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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 68. The Squire Is Very Obstinate
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 68. The Squire Is Very Obstinate Post by :Ahmad Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1218

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 68. The Squire Is Very Obstinate

CHAPTER LXVIII. THE SQUIRE IS VERY OBSTINATE

Mr. Gilmore left his own home on a Thursday afternoon, and on the Monday when the Vicar again visited the Privets nothing had been heard of him. Money had been left with the bailiff for the Saturday wages of the men working about the place, but no provision for anything had been made beyond that. The Sunday had been wet from morning to night, and nothing could possibly be more disconsolate than the aspect of things round the house, or more disreputable if they were to be left in their present condition. The barrows, and the planks, and the pickaxes had been taken away, which things, though they are not in themselves beautiful, are safeguards against the ill-effects of ugliness, as they inform the eyes why it is that such disorder lies around. There was the disorder at the Privets now without any such instruction to the eye. Pits were full of muddy water, and half-formed paths had become the beds of stagnant pools. The Vicar then went into the house, and though there was still a workman and a boy who were listlessly pulling about some rolls of paper, there were ample signs that misfortune had come and that neglect was the consequence. "And all this," said Fenwick to himself, "because the man cannot get the idea of a certain woman out of his head!" Then he thought of himself and his own character, and asked himself whether, in any position of life, he could have been thus overruled to misery by circumstances altogether outside himself. Misfortunes might come which would be very heavy; his wife or children might die; or he might become a pauper; or subject to some crushing disease. But Gilmore's trouble had not fallen upon him from the hands of Providence. He had set his heart upon the gaining of a thing, and was now absolutely broken-hearted because he could not have it. And the thing was a woman. Fenwick admitted to himself that the thing itself was the most worthy for which a man can struggle; but would not admit that even in his search for that a man should allow his heart to give way, or his strength to be broken down.

He went up to the house again on the Wednesday, and again on the Thursday,--but nothing had been heard from the Squire. The bailiff was very unhappy. Even though there might come a cheque on the Saturday morning, which both Fenwick and the bailiff thought to be probable, still there would be grave difficulties.

"Here'll be the first of September on us afore we know where we are," said the bailiff, "and is we to go on with the horses?"

For the Squire was of all men the most regular, and began to get his horses into condition on the first of September as regularly as he began to shoot partridges. The Vicar went home and then made up his mind that he would go up to London after his friend. He must provide for his next Sunday's duty, but he could do that out of a neighbouring parish, and he would start on the morrow. He arranged the matter with his wife and with his friend's curate, and on the Friday he started.

He drove himself into Salisbury instead of to the Bullhampton Road station in order that he might travel by the express train. That at least was the reason which he gave to himself and to his wife. But there was present to his mind the idea that he might look into the court and see how the trial was going on. Poor Carry Brattle would have a bad time of it beneath a lawyer's claws. Such a one as Carry, of the evil of whose past life there was no doubt, and who would appear as a witness against a man whom she had once been engaged to marry, would certainly meet with no mercy from a cross-examining barrister. The broad landmarks between the respectable and the disreputable may guide the tone of a lawyer somewhat, when he has a witness in his power; but the finer lines which separate that which is at the moment good and true from that which is false and bad cannot be discerned amidst the turmoil of a trial, unless the eyes, and the ears, and the inner touch of him who has the handling of the victim be of a quality more than ordinarily high.

The Vicar drove himself over to Salisbury and had an hour there for strolling into the court. He had heard on the previous day that the case would be brought on the first thing on the Friday, and it was half-past eleven when he made his way in through the crowd. The train by which he was to be taken on to London did not start till half-past twelve. At that moment the court was occupied in deciding whether a certain tradesman, living at Devizes, should or should not be on the jury. The man himself objected that, being a butcher, he was, by reason of the second nature acquired in his business, too cruel, and bloody-minded to be entrusted with an affair of life and death. To a proposition in itself so reasonable no direct answer was made; but it was argued with great power on behalf of the crown, which seemed to think at the time that the whole case depended on getting this one particular man into the jury box, that the recalcitrant juryman was not in truth a butcher, that he was only a dealer in meat, and that though the stain of the blood descended the cruelty did not. Fenwick remained there till he heard the case given against the pseudo-butcher, and then retired from the court. He had, however, just seen Carry Brattle and her father seated side by side on a bench in a little outside room appropriated to the witnesses, and there had been a constable there seeming to stand on guard over them. The miller was sitting, leaning on his stick, with his eyes fixed upon the ground, and Carry was pale, wretched, and draggled. Sam had not yet made his appearance.

"I'm afeard, sir, he'll be in trouble," said Carry to the Vicar.

"Let 'un alone," said the miller; "when they wants 'im he'll be here. He know'd more about it nor I did."

That afternoon Fenwick went to the club of which he and Gilmore were both members, and found that his friend was in London. He had been so, at least, that morning at nine o'clock. According to the porter at the club door, Mr. Gilmore called there every morning for his letters as soon as the club was open. He did not eat his breakfast in the house, nor, as far as the porter's memory went, did he even enter the club. Fenwick had lodged himself at an hotel in the immediate neighbourhood of Pall-Mall, and he made up his mind that his only chance of catching his friend was to be at the steps of the club door when it was opened at nine o'clock. So he eat his dinner,--very much in solitude, for on the 28th of August it is not often that the coffee rooms of clubs are full,--and in the evening took himself to one of the theatres which was still open. His club had been deserted, and it had seemed to him that the streets also were empty. One old gentleman, who, together with himself, had employed the forces of the establishment that evening, had told him that there wasn't a single soul left in London. He had gone to his tailor's and had found that both the tailor and the foreman were out of town. His publisher,--for our Vicar did a little in the way of light literature on social subjects, and had brought out a pretty volume in green and gold on the half-profit system, intending to give his share to a certain county hospital,--his publisher had been in the north since the 12th, and would not be back for three weeks. He found, however, a confidential young man who was able to tell him that the hospital need not increase the number of its wards on this occasion. He had dropped down to Dean's Yard to see a clerical friend,--but the house was shut up and he could not even get an answer. He sauntered into the Abbey, and found them mending the organ. He got into a cab and was driven hither and thither because all the streets were pulled up. He called at the War-Office to see a young clerk, and found one old messenger fast asleep in his arm-chair. "Gone for his holiday, sir," said the man in the arm-chair, speaking amidst his dreams, without waiting to hear the particular name of the young clerk who was wanted. And yet, when he got to the theatre, it was so full that he could hardly find a seat on which to sit. In all the world around us there is nothing more singular than the emptiness and the fullness of London.

He was up early the next morning and breakfasted before he went out, thinking that even should he succeed in catching the Squire, he would not be able to persuade the unhappy man to come and breakfast with him. At a little before nine he was in Pall-Mall, walking up and down before the club, and as the clocks struck the hour he began to be impatient. The porter had said that Gilmore always came exactly at nine, and within two minutes after that hour the Vicar began to feel that his friend was breaking an engagement and behaving badly to him. By ten minutes past, the idea had got into his head that all the people in Pall-Mall were watching him, and at the quarter he was angry and unhappy. He had just counted the seconds up to twenty minutes, and had begun to consider that it would be absurd for him to walk there all the day, when he saw the Squire coming slowly along the street. He had been afraid to make himself comfortable within the club, and there to wait for his friend's coming, lest Gilmore should have escaped him, not choosing to be thus caught by any one;--and even now he had his fear lest his quarry should slip through his fingers. He waited till the Squire had gone up to the porter and returned to the street, and then he crossed over and seized him by the arm. "Harry," he said, "you didn't expect to see me in London;--did you?"

"Certainly not," said the other, implying very plainly by his looks that the meeting had given him no special pleasure.

"I came up yesterday afternoon, and I was at Cutcote's the tailor's, and at Messrs. Bringemout and Neversell's. Bringemout has retired, but it's Neversell that does the business. And then I went down to see old Drybird, and I called on young Dozey at his office. But everybody is out of town. I never saw anything like it. I vote that we take to having holidays in the country, and all come to London, and live in the empty houses."

"I suppose you came up to look after me?" said Gilmore, with a brow as black as a thunder-cloud.

Fenwick perceived that he need not carry on any further his lame pretences. "Well, I did. Come, old fellow, this won't do, you know. Everything is not to be thrown overboard because a girl doesn't know her own mind. Aren't your anchors better than that?"

"I haven't an anchor left," said Gilmore.

"How can you be so weak and so wicked as to say so? Come, Harry, take a turn with me in the park. You may be quite sure I shan't let you go now I've got you."

"You'll have to let me go," said the other.

"Not till I've told you my mind. Everybody is out of town, so I suppose even a parson may light a cigar down here. Harry, you must come back with me."

"No;--I cannot."

"Do you mean to say that you will yield up all your strength, all your duty, all your life, and throw over every purpose of your existence because you have been ill-used by a wench? Is that your idea of manhood,--of that manhood you have so often preached?"

"After what I have suffered there I cannot bear the place."

"You must force yourself to bear it. Do you mean to say that because you are unhappy you will not pay your debts?"

"I owe no man a shilling;--or, if I do, I will pay it to-morrow."

"There are debts you can only settle by daily payments. To every man living on your land you owe such a debt. To every friend connected with you by name, or blood, or love, you owe such a debt. Do you suppose that you can cast yourself adrift, and make yourself a by-word, and hurt no one but yourself? Why is it that we hate a suicide?"

"Because he sins."

"Because he is a coward, and runs away from the burden which he ought to bear gallantly. He throws his load down on the roadside, and does not care who may bear it, or who may suffer because he is too poor a creature to struggle on! Have you no feeling that, though it may be hard with you here,"--and the Vicar, as he spoke, struck his breast,--"you should so carry your outer self, that the eyes of those around you should see nothing of the sorrow within? That is my idea of manliness, and I have ever taken you to be a man."

"We work for the esteem of others while we desire it. I desire nothing now. She has so knocked me about that I should be a liar if I were to say that there is enough manhood left in me to bear it. I shan't kill myself."

"No, Harry, you won't do that."

"But I shall give up the place, and go abroad."

"Whom will you serve by that?"

"It is all very well to preach, Frank. Bad as I am I could preach to you if there were a matter to preach about. I don't know that there is anything much easier than preaching. But as for practising, you can't do it if you have not got the strength. A man can't walk if you take away his legs. If you break a bird's wing he can't fly, let the bird be ever so full of pluck. All that there was in me she has taken out of me. I could fight him, and would willingly, if I thought there was a chance of his meeting me."

"He would not be such a fool."

"But I could not stand up and look at her."

"She has left Bullhampton, you know."

"It does not matter, Frank. There is the place that I was getting ready for her. And if I were there, you and your wife would always be thinking about it. And every fellow about the estate knows the whole story. It seems to me to be almost inconceivable that a woman should have done such a thing."

"She has not meant to act badly, Harry."

"To tell the truth, when I look back at it all, I blame myself more than her. A man should never be ass enough to ask any woman a second time. But I had got it into my head that it was a disgraceful thing to ask and not to have. It is that which kills me now. I do not think that I will ever again attempt anything, because failure is so hard to me to bear. At any rate, I won't go back to the Privets." This he added after a pause, during which the Vicar had been thinking what new arguments he could bring up to urge his friend's return.

Fenwick learned that Gilmore had sent a cheque to his bailiff by the post of the preceding night. He acknowledged that in sending the cheque he had said no more than to bid the man pay what wages were due. He had not as yet made up his mind as to any further steps. As they walked round the enclosure of St. James's Park together, and as the warmth of their old friendship produced freedom of intercourse, Gilmore acknowledged a dozen wild schemes that had passed through his brain. That to which he was most wedded was a plan for meeting Walter Marrable and cudgelling him pretty well to death. Fenwick pointed out three or four objections to this. In the first place, Marrable had committed no offence whatever against Gilmore. And then, in all probability, Marrable might be as good at cudgelling as the Squire himself. And thirdly, when the cudgelling was over, the man who began the row would certainly be put into prison, and in atonement for that would receive no public sympathy. "You can't throw yourself on the public pity as a woman might," said the Vicar.

"D---- the public pity," said the Squire, who was not often driven to make his language forcible after that fashion.

Another scheme was that he would publish the whole transaction. And here again his friend was obliged to remind him, that a man in his position should be reticent rather than outspoken. "You have already declared," said the Vicar, "that you can't endure failure, and yet you want to make your failure known to all the world." His third proposition was more absurd still. He would write such a letter to Mary Lowther as would cover her head with red hot coals. He would tell her that she had made the world utterly unbearable to him, and that she might have the Privets for herself and go and live there. "I do not doubt but that such a letter would annoy her," said the Vicar.

"Why should I care how much she is annoyed?"

"Just so;--but everyone who saw the letter would know that it was pretence and bombast. Of course you will do nothing of the kind."

They were together pretty nearly the whole day. Gilmore, no doubt, would have avoided the Vicar in the morning had it been possible; but now that he had been caught, and had been made to undergo his friend's lectures, he was rather grateful than otherwise for something in the shape of society. It was Fenwick's desire to induce him to return to Bullhampton. If this could not be done, it would no doubt be well that some authority should be obtained from him as to the management of the place. But this subject had not been mooted as yet, because Fenwick felt that if he once acknowledged that the runaway might continue to be a runaway, his chance of bringing the man back to his own home would be much lessened. As yet, however, he had made no impression in that direction. At last they parted on an understanding that they were to breakfast together the next morning at Fenwick's hotel, and then go to the eleven o'clock Sunday service at a certain noted metropolitan church. At breakfast, and during the walk to church, Fenwick said not a word to his friend about Bullhampton. He talked of church services, of ritual, of the quietness of a Sunday in London, and of the Sunday occupations of three millions of people not a fourth of whom attend divine service. He chose any subject other than that of which Gilmore was thinking. But as soon as they were out of church he made another attack upon him. "After that, Harry, don't you feel like trying to do your duty?"

"I feel that I can't fly because my wing is broken," said the Squire.

They spent the whole of the afternoon and evening together, but no good was done. Gilmore, as far as he had a plan, intended to go abroad, travel to the East, or to the West,--or to the South, if so it came about. The Privets might be let if any would choose to take the place. As far as he was concerned his income from his tenants would be more than he wanted. "As for doing them any good, I never did them any good," he said, as he parted from the Vicar for the night. "If they can't live on the land without my being at home, I am sure they won't if I stay there."

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