogs. When his sister Martha shuddered at some
exclamation from his mouth, he would say to himself simply that she was
a woman, not an idiot or a hypocrite. Of women, old and young, he had
been very fond, and in his manner to them very tender; but when a woman
rose to a way of thinking akin to his own, she was no longer a woman to
his senses. Against such a one his taste revolted. She sunk to the level
of a man contaminated by petticoats. And law was hardly less absurd to
him than religion. It consisted of a perplexed entanglement of rules got
together so that the few might live in comfort at the expense of the
Robbery, if you could get to the bottom of it, was bad, as was all
violence; but taxation was robbery, rent was robbery, prices fixed
according to the desire of the seller and not in obedience to justice,
were robbery. "Then you are the greatest of robbers," his friends would
say to him. He would admit it, allowing that in such a state of society
he was not prepared to go out and live naked in the streets if he could
help it. But he delighted to get the better of the law, and triumphed in
his own iniquity, as has been seen by his conduct in reference to his
In this way he lived, and was kind to many people, having a generous and
an open hand. But he was a man who could hate with a bitter hatred, and
he hated most those suspected by him of mean or dirty conduct. Mr. Grey,
who constantly told him to his face that he was a rascal, he did not
hate at all. Thinking Mr. Grey to be in some respects idiotic, he
respected him, and almost loved him. He thoroughly believed Mr. Grey,
thinking him to be an ass for telling so much truth unnecessarily. And
he had loved his son Mountjoy in spite of all his iniquities, and had
fostered him till it was impossible to foster him any longer. Then he
had endeavored to love Augustus, and did not in the least love him the
less because his son told him frequently of the wicked things he had
done. He did not object to be told of his wickedness even by his son.
But Augustus suspected him of other things than those of which he
accused him, and attempted to be sharp with him and to get the better
of him at his own game. And his son laughed at him and scorned him, and
regarded him as one who was troublesome only for a time, and who need
not be treated with much attention, because he was there only for a
time. Therefore he hated Augustus. But Augustus was his heir, and he
knew that he must die soon.
But for how long could he live? And what could he yet do before he died?
A braver man than Mr. Scarborough never lived,--that is, one who less
feared to die. Whether that is true courage may be a question, but it
was his, in conjunction with courage of another description. He did not
fear to die, nor did he fear to live. But what he did fear was to fail
before he died. Not to go out with the conviction that he was vanishing
amid the glory of success, was to him to be wretched at his last moment,
and to be wretched at his last moment, or to anticipate that he should
be so, was to him,--even so near his last hours,--the acme of misery. How
much of life was left to him, so that he might recover something of
success? Or was any moment left to him?
He could not sleep, so he rung his bell, and again sent for Mr. Merton.
"I have taken what you told me."
"So best," said Mr. Merton. For he did not always feel assured that this
strange patient would take what had been ordered.
"And I have tried to sleep."
"That will come after a while. You would not naturally sleep just after
"And I have been thinking of what you said about business. There is one
thing I must do, and then I can remain quiet for a fortnight, unless I
should be called upon to disturb my rest by dying."
"We will hope not."
"That may go as it pleases," said the sick man. "I want you now to write
a letter for me to Mr. Grey." Mr. Merton had undertaken to perform the
duties of secretary as well as doctor, and had thought in this way to
obtain some authority over his patient for the patient's own good; but
he had found already that no authority had come to him. He now sat down
at the table close to the bedside, and prepared to write in accordance
with Mr. Scarborough's dictation. "I think that Grey,--the lawyer, you
know,--is a good man."
"The world, as far as I hear it, says that he is honest."
"I don't care a straw what the world says. The world says that I am
dishonest, but I am not." Merton could only shrug his shoulders. "I
don't say that because I want you to change your opinion. I don't care
what you think. But I tell you a fact. I doubt whether Grey is so
absolutely honest as I am, but, as things go, he is a good man."
"But the world, I suppose, says that my son Augustus is honest?"
"Well, yes; I should suppose so."
"If you have looked into him and have seen the contrary, I respect your
"I did not mean anything particular."
"I dare say not, and if so, I mean nothing particular as to your
intelligence. He, at any rate, is a scoundrel. Mountjoy--you know
"Never saw him in my life."
"I don't think he is a scoundrel,--not all round. He has gambled when he
has not had money to pay. That is bad. And he has promised when he
wanted money, and broken his word as soon as he had got it, which is bad
also. And he has thought himself to be a fine fellow because he has been
intimate with lords and dukes, which is very bad. He has never cared
whether he paid his tailor. I do not mean that he has merely got into
debt, which a young man such as he cannot help; but he has not cared
whether his breeches were his or another man's. That too is bad. Though
he has been passionately fond of women, it has only been for himself,
not for the women, which is very bad. There is an immense deal to be
altered before he can go to heaven."
"I hope the change may come before it is too late," said Merton.
"These changes don't come very suddenly, you know. But there is some
chance for Mountjoy. I don't think that there is any for Augustus." Here
he paused, but Merton did not feel disposed to make any remark. "You
don't happen to know a young man of the name of Annesley,--Harry
"I have heard his name from your son."
"From Augustus? Then you didn't hear any good of him, I'm sure. You have
heard all the row about poor Mountjoy's disappearance?"
"I heard that he did disappear."
"After a quarrel with that Annesley?"
"After some quarrel. I did not notice the name at the time."
"Harry Annesley was the name. Now, Augustus says that Harry Annesley
was the last person who saw Mountjoy before his disappearance,--he last
who knew him. He implies thereby that Annesley was the conscious or
unconscious cause of his disappearance."
"Certainly it is so. And as it has been thought by the police, and by
other fools, that Mountjoy was murdered,--that his disappearance was
occasioned by his death, either by murder or suicide, it follows that
Annesley must have had something to do with it. That is the inference,
is it not?"
"I should suppose so," said Merton.
"That is manifestly the inference which Augustus draws. To hear him
speak to me about it you would suppose that he suspected Annesley of
having killed Mountjoy."
"Not that, I hope."
"Something of the sort. He has intended it to be believed that Annesley,
for his own purposes, has caused Mountjoy to be made away with. He has
endeavored to fill the police with that idea. A policeman, generally, is
the biggest fool that London, or England, or the world produces, and has
been selected on that account. Therefore the police have a beautifully
mysterious but altogether ignorant suspicion as to Annesley. That is the
doing of Augustus, for some purpose of his own. Now, let me tell you
that Augustus saw Mountjoy after Annesley had seen him, that he knows
this to be the case, and that it was Augustus, who contrived Mountjoy's
disappearance. Now what do you think of Augustus?" This was a question
which Merton did not find it very easy to answer. But Mr. Scarborough
waited for a reply. "Eh?" he exclaimed.
"I had rather not give an opinion on a point so raised."
"You may. Of course you understand that I intend to assert that Augustus
is the greatest blackguard you ever knew. If you have anything to say in
his favor you can say it."
"Only that you may be mistaken. Living down here, you may not know the
"Just that. But I do know the truth. Augustus is very clever; but there
are others as clever as he is. He can pay, but then so can I. That he
should want to get Mountjoy out of the way is intelligible. Mountjoy has
become disreputable, and had better be out of the way. But why
persistently endeavor to throw the blame upon young Annesley? That
surprises me;--only I do not care much about it. I hear now for the first
time that he has ruined young Annesley, and that does appear to be very
horrible. But why does he want to pay eighty thousand pounds to these
creditors? That I should wish to do so,--out of a property which must in
a very short time become his,--would be intelligible. I may be supposed
to have some affection for Mountjoy, and, after all, am not called upon
to pay the money out of my own pocket. Do you understand it?"
"Not in the least," said Merton, who did not, indeed, very much care
"Nor do I;--only this, that if he could pay these men and deprive them of
all power of obtaining farther payment, let who would have the property,
they at any rate would be quiet. Augustus is now my eldest son. Perhaps
he thinks he might not remain so. If I were out of the way, and these
creditors were paid, he thinks that poor Mountjoy wouldn't have a
chance. He shall pay this eighty thousand pounds. Mountjoy hasn't a
chance as it is; but Augustus shall pay the penalty."
Then he threw himself back on the bed, and Mr. Merton begged him to
spare himself the trouble of the letter for the present. But in a few
minutes he was again on his elbow and took some farther medicine. "I'm a
great ass," he said, "to help Augustus in playing his game. If I were to
go off at once he would be the happiest fellow left alive. But come, let
us begin." Then he dictated the letter as follows:
"DEAR MR. GREY,--I have been thinking much of what passed between us the
other day. Augustus seems to be in a great hurry as to paying the
creditors, and I do not see why he should not be gratified, as the money
may now be forthcoming. I presume that the sales, which will be
completed before Christmas, will nearly enable us to stop their mouths.
I can understand that Mountjoy should be induced to join with me and
Augustus, so that in disposing of so large a sum of money the authority
of all may be given, both of myself and of the heir, and also of him who
a short time since was supposed to be the heir. I think that you may
possibly find Mountjoy's address by applying to Augustus, who is always
clever in such matters.
"But you will have to be certain that you obtain all the bonds. If you
can get Tyrrwhit to help you you will be able to be sure of doing so.
The matter to him is one of vital importance, as his sum is so much the
largest. Of course he will open his mouth very wide; but when he finds
that he can get his principal and nothing more, I think that he will
help you. I am afraid that I must ask you to put yourself in
correspondence with Augustus. That he is an insolent scoundrel I will
admit; but we cannot very well complete this affair without him. I fancy
that he now feels it to be his interest to get it all done before I die,
as the men will be clamorous with their bonds as soon as the breath is
out of my body.--
"Yours sincerely, JOHN SCARBOROUGH."
"That will do," he said, when the letter was finished. But when Mr.
Merton turned to leave the room Mr. Scarborough detained him. "Upon the
whole, I am not dissatisfied with my life," he said.
"I don't know that you have occasion," rejoined Mr. Merton. In this he
absolutely lied, for, according to his thinking, there was very much in
the affairs of Mr. Scarborough's life which ought to have induced
regret. He knew the whole story of the birth of the elder son, of the
subsequent marriage, of Mr. Scarborough's fraudulent deceit which had
lasted so many years, and of his later return to the truth, so as to
save the property, and to give back to the younger son all of which for
so many years he, his father, had attempted to rob him.
All London had talked of the affair, and all London had declared that so
wicked and dishonest an old gentleman had never lived. And now he had
returned to the truth simply with the view of cheating the creditors and
keeping the estate in the family. He was manifestly an old gentleman who
ought to be, above all others, dissatisfied with his own life; but Mr.
Merton, when the assertion was made to him, knew not what other answer
"I really do not think I have, nor do I know one to whom heaven with all
its bliss will be more readily accorded. What have I done for myself?"
"I don't quite know what you have done all your life."
"I was born a rich man, and then I married,--not rich as I am now, but
with ample means for marrying."
"After Mr. Mountjoy's birth," said Merton, who could not pretend to be
ignorant of the circumstance.
"Well, yes. I have my own ideas about marriage and that kind of thing,
which are, perhaps, at variance with yours." Whereupon Merton bowed. "I
had the best wife in the world, who entirely coincided with me in all
that I did. I lived entirely abroad, and made most liberal allowances to
all the agricultural tenants. I rebuilt all the cottages;--go and look at
them. I let any man shoot his own game till Mountjoy came up in the
world and took the shooting into his own hands. When the people at the
pottery began to build I assisted them in every way in the world. I
offered to keep a school at my own expense, solely on the understanding
that what they call Dissenters should be allowed to come there. The
parson spread abroad a rumor that I was an atheist, and consequently the
School was kept for the Dissenters only. The School-board has come and
made that all right, though the parson goes on with his rumor. If he
understood me as well as I understand him, he would know that he is more
of an atheist than I am. I gave my boys the best education, spending on
them more than double what is done by men with twice my means. My tastes
were all simple, and were not specially vicious. I do not know that I
have ever made any one unhappy. Then the estate became richer, but
Mountjoy grew more and more expensive. I began to find that with all my
economies the estate could not keep pace with him, so as to allow me to
put by anything for Augustus. Then I had to bethink myself what I had to
do to save the estate from those rascals."
"You took peculiar steps."
"I am a man who does take peculiar steps. Another would have turned his
face to the wall in my state of health, and have allowed two dirty Jews
such as Tyrrwhit and Samuel Hart to have revelled in the wealth of
Tretton. I am not going to allow them to revel. Tyrrwhit knows me, and
Hart will have to know me. They could not keep their hands to themselves
till the breath was out of my body. Now I am about to see that each
shall have his own shortly, and the estate will still be kept in the
"For Mr. Augustus Scarborough?"
"Yes, alas, yes! But that is not my doing. I do not know that I have
cause to be dissatisfied with myself, but I cannot but own that I am
unhappy. But I wished you to understand that though a man may break the
law, he need not therefore be accounted bad, and though he may have
views of his own as to religious matters, he need not be an atheist. I
have made efforts on behalf of others, in which I have allowed no
outward circumstances to control me. Now I think I do feel sleepy."
HARRY ANNESLEY IS SUMMONED HOME.
"Just now I am triumphant," Harry Annesley had said to his hostess as he
left Mrs. Armitage's house in the Paragon, at Cheltenham. He was
absolutely triumphant, throwing his hat up into the air in the
abandonment of his joy. For he was not a man to have conceived so well
of his own parts as to have flattered himself that the girl must
certainly be his.
There are at present a number of young men about who think that few
girls are worth the winning, but that any girl is to be had, not by
asking,--which would be troublesome,--but simply by looking at her. You
can see the feeling in their faces. They are for the most part small in
stature, well made little men, who are aware that they have something to
be proud of, wearing close-packed, shining little hats, by which they
seem to add more than a cubit to their stature; men endowed with certain
gifts of personal--dignity I may perhaps call it, though the word rises
somewhat too high. They look as though they would be able to say a
clever thing; but their spoken thoughts seldom rise above a small, acrid
sharpness. They respect no one; above all, not their elders. To such a
one his horse comes first, if he have a horse; then a dog; and then a
stick; and after that the mistress of his affections. But their fault is
not altogether of their own making. It is the girls themselves who spoil
them and endure their inanity, because of that assumed look of
superiority which to the eyes of the outside world would be a little
offensive were it not a little foolish. But they do not marry often.
Whether it be that the girls know better at last, or that they
themselves do not see sufficiently clearly their future dinners, who can
say? They are for the most part younger brothers, and perhaps have
discovered the best way of getting out of the world whatever scraps the
world can afford them. Harry Annesley's faults were altogether of
another kind. In regard to this young woman, the Florence whom he had
loved, he had been over-modest. Now his feeling of glory was altogether
redundant. Having been told by Florence that she was devoted to him, he
walked with his head among the heavens. The first instinct with such a
young man as those of whom I have spoken teaches him, the moment he has
committed himself, to begin to consider how he can get out of the
scrape. It is not much of a scrape, for when an older man comes this
way, a man verging toward baldness, with a good professional income, our
little friend is forgotten and he is passed by without a word. But Harry
had now a conviction,--on that one special night,--that he never would be
forgotten and never would forget. He was filled at once with an unwonted
pride. All the world was now at his feet, and all the stars were open to
him. He had begun to have a glimmering of what it was that Augustus
Scarborough intended to do; but the intentions of Augustus Scarborough
were now of no moment to him. He was clothed in a panoply of armor which
would be true against all weapons. At any rate, on that night and during
the next day this feeling remained the same with him.
Then he received a summons from his mother at Buston. His mother pressed
him to come at once down to the parsonage. "Your uncle has been with
your father, and has said terrible things about you. As you know, my
brother is not very strong-minded, and I should not care so much for
what he says were it not that so much is in his hands. I cannot
understand what it is all about, but your father says that he does
nothing but threaten. He talks of putting the entail on one side.
Entails used to be fixed things, I thought; but since what old Mr.
Scarborough did nobody seems to regard them now. But even suppose the
entail does remain, what are you to do about the income? Your father
thinks you had better come down and have a little talk about the
This was the first blow received since the moment of his exaltation.
Harry knew very well that the entail was fixed, and could not be put
aside by Mr. Prosper, though Mr. Scarborough might have succeeded with
his entail; but yet he was aware that his present income was chiefly
dependent on his uncle's good-will. To be reduced to live on his
fellowship would be very dreadful. And that income, such as it was,
depended entirely on his celibacy. And he had, too, as he was well
aware, engendered habits of idleness during the last two years. The mind
of a young man so circumstanced turns always first to the Bar, and then
to literature. At the Bar he did not think that there could be any
opening for him. In the first place, it was late to begin; and then he
was humble enough to believe of himself that he had none of the peculiar
gifts necessary for a judge or for an advocate. Perhaps the knowledge
that six or seven years of preliminary labor would be necessary was
somewhat of a deterrent.
The rewards of literature might be achieved immediately. Such was his
idea. But he had another idea,--perhaps as erroneous,--that this career
would not become a gentleman who intended to be Squire of Buston. He had
seen two or three men, decidedly Bohemian in their modes of life, to
whom he did not wish to assimilate himself. There was Quaverdale, whom
he had known intimately at St. John's, and who was on the Press.
Quaverdale had quarrelled absolutely with his father, who was also a
clergyman, and having been thrown altogether on his own resources, had
come out as a writer for _The Coming Hour_. He made his five or six
hundred a year in a rattling, loose, uncertain sort of fashion, and
was,--so thought Harry Annesley,--the dirtiest man of his acquaintance. He
did not believe in the six hundred a year, or Quaverdale would certainly
have changed his shirt more frequently, and would sometimes have had a
new pair of trousers. He was very amusing, very happy, very thoughtless,
and as a rule altogether impecunious. Annesley had never known him
without the means of getting a good dinner, but those means did not rise
to the purchase of a new hat. Putting Quaverdale before him as an
example, Annesley could not bring himself to choose literature as a
profession. Thinking of all this when he received his mother's letter,
he assured himself that Florence would not like professional literature.
He wrote to say that he would be down at Buston in five days' time. It
does not become a son who is a fellow of a college and the heir to a
property to obey his parents too quickly. But he gave up the
intermediate days to thinking over the condition which bound him to his
uncle, and to discussing his prospects with Quaverdale, who, as usual,
was remaining in town doing the editor's work for _The Coming Hour_. "If
he interfered with me I should tell him to go to bed," said Quaverdale.
The allusion was, of course, made to Mr. Prosper.
"I am not on those sort of terms with him."
"I should make my own terms, and then let him do his worst. What can he
do? If he means to withdraw his beggarly two hundred and fifty pounds,
of course he'll do it."
"I suppose I do owe him something, in the way of respect."
"Not if he threatens you in regard to money. What does it come to? That
you are to cringe at his heels for a beggarly allowance which he has
been pleased to bestow upon you without your asking. 'Very well, my dear
fellow,' I should say to him, 'you can stop it the moment you please.
For certain objects of your own,--that your heir might live in the world
after a certain fashion,--you have bestowed it. It has been mine since I
was a child. If you can reconcile it to your conscience to discontinue
it, do so.' You would find that he would have to think twice about it."
"He will stop it, and what am I to do then? Can I get an opening on any
of these papers?" Quaverdale whistled,--a mode of receiving the overture
which was not pleasing to Annesley. "I don't suppose that anything so
very super-human in the way of intellect is required." Annesley had got
a fellowship, whereas Quaverdale had done nothing at the university.
"Couldn't you make a pair of shoes? Shoemakers do get good wages."
"What do you mean? A fellow never can get you to be serious for two
"I never was more serious in my life."
"That I am to make shoes?"
"No, I don't quite think that. I don't suppose you can make them. You'd
have first to learn the trade and show that you were an adept."
"And I must show that I am an adept before I can write for _The Coming
Hour_." There was a tone of sarcasm in this which was not lost on
"Certainly you must; and that you are a better adept than I who have got
the place, or some other unfortunate who will have to be put out of his
berth. _The Coming Hour_ only requires a certain number. Of course there
are many newspapers in London, and many magazines, and much literary
work going. You may get your share of it, but you have got to begin by
shoving some incompetent fellow out. And in order to be able to begin
you must learn the trade."
"How did you begin?"
"Just in that way. While you were roaming about London like a fine
gentleman I began by earning twenty-four shillings a week."
"Can I earn twenty-four shillings a week?"
"You won't because you have already got your fellowship. You had a knack
at writing Greek iambics, and therefore got a fellowship. I picked up at
the same time the way of stringing English together. I also soon learned
the way to be hungry. I'm not hungry now very often, but I've been
through it. My belief is that you wouldn't get along with my editor."
"That's your idea of being independent."
"Certainly it is. I do his work, and take his pay, and obey his orders.
If you think you can do the same, come and try. There's not room here,
but there is, no doubt, room elsewhere. There's the trade to be
learned, like any other trade; but my belief is that even then you could
not do it. We don't want Greek iambics."
Harry turned away disgusted. Quaverdale was like the rest of the world,
and thought that a peculiar talent and a peculiar tact were needed for
his own business. Harry believed that he was as able to write a leading
article, at any rate, as Quaverdale, and that the Greek iambics would
not stand in his way. But he conceived it to be probable that his habits
of cleanliness might do so, and gave up the idea for the present. He
thought that his friend should have welcomed him with an open hand into
the realms of literature; and, perhaps, it was the case that Quaverdale
attributed too much weight to the knack of turning readable paragraphs
on any subject at any moment's notice.
But what should he do down at Buston? There were three persons there
with whom he would have to contend,--his father, his mother, and his
uncle. With his father he had always been on good terms, but had still
been subject to a certain amount of gentle sarcasm. He had got his
fellowship and his allowance, and so had been lifted above his father's
authority. His father thoroughly despised his brother-in-law, and looked
down upon him as an absolute ass. But he was reticent, only dropping a
word here and there, out of deference, perhaps, to his wife, and from a
feeling lest his son might be deficient in wise courtesy, if he were
encouraged to laugh at his benefactor. He had said a word or two as to a
profession when Harry left Cambridge, but the word or two had come to
nothing. In those days the uncle had altogether ridiculed the idea, and
the mother, fond of her son, the fellow and the heir, had altogether
opposed the notion. The rector himself was an idle, good-looking,
self-indulgent man,--a man who read a little and understood what he read,
and thought a little and understood what he thought, but who took no
trouble about anything. To go through the world comfortably with a
rather large family and a rather small income was the extent of his
ambition. In regard to his eldest son he had begun well. Harry had been
educated free, and had got a fellowship. He had never cost his father a
shilling. And now the eldest of two grown-up daughters was engaged to be
married to the son of a brewer living in the little town of Buntingford.
This also was a piece of good-luck which the rector accepted with a
thankful heart. There was another grown-up girl, also pretty, and then a
third girl not grown up and the two boys who were at present at school
at Royston. Thus burdened, the Rev. Mr. Annesley went through the world
with as jaunty a step as was possible, making but little of his
troubles, but anxious to make as much as he could of his advantages. Of
these, the position of Harry was the brightest, if only Harry would be
careful to guard it. It was quite out of the question that he should
find an income for Harry if the squire stopped the two hundred and fifty
pounds per annum which he at present allowed him.
Then there was Harry's mother, who had already very frequently
discounted the good things which were to fall to Harry's lot. She was a
dear, good, motherly woman, all whose geese were certainly counted to be
swans. And of all swans Harry was the whitest; whereas, in purity of
plumage, Mary, the eldest daughter, who had won the affections of the
young Buntingford brewer, was the next. That Harry's allowance should be
stopped would be almost as great a misfortune as though Mr. Thoroughbung
were to break his neck out hunting with the Puckeridge hounds,--an
amusement which, after the manner of brewers, he was much in the habit
of following. Mrs. Annesley had lived at Buston all her life, having
been born at the Hall. She was an excellent mother of a family, and a
good clergyman's wife, being in both respects more painstaking and
assiduous than her husband. But she did maintain something of respect
for her brother, though in her inmost heart she knew that he was a fool.
But to have been born Squire of Buston was something, and to have
reached the age of fifty unmarried, so as to leave the position of heir
open to her own son, was more. To such a one a great deal was due; but
of that deal Harry was but little disposed to pay any part. He must be
talked to, and very seriously talked to, and if possible saved from the
sin of offending his easily-offended uncle. A terrible idea had been
suggested to her lately by her husband. The entail might be made
altogether inoperative by the marriage of her brother. It was a fearful
notion, but one which if it entered into her brother's head might
possibly be carried out. No one before had ever dreamed of anything so
dangerous to the Annesley interests, and Mrs. Annesley now felt that by
due submission on the part of the heir it might be avoided.
But the squire himself was the foe whom Harry most feared. He quite
understood that he would be required to be submissive, and, even if he
were willing, he did not know how to act the part. There was much now
that he would endure for the sake of Florence. If Mr. Prosper demanded
that after dinner he should hear a sermon, he would sit and hear it out.
It would be a bore, but might be endured on behalf of the girl whom he
loved. But he much feared that the cause of his uncle's displeasure was
deeper than that. A rumor had reached him that his uncle had declared
his conduct to Mountjoy Scarborough to have been abominable. He had
heard no words spoken by his uncle, but threats had reached him through
his mother, and also through his uncle's man of business. He certainly
would go down to Buston, and carry himself toward his uncle with what
outward signs of respect would be possible. But if his uncle accused
him, he could not but tell his uncle that he knew nothing of the matter
of which he was talking. Not for all Buston could he admit that he had
done anything mean or ignoble. Florence, he was quite sure, would not
desire it. Florence would not be Florence were she to desire it. He
thought that he could trace the hands,--or rather the tongues,--through
which the calumny had made its way down to the Hall. He would at once go
to the Hall, and tell his uncle all the facts. He would describe the
gross ill-usage to which he had been subjected. No doubt he had left the
man sprawling upon the pavement, but there had been no sign that the man
had been dangerously hurt; and when two days afterward the man had
vanished, it was clear that he could not have vanished without legs. Had
he taken himself off,--as was probable,--then why need Harry trouble
himself as to his vanishing? If some one else had helped him in
escaping,--as was also probable,--why had not that some one come and told
the circumstances when all the inquiries were being made? Why should he
have been expected to speak of the circumstances of such an encounter,
which could not have been told but to Captain Scarborough's infinite
disgrace? And he could not have told of it without naming Florence
His uncle, when he heard the truth, must acknowledge that he had not
behaved badly. And yet Harry, as he turned it all in his mind was uneasy
as to his own conduct. He could not quite acquit himself in that he had
kept secret all the facts of that midnight encounter in the face of the
inquiries which had been made, in that he had falsely assured Augustus
Scarborough of his ignorance. And yet he knew that on no consideration
would he acknowledge himself to have been wrong.
THE RUMORS AS TO MR. PROSPER.
It was still October when Harry Annesley went down to Buston, and the
Mountjoys had just reached Brussels. Mr. Grey had made his visit to
Tretton and had returned to London. Harry went home on an
understanding,--on the part of his mother, at any rate,--that he should
remain there till Christmas. But he felt himself very averse to so long
a sojourn. If the Hall and park were open to him he might endure it. He
would take down two or three stiff books which he certainly would never
read, and would shoot a few pheasants, and possibly ride one of his
future brother-in-law's horses with the hounds. But he feared that there
was to be a quarrel by which he would be debarred from the Hall and the
park; and he knew, too, that it would not be well for him to shoot and
hunt when his income should have been cut off. It would be necessary
that some great step should be taken at once; but then it would be
necessary, also, that Florence should agree to that step. He had a
modest lodging in London, but before he started he prepared himself for
what must occur by giving notice. "I don't say as yet that I shall give
them up; but I might as well let you know that it's possible." This he
said to Mrs. Brown, who kept the lodgings, and who received this
intimation as a Mrs. Brown is sure to do. But where should he betake
himself when his home at Mrs. Brown's had been lost? He would, he
thought, find it quite impossible to live in absolute idleness at the
rectory. Then in an unhappy frame of mind he went down by the train to
Stevenage, and was there met by the rectory pony-carriage.
He saw it all in his mother's eye the moment she embraced him. There was
some terrible trouble in the wind, and what could it be but his uncle?
"Well, mother, what is it?"
"Oh, Harry, there is such a sad affair up at the Hall!"
"Is my uncle dead?"
"Then why do you look so sad?--
"'Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
Drew Priam's curtain in the dead of night.'"
"Oh Harry do not laugh. Your uncle says such dreadful things!"
"I don't care much what he says. The question is--what does he mean to
"He declares that he will cut you off altogether."
"That is sooner said than done."
"That is all very well, Harry; but he can do it. Oh, Harry! But come and
sit down and talk to me. I told your father to be out, so that I might
have you alone; and the dear girls are gone into Buntingford."
"Ah, like them! Thoroughbung will have enough of them."
"He is our only happiness now."
"Poor Thoroughbung! I pity him if he has to do happiness for the whole
"Joshua is a most excellent young man. Where we should be without him I
do not know." The flourishing young brewer was named Joshua, and had
been known to Harry for some years, though never as yet known as a
"I am sure he is; particularly as he has chosen Molly to be his wife. He
is just the young man who ought to have a wife."
"Of course he ought."
"Because he can keep a family. But now about my uncle. He is to perform
this ceremony of cutting me off. Will he turn out to have had a wife and
family in former ages? I have no doubt old Scarborough could manage it,
but I don't give my uncle credit for so much cleverness."
"But in future ages--" said the unhappy mother, shaking her head and
rubbing her eyes.
"You mean that he is going to have a family?"
"It is all in the hands of Providence," said the parson's wife.
"Yes; that is true. He is not too old yet to be a second Priam, and have
his curtains drawn the other way. That's his little game, is it?"
"There's a sort of rumor about, that it is possible."
"And who is the lady?"
"You may be sure there will be no lack of a lady if he sets his mind
upon it. I was turning it over in my mind, and I thought of Matilda
"Well; she is Joshua's aunt, no doubt. I did just whisper the idea to
Joshua, and he says that she is fool enough for anything. She has
twenty-five thousand pounds of her own, but she lives all by herself."
"I know where she lives,--just out of Buntingford, as you go to Royston.
But she's not alone. Is Uncle Prosper to marry Miss Tickle also?" Miss
Tickle was an estimable lady living as companion to Miss Thoroughbung.
"I don't know how they may manage; but it has to be thought of, Harry.
We only know that your uncle has been twice to Buntingford."
"The lady is fifty, at any rate."
"The lady is barely forty. She gives out that she is thirty-six. And he
could settle a jointure on her which would leave the property not worth
"What can I do?"
"Yes, indeed, my dear; what can you do?"
"Why is he going to upset all the arrangements of my life, and his life,
after such a fashion as this?"
"That's just what your father says."
"I suppose he can do it. The law will allow him. But the injustice would
be monstrous. I did not ask him to take me by the hand when I was a boy
and lead me into this special walk of life. It has been his own doing.
How will he look me in the face and tell me that he is going to marry a
wife? I shall look him in the face and tell him of my wife."
"But is that settled?"
"Yes, mother; it is settled. Wish me joy for having won the finest lady
that ever walked the earth." His mother blessed him,--but said nothing
about the finest lady,--who at that moment she believed to be the future
bride of Mr. Joshua Thoroughbung. "And when I shall tell my uncle that
it is so, what will he say to me? Will he have the face then to tell me
that I am to be cut out of Buston? I doubt whether he will have the
"He has thought of that, Harry."
"How thought of it, mother?"
"He has given orders that he is not to see you."
"Not to see me!"
"So he declares. He has written a long letter to your father, in which
he says that he would be spared the agony of an interview."
"What! is it all done, then?"
"Your father got the letter yesterday. It must have taken my poor
brother a week to write it."
"And he tells the whole plan,--Matilda Thoroughbung, and the future
"No, he does not say anything about Miss Thoroughbung He says that he
must make other arrangements about the property."
"He can't make other arrangements; that is, not until the boy is born.
It may be a long time first, you know."
"But the jointure?"
"What does Molly say about it?"
"Molly is mad about it and so is Joshua. Joshua talks about it just as
though he were one of us, and he says that the old people at Buntingford
would not hear of it." The old people spoken of were the father and
mother of Joshua, and the half-brother of Miss Matilda Thoroughbung.
"But what can they do?"
"They can do nothing. If Miss Matilda likes Uncle Prosper--"
"Likes, my dear! How young you are! Of course she would like a country
house to live in, and the park, and the county society. And she would
like somebody to live with besides Miss Tickle."
"My uncle, for instance."
"Yes, your uncle."
"If I had my choice, mother, I should prefer Miss Tickle."
"Because you are a silly boy. But what are you to do now?"
"In this long letter which he has written to my father does he give no
"Your father will show you the letter. Of course he gives reasons. He
says that you have done something which you ought not to have
done--about that wretched Mountjoy Scarborough."
"What does he know about it?--the idiot!"
"Well, mother, what better can I say of him? He has taken me as a child
and fashioned my life for me; has said that this property should be
mine, and has put an income into my hand as though I were an eldest son;
has repeatedly declared, when his voice was more potent than mine, that
I should follow no profession. He has bound himself to me, telling all
the world that I was his heir. And now he casts me out because he has
heard some cock-and-bull story, of the truth of which he knows nothing.
What better can I say of him than call him an idiot? He must be that or
else a heartless knave. And he says that he does not mean to see me,--me
with whose life he has thus been empowered to interfere, so as to blast
it if not to bless it, and intends to turn me adrift as he might do a
dog that did not suit him! And because he knows that he cannot answer me
he declares that he will not see me."
"It is very hard, Harry."
"Therefore I call him an idiot in preference to calling him a knave. But
I am not going to be dropped out of the running in that way, just in
deference to his will. I shall see him. Unless they lock him up in his
bedroom I shall compel him to see me."
"What good would that do, Harry? That would only set him more against
"You don't know his weakness."
"Oh yes, I do; he is very weak."
"He will not see me, because he will have to yield when he hears what I
have to say for myself. He knows that, and would therefore fain keep
away from me. Why should he be stirred to this animosity against me?"
"Because there is some one who wishes to injure me more strong than he
is, and who has got hold of him. Some one has lied behind my back."
"Who has done this?"
"Ah, that is the question. But I know who has done it, though I will not
name him just now. This enemy of mine, knowing him to be weak,--knowing
him to be an idiot, has got hold of him and persuaded him. He believes
the story which is told to him, and then feels happy in shaking off an
incubus. No doubt I have not been very soft with him,--nor, indeed, hard.
I have kept out of his way, and he is willing to resent it; but he is
afraid to face me and tell me that it is so. Here are the girls come
back from Buntingford. Molly, you blooming young bride, I wish you joy
of your brewer."
"He's none the worse on that account, Master Harry," said the eldest
"All the better,--very much the better. Where would you be if he was not
a brewer? But I congratulate you with all my heart, old girl. I have
known him ever so long, and he is one of the best fellows I do know."
"Thank you, Harry," and she kissed him.
"I wish Fanny and Kate may even do so well."
"All in good time," said Fanny.
"I mean to have a banker--all to myself," said Kate.
"I wish you may have half as good a man for your husband," said Harry.
"And I am to tell you," continued Molly, who was now in high
good-humor, "that there will be always one of his horses for you to ride
as long as you remain at home. It is not every brother-in-law that would
do as much as that for you."
"Nor yet every uncle," said Kate, shaking her head, from which Harry
could see that this quarrel with his uncle had been freely discussed in
the family circle.
"Uncles are very different," said the mother; "uncles can't be expected
to do everything as though they were in love."
"Fancy Uncle Peter in love!" said Kate. Mr. Prosper was called Uncle
Peter by the girls, though always in a sort of joke. Then the other two
girls shook their heads very gravely, from which Harry learned that the
question respecting the choice of Miss Matilda Thoroughbung as a
mistress for the Hall had been discussed also before them.
"I am not going to marry all the family," said Molly.
"Not Miss Matilda, for instance," said her brother, laughing.
"No, especially not Matilda. Joshua is quite as angry about his aunt as
anybody here can be. You'll find that he is more of an Annesley than a
"My dear," said the mother, "your husband will, as a matter of course,
think most of his own family. And so ought you to do of his family,
which will be yours. A married woman should always think most of her
husband's family." In this way the mother told her daughter of her
future duties; but behind the mother's back Kate made a grimace, for the
benefit of her sister Fanny, showing thereby her conviction that in a
matter of blood,--what she called being a gentleman,--a Thoroughbung could
not approach an Annesley.
"Mamma does not know it as yet," Molly said afterward in privacy to her
brother, "but you may take it for granted that Uncle Peter has been into
Buntingford and has made an offer to Aunt Matilda. I could tell it at
once, because she looked so sharp at me to-day. And Joshua says that he
is sure it is so by the airs she gives herself."
"You think she'll have him?"
"Have him! Of course she'll have him. Why shouldn't she? A wretched old
maid living with a companion like that would have any one."
"She has got a lot of money."
"She'll take care of her money, let her alone for that.
"And she'll have his house to live in. And there'll be a jointure. Of
course, if there were to be children--"
"Well, perhaps there will not. But it will be just as bad. We don't mean
even to visit them; we think it so very wicked. And we shall tell them a
bit of our mind as soon as the thing has been publicly declared."
HARRY ANNESLEY'S MISERY.
The conversation which took place that evening between Harry and his
father was more serious in its language, though not more important in
its purpose. "This is bad news, Harry," said the rector.
"Yes, indeed, sir."'
"Your uncle, no doubt, can do as he pleases."
"You mean as to the income he has allowed me?"
"As to the income! As to the property itself. It is bad waiting for dead
"And yet it is what everybody does in this world. No one can say that I
have been at all in a hurry to step into my uncle's shoes. It was he
that first told you that he should never marry, and as the property had
been entailed on me, he undertook to bring me up as his son."
"So he did."
"Not a doubt about it, sir. But I had nothing to say to it. As far as I
understand, he has been allowing me two hundred and fifty pounds a year
for the last dozen years."
"Ever since you went to the Charter-house."
"At that time I could not be expected to have a word to say to it. And
it has gone on ever since."
"Yes, it has gone on ever since."
"And when I was leaving Cambridge he required that I should not go into
"Not exactly that, Harry."
"It was so that I understood it. He did not wish his heir to be burdened
with a profession. He said so to me himself."
"Yes, just when he was in his pride because you had got your fellowship.
But there was a contract understood, if not made."
"What contract?" asked Harry, with an air of surprise.
"That you should be to him as a son."
"I never undertook it. I wouldn't have done it at the price,--or for any
price. I never felt for him the respect or the love that were due to a
father. I did feel both of them, to the full, for my own father. They
are a sort of a thing which we cannot transfer."
"They may be shared, Harry," said the rector, who was flattered.
"No, sir; in this instance that was not possible."
"You might have sat by while he read a sermon to his sister and nieces.
You understood his vanity, and you wounded it, knowing what you were
doing. I don't mean to blame you, but it was a misfortune. Now we must
look it in the face and see what must be done. Your mother has told you
that he has written to me. There is his letter. You will see that he
writes with a fixed purpose." Then he handed to Harry a letter written
on a large sheet of paper, the reading of which would be so long that
Harry seated himself for the operation.
The letter need not here be repeated at length. It was written with
involved sentences, but in very decided language. It said nothing of
Harry's want of duty, or not attending to the sermons, or of other
deficiencies of a like nature, but based his resolution in regard to
stopping the income on his nephew's misconduct,--as it appeared to
him,--in a certain particular case. And unfortunately,--though Harry was
prepared to deny that his conduct on that occasion had been subject to
censure,--he could not contradict any of the facts on which Mr. Prosper
had founded his opinion. The story was told in reference to Mountjoy
Scarborough, but not the whole story. "I understand that there was a row
in the streets late at night, at the end of which young Mr. Scarborough
was left as dead under the railings." "Left for dead!" exclaimed Harry.
"Who says that he was left for dead? I did not think him to be dead."
"You had better read it to the end," said his father, and Harry read it.
The letter went on to describe how Mountjoy Scarborough was missed from
his usual haunts, how search was made by the police, how the newspapers
were filled with the strange incident, and how Harry had told nothing of
what had occurred. "But beyond this," the letter went on to say, "he
positively denied, in conversation with the gentleman's brother, that he
had anything to do with the gentleman on the night in question. If this
be so, he absolutely lied. A man who would lie on such an occasion,
knowing himself to have been guilty of having beaten the man in such a
way as to have probably caused his death,--for he had left him for dead
under the railings in a London street and in the midnight hour,--and
would positively assert to the gentleman's brother that he had not seen
the gentleman on the night in question, when he had every reason to
believe that he had killed him,--a deed which might or might not be
murder,--is not fit to be recognized as my heir."
There were other sentences equally long and equally complicated, in all
of which Mr. Prosper strove to tell the story with tragic effect, but
all of which had reference to the same transaction. He said nothing as
to the ultimate destination of the property, nor of his own proposed
marriage. Should he have a son, that son would, of course, have the
property. Should there be no son, Harry must have it, even though his
conduct might have been ever so abominable. To prevent this outrage on
society, his marriage,--with its ordinary results,--would be the only
step. Of that he need say nothing. But the two hundred and fifty pounds
would not be paid after the Christmas quarter, and he must decline for
the future the honor of receiving Mr. Henry Annesley at the Hall.
Harry, when he had read it all, began to storm with anger. The man, as
he truly observed, had grossly insulted him. Mr. Prosper had called him
a liar and had hinted that he was a murderer. "You can do nothing to
him," his father said. "He is your uncle, and you have eaten his bread."
"I can't call him out and fight him."
"You must let it alone."
"I can make my way into the house and see him."
"I don't think you can do that. You will find it difficult to get beyond
the front-door, and I would advise you to abandon all such ideas. What
can you say to him?"
"It is false!"
"What is false? Though in essence it is false, in words it is true. You
did deny that you had seen him."
"I forget what passed. Augustus Scarborough endeavored to pump me about
his brother, and I did not choose to be pumped. As far as I can
ascertain now, it is he that is the liar. He saw his brother after the
affair with me."
"Has he denied it?"
"Practically he denies it by asking me the question. He asked me with
the ostensible object of finding out what had become of his brother when
he himself knew what had become of him."
"But you can't prove it. He positively says that you did deny having
seen him on the night in question, I am not speaking of Augustus
Scarborough, but of your uncle. What he says is true, and you had better
leave him alone. Take other steps for driving the real truth into his
"What steps can be taken with such a fool?"
"Write your own account of the transaction, so that he shall read it.
Let your mother have it. I suppose he will see your mother."
"And so beg his favor."
"You need beg for nothing. Or if the marriage comes off--"
"You have heard of the marriage, sir?"
"Yes; I have heard of the marriage. I believe that he contemplates it.
Put your statement of what did occur, and of your motives, into the
hands of the lady's friends. He will be sure to read it."
"What good will that do?"
"No good, but that of making him ashamed of himself. You have got to
read the world a little more deeply than you have hitherto done. He
thinks that he is quarrelling with you about the affair in London, but
it is in truth because you have declined to hear him read the sermons
after having taken his money."
"Then it is he that is the liar rather than I."
"I, who am a moderate man, would say that neither is a liar. You did not
choose to be pumped, as you call it, and therefore spoke as you did.
According to the world's ways that was fair enough. He, who is sore at
the little respect you have paid him, takes any ground of offence rather
than that. Being sore at heart, he believes anything. This young
Scarborough in some way gets hold of him, and makes him accept this
cock-and-bull story. If you had sat there punctual all those Sunday
evenings, do you think he would have believed it then?"
"And I have got to pay such a penalty as this?" The rector could only
shrug his shoulders. He was not disposed to scold his son. It was not
the custom of the house that Harry should be scolded. He was a fellow of
his college and the heir to Buston, and was therefore considered to be
out of the way of scolding. But the rector felt that his son had made
his bed and must now lie on it, and Harry was aware that this was his
For two or three days he wandered about the country very down in the
mouth. The natural state of ovation in which the girls existed was in
itself an injury to him. How could he join them in their ovation, he who
had suffered so much? It seemed to be heartless that they should smile
and rejoice when he,--the head of the family, as he had been taught to
consider himself,--was being so cruelly ill-used. For a day or two he
hated Thoroughbung, though Thoroughbung was all that was kind to him. He
congratulated him with cold congratulations, and afterward kept out of
his way. "Remember, Harry, that up to Christmas you can always have one
of the nags. There's Belladonna and Orange Peel. I think you'd find the
mare a little the faster, though perhaps the horse is the bigger
jumper." "Oh, thank you!" said Harry, and passed on. Now, Thoroughbung
was fond of his horses, and liked to have them talked about, and he knew
that Harry Annesley was treating him badly. But he was a good-humored
fellow, and he bore it without complaint. He did not even say a cross
word to Molly. Molly, however, was not so patient. "You might be a
little more gracious when he's doing the best he can for you. It is not
every one who will lend you a horse to hunt for two months." Harry shook
his head, and wandered away miserable through the fields, and would not
in these days even set his foot upon the soil of the park. "He was not
going to intrude any farther," he said to the rector. "You can come to
church, at any rate," his father said, "for he certainly will not be
there while you are at the parsonage." Oh yes, Harry would go to the
church. "I have yet to understand that Mr. Prosper is owner of the
church, and the path there from the rectory is, at any rate, open to the
public;" for at Buston the church stands on one corner of the park.
This went on for two or three days, during which nothing farther was
said by the family as to Harry's woes. A letter was sent off to Mrs.
Brown, telling her that the lodgings would not be required any longer,
and anxious ideas began to crowd themselves on Harry's mind as to his
future residence. He thought that he must go back to Cambridge and take
his rooms at St. John's and look for college work. Two fatal years,
years of idleness and gayety, had been passed, but still he thought that
it might be possible. What else was there open for him? And then, as he
roamed about the fields, his mind naturally ran away to the girl he
loved. How would he dare again to look Florence in the face? It was not
only the two hundred and fifty pounds per annum that was gone: that
would have been a small income on which to marry. And he had never taken
the girl's own money into account. He had rather chosen to look forward
to the position as squire of Buston, and to take it for granted that it
would not be very long before he was called upon to fill the position.
He had said not a word to Florence about money, but it was thus that he
had regarded the matter. Now the existing squire was going to marry, and
the matter could not so be regarded any longer. He saw half a dozen
little Prospers occupying half a dozen little cradles, and a whole suite
of nurseries established at the Hall. The name of Prosper would be fixed
at Buston, putting it altogether beyond his reach.
In such circumstances would it not be reasonable that Florence should
expect him to authorize her to break their engagement? What was he now
but the penniless son of a poor clergyman, with nothing on which to
depend but a miserable stipend, which must cease were he to marry? He
knew that he ought to give her back her troth; and yet, as he thought of
doing so, he was indignant with her. Was love to come to this? Was her
regard for him to be counted as nothing? What right had he to expect
that she should be different from any other girl?