Michael's Crag by Grant Allen
Chapter XIII. Angel and Devil.
Tyrrel left Erasmus Walker's house that morning in a turmoil of mingled exultation and fear. At least he had done his best to atone for the awful results of his boyish act of criminal thoughtlessness. He had tried to make it possible for Cleer to marry Eustace, and thereby to render the Trevennacks happier in their sonless old age; and what was more satisfactory still, he had crippled himself in doing it. There was comfort even in that. Expiation, reparation! He wouldn't have cared for the sacrifice so much if it had cost him less. But it would cost him dear indeed. He must set to work at once now and raise the needful sum by mortgaging Penmorgan up to the hilt to do it.
After all, of course, the directors might choose some other design than Eustace's. But he had done what he could. And he would hope for the best, at any rate. For Cleer's sake, if the worst came, he would have risked and lost much. While if Cleer's life was made happy, he would be happy in the thought of it.
He hailed another hansom, and drove off, still on fire, to his lawyer's in Victoria Street. On the way, he had to go near Paddington Station. He didn't observe, as he did so, a four-wheel cab that passed him with luggage on top, from Ivybridge to London. It was the Trevennacks, just returned from their holiday on Dartmoor. But Michael Trevennack had seen him; and his brow grew suddenly dark. He pinched his nails into his palm at sight of that hateful creature, though not a sound escaped him; for Cleer was in the carriage, and the man was Eustace's friend. Trevennack accepted Eustace perforce, after that night on Michael's Crag; for he knew it was politic; and indeed, he liked the young man himself well enough--there was nothing against him after all, beyond his friendship with Tyrrel; but had it not been for the need for avoiding scandal after the adventure on the rock, he would never have allowed Cleer to speak one word to any friend or acquaintance of her brother's murderer.
As it was, however, he never alluded to Tyrrel in any way before Cleer. He had learnt to hold his tongue. Madman though he was, he knew when to be silent.
That evening at home, Cleer had a visit from Eustace, who came round to tell her how Tyrrel had been to see the great engineer, Erasmus Walker; and how it was all a mistake that Walker was going to send in plans for the Wharfedale Viaduct--nay, how the big man had approved of his own design, and promised to give it all the support in his power. For Tyrrel was really an awfully kind friend, who had pushed things for him like a brick, and deserved the very best they could both of them say about him.
But of course Eustace hadn't the faintest idea himself by what manner of persuasion Walter Tyrrel had commended his friend's designs to Erasmus Walker. If he had, needless to say, he would never have accepted the strange arrangement.
"And now, Cleer," Eustace cried, jubilant and radiant with the easy confidence of youth and love, "I do believe I shall carry the field at last, and spring at a bound into a first-rate position among engineers in England."
"And then?" Cleer asked, nestling close to his side.
"And then," Eustace went on, smiling tacitly at her native simplicity, "as it would mean permanent work in superintending and so forth, I see no reason why--we shouldn't get married immediately."
They were alone in the breakfast room, where Mrs. Trevennack had left them. They were alone, like lovers. But in the drawing-room hard by, Trevennack himself was saying to his wife with a face of suppressed excitement, "I saw him again to-day, Lucy. I saw him again, that devil--in a hansom near Paddington. If he stops in town, I'm sure I don't know what I'm ever to do. I came back from Devonshire, having fought the devil hard, as I thought, and conquered him. I felt I'd got him under. I felt he was no match for me. But when I see that man's face the devil springs up at me again in full force, and grapples with me. Is he Satan himself? I believe he must be. For I feel I must rush at him and trample him under foot, as I trampled him long ago on the summit of Niphates."
In a tremor of alarm Mrs. Trevennack held his hand. Oh, what would she ever do if the outbreak came ... before Cleer was married! She could see the constant strain of holding himself back was growing daily more and more difficult for her unhappy husband. Indeed, she couldn't bear it herself much longer. If Cleer didn't marry soon, Michael would break out openly--perhaps would try to murder that poor man Tyrrel-- and then Eustace would be afraid, and all would be up with them.
By and by, Eustace came in to tell them the good news. He said nothing about Tyrrel, at least by name, lest he should hurt Trevennack; he merely mentioned that a friend of his had seen Erasmus Walker that day, and that Walker had held out great hopes of success for him in this Wharfedale Viaduct business. Trevennack listened with a strange mixture of interest and contempt. He was glad the young man was likely to get on in his chosen profession--for Cleer's sake, if it would enable them to marry. But, oh, what a fuss it seemed to him to make about such a trifle as a mere bit of a valley that one could fly across in a second--to him who could become
". . . to his proper shape returned A seraph winged: six wings he wore, to shade His lineaments divine; the pair that clad Each shoulder broad, came mantling o'er his breast With regal ornament; the middle pair Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round Skirted his loins and thighs, the third his feet Shadowed from either heel with feathered mail."
And then they talked to him about the difficulties of building a few hundred yards of iron bridge across a miserable valley! Why, was it not he and his kind of whom it was written that they came
"Gliding through the even On a sunbeam, swift as a shooting star In autumn thwarts the night?"
A viaduct indeed! a paltry human viaduct! What need, with such as him, to talk of bridges or viaducts?
As Eustace left that evening, Mrs. Trevennack followed him out, and beckoned him mysteriously into the dining-room at the side for a minute's conversation. The young man followed her, much wondering what this strange move could mean. Mrs. Trevennack fell back, half faint, into a chair, and gazed at him with a frightened look very rare on that brave face of hers. "Oh, Eustace," she said, hurriedly, "do you know what's happened? Mr. Tyrrel's in town. Michael saw him to-day. He was driving near Paddington. Now do you think... you could do anything to keep him out of Michael's way? I dread their meeting. I don't know whether you know it, but Michael has some grudge against him. For Cleer's sake and for yours, do keep them apart, I beg of you. If they meet, I can't answer for what harm may come of it."
Eustace was taken aback at her unexpected words. Not even to Cleer had he ever hinted in any way at the strange disclosure Walter Tyrrel made to him that first day at Penmorgan. He hesitated how to answer her without betraying his friend's secret. At last he said, as calmly as he could, "I guessed, to tell you the truth, there was some cause of quarrel. I'll do my very best to keep Tyrrel out of the way, Mrs. Trevennack, as you wish it. But I'm afraid he won't be going down from town for some time to come, for he told me only to-day he had business at his lawyer's, in Victoria Street, Westminster, which might keep him here a fortnight. Indeed, I rather doubt whether he'll care to go down again until he knows for certain, one way or the other, about the Wharfedale Viaduct."
Mrs. Trevennack sank back in her chair, very pale and wan. "Oh, what shall we do if they meet?" she cried, wringing her hands in despair. "What shall we do if they meet? This is more than I can endure. Eustace, Eustace, I shall break down. My burden's too heavy for me!"
The young man leant over her like a son. "Mrs. Trevennack," he said, gently, smoothing her silvery white hair with sympathetic fingers, "I think I can keep them apart. I'll speak seriously to Tyrrel about it. He's a very good fellow, and he'll do anything I ask of him. I'm sure he'll try to avoid falling in with your husband. He's my kindest of friends; and he'd cut off his hand to serve me."
One word of sympathy brought tears into Mrs. Trevennack's eyes. She looked up through them, and took the young man's hand in hers. "It was he who spoke to Erasmus Walker, I suppose," she murmured, slowly.
And Eustace, nodding assent, answered in a low voice, "It was he, Mrs. Trevennack. He's a dear good fellow."
The orphaned mother clasped her hands. This was too, too much. And Michael, if the fit came upon him, would strangle that young man, who was doing his best after all for Cleer and Eustace!
But that night in his bed Trevennack lay awake, chuckling grimly to himself in an access of mad triumph. He fancied he was fighting his familiar foe, on a tall Cornish peak, in archangelic fashion; and he had vanquished his enemy, and was trampling on him furiously. But the face of the fallen seraph was not the face of Michael Angelo's Satan, as he oftenest figured it--for Michael Angelo, his namesake, was one of Trevennack's very chiefest admirations;--it was the face of Walter Tyrrel, who killed his dear boy, writhing horribly in the dust, and crying for mercy beneath him.