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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Scarborough's Family - Part 2 - Chapter 56. Scarborough's Revenge
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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 2 - Chapter 56. Scarborough's Revenge Post by :johneze Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1395

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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 2 - Chapter 56. Scarborough's Revenge

PART II CHAPTER LVI. SCARBOROUGH'S REVENGE

All these things were not done at Tretton altogether unknown to Augustus Scarborough. Tidings as to the will reached him, and then he first perceived the injury he had done himself in lending his assistance to the payment of the creditors. Had his brother been utterly bankrupt, so that the Jews might have seized any money that might have come to him, his father would have left no will in his favor. All that was now intelligible to Augustus. The idea that his father should strip the house of every stick of furniture, and the estate of every chattel upon it, had not occurred to him before the thing was done.

He had thought that his father was indifferent to all personal offence, and therefore he had been offensive. He found out his mistake, and therefore was angry with himself. But he still thought that he had been right in regard to the creditors. Had the creditors been left in the possession of their unpaid bonds, they would have offered terrible impediments to the taking possession of the property. He had been right then, he thought. The fact was that his father had lived too long. However, the property would be left to him, Augustus, and he must make up his mind to buy the other things from Mountjoy. He at any rate would have to provide the funds out of which Mountjoy must live, and he would take care that he did not buy the chattels twice over. It was thus he consoled himself till rumors of something worse reached his ears.

How the rumors reached him it would be difficult to say. There were probably some among the servants who got an inkling of what the squire was doing when Mr. Grey again came down; or Miss Scarborough had some confidential friend; or Mr. Grey's clerk may have been indiscreet. The tidings in some unformed state did reach Augustus and astounded him. His belief in his father's story as to his brother's illegitimacy had been unfixed and doubtful. Latterly it had verged toward more thorough belief as the creditors had taken their money,--less than a third of what would have been theirs had the power remained with them of recovering their full debt. The creditors had thus proved their belief, and they were a people not likely to believe such a statement without some foundation. But at any rate he had conceived it to be impossible that his own father should go back from his first story, and again make himself out to be doubly a liar and doubly a knave.

But if it were so, what should he do? Was it not the case that in such event he would be altogether ruined,--a penniless adventurer with his profession absolutely gone from him? What little money he had got together had been expended on behalf of Mountjoy,--a sprat thrown out to catch a whale. Everything according to the present tidings had been left to Mountjoy. He had only half known his father, who had turned against him with virulence because of his unkindness. Who could have expected that a man in such a condition should have lived so long, and have been capable of a will so powerful? He had not dreamed of a hatred so inveterate as his father's for him.

He received news also from Tretton that his father was not now expected by any one to live long.

"It may be a week, the doctors say, and it is hardly possible that he should remain alive for another month." Such was the news which reached him from his own emissary at Tretton. What had he better do in the emergency of the moment?

There was only one possibly effective step that he could take. He might, of course, remain tranquil, and accept what chance might give him, when his father should have died. But he might at once go down to Tretton and demand an interview with the dying man. He did not think that his father, even on his death-bed, would refuse to see him. His father's pluck was indomitable, and he thought that he could depend on his own pluck. At any rate he resolved that he would immediately go to Tretton and take his chance. He reached the house about the middle of the day, and at once sent his name up to his father. Miss Scarborough was sitting by her brother's bedside, and from time to time was reading to him a few words. "Augustus!" he said, as soon as the servant had left the room. "What does Augustus want with me? The last time he saw me he bade me die out of hand if I wished to retrieve the injury I had done him."

"Do not think of that now, John," his sister said.

"As God is my judge, I will think of it to the last moment. Words such as those spoken, by a son to his father, demand a little thought. Were I to tell you that I did not think of them, would you not know that I was a hypocrite?"

"You need not speak of them, John."

"Not unless he came here to harass my last moments. I strove to do very much for him;--you know with what return. Mountjoy has been, at any rate, honest and straightforward; and, considering all things, not lacking in respect. I shall, at any rate, have some pleasure in letting Augustus know the state of my mind."

"What shall I say to him?" his sister asked.

"Tell him that he had better go back to London. I have tried them both, as few sons can be tried by their father, and I know them now. Tell him, with my compliments, that it will be better for him not to see me. There can be nothing pleasant said between us. I have no communication to make to him which could in the least interest him."

But before night came the squire had been talked over, and had agreed to see his son. "The interview will be easy enough for me," he had said, "but I cannot imagine what he will get from me. But let him come as he will."

Augustus spent much of the intervening time in discussing the matter with his aunt. But not a word on the subject was spoken by him to Mountjoy, whom he met at dinner, and with whom he spent the evening in company with Mr. Merton. The two hours after dinner were melancholy enough. The three adjourned to the smoking-room, and sat there almost without conversation. A few words were said about the hunting, but Mountjoy had not hunted this winter. There were a few also of greater interest about the shooting. The shooting was of course still the property of the old man, and in the early months had, without many words spoken, become, as it were, an appanage of the condition of life to which Augustus aspired; but of late Mountjoy had assumed the command. "You found plenty of pheasants here, I suppose," Augustus remarked.

"Well, yes; not too many. I didn't trouble myself much about it. When I saw a pheasant I shot it. I've been a little troubled in spirit, you know."

"Gambling again, I heard."

"That didn't trouble me much. Merton can tell you that we've had a sick-house."

"Yes, indeed," said Merton. "It hasn't seemed to be a time in which a man would think very much of his pheasants."

"I don't know why," said Augustus, who was determined not to put up with the rebuke implied in the doctor's words. After that there was nothing more said between them till they all went to their separate apartments. "Don't contradict him," his aunt said to him the next morning, "and if he reprimands you, acknowledge that you have been wrong."

"That's hard, when I haven't been wrong."

"But so much depends upon it; and he is so stern. Of course, I wish well for both of you. There is plenty enough,--plenty; if only you could agree together."

"But the injustice of his treatment. Is it true that he now declares Mountjoy to be the eldest son?"

"I believe so. I do not know, but I believe it."

"Think of what his conduct has been to me. And then you tell me that I am to own that I have been wrong! In what have I been wrong?"

"He is your father, and I suppose you have said hard words to him."

"Did I rebuke him because he had fraudulently kept me for so many years in the position of a younger son? Did I not forgive him that iniquity?"

"But he says you are a younger son."

"This last move," he said, with great passion, "has only been made in an attempt to punish me, because I would not tell him that I was under a world of obligations to him for simply declaring the truth as to my birth. We cannot both be his eldest son."

"No, certainly, not both."

"At last he declared that I was his heir. If I did say hard words to him, were they not justified?"

"Not to your father," said Miss Scarborough, shaking her head.

"That is your idea? How was I to abstain? Think what had been done to me. Through my whole life he had deceived me, and had attempted to rob me."

"But he says that he had intended to get the property for you."

"To get it! It was mine. According to what he said it was my own. He had robbed me to give it to Mountjoy. Now he intends to rob me again in order that Mountjoy may have it. He will leave such a kettle of fish behind him, with all his manoeuvring, that neither of us will be the better of Tretton."

Then he went to the squire. In spite of what had passed between him and his aunt, he had thought deeply of his conduct to his father in the past, and of the manner in which he would now carry himself. He was aware that he had behaved,--not badly, for that he esteemed nothing,--but most unwisely. When he had found himself to be the heir to Tretton he had fancied himself to be almost the possessor, and had acted on the instincts which on such a case would have been natural to him. To have pardoned the man because he was his father, and then to have treated him with insolent disdain, as some dying old man, almost entirely beneath his notice, was what he felt the nature of the circumstances demanded. And whether the story was true or false it would have been the same. He had come at last to believe it to be true, and had therefore been the more resolute; but, whether it were true or false, the old man had struck his blow, and he must abide by it. Till the moment came in which he had received that communication from Tretton, the idea had never occurred to him that another disposition of the property might still be within his father's power. But he had little known the old man's power, or the fertility of his resources, or the extent of his malice. "After what you have done you should cease to stay and disturb us," he had once said, when his father had jokingly alluded to his own death. He had at once repented, and had felt that such a speech had been iniquitous as coming from a son. But his father had, at the moment, expressed no deep animosity. Some sarcastic words had fallen from him of which Augustus had not understood the bitterness. But he had remembered it since, and was now not so much surprised at his father's wish to injure him as at his power.

But could he have any such power? Mr. Grey, he knew, was on his side, and Mr. Grey was a thorough lawyer. All the world was on his side,--all the world having been instructed to think and to believe that Mr. Scarborough had not been married till after Mountjoy was born. All the world had been much surprised, and would be unwilling to encounter another blow. Should he go into his father's room altogether penitent, or should he hold up his head and justify himself?

One thing was brought home to him, by thinking, as a matter of which he might be convinced. No penitence could now avail him anything. He had at any rate by this time looked sufficiently into his father's character to be sure that he would not forgive such an offence as had been his. Any vice, any extravagance, almost any personal neglect, would have been pardoned. "I have so brought him up," the father would have said, "and the fault must be counted as my own." But his son had deliberately expressed a wish for his father's death, and had expressed it in his father's presence. He had shown not only neglect, which may arise at a distance, and may not be absolutely intentional; but these words had been said with the purpose of wounding, and were, and would be, unpardonable. Augustus, as he went along the corridor to his father's room, determined that he would at any rate not be penitent.

"Well, sir, how do you find yourself?" he said, walking in briskly and putting out his hand to his father. The old man languidly gave his hand, but only smiled. "I hear of you, though not from you, and they tell me that you have not been quite so strong of late."

"I shall soon cease to stay and trouble you," said the squire, with affected weakness, in a voice hardly above a whisper, using the very words which Augustus had spoken.

"There have been some moments between us, sir, which have been, unfortunately, unpleasant."

"And yet I have done so much to make them pleasant to you! I should have thought that the offer of all Tretton would have gone for much with you."

Augustus was again taken in. There was a piteous whine about his father's voice which once more deceived him. He did not dream of the depth of the old man's anger. He did not imagine that at such a moment it could boil over with such ferocity; nor was he altogether aware of the cat-like quietude with which he could pave the way for his last spring. Mountjoy, by far the least gifted of the two, had gained the truer insight to his father's character.

"You had done much, or rather, as I supposed, circumstances had done much."

"Circumstances?"

"The facts, I mean, as to Mountjoy's birth and my own."

"I have not always left myself to be governed by actual circumstances."

"If there was any omission on my part of an expression of proper feeling, I regret it."

"I don't know that there was. What is proper feeling? There was no hypocrisy, at any rate."

"You sometimes are a little bitter, sir."

"I hope you won't find it so when I am gone."

"I don't know what I said that has angered you, but I may have been driven to say what I did not feel."

"Certainly not to me."

"I'm not here to beg pardon for any special fault, as I do not quite know of what I am accused."

"Of nothing. There is accusation at all."

"Nor what the punishment is to be. I have learned that you have left to Mountjoy all the furniture in the house."

"Yes, poor boy!--when I found that you had turned him out."

"I never turned him out,--not till your house was open to receive him."

"You would not have wished him to go into the poor-house?"

"I did the very best for him. I kept him going when there was no one else to give him a shilling."

"He must have had a bitter time," said the father. "I hope it may have done him good."

"I think I behaved to him just as an elder brother should have done. He was not particularly grateful, but that was not my fault."

"Still, I thought it best to leave him the old sticks about the place. As he was to have the property, it was better that he should have the sticks." As he said this he managed to turn himself round and look his son full in the face. Such a look as it was! There was the gleam of victory, and the glory of triumph, and the venom of malice. "You wouldn't have them separated, would you?"

"I have heard of some farther trick of this kind."

"Just the ordinary way in which things ought to be allowed to run. Mr. Grey, who is a very good man, persuaded me. No man ought to interfere with the law. An attempt in that direction led to evil. Mountjoy is the eldest son, you know."

"I know nothing of the kind."

"Oh dear, no! there is no question at all as to the date of my marriage with your mother. We were married in quite a straightforward way at Rummelsburg. When I wanted to save the property from those harpies, I was surprised to find how easily I managed it. Grey was a little soft there: an excellent man, but too credulous for a lawyer."

"I do not believe a word of it."

"You'll find it all go as naturally as possible when I have ceased to stay and be troublesome. But one thing I must say in your favor."

"What do you mean?"

"I never could have managed it all unless you had consented to that payment of the creditors. Indeed, I must say, that was chiefly your own doing. When you first suggested it, I saw what a fine thing you were contriving for your brother. I should think, after that, of leaving it all so that you need not find out the truth when I am dead. I do think I had so managed it that you would have had the property. Mountjoy, who has some foolish feeling about his mother, and who is obstinate as a pig, would have fought it out; but I had so contrived that you would have had it. I had sealed up every document referring to the Rummelsburg marriage, and had addressed them all to you. I couldn't have made it safer, could I?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"You would have been enabled to destroy every scrap of the evidence which will be wanted to prove your brother's legitimacy. Had I burned the papers I could not have put them more beyond poor Mountjoy's reach. Now they are quite safe in Mr. Grey's office; his clerk took them away with him. I would not leave them here with Mountjoy because,--well,--you might come, and he might be murdered!" Now Mr. Scarborough had had his revenge.

"You think you have done your duty," said Augustus.

"I do not care two straws about doing my duty, young man." Here Mr. Scarborough raised himself in part, and spoke in that strong voice which was supposed to be so deleterious to him. "Or rather, in seeking my duty, I look beyond the conventionalities of the world. I think that you have behaved damnably, and that I have punished you. Because of Mountjoy's weakness, because he had been knocked off his legs, I endeavored to put you upon yours. You at once turned upon me, when you thought the deed was done, and bade me go--and bury myself. You were a little too quick in your desire to become the owner of Tretton Park at once. I have stayed long enough to give some farther trouble. You will not say, after this, that I am _non compos_, and unable to make a will. You will find that, under mine, not one penny-piece, not one scrap of property, will become yours. Mountjoy will take care of you, I do not doubt. He must hate you, but will recognize you as his brother. I am not so soft-hearted and will not recognize you as my son. Now you may go away." So saying, he turned himself round to the wall, and refused to be induced to utter another word. Augustus began to speak, but when he had commenced his second sentence the old man rung his bell. "Mary," said he to his sister, "will you have the goodness to get Augustus to go away? I am very weak, and if he remains he will be the death of me. He can't get anything by killing me at once; it is too late for that."

Then Augustus did leave the room, and before the night came had left Tretton also. He presumed there was nothing for him to do there. One word he did say to Mountjoy,--"You will understand, Mountjoy, that when our father is dead Tretton will not become your property."

"I shall understand nothing of the kind," said Mountjoy "but I suppose Mr. Grey will tell me what I am to do."

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