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- He Knew He Was Right - 5/179 -
talked to each other the whole way, but they did so in that tone which clearly indicates that the conversation is made up, not for any interest attached to the questions asked or the answers given, but because it is expedient that there should not be silence. Nora said something about Marshall and Snellgrove and tried to make believe that she was very anxious for her sister's answer. And Emily said something about the opera at Covent Garden, which was intended to show that her mind was quite at ease. But both of them failed altogether, and knew that they failed. Once or twice Trevelyan thought that he would say a word in token, as it were, of repentance. Like the naughty child who knew that he was naughty, he was trying to be good. But he could not do it. The fiend was too strong within him. She must have known that there was a proposition for her father's return through Colonel Osborne's influence. As that man at the club had heard it, how could she not have known it? When they got out at Lady Milborough's door he had spoken to neither of them.
There was a large dull party, made up mostly of old people. Lady Milborough and Trevelyan's mother had been bosom friends, and Lady Milborough had on this account taken upon herself to be much interested in Trevelyan's wife. But Louis Trevelyan himself, in discussing Lady Milborough with Emily, had rather turned his mother's old friend into ridicule, and Emily had, of course, followed her husband's mode of thinking. Lady Milborough had once or twice given her some advice on small matters, telling her that this or that air would be good for her baby, and explaining that a mother during a certain interesting portion of her life, should refresh herself with a certain kind of malt liquor. Of all counsel on such domestic subjects Mrs Trevelyan was impatient, as indeed it was her nature to be in all matters, and consequently, authorized as she had been by her husband's manner of speaking of his mother's friend, she had taken a habit of quizzing Lady Milborough behind her back, and almost of continuing the practice before the old lady's face. Lady Milborough, who was the most affectionate old soul alive, and good-tempered with her friends to a fault, had never resented this, but had come to fear that Mrs Trevelyan was perhaps a little flighty. She had never as yet allowed herself to say anything worse of her young friend's wife than that. And she would always add that that kind of thing would cure itself as the nursery became full. It must be understood therefore that Mrs Trevelyan was not anticipating much pleasure from Lady Milborough's party, and that she had accepted the invitation as a matter of duty.
There was present among the guests a certain Honourable Charles Glascock, the eldest son of Lord Peterborough, who made the affair more interesting to Nora than it was to her sister. It had been whispered into Nora's ears, by more than one person and among others by Lady Milborough, whose own daughters were all married, that she might if she thought fit become the Honourable Mrs Charles Glascock. Now, whether she might think fit, or whether she might not, the presence of the gentleman under such circumstances, as far as she was concerned, gave an interest to the evening. And as Lady Milborough took care that Mr Glascock should take Nora down to dinner, the interest was very great. Mr Glascock was a good-looking man, just under forty, in Parliament, heir to a peerage, and known to be well off in respect to income. Lady Milborough and Mrs Trevelyan had told Nora Rowley that should encouragement in that direction come in her way, she ought to allow herself to fall in love with Mr Glascock. A certain amount of encouragement had come in her way, but she had not as yet allowed herself to fall in love with Mr Glascock.
It seemed to her that Mr Glascock was quite conscious of the advantages of his own position, and that his powers of talking about other matters than those with which he was immediately connected were limited. She did believe that he had in truth paid her the compliment of falling in love with her, and this is a compliment to which few girls are indifferent. Nora might perhaps have tried to fall in love with Mr Glascock, had she not been forced to make comparisons between him and another. This other one had not fallen in love with her, as she well knew; and she certainly had not fallen in love with him. But still the comparison was forced upon her, and it did not result in favour of Mr Glascock. On the present occasion Mr Glascock as he sat next to her almost proposed to her.
'You have never seen Monkhams?' he said. Monkhams was his father's seat, a very grand place in Worcestershire. Of course he knew very well that she had never seen Monkhams. How should she have seen it?
'I have never been in that part of England at all,' she replied.
'I should so like to show you Monkhams. The oaks there are the finest in the kingdom. Do you like oaks?'
'Who does not like oaks? But we have none in the islands, and nobody has ever seen so few as I have.'
'I'll show you Monkhams some day. Shall I? Indeed I hope that some day I may really show you Monkhams.'
Now when an unmarried man talks to a young lady of really showing her the house in which it will be his destiny to live, he can hardly mean other than to invite her to live there with him. It must at least be his purpose to signify that, if duly encouraged, he will so invite her. But Nora Rowley did not give Mr Glascock much encouragement on this occasion.
'I'm afraid it is not likely that anything will ever take me into that part of the country,' she said. There was something perhaps in her tone which checked Mr Glascock, so that he did not then press the invitation.
When the ladies were upstairs in the drawing-room, Lady Milborough contrived to seat herself on a couch intended for two persons only, close to Mrs Trevelyan. Emily, thinking that she might perhaps hear some advice about Guinness's stout, prepared herself to be saucy. But the matter in hand was graver than that. Lady Milborough's mind was uneasy about Colonel Osborne.
'My dear,' said she, 'was not your father very intimate with that Colonel Osborne?'
'He is very intimate with him, Lady Milborough.'
'Ah, yes; I thought I had heard so. That makes it of course natural that you should know him.'
'We have known him all our lives,' said Emily, forgetting probably that out of the twenty-three years and some months which she had hitherto lived, there had been a consecutive period of more than twenty years in which she had never seen this man whom she had known all her life.
'That makes a difference, of course; and I don't mean to say anything against him.'
'I hope not, Lady Milborough, because we are all especially fond of him.' This was said with so much of purpose, that poor, dear old Lady Milborough was stopped in her good work. She knew well the terrible strait to which Augustus Poole had been brought with his wife, although nobody supposed that Poole's wife had ever entertained a wrong thought in her pretty little heart. Nevertheless he had been compelled to break up his establishment, and take his wife to Naples, because this horrid Colonel would make himself at home in Mrs Poole's drawing-room in Knightsbridge. Augustus Poole, with courage enough to take any man by the beard, had taking by the beard been possible, had found it impossible to dislodge the Colonel. He could not do so without making a row which would have been disgraceful to himself and injurious to his wife; and therefore he had taken Mrs Poole to Naples. Lady Milborough knew the whole story, and thought that she foresaw that the same thing was about to happen in the drawing-room in Curzon Street. When she attempted to say a word to the wife, she found herself stopped. She could not go on in that quarter after the reception with which the beginning of her word had been met. But perhaps she might succeed better with the husband. After all, her friendship was with the Trevelyan side, and not with the Rowleys.
'My dear Louis,' she said, 'I want to speak a word to you. Come here.' And then she led him into a distant corner, Mrs Trevelyan watching her all the while, and guessing why her husband was thus carried away. 'I just want to give you a little hint, which I am sure I believe is quite unnecessary,' continued Lady Milborough. Then she paused, but Trevelyan would not speak. She looked into his face, and saw that it was black. But the man was the only child of her dearest friend, and she persevered. 'Do you know I don't quite like that Colonel Osborne coming so much to your house.' The face before her became still blacker, but still the man said nothing. 'I dare say it is a prejudice on my part, but I have always disliked him. I think he is a dangerous friend--what I call a snake in the grass. And though Emily's high good sense, and love for you, and general feelings on such a subject, are just what a husband must desire--Indeed, I am quite sure that the possibility of anything wrong has never entered into her head. But it is the very purity of her innocence which makes the danger. He is a bad man, and I would just say a word to her, if I were you, to make her understand that his coming to her of a morning is not desirable. Upon my word, I believe there is nothing he likes so much as going about and making mischief between men and their wives.'
Thus she delivered herself; and Louis Trevelyan, though he was sore and angry, could not but feel that she had taken the part of a friend. All that she had said had been true; all that she had said to him he had said to himself more than once. He too hated the man. He believed him to be a snake in the grass. But it was intolerably bitter to him that he should be warned about his wife's conduct by any living human being; that he, to whom the world had been so full of good fortune, that he, who had in truth taught himself to think that he deserved so much good fortune, should be made the subject of care on behalf of his friend, because of danger between himself and his wife! On the spur of the moment he did not know what answer to make. 'He is not a man whom I like myself,' he said.
'Just be careful, Louis, that is all,' said Lady Milborough, and then she was gone.
To be cautioned about his wife's conduct cannot be pleasant to any man, and it was very unpleasant to Louis Trevelyan. He, too, had been asked a question about Sir Marmaduke's expected visit to England after the ladies had left the room. All the town had heard of it except himself. He hardly spoke another word that evening till the brougham was announced; and his wife had observed his silence. When they were seated in the carriage, he together with his wife and Nora Rowley, he immediately asked a question about Sir Marmaduke. 'Emily,' he said, 'is there any truth in a report I hear that your father is coming home?' No answer was made, and for a moment or two there was silence. 'You must have heard of it, then?' he said. 'Perhaps you can tell me, Nora, as Emily will not reply. Have you
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