"Don't know anything about what?" said Augusta, who as a lady who had been married over twelve months, and was soon about to become a mother, felt that she certainly did know all about it.
"Why don't we know as well as you?" asked Gertrude, who had also had her experiences.
"I don't believe you do know anything about it; – that's all," said Tom. "And now there's the cab. Good-bye, mother! Good-bye, Augusta. I hope you'll be all right." This alluded to the baby. "Good-bye, Gertrude. I hope you'll get all right too some day." This alluded to Gertrude's two lovers. Then he left them, and as he got into his cab declared to himself that neither of them had ever, or would ever, know anything of that special trouble which had so nearly overwhelmed himself.
"Upon my word, Tom," said his father, walking about the vessel with him, "I wish I were going to New York myself with you; – it all looks so comfortable."
"Yes," said Tom, "it's very nice."
"You'll enjoy yourself amazingly. There is that Mrs. Thompson has two as pretty daughters with her as ever a man wished to see." Tom shook his head. "And you're fond of smoking. Did you see the smoking-room? They've got everything on board these ships now. Upon my word I envy you the voyage."
"It's as good as anything else, I daresay," said Tom. "Perhaps it's better than London."
Then his father, who had been speaking aloud to him, whispered a word in his ear. "Shake yourself, Tom; – shake yourself, and get over it."
"I am trying," said Tom.
"Love is a very good thing, Tom, when a man can enjoy it, and make himself warm with it, and protect himself by it from selfishness and hardness of heart. But when it knocks a man's courage out of him, and makes him unfit for work, and leaves him to bemoan himself, there's nothing good in it. It's as bad as drink. Don't you know that I am doing the best I can for you, to make a man of you?"
"I suppose so."
"Then shake yourself, as I call it. It is to be done, if you set about it in earnest. Now, God bless you, my boy." Then Sir Thomas got into his boat, and left his son to go upon his travels and get himself cured by a change of scene.
I have no doubt that Tom was cured, if not before he reached New York, at any rate before he left that interesting city; – so that when he reached Niagara, which he did do in company with Mrs. Thompson and her charming daughters, he entertained no idea of throwing himself down the Falls. We cannot follow him on that prolonged tour to Japan and China, and thence to Calcutta and Bombay. I fancy that he did not go on to Cabul, as before that time the Ministry in England was unfortunately changed, and the Russians had not as yet been expelled from Asia; – but I have little doubt that he obtained a great deal of very useful mercantile information, and that he will live to have a comfortable wife and a large family, and become in the course of years the senior partner in the great house of Travers and Treason.
We have seen how Mr. Traffick was finally turned out of his father-in-law's house; – or, rather, not quite finally when we last saw him, as he continued to sleep at Queen's Gate for two or three nights after that, until he had found shelter for his head. This he did without encountering Sir Thomas, Sir Thomas pretending the while to believe that he was gone; and then in very truth his last pair of boots was removed. But his wife remained, awaiting the great occurrence with all the paternal comforts around her, Mr. Traffick having been quite right in surmising that the father would not expose his daughter in her delicate condition to the inclemencies of the weather.
But this no more than natural attention on the part of the father and grandfather to the needs of his own daughter and grandchild did not in the least mitigate in the bosom of the Member of Parliament the wrath which he felt at his own expulsion. It was not, as he said to himself, the fact that he was expelled, but the coarseness of the language used. "The truth is," he said to a friend in the House, "that, though it was arranged I should remain there till after my wife's confinement, I could not bear his language." It will probably be acknowledged that the language was of a nature not to be borne.
When, therefore, Captain Batsby went down to the House on the day of Tom's departure to see his counsellor he found Mr. Traffick full rather of anger than of counsel. "Oh, yes," said the Member, walking with the Captain up and down some of the lobbies, "I spoke to him, and told him my mind very freely. When I say I'll do a thing, I always do it. And as for Tringle, nobody knows him better than I. It does not do to be afraid of him. There is a little bit of the cur about him."
"What did he say?"
"He didn't like it. The truth is – . You know I don't mind speaking to you openly."
"Oh, no," said Batsby.
"He thinks he ought to do as well with the second girl as he has done with the first." Captain Batsby at this opened his eyes, but he said nothing. Having a good income of his own, he thought much of it. Not being the younger son of a lord, and not being a Member of Parliament, he thought less of the advantages of those high privileges. It did not suit him, however, to argue the question at the present moment. "He is proud of his connection with our family, and looks perhaps even more than he ought to do to a seat in the House."
"I could get in myself if I cared for it," said Batsby.
"Very likely. It is more difficult than ever to find a seat just now. A family connection of course does help one. I had to trust to that a good deal before I was known myself."
"But what did Sir Thomas say?"
"He made himself uncommonly disagreeable; – I can tell you that. He couldn't very well abuse me, but he wasn't very particular in what he said about you. Of course he was cut up about the elopement. We all felt it. Augusta was very much hurt. In her precarious state it was so likely to do a mischief."
"It can't be undone now."
"No; – it can't be undone. But it makes one feel that you can't make a demand for money as though you set about it in the other way. When I made up my mind to marry I stated what I thought I had a right to demand, and I got it. He knew very well that I shouldn't take a shilling less. It does make a difference when he knows very well that you've got to marry the girl whether with or without money."
"I haven't got to marry the girl at all."
"Haven't you? I rather think you have, old fellow. It is generally considered that when a gentleman has gone off with a girl he means to marry her."
"Not if the father comes after her and brings her back."
"And when he has gone afterwards to the family house and proposed himself again in the mother's presence." In all this Mr. Traffick received an unfair advantage from the communications which were made to him by his wife. "Of course you must marry her. Sir Thomas knows that, and, knowing it, why should he be flush with his money? I never allowed myself to say a single word they could use against me till the ready-money-down had been all settled."
"What was it he did say?" Batsby was thoroughly sick of hearing his counsellor tell so many things as to his own prudence and his own success, and asked the question in an angry tone.
"He said that he would not consider the question of money at all till the marriage had been solemnised. Of course he stands on his right. Why shouldn't he? But, rough as he is, he isn't stingy. Give him his due. He isn't stingy. The money's there all right; and the girl is his own child. You'll have to wait his time; – that's all."
"And have nothing to begin with?"
"That'll be about it, I think. But what does it matter, Batsby? You are always talking about your income."
"No, I aint; not half so much as you do of your seat in Parliament, – which everybody says you are likely to lose at the next election." Then, of course, there was a quarrel. Mr. Traffick took his offended dignity back to the House, – almost doubting whether it might not be his duty to bring Captain Batsby to the bar for contempt of privilege; and the Captain took himself off in thorough disgust.
Nevertheless there was the fact that he had engaged himself to the young lady a second time. He had run away with her with the object of marrying her, and had then, according to his own theory in such matters, – been relieved from his responsibility by the appearance of the father and the re-abduction of the young lady. As the young lady had been taken away from him it was to be supposed that the intended marriage was negatived by a proper authority. When starting for Brussels he was a free man; and had he been wise he would have remained there, or at some equally safe distance from the lady's charms. Then, from a distance, he might have made his demand for money, and the elopement would have operated in his favour rather than otherwise. But he had come back, and had foolishly allowed himself to be persuaded to show himself at Queen's Gate. He had obeyed Traffick's advice, and now Traffick had simply thrown him over and quarrelled with him. He had too promised, in the presence both of the mother and the married sister, that he would marry the young lady without any regard to money. He felt it all and was very angry with himself, consoling himself as best he might with the reflection that Sir Thomas's money was certainly safe, and that Sir Thomas himself was a liberal man. In his present condition it would be well for him, he thought, to remain inactive and see what circumstances would do for him.
But circumstances very quickly became active. On his return to his lodgings, after leaving Mr. Traffick, he found a note from Queen's Gate. "Dearest Ben, – Mamma wants you to come and lunch to-morrow. Papa has taken poor Tom down to Liverpool, and won't be back till dinner-time. – G." He did not do as he was bid, alleging some engagement of business. But the persecution was continued in such a manner as to show him that all opposition on his part would be hopeless unless he were to proceed on some tour as prolonged as that of his future brother-in-law. "Come and walk at three o'clock in Kensington Gardens to-morrow." This was written on the Saturday after his note had been received. What use would there be in continuing a vain fight? He was in their hands, and the more gracefully he yielded the more probable it would be that the father would evince his generosity at an early date. He therefore met his lady-love on the steps of the Albert Memorial, whither she had managed to take herself all alone from the door of the family mansion.
"Ben," she said, as she greeted him, "why did you not come for me to the house?"
"I thought you would like it best."
"Why should I like it best? Of course mamma knows all about it. Augusta would have come with me just to see me here, only that she cannot walk out just at present." Then he said something to her about the Monument, expressed his admiration of the Prince's back, abused the east wind, remarked that the buds were coming on some of the trees, and suggested that the broad road along by the Round Pond would be drier than the little paths. It was not interesting, as Gertrude felt; but she had not expected him to be interesting. The interest she knew must be contributed by herself. "Ben," she said, "I was so happy to hear what you said to mamma the other day."
"What did I say?"
"Why, of course, that, as papa has given his consent, our engagement is to go on just as if – "
"Just as if what?"
"As if we had found the clergyman at Ostend."
"If we had done that we should have been married now," suggested Batsby.
"Exactly. And it's almost as good as being married; – isn't it?"
"I suppose it comes to the same thing."
"Hadn't you better go to papa again and have it all finished?"
"He makes himself so very unpleasant."
"That's only because he wants to punish us for running away. I suppose it was wrong. I shall never be sorry, because it made me know how very, very much you loved me. Didn't it make you feel how very, very dearly I loved you, – to trust myself all alone with you in that way?"
"Oh, yes; of course."
"And papa can't bite you, you know. You go to him, and tell him that you hope to be received in the house as my, – my future husband, you know."
"Shall I say nothing else?"
"You mean about the day?"
"I was meaning about money."
"I don't think I would. He is very generous, but he does not like to be asked. When Augusta was to be married he arranged all that himself after they were engaged."
"But Traffick demanded a certain sum?" This question Captain Batsby asked with considerable surprise, remembering what Mr. Traffick had said to him in reference to Augusta's fortune.
"Not at all. Septimus knew nothing about it till after the engagement. He was only too glad to get papa's consent. You mustn't believe all that Septimus says, you know. You may be sure of this, – that you can trust papa's generosity." Then, before he landed her at the door in Queen's Gate, he had promised that he would make another journey to Lombard Street, with the express purpose of obtaining Sir Thomas's sanction to the marriage, – either with or without money.
"How are you again?" said Sir Thomas, when the Captain was for the third time shown into the little back parlour. "Have you had another trip to the continent since I saw you?" Sir Thomas was in a good humour. Tom had gone upon his travels; Mr. Traffick had absolutely taken himself out of the house; and the millions were accommodating themselves comfortably.
"No, Sir Thomas; I haven't been abroad since then. I don't keep on going abroad constantly in that way."
"And what can I do for you now?"
"Of course it's about your daughter. I want to have your permission to consider ourselves engaged."
"I explained to you before that if you and Gertrude choose to marry each other I shall not stand in your way."
"Thank you, Sir."
"I don't know that it is much to thank me for. Only that she made a fool of herself by running away with you I should have preferred to wait till some more sensible candidate had proposed himself for her hand. I don't suppose you'll ever set the Thames on fire."
"I did very well in the army."
"It's a pity you did not remain there, and then, perhaps, you would not have gone to Ostend with my daughter. As it is, there she is. I think she might have done better with herself; but that is her fault. She has made her bed and she must lie upon it."
"If we are to be married I hope you won't go on abusing me always, Sir Thomas."
"That's as you behave. You didn't suppose that I should allow such a piece of tomfoolery as that to be passed over without saying anything about it! If you marry her and behave well to her I will – " Then he paused.
"What will you do, Sir Thomas?"
"I'll say as little as possible about the Ostend journey."
"And as to money, Sir Thomas?"
"I think I have promised quite enough for you. You are not in a position, Captain Batsby, to ask me as to money; – nor is she. You shall marry her without a shilling, – or you shall not marry her at all. Which is it to be? I must have an end put to all this. I won't have you hanging about my house unless I know the reason why. Are you two engaged to each other?"
"I suppose we are," said Batsby, lugubriously.
"Suppose is not enough."
"We are," said Batsby, courageously.
"Very well. Then, from this moment, Ostend shall be as though there weren't such a seaport anywhere in Europe. I will never allude to the place again, – unless, perhaps, you should come and stay with me too long when I am particularly anxious to get rid of you. Now you had better go and settle about the time and all that with Lady Tringle, and tell her that you mean to come and dine to-morrow or next day, or whenever it suits. Come and dine as often as you please, only do not bring your wife to live with me pertinaciously when you're not asked." All this Captain Batsby did not understand, but, as he left Lombard Street, he made up his mind that of all the men he had ever met, Sir Thomas Tringle, his future father-in-law, was the most singular. "He's a better fellow than Traffick," said Sir Thomas to himself when he was alone, "and as he has trusted me so far I'll not throw him over."
The Captain now had no hesitation in taking himself to Queen's Gate. As he was to be married he might as well make the best of such delights as were to be found in the happy state of mutual affection. "My dear, dearest Benjamin, I am so happy," said Lady Tringle, dissolved in tears as she embraced her son-in-law that was to be. "You will always be so dear to me!" In this she was quite true. Traffick was not dear to her. She had at first thought much of Mr. Traffick's position and noble blood, but, of late, she too had become very tired of Mr. Traffick. Augusta took almost too much upon herself, and Mr. Traffick's prolonged presence had been an eyesore. Captain Batsby was softer, and would be much more pleasant as a son-in-law. Even the journey to Ostend had had a good effect in producing a certain humility.
"My dear Benjamin," said Augusta, "we shall always be so happy to entertain you as a brother. Mr. Traffick has a great regard for you, and said from the first that if you behaved as you ought to do after that little journey he would arrange that everything should go straight between you and papa. I was quite sure that you would come forward at once as a man."
But Gertrude's delight was, of course, the strongest, and Gertrude's welcoming the warmest, – as was proper. "When I think of it," she said to him, "I don't know how I should ever have looked anybody in the face again, – after our going away with our things mixed up in that way."
"I am glad rather now that we didn't find the clergyman."
"Oh, certainly," said Gertrude. "I don't suppose anybody would have given me anything. Now there'll be a regular wedding, and, of course, there will be the presents."
"And, though nothing is to be settled, I suppose he will do something."
"And it would have been very dreadful, not having a regular trousseau," said Gertrude. "Mamma will, of course, do now just as she did about Augusta. He allowed her ?300! Only think; – if we had been married at Ostend you would have had to buy things for me before the first month was out. I hadn't more than half-a-dozen pair of stockings with me."
"He can't but say now that we have done as he would have us," added the Captain. "I do suppose that he will not be so unnatural as not to give something when Augusta had ?200,000."
"Indeed, she had not. But you'll see that sooner or later papa will do for me quite as well as for Augusta." In this way they were happy together, consoling each other for any little trouble which seemed for a while to cloud their joys, and basking in the full sunshine of their permitted engagement.
The day was soon fixed, but fixed not entirely in reference to the wants of Gertrude and her wedding. Lucy had also to be married from the same house, and the day for her marriage had already been arranged. Sir Thomas had ordered that everything should be done for Lucy as though she were a daughter of the house, and her wedding had been arranged for the last week in May. When he heard that Ayala and Colonel Stubbs were also engaged he was anxious that the two sisters should be "buckled," as he called it, on the same occasion, – and he magnanimously offered to take upon himself the entire expense of the double arrangement, intimating that the people in Kingsbury Crescent had hardly room enough for a wedding. But Ayala, acting probably under Stalham influences, would not consent to this. Lady Albury, who was now in London, was determined that Ayala's marriage should take place from her own house; and, as Aunt Margaret and Uncle Reginald had consented, that matter was considered as settled. But Sir Thomas, having fixed his mind upon a double wedding, resolved that Gertrude and Lucy should be the joint brides. Gertrude, who still suffered perhaps a little in public estimation from the Ostend journey, was glad enough to wipe out that stain as quickly as possible, and did not therefore object to the arrangement. But to the Captain there was something in it by which his more delicate feelings were revolted. It was a matter of course that Ayala should be present at her sister's wedding, and would naturally appear there in the guise of a bridesmaid. She would also, now, act as a bridesmaid to Gertrude, – her future position as Mrs. Colonel Stubbs giving her, as was supposed, sufficient dignity for that honourable employment. But Captain Batsby, not so very long ago, had appeared among the suitors for Ayala's hand; and therefore, as he said to Gertrude, he felt a little shamefaced about it. "What does that signify?" said Gertrude. "If you say nothing to her about it, I'll be bound she'll say nothing to you." And so it was on the day of the wedding. Ayala did not say a word to Captain Batsby, nor did Captain Batsby say very much to Ayala.