’I don’t mean that; but if I were married, which I never shall be, for I shall never attain to the respectability of a fixed income, I fancy I shouldn’t look after my wife at all. It seems to me that women hate to be told about their duties.’
’But if you saw your wife, quite innocently, falling into an improper intimacy, taking up with people she ought not to know, doing that in ignorance, which could not but compromise yourself, wouldn’t you speak a word then?’
’Oh! I might just say, in an off-hand way, that Jones was a rascal, or a liar, or a fool, or anything of that sort. But I would never caution her against Jones. By George, I believe a woman can stand anything better than that.’
‘You have never tried it, my friend.’
’And I don’t suppose I ever shall. As for me, I believe Aunt Stanbury was right when she said that I was a radical vagabond. I dare say I shall never try the thing myself, and therefore it’s very easy to have a theory. But! must be off. Good night, old fellow. I’ll do the best I can; and, at any rate, I’ll let you know the truth.’
There had been a question during the day as to whether Stanbury should let his sister know by letter that he was expected; but it had been decided that he should appear at Nuncombe without any previous notification of his arrival. Trevelyan had thought that this was very necessary, and when Stanbury had urged that such a measure seemed to imply suspicion, he had declared that in no other way could the truth be obtained. He, Trevelyan, simply wanted to know the facts as they were occurring. It was a fact that Colonel Osborne was down in the neighbourhood of Nuncombe Putney. That, at least, had been ascertained. It might very possibly be the case that he would be refused admittance to the Clock House, that all the ladies there would combine to keep him out. But, so Trevelyan urged, the truth on this point was desired. It was essentially necessary to his happiness that he should know what was being done.
‘Your mother and sister,’ said he, ’cannot be afraid of your coming suddenly among them.’
Stanbury, so urged, had found it necessary to yield, but yet he had felt that he himself was almost acting like a detective policeman, in purposely falling down upon them without a word of announcement. Had chance circumstances made it necessary that he should go in such a manner he would have thought nothing of it. It would simply have been a pleasant joke to him.
As he went down by the train on the following day, he almost felt ashamed of the part which he had been called upon to perform.
SHEWING HOW COLONEL OSBORNE WENT TO COCKCHAFFINGTON