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he could not restrain her, and sometimes would hardly oppose her. The
prolonged evening prayers, the sermons twice a-week, the two long church
services on Sundays, - indulgence as to the third being allowed to him
only on the score of his age, - he endured at her command. And in regard
to Hester, he had hitherto been ruled by his wife, thinking it proper
that a daughter should be left in the hands of her mother. But now, when
he was told that if he did not interfere, his girl would be constrained
by the harsh bonds of an unnatural life, stern as he was himself and
inclined to be gloomy, little as he was disposed to admit ideas of
recreation and delight, he did acknowledge that something should be done
to relieve her. 'But when I die she must be left in her mother's hands,'
said the old banker.

'It is to be hoped that she may be in other hands before that,' replied
his son. 'I do not mean to say anything against my step-mother; - but for
a young woman it is generally best that she should be married. And in
Hester's peculiar position, she ought to have the chance of choosing for
herself.'

In this way something almost like a conspiracy was made on behalf of
Caldigate. And yet the old man did not as yet abandon his prejudices
against the miner. A man who had at so early an age done so much to ruin
himself, and had then sprung so suddenly from ruin to prosperity, could
not, he thought, be regarded as a steady well-to-do man of business. He
did agree that, as regarded Hester, the prison-bars should be removed;
but he did not think that she should be invited to walk forth with Mr.
John Caldigate. Robert declared that his sister was quite able to form
an opinion of her own, and boldly suggested that Hester should be
allowed to come and dine at his house. 'To meet the man?' asked the
banker in dismay. 'Yes,' said Robert. 'He isn't an ogre. You needn't be
afraid of him. I shall be there, - and Margaret. Bring her yourself if
you are afraid of anything. No plant ever becomes strong by being kept
always away from the winds of heaven.' To this he could not assent at
the time. He knew that it was impossible to assent without consulting
his wife. But he was brought so far round as to think that if nothing
but his own consent were wanting, his girl would be allowed to go and
meet the ogre.

'I suppose we ought to wish that Hester should be married some day,' he
said to his wife about this time. She shuddered and dashed her hands
together as though deprecating some evil, - some event which she could
hardly hope to avoid but which was certainly an evil. 'Do you not wish
that yourself?' She shook her head. 'Is it not the safest condition in
which a woman can live?'

'How shall any one be safe among the dangers of this world, Nicholas?'
She habitually called her husband by his Christian name, but she was the
only living being who did so.

'More safe then?' said he. 'It is the natural condition of a woman.'

'I do not know. Sin is natural.'

'Very likely. No doubt. But marriage is not sinful.'

'Men are so wicked.'

'Some of them are.'

'Where is there one that is not steeped in sin over his head?'

'That applies to women also; doesn't it?' said the banker petulantly. He
was almost angry because she was introducing a commonplace as to the
world's condition into a particular argument as to their daughter's
future life, - which he felt to be unfair and illogical.

'Of course it does, Nicholas. We are all black and grimed with sin, men
and women too; and perhaps something more may be forgiven to men because
they have to go out into the world and do their work. But neither one
nor the other can be anything but foul with sin; - except, - except - '

He was quite accustomed to the religious truth which was coming, and, in
an ordinary way, did not object to the doctrine which she was apt to
preach to him often. But it had no reference whatever to the matter now
under discussion. The general condition of things produced by the fall
of Adam could not be used as an argument against matrimony generally.
Wicked as men and women are it is so evidently intended that they should
marry and multiply, that even she would not deny the general propriety of
such an arrangement. Therefore when he was talking to her about their
daughter, she was ill-treating him when on that occasion she flew away
to her much-accustomed discourse.

'What's the use, then, of saying that men are wicked?'

'They are. They are!'

'Not a doubt about it. And so are the women, but they've got to have
husbands and wives. They wouldn't be any the better if there were no
marrying. We have to suppose that Hester will do the same as other
girls.'

'I hope not, Nicholas.'

'But why not?'

'They are vain, and they adorn themselves, not in modest apparel, as St.
Paul says in First Timothy, chapter second, nor with shame-facedness and
sobriety; but with braided hair and gold and pearls and costly array.'

'What has that to do with it?'

'Oh, Nicholas!'

'She might be married without all those things.'

'You said you wanted her to be like other girls.'

'No, I didn't. I said she would have to get married like other girls.
You don't want to make a nun of her.'

'A nun! I would sooner sit by her bedside and watch her die! My Hester a
nun!'

'Very well, then. Let her go out into the world - - '

'The world, Nicholas! The world, the flesh, and the devil! Do they not
always go together?'

He was much harassed and very angry. He knew how unreasonable she was,
and yet he did not know how to answer her. And she was dishonest with
him. Because she felt herself unable to advocate in plain terms a
thorough shutting up of her daughter, - a protecting of her from the
temptation of sin by absolute and prolonged sequestration, - therefore
she equivocated with him, pretending to think that he was desirous of
sending his girl out to have her hair braided and herself arrayed in
gold and pearls. It was thoroughly dishonest, and he understood the
dishonesty. 'She must go somewhere,' he said, rising from his chair and
closing the conversation. At this time a month had passed since
Caldigate had been at Chesterton, and he had now returned from Scotland
to Folking.

On the following day Hester was taken out to dinner at The Nurseries, as
Robert Bolton's house was called, - was taken out by her father. This was
quite a new experiment, as she had never dined with any of her aunts and
cousins except at an early dinner almost as a child, - and even as a
child not at her brother Robert's. But the banker, after having declared
that she must go somewhere, had persisted. It is not to be supposed that
Caldigate was on this occasion invited to meet her; - nor that the father
had as yet agreed that any such meeting should be allowed. But as
William Bolton, - the London brother, - and Mrs. William and one of their
girls were down at Cambridge, it was arranged that Hester should meet
her relatives. Even so much as this was not settled without much
opposition on the part of Hester's mother.

There was nobody at the house but members of the family. The old
banker's oldest son Nicholas was not there as his wife and Mrs. Robert
did not get on well together. Mrs. Nicholas was almost as strict as Mrs.
Bolton herself, and, having no children of her own, would not have
sympathised at all in any desire to procure for Hester the wicked luxury
of a lover. The second son Daniel joined the party with his wife, but he
had married too late to have grown-up children. His wife was strict
too, - but of a medium strictness. Teas, concerts, and occasional dinner
parties were with her permissible; - as were also ribbons and a certain
amount of costly array. Mrs. Nicholas was in the habit of telling Mrs.
Daniel that you cannot touch pitch and not be defiled, - generally
intending to imply that Mrs. Robert was the pitch; and would harp on the
impossibility of serving both God and mammon, thinking perhaps that her
brother-in-law Robert and mammon were one and the same. But Daniel, who
could go to church as often as any man on Sundays, and had thoroughly
acquired for himself the reputation of a religious man of business, had
his own ideas as to proprieties and expediencies, and would neither
quarrel with his brother Robert, or allow his wife to quarrel with Mrs.
Robert. So that the Nicholases lived very much alone. Mrs. Nicholas and
Mrs. Bolton might have suited each other, might have been congenial and
a comfort each to the other, but the elder son and the elder son's wife
had endeavoured to prevent the old man's second marriage, and there had
never been a thorough reconciliation since. There are people who can
never forgive. Mrs. Nicholas had never forgiven the young girl for
marrying the old man, and the young girl had never forgiven the
opposition of her elder step-daughter-in-law to her own marriage. Hence
it had come to pass that the Nicholases were extruded from the family
conclaves, which generally consisted of the Daniels and the Roberts. The
Williams were away in London, not often having much to do with these
matters. But they too allied themselves with the dominant party, it
being quite understood that as long as the old man lived Robert was and
would be the most potent member of the family.

When the father and the three sons were in the dining-room together,
after the six or seven ladies had left them, the propriety of allowing
John Caldigate to make Hester's acquaintance was fully discussed. 'I
would not for the world interfere,' said Robert, 'if I did not think it
unfair to the dear girl that she should be shut up there altogether.'

'Do you suppose that the young man is in earnest?' asked Daniel.

As to this they all agreed that there could be no doubt. He was, too, an
old family friend, well-to-do in the world, able to make proper
settlements, and not at all greedy as to a fortune with his wife. Even
Daniel Bolton thought that the young man should have a chance, - by
saying which he was supposed to declare that the question ought to be
left to the arbitrament of the young lady. The old banker was unhappy
and ill at ease. He could not reconcile himself at once to so great a
change. Though he felt that the excessive fears of his wife, if
indulged, would be prejudicial to their girl, still he did not wish to
thrust her out into the world all at once. Could there not be some
middle course? Could there not be a day named, some four years hence, at
which she might be allowed to begin to judge for herself? But his three
sons were against him, and he could not resist their joint influence. It
was therefore absolutely decided that steps should be taken for enabling
John Caldigate to meet Hester at Robert Bolton's house.

'I suppose it will end in a marriage,' William Bolton said to his
brother Robert when they were alone.

'Of course it will. She is the dearest creature in the world; - so good
to her mother; but no fool, and quite aware that the kind of restraint
to which she has been subjected is an injustice. Of course she will be
gratified when a man like that tells her that he loves her. He is a
good-looking fellow, with a fine spirit and plenty of means. How on
earth can she do better?'

'But Mrs. B.?' said William, who would sometimes thus disrespectfully
allude to his step-mother.

'Mrs. B. will do all she can to prevent it,' said Robert; 'but I think
we shall find that Hester has a will of her own.'

On the following day John Caldigate called at the bank, where the banker
had a small wainscoted back-parlour appropriated to himself. He had
already promised that he would see the young man, and Caldigate was
shown into the little room. He soon told his story, and was soon clever
enough to perceive that the telling of his story was at any rate
permitted. The old father did not receive him with astonishment and
displeasure combined, as the young mother had done. Of course he made
difficulties, and spoke of the thing as being beyond the bounds of
probability. But objection no stronger than that may be taken as
amounting almost to encouragement in such circumstances. And he paid
evident attention to all that Caldigate said about his own pecuniary
affairs, - going so far as to say that he was not in a condition to
declare whether he would give his daughter any fortune at all on her
marriage.

'It is quite unnecessary,' said Caldigate.

'She will probably have something at my death,' rejoined the old man.

'And when may I see her?' asked Caldigate.

In answer to that Mr. Bolton would not at first make any suggestion
whatsoever, - falling back upon his old fears, and declaring that there
could be no such meetings at all, but at last allowing that the lover
should discuss the matter with his son Robert.

'Perhaps I may have been mistaken about the young man Caldigate,' the
banker said to his wife that night.

'Oh, Nicholas!'

'I only say that perhaps I may have been mistaken.'

'You are not thinking of Hester?'

'I said nothing about Hester then; - but perhaps I may have been
mistaken in my opinion about that young man John Caldigate.'

John Caldigate, as he rode home after his interview at the bank, almost
felt that he had cleared away many difficulties, and that, by his
perseverance, he might probably be enabled to carry out the dream of his
earlier youth.




Chapter XX

Hester's Courage



After that Caldigate did not allow the grass to grow under his feet, and
before the end of November the two young people were engaged. As Robert
Bolton had said, Hester was of course flattered and of course delighted
with this new joy. John Caldigate was just the man to recommend himself
to such a girl, not too light, not too prone to pleasure, not contenting
himself with bicycles, cricket matches, or billiards, and yet not wholly
given to serious matters as had been those among whom she had hitherto
passed her days. And he was one who could speak of his love with soft
winning words, neither roughly nor yet with too much of shame-faced
diffidence. And when he told her how he had sworn to himself after
seeing her that once, - that once when all before him in life was
enveloped in doubt and difficulty, - that he would come home and make her
his wife, she thought that the manly constancy of his heart was almost
divine. Of course she loved him with all her heart. He was in all
respects one made to be loved by a woman; - and then what else had she
ever had to love? When once it was arranged that he should be allowed to
speak to her, the thing was done. She did not at once tell him that it
was done. She took some few short halcyon weeks to dally with the vow
which her heart was ready to make; but those around her knew that the
vow had been inwardly made; and those who were anxious on her behalf
with a new anxiety, with a new responsibility, redoubled their inquiries
as to John Caldigate. How would Robert Bolton or Mrs. Robert excuse
themselves to that frightened miserable mother if at last it should turn
out that John Caldigate was not such as they had represented him to be?

But no one could pick a hole in him although many attempts to pick holes
were made. The question of his money was put quite at rest by the
transference of all his securities, balances, and documents to the
Boltons' bank, and the £60,000 for Polyeuka was accepted, so that there
was no longer any need that he should go again to the colony. This was
sweet news to Hester when she first heard it; - for it had come to pass
that it had been agreed that the marriage should be postponed till his
return, that having been the one concession made to Mrs. Bolton. There
had been many arguments about it; - but Hester at last told him that she
had promised so much to her mother and that she would of course keep her
promise. Then the arrangement took such a form that the journey was not
necessary, - or perhaps the objection to the journey became so strong in
Caldigate's mind that he determined to dispense with it at any price.
And thus, very greatly to the dismay of Mrs. Bolton, suddenly there came
to be no reason why they should not be married almost at once.

But there was an attempt made at the picking of holes, - or rather many
attempts. It would be unfair to say that this was carried on by Mrs.
Bolton herself; - but she was always ready to listen to what evil things
were said to her. Mrs. Nicholas, in her horror at the general wickedness
of the Caldigates almost reconciled herself to her step-mother, and
even Mrs. Daniel began to fear that a rash thing was being done. In
the first place there was the old story of Davis and Newmarket. Robert
Bolton, who had necessarily become the advocate and defender of our
hero generally, did not care much for Davis and Newmarket. All young
men sow their wild oats. Of course he had been extravagant. Since his
extravagance he had shown himself to be an industrious, sensible, steady
member of society; - and there was the money that he had earned! What
young man had earned more in a shorter time, or had ever been more
prudent in keeping it? Davis and Newmarket were easily answered by a
reference to the bank account. Did he ever go to Newmarket now, though
he was living so close to it? On that matter Robert Bolton was very
strong.

But Mrs. Nicholas had found out that Caldigate had spent certainly two
Sundays running at Folking without going to church at all; and, as far
as she could learn, he was altogether indifferent about public worship.
Mrs. Bolton, who could never bring herself to treat him as a son-in-law,
but who was still obliged to receive him, taxed him to his face with his
paganism. 'Have you no religion, Mr. Caldigate?' He assured her that he
had, and fell into a long discussion in which he thoroughly confused
her, though he by no means convinced her that he was what he ought to
be. But he went with her to church twice on one Sunday, and showed her
that he was perfectly familiar with the ways of the place.

But perhaps the loudest complaint came from the side of Babington; and
here two sets of enemies joined their forces together who were
thoroughly hostile to each other. Mrs. Babington declared loudly that
old Bolton had been an errand-boy in his youth, and that his father had
been a porter and his mother a washerwoman. This could do no real harm,
as Caldigate would not have been deterred by any such rumours, even had
they been true; but they tended to show animosity, and enabled Mrs.
Nicholas to find out the cause of the Babington opposition. When she
learned that John Caldigate had been engaged to his cousin Julia, of
course she made the most of it; and so did Mrs. Bolton. And in this way
it came to be reported not only that the young man had been engaged to
Miss Babington before he went to Australia, - but also that he had
renewed his engagement since his return. 'You do not love her, do you?'
Hester asked him. Then he told her the whole story, as nearly as he
could tell it with some respect for his cousin, laughing the while at
his aunt's solicitude, and saying, perhaps something not quite
respectful as to Julia's red cheeks and green hat, all of which
certainly had not the effect of hardening Hester's heart against him.
'The poor young lady can't help it if her feet are big,' said Hester,
who was quite alive to the grace of a well-made pair of boots, although
she had been taught to eschew braided hair and pearls and gold.

Mrs. Babington, however, pushed her remonstrances so far that she boldly
declared that the man was engaged to her daughter, and wrote to him more
than once declaring that it was so. She wrote, indeed, very often,
sometimes abusing him for his perfidy, and then, again, imploring him to
return to them, and not to defile the true old English blood of the
Caldigates with the suds of a washerwoman and the swept-up refuse of a
porter's shovel. She became quite eloquent in her denunciation, but
always saying that if he would only come back to Babington all would be
forgiven him. But in these days he made no visits to Babington.

Then there came a plaintive little note from Mrs. Shand. Of course they
wished him joy if it were true. But could it be true? Men were very
fickle, certainly; but this change seemed to have been very, very
sudden! And there was a word or two, prettily written in another hand,
on a small slip of paper - 'Perhaps you had better send back the book';
and Caldigate, as he read it, thought that he could discern the
almost-obliterated smudge of a wiped-up tear. He wrote a cheerful letter
to Mrs. Shand, in which he told her that though he had not been
absolutely engaged to marry Hester Bolton before he started for
Australia, - and consequently before he had ever been at Pollington, - yet
his mind had been quite made up to do so; and that therefore he regarded
himself as being abnormally constant rather than fickle. 'And tell your
daughter, with my kindest regards,' he added, 'that I hope I may be
allowed to keep the book.'

The Babington objections certainly made their way in Cambridge and out
at Chesterton further than any others, and for a time did give a hope to
Mrs. Bolton and Mrs. Nicholas, - and made Robert Bolton shrug his
shoulders uneasily when he heard all the details of the engagement in
the linen-closet. But there came at one moment a rumour, which did not
count for much among the Boltons, but which disturbed Caldigate himself
more than any of the other causes adduced for breaking off his intended
marriage. Word came that he had been very intimate with a certain woman
on his way out to Melbourne; - a woman supposed to be a foreigner and an
actress; and the name of Cettini was whispered. He did not know whence
the rumour came; - but on one morning Robert Bolton, half-laughing, but
still with a tone of voice that was half-earnest, taxed him with having
as many loves as Lothario. 'Who is Cettini?' asked Robert Bolton.

'Cettini?' said Caldigate, with a struggle to prevent a blush.

'Did you travel with such a woman?'

'Yes; - at least, if that was her name. I did not hear it till
afterwards. A very agreeable woman she was.'

'They say that you promised to marry her when on board.'

'Then they lie. But that is a matter of course. There are so many lies
going about that I almost feel myself to be famous.'

'You did not see her after the journey?'

'Yes, I did. I saw her act at Sydney; and very well she acted. Have you
anything else to ask?' Robert Bolton said that he had nothing else to
ask, - and seemed, at the moment, to turn his half-serious mood into one
that was altogether jocular. But the mention of the name had been a
wound; and when an anonymous letter a few days afterwards reached Hester
herself he was really unhappy. Hester made nothing of the letter - did
not even show it to her mother. At that time a day had been fixed for
their marriage; and she already regarded her lover as nearer to her than
either father or mother. The letter purported to be from some one who
had travelled with her lover and this woman on board ship, and declared
that everybody on board the ship had thought that Caldigate meant to
marry the woman, - who then, so said the letter, called herself Mrs.
Smith. Hester showed the letter to Caldigate, and then Caldigate told
his story. There had been such a woman, who had been much ill-treated
because of her poverty. He had certainly taken the woman's part. She had
been clever and, as he had thought, well-behaved. And, no doubt, there
had been a certain amount of friendship. He had seen her again in
Sydney, where he had found her exercising her profession as an actress.
That had been all. 'I cannot imagine, dear,' he said, 'that you should
be jealous of any woman; but certainly not of such a one as she.' 'Nor
can I imagine,' said Hester, stoutly, 'that I could possibly be jealous
of any woman.' And then there was nothing more said about the woman
Smith-Cettini.

During all this time there were many family meetings. Those between Mr.
Caldigate, the father, and old Mr. Bolton were pleasant enough, though
not peculiarly cordial. The banker, though he had been brought to agree
to the marriage had not been quite reconciled to it. His younger son had
been able to convince him that it was his duty to liberate his daughter
from the oppression of her mother's over-vigilance, and all the rest had
followed very quickly, - overwhelming him, as it were, by stern
necessity. When once the girl had come to understand that she could have
her own way, if she chose to have a way of her own, she very quickly
took the matter into her own management. And in this way the engagement
became a thing settled before the banker had realised the facts of the



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeJohn Caldigate → online text (page 14 of 46)