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FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING
Another week went by and Sir Marmaduke had even yet not surrendered. He quite understood that Nora was not to go back to the Islands and had visited Mr and Mrs Outhouse at St. Diddulph's in order to secure a home for her there, if it might be possible. Mr Outhouse did not refuse, but gave the permission in such a fashion as to make it almost equal to a refusal. 'He was,' he said, 'much attached to his niece Nora, but he had heard that there was a love affair.' Sir Marmaduke, of course, could not deny the love affair. There was certainly a love affair of which he did not personally approve, as the gentleman had no fixed income and as far as he could understand no fixed profession. 'Such a love affair,' thought Mr Outhouse, 'was a sort of thing that he didn't know how to manage at all. If Nora came to him, was the young man to visit at the house, or was he not?' Then Mrs Outhouse said something as to the necessity of an anti-Stanbury pledge on Nora's part, and Sir Marmaduke found that that scheme must be abandoned. Mrs Trevelyan had written from Florence more than once or twice, and in her last letter had said that she would prefer not to have Nora with her. She was at that time living in lodgings at Siena and had her boy there also. She saw her husband every other day; but nevertheless, according to her statements, her visits to Casalunga were made in opposition to his wishes. He had even expressed a desire that she should leave Siena and return to England. He had once gone so far as to say that if she would do so, he would follow her. But she clearly did not believe him, and in all her letters spoke of him as one whom she could not regard as being under the guidance of reason. She had taken her child with her once or twice to the house, and on the first occasion Trevelyan had made much of his son, had wept over him, and professed that in losing him he had lost his only treasure; but after that he had not noticed the boy, and latterly she had gone alone. She thought that perhaps her visits cheered him, breaking the intensity of his solitude; but he never expressed himself gratified by them, never asked her to remain at the house, never returned with her into Siena, and continually spoke of her return to England as a step which must be taken soon, and the sooner the better. He intended to follow her, he said; and she explained very fully how manifest was his wish that she should go, by the temptation to do so which he thought that he held out by this promise. He had spoken, on every occasion of her presence with him, of Sir Marmaduke's attempt to prove him to be a madman; but declared that he was afraid of no one in England, and would face all the lawyers in Chancery Lane and all the doctors in Savile Row. Nevertheless, so said Mrs Trevelyan, he would undoubtedly remain at Casalunga till after Sir Marmaduke should have sailed. He was not so mad but that he knew that no one else would be so keen to take steps against him as would Sir Marmaduke. As for his health, her account of him was very sad. 'He seemed,' she said, 'to be withering away.' His hand was mere skin and bone. His hair and beard so covered his thin long cheeks, that there was nothing left of his face but his bright, large, melancholy eyes. His legs had become so frail and weak that they would hardly bear his weight as he walked; and his clothes, though he had taken a fancy to throw aside all that he had brought with him from England, hung so loose about him that they seemed as though they would fall from him. Once she had ventured to send out to him from Siena a doctor to whom she had been recommended in Florence; but he had taken the visit in very bad part, had told the gentleman that he had no need for any medical services, and had been furious with her, because of her offence in having sent such a visitor. He had told her that if ever she ventured to take such a liberty again, he would demand the child back, and refuse her permission inside the gates of Casalunga. 'Don't come, at any rate, till I send for you,' Mrs Trevelyan said in her last letter to her sister. 'Your being here would do no good, and would, I think, make him feel that he was being watched. My hope is, at last, to get him to return with me. If you were here, I think this would be less likely. And then why should you be mixed up with such unutterable sadness and distress more than is essentially necessary? My health stands wonderfully well, though the heat here is very great. It is cooler at Casalunga than in the town, of which I am glad for his sake. He perspires so profusely that it seems to me he cannot stand the waste much longer. I know he will not go to England as long as papa is there, but I hope that he may be induced to do so by slow stages as soon as he knows that papa has gone. Mind you send me a newspaper, so that he may see it stated in print that papa has sailed.'
It followed as one consequence of these letters from Florence that Nora was debarred from the Italian scheme as a mode of passing her time till some house should be open for her reception. She had suggested to Hugh that she might go for a few weeks to Nuncombe Putney, but he had explained to her the nature of his mother's cottage, and had told her that there was no hole there in which she could lay her head. 'There never was such a forlorn young woman,' she said. 'When papa goes I shall literally be without shelter.' There had come a letter from Mrs Glascock, at least it was signed Caroline Glascock, though another name might have been used, dated from Milan, saying that they were hurrying back to Naples even at that season of the year, because Lord Peterborough was dead. 'And she is Lady Peterborough!' said Lady Rowley, unable to repress the expression of the old regrets. 'Of course she is Lady Peterborough, mamma; what else should she be? though she does not so sign herself.' 'We think,' said the American peeress, 'that we shall be at Monkhams before the end of August, and Charles says that you are to come just the same. There will be nobody else there, of course, because of Lord Peterborough's death.' 'I saw it in the paper,' said Sir Marmaduke, 'and quite forgot to mention it.'
That same evening there was a long family discussion about Nora's prospects. They were all together in the gloomy sitting-room at Gregg's Hotel, and Sir Marmaduke had not yielded. The ladies had begun to feel that it would be well not to press him to yield. Practically he had yielded. There was now no question of cursing and of so-called disinheritance. Nora was to remain in England, of course, with the intention of being married to Hugh Stanbury; and the difficulty consisted in the need of an immediate home for her. It wanted now but twelve days to that on which the family were to sail from Southampton, and nothing had been settled. 'If papa will allow me something ever so small, and will trust me, I will live alone in lodgings,' said Nora.
'It is the maddest thing I ever heard,' said Sir Marmaduke.
'Who would take care of you, Nora?' asked Lady Rowley.
'And who would walk about with you?' said Lucy.
'I don't see how it would be possible to live alone like that,' said Sophie.
'Nobody would take care of me, and nobody would walk about with me, and I could live alone very well,' said Nora. 'I don't see why a young woman is to be supposed to be so absolutely helpless as all that comes to. Of course it won't be very nice, but it need not be for long.'
'Why not for long?' asked Sir Marmaduke.
'Not for very long,' said Nora.
'It does not seem to me,' said Sir Marmaduke, after a considerable pause, 'that this gentleman himself is so particularly anxious for the match. I have heard no day named, and no rational proposition made.'
'Papa, that is unfair, most unfair and ungenerous.'
'Nora,' said her mother, 'do not speak in that way to your father.'
'Mamma, it is unfair. Papa accuses Mr Stanbury of being being lukewarm and untrue--of not being in earnest.'
'I would rather that he were not in earnest,' said Sir Marmaduke.
'Mr Stanbury is ready at any time,' continued Nora. 'He would have the banns at once read, and marry me in three weeks if I would let him.'
'Good gracious, Nora!' exclaimed Lady Rowley.
'But I have refused to name any day, or to make any arrangement, because I did not wish to do so before papa had given his consent. That is why things are in this way. If papa will but let me take a room till I can go to Monkhams, I will have everything arranged from there. You can trust Mr Glascock for that, and you can trust her.'
'I suppose your papa will make you some allowance,' said Lady Rowley.
'She is entitled to nothing, as she has refused to go to her proper home,' said Sir Marmaduke.
The conversation, which had now become very disagreeable, was not allowed to go any further. And it was well that it should be interrupted. They all knew that Sir Marmaduke must be brought round by degrees, and that both Nora and Lady Rowley had gone as far as was prudent at present. But all trouble on this head was suddenly ended for this evening by the entrance of the waiter with a telegram. It was addressed to Lady Rowley, and she opened it with trembling hands as ladies always do open telegrams. It was from Emily Trevelyan. 'Louis is much worse. Let somebody come to me. Hugh Stanbury would be the best.'
In a few minutes they were so much disturbed that no one quite knew what should be done at once. Lady Rowley began by declaring that she would go herself. Sir Marmaduke of course pointed out that this was impossible, and suggested that he would send a lawyer. Nora professed herself ready to start immediately on the journey, but was stopped by a proposition from her sister Lucy that in that case Hugh Stanbury would of course go with her. Lady Rowley asked whether Hugh would go, and Nora asserted that he would go immediately as a matter of course. She was sure he would go, let the people at the D. R. say what they might. According to her there was always somebody at the call of the editor of the D. R. to do the work of anybody else, when anybody else wanted to go away. Sir Marmaduke shook his head, and was very uneasy. He still thought that a lawyer would be best, feeling, no doubt, that if Stanbury's services were used on such an occasion, there must be an end of all opposition to the marriage. But before half-an-hour was over Stanbury was sent for. The boots of the hotel went off in a cab to the office of the D. R. with a note from Lady Rowley. 'Dear Mr Stanbury, We have had a telegram from Emily, and want to see you, at once. Please come. We shall sit up and wait for you till you do come, E. R.'
It was very distressing to them because, let the result be what it might, it was all but impossible that Mrs Trevelyan should be with them before they had sailed, and it was quite out of the question that they should now postpone their journey. Were Stanbury to start by the morning train on the following day, he could not reach Siena till the afternoon of the fourth day; and let the result be what it might when he arrived there, it would be out of the question that Emily Trevelyan should come back quite at once, or that she should travel at the same speed. Of course they might hear again by telegram, and also by letter; but they could not see her, or have any hand in her plans. 'If anything were to happen, she might have come with us,' said Lady Rowley.
'It is out of the question,' said Sir Marmaduke gloomily. 'I could not give up the places I have taken.'
'A few days more would have done it.'
'I don't suppose she would wish to go,' said Nora. 'Of course she would not take Louey there. Why should she? And then I don't suppose he is so ill as that.'
'There is no saying,' said Sir Marmaduke. It was very evident that, whatever might be Sir Marmaduke's opinion, he had no strongly developed wish for his son-in-law's recovery.
They all sat up waiting for Hugh Stanbury till eleven, twelve, one, and two o'clock at night. The 'boots' had returned saying that Mr Stanbury had not been at the office of the newspaper, but that, according to information received, he certainly would be there that night. No other address had been given to the man, and the note had therefore of necessity been left at the office. Sir Marmaduke became very fretful, and was evidently desirous of being liberated from his night watch. But he could not go himself, and shewed his impatience by endeavouring to send the others away. Lady Rowley replied for herself that she should certainly remain in her corner on the sofa all night, if it were necessary; and as she slept very soundly in her corner, her comfort was not much impaired. Nora was pertinacious in refusing to go to bed. 'I should only go to my own room, papa, and remain there,' she said. 'Of course I must speak to him before he goes.' Sophie and Lucy considered that they had as much right to sit up as Nora, and submitted to be called geese and idiots by their father.
Sir Marmaduke had arisen with a snort from a short slumber, and had just sworn that he and everybody else should go to bed, when there came a ring at the front-door bell. The trusty boots had also remained up, and in two minutes Hugh Stanbury was in the room. He had to make his excuses before anything else could be said. When he reached the D. R. office between ten and eleven, it was absolutely incumbent on him to write a leading article before he left it. He had been in the reporter's gallery of the House all the evening, and he had come away laden with his article. 'It was certainly better that we should remain up, than that the whole town should be disappointed,' said Sir Marmaduke, with something of a sneer.
'It is so very, very good of you to come,' said Nora. 'Indeed it is,' said Lady Rowley; 'but we were quite sure you would come.' Having kissed and blessed him as her son-in-law, Lady Rowley was now prepared to love him almost as well as though he had been Lord Peterborough.
'Perhaps, Mr Stanbury, we had better shew you this telegram,' said Sir Marmaduke, who had been standing with the scrap of paper in his hand since the ring of the bell had been heard. Hugh took the message and read it. 'I do not know what should have made my daughter mention your name,' continued Sir Marmaduke 'but as she has done so, and as perhaps the unfortunate invalid himself may have alluded to you, we thought it best to send for you.'
'No doubt it was best, Sir Marmaduke.'
'We are so situated that I cannot go. It is absolutely necessary that we should leave town for Southampton on Friday week. The ship sails on Saturday.'
'I will go as a matter of course,' said Hugh. 'I will start at once, at any time. To tell the truth, when I got Lady Rowley's note, I thought that it was to be so. Trevelyan and I were very intimate at one time, and it may be that he will receive me without displeasure.'
There was much to be discussed, and considerable difficulty in the discussion. This was enhanced, too, by the feeling in the minds of all of them that Hugh and Sir Marmaduke would not meet again probably for many years. Were they to part now on terms of close affection, or were they to part almost as strangers? Had Lucy and Sophie not persistently remained up, Nora would have faced the difficulty, and taken the bull by the horns, and asked her father to sanction her engagement in the presence of her lover. But she could not do it before so many persons, even though the persons were her own nearest relatives. And then there arose another embarrassment. Sir Marmaduke, who had taught himself to believe that Stanbury was so poor as hardly to have the price of a dinner in his pocket although, in fact, our friend Hugh was probably the richer man of the two, said something about defraying the cost of the journey. 'It is taken altogether on our behalf,' said Sir Marmaduke. Hugh became red in the face, looked angry, and muttered a word or two about Trevelyan being the oldest friend he had in the world 'even if there were nothing else.' Sir Marmaduke felt ashamed of himself without cause, indeed, for the offer was natural, said nothing further about it; but appeared to be more stiff and ungainly than ever.
The Bradshaw was had out and consulted, and nearly half an hour was spent in poring over that wondrous volume. It is the fashion to abuse Bradshaw; we speak now especially of Bradshaw the Continental because all the minutest details of the autumn tour, just as the tourist thinks that it may be made, cannot be made patent to him at once without close research amidst crowded figures. After much experience we make bold to say that Bradshaw knows more, and will divulge more in a quarter of an hour, of the properest mode of getting from any city in Europe to any other city more than fifty miles distant, than can be learned in that first city in a single morning with the aid of a courier, a carriage, a pair of horses, and all the temper that any ordinary tourist possesses. The Bradshaw was had out, and it was at last discovered that nothing could be gained in the journey from London to Siena by starting in the morning. Intending as he did to travel through without sleeping on the road, Stanbury could not do better than leave London by the night mail train, and this he determined to do. But when that was arranged, then came the nature of his commission. What was he to do? No commission could be given to him. A telegram should be sent to Emily the next morning to say that he was coming; and then he would hurry on and take his orders from her.
They were all in doubt, terribly in doubt, whether the aggravated malady of which the telegram spoke was malady of the mind or of the body. If of the former nature then the difficulty might be very great indeed; and it would be highly expedient that Stanbury should have some one in Italy to assist him. It was Nora who suggested that he should carry a letter of introduction to Mr Spalding, and it was she who wrote it. Sir Marmaduke had not foregathered very closely with the English Minister, and nothing was said of assistance that should be peculiarly British. Then, at last, about three or four in the morning came the moment for parting. Sir Marmaduke had suggested that Stanbury should dine with them on the next day before he started, but Hugh had declined, alleging that as the day was at his command it must be devoted to the work of providing for his absence. In truth, Sir Marmaduke had given the invitation with a surly voice, and Hugh, though he was ready to go to the North Pole for any others of the family, was at the moment in an aggressive mood of mind towards Sir Marmaduke.
'I will send a message directly I get there,' he said, holding Lady Rowley by the hand, 'and will write fully to you immediately.'
'God bless you, my dear friend!' said Lady Rowley, crying.
'Good night, Sir Marmaduke,' said Hugh.
'Good night, Mr Stanbury.'
Then he gave a hand to the two girls, each of whom, as she took it, sobbed, and looked away from Nora. Nora was standing away from them, by herself, and away from the door, holding on to her chair, and with her hands clasped together. She had prepared nothing, not a word, or an attitude, not a thought, for this farewell. But she had felt that it was coming, and had known that she must trust to him for a cue for her own demeanour. If he could say adieu with a quiet voice, and simply with a touch of the hand, then would she do the same and endeavour to think no worse of him. Nor had he prepared anything; but when the moment came he could not leave her after that fashion. He stood a moment hesitating, not approaching her, and merely called her by her name 'Nora!' For a moment she was still; for a moment she held by her chair; and then she rushed into his arms. He did not much care for her father now, but kissed her hair and her forehead, and held her closely to his bosom. 'My own, own Nora!'
It was necessary that Sir Marmaduke should say something. There was at first a little scene between all the women, during which he arranged his deportment.
'Mr Stanbury,' he said, 'let it be so. I could wish for my child's sake, and also for your own, that your means of living were less precarious.' Hugh accepted this simply as an authority for another embrace, and then he allowed them all to go to bed.
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