Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 19

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter LIX: The Duke of St Bungay in Search of a Minister 

It was the butler who had knocked,—showing that the knock was of more importance than it would have been had it been struck by the knuckles of the footman in livery. "If you please, sir, the Duke of St Bungay is here."

"The Duke of St Bungay!" said Mr Palliser, becoming rather red as he heard the announcement.

"Yes, sir, his grace is in the library. He bade me tell you that he particularly wanted to see you; so I told him that you were with my lady."

"Quite right; tell his grace that I will be with him in two minutes." Then the butler retired, and Mr Palliser was again alone with his wife.

"I must go now, my dear," he said; "and perhaps I shall not see you again till the evening."

"Don't let me put you out in any way," she answered.

"Oh no;—you won't put me out. You will be dressing, I suppose, about nine."

"I did not mean as to that," she answered. "You must not think more of Italy. He has come to tell you that you are wanted in the Cabinet."

Again he turned very red. "It may be so," he answered, "but though I am wanted, I need not go. But I must not keep the duke waiting. Good-bye." And he turned to the door.

She followed him and took hold of him as he went, so that he was forced to turn to her once again. She managed to get hold of both his hands, and pressed them closely, looking up into his face with her eyes laden with tears. He smiled at her gently, returned the pressure of the hands, and then left her,—without kissing her. It was not that he was minded not to kiss her. He would have kissed her willingly enough had he thought that the occasion required it. "He says that he loves me," said Lady Glencora to herself, "but he does not know what love means."

But she was quite aware that he had behaved to her with genuine, true nobility. As soon as she was alone and certain of her solitude, she took out that letter from her pocket, and tearing it into very small fragments, without reading it, threw the pieces on the fire. As she did so, her mind seemed to be fixed, at any rate, to one thing,—that she would think no more of Burgo Fitzgerald as her future master. I think, however, that she had arrived at so much certainty as this, at that moment in which she had been parting with Burgo Fitzgerald, in Lady Monk's dining-room. She had had courage enough,—or shall we rather say sin enough,—to think of going with him,—to tell herself that she would do so; to put herself in the way of doing it; nay, she had had enough of both to enable her to tell her husband that she had resolved that it would be good for her to do so. But she was neither bold enough nor wicked enough to do the thing. As she had said of her own idea of destroying herself,—she did not dare to take the plunge. Therefore, knowing now that it was so, she tore up the letter that she had carried so long, and burnt it in the fire.

She had in truth told him everything, believing that in doing so she was delivering her own death-warrant as regarded her future position in his house. She had done this, not hoping thereby for any escape; not with any purpose as regarded herself, but simply because deceit had been grievous to her, and had become unendurable as soon as his words and manner had in them any feeling of kindness. But her confession had no sooner been made than her fault had been forgiven. She had told him that she did not love him. She had told him, even, that she had thought of leaving him. She had justified by her own words any treatment of his, however harsh, which he might choose to practise. But the result had been—the immediate result—that he had been more tender to her than she had ever remembered him to be before. She knew that he had conquered her. However cold and heartless his home might be to her, it must be her home now. There could be no further thought of leaving him. She had gone out into the tiltyard and had tilted with him, and he had been the victor.