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- He Knew He Was Right - 4/179 -
would make for no other person living. And then, as he had called her by her Christian name, as he had exacted the promise, there had been a tone of affection in his voice that she had almost felt to be too warm. But she gave the promise; and when he pressed her hand at parting, she pressed his again, in token of gratitude for the kindness to be done to her father and mother.
Immediately afterwards Colonel Osborne went away, and Mrs Trevelyan was left alone in her drawing-room. She knew that her husband was still downstairs, and listened for a moment to hear whether he would now come up to her. And he, too, had heard the Colonel's step as he went, and for a few moments had doubted whether or no he would at once go to his wife. Though he believed himself to be a man very firm of purpose, his mind had oscillated backwards and forwards within the last quarter of an hour between those two purposes of being round with his wife, and of begging her pardon for the words which he had already spoken. He believed that he would best do his duty by that plan of being round with her; but then it would be so much pleasanter at any rate, so much easier, to beg her pardon. But of one thing he was quite certain, he must by some means exclude Colonel Osborne from his house. He could not live and continue to endure the feelings which he had suffered while sitting downstairs at his desk, with the knowledge that Colonel Osborne was closeted with his wife upstairs. It might be that there was nothing in it. That his wife was innocent he was quite sure. But nevertheless, he was himself so much affected by some feeling which pervaded him in reference to this man, that all his energy was destroyed., and his powers of mind and body were paralysed. He could not, and would not, stand it. Rather than that, he would follow Mr Poole, and take his wife to Naples. So resolving, he put his hat on his head and walked out of the house. He would have the advantage of the afternoon's consideration before he took either the one step or the other.
As soon as he was gone Emily Trevelyan went upstairs to her baby. She would not stir as long as there had been a chance of his coming to her. She very much wished that he would come, and had made up her mind, in spite of the fierceness of her assertion to her sister, to accept any slightest hint at an apology which her husband might offer to her. To this state of mind she was brought by the consciousness of having a secret from him, and by a sense not of impropriety on her own part, but of conduct which some people might have called improper in her mode of parting from the man against whom her husband had warned her. The warmth of that hand-pressing, and the affectionate tone in which her name had been pronounced, and the promise made to her, softened her heart towards her husband. Had he gone to her now and said a word to her in gentleness all might have been made right. But he did not go to her.
'If he chooses to be cross and sulky, he may be cross and sulky,' said Mrs Trevelyan to herself as she went up to her baby.
'Has Louis been with you?' Nora asked, as soon as Mrs Fairfax had brought her home.
'I have not seen him since you left me,' said Mrs Trevelyan.
'I suppose he went out before Colonel Osborne?'
'No, indeed. He waited till Colonel Osborne had gone, and then he went himself; but he did not come near me. It is for him to judge of his own conduct, but I must say that I think he is very foolish.'
This the young wife said in a tone which clearly indicated that she had judged her husband's conduct, and had found it to be very foolish indeed.
'Do you think that papa and mamma will really come?' said Nora, changing the subject of conversation.
'How can I tell? How am I to know? After all that has passed I am afraid to say a word lest I should be accused of doing wrong. But remember this, Nora, you are not to speak of it to any one.'
'You will tell Louis?'
'No; I will tell no one.'
'Dear, dear Emily; pray do not keep anything secret from him.'
'What do you mean by secret? There isn't any secret. Only in such matters as that about politics no gentleman likes to have his name talked about!'
A look of great distress came upon Nora's face as she heard this. To her it seemed to be very bad that there should be a secret between her sister and Colonel Osborne to be kept from her brother-in-law.
'I suppose you will suspect me next?' said Mrs Trevelyan, angrily.
'Emily, how can you say anything so cruel?'
'You look as if you did.'
'I only mean that I think it would be wiser to tell all this to Louis.'
'How can I tell him Colonel Osborne's private business, when Colonel Osborne has desired me not to do so. For whose sake is Colonel Osborne doing this? For papa's and mamma's! I suppose Louis won't be jealous, because I want to have papa and mamma home. It would not be a bit less unreasonable than the other.'
LADY MILBOROUGH'S DINNER PARTY
Louis Trevelyan went down to his club in Pall Mall, the Acrobats, and there heard a rumour that added to his anger against Colonel Osborne. The Acrobats was a very distinguished club, into which it was now difficult for a young man to find his way, and almost impossible for a man who was no longer young, and therefore known to many. It had been founded some twenty years since with the idea of promoting muscular exercise and gymnastic amusements; but the promoters had become fat and lethargic, and the Acrobats spent their time mostly in playing whist, and in ordering and eating their dinners. There were supposed to be, in some out-of-the-way part of the building, certain poles and sticks and parallel bars with which feats of activity might be practised, but no one ever asked for them now-a-days, and a man, when he became an Acrobat, did so with a view either to the whist or the cook, or possibly to the social excellences of the club. Louis Trevelyan was an Acrobat as was also Colonel Osborne.
'So old Rowley is coming home,' said one distinguished Acrobat to another in Trevelyan's hearing.
'How the deuce is he managing that? He was here a year ago?'
'Osborne is getting it done. He is to come as a witness for this committee. It must be no end of a lounge for him. It doesn't count as leave, and he has every shilling paid for him, down to his cab-fares when he goes out to dinner. There's nothing like having a friend at Court.'
Such was the secrecy of Colonel Osborne's secret! He had been so chary of having his name mentioned in connection with a political job, that he had found it necessary to impose on his young friend the burden of a secret from her husband, and yet the husband heard the whole story told openly at his club on the same day! There was nothing in the story to anger Trevelyan had he not immediately felt that there must be some plan in the matter between his wife and Colonel Osborne, of which he had been kept ignorant. Hitherto, indeed, his wife, as the reader knows, could not have told him. He had not seen her since the matter had been discussed between her and her friend. But he was angry because he first learned at his club that which he thought he ought to have learned at home. As soon as he reached his house he went at once to his wife's room, but her maid was with her, and nothing could be said at that moment. He then dressed himself, intending to go to Emily as soon as the girl had left her; but the girl remained--was, as he believed, kept in the room purposely by his wife, so that he should have no moment of private conversation. He went downstairs, therefore, and found Nora standing by the drawing-room fire.
'So you are dressed first today?' he said. 'I thought your turn always came last.'
'Emily sent Jenny to me first today because she thought you would be home, and she didn't go up to dress till the last minute.'
This was intended well by Nora, but it did not have the desired effect. Trevelyan, who had no command over his own features, frowned, and showed that he was displeased. He hesitated a moment, thinking whether he would ask Nora any question as to this report about her father and mother; but, before he had spoken, his wife was in the room.
'We are all late, I fear,' said Emily.
'You, at any rate, are the last,' said her husband.
'About half a minute,' said the wife.
Then they got into the hired brougham which was standing at the door.
Trevelyan, in the sweet days of his early confidence with his wife, had offered to keep a carriage for her, explaining to her that the luxury, though costly, would not be beyond his reach. But she had persuaded him against the carriage, and there had come to be an agreement that instead of the carriage there should always be an autumn tour. 'One learns something from going about; but one learns nothing from keeping a carriage,' Emily had said. Those had been happy days, in which it had been intended that everything should always be rose-coloured. Now he was meditating whether, in lieu of that autumn tour, it would not be necessary to take his wife away to Naples altogether, so that she might be removed from the influence of, of, of, of--no, not even to himself would he think of Colonel Osborne as his wife's lover. The idea was too horrible! And yet, how dreadful was it that he should have, for any reason, to withdraw her from the influence of any man!
Lady Milborough lived ever so far away, in Eccleston Square, but Trevelyan did not say a single word to either of his companions during the journey. He was cross and vexed, and was conscious that they knew that he was cross and vexed. Mrs Trevelyan and her sister
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