"Of course he would," said Sir Thomas.
"Then I might as well try. He has set his heart upon it, and if he thinks that I have done his bidding then he will obey you. As for turning him out, Tom, of course you do not really mean that!"
In answer to this Sir Thomas said nothing. He knew well enough that Tom couldn't be turned out. That turning out of a son is a difficult task to accomplish, and one altogether beyond the power of Sir Thomas. The chief cause of his sorrow lay in the fact that he, as the head of Travers and Treason, was debarred from the assistance and companionship of his son. All Travers and Treason was nothing to him, because his son would run so far away from the right path. There was nothing he would not do to bring him back. If Ayala could have been bought by any reasonable, or even unreasonable, amount of thousands, he would have bought her willingly for his boy's delight. It was a thing wonderful to him that Tom should have been upset so absolutely by his love. He did appreciate the feeling so far that he was willing to condone all those follies already committed if Tom would only put himself in the way of recovery. That massacreing of the policeman, those ill-spent nights at the Mountaineers and at Bolivia's, that foolish challenge, and the almost more foolish blow under the portico at the Haymarket, should all be forgiven if Tom would only consent to go through some slight purgation which would again fit him for Travers and Treason. And the purgation should be made as pleasant as possible. He should travel about the world with his pocket full of money and with every arrangement for luxurious comfort. Only he must go. There was no other way in which he could be so purged as to be again fit for Travers and Treason. He did not at all believe that Ayala could now be purchased. Whether pigheaded or not, Ayala was certainly self-willed. No good such as Tom expected would come from this projected visit to Stalham. But if he would allow it to be made in obedience to Tom's request -- then perhaps some tidings might be brought back which, whether strictly true or not, might induce Tom to allow himself to be put on board the ship. Arguing thus with himself, Sir Thomas at last gave his consent.
It was a most disagreeable task which the mother thus undertook. She could not go from Merle Park to Stalham and back in one day. It was necessary that she should sleep two nights in London. It was arranged, therefore, that she should go up to London on the Thursday; then make her journey down to Stalham and back on the Friday, and get home on the Saturday. There would then still remain nearly a fortnight before Tom would have to leave Merle Park. After much consideration it was decided that a note should be written to Ayala apprising her of her aunt's coming. "I hope Lady Albury will not be surprised at my visit," said the note, "but I am so anxious to see you, just for half an hour, upon a matter of great importance, that I shall run my chance." She would prefer to have seen the girl without any notice; but then, had no notice been given, the girl would perhaps have been out of the way. As it was a telegram was received back in reply. "I shall be at home. Lady Albury will be very glad to see you at lunch. She says there shall be a room all ready if you will sleep."
"I certainly shall not stay there," Lady Tringle said to Mrs Traffick, "but it is as well to know that they will be civil to me."
"They are stuck-up sort of people I believe," said Augusta; "just like that Marchesa Baldoni, who is one of them. But, as to their being civil, that is a matter of course. They would hardly be uncivil to anyone connected with Lord Boardotrade!"
Then came the Thursday on which the journey was to be commenced. As the moment came near Lady Tringle was very much afraid of the task before her. She was afraid even of her niece Ayala, who had assumed increased proportions in her eyes since she had persistently refused not only Tom but also Colonel Stubbs and Captain Batsby, and then in spite of her own connexion with Lord Boardotrade -- of whom since her daughter's marriage she had learned to think less than she had done before -- she did feel that the Alburys were fashionable people, and that Ayala as their guest had achieved something for herself. Stalham was, no doubt, superior in general estimation to Merle Park, and with her there had been always a certain awe of Ayala which she had not felt in reference to Lucy. Ayala's demand that Augusta should go upstairs and fetch the scrap-book had had its effect -- as had also her success in going up St Peter's and to the Marchesa's dance; and then there would be Lady Albury herself -- and all the Alburys! Only that Tom was very anxious, she would even now have abandoned the undertaking.
"Mother," said Tom, on the last morning, "you will do the best you can for me."