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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 17. "Let Us Try"
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 17. 'Let Us Try' Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1737

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 17. "Let Us Try"

CHAPTER XVII. "LET US TRY"

Things went on thus at Humblethwaite for three weeks, and Sir Harry began to feel that he could endure it no longer. He had expected to have heard again from Mr. Boltby, but no letter had come. Mr. Boltby had suggested to him something of starving out the town, and he had expected to be informed before this whether the town were starved out or not. He had received an indignant and grandiloquent letter from his cousin, of which as yet he had taken no notice. He had taken no notice of the letter, although it had been written to decline a proposal of very great moment made by himself. He felt that in these circumstances Mr. Boltby ought to have written to him. He ought to have been told what was being done. And yet he had left Mr. Boltby with a feeling which made it distasteful to him to ask further questions from the lawyer on the subject. Altogether his position was one as disagreeable and painful as it well could be.

But at last, in regard to his own private life with his daughter, he could bear it no longer. The tenderness of his heart was too much for his pride, and he broke down in his resolution to be stern and silent with her till all this should have passed by them. She was so much more to him than he was to her! She was his all in all;--whereas Cousin George was hers. He was the happier at any rate in this, that he would never be forced to despise where he loved.

"Emily," he said to her at last, "why is it that you are so changed to me?"

"Papa!"

"Are you not changed? Do you not know that everything about the house is changed?"

"Yes, Papa."

"And why is it so? I do not keep away from you. You used to come to me every day. You never come near me now."

She hesitated for a moment with her eyes turned to the ground, and then as she answered him she looked him full in the face. "It is because I am always thinking of my cousin George."

"But why should that keep us apart, Emily? I wish that it were not so; but why should that keep us apart?"

"Because you are thinking of him too, and think so differently! You hate him; but I love him."

"I do not hate him. It is not that I hate him. I hate his vices."

"So do I."

"I know that he is not a fit man for you to marry. I have not been able to tell you the things that I know of him."

"I do not wish to be told."

"But you might believe me when I assure you that they are of a nature to make you change your feelings towards him. At this very moment he is attached to--to--another person."

Emily Hotspur blushed up to her brows, and her cheeks and forehead were suffused with blood; but her mouth was set as firm as a rock, and then came that curl over her eye which her father had so dearly loved when she was a child, but which was now held by him to be so dangerous. She was not going to be talked out of her love in that way. Of course there had been things,--were things of which she knew nothing and desired to know nothing. Though she herself was as pure as the driven snow, she did not require to be told that there were impurities in the world. If it was meant to be insinuated that he was untrue to her, she simply disbelieved it. But what if he were? His untruth would not justify hers. And untruth was impossible to her. She loved him, and had told him so. Let him be ever so false, it was for her to bring him back to truth or to spend herself in the endeavour. Her father did not understand her at all when he talked to her after this fashion. But she said nothing. Her father was alluding to a matter on which she could say nothing.

"If I could explain to you the way in which he has raised money for his daily needs, you would feel that he had degraded himself beneath your notice."

"He cannot degrade himself beneath my notice;--not now. It is too late."

"But, Emily,--do you mean to say then that, let you set your affections where you might,--however wrongly, on however base a subject,--your mamma and I ought to yield to them, merely because they are so set?"

"He is your heir, Papa."

"No; you are my heir. But I will not argue upon that. Grant that he were my heir; even though every acre that is mine must go to feed his wickedness the very moment that I die, would that be a reason for giving my child to him also? Do you think that you are no more to me than the acres, or the house, or the empty title? They are all nothing to my love for you."

"Papa!"

"I do not think that you have known it. Nay, darling, I have hardly known it myself. All other anxieties have ceased with me now that I have come to know what it really is to be anxious for you. Do you think that I would not abandon any consideration as to wealth or family for your happiness? It has come to that with me, Emily, that they are nothing to me now;--nothing. You are everything."

"Dear Papa!" And now once again she leant upon his shoulder.

"When I tell you of the young man's life, you will not listen to me. You regard it simply as groundless opposition."

"No, Papa; not groundless,--only useless."

"But am I not bound to see that my girl be not united to a man who would disgrace her, misuse her, drag her into the dirt,"--that idea of dragging George out was strong in Emily's mind as she listened to this,--"make her wretched and contemptible, and degrade her? Surely this is a father's duty; and my child should not turn from me, and almost refuse to speak to me, because I do it as best I can!"

"I do not turn from you, Papa."

"Has my darling been to me as she used to be?"

"Look here, Papa; you know what it is I have promised you."

"I do, dearest."

"I will keep my promise. I will never marry him till you consent. Even though I were to see him every day for ten years, I would not do so when I had given my word."

"I am sure of it, Emily."

"But let us try, you and I and Mamma together. If you will do that; oh, I will be so good to you! Let us see if we cannot make him good. I will never ask to marry him till you yourself are satisfied that he has reformed." She looked into his face imploringly, and she saw that he was vacillating. And yet he was a strong man, not given in ordinary things to much doubt. "Papa, let us understand each other and be friends. If we do not trust each other, who can trust any one?"

"I do trust you."

"I shall never care for any one else."

"Do not say that, my child. You are too young to know your own heart. These are wounds which time will cure. Others have suffered as you are suffering, and yet have become happy wives and mothers."

"Papa, I shall never change. I think I love him more because he is--so weak. Like a poor child that is a cripple, he wants more love than those who are strong. I shall never change. And look here, Papa; I know it is my duty to obey you by not marrying without your consent. But it can never be my duty to marry any one because you or Mamma ask me. You will agree to that, Papa?"

"I should never think of pressing any one on you."

"That is what I mean. And so we do understand each other. Nothing can teach me not to think of him, and to love him, and to pray for him. As long as I live I shall do so. Nothing you can find out about him will alter me in that. Pray, pray do not go on finding out bad things. Find out something good, and then you will begin to love him."

"But if there is nothing good?" Sir Harry, as he said this, remembered the indignant refusal of his offer which was at that moment in his pocket, and confessed to himself that he had no right to say that nothing good could be found in Cousin George.

"Do not say that, Papa. How can you say that of any one? Remember, he has our name, and he must some day be at the head of our family."

"It will not be long, first," said Sir Harry, mournfully.

"Many, many, many years, I hope. For his sake as well as ours, I pray that it may be so. But still it is natural to suppose that the day will come."

"Of course it will come."

"Must it not be right, then, to make him fit for it when it comes? It can't be your great duty to think of him, as it is mine; but still it must be a duty to you too. I will not excuse his life, Papa; but have there not been temptations,--such great temptations? And then, other men are excused for doing what he has done. Let us try together, Papa. Say that you will try."

It was clear to Sir Harry through it all that she knew nothing as yet of the nature of the man's offences. When she spoke of temptation not resisted, she was still thinking of commonplace extravagance, of the ordinary pleasures of fast young men, of racecourses, and betting, perhaps, and of tailors' bills. That lie which he had told about Goodwood she had, as it were, thrown behind her, so that she should not be forced to look at it. But Sir Harry knew him to be steeped in dirty lies up to the hip, one who cheated tradesmen on system, a gambler who looked out for victims, a creature so mean that he could take a woman's money! Mr. Boltby had called him a swindler, a card-sharper, and a cur; and Sir Harry, though he was inclined at the present moment to be angry with Mr. Boltby, had never known the lawyer to be wrong. And this was the man for whom his daughter was pleading with all the young enthusiasm of her nature,--was pleading, not as for a cousin, but in order that he might at last be welcomed to that house as her lover, her husband, the one human being chosen out from all the world to be the recipient of the good things of which she had the bestowal! The man was so foul in the estimation of Sir Harry that it was a stain to be in his presence; and this was the man whom he as a father was implored to help to save, in order that at some future time his daughter might become the reprobate's wife!

"Papa, say that you will help me," repeated Emily, clinging to him, and looking up into his face.

He could not say that he would help her, and yet he longed to say some word that might comfort her. "You have been greatly shaken by all this, dearest."

"Shaken! Yes, in one sense I have been shaken. I don't know quite what you mean. I shall never be shaken in the other way."

"You have been distressed."

"Yes; distressed."

"And, indeed, so have we all," he continued. "I think it will be best to leave this for a while."

"For how long, Papa?"

"We need not quite fix that. I was thinking of going to Naples for the winter." He was silent, waiting for her approbation, but she expressed none. "It is not long since you said how much you would like to spend a winter in Naples."

She still paused, but it was but for a moment. "At that time, Papa, I was not engaged." Did she mean to tell him, that because of this fatal promise which she had made, she never meant to stir from her home till she should be allowed to go with that wretch as her husband; that because of this promise, which could never be fulfilled, everything should come to an end with her? "Papa," she said, "that would not be the way to try to save him, to go away and leave him among those who prey upon him;--unless, indeed, he might go too!"

"What! with us?"

"With you and Mamma. Why not? You know what I have promised. You can trust me."

"It is a thing absolutely not to be thought of," he said; and then he left her. What was he to do? He could take her abroad, no doubt, but were he to do so in her present humour, she would, of course, relapse into that cold, silent, unloving, undutiful obedience which had been so distressing to him. She had made a great request to him, and he had not absolutely refused it. But the more he thought of it the more distasteful did it become to him. You cannot touch pitch and not be defiled. And the stain of this pitch was so very black! He could pay money, if that would soothe her. He could pay money, even if the man should not accept the offer made to him, should she demand it of him. And if the man would reform himself, and come out through the fire really purified, might it not be possible that at some long future time Emily should become his wife? Or, if some sort of half promise such as this were made to Emily, would not that soften her for the time, and induce her to go abroad with a spirit capable of satisfaction, if not of pleasure? If this could be brought about, then time might do the rest. It would have been a delight to him to see his daughter married early, even though his own home might have been made desolate; but now he would be content if he thought he could look forward to some future settlement in life that might become her rank and fortune.

Emily, when her father left her, was aware that she had received no reply to her request, which she was entitled to regard as encouraging; but she thought that she had broken the ice, and that her father would by degrees become accustomed to her plan. If she could only get him to say that he would watch over the unhappy one, she herself would not be unhappy. It was not to be expected that she should be allowed to give her own aid at first to the work, but she had her scheme. His debts must be paid, and an income provided for him. And duties, too, must be given to him. Why should he not live at Scarrowby, and manage the property there? And then, at length, he would be welcomed to Humblethwaite, when her own work might begin. Neither for him nor for her must there be any living again in London until this task should have been completed. That any trouble could be too great, any outlay of money too vast for so divine a purpose, did not occur to her. Was not this man the heir to her father's title; and was he not the owner of her own heart? Then she knelt down and prayed that the Almighty Father would accomplish this good work for her;--and yet, not for her, but for him; not that she might be happy in her love, but that he might be as a brand saved from the burning, not only hereafter, but here also, in the sight of men. Alas, dearest, no; not so could it be done! Not at thy instance, though thy prayers be as pure as the songs of angels;--but certainly at his, if only he could be taught to know that the treasure so desirable in thy sight, so inestimable to thee, were a boon worthy of his acceptance.

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