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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 16. Sir Harry's Return
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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 16. Sir Harry's Return Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :808

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Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite - Chapter 16. Sir Harry's Return

CHAPTER XVI. SIR HARRY'S RETURN

Sir Harry received the grandly worded and indignant letter which had been written at the club, and Cousin George hesitated as to that other letter which his friend was to dictate for him. Consequently it became necessary that Sir Harry should leave London before the matter was settled. In truth the old Baronet liked the grandly worded and indignant letter. It was almost such a letter as a Hotspur should write on such an occasion. There was an admission of pecuniary weakness which did not quite become a Hotspur, but otherwise the letter was a good letter. Before he left London he took the letter with him to Mr. Boltby, and on his way thither could not refrain from counting up all the good things which would befall him and his if only this young man might be reclaimed and recast in a mould such as should fit the heir of the Hotspurs. He had been very bad,--so bad that when Sir Harry counted up his sins they seemed to be as black as night. And then, as he thought of them, the father would declare to himself that he would not imperil his daughter by trusting her to one who had shown himself to be so evil. But again another mode of looking at it all would come upon him. The kind of vice of which George had been undoubtedly guilty was very distasteful to Sir Harry; it had been ignoble and ungentlemanlike vice. He had been a liar, and not only a gambler, but a professional gambler. He had not simply got into debt, but he had got into debt in a fashion that was fraudulent;--so at least Sir Harry thought. And yet, need it be said that this reprobate was beyond the reach of all forgiveness? Had not men before him done as bad, and yet were brought back within the pale of decent life? In this still vacillating mood of mind Sir Harry reached his lawyer's. Mr. Boltby did not vacillate at all. When he was shown the letter he merely smiled.

"I don't think it is a bad letter," said Sir Harry.

"Words mean so little, Sir Harry," said Mr. Boltby, "and come so cheap."

Sir Harry turned the letter over in his hand and frowned; he did not quite like to be told even by his confidential lawyer that he was mistaken. Unconsciously he was telling himself that after all George Hotspur had been born a gentleman, and that therefore, underlying all the young man's vileness and villany there must be a substratum of noble soil of which the lawyer perhaps knew nothing. Mr. Boltby saw that his client was doubting, and having given much trouble to the matter, and not being afraid of Sir Harry, he determined to speak his mind freely.

"Sir Harry," he said, "in this matter I must tell you what I really think."

"Certainly."

"I am sorry to have to speak ill of one bearing your name; and were not the matter urgent as it is, I should probably repress something of my opinion. As it is, I do not dare to do so. You could not in all London find a man less fit to be the husband of Miss Hotspur than her cousin."

"He is a gentleman--by birth," said Sir Harry.

"He is an unprincipled blackguard by education, and the more blackguard because of his birth; there is nothing too bad for him to do, and very little so bad but what he has done it. He is a gambler, a swindler, and, as I believe, a forger and a card-sharper. He has lived upon the wages of the woman he has professed to love. He has shown himself to be utterly spiritless, abominable, and vile. If my clerk in the next room were to slap his face, I do not believe that he would resent it." Sir Harry frowned, and moved his feet rapidly on the floor. "In my thorough respect and regard for you, Sir Harry," continued Mr. Boltby, "I have undertaken a work which I would not have done for above two or three other men in the world beside yourself. I am bound to tell you the result, which is this,--that I would sooner give my own girl to the sweeper at the crossing than to George Hotspur."

Sir Harry's brow was very black. Perhaps he had not quite known his lawyer. Perhaps it was that he had less power of endurance than he had himself thought in regard to the mention of his own family affairs. "Of course," he said, "I am greatly indebted to you, Mr. Boltby, for the trouble you have taken."

"I only hope it may be of service to you."

"It has been of service. What may be the result in regard to this unfortunate young man I cannot yet say. He has refused our offer,--I must say as I think--honourably."

"It means nothing."

"How nothing, Mr. Boltby?"

"No man accepts such a bargain at first. He is playing his hand against yours, Sir Harry, and he knows that he has got a very good card in his own. It was not to be supposed that he would give in at once. In besieging a town the surest way is to starve the garrison. Wait a while and he will give in. When a town has within its walls such vultures as will now settle upon him, it cannot stand out very long. I shall hear more of him before many days are over."

"You think, then, that I may return to Humblethwaite."

"Certainly, Sir Harry; but I hope, Sir Harry, that you will return with the settled conviction on your mind that this young man must not on any consideration be allowed to enter your family."

The lawyer meant well, but he overdid his work. Sir Harry got up and shook hands with him and thanked him, but left the room with some sense of offence. He had come to Mr. Boltby for information, and he had received it. But he was not quite sure that he had intended that Mr. Boltby should advise him touching his management of his own daughter. Mr. Boltby, he thought, had gone a little beyond his tether. Sir Harry acknowledged to himself that he had learned a great deal about his cousin, and it was for him to judge after that whether he would receive his cousin at Humblethwaite. Mr. Boltby should not have spoken about the crossing-sweeper. And then Sir Harry was not quite sure that he liked that idea of setting vultures upon a man; and Sir Harry remembered something of his old lore as a hunting man. It is astonishing what blood will do in bringing a horse through mud at the end of a long day. Mr. Boltby probably did not understand how much, at the very last, might be expected from breeding. When Sir Harry left Mr. Boltby's chambers he was almost better-minded towards Cousin George than he had been when he entered them; and in this frame of mind, both for and against the young man, he returned to Humblethwaite. It must not be supposed, however, that as the result of the whole he was prepared to yield. He knew, beyond all doubt, that his cousin was thoroughly a bad subject,--a worthless and, as he believed, an irredeemable scamp; but yet he thought of what might happen if he were to yield!

Things were very sombre when he reached Humblethwaite. Of course his wife could not refrain from questions. "It is very bad," he said,--"as bad as can be."

"He has gambled?"

"Gambled! If that were all! You had better not ask about it; he is a disgrace to the family."

"Then there can be no hope for Emily?"

"No hope! Why should there not be hope? All her life need not depend on her fancy for a man of whom after all she has not seen so very much. She must get over it. Other girls have had to do the same."

"She is not like other girls, Harry."

"How not like them?"

"I think she is more persistent; she has set her heart upon loving this young man, and she will love him."

"Then she must."

"She will break her heart," said Lady Elizabeth.

"She will break mine, I know," said Sir Harry.

When he met his daughter he had embraced her, and she had kissed him and asked after his welfare; but he felt at once that she was different from what she used to be,--different, not only as regarded herself, but different also in her manner. There came upon him a sad, ponderous conviction that the sunlight had gone out from their joint lives, that all pleasant things were over for both of them, and that, as for him, it would be well for him that he should die. He could not be happy if there were discord between him and his child,--and there must be discord. The man had been invited with a price to take himself off, and had not been sufficiently ignoble to accept the offer. How could he avoid the discord, and bring back the warmth of the sun into his house? Then he remembered those terribly forcible epithets which Mr. Boltby had spoken. "He is an unprincipled blackguard; and the worse blackguard because of his birth." The words had made Sir Harry angry, but he believed them to be true. If there were to be any yielding, he would not yield as yet; but that living in his house without sunshine was very grievous to him. "She will kill me," he said to himself, "if she goes on like this."

And yet it was hard to say of what it was that he complained. Days went by and his daughter said nothing and did nothing of which he could complain. It was simply this,--that the sunshine was no longer bright within his halls. Days went by, and George Hotspur's name had never been spoken by Emily in the hearing of her father or mother. Such duties as there were for her to do were done. The active duties of a girl in her position are very few. It was her custom of a morning to spread butter on a bit of toast for her father to eat. This she still did, and brought it to him as was her wont; but she did not bring it with her old manner. It was a thing still done,--simply because not to do it would be an omission to be remarked. "Never mind it," said her father the fourth or fifth morning after his return, "I'd sooner do it for myself." She did not say a word, but on the next morning the little ceremony, which had once been so full of pleasant affection, was discontinued. She had certain hours of reading, and these were prolonged rather than abandoned. But both her father and mother perceived that her books were changed; her Italian was given up, and she took to works of religion,--sermons, treatises, and long commentaries.

"It will kill me," said Sir Harry to his wife.

"I am afraid it will kill her," said Lady Elizabeth. "Do you see how her colour has gone, and she eats so little!"

"She walks every day."

"Yes; and comes in so tired. And she goes to church every Wednesday and Friday at Hesket. I'm sure she is not fit for it such weather as this."

"She has the carriage?"

"No, she walks."

Then Sir Harry gave orders that his daughter should always have the carriage on Wednesdays and Fridays. But Emily, when her mother told her this, insisted that she would sooner walk.

But what did the carriage or no carriage on Wednesday signify? The trouble was deeper than that. It was so deep that both father and mother felt that something must be done, or the trouble would become too heavy for their backs. Ten days passed and nothing was heard either from Mr. Boltby or from Cousin George. Sir Harry hardly knew what it was then he expected to hear; but it seemed that he did expect something. He was nervous at the hour of post, and was aware himself that he was existing on from day to day with the idea of soon doing some special thing,--he knew not what,--but something that might put an end to the frightful condition of estrangement between him and his child in which he was now living. It told even upon his duty among his tenants. It told upon his farm. It told upon almost every workman in the parish. He had no heart for doing anything. It did not seem certain to him that he could continue to live in his own house. He could not bring himself to order that this wood should be cut, or that those projected cottages should be built. Everything was at a standstill; and it was clear to him that Emily knew that all this had come from her rash love for her cousin George. She never now came and stood at his elbow in his own room, or leaned upon his shoulder; she never now asked him questions, or brought him out from his papers to decide questions in the garden,--or rather to allow himself to be ruled by her decisions. There were greetings between them morning and evening, and questions were asked and answered formally; but there was no conversation. "What have I done that I should be punished in this way?" said Sir Harry to himself.

If he was prompt to think himself hardly used, so also was his daughter. In considering the matter in her own mind she had found it to be her duty to obey her father in her outward conduct, founding her convictions in this matter upon precedent and upon the general convictions of the world. In the matter of bestowing herself upon a suitor, a girl is held to be subject to her parents. So much she knew, or believed that she knew; and therefore she would obey. She had read and heard of girls who would correspond with their lovers clandestinely, would run away with their lovers, would marry their lovers as it were behind their fathers' backs. No act of this kind would she do. She had something within her which would make it dreadful to her ever to have to admit that she had been personally wrong,--some mixture of pride and principle, which was strong enough to keep her stedfast in her promised obedience. She would do nothing that could be thrown in her teeth; nothing that could be called unfeminine, indelicate, or undutiful. But she had high ideas of what was due to herself, and conceived that she would be wronged by her father, should her father take advantage of her sense of duty to crush her heart. She had her own rights and her own privileges, with which grievous and cruel interference would be made, should her father, because he was her father, rob her of the only thing which was sweet to her taste or desirable in her esteem. Because she was his heiress he had no right to make her his slave. But even should he do so, she had in her own hands a certain security. The bondage of a slave no doubt he might allot to her, but not the task-work. Because she would cling to her duty and keep the promise which she had made to him, it would be in his power to prevent the marriage upon which she had set her heart; but it was not within his power, or within his privilege as a father, to force upon her any other marriage. She would never help him with her hand in that adjustment of his property of which he thought so much unless he would help her in her love. And in the meantime sunshine should be banished from the house, such sunshine as had shone round her head. She did not so esteem herself as to suppose that, because she was sad, therefore her father and mother would be wretched; but she did feel herself bound to contribute to the house in general all the wretchedness which might come from her own want of sunlight. She suffered under a terrible feeling of ill-usage. Why was she, because she was a girl and an heiress, to be debarred from her own happiness? If she were willing to risk herself, why should others interfere? And if the life and conduct of her cousin were in truth so bad as they were represented,--which she did not in the least believe,--why had he been allowed to come within her reach? It was not only that he was young, clever, handsome, and in every way attractive, but that, in addition to all this, he was a Hotspur, and would some day be the head of the Hotspurs. Her father had known well enough that her family pride was equal to his own. Was it not natural that, when a man so endowed had come in her way, she should learn to love him? And when she had loved him, was it not right that she should cling to her love?

Her father would fain treat her like a beast of burden kept in the stables for a purpose; or like a dog whose obedience and affections might be transferred from one master to another for a price. She would obey her father; but her father should be made to understand that hers was not the nature of a beast of burden or of a dog. She was a Hotspur as thoroughly as was he. And then they brought men there to her, selected suitors, whom she despised. What did they think of her when imagining that she would take a husband not of her own choosing? What must be their idea of love, and of marriage duty, and of that close intercourse of man and wife? To her feeling a woman should not marry at all unless she could so love a man as to acknowledge to herself that she was imperatively required to sacrifice all that belonged to her for his welfare and good. Such was her love for George Hotspur,--let him be what he might. They told her that he was bad and that he would drag her into the mud. She was willing to be dragged into the mud; or, at any rate, to make her own struggle during the dragging, as to whether he should drag her in, or she should drag him out.

And then they brought men to her--walking-sticks,--Lord Alfred and young Mr. Thoresby, and insulted her by supposing of her that she would marry a man simply because he was brought there as a fitting husband. She would be dutiful and obedient as a daughter, according to her idea of duty and of principle; but she would let them know that she had an identity of her own, and that she was not to be moulded like a piece of clay.

No doubt she was hard upon her father. No doubt she was in very truth disobedient and disrespectful. It was not that she should have married any Lord Alfred that was brought to her, but that she should have struggled to accommodate her spirit to her father's spirit. But she was a Hotspur; and though she could be generous, she could not yield. And then the hold of a child upon the father is so much stronger than that of the father on the child! Our eyes are set in our face, and are always turned forward. The glances that we cast back are but occasional.

And so the sunshine was banished from the house of Humblethwaite, and the days were as black as the night.

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