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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 1. Mr. Scarborough
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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 1. Mr. Scarborough Post by :wavemaster Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :948

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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 1. Mr. Scarborough


It will be necessary, for the purpose of my story, that I shall go back more than once from the point at which it begins, so that I may explain with the least amount of awkwardness the things as they occurred, which led up to the incidents that I am about to tell; and I may as well say that these first four chapters of the book--though they may be thought to be the most interesting of them all by those who look to incidents for their interest in a tale--are in this way only preliminary.

The world has not yet forgotten the intensity of the feeling which existed when old Mr. Scarborough declared that his well-known eldest son was not legitimate. Mr. Scarborough himself had not been well known in early life. He had been the only son of a squire in Staffordshire over whose grounds a town had been built and pottery-works established. In this way a property which had not originally been extensive had been greatly increased in value, and Mr. Scarborough, when he came into possession, had found himself to be a rich man. He had then gone abroad, and had there married an English lady. After the lapse of some years he had returned to Tretton Park, as his place was named, and there had lost his wife. He had come back with two sons, Mountjoy and Augustus, and there, at Tretton, he had lived, spending, however, a considerable portion of each year in chambers in the Albany. He was a man who, through many years, had had his own circle of friends, but, as I have said before, he was not much known in the world. He was luxurious and self-indulgent, and altogether indifferent to the opinion of those around him. But he was affectionate to his children, and anxious above all things for their welfare, or rather happiness. Some marvellous stories were told as to his income, which arose chiefly from the Tretton delf-works and from the town of Tretton, which had been built chiefly on his very park, in consequence of the nature of the clay and the quality of the water. As a fact, the original four thousand a year, to which his father had been born, had grown to twenty thousand by nature of the operations which had taken place. But the whole of this, whether four thousand or twenty thousand, was strictly entailed, and Mr. Scarborough had been very anxious, since his second son was born, to create for him also something which might amount to opulence. But they who knew him best knew that of all things he hated most the entail.

The boys were both educated at Eton, and the elder went into the Guards, having been allowed an intermediate year in order to learn languages on the Continent. He had then become a cornet in the Coldstreams, and had, from that time, lived a life of reckless expenditure. His brother Augustus had in the mean time gone to Cambridge and become a barrister. He had been called but two years when the story was made known of his father's singular assertion. As from that time it became unnecessary for him to practise his profession, no more was heard of him as a lawyer. But they who had known the young man in the chambers of that great luminary, Mr. Rugby, declared that a very eminent advocate was now spoiled by a freak of fortune.

Of his brother Mountjoy,--or Captain Scarborough, as he came to be known at an early period of his life,--the stories which were told in the world at large were much too remarkable to be altogether true. But it was only too true that he lived as though the wealth at his command were without limit. For some few years his father bore with him patiently, doubling his allowance, and paying his bills for him again and again. He made up his mind,--with many regrets,--that enough had been done for his younger son, who would surely by his intellect be able to do much for himself. But then it became necessary to encroach on the funds already put by, and at last there came the final blow, when he discovered that Captain Scarborough had raised large sums on post-obits from the Jews. The Jews simply requested the father to pay the money or some portion of it, which if at once paid would satisfy them, explaining to him that otherwise the whole property would at his death fall into their hands. It need not here be explained how, through one sad year, these negotiations were prolonged; but at last there came a time in which Mr. Scarborough, sitting in his chambers in the Albany, boldly declared his purpose. He sent for his own lawyer, Mr. Grey, and greatly astonished that gentleman by declaring to him that Captain Scarborough was illegitimate.

At first Mr. Grey refused altogether to believe the assertion made to him. He had been very conversant with the affairs of the family, and had even dealt with marriage settlements on behalf of the lady in question. He knew Mr. Scarborough well,--or rather had not known him, but had heard much of him,--and therefore suspected him. Mr. Grey was a thoroughly respectable man, and Mr. Scarborough, though upright and honorable in many dealings, had not been thoroughly respectable. He had lived with his wife off and on, as people say. Though he had saved much of his money for the purpose above described, he had also spent much of it in a manner which did not approve itself to Mr. Grey. Mr. Grey had thoroughly disliked the eldest son, and had, in fact, been afraid of him. The captain, in the few interviews that had been necessary between them, had attempted to domineer over the lawyer, till there had at last sprung up a quarrel, in which, to tell the truth, the father took the part of the son. Mr. Grey had for a while been so offended as to find it necessary to desire Mr. Scarborough to employ another lawyer. He had not, however, done so, and the breach had never become absolute. In these circumstances Mr. Scarborough had sent for Mr. Grey to come to him at the Albany, and had there, from his bed, declared that his eldest son was illegitimate. Mr. Grey had at first refused to accept the assertion as being worth anything, and had by no means confined himself to polite language in expressing his belief. "I would much rather have nothing to do with it," he had said when Mr. Scarborough insisted on the truth of his statement.

"But the evidence is all here," said Mr. Scarborough, laying his hand on a small bundle of papers. "The difficulty would have been, and the danger, in causing Mountjoy to have been accepted in his brother's place. There can be no doubt that I was not married till after Mountjoy was born."

Mr. Grey's curiosity was roused, and he began to ask questions. Why, in the first place, had Mr. Scarborough behaved so dishonestly? Why had he originally not married his wife? And then, why had he married her? If, as he said, the proofs were so easy, how had he dared to act so directly in opposition to the laws of his country? Why, indeed, had he been through the whole of his life so bad a man,--so bad to the woman who had borne his name, so bad to the son whom he called illegitimate, and so bad also to the other son whom he now intended to restore to his position, solely with the view of defrauding the captain's creditors?

In answer to this Mr. Scarborough, though he was suffering much at the time,--so much as to be considered near to his death,--had replied with the most perfect good-humor.

He had done very well, he thought, by his wife, whom he had married after she had consented to live with him on other terms. He had done very well by his elder son, for whom he had intended the entire property. He had done well by his second son, for whom he had saved his money. It was now his first duty to save the property. He regarded himself as being altogether unselfish and virtuous from his point of view.

When Mr. Grey had spoken about the laws of his country he had simply smiled, though he was expecting a grievous operation on the following day. As for marriage, he had no great respect for it, except as a mode of enabling men and women to live together comfortably. As for the "outraged laws of his country," of which Mr. Grey spoke much, he did not care a straw for such outrages--nor, indeed, for the expressed opinion of mankind as to his conduct. He was very soon about to leave the world, and meant to do the best he could for his son Augustus. The other son was past all hope. He was hardly angry with his eldest son, who had undoubtedly given him cause for just anger. His apparent motives in telling the truth about him at last were rather those of defrauding the Jews, who had expressed themselves to him with brutal audacity, than that of punishing the one son or doing justice to the other; but even of them he spoke with a cynical good-humor, triumphing in his idea of thoroughly getting the better of them.

"I am consoled, Mr. Grey," he said, "when I think how probably it might all have been discovered after my death. I should have destroyed all these," and he laid his hands upon the papers, "but still there might have been discovery."

Mr. Grey could not but think that during the last twenty-four years,--the period which had elapsed since the birth of the younger son,--no idea of such a truth had occurred to himself.

He did at last consent to take the papers in his hands, and to read them through with care. He took them away with that promise, and with an assurance that he would bring them back on the day but one following--should Mr. Scarborough then be alive.

Mr. Scarborough, who seemed at that moment to have much life in him, insisted on this proviso:--

"The surgeon is to be here to-morrow, you know, and his coming may mean a great deal. You will have the papers, which are quite clear, and will know what to do. I shall see Mountjoy myself this evening. I suppose he will have the grace to come, as he does not know what he is coming for."

Then the father smiled again, and the lawyer went.

Mr. Scarborough, though he was very strong of heart, did have some misgivings as the time came at which he was to see his son. The communication which he had to make was certainly one of vital importance. His son had some time since instigated him to come to terms with the "family creditors," as the captain boldly called them.

"Seeing that I never owed a shilling in my life, or my father before me, it is odd that I should have family creditors," the father had answered.

"The property has, then, at any rate," the son had said, with a scowl.

But that was now twelve months since, before mankind and the Jews among them had heard of Mr. Scarborough's illness. Now, there could be no question of dealing on favorable terms with these gentlemen. Mr. Scarborough was, therefore, aware that the evil thing which he was about to say to his son would have lost its extreme bitterness. It did not occur to him that, in making such a revelation as to his son's mother he would inflict any great grief on his son's heart. To be illegitimate would be, he thought, nothing unless illegitimacy carried with it loss of property. He hardly gave weight enough to the feeling that the eldest son was the eldest son, and too little to the triumph which was present to his own mind in saving the property for one of the family. Augustus was but the captain's brother, but he was the old squire's son. The two brothers had hitherto lived together on fairly good terms, for the younger had been able to lend money to the elder, and the elder had found his brother neither severe or exacting. How it might be between them when their relations with each other should be altogether changed, Mr. Scarborough did not trouble himself to inquire. The captain by his own reckless folly had lost his money, had lost all that fortune would have given him as his father's eldest son. After having done so, what could it matter to him whether he were legitimate or illegitimate? His brother, as possessor of Tretton Park, would be able to do much more for him than could be expected from a professional man working for his bread.

Mr. Scarborough had looked at the matter all round for the space of two years, and during the latter year had slowly resolved on his line of action. He had had no scruple in passing off his eldest-born as legitimate, and now would have none in declaring the truth to the world. What scruple need he have, seeing that he was so soon about to leave the world?

As to what took place at that interview between the father and the son very much was said among the clubs, and in societies to which Captain Mountjoy Scarborough was well known; but very little of absolute truth was ever revealed. It was known that Captain Scarborough left the room under the combined authority of apothecaries and servants, and that the old man had fainted from the effects of the interview. He had undoubtedly told the son of the simple facts as he had declared them to Mr. Grey, but had thought it to be unnecessary to confirm his statement by any proof. Indeed, the proofs, such as they were,--the written testimony, that is,--were at that moment in the hands of Mr. Grey, and to Mr. Grey the father had at last referred the son. But the son had absolutely refused to believe for a moment in the story, and had declared that his father and Mr. Grey had conspired together to rob him of his inheritance and good name. The interview was at last over, and Mr. Scarborough, at one moment fainting, and in the next suffering the extremest agony, was left alone with his thoughts.

Captain Scarborough, when he left his father's rooms, and found himself going out from the Albany into Piccadilly, was an infuriated but at the same time a most wretched man. He did believe that a conspiracy had been hatched, and he was resolved to do his best to defeat it, let the effect be what it might on the property; but yet there was a strong feeling in his breast that the fraud would be successful. No man could possibly be environed by worse circumstances as to his own condition. He owed he knew not what amount of money to several creditors; but then he owed, which troubled him more, gambling debts, which he could only pay by his brother's assistance. And now, as he thought of it, he felt convinced that his brother must be joined with his father and the lawyer in this conspiracy. He felt, also, that he could meet neither Mr. Grey nor his brother without personally attacking them. All the world might perish, but he, with his last breath, would declare himself to be Captain Mountjoy Scarborough, of Tretton Park; and though he knew at the moment that he must perish,--as regarded social life among his comrades,--unless he could raise five hundred pounds from his brother, yet he felt that, were he to meet his brother, he could not but fly at his throat and accuse him of the basest villany.

At that moment, at the corner of Bond Street, he did meet his brother.

"What is this?" said he, fiercely.

"What is what?" said Augustus, without any fierceness. "What is up now?"

"I have just come from my father."

"And how is the governor? If I were he I should be in a most awful funk. I should hardly be able to think of anything but that man who is to come to-morrow with his knives. But he takes it all as cool as a cucumber."

There was something in this which at once shook, though it did not remove, the captain's belief, and he said something as to the property. Then there came questions and answers, in which the captain did not reveal the story which had been told to him, but the barrister did assert that he had as yet heard nothing as to anything of importance. As to Tretton, the captain believed his brother's manner rather than his words. In fact, the barrister had heard nothing as yet of what was to be done on his behalf.

The interview ended in the two men going and dining at a club, where the captain told the whole story of his father's imagined iniquity.

Augustus received the tale almost in silence. In reply to his brother's authoritative, domineering speeches he said nothing. To him it was all new, but to him, also, it seemed certainly to be untrue. He did not at all bring himself to believe that Mr. Grey was in the conspiracy, but he had no scruple of paternal regard to make him feel that this father would not concoct such a scheme simply because he was his father. It would be a saving of the spoil from the Amalekites, and of this idea he did give a hardly-expressed hint to his brother.

"By George," said the captain, "nothing of the kind shall be done with my consent."

"Why, no," the barrister had answered, "I suppose that neither your consent nor mine is to be asked; and it seems as though it were a farce ordered to be played over the poor governor's grave. He has prepared a romance, as to the truth or falsehood of which neither you nor I can possibly be called as witnesses."

It was clear to the captain that his brother had thought that the plot had been prepared by their father in anticipation of his own death. Nevertheless, by the younger brother's assistance, the much-needed sum of money was found for the supply of the elder's immediate wants.

The next day was the day of terror, and nothing more was heard, either then or for the following week, of the old gentleman's scheme. In two days it was understood that his death might be hourly expected, but on the third it was thought that he might "pull through," as his younger son filially expressed himself. He was constantly with his father, but not a word passed his lips as to the property. The elder son kept himself gloomily apart, and indeed, during a part of the next week was out of London. Augustus Scarborough did call on Mr. Grey, but only learned from him that it was, at any rate, true that the story had been told by his father. Mr. Grey refused to make any farther communication, simply saying that he would as yet express no opinion.

"For myself," said Augustus, as he left the attorney's chambers, "I can only profess myself so much astonished as to have no opinion. I suppose I must simply wait and see what Fortune intends to do with me."

At the end of a fortnight Mr. Scarborough had so far recovered his strength as to be able to be moved down to Tretton, and thither he went. It was not many days after that "the world" was first informed that Captain Scarborough was not his father's heir. "The world" received the information with a great deal of expressed surprise and inward satisfaction,--satisfaction that the money-lenders should be done out of their money; that a professed gambler like Captain Scarborough should suddenly become an illegitimate nobody; and, more interesting still, that a very wealthy and well-conditioned, if not actually respectable, squire should have proved himself to be a most brazen-faced rascal. All of these were matters which gave extreme delight to the world at large. At first there came little paragraphs without any name, and then, some hours afterward, the names became known to the quidnuncs, and in a short space of time were in possession of the very gentry who found themselves defrauded in this singular manner.

It is not necessary here that I should recapitulate all the circumstances of the original fraud, for a gross fraud had been perpetrated. After the perpetration of that fraud papers had been prepared by Mr. Scarborough himself with a great deal of ingenuity, and the matter had been so arranged that,--but for his own declaration,--his eldest son would undoubtedly have inherited the property. Now there was no measure to the clamor and the uproar raised by the money-lenders. Mr. Grey's outer office was besieged, but his clerk simply stated that the facts would be proved on Mr. Scarborough's death as clearly as it might be possible to prove them. The curses uttered against the old squire were bitter and deep, but during this time he was still supposed to be lying at death's door, and did not, in truth, himself expect to live many days. The creditors, of course, believed that the story was a fiction. None of them were enabled to see Captain Scarborough, who, after a short period, disappeared altogether from the scene. But they were, one and all, convinced that the matter had been arranged between him and his father.

There was one from whom better things were expected than to advance money on post-obits to a gambler at a rate by which he was to be repaid one hundred pounds for every forty pounds, on the death of a gentleman who was then supposed to be dying. For it was proved afterward that this Mr. Tyrrwhit had made most minute inquiries among the old squire's servants as to the state of their master's health. He had supplied forty thousand pounds, for which he was to receive one hundred thousand pounds when the squire died, alleging that he should have difficulty in recovering the money. But he had collected the sum so advanced on better terms among his friends, and had become conspicuously odious in the matter.

In about a month's time it was generally believed that Mr. Scarborough had so managed matters that his scheme would be successful. A struggle was made to bring the matter at once into the law courts, but the attempt for the moment failed. It was said that the squire down at Tretton was too ill, but that proceedings would be taken as soon as he was able to bear them. Rumors were afloat that he would be taken into custody, and it was even asserted that two policemen were in the house at Tretton. But it was soon known that no policemen were there, and that the squire was free to go whither he would, or rather whither he could. In fact, though the will to punish him, and even to arrest him, was there, no one had the power to do him an injury.

It was then declared that he had in no sense broken the law,--that no evil act of his could be proved,--that though he had wished his eldest son to inherit the property wrongfully, he had only wished it; and that he had now simply put his wishes into unison with the law, and had undone the evil which he had hitherto only contemplated. Indeed, the world at large rather sympathized with the squire when Mr. Tyrrwhit's dealings became known, for it was supposed by many that Mr. Tyrrwhit was to have become the sole owner of Tretton.

But the creditors were still loud, and still envenomed. They and their emissaries hung about Tretton and demanded to know where was the captain. Of the captain's whereabouts his father knew nothing, not even whether he was still alive; for the captain had actually disappeared from the world, and his creditors could obtain no tidings respecting him. At this period, and for long afterward, they imagined that he and his father were in league together, and were determined to try at law the question as to the legitimacy of his birth as soon as the old squire should be dead. But the old squire did not die. Though his life was supposed to be most precarious he still continued to live, and became even stronger. But he remained shut up at Tretton, and utterly refused to see any emissary of any creditor. To give Mr. Tyrrwhit his due, it must be acknowledged that he personally sent no emissaries, having contented himself with putting the business into the hands of a very sharp attorney. But there were emissaries from others, who after a while were excluded altogether from the park.

Here Mr. Scarborough continued to live, coming out on to the lawn in his easy-chair, and there smoking his cigar and reading his French novel through the hot July days. To tell the truth, he cared very little for the emissaries, excepting so far as they had been allowed to interfere with his own personal comfort. In these days he had down with him two or three friends from London, who were good enough to make up for him a whist-table in the country; but he found the chief interest in his life in the occasional visits of his younger son.

"I look upon Mountjoy as utterly gone," he said.

"But he has utterly gone," his other son replied.

"As to that I care nothing. I do not believe that a man can be murdered without leaving a trace of his murder. A man cannot even throw himself overboard without being missed. I know nothing of his whereabouts,-- nothing at all. But I must say that his absence is a relief to me. The only comfort left to me in this world is in your presence, and in those material good things which I am still able to enjoy."

This assertion as to his ignorance about his eldest son the squire repeated again and again to his chosen heir, feeling it was only probable that Augustus might participate in the belief which he knew to be only too common. There was, no doubt, an idea prevalent that the squire and the captain were in league together to cheat the creditors, and that the squire, who in these days received much undeserved credit for Machiavellian astuteness, knew more than any one else respecting his eldest son's affairs. But, in truth, he at first knew nothing, and in making these assurances to his younger son was altogether wasting his breath, for his younger son knew everything.

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