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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 8. Airey Force
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 8. Airey Force Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3111

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 8. Airey Force


Lady Elizabeth had been instructed by Sir Harry to warn her daughter not to fall in love with Cousin George during his visit to Humblethwaite; and Lady Elizabeth was, as a wife, accustomed to obey her husband in all things. But obedience in this matter was very difficult. Such a caution as that received is not easily given even between a mother and a child, and is especially difficult when the mother is unconsciously aware of her child's superiority to herself. Emily was in all respects the bigger woman of the two, and was sure to get the best of it in any such cautioning. It is so hard to have to bid a girl, and a good girl too, not to fall in love with a particular man! There is left among us at any rate so much of reserve and assumed delicacy as to require us to consider, or pretend to consider on the girl's behalf, that of course she won't fall in love. We know that she will, sooner or later; and probably as much sooner as opportunity may offer. That is our experience of the genus girl in the general; and we quite approve of her for her readiness to do so. It is, indeed, her nature; and the propensity has been planted in her for wise purposes. But as to this or that special sample of the genus girl, in reference to this or that special sample of the genus young man, we always feel ourselves bound to take it as a matter of course that there can be nothing of the kind, till the thing is done. Any caution on the matter is therefore difficult and disagreeable, as conveying almost an insult. Mothers in well-regulated families do not caution their daughters in reference to special young men. But Lady Elizabeth had been desired by her husband to give the caution, and must in some sort obey the instruction. Two days before George's arrival she endeavoured to do as she was told; not with the most signal success.

"Your Cousin George is coming on Saturday."

"So I heard Papa say."

"Your Papa gave him a sort of invitation when he was here last time, and so he has proposed himself."

"Why should not he? It seems very natural. He is the nearest relation we have got, and we all like him."

"I don't think your Papa does like him."

"I do."

"What I mean is your Papa doesn't approve of him. He goes to races, and bets, and all that kind of thing. And then your Papa thinks that he's over head and ears in debt."

"I don't know anything about his debts. As for his going to races, I believe he has given them up. I am sure he would if he were asked." Then there was a pause, for Lady Elizabeth hardly knew how to pronounce her caution. "Why shouldn't Papa pay his debts?"

"My dear!"

"Well, Mamma, why shouldn't he? And why shouldn't Papa let him have the property; I mean, leave it to him instead of to me?"

"If your brother had lived--"

"He didn't live, Mamma. That has been our great misfortune. But so it is; and why shouldn't George be allowed to take his place? I'm sure it would be for the best. Papa thinks so much about the name, and the family, and all that."

"My dear, you must leave him to do as he thinks fit in all such matters. You may be sure that he will do what he believes to be his duty. What I was going to say was this--" And, instead of saying it, Lady Elizabeth still hesitated.

"I know what you want to say, Mamma, just as well as though the words were out of your mouth. You want to make me to understand that George is a black sheep."

"I'm afraid he is."

"But black sheep are not like blackamoors; they may be washed white. You said so yourself the other day."

"Did I, my dear?"

"Certainly you did; and certainly they may. Why, Mamma, what is all religion but the washing of black sheep white; making the black a little less black, scraping a spot white here and there?"

"I am afraid your Cousin George is beyond washing."

"Then Mamma, all I can say is, he oughtn't to come here. Mind, I think you wrong him. I daresay he has been giddy and fond of pleasure; but if he is so bad as you say, Papa should tell him at once not to come. As far as I am concerned, I don't believe he is so bad; and I shall be glad to see him."

There was no cautioning a young woman who could reason in this way, and who could look at her mother as Emily looked. It was not, at least, within the power of Lady Elizabeth to do so. And yet she could not tell Sir Harry of her failure. She thought that she had expressed the caution; and she thought also that her daughter would be wise enough to be guided,--not by her mother's wisdom, but by the words of her father. Poor dear woman! She was thinking of it every hour of the day; but she said nothing more on the subject, either to her daughter or to Sir Harry.

The black sheep came, and made one of a number of numerous visitors. It had been felt that the danger would be less among a multitude; and there was present a very excellent young man, as to whom there were hopes. Steps had not been taken about this excellent young man as had been done in reference to Lord Alfred; but still there were hopes. He was the eldest son of a Lincolnshire squire, a man of fair property and undoubted family; but who, it was thought, would not object to merge the name of Thoresby in that of Hotspur. Nothing came of the young man, who was bashful, and to whom Miss Hotspur certainly gave no entertainment of a nature to remove his bashfulness. But when the day for George's coming had been fixed, Sir Harry thought it expedient to write to young Thoresby and accelerate a visit which had been previously proposed. Sir Harry as he did so almost hated himself for his anxiety to dispose of his daughter. He was a gentleman, every inch of him; and he thoroughly desired to do his duty. He knew, however, that there was much in his feelings of which he could not but be ashamed. And yet, if something were not done to assist his girl in a right disposal of all that she had to bestow with her hand, how was it probable that it could be disposed aright?

The black sheep came, and found young Thoresby and some dozen other strangers in the house. He smiled upon them all, and before the first evening was over had made himself the popular man of the house. Sir Harry, like a fool as he was, had given his cousin only two fingers, and had looked black at their first meeting. Nothing could be gained by conduct such as that with such a guest. Before the gentlemen left the dinner-table on the first day even he had smiled and joked and had asked questions about "Altringham's mountains." "The worst of you fellows who go to Scotland is that you care nothing for real sport when you come down south afterwards." All this conversation about Lord Altringham's grouse and the Scotch mountains helped George Hotspur, so that when he went into the drawing-room he was in the ascendant. Many men have learned the value of such ascendancy, and most men have known the want of it.

Poor Lady Elizabeth had not a chance with Cousin George. She succumbed to him at once, not knowing why, but feeling that she herself became bright, amusing, and happy when talking to him. She was a woman not given to familiarities; but she did become familiar with him, allowing him little liberties of expression which no other man would take with her, and putting them all down to the score of cousinhood. He might be a black sheep. She feared there could be but little doubt that he was one. But, from her worsted-work up to the demerits of her dearest friend, he did know how to talk better than any other young man she knew. To Emily, on that first evening, he said very little. When he first met her he had pressed her hand, and looked into her eyes, and smiled on her with a smile so sweet that it was as though a god had smiled on her. She had made up her mind that he should be nothing to her,--nothing beyond a dear cousin; nevertheless, her eye had watched him during the whole hour of dinner, and, not knowing that it was so, she had waited for his coming to them in the evening. Heavens and earth! what an oaf was that young Thoresby as the two stood together near the door! She did not want her cousin to come and talk to her, but she listened and laughed within herself as she saw how pleased was her mother by the attentions of the black sheep.

One word Cousin George did say to Emily Hotspur that night, just as the ladies were leaving the room. It was said in a whisper, with a little laugh, with that air of half joke half earnest which may be so efficacious in conversation: "I did not go to Goodwood, after all."

She raised her eyes to his for a quarter of a second, thanking him for his goodness in refraining. "I don't believe that he is really a black sheep at all," she said to herself that night, as she laid her head upon her pillow.

After all, the devil fights under great disadvantages, and has to carry weights in all his races which are almost unfair. He lies as a matter of course, believing thoroughly in lies, thinking that it is by lies chiefly that he must make his running good; and yet every lie he tells, after it has been told and used, remains as an additional weight to be carried. When you have used your lie gracefully and successfully, it is hard to bury it and get it well out of sight. It crops up here and there against you, requiring more lies; and at last, too often, has to be admitted as a lie, most usually so admitted in silence, but still admitted,--to be forgiven or not, according to the circumstances of the case. The most perfect forgiveness is that which is extended to him who is known to lie in everything. The man has to be taken, lies and all, as a man is taken with a squint, or a harelip, or a bad temper. He has an uphill game to fight, but when once well known, he does not fall into the difficulty of being believed.

George Hotspur's lie was believed. To our readers it may appear to have been most gratuitous, unnecessary, and inexpedient. The girl would not have quarrelled with him for going to the races,--would never have asked anything about it. But George knew that he must make his running. It would not suffice that she should not quarrel with him. He had to win her, and it came so natural to him to lie! And the lie was efficacious; she was glad to know that he stayed away from the races--for her sake. Had it not been for her sake? She would not bid him stay away, but she was so glad that he had stayed! The lie was very useful;--if it only could have been buried and put out of sight when used!

There was partridge-shooting for four days; not good shooting, but work which carried the men far from home, and enabled Sir Harry to look after his cousin. George, so looked after, did not dare to say that on any day he would shirk the shooting. But Sir Harry, as he watched his cousin, gradually lost his keenness for watching him. Might it not be best that he should let matters arrange themselves? This young squire from Lincolnshire was evidently an oaf. Sir Harry could not even cherish a hope on that side. His girl was very good, and she had been told, and the work of watching went so much against the grain with him! And then, added to it all, was the remembrance that if the worst came to the worst, the title and property would be kept together. George Hotspur might have fought his fight, we think, without the aid of his lie.

On the Friday the party was to some extent broken up. The oaf and sundry other persons went away. Sir Harry had thought that the cousin would go on the Saturday, and had been angry with his wife because his orders on that head had not been implicitly obeyed. But when the Friday came, and George offered to go in with him to Penrith, to hear some case of fish-poaching which was to be brought before the magistrates, he had forgiven the offence. George had a great deal to say about fish, and then went on to say a good deal about himself. If he could only get some employment, a farm, say, where he might have hunting, how good it would be! For he did not pretend to any virtuous abnegation of the pleasures of the world, but was willing,--so he said,--to add to them some little attempt to earn his own bread. On this day Sir Harry liked his cousin better than he had ever done before, though he did not even then place the least confidence in his cousin's sincerity as to the farm and the earning of bread.

On their return to the Hall on Friday they found that a party had been made to go to Ulleswater on the Saturday. A certain Mrs. Fitzpatrick was staying in the house, who had never seen the lake, and the carriage was to take them to Airey Force. Airey Force, as everybody knows, is a waterfall near to the shores of the lake, and is the great lion of the Lake scenery on that side of the mountains. The waterfall was full fifteen miles from Humblethwaite, but the distance had been done before, and could be done again. Emily, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and two other young ladies were to go. Mr. Fitzpatrick would sit on the box. There was a youth there also who had left school and not yet gone to college. He was to be allowed to drive a dog-cart. Of course George Hotspur was ready to go in the dog-cart with him.

George had determined from the commencement of his visit, when he began to foresee that this Saturday would be more at his command than any other day, that on this Saturday he would make or mar his fortune for life. He had perceived that his cousin was cautious with him, that he would be allowed but little scope for love-making, that she was in some sort afraid of him; but he perceived also that in a quiet undemonstrative way she was very gracious to him. She never ignored him, as young ladies will sometimes ignore young men, but thought of him even in his absence, and was solicitous for his comfort. He was clever enough to read little signs, and was sure at any rate that she liked him.

"Why did you not postpone the party till George was gone?" Sir Harry said to his wife.

"The Fitzpatricks also go on Monday," she answered, "and we could not refuse them."

Then again it occurred to Sir Harry that life would not be worth having if he was to be afraid to allow his daughter to go to a picnic in company with her cousin.

There is a bridge across the water at the top of Airey Force, which is perhaps one of the prettiest spots in the whole of our Lake country. The entire party on their arrival of course went up to the bridge, and then the entire party of course descended. How it happened that in the course of the afternoon George and Emily were there again, and were there unattended, who can tell? If she had meant to be cautious, she must very much have changed her plans in allowing herself to be led thither. And as he stood there, with no eye resting on them, his arm was round her waist and she was pressed to his side.

"Dearest, dearest," he said, "may I believe that you love me?"

"I have said so. You may believe it if you will."

She did not attempt to make the distance greater between them. She leant against him willingly.

"Dear George, I do love you. My choice has been made. I have to trust to you for everything."

"You shall never trust in vain," he said.

"You must reform, you know," she said, turning round and looking up into his face with a smile. "They say that you have been wild. You must not be wild any more, sir."

"I will reform. I have reformed. I say it boldly; I have become an altered man since I knew you. I have lived with one hope, and even the hope alone has changed me. Now I have got all that I have hoped for. Oh, Emily, I wish you knew how much I love you!"

They were there on the bridge, or roaming together alone among the woods, for nearly an hour after that, till Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who knew the value of the prize and the nature of the man, began to fear that she had been remiss in her duty as chaperon. As Emily came down and joined the party at last, she was perfectly regardless either of their frowns or smiles. There had been one last compact made between the lovers.

"George," she had said, "whatever it may cost us, let there be no secrets."

"Of course not," he replied.

"I will tell Mamma to-night; and you must tell Papa. You will promise me?"

"Certainly. It is what I should insist on doing myself. I could not stay in his house under other circumstances. But you too must promise me one thing, Emily."

"What is it?"

"You will be true to me, even though he should refuse his consent?"

She paused before she answered him.

"I will be true to you. I cannot be otherwise than true to you. My love was a thing to give, but when given I cannot take it back. I will be true to you, but of course we cannot be married unless Papa consents."

He urged her no further. He was too wise to think it possible that he could do so without injuring his cause. Then they found the others, and Emily made her apologies to Mrs. Fitzpatrick for the delay with a quiet dignity that struck her Cousin George almost with awe. How had it been that such a one as he had won so great a creature?

George, as he was driven home by his young companion, was full of joyous chatter and light small talk. He had done a good stroke of business, and was happy. If only the Baronet could be brought round, all the troubles which had enveloped him since a beard had first begun to grow on his chin would disappear as a mist beneath the full rays of the sun; or even if there still might be a trouble or two,--and as he thought of his prospects he remembered that they could not all be made to disappear in the mist fashion,--there would be that which would gild the clouds. At any rate he had done a good stroke of business. And he loved the girl too. He thought that of all the girls he had seen about town, or about the country either, she was the bonniest and the brightest and the most clever. It might well have been that a poor devil like he in search of an heiress might have been forced to put up with personal disadvantages,--with age, with plain looks, with vulgar manners, with low birth; but here, so excellent was his fortune, there was everything which fortune could give! Love her? Of course he loved her. He would do anything on earth for her. And how jolly they would be together when they got hold of their share of that L20,000 a year! And how jolly it would be to owe nothing to anybody! As he thought of this, however, there came upon him the reminiscence of a certain Captain Stubber, and the further reminiscence of a certain Mr. Abraham Hart, with both of whom he had dealings; and he told himself that it would behove him to call up all his pluck when discussing those gentlemen and their dealings, with the Baronet. He was sure that the Baronet would not like Captain Stubber nor Mr. Hart, and that a good deal of pluck would be needed. But on the whole he had done a great stroke of business; and, as a consequence of his success, talked and chatted all the way home, till the youth who was driving him thought that George was about the nicest fellow that he had ever met.

Emily Hotspur, as she took her place in the carriage, was very silent. She also had much of which to think, much on which--as she dreamed--to congratulate herself. But she could not think of it and talk at the same time. She had made her little apology with graceful ease. She had just smiled,--but the smile was almost a rebuke,--when one of her companions had ventured on the beginning of some little joke as to her company, and then she had led the way to the carriage. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and the two girls were nothing to her now, let them suspect what they choose or say what they might. She had given herself away, and she triumphed in the surrender. The spot on which he had told her of his love should be sacred to her for ever. It was a joy to her that it was near to her own home, the home that she would give to him, so that she might go there with him again and again. She had very much to consider and to remember. A black sheep! No! Of all the flock he should be the least black. It might be that in the energy of his pleasures he had exceeded other men, as he did exceed all other men in everything that he did and said. Who was so clever? who so bright? who so handsome, so full of poetry and of manly grace? How sweet was his voice, how fine his gait, how gracious his smile! And then in his brow there was that look of command which she had ever recognized in her father's face as belonging to his race as a Hotspur,--only added to it was a godlike beauty which her father never could have possessed.

She did not conceal from herself that there might be trouble with her father. And yet she was not sure but that upon the whole he would be pleased after a while. Humblethwaite and the family honours would still go together, if he would sanction this marriage; and she knew how he longed in his heart that it might be so. For a time probably he might be averse to her prayers. Should it be so, she would simply give him her word that she would never during his lifetime marry without his permission,--and then she would be true to her troth. As to her truth in that respect there could be no doubt. She had given her word; and that, for a Hotspur, must be enough.

She could not talk as she thought of all this, and therefore had hardly spoken when George appeared at the carriage door to give the ladies a hand as they came into the house. To her he was able to give one gentle pressure as she passed on; but she did not speak to him, nor was it necessary that she should do so. Had not everything been said already?

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