Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 18

[+] | [-] | reset

Chapter LVIII: The Pallisers at Breakfast 

Gentle reader, do you remember Lady Monk's party, and how it ended,—how it ended, at least as regards those special guests with whom we are concerned? Mr Palliser went away early, Mrs Marsham followed him to his house in Park Lane, caught him at home, and told her tale. He returned to his wife, found her sitting with Burgo in the dining-room, under the Argus eyes of the constant Bott, and bore her away home. Burgo disappeared utterly from the scene, and Mr Bott, complaining inwardly that virtue was too frequently allowed to be its own reward, comforted himself with champagne, and then walked off to his lodgings. Lady Monk, when Mr Palliser made his way into her room up-stairs, seeking his wife's scarf,—which little incident, also, the reader may perhaps remember,—saw that the game was up, and thought with regret of the loss of her two hundred pounds. Such was the ending of Lady Monk's party.

Lady Glencora, on her journey home in the carriage with her husband, had openly suggested that Mrs Marsham had gone to Park Lane to tell of her doings with Burgo, and had declared her resolution never again to see either that lady or Mr Bott in her own house. This she said with more of defiance in her tone than Mr Palliser had ever hitherto heard. He was by nature less ready than her, and knowing his own deficiency in that respect, abstained from all answer on the subject. Indeed, during that drive home very few further words were spoken between them. "I will breakfast with you to-morrow," he said to her, as she prepared to go up-stairs. "I have work still to do to-night, and I will not disturb you by coming to your room."

"You won't want me to be very early?" said his wife.

"No," said he, with more of anger in his voice than he had yet shown. "What hour will suit you? I must say something of what has occurred to-night before I leave you to-morrow."

"I don't know what you can have got to say about to-night, but I'll be down by half-past eleven, if that will do?" Mr Palliser said that he would make it do, and then they parted.

Lady Glencora had played her part very well before her husband. She had declined to be frightened by him; had been the first to mention Burgo's name, and had done so with no tremor in her voice, and had boldly declared her irreconcilable enmity to the male and female duennas who had dared to take her in charge. While she was in the carriage with her husband she felt some triumph in her own strength; and as she wished him good night on the staircase, and slowly walked up to her room, without having once lowered her eyes before his, something of this consciousness of triumph still supported her. And even while her maid remained with her she held herself up, as it were, inwardly, telling herself that she would not yield,—that she would not be cowed either by her husband or by his spies. But when she was left alone all her triumph departed from her.

She bade her maid go while she was still sitting in her dressing-gown; and when the girl was gone she got close over the fire, sitting with her slippers on the fender, with her elbows on her knees, and her face resting on her hands. In this position she remained for an hour, with her eyes fixed on the altering shapes of the hot coals. During this hour her spirit was by no means defiant, and her thoughts of herself anything but triumphant. Mr Bott and Mrs Marsham she had forgotten altogether. After all, they were but buzzing flies, who annoyed her by their presence. Should she choose to leave her husband, they could not prevent her leaving him. It was of her husband and of Burgo that she was thinking,—weighing them one against the other, and connecting her own existence with theirs, not as expecting joy or the comfort of love from either of them, but with an assured conviction that on either side there must be misery for her. But of that shame before all the world which must be hers for ever, should she break her vows and consent to live with a man who was not her husband, she thought hardly at all. That which in the estimation of Alice was everything, to her, at this moment, was almost nothing. For herself, she had been sacrificed; and,—as she told herself with bitter denunciations against herself,—had been sacrificed through her own weakness. But that was done. Whatever way she might go, she was lost. They had married her to a man who cared nothing for a wife, nothing for any woman,—so at least she declared to herself,—but who had wanted a wife that he might have an heir. Had it been given to her to have a child, she thought that she might have been happy,—sufficiently happy in sharing her husband's joy in that respect. But everything had gone against her. There was nothing in her home to give her comfort. "He looks at me every time he sees me as the cause of his misfortune," she said to herself. Of her husband's rank, of the future possession of his title and his estates, she thought much. But of her own wealth she thought nothing. It did not occur to her that she had given him enough in that respect to make his marriage with her a comfort to him. She took it for granted that that marriage was now one distasteful to him, as it was to herself, and that he would eventually be the gainer if she should so conduct herself that her marriage might be dissolved.