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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 25. Harry And His Uncle
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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 25. Harry And His Uncle Post by :johneze Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3555

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Mr. Scarborough's Family - Part 1 - Chapter 25. Harry And His Uncle

PART I CHAPTER XXV. HARRY AND HIS UNCLE

Harry was kissed all round by the girls, and was congratulated warmly on the heavenly excellence of his mistress. They could afford to be generous if he would be good-natured. "Of course you must write to her," said Molly, when he came down-stairs with dry clothes.

"I should think so, mother."

"Only she does seem to be so much in earnest about it," said Mrs. Annesley.

"I think she would rather get just a line to say that he is in earnest too," said Fanny.

"Why should not she like a love-letter as much as any one else?" said Kate, who had her own ideas. "Of course she has to tell him about her mamma, but what need he care for that? Of course mamma thinks that Joshua need not write to Molly, but Molly won't mind."

"I don't think anything of the kind, miss."

"And besides, Joshua lives in the next parish," said Fanny, "and has a horse to ride over on if he has anything to say."

"At any rate, I shall write," said Harry, "even at the risk of making her angry." And he did write as follows:


"BUSTON, _October_, 188--.

"MY OWN DEAR GIRL,--It is impossible that I should not send one line in answer. Put yourself in my place, and consult your own feelings. Think that you have a letter so full of love, so noble, so true, so certain to fill you with joy, and then say whether you would let it pass without a word of acknowledgment. It would be absolutely impossible. It is not very probable that I should ask you to break your engagement, which in the midst of my troubles is the only consolation I have. But when a man has a rock to stand upon like that, he does not want anything else. As long as a man has the one person necessary to his happiness to believe in him, he can put up with the ill opinion of all the others. You are to me so much that you outweigh all the world.

"I did not choose to have my secret pumped out of me by Augustus Scarborough. I can tell you the whole truth now. Mountjoy Scarborough had told me that he regarded you as affianced to him, and required me to say that I would--drop you. You know now how probable that was. He was drunk on the occasion,--had made himself purposely drunk, so as to get over all scruples,--and attacked me with his stick. Then came a scrimmage, in which he was upset. A sober man has always the best of it." I am afraid that Harry put in that little word sober for a purpose. The opportunity of declaring that he was sober was too good too be lost. "I went away and left him, certainly not dead, nor apparently much hurt. But if I told all this to Augustus Scarborough, your name must have come out. Now I should not mind. Now I might tell the truth about you,--with great pride, if occasion required it. But I couldn't do it then. What would the world have said to two men fighting in the streets about a girl, neither of whom had a right to fight about her? That was the reason why I told an untruth,--because I did not choose to fall into the trap which Augustus Scarborough had laid for me.

"If your mother will understand it all, I do not think she will object to me on that score. If she does quarrel with me, she will only be fighting the Scarborough game, in which I am bound to oppose her. I am afraid the fact is that she prefers the Scarborough game,--not because of my sins, but from auld lang syne.

"But Augustus has got hold of my Uncle Prosper, and has done me a terrible injury. My uncle is a weak man, and has been predisposed against me from other circumstances. He thinks that I have neglected him, and is willing to believe anything against me. He has stopped my income,--two hundred and fifty pounds a year,--and is going to revenge himself on me by marrying a wife. It is too absurd, and the proposed wife is aunt of the man whom my sister is going to marry. It makes such a heap of confusion. Of course, if he becomes the father of a family I shall be nowhere. Had I not better take to some profession? Only what shall I take to? It is almost too late for the Bar. I must see you and talk over it all.

"You have commanded me not to write, and now there is a long letter! It is as well to be hung for a sheep as a lamb. But when a man's character is at stake he feels that he must plead for it. You won't be angry with me because I have not done all that you told me? It was absolutely necessary that I should tell you that I did not mean to ask you to break your engagement, and one word has led to all the others. There shall be only one other, which means more than all the rest:--that I am yours, dearest, with all my heart,

"HARRY ANNESLEY."

"There," he said to himself, as he put the letter into the envelope, "she may think it too long, but I am sure she would not have been pleased had I not written at all."

That afternoon Joshua was at the rectory, having just trotted over after business hours at the brewery because of some special word which had to be whispered to Molly, and Harry put himself in his way as he went out to get on his horse in the stable-yard. "Joshua," he said, "I know that I owe you an apology."

"What for?"

"You have been awfully good to me about the horses, and I have been very ungracious."

"Not at all."

"But I have. The truth is, I have been made thoroughly miserable by circumstances, and, when that occurs, a man cannot pick himself up all at once. It isn't my uncle that has made me wretched. That is a kind of thing that a man has to put up with, and I think that I can bear it as well as another. But an attack has been made upon me which has wounded me."

"I know all about it."

"I don't mind telling you, as you and Molly are going to hit it off together. There is a girl I love, and they have tried to interfere with her."

"They haven't succeeded?"

"No, by George! And now I'm as right as a trivet. When it came across me that she might have--might have yielded, you know,--it was as though all had been over. I ought not to have suspected her."

"But she's all right?"

"Indeed she is. I think you'll like her when you see her some day. If you don't, you have the most extraordinary taste I ever knew a man to possess. How about the horse?"

"I have four, you know."

"What a grand thing it is to be a brewer!"

"And there are two of them will carry you. The other two are not quite up to your weight."

"You haven't been out yet?"

"Well, no;--not exactly out. The governor is the best fellow in the world, but he draws the line at cub-hunting. He says the business should be the business till November. Upon my word, I think he's right."

"And how many days a week after that?"

"Well, three regular. I do get an odd day with the Essex sometimes, and the governor winks."

"The governor hunts himself as often as you."

"Oh dear no; three a week does for the governor, and he is beginning to like frosty weather, and to hear with pleasure that one of the old horses isn't as fit as he should be. He's what they call training off. Good-bye, old fellow. Mind you come out on the 7th of November."

But Harry, though he had been made happy by the letter from Florence, had still a great many troubles on his mind. His first trouble was the having to do something in reference to his uncle. It did not appear to him to be proper to accept his uncle's decision in regard to his income, without, at any rate, attempting to see Mr. Prosper. It would be as though he had taken what was done as a matter of course,--as though his uncle could stop the income without leaving him any ground of complaint. Of the intended marriage,--if it were intended,--he would say nothing. His uncle had never promised him in so many words not to marry, and there would be, he thought, something ignoble in his asking his uncle not to do that which he intended to do himself without even consulting his uncle about it. As he turned it all over in his mind he began to ask himself why his uncle should be asked to do anything for him, whereas he had never done anything for his uncle. He had been told that he was the heir, not to the uncle, but to Buston, and had gradually been taught to look upon Buston as his right,--as though he had a certain defeasible property in the acres. He now began to perceive that there was no such thing. A tacit contract had been made on his behalf, and he had declined to accept his share of the contract. But he had been debarred from following any profession by his uncle's promised allowance. He did not think that he could complain to his uncle about the proposed marriage; but he did think that he could ask a question or two as to the income.

Without saying a word to any of his own family he walked across the park, and presented himself at the front-door of Buston Hall. In doing so he would not go upon the grass. He had told his father that he would not enter the park, and therefore kept himself to the road. And he had dressed himself with some little care, as a man does when he feels that he is going forth on some mission of importance. Had he intended to call on old Mr. Thoroughbung there would have been no such care. And he rung at the front-door, instead of entering the house by any of the numerous side inlets with which he was well acquainted. The butler understood the ring, and put on his company-coat when he answered the bell.

"Is my uncle at home, Matthew?" he said.

"Mr. Prosper, Mr. Harry? Well, no; I can't say that he just is;" and the old man groaned, and wheezed, and looked unhappy.

"He is not often out at this time." Matthew groaned again, and wheezed more deeply, and looked unhappier. "I suppose you mean to say that he has given orders that I am not to be admitted?" To this the butler made no answer, but only looked woefully into the young man's face. "What is the meaning of it all, Matthew?"

"Oh, Mr. Harry, you shouldn't ask me, as is merely a servant."

Harry felt the truth of this rebuke, but was not going to put up with it.

"That's all my eye, Matthew; you know all about it as well as any one. It is so. He does not want to see me."

"I don't think he does, Mr. Harry."

"And why not? You know the whole of my family story as well as my father does, or my uncle. Why does he shut his doors against me, and send me word that he does not want to see me?"

"Well Mr. Harry, I'm not just able to say why he does it,--and you the heir. But if I was asked I should make answer that it has come along of them sermons." Then Matthew looked very serious, and bathed his head.

"I suppose so."

"That was it, Mr. Harry. We, none of us, were very fond of the sermons."

"I dare say not."

"We in the kitchen. But we was bound to have them, or we should have lost our places."

"And now I must lose my place." The butler said nothing, but his face assented. "A little hard, isn't it, Matthew? But I wish to say a few words to my uncle,--not to express any regret about the sermons, but to ask what it is that he intends to do." Here Matthew shook his head very slowly. "He has given positive orders that I shall not be admitted?"

"It must be over my dead body, Mr. Harry," and he stood in the way with the door in his hand, as though intending to sacrifice himself should he be called upon to do so by the nature of the circumstances. Harry, however, did not put him to the test; but bidding him good-bye with some little joke as to his fidelity, made his way back to the parsonage.

That night before he went to bed he wrote a letter to his uncle, as to which he said not a word to either his father, or mother, or sisters. He thought that the letter was a good letter, and would have been proud to show it; but he feared that either his father or mother would advise him not to send it, and he was ashamed to read it to Molly. He therefore sent the letter across the park the next morning by the gardener.

The letter was as follows:

"MY DEAR UNCLE,--My father has shown me your letter to him, and, of course, I feel it incumbent on me to take some notice of it. Not wishing to trouble you with a letter I called this morning, but I was told by Matthew that you would not see me. As you have expressed yourself to my father very severely as to my conduct, I am sure you will agree with me that I ought not to let the matter pass by without making my own defence.

"You say that there was a row in the streets between Mountjoy Scarborough and myself in which he was 'left for dead.' When I left him I did not think he had been much hurt, nor have I had reason to think so since. He had attacked me, and I had simply defended myself. He had come upon me by surprise; and, when I had shaken him off, I went away. Then in a day or two he had disappeared. Had he been killed, or much hurt, the world would have heard of it: but the world simply heard that he had disappeared, which could hardly have been the case had he been much hurt.

"Then you say that I denied, in conversation with Augustus Scarborough, that I had seen his brother on the night in question. I did deny it. Augustus Scarborough, who was evidently well acquainted with the whole transaction, and who had, I believe, assisted his brother in disappearing, wished to learn from me what I had done, and to hide what he had done. He wished to saddle me with the disgrace of his brother's departure, and I did not choose to fall into his trap. At the moment of his asking me he knew that his brother was safe. I think that the word 'lie,' as used by you, is very severe for such an occurrence. A man is not generally held to be bound to tell everything respecting himself to the first person that shall ask him. If you will ask any man who knows the world,--my father, for instance,--I think you will be told that such conduct was not faulty.

"But it is at any rate necessary that I should ask you what you intend to do in reference to my future life. I am told that you intend to stop the income which I have hitherto received. Will this be considerate on your part?" (In his first copy of the letter Harry had asked whether it would be "fair," and had then changed the word for one that was milder.) "When I took my degree you yourself said that it would not be necessary that I should go into any profession, because you would allow me an income, and would then provide for me, I took your advice in opposition to my father's, because it seemed then that I was to depend on you rather than on him. You cannot deny that I shall have been treated hardly if I now be turned loose upon the world.

"I shall be happy to come and see you if you shall wish it, so as to save you the trouble of writing to me.

"Your affectionate nephew,

"HENRY ANNESLEY."


Harry might have been sure that his uncle would not see him,--probably was sure when he added the last paragraph. Mr. Prosper enjoyed greatly two things,--the mysticism of being invisible and the opportunity of writing a letter. Mr. Prosper had not a large correspondence, but it was laborious, and, as he thought, effective. He believed that he did know how to write a letter, and he went about it with a will. It was not probable that he would make himself common by seeing his nephew on such an occasion, or that he would omit the opportunity of spending an entire morning with pen and ink. The result was very short, but, to his idea, it was satisfactory.

"SIR," he began. He considered this matter very deeply; but as the entire future of his own life was concerned in it he felt that it became him to be both grave and severe.

"I have received your letter and have read it with attention. I observe that you admit that you told Mr. Augustus Scarborough a deliberate untruth. This is what the plain-speaking world, when it wishes to be understood as using the unadorned English language, which is always the language which I prefer myself, calls a lie--A LIE! I do not choose that this humble property shall fall at my death into the hands of A LIAR. Therefore I shall take steps to prevent it,--which may or may not be successful.

"As such steps, whatever may be their result, are to be taken, the income,--intended to prepare you for another alternative, which may possibly not now be forth-coming,--will naturally now be no longer allowed.--I am, sir, your obedient servant, PETER PROSPER."

The first effect of the letter was to produce laughter at the rectory. Harry could not but show it to his father, and in an hour or two it became known to his mother and sister, and, under an oath of secrecy, to Joshua Thoroughbung. It could not be matter of laughter when the future hopes of Miss Matilda Thoroughbung were taken into consideration. "I declare I don't know what you are all laughing about," said Kate, "except that Uncle Peter does use such comical phrases." But Mrs. Annesley, though the most good-hearted woman in the world, was almost angry. "I don't know what you all see to laugh at in it. Peter has in his hands the power of making or marring Harry's future."

"But he hasn't," said Harry.

"Or he mayn't have," said the rector.

"It's all in the hands of the Almighty," said Mrs. Annesley, who felt herself bound to retire from the room and to take her daughter with her.

But, when they were alone, both the father and his son were very angry. "I have done with him forever," said Harry. "Let come what may, I will never see him or speak to him again. A 'lie,' and 'liar!' He has written those words in that way so as to salve his own conscience for the injustice he is doing. He knows that I am not a liar. He cannot understand what a liar means, or he would know that he is one himself."

"A man seldom has such knowledge as that."

"Is it not so when he stigmatizes me in this way merely as an excuse to himself? He wants to be rid of me,--probably because I did not sit and hear him read the sermons. Let that pass. I may have been wrong in that, and he may be justified; but because of that he cannot believe really that I have been a liar,--a liar in such a determined way as to make me unfit to be his heir."

"He is a fool, Harry! That is the worst of him."

"I don't think it is the worst."

"You cannot have worse. It is dreadful to have to depend on a fool,--to have to trust to a man who cannot tell wrong from right. Your uncle intends to be a good man. If it were brought home to him that he were doing a wrong he would not do it. He would not rob; he would not steal; he must not commit murder, and the rest of it. But he is a fool, and he does not know when he is doing these things."

"I will wash my hands of him."

"Yes; and he will wash his hands of you. You do not know him as I do. He has taken it into his silly head that you are the chief of sinners because you said what was not true to that man, who seems really to be the sinner, and nothing will eradicate the idea. He will go and marry that woman because he thinks that in that way he can best carry his purpose, and then he will repent at leisure. I used to tell you that you had better listen to the sermons."

"And now I must pay for it!"

"Well, my boy, it is no good crying for spilt milk. As I was saying just now, there is nothing worse than a fool."

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