Mr. Hugh Stanbury had been at college the most intimate friend of Louis Trevelyan, and at Oxford had been, in spite of Trevelyan's successes, a bigger man than his friend. Stanbury had not taken so high a degree as Trevelyan,—indeed had not gone out in honours at all. He had done little for the credit of his college, and had never put himself in the way of wrapping himself up for life in the scanty lambswool of a fellowship. But he had won for himself reputation as a clever speaker, as a man who had learned much that college tutors do not profess to teach, as a hard-headed, ready-witted fellow, who, having the world as an oyster before him, which it was necessary that he should open, would certainly find either a knife or a sword with which to open it.
Immediately on leaving college he had come to town, and had entered himself at Lincoln's Inn. Now, at the time of our story, he was a barrister of four years' standing, but had never yet made a guinea. He had never made a guinea by his work as a barrister, and was beginning to doubt of himself whether he ever would do so. Not, as he knew well, that guineas are generally made with ease by barristers of four years' standing, but because, as he said to his friends, he did not see his way to the knack of it. He did not know an attorney in the world, and could not conceive how any attorney should ever be induced to apply to him for legal aid. He had done his work of learning his trade about as well as other young men, but had had no means of distinguishing himself within his reach. He went the Western Circuit because his aunt, old Miss Stanbury, lived at Exeter, but, as he declared of himself, had he had another aunt living at York, he would have had nothing whatsoever to guide him in his choice. He sat idle in the courts, and hated himself for so sitting. So it had been with him for two years without any consolation or additional burden from other employment than that of his profession. After that, by some chance, he had become acquainted with the editor of the Daily Record, and by degrees had taken to the writing of articles. He had been told by all his friends, and especially by Trevelyan, that if he did this, he might as well sell his gown and wig. He declared, in reply, that he had no objection to sell his gown and wig. He did not see how he should ever make more money out of them than he would do by such sale. But for the articles which he wrote, he received instant payment, a process which he found to be most consolatory, most comfortable, and, as he said to Trevelyan, as warm to him as a blanket in winter.
Trevelyan, who was a year younger than Stanbury, had taken upon himself to be very angry. He professed that he did not think much of the trade of a journalist, and told Stanbury that he was sinking from the highest to almost the lowest business by which an educated man and a gentleman could earn his bread. Stanbury had simply replied that he saw some bread on the one side, but none on the other; and that bread from some side was indispensable to him. Then there had come to be that famous war between Great Britain and the republic of Patagonia, and Hugh Stanbury had been sent out as a special correspondent by the editor and proprietor of the Daily Record. His letters had been much read, and had called up a great deal of newspaper pugnacity. He had made important statements which had been flatly denied, and found to be utterly false; which again had been warmly reasserted and proved to be most remarkably true to the letter. In this way the correspondence, and he as its author, became so much talked about that, on his return to England, he did actually sell his gown and wig and declare to his friends,—and to Trevelyan among the number,—that he intended to look to journalism for his future career.
He had been often at the house in Curzon Street in the earliest happy days of his friend's marriage, and had thus become acquainted,—intimately acquainted,—with Nora Rowley. And now again, since his return from Patagonia, that acquaintance had been renewed. Quite lately, since the actual sale of that wig and gown had been effected, he had not been there so frequently as before, because Trevelyan had expressed his indignation almost too openly.
"That such a man as you should be so faint-hearted," Trevelyan had said, "is a thing that I can not understand."
"Is a man faint-hearted when he finds it improbable that he shall be able to leap his horse over a house?"
"What you had to do had been done by hundreds before you."
"What I had to do has never yet been done by any man," replied Stanbury. "I had to live upon nothing till the lucky hour should strike."
"I think you have been cowardly," said Trevelyan.
Even this had made no quarrel between the two men; but Stanbury had expressed himself annoyed by his friend's language, and partly on that account, and partly perhaps on another, had stayed away from Curzon Street. As Nora Rowley had made comparisons about him, so had he made comparisons about her. He had owned to himself that had it been possible that he should marry, he would willingly entrust his happiness to Miss Rowley. And he had thought once or twice that Trevelyan had wished that such an arrangement might be made at some future day. Trevelyan had always been much more sanguine in expecting success for his friend at the Bar, than Stanbury had been for himself. It might well be that such a man as Trevelyan might think that a clever rising barrister would be an excellent husband for his sister-in-law, but that a man earning a precarious living as a writer for a penny paper would be by no means so desirable a connection. Stanbury, as he thought of this, declared to himself that he would not care two straws for Trevelyan in the matter, if he could see his way without other impediments. But the other impediments were there in such strength and numbers as to make him feel that it could not have been intended by Fate that he should take to himself a wife. Although those letters of his to the Daily Record had been so pre-eminently successful, he had never yet been able to earn by writing above twenty-five or thirty pounds a month. If that might be continued to him he could live upon it himself; but, even with his moderate views, it would not suffice for himself and family.
He had told Trevelyan that while living as an expectant barrister he had no means of subsistence. In this, as Trevelyan knew, he was not strictly correct. There was an allowance of £100 a year coming to him from the aunt whose residence at Exeter had induced him to devote himself to the Western Circuit. His father had been a clergyman with a small living in Devonshire, and had now been dead some fifteen years. His mother and two sisters were still living in a small cottage in his late father's parish, on the interest of the money arising from a life insurance. Some pittance from sixty to seventy pounds a year was all they had among them. But there was a rich aunt, Miss Stanbury, to whom had come considerable wealth in a manner most romantic,—the little tale shall be told before this larger tale is completed,—and this aunt had undertaken to educate and place out in the world her nephew Hugh. So Hugh had been sent to Harrow, and then to Oxford,—where he had much displeased his aunt by not accomplishing great things,—and then had been set down to make his fortune as a barrister in London, with an allowance of £100 a year, his aunt having paid, moreover, certain fees for entrance, tuition, and the like. The very hour in which Miss Stanbury learned that her nephew was writing for a penny newspaper she sent off a dispatch to tell him that he must give up her or the penny paper. He replied by saying that he felt himself called upon to earn his bread in the only line from which, as it seemed to him, bread would be forthcoming. By return of post he got another letter to say that he might draw for the quarter then becoming due, but that that would be the last. And it was the last.
Stanbury made an ineffectual effort to induce his aunt to make over the allowance,—or at least a part of it,—to his mother and sisters, but the old lady paid no attention whatever to the request. She never had given, and at that moment did not intend to give, a shilling to the widow and daughters of her brother. Nor did she intend, or had she ever intended, to leave a shilling of her money to Hugh Stanbury,—as she had very often told him. The money was, at her death, to go back to the people from whom it had come to her.
When Nora Rowley made those comparisons between Mr. Hugh Stanbury and Mr. Charles Glascock, they were always wound up very much in favour of the briefless barrister. It was not that he was the handsomer man, for he was by no means handsome, nor was he the bigger man, for Mr. Glascock was six feet tall; nor was he better dressed, for Stanbury was untidy rather than otherwise in his outward person. Nor had he any air of fashion or special grace to recommend him, for he was undoubtedly an awkward-mannered man. But there was a glance of sunshine in his eye, and a sweetness in the curl of his mouth when he smiled, which made Nora feel that it would have been all up with her had she not made so very strong a law for her own guidance. Stanbury was a man about five feet ten, with shoulders more than broad in proportion, stout limbed, rather awkward of his gait, with large feet and hands, with soft wavy light hair, with light grey eyes, with a broad, but by no means ugly, nose. His mouth and lips were large, and he rarely showed his teeth. He wore no other beard than whiskers, which he was apt to cut away through heaviness of his hand in shaving, till Nora longed to bid him be more careful. "He doesn't care what sort of a guy he makes of himself," she once said to her sister, almost angrily. "He is a plain man, and he knows it," Emily had replied. Mr. Trevelyan was doubtless a handsome man, and it was almost on Nora's tongue to say something ill-natured on the subject. Hugh Stanbury was reputed to be somewhat hot in spirit and manner. He would be very sage in argument, pounding down his ideas on politics, religion, or social life with his fist as well as his voice. He was quick, perhaps, at making antipathies, and quick, too, in making friendships; impressionable, demonstrative, eager, rapid in his movements,—sometimes to the great detriment of his shins and knuckles; and he possessed the sweetest temper that was ever given to a man for the blessing of a woman. This was the man between whom and Mr. Glascock Nora Rowley found it to be impossible not to make comparisons.
On the very day after Lady Milborough's dinner party Stanbury overtook Trevelyan in the street, and asked his friend where he was going eastward. Trevelyan was on his way to call upon his lawyer, and said so. But he did not say why he was going to his lawyer. He had sent to his wife by Nora that morning to know whether she would make to him the promise he required. The only answer which Nora could draw from her sister was a counter question, demanding whether he would ask her pardon for the injury he had done her. Nora had been most eager, most anxious, most conciliatory as a messenger; but no good had come of these messages, and Trevelyan had gone forth to tell all his trouble to his family lawyer. Old Mr. Bideawhile had been his father's ancient and esteemed friend, and he could tell things to Mr. Bideawhile which he could not bring himself to tell to any other living man; and he could generally condescend to accept Mr. Bideawhile's advice, knowing that his father before him had been guided by the same.
"But you are out of your way for Lincoln's Inn Fields," said Stanbury.
"I have to call at Twining's. And where are you going?"
"I have been three times round St. James's Park to collect my thoughts," said Stanbury, "and now I am on my way to the Daily R., 250, Fleet Street. It is my custom of an afternoon. I am prepared to instruct the British public of to-morrow on any subject, as per order, from the downfall of a European compact to the price of a London mutton chop."
"I suppose there is nothing more to be said about it," said Trevelyan, after a pause.
"Not another word. How should there be? Aunt Jemima has already drawn tight the purse strings, and it would soon be the casual ward in earnest if it were not for the Daily R. God bless the Daily R. Only think what a thing it is to have all subjects open to one, from the destinies of France to the profit proper to a butcher."
"If you like it!"
"I do like it. It may not be altogether honest. I don't know what is. But it's a deal honester than defending thieves and bamboozling juries. How is your wife?"
"She's pretty well, thank you."
Stanbury knew at once from the tone of his friend's voice that there was something wrong.
"And Louis the less?" he said, asking after Trevelyan's child.
"He's all right."
"And Miss Rowley? When one begins one's inquiries one is bound to go through the whole family."
"Miss Rowley is pretty well," said Trevelyan.
Previously to this, Trevelyan when speaking of his sister-in-law to Stanbury, had always called her Nora, and had been wont to speak of her as though she were almost as much the friend of one of them as of the other. The change of tone on this occasion was in truth occasioned by the sadness of the man's thoughts in reference to his wife, but Stanbury attributed it to another cause. "He need not be afraid of me," he said to himself, "and at least he should not show me that he is." Then they parted, Trevelyan going into Twining's bank, and Stanbury passing on towards the office of the Daily R.
Stanbury had in truth been altogether mistaken as to the state of his friend's mind on that morning. Trevelyan, although he had, according to his custom, put in a word in condemnation of the newspaper line of life, was at the moment thinking whether he would not tell all his trouble to Hugh Stanbury. He knew that he should not find anywhere, not even in Mr. Bideawhile, a more friendly or more trustworthy listener. When Nora Rowley's name had been mentioned, he had not thought of her. He had simply repeated the name with the usual answer. He was at the moment cautioning himself against a confidence which after all might not be necessary, and which on this occasion was not made. When one is in trouble it is a great ease to tell one's trouble to a friend; but then one should always wash one's dirty linen at home. The latter consideration prevailed, and Trevelyan allowed his friend to go on without burdening him with the story of that domestic quarrel. Nor did he on that occasion tell it to Mr. Bideawhile; for Mr. Bideawhile was not found at his chambers.