Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 1, Ch. 27

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter XXVII: The Priory Ruins 

Lady Midlothian went away on her road to London on the Wednesday morning, and Alice was to follow her on the next day. It was now December, and the weather was very clear and frosty, but at night there was bright moonlight. On this special night the moon would be full, and Lady Glencora had declared that she and Alice would go out amidst the ruins. It was no secret engagement, having been canvassed in public, and having been met with considerable discouragement by some of the party. Mr Palliser had remarked that the night air would be very cold, and Mr Bott had suggested all manner of evil consequences. Had Mr Palliser alone objected, Lady Glencora might have given way, but Mr Bott's word riveted her purpose.

"We are not going to be frightened," Lady Glencora said.

"People do not generally walk out at night in December," Mr Palliser observed.

"That's just the reason why we want to do it," said Lady Glencora. "But we shall wrap ourselves up, and nobody need be afraid. Jeffrey, we shall expect you to stand sentinel at the old gate, and guard us from the ghosts."

Jeffrey Palliser, bargaining that he might be allowed a cigar, promised that he would do as he was bidden.

The party at Matching Priory had by this time become very small. There were indeed no guests left, not counting those of the Palliser family, excepting Miss Vavasor, Mr Bott, and an old lady who had been a great friend of Mr Palliser's mother. It was past ten in the evening when Lady Glencora declared that the time had arrived for them to carry out their purpose. She invited the two Miss Pallisers to join her, but they declined, urging their fear of the night air, and showing by their manner that they thought the proposition a very imprudent one. Mr Bott offered to accompany them, but Lady Glencora declined his attendance very stoutly.

"No, indeed, Mr Bott; you were one of those who preached a sermon against my dissipation in the morning, and I'm not going to allow you to join it, now the time for its enjoyment has come."

"My dear Lady Glencora, if I were you, indeed I wouldn't," said the old lady, looking round towards Mr Palliser.

"My dear Mrs Marsham, if you were me, indeed you would," and Lady Glencora also looked at her husband.

"I think it a foolish thing to do," said Mr Palliser, sternly.

"If you forbid it, of course we won't go," said Lady Glencora.

"Forbid it:—no; I shall not forbid it."

"Allons donc," said Lady Glencora.

She and Alice were already muffled in cloaks and thick shawls, and Alice now followed her out of the room. There was a door which opened from the billiard-room out on to the grand terrace, which ran in front of the house, and here they found Jeffrey Palliser already armed with his cigar. Alice, to tell the truth, would much have preferred to abandon the expedition, but she had felt that it would be cowardly in her to desert Lady Glencora. There had not arisen any very close intimacy between her and Mr Palliser, but she entertained a certain feeling that Mr Palliser trusted her, and liked her to be with his wife. She would have wished to justify this supposed confidence, and was almost sure that Mr Palliser expected her to do so in this instance. She did say a word or two to her cousin up-stairs, urging that perhaps her husband would not like it.