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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 10. Mr. Hart And Captain Stubber
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 10. Mr. Hart And Captain Stubber Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1043

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 10. Mr. Hart And Captain Stubber


When George Hotspur left Humblethwaite, turned out of the house by the angry Baronet early in the morning,--as the reader will remember,--he was at his own desire driven to Penrith, choosing to go south rather than north. He had doubted for a while as to his immediate destination. The Altringhams were still at Castle Corry, and he might have received great comfort from her ladyship's advice and encouragement. But, intimate as he was with the Altringhams, he did not dare to take a liberty with the Earl. A certain allowance of splendid hospitality at Castle Corry was at his disposal every year, and Lord Altringham always welcomed him with thorough kindness. But George Hotspur had in some fashion been made to understand that he was not to overstay his time; and he was quite aware that the Earl could be very disagreeable upon occasions. There was a something in the Earl of which George was afraid; and, to tell the truth, he did not dare to go back to Castle Corry. And then, might it not be well for him to make immediate preparation in London for those inquiries respecting his debts and his character which Sir Harry had decided to make? It would be very difficult for him to make any preparation that could lead to a good result; but if no preparation were made, the result would be very bad indeed. It might perhaps be possible to do something with Mr. Hart and Captain Stubber. He had no other immediate engagements. In October he was due to shoot pheasants with a distinguished party in Norfolk, but this business which he had now in hand was of so much importance that even the pheasant-shooting and the distinguished party were not of much moment to him.

He went to Penrith, and thence direct to London. It was the habit of his life to give up his London lodgings when he left town at the end of the season, and spare himself the expense of any home as long as he could find friends to entertain him. There are certain items of the cost of living for which the greatest proficient in the art of tick must pay, or he will come to a speedy end;--and a man's lodging is one of them. If indeed the spendthrift adapts himself to the splendour of housekeeping, he may, provided his knowledge of his business be complete, and his courage adequate, house himself gloriously for a year or two with very small payment in ready money. He may even buy a mansion with an incredibly small outlay, and, when once in it, will not easily allow himself to be extruded. George Hotspur, however, not from any want of knowledge or of audacity, but from the nature of the life he chose to lead, had abstained from such investment of his credit, and had paid for his lodgings in St. James' Street. He was consequently houseless at the moment, and on his arrival in London took himself to an hotel close behind the military club to which he belonged.

At this moment he was comparatively a rich man. He had between three and four hundred pounds at a bank at which he kept an account when possessed of funds. But demands upon him were very pressing, and there was a certain Captain Stubber who was bitter against him, almost to blood, because one Mr. Abraham Hart had received two thousand pounds from the proceeds of Sir Harry's generosity. Captain Stubber had not received a shilling, and had already threatened Cousin George with absolute exposure if something were not done to satisfy him.

George, when he had ordered his dinner at his club, wrote the following letter to Lady Altringham. He had intended to write from Penrith in the morning, but when there had been out of sorts and unhappy, and had disliked to confess, after his note of triumph sounded on the previous evening, that he had been turned out of Humblethwaite. He had got over that feeling during the day, with the help of sundry glasses of sherry and a little mixed curacoa and brandy which he took immediately on his arrival in London,--and, so supported, made a clean breast of it, as the reader shall see.

DEAR LADY A., (he said)--Here I am, back in town, banished
from heaven. My darling, gentle, future papa-in-law
gave me to understand, when I told him the extent of my
hopes last night, that the outside of the park-gates at
Humblethwaite was the place for me; nevertheless he sent
me to Penrith with the family horses, and, taking it as
a whole, I think that my interview with him, although
very disagreeable, was not unsatisfactory. I told him
everything that I could tell him. He was kind enough to
call me a blackguard (!!!) because I had gone to Emily
without speaking to him first. On such occasions, however,
a man takes anything. I ventured to suggest that what I
had done was not unprecedented among young people, and
hinted that while he could make me the future master of
Humblethwaite, I could make my cousin the future Lady
Hotspur; and that in no other way could Humblethwaite and
the Hotspurs be kept together. It was wonderful how he
cooled down after a while, saying that he would pay all my
debts if he found them--satisfactory. I can only say that
I never found them so.

It ended in this--that he is to make inquiry about me, and
that I am to have my cousin unless I am found out to be
very bad indeed. How or when the inquiries will be made I
do not know; but I am here to prepare for them.

Yours always most faithfully,

G. H.

I do not like to ask Altringham to do anything for me. No
man ever had a kinder friend than I have had in him, and
I know he objects to meddle in the money matters of other
people. But if he could lend me his name for a thousand
pounds till I can get these things settled, I believe
I could get over every other difficulty. I should as a
matter of course include the amount in the list of debts
which I should give to Sir Harry; but the sum at once,
which I could raise on his name without trouble to him,
would enable me to satisfy the only creditor who will be
likely to do me real harm with Sir Harry. I think you
will understand all this, and will perceive how very
material the kindness to me may be; but if you think that
Altringham will be unwilling to do it, you had better not
show him this letter.

It was the mixed curacoa and brandy which gave George Hotspur the courage to make the request contained in his postscript. He had not intended to make it when he sat down to write, but as he wrote the idea had struck him that if ever a man ought to use a friend this was an occasion for doing so. If he could get a thousand pounds from Lord Altringham, he might be able to stop Captain Stubber's mouth. He did not believe that he should be successful, and he thought it probable that Lord Altringham might express vehement displeasure. But the game was worth the candle, and then he knew that he could trust the Countess.

London was very empty, and he passed a wretched evening at his club. There were not men enough to make up a pool, and he was obliged to content himself with a game of billiards with an old half-pay naval captain, who never left London, and who would bet nothing beyond a shilling on the game. The half-pay navy captain won four games, thereby paying for his dinner, and then Cousin George went sulkily to bed.

He had come up to town expressly to see Captain Stubber and Mr. Hart, and perhaps also to see another friend from whom some advice might be had; but on the following morning he found himself very averse to seeking any of these advisers. He had applied to Lady Altringham for assistance, and he told himself that it would be wise to wait for her answer. And yet he knew that it would not be wise to wait, as Sir Harry would certainly be quick in making his promised inquiries. For four days he hung about between his hotel and his club, and then he got Lady Altringham's answer. We need only quote the passage which had reference to George's special request:--

Gustavus says that he will have nothing to do with money.
You know his feelings about it. And he says that it would
do no good. Whatever the debts are, tell them plainly to
Sir Harry. If this be some affair of play, as Gustavus
supposes, tell that to Sir Harry. Gustavus thinks that the
Baronet would without doubt pay any such debt which could
be settled or partly settled by a thousand pounds.

"D----d heartless, selfish fellow! quite incapable of anything like true friendship," said Cousin George to himself, when he read Lady Altringham's letter.

Now he must do something. Hitherto neither Stubber, nor Hart, nor the other friend knew of his presence in London. Hart, though a Jew, was much less distasteful to him than Captain Stubber, and to Mr. Abraham Hart he went first.

Mr. Abraham Hart was an attorney,--so called by himself and friends,--living in a genteel street abutting on Gray's Inn Road, with whose residence and place of business, all beneath the same roof, George Hotspur was very well acquainted. Mr. Hart was a man in the prime of life, with black hair and a black beard, and a new shining hat, and a coat with a velvet collar and silk lining. He was always dressed in the same way, and had never yet been seen by Cousin George without his hat on his head. He was a pleasant-spoken, very ignorant, smiling, jocose man, with a slightly Jewish accent, who knew his business well, pursued it diligently, and considered himself to have a clear conscience. He had certain limits of forbearance with his customers--limits which were not narrow; but, when those were passed, he would sell the bed from under a dying woman with her babe, or bread from the mouth of a starving child. To do so was the necessity of his trade,--for his own guidance in which he had made laws. The breaking of those laws by himself would bring his trade to an end, and therefore he declined to break them.

Mr. Hart was a man who attended to his business, and he was found at home even in September. "Yes, Mr. 'Oshspur, it's about time something was done now; ain't it?" said Mr. Hart, smiling pleasantly.

Cousin George, also smiling, reminded his friend of the two thousand pounds paid to him only a few months since. "Not a shilling was mine of that, Captain 'Oshspur, not a brass fardin'. That was quite neshesshary just then, as you know, Captain 'Oshspur, or the fat must have been in the fire. And what's up now?"

Not without considerable difficulty Cousin George explained to the Jew gentleman what was "up." He probably assumed more inclination on the part of Sir Harry for the match than he was justified in doing; but was very urgent in explaining to Mr. Hart that when inquiry was made on the part of Sir Harry as to the nature of the debt, the naked truth should not be exactly told.

"It was very bad, vasn't it, Captain 'Oshspur, having to divide with that fellow Stubber the money from the 'Orse Guards? You vas too clever for both of us there, Mr. 'Oshspur; veren't you now, Captain 'Oshspur? And I've two cheques still on my 'ands which is marked 'No account!' 'No account' is very bad. Isn't 'No account' very bad on a cheque, Captain 'Oshspur? And then I've that cheque on Drummond, signed;--God knows how that is signed! There ain't no such person at all. Baldebeque! That's more like it than nothing else. When you brought me that, I thought there vas a Lord Baldebeque; and I know you live among lords, Captain 'Oshspur."

"On my honour I brought it you,--just as I took it at Tattersall's."

"There was an expert as I showed it to says it is your handwriting, Captain 'Oshspur."

"He lies!" said Cousin George, fiercely.

"But when Stubber would have half the sale money, for the commission--and wanted it all too! lord, how he did curse and swear! That was bad, Captain 'Oshspur."

Then Cousin George swallowed his fierceness for a time, and proceeded to explain to Mr. Hart that Sir Harry would certainly pay all his debts if only those little details could be kept back to which Mr. Hart had so pathetically alluded. Above all it would be necessary to preserve in obscurity that little mistake which had been made as to the pawning of the commission. Cousin George told a great many lies, but he told also much that was true. The Jew did not believe one of the lies; but then, neither did he believe much of the truth. When George had finished his story, then Mr. Hart had a story of his own to tell.

"To let you know all about it, Captain 'Oshspur, the old gent has begun about it already."

"What, Sir Harry?"

"Yes, Sir 'Arry. Mr. Boltby--"

"He's the family lawyer."

"I suppose so, Captain 'Oshspur. Vell, he vas here yesterday, and vas very polite. If I'd just tell him all about everything, he thought as 'ow the Baronet would settle the affair off 'and. He vas very generous in his offer, vas Mr. Boltby; but he didn't say nothin' of any marriage, Captain 'Oshspur."

"Of course he didn't. You are not such a fool as to suppose he would."

"No; I ain't such a fool as I looks, Captain Oshspur, am I? I didn't think it likely, seeing vat vas the nature of his interrogatories. Mr. Boltby seemed to know a good deal. It is astonishing how much them fellows do know."

"You didn't tell him anything?"

"Not much, Captain 'Oshspur--not at fust starting. I'm a going to have my money, you know, Captain 'Oshspur. And if I see my vay to my money one vay, and if I don't see no vay the other vay, vy, vhat's a man to do? You can't blame me, Captain 'Oshspur. I've been very indulgent with you; I have, Captain 'Oshspur."

Cousin George promised, threatened, explained, swore by all his gods, and ended by assuring Mr. Abraham Hart that his life and death were in that gentleman's keeping. If Mr. Hart would only not betray him, the money would be safe and the marriage would be safe, and everything would easily come right. Over and above other things, Cousin George would owe to Mr. Abraham Hart a debt of gratitude which never would be wholly paid. Mr. Hart could only say that he meant to have his money, but that he did not mean to be "ungenteel." Much in his opinion must depend on what Stubber would do. As for Stubber, he couldn't speak to Stubber himself, as he and Stubber "were two." As for himself, if he could get his money he certainly would not be "ungenteel." And he meant what he said--meant more than he said. He would still run some risk rather than split on an old customer such as "Captain 'Oshspur." But now that a sudden way to his money was opened to him, he could not undertake to lose sight of it.

With a very heavy heart Cousin George went from Mr. Hart's house to the house of call of Captain Stubber. Mr. Boltby had been before him with Hart, and he augured the worst from Sir Harry's activity in the matter. If Mr. Boltby had already seen the Captain, all his labour would probably be too late. Where Captain Stubber lived, even so old a friend of his as Cousin George did not know. And in what way Captain Stubber had become a captain, George, though he had been a military man himself, had never learned. But Captain Stubber had a house of call in a very narrow, dirty little street near Red Lion Square. It was close to a public-house, but did not belong to the public-house. George Hotspur, who had been very often to the place of call, had never seen there any appurtenances of the Captain's business. There were no account-books, no writing-table, no ink even, except that contained in a little box with a screw, which Captain Stubber would take out of his own pocket. Mr. Hart was so far established and civilized as to keep a boy whom he called a clerk; but Captain Stubber seemed to keep nothing. A dirty little girl at the house of call would run and fetch Captain Stubber, if he were within reach; but most usually an appointment had to be made with the Captain. Cousin George well remembered the day when his brother Captain first made his acquaintance. About two years after the commencement of his life in London, Captain Stubber had had an interview with him in the little waiting-room just within the club doors. Captain Stubber then had in his possession a trumpery note of hand with George's signature, which, as he stated, he had "done" for a small tradesman with whom George had been fool enough to deal for cigars. From that day to the present he and Captain Stubber had been upon most intimate and confidential terms. If there was any one in the world whom Cousin George really hated, it was Captain Stubber.

On this occasion Captain Stubber was forthcoming after a delay of about a quarter of an hour. During that time Cousin George had stood in the filthy little parlour of the house of call in a frame of mind which was certainly not to be envied. Had Mr. Boltby also been with Captain Stubber? He knew his two creditors well enough to understand that the Jew, getting his money, would be better pleased to serve him than to injure him. But the Captain would from choice do him an ill turn. Nothing but self-interest would tie up Captain Stubber's tongue. Captain Stubber was a tall thin gentleman, probably over sixty years of age, with very seedy clothes, and a red nose. He always had Berlin gloves, very much torn about the fingers, carried a cotton umbrella, wore--as his sole mark of respectability--a very stiff, clean, white collar round his neck, and invariably smelt of gin. No one knew where he lived, or how he carried on his business; but, such as he was, he had dealings with large sums of money, or at least with bills professing to stand for large sums, and could never have been found without a case in his pocket crammed with these documents. The quarter of an hour seemed to George to be an age; but at last Captain Stubber knocked at the front door and was shown into the room.

"How d'ye do, Captain Stubber?" said George.

"I'd do a deal better, Captain Hotspur, if I found it easier sometimes to come by my own."

"Well, yes; but no doubt you have your profit in the delay, Captain Stubber."

"It's nothing to you, Captain Hotspur, whether I have profit or loss. All you 'as got to look to is to pay me what you owe me. And I intend that you shall, or by G---- you shall suffer for it! I'm not going to stand it any longer. I know where to have you, and have you I will."

Cousin George was not quite sure whether the Captain did know where to have him. If Mr. Boltby had been with him, it might be so; but then Captain Stubber was not a man so easily found as Mr. Hart, and the connection between himself and the Captain might possibly have escaped Mr. Boltby's inquiries. It was very difficult to tell the story of his love to such a man as Captain Stubber, but he did tell it. He explained all the difficulties of Sir Harry's position in regard to the title and the property, and he was diffuse upon his own advantages as head of the family, and of the need there was that he should marry the heiress.

"But there is not an acre of it will come to you unless he gives it you?" inquired Captain Stubber.

"Certainly not," said Cousin George, anxious that the Captain should understand the real facts of the case to a certain extent.

"And he needn't give you the girl?"

"The girl will give herself, my friend."

"And he needn't give the girl the property?"

"But he will. She is his only child."

"I don't believe a word about it. I don't believe such a one as Sir Harry Hotspur would lift his hand to help such as you."

"He has offered to pay my debts already."

"Very well. Let him make the offer to me. Look here, Captain Hotspur, I am not a bit afraid of you, you know."

"Who asks you to be afraid?"

"Of all the liars I ever met with, you are the worst."

George Hotspur smiled, looking up at the red nose of the malignant old man as though it were a joke; but that which he had to hear at this moment was a heavy burden. Captain Stubber probably understood this, for he repeated his words.

"I never knew any liar nigh so bad as you. And then there is such a deal worse than lies. I believe I could send you to penal servitude, Captain Hotspur."

"You could do no such thing," said Cousin George, still trying to look as though it were a joke, "and you don't think you could."

"I'll do my best at any rate, if I don't have my money soon. You could pay Mr. Hart two thousand pounds, but you think I'm nobody."

"I am making arrangements now for having every shilling paid to you."

"Yes, I see. I've known a good deal about your arrangements. Look here, Captain Hotspur, unless I have five hundred pounds on or before Saturday, I'll write to Sir Harry Hotspur, and I'll give him a statement of all our dealings. You can trust me, though I can't trust you. Good morning, Captain Hotspur."

Captain Stubber did believe in his heart that he was a man much injured by Cousin George, and that Cousin George was one whom he was entitled to despise. And yet a poor wretch more despicable, more dishonest, more false, more wicked, or more cruel than Captain Stubber could not have been found in all London. His business was carried on with a small capital borrowed from a firm of low attorneys, who were the real holders of the bills he carried, and the profits which they allowed him to make were very trifling. But from Cousin George during the last twelve months he had made no profit at all. And Cousin George in former days had trodden upon him as on a worm.

Cousin George did not fail to perceive that Mr. Boltby had not as yet applied to Captain Stubber.

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