Now, there certainly had been a lack of confidence between the married daughter and her mother as to a new residence. A word had been spoken, and Augusta had said that she supposed they would go to Lord Boardotrade when they left Queen's Gate, just to finish the season. Now, it was known that his lordship, with his four unmarried daughters, lived in a small house in a small street in Mayfair. The locality is no doubt fashionable, but the house was inconvenient. Mr. Traffick, himself, had occupied lodgings near the House of Commons, but these had been given up. "I think you must ask your papa," said Lady Tringle.
"Couldn't you ask him?" said the Honourable Mrs. Traffick. Lady Tringle was driven at last to consent, and then put the question to Sir Thomas, – beginning with the suggestion as to the unnecessary boots.
"I suppose Septimus can leave his things here?"
"Where do they mean to live when they come back to town?" asked Sir Thomas, sharply.
"I suppose it would be convenient if they could come here for a little time," said Lady Tringle.
"And stay till the end of the season, – and then go down to Glenbogie, and then to Merle Park! Where do they mean to live?"
"I think there was a promise about Glenbogie," said Lady Tringle.
"I never made a promise. I heard Traffick say that he would like to have some shooting, – though, as far as I know, he can't hit a haystack. They may come to Glenbogie for two or three weeks, if they like, but they shan't stay here during the entire summer."
"You won't turn your own daughter out, Tom."
"I'll turn Traffick out, and I suppose he'll take his wife with him," said Sir Thomas, thus closing the conversation in wrath.
The Trafficks went and came back, and were admitted into the bed-room with the big wardrobe, and to the dressing-room where the boots were kept. On the very first day of his arrival Mr. Traffick was in the House at four, and remained there till four the next morning, – certain Irish Members having been very eloquent. He was not down when Sir Thomas left the next morning at nine, and was again at the House when Sir Thomas came home to dinner. "How long is it to be?" said Sir Thomas, that night, to his wife. There was a certain tone in his voice which made Lady Tringle feel herself to be ill all over. It must be said, in justice to Sir Thomas, that he did not often use this voice in his domestic circle, though it was well known in Lombard Street. But he used it now, and his wife felt herself to be unwell. "I am not going to put up with it, and he needn't think it."
"Don't destroy poor Augusta's happiness so soon."
"That be d – d," said the father, energetically. "Who's going to destroy her happiness. Her happiness ought to consist in living in her husband's house. What have I given her all that money for?" Then Lady Tringle did not dare to say another word.
It was not till the third day that Sir Thomas and his son-in-law met each other.
"I've been in the House morning, noon, and night, pretty near."
"I dare say. I hope you found yourself comfortable at Merle Park."
"A charming house, – quite charming. I don't know whether I shouldn't build the stables a little further from – "
"Very likely. Nothing is so easy as knocking other people's houses about. I hope you'll soon have one to knock about of your own."
"All in good time," said Mr. Traffick, smiling.
Sir Thomas was one of those men who during the course of a successful life have contrived to repress their original roughnesses, and who make a not ineffectual attempt to live after the fashion of those with whom their wealth and successes have thrown them. But among such will occasionally be found one whose roughness does not altogether desert him, and who can on an occasion use it with a purpose. Such a one will occasionally surprise his latter-day associates by the sudden ferocity of his brow, by the hardness of his voice, and by an apparently unaccustomed use of violent words. The man feels that he must fight, and, not having learned the practice of finer weapons, fights in this way. Unskilled with foils or rapier he falls back upon the bludgeon with which his hand has not lost all its old familiarity. Such a one was Sir Thomas Tringle, and a time for such exercise had seemed to him to have come now. There are other men who by the possession of imperturbable serenity seem to be armed equally against rapier and bludgeon, whom there is no wounding with any weapon. Such a one was Mr. Traffick. When he was told of knocking about a house of his own, he quite took the meaning of Sir Thomas's words, and was immediately prepared for the sort of conversation which would follow. "I wish I might; – a Merle Park of my own for instance. If I had gone into the city instead of to Westminster it might have come in my way."
"It seems to me that a good deal has come in your way without very much trouble on your part."
"A seat in the House is a nice thing, – but I work harder I take it than you do, Sir Thomas."
"I never have had a shilling but what I earned. When you leave this where are you and Augusta going to live?"
This was a home question, which would have disconcerted most gentlemen in Mr. Traffick's position, were it not that gentlemen easily disconcerted would hardly find themselves there.
"Where shall we go when we leave this? You were so kind as to say something about Glenbogie when Parliament is up."
"No, I didn't."
"I thought I understood it."
"You said something and I didn't refuse."
"Put it any way you like, Sir Thomas."
"But what do you mean to do before Parliament is up? The long and the short of it is, we didn't expect you to come back after the holidays. I like to be plain. This might go on for ever if I didn't speak out."
"And a very comfortable way of going on it would be." Sir Thomas raised his eyebrows in unaffected surprise, and then again assumed his frown. "Of course I'm thinking of Augusta chiefly."
"Augusta made up her mind no doubt to leave her father's house when she married."
"She shows her affection for her parents by wishing to remain in it. The fact, I suppose, is, you want the rooms."
"But even if we didn't? You're not going to live here for ever, I suppose."
"That, Sir, is too good to be thought of, I fear. The truth is we had an idea of staying at my father's. He spoke of going down to the country and lending us the house. My sisters have made him change his mind and so here we are. Of course we can go into lodgings."
"Or to an hotel."
"Too dear! You see you've made me pay such a sum for insuring my life. I'll tell you what I'll do. If you'll let us make it out here till the 10th of July we'll go into an hotel then." Sir Thomas, surprised at his own compliance, did at last give way. "And then we can have a month at Glenbogie from the 12th."
"Three weeks," said Sir Thomas, shouting at the top of his voice.
"Very well; three weeks. If you could have made it the month it would have been convenient; but I hate to be disagreeable." Thus the matter was settled, and Mr. Traffick was altogether well pleased with the arrangement.
"What are we to do?" said Augusta, with a very long face. "What are we to do when we are made to go away?"
"I hope I shall be able to make some of the girls go down by that time, and then we must squeeze in at my father's."
This and other matters made Sir Thomas in those days irritable and disagreeable to the family. "Tom," he said to his wife, "is the biggest fool that ever lived."
"What is the matter with him now?" asked Lady Tringle, who did not like to have her only son abused.
"He's away half his time, and when he does come he'd better be away. If he wants to marry that girl why doesn't he marry her and have done with it?"
Now this was a matter upon which Lady Tringle had ideas of her own which were becoming every day stronger. "I'm sure I should be very sorry to see it," she said.
"Why should you be sorry? Isn't it the best thing a young man can do? If he's set his heart that way all the world won't talk him off. I thought all that was settled."
"You can't make the girl marry him."
"Is that it?" asked Sir Thomas, with a whistle. "You used to say she was setting her cap at him."
"She is one of those girls you don't know what she would be at. She's full of romance and nonsense, and isn't half as fond of telling the truth as she ought to be. She made my life a burden to me while she was with us, and I don't think she would be any better for Tom."
"But he's still determined."
"What's the use of that?" said Lady Tringle.
"Then he shall have her. I made him a promise and I'm not going to give it up. I told him that if he was in earnest he should have her."
"You can't make a girl marry a young man."
"You have her here, and then we'll take her to Glenbogie. Now when I say it I mean it. You go and fetch her, and if you don't I will. I'm not going to have her turned out into the cold in that way."
"She won't come, Tom." Then he turned round and frowned at her.
The immediate result of this was that Lady Tringle herself did drive across to Kingsbury Crescent accompanied by Gertrude and Lucy, and did make her request in form. "My dear, your uncle particularly wants you to come to us for the next month." Mrs. Dosett was sitting by. "I hope Ayala may be allowed to come to us for a month."
"Ayala must answer for herself," said Mrs. Dosett, firmly. There had never been any warm friendship between Mrs. Dosett and her husband's elder sister.
"I can't," said Ayala, shaking her head.
"Why not, my dear?" said Lady Tringle.
"I can't," said Ayala.
Lady Tringle was not in the least offended or annoyed at the refusal. She did not at all desire that Ayala should come to Glenbogie. Ayala at Glenbogie would make her life miserable to her. It would, of course, lead to Tom's marriage, and then there would be internecine fighting between Ayala and Augusta. But it was necessary that she should take back to her husband some reply; – and this reply, if in the form of refusal, must come from Ayala herself. "Your uncle has sent me," said Lady Tringle, "and I must give him some reason. As for expense, you know," – then she turned to Mrs. Dosett with a smile, – "that of course would be our affair."
"If you ask me," said Mrs. Dosett, "I think that as Ayala has come to us she had better remain with us. Of course things are very different, and she would be only discontented." At this Lady Tringle smiled her sweetest smile, – as though acknowledging that things certainly were different, – and then turned to Ayala for a further reply.
"Aunt Emmeline, I can't," said Ayala.
"But why, my dear? Can't isn't a courteous answer to a request that is meant to be kind."
"Speak out, Ayala," said Mrs. Dosett. "There is nobody here but your aunts."
"Because of Tom."
"Tom wouldn't eat you," said Lady Tringle, again smiling.
"It's worse than eating me," said Ayala. "He will go on when I tell him not. If I were down there he'd be doing it always. And then you'd tell me that I – encouraged him!"
Lady Tringle felt this to be unkind and undeserved. Those passages in Rome had been very disagreeable to every one concerned. The girl certainly, as she thought, had been arrogant and impertinent. She had been accepted from charity and had then domineered in the family. She had given herself airs and had gone out into company almost without authority, into company which had rejected her, – Lady Tringle. It had become absolutely necessary to get rid of an inmate so troublesome, so unbearable. The girl had been sent away, – almost ignominiously. Now she, Lady Tringle, the offended aunt, the aunt who had so much cause for offence, had been good enough, gracious enough, to pardon all this, and was again offering the fruition of a portion of her good things to the sinner. No doubt she was not anxious that the offer should be accepted, but not the less was it made graciously, – as she felt herself. In answer to this she had thrown back upon her the only hard word she had ever spoken to the girl! "You wouldn't be told anything of the kind, but you needn't come if you don't like it."
"Then I don't," said Ayala, nodding her head.
"But I did think that after all that has passed, and when I am trying to be kind to you, you would have made yourself more pleasant to me. I can only tell your uncle that you say you won't."
"Give my love to my uncle, and tell him that I am much obliged to him and that I know how good he is; but I can't – because of Tom."
"Tom is too good for you," exclaimed Aunt Emmeline, who could not bear to have her son depreciated even by the girl whom she did not wish to marry him.
"I didn't say he wasn't," said Ayala, bursting into tears. "The Archbishop of Canterbury would be too good for me, but I don't want to marry him." Then she got up and ran out of the room in order that she might weep over her troubles in the privacy of her own chamber. She was thoroughly convinced that she was being ill-used. No one had a right to tell her that any man was too good for her unless she herself should make pretensions to the man. It was an insult to her even to connect her name with that of any man unless she had done something to connect it. In her own estimation her cousin Tom was infinitely beneath her, – worlds beneath her, – a denizen of an altogether inferior race, such as the Beast was to the Beauty! Not that Ayala had ever boasted to herself of her own face or form. It was not in that respect that she likened herself to the Beauty when she thought of Tom as the Beast. Her assumed superiority existed in certain intellectual or rather artistic and ?sthetic gifts, – certain celestial gifts. But as she had boasted of them to no one, as she had never said that she and her cousin were poles asunder in their tastes, poles asunder in their feelings, poles asunder in their intelligence, was it not very, very cruel that she should be told, first that she encouraged him, and then that she was not good enough for him? Cinderella did not ask to have the Prince for her husband. When she had her own image of which no one could rob her, and was content with that, why should they treat her in this cruel way?
"I am afraid you are having a great deal of trouble with her," said Lady Tringle to Mrs. Dosett.
"No, indeed. Of course she is romantic, which is very objectionable."
"Quite detestable!" said Lady Tringle.
"But she has been brought up like that, so that it is not her fault. Now she endeavours to do her best."
"She is so upsetting."
"She is angry because her cousin persecutes her."
"Persecutes her, indeed! Tom is in a position to ask any girl to be his wife. He can give her a home of her own, and a good income. She ought to be proud of the offer instead of speaking like that. But nobody wants her to have him."
"He wants it, I suppose."
"Just taken by her baby face; – that's all. It won't last, and she needn't think so. However, I've done my best to be kind, Mrs. Dosett, and there's an end of it. If you please I'll ring the bell for the carriage. Good-bye." After that she swam out of the room and had herself carried back to Queen's Gate.
Three or four days afterwards Sir Thomas asked whether Ayala was to come to Glenbogie. "She positively refused," said his wife, "and was so rude and impertinent that I could not possibly have her now." Then Sir Thomas frowned and turned himself away, and said not a word further on that occasion.
There were many candidates for Glenbogie on this occasion. Among others there was Mr. Frank Houston, whose candidature was not pressed by himself, – as could not well have been done, – but was enforced by Gertrude on his behalf. It was now July. Gertrude and Mr. Houston had seen something of each other in Rome, as may be remembered, and since then had seen a good deal of each other in town. Gertrude was perfectly well aware that Mr. Houston was impecunious; but Augusta had been allowed to have an impecunious lover, and Tom to throw himself at the feet of an impecunious love. Gertrude felt herself to be entitled to her ?120,000; did not for a moment doubt but that she would get it. Why shouldn't she give it to any young man she liked as long as he belonged to decent people? Mr. Houston wasn't a Member of Parliament, – but then he was young and good-looking. Mr. Houston wasn't son to a lord, but he was brother to a county squire, and came of a family much older than that of those stupid Boardotrade and Traffick people. And then Frank Houston was very presentable, was not at all bald, and was just the man for a girl to like as a husband. It was dinned into her ears that Houston had no income at all, – just a few hundreds a year on which he never could keep himself out of debt. But he was a generous man, who would be more than contented with the income coming from ?120,000. He would not spunge upon the house at Queen's Gate. He would not make use of Merle Park and Glenbogie. He would have a house of his own for his old boots. Four-per-cent. would give them nearly ?5,000 a year. Gertrude knew all about it already. They could have a nice house near Queen's Gate; – say somewhere about Onslow Gardens. There would be quite enough for a carriage, for three months upon a mountain in Switzerland, and three more among the art treasures of Italy. It was astonishing how completely Gertrude had it all at her finger's ends when she discussed the matter with her mother. Mr. Houston was a man of no expensive tastes. He didn't want to hunt. He did shoot, no doubt, and perhaps a little shooting at Glenbogie might be nice before they went to Switzerland. In that case two months on the top of the mountain would suffice. But if he was not asked he would never condescend to demand an entry at Glenbogie as a part of his wife's dower. Lady Tringle was thus talked over, though she did think that at least one of her daughters' husbands ought to have an income of his own. There was another point which Gertrude put forward very frankly, and which no doubt had weight with her mother. "Mamma, I mean to have him," she said, when Lady Tringle expressed a doubt.
"I mean to have him. Papa can scold, of course, if he pleases."
"But where would the income come from if papa did not give it?"
"Of course he'll give it. I've a right to it as much as Augusta." There was something in Gertrude's face as she said this which made her mother think that she would have her way.
But Sir Thomas had hitherto declined. When Frank Houston, after the manner of would-be sons-in-law, had applied to Sir Thomas, Sir Thomas, who already knew all about it, asked after his income, his prospects, and his occupation. Fifty years ago young men used to encounter the misery of such questions, and to live afterwards often in the enjoyment of the stern questioner's money and daughters. But there used in those days to be a bad quarter of an hour while the questions were being asked, and not un-frequently a bad six months afterwards, while the stern questioner was gradually undergoing a softening process under the hands of the females of the family. But the young man of to-day has no bad quarter of an hour. "You are a mercantile old brick, with money and a daughter. I am a jeunesse dor?e, – gilded by blood and fashion, though so utterly impecunious! Let us know your terms. How much is it to be, and then I can say whether we can afford to live upon it." The old brick surrenders himself more readily and speedily to the latter than to the former manner; – but he hardly surrenders himself quite at once. Frank Houston, when inquired into, declared at once, without blushing, that he had no income at all to speak of in reference to matrimonial life. As to family prospects he had none. His elder brother had four blooming boys, and was likely to have more. As for occupation, he was very fond of painting, very fond of art all round, could shoot a little, and was never in want of anything to do as long as he had a book. But for the earning of money he had no turn whatever. He was quite sure of himself that he could never earn a shilling. But then on the other hand he was not extravagant, – which was almost as good as earning. It was almost incredible; but with his means, limited as they were to a few hundreds, he did not owe above a thousand pounds; – a fact which he thought would weigh much with Sir Thomas in regard to his daughter's future happiness.
Sir Thomas gave him a flat refusal. "I think that I may boast that your daughter's happiness is in my charge," said Frank Houston.