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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 15. Cousin George Is Hard Pressed
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 15. Cousin George Is Hard Pressed Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1953

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 15. Cousin George Is Hard Pressed

CHAPTER XV. COUSIN GEORGE IS HARD PRESSED

The very sensible and, as one would have thought, very manifest idea of buying up Cousin George originated with Mr. Boltby. "He will have his price, Sir Harry," said the lawyer. Then Sir Harry's eyes were opened, and so excellent did this mode of escape seem to him that he was ready to pay almost any price for the article. He saw it at a glance. Emily had high-flown notions, and would not yield; he feared that she would not yield, let Cousin George's delinquencies be shown to be as black as Styx. But if Cousin George could be made to give her up,--then Emily must yield; and, yielding in such manner, having received so rude a proof of her lover's unworthiness, it could not be but that her heart would be changed. Sir Harry's first idea of a price was very noble; all debts to be paid, a thousand a year for the present, and Scarrowby to be attached to the title. What price would be too high to pay for the extrication of his daughter from so grievous a misfortune? But Mr. Boltby was more calm. As to the payment of the debts,--yes, within a certain liberal limit. For the present, an income of five hundred pounds he thought would be almost as efficacious a bait as double the amount; and it would be well to tack to it the necessity of a residence abroad. It might, perhaps, serve to get the young man out of the country for a time. If the young man bargained on either of these headings, the matter could be reconsidered by Mr. Boltby; as to settling Scarrowby on the title, Mr. Boltby was clearly against it. "He would raise every shilling he could on post-obits within twelve months." At last the offer was made in the terms with which the reader is already acquainted. George was sent off from the lawyer's chambers with directions to consider the terms, and Mr. Boltby gave his clerk some little instructions for perpetuating the irritation on the young man which Hart and Stubber together were able to produce. The young man should be made to understand that hungry creditors, who had been promised their money on certain conditions, could become very hungry indeed.

George Hotspur, blackguard and worthless as he was, did not at first realize the fact that Sir Harry and Mr. Boltby were endeavouring to buy him. He was asked to give up his cousin, and he was told that if he did so a certain very generous amount of pecuniary assistance should be given to him; but yet he did not at the first glance perceive that one was to be the price of the other,--that if he took the one he would meanly have sold the other. It certainly would have been very pleasant to have all his debts paid for him, and the offer of five hundred pounds a year was very comfortable. Of the additional sum to be given when Sir Harry should die, he did not think so much. It might probably be a long time coming, and then Sir Harry would of course be bound to do something for the title. As for living abroad,--he might promise that, but they could not make him keep his promise. He would not dislike to travel for six months, on condition that he should be well provided with ready money. There was much that was alluring in the offer, and he began to think whether he could not get it all without actually abandoning his cousin. But then he was to give a written pledge to that effect, which, if given, no doubt would be shown to her. No; that would not do. Emily was his prize; and though he did not value her at her worth, not understanding such worth, still he had an idea that she would be true to him. Then at last came upon him an understanding of the fact, and he perceived that a bribe had been offered to him.

For half a day he was so disgusted at the idea that his virtue was rampant within him. Sell his Emily for money? Never! His Emily,--and all her rich prospects, and that for a sum so inadequate! They little knew their man when they made a proposition so vile! That evening, at his club, he wrote a letter to Sir Harry, and the letter as soon as written was put into the club letter-box, addressed to the house in Bruton Street; in which, with much indignant eloquence, he declared that the Baronet little understood the warmth of his love, or the extent of his ambition in regard to the family. "I shall be quite ready to submit to any settlements," he said, "so long as the property is entailed upon the Baronet who shall come after myself; I need not say that I hope the happy fellow may be my own son."

But, on the next morning, on his first waking, his ideas were more vague, and a circumstance happened which tended to divert them from the current in which they had run on the preceding evening. When he was going through the sad work of dressing, he bethought himself that he could not at once force this marriage on Sir Harry--could not do so, perhaps, within a twelvemonth or more, let Emily be ever so true to him,--and that his mode of living had become so precarious as to be almost incompatible with that outward decency which would be necessary for him as Emily's suitor. He was still very indignant at the offer made to him, which was indeed bribery of which Sir Harry ought to be ashamed; but he almost regretted that his letter to Sir Harry had been sent. It had not been considered enough, and certainly should not have been written simply on after-dinner consideration. Something might have been inserted with the view of producing ready money, something which might have had a flavour of yielding, but which could not have been shown to Emily as an offer on his part to abandon her; and then he had a general feeling that his letter had been too grandiloquent,--all arising, no doubt, from a fall in courage incidental to a sick stomach.

But before he could get out of his hotel a visitor was upon him. Mr. Hart desired to see him. At this moment he would almost have preferred to see Captain Stubber. He remembered at the moment that Mr. Hart was acquainted with Mr. Walker, and that Mr. Walker would probably have sought the society of Mr. Hart after a late occurrence in which he, Cousin George, had taken part. He was going across to breakfast at his club, when he found himself almost forced to accompany Mr. Hart into a little private room at the left hand of the hall of the hotel. He wanted his breakfast badly, and was altogether out of humour. He had usually found Mr. Hart to be an enduring man, not irascible, though very pertinacious, and sometimes almost good-natured. For a moment he thought he would bully Mr. Hart, but when he looked into Mr. Hart's face, his heart misgave him.

"This is a most inconvenient time--," he had begun. But he hesitated, and Mr. Hart began his attack at once.

"Captain 'Oshspur--sir, let me tell you this von't do no longer."

"What won't do, Mr. Hart?"

"Vat von't do? You know vat von't do. Let me tell you this. You'll be at the Old Bailey very soon, if you don't do just vat you is told to do."

"Me at the Old Bailey!"

"Yes, Captain 'Oshspur,--you at the Old Bailey. In vat vay did you get those moneys from poor Mr. Valker? I know vat I says. More than three hundred pounds! It was card-sharping."

"Who says it was card-sharping?"

"I says so, Captain 'Oshspur, and so does Mr. Bullbean. Mr. Bullbean vill prove it." Mr. Bullbean was a gentleman known well to Mr. Hart, who had made one of the little party at Mr. Walker's establishment, by means of which Cousin George had gone, flush of money, down among his distinguished friends in Norfolk. "Vat did you do with poor Valker's moneys? It vas very hard upon poor Mr. Valker,--very hard."

"It was fair play, Mr. Hart."

"Gammon, Captain 'Oshspur! Vere is the moneys?"

"What business is that of yours?"

"Oh, very well. Bullbean is quite ready to go before a magistrate,--ready at once. I don't know how that vill help us with our pretty cousin with all the fortune."

"How will it help you then?"

"Look here, Captain 'Oshspur; I vill tell you vat vill help me, and vill help Captain Stubber, and vill help everybody. The young lady isn't for you at all. I know all about it, Captain 'Oshspur. Mr. Boltby is a very nice gentleman, and understands business."

"What is Mr. Boltby to me?"

"He is a great deal to me, because he vill pay me my moneys, and he vill pay Captain Stubber, and vill pay everybody. He vill pay you too, Captain 'Oshspur,--only you must pay poor Valker his moneys. I have promised Valker he shall have back his moneys, or Sir Harry shall know that too. You must just give up the young woman;--eh, Captain 'Oshspur!"

"I'm not going to be dictated to, Mr. Hart."

"When gentlemans is in debt they must be dictated to, or else be quodded. We mean to have our money from Mr. Boltby, and that at once. Here is the offer to pay it,--every shilling,--and to pay you! You must give the lady up. You must go to Mr. Boltby, and write just what he tells you. If you don't--!"

"Well, if I don't!"

"By the living God, before two weeks are over you shall be in prison. Bullbean saw it all. Now you know, Captain 'Oshspur. You don't like dictating to, don't you? If you don't do as you're dictated to, and that mighty sharp, as sure as my name is Abraham Hart, everything shall come out. Every d----d thing, Captain 'Oshspur! And now good morning, Captain 'Oshspur. You had better see Mr. Boltby to-day, Captain 'Oshspur."

How was a man so weighted to run for such stakes as those he was striving to carry off? When Mr. Hart left him he was not only sick in the stomach, but sick at heart also,--sick all over. He had gone from bad to worse; he had lost the knowledge of the flavour of vice and virtue; and yet now, when there was present to him the vanishing possibility of redeeming everything by this great marriage, it seemed to him that a life of honourable ease--such a life as Sir Harry would wish him to live if permitted to marry the girl and dwell among his friends at Humblethwaite--would be much sweeter, much more to his real taste, than the life which he had led for the last ten years. What had been his positive delights? In what moments had he actually enjoyed them? From first to last had there not been trouble and danger and vexation of spirit, and a savour of dirt about it all, which even to his palate had been nauseous? Would he not willingly reform? And yet, when the prospect of reform was brought within reach of his eyes, of a reform so pleasant in all its accompaniments, of reform amidst all the wealth of Humblethwaite, with Emily Hotspur by his side, there came these harpies down upon him rendering it all impossible. Thrice, in speaking of them to himself, he called them harpies; but it never occurred to him to think by what name Mr. Walker would have designated him.

But things around him were becoming so serious that he must do something. It might be that he would fall to the ground, losing everything. He could not understand about Bullbean. Bullbean had had his share of the plunder in regard to all that he had seen. The best part of the evening's entertainment had taken place after Mr. Bullbean had retired. No doubt, however, Mr. Bullbean might do him a damage.

He had written to Sir Harry, refusing altogether the offer made to him. Could he, after writing such a letter, at once go to the lawyer and accept the offer? And must he admit to himself, finally, that it was altogether beyond his power to win his cousin's hand? Was there no hope of that life at Humblethwaite which, when contemplated at a distance, had seemed to him to be so green and pleasant? And what would Emily think of him? In the midst of all his other miseries that also was a misery. He was able, though steeped in worthlessness, so to make for himself a double identity as to imagine and to personify a being who should really possess fine and manly aspirations with regard to a woman, and to look upon himself,--his second self,--as that being; and to perceive with how withering a contempt such a being would contemplate such another man as was in truth the real George Hotspur, whose actual sorrows and troubles had now become so unendurable.

Who would help him in his distress? The Altringhams were still in Scotland, and he knew well that, though Lady Altringham was fond of him, and though Lord Altringham liked him, there was no assistance to be had there of the kind that he needed. His dearly intimate distinguished friends in Norfolk, with whom he had been always "George," would not care if they heard that he had been crucified. It seemed to him that the world was very hard and very cruel. Who did care for him? There were two women who cared for him, who really loved him, who would make almost any sacrifice for him, who would even forget his sins, or at least forgive them. He was sure of that. Emily Hotspur loved him, but there were no means by which he could reach Emily Hotspur. She loved him, but she would not so far disobey her father and mother, or depart from her own word, as to receive even a letter from him. But the other friend who loved him,--he still could see her. He knew well the time at which he would find her at home, and some three or four hours after his interview with Mr. Hart he knocked at Mrs. Morton's door.

"Well, George," she said, "how does your wooing thrive?"

He had no preconceived plan in coming to her. He was possessed by that desire, which we all of us so often feel, to be comforted by sympathy; but he hardly knew even how to describe the want of it.

"It does not thrive at all," he said, throwing himself gloomily into an easy chair.

"That is bad news. Has the lady turned against you?"

"Oh no," said he, moodily,--"nothing of that sort."

"That would be impossible, would it not? Fathers are stern, but to such a one as you daughters are always kind. That is what you mean; eh, George?"

"I wish you would not chaff me, Lucy. I am not well, and I did not come to be chaffed."

"The chaffing is all to be on one side, is it, George? Well; I will say nothing to add to your discomforts. What is it ails you? You will drink liqueurs after dinner. That is what makes you so wretched. And I believe you drink them before dinner too."

"Hardly ever. I don't do such a thing three times in a month. It is not that; but things do trouble me so."

"I suppose Sir Harry is not well pleased."

"He is doing what he ought not to do, I must say that;--quite what I call ungentlemanlike. A lawyer should never be allowed to interfere between gentlemen. I wonder who would stand it, if an attorney were set to work to make all manner of inquiries about everything that he had ever done?"

"I could not, certainly. I should cave in at once, as the boys say."

"Other men have been as bad as I have, I suppose. He is sending about everywhere."

"Not only sending, George, but going himself. Do you know that Sir Harry did me the honour of visiting me?"

"No!"

"But he did. He sat there in that very chair, and talked to me in a manner that nobody ever did before, certainly. What a fine old man he is, and how handsome!"

"Yes; he is a good-looking old fellow."

"So like you, George."

"Is he?"

"Only you know, less,--less,--less, what shall I say?--less good-natured, perhaps."

"I know what you mean. He is not such a fool as I am."

"You're not a fool at all, George; but sometimes you are weak. He looks to be strong. Is she like him?"

"Very like him."

"Then she must be handsome."

"Handsome; I should think she is too!" said George, quite forgetting the description of his cousin which he had given some days previously to Mrs. Morton.

She smiled, but took no notice aloud of his blunder. She knew him so well that she understood it all. "Yes," she went on; "he came here and said some bitter things. He said more, perhaps, than he ought to have done."

"About me, Lucy?"

"I think that he spoke chiefly about myself. There was a little explanation, and then he behaved very well. I have no quarrel with him myself. He is a fine old gentleman; and having one only daughter, and a large fortune, I do not wonder that he should want to make inquiries before he gives her to you."

"He could do that without an attorney."

"Would you tell him the truth? The fact is, George, that you are not the sort of son-in-law that fathers like. I suppose it will be off; eh, George?" George made no immediate reply. "It is not likely that she should have the constancy to stick to it for years, and I am sure you will not. Has he offered you money?" Then George told her almost with accuracy the nature of the proposition made to him.

"It is very generous," she said.

"I don't see much of that."

"It certainly is very generous."

"What ought a fellow to do?"

"Only fancy, that you should come to me to ask me such a question!"

"I know you will tell me true."

"Do you love her?"

"Yes."

"With all your heart?"

"What is the meaning of that? I do love her."

"Better than her father's money?"

"Much better."

"Then stick to her through thick and thin. But you don't. I must not advise you in accordance with what you say, but with what I think. You will be beaten, certainly. She will never be your wife; and were you so married, you would not be happy with such people. But she will never be your wife. Take Sir Harry's offer, and write to her a letter, explaining how it is best for all that you should do so."

He paused a moment, and then he asked her one other question: "Would you write the letter for me, Lucy?"

She smiled again as she answered him: "Yes; if you make up your mind to do as Sir Harry asks you, I will write a draft of what I think you should say to her."

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