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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 20. Cousin George's Success
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 20. Cousin George's Success Post by :grimmbot Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3232

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 20. Cousin George's Success

CHAPTER XX. COUSIN GEORGE'S SUCCESS

Thoughts crowded quick into the mind of Sir Harry Hotspur as he had himself driven over to Penrith. It was a dull, dreary day in November, and he took the close carriage. The distance was about ten miles, and he had therefore something above an hour for thinking. When men think much, they can rarely decide. The affairs as to which a man has once acknowledged to himself that he may be either wise or foolish, prudent or imprudent, are seldom matters on which he can by any amount of thought bring himself to a purpose which to his own eyes shall be clearly correct. When he can decide without thinking, then he can decide without a doubt, and with perfect satisfaction. But in this matter Sir Harry thought much. There had been various times at which he was quite sure that it was his duty to repudiate this cousin utterly. There had never been a time at which he had been willing to accept him. Nevertheless, at this moment, with all his struggles of thought he could not resolve. Was his higher duty due to his daughter, or to his family,--and through his family to his country, which, as he believed, owed its security and glory to the maintenance of its aristocracy? Would he be justified,--justified in any degree,--in subjecting his child to danger in the hope that his name and family pride might be maintained? Might he take his own desires in that direction as any make-weight towards a compliance with his girl's strong wishes, grounded as they were on quite other reasons? Mr. Boltby had been very eager in telling him that he ought to have nothing to say to this cousin, had loaded the cousin's name with every imaginable evil epithet; and of Mr. Boltby's truth and honesty there could be no doubt. But then Mr. Boltby had certainly exceeded his duty, and was of course disposed, by his professional view of the matter, to think any step the wisest which would tend to save the property from dangerous hands. Sir Harry felt that there were things to be saved of more value than the property;--the family, the title, perhaps that reprobate cousin himself; and then, above all, his child. He did believe that his child would not smile for him again, unless he would consent to make some effort in favour of her lover.

Doubtless the man was very bad. Sir Harry was sick at heart as he thought of the evil nature of the young man's vices. Of a man debauched in his life, extravagant with his money, even of a gambler, a drunkard, one fond of low men and of low women;--of one even such as this there might be hope, and the vicious man, if he will give up his vices, may still be loved and at last respected. But of a liar, a swindler, one mean as well as vicious, what hope could there be? It was essential to Sir Harry that the husband of his daughter should at any rate be a gentleman. The man's blood, indeed, was good; and blood will show at last, let the mud be ever so deep. So said Sir Harry to himself. And Emily would consent that the man should be tried by what severest fire might be kindled for the trying of him. If there were any gold there, it might be possible to send the dross adrift, and to get the gold without alloy. Could Lady Altringham have read Sir Harry's mind as his carriage was pulled up, just at twelve o'clock, at the door of the Penrith Crown, she would have been stronger than ever in her belief that young lovers, if they be firm, can always conquer opposing parents.

But alas, alas, there was no gold with this dross, and in that matter of blood, as to which Sir Harry's ideas were so strong, and indeed so noble, he entertained but a muddled theory. Noblesse oblige. High position will demand, and will often exact, high work. But that rule holds as good with a Buonaparte as with a Bourbon, with a Cromwell as with a Stewart; and succeeds as often and fails as often with the low born as with the high. And good blood too will have its effect,--physical for the most part,--and will produce bottom, lasting courage, that capacity of carrying on through the mud to which Sir Harry was wont to allude; but good blood will bring no man back to honesty. The two things together, no doubt, assist in producing the highest order of self-denying man.

When Sir Harry got out of his carriage, he had not yet made up his mind. The waiter had been told that he was expected, and showed him up at once into the large sitting-room looking out into the street, which Cousin George had bespoke for the occasion. He had had a smaller room himself, but had been smoking there, and at this moment in that room there was a decanter and a wine-glass on the chiffonier in one corner. He had heard the bustle of the arrival, and had at once gone into the saloon prepared for the reception of the great man. "I am so sorry to give you this trouble," said Cousin George, coming forward to greet his cousin. Sir Harry could not refuse his cousin's hand, though he would willingly have done so, had it been possible. "I should not mind the trouble," he said, "if it were of any use. I fear it can be of none."

"I hope you will not be prejudiced against me, Sir Harry."

"I trust that I am not prejudiced against any one. What is it that you wish me to do?"

"I want permission to go to Humblethwaite, as a suitor for your daughter's hand." So far Cousin George had prepared his speech beforehand.

"And what have you to recommend you to a father for such permission? Do you not know, sir, that when a gentleman proposes to a lady it is his duty to show that he is in a condition fit for the position which he seeks; that in character, in means, in rank, in conduct, he is at least her equal."

"As for our rank, Sir Harry, it is the same."

"And for your means? You know that my daughter is my heiress?"

"I do; but it is not that that has brought me to her. Of course, I have nothing. But then, you know, though she will inherit the estates, I must inherit--"

"If you please, sir, we will not go into all that again," said Sir Harry, interrupting him. "I explained to you before, sir, that I would have admitted your future rank as a counterpoise to her fortune, if I could have trusted your character. I cannot trust it. I do not know why you should thrust upon me the necessity of saying all this again. As I believe that you are in pecuniary distress, I made you an offer which I thought to be liberal."

"It was liberal, but it did not suit me to accept it." George had an inkling of what would pass within Sir Harry's bosom as to the acceptance or rejection of that offer. "I wrote to you, declining it, and as I have received no answer, I thought that I would just run down. What was I to do?"

"Do? How can I tell? Pay your debts. The money was offered you."

"I cannot give up my cousin. Has she been allowed to receive the letter which I left for her yesterday?"

Now Sir Harry had doubted much in his own mind as to the letter. During that morning's interview it had still been in his own possession. As he was preparing to leave the house he had made up his mind that she should have it; and Lady Elizabeth had been commissioned to give it her, not without instruction and explanation. Her father would not keep it from her, because he trusted her implicitly; but she was to understand that it could mean nothing to her, and that the letter must not of course be answered.

"It does not matter whether she did or did not," said Sir Harry. "I ask you again, whether you will accept the offer made you by Mr. Boltby, and give me your written promise not to renew this suit."

"I cannot do that, Sir Harry."

Sir Harry did not know how to proceed with the interview. As he had come there, some proposition must be made by himself. Had he intended to be altogether obstinate he should have remained at Humblethwaite, and kept his cousin altogether out of the house. And now his daughter's prayers were ringing in his ears: "Dear Papa, let us see if we cannot try." And then again that assurance which she had made him so solemnly: "Papa, there never can be anybody else!" If the black sheep could be washed white, the good of such washing would on every side be so great! He would have to blush,--let the washing be ever so perfect,--he must always blush in having such a son-in-law; but he had been forced to acknowledge to himself of late, that there was infinitely more of trouble and shame in this world than of joy or honour. Was it not in itself a disgrace that a Hotspur should do such things as this cousin had done; and a disgrace also that his daughter should have loved a man so unfit to be her lover? And then from day to day, and from hour to hour, he remembered that these ills were added to the death of that son, who, had he lived, would have been such a glory to him. More of trouble and disgrace! Was it not all trouble and disgrace? He would have wished that the day might come for him to go away and leave it all, were it not that for one placed as he was placed his own life would not see the end of these troubles. He must endeavour to provide that everything should not go to utter ruin as soon as he should have taken his departure.

He walked about the room, again trying to think. Or, perhaps, all thinking was over with him now, and he was resolving in his own mind how best he might begin to yield. He must obey his daughter. He could not break the heart of the only child that was left to him. He had no delight in the world other than what came to him reflected back from her. He felt now as though he was simply a steward endeavouring on her behalf to manage things to the best advantage; but still only a steward, and as such only a servant who could not at last decide on the mode of management to be adopted. He could endeavour to persuade, but she must decide. Now his daughter had decided, and he must begin this task, so utterly distasteful to him, of endeavouring to wash the blackamoor white.

"What are you willing to do?" he asked.

"How to do, Sir Harry?"

"You have led a bad life."

"I suppose I have, Sir Harry."

"How will you show yourself willing to reform it?"

"Only pay my debts and set me up with ready money, and I'll go along as slick as grease!" Thus would Cousin George have answered the question had he spoken his mind freely. But he knew that he might not be so explicit. He must promise much; but, of course, in making his promise he must arrange about his debts. "I'll do almost anything you like. Only try me. Of course it would be so much easier if those debts were paid off. I'll give up races altogether, if you mean that, Sir Harry. Indeed, I'm ready to give up anything."

"Will you give up London?"

"London!" In simple truth, George did not quite understand the proposition.

"Yes; will you leave London? Will you go and live at Scarrowby, and learn to look after the farm and the place?"

George's face fell,--his face being less used to lying than his tongue; but his tongue lied at once: "Oh yes, certainly, if you wish it. I should rather like a life of that sort. For how long would it be?"

"For two years," said Sir Harry, grimly.

Cousin George, in truth, did not understand. He thought that he was to take his bride with him when he went to Scarrowby. "Perhaps Emily would not like it," he said.

"It is what she desires. You do not suppose that she knows so little of your past life as to be willing to trust herself into your hands at once. She is attached to you."

"And so am I to her; on my honour I am. I'm sure you don't doubt that."

Sir Harry doubted every word that fell from his cousin's mouth, but still he persevered. He could perceive though he could not analyse, and there was hardly a tone which poor Cousin George used which did not discourage the Baronet. Still he persevered. He must persevere now, even if it were only to prove to Emily how much of basest clay and how little of gold there was in this image.

"She is attached to you," he continued, "and you bear our name, and will be the head of our family. If you will submit yourself to a reformed life, and will prove that you are fit for her, it may be possible that after years she should be your wife."

"After years, Sir Harry?"

"Yes, sir,--after years. Do you suppose that the happiness of such an one as she can be trusted to such keeping as yours without a trial of you? You will find that she has no such hope herself."

"Oh, of course; what she likes--"

"I will pay your debts; on condition that Mr. Boltby is satisfied that he has the entire list of them."

George, as he heard this, at once determined that he must persuade Mr. Hart to include Mr. Walker's little account in that due to himself. It was only a matter of a few hundreds, and might surely be arranged when so much real money would be passing from hand to hand.

"I will pay everything; you shall then go down to Scarrowby, and the house shall be prepared for you."

It wasn't supposed, George thought, that he was absolutely to live in solitary confinement at Scarrowby. He might have a friend or two, and then the station was very near.

"You are fond of shooting, and you will have plenty of it there. We will get you made a magistrate for the county, and there is much to do in looking after the property." Sir Harry became almost good-humoured in his tone as he described the kind of life which he intended that the blackamoor should live. "We will come to you for a month each year, and then you can come to us for a while."

"When shall it begin?" asked Cousin George, as soon as the Baronet paused. This was a question difficult to be answered. In fact, the arrangement must be commenced at once. Sir Harry knew very well that, having so far yielded, he must take his cousin back with him to Humblethwaite. He must keep his cousin now in his possession till all those debts should be paid, and till the house at Scarrowby should be prepared; and he must trust to his daughter's prudence and high sense of right not to treat her lover with too tender an acknowledgment of her love till he should have been made to pass through the fire of reform.

"You had better get ready and come back to Humblethwaite with me now," said Sir Harry.

Within five minutes after that there was bustling about the passages and hall of the Crown Hotel. Everybody in the house, from the august landlord down to the humble stableboy, knew that there had been a reconciliation between Sir Harry and his cousin, and that the cousin was to be made welcome to all the good the gods could give. While Cousin George was packing his things, Sir Harry called for the bill and paid it,--without looking at it, because he would not examine how the blackamoor had lived while he was still a blackamoor.

"I wonder whether he observed the brandy," thought Cousin George to himself.

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