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Then there entered to him one of the junior clerks with a card announcing the name of Captain Batsby. He looked at it for some seconds before he gave any notification of his intention, and then desired the young man to tell the gentleman that he would not see him. The message had been delivered, and Captain Batsby with a frown of anger on his brow was about to shake the dust off from his feet on the uncourteous threshold when there came another message saying that Captain Batsby could go in and see Sir Thomas if he wished it. Upon this he turned round and was shown into the little sitting-room. "Well, Captain Batsby," said Sir Thomas; "what can I do for you now? I am glad to see that you have come back safely from foreign parts."
"I have called," said the Captain, "to say something about your daughter."
"What more can you have to say about her?"
At this the Captain was considerably puzzled. Of course Sir Thomas must know what he had to say. "The way in which we were separated at Ostend was very distressing to my feelings."
"And also I should think to Miss Tringle's."
"Not improbably. I have always observed that when people are interrupted in the performance of some egregious stupidity their feelings are hurt. As I said before, what can I do for you now?"
"I am very anxious to complete the alliance which I have done myself the honour to propose to you."
"I did not know that you had proposed anything. You came down to my house under a false pretence; and then you persuaded my daughter, – or else she persuaded you, – to go off together to Ostend. Is that what you call an alliance?"
"That, as far as it went was, – was an elopement."
"Am I to understand that you now want to arrange another elopement, and that you have come to ask my consent?"
"Oh dear no."
"Then what do you mean by completing an alliance?"
"I want to make," said the Captain, "an offer for the young lady's hand in a proper form. I consider myself to be in a position which justifies me in doing so. I am possessed of the young lady's affections, and have means of my own equal to those which I presume you will be disposed to give her."
"Very much better means I hope, Captain Batsby. Otherwise I do not see what you and your wife would have to live upon. I will tell you exactly what my feelings are in this matter. My daughter has gone off with you, forgetting all the duty that she owed to me and to her mother, and throwing aside all ideas of propriety. After that I will not say that you shall not marry her if both of you think fit. I do not doubt your means, and I have no reason for supposing that you would be cruel to her. You are two fools, but after all fools must live in the world. What I do say is, that I will not give a sixpence towards supporting you in your folly. Now, Captain Batsby, you can complete the alliance or not as you please."
Captain Batsby had been called a fool also at Ostend, and there, amidst the distressing circumstances of his position, had been constrained to bear the opprobious name, little customary as it is for one gentleman to allow himself to be called a fool by another; but now he had collected his thoughts, had reminded himself of his position in the world, and had told himself that it did not become him to be too humble before this City man of business.It might have been all very well at Ostend; but he was not going to be called a fool in London without resenting it. "Sir Thomas," said he, "fool and folly are terms which I cannot allow you to use to me."
"If you do not present yourself to me here, Captain Batsby, or at my own house, – or, perhaps I may say, at Ostend, – I will use no such terms to you."
"I suppose you will acknowledge that I am entitled to ask for your daughter's hand."
"I suppose you will acknowledge that when a man runs away with my daughter I am entitled to express my opinion of his conduct."
"That is all over now, Sir Thomas. What I did I did for love. There is no good in crying over spilt milk. The question is as to the future happiness of the young lady."
"That is the only wise word I have heard you say, Captain Batsby. There is no good in crying after spilt milk. Our journey to Ostend is done and gone. It was not very agreeable, but we have lived through it. I quite think that you show a good judgment in not intending to go there again in quest of a clergyman. If you want to be married there are plenty of them in London. I will not oppose your marriage, but I will not give you a shilling. No man ever had a better opportunity of showing the disinterestedness of his affection. Now, good morning."
"But, Sir Thomas – "
"Captain Batsby, my time is precious. I have told you all that there is to tell." Then he stood up, and the Captain with a stern demeanour and angry brow left the room and took himself in silence away from Lombard Street.
"Do you want to marry Captain Batsby?" Sir Thomas said to his daughter that evening, having invited her to come apart with him after dinner.
"Yes, I do."
"You think that you prefer him on the whole to Mr. Houston?"
"Mr. Houston is a scoundrel. I wish that you would not talk about him, papa."
"I like him so much the best of the two," said Sir Thomas. "But of course it is for you to judge. I could have brought myself to give something to Houston. Luckily, however, Captain Batsby has got an income of his own."
"He has, papa."
"And you are sure that you would like to take him as your husband?"
"Very well. He has been with me to-day."
"Is he in London?"
"I tell you that he has been with me to-day in Lombard Street."
"What did he say? Did he say anything about me?"
"Yes, my dear. He came to ask me for your hand."
"I told him that I should make no objection, – that I should leave it altogether to you. I only interfered with one small detail as to my own wishes. I assured him that I should never give him or you a single shilling. I don't suppose it will matter much to him, as he has, you know, means of his own." It was thus that Sir Thomas punished his daughter for her misconduct.
Captain Batsby and the Trafficks were acquainted with each other. The Member of Parliament had, of course, heard of the journey to Ostend from his wife, and had been instigated by her to express an opinion that the young people ought to be married. "It is such a very serious thing," said Augusta to her husband, "to be four hours on the sea together! And then you know – !" Mr. Traffick acknowledged that it was serious, and was reminded by his wife that he, in the capacity of brother, was bound to interfere on his sister's behalf. "Papa, you know, understands nothing about these kind of things. You, with your family interest, and your seat in Parliament, ought to be able to arrange it." Mr. Traffick probably knew how far his family interest and his seat in Parliament would avail. They had, at any rate, got him a wife with a large fortune. They were promising for him, still further, certain domiciliary advantages. He doubted whether he could do much for Batsby; but still he promised to try. If he could arrange these matters it might be that he would curry fresh favour with Sir Thomas by doing so. He therefore made it his business to encounter Captain Batsby on the Sunday afternoon at a club to which they both belonged. "So you have come back from your little trip?" said the Member of Parliament.
The Captain was not unwilling to discuss the question of their family relations with Mr. Traffick. If anybody would have influence with Sir Thomas it might probably be Mr. Traffick. "Yes; I have come back."
"Without your bride."
"Without my bride, – as yet. That is a kind of undertaking in which a man is apt to run many dangers before he can carry it through."
"I dare say. I never did anything of the kind myself. Of course you know that I am the young lady's brother-in-law."
"And therefore you won't mind me speaking. Don't you think you ought to do something further?"
"Something further! By George, I should think so," said the Captain, exultingly. "I mean to do a great many things further. You don't suppose I am going to give it up?"
"You oughtn't, you know. When a man has taken a girl off with him in that way, he should go on with it. It's a deuced serious thing, you know."
"It was his fault in coming after us."
"That was a matter of course. If he hadn't done it, I must. I have made the family my own, and, of course, must look after its honour." The noble scion of the house of Traffick, as he said this, showed by his countenance that he perfectly understood the duty which circumstances had imposed upon him.
"He made himself very rough, you know," said the Captain.
"I dare say he would."
"And said things, – well, – things which he ought not to have said."
"In such a case as that a father may say pretty nearly what comes uppermost."
"That was just it. He did say what came uppermost, – and very rough it was."
"What does it matter?"
"Not much if he'd do as he ought to do now. As you are her brother-in-law, I'll tell you just how it stands. I have been to him and made a regular proposal."
"Since you have been back?"
"Yes; the day before yesterday. And what do you think he says?"
"What does he say?"
"He gives his consent; only – "
"He won't give her a shilling! Such an idea, you know! As though she were to be punished after marriage for running away with the man she did marry."
"Take your chance, Batsby," said the Member of Parliament.
"Take your chance of the money. I'd have done it; only, of course, it was different with me. He was glad to catch me, and therefore the money was settled."
"I've got a tidy income of my own, you know," said the Captain, thinking that he was entitled to be made more welcome as a son-in-law than the younger son of a peer who had no income.
"Take your chance," continued Traffick. "What on earth can a man like Tringle do with his money except give it to his children? He is rough, as you say, but he is not hard-hearted, nor yet stubborn. I can do pretty nearly what I like with him."
"Can you, though?"
"Yes; by smoothing him down the right way. You run your chance, and we'll get it all put right for you." The Captain hesitated, rubbing his head carefully to encourage the thoughts which were springing up within his bosom. The Honourable Mr. Traffick might perhaps succeed in getting the affair put right, as he called it, in the interest rather of the elder than of the second daughter. "I don't see how you can hesitate now, as you have been off with the girl," said Mr. Traffick.
"I don't know about that. I should like to see the money settled."
"There would have been nothing settled if you had married her at Ostend."
"But I didn't," said the Captain. "I tell you what you might do. You might talk him over and make him a little more reasonable. I should be ready to-morrow if he'd come forward."
"What's the sum you want?"
"The same as yours, I suppose."
"That's out of the question," said Mr. Traffick, shaking his head. "Suppose we say sixty thousand pounds." Then after some chaffering on the subject it was decided between them that Mr. Traffick should use his powerful influence with his father-in-law to give his daughter on her marriage, – say a hundred thousand pounds if it were possible, or sixty thousand pounds at the least.