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- He Knew He Was Right - 10/179 -
'But you know, Emily, the way in which the world talks.'
'The world! And do you regard the world, Louis?'
'Lady Milborough, I believe, spoke to yourself.'
'Lady Milborough! No, she did not speak to me. She began to do so, but I was careful to silence her at once. From you, Louis, I am bound to hear whatever you may choose to say to me; but I will not hear from any other lips a single word that may be injurious to your honour.' This she said very quietly, with much dignity, and he felt that he had better not answer her. She had given him the promise which he had demanded, and he began to fear that if he pushed the matter further she might go back even from that amount of submission. So he kissed her again, and had the boy brought into the room, and by the time that he went to dress for dinner he was able, at any rate, to seem to be well pleased.
'Richard,' he said to the servant, as soon as he was downstairs, 'when Colonel Osborne calls again, say' that your mistress is not at home.' He gave the order in the most indifferent tone of voice which he could assume; but as he gave it he felt thoroughly ashamed of it. Richard, who, with the other servants, had of course known that there had been a quarrel between his master and mistress for the last two days, no doubt understood all about it.
While they were sitting at dinner on the next day, a Saturday, there came another note from Colonel Osborne. The servant brought it to his mistress, and she, when she had looked at it, put it down by her plate. Trevelyan knew immediately from whom the letter had come, and understood how impossible it was for his wife to give it up in the servant's presence. The letter lay there till the man was out of the room, and then she handed it to Nora. 'Will you give that to Louis?' she said. 'It comes from the man whom he supposes to be my lover.'
'Emily!' said he, jumping from his seat, 'how can you allow words so horrible and so untrue to fall from your mouth?' 'If it be not so, why am I to be placed in such a position as this? The servant knows, of course, from whom the letter comes, and sees that I have been forbidden to open it.' Then the man returned to the room, and the remainder of the dinner passed off almost in silence. It was their custom when they dined without company to leave the dining-room together, but on this evening Trevelyan remained for a few minutes that he might read Colonel Osborne's letter, He waited, standing on the rug with his face to the fire-place, till he was quite alone, and then he opened it. It ran as follows:
'House of Commons, Saturday.
'DEAR EMILY,' Trevelyan, as he read this, cursed Colonel Osborne between his teeth.
I called this afternoon, but you were out. I am afraid you will be disappointed by what I have to tell you, but you should rather be glad of it. They say at the C.O. that Sir Marmaduke would not receive their letter if sent now till the middle of June, and that he could not be in London, let him do what he would, till the end of July. They hope to have the session over by that time, and therefore the committee is to be put off till next session. They mean to have Lord Bowles home from Canada, and they think that Bowles would like to be here in the winter. Sir Marmaduke will be summoned for February next, and will of course stretch his stay over the hot months. All this will, on the whole, be for the best. Lady Rowley could hardly have packed up her things and come away at a day's notice, whatever your father might have done. I'll call tomorrow at luncheon time.
There was nothing objectionable in this letter excepting always the 'Dear Emily' nothing which it was not imperative on Colonel Osborne to communicate to the person to whom it was addressed. Trevelyan must now go upstairs and tell the contents of the letter to his wife. But he felt that he had created for himself a terrible trouble. He must tell his wife what was in the letter, but the very telling of it would be a renewing of the soreness of his wound. And then what was to be done in reference to the threatened visit for the Sunday morning? Trevelyan knew very well that were his wife denied at that hour, Colonel Osborne would understand the whole matter. He had doubtless in his anger intended that Colonel Osborne should understand the whole matter; but he was calmer now than he had been then, and almost wished that the command given by him had not been so definite and imperious. He remained with his arm on the mantel-piece, thinking of it, for some ten minutes, and then went up into the drawing-room. 'Emily,' he said, walking up to the table at which she was sitting, 'you had better read that letter.'
'I would so much rather not,' she replied haughtily.
'Then Nora can read it. It concerns you both equally.'
Nora, with hesitating hand, took the letter and read it. 'They are not to come after all,' said she, 'till next February.'
'And why not?' asked Mrs Trevelyan.
'Something about the session. I don't quite understand.'
'Lord Bowles is to come from Canada,' said Louis, 'and they think he would prefer being here in the winter. I dare say he would.'
'But what has that to do with papa?'
'I suppose they must both be here together,' said Nora.
'I call that very hard indeed,' said Mrs Trevelyan.
'I can't agree with you there,' said her husband. 'His coming at all is so much of a favour that it is almost a job.'
'I don't see that it is a job at all,' said Mrs Trevelyan. 'Somebody is wanted, and nobody can know more of the service than papa does. But as the other man is a lord I suppose papa must give way. Does he say anything about mamma, Nora?'
'You had better read the letter yourself,' said Trevelyan, who was desirous that his wife should know of the threatened visit.
'No, Louis, I shall not do that. You must not blow hot and cold too. Till the other day I should have thought that Colonel Osborne's letters were as innocent as an old newspaper. As you have supposed them to be poisoned I will have nothing to do with them.'
This speech made him very angry. It seemed that his wife, who had yielded to him, was determined to take out the value of her submission in the most disagreeable words which she could utter. Nora now closed the letter and handed it back to her brother-in-law. He laid it down on the table beside him, and sat for a while with his eyes fixed upon his book. At last he spoke again. 'Colonel Osborne says that he will call tomorrow at luncheon time. You can admit him, if you please, and thank him for the trouble he has taken in this matter.'
'I shall not remain in the room if he be admitted,' said Mrs Trevelyan.
There was silence again for some minutes, and the cloud upon Trevelyan's brow became blacker than before. Then he rose from his chair and walked round to the sofa on which his wife was sitting. 'I presume,' said he, 'that your wishes and mine in this matter must be the same.'
'I cannot tell what your wishes are,' she replied. 'I never was more in the dark on any subject in my life. My wishes at present are confined to a desire to save you as far as may be possible from the shame which must be attached to your own suspicions.'
'I have never had any suspicions.'
'A husband without suspicions does not intercept his wife's letters. A husband without suspicions does not call in the aid of his servants to guard his wife. A husband without suspicions.'
'Emily,' exclaimed Nora Rowley, 'how can you say such things on purpose to provoke him?'
'Yes; on purpose to provoke me,' said Trevelyan.
'And have I not been provoked? Have I not been injured? You say now that you have not suspected me, and yet in what condition do I find myself? Because an old woman has chosen to talk scandal about me, I am placed in a position in my own house which is disgraceful to you and insupportable to myself. This man has been in the habit of coming here on Sundays, and will, of course, know that we are at home. You must manage it as you please. If you choose to receive him, I will go upstairs.'
'Why can't you let him come in and go away, just as usual?' said Nora.
'Because Louis has made me promise that I will never willingly be in his company again,' said Mrs Trevelyan. 'I would have given the world to avoid a promise so disgraceful to me; but it was exacted, and it shall be kept.' Having so spoken, she swept out of the room, and went upstairs to the nursery. Trevelyan sat for an hour with his book before him, reading or pretending to read, but his wife did not come downstairs. Then Nora went up to her, and he descended to his solitude below. So far he had hardly gained much by the enforced obedience of his wife.
On the next morning the three went to church together; as they were walking home Trevelyan's heart was filled with returning gentleness towards his wife. He could not bear to be at wrath with her after the church service which they had just heard together. But he was softer-hearted than was she, and knowing this, was almost afraid to say anything that would again bring forth from her expressions of scorn. As soon as they were alone within the house he took her by the hand and led her apart. 'Let all this be,' said he, 'as though it had never been.'
'That will hardly be possible, Louis,' she answered. 'I cannot forget that I have been cautioned.' 'But cannot you bring yourself to believe that I have meant it all for your good?'
'I have never doubted it, Louis never for a moment. But it has hurt
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