Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 21

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Chapter LXI: The Bills Are Made All Right 

Mr Vavasor was at his wits' end about his daughter. She had put her name to four bills for five hundred pounds each, and had demanded from him, almost without an apology, his aid in obtaining money to meet them. And she might put her name to any other number of bills, and for any amount! There was no knowing how a man ought to behave to such a daughter. "I don't want her money," the father said to himself; "and if she had got none of her own, I would make her as comfortable as I could with my own income. But to see her throw her money away in such a fashion as this is enough to break a man's heart."

Mr Vavasor went to his office in Chancery Lane, but he did not go to the chambers of Mr Round, the lawyer. Instead of calling on Mr Round he sent a note by a messenger to Suffolk Street, and the answer to the note came in the person of Mr Grey. John Grey was living in town in these days, and was in the habit of seeing Mr Vavasor frequently. Indeed, he had not left London since the memorable occasion on which he had pitched his rival down the tailor's stairs at his lodgings. He had made himself pretty well conversant with George Vavasor's career, and had often shuddered as he thought what might be the fate of any girl who might trust herself to marry such a man as that.

He had been at home when Mr Vavasor's note had reached his lodgings, and had instantly walked off towards Chancery Lane. He knew his way to Mr Vavasor's signing-office very accurately, for he had acquired a habit of calling there, and of talking to the father about his daughter. He was a patient, persevering man, confident in himself, and apt to trust that he would accomplish those things which he attempted, though he was hardly himself aware of any such aptitude. He had never despaired as to Alice. And though he had openly acknowledged to himself that she had been very foolish,—or rather, that her judgement had failed her,—he had never in truth been angry with her. He had looked upon her rejection of himself, and her subsequent promise to her cousin, as the effects of a mental hallucination, very much to be lamented,—to be wept for, perhaps, through a whole life, as a source of terrible sorrow to himself and to her. But he regarded it all as a disease, of which the cure was yet possible,—as a disease which, though it might never leave the patient as strong as she was before, might still leave her altogether. And as he would still have clung to his love had she been attacked by any of those illnesses for which doctors have well-known names, so would he cling to her now that she was attacked by a malady for which no name was known. He had already heard from Mr Vavasor that Alice had discovered how impossible it was that she should marry her cousin, and, in his quiet, patient, enduring way, was beginning to feel confident that he would, at last, carry his mistress off with him to Nethercoats.

It was certainly a melancholy place, that signing-office, in which Mr John Vavasor was doomed to spend twelve hours a week, during every term time, of his existence. Whether any man could really pass an existence of work in such a workshop, and not have gone mad,—could have endured to work there for seven hours a day, every week-day of his life, I am not prepared to say. I doubt much whether any victims are so doomed. I have so often wandered through those gloomy passages without finding a sign of humanity there,—without hearing any slightest tick of the hammer of labour, that I am disposed to think that Lord Chancellors have been anxious to save their subordinates from suicide, and have mercifully decreed that the whole staff of labourers, down to the very message boys of the office, should be sent away to green fields or palatial clubs during, at any rate, a moiety of their existence.

The dismal set of chambers, in which the most dismal room had been assigned to Mr Vavasor, was not actually in Chancery Lane. Opening off from Chancery Lane are various other small lanes, quiet, dingy nooks, some of them in the guise of streets going no whither, some being thoroughfares to other dingy streets beyond, in which sponging-houses abound, and others existing as the entrances to so-called Inns of Court,—inns of which all knowledge has for years been lost to the outer world of the laity, and, as I believe, lost almost equally to the inner world of the legal profession. Who has ever heard of Symonds' Inn? But an ancestral Symonds, celebrated, no doubt, in his time, did found an inn, and there it is to this day. Of Staples' Inn, who knows the purposes or use? Who are its members, and what do they do as such? And Staples' Inn is an inn with pretensions, having a chapel of its own, or, at any rate, a building which, in its external dimensions, is ecclesiastical, having a garden and architectural proportions; and a façade towards Holborn, somewhat dingy, but respectable, with an old gateway, and with a decided character of its own.