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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOrley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 59. No Surrender
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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 59. No Surrender Post by :Fire_Lady Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3131

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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 59. No Surrender

VOLUME II CHAPTER LIX. NO SURRENDER

Sir Peregrine Orme had gone up to London, had had his interview with Mr. Round, and had failed. He had then returned home, and hardly a word on the subject had been spoken between him and Mrs. Orme. Indeed little or nothing was now said between them as to Lady Mason or the trial. What was the use of speaking on a subject that was in every way the cause of so much misery? He had made up his mind that it was no longer possible for him to take any active step in the matter. He had become bail for her appearance in court, and that was the last trifling act of friendship which he could show her. How was it any longer possible that he could befriend her? He could not speak up on her behalf with eager voice, and strong indignation against her enemies, as had formerly been his practice. He could give her no counsel. His counsel would have taught her to abandon the property in the first instance, let the result be what it might. He had made his little effort in that direction by seeing the attorney, and his little effort had been useless. It was quite clear to him that there was nothing further for him to do;--nothing further for him, who but a week or two since was so actively putting himself forward and letting the world know that he was Lady Mason's champion.

Would he have to go into court as a witness? His mind was troubled much in his endeavour to answer that question. He had been her great friend. For years he had been her nearest neighbour. His daughter-in-law still clung to her. She had lived at his house. She had been chosen to be his wife. Who could speak to her character, if he could not do so? And yet, what could he say, if so called on? Mr. Furnival, Mr. Chaffanbrass--all those who would have the selection of the witnesses, believing themselves in their client's innocence, as no doubt they did, would of course imagine that he believed in it also. Could he tell them that it would not be in his power to utter a single word in her favour?

In these days Mrs. Orme went daily to the Farm. Indeed, she never missed a day from that on which Lady Mason left The Cleeve up to the time of the trial. It seemed to Sir Peregrine that his daughter's affection for this woman had grown with the knowledge of her guilt; but, as I have said before, no discussion on the matter now took place between them. Mrs. Orme would generally take some opportunity of saying that she had been at Orley Farm; but that was all.

Sir Peregrine during this time never left the house once, except for morning service on Sundays. He hung his hat up on its accustomed peg when he returned from that ill-omened visit to Mr. Round, and did not move it for days, ay, for weeks,--except on Sunday mornings. At first his groom would come to him, suggesting to him that he should ride, and the woodman would speak to him about the young coppices; but after a few days they gave up their efforts. His grandson also strove to take him out, speaking to him more earnestly than the servants would do, but it was of no avail. Peregrine, indeed, gave up the attempt sooner, for to him his grandfather did in some sort confess his own weakness. "I have had a blow," said he; "Peregrine, I have had a blow. I am too old to bear up against it;--too old and too weak." Peregrine knew that he alluded in some way to that proposed marriage, but he was quite in the dark as to the manner in which his grandfather had been affected by it.

"People think nothing of that now, sir," said he, groping in the dark as he strove to administer consolation.

"People will think of it;--and I think of it. But never mind, my boy. I have lived my life, and am contented with it. I have lived my life, and have great joy that such as you are left behind to take my place. If I had really injured you I should have broken my heart--have broken my heart."

Peregrine of course assured him that let what would come to him the pride which he had in his grandfather would always support him. "I don't know anybody else that I could be so proud of," said Peregrine; "for nobody else that I see thinks so much about other people. And I always was, even when I didn't seem to think much about it;--always."

Poor Peregrine! Circumstances had somewhat altered him since that day, now not more than six months ago, in which he had pledged himself to abandon the delights of Cowcross Street. As long as there was a hope for him with Madeline Staveley all this might be very well. He preferred Madeline to Cowcross Street with all its delights. But when there should be no longer any hope--and indeed, as things went now, there was but little ground for hoping--what then? Might it not be that his trial had come on him too early in life, and that he would solace himself in his disappointment, if not with Carroty Bob, with companionships and pursuits which would be as objectionable, and perhaps more expensive?

On three or four occasions his grandfather asked him how things were going at Noningsby, striving to interest himself in something as to which the outlook was not altogether dismal, and by degrees learned,--not exactly all the truth--but as much of the truth as Peregrine knew.

"Do as she tells you," said the grandfather, referring to Lady Staveley's last words.

"I suppose I must," said Peregrine, sadly. "There's nothing else for it. But if there's anything that I hate in this world, it's waiting."

"You are both very young," said his grandfather.

"Yes; we are what people call young, I suppose. But I don't understand all that. Why isn't a fellow to be happy when he's young as well as when he's old?"

Sir Peregrine did not answer him, but no doubt thought that he might alter his opinion in a few years. There is great doubt as to what may be the most enviable time of life with a man. I am inclined to think that it is at that period when his children have all been born but have not yet began to go astray or to vex him with disappointment; when his own pecuniary prospects are settled, and he knows pretty well what his tether will allow him; when the appetite is still good and the digestive organs at their full power; when he has ceased to care as to the length of his girdle, and before the doctor warns him against solid breakfasts and port wine after dinner; when his affectations are over and his infirmities have not yet come upon him; while he can still walk his ten miles, and feel some little pride in being able to do so; while he has still nerve to ride his horse to hounds, and can look with some scorn on the ignorance of younger men who have hardly yet learned that noble art. As regards men, this, I think, is the happiest time of life; but who shall answer the question as regards women? In this respect their lot is more liable to disappointment. With the choicest flowers that blow the sweetest aroma of their perfection lasts but for a moment. The hour that sees them at their fullest glory sees also the beginning of their fall.

On one morning before the trial Sir Peregrine rang his bell and requested that Mr. Peregrine might be asked to come to him. Mr. Peregrine was out at the moment, and did not make his appearance much before dark, but the baronet had fully resolved upon having this interview, and ordered that the dinner should be put back for half an hour. "Tell Mrs. Orme, with my compliments," he said, "that if it does not put her to inconvenience we will not dine till seven." It put Mrs. Orme to no inconvenience; but I am inclined to agree with the cook, who remarked that the compliments ought to have been sent to her.

"Sit down, Peregrine," he said, when his grandson entered his room with his thick boots and muddy gaiters. "I have been thinking of something."

"I and Samson have been cutting down trees all day," said Peregrine. "You've no conception how the water lies down in the bottom there; and there's a fall every yard down to the river. It's a sin not to drain it."

"Any sins of that kind, my boy, shall lie on your own head for the future. I will wash my hands of them."

"Then I'll go to work at once," said Peregrine, not quite understanding his grandfather.

"You must go to work on more than that, Peregrine." And then the old man paused. "You must not think that I am doing this because I am unhappy for the hour, or that I shall repent it when the moment has gone by."

"Doing what?" asked Peregrine.

"I have thought much of it, and I know that I am right. I cannot get out as I used to do, and do not care to meet people about business."

"I never knew you more clear-headed in my life, sir."

"Well, perhaps not. We'll say nothing about that. What I intend to do is this;--to give up the property into your hands at Lady-day. You shall be master of The Cleeve from that time forth."

"Sir?"

"The truth is, you desire employment, and I don't. The property is small, and therefore wants the more looking after. I have never had a regular land steward, but have seen to that myself. If you'll take my advice you'll do the same. There is no better employment for a gentleman. So now, my boy, you may go to work and drain wherever you like. About that Crutchley bottom I have no doubt you're right. I don't know why it has been neglected." These last words the baronet uttered in a weak, melancholy tone, asking, as it were, forgiveness for his fault; whereas he had spoken out the purport of his great resolution with a clear, strong voice, as though the saying of the words pleased him well.

"I could not hear of such a thing as that," said his grandson, after a short pause.

"But you have heard it, Perry, and you may be quite sure that I should not have named it had I not fully resolved upon it. I have been thinking of it for days, and have quite made up my mind. You won't turn me out of the house, I know."

"All the same, I will not hear of it," said the young man, stoutly.

"Peregrine!"

"I know very well what it all means, sir, and I am not at all astonished. You have wished to do something out of sheer goodness of heart, and you have been balked."

"We will not talk about that, Peregrine."

"But I must say a few words about it. All that has made you unhappy, and--and--and--" He wanted to explain that his grandfather was ashamed of his baffled attempt, and for that reason was cowed and down at heart at the present moment; but that in the three or four months when this trial would be over and the wonder passed away, all that would be forgotten, and he would be again as well as ever. But Peregrine, though he understood all this, was hardly able to express himself.

"My boy," said the old man, "I know very well what you mean. What you say is partly true, and partly not quite true. Some day, perhaps, when we are sitting here together over the fire, I shall be better able to talk over all this; but not now, Perry. God has been very good to me, and given me so much that I will not repine at this sorrow. I have lived my life, and am content."

"Oh yes, of course all that's true enough. And if God should choose that you should--die, you know, or I either, some people would be sorry, but we shouldn't complain ourselves. But what I say is this: you should never give up as long as you live. There's a sort of feeling about it which I can't explain. One should always say to oneself, No surrender." And Peregrine, as he spoke, stood up from his chair, thrust his hands into his trouser-pockets, and shook his head.

Sir Peregrine smiled as he answered him. "But Perry, my boy, we can't always say that. When the heart and the spirit and the body have all surrendered, why should the voice tell a foolish falsehood?"

"But it shouldn't be a falsehood," said Peregrine. "Nobody should ever knock under of his own accord."

"You are quite right there, my boy; you are quite right there. Stick to that yourself. But, remember, that you are not to knock under to any of your enemies. The worst that you will meet with are folly, and vice, and extravagance."

"That's of course," said Peregrine, by no means wishing on the present occasion to bring under discussion his future contests with any such enemies as those now named by his grandfather.

"And now, suppose you dress for dinner," said the baronet. "I've got ahead of you there you see. What I've told you to-day I have already told your mother."

"I'm sure she doesn't think you right."

"If she thinks me wrong, she is too kind and well-behaved to say so,--which is more than I can say for her son. Your mother, Perry, never told me that I was wrong yet, though she has had many occasions;--too many, too many. But, come, go and dress for dinner."

"You are wrong in this, sir, if ever you were wrong in your life," said Peregrine, leaving the room. His grandfather did not answer him again, but followed him out of the door, and walked briskly across the hall into the drawing-room.

"There's Peregrine been lecturing me about draining," he said to his daughter-in-law, striving to speak in a half-bantering tone of voice, as though things were going well with him.

"Lecturing you!" said Mrs. Orme.

"And he's right, too. There's nothing like it. He'll make a better farmer, I take it, than Lucius Mason. You'll live to see him know the value of an acre of land as well as any man in the county. It's the very thing that he's fit for. He'll do better with the property than ever I did."

There was something beautiful in the effort which the old man was making when watched by the eyes of one who knew him as well as did his daughter-in-law. She knew him, and understood all the workings of his mind, and the deep sorrow of his heart. In very truth, the star of his life was going out darkly under a cloud; but he was battling against his sorrow and shame--not that he might be rid of them himself, but that others might not have to share them. That doctrine of "No surrender" was strong within his bosom, and he understood the motto in a finer sense than that in which his grandson had used it. He would not tell them that his heart was broken,--not if he could help it. He would not display his wound if it might be in his power to hide it. He would not confess that lands, and houses, and seignorial functions were no longer of value in his eyes. As far as might be possible he would bear his own load till that and the memory of his last folly might be hidden together in the grave.

But he knew that he was no longer fit for a man's work, and that it would be well that he should abandon it. He had made a terrible mistake. In his old age he had gambled for a large stake, and had lost it all. He had ventured to love;--to increase the small number of those who were nearest and dearest to him, to add one to those whom he regarded as best and purest,--and he had been terribly deceived. He had for many years almost worshipped the one lady who had sat at his table, and now in his old age he had asked her to share her place of honour with another. What that other was need not now be told. And the world knew that this woman was to have been his wife! He had boasted loudly that he would give her that place and those rights. He had ventured his all upon her innocence and her purity. He had ventured his all,--and he had lost.

I do not say that on this account there was any need that he should be stricken to the ground,--that it behoved him as a man of high feeling to be broken-hearted. He would have been a greater man had he possessed the power to bear up against all this, and to go forth to the world bearing his burden bravely on his shoulders. But Sir Peregrine Orme was not a great man, and possessed few or none of the elements of greatness. He was a man of a singularly pure mind, and endowed with a strong feeling of chivalry. It had been everything to him to be spoken of by the world as a man free from reproach,--who had lived with clean hands and with clean people around him. All manner of delinquencies he could forgive in his dependents which did not tell of absolute baseness; but it would have half killed him had he ever learned that those he loved had become false or fraudulent. When his grandson had come to trouble about the rats, he had acted, not over-cleverly, a certain amount of paternal anger; but had Peregrine broken his promise to him, no acting would have been necessary. It may therefore be imagined what were now his feelings as to Lady Mason.

Her he could forgive for deceiving him. He had told his daughter-in-law that he would forgive her; and it was a thing done. But he could not forgive himself in that he had been deceived. He could not forgive himself for having mingled with the sweet current of his Edith's life the foul waters of that criminal tragedy. He could not now bid her desert Lady Mason: for was it not true that the woman's wickedness was known to them two, through her resolve not to injure those who had befriended her? But all this made the matter worse rather than better to him. It is all very well to say, "No surrender;" but when the load placed upon the back is too heavy to be borne, the back must break or bend beneath it.

His load was too heavy to be borne, and therefore he said to himself that he would put it down. He would not again see Lord Alston and the old friends of former days. He would attend no more at the magistrates' bench, but would send his grandson out into his place. For the few days that remained to him in this world, he might be well contented to abandon the turmoils and troubles of life. "It will not be for long," he said to himself over and over again. And then he would sit in his arm-chair for hours, intending to turn his mind to such solemn thoughts as might befit a dying man. But, as he sat there, he would still think of Lady Mason. He would remember her as she had leaned against his breast on that day that he kissed her; and then he would remember her as she was when she spoke those horrid words to him--"Yes; I did it; at night, when I was alone." And this was the woman whom he had loved! This was the woman whom he still loved,--if all the truth might be confessed.

His grandson, though he read much of his grandfather's mind, had failed to read it all. He did not know how often Sir Peregrine repeated to himself those words, "No Surrender," or how gallantly he strove to live up to them. Lands and money and seats of honour he would surrender, as a man surrenders his tools when he has done his work; but his tone of feeling and his principle he would not surrender, though the maintenance of them should crush him with their weight. The woman had been very vile, desperately false, wicked beyond belief, with premeditated villany, for years and years;--and this was the woman whom he had wished to make the bosom companion of his latter days!

"Samson is happy now, I suppose, that he has got the axe in his hand," he said to his grandson.

"Pretty well for that, sir, I think."

"That man will cut down every tree about the place, if you'll let him." And in that way he strove to talk about the affairs of the property.

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