Anthony Trollope.

The three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

exercise of a species of authority which was dis-
tasteful to her, and which was very seldom heard,
seen, or felt within the limits of Surbiton Cottage.
It would moreover have been very ungracious to
snub Charley's manuscript, just when Charley
had made himself such a hero ; and she had,
therefore, been obliged to read it. But now that
it was done, she hurried Katie off to bed, not
without many admonitions.

" Grood night," she said to Charley ; " and Grod
bless you, and make you always as happy as we are
now. What a household we should have had
to-night, had it not been for you."

Charley rubbed his eyes with his hand, and
muttered something about there not having been
the slightest danger in the world.


" And remember, Charley," she said, " paying
no attention to his mntterings — "we always
liked you — liked you very much ; but liking and
loving are very different things. Now you are a
dear, dear friend, — one of the dearest."

In answer to this, Charley was not even able
to mutter ; so he went his way to the inn and
lay awake half the night thinking how Katie had
kissed his hand : during the other half he dreamt,
first that Katie was drowned, and then that
Norah was his bride.

Linda and Katie had been so hurried off, that
they had only been just able to shake hands
with Harry and Charley. There is, however, an
old proverb, that though one man may lead a horse
to water, a thousand cannot make him drink. It
was easy to send Katie to bed, but very difficult
to prevent her talking when she was there.

"Oh, Linda," she said, "what can I do for
him ? "

" Do for him ? " said Linda ; "I don't know
that you can do anything for him. I don't sup-
pose he wants you to do anything." Linda still
looked on her sister as a child : but Katie was
beginning to put away childish things.

" Couldn't I make something for him, Linda ?
something for him to keep as a present, you
know. I would work so hard to get it done.

" Work a pair of slippers, a^ Crinoline did,
said Linda.


Katie was brushing her hair at the moment,
and then she sat still with the brush in her hand,
thinking. " No," said she, after a while, " not
a pair of slippers — I shouldn't hke a pair of

" Why not ? " said Linda.

" Oh — I don't know — but I shouldn't." Katie
had said that Crinoline was working slippers for
Macassar because she was in love with him ; and
having said so, she could not now work slippers
for Charley. Poor Katie ! she was no longer a
child when she thought thus.

" Then make him a purse," said Linda.

" A purse is such a little thing."

" Then work him the cover for a sofa, like
what mama and I are doing for Grertrude."

" But he hasn't got a house," said Katie.

" He'll have a house by the time you've done
the sofa, and a wife to sit on it too."

" Oh, Linda, you are so illnatured."

" Why, child, what do you want me to say ?
If you were to give him one of those grand long
tobacco pipes they have in the shop windows,
that's what he'd like the best ; or something of
that sort. T don't think he cares much for girl's
presents, such as purses and slippers."

*' Doesn't he ?" said Katie, mournfully.

" No ; not a bit. You know he's such a rake."

" Oh ! Linda ; I don't think he's so very bad,
indeed I don't ; and mama doesn't think so ;


and you know Harry said on Easter Sunday that
he was much better than he used to be.''

" I know Harry is very, very goodnatured to

"And isn't Charley Just as goodnatured to
Harry ? I am quite sure he is. Harry has only
to ask the least thing, and Charley always does
it. Do you remember how Charley went up to
town for him, the Sunday before last ?"

" And so he ought," said Linda. " He ought
to do whatever Harry tells him."

" Well, Linda, I don't know that he ought,"
said Katie. " They are not brothers, you know ;
nor yet even cousins."

" But Harry is very — so very — so very supe-
rior, you know," said Linda.

" I don't know any such thing," said Katie.

" Oh ! Katie, don't you know that Charley is
such a rake ?"

" But rakes are just the people who don't do
whatever they are told ; so that's no reason. And
I am quite sure that Charley is much the

" And I am quite sure he is not — nor half so
clever ; nor nearly so well educated. Wliy don't
you know the nav\des are the most ignorant
young men in London ? Charley says so him-

" That's his fun," said Katie ; " besides, he
always makes little of himself. I am quite sure

H 3


Harry could never have made out all that about
Macassar and Crinoline, out of his own head/'

" No ! because he doesn't think of such non-
sensical things. I declare, Miss Katie, I think
you are in love with Master Charley !"

Katie, w^ho was still sitting at the dressing
table, blushed up to her forehead; and at the
same time her eyes were suffused with tears.
But there was no one to see either of those
tell-tale symptoms ; for Linda was in bed.

" I know he saved my life," said Katie, as soon
as she could trust herself to speak without betray-
ing her emotion — " I know he jumped into the
river after me, and very, very nearly drowned
himself; and I don't think any other man in
the world would have done so much for me, be-
sides him."

" Oh, Katie ! Harry would in a moment."

"Not for me ; perhaps he might for you — though
I'm not quite sm^e that he would." It was thus
that Katie took her revenge on her sister.

" I am quite sure he would for anybody, even
for Sally." Sally was an assistant in the back
kitchen. " But I don't mean to say, Katie,
that you shouldn't feel grateful to Charley; of
course you should."

"And so I do," said Katie, now bursting
out into tears, overdone by her emotion and
fatigue ; " and so I do — and I do love him
and will love him, if he's ever so much a rake !


but jou know, Linda, that is very different from
being in love ; and it was very illnatured of you
to say so, very !"

Linda was out of bed in a trice, and sitting
with her arm round her sister's neck.

*' Why, you darling little foolish child, you ;
I was only quizzing," said she ; "don't you know
that I love Charley too."

"But you shouldn't quiz about such a thing
as that. If you'd fallen into the river and Harry
had pulled you out, then you'd know what I
mean; but I'm not at all sure that he could
have done it."

Katie's perverse wickedness on this point was
very nearly giving rise to another contest be-
tween the sisters. Linda's common sense how-
ever prevailed, and giving up the point of
Harry's prowess, she succeeded at last in get-
ting Katie into bed. You know mama will
be so angry if she hears us," said Linda, " and
I am sure you will be ill to-morrow."

" I don't care a bit about being ill to-morrow ;
— and yet I do too," she added after a pause,
for it's Sunday. It would be so stupid not
to be able to go out to-morrow."

" Well — ^then, try to go to sleep at once " —
and Linda carefully tucked the clothes around
her sister.

" I think it shall be a purse," said Katie.

"A purse will certainly be the best : that is


if you don't like the slippers," and Linda rolled
herself up comfortably in the bed.

"No — I don't like the slippers at all. It
shall be a purse. I can do that the quickest,
you know. It's so stupid to give a thing when
every thing about it is forgotten, isn't it ? "

" Very stupid," said Linda, nearly asleep.

" And when, it's worn out, I can make another,
can't I?"

" H'm 'm 'm," said Linda, quite asleep.

And then Katie went to sleep also in her
sister's arms.

Early in the morning — that is to say not very
early, perhaps between seven and eight — Mrs.
Woodward came into their room, and having
inspected her charges, desired that Katie should
not get up for morning church, but lie in bed
till the middle of the day.

" Oh, mama, it will be so stupid not going
to church after tumbling into the river; people
will say that all my clothes are wet."

"People will about tell the truth as to some
of them," said Mrs. Woodward ; " but don't you
mind about people, but lie still and go to sleep
if you can. Linda, do you come and dress in
my room."

"And is Charley to lie in bed too?" said
Katie. "He was in the river longer than I


"It's too late to keep Charley in bed," said


Linda, " for I see him coming along tlie road
now with a towel ; he's been bathing/'

"Oh, I do so wish I could go and bathe,"
said Katie.

Poor Katie was kept in bed tiU the afternoon.
Charley and Harry however were allowed to
come up to her bed-room door, and hear her
pronounce herself quite well.

"How d'ye do, Mr. Macassar?" said she.

" And how d'ye do, my lady Crinoline?" said
Harry. After that Katie never called Charley
Mr. Macassar again.

They all went to church, and Katie was left
to sleep or read, or think of the new purse that
she was to make, as best she might.

And then they dined, and then they walked
out : but still without Katie. She was to get
up and dress while they were out, so as to re-
ceive them in state in the drawing-room on their
return. Four of them walked together; for
uncle Bat now usually took himself off to his
friend at Hampton Court, on Sunday afternoon.
Mrs. Woodward walked with Charley, and Harry
and Linda paired together.

"Now," said Charley to himself — "now
would have been the time to have told Mrs.
Woodward every thing, but for that accident
of yesterday. Now I can tell her nothing; to
do so now, would be to demand her sympathy


and to ask for assistance, and so he determined
to tell her nothing.

But the very cause which made Charley dumb
on the subject of his own distresses made Mrs.
Woodward inquisitive about them. She knew
that his life was not like that of Harry, steady,
sober, and discreet; she knew that he was not
gifted with Alaric's ambition and intense energy;
she knew indeed that he needed to make much
amends for past misconduct.

But she felt that she did not like him or even
love him the less on this account. Nay, it was
not clear to her that these feelings of his did not
give him additional claims on her sympathies.
What could she do for him? how could she
relieve him; how could she bring him back to
the right way ?

When we say that Mrs. Woodward was in-
quisitive, we do not at all mean that she was
vulgarly or rudely so. She did her best to lead
him to that confidence, which it had been his
intention to bestow on her, and which he now
resolved he must withhold. She spoke to him
of his London life, praised his talents, encou-
raged him to exertion, besought him to have
some solicitude and, above all, some respect for
himself. And then with that delicacy which
such a woman, and none but such a woman, can
use in such a matter, she asked him whether he
was still in debt.


Charley, with shame we must own it, had on
this subject been false to all his friends. He
had been false to his father and his mother, and
had never owned to them the half of what he
owed ; he had been false to Alaric, and false to
Harry ; but now, now at such a moment as this,
he would not allow himself to be false to Mrs.

" Yes," he said — " he was in debt — rather."

Mrs. Woodward pressed him to say whether
his debts were heavy — -whether he owed much.

" It's no use thinking of it, Mrs. Woodward,"
said he ; " not the least. I know I ought not
to come down here ; and I don't think I will
any more."

"Not come down here!" said Mrs. Woodward.
" Why not ? there's very little expense in that.
I dare say you'd spend quite as much in Lon-

" Oh— of course — three times as much, per-
haps ; that is if I had it — but I don't mean

Wliat do you mean?" said she.

Charley walked on in silence, with melancholy
look, very crest fallen, his thumbs stuck into his
waistcoat pockets.

"Upon my word I don't know what you
mean," said Mrs. Woodward. " I should have
thought coming to Hampton might perhaps —
perhaps have kept you — I don't exactly mean out


of mischief. " That however, in spite of her de-
nial, was exactly what Mrs. Woodward did mean.

"So it does — but " — said Charley, now tho-
roughly ashamed of himself.

"But what?" said she.

" I am not fit to be here," said Charley ; and
as he spoke his manly self-control all gave way,
and big tears rolled down his cheeks.

Mrs. Woodward in her woman's heart re-
solved, that if it might in any way be pos-
sible she would make him fit, fit not only to be
there, but to hold his head up with the best in
any company in which he might find himself.

She questioned him no farther then. Her wish
now was not to torment him further, but to
comfort him. She determined that she would
consult with Harry and with her uncle, and take
counsel from them as to what steps might be
taken to save the brand from the burning. She
talked to him as a mother might have done,
leaning on his arm, as she returned ; leaning on
him as a woman never leans on a man whom she
deems unfit for her society. All this Charley's
heart and instinct fully understood, and he was
not ungrateful.

But yet he had but little to comfort him. He
must return to town on Monday ; return to Mr.
Snape and the lock entries, to Mr. M'^Euen and
the three Seasons — to Mrs. Davis, Norah Gre-
raghty, and that horrid Mr. Peppermint. H*


never once thought of Clementina Grolightly, to
whom at that moment he was being married by
the joint energies of Undy Scott and his cousin

And what had Linda and Norman been doing
all this time? Had they been placing mutual
confidence in each other ? No ; they had not
come to that yet. Linda still remembered the
pang with which she had first heard of Grer-
trude's engagement, and Harry Norman had
not yet been able to open his seared heart to
a second love.

But those who observed them, might have
found ground to hope that in the course of
events such things might still be written in the
book of fate. Though they were not lovers they
were fast friends. Linda pitied, admired, and
all but loved the man who had so loved her
sister; and Harry was very grateful for her

The evening passed away quietly. Katie was
certainly in appearance sufficiently weak to
justify her mother's precautions in keeping her
in bed. Charley was in no humour to be very
gay, and Mrs. Woodward, who well understood
why he was not so, w^as not herself in high

To make matters worse, a letter was brought
to Captain Cuttwater in the evening, wliich
clearly did not raise his spirits.


^'Wliom is your letter from, uncle?" said Mrs.

" From Alaric," said he gruffly, crumpling it
up and putting it into his pocket. And then he
turned to his rum and water in a manner that
showed his determination to say nothing more
on the matter.

In the morning Harry and Charley returned
to town. Captain Cuttwater went up with
them; and all was again quiet at Surbiton




It was an anxious hour for the Honourable
Undecimus Scott when he first learnt that Mr.
M*^Buifer had accepted the Stewardship of the
Chiltern Hundreds. The Stewardship of the
Cliiltern Hundreds 1 Does it never occur to any
one how many persons are appointed to that
valuable situation ? Or does any one ever reflect
why a Member of Parliament, when he wishes to
resign his post of honour, should not be simply
gazetted in the newspapers as having done so,
instead of being named as the new Steward of the
Chiltern Hundreds ? No one ever does think of
it ; resigning and becoming a steward are one
and the same thing, with the difference, however,
that one of the grand bulwarks of the British
constitution is thus preserved.

Well ; Mr. M'^Buffer, who, having been elected
by the independent electors of the TiUietudlem
burghs to serve them in ParUament, could not in
accordance with the laws of the constitution have
got himself out of that honourable but difficult


position by any scheme of his own, found him-
self on a sudden a free man, the Queen having
selected him to be her steward for the district in
question. We have no doubt but that the deed
of appointment set forth that her Majesty had
been moved to this step by the firm trust she
had in the skill and fidehty of the said Mr.
M^^Buffer; but if so her Majesty's trust would
seem to have been somewhat misplaced, as Mr.
M*^Buifer having been a managing director of a
bankrupt swindle, from which he had contrived
to pillage some thirty or forty thousand pounds,
was now unable to show his face at Tillietudlem,
or in the House of Commons ; and in thus
retreating from his membership had no object but
to save himself from the expulsion which he
feared. It was, however, a consolation for him
to think that in what he had done the bulwarks
of the British constitution had been preserved.

It was an anxious moment for Undy. The
existing Parliament had still a year and a half,
or possibly two years and a half, to run. He
had already been withdrawn from the public eye
longer than he thought was suitable to the success
of his career. He particularly disliked obscurity,
for he had found that in his case obscurity had
meant comparative poverty. An obscure man,
as he observed early in life, had nothing to sell.
Now, Undy had once had something to sell, and
a very good market he had made of it. He was


of course anxious that those halcyon days should
return. Fond of him as the electors of Tillie-
tudlem no doubt were, devoted as they might be
in a general way to his interests, still, still it was
possible that they might forget him, if he
remained too long away from their embraces. Out
of sight out of mind is a proverb which opens to
us the worst side of human nature. But even
at Tillietudlem, nature's worst side might some-
times show itself.

Actuated by such feelings as these TJndy heard
with joy the tidings of M*^Buffer's stewardship,
and determined to rush to the battle at once.
Battle he knew there must be. To be brought
in for the district of Tillietudlem was a prize
which had never yet fallen to any man's lot
without a contest. Tillietudlem was no poor
pocket borough to be disposed of, this way or
that, according to the caprice or venal call of some
aristocrat. The men of Tillietudlem knew the
value of their votes and would only give them
according to their consciences. The way to
win these consciences, to overcome the sensitive
doubts of a free and independent Tillietudlem
elector, Undy knew to his cost.

It was almost a question, as he once told Alaric,
whether all that he coidd sell was worth all that
he was compelled to buy.

But having put his neck to the collar in this
line of life, he was not now going to withdraw.


Tillietudlem was once more vacant, and Undy
determined to try it again, nndannted by former
outlays. To make an outlay, however, at any rate
in electioneering matters, it is necessary tliat a
man should have in hand some ready cash ; at the
present moment TJndy had very little, and there-
fore the news of Mr. M*^BufFer's retirement to the
German baths for his health, was not heard
with unalloyed delight.

He first went into the City, as men always do
when they want money ; though in what portion
of the City they find it has never come to the
author's knowledge. Charley Tudor, to be sure,
did get 5/. by going to the Banks of Jordan ;
but the supply likely to be derived from such a
fountain as that would hardly be sufiicient for
Undy's wants. Having done what he could in
the City, he came to Alaric, and prayed for the
assistance of all his friend's energies in the
matter. Alaric would not have been, and was
not, unwilling to assist him to the extent of
his own immediate means ; but his own imme-
diate means were limited, and Undy's desire for
ready cash was almost unlimited.

It has been said that Undy and Alaric were to
a certain degree in partnership in their specula-
tions. It must not be conceived from this that
they had any common purse, or that they bought
and sold on a joint account. Undy Scott had no
sufiicient trust in any brother mortal for such an


arrangement as that. But they aided and abetted
and backed each other ; each took shares in the
other's speculations ; they bought and sold as it
were in concert, and imparted one to another
the secrets of their trade, perhaps with truth on
Undy's part, and certainly with truth as far as
Alaric was concerned.

There was a certain railway or proposed rail-
way in Ireland, in which Undy had ventured
very deeply, more so indeed than he had deemed
it quite prudent to divulge to his friend ; and in
order to gain certain ends he had induced Alaric
to become a director of this line. He, with his
prospect of returning to Parliament, argued that
he might be able to render more efficient aid to
the concern, or at any rate to his views of the
concern, by being apparently independent of any
interest in it as it stood before the world. The
line in question was the Grreat West Cork, v/hich
was to run from Skibbereen to Bantry, and the
momentous question now hotly debated before
the Railway Board was on the moot point of a
branch to Bally dehob. If Undy could carry the
West Cork and Ballydehob branch entire, he
would make a pretty thing of it ; but if, as there
was too much reason to fear, his Irish foes should
prevail, and leave — as Undy had once said in an
eloquent speech at a very influential meeting of
shareholders — and leave the unfortunate amcul-
tural and commercial interest of Ballydehob


steeped in cimmerian darkness, the chances were
that poor Undy would be well-nigh ruined.

Such being the case he had striven, not un-
successfully, to draw Alaric into the concern.
Alaric had bought very cheaply a good many
shares, which many people said were worth
nothing, and had, by dint of XJndy's machinations,
been chosen a director on the board. Undy him-
self meanwhile lay by, hoping that fortune might
restore him to Parliament, and haply put him on
that committee which must finally adjudicate as
to the great question of the Bally dehob branch.

Such were the circumstances under which he
came to Alaric with the view of raising such a
sum of money as might enable him to overcome
the scruples of the Tillietudlem electors, and
place himself in the shoes lately vacated by Mr.

They were sitting together after dinner when
he commenced the subject. He and Mrs. Val
and Clementina had done the Tudors the honour
of dining with them; and the ladies had now
gone up into the drawing-room, and were busy
talking over the C his wick affair, which was to
come off in the next week, and after which Mrs.
Val intended to give a small evening party to
the most elite of her acquaintance.

" We won't have all the world, my dear," she
had said to Grertude ; " but just a few of our own
set that are really nice. Clementina is dying to


try that new back step with M. Jaquetanape, so
we won't croAvd the room." Such were the imme-
diate arrangements of the Tudor and Scott

" So M^'Buffer is off at last," said Scott, as he
seated himself and filled his glass, after closing
the dining-room door. " He brought his pigs to
a bad market after all."

" He was an infernal rogue," said Alaric.

" Well, I suppose he was," said Undy. " And
a fool into the bargain to be found out."

" He was a downright swindler," said Alaric.

" After all," said the other, not paying much
attention to Alaric' s indignation, " he did not do
so very badly. ^Vliy, M*^Buffer has been at it
now for thirteen years. He began with nothing ;
he had neither blood nor money ; and Grod knows
he had no social merits to recommend him. He
is as ^ailgar as a hog, as awkward as an ele|)hant,
and as ugly as an ape. I believe he never had ar-
friend, and was known at his club to be the
greatest bore that ever came out of Scotland ; and
yet for thirteen years he has hved on the fat of
the land ; for five years he has been in Parlia-
ment, his wife has gone about in her carnage,
and every man in the City has been willing to
shake hands with him."

" And what has it all come to ? " said Alaric,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 18)