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- He Knew He Was Right - 110/179 -
'What is a girl to do?'
'Better drown herself than do as I have done. Only think what there is before me. What I have gone through is nothing to it. Of course I must go back to the Islands. Where else am I to live? Who else will take me?'
'Come to us,' said Nora.
'Us, Nora! Who are the us? But in no way would that be possible. Papa will be here, perhaps, for six months.' Nora thought it quite possible that she might have a home of her own before six months were passed, even though she might be wheeling the smaller barrow, but she would not say so. 'And by that time everything must be decided.'
'I suppose it must.'
'Of course papa and mamma must go back,' said Mrs Trevelyan.
'Papa might take a pension. He's entitled to a pension now.'
'He'll never do that as long as he can have employment. They'll go back, and I must go with them. Who else would take me in?'
'I know who would take you in, Emily.'
'My darling, that is romance. As for myself, I should not care where I went. If it were even to remain here, I could bear it.'
'I could not,' said Nora, decisively.
'It is so different with you, dear. I don't suppose it is possible I should take my boy with me to the Islands; and how am I to go anywhere without him?' Then she broke down, and fell into a paroxysm of sobs, and was in very truth a broken-hearted woman.
Nora was silent for some minutes, but at last she spoke. 'Why do you not go back to him, Emily?'
'How am I to go back to him? What am I to do to make him take me back?' At this very moment Trevelyan was in the house, but they did not know it.
'Write to him,' said Nora.
'What am I to say? In very truth I do believe that he is mad. If I write to him, should I defend myself or accuse myself? A dozen times I have striven to write such a letter, not that I might send it, but that I might find what I could say should I ever wish to send it. And it is impossible. I can only tell him how unjust he has been, how cruel, how mad, how wicked!'
'Could you not say to him simply this? "Let us be together, wherever it may be; and let bygones be bygones."'
'While he is watching me with a policeman? While he is still thinking that I entertain a lover? While he believes that I am the base thing that he has dared to think me?'
'He has never believed it.'
'Then how can he be such a villain as to treat me like this? I could not go to him, Nora not unless I went to him as one who was known to be mad, over whom in his wretched condition it would be my duty to keep watch. In no other way could I overcome my abhorrence of the outrages to which he has subjected me.'
'But for the child's sake, Emily.'
'Ah, yes! If it were simply to grovel in the dust before him it should be done. If humiliation would suffice, or any self-abasement that were possible to me! But I should be false if I said that I look forward to any such possibility. How can he wish to have me back again after what he has said and done? I am his wife, and he has disgraced me before all men by his own words. And what have I done, that I should not have done; what left undone on his behalf that I should have done? It is hard that the foolish workings of a weak man's mind should be able so completely to ruin the prospects of a woman's life!'
Nora was beginning to answer this by attempting to shew that the husband's madness was, perhaps, only temporary, when there came a knock at the door, and Mrs Outhouse was at once in the room. It will be well that the reader should know what had taken place at the parsonage while the two sisters had been together upstairs, so that the nature of Mrs Outhouse's mission to them may explain itself. Mr Outhouse had been in his closet downstairs, when the maid-servant brought word to him that Mr Trevelyan was in the parlour, and was desirous of seeing him.
'Mr Trevelyan!' said the unfortunate clergyman, holding up both his hands. The servant understood the tragic importance of the occasion quite as well as did her master, and simply shook her head. 'Has your mistress seen him?' said the master. The girl again shook her head. 'Ask your mistress to come to me,' said the clergyman. Then the girl disappeared; and in a few minutes Mrs Outhouse, equally imbued with the tragic elements of the day, was with her husband.
Mr Outhouse began by declaring that no consideration should induce him to see Trevelyan, and commissioned his wife to go to the man and tell him that he must leave the house. When the unfortunate woman expressed an opinion that Trevelyan had some legal rights upon which he might probably insist, Mr Outhouse asserted roundly that he could have no legal right to remain in that parsonage against the will of the rector. 'If he wants to claim his wife and child, he must do it by law not by force; and thank God, Sir Marmaduke will be here before he can do that.' 'But I can't make him go,' said Mrs Outhouse. 'Tell him that you'll send for a policeman,' said the clergyman.
It had come to pass that there had been messages backwards and forwards between the visitor and the master of the house, all carried by that unfortunate lady.
Trevelyan did not demand that his wife and child should be given up to him, did not even, on this occasion, demand that his boy should be surrendered to him now, at once. He did say, very repeatedly, that of course he must have his boy, but seemed to imply that, under certain circumstances, he would be willing to take his wife to live with him again. This appeared to Mrs Outhouse to be so manifestly the one thing that was desirable, to be the only solution of the difficulty that could be admitted as a solution at all, that she went to work on that hint, and ventured to entertain a hope that a reconciliation might be effected. She implored her husband to lend a hand to the work, by which she intended to imply that he should not only see Trevelyan, but consent to meet the sinner on friendly terms. But Mr Outhouse was on the occasion ever more than customarily obstinate. His wife might do what she liked. He would neither meddle nor make. He would not willingly see Mr Trevelyan in his own house unless, indeed, Mr Trevelyan should attempt to force his way up into the nursery. Then he said that which left no doubt on his wife's mind that, should any violence be attempted, her husband would manfully join the melee.
But it soon became evident that no such attempt was to be made on that day. Trevelyan was lachrymose, heartbroken, and a sight pitiable to behold. When Mrs Outhouse loudly asserted that his wife had not sinned against him in the least 'not in a tittle, Mr Trevelyan,' she repeated over and over again he began to assert himself, declaring that she had seen the man in Devonshire, and corresponded with him since she had been at St. Diddulph's; and when the lady had declared that the latter assertion was untrue, he had shaken his head, and had told her that perhaps she did not know all. But the misery of the man had its effect upon her, and at last she proposed to be the bearer of a message to his wife. He had demanded to see his child, offering his promise that he would not attempt to take the boy by force on this occasion saying, also, that his claim by law was so good, that no force could be necessary. It was proposed by Mrs Outhouse that he should first see the mother, and to this he at last assented. How blessed a thing would it be if these two persons could be induced to forget the troubles of the last twelve months, and once more to love and trust each other! 'But, sir,' said Mrs Outhouse, putting her hand upon his arm 'you must not upbraid her, for she will not bear it. 'She knows nothing of what is due to a husband,' said Trevelyan, gloomily. The task was not hopeful; but, nevertheless, the poor woman resolved to do her best.
And now Mrs Outhouse was in her niece's room, asking her to go down and see her husband. Little Louis had at the time been with the nurse, and the very moment that the mother heard that the child's father was in the house, she jumped up and rushed away to get possession of her treasure. 'Has he come for baby?' Nora asked in dismay. Then Mrs Outhouse, anxious to obtain a convert to her present views, boldly declared that Mr Trevelyan had no such intention. Mrs Trevelyan came back at once with the boy, and then listened to all her aunt's arguments. 'But I will not take baby with me,' she said. At last it was decided that she should go down alone, and that the child should afterwards be taken to his father in the drawing-room; Mrs Outhouse pledging herself that the whole household should combine in her defence if Mr Trevelyan should attempt to take the child out of that room. 'But what am I to say to him?' she asked.
'Say as little as possible,' said Mrs Outhouse 'except to make him understand that he has been in error in imputing fault to you.'
'He will never understand that,' said Mrs Trevelyan.
A considerable time elapsed after that before she could bring herself to descend the stairs. Now that her husband was so near her, and that her aunt had assured her that she might reinstate herself in her position, if she could only abstain from saying hard words to him, she wished that he was away from her again, in Italy. She knew that she could not refrain from hard words.
How was it possible that she should vindicate her own honour, without asserting with all her strength that she had been ill-used; and, to speak truth on the matter, her love for the man, which had once been true and eager, had been quelled by the treatment she had received. She had clung to her love in some shape, in spite of the accusations made against her, till she had heard that the policeman had been set upon her heels. Could it be possible that any woman should love a man, or at least that any wife should love a husband, after such usage as that? At last she crept gently down the stairs, and stood at the parlour-door. She listened, and could hear his steps, as he paced backwards and forwards through the room. She looked back, and could see the face of the servant peering round from the kitchen-stairs. She could not endure to be watched in her misery, and, thus driven, she opened the parlour-door.' 'Louis,' she said, walking into the room, 'Aunt Mary has desired me to come to you.'
'Emily!' he exclaimed, and ran to her and embraced her. She did not seek to stop him, but she did not return the kiss which he gave her. Then he held her by her hands, and looked into her face, and she could see how strangely he was altered. She thought that she would hardly have known him, had she not been sure that it was he. She herself was
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