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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 18. Good Advice
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 18. Good Advice Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :2178

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 18. Good Advice

CHAPTER XVIII. GOOD ADVICE

Two or three days after the little request made by Cousin George to Mrs. Morton, the Altringhams came suddenly to town. George received a note from Lady Altringham addressed to him at his club.


We are going through to the Draytons in Hampshire. It
is a new freak. Four or five horses are to be sold, and
Gustavus thinks of buying the lot. If you are in town,
come to us. You must not think that we are slack about you
because Gustavus would have nothing to do with the money.
He will be at home to-morrow till eleven. I shall not go
out till two. We leave on Thursday.--Yours, A. A.


This letter he received on the Wednesday. Up to that hour he had done nothing since his interview with Mr. Hart; nor during those few days did he hear from that gentleman, or from Captain Stubber, or from Mr. Boltby. He had written to Sir Harry refusing Sir Harry's generous offer, and subsequently to that had made up his mind to accept it,--and had asked, as the reader knows, for Mrs. Morton's assistance. But the making up of George Hotspur's mind was nothing. It was unmade again that day after dinner, as he thought of all the glories of Humblethwaite and Scarrowby combined. Any one knowing him would have been sure that he would do nothing till he should be further driven. Now there had come upon the scene in London one who could drive him.

He went to the Earl's house just at eleven, not wishing to seem to avoid the Earl, but still desirous of seeing as little of his friend on that occasion as possible. He found Lord Altringham standing in his wife's morning-room. "How are you, old fellow? How do things go with the heiress?" He was in excellent humour, and said nothing about the refused request. "I must be off. You do what my Lady advises; you may be sure that she knows a deal more about it than you or I." Then he went, wishing George success in his usual friendly, genial way, which, as George knew, meant very little.

With Lady Altringham the case was different. She was in earnest about it. It was to her a matter of real moment that this great heiress should marry one of her own set, and a man who wanted money so badly as did poor George. And she liked work of that kind. George's matrimonial prospects were more interesting to her than her husband's stables. She was very soon in the thick of it all, asking questions, and finding out how the land lay. She knew that George would lie; but that was to be expected from a man in his position. She knew also that she could with fair accuracy extract the truth from his lies.

"Pay all your debts, and give you five hundred pounds a year for his life."

"The lawyer has offered that," said George, sadly.

"Then you may be sure," continued Lady Altringham, "that the young lady is in earnest. You have not accepted it?"

"Oh dear, no. I wrote to Sir Harry quite angrily. I told him I wanted my cousin's hand."

"And what next?"

"I have heard nothing further from anybody."

Lady Altringham sat and thought. "Are these people in London bothering you?" George explained that he had been bothered a good deal, but not for the last four or five days. "Can they put you in prison, or anything of that kind?"

George was not quite sure whether they might or might not have some such power. He had a dreadful weight on his mind of which he could say nothing to Lady Altringham. Even she would be repelled from him were she to know of that evening's work between him and Messrs. Walker and Bullbean. He said at last that he did not think they could arrest him, but that he was not quite sure.

"You must do something to let her know that you are as much in earnest as she is."

"Exactly."

"It is no use writing, because she wouldn't get your letters."

"She wouldn't have a chance."

"And if I understand her she would not do anything secretly."

"I am afraid not," said George.

"You will live, perhaps, to be glad that it is so. When girls come out to meet their lovers clandestinely before marriage, they get so fond of the excitement that they sometimes go on doing it afterwards."

"She is as,--as--as sure to go the right side of the post as any girl in the world."

"No doubt. So much the better for you. When those girls do catch the disease, they always have it very badly. They mean only to have one affair, and naturally want to make the most of it. Well, now what I would do is this. Run down to Humblethwaite."

"To Humblethwaite!"

"Yes. I don't suppose you are going to be afraid of anybody. Knock at the door, and send your card to Sir Harry. Drive into the stable-yard, so that everybody about the place may know that you are there, and then ask to see the Baronet."

"He wouldn't see me."

"Then ask to see Lady Elizabeth."

"She wouldn't be allowed to see me."

"Then leave a letter, and say that you'll wait for an answer. Write to Miss Hotspur whatever you like to say in the way of a love-letter, and put it under cover to Sir Harry--open."

"She'll never get it."

"I don't suppose she will. Not but what she may--only that isn't the first object. But this will come of it. She'll know that you've been there. That can't be kept from her. You may be sure that she was very firm in sticking to you when he offered to pay all that money to get rid of you. She'll remain firm if she's made to know that you are the same. Don't let her love die out for want of notice."

"I won't."

"If they take her abroad, go after them. Stick to it, and you'll wear them out if she helps you. And if she knows that you are sticking to it, she'll do the same for honour. When she begins to be a little pale, and to walk out at nights, and to cough in the morning, they'll be tired out and send for Dr. George Hotspur. That's the way it will go if you play your game well."

Cousin George was lost in admiration at the wisdom and generalship of this great counsellor, and promised implicit obedience. The Countess went on to explain that it might be expedient to postpone this movement for a week or two. "You should leave just a little interval, because you cannot always be doing something. For some days after his return her father won't cease to abuse you, which will keep you well in her mind. When those men begin to attack you again, so as to make London too hot, then run down to Humblethwaite. Don't hide your light under a bushel. Let the people down there know all about it."

George Hotspur swore eternal gratitude and implicit obedience, and went back to his club.

Mr. Hart and Captain Stubber did not give him much rest. From Mr. Boltby he received no further communication. For the present Mr. Boltby thought it well to leave him in the hands of Mr. Hart and Captain Stubber. Mr. Boltby, indeed, did not as yet know of Mr. Bullbean's story, although certain hints had reached him which had, as he thought, justified him in adding the title of card-sharper to those other titles with which he had decorated his client's cousin's name. Had he known the entire Walker story, he would probably have thought that Cousin George might have been bought at a considerably cheaper price than that fixed in the Baronet's offer, which was still in force. But then Mr. Hart had his little doubts also and his difficulties. He, too, could perceive that were he to make this last little work of Captain Hotspur's common property in the market, it might so far sink Captain Hotspur's condition and value in the world that nobody would think it worth his while to pay Captain Hotspur's debts. At present there was a proposition from an old gentleman, possessed of enormous wealth, to "pay all Captain Hotspur's debts." Three months ago, Mr. Hart would willingly have sold every scrap of the Captain's paper in his possession for the half of the sum inscribed on it. The whole sum was now promised, and would undoubtedly be paid if the Captain could be worked upon to do as Mr. Boltby desired. But if the gentlemen employed on this delicate business were to blow upon the Captain too severely, Mr. Boltby would have no such absolute necessity to purchase the Captain. The Captain would sink to zero, and not need purchasing. Mr. Walker must have back his money,--or so much of it as Mr. Hart might permit him to take. That probably might be managed; and the Captain must be thoroughly frightened, and must be made to write the letter which Mr. Boltby desired. Mr. Hart understood his work very well;--so, it is hoped, does the reader.

Captain Stubber was in these days a thorn in our hero's side; but Mr. Hart was a scourge of scorpions. Mr. Hart never ceased to talk of Mr. Walker, and of the determination of Walker and Bullbean to go before a magistrate if restitution were not made. Cousin George of course denied the foul play, but admitted that he would repay the money if he had it. There should be no difficulty about the money, Mr. Hart assured him, if he would only write that letter to Mr. Boltby. In fact, if he would write that letter to Mr. Boltby, he should be made "shquare all round." So Mr. Hart was pleased to express himself. But if this were not done, and done at once, Mr. Hart swore by his God that Captain "'Oshspur" should be sold up, root and branch, without another day's mercy. The choice was between five hundred pounds a year in any of the capitals of Europe, and that without a debt,--or penal servitude. That was the pleasant form in which Mr. Hart put the matter to his young friend.

Cousin George drank a good deal of curacoa, and doubted between Lady Altringham and Mr. Hart. He knew that he had not told everything to the Countess. Excellent as was her scheme, perfect as was her wisdom, her advice was so far more dangerous than the Jew's, that it was given somewhat in the dark. The Jew knew pretty well everything. The Jew was interested, of course, and therefore his advice must also be regarded with suspicion. At last, when Mr. Hart and Captain Stubber between them had made London too hot to hold him, he started for Humblethwaite,--not without leaving a note for "dear Mr. Hart," in which he explained to that gentleman that he was going to Westmoreland suddenly, with a purpose that would, he trusted, very speedily enable him to pay every shilling that he owed.

"Yesh," said Mr. Hart, "and if he ain't quick he shall come back with a 'andcuff on."

Captain Hotspur could not very well escape Mr. Hart. He started by the night-train for Penrith, and before doing so prepared a short letter for Miss Hotspur, which, as instructed, he put open under an envelope addressed to the Baronet. There should be nothing clandestine, nothing dishonourable. Oh dear, no! He quite taught himself to believe that he would have hated anything dishonourable or clandestine. His letter was as follows:--


DEAREST EMILY,--After what has passed between us, I cannot
bear not to attempt to see you or to write to you. So
I shall go down and take this letter with me. Of course
I shall not take any steps of which Sir Harry might
disapprove. I wrote to him two or three weeks ago, telling
him what I proposed, and I thought that he would have
answered me. As I have not heard from him I shall take
this with me to Humblethwaite, and shall hope, though I do
not know whether I may dare to expect, to see the girl I
love better than all the world.--Always your own,

GEORGE HOTSPUR.


Even this was not composed by himself, for Cousin George, though he could often talk well,--or at least sufficiently well for the purposes which he had on hand,--was not good with his pen on such an occasion as this. Lady Altringham had sent him by post a rough copy of what he had better say, and he had copied her ladyship's words verbatim. There is no matter of doubt at all but that on all such subjects an average woman can write a better letter than an average man; and Cousin George was therefore right to obtain assistance from his female friends.

He slept at Penrith till nearly noon, then breakfasted and started with post-horses for Humblethwaite. He felt that everybody knew what he was about, and was almost ashamed of being seen. Nevertheless he obeyed his instructions. He had himself driven up through the lodges and across the park into the large stable-yard of the Hall. Lady Altringham had quite understood that more people must see and hear him in this way than if he merely rang at the front door and were from thence dismissed. The grooms and the coachman saw him, as did also three or four of the maids who were in the habit of watching to see that the grooms and coachman did their work. He had brought with him a travelling-bag,--not expecting to be asked to stay and dine, but thinking it well to be prepared. This, however, he left in the fly as he walked round to the hall-door. The footman was already there when he appeared, as word had gone through the house that Mr. George had arrived. Was Sir Harry at home? Yes, Sir Harry was at home;--and then George found himself in a small parlour, or book-room, or subsidiary library, which he had very rarely known to be used. But there was a fire in the room, and he stood before it, twiddling his hat.

In a quarter of an hour the door was opened, and the servant came in with a tray and wine and sandwiches. George felt it to be an inappropriate welcome; but still, after a fashion, it was a welcome.

"Is Sir Harry in the house?" he asked.

"Yes, Mr. Hotspur."

"Does he know that I am here?"

"Yes, Mr. Hotspur, I think he does."

Then it occurred to Cousin George that perhaps he might bribe the servant; and he put his hand into his pocket. But before he had communicated the two half-crowns, it struck him that there was no possible request which he could make to the man in reference to which a bribe would be serviceable.

"Just ask them to look to the horses," he said; "I don't know whether they were taken out."

"The horses is feeding, Mr. Hotspur," said the man.

Every word the man spoke was gravely spoken, and George understood perfectly that he was held to have done a very wicked thing in coming to Humblethwaite. Nevertheless, there was a decanter full of sherry, which, as far as it went, was an emblem of kindness. Nobody should say that he was unwilling to accept kindness at his cousin's hands, and he helped himself liberally. Before he was interrupted again he had filled his glass four times.

But in truth it needed something to support him. For a whole hour after the servant's disappearance he was left alone. There were books in the room,--hundreds of them; but in such circumstances who could read? Certainly not Cousin George, to whom books at no time gave much comfort. Twice and thrice he stepped towards the bell, intending to ring it, and ask again for Sir Harry; but twice and thrice he paused. In his position he was bound not to give offence to Sir Harry. At last the door was opened, and with silent step, and grave demeanour, and solemn countenance, Lady Elizabeth walked into the room. "We are very sorry that you should have been kept so long waiting, Captain Hotspur," she said.

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