Anthony Trollope.

Mr. Scarborough's Family online

. (page 2 of 47)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeMr. Scarborough's Family → online text (page 2 of 47)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


probable that Augustus might participate in the belief which he knew to
be only too common. There was, no doubt, an idea prevalent that the
squire and the captain were in league together to cheat the creditors,
and that the squire, who in these days received much undeserved credit
for Machiavellian astuteness, knew more than any one else respecting his
eldest son's affairs. But, in truth, he at first knew nothing, and in
making these assurances to his younger son was altogether wasting his
breath, for his younger son knew everything.




CHAPTER II.

FLORENCE MOUNTJOY.


Mr. Scarborough had a niece, one Florence Mountjoy, to whom it had been
intended that Captain Scarborough should be married. There had been no
considerations of money when the intention had been first formed, for
the lady was possessed of no more than ten thousand pounds, which would
have been as nothing to the prospects of the captain when the idea was
first entertained. But Mr. Scarborough was fond of people who belonged
to him. In this way he had been much attached to his late
brother-in-law, General Mountjoy, and had perceived that his niece was
beautiful and graceful, and was in every way desirable, as one who might
be made in part thus to belong to himself. Florence herself, when the
idea of the marriage was first suggested to her by her mother, was only
eighteen, and received it with awe rather than with pleasure or
abhorrence. To her her cousin Mountjoy had always been a most
magnificent personage. He was only seven years her senior, but he had
early in life assumed the manners, as he had also done the vices, of
mature age, and loomed large in the girl's eyes as a man of undoubted
wealth and fashion. At that period, three years antecedent to his
father's declaration, he had no doubt been much in debt, but his debts
had not been generally known, and his father had still thought that a
marriage with his cousin might serve to settle him - to use the phrase
which was common with himself. From that day to this the courtship had
gone on, and the squire had taught himself to believe that the two
cousins were all but engaged to each other. He had so considered it, at
any rate, for two years, till during the last final year he had resolved
to throw the captain overboard. And even during this year there had been
periods of hope, for he had not finally made up his mind till but a
short time before he had put it in practice. No doubt he was fond of his
niece in accordance with his own capability for fondness. He would
caress her and stroke her hair, and took delight in having her near to
him. And of true love for such a girl his heart was quite capable. He
was a good-natured, fearless, but not a selfish man, to whom the fate in
life of this poor girl was a matter of real concern.

And his eldest son, who was by no means good-natured, had something of
the same nature. He did love truly, - after his own fashion of loving. He
would have married his cousin at any moment, with or without her ten
thousand pounds, - for of all human beings he was the most reckless. And
yet in his breast was present a feeling of honor of which his father
knew nothing. When it was explained to him that his mother's fair name
was to be aspersed, - a mother whom he could but faintly remember, - the
threat did bring with it its own peculiar agony. But of this the squire
neither felt or knew anything. The lady had long been dead, and could be
none the better or the worse for aught that could be said of her. To the
captain it was not so, and it was preferable to him to believe his
father to be dishonest than his mother. He, at any rate, was in truth in
love with his cousin Florence, and when the story was told to him one of
its first effects was the bearing which it would have upon her mind.

It has been said that within two or three days after the communication
he had left London. He had done so in order that he might at once go
down to Cheltenham and see his cousin. There Miss Mountjoy lived, with
her mother.

The time had been when Florence Mountjoy had been proud of her cousin,
and, to tell the truth of her feelings, though she had never loved him,
she had almost done so. Rumors had made their way through even to her
condition of life, and she in her innocence had gradually been taught to
believe that Captain Scarborough was not a man whom she could be safe in
loving. And there had, perhaps, come another as to whom her feelings
were different. She had, no doubt, at first thought that she would be
willing to become her cousin's wife, but she had never said as much
herself. And now both her heart and mind were set against him.

Captain Scarborough, as he went down to Cheltenham, turned the matter
over in his mind, thinking within himself how best he might carry out
his project. His intention was to obtain from his cousin an assurance of
her love, and a promise that it should not be shaken by any stories
which his father might tell respecting him. For this purpose he he must
make known to her the story his father had told him, and his own
absolute disbelief in it. Much else must be confided to her. He must
acknowledge in part his own debts, and must explain that his father had
taken this course in order to defraud the creditors. All this would be
very difficult; but he must trust in her innocence and generosity. He
thought that the condition of his affairs might be so represented that
the story should tend rather to win her heart toward him than to turn it
away. Her mother had hitherto always been in his favor, and he had, in
fact, been received almost as an Apollo in the house at Cheltenham.

"Florence," he said, "I must see you alone for a few minutes. I know
that your mother will trust you with me." This was spoken immediately on
his arrival, and Mrs. Mountjoy at once left the room. She had been
taught to believe that it was her daughter's duty to marry her cousin;
and though she knew that the captain had done much to embarrass the
property, she thought that this would be the surest way to settle him.
The heir of Tretton Park was, in her estimation, so great a man that
very much was to be endured at his hands.

The meeting between the two cousins was very long, and when Mrs.
Mountjoy at last returned unannounced to the room she found her daughter
in tears.

"Oh, Florence, what is the matter?" asked her mother.

The poor girl said nothing, but still continued to weep, while the
captain stood by looking as black as a thunder-cloud.

"What is it, Mountjoy?" said Mrs. Mountjoy, turning to him.

"I have told Florence some of my troubles," said he, "and they seemed to
have changed her mind toward me."

There was something in this which was detestable to Florence, - an
unfairness, a dishonesty in putting off upon his trouble that absence of
love which she had at last been driven by his vows to confess. She knew
that it was not because of his present trouble, which she understood to
be terrible, but which she could not in truth comprehend. He had blurted
it all out roughly, - the story as told by his father of his mother's
dishonor, of his own insignificance in the world, of the threatened
loss of the property, of the heaviness of his debts, - and added his
conviction that his father had invented it all, and was, in fact, a
thorough rascal. The full story of his debts he kept back, not with any
predetermined falseness, but because it is so difficult for a man to own
that he has absolutely ruined himself by his own folly. It was not
wonderful that the girl should not have understood such a story as had
then been told her. Why was he defending his mother? Why was he accusing
his father? The accusations against her uncle, whom she did know, were
more fearful to her than these mysterious charges against her aunt, whom
she did not know, from which her son defended her. But then he had
spoken passionately of his own love, and she had understood that. He had
besought her to confess that she loved him, and then she had at once
become stubborn. There was something in the word "confess" which grated
against her feelings. It seemed to imply a conviction on his part that
she did love him. She had never told him so, and was now sure that it
was not so. When he had pressed her she could only weep. But in her
weeping she never for a moment yielded. She never uttered a single word
on which he could be enabled to build a hope. Then he had become blacker
and still blacker, fiercer and still fiercer, more and more earnest in
his purpose, till at last he asked her whom it was that she loved - as she
could not love him. He knew well whom it was that he suspected; - and she
knew also. But he had no right to demand any statement from her on that
head. She did not think that the man loved her; nor did she know what to
say or to think of her own feelings. Were he, the other man, to come to
her, she would only bid him go away; but why she should so bid him she
had hardly known. But now this dark frowning captain, with his big
mustache and his military look, and his general aspect of invincible
power, threatened the other man.

"He came to Tretton as my friend," he said, "and by Heaven if he stands
in my way, if he dare to cross between you and me, he shall answer it
with his life!"

The name had not been mentioned; but this had been very terrible to
Florence, and she could only weep.

He went away, refusing to stay to dinner, but said that on the following
afternoon he would again return. In the street of the town he met one of
his creditors, who had discovered his journey to Cheltenham, and had
followed him.

"Oh, Captain Mountjoy, what is all dis that they are talking about in
London?"

"What are they talking about?"

"De inheritance!" said the man, who was a veritable Jew, looking up
anxiously in his face.

The man had his acceptance for a very large sum of money, with an
assurance that it should be paid on his father's death, for which he had
given him about two thousand pounds in cash.

"You must ask my father."

"But is it true?"

"You must ask my father. Upon my word, I can tell you nothing else. He
has concocted a tale of which I for one do not believe a word. I never
heard of the story till he condescended to tell it me the other day.
Whether it be true or whether it be false, you and I, Mr. Hart, are in
the same boat."

"But you have had de money."

"And you have got the bill. You can't do anything by coming after me. My
father seems to have contrived a very clever plan by which he can rob
you; but he will rob me at the same time. You may believe me or not as
you please; but that you will find to be the truth."

Then Mr. Hart left him, but certainly did not believe a word the captain
had said to him.

To her mother Florence would only disclose her persistent intention of
not marrying her cousin. Mrs. Mountjoy, over whose spirit the glamour of
the captain's prestige was still potent, said much in his favor.
Everybody had always intended the marriage, and it would be the setting
right of everything. The captain, no doubt, owed a large sum of money,
but that would be paid by Florence's fortune. So little did the poor
lady know of the captain's condition. When she had been told that there
had been a great quarrel between the captain and his father, she
declared that the marriage would set that all right.

"But, mamma, Captain Scarborough is not to have the property at all."

Then Mrs. Mountjoy, believing thoroughly in entails, had declared that
all Heaven could not prevent it.

"But that makes no difference," said the daughter; "if I - I - I loved him
I would marry him so much the more, if he had nothing."

Then Mrs. Mountjoy declared that she could not understand it at all.

On the next day Captain Scarborough came, according to his promise, but
nothing that he could say would induce Florence to come into his
presence. Her mother declared that she was so ill that it would be
wicked to disturb her.




CHAPTER III.

HARRY ANNESLEY.


Together with Augustus Scarborough at Cambridge had been one Harry
Annesley, and he it was to whom the captain in his wrath had sworn to
put an end if he should come between him and his love. Harry Annesley
had been introduced to the captain by his brother, and an intimacy had
grown up between them. He had brought him to Tretton Park when Florence
was there, and Harry had since made his own way to Cheltenham, and had
endeavored to plead his own cause after his own fashion. This he had
done after the good old English plan, which is said to be somewhat
loutish, but is not without its efficacy. He had looked at her, and
danced with her, and done the best with his gloves and his cravat, and
had let her see by twenty unmistakable signs that in order to be
perfectly happy he must be near her. Her gloves, and her flowers, and
her other little properties were sweeter to him than any scents, and
were more valuable in his eyes than precious stones. But he had never as
yet actually asked her to love him. But she was so quick a linguist that
she had understood down to the last letter what all these tokens had
meant. Her cousin, Captain Scarborough, was to her magnificent,
powerful, but terrible withal. She had asked herself a thousand times
whether it would be possible for her to love him and to become his wife.
She had never quite given even to herself an answer to this question
till she had suddenly found herself enabled to do so by his
over-confidence in asking her to confess that she loved him. She had
never acknowledged anything, even to herself, as to Harry Annesley. She
had never told herself that it would be possible that he should ask her
any such question. She had a wild, dreamy, fearful feeling that,
although it would be possible to her to refuse her cousin, it would be
impossible that she should marry any other while he should still be
desirous of making her his wife. And now Captain Scarborough had
threatened Harry Annesley, not indeed by name, but still clearly
enough. Any dream of her own in that direction must be a vain dream.

As Harry Annesley is going to be what is generally called the hero of
this story, it is necessary that something should be said of the
particulars of his life and existence up to this period. There will be
found to be nothing very heroic about him. He is a young man with more
than a fair allowance of a young man's folly; - it may also be said of a
young man's weakness. But I myself am inclined to think that there was
but little of a young man's selfishness, with nothing of falseness or
dishonesty; and I am therefore tempted to tell his story.

He was the son of a clergyman, and the eldest of a large family of
children. But as he was the acknowledged heir to his mother's brother,
who was the squire of the parish of which his father was rector, it was
not thought necessary that he should follow any profession. This uncle
was the Squire of Buston, and was, after all, not a rich man himself.
His whole property did not exceed two thousand a year, an income which
fifty years since was supposed to be sufficient for the moderate wants
of a moderate country gentleman; but though Buston be not very far
removed from the centre of everything, being in Hertfordshire and not
more than forty miles from London, Mr. Prosper lived so retired a life,
and was so far removed from the ways of men, that he apparently did not
know but that his heir was as completely entitled to lead an idle life
as though he were the son of a duke or a brewer. It must not, however,
be imagined that Mr. Prosper was especially attached to his nephew. When
the boy left the Charter-house, where his uncle had paid his
school-bills, he was sent to Cambridge, with an allowance of two hundred
and fifty pounds a year, and that allowance was still continued to him,
with an assurance that under no circumstances could it ever be
increased. At college he had been successful, and left Cambridge with a
college fellowship. He therefore left it with one hundred and
seventy-five pounds added to his income, and was considered by all those
at Buston Rectory to be a rich young man.

But Harry did not find that his combined income amounted to riches amid
a world of idleness. At Buston he was constantly told by his uncle of
the necessity of economy. Indeed, Mr. Prosper, who was a sickly little
man about fifty years of age, always spoke of himself as though he
intended to live for another half-century. He rarely walked across the
park to the rectory, and once a week, on Sundays, entertained the
rectory family. A sad occasion it generally was to the elder of the
rectory children, who were thus doomed to abandon the loud pleasantries
of their own home for the sober Sunday solemnities of the Hall. It was
not that the Squire of Buston was peculiarly a religious man, or that
the rector was the reverse: but the parson was joyous, whereas the other
was solemn. The squire, - who never went to church, because he was supposed
to be ill, - made up for the deficiency by his devotional tendencies when
the children were at the Hall. He read through a sermon after dinner,
unintelligibly and even inaudibly. At this his brother-in-law, who had
an evening service in his own church, of course never was present; but
Mrs. Annesley and the girls were there, and the younger children. But
Harry Annesley had absolutely declined; and his uncle having found out
that he never attended the church service, although he always left the
Hall with his father, made this a ground for a quarrel. It at last came
to pass that Mr. Prosper, who was jealous and irritable, would hardly
speak to his nephew; but the two hundred and fifty pounds went on, with
many bickerings on the subject between the parson and the squire. Once,
when the squire spoke of discontinuing it, Harry's father reminded him
that the young man had been brought up in absolute idleness, in
conformity with his uncle's desire. This the squire denied in strong
language; but Harry had not hitherto run loudly in debt, nor kicked over
the traces very outrageously; and as he absolutely must be the heir, the
allowance was permitted to go on.

There was one lady who conceived all manner of bad things as to Harry
Annesley, because, as she alleged, of the want of a profession and of
any fixed income. Mrs. Mountjoy, Florence's mother, was this lady.
Florence herself had read every word in Harry's language, not knowing,
indeed, that she had read anything, but still never having missed a
single letter. Mrs. Mountjoy also had read a good deal, though not all,
and dreaded the appearance of Harry as a declared lover. In her eyes
Captain Scarborough was a very handsome, very powerful, and very grand
personage; but she feared that Florence was being induced to refuse her
allegiance to this sovereign by the interference of her other very
indifferent suitor. What would be Buston and two thousand a year, as
compared with all the glories and limitless income of the great Tretton
property? Captain Scarborough, with his mustaches and magnificence, was
just the man who would be sure to become a peer. She had always heard
the income fixed at thirty thousand a year. What would a few debts
signify to thirty thousand a year? Such had been her thoughts up to the
period of Captain Scarborough's late visit, when he had come to
Cheltenham, and had renewed his demand for Florence's hand somewhat
roughly. He had spoken ambiguous words, dreadful words, declaring that
an internecine quarrel had taken place between him and his father; but
these words, though they had been very dreadful, had been altogether
misunderstood by Mrs. Mountjoy. The property she knew to be entailed,
and she knew that when a property was entailed the present owner of it
had nothing to do with its future disposition. Captain Scarborough, at
any rate, was anxious for the marriage, and Mrs. Mountjoy was inclined
to accept him, encumbered as he now was with his father's wrath, in
preference to poor Harry Annesley.

In June Harry came up to London, and there learned at his club the
singular story in regard to old Mr. Scarborough and his son. Mr.
Scarborough had declared his son illegitimate, and all the world knew
now that he was utterly penniless and hopelessly in debt. That he had
been greatly embarrassed Harry had known for many months, and added to
that was now the fact, very generally believed, that he was not and
never had been the heir to Tretton Park. All that still increasing
property about Tretton, on which so many hopes had been founded, would
belong to his brother. Harry, as he heard the tale, immediately
connected it with Florence. He had, of course, known the captain was a
suitor to the girl's hand, and there had been a time when he thought
that his own hopes were consequently vain. Gradually the conviction
dawned upon him that Florence did not love the grand warrior, that she
was afraid of him rather and awe-struck. It would be terrible now were
she brought to marry him by this feeling of awe. Then he learned that
the warrior had gone down to Cheltenham, and in the restlessness of his
spirit he pursued him. When he reached Cheltenham the warrior had
already gone.

"The property is certainly entailed," said Mrs. Mountjoy. He had called
at once at the house and saw the mother, but Florence was discreetly
sent away to her own room when the dangerous young man was admitted.

"He is not Mr. Scarborough's eldest son at all," said Harry; "that is,
in the eye of the law." Then he had to undertake that task, very
difficult for a young man, of explaining to her all the circumstances of
the case.

But there was something in them so dreadful to the lady's imagination
that he failed for a long time to make her comprehend it. "Do you mean
to say that Mr. Scarborough was not married to his own wife?"

"Not at first."

"And that he knew it?"

"No doubt he knew it. He confesses as much himself."

"What a very wicked man he must be!" said Mrs. Mountjoy. Harry could
only shrug his shoulder. "And he meant to rob Augustus all through?"
Harry again shrugged his shoulder. "Is it not much more probable that if
he could be so very wicked he would be willing to deny his eldest son in
order to save paying the debts?"

Harry could only declare that the facts were as he told them, or at
least that all London believed them to be so, that at any rate Captain
Mountjoy had gambled so recklessly as to put himself for ever and ever
out of reach of a shilling of the property, and that it was clearly the
duty of Mrs. Mountjoy, as Florence's mother, not to accept him as a
suitor.

It was only by slow degrees that the conversation had arrived at this
pass. Harry had never as yet declared his own love either to the mother
or daughter, and now appeared simply as a narrator of this terrible
story. But at this point it did appear to him that he must introduce
himself in another guise.

"The fact is, Mrs. Mountjoy," he said, starting to his feet, "that I am
in love with your daughter myself."

"And therefore you have come here to vilify Captain Scarborough."

"I have come," said he, "at any rate to tell the truth. If it be as I
say, you cannot think it right that he should marry your daughter. I say
nothing of myself, but that, at any rate, cannot be."

"It is no business of yours, Mr. Annesley."

"Except that I would fain think that her business should be mine."

But he could not prevail with Mrs. Mountjoy either on this day or the
next to allow him to see Florence, and at last was obliged to leave
Cheltenham without having done so.




CHAPTER IV.

CAPTAIN SCARBOROUGH'S DISAPPEARANCE.


A few days after the visits to Cheltenham, described in the last
chapters, Harry Annesley, coming down a passage by the side of the
Junior United Service Club into Charles Street, suddenly met Captain
Scarborough at two o'clock in the morning. Where Harry had been at that
hour need not now be explained, but it may be presumed that he had not
been drinking tea with any of his female relatives.

Captain Scarborough had just come out of some neighboring club, where he
had certainly been playing, and where, to all appearances, he had been
drinking also. That there should have been no policemen in the street
was not remarkable, but there was no one else there present to give any
account of what took place during the five minutes in which the two men
remained together. Harry, who was at the moment surprised by the
encounter, would have passed the captain by without notice, had he been
allowed to do so; but this the captain perceived, and stopped him
suddenly, taking him roughly by the collar of his coat. This Harry



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeMr. Scarborough's Family → online text (page 2 of 47)