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A THIRD PARTY IS SO OBJECTIONABLE
Hugh Stanbury went in search of Trevelyan immediately on his return to London, and found his friend at his rooms in Lincoln's Inn.
'I have executed my commission,' said Hugh, endeavouring to speak of what he had done in a cheery voice.
'I am much obliged to you, Stanbury very much; but I do not know that I need trouble you to tell me anything about it.'
'And why not?'
'I have learned it all from that man.'
'From Bozzle. He has come back, and has been with me, and has learned everything.'
'Look here, Trevelyan, when you asked me to go down to Devonshire, you promised me that there should be nothing more about Bozzle. I expect you to put that rascal, and all that he has told you, out of your head altogether. You are bound to do so for my sake, and you will be very wise to do so for your own.'
'I was obliged to see him when he came.'
'Yes, and to pay him, I do not doubt. But that is all done, and should be forgotten.'
'I can't forget it. Is it true or untrue that he found that man down there? Is it true or untrue that my wife received Colonel Osborne at your mother's house? Is it true or untrue that Colonel Osborne went down there with the express object of seeing her? Is it true or untrue that they had corresponded? It is nonsense to bid me to forget all this. You might as well ask me to forget that I had desired her neither to write to him, nor to see him.'
'If I understand the matter,' said Trevelyan, 'you are incorrect in one of your assertions.'
'You must excuse me if I am wrong, Trevelyan; but I don't think you ever did tell your wife not to see this man, or not to write to him?'
'I never told her! I don't understand what you mean.'
'Not in so many words. It is my belief that she has endeavoured to obey implicitly every clear instruction that you have given her.'
'You are wrong absolutely and altogether wrong. Heaven and earth! Do you mean to tell me now, after all that has taken place, that she did not know my wishes?'
'I have not said that. But you, have chosen to place her in such a position, that though your word would go for much with her, she cannot bring herself to respect your wishes.'
'And you call that being dutiful and affectionate!'
'I call it human and reasonable; and I think that it is compatible with duty and affection. Have you consulted her wishes?'
'Consult them now then, and bid her come back to you.'
'No never! As far as I can see, I will never do so. The moment she is away from me this man goes to her, and she receives him. She must have known that she was wrong and you must know it.'
'I do not think that she is half so wrong as you yourself,' said Stanbury. To this Trevelyan made no answer, and they both remained silent some minutes. Stanbury had a communication to make before he went, but it was one which he wished to delay as long as there was a chance that his friend's heart might be softened, one which he need not make if Trevelyan would consent to receive his wife back to his house. There was the day's paper lying on the table, and Stanbury had taken it up and was reading it or pretending to read it.
'I will tell you what I propose to do,' said Trevelyan.
'It is best both for her and for me that we should be apart.'
'I cannot understand how you can be so mad as to say so.'
'You don't understand what I feel. Heaven and earth! To have a man coming and going. But, never mind. You do not see it, and nothing will make you see it. And there is no reason why you should.'
'I certainly do not see it. I do not believe that your wife cares more for Colonel Osborne, except as an old friend of her father's, than she does for the fellow that sweeps the crossing. It is a matter in which I am bound to tell you what I think.'
'Very well. Now, if you have freed your mind, I will tell you my purpose. I am bound to do so, because your people are concerned in it. I shall go abroad.'
'And leave her in England?'
'Certainly. She will be safer here than she can be abroad unless she should choose to go back with her father to the islands.'
'And take the boy?'
'No I could not permit that. What I intend is this. I will give her 800 pounds a year, as long as I have reason to believe that she has no communication whatever, either by word of mouth or by letter, with that man. If she does, I will put the case immediately into the hands of my lawyer, with instructions to him to ascertain from counsel what severest steps I can take.'
'How I hate that word severe, when applied to a woman.'
'I dare say you do when applied to another man's wife. But there will be no severity in my first proposition. As for the child, if I approve of the place in which she lives, as I do at present, he shall remain with her for nine months in the year till he is six years old. Then he must come to me. And he shall come to me altogether if she sees or hears from that man. I believe that 800 pounds a year will enable her to live with all comfort under your mother's roof.''
'As to that,' said Stanbury, slowly, 'I suppose I had better tell you at once, that the Nuncombe Putney arrangement cannot be considered as permanent.'
'Because my mother is timid, and nervous, and altogether unused to the world.'
'That unfortunate woman is to be sent away even from Nuncombe Putney!'
'Understand me, Trevelyan.'
'I understand you. I understand you most thoroughly. Nor do I wonder at it in the least. Do not suppose that I am angry with your mother, or with you, or with your sister. I have no right to expect that they should keep her after that man has made his way into their house. I can well conceive that no honest, high-minded lady would do so.'
'It is not that at all.'
'But it is that. How can you tell me that it isn't? And yet you would have me believe that I am not disgraced!' As he said this Trevelyan got up, and walked about the room, tearing his hair with his hands. He was in truth a wretched man, from whose mind all expectation of happiness, was banished, who regarded his own position as one of incurable ignominy, looking upon himself as one who had been made unfit for society by no fault of his own. What was he to do with the wretched woman who could be kept from the evil of her pernicious vanity by no gentle custody, whom no most distant retirement would make safe from the effects of her own ignorance, folly, and obstinacy? 'When is she to go?' he asked in a low, sepulchral tone as though these new tidings that had come upon him had been fatal laden with doom, and finally subversive of all chance even of tranquillity.
'When you and she may please.'
'That is all very well but let me know the truth. I would not have your mother's house contaminated; but may she remain there for a week?'
Stanbury jumped from his seat with an oath. 'I tell you what it is, Trevelyan if you speak of your wife in that way, I will not listen to you. It is unmanly and untrue to say that her presence can contaminate any house.'
'That is very fine. It may be chivalrous in you to tell me on her behalf that I am a liar and that I am not a man.'
'You drive me to it.'
'But what am I to think when you are forced to declare that this unfortunate woman can not be allowed to remain at your mother's house, a house which has been especially taken with reference to a shelter for her? She has been received with the idea that she would be discreet. She has been indiscreet, past belief, and she is to be turned out most deservedly. Heaven and earth! Where shall I find a roof for her head?' Trevelyan as he said this was walking about the room with his hands stretched up towards the ceiling; and as his friend was attempting to make him comprehend that there was no intention on the part of anyone to banish Mrs Trevelyan from the Clock House, at least for some months to come, not even till after Christmas unless some satisfactory arrangement could be sooner made, the door of the room was opened by the boy, who called himself a clerk, and who acted as Trevelyan's servant in the chambers, and a third person was shown into the room. That third person was Mr Bozzle. As no name was given, Stanbury did not at first know Mr Bozzle, but he had not had his eye on Mr Bozzle for half a minute before he recognised the ex-policeman by the outward attributes and signs of his profession. 'Oh; is that you, Mr Bozzle?' said Trevelyan, as soon as the great man had made his bow of salutation. 'Well what is it?'
'Mr Hugh Stanbury, I think,' said Bozzle, making another bow to the young barrister.
'That's my name,' said Stanbury.
'Exactly so, Mr S. The identity is one as I could prove on oath in any court in England. You was on the railway platform at Exeter on Saturday when we was waiting for the 12 express 'buss wasn't you now, Mr S?'
'What's that to you?'
'Well as it do happen, it is something to me. And, Mr S, if you was asked that question in any court in England or before even one of the metropolitan bekes, you wouldn't deny it.'
'Why the devil should I deny it? What's all this about, Trevelyan?'
'Of course you can't deny it, Mr S. When I'm down on a fact, I am down on it. Nothing else wouldn't do in my profession.'
'Have you anything to say to me, Mr Bozzle?' asked Trevelyan.
'Well I have; just a word.'
'About your journey to Devonshire?'
'Well in a way it is about my journey to Devonshire. It's all along of the same job, Mr Trewillian.'
'You can speak before my friend here,' said Trevelyan. Bozzle had taken a great dislike to Hugh Stanbury, regarding the barrister with a correct instinct as one who was engaged for the time in the same service with himself and who was his rival in that service. When thus instigated to make as it were a party of three in this delicate and most confidential matter, and to take his rival into his confidence, he shook his head slowly and looked Trevelyan hard in the face. 'Mr Stanbury is my particular friend,' said Trevelyan, 'and knows well the circumstances of this unfortunate affair. You can say anything before him.'
Bozzle shook his head again. 'I'd rayther not, Mr Trewillian,' said he. 'Indeed I'd rayther not. It's something very particular.'
'If you take my advice,' said Stanbury, 'you will not hear him yourself.'
'That's your advice, Mr S.?' asked Mr Bozzle.
'Yes that's my advice. I'd never have anything to do with such a fellow as you as long as I could help it.'
'I dare say not, Mr S.; I dare say not. We're hexpensive, and we're haccurate--neither of which is much in your line, Mr S., if I understand about it rightly.'
'Mr Bozzle, if you've got anything to tell, tell it,' said Trevelyan, angrily.
'A third party is so objectionable,' pleaded Bozzle.
'Never mind. That is my affair.'
'It is your affair, Mr Trewillian. There's not a doubt of that. The lady is your wife.'
'Damnation!' shouted Trevelyan.
'But the credit, sir,' said Bozzle. 'The credit is mine. And here is Mr S. has been down a interfering with me, and doing no 'varsal good, as I'll undertake to prove by evidence before the affair is over.'
'The affair is over,' said Stanbury.
'That's as you think, Mr S. That's where your information goes to, Mr S. Mine goes a little beyond that, Mr S. I've means as you can know nothing about, Mr S. I've irons in the fire, what you're as ignorant on as the babe as isn't born.'
'No doubt you have, Mr Bozzle,' said Stanbury.
'I has. And now if it be that I must speak before a third party, Mr Trewillian, I'm ready. It ain't that I'm no ways ashamed. I've done my duty, and knows how to do it. And let a counsel be ever so sharp, I never yet was so 'posed but what I could stand up and hold my own. The Colonel, Mr Trewillian, got a letter from your lady this morning.'
'I don't believe it,' said Stanbury, sharply.
'Very likely not, Mr S. It ain't in my power to say anything whatever about you believing or not believing. But Mr T.'s lady has wrote the letter; and the Colonel he has received it. You don't look after these things, Mr S. You don't know the ways of 'em. But it's my business. The lady has wrote the letter, and the Colonel why, he has received it.' Trevelyan had become white with rage when Bozzle first mentioned this continued correspondence between his wife and Colonel Osborne. It never occurred to him to doubt the correctness of the policeman's information, and he regarded Stanbury's assertion of incredulity as being simply of a piece with his general obstinacy in the matter. At this moment he began to regret that he had called in the assistance of his friend, and that he had not left the affair altogether in the hands of that much more satisfactory, but still more painful, agent, Mr Bozzle. He had again seated himself, and for a moment or two remained silent on his chair. 'It ain't my fault, Mr Trewillian,' continued Bozzle, 'if this little matter oughtn't never to have been mentioned before a third party.'
'It is of no moment,' said Trevelyan, in a low voice. 'What does it signify who knows it now?'
'Do not believe it, Trevelyan,' said Stanbury.
'Very well, Mr S. Very well. Just as you like. Don't believe it. Only it's true, and it's my business to find them things out. It's my business, and I finds 'em out. Mr Trewillian can do as he likes about it. If it's right, why, then it is right. It ain't for me to say nothing about that. But there's the fact. The lady, she has wrote another letter; and the Colonel why, he has received it. There ain't nothing wrong about the post-office. If I was to say what was inside of that billydou why, then I should be proving what I didn't know; and when it came to standing up in court, I shouldn't be able to hold my own. But as for the letter, the lady wrote it, and the Colonel he received it.'
'That will do, Mr Bozzle,' said Trevelyan.
'Shall I call again, Mr Trewillian?'
'No; yes. I'll send to you, when I want you. You shall hear from me.'
'I suppose I'd better be keeping my eyes open about the Colonel's place, Mr Trewillian?'
'For God's sake, Trevelyan, do not have anything more to do with this man!'
'That's all very well for you, Mr S.,' said Bozzle. 'The lady ain't your wife.'
'Can you imagine anything more disgraceful than all this?' said Stanbury.
'Nothing; nothing; nothing!' answered Trevelyan.
'And I'm to keep stirring, and be on the move?' again suggested Bozzle, who prudently required to be fortified by instructions before he devoted his time and talents even to so agreeable a pursuit as that in which he had been engaged.
'You shall hear from me,' said Trevelyan.
'Very well very well. I wish you good-day, Mr Trewillian. Mr S., yours most obedient. There was one other point, Mr Trewillian.'
'What point?' asked Trevelyan, angrily.
'If the lady was to join the Colonel--'
'That will do, Mr Bozzle,' said Trevelyan, again jumping up from his chair. 'That will do.' So saying, he opened the door, and Bozzle, with a bow, took his departure. 'What on earth am I to do? How am I to save her?' said the wretched husband, appealing to his friend.
Stanbury endeavoured with all his eloquence to prove that this latter piece of information from the spy must be incorrect. If such a letter had been written by Mrs Trevelyan to Colonel Osborne, it must have been done while he, Stanbury, was staying at the Clock House. This seemed to him to be impossible; but he could hardly explain why it should be impossible. She had written to the man before, and had received him when he came to Nuncombe Putney. Why was it even improbable that she should have written to him again? Nevertheless, Stanbury felt sure that she had sent no such letter. 'I think I understand her feelings and her mind,' said he; 'and if so, any such correspondence would be incompatible with her previous conduct.' Trevelyan only smiled at this or pretended to smile. He would not discuss the question; but believed implicitly what Bozzle had told him in spite of all Stanbury's arguments. 'I can say nothing further,' said Stanbury.
'No, my dear fellow. There is nothing further to be said, except this, that I will have my unfortunate wife removed from the decent protection of your mother's roof with the least possible delay. I feel that I owe Mrs Stanbury the deepest apology for having sent such an inmate to trouble her repose.'
'That is what I feel.'
'And I say that it is nonsense. If you had never sent that wretched blackguard down to fabricate lies at Nuncombe Putney, my mother's repose would have been all right. As it is, Mrs Trevelyan can remain where she is till after Christmas. There is not the least necessity for removing her at once. I only meant to say that the arrangement should not be regarded as altogether permanent. I must go to my work now. Goodbye.'
Stanbury paused at the door, and then once more turned round. 'I suppose it is of no use my saying anything further; but I wish you to understand fully that I regard your wife as a woman much ill-used, and I think you are punishing her, and yourself, too, with a cruel severity for an indiscretion of the very slightest kind.'
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