The Way We Live Now

THE WAY WE LIVE NOW

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

 


 




 


 

CONTENTS









































































































Chapter  
I.  THREE EDITORS.
II.  THE CARBURY FAMILY.
III.  THE BEARGARDEN.
IV.  MADAME MELMOTTE'S BALL.
V.  AFTER THE BALL.
VI.  ROGER CARBURY AND PAUL MONTAGUE.
VII.  MENTOR.
VIII.  LOVE-SICK.
IX.  THE GREAT RAILWAY TO VERA CRUZ.
X.  MR. FISKER'S SUCCESS.
XI.  LADY CARBURY AT HOME.
XII.  SIR FELIX IN HIS MOTHER'S HOUSE.
XIII.  THE LONGESTAFFES.
XIV.  CARBURY MANOR.
XV.  "YOU SHOULD REMEMBER THAT I AM HIS MOTHER."
XVI.  THE BISHOP AND THE PRIEST.
XVII.  MARIE MELMOTTE HEARS A LOVE TALE.
XVIII.  RUBY RUGGLES HEARS A LOVE TALE.
XIX.  HETTA CARBURY HEARS A LOVE TALE.
XX.  LADY POMONA'S DINNER PARTY.
XXI.  EVERYBODY GOES TO THEM.
XXII.  LORD NIDDERDALE'S MORALITY.
XXIII.  "YES;—I'M A BARONET."
XXIV.  MILES GRENDALL'S TRIUMPH.
XXV.  IN GROSVENOR SQUARE.
XXVI.  MRS. HURTLE.
XXVII.  MRS. HURTLE GOES TO THE PLAY.
XXVIII.  DOLLY LONGESTAFFE GOES INTO THE CITY.
XXIX.  MISS MELMOTTE'S COURAGE.
XXX.  MR. MELMOTTE'S PROMISE.
XXXI.  MR. BROUNE HAS MADE UP HIS MIND.
XXXII.  LADY MONOGRAM.
XXXIII.  JOHN CRUMB.
XXXIV.  RUBY RUGGLES OBEYS HER GRANDFATHER.
XXXV.  MELMOTTE'S GLORY.
XXXVI.  MR. BROUNE'S PERILS.
XXXVII.  THE BOARD-ROOM.
XXXVIII.  PAUL MONTAGUE'S TROUBLES.
XXXIX.  "I DO LOVE HIM."
XL.  "UNANIMITY IS THE VERY SOUL OF THESE THINGS."
XLI.  ALL PREPARED.
XLII.  "CAN YOU BE READY IN TEN MINUTES?"
XLIII.  THE CITY ROAD.
XLIV.  THE COMING ELECTION.
XLV.  MR. MELMOTTE IS PRESSED FOR TIME.
XLVI.  ROGER CARBURY AND HIS TWO FRIENDS.
XLVII.  MRS. HURTLE AT LOWESTOFT.
XLVIII.  RUBY A PRISONER.
XLIX.  SIR FELIX MAKES HIMSELF READY.
L.  THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL.
LI.  WHICH SHALL IT BE?
LII.  THE RESULTS OF LOVE AND WINE.
LIII.  A DAY IN THE CITY.
LIV.  THE INDIA OFFICE.
LV.  CLERICAL CHARITIES.
LVI.  FATHER BARHAM VISITS LONDON.
LVII.  LORD NIDDERDALE TRIES HIS HAND AGAIN.
LVIII.  MR. SQUERCUM IS EMPLOYED.
LIX.  THE DINNER.
LX.  MISS LONGESTAFFE'S LOVER.
LXI.  LADY MONOGRAM PREPARES FOR THE PARTY.
LXII.  THE PARTY.
LXIII.  MR. MELMOTTE ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION.
LXIV.  THE ELECTION.
LXV.  MISS LONGESTAFFE WRITES HOME.
LXVI.  "SO SHALL BE MY ENMITY."
LXVII.  SIR FELIX PROTECTS HIS SISTER.
LXVIII.  MISS MELMOTTE DECLARES HER PURPOSE.
LXIX.  MELMOTTE IN PARLIAMENT.
LXX.  SIR FELIX MEDDLES WITH MANY MATTERS.
LXXI.  JOHN CRUMB FALLS INTO TROUBLE.
LXXII.  "ASK HIMSELF."
LXXIII.  MARIE'S FORTUNE.
LXXIV.  MELMOTTE MAKES A FRIEND.
LXXV.  IN BRUTON STREET.
LXXVI.  HETTA AND HER LOVER.
LXXVII.  ANOTHER SCENE IN BRUTON STREET.
LXXVIII.  MISS LONGESTAFFE AGAIN AT CAVERSHAM.
LXXIX.  THE BREHGERT CORRESPONDENCE.
LXXX.  RUBY PREPARES FOR SERVICE.
LXXXI.  MR. COHENLUPE LEAVES LONDON.
LXXXII.  MARIE'S PERSEVERANCE.
LXXXIII.  MELMOTTE AGAIN AT THE HOUSE.
LXXXIV.  PAUL MONTAGUE'S VINDICATION.
LXXXV.  BREAKFAST IN BERKELEY SQUARE.
LXXXVI.  THE MEETING IN BRUTON STREET.
LXXXVII.  DOWN AT CARBURY.
LXXXVIII.  THE INQUEST.
LXXXIX.  "THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE."
XC.  HETTA'S SORROW.
XCI.  THE RIVALS.
XCII.  HAMILTON K. FISKER AGAIN.
XCIII.  A TRUE LOVER.
XCIV.  JOHN CRUMB'S VICTORY.
XCV.  THE LONGESTAFFE MARRIAGES.
XCVI.  WHERE "THE WILD ASSES QUENCH THEIR THIRST."
XCVII.  MRS. HURTLE'S FATE.
XCVIII.  MARIE MELMOTTE'S FATE.
XCIX.  LADY CARBURY AND MR. BROUNE.
C.  DOWN IN SUFFOLK.

 




 

ILLUSTRATIONS












































"JUST SO, MOTHER;—BUT HOW ABOUT
THE TWENTY POUNDS?"
  CHAPTER III.
THE DUCHESS FOLLOWED WITH THE MALE VICTIM.  CHAPTER IV.
"THERE'S THE £20."  CHAPTER VII.
THEN MR. FISKER BEGAN HIS ACCOUNT.  CHAPTER IX.
THEN THE SQUIRE LED THE WAY OUT OF
THE ROOM, AND DOLLY FOLLOWED.
  CHAPTER XIII.
"YOU SHOULD REMEMBER THAT I AM HIS MOTHER."  CHAPTER XV.
THE BISHOP THINKS THAT THE PRIEST'S
ANALOGY IS NOT CORRECT.
  CHAPTER XVI.
"YOU KNOW WHY I HAVE COME DOWN HERE?"  CHAPTER XVII.
SHE MARCHED MAJESTICALLY OUT OF THE ROOM.  CHAPTER XXI.
"IN THE MEANTIME WHAT IS YOUR OWN PROPERTY?"  CHAPTER XXIII.
"I HAVE COME ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO SEE YOU."  CHAPTER XXVI.
"GET TO YOUR ROOM."  CHAPTER XXIX.
SIR DAMASK SOLVING THE DIFFICULTY.  CHAPTER XXXII.
"I LOIKS TO SEE HER LOIK O' THAT."  CHAPTER XXXIII.
THE BOARD-ROOM.  CHAPTER XXXVII.
LADY CARBURY ALLOWED HERSELF
TO BE KISSED.
  CHAPTER XXXIX.
"IT'S NO GOOD SCOLDING."  CHAPTER XLI.
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT ANY MAN'S COAT."  CHAPTER XLIII.
THE SANDS AT LOWESTOFT.  CHAPTER XLVI.
"YOU, I THINK, ARE MISS MELMOTTE."  CHAPTER L.
THE DOOR WAS OPENED FOR HIM BY RUBY.  CHAPTER LI.
"CAN I MARRY THE MAN I DO NOT LOVE?"  CHAPTER LII.
FATHER BARHAM.  CHAPTER LVI.
MR. SQUERCUM IN HIS OFFICE.  CHAPTER LVIII.
"HAVE YOU HEARD WHAT'S UP, JU?"  CHAPTER LXI.
MR. MELMOTTE SPECULATES.  CHAPTER LXII.
"NOT A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE IN THE HOUSE."  CHAPTER LXIX.
MELMOTTE IN PARLIAMENT.  CHAPTER LXIX.
"GET UP, YOU WIPER."  CHAPTER LXXI.
"I MIGHT AS WELL SEE WHETHER THERE
IS ANY SIGN OF VIOLENCE HAVING
BEEN USED."
  CHAPTER LXXV.
"YOU HAD BETTER GO BACK TO MRS. HURTLE."  CHAPTER LXXVI.
"AH, MA'AM-MOISELLE," SAID CROLL,
"YOU SHOULD OBLIGE YOUR FADER."
  CHAPTER LXXVII.
"HE THOUGHT I HAD BETTER BRING THESE
BACK TO YOU."
  CHAPTER LXXXII.
"WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THAT MAKE?"  CHAPTER LXXXV.
"SHE'S A COOMIN; SHE'S A COOMIN."  CHAPTER LXXXVII.
"OF COURSE YOU HAVE BEEN A DRAGON OF VIRTUE."  CHAPTER LXXXIX.
"SIT DOWN SO THAT I MAY LOOK AT YOU."  CHAPTER XCI.
THE HAPPY BRIDEGROOM.  CHAPTER XCIV.
MRS. HURTLE AT THE WINDOW.  CHAPTER XCVII.
"THERE GOES THE LAST OF MY ANGER."  CHAPTER C.

 




 

 


 


CHAPTER I.


THREE EDITORS.
 

Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character
and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may
have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own
house in Welbeck Street. Lady Carbury spent many hours at her desk,
and wrote many letters,—wrote also very much beside letters. She
spoke of herself in these days as a woman devoted to Literature,
always spelling the word with a big L. Something of the nature of her
devotion may be learned by the perusal of three letters which on this
morning she had written with a quickly running hand. Lady Carbury was
rapid in everything, and in nothing more rapid than in the writing of
letters. Here is Letter No.
1;—
 


Thursday,

Welbeck Street.

Dear Friend,—

I have taken care that you shall have the early sheets of
my two new volumes to-morrow, or Saturday at latest, so
that you may, if so minded, give a poor struggler like
myself a lift in your next week's paper. Do give a poor
struggler a lift. You and I have so much in common, and I
have ventured to flatter myself that we are really
friends! I do not flatter you when I say, that not only
would aid from you help me more than from any other
quarter, but also that praise from you would gratify my
vanity more than any other praise. I almost think you will
like my "Criminal Queens." The sketch of Semiramis is at
any rate spirited, though I had to twist it about a little
to bring her in guilty. Cleopatra, of course, I have taken
from Shakespeare. What a wench she was! I could not quite
make Julia a queen; but it was impossible to pass over so
piquant a character. You will recognise in the two or
three ladies of the empire how faithfully I have studied
my Gibbon. Poor dear old Belisarius! I have done the best
I could with Joanna, but I could not bring myself to care
for her. In our days she would simply have gone to
Broadmore. I hope you will not think that I have been too
strong in my delineations of Henry VIII. and his sinful
but unfortunate Howard. I don't care a bit about Anne
Boleyne. I am afraid that I have been tempted into too
great length about the Italian Catherine; but in truth she
has been my favourite. What a woman! What a devil! Pity
that a second Dante could not have constructed for her a
special hell. How one traces the effect of her training in
the life of our Scotch Mary. I trust you will go with me
in my view as to the Queen of Scots. Guilty! guilty
always! Adultery, murder, treason, and all the rest of it.
But recommended to mercy because she was royal. A queen
bred, born and married, and with such other queens around
her, how could she have escaped to be guilty? Marie
Antoinette I have not quite acquitted. It would be
uninteresting;—perhaps untrue. I have accused her
lovingly, and have kissed when I scourged. I trust the
British public will not be angry because I do not
whitewash Caroline, especially as I go along with them
altogether in abusing her husband.

But I must not take up your time by sending you another
book, though it gratifies me to think that I am writing
what none but yourself will read. Do it yourself, like a
dear man, and, as you are great, be merciful. Or rather,
as you are a friend, be loving.

Yours gratefully and faithfully,

Matilda Carbury.

After all how
few women there are who can raise themselves
above the quagmire of what we call love, and make
themselves anything but playthings for men. Of almost all
these royal and luxurious sinners it was the chief sin
that in some phase of their lives they consented to be
playthings without being wives. I have striven so hard to
be proper; but when girls read everything, why should not
an old woman write anything?
 


This letter was addressed to Nicholas Broune, Esq., the editor of the
"Morning Breakfast Table," a daily newspaper of high character; and,
as it was the longest, so was it considered to be the most important
of the three. Mr. Broune was a man powerful in his profession,—and
he was fond of ladies. Lady Carbury in her letter had called herself
an old woman, but she was satisfied to do so by a conviction that no
one else regarded her in that light. Her age shall be no secret to
the reader, though to her most intimate friends, even to Mr. Broune,
it had never been divulged. She was forty-three, but carried her
years so well, and had received such gifts from nature, that it was
impossible to deny that she was still a beautiful woman. And she used
her beauty not only to increase her influence,—as is natural to
women who are well-favoured,—but also with a well-considered
calculation that she could obtain material assistance in the
procuring of bread and cheese, which was very necessary to her, by a
prudent adaptation to her purposes of the good things with which
providence had endowed her. She did not fall in love, she did not
wilfully flirt, she did not commit herself; but she smiled and
whispered, and made confidences, and looked out of her own eyes into
men's eyes as though there might be some mysterious bond between her
and them—if only mysterious circumstances would permit it. But the
end of all was to induce some one to do something which would cause a
publisher to give her good payment for indifferent writing, or an
editor to be lenient when, upon the merits of the case, he should
have been severe. Among all her literary friends, Mr. Broune was the
one in whom she most trusted; and Mr. Broune was fond of handsome
women. It may be as well to give a short record of a scene which had
taken place between Lady Carbury and her friend about a month before
the writing of this letter which has been produced. She had wanted
him to take a series of papers for the "Morning Breakfast Table," and
to have them paid for at rate No. 1, whereas she suspected that he
was rather doubtful as to their merit, and knew that, without special
favour, she could not hope for remuneration above rate No. 2, or
possibly even No. 3. So she had looked into his eyes, and had left
her soft, plump hand for a moment in his. A man in such circumstances
is so often awkward, not knowing with any accuracy when to do one
thing and when another! Mr. Broune, in a moment of enthusiasm, had
put his arm round Lady Carbury's waist and had kissed her. To say
that Lady Carbury was angry, as most women would be angry if so
treated, would be to give an unjust idea of her character. It was a
little accident which really carried with it no injury, unless it
should be the injury of leading to a rupture between herself and a
valuable ally. No feeling of delicacy was shocked. What did it
matter? No unpardonable insult had been offered; no harm had been
done, if only the dear susceptible old donkey could be made at once
to understand that that wasn't the way to go on!

Without a flutter, and without a blush, she escaped from his arm, and
then made him an excellent little speech. "Mr. Broune, how foolish,
how wrong, how mistaken! Is it not so? Surely you do not wish to put
an end to the friendship between us!"

"Put an end to our friendship, Lady Carbury! Oh, certainly not that."

"Then why risk it by such an act? Think of my son and of my
daughter,—both grown up. Think of the past troubles of my life;—so
much suffered and so little deserved. No one knows them so well as
you do. Think of my name, that has been so often slandered but never
disgraced! Say that you are sorry, and it shall be forgotten."

When a man has kissed a woman it goes against the grain with him to
say the very next moment that he is sorry for what he has done. It is
as much as to declare that the kiss had not answered his expectation.
Mr. Broune could not do this, and perhaps Lady Carbury did not quite
expect it. "You know that for worlds I would not offend you," he
said. This sufficed. Lady Carbury again looked into his eyes, and a
promise was given that the articles should be printed—and with
generous remuneration.

When the interview was over Lady Carbury regarded it as having been
quite successful. Of course when struggles have to be made and hard
work done, there will be little accidents. The lady who uses a street
cab must encounter mud and dust which her richer neighbour, who has a
private carriage, will escape. She would have preferred not to have
been kissed;—but what did it matter? With Mr. Broune the affair was
more serious. "Confound them all," he said to himself as he left the
house; "no amount of experience enables a man to know them." As he
went away he almost thought that Lady Carbury had intended him to
kiss her again, and he was almost angry with himself in that he had
not done so. He had seen her three or four times since, but had not
repeated the offence.

We will now go on to the other letters, both of which were addressed
to the editors of other newspapers. The second was written to Mr.
Booker, of the "Literary Chronicle." Mr. Booker was a hard-working
professor of literature, by no means without talent, by no means
without influence, and by no means without a conscience. But, from
the nature of the struggles in which he had been engaged, by
compromises which had gradually been driven upon him by the
encroachment of brother authors on the one side and by the demands on
the other of employers who looked only to their profits, he had
fallen into a routine of work in which it was very difficult to be
scrupulous, and almost impossible to maintain the delicacies of a
literary conscience. He was now a bald-headed old man of sixty, with
a large family of daughters, one of whom was a widow dependent on him
with two little children. He had five hundred a year for editing the
"Literary Chronicle," which, through his energy, had become a
valuable property. He wrote for magazines, and brought out some book
of his own almost annually. He kept his head above water, and was
regarded by those who knew about him, but did not know him, as a
successful man. He always kept up his spirits, and was able in
literary circles to show that he could hold his own. But he was
driven by the stress of circumstances to take such good things as
came in his way, and could hardly afford to be independent. It must
be confessed that literary scruple had long departed from his mind.
Letter No. 2 was as
follows;—
 


Welbeck Street,

25th February, 187—.

Dear Mr. Booker,

I have told Mr. Leadham—[Mr. Leadham was senior partner
in the enterprising firm of publishers known as Messrs.
Leadham and Loiter]—to send you an early copy of my
"Criminal Queens." I have already settled with my friend
Mr. Broune that I am to do your "New Tale of a Tub" in the
"Breakfast Table." Indeed, I am about it now, and am
taking great pains with it. If there is anything you wish
to have specially said as to your view of the
Protestantism of the time, let me know. I should like you
to say a word as to the accuracy of my historical details,
which I know you can safely do. Don't put it off, as the
sale does so much depend on early notices. I am only
getting a royalty, which does not commence till the first
four hundred are sold.

Yours sincerely,

Matilda Carbury.

Alfred Booker, Esq.,

"Literary Chronicle," Office, Strand.
 


There was nothing in this which shocked Mr. Booker. He laughed
inwardly, with a pleasantly reticent chuckle, as he thought of Lady
Carbury dealing with his views of Protestantism,—as he thought also
of the numerous historical errors into which that clever lady must
inevitably fall in writing about matters of which he believed her to
know nothing. But he was quite alive to the fact that a favourable
notice in the "Breakfast Table" of his very thoughtful work, called
the "New Tale of a Tub," would serve him, even though written by the
hand of a female literary charlatan, and he would have no compunction
as to repaying the service by fulsome praise in the "Literary
Chronicle." He would not probably say that the book was accurate, but
he would be able to declare that it was delightful reading, that the
feminine characteristics of the queens had been touched with a
masterly hand, and that the work was one which would certainly make
its way into all drawing-rooms. He was an adept at this sort of work,
and knew well how to review such a book as Lady Carbury's "Criminal
Queens," without bestowing much trouble on the reading. He could
almost do it without cutting the book, so that its value for purposes
of after sale might not be injured. And yet Mr. Booker was an honest
man, and had set his face persistently against many literary
malpractices. Stretched-out type, insufficient lines, and the French
habit of meandering with a few words over an entire page, had been
rebuked by him with conscientious strength. He was supposed to be
rather an Aristides among reviewers. But circumstanced as he was he
could not oppose himself altogether to the usages of the time. "Bad;
of course it is bad," he said to a young friend who was working with
him on his periodical. "Who doubts that? How many very bad things are
there that we do! But if we were to attempt to reform all our bad
ways at once, we should never do any good thing. I am not strong
enough to put the world straight, and I doubt if you are." Such was
Mr. Booker.

Then there was letter No. 3, to Mr. Ferdinand Alf. Mr. Alf managed,
and, as it was supposed, chiefly owned, the "Evening Pulpit," which
during the last two years had become "quite a property," as men
connected with the press were in the habit of saying. The "Evening
Pulpit" was supposed to give daily to its readers all that had been
said and done up to two o'clock in the day by all the leading people
in the metropolis, and to prophesy with wonderful accuracy what would
be the sayings and doings of the twelve following hours. This was
effected with an air of wonderful omniscience, and not unfrequently
with an ignorance hardly surpassed by its arrogance. But the writing
was clever. The facts, if not true, were well invented; the
arguments, if not logical, were seductive. The presiding spirit of
the paper had the gift, at any rate, of knowing what the people for
whom he catered would like to read, and how to get his subjects
handled, so that the reading should be pleasant. Mr. Booker's
"Literary Chronicle" did not presume to entertain any special
political opinions. The "Breakfast Table" was decidedly Liberal. The
"Evening Pulpit" was much given to politics, but held strictly to the
motto which it had
assumed;




"Nullius addictus jurare in verba
magistri;"—

and consequently
had at all times the invaluable privilege of abusing
what was being done, whether by one side or by the other. A newspaper
that wishes to make its fortune should never waste its columns and
weary its readers by praising anything. Eulogy is invariably dull,—a
fact that Mr. Alf had discovered and had utilized.

Mr. Alf had, moreover, discovered another fact. Abuse from those who
occasionally praise is considered to be personally offensive, and
they who give personal offence will sometimes make the world too hot
to hold them. But censure from those who are always finding fault is
regarded so much as a matter of course that it ceases to be
objectionable. The caricaturist, who draws only caricatures, is held
to be justifiable, let him take what liberties he may with a man's
face and person. It is his trade, and his business calls upon him to
vilify all that he touches. But were an artist to publish a series of
portraits, in which two out of a dozen were made to be hideous, he
would certainly make two enemies, if not more. Mr. Alf never made
enemies, for he praised no one, and, as far as the expression of his
newspaper went, was satisfied with nothing.

Personally, Mr. Alf was a remarkable man. No one knew whence he came
or what he had been. He was supposed to have been born a German Jew;
and certain ladies said that they could distinguish in his tongue the
slightest possible foreign accent. Nevertheless it was conceded to
him that he knew England as only an Englishman can know it. During
the last year or two he had "come up" as the phrase goes, and had
come up very thoroughly. He had been black-balled at three or four
clubs, but had effected an entrance at two or three others, and had
learned a manner of speaking of those which had rejected him
calculated to leave on the minds of hearers a conviction that the
societies in question were antiquated, imbecile, and moribund. He was
never weary of implying that not to know Mr. Alf, not to be on good
terms with Mr. Alf, not to understand that let Mr. Alf have been born
where he might and how he might he was always to be recognised as a
desirable acquaintance, was to be altogether out in the dark. And
that which he so constantly asserted, or implied, men and women
around him began at last to believe,—and Mr. Alf became an
acknowledged something in the different worlds of politics, letters,
and fashion.

He was a good-looking man, about forty years old, but carrying
himself as though he was much younger, spare, below the middle
height, with dark brown hair which would have shown a tinge of grey
but for the dyer's art, with well-cut features, with a smile
constantly on his mouth the pleasantness of which was always belied
by the sharp severity of his eyes. He dressed with the utmost
simplicity, but also with the utmost care. He was unmarried, had a
small house of his own close to Berkeley Square at which he gave
remarkable dinner parties, kept four or five hunters in
Northamptonshire, and was reputed to earn £6,000 a year out of the
"Evening Pulpit" and to spend about half of that income. He also was
intimate after his fashion with Lady Carbury, whose diligence in
making and fostering useful friendships had been unwearied. Her
letter to Mr. Alf was as
follows;—
 


Dear Mr. Alf,—

Do tell me who wrote the review on Fitzgerald Barker's
last poem. Only I know you won't. I remember nothing done
so well. I should think the poor wretch will hardly hold
his head up again before the autumn. But it was fully
deserved. I have no patience with the pretensions of
would-be poets who contrive by toadying and underground
influences to get their volumes placed on every
drawing-room table. I know no one to whom the world has
been so good-natured in this way as to Fitzgerald Barker,
but I have heard of no one who has extended the good
nature to the length of reading his poetry.

Is it not singular how some men continue to obtain the
reputation of popular authorship without adding a word to
the literature of their country worthy of note? It is
accomplished by unflagging assiduity in the system of
puffing. To puff and to get one's self puffed have become
different branches of a new profession. Alas, me! I wish I
might find a class open in which lessons could be taken by
such a poor tyro as myself. Much as I hate the thing from
my very soul, and much as I admire the consistency with
which the "Pulpit" has opposed it, I myself am so much in
want of support for my own little efforts, and am
struggling so hard honestly to make for myself a
remunerative career, that I think, were the opportunity
offered to me, I should pocket my honour, lay aside the
high feeling which tells me that praise should be bought
neither by money nor friendship, and descend among the low
things, in order that I might one day have the pride of
feeling that I had succeeded by my own work in providing
for the needs of my children.

But I have not as yet commenced the descent downwards; and
therefore I am still bold enough to tell you that I shall
look, not with concern but with a deep interest, to
anything which may appear in the "Pulpit" respecting my
"Criminal Queens." I venture to think that the
book,—though I wrote it myself,—has an importance of its
own which will secure for it some notice. That my
inaccuracy will be laid bare and presumption scourged I do
not in the least doubt, but I think your reviewer will be
able to certify that the sketches are life-like and the
portraits well considered. You will not hear me told, at
any rate, that I had better sit at home and darn my
stockings, as you said the other day of that poor
unfortunate Mrs. Effington Stubbs.

I have not seen you for the last three weeks. I have a few
friends every Tuesday evening;—pray come next week or the
week following. And pray believe that no amount of
editorial or critical severity shall make me receive you
otherwise than with a smile.

Most sincerely yours,

Matilda Carbury.
 


Lady Carbury, having finished her third letter, threw herself back in
her chair, and for a moment or two closed her eyes, as though about
to rest. But she soon remembered that the activity of her life did
not admit of such rest. She therefore seized her pen and began
scribbling further notes.

 


 


CHAPTER II.


THE CARBURY FAMILY.
 

Something of herself and condition Lady Carbury has told the reader
in the letters given in the former chapter, but more must be added.
She has declared she had been cruelly slandered; but she has also
shown that she was not a woman whose words about herself could be
taken with much confidence. If the reader does not understand so much
from her letters to the three editors they have been written in vain.
She has been made to say that her object in work was to provide for
the need of her children, and that with that noble purpose before her
she was struggling to make for herself a career in literature.
Detestably false as had been her letters to the editors, absolutely
and abominably foul as was the entire system by which she was
endeavouring to achieve success, far away from honour and honesty as
she had been carried by her ready subserviency to the dirty things
among which she had lately fallen, nevertheless her statements about
herself were substantially true. She had been ill-treated. She had
been slandered. She was true to her children,—especially devoted to
one of them,—and was ready to work her nails off if by doing so she
could advance their interests.

She was the widow of one Sir Patrick Carbury, who many years since
had done great things as a soldier in India, and had been thereupon
created a baronet. He had married a young wife late in life and,
having found out when too late that he had made a mistake, had
occasionally spoilt his darling and occasionally ill used her. In
doing each he had done it abundantly. Among Lady Carbury's faults had
never been that of even incipient,—not even of sentimental
infidelity to her husband. When as a very lovely and penniless girl
of eighteen she had consented to marry a man of forty-four who had
the spending of a large income, she had made up her mind to abandon
all hope of that sort of love which poets describe and which young
people generally desire to experience. Sir Patrick at the time of his
marriage was red-faced, stout, bald, very choleric, generous in
money, suspicious in temper, and intelligent. He knew how to govern
men. He could read and understand a book. There was nothing mean
about him. He had his attractive qualities. He was a man who might be
loved;—but he was hardly a man for love. The young Lady Carbury had
understood her position and had determined to do her duty. She had
resolved before she went to the altar that she would never allow
herself to flirt and she had never flirted. For fifteen years things
had gone tolerably well with her,—by which it is intended that the
reader should understand that they had so gone that she had been able
to tolerate them. They had been home in England for three or four
years, and then Sir Patrick had returned with some new and higher
appointment. For fifteen years, though he had been passionate,
imperious, and often cruel, he had never been jealous. A boy and a
girl had been born to them, to whom both father and mother had been
over indulgent;—but the mother, according to her lights, had
endeavoured to do her duty by them. But from the commencement of her
life she had been educated in deceit, and her married life had seemed
to make the practice of deceit necessary to her. Her mother had run
away from her father, and she had been tossed to and fro between this
and that protector, sometimes being in danger of wanting any one to
care for her, till she had been made sharp, incredulous, and
untrustworthy by the difficulties of her position. But she was
clever, and had picked up an education and good manners amidst the
difficulties of her childhood,—and had been beautiful to look at. To
marry and have the command of money, to do her duty correctly, to
live in a big house and be respected, had been her ambition,—and
during the first fifteen years of her married life she was successful
amidst great difficulties. She would smile within five minutes of
violent ill-usage. Her husband would even strike her,—and the first
effort of her mind would be given to conceal the fact from all the
world. In latter years he drank too much, and she struggled hard
first to prevent the evil, and then to prevent and to hide the ill
effects of the evil. But in doing all this she schemed, and lied, and
lived a life of manœuvres. Then, at last, when she felt that she
was no longer quite a young woman, she allowed herself to attempt to
form friendships for herself, and among her friends was one of the
other sex. If fidelity in a wife be compatible with such friendship,
if the married state does not exact from a woman the necessity of
debarring herself from all friendly intercourse with any man except
her lord, Lady Carbury was not faithless. But Sir Carbury became
jealous, spoke words which even she could not endure, did things
which drove even her beyond the calculations of her prudence,—and
she left him. But even this she did in so guarded a way that, as to
every step she took, she could prove her innocence. Her life at that
period is of little moment to our story, except that it is essential
that the reader should know in what she had been slandered. For a
month or two all hard words had been said against her by her
husband's friends, and even by Sir Patrick himself. But gradually the
truth was known, and after a year's separation they came again
together and she remained the mistress of his house till he died. She
brought him home to England, but during the short period left to him
of life in his old country he had been a worn-out, dying invalid. But
the scandal of her great misfortune had followed her, and some people
were never tired of reminding others that in the course of her
married life Lady Carbury had run away from her husband, and had been
taken back again by the kind-hearted old gentleman.

Sir Patrick had left behind him a moderate fortune, though by no
means great wealth. To his son, who was now Sir Felix Carbury, he had
left £1,000 a year; and to his widow as much, with a provision that
after her death the latter sum should be divided between his son and
daughter. It therefore came to pass that the young man, who had
already entered the army when his father died, and upon whom devolved
no necessity of keeping a house, and who in fact not unfrequently
lived in his mother's house, had an income equal to that with which
his mother and his sister were obliged to maintain a roof over their
head. Now Lady Carbury, when she was released from her thraldom at
the age of forty, had no idea at all of passing her future life
amidst the ordinary penances of widowhood. She had hitherto
endeavoured to do her duty, knowing that in accepting her position
she was bound to take the good and the bad together. She had
certainly encountered hitherto much that was bad. To be scolded,
watched, beaten, and sworn at by a choleric old man till she was at
last driven out of her house by the violence of his ill-usage; to be
taken back as a favour with the assurance that her name would for the
remainder of her life be unjustly tarnished; to have her flight
constantly thrown in her face; and then at last to become for a year
or two the nurse of a dying debauchee, was a high price to pay for
such good things as she had hitherto enjoyed. Now at length had come
to her a period of relaxation—her reward, her freedom, her chance of
happiness. She thought much about herself, and resolved on one or two
things. The time for love had gone by, and she would have nothing to
do with it. Nor would she marry again for convenience. But she would
have friends,—real friends; friends who could help her,—and whom
possibly she might help. She would, too, make some career for
herself, so that life might not be without an interest to her. She
would live in London, and would become somebody at any rate in some
circle. Accident at first rather than choice had thrown her among
literary people, but that accident had, during the last two years,
been supported and corroborated by the desire which had fallen upon
her of earning money. She had known from the first that economy would
be necessary to her,—not chiefly or perhaps not at all from a
feeling that she and her daughter could not live comfortably together
on a thousand a year,—but on behalf of her son. She wanted no luxury
but a house so placed that people might conceive of her that she
lived in a proper part of the town. Of her daughter's prudence she
was as well convinced as of her own. She could trust Henrietta in
everything. But her son, Sir Felix, was not very trustworthy. And yet
Sir Felix was the darling of her heart.

At the time of the writing of the three letters, at which our story
is supposed to begin, she was driven very hard for money. Sir Felix
was then twenty-five, had been in a fashionable regiment for four
years, had already sold out, and, to own the truth at once, had
altogether wasted the property which his father had left him. So much
the mother knew,—and knew, therefore, that with her limited income
she must maintain not only herself and daughter, but also the
baronet. She did not know, however, the amount of the baronet's
obligations;—nor, indeed, did he, or any one else. A baronet,
holding a commission in the Guards, and known to have had a fortune
left him by his father, may go very far in getting into debt; and Sir
Felix had made full use of all his privileges. His life had been in
every way bad. He had become a burden on his mother so heavy,—and on
his sister also,—that their life had become one of unavoidable
embarrassments. But not for a moment had either of them ever
quarrelled with him. Henrietta had been taught by the conduct of both
father and mother that every vice might be forgiven in a man and in a
son, though every virtue was expected from a woman, and especially
from a daughter. The lesson had come to her so early in life that she
had learned it without the feeling of any grievance. She lamented her
brother's evil conduct as it affected him, but she pardoned it
altogether as it affected herself. That all her interests in life
should be made subservient to him was natural to her; and when she
found that her little comforts were discontinued, and her moderate
expenses curtailed because he, having eaten up all that was his own,
was now eating up also all that was his mother's, she never
complained. Henrietta had been taught to think that men in that rank
of life in which she had been born always did eat up everything.

The mother's feeling was less noble,—or perhaps, it might better be
said, more open to censure. The boy, who had been beautiful as a
star, had ever been the cynosure of her eyes, the one thing on which
her heart had rivetted itself. Even during the career of his folly
she had hardly ventured to say a word to him with the purport of
stopping him on his road to ruin. In everything she had spoilt him as
a boy, and in everything she still spoilt him as a man. She was
almost proud of his vices, and had taken delight in hearing of doings
which if not vicious of themselves had been ruinous from their
extravagance. She had so indulged him that even in her own presence
he was never ashamed of his own selfishness or apparently conscious
of the injustice which he did to others.

From all this it had come to pass that that dabbling in literature
which had been commenced partly perhaps from a sense of pleasure in
the work, partly as a passport into society, had been converted into
hard work by which money if possible might be earned. So that Lady
Carbury when she wrote to her friends, the editors, of her struggles
was speaking the truth. Tidings had reached her of this and the other
man's success, and,—coming near to her still,—of this and that
other woman's earnings in literature. And it had seemed to her that,
within moderate limits, she might give a wide field to her hopes. Why
should she not add a thousand a year to her income, so that Felix
might again live like a gentleman and marry that heiress who, in Lady
Carbury's look-out into the future, was destined to make all things
straight! Who was so handsome as her son? Who could make himself more
agreeable? Who had more of that audacity which is the chief thing
necessary to the winning of heiresses? And then he could make his
wife Lady Carbury. If only enough money might be earned to tide over
the present evil day, all might be well.

The one most essential obstacle to the chance of success in all this
was probably Lady Carbury's conviction that her end was to be
obtained not by producing good books, but by inducing certain people
to say that her books were good. She did work hard at what she
wrote,—hard enough at any rate to cover her pages quickly; and was,
by nature, a clever woman. She could write after a glib,
common-place, sprightly fashion, and had already acquired the knack
of spreading all she knew very thin, so that it might cover a vast
surface. She had no ambition to write a good book, but was painfully
anxious to write a book that the critics should say was good. Had Mr.
Broune, in his closet, told her that her book was absolutely trash,
but had undertaken at the same time to have it violently praised in
the "Breakfast Table," it may be doubted whether the critic's own
opinion would have even wounded her vanity. The woman was false from
head to foot, but there was much of good in her, false though she
was.

Whether Sir Felix, her son, had become what he was solely by bad
training, or whether he had been born bad, who shall say? It is
hardly possible that he should not have been better had he been taken
away as an infant and subjected to moral training by moral teachers.
And yet again it is hardly possible that any training or want of
training should have produced a heart so utterly incapable of feeling
for others as was his. He could not even feel his own misfortunes
unless they touched the outward comforts of the moment. It seemed
that he lacked sufficient imagination to realise future misery though
the futurity to be considered was divided from the present but by a
single month, a single week,—but by a single night. He liked to be
kindly treated, to be praised and petted, to be well fed and
caressed; and they who so treated him were his chosen friends. He had
in this the instincts of a horse, not approaching the higher
sympathies of a dog. But it cannot be said of him that he had ever
loved any one to the extent of denying himself a moment's
gratification on that loved one's behalf. His heart was a stone. But
he was beautiful to look at, ready-witted, and intelligent. He was
very dark, with that soft olive complexion which so generally gives
to young men an appearance of aristocratic breeding. His hair, which
was never allowed to become long, was nearly black, and was soft and
silky without that taint of grease which is so common with
silken-headed darlings. His eyes were long, brown in colour, and were
made beautiful by the perfect arch of the perfect eyebrow. But
perhaps the glory of the face was due more to the finished moulding
and fine symmetry of the nose and mouth than to his other features.
On his short upper lip he had a moustache as well formed as his
eyebrows, but he wore no other beard. The form of his chin too was
perfect, but it lacked that sweetness and softness of expression,
indicative of softness of heart, which a dimple conveys. He was about
five feet nine in height, and was as excellent in figure as in face.
It was admitted by men and clamorously asserted by women that no man
had ever been more handsome than Felix Carbury, and it was admitted
also that he never showed consciousness of his beauty. He had given
himself airs on many scores;—on the score of his money, poor fool,
while it lasted; on the score of his title; on the score of his army
standing till he lost it; and especially on the score of superiority
in fashionable intellect. But he had been clever enough to dress
himself always with simplicity and to avoid the appearance of thought
about his outward man. As yet the little world of his associates had
hardly found out how callous were his affections,—or rather how
devoid he was of affection. His airs and his appearance, joined with
some cleverness, had carried him through even the viciousness of his
life. In one matter he had marred his name, and by a moment's
weakness had injured his character among his friends more than he had
done by the folly of three years. There had been a quarrel between
him and a brother officer, in which he had been the aggressor; and,
when the moment came in which a man's heart should have produced
manly conduct, he had first threatened and had then shown the white
feather. That was now a year since, and he had partly outlived the
evil;—but some men still remembered that Felix Carbury had been
cowed, and had cowered.

It was now his business to marry an heiress. He was well aware that
it was so, and was quite prepared to face his destiny. But he lacked
something in the art of making love. He was beautiful, had the
manners of a gentleman, could talk well, lacked nothing of audacity,
and had no feeling of repugnance at declaring a passion which he did
not feel. But he knew so little of the passion, that he could hardly
make even a young girl believe that he felt it. When he talked of
love, he not only thought that he was talking nonsense, but showed
that he thought so. From this fault he had already failed with one
young lady reputed to have £40,000, who had refused him because, as
she naively said, she knew "he did not really care." "How can I show
that I care more than by wishing to make you my wife?" he had asked.
"I don't know that you can, but all the same you don't care," she
said. And so that young lady escaped the pit-fall. Now there was
another young lady, to whom the reader shall be introduced in time,
whom Sir Felix was instigated to pursue with unremitting diligence.
Her wealth was not defined, as had been the £40,000 of her
predecessor, but was known to be very much greater than that. It was,
indeed, generally supposed to be fathomless, bottomless, endless. It
was said that in regard to money for ordinary expenditure, money for
houses, servants, horses, jewels, and the like, one sum was the same
as another to the father of this young lady. He had great
concerns;—concerns so great that the payment of ten or twenty
thousand pounds upon any trifle was the same thing to him,—as to men
who are comfortable in their circumstances it matters little whether
they pay sixpence or ninepence for their mutton chops. Such a man may
be ruined at any time; but there was no doubt that to any one
marrying his daughter during the present season of his outrageous
prosperity he could give a very large fortune indeed. Lady Carbury,
who had known the rock on which her son had been once wrecked, was
very anxious that Sir Felix should at once make a proper use of the
intimacy which he had effected in the house of this topping Crœsus
of the day.

And now there must be a few words said about Henrietta Carbury. Of
course she was of infinitely less importance than her brother, who
was a baronet, the head of that branch of the Carburys, and her
mother's darling; and, therefore, a few words should suffice. She
also was very lovely, being like her brother; but somewhat less dark
and with features less absolutely regular. But she had in her
countenance a full measure of that sweetness of expression which
seems to imply that consideration of self is subordinated to
consideration for others. This sweetness was altogether lacking to
her brother. And her face was a true index of her character. Again,
who shall say why the brother and sister had become so opposite to
each other; whether they would have been thus different had both been
taken away as infants from their father's and mother's training, or
whether the girl's virtues were owing altogether to the lower place
which she had held in her parent's heart? She, at any rate, had not
been spoilt by a title, by the command of money, and by the
temptations of too early acquaintance with the world. At the present
time she was barely twenty-one years old, and had not seen much of
London society. Her mother did not frequent balls, and during the
last two years there had grown upon them a necessity for economy
which was inimical to many gloves and costly dresses. Sir Felix went
out of course, but Hetta Carbury spent most of her time at home with
her mother in Welbeck Street. Occasionally the world saw her, and
when the world did see her the world declared that she was a charming
girl. The world was so far right.

But for Henrietta Carbury the romance of life had already commenced
in real earnest. There was another branch of the Carburys, the head
branch, which was now represented by one Roger Carbury, of Carbury
Hall. Roger Carbury was a gentleman of whom much will have to be
said, but here, at this moment, it need only be told that he was
passionately in love with his cousin Henrietta. He was, however,
nearly forty years old, and there was one Paul Montague whom
Henrietta had seen.

 


 


CHAPTER III.


THE BEARGARDEN.
 

Lady Carbury's house in Welbeck Street was a modest house
enough,—with no pretensions to be a mansion, hardly assuming even to
be a residence; but, having some money in her hands when she first
took it, she had made it pretty and pleasant, and was still proud to
feel that in spite of the hardness of her position she had
comfortable belongings around her when her literary friends came to
see her on her Tuesday evenings. Here she was now living with her son
and daughter. The back drawing-room was divided from the front by
doors that were permanently closed, and in this she carried on her
great work. Here she wrote her books and contrived her system for the
inveigling of editors and critics. Here she was rarely disturbed by
her daughter, and admitted no visitors except editors and critics.
But her son was controlled by no household laws, and would break in
upon her privacy without remorse. She had hardly finished two
galloping notes after completing her letter to Mr. Ferdinand Alf,
when Felix entered the room with a cigar in his mouth and threw
himself upon the sofa.

"My dear boy," she said, "pray leave your tobacco below when you come
in here."

"What affectation it is, mother," he said, throwing, however, the
half-smoked cigar into the fire-place. "Some women swear they like
smoke, others say they hate it like the devil. It depends altogether
on whether they wish to flatter or snub a fellow."

"You don't suppose that I wish to snub you?"

"Upon my word I don't know. I wonder whether you can let me have
twenty pounds?"

"My dear Felix!"

"Just so, mother;—but how about the twenty pounds?"











"Just so, mother;--but how about the twenty pounds?"


"Just so,
mother;—but how about the twenty pounds?"


Click to ENLARGE


"What is it for, Felix?"

"Well;—to tell the truth, to carry on the game for the nonce till
something is settled. A fellow can't live without some money in his
pocket. I do with as little as most fellows. I pay for nothing that I
can help. I even get my hair cut on credit, and as long as it was
possible I had a brougham, to save cabs."

"What is to be the end of it, Felix?"

"I never could see the end of anything, mother. I never could nurse a
horse when the hounds were going well in order to be in at the
finish. I never could pass a dish that I liked in favour of those
that were to follow. What's the use?" The young man did not say
"carpe diem," but that was the philosophy which he intended to
preach.

"Have you been at the Melmottes' to-day?" It was now five o'clock on
a winter afternoon, the hour at which ladies are drinking tea, and
idle men playing whist at the clubs,—at which young idle men are
sometimes allowed to flirt, and at which, as Lady Carbury thought,
her son might have been paying his court to Marie Melmotte the great
heiress.

"I have just come away."

"And what do you think of her?"

"To tell the truth, mother, I have thought very little about her. She
is not pretty, she is not plain; she is not clever, she is not
stupid; she is neither saint nor sinner."

"The more likely to make a good wife."

"Perhaps so. I am at any rate quite willing to believe that as wife
she would be 'good enough for me.'"

"What does the mother say?"

"The mother is a caution. I cannot help speculating whether, if I
marry the daughter, I shall ever find out where the mother came from.
Dolly Longestaffe says that somebody says that she was a Bohemian
Jewess; but I think she's too fat for that."

"What does it matter, Felix?"

"Not in the least."

"Is she civil to you?"

"Yes, civil enough."

"And the father?"

"Well, he does not turn me out, or anything of that sort. Of course
there are half-a-dozen after her, and I think the old fellow is
bewildered among them all. He's thinking more of getting dukes to
dine with him than of his daughter's lovers. Any fellow might pick
her up who happened to hit her fancy."

"And why not you?"

"Why not, mother? I am doing my best, and it's no good flogging a
willing horse. Can you let me have the money?"

"Oh, Felix, I think you hardly know how poor we are. You have still
got your hunters down at the place!"

"I have got two horses, if you mean that; and I haven't paid a
shilling for their keep since the season began. Look here, mother;
this is a risky sort of game, I grant, but I am playing it by your
advice. If I can marry Miss Melmotte, I suppose all will be right.
But I don't think the way to get her would be to throw up everything
and let all the world know that I haven't got a copper. To do that
kind of thing a man must live a little up to the mark. I've brought
my hunting down to a minimum, but if I gave it up altogether there
would be lots of fellows to tell them in Grosvenor Square why I had
done so."

There was an apparent truth in this argument which the poor woman was
unable to answer. Before the interview was over the money demanded
was forthcoming, though at the time it could be but ill afforded, and
the youth went away apparently with a light heart, hardly listening
to his mother's entreaties that the affair with Marie Melmotte might,
if possible, be brought to a speedy conclusion.

Felix, when he left his mother, went down to the only club to which
he now belonged. Clubs are pleasant resorts in all respects but one.
They require ready money, or even worse than that in respect to
annual payments,—money in advance; and the young baronet had been
absolutely forced to restrict himself. He, as a matter of course, out
of those to which he had possessed the right of entrance, chose the
worst. It was called the Beargarden, and had been lately opened with
the express view of combining parsimony with profligacy. Clubs were
ruined, so said certain young parsimonious profligates, by providing
comforts for old fogies who paid little or nothing but their
subscriptions, and took out by their mere presence three times as
much as they gave. This club was not to be opened till three o'clock
in the afternoon, before which hour the promoters of the Beargarden
thought it improbable that they and their fellows would want a club.
There were to be no morning papers taken, no library, no
morning-room. Dining-rooms, billiard-rooms, and card-rooms would
suffice for the Beargarden. Everything was to be provided by a
purveyor, so that the club should be cheated only by one man.
Everything was to be luxurious, but the luxuries were to be achieved
at first cost. It had been a happy thought, and the club was said to
prosper. Herr Vossner, the purveyor, was a jewel, and so carried on
affairs that there was no trouble about anything. He would assist
even in smoothing little difficulties as to the settling of card
accounts, and had behaved with the greatest tenderness to the drawers
of cheques whose bankers had harshly declared them to have "no
effects." Herr Vossner was a jewel, and the Beargarden was a success.
Perhaps no young man about town enjoyed the Beargarden more
thoroughly than did Sir Felix Carbury. The club was in the close
vicinity of other clubs, in a small street turning out of St. James's
Street, and piqued itself on its outward quietness and sobriety. Why
pay for stone-work for other people to look at;—why lay out money in
marble pillars and cornices, seeing that you can neither eat such
things, nor drink them, nor gamble with them? But the Beargarden had
the best wines,—or thought that it had,—and the easiest chairs, and
two billiard-tables than which nothing more perfect had ever been
made to stand upon legs. Hither Sir Felix wended on that January
afternoon as soon as he had his mother's cheque for £20 in his
pocket.

He found his special friend, Dolly Longestaffe, standing on the steps
with a cigar in his mouth, and gazing vacantly at the dull brick
house opposite. "Going to dine here, Dolly?" said Sir Felix.

"I suppose I shall, because it's such a lot of trouble to go anywhere
else. I'm engaged somewhere, I know; but I'm not up to getting home
and dressing. By George! I don't know how fellows do that kind of
thing. I can't."

"Going to hunt to-morrow?"

"Well, yes; but I don't suppose I shall. I was going to hunt every
day last week, but my fellow never would get me up in time. I can't
tell why it is that things are done in such a beastly way. Why
shouldn't fellows begin to hunt at two or three, so that a fellow
needn't get up in the middle of the night?"

"Because one can't ride by moonlight, Dolly."

"It isn't moonlight at three. At any rate I can't get myself to
Euston Square by nine. I don't think that fellow of mine likes
getting up himself. He says he comes in and wakes me, but I never
remember it."

"How many horses have you got at Leighton, Dolly?"

"How many? There were five, but I think that fellow down there sold
one; but then I think he bought another. I know he did something."

"Who rides them?"

"He does, I suppose. That is, of course, I ride them myself, only I
so seldom get down. Somebody told me that Grasslough was riding two
of them last week. I don't think I ever told him he might. I think he
tipped that fellow of mine; and I call that a low kind of thing to
do. I'd ask him, only I know he'd say that I had lent them. Perhaps I
did when I was tight, you know."

"You and Grasslough were never pals."

"I don't like him a bit. He gives himself airs because he is a lord,
and is devilish ill-natured. I don't know why he should want to ride
my horses."

"To save his own."

"He isn't hard up. Why doesn't he have his own horses? I'll tell you
what, Carbury, I've made up my mind to one thing, and, by Jove, I'll
stick to it. I never will lend a horse again to anybody. If fellows
want horses let them buy them."

"But some fellows haven't got any money, Dolly."

"Then they ought to go tick. I don't think I've paid for any of mine
I've bought this season. There was somebody here
yesterday—"

"What! here at the club?"

"Yes; followed me here to say he wanted to be paid for something! It
was horses, I think, because of the fellow's trousers."

"What did you say?"

"Me! Oh, I didn't say anything."

"And how did it end?"

"When he'd done talking I offered him a cigar, and while he was
biting off the end I went up-stairs. I suppose he went away when he
was tired of waiting."

"I'll tell you what, Dolly; I wish you'd let me ride two of yours for
a couple of days,—that is, of course, if you don't want them
yourself. You ain't tight now, at any rate."

"No; I ain't tight," said Dolly, with melancholy acquiescence.

"I mean that I wouldn't like to borrow your horses without your
remembering all about it. Nobody knows as well as you do how awfully
done up I am. I shall pull through at last, but it's an awful squeeze
in the meantime. There's nobody I'd ask such a favour of except you."

"Well, you may have them;—that is, for two days. I don't know
whether that fellow of mine will believe you. He wouldn't believe
Grasslough, and told him so. But Grasslough took them out of the
stables. That's what somebody told me."

"You could write a line to your groom."

"Oh, my dear fellow, that is such a bore; I don't think I could do
that. My fellow will believe you, because you and I have been pals. I
think I'll have a little drop of curaçoa before dinner. Come along
and try it. It'll give us an appetite."

It was then nearly seven o'clock. Nine hours afterwards the same two
men, with two others,—of whom young Lord Grasslough, Dolly
Longestaffe's peculiar aversion, was one,—were just rising from a
card-table in one of the up-stairs rooms of the club. For it was
understood that, though the Beargarden was not to be open before
three o'clock in the afternoon, the accommodation denied during the
day was to be given freely during the night. No man could get a
breakfast at the Beargarden, but suppers at three o'clock in the
morning were quite within the rule. Such a supper, or rather
succession of suppering, there had been to-night, various devils and
broils and hot toasts having been brought up from time to time first
for one and then for another. But there had been no cessation of
gambling since the cards had first been opened about ten o'clock. At
four in the morning Dolly Longestaffe was certainly in a condition to
lend his horses and to remember nothing about it. He was quite
affectionate with Lord Grasslough, as he was also with his other
companions,—affection being the normal state of his mind when in
that condition. He was by no means helplessly drunk, and was,
perhaps, hardly more silly than when he was sober; but he was willing
to play at any game whether he understood it or not, and for any
stakes. When Sir Felix got up and said he would play no more, Dolly
also got up, apparently quite contented. When Lord Grasslough, with a
dark scowl on his face, expressed his opinion that it was not just
the thing for men to break up like that when so much money had been
lost, Dolly as willingly sat down again. But Dolly's sitting down was
not sufficient. "I'm going to hunt to-morrow," said Sir
Felix,—meaning that day,—"and I shall play no more. A man must go
to bed at some time."

"I don't see it at all," said Lord Grasslough. "It's an understood
thing that when a man has won as much as you have he should stay."

"Stay how long?" said Sir Felix, with an angry look. "That's
nonsense; there must be an end of everything, and there's an end of
this for me to-night."

"Oh, if you choose," said his lordship.

"I do choose. Good night, Dolly; we'll settle this next time we meet.
I've got it all entered."

The night had been one very serious in its results to Sir Felix. He
had sat down to the card-table with the proceeds of his mother's
cheque, a poor £20, and now he had,—he didn't at all know how much
in his pockets. He also had drunk, but not so as to obscure his mind.
He knew that Longestaffe owed him over £800, and he knew also that he
had received more than that in ready money and cheques from Lord
Grasslough and the other player. Dolly Longestaffe's money, too,
would certainly be paid, though Dolly did complain of the importunity
of his tradesmen. As he walked up St. James's Street, looking for a
cab, he presumed himself to be worth over £700. When begging for a
small sum from Lady Carbury, he had said that he could not carry on
the game without some ready money, and had considered himself
fortunate in fleecing his mother as he had done. Now he was in the
possession of wealth,—of wealth that might, at any rate, be
sufficient to aid him materially in the object he had in hand. He
never for a moment thought of paying his bills. Even the large sum of
which he had become so unexpectedly possessed would not have gone far
with him in such a quixotic object as that; but he could now look
bright, and buy presents, and be seen with money in his hands. It is
hard even to make love in these days without something in your purse.

He found no cab, but in his present frame of mind was indifferent to
the trouble of walking home. There was something so joyous in the
feeling of the possession of all this money that it made the night
air pleasant to him. Then, of a sudden, he remembered the low wail
with which his mother had spoken of her poverty when he demanded
assistance from her. Now he could give her back the £20. But it
occurred to him sharply, with an amount of carefulness quite new to
him, that it would be foolish to do so. How soon might he want it
again? And, moreover, he could not repay the money without explaining
to her how he had gotten it. It would be preferable to say nothing
about his money. As he let himself into the house and went up to his
room he resolved that he would not say anything about it.

On that morning he was at the station at nine, and hunted down in
Buckinghamshire, riding two of Dolly Longestaffe's horses,—for the
use of which he paid Dolly Longestaffe's "fellow" thirty shillings.

 


 


CHAPTER IV.


MADAME MELMOTTE'S BALL.
 

The next night but one after that of the gambling transaction at the
Beargarden, a great ball was given in Grosvenor Square. It was a ball
on a scale so magnificent that it had been talked about ever since
Parliament met, now about a fortnight since. Some people had
expressed an opinion that such a ball as this was intended to be
could not be given successfully in February. Others declared that the
money which was to be spent,—an amount which would make this affair
something quite new in the annals of ball-giving,—would give the
thing such a character that it would certainly be successful. And
much more than money had been expended. Almost incredible efforts had
been made to obtain the co-operation of great people, and these
efforts had at last been grandly successful. The Duchess of Stevenage
had come up from Castle Albury herself to be present at it and to
bring her daughters, though it has never been her Grace's wont to be
in London at this inclement season. No doubt the persuasion used with
the Duchess had been very strong. Her brother, Lord Alfred Grendall,
was known to be in great difficulties, which,—so people said,—had
been considerably modified by opportune pecuniary assistance. And
then it was certain that one of the young Grendalls, Lord Alfred's
second son, had been appointed to some mercantile position, for which
he received a salary which his most intimate friends thought that he
was hardly qualified to earn. It was certainly a fact that he went to
Abchurch Lane, in the City, four or five days a week, and that he did
not occupy his time in so unaccustomed a manner for nothing. Where
the Duchess of Stevenage went all the world would go. And it became
known at the last moment, that is to say only the day before the
party, that a prince of the blood royal was to be there. How this had
been achieved nobody quite understood; but there were rumours that a
certain lady's jewels had been rescued from the pawnbroker's.
Everything was done on the same scale. The Prime Minister had indeed
declined to allow his name to appear on the list; but one Cabinet
Minister and two or three under-secretaries had agreed to come
because it was felt that the giver of the ball might before long be
the master of considerable parliamentary interest. It was believed
that he had an eye to politics, and it is always wise to have great
wealth on one's own side. There had at one time been much solicitude
about the ball. Many anxious thoughts had been given. When great
attempts fail, the failure is disastrous, and may be ruinous. But
this ball had now been put beyond the chance of failure.

The giver of the ball was Augustus Melmotte, Esq., the father of the
girl whom Sir Felix Carbury desired to marry, and the husband of the
lady who was said to have been a Bohemian Jewess. It was thus that
the gentleman chose to have himself designated, though within the
last two years he had arrived in London from Paris, and had at first
been known as M. Melmotte. But he had declared of himself that he had
been born in England, and that he was an Englishman. He admitted that
his wife was a foreigner,—an admission that was necessary as she
spoke very little English. Melmotte himself spoke his "native"
language fluently, but with an accent which betrayed at least a long
expatriation. Miss Melmotte,—who a very short time since had been
known as Mademoiselle Marie,—spoke English well, but as a foreigner.
In regard to her it was acknowledged that she had been born out of
England,—some said in New York; but Madame Melmotte, who must have
known, had declared that the great event had taken place in Paris.

It was at any rate an established fact that Mr. Melmotte had made his
wealth in France. He no doubt had had enormous dealings in other
countries, as to which stories were told which must surely have been
exaggerated. It was said that he had made a railway across Russia,
that he provisioned the Southern army in the American civil war, that
he had supplied Austria with arms, and had at one time bought up all
the iron in England. He could make or mar any company by buying or
selling stock, and could make money dear or cheap as he pleased. All
this was said of him in his praise,—but it was also said that he was
regarded in Paris as the most gigantic swindler that had ever lived;
that he had made that City too hot to hold him; that he had
endeavoured to establish himself in Vienna, but had been warned away
by the police; and that he had at length found that British freedom
would alone allow him to enjoy, without persecution, the fruits of
his industry. He was now established privately in Grosvenor Square
and officially in Abchurch Lane; and it was known to all the world
that a Royal Prince, a Cabinet Minister, and the very cream of
duchesses were going to his wife's ball. All this had been done
within twelve months.

There was but one child in the family, one heiress for all this
wealth. Melmotte himself was a large man, with bushy whiskers and
rough thick hair, with heavy eyebrows, and a wonderful look of power
about his mouth and chin. This was so strong as to redeem his face
from vulgarity; but the countenance and appearance of the man were on
the whole unpleasant, and, I may say, untrustworthy. He looked as
though he were purse-proud and a bully. She was fat and fair,—unlike
in colour to our traditional Jewesses; but she had the Jewish nose
and the Jewish contraction of the eyes. There was certainly very
little in Madame Melmotte to recommend her, unless it was a readiness
to spend money on any object that might be suggested to her by her
new acquaintances. It sometimes seemed that she had a commission from
her husband to give away presents to any who would accept them. The
world had received the man as Augustus Melmotte, Esq. The world so
addressed him on the very numerous letters which reached him, and so
inscribed him among the directors of three dozen companies to which
he belonged. But his wife was still Madame Melmotte. The daughter had
been allowed to take her rank with an English title. She was now Miss
Melmotte on all occasions.

Marie Melmotte had been accurately described by Felix Carbury to his
mother. She was not beautiful, she was not clever, and she was not a
saint. But then neither was she plain, nor stupid, nor, especially, a
sinner. She was a little thing, hardly over twenty years of age, very
unlike her father or mother, having no trace of the Jewess in her
countenance, who seemed to be overwhelmed by the sense of her own
position. With such people as the Melmottes things go fast, and it
was very well known that Miss Melmotte had already had one lover who
had been nearly accepted. The affair, however, had gone off. In this
"going off" no one imputed to the young lady blame or even
misfortune. It was not supposed that she had either jilted or been
jilted. As in royal espousals interests of State regulate their
expedience with an acknowledged absence, with even a proclaimed
impossibility, of personal predilections, so in this case was money
allowed to have the same weight. Such a marriage would or would not
be sanctioned in accordance with great pecuniary arrangements. The
young Lord Nidderdale, the eldest son of the Marquis of Auld Reekie,
had offered to take the girl and make her Marchioness in the process
of time for half a million down. Melmotte had not objected to the
sum,—so it was said,—but had proposed to tie it up. Nidderdale had
desired to have it free in his own grasp, and would not move on any
other terms. Melmotte had been anxious to secure the Marquis,—very
anxious to secure the Marchioness; for at that time terms had not
been made with the Duchess; but at last he had lost his temper, and
had asked his lordship's lawyer whether it was likely that he would
entrust such a sum of money to such a man. "You are willing to trust
your only child to him," said the lawyer. Melmotte scowled at the man
for a few seconds from under his bushy eyebrows; then told him that
his answer had nothing in it, and marched out of the room. So that
affair was over. I doubt whether Lord Nidderdale had ever said a word
of love to Marie Melmotte,—or whether the poor girl had expected it.
Her destiny had no doubt been explained to her.

Others had tried and had broken down somewhat in the same fashion.
Each had treated the girl as an encumbrance he was to undertake,—at
a very great price. But as affairs prospered with the Melmottes, as
princes and duchesses were obtained by other means,—costly no doubt,
but not so ruinously costly,—the immediate disposition of Marie
became less necessary, and Melmotte reduced his offers. The girl
herself, too, began to have an opinion. It was said that she had
absolutely rejected Lord Grasslough, whose father indeed was in a
state of bankruptcy, who had no income of his own, who was ugly,
vicious, ill-tempered, and without any power of recommending himself
to a girl. She had had experience since Lord Nidderdale, with a half
laugh, had told her that he might just as well take her for his wife,
and was now tempted from time to time to contemplate her own
happiness and her own condition. People around were beginning to say
that if Sir Felix Carbury managed his affairs well he might be the
happy man.

There was considerable doubt whether Marie was the daughter of that
Jewish-looking woman. Enquiries had been made, but not successfully,
as to the date of the Melmotte marriage. There was an idea abroad
that Melmotte had got his first money with his wife, and had gotten
it not very long ago. Then other people said that Marie was not his
daughter at all. Altogether the mystery was rather pleasant as the
money was certain. Of the certainty of the money in daily use there
could be no doubt. There was the house. There was the furniture.
There were the carriages, the horses, the servants with the livery
coats and powdered heads, and the servants with the black coats and
unpowdered heads. There were the gems, and the presents, and all the
nice things that money can buy. There were two dinner parties every
day, one at two o'clock called lunch, and the other at eight. The
tradesmen had learned enough to be quite free of doubt, and in the
City Mr. Melmotte's name was worth any money,—though his character
was perhaps worth but little.

The large house on the south side of Grosvenor Square was all ablaze
by ten o'clock. The broad verandah had been turned into a
conservatory, had been covered in with boards contrived to look like
trellis-work, was heated with hot air and filled with exotics at some
fabulous price. A covered way had been made from the door, down
across the pathway, to the road, and the police had, I fear, been
bribed to frighten foot passengers into a belief that they were bound
to go round. The house had been so arranged that it was impossible to
know where you were, when once in it. The hall was a paradise. The
staircase was fairyland. The lobbies were grottoes rich with ferns.
Walls had been knocked away and arches had been constructed. The
leads behind had been supported and walled in, and covered and
carpeted. The ball had possession of the ground floor and first
floor, and the house seemed to be endless. "It's to cost sixty
thousand pounds," said the Marchioness of Auld Reekie to her old
friend the Countess of Mid-Lothian. The Marchioness had come in spite
of her son's misfortune when she heard that the Duchess of Stevenage
was to be there. "And worse spent money never was wasted," said the
Countess. "By all accounts it was as badly come by," said the
Marchioness. Then the two old noblewomen, one after the other, made
graciously flattering speeches to the much-worn Bohemian Jewess, who
was standing in fairyland to receive her guests, almost fainting
under the greatness of the occasion.

The three saloons on the first or drawing-room floor had been
prepared for dancing, and here Marie was stationed. The Duchess had
however undertaken to see that somebody should set the dancing going,
and she had commissioned her nephew Miles Grendall, the young
gentleman who now frequented the City, to give directions to the band
and to make himself generally useful. Indeed there had sprung up a
considerable intimacy between the Grendall family,—that is Lord
Alfred's branch of the Grendalls,—and the Melmottes; which was as it
should be, as each could give much and each receive much. It was
known that Lord Alfred had not a shilling; but his brother was a duke
and his sister was a duchess, and for the last thirty years there had
been one continual anxiety for poor dear Alfred, who had tumbled into
an unfortunate marriage without a shilling, had spent his own
moderate patrimony, had three sons and three daughters, and had lived
now for a very long time entirely on the unwilling contributions of
his noble relatives. Melmotte could support the whole family in
affluence without feeling the burden;—and why should he not? There
had once been an idea that Miles should attempt to win the heiress,
but it had soon been found expedient to abandon it. Miles had no
title, no position of his own, and was hardly big enough for the
place. It was in all respects better that the waters of the fountain
should be allowed to irrigate mildly the whole Grendall family;—and
so Miles went into the city.

The ball was opened by a quadrille in which Lord Buntingford, the
eldest son of the Duchess, stood up with Marie. Various arrangements
had been made, and this among them. We may say that it had been part
of a bargain. Lord Buntingford had objected mildly, being a young man
devoted to business, fond of his own order, rather shy, and not given
to dancing. But he had allowed his mother to prevail. "Of course they
are vulgar," the Duchess had said,—"so much so as to be no longer
distasteful because of the absurdity of the thing. I dare say he
hasn't been very honest. When men make so much money, I don't know
how they can have been honest. Of course it's done for a purpose.
It's all very well saying that it isn't right, but what are we to do
about Alfred's children? Miles is to have £500 a-year. And then he is
always about the house. And between you and me they have got up those
bills of Alfred's, and have said they can lie in their safe till it
suits your uncle to pay them."

"They will lie there a long time," said Lord Buntingford.

"Of course they expect something in return; do dance with the girl
once." Lord Buntingford disapproved—mildly, and did as his mother
asked him.

The affair went off very well. There were three or four card-tables
in one of the lower rooms, and at one of them sat Lord Alfred
Grendall and Mr. Melmotte, with two or three other players, cutting
in and out at the end of each rubber. Playing whist was Lord Alfred's
only accomplishment, and almost the only occupation of his life. He
began it daily at his club at three o'clock, and continued playing
till two in the morning with an interval of a couple of hours for his
dinner. This he did during ten months of the year, and during the
other two he frequented some watering-place at which whist prevailed.
He did not gamble, never playing for more than the club stakes and
bets. He gave to the matter his whole mind, and must have excelled
those who were generally opposed to him. But so obdurate was fortune
to Lord Alfred that he could not make money even of whist. Melmotte
was very anxious to get into Lord Alfred's club,—The Peripatetics.
It was pleasant to see the grace with which he lost his money, and
the sweet intimacy with which he called his lordship Alfred. Lord
Alfred had a remnant of feeling left, and would have liked to kick
him. Though Melmotte was by far the bigger man, and was also the
younger, Lord Alfred would not have lacked the pluck to kick him.
Lord Alfred, in spite of his habitual idleness and vapid uselessness,
had still left about him a dash of vigour, and sometimes thought that
he would kick Melmotte and have done with it. But there were his poor
boys, and those bills in Melmotte's safe. And then Melmotte lost his
points so regularly, and paid his bets with such absolute good
humour! "Come and have a glass of champagne, Alfred," Melmotte said,
as the two cut out together. Lord Alfred liked champagne, and
followed his host; but as he went he almost made up his mind that on
some future day he would kick the man.

Late in the evening Marie Melmotte was waltzing with Felix Carbury,
and Henrietta Carbury was then standing by talking to one Mr. Paul
Montague. Lady Carbury was also there. She was not well inclined
either to balls or to such people as the Melmottes; nor was
Henrietta. But Felix had suggested that, bearing in mind his
prospects as to the heiress, they had better accept the invitation
which he would cause to have sent to them. They did so; and then Paul
Montague also got a card, not altogether to Lady Carbury's
satisfaction. Lady Carbury was very gracious to Madame Melmotte for
two minutes, and then slid into a chair expecting nothing but misery
for the evening. She, however, was a woman who could do her duty and
endure without complaint.

"It is the first great ball I ever was at in London," said Hetta
Carbury to Paul Montague.

"And how do you like it?"

"Not at all. How should I like it? I know nobody here. I don't
understand how it is that at these parties people do know each other,
or whether they all go dancing about without knowing."

"Just that; I suppose when they are used to it they get introduced
backwards and forwards, and then they can know each other as fast as
they like. If you would wish to dance why won't you dance with me?"

"I have danced with you,—twice already."

"Is there any law against dancing three times?"

"But I don't especially want to dance," said Henrietta. "I think I'll
go and console poor mamma, who has got nobody to speak to her." Just
at this moment, however, Lady Carbury was not in that wretched
condition, as an unexpected friend had come to her relief.

Sir Felix and Marie Melmotte had been spinning round and round
throughout a long waltz, thoroughly enjoying the excitement of the
music and the movement. To give Felix Carbury what little praise
might be his due, it is necessary to say that he did not lack
physical activity. He would dance, and ride, and shoot eagerly, with
an animation that made him happy for the moment. It was an affair not
of thought or calculation, but of physical organisation. And Marie
Melmotte had been thoroughly happy. She loved dancing with all her
heart if she could only dance in a manner pleasant to herself. She
had been warned especially as to some men,—that she should not dance
with them. She had been almost thrown into Lord Nidderdale's arms,
and had been prepared to take him at her father's bidding. But she
had never had the slightest pleasure in his society, and had only not
been wretched because she had not as yet recognised that she had an
identity of her own in the disposition of which she herself should
have a voice. She certainly had never cared to dance with Lord
Nidderdale. Lord Grasslough she had absolutely hated, though at first
she had hardly dared to say so. One or two others had been obnoxious
to her in different ways, but they had passed on, or were passing on,
out of her way. There was no one at the present moment whom she had
been commanded by her father to accept should an offer be made. But
she did like dancing with Sir Felix Carbury.

It was not only that the man was handsome but that he had a power of
changing the expression of his countenance, a play of face, which
belied altogether his real disposition. He could seem to be hearty
and true till the moment came in which he had really to expose his
heart,—or to try to expose it. Then he failed, knowing nothing about
it. But in the approaches to intimacy with a girl he could be very
successful. He had already nearly got beyond this with Marie
Melmotte; but Marie was by no means quick in discovering his
deficiencies. To her he had seemed like a god. If she might be
allowed to be wooed by Sir Felix Carbury, and to give herself to him,
she thought that she would be contented.

"How well you dance," said Sir Felix, as soon as he had breath for
speaking.

"Do I?" She spoke with a slightly foreign accent, which gave a little
prettiness to her speech. "I was never told so. But nobody ever told
me anything about myself."

"I should like to tell you everything about yourself, from the
beginning to the end."

"Ah,—but you don't know."

"I would find out. I think I could make some good guesses. I'll tell
you what you would like best in all the world."

"What is that?"

"Somebody that liked you best in all the world."

"Ah,—yes; if one knew who?"

"How can you know, Miss Melmotte, but by believing?"

"That is not the way to know. If a girl told me that she liked me
better than any other girl, I should not know it, just because she
said so. I should have to find it out."

"And if a gentleman told you so?"

"I shouldn't believe him a bit, and I should not care to find out.
But I should like to have some girl for a friend whom I could love,
oh, ten times better than myself."

"So should I."

"Have you no particular friend?"

"I mean a girl whom I could love,—oh, ten times better than myself."

"Now you are laughing at me, Sir Felix," said Miss Melmotte.

"I wonder whether that will come to anything?" said Paul Montague to
Miss Carbury. They had come back into the drawing-room, and had been
watching the approaches to love-making which the baronet was opening.

"You mean Felix and Miss Melmotte. I hate to think of such things,
Mr. Montague."

"It would be a magnificent chance for him."

"To marry a girl, the daughter of vulgar people, just because she
will have a great deal of money? He can't care for her
really,—because she is rich."

"But he wants money so dreadfully! It seems to me that there is no
other condition of things under which Felix can face the world, but
by being the husband of an heiress."

"What a dreadful thing to say!"

"But isn't it true? He has beggared himself."

"Oh, Mr. Montague."

"And he will beggar you and your mother."

"I don't care about myself."

"Others do though." As he said this he did not look at her, but spoke
through his teeth, as if he were angry both with himself and her.

"I did not think you would have spoken so harshly of Felix."

"I don't speak harshly of him, Miss Carbury. I haven't said that it
was his own fault. He seems to be one of those who have been born to
spend money; and as this girl will have plenty of money to spend, I
think it would be a good thing if he were to marry her. If Felix had
£20,000 a year, everybody would think him the finest fellow in the
world." In saying this, however, Mr. Paul Montague showed himself
unfit to gauge the opinion of the world. Whether Sir Felix be rich or
poor, the world, evil-hearted as it is, will never think him a fine
fellow.

Lady Carbury had been seated for nearly half an hour in uncomplaining
solitude under a bust, when she was delighted by the appearance of
Mr. Ferdinand Alf. "You here?" she said.

"Why not? Melmotte and I are brother adventurers."

"I should have thought you would find so little here to amuse you."

"I have found you; and, in addition to that, duchesses and their
daughters without number. They expect Prince George!"

"Do they?"

"And Legge Wilson from the India Office is here already. I spoke to
him in some jewelled bower as I made my way here, not five minutes
since. It's quite a success. Don't you think it very nice, Lady
Carbury?"

"I don't know whether you are joking or in earnest."

"I never joke. I say it is very nice. These people are spending
thousands upon thousands to gratify you and me and others, and all
they want in return is a little countenance."

"Do you mean to give it then?"

"I am giving it them."

"Ah;—but the countenance of the 'Evening Pulpit.' Do you mean to
give them that?"

"Well; it is not in our line exactly to give a catalogue of names and
to record ladies' dresses. Perhaps it may be better for our host
himself that he should be kept out of the newspapers."

"Are you going to be very severe upon poor me, Mr. Alf?" said the
lady after a pause.

"We are never severe upon anybody, Lady Carbury. Here's the Prince.
What will they do with him now they've caught him! Oh, they're going
to make him dance with the heiress. Poor heiress!"

"Poor Prince!" said Lady Carbury.

"Not at all. She's a nice little girl enough, and he'll have nothing
to trouble him. But how is she, poor thing, to talk to royal blood?"

Poor thing indeed! The Prince was brought into the big room where
Marie was still being talked to by Felix Carbury, and was at once
made to understand that she was to stand up and dance with royalty.
The introduction was managed in a very business-like manner. Miles
Grendall first came in and found the female victim; the Duchess
followed with the male victim. Madame Melmotte, who had been on her
legs till she was ready to sink, waddled behind, but was not allowed
to take any part in the affair. The band were playing a galop, but
that was stopped at once, to the great confusion of the dancers. In
two minutes Miles Grendall had made up a set. He stood up with his
aunt, the Duchess, as vis-a-vis to Marie and the Prince, till, about
the middle of the quadrille, Legge Wilson was found and made to take
his place. Lord Buntingford had gone away; but then there were still
present two daughters of the Duchess who were rapidly caught. Sir
Felix Carbury, being good-looking and having a name, was made to
dance with one of them, and Lord Grasslough with the other. There
were four other couples, all made up of titled people, as it was
intended that this special dance should be chronicled, if not in the
"Evening Pulpit," in some less serious daily journal. A paid reporter
was present in the house ready to rush off with the list as soon as
the dance should be a realized fact. The Prince himself did not quite
understand why he was there, but they who marshalled his life for him
had so marshalled it for the present moment. He himself probably knew
nothing about the lady's diamonds which had been rescued, or the
considerable subscription to St. George's Hospital which had been
extracted from Mr. Melmotte as a make-weight. Poor Marie felt as
though the burden of the hour would be greater than she could bear,
and looked as though she would have fled had flight been possible.
But the trouble passed quickly, and was not really severe. The Prince
said a word or two between each figure, and did not seem to expect a
reply. He made a few words go a long way, and was well trained in the
work of easing the burden of his own greatness for those who were for
the moment inflicted with it. When the dance was over he was allowed
to escape after the ceremony of a single glass of champagne drank in
the presence of the hostess. Considerable skill was shown in keeping
the presence of his royal guest a secret from the host himself till
the Prince was gone. Melmotte would have desired to pour out that
glass of wine with his own hands, to solace his tongue by Royal
Highnesses, and would probably have been troublesome and
disagreeable. Miles Grendall had understood all this and had managed
the affair very well. "Bless my soul;—his Royal Highness come and
gone!" exclaimed Melmotte. "You and my father were so fast at your
whist that it was impossible to get you away," said Miles. Melmotte
was not a fool, and understood it all;—understood not only that it
had been thought better that he should not speak to the Prince, but
also that it might be better that it should be so. He could not have
everything at once. Miles Grendall was very useful to him, and he
would not quarrel with Miles, at any rate as yet.











The Duchess followed with the male victim.


The Duchess
followed with the male victim.


Click to ENLARGE


"Have another rubber, Alfred?" he said to Miles's father as the
carriages were taking away the guests.

Lord Alfred had taken sundry glasses of champagne, and for a moment
forgot the bills in the safe, and the good things which his boys were
receiving. "Damn that kind of nonsense," he said. "Call people by
their proper names." Then he left the house without a further word to
the master of it. That night before they went to sleep Melmotte
required from his weary wife an account of the ball, and especially
of Marie's conduct. "Marie," Madame Melmotte said, "had behaved well,
but had certainly preferred 'Sir Carbury' to any other of the young
men." Hitherto Mr. Melmotte had heard very little of "Sir Carbury,"
except that he was a baronet. Though his eyes and ears were always
open, though he attended to everything, and was a man of sharp
intelligence, he did not yet quite understand the bearing and
sequence of English titles. He knew that he must get for his daughter
either an eldest son, or one absolutely in possession himself. Sir
Felix, he had learned, was only a baronet; but then he was in
possession. He had discovered also that Sir Felix's son would in
course of time also become Sir Felix. He was not therefore at the
present moment disposed to give any positive orders as to his
daughter's conduct to the young baronet. He did not, however,
conceive that the young baronet had as yet addressed his girl in such
words as Felix had in truth used when they parted. "You know who it
is," he whispered, "likes you better than any one else in the world."

"Nobody does;—don't, Sir Felix."

"I do," he said as he held her hand for a minute. He looked into her
face and she thought it very sweet. He had studied the words as a
lesson, and, repeating them as a lesson, he did it fairly well. He
did it well enough at any rate to send the poor girl to bed with a
sweet conviction that at last a man had spoken to her whom she could
love.

 


 


CHAPTER V.


AFTER THE BALL.
 

"It's weary work," said Sir Felix as he got into the brougham with
his mother and sister.

"What must it have been to me then, who had nothing to do?" said his
mother.

"It's the having something to do that makes me call it weary work.
By-the-bye, now I think of it, I'll run down to the club before I go
home." So saying he put his head out of the brougham, and stopped the
driver.

"It is two o'clock, Felix," said his mother.

"I'm afraid it is, but you see I'm hungry. You had supper, perhaps; I
had none."

"Are you going down to the club for supper at this time in the
morning?"

"I must go to bed hungry if I don't. Good night." Then he jumped out
of the brougham, called a cab, and had himself driven to the
Beargarden. He declared to himself that the men there would think it
mean of him if he did not give them their revenge. He had renewed his
play on the preceding night, and had again won. Dolly Longestaffe
owed him now a considerable sum of money, and Lord Grasslough was
also in his debt. He was sure that Grasslough would go to the club
after the ball, and he was determined that they should not think that
he had submitted to be carried home by his mother and sister. So he
argued with himself; but in truth the devil of gambling was hot
within his bosom; and though he feared that in losing he might lose
real money, and that if he won it would be long before he was paid,
yet he could not keep himself from the card-table.

Neither mother or daughter said a word till they reached home and had
got up-stairs. Then the elder spoke of the trouble that was nearest
to her heart at the moment. "Do you think he gambles?"

"He has got no money, mamma."

"I fear that might not hinder him. And he has money with him, though,
for him and such friends as he has, it is not much. If he gambles
everything is lost."

"I suppose they all do play,—more or less."

"I have not known that he played. I am wearied too, out of all heart,
by his want of consideration to me. It is not that he will not obey
me. A mother perhaps should not expect obedience from a grown-up son.
But my word is nothing to him. He has no respect for me. He would as
soon do what is wrong before me as before the merest stranger."

"He has been so long his own master, mamma."

"Yes,—his own master! And yet I must provide for him as though he
were but a child. Hetta, you spent the whole evening talking to Paul
Montague."

"No, mamma;—that is unjust."

"He was always with you."

"I knew nobody else. I could not tell him not to speak to me. I
danced with him twice." Her mother was seated, with both her hands up
to her forehead, and shook her head. "If you did not want me to speak
to Paul you should not have taken me there."

"I don't wish to prevent your speaking to him. You know what I want."
Henrietta came up and kissed her, and bade her good night. "I think I
am the unhappiest woman in all London," she said, sobbing
hysterically.

"Is it my fault, mamma?"

"You could save me from much if you would. I work like a horse, and I
never spend a shilling that I can help. I want nothing for
myself,—nothing for myself. Nobody has suffered as I have. But Felix
never thinks of me for a moment."

"I think of you, mamma."

"If you did you would accept your cousin's offer. What right have you
to refuse him? I believe it is all because of that young man."

"No, mamma; it is not because of that young man. I like my cousin
very much;—but that is all. Good night, mamma." Lady Carbury just
allowed herself to be kissed, and then was left alone.

At eight o'clock the next morning daybreak found four young men who
had just risen from a card-table at the Beargarden. The Beargarden
was so pleasant a club that there was no rule whatsoever as to its
being closed,—the only law being that it should not be opened before
three in the afternoon. A sort of sanction had, however, been given
to the servants to demur to producing supper or drinks after six in
the morning, so that, about eight, unrelieved tobacco began to be too
heavy even for juvenile constitutions. The party consisted of Dolly
Longestaffe, Lord Grasslough, Miles Grendall, and Felix Carbury, and
the four had amused themselves during the last six hours with various
innocent games. They had commenced with whist, and had culminated
during the last half-hour with blind hookey. But during the whole
night Felix had won. Miles Grendall hated him, and there had been an
expressed opinion between Miles and the young lord that it would be
both profitable and proper to relieve Sir Felix of the winnings of
the last two nights. The two men had played with the same object, and
being young had shown their intention,—so that a certain feeling of
hostility had been engendered. The reader is not to understand that
either of them had cheated, or that the baronet had entertained any
suspicion of foul play. But Felix had felt that Grendall and
Grasslough were his enemies, and had thrown himself on Dolly for
sympathy and friendship. Dolly, however, was very tipsy.

At eight o'clock in the morning there came a sort of settling, though
no money then passed. The ready-money transactions had not lasted
long through the night. Grasslough was the chief loser, and the
figures and scraps of paper which had been passed over to Carbury,
when counted up, amounted to nearly £2,000. His lordship contested
the fact bitterly, but contested it in vain. There were his own
initials and his own figures, and even Miles Grendall, who was
supposed to be quite wide awake, could not reduce the amount. Then
Grendall had lost over £400 to Carbury,—an amount, indeed, that
mattered little, as Miles could, at present, as easily have raised
£40,000. However, he gave his I.O.U. to his opponent with an easy
air. Grasslough, also, was impecunious; but he had a father,—also
impecunious, indeed; but with them the matter would not be hopeless.
Dolly Longestaffe was so tipsy that he could not even assist in
making up his own account. That was to be left between him and
Carbury for some future occasion.

"I suppose you'll be here to-morrow,—that is to-night," said Miles.

"Certainly,—only one thing," answered Felix.

"What one thing?"

"I think these things should be squared before we play any more!"

"What do you mean by that?" said Grasslough angrily. "Do you mean to
hint anything?"

"I never hint anything, my Grassy," said Felix. "I believe when
people play cards, it's intended to be ready-money, that's all. But
I'm not going to stand on P's and Q's with you. I'll give you your
revenge to-night."

"That's all right," said Miles.

"I was speaking to Lord Grasslough," said Felix. "He is an old
friend, and we know each other. You have been rather rough to-night,
Mr. Grendall."

"Rough;—what the devil do you mean by that?"

"And I think it will be as well that our account should be settled
before we begin again."

"A settlement once a week is the kind of thing I'm used to," said
Grendall.

There was nothing more said; but the young men did not part on good
terms. Felix, as he got himself taken home, calculated that if he
could realize his spoil, he might begin the campaign again with
horses, servants, and all luxuries as before. If all were paid, he
would have over £3,000!

 


 


CHAPTER VI.


ROGER CARBURY AND PAUL MONTAGUE.
 

Roger Carbury, of Carbury Hall, the owner of a small property in
Suffolk, was the head of the Carbury family. The Carburys had been in
Suffolk a great many years,—certainly from the time of the War of
the Roses,—and had always held up their heads. But they had never
held them very high. It was not known that any had risen ever to the
honour of knighthood before Sir Patrick, going higher than that, had
been made a baronet. They had, however, been true to their acres and
their acres true to them through the perils of civil wars,
Reformation, Commonwealth, and Revolution, and the head Carbury of
the day had always owned, and had always lived at, Carbury Hall. At
the beginning of the present century the squire of Carbury had been a
considerable man, if not in his county, at any rate in his part of
the county. The income of the estate had sufficed to enable him to
live plenteously and hospitably, to drink port wine, to ride a stout
hunter, and to keep an old lumbering coach for his wife's use when
she went avisiting. He had an old butler who had never lived anywhere
else, and a boy from the village who was in a way apprenticed to the
butler. There was a cook, not too proud to wash up her own dishes,
and a couple of young women;—while the house was kept by Mrs.
Carbury herself, who marked and gave out her own linen, made her own
preserves, and looked to the curing of her own hams. In the year 1800
the Carbury property was sufficient for the Carbury house. Since that
time the Carbury property has considerably increased in value, and
the rents have been raised. Even the acreage has been extended by the
enclosure of commons. But the income is no longer comfortably
adequate to the wants of an English gentleman's household. If a
moderate estate in land be left to a man now, there arises the
question whether he is not damaged unless an income also be left to
him wherewith to keep up the estate. Land is a luxury, and of all
luxuries is the most costly. Now the Carburys never had anything but
land. Suffolk has not been made rich and great either by coal or
iron. No great town had sprung up on the confines of the Carbury
property. No eldest son had gone into trade or risen high in a
profession so as to add to the Carbury wealth. No great heiress had
been married. There had been no ruin,—no misfortune. But in the days
of which we write the Squire of Carbury Hall had become a poor man
simply through the wealth of others. His estate was supposed to bring
him in £2,000 a year. Had he been content to let the Manor House, to
live abroad, and to have an agent at home to deal with the tenants,
he would undoubtedly have had enough to live luxuriously. But he
lived on his own land among his own people, as all the Carburys
before him had done, and was poor because he was surrounded by rich
neighbours. The Longestaffes of Caversham,—of which family Dolly
Longestaffe was the eldest son and hope,—had the name of great
wealth, but the founder of the family had been a Lord Mayor of London
and a chandler as lately as in the reign of Queen Anne. The
Hepworths, who could boast good blood enough on their own side, had
married into new money. The Primeros,—though the good nature of the
country folk had accorded to the head of them the title of Squire
Primero,—had been trading Spaniards fifty years ago, and had bought
the Bundlesham property from a great duke. The estates of those three
gentlemen, with the domain of the Bishop of Elmham, lay all around
the Carbury property, and in regard to wealth enabled their owners
altogether to overshadow our squire. The superior wealth of a bishop
was nothing to him. He desired that bishops should be rich, and was
among those who thought that the country had been injured when the
territorial possessions of our prelates had been converted into
stipends by Act of Parliament. But the grandeur of the Longestaffes
and the too apparent wealth of the Primeros did oppress him, though
he was a man who would never breathe a word of such oppression into
the ear even of his dearest friend. It was his opinion,—which he did
not care to declare loudly, but which was fully understood to be his
opinion by those with whom he lived intimately,—that a man's
standing in the world should not depend at all upon his wealth. The
Primeros were undoubtedly beneath him in the social scale, although
the young Primeros had three horses apiece, and killed legions of
pheasants annually at about 10s. a head. Hepworth of Eardly was a
very good fellow, who gave himself no airs and understood his duties
as a country gentleman; but he could not be more than on a par with
Carbury of Carbury, though he was supposed to enjoy £7,000 a year.
The Longestaffes were altogether oppressive. Their footmen, even in
the country, had powdered hair. They had a house in town,—a house of
their own,—and lived altogether as magnates. The lady was Lady
Pomona Longestaffe. The daughters, who certainly were handsome, had
been destined to marry peers. The only son, Dolly, had, or had had, a
fortune of his own. They were an oppressive people in a country
neighbourhood. And to make the matter worse, rich as they were, they
never were able to pay anybody anything that they owed. They
continued to live with all the appurtenances of wealth. The girls
always had horses to ride, both in town and country. The acquaintance
of Dolly the reader has already made. Dolly, who certainly was a poor
creature though good natured, had energy in one direction. He would
quarrel perseveringly with his father, who only had a life interest
in the estate. The house at Caversham Park was during six or seven
months, of the year full of servants, if not of guests, and all the
tradesmen in the little towns around, Bungay, Beccles, and
Harlestone, were aware that the Longestaffes were the great people of
that country. Though occasionally much distressed for money, they
would always execute the Longestaffe orders with submissive
punctuality, because there was an idea that the Longestaffe property
was sound at the bottom. And, then, the owner of a property so
managed cannot scrutinise bills very closely.

Carbury of Carbury had never owed a shilling that he could not pay,
or his father before him. His orders to the tradesmen at Beccles were
not extensive, and care was used to see that the goods supplied were
neither overcharged nor unnecessary. The tradesmen, consequently, of
Beccles did not care much for Carbury of Carbury;—though perhaps one
or two of the elders among them entertained some ancient reverence
for the family. Roger Carbury, Esq., was Carbury of Carbury,—a
distinction of itself, which, from its nature, could not belong to
the Longestaffes and Primeros, which did not even belong to the
Hepworths of Eardly. The very parish in which Carbury Hall stood,—or
Carbury Manor House, as it was more properly called,—was Carbury
parish. And there was Carbury Chase, partly in Carbury parish and
partly in Bundlesham,—but belonging, unfortunately, in its entirety
to the Bundlesham estate.

Roger Carbury himself was all alone in the world. His nearest
relatives of the name were Sir Felix and Henrietta, but they were no
more than second cousins. He had sisters, but they had long since
been married and had gone away into the world with their husbands,
one to India, and another to the far west of the United States. At
present he was not much short of forty years of age, and was still
unmarried. He was a stout, good-looking man, with a firmly set square
face, with features finely cut, a small mouth, good teeth, and
well-formed chin. His hair was red, curling round his head, which was
now partly bald at the top. He wore no other beard than small, almost
unnoticeable whiskers. His eyes were small, but bright, and very
cheery when his humour was good. He was about five feet nine in
height, having the appearance of great strength and perfect health. A
more manly man to the eye was never seen. And he was one with whom
you would instinctively wish at first sight to be on good
terms,—partly because in looking at him there would come on you an
unconscious conviction that he would be very stout in holding his own
against his opponents; partly also from a conviction equally strong,
that he would be very pleasant to his friends.

When Sir Patrick had come home from India as an invalid, Roger
Carbury had hurried up to see him in London, and had proffered him
all kindness. Would Sir Patrick and his wife and children like to go
down to the old place in the country? Sir Patrick did not care a
straw for the old place in the country, and so told his cousin in
almost those very words. There had not, therefore, been much
friendship during Sir Patrick's life. But when the violent
ill-conditioned old man was dead, Roger paid a second visit, and
again offered hospitality to the widow and her daughter,—and to the
young baronet. The young baronet had just joined his regiment and did
not care to visit his cousin in Suffolk; but Lady Carbury and
Henrietta had spent a month there, and everything had been done to
make them happy. The effort as regarded Henrietta had been altogether
successful. As regarded the widow, it must be acknowledged that
Carbury Hall had not quite suited her tastes. She had already begun
to sigh for the glories of a literary career. A career of some
kind,—sufficient to repay her for the sufferings of her early
life,—she certainly desired. "Dear cousin Roger," as she called him,
had not seemed to her to have much power of assisting her in these
views. She was a woman who did not care much for country charms. She
had endeavoured to get up some mild excitement with the bishop, but
the bishop had been too plain spoken and sincere for her. The
Primeros had been odious; the Hepworths stupid; the
Longestaffes,—she had endeavoured to make up a little friendship
with Lady Pomona,—insufferably supercilious. She had declared to
Henrietta "that Carbury Hall was very dull."

But then there had come a circumstance which altogether changed her
opinions as to Carbury Hall, and its proprietor. The proprietor after
a few weeks followed them up to London, and made a most
matter-of-fact offer to the mother for the daughter's hand. He was at
that time thirty-six, and Henrietta was not yet twenty. He was very
cool;—some might have thought him phlegmatic in his love-making.
Henrietta declared to her mother that she had not in the least
expected it. But he was very urgent, and very persistent. Lady
Carbury was eager on his side. Though the Carbury Manor House did not
exactly suit her, it would do admirably for Henrietta. And as for
age, to her thinking, she being then over forty, a man of thirty-six
was young enough for any girl. But Henrietta had an opinion of her
own. She liked her cousin, but did not love him. She was amazed, and
even annoyed by the offer. She had praised him and praised the house
so loudly to her mother,—having in her innocence never dreamed of
such a proposition as this,—so that now she found it difficult to
give an adequate reason for her refusal. Yes;—she had undoubtedly
said that her cousin was charming, but she had not meant charming in
that way. She did refuse the offer very plainly, but still with some
apparent lack of persistency. When Roger suggested that she should
take a few months to think of it, and her mother supported Roger's
suggestion, she could say nothing stronger than that she was afraid
that thinking about it would not do any good. Their first visit to
Carbury had been made in September. In the following February she
went there again,—much against the grain as far as her own wishes
were concerned; and when there had been cold, constrained, almost
dumb in the presence of her cousin. Before they left the offer was
renewed, but Henrietta declared that she could not do as they would
have her. She could give no reason, only she did not love her cousin
in that way. But Roger declared that he by no means intended to
abandon his suit. In truth he verily loved the girl, and love with
him was a serious thing. All this happened a full year before the
beginning of our present story.

But something else happened also. While that second visit was being
made at Carbury there came to the hall a young man of whom Roger
Carbury had said much to his cousins,—one Paul Montague, of whom
some short account shall be given in this chapter. The squire,—Roger
Carbury was always called the squire about his own place,—had
anticipated no evil when he so timed this second visit of his cousins
to his house that they must of necessity meet Paul Montague there.
But great harm had come of it. Paul Montague had fallen into love
with his cousin's guest, and there had sprung up much unhappiness.

Lady Carbury and Henrietta had been nearly a month at Carbury, and
Paul Montague had been there barely a week, when Roger Carbury thus
spoke to the guest who had last arrived. "I've got to tell you
something, Paul."

"Anything serious?"

"Very serious to me. I may say so serious that nothing in my own life
can approach it in importance." He had unconsciously assumed that
look, which his friend so thoroughly understood, indicating his
resolve to hold to what he believed to be his own, and to fight if
fighting be necessary. Montague knew him well, and became half aware
that he had done something, he knew not what, militating against this
serious resolve of his friend. He looked up, but said nothing. "I
have offered my hand in marriage to my cousin Henrietta," said Roger
very gravely.

"Miss Carbury?"

"Yes; to Henrietta Carbury. She has not accepted it. She has refused
me twice. But I still have hopes of success. Perhaps I have no right
to hope, but I do. I tell it you just as it is. Everything in life to
me depends upon it. I think I may count upon your sympathy."

"Why did you not tell me before?" said Paul Montague in a hoarse
voice.

Then there had come a sudden and rapid interchange of quick speaking
between the men, each of them speaking the truth exactly, each of
them declaring himself to be in the right and to be ill-used by the
other, each of them equally hot, equally generous, and equally
unreasonable. Montague at once asserted that he also loved Henrietta
Carbury. He blurted out his assurance in the baldest and most
incomplete manner, but still in such words as to leave no doubt.
No;—he had not said a word to her. He had intended to consult Roger
Carbury himself,—should have done so in a day or two,—perhaps on
that very day had not Roger spoken to him. "You have neither of you a
shilling in the world," said Roger; "and now you know what my
feelings are you must abandon it." Then Montague declared that he had
a right to speak to Miss Carbury. He did not suppose that Miss
Carbury cared a straw about him. He had not the least reason to think
that she did. It was altogether impossible. But he had a right to his
chance. That chance was all the world to him. As to money,—he would
not admit that he was a pauper, and, moreover, he might earn an
income as well as other men. Had Carbury told him that the young lady
had shown the slightest intention to receive his, Carbury's,
addresses, he, Paul, would at once have disappeared from the scene.
But as it was not so, he would not say that he would abandon his
hope.

The scene lasted for above an hour. When it was ended, Paul Montague
packed up all his clothes and was driven away to the railway station
by Roger himself, without seeing either of the ladies. There had been
very hot words between the men, but the last words which Roger spoke
to the other on the railway platform were not quarrelsome in their
nature. "God bless you, old fellow," he said, pressing Paul's hands.
Paul's eyes were full of tears, and he replied only by returning the
pressure.

Paul Montague's father and mother had long been dead. The father had
been a barrister in London, having perhaps some small fortune of his
own. He had, at any rate, left to this son, who was one among others,
a sufficiency with which to begin the world. Paul when he had come of
age had found himself possessed of about £6,000. He was then at
Oxford, and was intended for the bar. An uncle of his, a younger
brother of his father, had married a Carbury, the younger sister of
two, though older than her brother Roger. This uncle many years since
had taken his wife out to California, and had there become an
American. He had a large tract of land, growing wool, and wheat, and
fruit; but whether he prospered or whether he did not, had not always
been plain to the Montagues and Carburys at home. The intercourse
between the two families had in the quite early days of Paul
Montague's life, created an affection between him and Roger, who, as
will be understood by those who have carefully followed the above
family history, were not in any degree related to each other. Roger,
when quite a young man, had had the charge of the boy's education,
and had sent him to Oxford. But the Oxford scheme, to be followed by
the bar, and to end on some one of the many judicial benches of the
country, had not succeeded. Paul had got into a "row" at Balliol, and
had been rusticated,—had then got into another row, and was sent
down. Indeed he had a talent for rows,—though, as Roger Carbury
always declared, there was nothing really wrong about any of them.
Paul was then twenty-one, and he took himself and his money out to
California, and joined his uncle. He had perhaps an idea,—based on
very insufficient grounds,—that rows are popular in California. At
the end of three years he found that he did not like farming life in
California,—and he found also that he did not like his uncle. So he
returned to England, but on returning was altogether unable to get
his £6,000 out of the Californian farm. Indeed he had been compelled
to come away without any of it, with funds insufficient even to take
him home, accepting with much dissatisfaction an assurance from his
uncle that an income amounting to ten per cent. upon his capital
should be remitted to him with the regularity of clockwork. The clock
alluded to must have been one of Sam Slick's. It had gone very badly.
At the end of the first quarter there came the proper
remittance;—then half the amount;—then there was a long interval
without anything; then some dropping payments now and again;—and
then a twelvemonth without anything. At the end of that twelvemonth
he paid a second visit to California, having borrowed money from
Roger for his journey. He had now again returned, with some little
cash in hand, and with the additional security of a deed executed in
his favour by one Hamilton K. Fisker, who had gone into partnership
with his uncle, and who had added a vast flour-mill to his uncle's
concerns. In accordance with this deed he was to get twelve per cent.
on his capital, and had enjoyed the gratification of seeing his name
put up as one of the firm, which now stood as Fisker, Montague, and
Montague. A business declared by the two elder partners to be most
promising had been opened at Fiskerville, about two hundred and fifty
miles from San Francisco, and the hearts of Fisker and the elder
Montague were very high. Paul hated Fisker horribly, did not love his
uncle much, and would willingly have got back his £6,000 had he been
able. But he was not able, and returned as one of Fisker, Montague,
and Montague, not altogether unhappy, as he had succeeded in
obtaining enough of his back income to pay what he owed to Roger, and
to live for a few months. He was intent on considering how he should
bestow himself, consulting daily with Roger on the subject, when
suddenly Roger had perceived that the young man was becoming attached
to the girl whom he himself loved. What then occurred has been told.

Not a word was said to Lady Carbury or her daughter of the real cause
of Paul's sudden disappearance. It had been necessary that he should
go to London. Each of the ladies probably guessed something of the
truth, but neither spoke a word to the other on the subject. Before
they left the Manor the squire again pleaded his cause with
Henrietta, but he pleaded it in vain. Henrietta was colder than
ever,—but she made use of one unfortunate phrase which destroyed all
the effect which her coldness might have had. She said that she was
too young to think of marrying yet. She had meant to imply that the
difference in their ages was too great, but had not known how to say
it. It was easy to tell her that in a twelvemonth she would be
older;—but it was impossible to convince her that any number of
twelvemonths would alter the disparity between her and her cousin.
But even that disparity was not now her strongest reason for feeling
sure that she could not marry Roger Carbury.

Within a week of the departure of Lady Carbury from the Manor House,
Paul Montague returned, and returned as a still dear friend. He had
promised before he went that he would not see Henrietta again for
three months, but he would promise nothing further. "If she won't
take you, there is no reason why I shouldn't try." That had been his
argument. Roger would not accede to the justice even of this. It
seemed to him that Paul was bound to retire altogether, partly
because he had got no income, partly because of Roger's previous
claim,—partly no doubt in gratitude, but of this last reason Roger
never said a word. If Paul did not see this himself, Paul was not
such a man as his friend had taken him to be.

Paul did see it himself, and had many scruples. But why should his
friend be a dog in the manger? He would yield at once to Roger
Carbury's older claims if Roger could make anything of them. Indeed
he could have no chance if the girl were disposed to take Roger for
her husband. Roger had all the advantage of Carbury Manor at his
back, whereas he had nothing but his share in the doubtful business
of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, in a wretched little town 250
miles further off than San Francisco! But if, with all this, Roger
could not prevail, why should he not try? What Roger said about want
of money was mere nonsense. Paul was sure that his friend would have
created no such difficulty had not he himself been interested. Paul
declared to himself that he had money, though doubtful money, and
that he certainly would not give up Henrietta on that score.

He came up to London at various times in search of certain employment
which had been half promised him, and, after the expiration of the
three months, constantly saw Lady Carbury and her daughter. But from
time to time he had given renewed promises to Roger Carbury that he
would not declare his passion,—now for two months, then for six
weeks, then for a month. In the meantime the two men were fast
friends,—so fast that Montague spent by far the greater part of his
time as his friend's guest,—and all this was done with the
understanding that Roger Carbury was to blaze up into hostile wrath
should Paul ever receive the privilege to call himself Henrietta
Carbury's favoured lover, but that everything was to be smooth
between them should Henrietta be persuaded to become the mistress of
Carbury Hall. So things went on up to the night at which Montague met
Henrietta at Madame Melmotte's ball. The reader should also be
informed that there had been already a former love affair in the
young life of Paul Montague. There had been, and indeed there still
was, a widow, one Mrs. Hurtle, whom he had been desperately anxious
to marry before his second journey to California;—but the marriage
had been prevented by the interference of Roger Carbury.

 


 


CHAPTER VII.


MENTOR.
 

Lady Carbury's desire for a union between Roger and her daughter was
greatly increased by her solicitude in respect to her son. Since
Roger's offer had first been made, Felix had gone on from bad to
worse, till his condition had become one of hopeless embarrassment.
If her daughter could but be settled in the world, Lady Carbury said
to herself, she could then devote herself to the interests of her
son. She had no very clear idea of what that devotion would be. But
she did know that she had paid so much money for him, and would have
so much more extracted from her, that it might well come to pass that
she would be unable to keep a home for her daughter. In all these
troubles she constantly appealed to Roger Carbury for advice,—which,
however, she never followed. He recommended her to give up her house
in town, to find a home for her daughter elsewhere, and also for
Felix if he would consent to follow her. Should he not so consent,
then let the young man bear the brunt of his own misdoings.
Doubtless, when he could no longer get bread in London he would find
her out. Roger was always severe when he spoke of the baronet,—or
seemed to Lady Carbury to be severe.

But, in truth, she did not ask for advice in order that she might
follow it. She had plans in her head with which she knew that Roger
would not sympathise. She still thought that Sir Felix might bloom
and burst out into grandeur, wealth, and fashion, as the husband of a
great heiress, and in spite of her son's vices, was proud of him in
that anticipation. When he succeeded in obtaining from her money, as
in the case of that £20,—when, with brazen-faced indifference to her
remonstrances, he started off to his club at two in the morning, when
with impudent drollery he almost boasted of the hopelessness of his
debts, a sickness of heart would come upon her, and she would weep
hysterically, and lie the whole night without sleeping. But could he
marry Miss Melmotte, and thus conquer all his troubles by means of
his own personal beauty,—then she would be proud of all that had
passed. With such a condition of mind Roger Carbury could have no
sympathy. To him it seemed that a gentleman was disgraced who owed
money to a tradesman which he could not pay. And Lady Carbury's heart
was high with other hopes,—in spite of her hysterics and her fears.
The "Criminal Queens" might be a great literary success. She almost
thought that it would be a success. Messrs. Leadham and Loiter, the
publishers, were civil to her. Mr. Broune had promised. Mr. Booker
had said that he would see what could be done. She had gathered from
Mr. Alf's caustic and cautious words that the book would be noticed
in the "Evening Pulpit." No;—she would not take dear Roger's advice
as to leaving London. But she would continue to ask Roger's advice.
Men like to have their advice asked. And, if possible, she would
arrange the marriage. What country retirement could be so suitable
for a Lady Carbury when she wished to retire for awhile,—as Carbury
Manor, the seat of her own daughter? And then her mind would fly away
into regions of bliss. If only by the end of this season Henrietta
could be engaged to her cousin, Felix be the husband of the richest
bride in Europe, and she be the acknowledged author of the cleverest
book of the year, what a Paradise of triumph might still be open to
her after all her troubles! Then the sanguine nature of the woman
would bear her up almost to exultation, and for an hour she would be
happy, in spite of everything.

A few days after the ball Roger Carbury was up in town, and was
closeted with her in her back drawing-room. The declared cause of his
coming was the condition of the baronet's affairs and the
indispensable necessity,—so Roger thought,—of taking some steps by
which at any rate the young man's present expenses might be brought
to an end. It was horrible to him that a man who had not a shilling
in the world or any prospect of a shilling, who had nothing and never
thought of earning anything, should have hunters! He was very much in
earnest about it, and quite prepared to speak his mind to the young
man himself,—if he could get hold of him. "Where is he now, Lady
Carbury;—at this moment?"

"I think he's out with the Baron." Being "out with the Baron" meant
that the young man was hunting with the stag hounds some forty miles
away from London.

"How does he manage it? Whose horses does he ride? Who pays for
them?"

"Don't be angry with me, Roger. What can I do to prevent it?"

"I think you should refuse to have anything to do with him while he
continues in such courses."

"My own son!"

"Yes;—exactly. But what is to be the end of it? Is he to be allowed
to ruin you, and Hetta? It can't go on long."

"You wouldn't have me throw him over."

"I think he is throwing you over. And then it is so thoroughly
dishonest,—so ungentlemanlike! I don't understand how it goes on
from day to day. I suppose you don't supply him with ready money."

"He has had a little."

Roger frowned angrily. "I can understand that you should provide him
with bed and food, but not that you should pander to his vices by
giving him money." This was very plain speaking, and Lady Carbury
winced under it. "The kind of life that he is leading requires a
large income of itself. I understand the thing, and know that with
all I have in the world I could not do it myself."

"You are so different."

"I am older of course,—very much older. But he is not so young that
he should not begin to comprehend. Has he any money beyond what you
give him?"

Then Lady Carbury revealed certain suspicions which she had begun to
entertain during the last day or two. "I think he has been playing."

"That is the way to lose money,—not to get it," said Roger.

"I suppose somebody wins,—sometimes."

"They who win are the sharpers. They who lose are the dupes. I would
sooner that he were a fool than a knave."

"O Roger, you are so severe!"

"You say he plays. How would he pay, were he to lose?"

"I know nothing about it. I don't even know that he does play; but I
have reason to think that during the last week he has had money at
his command. Indeed I have seen it. He comes home at all manner of
hours and sleeps late. Yesterday I went into his room about ten and
did not wake him. There were notes and gold lying on his table;—ever
so much."

"Why did you not take them?"

"What; rob my own boy?"

"When you tell me that you are absolutely in want of money to pay
your own bills, and that he has not hesitated to take yours from you!
Why does he not repay you what he has borrowed?"

"Ah, indeed;—why not? He ought to if he has it. And there were
papers there;—I. O. U.'s, signed by other men."

"You looked at them."

"I saw as much as that. It is not that I am curious, but one does
feel about one's own son. I think he has bought another horse. A
groom came here and said something about it to the servants."

"Oh dear;—oh dear!"

"If you could only induce him to stop the gambling! Of course it is
very bad whether he wins or loses,—though I am sure that Felix would
do nothing unfair. Nobody ever said that of him. If he has won money,
it would be a great comfort if he would let me have some of it,—for,
to tell the truth, I hardly know how to turn. I am sure nobody can
say that I spend it on myself."

Then Roger again repeated his advice. There could be no use in
attempting to keep up the present kind of life in Welbeck Street.
Welbeck Street might be very well without a penniless spendthrift
such as Sir Felix, but must be ruinous under the present conditions.
If Lady Carbury felt, as no doubt she did feel, bound to afford a
home to her ruined son in spite of all his wickedness and folly, that
home should be found far away from London. If he chose to remain in
London, let him do so on his own resources. The young man should make
up his mind to do something for himself. A career might possibly be
opened for him in India. "If he be a man he would sooner break stones
than live on you," said Roger. Yes, he would see his cousin to-morrow
and speak to him;—that is if he could possibly find him. "Young men
who gamble all night, and hunt all day are not easily found." But he
would come at twelve as Felix generally breakfasted at that hour.
Then he gave an assurance to Lady Carbury which to her was not the
least comfortable part of the interview. In the event of her son not
giving her the money which she at once required he, Roger, would lend
her a hundred pounds till her half year's income should be due. After
that his voice changed altogether, as he asked a question on another
subject, "Can I see Henrietta to-morrow?"

"Certainly;—why not? She is at home now, I think."

"I will wait till to-morrow,—when I call to see Felix. I should like
her to know that I am coming. Paul Montague was in town the other
day. He was here, I suppose?"

"Yes;—he called."

"Was that all you saw of him?"

"He was at the Melmottes' ball. Felix got a card for him;—and we
were there. Has he gone down to Carbury?"

"No;—not to Carbury. I think he had some business about his partners
at Liverpool. There is another case of a young man without anything
to do. Not that Paul is at all like Sir Felix." This he was induced
to say by the spirit of honesty which was always strong within him.

"Don't be too hard upon poor Felix," said Lady Carbury. Roger, as he
took his leave, thought that it would be impossible to be too hard
upon Sir Felix Carbury.

The next morning Lady Carbury was in her son's bedroom before he was
up, and with incredible weakness told him that his cousin Roger was
coming to lecture him. "What the Devil's the use of it?" said Felix
from beneath the bedclothes.

"If you speak to me in that way, Felix, I must leave the room."

"But what is the use of his coming to me? I know what he has got to
say just as if it were said. It's all very well preaching sermons to
good people, but nothing ever was got by preaching to people who
ain't good."

"Why shouldn't you be good?"

"I shall do very well, mother, if that fellow will leave me alone. I
can play my hand better than he can play it for me. If you'll go now
I'll get up." She had intended to ask him for some of the money which
she believed he still possessed, but her courage failed her. If she
asked for his money, and took it, she would in some fashion recognise
and tacitly approve his gambling. It was not yet eleven, and it was
early for him to leave his bed; but he had resolved that he would get
out of the house before that horrible bore should be upon him with
his sermon. To do this he must be energetic. He was actually eating
his breakfast at half-past eleven, and had already contrived in his
mind how he would turn the wrong way as soon as he got into the
street,—towards Marylebone Road, by which route Roger would
certainly not come. He left the house at ten minutes before twelve,
cunningly turned away, dodging round by the first corner,—and just
as he had turned it encountered his cousin. Roger, anxious in regard
to his errand, with time at his command, had come before the hour
appointed and had strolled about, thinking not of Felix but of
Felix's sister. The baronet felt that he had been caught,—caught
unfairly, but by no means abandoned all hope of escape. "I was going
to your mother's house on purpose to see you," said Roger.

"Were you indeed? I am so sorry. I have an engagement out here with a
fellow which I must keep. I could meet you at any other time, you
know."

"You can come back for ten minutes," said Roger, taking him by the
arm.

"Well;—not conveniently at this moment."

"You must manage it. I am here at your mother's request, and can't
afford to remain in town day after day looking for you. I go down to
Carbury this afternoon. Your friend can wait. Come along." His
firmness was too much for Felix, who lacked the courage to shake his
cousin off violently, and to go his way. But as he returned he
fortified himself with the remembrance of all the money in his
pocket,—for he still had his winnings,—remembered too certain sweet
words which had passed between him and Marie Melmotte since the ball,
and resolved that he would not be "sat upon" by Roger Carbury. The
time was coming,—he might almost say that the time had come,—in
which he might defy Roger Carbury. Nevertheless, he dreaded the words
which were now to be spoken to him with a craven fear.

"Your mother tells me," said Roger, "that you still keep hunters."

"I don't know what she calls hunters. I have one that I didn't part
with when the others went."

"You have only one horse?"

"Well;—if you want to be exact, I have a hack as well as the horse I
ride."

"And another up here in town?"

"Who told you that? No; I haven't. At least there is one staying at
some stables which has been sent for me to look at."

"Who pays for all these horses?"

"At any rate I shall not ask you to pay for them."

"No;—you would be afraid to do that. But you have no scruple in
asking your mother, though you should force her to come to me or to
other friends for assistance. You have squandered every shilling of
your own, and now you are ruining her."

"That isn't true. I have money of my own."

"Where did you get it?"

"This is all very well, Roger; but I don't know that you have any
right to ask me these questions. I have money. If I buy a horse I can
pay for it. If I keep one or two I can pay for them. Of course I owe
a lot of money, but other people owe me money too. I'm all right, and
you needn't frighten yourself."

"Then why do you beg her last shilling from your mother, and when you
have money not pay it back to her?"

"She can have the twenty pounds, if you mean that."

"I mean that, and a good deal more than that. I suppose you have been
gambling."

"I don't know that I am bound to answer your questions, and I won't
do it. If you have nothing else to say, I'll go about my own
business."

"I have something else to say, and I mean to say it." Felix had
walked towards the door, but Roger was before him, and now leaned his
back against it.

"I am not going to be kept here against my will," said Felix.

"You have to listen to me, so you may as well sit still. Do you wish
to be looked upon as a blackguard by all the world?"

"Oh,—go on."

"That is what it will be. You have spent every shilling of your
own,—and because your mother is affectionate and weak, you are now
spending all that she has, and are bringing her and your sister to
beggary."

"I don't ask them to pay anything for me."

"Not when you borrow her money?"

"There is the £20. Take it and give it her," said Felix, counting the
notes out of the pocket-book. "When I asked her for it, I did not
think she would make such a row about such a trifle." Roger took up
the notes and thrust them into his pocket. "Now, have you done?" said
Felix.











"There’s the £20."


"There’s the £20."

Click to ENLARGE


"Not quite. Do you purpose that your mother should keep you and
clothe you for the rest of your life?"

"I hope to be able to keep her before long, and to do it much better
than it has ever been done before. The truth is, Roger, you know
nothing about it. If you'll leave me to myself, you'll find that I
shall do very well."

"I don't know any young man who ever did worse, or one who had less
moral conception of what is right and wrong."

"Very well. That's your idea. I differ from you. People can't all
think alike, you know. Now, if you please, I'll go."

Roger felt that he hadn't half said what he had to say, but he hardly
knew how to get it said. And of what use could it be to talk to a
young man who was altogether callous and without feeling? The remedy
for the evil ought to be found in the mother's conduct rather than
the son's. She, were she not foolishly weak, would make up her mind
to divide herself utterly from her son, at any rate for a while, and
to leave him to suffer utter penury. That would bring him round. And
then when the agony of want had tamed him, he would be content to
take bread and meat from her hand and would be humble. At present he
had money in his pocket, and would eat and drink of the best, and be
free from inconvenience for the moment. While this prosperity
remained it would be impossible to touch him. "You will ruin your
sister, and break your mother's heart," said Roger, firing a last
harmless shot after the young reprobate.

When Lady Carbury came into the room, which she did as soon as the
front door was closed behind her son, she seemed to think that a
great success had been achieved because the £20 had been recovered.
"I knew he would give it me back, if he had it," she said.

"Why did he not bring it to you of his own accord?"

"I suppose he did not like to talk about it. Has he said that he got
it by—playing?"

"No,—he did not speak a word of truth while he was here. You may
take it for granted that he did get it by gambling. How else should
he have it? And you may take it for granted also that he will lose
all that he has got. He talked in the wildest way,—saying that he
would soon have a home for you and Hetta."

"Did he;—dear boy!"

"Had he any meaning?"

"Oh; yes. And it is quite on the cards that it should be so. You have
heard of Miss Melmotte."

"I have heard of the great French swindler who has come over here,
and who is buying his way into society."

"Everybody visits them now, Roger."

"More shame for everybody. Who knows anything about him,—except that
he left Paris with the reputation of a specially prosperous rogue?
But what of him?"

"Some people think that Felix will marry his only child. Felix is
handsome; isn't he? What young man is there nearly so handsome? They
say she'll have half a million of money."

"That's his game;—is it?"

"Don't you think he is right?"

"No; I think he's wrong. But we shall hardly agree with each other
about that. Can I see Henrietta for a few minutes?"

 


 


CHAPTER VIII.


LOVE-SICK.
 

Roger Carbury said well that it was very improbable that he and his
cousin, the widow, should agree in their opinions as to the
expedience of fortune-hunting by marriage. It was impossible that
they should ever understand each other. To Lady Carbury the prospect
of a union between her son and Miss Melmotte was one of unmixed joy
and triumph. Could it have been possible that Marie Melmotte should
be rich and her father be a man doomed to a deserved sentence in a
penal settlement, there might perhaps be a doubt about it. The wealth
even in that case would certainly carry the day against the disgrace,
and Lady Carbury would find reasons why "poor Marie" should not be
punished for her father's sins, even while enjoying the money which
those sins had produced. But how different were the existing facts?
Mr. Melmotte was not at the galleys, but was entertaining duchesses
in Grosvenor Square. People said that Mr. Melmotte had a reputation
throughout Europe as a gigantic swindler,—as one who in the
dishonest and successful pursuit of wealth had stopped at nothing.
People said of him that he had framed and carried out long
premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruin of those who had
trusted him, that he had swallowed up the property of all who had
come in contact with him, that he was fed with the blood of widows
and children;—but what was all this to Lady Carbury? If the
duchesses condoned it all, did it become her to be prudish? People
also said that Melmotte would yet get a fall,—that a man who had
risen after such a fashion never could long keep his head up. But he
might keep his head up long enough to give Marie her fortune. And
then Felix wanted a fortune so badly;—was so exactly the young man
who ought to marry a fortune! To Lady Carbury there was no second way
of looking at the matter.

And to Roger Carbury also there was no second way of looking at it.
That condonation of antecedents which, in the hurry of the world, is
often vouchsafed to success, that growing feeling which induces
people to assert to themselves that they are not bound to go outside
the general verdict, and that they may shake hands with whomsoever
the world shakes hands with, had never reached him. The old-fashioned
idea that the touching of pitch will defile still prevailed with him.
He was a gentleman;—and would have felt himself disgraced to enter
the house of such a one as Augustus Melmotte. Not all the duchesses
in the peerage, or all the money in the city, could alter his notions
or induce him to modify his conduct. But he knew that it would be
useless for him to explain this to Lady Carbury. He trusted, however,
that one of the family might be taught to appreciate the difference
between honour and dishonour. Henrietta Carbury had, he thought, a
higher turn of mind than her mother, and had as yet been kept free
from soil. As for Felix,—he had so grovelled in the gutters as to be
dirt all over. Nothing short of the prolonged sufferings of half a
life could cleanse him.

He found Henrietta alone in the drawing-room. "Have you seen Felix?"
she said, as soon as they had greeted each other.

"Yes. I caught him in the street."

"We are so unhappy about him."

"I cannot say but that you have reason. I think, you know, that your
mother indulges him foolishly."

"Poor mamma! She worships the very ground he treads on."

"Even a mother should not throw her worship away like that. The fact
is that your brother will ruin you both if this goes on."

"What can mamma do?"

"Leave London, and then refuse to pay a shilling on his behalf."

"What would Felix do in the country?"

"If he did nothing, how much better would that be than what he does
in town? You would not like him to become a professional gambler."

"Oh, Mr. Carbury; you do not mean that he does that!"

"It seems cruel to say such things to you,—but in a matter of such
importance one is bound to speak the truth. I have no influence over
your mother; but you may have some. She asks my advice, but has not
the slightest idea of listening to it. I don't blame her for that;
but I am anxious for the sake of—, for the sake of the family."

"I am sure you are."

"Especially for your sake. You will never throw him over."

"You would not ask me to throw him over."

"But he may drag you into the mud. For his sake you have already been
taken into the house of that man Melmotte."

"I do not think that I shall be injured by anything of that kind,"
said Henrietta, drawing herself up.

"Pardon me if I seem to interfere."

"Oh, no;—it is no interference from you."

"Pardon me then if I am rough. To me it seems that an injury is done
to you if you are made to go to the house of such a one as this man.
Why does your mother seek his society? Not because she likes him; not
because she has any sympathy with him or his family;—but simply
because there is a rich daughter."

"Everybody goes there, Mr. Carbury."

"Yes,—that is the excuse which everybody makes. Is that sufficient
reason for you to go to a man's house? Is there not another place to
which we are told that a great many are going, simply because the
road has become thronged and fashionable? Have you no feeling that
you ought to choose your friends for certain reasons of your own? I
admit there is one reason here. They have a great deal of money, and
it is thought possible that he may get some of it by falsely swearing
to a girl that he loves her. After what you have heard, are the
Melmottes people with whom you would wish to be connected?"

"I don't know."

"I do. I know very well. They are absolutely disgraceful. A social
connection with the first crossing-sweeper would be less
objectionable." He spoke with a degree of energy of which he was
himself altogether unaware. He knit his brows, and his eyes flashed,
and his nostrils were extended. Of course she thought of his own
offer to herself. Of course her mind at once conceived,—not that the
Melmotte connection could ever really affect him, for she felt sure
that she would never accept his offer,—but that he might think that
he would be so affected. Of course she resented the feeling which she
thus attributed to him. But, in truth, he was much too simple-minded
for any such complex idea. "Felix," he continued, "has already
descended so far that I cannot pretend to be anxious as to what
houses he may frequent. But I should be sorry to think that you
should often be seen at Mr. Melmotte's."

"I think, Mr. Carbury, that mamma will take care that I am not taken
where I ought not to be taken."

"I wish you to have some opinion of your own as to what is proper for
you."

"I hope I have. I am sorry you should think that I have not."

"I am old-fashioned, Hetta."

"And we belong to a newer and worse sort of world. I dare say it is
so. You have been always very kind, but I almost doubt whether you
can change us now. I have sometimes thought that you and mamma were
hardly fit for each other."

"I have thought that you and I were,—or possibly might be fit for
each other."

"Oh,—as for me, I shall always take mamma's side. If mamma chooses
to go to the Melmottes I shall certainly go with her. If that is
contamination, I suppose I must be contaminated. I don't see why I'm
to consider myself better than any one else."

"I have always thought that you were better than any one else."

"That was before I went to the Melmottes. I am sure you have altered
your opinion now. Indeed, you have told me so. I am afraid, Mr.
Carbury, you must go your way, and we must go ours."

He looked into her face as she spoke, and gradually began to perceive
the working of her mind. He was so true himself that he did not
understand that there should be with her even that violet-coloured
tinge of prevarication which women assume as an additional charm.
Could she really have thought that he was attending to his own
possible future interests when he warned her as to the making of new
acquaintances?

"For myself," he said, putting out his hand and making a slight vain
effort to get hold of hers, "I have only one wish in the world; and
that is, to travel the same road with you. I do not say that you
ought to wish it too; but you ought to know that I am sincere. When I
spoke of the Melmottes, did you believe that I was thinking of
myself?"

"Oh no;—how should I?"

"I was speaking to you then as to a cousin who might regard me as an
elder brother. No contact with legions of Melmottes could make you
other to me than the woman on whom my heart has settled. Even were
you in truth disgraced,—could disgrace touch one so pure as you,—it
would be the same. I love you so well that I have already taken you
for better or for worse. I cannot change. My nature is too stubborn
for such changes. Have you a word to say to comfort me?" She turned
away her head, but did not answer him at once. "Do you understand how
much I am in need of comfort?"

"You can do very well without comfort from me."

"No, indeed. I shall live, no doubt; but I shall not do very well. As
it is, I am not doing at all well. I am becoming sour and moody, and
ill at ease with my friends. I would have you believe me, at any
rate, when I say I love you."

"I suppose you mean something."

"I mean a great deal, dear. I mean all that a man can mean. That is
it. You hardly understand that I am serious to the extent of ecstatic
joy on the one side, and utter indifference to the world on the
other. I shall never give it up till I learn that you are to be
married to some one else."

"What can I say, Mr. Carbury?"

"That you will love me."

"But if I don't?"

"Say that you will try."

"No; I will not say that. Love should come without a struggle. I
don't know how one person is to try to love another in that way. I
like you very much; but being married is such a terrible thing."

"It would not be terrible to me, dear."

"Yes;—when you found that I was too young for your tastes."

"I shall persevere, you know. Will you assure me of this,—that if
you promise your hand to another man, you will let me know at once?"

"I suppose I may promise that," she said, after pausing for a moment.

"There is no one as yet?"

"There is no one. But, Mr. Carbury, you have no right to question me.
I don't think it generous. I allow you to say things that nobody else
could say because you are a cousin and because mamma trusts you so
much. No one but mamma has a right to ask me whether I care for any
one."

"Are you angry with me?"

"No."

"If I have offended you it is because I love you so dearly."

"I am not offended, but I don't like to be questioned by a gentleman.
I don't think any girl would like it. I am not to tell everybody all
that happens."

"Perhaps when you reflect how much of my happiness depends upon it
you will forgive me. Good-bye now." She put out her hand to him and
allowed it to remain in his for a moment. "When I walk about the old
shrubberies at Carbury where we used to be together, I am always
asking myself what chance there is of your walking there as the
mistress."

"There is no chance."

"I am, of course, prepared to hear you say so. Well; good-bye, and
may God bless you."

The man had no poetry about him. He did not even care for romance.
All the outside belongings of love which are so pleasant to many men
and which to many women afford the one sweetness in life which they
really relish, were nothing to him. There are both men and women to
whom even the delays and disappointments of love are charming, even
when they exist to the detriment of hope. It is sweet to such persons
to be melancholy, sweet to pine, sweet to feel that they are now
wretched after a romantic fashion as have been those heroes and
heroines of whose sufferings they have read in poetry. But there was
nothing of this with Roger Carbury. He had, as he believed, found the
woman that he really wanted, who was worthy of his love, and now,
having fixed his heart upon her, he longed for her with an amazing
longing. He had spoken the simple truth when he declared that life
had become indifferent to him without her. No man in England could be
less likely to throw himself off the Monument or to blow out his
brains. But he felt numbed in all the joints of his mind by this
sorrow. He could not make one thing bear upon another, so as to
console himself after any fashion. There was but one thing for
him;—to persevere till he got her, or till he had finally lost her.
And should the latter be his fate, as he began to fear that it would
be, then, he would live, but live only, like a crippled man.

He felt almost sure in his heart of hearts that the girl loved that
other, younger man. That she had never owned to such love he was
quite sure. The man himself and Henrietta also had both assured him
on this point, and he was a man easily satisfied by words and prone
to believe. But he knew that Paul Montague was attached to her, and
that it was Paul's intention to cling to his love. Sorrowfully
looking forward through the vista of future years, he thought he saw
that Henrietta would become Paul's wife. Were it so, what should he
do? Annihilate himself as far as all personal happiness in the world
was concerned, and look solely to their happiness, their prosperity,
and their joys? Be as it were a beneficent old fairy to them, though
the agony of his own disappointment should never depart from him?
Should he do this, and be blessed by them,—or should he let Paul
Montague know what deep resentment such ingratitude could produce?
When had a father been kinder to a son, or a brother to a brother,
than he had been to Paul? His home had been the young man's home, and
his purse the young man's purse. What right could the young man have
to come upon him just as he was perfecting his bliss and rob him of
all that he had in the world? He was conscious all the while that
there was a something wrong in his argument,—that Paul when he
commenced to love the girl knew nothing of his friend's love,—that
the girl, though Paul had never come in the way, might probably have
been as obdurate as she was now to his entreaties. He knew all this
because his mind was clear. But yet the injustice,—at any rate, the
misery was so great, that to forgive it and to reward it would be
weak, womanly, and foolish. Roger Carbury did not quite believe in
the forgiveness of injuries. If you pardon all the evil done to you,
you encourage others to do you evil! If you give your cloak to him
who steals your coat, how long will it be before your shirt and
trousers will go also? Roger Carbury returned that afternoon to
Suffolk, and as he thought of it all throughout the journey, he
resolved that he would never forgive Paul Montague if Paul Montague
should become his cousin's husband.

 


 


CHAPTER IX.


THE GREAT RAILWAY TO VERA CRUZ.
 

"You have been a guest in his house. Then, I guess, the thing's about
as good as done." These words were spoken with a fine, sharp, nasal
twang by a brilliantly-dressed American gentleman in one of the
smartest private rooms of the great railway hotel at Liverpool, and
they were addressed to a young Englishman who was sitting opposite to
him. Between them there was a table covered with maps, schedules, and
printed programmes. The American was smoking a very large cigar,
which he kept constantly turning in his mouth, and half of which was
inside his teeth. The Englishman had a short pipe. Mr. Hamilton K.
Fisker, of the firm of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, was the
American, and the Englishman was our friend Paul, the junior member
of that firm.

"But I didn't even speak to him," said Paul.

"In commercial affairs that matters nothing. It quite justifies you
in introducing me. We are not going to ask your friend to do us a
favour. We don't want to borrow money."

"I thought you did."

"If he'll go in for the thing he'd be one of us, and there would be
no borrowing then. He'll join us if he's as clever as they say,
because he'll see his way to making a couple of million of dollars
out of it. If he'd take the trouble to run over and show himself in
San Francisco, he'd make double that. The moneyed men would go in
with him at once, because they know that he understands the game and
has got the pluck. A man who has done what he has by financing in
Europe,—by George! there's no limit to what he might do with us.
We're a bigger people than any of you and have more room. We go after
bigger things, and don't stand shilly-shally on the brink as you do.
But Melmotte pretty nigh beats the best among us. Anyway he should
come and try his luck, and he couldn't have a bigger thing or a safer
thing than this. He'd see it immediately if I could talk to him for
half an hour."

"Mr. Fisker," said Paul mysteriously, "as we are partners, I think I
ought to let you know that many people speak very badly of Mr.
Melmotte's honesty."

Mr. Fisker smiled gently, turned his cigar twice round in his mouth,
and then closed one eye. "There is always a want of charity," he
said, "when a man is successful."

The scheme in question was the grand proposal for a South Central
Pacific and Mexican railway, which was to run from the Salt Lake
City, thus branching off from the San Francisco and Chicago
line,—and pass down through the fertile lands of New Mexico and
Arizona, into the territory of the Mexican Republic, run by the city
of Mexico, and come out on the gulf at the port of Vera Cruz. Mr.
Fisker admitted at once that it was a great undertaking, acknowledged
that the distance might be perhaps something over 2,000 miles,
acknowledged that no computation had or perhaps could be made as to
the probable cost of the railway; but seemed to think that questions
such as these were beside the mark and childish. Melmotte, if he
would go into the matter at all, would ask no such questions.

But we must go back a little. Paul Montague had received a telegram
from his partner, Hamilton K. Fisker, sent on shore at Queenstown
from one of the New York liners, requesting him to meet Fisker at
Liverpool immediately. With this request he had felt himself bound to
comply. Personally he had disliked Fisker,—and perhaps not the less
so because when in California he had never found himself able to
resist the man's good humour, audacity, and cleverness combined. He
had found himself talked into agreeing with any project which Mr.
Fisker might have in hand. It was altogether against the grain with
him, and yet by his own consent, that the flour-mill had been opened
at Fiskerville. He trembled for his money and never wished to see
Fisker again; but still, when Fisker came to England, he was proud to
remember that Fisker was his partner, and he obeyed the order and
went down to Liverpool.

If the flour-mill had frightened him, what must the present project
have done! Fisker explained that he had come with two objects,—first
to ask the consent of the English partner to the proposed change in
their business, and secondly to obtain the co-operation of English
capitalists. The proposed change in the business meant simply the
entire sale of the establishment at Fiskerville, and the absorption
of the whole capital in the work of getting up the railway. "If you
could realise all the money it wouldn't make a mile of the railway,"
said Paul. Mr. Fisker laughed at him. The object of Fisker, Montague,
and Montague was not to make a railway to Vera Cruz, but to float a
company. Paul thought that Mr. Fisker seemed to be indifferent
whether the railway should ever be constructed or not. It was clearly
his idea that fortunes were to be made out of the concern before a
spadeful of earth had been moved. If brilliantly printed programmes
might avail anything, with gorgeous maps, and beautiful little
pictures of trains running into tunnels beneath snowy mountains and
coming out of them on the margin of sunlit lakes, Mr. Fisker had
certainly done much. But Paul, when he saw all these pretty things,
could not keep his mind from thinking whence had come the money to
pay for them. Mr. Fisker had declared that he had come over to obtain
his partner's consent, but it seemed to that partner that a great
deal had been done without any consent. And Paul's fears on this hand
were not allayed by finding that on all these beautiful papers he
himself was described as one of the agents and general managers of
the company. Each document was signed Fisker, Montague, and Montague.
References on all matters were to be made to Fisker, Montague, and
Montague,—and in one of the documents it was stated that a member of
the firm had proceeded to London with the view of attending to
British interests in the matter. Fisker had seemed to think that his
young partner would express unbounded satisfaction at the greatness
which was thus falling upon him. A certain feeling of importance, not
altogether unpleasant, was produced, but at the same time there was
another conviction forced upon Montague's mind, not altogether
pleasant, that his money was being made to disappear without any
consent given by him, and that it behoved him to be cautious lest
such consent should be extracted from him unawares.

"What has become of the mill?" he asked.

"We have put an agent into it."

"Is not that dangerous? What check have you on him?"

"He pays us a fixed sum, sir. But, my word! when there is such a
thing as this on hand a trumpery mill like that is not worth speaking
of."

"You haven't sold it?"

"Well;—no. But we've arranged a price for a sale."

"You haven't taken the money for it?"

"Well;—yes; we have. We've raised money on it, you know. You see you
weren't there, and so the two resident partners acted for the firm.
But Mr. Montague, you'd better go with us. You had indeed."

"And about my own income?"

"That's a flea-bite. When we've got a little ahead with this it won't
matter, sir, whether you spend twenty thousand or forty thousand
dollars a year. We've got the concession from the United States
Government through the territories, and we're in correspondence with
the President of the Mexican Republic. I've no doubt we've an office
open already in Mexico and another at Vera Cruz."

"Where's the money to come from?"

"Money to come from, sir? Where do you suppose the money comes from
in all these undertakings? If we can float the shares, the money'll
come in quick enough. We hold three million dollars of the stock
ourselves."

"Six hundred thousand pounds!" said Montague.

"We take them at par, of course,—and as we sell we shall pay for
them. But of course we shall only sell at a premium. If we can run
them up even to 110, there would be three hundred thousand dollars.
But we'll do better than that. I must try and see Melmotte at once.
You had better write a letter now."

"I don't know the man."

"Never mind. Look here—I'll write it, and you can sign it."
Whereupon Mr. Fisker did write the following
letter:—
 


Langham Hotel, London.

March 4, 18—.

Dear Sir,—I have
the pleasure of informing you that my
partner, Mr. Fisker,—of Fisker, Montague, and Montague,
of San Francisco,—is now in London with the view of
allowing British capitalists to assist in carrying out
perhaps the greatest work of the age,—namely, the South
Central Pacific and Mexican Railway, which is to give
direct communication between San Francisco and the Gulf of
Mexico. He is very anxious to see you upon his arrival, as
he is aware that your co-operation would be desirable. We
feel assured that with your matured judgment in such
matters you would see at once the magnificence of the
enterprise. If you will name a day and an hour, Mr. Fisker
will call upon you.

I have to thank you and Madame Melmotte for a very
pleasant evening spent at your house last week.

Mr. Fisker proposes returning to New York. I shall remain
here, superintending the British interests which may be
involved.

I have the honour to be,

Dear Sir,

Most faithfully yours.

—— ——.
 


"But I have never said that I would superintend the interests," said
Montague.

"You can say so now. It binds you to nothing. You regular John Bull
Englishmen are so full of scruples that you lose as much of life as
should serve to make an additional fortune."

After some further conversation Paul Montague recopied the letter and
signed it. He did it with doubt,—almost with dismay. But he told
himself that he could do no good by refusing. If this wretched
American, with his hat on one side and rings on his fingers, had so
far got the upper hand of Paul's uncle as to have been allowed to do
what he liked with the funds of the partnership, Paul could not stop
it. On the following morning they went up to London together, and in
the course of the afternoon Mr. Fisker presented himself in Abchurch
Lane. The letter written at Liverpool, but dated from the Langham
Hotel, had been posted at the Euston Square Railway Station at the
moment of Fisker's arrival. Fisker sent in his card, and was asked to
wait. In the course of twenty minutes he was ushered into the great
man's presence by no less a person than Miles Grendall.

It has been already said that Mr. Melmotte was a big man with large
whiskers, rough hair, and with an expression of mental power on a
harsh vulgar face. He was certainly a man to repel you by his
presence unless attracted to him by some internal consideration. He
was magnificent in his expenditure, powerful in his doings,
successful in his business, and the world around him therefore was
not repelled. Fisker, on the other hand, was a shining little
man,—perhaps about forty years of age, with a well-twisted
moustache, greasy brown hair, which was becoming bald at the top,
good-looking if his features were analysed, but insignificant in
appearance. He was gorgeously dressed, with a silk waistcoat and
chains, and he carried a little stick. One would at first be inclined
to say that Fisker was not much of a man; but after a little
conversation most men would own that there was something in Fisker.
He was troubled by no shyness, by no scruples, and by no fears. His
mind was not capacious, but such as it was it was his own, and he
knew how to use it.

Abchurch Lane is not a grand site for the offices of a merchant
prince. Here, at a small corner house, there was a small brass plate
on a swing door, bearing the words "Melmotte & Co." Of whom the Co.
was composed no one knew. In one sense Mr. Melmotte might be said to
be in company with all the commercial world, for there was no
business to which he would refuse his co-operation on certain terms.
But he had never burthened himself with a partner in the usual sense
of the term. Here Fisker found three or four clerks seated at desks,
and was desired to walk up-stairs. The steps were narrow and crooked,
and the rooms were small and irregular. Here he stayed for a while in
a small dark apartment in which "The Daily Telegraph" was left for
the amusement of its occupant till Miles Grendall announced to him
that Mr. Melmotte would see him. The millionaire looked at him for a
moment or two, just condescending to touch with his fingers the hand
which Fisker had projected.

"I don't seem to remember," he said, "the gentleman who has done me
the honour of writing to me about you."

"I dare say not, Mr. Melmotte. When I'm at home in San Francisco, I
make acquaintance with a great many gents whom I don't remember
afterwards. My partner I think told me that he went to your house
with his friend, Sir Felix Carbury."

"I know a young man called Sir Felix Carbury."

"That's it. I could have got any amount of introductions to you if I
had thought this would not have sufficed." Mr. Melmotte bowed. "Our
account here in London is kept with the City and West End Joint
Stock. But I have only just arrived, and as my chief object in coming
to London is to see you, and as I met my partner, Mr. Montague, in
Liverpool, I took a note from him and came on straight."

"And what can I do for you, Mr. Fisker?"

Then Mr. Fisker began his account of the Great South Central Pacific
and Mexican Railway, and exhibited considerable skill by telling it
all in comparatively few words. And yet he was gorgeous and florid.
In two minutes he had displayed his programme, his maps, and his
pictures before Mr. Melmotte's eyes, taking care that Mr. Melmotte
should see how often the names of Fisker, Montague, and Montague,
reappeared upon them. As Mr. Melmotte read the documents, Fisker from
time to time put in a word. But the words had no reference at all to
the future profits of the railway, or to the benefit which such means
of communication would confer upon the world at large; but applied
solely to the appetite for such stock as theirs, which might
certainly be produced in the speculating world by a proper
manipulation of the affairs.











Then Mr. Fisker began his account.


Then
Mr. Fisker began his account.


Click to ENLARGE


"You seem to think you couldn't get it taken up in your own country,"
said Melmotte.

"There's not a doubt about getting it all taken up there. Our folk,
sir, are quick enough at the game; but you don't want me to teach
you, Mr. Melmotte, that nothing encourages this kind of thing like
competition. When they hear at St. Louis and Chicago that the thing
is alive in London, they'll be alive there. And it's the same here,
sir. When they know that the stock is running like wildfire in
America, they'll make it run here too."

"How far have you got?"

"What we've gone to work upon is a concession for making the line
from the United States Congress. We're to have the land for nothing,
of course, and a grant of one thousand acres round every station, the
stations to be twenty-five miles apart."

"And the land is to be made over to you,—when?"

"When we have made the line up to the station." Fisker understood
perfectly that Mr. Melmotte did not ask the question in reference to
any value that he might attach to the possession of such lands, but
to the attractiveness of such a prospectus in the eyes of the outside
world of speculators.

"And what do you want me to do, Mr. Fisker?"

"I want to have your name there," he said. And he placed his finger
down on a spot on which it was indicated that there was, or was to
be, a chairman of an English Board of Directors, but with a space for
the name, hitherto blank.

"Who are to be your directors here, Mr. Fisker?"

"We should ask you to choose them, sir. Mr. Paul Montague should be
one, and perhaps his friend Sir Felix Carbury might be another. We
could get probably one of the Directors of the City and West End. But
we would leave it all to you,—as also the amount of stock you would
like to take yourself. If you gave yourself to it, heart and soul,
Mr. Melmotte, it would be the finest thing that there has been out
for a long time. There would be such a mass of stock!"

"You have to back that with a certain amount of paid-up capital?"

"We take care, sir, in the West not to cripple commerce too closely
by old-fashioned bandages. Look at what we've done already, sir, by
having our limbs pretty free. Look at our line, sir, right across the
continent, from San Francisco to New York. Look
at—"

"Never mind that, Mr. Fisker. People wanted to go from New York to
San Francisco, and I don't know that they do want to go to Vera Cruz.
But I will look at it, and you shall hear from me." The interview was
over, and Mr. Fisker was contented with it. Had Mr. Melmotte not
intended at least to think of it he would not have given ten minutes
to the subject. After all, what was wanted from Mr. Melmotte was
little more than his name, for the use of which Mr. Fisker proposed
that he should receive from the speculative public two or three
hundred thousand pounds.

At the end of a fortnight from the date of Mr. Fisker's arrival in
London, the company was fully launched in England, with a body of
London directors, of whom Mr. Melmotte was the chairman. Among the
directors were Lord Alfred Grendall, Sir Felix Carbury, Samuel
Cohenlupe, Esq., Member of Parliament for Staines, a gentleman of the
Jewish persuasion, Lord Nidderdale, who was also in Parliament, and
Mr. Paul Montague. It may be thought that the directory was not
strong, and that but little help could be given to any commercial
enterprise by the assistance of Lord Alfred or Sir Felix;—but it was
felt that Mr. Melmotte was himself so great a tower of strength that
the fortune of the company,—as a company,—was made.

 


 


CHAPTER X.


MR. FISKER'S SUCCESS.
 

Mr. Fisker was fully satisfied with the progress he had made, but he
never quite succeeded in reconciling Paul Montague to the whole
transaction. Mr. Melmotte was indeed so great a reality, such a fact
in the commercial world of London, that it was no longer possible for
such a one as Montague to refuse to believe in the scheme. Melmotte
had the telegraph at his command, and had been able to make as close
inquiries as though San Francisco and Salt Lake City had been suburbs
of London. He was chairman of the British branch of the Company, and
had had shares allocated to him,—or as he said to the house,—to the
extent of two millions of dollars. But still there was a feeling of
doubt, and a consciousness that Melmotte, though a tower of strength,
was thought by many to have been built upon the sands.

Paul had now of course given his full authority to the work, much in
opposition to the advice of his old friend Roger Carbury,—and had
come up to live in town, that he might personally attend to the
affairs of the great railway. There was an office just behind the
Exchange, with two or three clerks and a secretary, the latter
position being held by Miles Grendall, Esq. Paul, who had a
conscience in the matter and was keenly alive to the fact that he was
not only a director but was also one of the firm of Fisker, Montague,
and Montague which was responsible for the whole affair, was
grievously anxious to be really at work, and would attend most
inopportunely at the Company's offices. Fisker, who still lingered in
London, did his best to put a stop to this folly, and on more than
one occasion somewhat snubbed his partner. "My dear fellow, what's
the use of your flurrying yourself? In a thing of this kind, when it
has once been set agoing, there is nothing else to do. You may have
to work your fingers off before you can make it move, and then fail.
But all that has been done for you. If you go there on the Thursdays
that's quite as much as you need do. You don't suppose that such a
man as Melmotte would put up with any real interference." Paul
endeavoured to assert himself, declaring that as one of the managers
he meant to take a part in the management;—that his fortune, such as
it was, had been embarked in the matter, and was as important to him
as was Mr. Melmotte's fortune to Mr. Melmotte. But Fisker got the
better of him and put him down. "Fortune! what fortune had either of
us? a few beggarly thousands of dollars not worth talking of, and
barely sufficient to enable a man to look at an enterprise. And now
where are you? Look here, sir;—there's more to be got out of the
smashing up of such an affair as this, if it should smash up, than
could be made by years of hard work out of such fortunes as yours and
mine in the regular way of trade."

Paul Montague certainly did not love Mr. Fisker personally, nor did
he relish his commercial doctrines; but he allowed himself to be
carried away by them. "When and how was I to have helped myself?" he
wrote to Roger Carbury. "The money had been raised and spent before
this man came here at all. It's all very well to say that he had no
right to do it; but he had done it. I couldn't even have gone to law
with him without going over to California, and then I should have got
no redress." Through it all he disliked Fisker, and yet Fisker had
one great merit which certainly recommended itself warmly to
Montague's appreciation. Though he denied the propriety of Paul's
interference in the business, he quite acknowledged Paul's right to a
share in the existing dash of prosperity. As to the real facts of the
money affairs of the firm he would tell Paul nothing. But he was well
provided with money himself, and took care that his partner should be
in the same position. He paid him all the arrears of his stipulated
income up to the present moment, and put him nominally into
possession of a large number of shares in the railway,—with,
however, an understanding that he was not to sell them till they had
reached ten per cent. above par, and that in any sale transacted he
was to touch no other money than the amount of profit which would
thus accrue. What Melmotte was to be allowed to do with his shares,
he never heard. As far as Montague could understand, Melmotte was in
truth to be powerful over everything. All this made the young man
unhappy, restless, and extravagant. He was living in London and had
money at command, but he never could rid himself of the fear that the
whole affair might tumble to pieces beneath his feet and that he
might be stigmatised as one among a gang of swindlers.

We all know how, in such circumstances, by far the greater proportion
of a man's life will be given up to the enjoyments that are offered
to him and the lesser proportion to the cares, sacrifices, and
sorrows. Had this young director been describing to his intimate
friend the condition in which he found himself, he would have
declared himself to be distracted by doubts, suspicions, and fears
till his life was a burden to him. And yet they who were living with
him at this time found him to be a very pleasant fellow, fond of
amusement, and disposed to make the most of all the good things which
came in his way. Under the auspices of Sir Felix Carbury he had
become a member of the Beargarden, at which best of all possible
clubs the mode of entrance was as irregular as its other proceedings.
When any young man desired to come in who was thought to be unfit for
its style of living, it was shown to him that it would take three
years before his name could be brought up at the usual rate of
vacancies; but in regard to desirable companions the committee had a
power of putting them at the top of the list of candidates and
bringing them in at once. Paul Montague had suddenly become credited
with considerable commercial wealth and greater commercial influence.
He sat at the same Board with Melmotte and Melmotte's men; and was on
this account elected at the Beargarden without any of that harassing
delay to which other less fortunate candidates are subjected.

And,—let it be said with regret, for Paul Montague was at heart
honest and well-conditioned,—he took to living a good deal at the
Beargarden. A man must dine somewhere, and everybody knows that a man
dines cheaper at his club than elsewhere. It was thus he reasoned
with himself. But Paul's dinners at the Beargarden were not cheap. He
saw a good deal of his brother directors, Sir Felix Carbury and Lord
Nidderdale, entertained Lord Alfred more than once at the club, and
had twice dined with his great chairman amidst all the magnificence
of merchant-princely hospitality in Grosvenor Square. It had indeed
been suggested to him by Mr. Fisker that he also ought to enter
himself for the great Marie Melmotte plate. Lord Nidderdale had again
declared his intention of running, owing to considerable pressure put
upon him by certain interested tradesmen, and with this intention had
become one of the directors of the Mexican Railway Company. At the
time, however, of which we are now writing, Sir Felix was the
favourite for the race among fashionable circles generally.

The middle of April had come, and Fisker was still in London. When
millions of dollars are at stake,—belonging perhaps to widows and
orphans, as Fisker remarked,—a man was forced to set his own
convenience on one side. But this devotion was not left without
reward, for Mr. Fisker had "a good time" in London. He also was made
free of the Beargarden, as an honorary member, and he also spent a
good deal of money. But there is this comfort in great affairs, that
whatever you spend on yourself can be no more than a trifle.
Champagne and ginger-beer are all the same when you stand to win or
lose thousands,—with this only difference, that champagne may have
deteriorating results which the more innocent beverage will not
produce. The feeling that the greatness of these operations relieved
them from the necessity of looking to small expenses operated in the
champagne direction, both on Fisker and Montague, and the result was
deleterious. The Beargarden, no doubt, was a more lively place than
Carbury Manor, but Montague found that he could not wake up on these
London mornings with thoughts as satisfactory as those which attended
his pillow at the old Manor House.

On Saturday, the 19th of April, Fisker was to leave London on his
return to New York, and on the 18th a farewell dinner was to be given
to him at the club. Mr. Melmotte was asked to meet him, and on such
an occasion all the resources of the club were to be brought forth.
Lord Alfred Grendall was also to be a guest, and Mr. Cohenlupe, who
went about a good deal with Melmotte. Nidderdale, Carbury, Montague,
and Miles Grendall were members of the club, and gave the dinner. No
expense was spared. Herr Vossner purveyed the viands and wines,—and
paid for them. Lord Nidderdale took the chair, with Fisker on his
right hand, and Melmotte on his left, and, for a fast-going young
lord, was supposed to have done the thing well. There were only two
toasts drunk, to the healths of Mr. Melmotte and Mr. Fisker, and two
speeches were of course made by them. Mr. Melmotte may have been held
to have clearly proved the genuineness of that English birth which he
claimed by the awkwardness and incapacity which he showed on the
occasion. He stood with his hands on the table and with his face
turned to his plate blurted out his assurance that the floating of
this railway company would be one of the greatest and most successful
commercial operations ever conducted on either side of the Atlantic.
It was a great thing,—a very great thing;—he had no hesitation in
saying that it was one of the greatest things out. He didn't believe
a greater thing had ever come out. He was happy to give his humble
assistance to the furtherance of so great a thing,—and so on. These
assertions, not varying much one from the other, he jerked out like
so many separate interjections, endeavouring to look his friends in
the face at each, and then turning his countenance back to his plate
as though seeking for inspiration for the next attempt. He was not
eloquent; but the gentlemen who heard him remembered that he was the
great Augustus Melmotte, that he might probably make them all rich
men, and they cheered him to the echo. Lord Alfred had reconciled
himself to be called by his Christian name, since he had been put in
the way of raising two or three hundred pounds on the security of
shares which were to be allotted to him, but of which in the flesh he
had as yet seen nothing. Wonderful are the ways of trade! If one can
only get the tip of one's little finger into the right pie, what
noble morsels, what rich esculents, will stick to it as it is
extracted!

When Melmotte sat down Fisker made his speech, and it was fluent,
fast, and florid. Without giving it word for word, which would be
tedious, I could not adequately set before the reader's eye the
speaker's pleasing picture of world-wide commercial love and harmony
which was to be produced by a railway from Salt Lake City to Vera
Cruz, nor explain the extent of gratitude from the world at large
which might be claimed by, and would finally be accorded to, the
great firms of Melmotte & Co. of London, and Fisker, Montague, and
Montague of San Francisco. Mr. Fisker's arms were waved gracefully
about. His head was turned now this way and now that, but never
towards his plate. It was very well done. But there was more faith in
one ponderous word from Mr. Melmotte's mouth than in all the
American's oratory.

There was not one of them then present who had not after some fashion
been given to understand that his fortune was to be made, not by the
construction of the railway, but by the floating of the railway
shares. They had all whispered to each other their convictions on
this head. Even Montague did not beguile himself into an idea that he
was really a director in a company to be employed in the making and
working of a railway. People out of doors were to be advertised into
buying shares, and they who were so to say indoors were to have the
privilege of manufacturing the shares thus to be sold. That was to be
their work, and they all knew it. But now, as there were eight of
them collected together, they talked of humanity at large and of the
coming harmony of nations.

After the first cigar, Melmotte withdrew, and Lord Alfred went with
him. Lord Alfred would have liked to remain, being a man who enjoyed
tobacco and soda and brandy,—but momentous days had come upon him,
and he thought it well to cling to his Melmotte. Mr. Samuel Cohenlupe
also went, not having taken a very distinguished part in the
entertainment. Then the young men were left alone, and it was soon
proposed that they should adjourn to the cardroom. It had been rather
hoped that Fisker would go with the elders. Nidderdale, who did not
understand much about the races of mankind, had his doubts whether
the American gentleman might not be a "Heathen Chinee," such as he
had read of in poetry. But Mr. Fisker liked to have his amusement as
well as did the others, and went up resolutely into the cardroom.
Here they were joined by Lord Grasslough, and were very quickly at
work, having chosen loo as their game. Mr. Fisker made an allusion to
poker as a desirable pastime, but Lord Nidderdale, remembering his
poetry, shook his head. "Oh! bother," he said, "let's have some game
that Christians play." Mr. Fisker declared himself ready for any
game,—irrespective of religious prejudices.

It must be explained that the gambling at the Beargarden had gone on
with very little interruption, and that on the whole Sir Felix
Carbury kept his luck. There had of course been vicissitudes, but his
star had been in the ascendant. For some nights together this had
been so continual that Mr. Miles Grendall had suggested to his friend
Lord Grasslough that there must be foul play. Lord Grasslough, who
had not many good gifts, was, at least, not suspicious, and
repudiated the idea. "We'll keep an eye on him," Miles Grendall had
said. "You may do as you like, but I'm not going to watch any one,"
Grasslough had replied. Miles had watched, and had watched in vain,
and it may as well be said at once that Sir Felix, with all his
faults, was not as yet a blackleg. Both of them now owed Sir Felix a
considerable sum of money, as did also Dolly Longestaffe, who was not
present on this occasion. Latterly very little ready money had passed
hands,—very little in proportion to the sums which had been written
down on paper,—though Sir Felix was still so well in funds as to
feel himself justified in repudiating any caution that his mother
might give him.

When I.O.U.'s have for some time passed freely in such a company as
that now assembled the sudden introduction of a stranger is very
disagreeable, particularly when that stranger intends to start for
San Francisco on the following morning. If it could be arranged that
the stranger should certainly lose, no doubt then he would be
regarded as a godsend. Such strangers have ready money in their
pockets, a portion of which would be felt to descend like a soft
shower in a time of drought. When these dealings in unsecured paper
have been going on for a considerable time real bank notes come to
have a loveliness which they never possessed before. But should the
stranger win, then there may arise complications incapable of any
comfortable solution. In such a state of things some Herr Vossner
must be called in, whose terms are apt to be ruinous. On this
occasion things did not arrange themselves comfortably. From the very
commencement Fisker won, and quite a budget of little papers fell
into his possession, many of which were passed to him from the hands
of Sir Felix,—bearing, however, a "G" intended to stand for
Grasslough, or an "N" for Nidderdale, or a wonderful hieroglyphic
which was known at the Beargarden to mean D.
L——, or Dolly
Longestaffe, the fabricator of which was not present on the occasion.
Then there was the M. G. of Miles Grendall, which was a species of
paper peculiarly plentiful and very unattractive on these commercial
occasions. Paul Montague hitherto had never given an I.O.U. at the
Beargarden,—nor of late had our friend Sir Felix. On the present
occasion Montague won, though not heavily. Sir Felix lost
continually, and was almost the only loser. But Mr. Fisker won nearly
all that was lost. He was to start for Liverpool by train at 8.30
a.m., and at
6 a.m. he
counted up his bits of paper and found himself
the winner of about £600. "I think that most of them came from you,
Sir Felix," he said,—handing the bundle across the table.

"I dare say they did, but they are all good against these other
fellows." Then Fisker, with most perfect good humour, extracted one
from the mass which indicated Dolly Longestaffe's indebtedness to the
amount of £50. "That's Longestaffe," said Felix, "and I'll change
that of course." Then out of his pocket-book he extracted other
minute documents bearing that M. G. which was so little esteemed
among them,—and so made up the sum. "You seem to have £150 from
Grasslough, £145 from Nidderdale, and £322 10s. from Grendall,"
said the baronet. Then Sir Felix got up as though he had paid his
score. Fisker, with smiling good humour, arranged the little bits of
paper before him and looked round upon the company.

"This won't do, you know," said Nidderdale. "Mr. Fisker must have his
money before he leaves. You've got it, Carbury."

"Of course he has," said Grasslough.

"As it happens I have not," said Sir Felix;—"but what if I had?"

"Mr. Fisker starts for New York immediately," said Lord Nidderdale.
"I suppose we can muster £600 among us. Ring the bell for Vossner. I
think Carbury ought to pay the money as he lost it, and we didn't
expect to have our I.O.U.'s brought up in this way."

"Lord Nidderdale," said Sir Felix, "I have already said that I have
not got the money about me. Why should I have it more than you,
especially as I knew I had I.O.U.'s more than sufficient to meet
anything I could lose when I sat down?"

"Mr. Fisker must have his money at any rate," said Lord Nidderdale,
ringing the bell again.

"It doesn't matter one straw, my lord," said the American. "Let it be
sent to me to Frisco, in a bill, my lord." And so he got up to take
his hat, greatly to the delight of Miles Grendall.

But the two young lords would not agree to this. "If you must go this
very minute I'll meet you at the train with the money," said
Nidderdale. Fisker begged that no such trouble should be taken. Of
course he would wait ten minutes if they wished. But the affair was
one of no consequence. Wasn't the post running every day? Then Herr
Vossner came from his bed, suddenly arrayed in a dressing-gown, and
there was a conference in a corner between him, the two lords, and
Mr. Grendall. In a very few minutes Herr Vossner wrote a cheque for
the amount due by the lords, but he was afraid that he had not money
at his banker's sufficient for the greater claim. It was well
understood that Herr Vossner would not advance money to Mr. Grendall
unless others would pledge themselves for the amount.

"I suppose I'd better send you a bill over to America," said Miles
Grendall, who had taken no part in the matter as long as he was in
the same boat with the lords.

"Just so. My partner, Montague, will tell you the address." Then
bustling off, taking an affectionate adieu of Paul, shaking hands
with them all round, and looking as though he cared nothing for the
money, he took his leave. "One cheer for the South Central Pacific
and Mexican Railway," he said as he went out of the room.

Not one there had liked Fisker. His manners were not as their
manners; his waistcoat not as their waistcoats. He smoked his cigar
after a fashion different from theirs, and spat upon the carpet. He
said "my lord" too often, and grated their prejudices equally whether
he treated them with familiarity or deference. But he had behaved
well about the money, and they felt that they were behaving badly.
Sir Felix was the immediate offender, as he should have understood
that he was not entitled to pay a stranger with documents which, by
tacit contract, were held to be good among themselves. But there was
no use now in going back to that. Something must be done.

"Vossner must get the money," said Nidderdale. "Let's have him up
again."

"I don't think it's my fault," said Miles. "Of course no one thought
he was to be called upon in this sort of way."

"Why shouldn't you be called upon?" said Carbury. "You acknowledge
that you owe the money."

"I think Carbury ought to have paid it," said Grasslough.

"Grassy, my boy," said the baronet, "your attempts at thinking are
never worth much. Why was I to suppose that a stranger would be
playing among us? Had you a lot of ready money with you to pay if you
had lost it? I don't always walk about with six hundred pounds in my
pocket;—nor do you!"

"It's no good jawing," said Nidderdale; "let's get the money." Then
Montague offered to undertake the debt himself, saying that there
were money transactions between him and his partner. But this could
not be allowed. He had only lately come among them, had as yet had no
dealing in I.O.U.'s, and was the last man in the company who ought to
be made responsible for the impecuniosity of Miles Grendall. He, the
impecunious one,—the one whose impecuniosity extended to the
absolute want of credit,—sat silent, stroking his heavy moustache.

There was a second conference between Herr Vossner and the two lords
in another room, which ended in the preparation of a document by
which Miles Grendall undertook to pay to Herr Vossner £450 at the end
of three months, and this was endorsed by the two lords, by Sir
Felix, and by Paul Montague; and in return for this the German
produced £322 10s. in notes and gold. This had taken some
considerable time. Then a cup of tea was prepared and swallowed;
after which Nidderdale, with Montague, started off to meet Fisker at
the railway station. "It'll only be a trifle over £100 each," said
Nidderdale, in the cab.

"Won't Mr. Grendall pay it?"

"Oh, dear no. How the devil should he?"

"Then he shouldn't play."

"That 'd be hard on him, poor fellow. If you went to his uncle the
duke, I suppose you could get it. Or Buntingford might put it right
for you. Perhaps he might win, you know, some day, and then he'd make
it square. He'd be fair enough if he had it. Poor Miles!"

They found Fisker wonderfully brilliant with bright rugs, and
greatcoats with silk linings. "We've brought you the tin," said
Nidderdale, accosting him on the platform.

"Upon my word, my lord, I'm sorry you have taken so much trouble
about such a trifle."

"A man should always have his money when he wins."

"We don't think anything about such little matters at Frisco, my
lord."

"You're fine fellows at Frisco, I dare say. Here we pay up,—when we
can. Sometimes we can't, and then it is not pleasant." Fresh adieus
were made between the two partners, and between the American and the
lord;—and then Fisker was taken off on his way towards Frisco. "He's
not half a bad fellow, but he's not a bit like an Englishman," said
Lord Nidderdale, as he walked out of the station.

 


 


CHAPTER XI.


LADY CARBURY AT HOME.
 

During the last six weeks Lady Carbury had lived a life of very mixed
depression and elevation. Her great work had come out,—the "Criminal
Queens,"—and had been very widely reviewed. In this matter it had
been by no means all pleasure, in as much as many very hard words had
been said of her. In spite of the dear friendship between herself and
Mr. Alf, one of Mr. Alf's most sharp-nailed subordinates had been set
upon her book, and had pulled it to pieces with almost rabid
malignity. One would have thought that so slight a thing could hardly
have been worthy of such protracted attention. Error after error was
laid bare with merciless prolixity. No doubt the writer of the
article must have had all history at his finger-ends, as in pointing
out the various mistakes made he always spoke of the historical facts
which had been misquoted, misdated, or misrepresented, as being
familiar in all their bearings to every schoolboy of twelve years
old. The writer of the criticism never suggested the idea that he
himself, having been fully provided with books of reference, and
having learned the art of finding in them what he wanted at a
moment's notice, had, as he went on with his work, checked off the
blunders without any more permanent knowledge of his own than a
housekeeper has of coals when she counts so many sacks into the
coal-cellar. He spoke of the parentage of one wicked ancient lady,
and the dates of the frailties of another, with an assurance intended
to show that an exact knowledge of all these details abided with him
always. He must have been a man of vast and varied erudition, and his
name was Jones. The world knew him not, but his erudition was always
there at the command of Mr. Alf,—and his cruelty. The greatness of
Mr. Alf consisted in this, that he always had a Mr. Jones or two
ready to do his work for him. It was a great business, this of Mr.
Alf's, for he had his Jones also for philology, for science, for
poetry, for politics, as well as for history, and one special Jones,
extraordinarily accurate and very well posted up in his references,
entirely devoted to the Elizabethan drama.

There is the review intended to sell a book,—which comes out
immediately after the appearance of the book, or sometimes before it;
the review which gives reputation, but does not affect the sale, and
which comes a little later; the review which snuffs a book out
quietly; the review which is to raise or lower the author a single
peg, or two pegs, as the case may be; the review which is suddenly to
make an author, and the review which is to crush him. An exuberant
Jones has been known before now to declare aloud that he would crush
a man, and a self-confident Jones has been known to declare that he
has accomplished the deed. Of all reviews, the crushing review is the
most popular, as being the most readable. When the rumour goes abroad
that some notable man has been actually crushed,—been positively
driven over by an entire Juggernaut's car of criticism till his
literary body be a mere amorphous mass,—then a real success has been
achieved, and the Alf of the day has done a great thing; but even the
crushing of a poor Lady Carbury, if it be absolute, is effective.
Such a review will not make all the world call for the "Evening
Pulpit," but it will cause those who do take the paper to be
satisfied with their bargain. Whenever the circulation of such a
paper begins to slacken, the proprietors should, as a matter of
course, admonish their Alf to add a little power to the crushing
department.

Lady Carbury had been crushed by the "Evening Pulpit." We may fancy
that it was easy work, and that Mr. Alf's historical Mr. Jones was
not forced to fatigue himself by the handling of many books of
reference. The errors did lie a little near the surface; and the
whole scheme of the work, with its pandering to bad tastes by
pretended revelations of frequently fabulous crime, was reprobated in
Mr. Jones's very best manner. But the poor authoress, though utterly
crushed, and reduced to little more than literary pulp for an hour or
two, was not destroyed. On the following morning she went to her
publishers, and was closeted for half an hour with the senior
partner, Mr. Leadham. "I've got it all in black and white," she said,
full of the wrong which had been done her, "and can prove him to be
wrong. It was in 1522 that the man first came to Paris, and he
couldn't have been her lover before that. I got it all out of the
'Biographie Universelle.' I'll write to Mr. Alf myself,—a letter to
be published, you know."

"Pray don't do anything of the kind, Lady Carbury."

"I can prove that I'm right."

"And they can prove that you're wrong."

"I've got all the facts,—and the figures."

Mr. Leadham did not care a straw for facts or figures,—had no
opinion of his own whether the lady or the reviewer were right; but
he knew very well that the "Evening Pulpit" would surely get the
better of any mere author in such a contention. "Never fight the
newspapers, Lady Carbury. Who ever yet got any satisfaction by that
kind of thing? It's their business, and you are not used to it."

"And Mr. Alf is my particular friend! It does seem so hard," said
Lady Carbury, wiping hot tears from her cheeks.

"It won't do us the least harm, Lady Carbury."

"It'll stop the sale?"

"Not much. A book of that sort couldn't hope to go on very long, you
know. The 'Breakfast Table' gave it an excellent lift, and came just
at the right time. I rather like the notice in the 'Pulpit,' myself."

"Like it!" said Lady Carbury, still suffering in every fibre of her
self-love from the soreness produced by those Juggernaut's
car-wheels.

"Anything is better than indifference, Lady Carbury. A great many
people remember simply that the book has been noticed, but carry away
nothing as to the purport of the review. It's a very good
advertisement."

"But to be told that I have got to learn the ABC of history,—after
working as I have worked!"

"That's a mere form of speech, Lady Carbury."

"You think the book has done pretty well?"

"Pretty well;—just about what we hoped, you know."

"There'll be something coming to me, Mr. Leadham?"

Mr. Leadham sent for a ledger, and turned over a few pages and ran up
a few figures, and then scratched his head. There would be something,
but Lady Carbury was not to imagine that it could be very much. It
did not often happen that a great deal could be made by a first book.
Nevertheless, Lady Carbury, when she left the publisher's shop, did
carry a cheque with her. She was smartly dressed and looked very
well, and had smiled on Mr. Leadham. Mr. Leadham, too, was no more
than man, and had written—a small cheque.

Mr. Alf certainly had behaved badly to her; but both Mr. Broune of
the "Breakfast Table," and Mr. Booker of the "Literary Chronicle,"
had been true to her interests. Lady Carbury had, as she promised,
"done" Mr. Booker's "New Tale of a Tub" in the "Breakfast Table."
That is, she had been allowed, as a reward for looking into Mr.
Broune's eyes, and laying her soft hand on Mr. Broune's sleeve, and
suggesting to Mr. Broune that no one understood her so well as he
did, to bedaub Mr. Booker's very thoughtful book in a very
thoughtless fashion,—and to be paid for her work. What had been said
about his work in the "Breakfast Table" had been very distasteful to
poor Mr. Booker. It grieved his inner contemplative intelligence that
such rubbish should be thrown upon him; but in his outside experience
of life he knew that even the rubbish was valuable, and that he must
pay for it in the manner to which he had unfortunately become
accustomed. So Mr. Booker himself wrote the article on the "Criminal
Queens" in the "Literary Chronicle," knowing that what he wrote would
also be rubbish. "Remarkable vivacity." "Power of delineating
character." "Excellent choice of subject." "Considerable intimacy
with the historical details of various periods." "The literary world
would be sure to hear of Lady Carbury again." The composition of the
review, together with the reading of the book, consumed altogether
perhaps an hour of Mr. Booker's time. He made no attempt to cut the
pages, but here and there read those that were open. He had done this
kind of thing so often, that he knew well what he was about. He could
have reviewed such a book when he was three parts asleep. When the
work was done he threw down his pen and uttered a deep sigh. He felt
it to be hard upon him that he should be compelled, by the exigencies
of his position, to descend so low in literature; but it did not
occur to him to reflect that in fact he was not compelled, and that
he was quite at liberty to break stones, or to starve honestly, if no
other honest mode of carrying on his career was open to him. "If I
didn't, somebody else would," he said to himself.

But the review in the "Morning Breakfast Table" was the making of
Lady Carbury's book, as far as it ever was made. Mr. Broune saw the
lady after the receipt of the letter given in the first chapter of
this Tale, and was induced to make valuable promises which had been
fully performed. Two whole columns had been devoted to the work, and
the world had been assured that no more delightful mixture of
amusement and instruction had ever been concocted than Lady Carbury's
"Criminal Queens." It was the very book that had been wanted for
years. It was a work of infinite research and brilliant imagination
combined. There had been no hesitation in the laying on of the paint.
At that last meeting Lady Carbury had been very soft, very handsome,
and very winning; Mr. Broune had given the order with good will, and
it had been obeyed in the same feeling.

Therefore, though the crushing had been very real, there had also
been some elation; and as a net result, Lady Carbury was disposed to
think that her literary career might yet be a success. Mr. Leadham's
cheque had been for a small amount, but it might probably lead the
way to something better. People at any rate were talking about her,
and her Tuesday evenings at home were generally full. But her
literary life, and her literary successes, her flirtations with Mr.
Broune, her business with Mr. Booker, and her crushing by Mr. Alf's
Mr. Jones, were after all but adjuncts to that real inner life of
hers of which the absorbing interest was her son. And with regard to
him too she was partly depressed, and partly elated, allowing her
hopes however to dominate her fears. There was very much to frighten
her. Even the moderate reform in the young man's expenses which had
been effected under dire necessity had been of late abandoned. Though
he never told her anything, she became aware that during the last
month of the hunting season he had hunted nearly every day. She knew,
too, that he had a horse up in town. She never saw him but once in
the day, when she visited him in his bed about noon, and was aware
that he was always at his club throughout the night. She knew that he
was gambling, and she hated gambling as being of all pastimes the
most dangerous. But she knew that he had ready money for his
immediate purposes, and that two or three tradesmen who were gifted
with a peculiar power of annoying their debtors, had ceased to
trouble her in Welbeck Street. For the present, therefore, she
consoled herself by reflecting that his gambling was successful. But
her elation sprung from a higher source than this. From all that she
could hear, she thought it likely that Felix would carry off the
great prize; and then,—should he do that,—what a blessed son would
he have been to her! How constantly in her triumph would she be able
to forget all his vices, his debts, his gambling, his late hours, and
his cruel treatment of herself! As she thought of it the bliss seemed
to be too great for the possibility of realisation. She was taught to
understand that £10,000 a year, to begin with, would be the least of
it; and that the ultimate wealth might probably be such as to make
Sir Felix Carbury the richest commoner in England. In her very heart
of hearts she worshipped wealth, but desired it for him rather than
for herself. Then her mind ran away to baronies and earldoms, and she
was lost in the coming glories of the boy whose faults had already
nearly engulfed her in his own ruin.

And she had another ground for elation, which comforted her much,
though elation from such a cause was altogether absurd. She had
discovered that her son had become a Director of the South Central
Pacific and Mexican Railway Company. She must have known,—she
certainly did know,—that Felix, such as he was, could not lend
assistance by his work to any company or commercial enterprise in the
world. She was aware that there was some reason for such a choice
hidden from the world, and which comprised and conveyed a falsehood.
A ruined baronet of five-and-twenty, every hour of whose life since
he had been left to go alone had been loaded with vice and
folly,—whose egregious misconduct warranted his friends in regarding
him as one incapable of knowing what principle is,—of what service
could he be, that he should be made a Director? But Lady Carbury,
though she knew that he could be of no service, was not at all
shocked. She was now able to speak up a little for her boy, and did
not forget to send the news by post to Roger Carbury. And her son sat
at the same Board with Mr. Melmotte! What an indication was this of
coming triumphs!

Fisker had started, as the reader will perhaps remember, on the
morning of Saturday, 19th April, leaving Sir Felix at the Club at
about seven in the morning. All that day his mother was unable to see
him. She found him asleep in his room at noon and again at two; and
when she sought him again he had flown. But on the Sunday she caught
him. "I hope," she said, "you'll stay at home on Tuesday evening."
Hitherto she had never succeeded in inducing him to grace her evening
parties by his presence.

"All your people are coming! You know, mother, it is such an awful
bore."

"Madame Melmotte and her daughter will be here."

"One looks such a fool carrying on that kind of thing in one's own
house. Everybody sees that it has been contrived. And it is such a
pokey, stuffy little place!"

Then Lady Carbury spoke out her mind. "Felix, I think you must be a
fool. I have given over ever expecting that you would do anything to
please me. I sacrifice everything for you and I do not even hope for
a return. But when I am doing everything to advance your own
interests, when I am working night and day to rescue you from ruin, I
think you might at any rate help a little,—not for me of course, but
for yourself."

"I don't know what you mean by working day and night. I don't want
you to work day and night."

"There is hardly a young man in London that is not thinking of this
girl, and you have chances that none of them have. I am told they are
going out of town at Whitsuntide, and that she's to meet Lord
Nidderdale down in the country."

"She can't endure Nidderdale. She says so herself."

"She will do as she is told,—unless she can be made to be downright
in love with some one like yourself. Why not ask her at once on
Tuesday?"

"If I'm to do it at all I must do it after my own fashion. I'm not
going to be driven."

"Of course if you will not take the trouble to be here to see her
when she comes to your own house, you cannot expect her to think that
you really love her."

"Love her! what a bother there is about loving! Well;—I'll look in.
What time do the animals come to feed?"

"There will be no feeding. Felix, you are so heartless and so cruel
that I sometimes think I will make up my mind to let you go your own
way and never to speak to you again. My friends will be here about
ten;—I should say from ten till twelve. I think you should be here
to receive her, not later than ten."

"If I can get my dinner out of my throat by that time, I will come."

When the Tuesday came, the over-driven young man did contrive to get
his dinner eaten, and his glass of brandy sipped, and his cigar
smoked, and perhaps his game of billiards played, so as to present
himself in his mother's drawing-room not long after half-past ten.
Madame Melmotte and her daughter were already there,—and many
others, of whom the majority were devoted to literature. Among them
Mr. Alf was in the room, and was at this very moment discussing Lady
Carbury's book with Mr. Booker. He had been quite graciously
received, as though he had not authorised the crushing. Lady Carbury
had given him her hand with that energy of affection with which she
was wont to welcome her literary friends, and had simply thrown one
glance of appeal into his eyes as she looked into his face,—as
though asking him how he had found it in his heart to be so cruel to
one so tender, so unprotected, so innocent as herself. "I cannot
stand this kind of thing," said Mr. Alf, to Mr. Booker. "There's a
regular system of touting got abroad, and I mean to trample it down."

"If you're strong enough," said Mr. Booker.

"Well, I think I am. I'm strong enough, at any rate, to show that I'm
not afraid to lead the way. I've the greatest possible regard for our
friend here;—but her book is a bad book, a thoroughly rotten book,
an unblushing compilation from half-a-dozen works of established
reputation, in pilfering from which she has almost always managed to
misapprehend her facts, and to muddle her dates. Then she writes to
me and asks me to do the best I can for her. I have done the best I
could."

Mr. Alf knew very well what Mr. Booker had done, and Mr. Booker was
aware of the extent of Mr. Alf's knowledge. "What you say is all very
right," said Mr. Booker; "only you want a different kind of world to
live in."

"Just so;—and therefore we must make it different. I wonder how our
friend Broune felt when he saw that his critic had declared that the
'Criminal Queens' was the greatest historical work of modern days."

"I didn't see the notice. There isn't much in the book, certainly, as
far as I have looked at it. I should have said that violent censure
or violent praise would be equally thrown away upon it. One doesn't
want to break a butterfly on the wheel;—especially a friendly
butterfly."

"As to the friendship, it should be kept separate. That's my idea,"
said Mr. Alf, moving away.

"I'll never forget what you've done for me,—never!" said Lady
Carbury, holding Mr. Broune's hand for a moment, as she whispered to
him.

"Nothing more than my duty," said he, smiling.

"I hope you'll learn to know that a woman can really be grateful,"
she replied. Then she let go his hand and moved away to some other
guest. There was a dash of true sincerity in what she had said. Of
enduring gratitude it may be doubtful whether she was capable: but at
this moment she did feel that Mr. Broune had done much for her, and
that she would willingly make him some return of friendship. Of any
feeling of another sort, of any turn at the moment towards
flirtation, of any idea of encouragement to a gentleman who had once
acted as though he were her lover, she was absolutely innocent. She
had forgotten that little absurd episode in their joint lives. She
was at any rate too much in earnest at the present moment to think
about it. But it was otherwise with Mr. Broune. He could not quite
make up his mind whether the lady was or was not in love with
him,—or whether, if she were, it was incumbent on him to indulge
her;—and if so, in what manner. Then as he looked after her, he told
himself that she was certainly very beautiful, that her figure was
distinguished, that her income was certain, and her rank
considerable. Nevertheless, Mr. Broune knew of himself that he was
not a marrying man. He had made up his mind that marriage would not
suit his business, and he smiled to himself as he reflected how
impossible it was that such a one as Lady Carbury should turn him
from his resolution.

"I am so glad that you have come to-night, Mr. Alf," Lady Carbury
said to the high-minded editor of the "Evening Pulpit."

"Am I not always glad to come, Lady Carbury?"

"You are very good. But I
feared,—"

"Feared what, Lady Carbury?"

"That you might perhaps have felt that I should be unwilling to
welcome you after,—well, after the compliments of last Thursday."

"I never allow the two things to join themselves together. You see,
Lady Carbury, I don't write all these things myself."

"No indeed. What a bitter creature you would be if you did."

"To tell the truth, I never write any of them. Of course we endeavour
to get people whose judgments we can trust, and if, as in this case,
it should unfortunately happen that the judgment of our critic should
be hostile to the literary pretensions of a personal friend of my
own, I can only lament the accident, and trust that my friend may
have spirit enough to divide me as an individual from that Mr. Alf
who has the misfortune to edit a newspaper."

"It is because you have so trusted me that I am obliged to you," said
Lady Carbury with her sweetest smile. She did not believe a word that
Mr. Alf had said to her. She thought, and thought rightly, that Mr.
Alf's Mr. Jones had taken direct orders from his editor, as to his
treatment of the "Criminal Queens." But she remembered that she
intended to write another book, and that she might perhaps conquer
even Mr. Alf by spirit and courage under her present infliction.

It was Lady Carbury's duty on the occasion to say pretty things to
everybody. And she did her duty. But in the midst of it all she was
ever thinking of her son and Marie Melmotte, and she did at last
venture to separate the girl from her mother. Marie herself was not
unwilling to be talked to by Sir Felix. He had never bullied her, had
never seemed to scorn her; and then he was so beautiful! She, poor
girl, bewildered among various suitors, utterly confused by the life
to which she was introduced, troubled by fitful attacks of admonition
from her father, who would again, fitfully, leave her unnoticed for a
week at a time; with no trust in her pseudo-mother—for poor Marie
had in truth been born before her father had been a married man, and
had never known what was her own mother's fate,—with no enjoyment in
her present life, had come solely to this conclusion, that it would
be well for her to be taken away somewhere by somebody. Many a varied
phase of life had already come in her way. She could just remember
the dirty street in the German portion of New York in which she had
been born and had lived for the first four years of her life, and
could remember too the poor, hardly-treated woman who had been her
mother. She could remember being at sea, and her sickness,—but could
not quite remember whether that woman had been with her. Then she had
run about the streets of Hamburgh, and had sometimes been very
hungry, sometimes in rags,—and she had a dim memory of some trouble
into which her father had fallen, and that he was away from her for a
time. She had up to the present splendid moment her own convictions
about that absence, but she had never mentioned them to a human
being. Then her father had married her present mother in Francfort.
That she could remember distinctly, as also the rooms in which she
was then taken to live, and the fact that she was told that from
henceforth she was to be a Jewess. But there had soon come another
change. They went from Francfort to Paris, and there they were all
Christians. From that time they had lived in various apartments in
the French capital, but had always lived well. Sometimes there had
been a carriage, sometimes there had been none. And then there came a
time in which she was grown woman enough to understand that her
father was being much talked about. Her father to her had always been
alternately capricious and indifferent rather than cross or cruel,
but just at this period he was cruel both to her and to his wife. And
Madame Melmotte would weep at times and declare that they were all
ruined. Then, at a moment, they burst out into sudden splendour at
Paris. There was an hotel, with carriages and horses almost
unnumbered;—and then there came to their rooms a crowd of dark,
swarthy, greasy men, who were entertained sumptuously; but there were
few women. At this time Marie was hardly nineteen, and young enough
in manner and appearance to be taken for seventeen. Suddenly again
she was told that she was to be taken to London, and the migration
had been effected with magnificence. She was first taken to Brighton,
where the half of an hotel had been hired, and had then been brought
to Grosvenor Square, and at once thrown into the matrimonial market.
No part of her life had been more disagreeable to her, more
frightful, than the first months in which she had been trafficked for
by the Nidderdales and Grassloughs. She had been too frightened, too
much of a coward to object to anything proposed to her, but still had
been conscious of a desire to have some hand in her own future
destiny. Luckily for her, the first attempts at trafficking with the
Nidderdales and Grassloughs had come to nothing; and at length she
was picking up a little courage, and was beginning to feel that it
might be possible to prevent a disposition of herself which did not
suit her own tastes. She was also beginning to think that there might
be a disposition of herself which would suit her own tastes.

Felix Carbury was standing leaning against a wall, and she was seated
on a chair close to him. "I love you better than anyone in the
world," he said, speaking plainly enough for her to hear, perhaps
indifferent as to the hearing of others.

"Oh, Sir Felix, pray do not talk like that."

"You knew that before. Now I want you to say whether you will be my
wife."

"How can I answer that myself? Papa settles everything."

"May I go to papa?"

"You may if you like," she replied in a very low whisper. It was thus
that the greatest heiress of the day, the greatest heiress of any day
if people spoke truly, gave herself away to a man without a penny.

 


 


CHAPTER XII.


SIR FELIX IN HIS MOTHER'S HOUSE.
 

When all her friends were gone Lady Carbury looked about for her
son,—not expecting to find him, for she knew how punctual was his
nightly attendance at the Beargarden, but still with some faint hope
that he might have remained on this special occasion to tell her of
his fortune. She had watched the whispering, had noticed the cool
effrontery with which Felix had spoken,—for without hearing the
words she had almost known the very moment in which he was
asking,—and had seen the girl's timid face, and eyes turned to the
ground, and the nervous twitching of her hands as she replied. As a
woman, understanding such things, who had herself been wooed, who had
at least dreamed of love, she had greatly disapproved her son's
manner. But yet, if it might be successful, if the girl would put up
with love-making so slight as that, and if the great Melmotte would
accept in return for his money a title so modest as that of her son,
how glorious should her son be to her in spite of his indifference!

"I heard him leave the house before the Melmottes went," said
Henrietta, when the mother spoke of going up to her son's bedroom.

"He might have stayed to-night. Do you think he asked her?"

"How can I say, mamma?"

"I should have thought you would have been anxious about your
brother. I feel sure he did,—and that she accepted him."

"If so I hope he will be good to her. I hope he loves her."

"Why shouldn't he love her as well as any one else? A girl need not
be odious because she has money. There is nothing disagreeable about
her."

"No,—nothing disagreeable. I do not know that she is especially
attractive."

"Who is? I don't see anybody specially attractive. It seems to me you
are quite indifferent about Felix."

"Do not say that, mamma."

"Yes you are. You don't understand all that he might be with this
girl's fortune, and what he must be unless he gets money by marriage.
He is eating us both up."

"I would not let him do that, mamma."

"It's all very well to say that, but I have some heart. I love him. I
could not see him starve. Think what he might be with £20,000
a-year!"

"If he is to marry for that only, I cannot think that they will be
happy."

"You had better go to bed, Henrietta. You never say a word to comfort
me in all my troubles."

Then Henrietta went to bed, and Lady Carbury absolutely sat up the
whole night waiting for her son, in order that she might hear his
tidings. She went up to her room, disembarrassed herself of her
finery, and wrapped herself in a white dressing-gown. As she sat
opposite to her glass, relieving her head from its garniture of false
hair, she acknowledged to herself that age was coming on her. She
could hide the unwelcome approach by art,—hide it more completely
than can most women of her age; but, there it was, stealing on her
with short grey hairs over her ears and around her temples, with
little wrinkles round her eyes easily concealed by unobjectionable
cosmetics, and a look of weariness round the mouth which could only
be removed by that self-assertion of herself which practice had made
always possible to her in company, though it now so frequently
deserted her when she was alone.

But she was not a woman to be unhappy because she was growing old.
Her happiness, like that of most of us, was ever in the
future,—never reached but always coming. She, however, had not
looked for happiness to love and loveliness, and need not therefore
be disappointed on that score. She had never really determined what
it was that might make her happy,—having some hazy aspiration after
social distinction and literary fame, in which was ever commingled
solicitude respecting money. But at the present moment her great
fears and her great hopes were centred on her son. She would not care
how grey might be her hair, or how savage might be Mr. Alf, if her
Felix were to marry this heiress. On the other hand, nothing that
pearl-powder or the "Morning Breakfast Table" could do would avail
anything, unless he could be extricated from the ruin that now
surrounded him. So she went down into the dining-room, that she might
be sure to hear the key in the door, even should she sleep, and
waited for him with a volume of French memoirs in her hand.

Unfortunate woman! she might have gone to bed and have been duly
called about her usual time, for it was past eight and the full
staring daylight shone into her room when Felix's cab brought him to
the door. The night had been very wretched to her. She had slept, and
the fire had sunk nearly to nothing and had refused to become again
comfortable. She could not keep her mind to her book, and while she
was awake the time seemed to be everlasting. And then it was so
terrible to her that he should be gambling at such hours as these!
Why should he desire to gamble if this girl's fortune was ready to
fall into his hands? Fool, to risk his health, his character, his
beauty, the little money which at this moment of time might be so
indispensable to his great project, for the chance of winning
something which in comparison with Marie Melmotte's money must be
despicable! But at last he came! She waited patiently till he had
thrown aside his hat and coat, and then she appeared at the
dining-room door. She had studied her part for the occasion. She
would not say a harsh word, and now she endeavoured to meet him with
a smile. "Mother," he said, "you up at this hour!" His face was
flushed, and she thought that there was some unsteadiness in his
gait. She had never seen him tipsy, and it would be doubly terrible
to her if such should be his condition.

"I could not go to bed till I had seen you."

"Why not? why should you want to see me? I'll go to bed now. There'll
be plenty of time by-and-bye."

"Is anything the matter, Felix?"

"Matter;—what should be the matter? There's been a gentle row among
the fellows at the club;—that's all. I had to tell Grasslough a bit
of my mind, and he didn't like it. I didn't mean that he should."

"There is not going to be any fighting, Felix?"

"What, duelling; oh no,—nothing so exciting as that. Whether
somebody may not have to kick somebody is more than I can say at
present. You must let me go to bed now, for I am about used up."

"What did Marie Melmotte say to you?"

"Nothing particular." And he stood with his hand on the door as he
answered her.

"And what did you say to her?"

"Nothing particular. Good heavens, mother, do you think that a man is
in a condition to talk about such stuff as that at eight o'clock in
the morning, when he has been up all night?"

"If you knew all that I suffer on your behalf you would speak a word
to me," she said, imploring him, holding him by the arm, and looking
into his purple face and bloodshot eyes. She was sure that he had
been drinking. She could smell it in his breath.

"I must go to the old fellow, of course."

"She told you to go to her father?"

"As far as I remember, that was about it. Of course, he means to
settle it as he likes. I should say that it's ten to one against me."
Pulling himself away with some little roughness from his mother's
hold, he made his way up to his own bedroom, occasionally stumbling
against the stairs.

Then the heiress herself had accepted her son! If so, surely the
thing might be done. Lady Carbury recalled to mind her old conviction
that a daughter may always succeed in beating a hard-hearted parent
in a contention about marriage, if she be well in earnest. But then
the girl must be really in earnest, and her earnestness will depend
on that of her lover. In this case, however, there was as yet no
reason for supposing that the great man would object. As far as
outward signs went, the great man had shown some partiality for her
son. No doubt it was Mr. Melmotte who had made Sir Felix a director
of the great American Company. Felix had also been kindly received in
Grosvenor Square. And then Sir Felix was Sir Felix,—a real baronet.
Mr. Melmotte had no doubt endeavoured to catch this and that lord;
but, failing a lord, why should he not content himself with a
baronet? Lady Carbury thought that her son wanted nothing but money
to make him an acceptable suitor to such a father-in-law as Mr.
Melmotte;—not money in the funds, not a real fortune, not so many
thousands a-year that could be settled;—the man's own enormous
wealth rendered this unnecessary;—but such a one as Mr. Melmotte
would not like outward palpable signs of immediate poverty. There
should be means enough for present sleekness and present luxury. He
must have a horse to ride, and rings and coats to wear, and bright
little canes to carry, and above all the means of making presents. He
must not be seen to be poor. Fortunately, most fortunately, Chance
had befriended him lately and had given him some ready money. But if
he went on gambling Chance would certainly take it all away again.
For aught that the poor mother knew, Chance might have done so
already. And then again, it was indispensable that he should abandon
the habit of play—at any rate for the present, while his prospects
depended on the good opinions of Mr. Melmotte. Of course such a one
as Mr. Melmotte could not like gambling at a club, however much he
might approve of it in the City. Why, with such a preceptor to help
him, should not Felix learn to do his gambling on the Exchange, or
among the brokers, or in the purlieus of the Bank? Lady Carbury would
at any rate instigate him to be diligent in his position as director
of the Great Mexican Railway,—which position ought to be the
beginning to him of a fortune to be made on his own account. But what
hope could there be for him if he should take to drink? Would not all
hopes be over with Mr. Melmotte should he ever learn that his
daughter's lover reached home and tumbled up-stairs to bed between
eight and nine o'clock in the morning?

She watched for his appearance on the following day, and began at
once on the subject.

"Do you know, Felix, I think I shall go down to your cousin Roger for
Whitsuntide."

"To Carbury Manor!" said he, as he eat some devilled kidneys which
the cook had been specially ordered to get for his breakfast. "I
thought you found it so dull that you didn't mean to go there any
more."

"I never said so, Felix. And now I have a great object."

"What will Hetta do?"

"Go too—why shouldn't she?"

"Oh; I didn't know. I thought that perhaps she mightn't like it."

"I don't see why she shouldn't like it. Besides, everything can't
give way to her."

"Has Roger asked you?"

"No; but I'm sure he'd be pleased to have us if I proposed that we
should all go."

"Not me, mother!"

"Yes; you especially."

"Not if I know it, mother. What on earth should I do at Carbury
Manor?"

"Madame Melmotte told me last night that they were all going down to
Caversham to stay three or four days with the Longestaffes. She spoke
of Lady Pomona as quite her particular friend."

"Oh—h! that explains it all."

"Explains what, Felix?" said Lady Carbury, who had heard of Dolly
Longestaffe, and was not without some fear that this projected visit
to Caversham might have some matrimonial purpose in reference to that
delightful young heir.

"They say at the club that Melmotte has taken up old Longestaffe's
affairs, and means to put them straight. There's an old property in
Sussex as well as Caversham, and they say that Melmotte is to have
that himself. There's some bother because Dolly, who would do
anything for anybody else, won't join his father in selling. So the
Melmottes are going to Caversham!"

"Madame Melmotte told me so."

"And the Longestaffes are the proudest people in England."

"Of course we ought to be at Carbury Manor while they are there. What
can be more natural? Everybody goes out of town at Whitsuntide; and
why shouldn't we run down to the family place?"

"All very natural if you can manage it, mother."

"And you'll come?"

"If Marie Melmotte goes, I'll be there at any rate for one day and
night," said Felix.

His mother thought that, for him, the promise had been graciously
made.

 


 


CHAPTER XIII.


THE LONGESTAFFES.
 

Mr. Adolphus Longestaffe, the squire of Caversham in Suffolk, and of
Pickering Park in Sussex, was closeted on a certain morning for the
best part of an hour with Mr. Melmotte in Abchurch Lane, had there
discussed all his private affairs, and was about to leave the room
with a very dissatisfied air. There are men,—and old men too, who
ought to know the world,—who think that if they can only find the
proper Medea to boil the cauldron for them, they can have their
ruined fortunes so cooked that they shall come out of the pot fresh
and new and unembarrassed. These great conjurors are generally sought
for in the City; and in truth the cauldrons are kept boiling though
the result of the process is seldom absolute rejuvenescence. No
greater Medea than Mr. Melmotte had ever been potent in money
matters, and Mr. Longestaffe had been taught to believe that if he
could get the necromancer even to look at his affairs everything
would be made right for him. But the necromancer had explained to the
squire that property could not be created by the waving of any wand
or the boiling of any cauldron. He, Mr. Melmotte, could put Mr.
Longestaffe in the way of realising property without delay, of
changing it from one shape into another, or could find out the real
market value of the property in question; but he could create
nothing. "You have only a life interest, Mr. Longestaffe."

"No; only a life interest. That is customary with family estates in
this country, Mr. Melmotte."

"Just so. And therefore you can dispose of nothing else. Your son, of
course, could join you, and then you could sell either one estate or
the other."

"There is no question of selling Caversham, sir. Lady Pomona and I
reside there."

"Your son will not join you in selling the other place?"

"I have not directly asked him; but he never does do anything that I
wish. I suppose you would not take Pickering Park on a lease for my
life."

"I think not, Mr. Longestaffe. My wife would not like the
uncertainty."

Then Mr. Longestaffe took his leave with a feeling of outraged
aristocratic pride. His own lawyer would almost have done as much for
him, and he need not have invited his own lawyer as a guest to
Caversham,—and certainly not his own lawyer's wife and daughter. He
had indeed succeeded in borrowing a few thousand pounds from the
great man at a rate of interest which the great man's head clerk was
to arrange, and this had been effected simply on the security of the
lease of a house in town. There had been an ease in this, an absence
of that delay which generally took place between the expression of
his desire for money and the acquisition of it,—and this had
gratified him. But he was already beginning to think that he might
pay too dearly for that gratification. At the present moment, too,
Mr. Melmotte was odious to him for another reason. He had
condescended to ask Mr. Melmotte to make him a director of the South
Central Pacific and Mexican Railway, and he,—Adolphus Longestaffe of
Caversham,—had had his request refused! Mr. Longestaffe had
condescended very low. "You have made Lord Alfred Grendall one!" he
had said in a complaining tone. Then Mr. Melmotte explained that Lord
Alfred possessed peculiar aptitudes for the position. "I'm sure I
could do anything that he does," said Mr. Longestaffe. Upon this Mr.
Melmotte, knitting his brows and speaking with some roughness,
replied that the number of directors required was completed. Since he
had had two duchesses at his house Mr. Melmotte was beginning to feel
that he was entitled to bully any mere commoner, especially a
commoner who could ask him for a seat at his board.

Mr. Longestaffe was a tall, heavy man, about fifty, with hair and
whiskers carefully dyed, whose clothes were made with great care,
though they always seemed to fit him too tightly, and who thought
very much of his personal appearance. It was not that he considered
himself handsome, but that he was specially proud of his aristocratic
bearing. He entertained an idea that all who understood the matter
would perceive at a single glance that he was a gentleman of the
first water, and a man of fashion. He was intensely proud of his
position in life, thinking himself to be immensely superior to all
those who earned their bread. There were no doubt gentlemen of
different degrees, but the English gentleman of gentlemen was he who
had land, and family title-deeds, and an old family place, and family
portraits, and family embarrassments, and a family absence of any
useful employment. He was beginning even to look down upon peers,
since so many men of much less consequence than himself had been made
lords; and, having stood and been beaten three or four times for his
county, he was of opinion that a seat in the House was rather a mark
of bad breeding. He was a silly man, who had no fixed idea that it
behoved him to be of use to any one; but, yet, he had compassed a
certain nobility of feeling. There was very little that his position
called upon him to do, but there was much that it forbad him to do.
It was not allowed to him to be close in money matters. He could
leave his tradesmen's bills unpaid till the men were clamorous, but
he could not question the items in their accounts. He could be
tyrannical to his servants, but he could not make inquiry as to the
consumption of his wines in the servants' hall. He had no pity for
his tenants in regard to game, but he hesitated much as to raising
their rent. He had his theory of life and endeavoured to live up to
it; but the attempt had hardly brought satisfaction to himself or to
his family.

At the present moment, it was the great desire of his heart to sell
the smaller of his two properties and disembarrass the other. The
debt had not been altogether of his own making, and the arrangement
would, he believed, serve his whole family as well as himself. It
would also serve his son, who was blessed with a third property of
his own which he had already managed to burden with debt. The father
could not bear to be refused; and he feared that his son would
decline. "But Adolphus wants money as much as any one," Lady Pomona
had said. He had shaken his head and pished and pshawed. Women never
could understand anything about money. Now he walked down sadly from
Mr. Melmotte's office and was taken in his brougham to his lawyer's
chambers in Lincoln's Inn. Even for the accommodation of those few
thousand pounds he was forced to condescend to tell his lawyers that
the title-deeds of his house in town must be given up. Mr.
Longestaffe felt that the world in general was very hard on him.

"What on earth are we to do with them?" said Sophia, the eldest Miss
Longestaffe, to her mother.

"I do think it's a shame of papa," said Georgiana, the second
daughter. "I certainly shan't trouble myself to entertain them."

"Of course you will leave them all on my hands," said Lady Pomona
wearily.

"But what's the use of having them?" urged Sophia. "I can understand
going to a crush at their house in town when everybody else goes. One
doesn't speak to them, and need not know them afterwards. As to the
girl, I'm sure I shouldn't remember her if I were to see her."

"It would be a fine thing if Adolphus would marry her," said Lady
Pomona.

"Dolly will never marry anybody," said Georgiana. "The idea of his
taking the trouble of asking a girl to have him! Besides, he won't
come down to Caversham; cart-ropes wouldn't bring him. If that is to
be the game, mamma, it is quite hopeless."

"Why should Dolly marry such a creature as that?" asked Sophia.

"Because everybody wants money," said Lady Pomona. "I'm sure I don't
know what your papa is to do, or how it is that there never is any
money for anything. I don't spend it."

"I don't think that we do anything out of the way," said Sophia. "I
haven't the slightest idea what papa's income is; but if we're to
live at all, I don't know how we are to make a change."

"It's always been like this ever since I can remember," said
Georgiana, "and I don't mean to worry about it any more. I suppose
it's just the same with other people, only one doesn't know it."

"But, my dears—when we are obliged to have such people as these
Melmottes!"

"As for that, if we didn't have them somebody else would. I shan't
trouble myself about them. I suppose it will only be for two days."

"My dear, they're coming for a week!"

"Then papa must take them about the country, that's all. I never did
hear of anything so absurd. What good can they do papa by being down
there?"

"He is wonderfully rich," said Lady Pomona.

"But I don't suppose he'll give papa his money," continued Georgiana.
"Of course I don't pretend to understand, but I think there is more
fuss about these things than they deserve. If papa hasn't got money
to live at home, why doesn't he go abroad for a year? The Sydney
Beauchamps did that, and the girls had quite a nice time of it in
Florence. It was there that Clara Beauchamp met young Lord Liffey. I
shouldn't at all mind that kind of thing, but I think it quite
horrible to have these sort of people brought down upon us at
Caversham. No one knows who they are, or where they came from, or
what they'll turn to." So spoke Georgiana, who among the Longestaffes
was supposed to have the strongest head, and certainly the sharpest
tongue.

This conversation took place in the drawing-room of the Longestaffes'
family town-house in Bruton Street. It was not by any means a
charming house, having but few of those luxuries and elegancies which
have been added of late years to newly-built London residences. It
was gloomy and inconvenient, with large drawing-rooms, bad bedrooms,
and very little accommodation for servants. But it was the old family
town-house, having been inhabited by three or four generations of
Longestaffes, and did not savour of that radical newness which
prevails, and which was peculiarly distasteful to Mr. Longestaffe.
Queen's Gate and the quarters around were, according to Mr.
Longestaffe, devoted to opulent tradesmen. Even Belgrave Square,
though its aristocratic properties must be admitted, still smelt of
the mortar. Many of those living there and thereabouts had never
possessed in their families real family town-houses. The old streets
lying between Piccadilly and Oxford Street, with one or two
well-known localities to the south and north of these boundaries,
were the proper sites for these habitations. When Lady Pomona,
instigated by some friend of high rank but questionable taste, had
once suggested a change to Eaton Square, Mr. Longestaffe had at once
snubbed his wife. If Bruton Street wasn't good enough for her and the
girls then they might remain at Caversham. The threat of remaining at
Caversham had been often made, for Mr. Longestaffe, proud as he was
of his town-house, was, from year to year, very anxious to save the
expense of the annual migration. The girls' dresses and the girls'
horses, his wife's carriage and his own brougham, his dull London
dinner-parties, and the one ball which it was always necessary that
Lady Pomona should give, made him look forward to the end of July,
with more dread than to any other period. It was then that he began
to know what that year's season would cost him. But he had never yet
been able to keep his family in the country during the entire year.
The girls, who as yet knew nothing of the Continent beyond Paris, had
signified their willingness to be taken about Germany and Italy for
twelve months, but had shown by every means in their power that they
would mutiny against any intention on their father's part to keep
them at Caversham during the London season.

Georgiana had just finished her strong-minded protest against the
Melmottes, when her brother strolled into the room. Dolly did not
often show himself in Bruton Street. He had rooms of his own, and
could seldom even be induced to dine with his family. His mother
wrote to him notes without end,—notes every day, pressing
invitations of all sorts upon him; would he come and dine; would he
take them to the theatre; would he go to this ball; would he go to
that evening-party? These Dolly barely read, and never answered. He
would open them, thrust them into some pocket, and then forget them.
Consequently his mother worshipped him; and even his sisters, who
were at any rate superior to him in intellect, treated him with a
certain deference. He could do as he liked, and they felt themselves
to be slaves, bound down by the dulness of the Longestaffe regime.
His freedom was grand to their eyes, and very enviable, although they
were aware that he had already so used it as to impoverish himself in
the midst of his wealth.

"My dear Adolphus," said the mother, "this is so nice of you."

"I think it is rather nice," said Dolly, submitting himself to be
kissed.

"Oh Dolly, whoever would have thought of seeing you?" said Sophia.

"Give him some tea," said his mother. Lady Pomona was always having
tea from four o'clock till she was taken away to dress for dinner.

"I'd sooner have soda and brandy," said Dolly.

"My darling boy!"

"I didn't ask for it, and I don't expect to get it; indeed I don't
want it. I only said I'd sooner have it than tea. Where's the
governor?" They all looked at him with wondering eyes. There must be
something going on more than they had dreamed of, when Dolly asked to
see his father.

"Papa went out in the brougham immediately after lunch," said Sophia
gravely.

"I'll wait a little for him," said Dolly, taking out his watch.

"Do stay and dine with us," said Lady Pomona.

"I could not do that, because I've got to go and dine with some
fellow."

"Some fellow! I believe you don't know where you're going," said
Georgiana.

"My fellow knows. At least he's a fool if he don't."

"Adolphus," began Lady Pomona very seriously, "I've got a plan and I
want you to help me."

"I hope there isn't very much to do in it, mother."

"We're all going to Caversham, just for Whitsuntide, and we
particularly want you to come."

"By George! no; I couldn't do that."

"You haven't heard half. Madame Melmotte and her daughter are
coming."

"The d—— they are!" ejaculated Dolly.

"Dolly!" said Sophia, "do remember where you are."

"Yes I will;—and I'll remember too where I won't be. I won't go to
Caversham to meet old mother Melmotte."

"My dear boy," continued the mother, "do you know that Miss Melmotte
will have twenty—thousand—a year the day she marries; and that in
all probability her husband will some day be the richest man in
Europe?"

"Half the fellows in London are after her," said Dolly.

"Why shouldn't you be one of them?"

"She isn't going to stay in the same house with half the fellows in
London," suggested Georgiana. "If you've a mind to try it you'll have
a chance which nobody else can have just at present."

"But I haven't any mind to try it. Good gracious me;—oh dear! it
isn't at all in my way, mother."

"I knew he wouldn't," said Georgiana.

"It would put everything so straight," said Lady Pomona.

"They'll have to remain crooked if nothing else will put them
straight. There's the governor. I heard his voice. Now for a row."
Then Mr. Longestaffe entered the room.

"My dear," said Lady Pomona, "here's Adolphus come to see us." The
father nodded his head at his son but said nothing. "We want him to
stay and dine, but he's engaged."

"Though he doesn't know where," said Sophia.

"My fellow knows;—he keeps a book. I've got a letter, sir, ever so
long, from those fellows in Lincoln's Inn. They want me to come and
see you about selling something; so I've come. It's an awful bore,
because I don't understand anything about it. Perhaps there isn't
anything to be sold. If so I can go away again, you know."

"You'd better come with me into the study," said the father. "We
needn't disturb your mother and sisters about business." Then the
squire led the way out of the room, and Dolly followed, making a
woful grimace at his sisters. The three ladies sat over their tea for
about half-an-hour, waiting,—not the result of the conference, for
with that they did not suppose that they would be made
acquainted,—but whatever signs of good or evil might be collected
from the manner and appearance of the squire when he should return to
them. Dolly they did not expect to see again,—probably for a month.
He and the squire never did come together without quarrelling, and
careless as was the young man in every other respect, he had hitherto
been obdurate as to his own rights in any dealings which he had with
his father. At the end of the half hour Mr. Longestaffe returned to
the drawing-room, and at once pronounced the doom of the family. "My
dear," he said, "we shall not return from Caversham to London this
year." He struggled hard to maintain a grand dignified tranquillity
as he spoke, but his voice quivered with emotion.











Then the squire led the way out of<br />      the room, and Dolly followed.


Then the
squire led the way out of the room, and Dolly followed.


Click to ENLARGE


"Papa!" screamed Sophia.

"My dear, you don't mean it," said Lady Pomona.

"Of course papa doesn't mean it," said Georgiana rising to her feet.

"I mean it accurately and certainly," said Mr. Longestaffe. "We go to
Caversham in about ten days, and we shall not return from Caversham
to London this year."

"Our ball is fixed," said Lady Pomona.

"Then it must be unfixed." So saying, the master of the house left
the drawing-room and descended to his study.

The three ladies, when left to deplore their fate, expressed their
opinions as to the sentence which had been pronounced very strongly.
But the daughters were louder in their anger than was their mother.

"He can't really mean it," said Sophia.

"He does," said Lady Pomona, with tears in her eyes.

"He must unmean it again;—that's all," said Georgiana. "Dolly has
said something to him very rough, and he resents it upon us. Why did
he bring us up at all if he means to take us down before the season
has begun?"

"I wonder what Adolphus has said to him. Your papa is always hard
upon Adolphus."

"Dolly can take care of himself," said Georgiana, "and always does do
so. Dolly does not care for us."

"Not a bit," said Sophia.

"I'll tell you what you must do, mamma. You mustn't stir from this at
all. You must give up going to Caversham altogether, unless he
promises to bring us back. I won't stir,—unless he has me carried
out of the house."

"My dear, I couldn't say that to him."

"Then I will. To go and be buried down in that place for a whole year
with no one near us but the rusty old bishop and Mr. Carbury, who is
rustier still. I won't stand it. There are some sort of things that
one ought not to stand. If you go down I shall stay up with the
Primeros. Mrs. Primero would have me I know. It wouldn't be nice of
course. I don't like the Primeros. I hate the Primeros. Oh yes;—it's
quite true; I know that as well as you, Sophia; they are vulgar; but
not half so vulgar, mamma, as your friend Madame Melmotte."

"That's ill-natured, Georgiana. She is not a friend of mine."

"But you're going to have her down at Caversham. I can't think what
made you dream of going to Caversham just now, knowing as you do how
hard papa is to manage."

"Everybody has taken to going out of town at Whitsuntide, my dear."

"No, mamma; everybody has not. People understand too well the trouble
of getting up and down for that. The Primeros aren't going down. I
never heard of such a thing in all my life. What does he expect is to
become of us? If he wants to save money why doesn't he shut Caversham
up altogether and go abroad? Caversham costs a great deal more than
is spent in London, and it's the dullest house, I think, in all
England."

The family party in Bruton Street that evening was not very gay.
Nothing was being done, and they sat gloomily in each other's
company. Whatever mutinous resolutions might be formed and carried
out by the ladies of the family, they were not brought forward on
that occasion. The two girls were quite silent, and would not speak
to their father, and when he addressed them they answered simply by
monosyllables. Lady Pomona was ill, and sat in a corner of a sofa,
wiping her eyes. To her had been imparted up-stairs the purport of
the conversation between Dolly and his father. Dolly had refused to
consent to the sale of Pickering unless half the produce of the sale
were to be given to him at once. When it had been explained to him
that the sale would be desirable in order that the Caversham property
might be freed from debt, which Caversham property would eventually
be his, he replied that he also had an estate of his own which was a
little mortgaged and would be the better for money. The result seemed
to be that Pickering could not be sold,—and, as a consequence of
that, Mr. Longestaffe had determined that there should be no more
London expenses that year.

The girls, when they got up to go to bed, bent over him and kissed
his head, as was their custom. There was very little show of
affection in the kiss. "You had better remember that what you have to
do in town must be done this week," he said. They heard the words,
but marched in stately silence out of the room without deigning to
notice them.

 


 


CHAPTER XIV.


CARBURY MANOR.
 

"I don't think it quite nice, mamma; that's all. Of course if you
have made up your mind to go, I must go with you."

"What on earth can be more natural than that you should go to your
own cousin's house?"

"You know what I mean, mamma."

"It's done now, my dear, and I don't think there is anything at all
in what you say."

This little conversation arose from Lady Carbury's announcement to
her daughter of her intention of soliciting the hospitality of
Carbury Manor for the Whitsun week. It was very grievous to Henrietta
that she should be taken to the house of a man who was in love with
her, even though he was her cousin. But she had no escape. She could
not remain in town by herself, nor could she even allude to her
grievance to anyone but to her mother. Lady Carbury, in order that
she might be quite safe from opposition, had posted the following
letter to her cousin before she spoke to her
daughter:—
 


Welbeck Street,

24th April, 18—.

My dear Roger,

We know how kind you are and how sincere, and that if what
I am going to propose doesn't suit you'll say so at once.
I have been working very hard,—too hard indeed, and I
feel that nothing will do me so much real good as getting
into the country for a day or two. Would you take us for a
part of Whitsun week? We would come down on the 20th May
and stay over the Sunday if you would keep us. Felix says
he would run down though he would not trouble you for so
long a time as we talk of staying.

I'm sure you must have been glad to hear of his being put
upon that Great American Railway Board as a Director. It
opens a new sphere of life to him, and will enable him to
prove that he can make himself useful. I think it was a
great confidence to place in one so young.

Of course you will say so at once if my little proposal
interferes with any of your plans, but you have been so
very very kind to us that I have no scruple in making it.

Henrietta joins with me in kind love.

Your affectionate cousin,

Matilda Carbury.
 


There was much in this letter that disturbed and even annoyed Roger
Carbury. In the first place he felt that Henrietta should not be
brought to his house. Much as he loved her, dear as her presence to
him always was, he hardly wished to have her at Carbury unless she
would come with a resolution to be its future mistress. In one
respect he did Lady Carbury an injustice. He knew that she was
anxious to forward his suit, and he thought that Henrietta was being
brought to his house with that object. He had not heard that the
great heiress was coming into his neighbourhood, and therefore knew
nothing of Lady Carbury's scheme in that direction. He was, too,
disgusted by the ill-founded pride which the mother expressed at her
son's position as a director. Roger Carbury did not believe in the
Railway. He did not believe in Fisker, nor in Melmotte, and certainly
not in the Board generally. Paul Montague had acted in opposition to
his advice in yielding to the seductions of Fisker. The whole thing
was to his mind false, fraudulent, and ruinous. Of what nature could
be a Company which should have itself directed by such men as Lord
Alfred Grendall and Sir Felix Carbury? And then as to their great
Chairman, did not everybody know, in spite of all the duchesses, that
Mr. Melmotte was a gigantic swindler? Although there was more than
one immediate cause for bitterness between them, Roger loved Paul
Montague well and could not bear with patience the appearance of his
friend's name on such a list. And now he was asked for warm
congratulations because Sir Felix Carbury was one of the Board! He
did not know which to despise most, Sir Felix for belonging to such a
Board, or the Board for having such a director. "New sphere of life!"
he said to himself. "The only proper sphere for them all would be
Newgate!"

And there was another trouble. He had asked Paul Montague to come to
Carbury for this special week, and Paul had accepted the invitation.
With the constancy, which was perhaps his strongest characteristic,
he clung to his old affection for the man. He could not bear the idea
of a permanent quarrel, though he knew that there must be a quarrel
if the man interfered with his dearest hopes. He had asked him down
to Carbury intending that the name of Henrietta Carbury should not be
mentioned between them;—and now it was proposed to him that
Henrietta Carbury should be at the Manor House at the very time of
Paul's visit! He made up his mind at once that he must tell Paul not
to come.

He wrote his two letters at once. That to Lady Carbury was very
short. He would be delighted to see her and Henrietta at the time
named,—and would be very glad should it suit Felix to come also. He
did not say a word about the Board, or the young man's probable
usefulness in his new sphere of life. To Montague his letter was
longer. "It is always best to be open and true," he said. "Since you
were kind enough to say that you would come to me, Lady Carbury has
proposed to visit me just at the same time and to bring her daughter.
After what has passed between us I need hardly say that I could not
make you both welcome here together. It is not pleasant to me to have
to ask you to postpone your visit, but I think you will not accuse me
of a want of hospitality towards you." Paul wrote back to say that he
was sure that there was no want of hospitality, and that he would
remain in town.

Suffolk is not especially a picturesque county, nor can it be said
that the scenery round Carbury was either grand or beautiful; but
there were little prettinesses attached to the house itself and the
grounds around it which gave it a charm of its own. The Carbury
River,—so called, though at no place is it so wide but that an
active schoolboy might jump across it,—runs, or rather creeps into
the Waveney, and in its course is robbed by a moat which surrounds
Carbury Manor House. The moat has been rather a trouble to the
proprietors, and especially so to Roger, as in these days of sanitary
considerations it has been felt necessary either to keep it clean
with at any rate moving water in it, or else to fill it up and
abolish it altogether. That plan of abolishing it had to be thought
of and was seriously discussed about ten years since; but then it was
decided that such a proceeding would altogether alter the character
of the house, would destroy the gardens, and would create a waste of
mud all round the place which it would take years to beautify, or
even to make endurable. And then an important question had been asked
by an intelligent farmer who had long been a tenant on the property;
"Fill un oop;—eh, eh; sooner said than doone, squoire. Where be the
stoof to come from?" The squire, therefore, had given up that idea,
and instead of abolishing his moat had made it prettier than ever.
The high road from Bungay to Beccles ran close to the house,—so
close that the gable ends of the building were separated from it only
by the breadth of the moat. A short, private road, not above a
hundred yards in length, led to the bridge which faced the front
door. The bridge was old, and high, with sundry architectural
pretensions, and guarded by iron gates in the centre, which, however,
were very rarely closed. Between the bridge and the front door there
was a sweep of ground just sufficient for the turning of a carriage,
and on either side of this the house was brought close to the water,
so that the entrance was in a recess, or irregular quadrangle, of
which the bridge and moat formed one side. At the back of the house
there were large gardens screened from the road by a wall ten feet
high, in which there were yew trees and cypresses said to be of
wonderful antiquity. The gardens were partly inside the moat, but
chiefly beyond them, and were joined by two bridges—a foot bridge
and one with a carriage way,—and there was another bridge at the end
of the house furthest from the road, leading from the back door to
the stables and farmyard.

The house itself had been built in the time of Charles II., when that
which we call Tudor architecture was giving way to a cheaper, less
picturesque, though perhaps more useful form. But Carbury Manor
House, through the whole county, had the reputation of being a Tudor
building. The windows were long, and for the most part low, made with
strong mullions, and still contained small, old-fashioned panes; for
the squire had not as yet gone to the expense of plate glass. There
was one high bow window, which belonged to the library, and which
looked out on to the gravel sweep, at the left of the front door as
you entered it. All the other chief rooms faced upon the garden. The
house itself was built of a stone that had become buff, or almost
yellow with years, and was very pretty. It was still covered with
tiles, as were all the attached buildings. It was only two stories
high, except at the end, where the kitchens were placed and the
offices, which thus rose above the other part of the edifice. The
rooms throughout were low, and for the most part long and narrow,
with large wide fire-places and deep wainscotings. Taking it
altogether, one would be inclined to say, that it was picturesque
rather than comfortable. Such as it was its owner was very proud of
it,—with a pride of which he never spoke to anyone, which he
endeavoured studiously to conceal, but which had made itself known to
all who knew him well. The houses of the gentry around him were
superior to his in material comfort and general accommodation, but to
none of them belonged that thoroughly established look of old county
position which belonged to Carbury. Bundlesham, where the Primeros
lived, was the finest house in that part of the county, but it looked
as if it had been built within the last twenty years. It was
surrounded by new shrubs and new lawns, by new walls and new
outhouses, and savoured of trade;—so at least thought Roger Carbury,
though he never said the words. Caversham was a very large mansion,
built in the early part of George III.'s reign, when men did care
that things about them should be comfortable, but did not care that
they should be picturesque. There was nothing at all to recommend
Caversham but its size. Eardly Park, the seat of the Hepworths, had,
as a park, some pretensions. Carbury possessed nothing that could be
called a park, the enclosures beyond the gardens being merely so many
home paddocks. But the house of Eardly was ugly and bad. The Bishop's
palace was an excellent gentleman's residence, but then that too was
comparatively modern, and had no peculiar features of its own. Now
Carbury Manor House was peculiar, and in the eyes of its owner was
pre-eminently beautiful.

It often troubled him to think what would come of the place when he
was gone. He was at present forty years old, and was perhaps as
healthy a man as you could find in the whole county. Those around who
had known him as he grew into manhood among them, especially the
farmers of the neighbourhood, still regarded him as a young man. They
spoke of him at the country fairs as the young squire. When in his
happiest moods he could be almost a boy, and he still had something
of old-fashioned boyish reverence for his elders. But of late there
had grown up a great care within his breast,—a care which does not
often, perhaps, in these days bear so heavily on men's hearts as it
used to do. He had asked his cousin to marry him,—having assured
himself with certainty that he did love her better than any other
woman,—and she had declined. She had refused him more than once, and
he believed her implicitly when she told him that she could not love
him. He had a way of believing people, especially when such belief
was opposed to his own interests, and had none of that
self-confidence which makes a man think that if opportunity be
allowed him he can win a woman even in spite of herself. But if it
were fated that he should not succeed with Henrietta, then,—so he
felt assured,—no marriage would now be possible to him. In that case
he must look out for an heir, and could regard himself simply as a
stop-gap among the Carburys. In that case he could never enjoy the
luxury of doing the best he could with the property in order that a
son of his own might enjoy it.

Now Sir Felix was the next heir. Roger was hampered by no entail, and
could leave every acre of the property as he pleased. In one respect
the natural succession to it by Sir Felix would generally be
considered fortunate. It had happened that a title had been won in a
lower branch of the family, and were this succession to take place
the family title and the family property would go together. No doubt
to Sir Felix himself such an arrangement would seem to be the most
proper thing in the world,—as it would also to Lady Carbury were it
not that she looked to Carbury Manor as the future home of another
child. But to all this the present owner of the property had very
strong objections. It was not only that he thought ill of the baronet
himself,—so ill as to feel thoroughly convinced that no good could
come from that quarter,—but he thought ill also of the baronetcy
itself. Sir Patrick, to his thinking, had been altogether
unjustifiable in accepting an enduring title, knowing that he would
leave behind him no property adequate for its support. A baronet, so
thought Roger Carbury, should be a rich man, rich enough to grace the
rank which he assumed to wear. A title, according to Roger's doctrine
on such subjects, could make no man a gentleman, but, if improperly
worn, might degrade a man who would otherwise be a gentleman. He
thought that a gentleman, born and bred, acknowledged as such without
doubt, could not be made more than a gentleman by all the titles
which the Queen could give. With these old-fashioned notions Roger
hated the title which had fallen upon a branch of his family. He
certainly would not leave his property to support the title which Sir
Felix unfortunately possessed. But Sir Felix was the natural heir,
and this man felt himself constrained, almost as by some divine law,
to see that his land went by natural descent. Though he was in no
degree fettered as to its disposition, he did not presume himself to
have more than a life interest in the estate. It was his duty to see
that it went from Carbury to Carbury as long as there was a Carbury
to hold it, and especially his duty to see that it should go from his
hands, at his death, unimpaired in extent or value. There was no
reason why he should himself die for the next twenty or thirty
years,—but were he to die Sir Felix would undoubtedly dissipate the
acres, and then there would be an end of Carbury. But in such case
he, Roger Carbury, would at any rate have done his duty. He knew that
no human arrangements can be fixed, let the care in making them be
ever so great. To his thinking it would be better that the estate
should be dissipated by a Carbury than held together by a stranger.
He would stick to the old name while there was one to bear it, and to
the old family while a member of it was left. So thinking he had
already made his will, leaving the entire property to the man whom of
all others he most despised, should he himself die without child.

In the afternoon of the day on which Lady Carbury was expected, he
wandered about the place thinking of all this. How infinitely better
it would be that he should have an heir of his own. How wonderfully
beautiful would the world be to him if at last his cousin would
consent to be his wife! How wearily insipid must it be if no such
consent could be obtained from her. And then he thought much of her
welfare too. In very truth he did not like Lady Carbury. He saw
through her character, judging her with almost absolute accuracy. The
woman was affectionate, seeking good things for others rather than
for herself; but she was essentially worldly, believing that good
could come out of evil, that falsehood might in certain conditions be
better than truth, that shams and pretences might do the work of true
service, that a strong house might be built upon the sand! It was
lamentable to him that the girl he loved should be subjected to this
teaching, and live in an atmosphere so burdened with falsehood. Would
not the touch of pitch at last defile her? In his heart of hearts he
believed that she loved Paul Montague; and of Paul himself he was
beginning to fear evil. What but a sham could be a man who consented
to pretend to sit as one of a Board of Directors to manage an
enormous enterprise with such colleagues as Lord Alfred Grendall and
Sir Felix Carbury, under the absolute control of such a one as Mr.
Augustus Melmotte? Was not this building a house upon the sand with a
vengeance? What a life it would be for Henrietta Carbury were she to
marry a man striving to become rich without labour and without
capital, and who might one day be wealthy and the next a beggar,—a
city adventurer, who of all men was to him the vilest and most
dishonest? He strove to think well of Paul Montague, but such was the
life which he feared the young man was preparing for himself.

Then he went into the house and wandered up through the rooms which
the two ladies were to occupy. As their host, a host without a wife
or mother or sister, it was his duty to see that things were
comfortable, but it may be doubted whether he would have been so
careful had the mother been coming alone. In the smaller room of the
two the hangings were all white, and the room was sweet with May
flowers; and he brought a white rose from the hot-house, and placed
it in a glass on the dressing table. Surely she would know who put it
there.

Then he stood at the open window, looking down upon the lawn, gazing
vacantly for half an hour, till he heard the wheels of the carriage
before the front door. During that half hour he resolved that he
would try again as though there had as yet been no repulse.

 


 


CHAPTER XV.


"YOU SHOULD REMEMBER THAT I AM HIS MOTHER."
 

"This is so kind of you," said Lady Carbury, grasping her cousin's
hand as she got out of the carriage.

"The kindness is on your part," said Roger.

"I felt so much before I dared to ask you to take us. But I did so
long to get into the country, and I do so love Carbury.
And—and—"

"Where should a Carbury go to escape from London smoke, but to the
old house? I am afraid Henrietta will find it dull."

"Oh no," said Hetta smiling. "You ought to remember that I am never
dull in the country."

"The bishop and Mrs. Yeld are coming here to dine to-morrow,—and the
Hepworths."

"I shall be so glad to meet the bishop once more," said Lady Carbury.

"I think everybody must be glad to meet him, he is such a dear, good
fellow, and his wife is just as good. And there is another gentleman
coming whom you have never seen."

"A new neighbour?"

"Yes,—a new neighbour;—Father John Barham, who has come to Beccles
as priest. He has got a little cottage about a mile from here, in
this parish, and does duty both at Beccles and Bungay. I used to know
something of his family."

"He is a gentleman then?"

"Certainly he is a gentleman. He took his degree at Oxford, and then
became what we call a pervert, and what I suppose they call a
convert. He has not got a shilling in the world beyond what they pay
him as a priest, which I take it amounts to about as much as the
wages of a day labourer. He told me the other day that he was
absolutely forced to buy second-hand clothes."

"How shocking!" said Lady Carbury, holding up her hands.

"He didn't seem to be at all shocked at telling it. We have got to be
quite friends."

"Will the bishop like to meet him?"

"Why should not the bishop like to meet him? I've told the bishop all
about him, and the bishop particularly wishes to know him. He won't
hurt the bishop. But you and Hetta will find it very dull."

"I shan't find it dull, Mr. Carbury," said Henrietta.

"It was to escape from the eternal parties that we came down here,"
said Lady Carbury. She had nevertheless been anxious to hear what
guests were expected at the Manor House. Sir Felix had promised to
come down on Saturday, with the intention of returning on Monday, and
Lady Carbury had hoped that some visiting might be arranged between
Caversham and the Manor House, so that her son might have the full
advantage of his closeness to Marie Melmotte.

"I have asked the Longestaffes for Monday," said Roger.

"They are down here then?"

"I think they arrived yesterday. There is always a flustering breeze
in the air and a perturbation generally through the county when they
come or go, and I think I perceived the effects about four in the
afternoon. They won't come, I dare say."

"Why not?"

"They never do. They have probably a house full of guests, and they
know that my accommodation is limited. I've no doubt they'll ask us
on Tuesday or Wednesday, and if you like we will go."

"I know they are to have guests," said Lady Carbury.

"What guests?"

"The Melmottes are coming to them." Lady Carbury, as she made the
announcement, felt that her voice and countenance and self-possession
were failing her, and that she could not mention the thing as she
would any matter that was indifferent to her.

"The Melmottes coming to Caversham!" said Roger, looking at
Henrietta, who blushed with shame as she remembered that she had been
brought into her lover's house solely in order that her brother might
have an opportunity of seeing Marie Melmotte in the country.

"Oh yes,—Madame Melmotte told me. I take it they are very intimate."

"Mr. Longestaffe ask the Melmottes to visit him at Caversham!"

"Why not?"

"I should almost as soon have believed that I myself might have been
induced to ask them here."

"I fancy, Roger, that Mr. Longestaffe does want a little pecuniary
assistance."

"And he condescends to get it in this way! I suppose it will make no
difference soon whom one knows, and whom one doesn't. Things aren't
as they were, of course, and never will be again. Perhaps it's all
for the better;—I won't say it isn't. But I should have thought that
such a man as Mr. Longestaffe might have kept such another man as Mr.
Melmotte out of his wife's drawing-room." Henrietta became redder
than ever. Even Lady Carbury flushed up, as she remembered that Roger
Carbury knew that she had taken her daughter to Madame Melmotte's
ball. He thought of this himself as soon as the words were spoken,
and then tried to make some half apology. "I don't approve of them in
London, you know; but I think they are very much worse in the
country."

Then there was a movement. The ladies were shown into their rooms,
and Roger again went out into the garden. He began to feel that he
understood it all. Lady Carbury had come down to his house in order
that she might be near the Melmottes! There was something in this
which he felt it difficult not to resent. It was for no love of him
that she was there. He had felt that Henrietta ought not to have been
brought to his house; but he could have forgiven that, because her
presence there was a charm to him. He could have forgiven that, even
while he was thinking that her mother had brought her there with the
object of disposing of her. If it were so, the mother's object would
be the same as his own, and such a manœuvre he could pardon,
though he could not approve. His self-love had to some extent been
gratified. But now he saw that he and his house had been simply used
in order that a vile project of marrying two vile people to each
other might be furthered!

As he was thinking of all this, Lady Carbury came out to him in the
garden. She had changed her travelling dress, and made herself
pretty, as she well knew how to do. And now she dressed her face in
her sweetest smiles. Her mind, also, was full of the Melmottes, and
she wished to explain to her stern, unbending cousin all the good
that might come to her and hers by an alliance with the heiress. "I
can understand, Roger," she said, taking his arm, "that you should
not like those people."

"What people?"

"The Melmottes."

"I don't dislike them. How should I dislike people that I never saw?
I dislike those who seek their society simply because they have the
reputation of being rich."

"Meaning me."

"No; not meaning you. I don't dislike you, as you know very well,
though I do dislike the fact that you should run after these people.
I was thinking of the Longestaffes then."

"Do you suppose, my friend, that I run after them for my own
gratification? Do you think that I go to their house because I find
pleasure in their magnificence; or that I follow them down here for
any good that they will do me?"

"I would not follow them at all."

"I will go back if you bid me, but I must first explain what I mean.
You know my son's condition,—better, I fear, than he does himself."
Roger nodded assent to this, but said nothing. "What is he to do? The
only chance for a young man in his position is that he should marry a
girl with money. He is good-looking; you can't deny that."

"Nature has done enough for him."

"We must take him as he is. He was put into the army very young, and
was very young when he came into possession of his own small fortune.
He might have done better; but how many young men placed in such
temptations do well? As it is, he has nothing left."

"I fear not."

"And therefore is it not imperative that he should marry a girl with
money?"

"I call that stealing a girl's money, Lady Carbury."

"Oh, Roger, how hard you are!"

"A man must be hard or soft,—which is best?"

"With women I think that a little softness has the most effect. I
want to make you understand this about the Melmottes. It stands to
reason that the girl will not marry Felix unless she loves him."

"But does he love her?"

"Why should he not? Is a girl to be debarred from being loved because
she has money? Of course she looks to be married, and why should she
not have Felix if she likes him best? Cannot you sympathize with my
anxiety so to place him that he shall not be a disgrace to the name
and to the family?"

"We had better not talk about the family, Lady Carbury."

"But I think so much about it."

"You will never get me to say that I think the family will be
benefited by a marriage with the daughter of Mr. Melmotte. I look
upon him as dirt in the gutter. To me, in my old-fashioned way, all
his money, if he has it, can make no difference. When there is a
question of marriage people at any rate should know something of each
other. Who knows anything of this man? Who can be sure that she is
his daughter?"

"He would give her her fortune when she married."

"Yes; it all comes to that. Men say openly that he is an adventurer
and a swindler. No one pretends to think that he is a gentleman.
There is a consciousness among all who speak of him that he amasses
his money not by honest trade, but by unknown tricks,—as does a card
sharper. He is one whom we would not admit into our kitchens, much
less to our tables, on the score of his own merits. But because he
has learned the art of making money, we not only put up with him, but
settle upon his carcase as so many birds of prey."

"Do you mean that Felix should not marry the girl, even if they love
each other?"

He shook his head in disgust, feeling sure that any idea of love on
the part of the young man was a sham and a pretence, not only as
regarded him, but also his mother. He could not quite declare this,
and yet he desired that she should understand that he thought so. "I
have nothing more to say about it," he continued. "Had it gone on in
London I should have said nothing. It is no affair of mine. When I am
told that the girl is in the neighbourhood, at such a house as
Caversham, and that Felix is coming here in order that he may be near
to his prey, and when I am asked to be a party to the thing, I can
only say what I think. Your son would be welcome to my house, because
he is your son and my cousin, little as I approve his mode of life;
but I could have wished that he had chosen some other place for the
work that he has on hand."

"If you wish it, Roger, we will return to London. I shall find it
hard to explain to Hetta;—but we will go."

"No; I certainly do not wish that."

"But you have said such hard things! How are we to stay? You speak of
Felix as though he were all bad." She looked at him hoping to get
from him some contradiction of this, some retractation, some kindly
word; but it was what he did think, and he had nothing to say. She
could bear much. She was not delicate as to censure implied, or even
expressed. She had endured rough usage before, and was prepared to
endure more. Had he found fault with herself, or with Henrietta, she
would have put up with it, for the sake of benefits to come,—would
have forgiven it the more easily because perhaps it might not have
been deserved. But for her son she was prepared to fight. If she did
not defend him, who would? "I am grieved, Roger, that we should have
troubled you with our visit, but I think that we had better go. You
are very harsh, and it crushes me."

"I have not meant to be harsh."

"You say that Felix is seeking for his—prey, and that he is to be
brought here to be near—his prey. What can be more harsh than that?
At any rate, you should remember that I am his mother."











"You should remember that I am his mother."


"You
should remember that I am his mother."


Click to ENLARGE


She expressed her sense of injury very well. Roger began to be
ashamed of himself, and to think that he had spoken unkind words. And
yet he did not know how to recall them. "If I have hurt you, I regret
it much."

"Of course you have hurt me. I think I will go in now. How very hard
the world is! I came here thinking to find peace and sunshine, and
there has come a storm at once."

"You asked me about the Melmottes, and I was obliged to speak. You
cannot think that I meant to offend you." They walked on in silence
till they had reached the door leading from the garden into the
house, and here he stopped her. "If I have been over hot with you,
let me beg your pardon." She smiled and bowed; but her smile was not
one of forgiveness; and then she essayed to pass on into the house.
"Pray do not speak of going, Lady Carbury."

"I think I will go to my room now. My head aches so that I can hardly
stand."

It was late in the afternoon,—about six,—and according to his daily
custom he should have gone round to the offices to see his men as
they came from their work, but he stood still for a few moments on
the spot where Lady Carbury had left him and went slowly across the
lawn to the bridge and there seated himself on the parapet. Could it
really be that she meant to leave his house in anger and to take her
daughter with her? Was it thus that he was to part with the one human
being in the world that he loved? He was a man who thought much of
the duties of hospitality, feeling that a man in his own house was
bound to exercise a courtesy towards his guests sweeter, softer, more
gracious than the world required elsewhere. And of all guests those
of his own name were the best entitled to such courtesy at Carbury.
He held the place in trust for the use of others. But if there were
one among all others to whom the house should be a house of refuge
from care, not an abode of trouble, on whose behalf were it possible
he would make the very air softer, and the flowers sweeter than their
wont, to whom he would declare, were such words possible to his
tongue, that of him and of his house, and of all things there she was
the mistress, whether she would condescend to love him or no,—that
one was his cousin Hetta. And now he had been told by his guest that
he had been so rough to her that she and her daughter must return to
London!

And he could not acquit himself. He knew that he had been rough. He
had said very hard words. It was true that he could not have
expressed his meaning without hard words, nor have repressed his
meaning without self-reproach. But in his present mood he could not
comfort himself by justifying himself. She had told him that he ought
to have remembered that Felix was her son; and as she spoke she had
acted well the part of an outraged mother. His heart was so soft that
though he knew the woman to be false and the son to be worthless, he
utterly condemned himself. Look where he would there was no comfort.
When he had sat half-an-hour upon the bridge he turned towards the
house to dress for dinner,—and to prepare himself for an apology, if
any apology might be accepted. At the door, standing in the doorway
as though waiting for him, he met his cousin Hetta. She had on her
bosom the rose he had placed in her room, and as he approached her he
thought that there was more in her eyes of graciousness towards him
than he had ever seen there before.

"Mr. Carbury," she said, "mamma is so unhappy!"

"I fear that I have offended her."

"It is not that, but that you should be so,—so angry about Felix."

"I am vexed with myself that I have vexed her,—more vexed than I can
tell you."

"She knows how good you are."

"No, I'm not. I was very bad just now. She was so offended with me
that she talked of going back to London." He paused for her to speak,
but Hetta had no words ready for the moment. "I should be wretched
indeed if you and she were to leave my house in anger."

"I do not think she will do that."

"And you?"

"I am not angry. I should never dare to be angry with you. I only
wish that Felix would be better. They say that young men have to be
bad, and that they do get to be better as they grow older. He is
something in the city now, a director they call him, and mamma thinks
that the work will be of service to him." Roger could express no hope
in this direction or even look as though he approved of the
directorship. "I don't see why he should not try at any rate."

"Dear Hetta, I only wish he were like you."

"Girls are so different, you know."

It was not till late in the evening, long after dinner, that he made
his apology in form to Lady Carbury; but he did make it, and at last
it was accepted. "I think I was rough to you, talking about Felix,"
he said,—"and I beg your pardon."

"You were energetic, that was all."

"A gentleman should never be rough to a lady, and a man should never
be rough to his own guests. I hope you will forgive me." She answered
him by putting out her hand and smiling on him; and so the quarrel
was over.

Lady Carbury understood the full extent of her triumph, and was
enabled by her disposition to use it thoroughly. Felix might now come
down to Carbury, and go over from thence to Caversham, and prosecute
his wooing, and the master of Carbury could make no further
objection. And Felix, if he would come, would not now be snubbed.
Roger would understand that he was constrained to courtesy by the
former severity of his language. Such points as these Lady Carbury
never missed. He understood it too, and though he was soft and
gracious in his bearing, endeavouring to make his house as pleasant
as he could to his two guests, he felt that he had been cheated out
of his undoubted right to disapprove of all connection with the
Melmottes. In the course of the evening there came a note,—or rather
a bundle of notes,—from Caversham. That addressed to Roger was in
the form of a letter. Lady Pomona was sorry to say that the
Longestaffe party were prevented from having the pleasure of dining
at Carbury Hall by the fact that they had a house full of guests.
Lady Pomona hoped that Mr. Carbury and his relatives, who, Lady
Pomona heard, were with him at the Hall, would do the Longestaffes
the pleasure of dining at Caversham either on the Monday or Tuesday
following, as might best suit the Carbury plans. That was the purport
of Lady Pomona's letter to Roger Carbury. Then there were cards of
invitation for Lady Carbury and her daughter, and also for Sir Felix.

Roger, as he read his own note, handed the others over to Lady
Carbury, and then asked her what she would wish to have done. The
tone of his voice, as he spoke, grated on her ear, as there was
something in it of his former harshness. But she knew how to use her
triumph. "I should like to go," she said.

"I certainly shall not go," he replied; "but there will be no
difficulty whatever in sending you over. You must answer at once,
because their servant is waiting."

"Monday will be best," she said; "—that is, if nobody is coming
here."

"There will be nobody here."

"I suppose I had better say that I, and Hetta,—and Felix will accept
their invitation."

"I can make no suggestion," said Roger, thinking how delightful it
would be if Henrietta could remain with him; how objectionable it was
that Henrietta should be taken to Caversham to meet the Melmottes.
Poor Hetta herself could say nothing. She certainly did not wish to
meet the Melmottes, nor did she wish to dine, alone, with her cousin
Roger.

"That will be best," said Lady Carbury after a moment's thought. "It
is very good of you to let us go, and to send us."

"Of course you will do here just as you please," he replied. But
there was still that tone in his voice which Lady Carbury feared. A
quarter of an hour later the Caversham servant was on his way home
with two letters,—the one from Roger expressing his regret that he
could not accept Lady Pomona's invitation, and the other from Lady
Carbury declaring that she and her son and daughter would have great
pleasure in dining at Caversham on the Monday.

 


 


CHAPTER XVI.


THE BISHOP AND THE PRIEST.
 

The afternoon on which Lady Carbury arrived at her cousin's house had
been very stormy. Roger Carbury had been severe, and Lady Carbury had
suffered under his severity,—or had at least so well pretended to
suffer as to leave on Roger's mind a strong impression that he had
been cruel to her. She had then talked of going back at once to
London, and when consenting to remain, had remained with a very bad
feminine headache. She had altogether carried her point, but had done
so in a storm. The next morning was very calm. That question of
meeting the Melmottes had been settled, and there was no need for
speaking of them again. Roger went out by himself about the farm,
immediately after breakfast, having told the ladies that they could
have the waggonnette when they pleased. "I'm afraid you'll find it
tiresome driving about our lanes," he said. Lady Carbury assured him
that she was never dull when left alone with books. Just as he was
starting he went into the garden and plucked a rose which he brought
to Henrietta. He only smiled as he gave it her, and then went his
way. He had resolved that he would say nothing to her of his suit
till Monday. If he could prevail with her then he would ask her to
remain with him when her mother and brother would be going out to
dine at Caversham. She looked up into his face as she took the rose
and thanked him in a whisper. She fully appreciated the truth, and
honour, and honesty of his character, and could have loved him so
dearly as her cousin if he would have contented himself with such
cousinly love! She was beginning, within her heart, to take his side
against her mother and brother, and to feel that he was the safest
guide that she could have. But how could she be guided by a lover
whom she did not love?

"I am afraid, my dear, we shall have a bad time of it here," said
Lady Carbury.

"Why so, mamma?"

"It will be so dull. Your cousin is the best friend in all the world,
and would make as good a husband as could be picked out of all the
gentlemen of England; but in his present mood with me he is not a
comfortable host. What nonsense he did talk about the Melmottes!"

"I don't suppose, mamma, that Mr. and Mrs. Melmotte can be nice
people."

"Why shouldn't they be as nice as anybody else? Pray, Henrietta,
don't let us have any of that nonsense from you. When it comes from
the superhuman virtue of poor dear Roger it has to be borne, but I
beg that you will not copy him."

"Mamma, I think that is unkind."

"And I shall think it very unkind if you take upon yourself to abuse
people who are able and willing to set poor Felix on his legs. A word
from you might undo all that we are doing."

"What word?"

"What word? Any word! If you have any influence with your brother you
should use it in inducing him to hurry this on. I am sure the girl is
willing enough. She did refer him to her father."

"Then why does he not go to Mr. Melmotte?"

"I suppose he is delicate about it on the score of money. If Roger
could only let it be understood that Felix is the heir to this place,
and that some day he will be Sir Felix Carbury of Carbury, I don't
think there would be any difficulty even with old Melmotte."

"How could he do that, mamma?"

"If your cousin were to die as he is now, it would be so. Your
brother would be his heir."

"You should not think of such a thing, mamma."

"Why do you dare to tell me what I am to think? Am I not to think of
my own son? Is he not to be dearer to me than any one? And what I
say, is so. If Roger were to die to-morrow he would be Sir Felix
Carbury of Carbury."

"But, mamma, he will live and have a family. Why should he not?"

"You say he is so old that you will not look at him."

"I never said so. When we were joking, I said he was old. You know I
did not mean that he was too old to get married. Men a great deal
older get married every day."

"If you don't accept him he will never marry. He is a man of that
kind,—so stiff and stubborn and old-fashioned that nothing will
change him. He will go on boodying over it, till he will become an
old misanthrope. If you would take him I would be quite contented.
You are my child as well as Felix. But if you mean to be obstinate I
do wish that the Melmottes should be made to understand that the
property and title and name of the place will all go together. It
will be so, and why should not Felix have the advantage?"

"Who is to say it?"

"Ah;—that's where it is. Roger is so violent and prejudiced that one
cannot get him to speak rationally."

"Oh, mamma;—you wouldn't suggest it to him;—that this place is to
go to—Felix, when he—is dead!"

"It would not kill him a day sooner."

"You would not dare to do it, mamma."

"I would dare to do anything for my children. But you need not look
like that, Henrietta. I am not going to say anything to him of the
kind. He is not quick enough to understand of what infinite service
he might be to us without in any way hurting himself." Henrietta
would fain have answered that their cousin was quick enough for
anything, but was by far too honest to take part in such a scheme as
that proposed. She refrained, however, and was silent. There was no
sympathy on the matter between her and her mother. She was beginning
to understand the tortuous mazes of manœuvres in which her
mother's mind had learned to work, and to dislike and almost to
despise them. But she felt it to be her duty to abstain from rebukes.

In the afternoon Lady Carbury, alone, had herself driven into Beccles
that she might telegraph to her son. "You are to dine at Caversham on
Monday. Come on Saturday if you can. She is there." Lady Carbury had
many doubts as to the wording of this message. The female in the
office might too probably understand who was the "She," who was
spoken of as being at Caversham, and might understand also the
project, and speak of it publicly. But then it was essential that
Felix should know how great and certain was the opportunity afforded
to him. He had promised to come on Saturday and return on
Monday,—and, unless warned, would too probably stick to his plan and
throw over the Longestaffes and their dinner-party. Again if he were
told to come simply for the Monday, he would throw over the chance of
wooing her on the Sunday. It was Lady Carbury's desire to get him
down for as long a period as was possible, and nothing surely would
so tend to bring him and to keep him, as a knowledge that the heiress
was already in the neighbourhood. Then she returned, and shut herself
up in her bedroom, and worked for an hour or two at a paper which she
was writing for the "Breakfast Table." Nobody should ever accuse her
justly of idleness. And afterwards, as she walked by herself round
and round the garden, she revolved in her mind the scheme of a new
book. Whatever might happen she would persevere. If the Carburys were
unfortunate their misfortunes should come from no fault of hers.
Henrietta passed the whole day alone. She did not see her cousin from
breakfast till he appeared in the drawing-room before dinner. But she
was thinking of him during every minute of the day,—how good he was,
how honest, how thoroughly entitled to demand at any rate kindness at
her hand! Her mother had spoken of him as of one who might be
regarded as all but dead and buried, simply because of his love for
her. Could it be true that his constancy was such that he would never
marry unless she would take his hand? She came to think of him with
more tenderness than she had ever felt before, but, yet, she would
not tell herself she loved him. It might, perhaps, be her duty to
give herself to him without loving him,—because he was so good; but
she was sure that she did not love him.

In the evening the bishop came, and his wife, Mrs. Yeld, and the
Hepworths of Eardly, and Father John Barham, the Beccles priest. The
party consisted of eight, which is, perhaps, the best number for a
mixed gathering of men and women at a dinner-table,—especially if
there be no mistress whose prerogative and duty it is to sit opposite
to the master. In this case Mr. Hepworth faced the giver of the
feast, the bishop and the priest were opposite to each other, and the
ladies graced the four corners. Roger, though he spoke of such things
to no one, turned them over much in his mind, believing it to be the
duty of a host to administer in all things to the comfort of his
guests. In the drawing-room he had been especially courteous to the
young priest, introducing him first to the bishop and his wife, and
then to his cousins. Henrietta watched him through the whole evening,
and told herself that he was a very mirror of courtesy in his own
house. She had seen it all before, no doubt; but she had never
watched him as she now watched him since her mother had told her that
he would die wifeless and childless because she would not be his wife
and the mother of his children.

The bishop was a man sixty years of age, very healthy and handsome,
with hair just becoming grey, clear eyes, a kindly mouth, and
something of a double chin. He was all but six feet high, with a
broad chest, large hands, and legs which seemed to have been made for
clerical breeches and clerical stockings. He was a man of fortune
outside his bishopric; and, as he never went up to London, and had no
children on whom to spend his money, he was able to live as a
nobleman in the country. He did live as a nobleman, and was very
popular. Among the poor around him he was idolized, and by such
clergy of his diocese as were not enthusiastic in their theology
either on the one side or on the other, he was regarded as a model
bishop. By the very high and the very low,—by those rather who
regarded ritualism as being either heavenly or devilish,—he was
looked upon as a time-server, because he would not put to sea in
either of those boats. He was an unselfish man, who loved his
neighbour as himself, and forgave all trespasses, and thanked God for
his daily bread from his heart, and prayed heartily to be delivered
from temptation. But I doubt whether he was competent to teach a
creed,—or even to hold one, if it be necessary that a man should
understand and define his creed before he can hold it. Whether he was
free from, or whether he was scared by, any inward misgivings, who
shall say? If there were such he never whispered a word of them even
to the wife of his bosom. From the tone of his voice and the look of
his eye, you would say that he was unscathed by that agony which
doubt on such a matter would surely bring to a man so placed. And yet
it was observed of him that he never spoke of his faith, or entered
into arguments with men as to the reasons on which he had based it.
He was diligent in preaching,—moral sermons that were short, pithy,
and useful. He was never weary in furthering the welfare of his
clergymen. His house was open to them and to their wives. The edifice
of every church in his diocese was a care to him. He laboured at
schools, and was zealous in improving the social comforts of the
poor; but he was never known to declare to man or woman that the
human soul must live or die for ever according to its faith. Perhaps
there was no bishop in England more loved or more useful in his
diocese than the Bishop of Elmham.

A man more antagonistic to the bishop than Father John Barham, the
lately appointed Roman Catholic priest at Beccles, it would be
impossible to conceive;—and yet they were both eminently good men.
Father John was not above five feet nine in height, but so thin, so
meagre, so wasted in appearance, that, unless when he stooped, he was
taken to be tall. He had thick dark brown hair, which was cut short
in accordance with the usage of his Church; but which he so
constantly ruffled by the action of his hands, that, though short, it
seemed to be wild and uncombed. In his younger days, when long locks
straggled over his forehead, he had acquired a habit, while talking
energetically, of rubbing them back with his finger, which he had not
since dropped. In discussions he would constantly push back his hair,
and then sit with his hand fixed on the top of his head. He had a
high, broad forehead, enormous blue eyes, a thin, long nose, cheeks
very thin and hollow, a handsome large mouth, and a strong square
chin. He was utterly without worldly means, except those which came
to him from the ministry of his church, and which did not suffice to
find him food and raiment; but no man ever lived more indifferent to
such matters than Father John Barham. He had been the younger son of
an English country gentleman of small fortune, had been sent to
Oxford that he might hold a family living, and on the eve of his
ordination had declared himself a Roman Catholic. His family had
resented this bitterly, but had not quarrelled with him till he had
drawn a sister with him. When banished from the house he had still
striven to achieve the conversion of other sisters by his letters,
and was now absolutely an alien from his father's heart and care. But
of this he never complained. It was a part of the plan of his life
that he should suffer for his faith. Had he been able to change his
creed without incurring persecution, worldly degradation, and
poverty, his own conversion would not have been to him comfortable
and satisfactory as it was. He considered that his father, as a
Protestant,—and in his mind Protestant and heathen were all the
same,—had been right to quarrel with him. But he loved his father,
and was endless in prayer, wearying his saints with supplications,
that his father might see the truth and be as he was.

To him it was everything that a man should believe and obey,—that he
should abandon his own reason to the care of another or of others,
and allow himself to be guided in all things by authority. Faith
being sufficient and of itself all in all, moral conduct could be
nothing to a man, except as a testimony of faith; for to him, whose
belief was true enough to produce obedience, moral conduct would
certainly be added. The dogmas of his Church were to Father Barham a
real religion; and he would teach them in season and out of season,
always ready to commit himself to the task of proving their truth,
afraid of no enemy, not even fearing the hostility which his
perseverance would create. He had but one duty before him,—to do his
part towards bringing over the world to his faith. It might be that
with the toil of his whole life he should convert but one; that he
should but half convert one; that he should do no more than disturb
the thoughts of one so that future conversion might be possible. But
even that would be work done. He would sow the seed if it might be
so; but if it were not given to him to do that, he would at any rate
plough the ground.

He had come to Beccles lately, and Roger Carbury had found out that
he was a gentleman by birth and education. Roger had found out also
that he was very poor, and had consequently taken him by the hand.
The young priest had not hesitated to accept his neighbour's
hospitality, having on one occasion laughingly protested that he
should be delighted to dine at Carbury, as he was much in want of a
dinner. He had accepted presents from the garden and the poultry
yard, declaring that he was too poor to refuse anything. The apparent
frankness of the man about himself had charmed Roger, and the charm
had not been seriously disturbed when Father Barham, on one winter
evening in the parlour at Carbury, had tried his hand at converting
his host. "I have the most thorough respect for your religion," Roger
had said; "but it would not suit me." The priest had gone on with his
logic; if he could not sow the seed he might plough the ground. This
had been repeated two or three times, and Roger had begun to feel it
to be disagreeable. But the man was in earnest, and such earnestness
commanded respect. And Roger was quite sure that though he might be
bored, he could not be injured by such teaching. Then it occurred to
him one day that he had known the Bishop of Elmham intimately for a
dozen years, and had never heard from the bishop's mouth,—except
when in the pulpit,—a single word of religious teaching; whereas
this man, who was a stranger to him, divided from him by the very
fact of his creed, was always talking to him about his faith. Roger
Carbury was not a man given to much deep thinking, but he felt that
the bishop's manner was the pleasanter of the two.

Lady Carbury at dinner was all smiles and pleasantness. No one
looking at her, or listening to her, could think that her heart was
sore with many troubles. She sat between the bishop and her cousin,
and was skilful enough to talk to each without neglecting the other.
She had known the bishop before, and had on one occasion spoken to
him of her soul. The first tone of the good man's reply had convinced
her of her error, and she never repeated it. To Mr. Alf she commonly
talked of her mind; to Mr. Broune of her heart; to Mr. Booker of her
body—and its wants. She was quite ready to talk of her soul on a
proper occasion, but she was much too wise to thrust the subject even
on a bishop. Now she was full of the charms of Carbury and its
neighbourhood. "Yes, indeed," said the bishop, "I think Suffolk is a
very nice county; and as we are only a mile or two from Norfolk, I'll
say as much for Norfolk too. 'It's an ill bird that fouls its own
nest.'"

"I like a county in which there is something left of county feeling,"
said Lady Carbury. "Staffordshire and Warwickshire, Cheshire and
Lancashire have become great towns, and have lost all local
distinctions."

"We still keep our name and reputation," said the bishop; "Silly
Suffolk!"

"But that was never deserved."

"As much, perhaps, as other general epithets. I think we are a sleepy
people. We've got no coal, you see, and no iron. We have no beautiful
scenery, like the lake country,—no rivers great for fishing, like
Scotland,—no hunting grounds, like the shires."

"Partridges!" pleaded Lady Carbury, with pretty energy.

"Yes; we have partridges, fine churches, and the herring fishery. We
shall do very well if too much is not expected of us. We can't
increase and multiply as they do in the great cities."

"I like this part of England so much the best for that very reason.
What is the use of a crowded population?"

"The earth has to be peopled, Lady Carbury."

"Oh, yes," said her ladyship, with some little reverence added to her
voice, feeling that the bishop was probably adverting to a divine
arrangement. "The world must be peopled; but for myself I like the
country better than the town."

"So do I," said Roger; "and I like Suffolk. The people are hearty,
and radicalism is not quite so rampant as it is elsewhere. The poor
people touch their hats, and the rich people think of the poor. There
is something left among us of old English habits."

"That is so nice," said Lady Carbury.

"Something left of old English ignorance," said the bishop. "All the
same I dare say we're improving, like the rest of the world. What
beautiful flowers you have here, Mr. Carbury! At any rate, we can
grow flowers in Suffolk."

Mrs. Yeld, the bishop's wife, was sitting next to the priest, and was
in truth somewhat afraid of her neighbour. She was, perhaps, a little
stauncher than her husband in Protestantism; and though she was
willing to admit that Mr. Barham might not have ceased to be a
gentleman when he became a Roman Catholic priest, she was not quite
sure that it was expedient for her or her husband to have much to do
with him. Mr. Carbury had not taken them unawares. Notice had been
given that the priest was to be there, and the bishop had declared
that he would be very happy to meet the priest. But Mrs. Yeld had had
her misgivings. She never ventured to insist on her opinion after the
bishop had expressed his; but she had an idea that right was right,
and wrong wrong,—and that Roman Catholics were wrong, and therefore
ought to be put down. And she thought also that if there were no
priests there would be no Roman Catholics. Mr. Barham was, no doubt,
a man of good family, which did make a difference.

Mr. Barham always made his approaches very gradually. The taciturn
humility with which he commenced his operations was in exact
proportion to the enthusiastic volubility of his advanced intimacy.
Mrs. Yeld thought that it became her to address to him a few civil
words, and he replied to her with a shame-faced modesty that almost
overcame her dislike to his profession. She spoke of the poor of
Beccles, being very careful to allude only to their material
position. There was too much beer drunk, no doubt, and the young
women would have finery. Where did they get the money to buy those
wonderful bonnets which appeared every Sunday? Mr. Barham was very
meek, and agreed to everything that was said. No doubt he had a plan
ready formed for inducing Mrs. Yeld to have mass said regularly
within her husband's palace, but he did not even begin to bring it
about on this occasion. It was not till he made some apparently
chance allusion to the superior church-attending qualities of "our
people," that Mrs. Yeld drew herself up and changed the conversation
by observing that there had been a great deal of rain lately.

When the ladies were gone the bishop at once put himself in the way
of conversation with the priest, and asked questions as to the
morality of Beccles. It was evidently Mr. Barham's opinion that "his
people" were more moral than other people, though very much poorer.
"But the Irish always drink," said Mr. Hepworth.

"Not so much as the English, I think," said the priest. "And you are
not to suppose that we are all Irish. Of my flock the greater
proportion are English."

"It is astonishing how little we know of our neighbours," said the
bishop. "Of course I am aware that there are a certain number of
persons of your persuasion round about us. Indeed, I could give the
exact number in this diocese. But in my own immediate neighbourhood I
could not put my hand upon any families which I know to be Roman
Catholic."

"It is not, my lord, because there are none."

"Of course not. It is because, as I say, I do not know my
neighbours."

"I think, here in Suffolk, they must be chiefly the poor," said Mr.
Hepworth.

"They were chiefly the poor who at first put their faith in our
Saviour," said the priest.

"I think the analogy is hardly correctly drawn," said the bishop,
with a curious smile. "We were speaking of those who are still
attached to an old creed. Our Saviour was the teacher of a new
religion. That the poor in the simplicity of their hearts should be
the first to acknowledge the truth of a new religion is in accordance
with our idea of human nature. But that an old faith should remain
with the poor after it has been abandoned by the rich is not so
easily intelligible."











The bishop thinks that the priest's<br />      analogy is not correct.


The bishop
thinks that the priest's analogy is not correct.


Click to ENLARGE


"The Roman population still believed," said Carbury, "when the
patricians had learned to regard their gods as simply useful
bugbears."

"The patricians had not ostensibly abandoned their religion. The
people clung to it thinking that their masters and rulers clung to it
also."

"The poor have ever been the salt of the earth, my lord," said the
priest.

"That begs the whole question," said the bishop, turning to his host,
and beginning to talk about a breed of pigs which had lately been
imported into the palace styes. Father Barham turned to Mr. Hepworth
and went on with his argument, or rather began another. It was a
mistake to suppose that the Catholics in the county were all poor.
There were the
A——s and the
B——s, and the
C——s and the
D——s.
He knew all their names and was proud of their fidelity. To him these
faithful ones were really the salt of the earth, who would some day
be enabled by their fidelity to restore England to her pristine
condition. The bishop had truly said that of many of his neighbours
he did not know to what Church they belonged; but Father Barham,
though he had not as yet been twelve months in the county, knew the
name of nearly every Roman Catholic within its borders.

"Your priest is a very zealous man," said the bishop afterwards to
Roger Carbury, "and I do not doubt but that he is an excellent
gentleman; but he is perhaps a little indiscreet."

"I like him because he is doing the best he can according to his
lights; without any reference to his own worldly welfare."

"That is all very grand, and I am perfectly willing to respect him.
But I do not know that I should care to talk very freely in his
company."

"I am sure he would repeat nothing."

"Perhaps not; but he would always be thinking that he was going to
get the best of me."

"I don't think it answers," said Mrs. Yeld to her husband as they
went home. "Of course I don't want to be prejudiced; but Protestants
are Protestants, and Roman Catholics are Roman Catholics."

"You may say the same of Liberals and Conservatives, but you wouldn't
have them decline to meet each other."

"It isn't quite the same, my dear. After all religion is religion."

"It ought to be," said the bishop.

"Of course I don't mean to put myself up against you, my dear; but I
don't know that I want to meet Mr. Barham again."

"I don't know that I do, either," said the bishop; "but if he comes
in my way I hope I shall treat him civilly."

 


 


CHAPTER XVII.


MARIE MELMOTTE HEARS A LOVE TALE.
 

On the following morning there came a telegram from Felix. He was to
be expected at Beccles on that afternoon by a certain train; and
Roger, at Lady Carbury's request, undertook to send a carriage to the
station for him. This was done, but Felix did not arrive. There was
still another train by which he might come so as to be just in time
for dinner if dinner were postponed for half an hour. Lady Carbury
with a tender look, almost without speaking a word, appealed to her
cousin on behalf of her son. He knit his brows, as he always did,
involuntarily, when displeased; but he assented. Then the carriage
had to be sent again. Now carriages and carriage-horses were not
numerous at Carbury. The squire kept a waggonnette and a pair of
horses which, when not wanted for house use, were employed about the
farm. He himself would walk home from the train, leaving the luggage
to be brought by some cheap conveyance. He had already sent the
carriage once on this day,—and now sent it again, Lady Carbury
having said a word which showed that she hoped that this would be
done. But he did it with deep displeasure. To the mother her son was
Sir Felix, the baronet, entitled to special consideration because of
his position and rank,—because also of his intention to marry the
great heiress of the day. To Roger Carbury, Felix was a vicious young
man, peculiarly antipathetic to himself, to whom no respect whatever
was due. Nevertheless the dinner was put off, and the waggonnette was
sent. But the waggonnette again came back empty. That evening was
spent by Roger, Lady Carbury, and Henrietta, in very much gloom.

About four in the morning the house was roused by the coming of the
baronet. Failing to leave town by either of the afternoon trains, he
had contrived to catch the evening mail, and had found himself
deposited at some distant town from which he had posted to Carbury.
Roger came down in his dressing-gown to admit him, and Lady Carbury
also left her room. Sir Felix evidently thought that he had been a
very fine fellow in going through so much trouble. Roger held a very
different opinion, and spoke little or nothing. "Oh, Felix," said the
mother, "you have so terrified us!"

"I can tell you I was terrified myself when I found that I had to
come fifteen miles across the country with a pair of old jades who
could hardly get up a trot."

"But why didn't you come by the train you named?"

"I couldn't get out of the city," said the baronet with a ready lie.

"I suppose you were at the Board?" To this Felix made no direct
answer. Roger knew that there had been no Board. Mr. Melmotte was in
the country and there could be no Board, nor could Sir Felix have had
business in the city. It was sheer impudence,—sheer indifference,
and, into the bargain, a downright lie. The young man, who was of
himself so unwelcome, who had come there on a project which he,
Roger, utterly disapproved,—who had now knocked him and his
household up at four o'clock in the morning,—had uttered no word of
apology. "Miserable cub!" Roger muttered between his teeth. Then he
spoke aloud, "You had better not keep your mother standing here. I
will show you your room."

"All right, old fellow," said Sir Felix. "I'm awfully sorry to
disturb you all in this way. I think I'll just take a drop of brandy
and soda before I go to bed, though." This was another blow to Roger.

"I doubt whether we have soda-water in the house, and if we have, I
don't know where to get it. I can give you some brandy if you will
come with me." He pronounced the word "brandy" in a tone which
implied that it was a wicked, dissipated beverage. It was a wretched
work to Roger. He was forced to go up-stairs and fetch a key in order
that he might wait upon this cub,—this cur! He did it, however, and
the cub drank his brandy-and-water, not in the least disturbed by his
host's ill-humour. As he went to bed he suggested the probability of
his not showing himself till lunch on the following day, and
expressed a wish that he might have breakfast sent to him in bed. "He
is born to be hung," said Roger to himself as he went to his
room,—"and he'll deserve it."

On the following morning, being Sunday, they all went to
church,—except Felix. Lady Carbury always went to church when she
was in the country, never when she was at home in London. It was one
of those moral habits, like early dinners and long walks, which
suited country life. And she fancied that were she not to do so, the
bishop would be sure to know it and would be displeased. She liked
the bishop. She liked bishops generally; and was aware that it was a
woman's duty to sacrifice herself for society. As to the purpose for
which people go to church, it had probably never in her life occurred
to Lady Carbury to think of it. On their return they found Sir Felix
smoking a cigar on the gravel path, close in front of the open
drawing-room window.

"Felix," said his cousin, "take your cigar a little farther. You are
filling the house with tobacco."

"Oh heavens,—what a prejudice!" said the baronet.

"Let it be so, but still do as I ask you." Sir Felix chucked the
cigar out of his mouth on to the gravel walk, whereupon Roger walked
up to the spot and kicked the offending weed away. This was the first
greeting of the day between the two men.

After lunch Lady Carbury strolled about with her son, instigating him
to go over at once to Caversham. "How the deuce am I to get there?"

"Your cousin will lend you a horse."

"He's as cross as a bear with a sore head. He's a deal older than I
am, and a cousin and all that, but I'm not going to put up with
insolence. If it were anywhere else I should just go into the yard
and ask if I could have a horse and saddle as a matter of course."

"Roger has not a great establishment."

"I suppose he has a horse and saddle, and a man to get it ready. I
don't want anything grand."

"He is vexed because he sent twice to the station for you yesterday."

"I hate the kind of fellow who is always thinking of little
grievances. Such a man expects you to go like clockwork, and because
you are not wound up just as he is, he insults you. I shall ask him
for a horse as I would any one else, and if he does not like it, he
may lump it." About half an hour after this he found his cousin. "Can
I have a horse to ride over to Caversham this afternoon?" he said.

"Our horses never go out on Sunday," said Roger. Then he added, after
a pause, "You can have it. I'll give the order." Sir Felix would be
gone on Tuesday, and it should be his own fault if that odious cousin
ever found his way into Carbury House again! So he declared to
himself as Felix rode out of the yard; but he soon remembered how
probable it was that Felix himself would be the owner of Carbury. And
should it ever come to pass,—as still was possible,—that Henrietta
should be the mistress of Carbury, he could hardly forbid her to
receive her brother. He stood for a while on the bridge watching his
cousin as he cantered away upon the road, listening to the horse's
feet. The young man was offensive in every possible way. Who does not
know that ladies only are allowed to canter their friends' horses
upon roads? A gentleman trots his horse, and his friend's horse.
Roger Carbury had but one saddle horse,—a favourite old hunter that
he loved as a friend. And now this dear old friend, whose legs
probably were not quite so good as they once were, was being galloped
along the hard road by that odious cub! "Soda and brandy!" Roger
exclaimed to himself almost aloud, thinking of the discomfiture of
that early morning. "He'll die some day of delirium tremens in a
hospital!"

Before the Longestaffes left London to receive their new friends the
Melmottes at Caversham, a treaty had been made between Mr.
Longestaffe, the father, and Georgiana, the strong-minded daughter.
The daughter on her side undertook that the guests should be treated
with feminine courtesy. This might be called the most-favoured-nation
clause. The Melmottes were to be treated exactly as though old
Melmotte had been a gentleman and Madame Melmotte a lady. In return
for this the Longestaffe family were to be allowed to return to town.
But here again the father had carried another clause. The prolonged
sojourn in town was to be only for six weeks. On the 10th of July the
Longestaffes were to be removed into the country for the remainder of
the year. When the question of a foreign tour was proposed, the
father became absolutely violent in his refusal. "In God's name where
do you expect the money is to come from?" When Georgiana urged that
other people had money to go abroad, her father told her that a time
was coming in which she might think it lucky if she had a house over
her head. This, however, she took as having been said with poetical
licence, the same threat having been made more than once before. The
treaty was very clear, and the parties to it were prepared to carry
it out with fair honesty. The Melmottes were being treated with
decent courtesy, and the house in town was not dismantled.

The idea, hardly ever in truth entertained but which had been barely
suggested from one to another among the ladies of the family, that
Dolly should marry Marie Melmotte, had been abandoned. Dolly, with
all his vapid folly, had a will of his own, which, among his own
family, was invincible. He was never persuaded to any course either
by his father or mother. Dolly certainly would not marry Marie
Melmotte. Therefore when the Longestaffes heard that Sir Felix was
coming to the country, they had no special objection to entertaining
him at Caversham. He had been lately talked of in London as the
favourite in regard to Marie Melmotte. Georgiana Longestaffe had a
grudge of her own against Lord Nidderdale, and was on that account
somewhat well inclined towards Sir Felix's prospects. Soon after the
Melmottes' arrival she contrived to say a word to Marie respecting
Sir Felix. "There is a friend of yours going to dine here on Monday,
Miss Melmotte." Marie, who was at the moment still abashed by the
grandeur and size and general fashionable haughtiness of her new
acquaintances, made hardly any answer. "I think you know Sir Felix
Carbury," continued Georgiana.

"Oh yes, we know Sir Felix Carbury."

"He is coming down to his cousin's. I suppose it is for your bright
eyes, as Carbury Manor would hardly be just what he would like."

"I don't think he is coming because of me," said Marie blushing. She
had once told him that he might go to her father, which according to
her idea had been tantamount to accepting his offer as far as her
power of acceptance went. Since that she had seen him, indeed, but he
had not said a word to press his suit, nor, as far as she knew, had
he said a word to Mr. Melmotte. But she had been very rigorous in
declining the attentions of other suitors. She had made up her mind
that she was in love with Felix Carbury, and she had resolved on
constancy. But she had begun to tremble, fearing his faithlessness.

"We had heard," said Georgiana, "that he was a particular friend of
yours." And she laughed aloud, with a vulgarity which Madame Melmotte
certainly could not have surpassed.

Sir Felix, on the Sunday afternoon, found all the ladies out on the
lawn, and he also found Mr. Melmotte there. At the last moment Lord
Alfred Grendall had been asked,—not because he was at all in favour
with any of the Longestaffes, but in order that he might be useful in
disposing of the great Director. Lord Alfred was used to him and
could talk to him, and might probably know what he liked to eat and
drink. Therefore Lord Alfred had been asked to Caversham, and Lord
Alfred had come, having all his expenses paid by the great Director.
When Sir Felix arrived, Lord Alfred was earning his entertainment by
talking to Mr. Melmotte in a summer-house. He had cool drink before
him and a box of cigars, but was probably thinking at the time how
hard the world had been to him. Lady Pomona was languid, but not
uncivil in her reception. She was doing her best to perform her part
of the treaty in reference to Madame Melmotte. Sophia was walking
apart with a certain Mr. Whitstable, a young squire in the
neighbourhood, who had been asked to Caversham because as Sophia was
now reputed to be twenty-eight,—they who decided the question might
have said thirty-one without falsehood,—it was considered that Mr.
Whitstable was good enough, or at least as good as could be expected.
Sophia was handsome, but with a big, cold, unalluring handsomeness,
and had not quite succeeded in London. Georgiana had been more
admired, and boasted among her friends of the offers which she had
rejected. Her friends on the other hand were apt to tell of her many
failures. Nevertheless she held her head up, and had not as yet come
down among the rural Whitstables. At the present moment her hands
were empty, and she was devoting herself to such a performance of the
treaty as should make it impossible for her father to leave his part
of it unfulfilled.

For a few minutes Sir Felix sat on a garden chair making conversation
to Lady Pomona and Madame Melmotte. "Beautiful garden," he said; "for
myself I don't much care for gardens; but if one is to live in the
country, this is the sort of thing that one would like."

"Delicious," said Madame Melmotte, repressing a yawn, and drawing her
shawl higher round her throat. It was the end of May, and the weather
was very warm for the time of the year; but, in her heart of hearts,
Madame Melmotte did not like sitting out in the garden.

"It isn't a pretty place; but the house is comfortable, and we make
the best of it," said Lady Pomona.

"Plenty of glass, I see," said Sir Felix. "If one is to live in the
country, I like that kind of thing. Carbury is a very poor place."

There was offence in this;—as though the Carbury property and the
Carbury position could be compared to the Longestaffe property and
the Longestaffe position. Though dreadfully hampered for money, the
Longestaffes were great people. "For a small place," said Lady
Pomona, "I think Carbury is one of the nicest in the county. Of
course it is not extensive."

"No, by Jove," said Sir Felix, "you may say that, Lady Pomona. It's
like a prison to me with that moat round it." Then he jumped up and
joined Marie Melmotte and Georgiana. Georgiana, glad to be released
for a time from performance of the treaty, was not long before she
left them together. She had understood that the two horses now in the
running were Lord Nidderdale and Sir Felix; and though she would not
probably have done much to aid Sir Felix, she was quite willing to
destroy Lord Nidderdale.

Sir Felix had his work to do, and was willing to do it,—as far as
such willingness could go with him. The prize was so great, and the
comfort of wealth was so sure, that even he was tempted to exert
himself. It was this feeling which had brought him into Suffolk, and
induced him to travel all night, across dirty roads, in an old cab.
For the girl herself he cared not the least. It was not in his power
really to care for anybody. He did not dislike her much. He was not
given to disliking people strongly, except at the moments in which
they offended him. He regarded her simply as the means by which a
portion of Mr. Melmotte's wealth might be conveyed to his uses. In
regard to feminine beauty he had his own ideas, and his own
inclinations. He was by no means indifferent to such attraction. But
Marie Melmotte, from that point of view, was nothing to him. Such
prettiness as belonged to her came from the brightness of her youth,
and from a modest shy demeanour joined to an incipient aspiration for
the enjoyment of something in the world which should be her own.
There was, too, arising within her bosom a struggle to be something
in the world, an idea that she, too, could say something, and have
thoughts of her own, if only she had some friend near her whom she
need not fear. Though still shy, she was always resolving that she
would abandon her shyness, and already had thoughts of her own as to
the perfectly open confidence which should exist between two lovers.
When alone,—and she was much alone,—she would build castles in the
air, which were bright with art and love, rather than with gems and
gold. The books she read, poor though they generally were, left
something bright on her imagination. She fancied to herself brilliant
conversations in which she bore a bright part, though in real life
she had hitherto hardly talked to any one since she was a child. Sir
Felix Carbury, she knew, had made her an offer. She knew also, or
thought that she knew, that she loved the man. And now she was with
him alone! Now surely had come the time in which some one of her
castles in the air might be found to be built of real materials.

"You know why I have come down here?" he said.











"You know why I have come down here?"


"You
know why I have come down here?"


Click to ENLARGE


"To see your cousin."

"No, indeed. I'm not particularly fond of my cousin, who is a
methodical stiff-necked old bachelor,—as cross as the mischief."

"How disagreeable!"

"Yes; he is disagreeable. I didn't come down to see him, I can tell
you. But when I heard that you were going to be here with the
Longestaffes, I determined to come at once. I wonder whether you are
glad to see me?"

"I don't know," said Marie, who could not at once find that
brilliancy of words with which her imagination supplied her readily
enough in her solitude.

"Do you remember what you said to me that evening at my mother's?"

"Did I say anything? I don't remember anything particular."

"Do you not? Then I fear you can't think very much of me." He paused
as though he supposed that she would drop into his mouth like a
cherry. "I thought you told me that you would love me."

"Did I?"

"Did you not?"

"I don't know what I said. Perhaps if I said that, I didn't mean it."

"Am I to believe that?"

"Perhaps you didn't mean it yourself."

"By George, I did. I was quite in earnest. There never was a fellow
more in earnest than I was. I've come down here on purpose to say it
again."

"To say what?"

"Whether you'll accept me?"

"I don't know whether you love me well enough." She longed to be told
by him that he loved her. He had no objection to tell her so, but,
without thinking much about it, felt it to be a bore. All that kind
of thing was trash and twaddle. He desired her to accept him; and he
would have wished, were it possible, that she should have gone to her
father for his consent. There was something in the big eyes and heavy
jaws of Mr. Melmotte which he almost feared. "Do you really love me
well enough?" she whispered.

"Of course I do. I'm bad at making pretty speeches, and all that, but
you know I love you."

"Do you?"

"By George, yes. I always liked you from the first moment I saw you.
I did indeed."

It was a poor declaration of love, but it sufficed. "Then I will love
you," she said. "I will with all my heart."

"There's a darling!"

"Shall I be your darling? Indeed I will. I may call you Felix
now;—mayn't I?"

"Rather."

"Oh, Felix, I hope you will love me. I will so dote upon you. You
know a great many men have asked me to love them."

"I suppose so."

"But I have never, never cared for one of them in the least;—not in
the least."

"You do care for me?"

"Oh yes." She looked up into his beautiful face as she spoke, and he
saw that her eyes were swimming with tears. He thought at the moment
that she was very common to look at. As regarded appearance only he
would have preferred even Sophia Longestaffe. There was indeed a
certain brightness of truth which another man might have read in
Marie's mingled smiles and tears, but it was thrown away altogether
upon him. They were walking in some shrubbery quite apart from the
house, where they were unseen; so, as in duty bound, he put his arm
round her waist and kissed her. "Oh, Felix," she said, giving her
face up to him; "no one ever did it before." He did not in the least
believe her, nor was the matter one of the slightest importance to
him. "Say that you will be good to me, Felix. I will be so good to
you."

"Of course I will be good to you."

"Men are not always good to their wives. Papa is often very cross to
mamma."

"I suppose he can be cross?"

"Yes, he can. He does not often scold me. I don't know what he'll say
when we tell him about this."

"But I suppose he intends that you shall be married?"

"He wanted me to marry Lord Nidderdale and Lord Grasslough, but I
hated them both. I think he wants me to marry Lord Nidderdale again
now. He hasn't said so, but mamma tells me. But I never
will;—never!"

"I hope not, Marie."

"You needn't be a bit afraid. I would not do it if they were to kill
me. I hate him,—and I do so love you." Then she leaned with all her
weight upon his arm and looked up again into his beautiful face. "You
will speak to papa; won't you?"

"Will that be the best way?"

"I suppose so. How else?"

"I don't know whether Madame Melmotte ought
not—"

"Oh dear no. Nothing would induce her. She is more afraid of him than
anybody;—more afraid of him than I am. I thought the gentleman
always did that."

"Of course I'll do it," said Sir Felix. "I'm not afraid of him. Why
should I? He and I are very good friends, you know."

"I'm glad of that."

"He made me a Director of one of his companies the other day."

"Did he? Perhaps he'll like you for a son-in-law."

"There's no knowing;—is there?"

"I hope he will. I shall like you for papa's son-in-law. I hope it
isn't wrong to say that. Oh, Felix, say that you love me." Then she
put her face up towards his again.

"Of course I love you," he said, not thinking it worth his while to
kiss her. "It's no good speaking to him here. I suppose I had better
go and see him in the city."

"He is in a good humour now," said Marie.

"But I couldn't get him alone. It wouldn't be the thing to do down
here."

"Wouldn't it?"

"Not in the country,—in another person's house. Shall you tell
Madame Melmotte?"

"Yes, I shall tell mamma; but she won't say anything to him. Mamma
does not care much about me. But I'll tell you all that another time.
Of course I shall tell you everything now. I never yet had anybody to
tell anything to, but I shall never be tired of telling you." Then he
left her as soon as he could, and escaped to the other ladies. Mr.
Melmotte was still sitting in the summer-house, and Lord Alfred was
still with him, smoking and drinking brandy and seltzer. As Sir Felix
passed in front of the great man he told himself that it was much
better that the interview should be postponed till they were all in
London. Mr. Melmotte did not look as though he were in a good humour.
Sir Felix said a few words to Lady Pomona and Madame Melmotte. Yes;
he hoped to have the pleasure of seeing them with his mother and
sister on the following day. He was aware that his cousin was not
coming. He believed that his cousin Roger never did go any where like
any one else. No; he had not seen Mr. Longestaffe. He hoped to have
the pleasure of seeing him to-morrow. Then he escaped, and got on his
horse, and rode away.

"That's going to be the lucky man," said Georgiana to her mother,
that evening.

"In what way lucky?"

"He is going to get the heiress and all the money. What a fool Dolly
has been!"

"I don't think it would have suited Dolly," said Lady Pomona. "After
all, why should not Dolly marry a lady?"

 


 


CHAPTER XVIII.


RUBY RUGGLES HEARS A LOVE TALE.
 

Miss Ruby Ruggles, the granddaughter of old Daniel Ruggles, of
Sheep's Acre, in the parish of Sheepstone, close to Bungay, received
the following letter from the hands of the rural post letter-carrier
on that Sunday morning;—"A friend will be somewhere near Sheepstone
Birches between four and five o'clock on Sunday afternoon." There was
not another word in the letter, but Miss Ruby Ruggles knew well from
whom it came.

Daniel Ruggles was a farmer, who had the reputation of considerable
wealth, but who was not very well looked on in the neighbourhood as
being somewhat of a curmudgeon and a miser. His wife was dead;—he
had quarrelled with his only son, whose wife was also dead, and had
banished him from his home;—his daughters were married and away; and
the only member of his family who lived with him was his
granddaughter Ruby. And this granddaughter was a great trouble to the
old man. She was twenty-three years old, and had been engaged to a
prosperous young man at Bungay in the meal and pollard line, to whom
old Ruggles had promised to give £500 on their marriage. But Ruby had
taken it into her foolish young head that she did not like meal and
pollard, and now she had received the above very dangerous letter.
Though the writer had not dared to sign his name she knew well that
it came from Sir Felix Carbury,—the most beautiful gentleman she had
ever set her eyes upon. Poor Ruby Ruggles! Living down at Sheep's
Acre, on the Waveney, she had heard both too much and too little of
the great world beyond her ken. There were, she thought, many
glorious things to be seen which she would never see were she in
these her early years to become the wife of John Crumb, the dealer in
meal and pollard at Bungay. Therefore she was full of a wild joy,
half joy half fear, when she got her letter; and, therefore,
punctually at four o'clock on that Sunday she was ensconced among the
Sheepstone Birches, so that she might see without much danger of
being seen. Poor Ruby Ruggles, who was left to be so much mistress of
herself at the time of her life in which she most required the
kindness of a controlling hand!

Mr. Ruggles held his land, or the greater part of it, on what is
called a bishop's lease, Sheep's Acre Farm being a part of the
property which did belong to the bishopric of Elmham, and which was
still set apart for its sustentation;—but he also held a small
extent of outlying meadow which belonged to the Carbury estate, so
that he was one of the tenants of Roger Carbury. Those Sheepstone
Birches, at which Felix made his appointment, belonged to Roger. On a
former occasion, when the feeling between the two cousins was kinder
than that which now existed, Felix had ridden over with the landlord
to call on the old man, and had then first seen Ruby;—and had heard
from Roger something of Ruby's history up to that date. It had then
been just made known that she was to marry John Crumb. Since that
time not a word had been spoken between the men respecting the girl.
Mr. Carbury had heard, with sorrow, that the marriage was either
postponed or abandoned,—but his growing dislike to the baronet had
made it very improbable that there should be any conversation between
them on the subject. Sir Felix, however, had probably heard more of
Ruby Ruggles than her grandfather's landlord.

There is, perhaps, no condition of mind more difficult for the
ordinarily well-instructed inhabitant of a city to realise than that
of such a girl as Ruby Ruggles. The rural day labourer and his wife
live on a level surface which is comparatively open to the eye. Their
aspirations, whether for good or evil,—whether for food and drink to
be honestly earned for themselves and children, or for drink first,
to be come by either honestly or dishonestly,—are, if looked at at
all, fairly visible. And with the men of the Ruggles class one can
generally find out what they would be at, and in what direction their
minds are at work. But the Ruggles woman,—especially the Ruggles
young woman,—is better educated, has higher aspirations and a
brighter imagination, and is infinitely more cunning than the man. If
she be good-looking and relieved from the pressure of want, her
thoughts soar into a world which is as unknown to her as heaven is to
us, and in regard to which her longings are apt to be infinitely
stronger than are ours for heaven. Her education has been much better
than that of the man. She can read, whereas he can only spell words
from a book. She can write a letter after her fashion, whereas he can
barely spell words out on a paper. Her tongue is more glib, and her
intellect sharper. But her ignorance as to the reality of things is
much more gross than his. By such contact as he has with men in
markets, in the streets of the towns he frequents, and even in the
fields, he learns something unconsciously of the relative condition
of his countrymen,—and, as to that which he does not learn, his
imagination is obtuse. But the woman builds castles in the air, and
wonders, and longs. To the young farmer the squire's daughter is a
superior being very much out of his way. To the farmer's daughter the
young squire is an Apollo, whom to look at is a pleasure,—by whom to
be looked at is a delight. The danger for the most part is soon over.
The girl marries after her kind, and then husband and children put
the matter at rest for ever.

A mind more absolutely uninstructed than that of Ruby Ruggles as to
the world beyond Suffolk and Norfolk it would be impossible to find.
But her thoughts were as wide as they were vague, and as active as
they were erroneous. Why should she with all her prettiness, and all
her cleverness,—with all her fortune to boot,—marry that dustiest
of all men, John Crumb, before she had seen something of the beauties
of the things of which she had read in the books which came in her
way? John Crumb was not bad-looking. He was a sturdy, honest fellow,
too,—slow of speech but sure of his points when he had got them
within his grip,—fond of his beer but not often drunk, and the very
soul of industry at his work. But though she had known him all her
life she had never known him otherwise than dusty. The meal had so
gotten within his hair, and skin, and raiment, that it never came out
altogether even on Sundays. His normal complexion was a healthy
pallor, through which indeed some records of hidden ruddiness would
make themselves visible, but which was so judiciously assimilated to
his hat and coat and waistcoat, that he was more like a stout ghost
than a healthy young man. Nevertheless it was said of him that he
could thrash any man in Bungay, and carry two hundred weight of flour
upon his back. And Ruby also knew this of him,—that he worshipped
the very ground on which she trod.

But, alas, she thought there might be something better than such
worship; and, therefore, when Felix Carbury came in her way, with his
beautiful oval face, and his rich brown colour, and his bright hair
and lovely moustache, she was lost in a feeling which she mistook for
love; and when he sneaked over to her a second and a third time, she
thought more of his listless praise than ever she had thought of John
Crumb's honest promises. But, though she was an utter fool, she was
not a fool without a principle. She was miserably ignorant; but she
did understand that there was a degradation which it behoved her to
avoid. She thought, as the moths seem to think, that she might fly
into the flame and not burn her wings. After her fashion she was
pretty, with long glossy ringlets, which those about the farm on week
days would see confined in curl-papers, and large round dark eyes,
and a clear dark complexion, in which the blood showed itself plainly
beneath the soft brown skin. She was strong, and healthy, and
tall,—and had a will of her own which gave infinite trouble to old
Daniel Ruggles, her grandfather.

Felix Carbury took himself two miles out of his way in order that he
might return by Sheepstone Birches, which was a little copse distant
not above half a mile from Sheep's Acre farmhouse. A narrow angle of
the little wood came up to the road, by which there was a gate
leading into a grass meadow, which Sir Felix had remembered when he
made his appointment. The road was no more than a country lane,
unfrequented at all times, and almost sure to be deserted on Sundays.
He approached the gate in a walk, and then stood awhile looking into
the wood. He had not stood long before he saw the girl's bonnet
beneath a tree standing just outside the wood, in the meadow, but on
the bank of the ditch. Thinking for a moment what he would do about
his horse, he rode him into the field, and then, dismounting,
fastened him to a rail which ran down the side of the copse. Then he
sauntered on till he stood looking down upon Ruby Ruggles as she sat
beneath the tree. "I like your impudence," she said, "in calling
yourself a friend."

"Ain't I a friend, Ruby?"

"A pretty sort of friend, you! When you was going away, you was to be
back at Carbury in a fortnight; and that is,—oh, ever so long ago
now."

"But I wrote to you, Ruby."

"What's letters? And the postman to know all as in 'em for anything
anybody knows, and grandfather to be almost sure to see 'em. I don't
call letters no good at all, and I beg you won't write 'em any more."

"Did he see them?"

"No thanks to you if he didn't. I don't know why you are come here,
Sir Felix,—nor yet I don't know why I should come and meet you. It's
all just folly like."

"Because I love you;—that's why I come; eh, Ruby? And you have come
because you love me; eh, Ruby? Is not that about it?" Then he threw
himself on the ground beside her, and got his arm round her waist.

It would boot little to tell here all that they said to each other.
The happiness of Ruby Ruggles for that half hour was no doubt
complete. She had her London lover beside her; and though in every
word he spoke there was a tone of contempt, still he talked of love,
and made her promises, and told her that she was pretty. He probably
did not enjoy it much; he cared very little about her, and carried on
the liaison simply because it was the proper sort of thing for a
young man to do. He had begun to think that the odour of patchouli
was unpleasant, and that the flies were troublesome, and the ground
hard, before the half hour was over. She felt that she could be
content to sit there for ever and to listen to him. This was a
realisation of those delights of life of which she had read in the
thrice-thumbed old novels which she had gotten from the little
circulating library at Bungay.

But what was to come next? She had not dared to ask him to marry
her,—had not dared to say those very words; and he had not dared to
ask her to be his mistress. There was an animal courage about her,
and an amount of strength also, and a fire in her eye, of which he
had learned to be aware. Before the half hour was over I think that
he wished himself away;—but when he did go, he made a promise to see
her again on the Tuesday morning. Her grandfather would be at
Harlestone market, and she would meet him at about noon at the bottom
of the kitchen garden belonging to the farm. As he made the promise
he resolved that he would not keep it. He would write to her again,
and bid her come to him in London, and would send her money for the
journey.

"I suppose I am to be his wedded wife," said Ruby to herself, as she
crept away down from the road, away also from her own home;—so that
on her return her presence should not be associated with that of the
young man, should any one chance to see the young man on the road.
"I'll never be nothing unless I'm that," she said to herself. Then
she allowed her mind to lose itself in expatiating on the difference
between John Crumb and Sir Felix Carbury.

 


 


CHAPTER XIX.


HETTA CARBURY HEARS A LOVE TALE.
 

"I have half a mind to go back to-morrow morning," Felix said to his
mother that Sunday evening after dinner. At that moment Roger was
walking round the garden by himself, and Henrietta was in her own
room.

"To-morrow morning, Felix! You are engaged to dine with the
Longestaffes!"

"You could make any excuse you like about that."

"It would be the most uncourteous thing in the world. The
Longestaffes you know are the leading people in this part of the
country. No one knows what may happen. If you should ever be living
at Carbury, how sad it would be that you should have quarrelled with
them."

"You forget, mother, that Dolly Longestaffe is about the most
intimate friend I have in the world."

"That does not justify you in being uncivil to the father and mother.
And you should remember what you came here for."

"What did I come for?"

"That you might see Marie Melmotte more at your ease than you can in
their London house."

"That's all settled," said Sir Felix, in the most indifferent tone
that he could assume.

"Settled!"

"As far as the girl is concerned. I can't very well go to the old
fellow for his consent down here."

"Do you mean to say, Felix, that Marie Melmotte has accepted you?"

"I told you that before."

"My dear Felix. Oh, my boy!" In her joy the mother took her unwilling
son in her arms and caressed him. Here was the first step taken not
only to success, but to such magnificent splendour as should make her
son to be envied by all young men, and herself to be envied by all
mothers in England! "No, you didn't tell me before. But I am so
happy. Is she really fond of you? I don't wonder that any girl should
be fond of you."

"I can't say anything about that, but I think she means to stick to
it."

"If she is firm, of course her father will give way at last. Fathers
always do give way when the girl is firm. Why should he oppose it?"

"I don't know that he will."

"You are a man of rank, with a title of your own. I suppose what he
wants is a gentleman for his girl. I don't see why he should not be
perfectly satisfied. With all his enormous wealth a thousand a year
or so can't make any difference. And then he made you one of the
Directors at his Board. Oh Felix;—it is almost too good to be true."

"I ain't quite sure that I care very much about being married, you
know."

"Oh, Felix, pray don't say that. Why shouldn't you like being
married? She is a very nice girl, and we shall all be so fond of her!
Don't let any feeling of that kind come over you; pray don't. You
will be able to do just what you please when once the question of her
money is settled. Of course you can hunt as often as you like, and
you can have a house in any part of London you please. You must
understand by this time how very disagreeable it is to have to get on
without an established income."

"I quite understand that."

"If this were once done you would never have any more trouble of that
kind. There would be plenty of money for everything as long as you
live. It would be complete success. I don't know how to say enough to
you, or to tell you how dearly I love you, or to make you understand
how well I think you have done it all." Then she caressed him again,
and was almost beside herself in an agony of mingled anxiety and joy.
If, after all, her beautiful boy, who had lately been her disgrace
and her great trouble because of his poverty, should shine forth to
the world as a baronet with £20,000 a year, how glorious would it be!
She must have known,—she did know,—how poor, how selfish a creature
he was. But her gratification at the prospect of his splendour
obliterated the sorrow with which the vileness of his character
sometimes oppressed her. Were he to win this girl with all her
father's money, neither she nor his sister would be the better for
it, except in this, that the burden of maintaining him would be taken
from her shoulders. But his magnificence would be established. He was
her son, and the prospect of his fortune and splendour was sufficient
to elate her into a very heaven of beautiful dreams. "But, Felix,"
she continued, "you really must stay and go to the Longestaffes'
to-morrow. It will only be one day.—And now were you to run
away—"

"Run away! What nonsense you talk."

"If you were to start back to London at once I mean, it would be an
affront to her, and the very thing to set Melmotte against you. You
should lay yourself out to please him;—indeed you should."

"Oh, bother!" said Sir Felix. But nevertheless he allowed himself to
be persuaded to remain. The matter was important even to him, and he
consented to endure the almost unendurable nuisance of spending
another day at the Manor House. Lady Carbury, almost lost in delight,
did not know where to turn for sympathy. If her cousin were not so
stiff, so pig-headed, so wonderfully ignorant of the affairs of the
world, he would have at any rate consented to rejoice with her.
Though he might not like Felix,—who, as his mother admitted to
herself, had been rude to her cousin,—he would have rejoiced for the
sake of the family. But, as it was, she did not dare to tell him. He
would have received her tidings with silent scorn. And even Henrietta
would not be enthusiastic. She felt that though she would have
delighted to expatiate on this great triumph, she must be silent at
present. It should now be her great effort to ingratiate herself with
Mr. Melmotte at the dinner party at Caversham.

During the whole of that evening Roger Carbury hardly spoke to his
cousin Hetta. There was not much conversation between them till quite
late, when Father Barham came in for supper. He had been over at
Bungay among his people there, and had walked back, taking Carbury on
the way. "What did you think of our bishop?" Roger asked him, rather
imprudently.

"Not much of him as a bishop. I don't doubt that he makes a very nice
lord, and that he does more good among his neighbours than an average
lord. But you don't put power or responsibility into the hands of any
one sufficient to make him a bishop."

"Nine-tenths of the clergy in the diocese would be guided by him in
any matter of clerical conduct which might come before him."

"Because they know that he has no strong opinion of his own, and
would not therefore desire to dominate theirs. Take any of your
bishops that has an opinion,—if there be one left,—and see how far
your clergy consent to his teaching!" Roger turned round and took up
his book. He was already becoming tired of his pet priest. He himself
always abstained from saying a word derogatory to his new friend's
religion in the man's hearing; but his new friend did not by any
means return the compliment. Perhaps also Roger felt that were he to
take up the cudgels for an argument he might be worsted in the
combat, as in such combats success is won by practised skill rather
than by truth. Henrietta was also reading, and Felix was smoking
elsewhere,—wondering whether the hours would ever wear themselves
away in that castle of dulness, in which no cards were to be seen,
and where, except at meal-times, there was nothing to drink. But Lady
Carbury was quite willing to allow the priest to teach her that all
appliances for the dissemination of religion outside his own church
must be naught.

"I suppose our bishops are sincere in their beliefs," she said with
her sweetest smile.

"I'm sure I hope so. I have no possible reason to doubt it as to the
two or three whom I have seen,—nor indeed as to all the rest whom I
have not seen."

"They are so much respected everywhere as good and pious men!"

"I do not doubt it. Nothing tends so much to respect as a good
income. But they may be excellent men without being excellent
bishops. I find no fault with them, but much with the system by which
they are controlled. Is it probable that a man should be fitted to
select guides for other men's souls because he has succeeded by
infinite labour in his vocation in becoming the leader of a majority
in the House of Commons?"

"Indeed, no," said Lady Carbury, who did not in the least understand
the nature of the question put to her.

"And when you've got your bishop, is it likely that a man should be
able to do his duty in that capacity who has no power of his own to
decide whether a clergyman under him is or is not fit for his duty?"

"Hardly, indeed."

"The English people, or some of them,—that some being the richest,
and, at present, the most powerful,—like to play at having a Church,
though there is not sufficient faith in them to submit to the control
of a Church."

"Do you think men should be controlled by clergymen, Mr. Barham?"

"In matters of faith I do; and so, I suppose, do you; at least you
make that profession. You declare it to be your duty to submit
yourself to your spiritual pastors and masters."

"That, I thought, was for children," said Lady Carbury. "The
clergyman, in the catechism, says, 'My good child.'"

"It is what you were taught as a child before you had made profession
of your faith to a bishop, in order that you might know your duty
when you had ceased to be a child. I quite agree, however, that the
matter, as viewed by your Church, is childish altogether, and
intended only for children. As a rule, adults with you want no
religion."

"I am afraid that is true of a great many."

"It is marvellous to me that, when a man thinks of it, he should not
be driven by very fear to the comforts of a safer faith,—unless,
indeed, he enjoy the security of absolute infidelity."

"That is worse than anything," said Lady Carbury with a sigh and a
shudder.

"I don't know that it is worse than a belief which is no belief,"
said the priest with energy;—"than a creed which sits so easily on a
man that he does not even know what it contains, and never asks
himself as he repeats it, whether it be to him credible or
incredible."

"That is very bad," said Lady Carbury.

"We're getting too deep, I think," said Roger, putting down the book
which he had in vain been trying to read.

"I think it is so pleasant to have a little serious conversation on
Sunday evening," said Lady Carbury. The priest drew himself back into
his chair and smiled. He was quite clever enough to understand that
Lady Carbury had been talking nonsense, and clever enough also to be
aware of the cause of Roger's uneasiness. But Lady Carbury might be
all the easier converted because she understood nothing and was fond
of ambitious talking; and Roger Carbury might possibly be forced into
conviction by the very feeling which at present made him unwilling to
hear arguments.

"I don't like hearing my Church ill-spoken of," said Roger.

"You wouldn't like me if I thought ill of it and spoke well of it,"
said the priest.

"And, therefore, the less said the sooner mended," said Roger, rising
from his chair. Upon this Father Barham took his departure and walked
away to Beccles. It might be that he had sowed some seed. It might be
that he had, at any rate, ploughed some ground. Even the attempt to
plough the ground was a good work which would not be forgotten.

The following morning was the time on which Roger had fixed for
repeating his suit to Henrietta. He had determined that it should be
so, and though the words had been almost on his tongue during that
Sunday afternoon, he had repressed them because he would do as he had
determined. He was conscious, almost painfully conscious, of a
certain increase of tenderness in his cousin's manner towards him.
All that pride of independence, which had amounted almost to
roughness, when she was in London, seemed to have left her. When he
greeted her morning and night, she looked softly into his face. She
cherished the flowers which he gave her. He could perceive that if he
expressed the slightest wish in any matter about the house she would
attend to it. There had been a word said about punctuality, and she
had become punctual as the hand of the clock. There was not a glance
of her eye, nor a turn of her hand, that he did not watch, and
calculate its effect as regarded himself. But because she was tender
to him and observant, he did not by any means allow himself to
believe that her heart was growing into love for him. He thought that
he understood the working of her mind. She could see how great was
his disgust at her brother's doings; how fretted he was by her
mother's conduct. Her grace, and sweetness, and sense, took part with
him against those who were nearer to herself, and therefore,—in
pity,—she was kind to him. It was thus he read it, and he read it
almost with exact accuracy.

"Hetta," he said after breakfast, "come out into the garden awhile."

"Are not you going to the men?"

"Not yet, at any rate. I do not always go to the men as you call it."
She put on her hat and tripped out with him, knowing well that she
had been summoned to hear the old story. She had been sure, as soon
as she found the white rose in her room, that the old story would be
repeated again before she left Carbury;—and, up to this time, she
had hardly made up her mind what answer she would give to it. That
she could not take his offer, she thought she did know. She knew well
that she loved the other man. That other man had never asked her for
her love, but she thought that she knew that he desired it. But in
spite of all this there had in truth grown up in her bosom a feeling
of tenderness towards her cousin so strong that it almost tempted her
to declare to herself that he ought to have what he wanted, simply
because he wanted it. He was so good, so noble, so generous, so
devoted, that it almost seemed to her that she could not be justified
in refusing him. And she had gone entirely over to his side in regard
to the Melmottes. Her mother had talked to her of the charm of Mr.
Melmotte's money, till her very heart had been sickened. There was
nothing noble there; but, as contrasted with that, Roger's conduct
and bearing were those of a fine gentleman who knew neither fear nor
shame. Should such a one be doomed to pine for ever because a girl
could not love him,—a man born to be loved, if nobility and
tenderness and truth were lovely!

"Hetta," he said, "put your arm here." She gave him her arm. "I was a
little annoyed last night by that priest. I want to be civil to him,
and now he is always turning against me."

"He doesn't do any harm, I suppose?"

"He does do harm if he teaches you and me to think lightly of those
things which we have been brought up to revere." So, thought
Henrietta, it isn't about love this time; it's only about the Church.
"He ought not to say things before my guests as to our way of
believing, which I wouldn't under any circumstances say as to his. I
didn't quite like your hearing it."

"I don't think he'll do me any harm. I'm not at all that way given. I
suppose they all do it. It's their business."

"Poor fellow! I brought him here just because I thought it was a pity
that a man born and bred like a gentleman should never see the inside
of a comfortable house."

"I liked him;—only I didn't like his saying stupid things about the
bishop."

"And I like him." Then there was a pause. "I suppose your brother
does not talk to you much about his own affairs."

"His own affairs, Roger? Do you mean money? He never says a word to
me about money."

"I meant about the Melmottes."

"No; not to me. Felix hardly ever speaks to me about anything."

"I wonder whether she has accepted him."

"I think she very nearly did accept him in London."

"I can't quite sympathise with your mother in all her feelings about
this marriage, because I do not think that I recognise as she does
the necessity of money."

"Felix is so disposed to be extravagant."

"Well; yes. But I was going to say that though I cannot bring myself
to say anything to encourage her about this heiress, I quite
recognise her unselfish devotion to his interests."

"Mamma thinks more of him than of anything," said Hetta, not in the
least intending to accuse her mother of indifference to herself.

"I know it; and though I happen to think myself that her other child
would better repay her devotion,"—this he said, looking up to Hetta
and smiling,—"I quite feel how good a mother she is to Felix. You
know, when she first came the other day we almost had a quarrel."

"I felt that there was something unpleasant."

"And then Felix coming after his time put me out. I am getting old
and cross, or I should not mind such things."

"I think you are so good,—and so kind." As she said this she leaned
upon his arm almost as though she meant to tell him that she loved
him.

"I have been angry with myself," he said, "and so I am making you my
father confessor. Open confession is good for the soul sometimes, and
I think that you would understand me better than your mother."

"I do understand you; but don't think there is any fault to confess."

"You will not exact any penance?" She only looked at him and smiled.
"I am going to put a penance on myself all the same. I can't
congratulate your brother on his wooing over at Caversham, as I know
nothing about it, but I will express some civil wish to him about
things in general."

"Will that be a penance?"

"If you could look into my mind you'd find that it would. I'm full of
fretful anger against him for half-a-dozen little frivolous things.
Didn't he throw his cigar on the path? Didn't he lie in bed on Sunday
instead of going to church?"

"But then he was travelling all the Saturday night."

"Whose fault was that? But don't you see it is the triviality of the
offence which makes the penance necessary. Had he knocked me over the
head with a pickaxe, or burned the house down, I should have had a
right to be angry. But I was angry because he wanted a horse on
Sunday;—and therefore I must do penance."

There was nothing of love in all this. Hetta, however, did not wish
him to talk of love. He was certainly now treating her as a
friend,—as a most intimate friend. If he would only do that without
making love to her, how happy could she be! But his determination
still held good. "And now," said he, altering his tone altogether, "I
must speak about myself." Immediately the weight of her hand upon his
arm was lessened. Thereupon he put his left hand round and pressed
her arm to his. "No," he said; "do not make any change towards me
while I speak to you. Whatever comes of it we shall at any rate be
cousins and friends."

"Always friends!" she said.

"Yes;—always friends. And now listen to me for I have much to say. I
will not tell you again that I love you. You know it, or else you
must think me the vainest and falsest of men. It is not only that I
love you, but I am so accustomed to concern myself with one thing
only, so constrained by the habits and nature of my life to confine
myself to single interests, that I cannot as it were escape from my
love. I am thinking of it always, often despising myself because I
think of it so much. For, after all, let a woman be ever so
good,—and you to me are all that is good,—a man should not allow
his love to dominate his intellect."

"Oh, no!"

"I do. I calculate my chances within my own bosom almost as a man
might calculate his chances of heaven. I should like you to know me
just as I am, the weak and the strong together. I would not win you
by a lie if I could. I think of you more than I ought to do. I am
sure,—quite sure that you are the only possible mistress of this
house during my tenure of it. If I am ever to live as other men do,
and to care about the things which other men care for, it must be as
your husband."

"Pray,—pray do not say that."

"Yes; I think that I have a right to say it,—and a right to expect
that you should believe me. I will not ask you to be my wife if you
do not love me. Not that I should fear aught for myself, but that you
should not be pressed to make a sacrifice of yourself because I am
your friend and cousin. But I think it is quite possible you might
come to love me,—unless your heart be absolutely given away
elsewhere."

"What am I to say?"

"We each of us know of what the other is thinking. If Paul Montague
has robbed me of my
love—?"

"Mr. Montague has never said a word."

"If he had, I think he would have wronged me. He met you in my house,
and I think must have known what my feelings were towards you."

"But he never has."

"We have been like brothers together,—one brother being very much
older than the other, indeed; or like father and son. I think he
should place his hopes elsewhere."

"What am I to say? If he have such hope he has not told me. I think
it almost cruel that a girl should be asked in that way."

"Hetta, I should not wish to be cruel to you. Of course I know the
way of the world in such matters. I have no right to ask you about
Paul Montague,—no right to expect an answer. But it is all the world
to me. You can understand that I should think you might learn to love
even me, if you loved no one else." The tone of his voice was manly,
and at the same time full of entreaty. His eyes as he looked at her
were bright with love and anxiety. She not only believed him as to
the tale which he now told her; but she believed in him altogether.
She knew that he was a staff on which a woman might safely lean,
trusting to it for comfort and protection in life. In that moment she
all but yielded to him. Had he seized her in his arms and kissed her
then, I think she would have yielded. She did all but love him. She
so regarded him that had it been some other woman that he craved, she
would have used every art she knew to have backed his suit, and would
have been ready to swear that any woman was a fool who refused him.
She almost hated herself because she was unkind to one who so
thoroughly deserved kindness. As it was she made him no answer, but
continued to walk beside him trembling. "I thought I would tell it
you all, because I wish you to know exactly the state of my mind. I
would show you if I could all my heart and all my thoughts about
yourself as in a glass case. Do not coy your love for me if you can
feel it. When you know, dear, that a man's heart is set upon a woman
as mine is set on you, so that it is for you to make his life bright
or dark, for you to open or to shut the gates of his earthly
Paradise, I think you will be above keeping him in darkness for the
sake of a girlish scruple."

"Oh, Roger!"

"If ever there should come a time in which you can say it truly,
remember my truth to you and say it boldly. I at least shall never
change. Of course if you love another man and give yourself to him,
it will be all over. Tell me that boldly also. I have said it all
now. God bless you, my own heart's darling. I hope,—I hope I may be
strong enough through it all to think more of your happiness than of
my own." Then he parted from her abruptly, taking his way over one of
the bridges, and leaving her to find her way into the house alone.

 


 


CHAPTER XX.


LADY POMONA'S DINNER PARTY.
 

Roger Carbury's half formed plan of keeping Henrietta at home while
Lady Carbury and Sir Felix went to dine at Caversham fell to the
ground. It was to be carried out only in the event of Hetta's
yielding to his prayer. But he had in fact not made a prayer, and
Hetta had certainly yielded nothing. When the evening came, Lady
Carbury started with her son and daughter, and Roger was left alone.
In the ordinary course of his life he was used to solitude. During
the greater part of the year he would eat and drink and live without
companionship; so that there was to him nothing peculiarly sad in
this desertion. But on the present occasion he could not prevent
himself from dwelling on the loneliness of his lot in life. These
cousins of his who were his guests cared nothing for him. Lady
Carbury had come to his house simply that it might be useful to her;
Sir Felix did not pretend to treat him with even ordinary courtesy;
and Hetta herself, though she was soft to him and gracious, was soft
and gracious through pity rather than love. On this day he had, in
truth, asked her for nothing; but he had almost brought himself to
think that she might give all that he wanted without asking. And yet,
when he told her of the greatness of his love, and of its endurance,
she was simply silent. When the carriage taking them to dinner went
away down the road, he sat on the parapet of the bridge in front of
the house listening to the sound of the horses' feet, and telling
himself that there was nothing left for him in life.

If ever one man had been good to another, he had been good to Paul
Montague, and now Paul Montague was robbing him of everything he
valued in the world. His thoughts were not logical, nor was his mind
exact. The more he considered it, the stronger was his inward
condemnation of his friend. He had never mentioned to anyone the
services he had rendered to Montague. In speaking of him to Hetta he
had alluded only to the affection which had existed between them. But
he felt that because of those services his friend Montague had owed
it to him not to fall in love with the girl he loved; and he thought
that if, unfortunately, this had happened unawares, Montague should
have retired as soon as he learned the truth. He could not bring
himself to forgive his friend, even though Hetta had assured him that
his friend had never spoken to her of love. He was sore all over, and
it was Paul Montague who made him sore. Had there been no such man at
Carbury when Hetta came there, Hetta might now have been mistress of
the house. He sat there till the servant came to tell him that his
dinner was on the table. Then he crept in and ate,—so that the man
might not see his sorrow; and, after dinner, he sat with a book in
his hand seeming to read. But he read not a word, for his mind was
fixed altogether on his cousin Hetta. "What a poor creature a man
is," he said to himself, "who is not sufficiently his own master to
get over a feeling like this."

At Caversham there was a very grand party,—as grand almost as a
dinner party can be in the country. There were the Earl and Countess
of Loddon and Lady Jane Pewet from Loddon Park, and the bishop and
his wife, and the Hepworths. These, with the Carburys and the
parson's family, and the people staying in the house, made
twenty-four at the dinner table. As there were fourteen ladies and
only ten men, the banquet can hardly be said to have been very well
arranged. But those things cannot be done in the country with the
exactness which the appliances of London make easy; and then the
Longestaffes, though they were decidedly people of fashion, were not
famous for their excellence in arranging such matters. If aught,
however, was lacking in exactness, it was made up in grandeur. There
were three powdered footmen, and in that part of the country Lady
Pomona alone was served after this fashion; and there was a very
heavy butler, whose appearance of itself was sufficient to give éclat
to a family. The grand saloon in which nobody ever lived was thrown
open, and sofas and chairs on which nobody ever sat were uncovered.
It was not above once in the year that this kind of thing was done at
Caversham; but when it was done, nothing was spared which could
contribute to the magnificence of the fête. Lady Pomona and her two
tall daughters standing up to receive the little Countess of Loddon
and Lady Jane Pewet, who was the image of her mother on a somewhat
smaller scale, while Madame Melmotte and Marie stood behind as though
ashamed of themselves, was a sight to see. Then the Carburys came,
and then Mrs. Yeld with the bishop. The grand room was soon fairly
full; but nobody had a word to say. The bishop was generally a man of
much conversation, and Lady Loddon, if she were well pleased with her
listeners, could talk by the hour without ceasing. But on this
occasion nobody could utter a word. Lord Loddon pottered about,
making a feeble attempt, in which he was seconded by no one. Lord
Alfred stood, stock-still, stroking his grey moustache with his hand.
That much greater man, Augustus Melmotte, put his thumbs into the
arm-holes of his waistcoat, and was impassible. The bishop saw at a
glance the hopelessness of the occasion, and made no attempt. The
master of the house shook hands with each guest as he entered, and
then devoted his mind to expectation of the next comer. Lady Pomona
and her two daughters were grand and handsome, but weary and dumb. In
accordance with the treaty, Madame Melmotte had been entertained
civilly for four entire days. It could not be expected that the
ladies of Caversham should come forth unwearied after such a
struggle.

When dinner was announced Felix was allowed to take in Marie
Melmotte. There can be no doubt but that the Caversham ladies did
execute their part of the treaty. They were led to suppose that this
arrangement would be desirable to the Melmottes, and they made it.
The great Augustus himself went in with Lady Carbury, much to her
satisfaction. She also had been dumb in the drawing-room; but now, if
ever, it would be her duty to exert herself. "I hope you like
Suffolk," she said.

"Pretty well, I thank you. Oh, yes;—very nice place for a little
fresh air."

"Yes;—that's just it, Mr. Melmotte. When the summer comes one does
long so to see the flowers."

"We have better flowers in our balconies than any I see down here,"
said Mr. Melmotte.

"No doubt;—because you can command the floral tribute of the world
at large. What is there that money will not do? It can turn a London
street into a bower of roses, and give you grottoes in Grosvenor
Square."

"It's a very nice place, is London."

"If you have got plenty of money, Mr. Melmotte."

"And if you have not, it's the best place I know to get it. Do you
live in London, ma'am?" He had quite forgotten Lady Carbury even if
he had seen her at his house, and with the dulness of hearing common
to men, had not picked up her name when told to take her out to
dinner.

"Oh, yes, I live in London. I have had the honour of being
entertained by you there." This she said with her sweetest smile.

"Oh, indeed. So many do come, that I don't always just remember."

"How should you,—with all the world flocking round you? I am Lady
Carbury, the mother of Sir Felix Carbury, whom I think you will
remember."

"Yes; I know Sir Felix. He's sitting there, next to my daughter."

"Happy fellow!"

"I don't know much about that. Young men don't get their happiness in
that way now. They've got other things to think of."

"He thinks so much of his business."

"Oh! I didn't know," said Mr. Melmotte.

"He sits at the same Board with you, I think, Mr. Melmotte."

"Oh;—that's his business!" said Mr. Melmotte, with a grim smile.

Lady Carbury was very clever as to many things, and was not
ill-informed on matters in general that were going on around her; but
she did not know much about the city, and was profoundly ignorant as
to the duties of those Directors of whom, from time to time, she saw
the names in a catalogue. "I trust that he is diligent, there," she
said; "and that he is aware of the great privilege which he enjoys in
having the advantage of your counsel and guidance."

"He don't trouble me much, ma'am, and I don't trouble him much."
After this Lady Carbury said no more as to her son's position in the
city. She endeavoured to open various other subjects of conversation;
but she found Mr. Melmotte to be heavy on her hands. After a while
she had to abandon him in despair, and give herself up to raptures in
favour of Protestantism at the bidding of the Caversham parson, who
sat on the other side of her, and who had been worked to enthusiasm
by some mention of Father Barham's name.

Opposite to her, or nearly so, sat Sir Felix and his love. "I have
told mamma," Marie had whispered, as she walked in to dinner with
him. She was now full of the idea so common to girls who are
engaged,—and as natural as it is common,—that she might tell
everything to her lover.

"Did she say anything?" he asked. Then Marie had to take her place
and arrange her dress before she could reply to him. "As to her, I
suppose it does not matter what she says, does it?"

"She said a great deal. She thinks that papa will think you are not
rich enough. Hush! Talk about something else, or people will hear."
So much she had been able to say during the bustle.

Felix was not at all anxious to talk about his love, and changed the
subject very willingly. "Have you been riding?" he asked.

"No; I don't think there are horses here,—not for visitors, that is.
How did you get home? Did you have any adventures?"

"None at all," said Felix, remembering Ruby Ruggles. "I just rode
home quietly. I go to town to-morrow."

"And we go on Wednesday. Mind you come and see us before long." This
she said bringing her voice down to a whisper.

"Of course I shall. I suppose I'd better go to your father in the
city. Does he go every day?"

"Oh yes, every day. He's back always about seven. Sometimes he's
good-natured enough when he comes back, but sometimes he's very
cross. He's best just after dinner. But it's so hard to get to him
then. Lord Alfred is almost always there; and then other people come,
and they play cards. I think the city will be best."

"You'll stick to it?" he asked.

"Oh, yes;—indeed I will. Now that I've once said it nothing will
ever turn me. I think papa knows that." Felix looked at her as she
said this, and thought that he saw more in her countenance than he
had ever read there before. Perhaps she would consent to run away
with him; and, if so, being the only child, she would
certainly,—almost certainly,—be forgiven. But if he were to run
away with her and marry her, and then find that she were not
forgiven, and that Melmotte allowed her to starve without a shilling
of fortune, where would he be then? Looking at the matter in all its
bearings, considering among other things the trouble and the expense
of such a measure, he thought that he could not afford to run away
with her.

After dinner he hardly spoke to her; indeed, the room itself,—the
same big room in which they had been assembled before the
feast,—seemed to be ill-adapted for conversation. Again nobody
talked to anybody, and the minutes went very heavily till at last the
carriages were there to take them all home. "They arranged that you
should sit next to her," said Lady Carbury to her son, as they were
in the carriage.

"Oh, I suppose that came naturally;—one young man and one young
woman, you know."

"Those things are always arranged, and they would not have done it
unless they had thought that it would please Mr. Melmotte. Oh, Felix!
if you can bring it about."

"I shall if I can, mother; you needn't make a fuss about it."

"No, I won't. You cannot wonder that I should be anxious. You behaved
beautifully to her at dinner; I was so happy to see you together.
Good night, Felix, and God bless you!" she said again, as they were
parting for the night. "I shall be the happiest and the proudest
mother in England if this comes about."

 


 


CHAPTER XXI.


EVERYBODY GOES TO THEM.
 

When the Melmottes went from Caversham the house was very desolate.
The task of entertaining these people was indeed over, and had the
return to London been fixed for a certain near day, there would have
been comfort at any rate among the ladies of the family. But this was
so far from being the case that the Thursday and Friday passed
without anything being settled, and dreadful fears began to fill the
minds of Lady Pomona and Sophia Longestaffe. Georgiana was also
impatient, but she asserted boldly that treachery, such as that which
her mother and sister contemplated, was impossible. Their father, she
thought, would not dare to propose it. On each of these days,—three
or four times daily,—hints were given and questions were asked, but
without avail. Mr. Longestaffe would not consent to have a day fixed
till he had received some particular letter, and would not even
listen to the suggestion of a day. "I suppose we can go at any rate
on Tuesday," Georgiana said on the Friday evening. "I don't know why
you should suppose anything of the kind," the father replied. Poor
Lady Pomona was urged by her daughters to compel him to name a day;
but Lady Pomona was less audacious in urging the request than her
younger child, and at the same time less anxious for its completion.
On the Sunday morning before they went to church there was a great
discussion up-stairs. The Bishop of Elmham was going to preach at
Caversham church, and the three ladies were dressed in their best
London bonnets. They were in their mother's room, having just
completed the arrangements of their church-going toilet. It was
supposed that the expected letter had arrived. Mr. Longestaffe had
certainly received a dispatch from his lawyer, but had not as yet
vouchsafed any reference to its contents. He had been more than
ordinarily silent at breakfast, and,—so Sophia asserted,—more
disagreeable than ever. The question had now arisen especially in
reference to their bonnets. "You might as well wear them," said Lady
Pomona, "for I am sure you will not be in London again this year."

"You don't mean it, mamma," said Sophia.

"I do, my dear. He looked like it when he put those papers back into
his pocket. I know what his face means so well."

"It is not possible," said Sophia. "He promised, and he got us to
have those horrid people because he promised."

"Well, my dear, if your father says that we can't go back, I suppose
we must take his word for it. It is he must decide of course. What he
meant I suppose was, that he would take us back if he could."

"Mamma!" shouted Georgiana. Was there to be treachery not only on the
part of their natural adversary, who, adversary though he was, had
bound himself to terms by a treaty, but treachery also in their own
camp!

"My dear, what can we do?" said Lady Pomona.

"Do!" Georgiana was now going to speak out plainly. "Make him
understand that we are not going to be sat upon like that. I'll do
something, if that's going to be the way of it. If he treats me like
that I'll run off with the first man that will take me, let him be
who it may."

"Don't talk like that, Georgiana, unless you wish to kill me."

"I'll break his heart for him. He does not care about us,—not the
least,—whether we are happy or miserable; but he cares very much
about the family name. I'll tell him that I'm not going to be a
slave. I'll marry a London tradesman before I'll stay down here." The
younger Miss Longestaffe was lost in passion at the prospect before
her.

"Oh, Georgey, don't say such horrid things as that," pleaded her
sister.

"It's all very well for you, Sophy. You've got George Whitstable."

"I haven't got George Whitstable."

"Yes, you have, and your fish is fried. Dolly does just what he
pleases, and spends money as fast as he likes. Of course it makes no
difference to you, mamma, where you are."

"You are very unjust," said Lady Pomona, wailing, "and you say horrid
things."

"I ain't unjust at all. It doesn't matter to you. And Sophy is the
same as settled. But I'm to be sacrificed! How am I to see anybody
down here in this horrid hole? Papa promised and he must keep his
word."

Then there came to them a loud voice calling to them from the hall.
"Are any of you coming to church, or are you going to keep the
carriage waiting all day?" Of course they were all going to church.
They always did go to church when they were at Caversham; and would
more especially do so to-day, because of the bishop and because of
the bonnets. They trooped down into the hall and into the carriage,
Lady Pomona leading the way. Georgiana stalked along, passing her
father at the front door without condescending to look at him. Not a
word was spoken on the way to church, or on the way home. During the
service Mr. Longestaffe stood up in the corner of his pew, and
repeated the responses in a loud voice. In performing this duty he
had been an example to the parish all his life. The three ladies
knelt on their hassocks in the most becoming fashion, and sat during
the sermon without the slightest sign either of weariness or of
attention. They did not collect the meaning of any one combination of
sentences. It was nothing to them whether the bishop had or had not a
meaning. Endurance of that kind was their strength. Had the bishop
preached for forty-five minutes instead of half an hour they would
not have complained. It was the same kind of endurance which enabled
Georgiana to go on from year to year waiting for a husband of the
proper sort. She could put up with any amount of tedium if only the
fair chance of obtaining ultimate relief were not denied to her. But
to be kept at Caversham all the summer would be as bad as hearing a
bishop preach for ever! After the service they came back to lunch,
and that meal also was eaten in silence. When it was over the head of
the family put himself into the dining-room arm-chair, evidently
meaning to be left alone there. In that case he would have meditated
upon his troubles till he went to sleep, and would have thus got
through the afternoon with comfort. But this was denied to him. The
two daughters remained steadfast while the things were being removed;
and Lady Pomona, though she made one attempt to leave the room,
returned when she found that her daughters would not follow her.
Georgiana had told her sister that she meant to "have it out" with
her father, and Sophia had of course remained in the room in
obedience to her sister's behest. When the last tray had been taken
out, Georgiana began. "Papa, don't you think you could settle now
when we are to go back to town? Of course we want to know about
engagements and all that. There is Lady Monogram's party on
Wednesday. We promised to be there ever so long ago."

"You had better write to Lady Monogram and say you can't keep your
engagement."

"But why not, papa? We could go up on Wednesday morning."

"You can't do anything of the kind."

"But, my dear, we should all like to have a day fixed," said Lady
Pomona. Then there was a pause. Even Georgiana, in her present state
of mind, would have accepted some distant, even some undefined time,
as a compromise.

"Then you can't have a day fixed," said Mr. Longestaffe.

"How long do you suppose that we shall be kept here?" said Sophia, in
a low constrained voice.

"I do not know what you mean by being kept here. This is your home,
and this is where you may make up your minds to live."

"But we are to go back?" demanded Sophia. Georgiana stood by in
silence, listening, resolving, and biding her time.

"You'll not return to London this season," said Mr. Longestaffe,
turning himself abruptly to a newspaper which he held in his hands.

"Do you mean that that is settled?" said Lady Pomona.

"I mean to say that that is settled," said Mr. Longestaffe.

Was there ever treachery like this! The indignation in Georgiana's
mind approached almost to virtue as she thought of her father's
falseness. She would not have left town at all but for that promise.
She would not have contaminated herself with the Melmottes but for
that promise. And now she was told that the promise was to be
absolutely broken, when it was no longer possible that she could get
back to London,—even to the house of the hated Primeros,—without
absolutely running away from her father's residence! "Then, papa,"
she said, with affected calmness, "you have simply and with
premeditation broken your word to us."

"How dare you speak to me in that way, you wicked child!"

"I am not a child, papa, as you know very well. I am my own
mistress,—by law."

"Then go and be your own mistress. You dare to tell me, your father,
that I have premeditated a falsehood! If you tell me that again, you
shall eat your meals in your own room or not eat them in this house."

"Did you not promise that we should go back if we would come down and
entertain these people?"

"I will not argue with a child, insolent and disobedient as you are.
If I have anything to say about it, I will say it to your mother. It
should be enough for you that I, your father, tell you that you have
to live here. Now go away, and if you choose to be sullen, go and be
sullen where I shan't see you." Georgiana looked round on her mother
and sister and then marched majestically out of the room. She still
meditated revenge, but she was partly cowed, and did not dare in her
father's presence to go on with her reproaches. She stalked off into
the room in which they generally lived, and there she stood panting
with anger, breathing indignation through her nostrils.











She marched majestically out of the room.


She
marched majestically out of the room.


Click to ENLARGE


"And you mean to put up with it, mamma?" she said.

"What can we do, my dear?"

"I will do something. I'm not going to be cheated and swindled and
have my life thrown away into the bargain. I have always behaved well
to him. I have never run up bills without saying anything about
them." This was a cut at her elder sister, who had once got into some
little trouble of that kind. "I have never got myself talked about
with any body. If there is anything to be done I always do it. I have
written his letters for him till I have been sick, and when you were
ill I never asked him to stay out with us after two or half-past two
at the latest. And now he tells me that I am to eat my meals up in my
bedroom because I remind him that he distinctly promised to take us
back to London! Did he not promise, mamma?"

"I understood so, my dear."

"You know he promised, mamma. If I do anything now he must bear the
blame of it. I am not going to keep myself straight for the sake of
the family, and then be treated in that way."

"You do that for your own sake, I suppose," said her sister.

"It is more than you've been able to do for anybody's sake," said
Georgiana, alluding to a very old affair,—to an ancient flirtation,
in the course of which the elder daughter had made a foolish and a
futile attempt to run away with an officer of dragoons whose private
fortune was very moderate. Ten years had passed since that, and the
affair was never alluded to except in moments of great bitterness.

"I've kept myself as straight as you have," said Sophia. "It's easy
enough to be straight, when a person never cares for anybody, and
nobody cares for a person."

"My dears, if you quarrel what am I to do?" said their mother.

"It is I that have to suffer," continued Georgiana. "Does he expect
me to find anybody here that I could take? Poor George Whitstable is
not much; but there is nobody else at all."

"You may have him if you like," said Sophia, with a chuck of her
head.

"Thank you, my dear, but I shouldn't like it at all. I haven't come
to that quite yet."

"You were talking of running away with somebody."

"I shan't run away with George Whitstable; you may be sure of that.
I'll tell you what I shall do,—I will write papa a letter. I suppose
he'll condescend to read it. If he won't take me up to town himself,
he must send me up to the Primeros. What makes me most angry in the
whole thing is that we should have condescended to be civil to the
Melmottes down in the country. In London one does those things, but
to have them here was terrible!"

During that entire afternoon nothing more was said. Not a word passed
between them on any subject beyond those required by the necessities
of life. Georgiana had been as hard to her sister as to her father,
and Sophia in her quiet way resented the affront. She was now almost
reconciled to the sojourn in the country, because it inflicted a
fitting punishment on Georgiana, and the presence of Mr. Whitstable
at a distance of not more than ten miles did of course make a
difference to herself. Lady Pomona complained of a headache, which
was always an excuse with her for not speaking;—and Mr. Longestaffe
went to sleep. Georgiana during the whole afternoon remained apart,
and on the next morning the head of the family found the following
letter on his
dressing-table;—
 


My dear Papa,—

I don't think you ought to be surprised because we feel
that our going up to town is so very important to us. If
we are not to be in London at this time of the year we can
never see anybody, and of course you know what that must
mean for me. If this goes on about Sophia, it does not
signify for her, and, though mamma likes London, it is not
of real importance. But it is very, very hard upon me. It
isn't for pleasure that I want to go up. There isn't so
very much pleasure in it. But if I'm to be buried down
here at Caversham, I might just as well be dead at once.
If you choose to give up both houses for a year, or for
two years, and take us all abroad, I should not grumble in
the least. There are very nice people to be met abroad,
and perhaps things go easier that way than in town. And
there would be nothing for horses, and we could dress very
cheap and wear our old things. I'm sure I don't want to
run up bills. But if you would only think what Caversham
must be to me, without any one worth thinking about within
twenty miles, you would hardly ask me to stay here.

You certainly did say that if we would come down here with
those Melmottes we should be taken back to town, and you
cannot be surprised that we should be disappointed when we
are told that we are to be kept here after that. It makes
me feel that life is so hard that I can't bear it. I see
other girls having such chances when I have none, that
sometimes I think I don't know what will happen to me.


This was the nearest
approach which she dared to make in writing to that threat which she
had uttered to her mother of running away with somebody.


I suppose
that now it is useless for me to ask you to take
us all back this summer,—though it was promised; but I
hope you'll give me money to go up to the Primeros. It
would only be me and my maid. Julia Primero asked me to
stay with them when you first talked of not going up, and
I should not in the least object to reminding her, only it
should be done at once. Their house in Queen's Gate is
very large, and I know they've a room. They all ride, and
I should want a horse; but there would be nothing else, as
they have plenty of carriages, and the groom who rides
with Julia would do for both of us. Pray answer this at
once, papa.

Your affectionate daughter,

Georgiana
Longestaffe
.
 


Mr. Longestaffe did condescend to read the letter. He, though he had
rebuked his mutinous daughter with stern severity, was also to some
extent afraid of her. At a sudden burst he could stand upon his
authority, and assume his position with parental dignity; but not the
less did he dread the wearing toil of continued domestic strife. He
thought that upon the whole his daughter liked a row in the house. If
not, there surely would not be so many rows. He himself thoroughly
hated them. He had not any very lively interest in life. He did not
read much; he did not talk much; he was not specially fond of eating
and drinking; he did not gamble, and he did not care for the farm. To
stand about the door and hall and public rooms of the clubs to which
he belonged and hear other men talk politics or scandal, was what he
liked better than anything else in the world. But he was quite
willing to give this up for the good of his family. He would be
contented to drag through long listless days at Caversham, and
endeavour to nurse his property, if only his daughter would allow it.
By assuming a certain pomp in his living, which had been altogether
unserviceable to himself and family, by besmearing his footmen's
heads, and bewigging his coachmen, by aping, though never achieving,
the grand ways of grander men than himself, he had run himself into
debt. His own ambition had been a peerage, and he had thought that
this was the way to get it. A separate property had come to his son
from his wife's mother,—some £2,000 or £3,000 a year, magnified by
the world into double its amount,—and the knowledge of this had for
a time reconciled him to increasing the burdens on the family
estates. He had been sure that Adolphus, when of age, would have
consented to sell the Sussex property in order that the Suffolk
property might be relieved. But Dolly was now in debt himself, and
though in other respects the most careless of men, was always on his
guard in any dealings with his father. He would not consent to the
sale of the Sussex property unless half of the proceeds were to be at
once handed to himself. The father could not bring himself to consent
to this, but, while refusing it, found the troubles of the world very
hard upon him. Melmotte had done something for him,—but in doing
this Melmotte was very hard and tyrannical. Melmotte, when at
Caversham, had looked into his affairs, and had told him very plainly
that with such an establishment in the country he was not entitled to
keep a house in town. Mr. Longestaffe had then said something about
his daughters,—something especially about Georgiana,—and Mr.
Melmotte had made a suggestion.

Mr. Longestaffe, when he read his daughter's appeal, did feel for
her, in spite of his anger. But if there was one man he hated more
than another, it was his neighbour Mr. Primero; and if one woman, it
was Mrs. Primero. Primero, whom Mr. Longestaffe regarded as quite an
upstart, and anything but a gentleman, owed no man anything. He paid
his tradesmen punctually, and never met the squire of Caversham
without seeming to make a parade of his virtue in that direction. He
had spent many thousands for his party in county elections and
borough elections, and was now himself member for a metropolitan
district. He was a radical, of course, or, according to Mr.
Longestaffe's view of his political conduct, acted and voted on the
radical side because there was nothing to be got by voting and acting
on the other. And now there had come into Suffolk a rumour that Mr.
Primero was to have a peerage. To others the rumour was incredible,
but Mr. Longestaffe believed it, and to Mr. Longestaffe that belief
was an agony. A Baron Bundlesham just at his door, and such a Baron
Bundlesham, would be more than Mr. Longestaffe could endure. It was
quite impossible that his daughter should be entertained in London by
the Primeros.

But another suggestion had been made. Georgiana's letter had been
laid on her father's table on the Monday morning. On the following
morning, when there could have been no intercourse with London by
letter, Lady Pomona called her younger daughter to her, and handed
her a note to read. "Your papa has this moment given it me. Of course
you must judge for yourself." This was the
note;—
 


My Dear Mr. Longestaffe,

As you seem determined not to return to London this
season, perhaps one of your young ladies would like to
come to us. Mrs. Melmotte would be delighted to have Miss
Georgiana for June and July. If so, she need only give
Mrs. Melmotte a day's notice.

Yours truly,

Augustus Melmotte.
 


Georgiana, as soon as her eye had glanced down the one side of note
paper on which this invitation was written, looked up for the date.
It was without a date, and had, she felt sure, been left in her
father's hands to be used as he might think fit. She breathed very
hard. Both her father and mother had heard her speak of these
Melmottes, and knew what she thought of them. There was an insolence
in the very suggestion. But at the first moment she said nothing of
that. "Why shouldn't I go to the Primeros?" she asked.

"Your father will not hear of it. He dislikes them especially."

"And I dislike the Melmottes. I dislike the Primeros of course, but
they are not so bad as the Melmottes. That would be dreadful."

"You must judge for yourself, Georgiana."

"It is that,—or staying here?"

"I think so, my dear."

"If papa chooses I don't know why I am to mind. It will be awfully
disagreeable,—absolutely disgusting!"

"She seemed to be very quiet."

"Pooh, mamma! Quiet! She was quiet here because she was afraid of us.
She isn't yet used to be with people like us. She'll get over that if
I'm in the house with her. And then she is, oh! so frightfully
vulgar! She must have been the very sweeping of the gutters. Did you
not see it, mamma? She could not even open her mouth, she was so
ashamed of herself. I shouldn't wonder if they turned out to be
something quite horrid. They make me shudder. Was there ever anything
so dreadful to look at as he is?"

"Everybody goes to them," said Lady Pomona. "The Duchess of Stevenage
has been there over and over again, and so has Lady Auld Reekie.
Everybody goes to their house."

"But everybody doesn't go and live with them. Oh, mamma,—to have to
sit down to breakfast every day for ten weeks with that man and that
woman!"

"Perhaps they'll let you have your breakfast up-stairs."

"But to have to go out with them;—walking into the room after her!
Only think of it!"

"But you are so anxious to be in London, my dear."

"Of course I am anxious. What other chance have I, mamma? And, oh
dear, I am so tired of it! Pleasure, indeed! Papa talks of pleasure.
If papa had to work half as hard as I do, I wonder what he'd think of
it. I suppose I must do it. I know it will make me so ill that I
shall almost die under it. Horrid, horrid people! And papa to propose
it, who has always been so proud of everything,—who used to think so
much of being with the right set."

"Things are changed, Georgiana," said the anxious mother.

"Indeed they are when papa wants me to go and stay with people like
that. Why, mamma, the apothecary in Bungay is a fine gentleman
compared with Mr. Melmotte, and his wife is a fine lady compared with
Madame Melmotte. But I'll go. If papa chooses me to be seen with such
people it is not my fault. There will be no disgracing one's self
after that. I don't believe in the least that any decent man would
propose to a girl in such a house, and you and papa must not be
surprised if I take some horrid creature from the Stock Exchange.
Papa has altered his ideas; and so, I suppose, I had better alter
mine."

Georgiana did not speak to her father that night, but Lady Pomona
informed Mr. Longestaffe that Mr. Melmotte's invitation was to be
accepted. She herself would write a line to Madame Melmotte, and
Georgiana would go up on the Friday following. "I hope she'll like
it," said Mr. Longestaffe. The poor man had no intention of irony. It
was not in his nature to be severe after that fashion. But to poor
Lady Pomona the words sounded very cruel. How could any one like to
live in a house with Mr. and Madame Melmotte!

On the Friday morning there was a little conversation between the two
sisters, just before Georgiana's departure to the railway station,
which was almost touching. She had endeavoured to hold up her head as
usual, but had failed. The thing that she was going to do cowed her
even in the presence of her sister. "Sophy, I do so envy you staying
here."

"But it was you who were so determined to be in London."

"Yes; I was determined, and am determined. I've got to get myself
settled somehow, and that can't be done down here. But you are not
going to disgrace yourself."

"There's no disgrace in it, Georgey."

"Yes, there is. I believe the man to be a swindler and a thief; and I
believe her to be anything low that you can think of. As to their
pretensions to be gentlefolk, it is monstrous. The footmen and
housemaids would be much better."

"Then don't go, Georgey."

"I must go. It's the only chance that is left. If I were to remain
down here everybody would say that I was on the shelf. You are going
to marry Whitstable, and you'll do very well. It isn't a big place,
but there's no debt on it, and Whitstable himself isn't a bad sort of
fellow."

"Is he, now?"

"Of course he hasn't much to say for himself, for he's always at
home. But he is a gentleman."

"That he certainly is."

"As for me I shall give over caring about gentlemen now. The first
man that comes to me with four or five thousand a year, I'll take
him, though he'd come out of Newgate or Bedlam. And I shall always
say it has been papa's doing."

And so Georgiana Longestaffe went up to London and stayed with the
Melmottes.

 


 


CHAPTER XXII.


LORD NIDDERDALE'S MORALITY.
 

It was very generally said in the city about this time that the Great
South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway was the very best thing
out. It was known that Mr. Melmotte had gone into it with heart and
hand. There were many who declared,—with gross injustice to the
Great Fisker,—that the railway was Melmotte's own child, that he had
invented it, advertised it, agitated it, and floated it; but it was
not the less popular on that account. A railway from Salt Lake City
to Mexico no doubt had much of the flavour of a castle in Spain. Our
far-western American brethren are supposed to be imaginative. Mexico
has not a reputation among us for commercial security, or that
stability which produces its four, five, or six per cent. with the
regularity of clockwork. But there was the Panama railway, a small
affair which had paid twenty-five per cent.; and there was the great
line across the continent to San Francisco, in which enormous
fortunes had been made. It came to be believed that men with their
eyes open might do as well with the Great South Central as had ever
been done before with other speculations, and this belief was no
doubt founded on Mr. Melmotte's partiality for the enterprise. Mr.
Fisker had "struck 'ile" when he induced his partner, Montague, to
give him a note to the great man.

Paul Montague himself, who cannot be said to have been a man having
his eyes open, in the city sense of the word, could not learn how the
thing was progressing. At the regular meetings of the Board, which
never sat for above half an hour, two or three papers were read by
Miles Grendall. Melmotte himself would speak a few slow words,
intended to be cheery, and always indicative of triumph, and then
everybody would agree to everything, somebody would sign something,
and the "Board" for that day would be over. To Paul Montague this was
very unsatisfactory. More than once or twice he endeavoured to stay
the proceedings, not as disapproving, but "simply as desirous of
being made to understand;" but the silent scorn of his chairman put
him out of countenance, and the opposition of his colleagues was a
barrier which he was not strong enough to overcome. Lord Alfred
Grendall would declare that he "did not think all that was at all
necessary." Lord Nidderdale, with whom Montague had now become
intimate at the Beargarden, would nudge him in the ribs and bid him
hold his tongue. Mr. Cohenlupe would make a little speech in fluent
but broken English, assuring the Committee that everything was being
done after the approved city fashion. Sir Felix, after the first two
meetings, was never there. And thus Paul Montague, with a sorely
burdened conscience, was carried along as one of the Directors of the
Great South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway Company.

I do not know whether the burden was made lighter to him or heavier,
by the fact that the immediate pecuniary result was certainly very
comfortable. The Company had not yet been in existence quite six
weeks,—or at any rate Melmotte had not been connected with it above
that time,—and it had already been suggested to him twice that he
should sell fifty shares at £112 10s. He did not even yet know how
many shares he possessed, but on both occasions he consented to the
proposal, and on the following day received a cheque for £625,—that
sum representing the profit over and above the original nominal price
of £100 a share. The suggestion was made to him by Miles Grendall,
and when he asked some questions as to the manner in which the shares
had been allocated, he was told that all that would be arranged in
accordance with the capital invested and must depend on the final
disposition of the Californian property. "But from what we see, old
fellow," said Miles, "I don't think you have anything to fear. You
seem to be about the best in of them all. Melmotte wouldn't advise
you to sell out gradually, if he didn't look upon the thing as a
certain income as far as you are concerned."

Paul Montague understood nothing of all this, and felt that he was
standing on ground which might be blown from under his feet at any
moment. The uncertainty, and what he feared might be the dishonesty,
of the whole thing, made him often very miserable. In those wretched
moments his conscience was asserting itself. But again there were
times in which he also was almost triumphant, and in which he felt
the delight of his wealth. Though he was snubbed at the Board when he
wanted explanations, he received very great attention outside the
board-room from those connected with the enterprise. Melmotte had
asked him to dine two or three times. Mr. Cohenlupe had begged him to
go down to his little place at Rickmansworth,—an entreaty with which
Montague had not as yet complied. Lord Alfred was always gracious to
him, and Nidderdale and Carbury were evidently anxious to make him
one of their set at the club. Many other houses became open to him
from the same source. Though Melmotte was supposed to be the inventor
of the railway, it was known that Fisker, Montague, and Montague were
largely concerned in it, and it was known also that Paul Montague was
one of the Montagues named in that firm. People, both in the City and
the West End, seemed to think that he knew all about it, and treated
him as though some of the manna falling from that heaven were at his
disposition. There were results from this which were not unpleasing
to the young man. He only partially resisted the temptation; and
though determined at times to probe the affair to the bottom, was so
determined only at times. The money was very pleasant to him. The
period would now soon arrive before which he understood himself to be
pledged not to make a distinct offer to Henrietta Carbury; and when
that period should have been passed, it would be delightful to him to
know that he was possessed of property sufficient to enable him to
give a wife a comfortable home. In all his aspirations, and in all
his fears, he was true to Hetta Carbury, and made her the centre of
his hopes. Nevertheless, had Hetta known everything, it may be feared
that she would have at any rate endeavoured to dismiss him from her
heart.

There was considerable uneasiness in the bosoms of others of the
Directors, and a disposition to complain against the Grand Director,
arising from a grievance altogether different from that which
afflicted Montague. Neither had Sir Felix Carbury nor Lord Nidderdale
been invited to sell shares, and consequently neither of them had
received any remuneration for the use of their names. They knew well
that Montague had sold shares. He was quite open on the subject, and
had told Felix, whom he hoped some day to regard as his
brother-in-law, exactly what shares he had sold, and for how
much;—and the two men had endeavoured to make the matter
intelligible between themselves. The original price of the shares
being £100 each, and £12 10s. a share having been paid to Montague
as the premium, it was to be supposed that the original capital was
re-invested in other shares. But each owned to the other that the
matter was very complicated to him, and Montague could only write to
Hamilton K. Fisker at San Francisco asking for explanation. As yet he
had received no answer. But it was not the wealth flowing into
Montague's hands which embittered Nidderdale and Carbury. They
understood that he had really brought money into the concern, and was
therefore entitled to take money out of it. Nor did it occur to them
to grudge Melmotte his more noble pickings, for they knew how great a
man was Melmotte. Of Cohenlupe's doings they heard nothing; but he
was a regular city man, and had probably supplied funds. Cohenlupe
was too deep for their inquiry. But they knew that Lord Alfred had
sold shares, and had received the profit; and they knew also how
utterly impossible it was that Lord Alfred should have produced
capital. If Lord Alfred Grendall was entitled to plunder, why were
not they? And if their day for plunder had not yet come, why had Lord
Alfred's? And if there was so much cause to fear Lord Alfred that it
was necessary to throw him a bone, why should not they also make
themselves feared? Lord Alfred passed all his time with
Melmotte,—had, as these young men said, become Melmotte's head
valet,—and therefore had to be paid. But that reason did not satisfy
the young men.

"You haven't sold any shares;—have you?" This question Sir Felix
asked Lord Nidderdale at the club. Nidderdale was constant in his
attendance at the Board, and Felix was not a little afraid that he
might be jockied also by him.

"Not a share."

"Nor got any profits?"

"Not a shilling of any kind. As far as money is concerned my only
transaction has been my part of the expense of Fisker's dinner."

"What do you get then, by going into the city?" asked Sir Felix.

"I'm blessed if I know what I get. I suppose something will turn up
some day."

"In the meantime, you know, there are our names. And Grendall is
making a fortune out of it."

"Poor old duffer," said his lordship. "If he's doing so well, I think
Miles ought to be made to pay up something of what he owes. I think
we ought to tell him that we shall expect him to have the money ready
when that bill of Vossner's comes round."

"Yes, by George; let's tell him that. Will you do it?"

"Not that it will be the least good. It would be quite unnatural to
him to pay anything."

"Fellows used to pay their gambling debts," said Sir Felix, who was
still in funds, and who still held a considerable assortment of I. O.
U.'s.

"They don't now,—unless they like it. How did a fellow manage
before, if he hadn't got it?"

"He went smash," said Sir Felix, "and disappeared and was never heard
of any more. It was just the same as if he'd been found cheating. I
believe a fellow might cheat now and nobody'd say anything!"

"I shouldn't," said Lord Nidderdale. "What's the use of being beastly
ill-natured? I'm not very good at saying my prayers, but I do think
there's something in that bit about forgiving people. Of course
cheating isn't very nice: and it isn't very nice for a fellow to play
when he knows he can't pay; but I don't know that it's worse than
getting drunk like Dolly Longestaffe, or quarrelling with everybody
as Grasslough does,—or trying to marry some poor devil of a girl
merely because she's got money. I believe in living in glass houses,
but I don't believe in throwing stones. Do you ever read the Bible,
Carbury?"

"Read the Bible! Well;—yes;—no;—that is, I suppose, I used to do."

"I often think I shouldn't have been the first to pick up a stone and
pitch it at that woman. Live and let live;—that's my motto."

"But you agree that we ought to do something about these shares?"
said Sir Felix, thinking that this doctrine of forgiveness might be
carried too far.

"Oh, certainly. I'll let old Grendall live with all my heart; but
then he ought to let me live too. Only, who's to bell the cat?"

"What cat?"

"It's no good our going to old Grendall," said Lord Nidderdale, who
had some understanding in the matter, "nor yet to young Grendall. The
one would only grunt and say nothing, and the other would tell every
lie that came into his head. The cat in this matter I take to be our
great master, Augustus Melmotte."

This little meeting occurred on the day after Felix Carbury's return
from Suffolk, and at a time at which, as we know, it was the great
duty of his life to get the consent of old Melmotte to his marriage
with Marie Melmotte. In doing that he would have to put one bell on
the cat, and he thought that for the present that was sufficient. In
his heart of hearts he was afraid of Melmotte. But then, as he knew
very well, Nidderdale was intent on the same object. Nidderdale, he
thought, was a very queer fellow. That talking about the Bible, and
the forgiving of trespasses, was very queer; and that allusion to the
marrying of heiresses very queer indeed. He knew that Nidderdale
wanted to marry the heiress, and Nidderdale must also know that he
wanted to marry her. And yet Nidderdale was indelicate enough to talk
about it! And now the man asked who should bell the cat! "You go
there oftener than I do, and perhaps you could do it best," said Sir
Felix.

"Go where?"

"To the Board."

"But you're always at his house. He'd be civil to me, perhaps,
because I'm a lord: but then, for the same reason, he'd think I was
the bigger fool of the two."

"I don't see that at all," said Sir Felix.

"I ain't afraid of him, if you mean that," continued Lord Nidderdale.
"He's a wretched old reprobate, and I don't doubt but he'd skin you
and me if he could make money off our carcasses. But as he can't skin
me, I'll have a shy at him. On the whole I think he rather likes me,
because I've always been on the square with him. If it depended on
him, you know, I should have the girl to-morrow."

"Would you?" Sir Felix did not at all mean to doubt his friend's
assertion, but felt it hard to answer so very strange a statement.

"But then she don't want me, and I ain't quite sure that I want her.
Where the devil would a fellow find himself if the money wasn't all
there?" Lord Nidderdale then sauntered away, leaving the baronet in a
deep study of thought as to such a condition of things as that which
his lordship had suggested. Where the—mischief would he, Sir Felix
Carbury, be, if he were to marry the girl, and then to find that the
money was not all there?

On the following Friday, which was the Board day, Nidderdale went to
the great man's offices in Abchurch Lane, and so contrived that he
walked with the great man to the Board meeting. Melmotte was always
very gracious in his manner to Lord Nidderdale, but had never, up to
this moment, had any speech with his proposed son-in-law about
business. "I wanted just to ask you something," said the lord,
hanging on the chairman's arm.

"Anything you please, my lord."

"Don't you think that Carbury and I ought to have some shares to
sell?"

"No, I don't,—if you ask me."

"Oh;—I didn't know. But why shouldn't we as well as the others?"

"Have you and Sir Felix put any money into it?"

"Well, if you come to that, I don't suppose we have. How much has
Lord Alfred put into it?"

"I have taken shares for Lord Alfred," said Melmotte, putting very
heavy emphasis on the personal pronoun. "If it suits me to advance
money to Lord Alfred Grendall, I suppose I may do so without asking
your lordship's consent, or that of Sir Felix Carbury."

"Oh, certainly. I don't want to make inquiry as to what you do with
your money."

"I'm sure you don't, and, therefore, we won't say anything more about
it. You wait awhile, Lord Nidderdale, and you'll find it will come
all right. If you've got a few thousand pounds loose, and will put
them into the concern, why, of course you can sell; and, if the
shares are up, can sell at a profit. It's presumed just at present
that, at some early day, you'll qualify for your directorship by
doing so, and till that is done, the shares are allocated to you, but
cannot be transferred to you."

"That's it, is it," said Lord Nidderdale, pretending to understand
all about it.

"If things go on as we hope they will between you and Marie, you can
have pretty nearly any number of shares that you please;—that is, if
your father consents to a proper settlement."

"I hope it'll all go smooth, I'm sure," said Nidderdale. "Thank you;
I'm ever so much obliged to you, and I'll explain it all to Carbury."

 


 


CHAPTER XXIII.


"YES;—I'M A BARONET."
 

How eager Lady Carbury was that her son should at once go in form to
Marie's father and make his proposition may be easily understood. "My
dear Felix," she said, standing over his bedside a little before
noon, "pray don't put it off; you don't know how many slips there may
be between the cup and the lip."

"It's everything to get him in a good humour," pleaded Sir Felix.

"But the young lady will feel that she is ill-used."

"There's no fear of that; she's all right. What am I to say to him
about money? That's the question."

"I shouldn't think of dictating anything, Felix."

"Nidderdale, when he was on before, stipulated for a certain sum
down; or his father did for him. So much cash was to be paid over
before the ceremony, and it only went off because Nidderdale wanted
the money to do what he liked with."

"You wouldn't mind having it settled?"

"No;—I'd consent to that on condition that the money was paid down,
and the income insured to me,—say £7,000 or £8,000 a year. I
wouldn't do it for less, mother; it wouldn't be worth while."

"But you have nothing left of your own."

"I've got a throat that I can cut, and brains that I can blow out,"
said the son, using an argument which he conceived might be
efficacious with his mother; though, had she known him, she might
have been sure that no man lived less likely to cut his own throat or
blow out his own brains.

"Oh, Felix! how brutal it is to speak to me in that way."

"It may be brutal; but you know, mother, business is business. You
want me to marry this girl because of her money."

"You want to marry her yourself."

"I'm quite a philosopher about it. I want her money; and when one
wants money, one should make up one's mind how much or how little one
means to take,—and whether one is sure to get it."

"I don't think there can be any doubt."

"If I were to marry her, and if the money wasn't there, it would be
very like cutting my throat then, mother. If a man plays and loses,
he can play again and perhaps win; but when a fellow goes in for an
heiress, and gets the wife without the money, he feels a little
hampered you know."

"Of course he'd pay the money first."

"It's very well to say that. Of course he ought; but it would be
rather awkward to refuse to go into church after everything had been
arranged because the money hadn't been paid over. He's so clever,
that he'd contrive that a man shouldn't know whether the money had
been paid or not. You can't carry £10,000 a year about in your
pocket, you know. If you'll go, mother, perhaps I might think of
getting up."

Lady Carbury saw the danger, and turned over the affair on every side
in her own mind. But she could also see the house in Grosvenor
Square, the expenditure without limit, the congregating duchesses,
the general acceptation of the people, and the mercantile celebrity
of the man. And she could weigh against that the absolute
pennilessness of her baronet-son. As he was, his condition was
hopeless. Such a one must surely run some risk. The embarrassments of
such a man as Lord Nidderdale were only temporary. There were the
family estates, and the marquisate, and a golden future for him; but
there was nothing coming to Felix in the future. All the goods he
would ever have of his own, he had now;—position, a title, and a
handsome face. Surely he could afford to risk something! Even the
ruins and wreck of such wealth as that displayed in Grosvenor Square
would be better than the baronet's present condition. And then,
though it was possible that old Melmotte should be ruined some day,
there could be no doubt as to his present means; and would it not be
probable that he would make hay while the sun shone by securing his
daughter's position? She visited her son again on the next morning,
which was Sunday, and again tried to persuade him to the marriage. "I
think you should be content to run a little risk," she said.

Sir Felix had been unlucky at cards on Saturday night, and had taken,
perhaps, a little too much wine. He was at any rate sulky, and in a
humour to resent interference. "I wish you'd leave me alone," he
said, "to manage my own business."

"Is it not my business too?"

"No; you haven't got to marry her, and to put up with these people. I
shall make up my mind what to do myself, and I don't want anybody to
meddle with me."

"You ungrateful boy!"

"I understand all about that. Of course I'm ungrateful when I don't
do everything just as you wish it. You don't do any good. You only
set me against it all."

"How do you expect to live, then? Are you always to be a burden on me
and your sister? I wonder that you've no shame. Your cousin Roger is
right. I will quit London altogether, and leave you to your own
wretchedness."

"That's what Roger says; is it? I always thought Roger was a fellow
of that sort."

"He is the best friend I have." What would Roger have thought had he
heard this assertion from Lady Carbury?

"He's an ill-tempered, close-fisted, interfering cad, and if he
meddles with my affairs again, I shall tell him what I think of him.
Upon my word, mother, these little disputes up in my bedroom ain't
very pleasant. Of course it's your house; but if you do allow me a
room, I think you might let me have it to myself." It was impossible
for Lady Carbury, in her present mood, and in his present mood, to
explain to him that in no other way and at no other time could she
ever find him. If she waited till he came down to breakfast, he
escaped from her in five minutes, and then he returned no more till
some unholy hour in the morning. She was as good a pelican as ever
allowed the blood to be torn from her own breast to satisfy the greed
of her young, but she felt that she should have something back for
her blood,—some return for her sacrifices. This chick would take all
as long as there was a drop left, and then resent the fondling of the
mother-bird as interference. Again and again there came upon her
moments in which she thought that Roger Carbury was right. And yet
she knew that when the time came she would not be able to be severe.
She almost hated herself for the weakness of her own love,—but she
acknowledged it. If he should fall utterly, she must fall with him.
In spite of his cruelty, his callous hardness, his insolence to
herself, his wickedness and ruinous indifference to the future, she
must cling to him to the last. All that she had done, and all that
she had borne,—all that she was doing and bearing,—was it not for
his sake?

Sir Felix had been in Grosvenor Square since his return from Carbury,
and had seen Madame Melmotte and Marie; but he had seen them
together, and not a word had been said about the engagement. He could
not make much use of the elder woman. She was as gracious as was
usual with her; but then she was never very gracious. She had told
him that Miss Longestaffe was coming to her, which was a great bore,
as the young lady was "fatigante." Upon this Marie had declared that
she intended to like the young lady very much. "Pooh!" said Madame
Melmotte. "You never like no person at all." At this Marie had looked
over to her lover and smiled. "Ah, yes; that is all very well,—while
it lasts; but you care for no friend." From which Felix had judged
that Madame Melmotte at any rate knew of his offer, and did not
absolutely disapprove of it. On the Saturday he had received a note
at his club from Marie. "Come on Sunday at half-past two. You will
find papa after lunch." This was in his possession when his mother
visited him in his bedroom, and he had determined to obey the behest.
But he would not tell her of his intention, because he had drunk too
much wine, and was sulky.

At about three on Sunday he knocked at the door in Grosvenor Square
and asked for the ladies. Up to the moment of his knocking,—even
after he had knocked, and when the big porter was opening the
door,—he intended to ask for Mr. Melmotte; but at the last his
courage failed him, and he was shown up into the drawing-room. There
he found Madame Melmotte, Marie, Georgiana Longestaffe, and—Lord
Nidderdale. Marie looked anxiously into his face, thinking that he
had already been with her father. He slid into a chair close to
Madame Melmotte, and endeavoured to seem at his ease. Lord Nidderdale
continued his flirtation with Miss Longestaffe,—a flirtation which
she carried on in a half whisper, wholly indifferent to her hostess
or the young lady of the house. "We know what brings you here," she
said.

"I came on purpose to see you."

"I'm sure, Lord Nidderdale, you didn't expect to find me here."

"Lord bless you, I knew all about it, and came on purpose. It's a
great institution; isn't it?"

"It's an institution you mean to belong to,—permanently."

"No, indeed. I did have thoughts about it as fellows do when they
talk of going into the army or to the bar; but I couldn't pass. That
fellow there is the happy man. I shall go on coming here, because
you're here. I don't think you'll like it a bit, you know."

"I don't suppose I shall, Lord Nidderdale."

After a while Marie contrived to be alone with her lover near one of
the windows for a few seconds. "Papa is down-stairs in the
book-room," she said. "Lord Alfred was told when he came that he was
out." It was evident to Sir Felix that everything was prepared for
him. "You go down," she continued, "and ask the man to show you into
the book-room."

"Shall I come up again?"

"No; but leave a note for me here under cover to Madame Didon." Now
Sir Felix was sufficiently at home in the house to know that Madame
Didon was Madame Melmotte's own woman, commonly called Didon by the
ladies of the family. "Or send it by post,—under cover to her. That
will be better. Go at once, now." It certainly did seem to Sir Felix
that the very nature of the girl was altered. But he went, just
shaking hands with Madame Melmotte, and bowing to Miss Longestaffe.

In a few moments he found himself with Mr. Melmotte in the chamber
which had been dignified with the name of the book-room. The great
financier was accustomed to spend his Sunday afternoons here,
generally with the company of Lord Alfred Grendall. It may be
supposed that he was meditating on millions, and arranging the prices
of money and funds for the New York, Paris, and London Exchanges. But
on this occasion he was waked from slumber, which he seemed to have
been enjoying with a cigar in his mouth. "How do you do, Sir Felix?"
he said. "I suppose you want the ladies."

"I've just been in the drawing-room, but I thought I'd look in on you
as I came down." It immediately occurred to Melmotte that the baronet
had come about his share of the plunder out of the railway, and he at
once resolved to be stern in his manner, and perhaps rude also. He
believed that he should thrive best by resenting any interference
with him in his capacity as financier. He thought that he had risen
high enough to venture on such conduct, and experience had told him
that men who were themselves only half-plucked, might easily be cowed
by a savage assumption of superiority. And he, too, had generally the
advantage of understanding the game, while those with whom he was
concerned did not, at any rate, more than half understand it. He
could thus trade either on the timidity or on the ignorance of his
colleagues. When neither of these sufficed to give him undisputed
mastery, then he cultivated the cupidity of his friends. He liked
young associates because they were more timid and less greedy than
their elders. Lord Nidderdale's suggestions had soon been put at
rest, and Mr. Melmotte anticipated no greater difficulty with Sir
Felix. Lord Alfred he had been obliged to buy.

"I'm very glad to see you, and all that," said Melmotte, assuming a
certain exaltation of the eyebrows, which they who had many dealings
with him often found to be very disagreeable; "but this is hardly a
day for business, Sir Felix, nor,—yet a place for business."

Sir Felix wished himself at the Beargarden. He certainly had come
about business,—business of a particular sort; but Marie had told
him that of all days Sunday would be the best, and had also told him
that her father was more likely to be in a good humour on Sunday than
on any other day. Sir Felix felt that he had not been received with
good humour. "I didn't mean to intrude, Mr. Melmotte," he said.

"I dare say not. I only thought I'd tell you. You might have been
going to speak about that railway."

"Oh dear no."

"Your mother was saying to me down in the country that she hoped you
attended to the business. I told her that there was nothing to attend
to."

"My mother doesn't understand anything at all about it," said Sir
Felix.

"Women never do. Well;—what can I do for you, now that you are
here?"

"Mr. Melmotte, I'm come,—I'm come to;—in short, Mr. Melmotte, I
want to propose myself as a suitor for your daughter's hand."

"The d—— you do!"

"Well, yes; and we hope you'll give us your consent."

"She knows you're coming then?"

"Yes;—she knows."

"And my wife;—does she know?"

"I've never spoken to her about it. Perhaps Miss Melmotte has."

"And how long have you and she understood each other?"

"I've been attached to her ever since I saw her," said Sir Felix. "I
have indeed. I've spoken to her sometimes. You know how that kind of
thing goes on."

"I'm blessed if I do. I know how it ought to go on. I know that when
large sums of money are supposed to be concerned, the young man
should speak to the father before he speaks to the girl. He's a fool
if he don't, if he wants to get the father's money. So she has given
you a promise?"

"I don't know about a promise."

"Do you consider that she's engaged to you?"

"Not if she's disposed to get out of it," said Sir Felix, hoping that
he might thus ingratiate himself with the father. "Of course, I
should be awfully disappointed."

"She has consented to your coming to me?"

"Well, yes;—in a sort of a way. Of course she knows that it all
depends on you."

"Not at all. She's of age. If she chooses to marry you, she can marry
you. If that's all you want, her consent is enough. You're a baronet,
I believe?"

"Oh, yes, I'm a baronet."

"And therefore you've come to your own property. You haven't to wait
for your father to die, and I dare say you are indifferent about
money."

This was a view of things which Sir Felix felt that he was bound to
dispel, even at the risk of offending the father. "Not exactly that,"
he said. "I suppose you will give your daughter a fortune, of
course."

"Then I wonder you didn't come to me before you went to her. If my
daughter marries to please me, I shall give her money, no doubt. How
much is neither here nor there. If she marries to please herself,
without considering me, I shan't give her a farthing."

"I had hoped that you might consent, Mr. Melmotte."

"I've said nothing about that. It is possible. You're a man of
fashion and have a title of your own,—and no doubt a property. If
you'll show me that you've an income fit to maintain her, I'll think
about it at any rate. What is your property, Sir Felix?"

What could three or four thousand a year, or even five or six, matter
to a man like Melmotte? It was thus that Sir Felix looked at it. When
a man can hardly count his millions he ought not to ask questions
about trifling sums of money. But the question had been asked, and
the asking of such a question was no doubt within the prerogative of
a proposed father-in-law. At any rate, it must be answered. For a
moment it occurred to Sir Felix that he might conveniently tell the
truth. It would be nasty for the moment, but there would be nothing
to come after. Were he to do so he could not be dragged down lower
and lower into the mire by cross-examinings. There might be an end of
all his hopes, but there would at the same time be an end of all his
misery. But he lacked the necessary courage. "It isn't a large
property, you know," he said.

"Not like the Marquis of Westminster's, I suppose," said the horrid,
big, rich scoundrel.

"No;—not quite like that," said Sir Felix, with a sickly laugh.

"But you have got enough to support a baronet's title?"

"That depends on how you want to support it," said Sir Felix, putting
off the evil day.

"Where's your family seat?"

"Carbury Manor, down in Suffolk, near the Longestaffes, is the old
family place."

"That doesn't belong to you," said Melmotte, very sharply.

"No; not yet. But I'm the heir."

Perhaps if there is one thing in England more difficult than another
to be understood by men born and bred out of England, it is the
system under which titles and property descend together, or in
various lines. The jurisdiction of our Courts of Law is complex, and
so is the business of Parliament. But the rules regulating them,
though anomalous, are easy to the memory compared with the mixed
anomalies of the peerage and primogeniture. They who are brought up
among it, learn it as children do a language, but strangers who begin
the study in advanced life, seldom make themselves perfect in it. It
was everything to Melmotte that he should understand the ways of the
country which he had adopted; and when he did not understand, he was
clever at hiding his ignorance. Now he was puzzled. He knew that Sir
Felix was a baronet, and therefore presumed him to be the head of the
family. He knew that Carbury Manor belonged to Roger Carbury, and he
judged by the name it must be an old family property. And now the
baronet declared that he was heir to the man who was simply an
Esquire. "Oh, the heir are you? But how did he get it before you?
You're the head of the family?"

"Yes, I am the head of the family, of course," said Sir Felix, lying
directly. "But the place won't be mine till he dies. It would take a
long time to explain it all."

"He's a young man, isn't he?"

"No,—not what you'd call a young man. He isn't very old."

"If he were to marry and have children, how would it be then?"

Sir Felix was beginning to think that he might have told the truth
with discretion. "I don't quite know how it would be. I have always
understood that I am the heir. It's not very likely that he will
marry."

"And in the meantime what is your own property?"











"In the meantime what is your own property?"


"In the
meantime what is your own property?"


Click to ENLARGE


"My father left me money in the funds and in railway stock,—and then
I am my mother's heir."

"You have done me the honour of telling me that you wish to marry my
daughter."

"Certainly."

"Would you then object to inform me the amount and nature of the
income on which you intend to support your establishment as a married
man? I fancy that the position you assume justifies the question on
my part." The bloated swindler, the vile city ruffian, was certainly
taking a most ungenerous advantage of the young aspirant for wealth.
It was then that Sir Felix felt his own position. Was he not a
baronet, and a gentleman, and a very handsome fellow, and a man of
the world who had been in a crack regiment? If this surfeited sponge
of speculation, this crammed commercial cormorant, wanted more than
that for his daughter, why could he not say so without asking
disgusting questions such as these,—questions which it was quite
impossible that a gentleman should answer? Was it not sufficiently
plain that any gentleman proposing to marry the daughter of such a
man as Melmotte, must do so under the stress of pecuniary
embarrassment? Would it not be an understood bargain that as he
provided the rank and position, she would provide the money? And yet
the vulgar wretch took advantage of his assumed authority to ask
these dreadful questions! Sir Felix stood silent, trying to look the
man in the face, but failing;—wishing that he was well out of the
house, and at the Beargarden. "You don't seem to be very clear about
your own circumstances, Sir Felix. Perhaps you will get your lawyer
to write to me."

"Perhaps that will be best," said the lover.

"Either that, or to give it up. My daughter, no doubt, will have
money; but money expects money." At this moment Lord Alfred entered
the room. "You're very late to-day, Alfred. Why didn't you come as
you said you would?"

"I was here more than an hour ago, and they said you were out."

"I haven't been out of this room all day,—except to lunch. Good
morning, Sir Felix. Ring the bell, Alfred, and we'll have a little
soda and brandy." Sir Felix had gone through some greeting with his
fellow Director, Lord Alfred, and at last succeeded in getting
Melmotte to shake hands with him before he went. "Do you know
anything about that young fellow?" Melmotte asked as soon as the door
was closed.

"He's a baronet without a shilling;—was in the army and had to leave
it," said Lord Alfred as he buried his face in a big tumbler.

"Without a shilling! I supposed so. But he's heir to a place down in
Suffolk;—eh?"

"Not a bit of it. It's the same name, and that's about all. Mr.
Carbury has a small property there, and he might give it to me
to-morrow. I wish he would, though there isn't much of it. That young
fellow has nothing to do with it whatever."

"Hasn't he now?" Mr. Melmotte as he speculated upon it, almost
admired the young man's impudence.

 


 


CHAPTER XXIV.


MILES GRENDALL'S TRIUMPH.
 

Sir Felix as he walked down to his club felt that he had been
checkmated,—and was at the same time full of wrath at the insolence
of the man who had so easily beaten him out of the field. As far as
he could see, the game was over. No doubt he might marry Marie
Melmotte. The father had told him so much himself, and he perfectly
believed the truth of that oath which Marie had sworn. He did not
doubt but that she'd stick to him close enough. She was in love with
him, which was natural; and was a fool,—which was perhaps also
natural. But romance was not the game which he was playing. People
told him that when girls succeeded in marrying without their parents'
consent, fathers were always constrained to forgive them at last.
That might be the case with ordinary fathers. But Melmotte was
decidedly not an ordinary father. He was,—so Sir Felix declared to
himself,—perhaps the greatest brute ever created. Sir Felix could
not but remember that elevation of the eyebrows, and the brazen
forehead, and the hard mouth. He had found himself quite unable to
stand up against Melmotte, and now he cursed and swore at the man as
he was carried down to the Beargarden in a cab.

But what should he do? Should he abandon Marie Melmotte altogether,
never go to Grosvenor Square again, and drop the whole family,
including the Great Mexican Railway? Then an idea occurred to him.
Nidderdale had explained to him the result of his application for
shares. "You see we haven't bought any and therefore can't sell any.
There seems to be something in that. I shall explain it all to my
governor, and get him to go a thou' or two. If he sees his way to get
the money back, he'd do that and let me have the difference." On that
Sunday afternoon Sir Felix thought over all this. "Why shouldn't he
'go a thou,' and get the difference?" He made a mental calculation.
£12 10s. per £100! £125 for a thousand! and all paid in ready
money. As far as Sir Felix could understand, directly the one
operation had been perfected the thousand pounds would be available
for another. As he looked into it with all his intelligence he
thought that he began to perceive that that was the way in which the
Melmottes of the world made their money. There was but one objection.
He had not got the entire thousand pounds. But luck had been on the
whole very good to him. He had more than the half of it in real
money, lying at a bank in the city at which he had opened an account.
And he had very much more than the remainder in I. O. U.'s from Dolly
Longestaffe and Miles Grendall. In fact if every man had his
own,—and his bosom glowed with indignation as he reflected on the
injustice with which he was kept out of his own,—he could go into
the city and take up his shares to-morrow, and still have ready money
at his command. If he could do this, would not such conduct on his
part be the best refutation of that charge of not having any fortune
which Melmotte had brought against him? He would endeavour to work
the money out of Dolly Longestaffe;—and he entertained an idea that
though it would be impossible to get cash from Miles Grendall, he
might use his claim against Miles in the city. Miles was Secretary to
the Board, and might perhaps contrive that the money required for the
shares should not be all ready money. Sir Felix was not very clear
about it, but thought that he might possibly in this way use the
indebtedness of Miles Grendall. "How I do hate a fellow who does not
pay up," he said to himself as he sat alone in his club, waiting for
some friend to come in. And he formed in his head Draconic laws which
he would fain have executed upon men who lost money at play and did
not pay. "How the deuce fellows can look one in the face, is what I
can't understand," he said to himself.

He thought over this great stroke of exhibiting himself to Melmotte
as a capitalist till he gave up his idea of abandoning his suit. So
he wrote a note to Marie Melmotte in accordance with her
instructions.
 


Dear M.,

Your father cut up very rough,—about money. Perhaps you
had better see him yourself; or would your mother?

Yours always,

F.
 


This, as directed, he put under cover to Madame Didon,—Grosvenor
Square, and posted at the club. He had put nothing at any rate in the
letter which could commit him.

There was generally on Sundays a house dinner, so called, at eight
o'clock. Five or six men would sit down, and would always gamble
afterwards. On this occasion Dolly Longestaffe sauntered in at about
seven in quest of sherry and bitters, and Felix found the opportunity
a good one to speak of his money. "You couldn't cash your I. O. U.'s
for me to-morrow;—could you?"

"To-morrow! oh, lord!"

"I'll tell you why. You know I'd tell you anything because I think we
are really friends. I'm after that daughter of Melmotte's."

"I'm told you're to have her."

"I don't know about that. I mean to try at any rate. I've gone in you
know for that Board in the city."

"I don't know anything about Boards, my boy."

"Yes, you do, Dolly. You remember that American fellow, Montague's
friend, that was here one night and won all our money."

"The chap that had the waistcoat, and went away in the morning to
California. Fancy starting to California after a hard night. I always
wondered whether he got there alive."

"Well;—I can't explain to you all about it, because you hate those
kinds of things."

"And because I am such a fool."

"I don't think you're a fool at all, but it would take a week. But
it's absolutely essential for me to take up a lot of shares in the
city to-morrow;—or perhaps Wednesday might do. I'm bound to pay for
them, and old Melmotte will think that I'm utterly hard up if I
don't. Indeed he said as much, and the only objection about me and
this girl of his is as to money. Can't you understand, now, how
important it may be?"

"It's always important to have a lot of money. I know that."

"I shouldn't have gone in for this kind of thing if I hadn't thought
I was sure. You know how much you owe me, don't you?"

"Not in the least."

"It's about eleven hundred pounds!"

"I shouldn't wonder."

"And Miles Grendall owes me two thousand. Grasslough and Nidderdale
when they lose always pay with Miles's I. O. U.'s."

"So should I, if I had them."

"It'll come to that soon that there won't be any other stuff going,
and they really ain't worth anything. I don't see what's the use of
playing when this rubbish is shoved about the table. As for Grendall
himself, he has no feeling about it."

"Not the least, I should say."

"You'll try and get me the money, won't you, Dolly?"

"Melmotte has been at me twice. He wants me to agree to sell
something. He's an old thief, and of course he means to rob me. You
may tell him that if he'll let me have the money in the way I've
proposed, you are to have a thousand pounds out of it. I don't know
any other way."

"You could write me that,—in a business sort of way."

"I couldn't do that, Carbury. What's the use? I never write any
letters. I can't do it. You tell him that; and if the sale comes off,
I'll make it straight."

Miles Grendall also dined there, and after dinner, in the
smoking-room, Sir Felix tried to do a little business with the
Secretary. He began his operations with unusual courtesy, believing
that the man must have some influence with the great distributor of
shares. "I'm going to take up my shares in that company," said Sir
Felix.

"Ah;—indeed." And Miles enveloped himself from head to foot in
smoke.

"I didn't quite understand about it, but Nidderdale saw Melmotte and
he has explained it. I think I shall go in for a couple of thousand
on Wednesday."

"Oh;—ah."

"It will be the proper thing to do;—won't it?"

"Very good—thing to do!" Miles Grendall smoked harder and harder as
the suggestions were made to him.

"Is it always ready money?"

"Always ready money," said Miles shaking his head, as though in
reprobation of so abominable an institution.

"I suppose they allow some time to their own Directors, if a deposit,
say 50 per cent., is made for the shares?"

"They'll give you half the number, which would come to the same
thing."

Sir Felix turned this over in his mind, but let him look at it as he
would, could not see the truth of his companion's remark. "You know I
should want to sell again,—for the rise."

"Oh; you'll want to sell again."

"And therefore I must have the full number."

"You could sell half the number, you know," said Miles.

"I'm determined to begin with ten shares;—that's £1,000. Well;—I
have got the money, but I don't want to draw out so much. Couldn't
you manage for me that I should get them on paying 50 per cent.
down?"

"Melmotte does all that himself."

"You could explain, you know, that you are a little short in your own
payments to me." This Sir Felix said, thinking it to be a delicate
mode of introducing his claim upon the Secretary.

"That's private," said Miles frowning.

"Of course it's private; but if you would pay me the money I could
buy the shares with it, though they are public."

"I don't think we could mix the two things together, Carbury."

"You can't help me?"

"Not in that way."

"Then, when the deuce will you pay me what you owe me?" Sir Felix was
driven to this plain expression of his demand by the impassibility of
his debtor. Here was a man who did not pay his debts of honour, who
did not even propose any arrangement for paying them, and who yet had
the impudence to talk of not mixing up private matters with affairs
of business! It made the young baronet very sick. Miles Grendall
smoked on in silence. There was a difficulty in answering the
question, and he therefore made no answer. "Do you know how much you
owe me?" continued the baronet, determined to persist now that he had
commenced the attack. There was a little crowd of other men in the
room, and the conversation about the shares had been commenced in an
under-tone. These two last questions Sir Felix had asked in a
whisper, but his countenance showed plainly that he was speaking in
anger.

"Of course I know," said Miles.

"Well?"

"I'm not going to talk about it here."

"Not going to talk about it here?"

"No. This is a public room."

"I am going to talk about it," said Sir Felix, raising his voice.

"Will any fellow come up-stairs and play a game of billiards?" said
Miles Grendall rising from his chair. Then he walked slowly out of
the room, leaving Sir Felix to take what revenge he pleased. For a
moment Sir Felix thought that he would expose the transaction to the
whole room; but he was afraid, thinking that Miles Grendall was a
more popular man than himself.

It was Sunday night; but not the less were the gamblers assembled in
the card-room at about eleven. Dolly Longestaffe was there, and with
him the two lords, and Sir Felix, and Miles Grendall of course, and,
I regret to say, a much better man than any of them, Paul Montague.
Sir Felix had doubted much as to the propriety of joining the party.
What was the use of playing with a man who seemed by general consent
to be liberated from any obligation to pay? But then if he did not
play with him, where should he find another gambling table? They
began with whist, but soon laid that aside and devoted themselves to
loo. The least respected man in that confraternity was Grendall, and
yet it was in compliance with the persistency of his suggestion that
they gave up the nobler game. "Let's stick to whist; I like cutting
out," said Grasslough. "It's much more jolly having nothing to do now
and then; one can always bet," said Dolly shortly afterwards. "I hate
loo," said Sir Felix in answer to a third application. "I like whist
best," said Nidderdale, "but I'll play anything anybody likes;—pitch
and toss if you please." But Miles Grendall had his way, and loo was
the game.

At about two o'clock Grendall was the only winner. The play had not
been very high, but nevertheless he had won largely. Whenever a large
pool had collected itself he swept it into his garners. The men
opposed to him hardly grudged him this stroke of luck. He had
hitherto been unlucky; and they were able to pay him with his own
paper, which was so valueless that they parted with it without a
pang. Even Dolly Longestaffe seemed to have a supply of it. The only
man there not so furnished was Montague, and while the sums won were
quite small he was allowed to pay with cash. But to Sir Felix it was
frightful to see ready money going over to Miles Grendall, as under
no circumstances could it be got back from him. "Montague," he said,
"just change these for the time. I'll take them back, if you still
have them when we've done." And he handed a lot of Miles's paper
across the table. The result of course would be that Felix would
receive so much real money, and that Miles would get back more of his
own worthless paper. To Montague it would make no difference, and he
did as he was asked;—or rather was preparing to do so, when Miles
interfered. On what principle of justice could Sir Felix come between
him and another man? "I don't understand this kind of thing," he
said. "When I win from you, Carbury, I'll take my I. O. U.'s, as long
as you have any."

"By George, that's kind."

"But I won't have them handed about the table to be changed."

"Pay them yourself, then," said Sir Felix, laying a handful down on
the table.

"Don't let's have a row," said Lord Nidderdale.

"Carbury is always making a row," said Grasslough.

"Of course he is," said Miles Grendall.

"I don't make more row than anybody else; but I do say that as we
have such a lot of these things, and as we all know that we don't get
cash for them as we want it, Grendall shouldn't take money and walk
off with it."

"Who is walking off?" said Miles.

"And why should you be entitled to Montague's money more than any of
us?" asked Grasslough.

The matter was debated, and was thus decided. It was not to be
allowed that Miles's paper should be negotiated at the table in the
manner that Sir Felix had attempted to adopt. But Mr. Grendall
pledged his honour that when they broke up the party he would apply
any money that he might have won to the redemption of his I. O. U.'s,
paying a regular percentage to the holders of them. The decision made
Sir Felix very cross. He knew that their condition at six or seven in
the morning would not be favourable to such commercial
accuracy,—which indeed would require an accountant to effect it; and
he felt sure that Miles, if still a winner, would in truth walk off
with the ready money.

For a considerable time he did not speak, and became very moderate in
his play, tossing his cards about, almost always losing, but losing a
minimum, and watching the board. He was sitting next to Grendall, and
he thought that he observed that his neighbour moved his chair
farther and farther away from him, and nearer to Dolly Longestaffe,
who was next to him on the other side. This went on for an hour,
during which Grendall still won,—and won heavily from Paul Montague.
"I never saw a fellow have such a run of luck in my life," said
Grasslough. "You've had two trumps dealt to you every hand almost
since we began!"

"Ever so many hands I haven't played at all," said Miles.

"You've always won when I've played," said Dolly. "I've been looed
every time."

"You oughtn't to begrudge me one run of luck, when I've lost so
much," said Miles, who, since he began, had destroyed paper counters
of his own making, supposed to represent considerably above £1,000,
and had also,—which was of infinitely greater concern to
him,—received an amount of ready money which was quite a godsend to
him.

"What's the good of talking about it?" said Nidderdale. "I hate all
this row about winning and losing. Let's go on, or go to bed." The
idea of going to bed was absurd. So they went on. Sir Felix, however,
hardly spoke at all, played very little, and watched Miles Grendall
without seeming to watch him. At last he felt certain that he saw a
card go into the man's sleeve, and remembered at the moment that the
winner had owed his success to a continued run of aces. He was
tempted to rush at once upon the player, and catch the card on his
person. But he feared. Grendall was a big man; and where would he be
if there should be no card there? And then, in the scramble, there
would certainly be at any rate a doubt. And he knew that the men
around him would be most unwilling to believe such an accusation.
Grasslough was Grendall's friend, and Nidderdale and Dolly
Longestaffe would infinitely rather be cheated than suspect any one
of their own set of cheating them. He feared both the violence of the
man he should accuse, and also the impassive good humour of the
others. He let that opportunity pass by, again watched, and again saw
the card abstracted. Thrice he saw it, till it was wonderful to him
that others also should not see it. As often as the deal came round,
the man did it. Felix watched more closely, and was certain that in
each round the man had an ace at least once. It seemed to him that
nothing could be easier. At last he pleaded a headache, got up, and
went away, leaving the others playing. He had lost nearly a thousand
pounds, but it had been all in paper. "There's something the matter
with that fellow," said Grasslough.

"There's always something the matter with him, I think," said Miles.
"He is so awfully greedy about his money." Miles had become somewhat
triumphant in his success.

"The less said about that, Grendall, the better," said Nidderdale.
"We have put up with a good deal, you know, and he has put up with as
much as anybody." Miles was cowed at once, and went on dealing
without manœuvring a card on that hand.

 


 


CHAPTER XXV.


IN GROSVENOR SQUARE.
 

Marie Melmotte was hardly satisfied with the note which she received
from Didon early on the Monday morning. With a volubility of French
eloquence, Didon declared that she would be turned out of the house
if either Monsieur or Madame were to know what she was doing. Marie
told her that Madame would certainly never dismiss her. "Well,
perhaps not Madame," said Didon, who knew too much about Madame to be
dismissed; "but Monsieur!" Marie declared that by no possibility
could Monsieur know anything about it. In that house nobody ever told
anything to Monsieur. He was regarded as the general enemy, against
whom the whole household was always making ambushes, always firing
guns from behind rocks and trees. It is not a pleasant condition for
a master of a house; but in this house the master at any rate knew
how he was placed. It never occurred to him to trust any one. Of
course his daughter might run away. But who would run away with her
without money? And there could be no money except from him. He knew
himself and his own strength. He was not the man to forgive a girl,
and then bestow his wealth on the Lothario who had injured him. His
daughter was valuable to him because she might make him the
father-in-law of a Marquis or an Earl; but the higher that he rose
without such assistance, the less need had he of his daughter's aid.
Lord Alfred was certainly very useful to him. Lord Alfred had
whispered into his ear that by certain conduct and by certain uses of
his money, he himself might be made a baronet. "But if they should
say that I'm not an Englishman?" suggested Melmotte. Lord Alfred had
explained that it was not necessary that he should have been born in
England, or even that he should have an English name. No questions
would be asked. Let him first get into Parliament, and then spend a
little money on the proper side,—by which Lord Alfred meant the
Conservative side,—and be munificent in his entertainments, and the
baronetcy would be almost a matter of course. Indeed, there was no
knowing what honours might not be achieved in the present days by
money scattered with a liberal hand. In these conversations, Melmotte
would speak of his money and power of making money as though they
were unlimited,—and Lord Alfred believed him.

Marie was dissatisfied with her letter,—not because it described her
father as "cutting up very rough." To her who had known her father
all her life that was a matter of course. But there was no word of
love in the note. An impassioned correspondence carried on through
Didon would be delightful to her. She was quite capable of loving,
and she did love the young man. She had, no doubt, consented to
accept the addresses of others whom she did not love,—but this she
had done at the moment almost of her first introduction to the
marvellous world in which she was now living. As days went on she
ceased to be a child, and her courage grew within her. She became
conscious of an identity of her own, which feeling was produced in
great part by the contempt which accompanied her increasing
familiarity with grand people and grand names and grand things. She
was no longer afraid of saying No to the Nidderdales on account of
any awe of them personally. It might be that she should acknowledge
herself to be obliged to obey her father, though she was drifting
away even from the sense of that obligation. Had her mind been as it
was now when Lord Nidderdale first came to her, she might indeed have
loved him, who, as a man, was infinitely better than Sir Felix, and
who, had he thought it to be necessary, would have put some grace
into his love-making. But at that time she had been childish. He,
finding her to be a child, had hardly spoken to her. And she, child
though she was, had resented such usage. But a few months in London
had changed all this, and now she was a child no longer. She was in
love with Sir Felix, and had told her love. Whatever difficulties
there might be, she intended to be true. If necessary, she would run
away. Sir Felix was her idol, and she abandoned herself to its
worship. But she desired that her idol should be of flesh and blood,
and not of wood. She was at first half-inclined to be angry; but as
she sat with his letter in her hand, she remembered that he did not
know Didon as well as she did, and that he might be afraid to trust
his raptures to such custody. She could write to him at his club, and
having no such fear, she could write warmly.
 


—, Grosvenor Square.

Early Monday Morning.

Dearest, Dearest Felix,

I have just got your note;—such a scrap! Of course papa
would talk about money because he never thinks of anything
else. I don't know anything about money, and I don't care
in the least how much you have got. Papa has got plenty,
and I think he would give us some if we were once married.
I have told mamma, but mamma is always afraid of
everything. Papa is very cross to her sometimes;—more so
than to me. I will try to tell him, though I can't always
get at him. I very often hardly see him all day long. But
I don't mean to be afraid of him, and will tell him that
on my word and honour I will never marry any one except
you. I don't think he will beat me, but if he does, I'll
bear it,—for your sake. He does beat mamma sometimes, I
know.

You can write to me quite safely through Didon. I think if
you would call some day and give her something, it would
help, as she is very fond of money. Do write and tell me
that you love me. I love you better than anything in the
world, and I will never,—never give you up. I suppose you
can come and call,—unless papa tells the man in the hall
not to let you in. I'll find that out from Didon, but I
can't do it before sending this letter. Papa dined out
yesterday somewhere with that Lord Alfred, so I haven't
seen him since you were here. I never see him before he
goes into the city in the morning. Now I am going
down-stairs to breakfast with mamma and that Miss
Longestaffe. She is a stuck-up thing. Didn't you think so
at Caversham?

Good-bye. You are my own, own, own darling Felix,

And I am your own, own affectionate ladylove,

Marie.
 


Sir Felix when he read this letter at his club in the afternoon of
the Monday, turned up his nose and shook his head. He thought if
there were much of that kind of thing to be done, he could not go on
with it, even though the marriage were certain, and the money secure.
"What an infernal little ass!" he said to himself as he crumpled the
letter up.

Marie having intrusted her letter to Didon, together with a little
present of gloves and shoes, went down to breakfast. Her mother was
the first there, and Miss Longestaffe soon followed. That lady, when
she found that she was not expected to breakfast with the master of
the house, abandoned the idea of having her meal sent to her in her
own room. Madame Melmotte she must endure. With Madame Melmotte she
had to go out in the carriage every day. Indeed she could only go to
those parties to which Madame Melmotte accompanied her. If the London
season was to be of any use at all, she must accustom herself to the
companionship of Madame Melmotte. The man kept himself very much
apart from her. She met him only at dinner, and that not often.
Madame Melmotte was very bad; but she was silent, and seemed to
understand that her guest was only her guest as a matter of business.

But Miss Longestaffe already perceived that her old acquaintances
were changed in their manner to her. She had written to her dear
friend Lady Monogram, whom she had known intimately as Miss Triplex,
and whose marriage with Sir Damask Monogram had been splendid
preferment, telling how she had been kept down in Suffolk at the time
of her friend's last party, and how she had been driven to consent to
return to London as the guest of Madame Melmotte. She hoped her
friend would not throw her off on that account. She had been very
affectionate, with a poor attempt at fun, and rather humble.
Georgiana Longestaffe had never been humble before; but the Monograms
were people so much thought of and in such an excellent set! She
would do anything rather than lose the Monograms. But it was of no
use. She had been humble in vain, for Lady Monogram had not even
answered her note. "She never really cared for anybody but herself,"
Georgiana said in her wretched solitude. Then, too, she had found
that Lord Nidderdale's manner to her had been quite changed. She was
not a fool, and could read these signs with sufficient accuracy.
There had been little flirtations between her and
Nidderdale,—meaning nothing, as every one knew that Nidderdale must
marry money; but in none of them had he spoken to her as he spoke
when he met her in Madame Melmotte's drawing-room. She could see it
in the faces of people as they greeted her in the park,—especially
in the faces of the men. She had always carried herself with a
certain high demeanour, and had been able to maintain it. All that
was now gone from her, and she knew it. Though the thing was as yet
but a few days old she understood that others understood that she had
degraded herself. "What's all this about?" Lord Grasslough had said
to her, seeing her come into a room behind Madame Melmotte. She had
simpered, had tried to laugh, and had then turned away her face.
"Impudent scoundrel!" she said to herself, knowing that a fortnight
ago he would not have dared to address her in such a tone.

A day or two afterwards an occurrence took place worthy of
commemoration. Dolly Longestaffe called on his sister! His mind must
have been much stirred when he allowed himself to be moved to such
uncommon action. He came too at a very early hour, not much after
noon, when it was his custom to be eating his breakfast in bed. He
declared at once to the servant that he did not wish to see Madame
Melmotte or any of the family. He had called to see his sister. He
was therefore shown into a separate room where Georgiana joined him.
"What's all this about?"

She tried to laugh as she tossed her head. "What brings you here, I
wonder? This is quite an unexpected compliment."

"My being here doesn't matter. I can go anywhere without doing much
harm. Why are you staying with these people?"

"Ask papa."

"I don't suppose he sent you here?"

"That's just what he did do."

"You needn't have come, I suppose, unless you liked it. Is it because
they are none of them coming up?"

"Exactly that, Dolly. What a wonderful young man you are for
guessing!"

"Don't you feel ashamed of yourself?"

"No;—not a bit."

"Then I feel ashamed for you."

"Everybody comes here."

"No;—everybody does not come and stay here as you are doing.
Everybody doesn't make themselves a part of the family. I have heard
of nobody doing it except you. I thought you used to think so much of
yourself."

"I think as much of myself as ever I did," said Georgiana, hardly
able to restrain her tears.

"I can tell you nobody else will think much of you if you remain
here. I could hardly believe it when Nidderdale told me."

"What did he say, Dolly?"

"He didn't say much to me, but I could see what he thought. And of
course everybody thinks the same. How you can like the people
yourself is what I can't understand!"

"I don't like them,—I hate them."

"Then why do you come and live with them?"

"Oh, Dolly, it is impossible to make you understand. A man is so
different. You can go just where you please, and do what you like.
And if you're short of money, people will give you credit. And you
can live by yourself, and all that sort of thing. How should you like
to be shut up down at Caversham all the season?"

"I shouldn't mind it,—only for the governor."

"You have got a property of your own. Your fortune is made for you.
What is to become of me?"

"You mean about marrying?"

"I mean altogether," said the poor girl, unable to be quite as
explicit with her brother, as she had been with her father, and
mother, and sister. "Of course I have to think of myself."

"I don't see how the Melmottes are to help you. The long and the
short of it is, you oughtn't to be here. It's not often I interfere,
but when I heard it I thought I'd come and tell you. I shall write to
the governor, and tell him too. He should have known better."

"Don't write to papa, Dolly!"

"Yes, I shall. I am not going to see everything going to the devil
without saying a word. Good-bye."

As soon as he had left he hurried down to some club that was
open,—not the Beargarden, as it was long before the Beargarden
hours,—and actually did write a letter to his father.
 


My Dear Father,

I have seen Georgiana at Mr. Melmotte's house. She ought
not to be there. I suppose you don't know it, but
everybody says he's a swindler. For the sake of the family
I hope you will get her home again. It seems to me that
Bruton Street is the proper place for the girls at this
time of the year.

Your affectionate son,

Adolphus Longestaffe.
 


This letter fell upon old Mr. Longestaffe at Caversham like a
thunderbolt. It was marvellous to him that his son should have been
instigated to write a letter. The Melmottes must be very bad
indeed,—worse than he had thought,—or their iniquities would not
have brought about such energy as this. But the passage which angered
him most was that which told him that he ought to have taken his
family back to town. This had come from his son, who had refused to
do anything to help him in his difficulties.

 


 


CHAPTER XXVI.


MRS. HURTLE.
 

Paul Montague at this time lived in comfortable lodgings in Sackville
Street, and ostensibly the world was going well with him. But he had
many troubles. His troubles in reference to Fisker, Montague, and
Montague,—and also their consolation,—are already known to the
reader. He was troubled too about his love, though when he allowed
his mind to expatiate on the success of the great railway he would
venture to hope that on that side his life might perhaps be blessed.
Henrietta had at any rate as yet showed no disposition to accept her
cousin's offer. He was troubled too about the gambling, which he
disliked, knowing that in that direction there might be speedy ruin,
and yet returning to it from day to day in spite of his own
conscience. But there was yet another trouble which culminated just
at this time. One morning, not long after that Sunday night which had
been so wretchedly spent at the Beargarden, he got into a cab in
Piccadilly and had himself taken to a certain address in Islington.
Here he knocked at a decent, modest door,—at such a house as men
live in with two or three hundred a year,—and asked for Mrs. Hurtle.
Yes;—Mrs. Hurtle lodged there, and he was shown into the
drawing-room. There he stood by the round table for a quarter of an
hour turning over the lodging-house books which lay there, and then
Mrs. Hurtle entered the room. Mrs. Hurtle was a widow whom he had
once promised to marry. "Paul," she said, with a quick, sharp voice,
but with a voice which could be very pleasant when she
pleased,—taking him by the hand as she spoke, "Paul, say that that
letter of yours must go for nothing. Say that it shall be so, and I
will forgive everything."

"I cannot say that," he replied, laying his hand in hers.

"You cannot say it! What do you mean? Will you dare to tell me that
your promises to me are to go for nothing?"

"Things are changed," said Paul hoarsely. He had come thither at her
bidding because he had felt that to remain away would be cowardly,
but the meeting was inexpressibly painful to him. He did think that
he had sufficient excuse for breaking his troth to this woman, but
the justification of his conduct was founded on reasons which he
hardly knew how to plead to her. He had heard that of her past life
which, had he heard it before, would have saved him from his present
difficulty. But he had loved her,—did love her in a certain fashion;
and her offences, such as they were, did not debar her from his
sympathies.

"How are they changed? I am two years older, if you mean that." As
she said this she looked round at the glass, as though to see whether
she was become so haggard with age as to be unfit to become this
man's wife. She was very lovely, with a kind of beauty which we
seldom see now. In these days men regard the form and outward lines
of a woman's face and figure more than either the colour or the
expression, and women fit themselves to men's eyes. With padding and
false hair without limit a figure may be constructed of almost any
dimensions. The sculptors who construct them, male and female,
hairdressers and milliners, are very skilful, and figures are
constructed of noble dimensions, sometimes with voluptuous expansion,
sometimes with classic reticence, sometimes with dishevelled
negligence which becomes very dishevelled indeed when long out of the
sculptors' hands. Colours indeed are added, but not the colours which
we used to love. The taste for flesh and blood has for the day given
place to an appetite for horsehair and pearl powder. But Mrs. Hurtle
was not a beauty after the present fashion. She was very dark,—a
dark brunette,—with large round blue eyes, that could indeed be
soft, but could also be very severe. Her silken hair, almost black,
hung in a thousand curls all round her head and neck. Her cheeks and
lips and neck were full, and the blood would come and go, giving a
varying expression to her face with almost every word she spoke. Her
nose also was full, and had something of the pug. But nevertheless it
was a nose which any man who loved her would swear to be perfect. Her
mouth was large, and she rarely showed her teeth. Her chin was full,
marked by a large dimple, and as it ran down to her neck was
beginning to form a second. Her bust was full and beautifully shaped;
but she invariably dressed as though she were oblivious, or at any
rate neglectful, of her own charms. Her dress, as Montague had seen
her, was always black,—not a sad weeping widow's garment, but silk
or woollen or cotton as the case might be, always new, always nice,
always well-fitting, and most especially always simple. She was
certainly a most beautiful woman, and she knew it. She looked as
though she knew it,—but only after that fashion in which a woman
ought to know it. Of her age she had never spoken to Montague. She
was in truth over thirty,—perhaps almost as near thirty-five as
thirty. But she was one of those whom years hardly seem to touch.

"You are beautiful as ever you were," he said.

"Psha! Do not tell me of that. I care nothing for my beauty unless it
can bind me to your love. Sit down there and tell me what it means."
Then she let go his hand, and seated herself opposite to the chair
which she gave him.

"I told you in my letter."

"You told me nothing in your letter,—except that it was to be—off.
Why is it to be—off? Do you not love me?" Then she threw herself
upon her knees, and leaned upon his, and looked up in his face.
"Paul," she said, "I have come again across the Atlantic on purpose
to see you,—after so many months,—and will you not give me one
kiss? Even though you should leave me for ever, give me one kiss." Of
course he kissed her, not once, but with a long, warm embrace. How
could it have been otherwise? With all his heart he wished that she
would have remained away, but while she knelt there at his feet what
could he do but embrace her? "Now tell me everything," she said,
seating herself on a footstool at his feet.











"I have come across the Atlantic to see you."


"I have come across the Atlantic to see you."

Click to ENLARGE


She certainly did not look like a woman whom a man might ill treat or
scorn with impunity. Paul felt, even while she was lavishing her
caresses upon him, that she might too probably turn and rend him
before he left her. He had known something of her temper before,
though he had also known the truth and warmth of her love. He had
travelled with her from San Francisco to England, and she had been
very good to him in illness, in distress of mind and in poverty,—for
he had been almost penniless in New York. When they landed at
Liverpool they were engaged as man and wife. He had told her all his
affairs, had given her the whole history of his life. This was before
his second journey to America, when Hamilton K. Fisker was unknown to
him. But she had told him little or nothing of her own life,—but
that she was a widow, and that she was travelling to Paris on
business. When he left her at the London railway station, from which
she started for Dover, he was full of all a lover's ardour. He had
offered to go with her, but that she had declined. But when he
remembered that he must certainly tell his friend Roger of his
engagement, and remembered also how little he knew of the lady to
whom he was engaged, he became embarrassed. What were her means he
did not know. He did know that she was some years older than himself,
and that she had spoken hardly a word to him of her own family. She
had indeed said that her husband had been one of the greatest
miscreants ever created, and had spoken of her release from him as
the one blessing she had known before she had met Paul Montague. But
it was only when he thought of all this after she had left him,—only
when he reflected how bald was the story which he must tell Roger
Carbury,—that he became dismayed. Such had been the woman's
cleverness, such her charm, so great her power of adaptation, that he
had passed weeks in her daily company, with still progressing
intimacy and affection, without feeling that anything had been
missing.

He had told his friend, and his friend had declared to him that it
was impossible that he should marry a woman whom he had met in a
railway train without knowing something about her. Roger did all he
could to persuade the lover to forget his love,—and partially
succeeded. It is so pleasant and so natural that a young man should
enjoy the company of a clever, beautiful woman on a long journey,—so
natural that during the journey he should allow himself to think that
she may during her whole life be all in all to him as she is at that
moment;—and so natural again that he should see his mistake when he
has parted from her! But Montague, though he was half false to his
widow, was half true to her. He had pledged his word, and that he
said ought to bind him. Then he returned to California, and learned
through the instrumentality of Hamilton K. Fisker, that in San
Francisco Mrs. Hurtle was regarded as a mystery. Some people did not
quite believe that there ever had been a Mr. Hurtle. Others said that
there certainly had been a Mr. Hurtle, and that to the best of their
belief he still existed. The fact, however, best known of her was,
that she had shot a man through the head somewhere in Oregon. She had
not been tried for it, as the world of Oregon had considered that the
circumstances justified the deed. Everybody knew that she was very
clever and very beautiful,—but everybody also thought that she was
very dangerous. "She always had money when she was here," Hamilton
Fisker said, "but no one knew where it came from." Then he wanted to
know why Paul inquired. "I don't think, you know, that I should like
to go in for a life partnership, if you mean that," said Hamilton K.
Fisker.

Montague had seen her in New York as he passed through on his second
journey to San Francisco, and had then renewed his promises in spite
of his cousin's caution. He told her that he was going to see what he
could make of his broken fortunes,—for at this time, as the reader
will remember, there was no great railway in existence,—and she had
promised to follow him. Since that they had never met till this day.
She had not made the promised journey to San Francisco, at any rate
before he had left it. Letters from her had reached him in England,
and these he had answered by explaining to her, or endeavouring to
explain, that their engagement must be at an end. And now she had
followed him to London! "Tell me everything," she said, leaning upon
him and looking up into his face.

"But you,—when did you arrive here?"

"Here, at this house, I arrived the night before last. On Tuesday I
reached Liverpool. There I found that you were probably in London,
and so I came on. I have come only to see you. I can understand that
you should have been estranged from me. That journey home is now so
long ago! Our meeting in New York was so short and wretched. I would
not tell you because you then were poor yourself, but at that moment
I was penniless. I have got my own now out from the very teeth of
robbers." As she said this, she looked as though she could be very
persistent in claiming her own,—or what she might think to be her
own. "I could not get across to San Francisco as I said I would, and
when I was there you had quarrelled with your uncle and returned. And
now I am here. I at any rate have been faithful." As she said this
his arm was again thrown over her, so as to press her head to his
knee. "And now," she said, "tell me about yourself?"

His position was embarrassing and very odious to himself. Had he done
his duty properly, he would gently have pushed her from him, have
sprung to his legs, and have declared that, however faulty might have
been his previous conduct, he now found himself bound to make her
understand that he did not intend to become her husband. But he was
either too much of a man or too little of a man for conduct such as
that. He did make the avowal to himself, even at that moment as she
sat there. Let the matter go as it would, she should never be his
wife. He would marry no one unless it was Hetta Carbury. But he did
not at all know how to get this said with proper emphasis, and yet
with properly apologetic courtesy. "I am engaged here about this
railway," he said. "You have heard, I suppose, of our projected
scheme?"

"Heard of it! San Francisco is full of it. Hamilton Fisker is the
great man of the day there, and, when I left, your uncle was buying a
villa for seventy-four thousand dollars. And yet they say that the
best of it all has been transferred to you Londoners. Many there are
very hard upon Fisker for coming here and doing as he did."

"It's doing very well, I believe," said Paul, with some feeling of
shame, as he thought how very little he knew about it.

"You are the manager here in England?"

"No,—I am a member of the firm that manages it at San Francisco; but
the real manager here is our chairman, Mr. Melmotte."

"Ah,—I have heard of him. He is a great man;—a Frenchman, is he
not? There was a talk of inviting him to California. You know him of
course?"

"Yes;—I know him. I see him once a week."

"I would sooner see that man than your Queen, or any of your dukes or
lords. They tell me that he holds the world of commerce in his right
hand. What power;—what grandeur!"

"Grand enough," said Paul, "if it all came honestly."

"Such a man rises above honesty," said Mrs. Hurtle, "as a great
general rises above humanity when he sacrifices an army to conquer a
nation. Such greatness is incompatible with small scruples. A pigmy
man is stopped by a little ditch, but a giant stalks over the
rivers."

"I prefer to be stopped by the ditches," said Montague.

"Ah, Paul, you were not born for commerce. And I will grant you this,
that commerce is not noble unless it rises to great heights. To live
in plenty by sticking to your counter from nine in the morning to
nine at night, is not a fine life. But this man with a scratch of his
pen can send out or call in millions of dollars. Do they say here
that he is not honest?"

"As he is my partner in this affair perhaps I had better say nothing
against him."

"Of course such a man will be abused. People have said that Napoleon
was a coward, and Washington a traitor. You must take me where I
shall see Melmotte. He is a man whose hand I would kiss; but I would
not condescend to speak even a word of reverence to any of your
Emperors."

"I fear you will find that your idol has feet of clay."

"Ah,—you mean that he is bold in breaking those precepts of yours
about coveting worldly wealth. All men and women break that
commandment, but they do so in a stealthy fashion, half drawing back
the grasping hand, praying to be delivered from temptation while they
filch only a little, pretending to despise the only thing that is
dear to them in the world. Here is a man who boldly says that he
recognises no such law; that wealth is power, and that power is good,
and that the more a man has of wealth the greater and the stronger
and the nobler he can be. I love a man who can turn the hobgoblins
inside out and burn the wooden bogies that he meets."

Montague had formed his own opinions about Melmotte. Though connected
with the man, he believed their Grand Director to be as vile a
scoundrel as ever lived. Mrs. Hurtle's enthusiasm was very pretty,
and there was something of feminine eloquence in her words. But it
was shocking to see them lavished on such a subject. "Personally, I
do not like him," said Paul.

"I had thought to find that you and he were hand and glove."

"Oh no."

"But you are prospering in this business?"

"Yes,—I suppose we are prospering. It is one of those hazardous
things in which a man can never tell whether he be really prosperous
till he is out of it. I fell into it altogether against my will. I
had no alternative."

"It seems to me to have been a golden chance."

"As far as immediate results go it has been golden."

"That at any rate is well, Paul. And now,—now that we have got back
into our old way of talking, tell me what all this means. I have
talked to no one after this fashion since we parted. Why should our
engagement be over? You used to love me, did you not?"

He would willingly have left her question unanswered, but she waited
for an answer. "You know I did," he said.

"I thought so. This I know, that you were sure and are sure of my
love to you. Is it not so? Come, speak openly like a man. Do you
doubt me?"

He did not doubt her, and was forced to say so. "No, indeed."

"Oh, with what bated, half-mouthed words you speak,—fit for a girl
from a nursery! Out with it if you have anything to say against me!
You owe me so much at any rate. I have never ill-treated you. I have
never lied to you. I have taken nothing from you,—if I have not
taken your heart. I have given you all that I have to give." Then she
leaped to her feet and stood a little apart from him. "If you hate
me, say so."

"Winifrid," he said, calling her by her name.

"Winifrid! Yes, now for the first time, though I have called you Paul
from the moment you entered the room. Well, speak out. Is there
another woman that you love?"

At this moment Paul Montague proved that at any rate he was no
coward. Knowing the nature of the woman, how ardent, how impetuous
she could be, and how full of wrath, he had come at her call
intending to tell her the truth which he now spoke. "There is
another," he said.

She stood silent, looking into his face, thinking how she would
commence her attack upon him. She fixed her eyes upon him, standing
quite upright, squeezing her own right hand with the fingers of the
left. "Oh," she said, in a whisper;—"that is the reason why I am
told that I am to be—off."

"That was not the reason."

"What;—can there be more reason than that,—better reason than that?
Unless, indeed, it be that as you have learned to love another so
also you have learned to—hate me."

"Listen to me, Winifrid."

"No, sir; no Winifrid now! How did you dare to kiss me, knowing that
it was on your tongue to tell me I was to be cast aside? And so you
love—some other woman! I am too old to please you, too rough,—too
little like the dolls of your own country! What were your—other
reasons? Let me hear your—other reasons, that I may tell you that
they are lies."

The reasons were very difficult to tell, though when put forward by
Roger Carbury they had been easily pleaded. Paul knew but little
about Winifrid Hurtle, and nothing at all about the late Mr. Hurtle.
His reasons curtly put forward might have been so stated. "We know
too little of each other," he said.

"What more do you want to know? You can know all for the asking. Did
I ever refuse to answer you? As to my knowledge of you and your
affairs, if I think it sufficient, need you complain? What is it that
you want to know? Ask anything and I will tell you. Is it about my
money? You knew when you gave me your word that I had next to none.
Now I have ample means of my own. You knew that I was a widow. What
more? If you wish to hear of the wretch that was my husband, I will
deluge you with stories. I should have thought that a man who loved
would not have cared to hear much of one—who perhaps was loved
once."

He knew that his position was perfectly indefensible. It would have
been better for him not to have alluded to any reasons, but to have
remained firm to his assertion that he loved another woman. He must
have acknowledged himself to be false, perjured, inconstant, and very
base. A fault that may be venial to those who do not suffer, is
damnable, deserving of an eternity of tortures, in the eyes of the
sufferer. He must have submitted to be told that he was a fiend, and
might have had to endure whatever of punishment a lady in her wrath
could inflict upon him. But he would have been called upon for no
further mental effort. His position would have been plain. But now he
was all at sea. "I wish to hear nothing," he said.

"Then why tell me that we know so little of each other? That, surely,
is a poor excuse to make to a woman,—after you have been false to
her. Why did you not say that when we were in New York together?
Think of it, Paul. Is not that mean?"

"I do not think that I am mean."

"No;—a man will lie to a woman, and justify it always. Who is—this
lady?"

He knew that he could not at any rate be warranted in mentioning
Hetta Carbury's name. He had never even asked her for her love, and
certainly had received no assurance that he was loved. "I can not
name her."

"And I, who have come hither from California to see you, am to return
satisfied because you tell me that you have—changed your affections?
That is to be all, and you think that fair? That suits your own mind,
and leaves no sore spot in your heart? You can do that, and shake
hands with me, and go away,—without a pang, without a scruple?"

"I did not say so."

"And you are the man who cannot bear to hear me praise Augustus
Melmotte because you think him dishonest! Are you a liar?"

"I hope not."

"Did you say you would be my husband? Answer me, sir."

"I did say so."

"Do you now refuse to keep your promise? You shall answer me."

"I cannot marry you."

"Then, sir, are you not a liar?" It would have taken him long to
explain to her, even had he been able, that a man may break a promise
and yet not tell a lie. He had made up his mind to break his
engagement before he had seen Hetta Carbury, and therefore he could
not accuse himself of falseness on her account. He had been brought
to his resolution by the rumours he had heard of her past life, and
as to his uncertainty about her husband. If Mr. Hurtle were alive,
certainly then he would not be a liar because he did not marry Mrs.
Hurtle. He did not think himself to be a liar, but he was not at once
ready with his defence. "Oh, Paul," she said, changing at once into
softness,—"I am pleading to you for my life. Oh, that I could make
you feel that I am pleading for my life. Have you given a promise to
this lady also?"

"No," said he. "I have given no promise."

"But she loves you?"

"She has never said so."

"You have told her of your love?"

"Never."

"There is nothing, then, between you? And you would put her against
me,—some woman who has nothing to suffer, no cause of complaint,
who, for aught you know, cares nothing for you. Is that so?"

"I suppose it is," said Paul.

"Then you may still be mine. Oh, Paul, come back to me. Will any
woman love you as I do;—live for you as I do? Think what I have done
in coming here, where I have no friend,—not a single friend,—unless
you are a friend. Listen to me. I have told the woman here that I am
engaged to marry you."

"You have told the woman of the house?"

"Certainly I have. Was I not justified? Were you not engaged to me?
Am I to have you to visit me here, and to risk her insults, perhaps
to be told to take myself off and to find accommodation elsewhere,
because I am too mealy-mouthed to tell the truth as to the cause of
my being here? I am here because you have promised to make me your
wife, and, as far as I am concerned, I am not ashamed to have the
fact advertised in every newspaper in the town. I told her that I was
the promised wife of one Paul Montague, who was joined with Mr.
Melmotte in managing the new great American railway, and that Mr.
Paul Montague would be with me this morning. She was too far-seeing
to doubt me, but had she doubted, I could have shown her your
letters. Now go and tell her that what I have said is false,—if you
dare." The woman was not there, and it did not seem to be his
immediate duty to leave the room in order that he might denounce a
lady whom he certainly had ill-used. The position was one which
required thought. After a while he took up his hat to go. "Do you
mean to tell her that my statement is untrue?"

"No,—" he said; "not to-day."

"And you will come back to me?"

"Yes;—I will come back."

"I have no friend here, but you, Paul. Remember that. Remember all
your promises. Remember all our love,—and be good to me." Then she
let him go without another word.

 


 


CHAPTER XXVII.


MRS. HURTLE GOES TO THE PLAY.
 

On the day after the visit just recorded, Paul Montague received the
following letter from Mrs.
Hurtle:—
 


My dear Paul,—

I think that perhaps we hardly made ourselves understood
to each other yesterday, and I am sure that you do not
understand how absolutely my whole life is now at stake. I
need only refer you to our journey from San Francisco to
London to make you conscious that I really love you. To a
woman such love is all important. She cannot throw it from
her as a man may do amidst the affairs of the world. Nor,
if it has to be thrown from her, can she bear the loss as
a man bears it. Her thoughts have dwelt on it with more
constancy than his;—and then too her devotion has
separated her from other things. My devotion to you has
separated me from everything.

But I scorn to come to you as a suppliant. If you choose
to say after hearing me that you will put me away from you
because you have seen some one fairer than I am, whatever
course I may take in my indignation, I shall not throw
myself at your feet to tell you of my wrongs. I wish,
however, that you should hear me. You say that there is
some one you love better than you love me, but that you
have not committed yourself to her. Alas, I know too much
of the world to be surprised that a man's constancy should
not stand out two years in the absence of his mistress. A
man cannot wrap himself up and keep himself warm with an
absent love as a woman does. But I think that some
remembrance of the past must come back upon you now that
you have seen me again. I think that you must have owned
to yourself that you did love me, and that you could love
me again. You sin against me to my utter destruction if
you leave me. I have given up every friend I have to
follow you. As regards the other—nameless lady, there can
be no fault; for, as you tell me, she knows nothing of
your passion.

You hinted that there were other reasons,—that we know
too little of each other. You meant no doubt that you knew
too little of me. Is it not the case that you were content
when you knew only what was to be learned in those days of
our sweet intimacy, but that you have been made
discontented by stories told you by your partners at San
Francisco? If this be so, trouble yourself at any rate to
find out the truth before you allow yourself to treat a
woman as you propose to treat me. I think you are too good
a man to cast aside a woman you have loved,—like a soiled
glove,—because ill-natured words have been spoken of her
by men, or perhaps by women, who know nothing of her life.
My late husband, Caradoc Hurtle, was Attorney-General in
the State of Kansas when I married him, I being then in
possession of a considerable fortune left to me by my
mother. There his life was infamously bad. He spent what
money he could get of mine, and then left me and the
State, and took himself to Texas;—where he drank himself
to death. I did not follow him, and in his absence I was
divorced from him in accordance with the laws of Kansas
State. I then went to San Francisco about property of my
mother's, which my husband had fraudulently sold to a
countryman of ours now resident in Paris,—having forged
my name. There I met you, and in that short story I tell
you all that there is to be told. It may be that you do
not believe me now; but if so, are you not bound to go
where you can verify your own doubts or my word?

I try to write dispassionately, but I am in truth
overborne by passion. I also have heard in California
rumours about myself, and after much delay I received your
letter. I resolved to follow you to England as soon as
circumstances would permit me. I have been forced to fight
a battle about my property, and I have won it. I had two
reasons for carrying this through by my personal efforts
before I saw you. I had begun it and had determined that I
would not be beaten by fraud. And I was also determined
that I would not plead to you as a pauper. We have talked
too freely together in past days of our mutual money
matters for me to feel any delicacy in alluding to them.
When a man and woman have agreed to be husband and wife
there should be no delicacy of that kind. When we came
here together we were both embarrassed. We both had some
property, but neither of us could enjoy it. Since that I
have made my way through my difficulties. From what I have
heard at San Francisco I suppose that you have done the
same. I at any rate shall be perfectly contented if from
this time our affairs can be made one.

And now about myself,—immediately. I have come here all
alone. Since I last saw you in New York I have not had
altogether a good time. I have had a great struggle and
have been thrown on my own resources and have been all
alone. Very cruel things have been said of me. You heard
cruel things said, but I presume them to have been said to
you with reference to my late husband. Since that they
have been said to others with reference to you. I have not
now come, as my countrymen do generally, backed with a
trunk full of introductions and with scores of friends
ready to receive me. It was necessary to me that I should
see you and hear my fate,—and here I am. I appeal to you
to release me in some degree from the misery of my
solitude. You know,—no one so well,—that my nature is
social and that I am not given to be melancholy. Let us be
cheerful together, as we once were, if it be only for a
day. Let me see you as I used to see you, and let me be
seen as I used to be seen.

Come to me and take me out with you, and let us dine
together, and take me to one of your theatres. If you wish
it I will promise you not to allude to that revelation you
made to me just now, though of course it is nearer to my
heart than any other matter. Perhaps some woman's vanity
makes me think that if you would only see me again, and
talk to me as you used to talk, you would think of me as
you used to think.

You need not fear but you will find me at home. I have no
whither to go,—and shall hardly stir from the house till
you come to me. Send me a line, however, that I may have
my hat on if you are minded to do as I ask you.

Yours with all my heart,

Winifred Hurtle.
 


This letter took her much time to write, though she was very careful
so to write as to make it seem that it had flown easily from her pen.
She copied it from the first draught, but she copied it rapidly, with
one or two premeditated erasures, so that it should look to have been
done hurriedly. There had been much art in it. She had at any rate
suppressed any show of anger. In calling him to her she had so
written as to make him feel that if he would come he need not fear
the claws of an offended lioness:—and yet she was angry as a lioness
who had lost her cub. She had almost ignored that other lady whose
name she had not yet heard. She had spoken of her lover's
entanglement with that other lady as a light thing which might easily
be put aside. She had said much of her own wrongs, but had not said
much of the wickedness of the wrong doer. Invited as she had invited
him, surely he could not but come to her! And then, in her reference
to money, not descending to the details of dollars and cents, she had
studied how to make him feel that he might marry her without
imprudence. As she read it over to herself she thought that there was
a tone through it of natural feminine uncautious eagerness. She put
her letter up in an envelope, stuck a stamp on it and addressed
it,—and then threw herself back in her chair to think of her
position.

He should marry her,—or there should be something done which should
make the name of Winifrid Hurtle known to the world! She had no plan
of revenge yet formed. She would not talk of revenge,—she told
herself that she would not even think of revenge,—till she was quite
sure that revenge would be necessary. But she did think of it, and
could not keep her thoughts from it for a moment. Could it be
possible that she, with all her intellectual gifts as well as those
of her outward person, should be thrown over by a man whom well as
she loved him,—and she did love him with all her heart,—she
regarded as greatly inferior to herself! He had promised to marry
her; and he should marry her, or the world should hear the story of
his perjury!

Paul Montague felt that he was surrounded by difficulties as soon as
he read the letter. That his heart was all the other way he was quite
sure; but yet it did seem to him that there was no escape from his
troubles open to him. There was not a single word in this woman's
letter that he could contradict. He had loved her and had promised to
make her his wife,—and had determined to break his word to her
because he found that she was enveloped in dangerous mystery. He had
so resolved before he had ever seen Hetta Carbury, having been made
to believe by Roger Carbury that a marriage with an unknown American
woman,—of whom he only did know that she was handsome and
clever,—would be a step to ruin. The woman, as Roger said, was an
adventuress,—might never have had a husband,—might at this moment
have two or three,—might be overwhelmed with debt,—might be
anything bad, dangerous, and abominable. All that he had heard at San
Francisco had substantiated Roger's views. "Any scrape is better than
that scrape," Roger had said to him. Paul had believed his Mentor,
and had believed with a double faith as soon as he had seen Hetta
Carbury.

But what should he do now? It was impossible, after what had passed
between them, that he should leave Mrs. Hurtle at her lodgings at
Islington without any notice. It was clear enough to him that she
would not consent to be so left. Then her present proposal,—though
it seemed to be absurd and almost comical in the tragical condition
of their present circumstances,—had in it some immediate comfort. To
take her out and give her a dinner, and then go with her to some
theatre, would be easy and perhaps pleasant. It would be easier, and
certainly much pleasanter, because she had pledged herself to abstain
from talking of her grievances. Then he remembered some happy
evenings, delicious hours, which he had so passed with her, when they
were first together at New York. There could be no better companion
for such a festival. She could talk,—and she could listen as well as
talk. And she could sit silent, conveying to her neighbour the sense
of her feminine charms by her simple proximity. He had been very
happy when so placed. Had it been possible he would have escaped the
danger now, but the reminiscence of past delights in some sort
reconciled him to the performance of this perilous duty.

But when the evening should be over, how would he part with her? When
the pleasant hour should have passed away and he had brought her back
to her door, what should he say to her then? He must make some
arrangement as to a future meeting. He knew that he was in a great
peril, and he did not know how he might best escape it. He could not
now go to Roger Carbury for advice; for was not Roger Carbury his
rival? It would be for his friend's interest that he should marry the
widow. Roger Carbury, as he knew well, was too honest a man to allow
himself to be guided in any advice he might give by such a feeling,
but, still, on this matter, he could no longer tell everything to
Roger Carbury. He could not say all that he would have to say without
speaking of Hetta;—and of his love for Hetta he could not speak to
his rival.

He had no other friend in whom he could confide. There was no other
human being he could trust, unless it was Hetta herself. He thought
for a moment that he would write a stern and true letter to the
woman, telling her that as it was impossible that there should ever
be marriage between them, he felt himself bound to abstain from her
society. But then he remembered her solitude, her picture of herself
in London without even an acquaintance except himself, and he
convinced himself that it would be impossible that he should leave
her without seeing her. So he wrote to her
thus;—
 


Dear Winifred,

I will come for you to-morrow at half-past five. We will
dine together at the Thespian;—and then I will have a box
at the Haymarket. The Thespian is a good sort of place,
and lots of ladies dine there. You can dine in your
bonnet.

Yours affectionately,

P. M.
 


Some half-formed idea ran through his brain that P. M. was a safer
signature than Paul Montague. Then came a long train of thoughts as
to the perils of the whole proceeding. She had told him that she had
announced herself to the keeper of the lodging-house as engaged to
him, and he had in a manner authorised the statement by declining to
contradict it at once. And now, after that announcement, he was
assenting to her proposal that they should go out and amuse
themselves together. Hitherto she had always seemed to him to be
open, candid, and free from intrigue. He had known her to be
impulsive, capricious, at times violent, but never deceitful. Perhaps
he was unable to read correctly the inner character of a woman whose
experience of the world had been much wider than his own. His mind
misgave him that it might be so; but still he thought that he knew
that she was not treacherous. And yet did not her present acts
justify him in thinking that she was carrying on a plot against him?
The note, however, was sent, and he prepared for the evening of the
play, leaving the dangers of the occasion to adjust themselves. He
ordered the dinner and he took the box, and at the hour fixed he was
again at her lodgings.

The woman of the house with a smile showed him into Mrs. Hurtle's
sitting-room, and he at once perceived that the smile was intended to
welcome him as an accepted lover. It was a smile half of
congratulation to the lover, half of congratulation to herself as a
woman that another man had been caught by the leg and made fast. Who
does not know the smile? What man, who has been caught and made sure,
has not felt a certain dissatisfaction at being so treated,
understanding that the smile is intended to convey to him a sense of
his own captivity? It has, however, generally mattered but little to
us. If we have felt that something of ridicule was intended, because
we have been regarded as cocks with their spurs cut away, then we
also have a pride when we have declared to ourselves that upon the
whole we have gained more than we have lost. But with Paul Montague
at the present moment there was no satisfaction, no pride,—only a
feeling of danger which every hour became deeper, and stronger, with
less chance of escape. He was almost tempted at this moment to detain
the woman, and tell her the truth,—and bear the immediate
consequences. But there would be treason in doing so, and he would
not, could not do it.

He was left hardly a moment to think of this. Almost before the woman
had shut the door, Mrs. Hurtle came to him out of her bedroom, with
her hat on her head. Nothing could be more simple than her dress, and
nothing prettier. It was now June, and the weather was warm, and the
lady wore a light gauzy black dress,—there is a fabric which the
milliners I think call grenadine,—coming close up round her throat.
It was very pretty, and she was prettier even than her dress. And she
had on a hat, black also, small and simple, but very pretty. There
are times at which a man going to a theatre with a lady wishes her to
be bright in her apparel,—almost gorgeous; in which he will hardly
be contented unless her cloak be scarlet, and her dress white, and
her gloves of some bright hue,—unless she wear roses or jewels in
her hair. It is thus our girls go to the theatre now, when they go
intending that all the world shall know who they are. But there are
times again in which a man would prefer that his companion should be
very quiet in her dress,—but still pretty; in which he would choose
that she should dress herself for him only. All this Mrs. Hurtle had
understood accurately; and Paul Montague, who understood nothing of
it, was gratified. "You told me to have a hat, and here I am,—hat
and all." She gave him her hand, and laughed, and looked pleasantly
at him, as though there was no cause of unhappiness between them. The
lodging-house woman saw them enter the cab, and muttered some little
word as they went off. Paul did not hear the word, but was sure that
it bore some indistinct reference to his expected marriage.

Neither during the drive, nor at the dinner, nor during the
performance at the theatre, did she say a word in allusion to her
engagement. It was with them, as in former days it had been at New
York. She whispered pleasant words to him, touching his arm now and
again with her finger as she spoke, seeming ever better inclined to
listen than to speak. Now and again she referred, after some
slightest fashion, to little circumstances that had occurred between
them, to some joke, some hour of tedium, some moment of delight; but
it was done as one man might do it to another,—if any man could have
done it so pleasantly. There was a scent which he had once approved,
and now she bore it on her handkerchief. There was a ring which he
had once given her, and she wore it on the finger with which she
touched his sleeve. With his own hands he had once adjusted her
curls, and each curl was as he had placed it. She had a way of
shaking her head, that was very pretty,—a way that might, one would
think, have been dangerous at her age, as likely to betray those
first grey hairs which will come to disturb the last days of youth.
He had once told her in sport to be more careful. She now shook her
head again, and, as he smiled, she told him that she could still dare
to be careless. There are a thousand little silly softnesses which
are pretty and endearing between acknowledged lovers, with which no
woman would like to dispense, to which even men who are in love
submit sometimes with delight; but which in other circumstances would
be vulgar,—and to the woman distasteful. There are closenesses and
sweet approaches, smiles and nods and pleasant winkings, whispers,
innuendoes and hints, little mutual admirations and assurances that
there are things known to those two happy ones of which the world
beyond is altogether ignorant. Much of this comes of nature, but
something of it sometimes comes by art. Of such art as there may be
in it Mrs. Hurtle was a perfect master. No allusion was made to their
engagement,—not an unpleasant word was spoken; but the art was
practised with all its pleasant adjuncts. Paul was flattered to the
top of his bent; and, though the sword was hanging over his head,
though he knew that the sword must fall,—must partly fall that very
night,—still he enjoyed it.

There are men who, of their natures, do not like women, even though
they may have wives and legions of daughters, and be surrounded by
things feminine in all the affairs of their lives. Others again have
their strongest affinities and sympathies with women, and are rarely
altogether happy when removed from their influence. Paul Montague was
of the latter sort. At this time he was thoroughly in love with Hetta
Carbury, and was not in love with Mrs. Hurtle. He would have given
much of his golden prospects in the American railway to have had Mrs.
Hurtle reconveyed suddenly to San Francisco. And yet he had a delight
in her presence. "The acting isn't very good," he said when the piece
was nearly over.

"What does it signify? What we enjoy or what we suffer depends upon
the humour. The acting is not first-rate, but I have listened and
laughed and cried, because I have been happy."

He was bound to tell her that he also had enjoyed the evening, and
was bound to say it in no voice of hypocritical constraint. "It has
been very jolly," he said.

"And one has so little that is really jolly, as you call it. I wonder
whether any girl ever did sit and cry like that because her lover
talked to another woman. What I find fault with is that the writers
and actors are so ignorant of men and women as we see them every day.
It's all right that she should cry, but she shouldn't cry there." The
position described was so nearly her own, that he could say nothing
to this. She had so spoken on purpose,—fighting her own battle after
her own fashion, knowing well that her words would confuse him. "A
woman hides such tears. She may be found crying because she is unable
to hide them;—but she does not willingly let the other woman see
them. Does she?"

"I suppose not."

"Medea did not weep when she was introduced to Creusa."

"Women are not all Medeas," he replied.

"There's a dash of the savage princess about most of them. I am quite
ready if you like. I never want to see the curtain fall. And I have
had no nosegay brought in a wheelbarrow to throw on to the stage. Are
you going to see me home?"

"Certainly."

"You need not. I'm not a bit afraid of a London cab by myself." But
of course he accompanied her to Islington. He owed her at any rate as
much as that. She continued to talk during the whole journey. What a
wonderful place London was,—so immense, but so dirty! New York of
course was not so big, but was, she thought, pleasanter. But Paris
was the gem of gems among towns. She did not like Frenchmen, and she
liked Englishmen even better than Americans; but she fancied that she
could never like English women. "I do so hate all kinds of buckram. I
like good conduct, and law, and religion too if it be not forced down
one's throat; but I hate what your women call propriety. I suppose
what we have been doing to-night is very improper; but I am quite
sure that it has not been in the least wicked."

"I don't think it has," said Paul Montague very tamely.

It is a long way from the Haymarket to Islington, but at last the cab
reached the lodging-house door. "Yes, this is it," she said. "Even
about the houses there is an air of stiff-necked propriety which
frightens me." She was getting out as she spoke, and he had already
knocked at the door. "Come in for one moment," she said as he paid
the cabman. The woman the while was standing with the door in her
hand. It was near midnight,—but, when people are engaged, hours do
not matter. The woman of the house, who was respectability
herself,—a nice kind widow, with five children, named
Pipkin,—understood that and smiled again as he followed the lady
into the sitting-room. She had already taken off her hat and was
flinging it on to the sofa as he entered. "Shut the door for one
moment," she said; and he shut it. Then she threw herself into his
arms, not kissing him but looking up into his face. "Oh Paul," she
exclaimed, "my darling! Oh Paul, my love! I will not bear to be
separated from you. No, no;—never. I swear it, and you may believe
me. There is nothing I cannot do for love of you,—but to lose you."
Then she pushed him from her and looked away from him, clasping her
hands together. "But Paul, I mean to keep my pledge to you to-night.
It was to be an island in our troubles, a little holiday in our hard
school-time, and I will not destroy it at its close. You will see me
again soon,—will you not?" He nodded assent, then took her in his
arms and kissed her, and left her without a word.

 


 


CHAPTER XXVIII.


DOLLY LONGESTAFFE GOES INTO THE CITY.
 

It has been told how the gambling at the Beargarden went on one
Sunday night. On the following Monday Sir Felix did not go to the
club. He had watched Miles Grendall at play, and was sure that on
more than one or two occasions the man had cheated. Sir Felix did not
quite know what in such circumstances it would be best for him to do.
Reprobate as he was himself, this work of villainy was new to him and
seemed to be very terrible. What steps ought he to take? He was quite
sure of his facts, and yet he feared that Nidderdale and Grasslough
and Longestaffe would not believe him. He would have told Montague,
but Montague had, he thought, hardly enough authority at the club to
be of any use to him. On the Tuesday again he did not go to the club.
He felt severely the loss of the excitement to which he had been
accustomed, but the thing was too important to him to be slurred
over. He did not dare to sit down and play with the man who had
cheated him without saying anything about it. On the Wednesday
afternoon life was becoming unbearable to him and he sauntered into
the building at about five in the afternoon. There, as a matter of
course, he found Dolly Longestaffe drinking sherry and bitters.
"Where the blessed angels have you been?" said Dolly. Dolly was at
that moment alert with the sense of a duty performed. He had just
called on his sister and written a sharp letter to his father, and
felt himself to be almost a man of business.

"I've had fish of my own to fry," said Felix, who had passed the last
two days in unendurable idleness. Then he referred again to the money
which Dolly owed him, not making any complaint, not indeed asking for
immediate payment, but explaining with an air of importance that if a
commercial arrangement could be made, it might, at this moment, be
very serviceable to him. "I'm particularly anxious to take up those
shares," said Felix.

"Of course you ought to have your money."

"I don't say that at all, old fellow. I know very well that you're
all right. You're not like that fellow, Miles Grendall."

"Well; no. Poor Miles has got nothing to bless himself with. I
suppose I could get it, and so I ought to pay."

"That's no excuse for Grendall," said Sir Felix, shaking his head.

"A chap can't pay if he hasn't got it, Carbury. A chap ought to pay
of course. I've had a letter from our lawyer within the last half
hour—here it is." And Dolly pulled a letter out of his pocket which
he had opened and read indeed within the last hour, but which had
been duly delivered at his lodgings early in the morning. "My
governor wants to sell Pickering, and Melmotte wants to buy the
place. My governor can't sell without me, and I've asked for half the
plunder. I know what's what. My interest in the property is greater
than his. It isn't much of a place, and they are talking of £50,000,
over and above the debt upon it. £25,000 would pay off what I owe on
my own property, and make me very square. From what this fellow says
I suppose they're going to give in to my terms."

"By George, that'll be a grand thing for you, Dolly."

"Oh yes. Of course I want it. But I don't like the place going. I'm
not much of a fellow, I know. I'm awfully lazy and can't get myself
to go in for things as I ought to do; but I've a sort of feeling that
I don't like the family property going to pieces. A fellow oughtn't
to let his family property go to pieces."

"You never lived at Pickering."

"No;—and I don't know that it is any good. It gives us 3 per cent.
on the money it's worth, while the governor is paying 6 per cent.,
and I'm paying 25, for the money we've borrowed. I know more about it
than you'd think. It ought to be sold, and now I suppose it will be
sold. Old Melmotte knows all about it, and if you like I'll go with
you to the city to-morrow and make it straight about what I owe you.
He'll advance me £1,000, and then you can get the shares. Are you
going to dine here?"

Sir Felix said that he would dine at the club, but declared, with
considerable mystery in his manner, that he could not stay and play
whist afterwards. He acceded willingly to Dolly's plan of visiting
Abchurch Lane on the following day, but had some difficulty in
inducing his friend to consent to fix on an hour early enough for
city purposes. Dolly suggested that they should meet at the club at 4
p.m. Sir Felix had named noon, and
promised to call at Dolly's
lodgings. They split the difference at last and agreed to start at
two. They then dined together, Miles Grendall dining alone at the
next table to them. Dolly and Grendall spoke to each other
frequently, but in that conversation the young baronet would not
join. Nor did Grendall ever address himself to Sir Felix. "Is there
anything up between you and Miles?" said Dolly, when they had
adjourned to the smoking-room.

"I can't bear him."

"There never was any love between you two, I know. But you used to
speak, and you've played with him all through."

"Played with him! I should think I have. Though he did get such a
haul last Sunday he owes me more than you do now."

"Is that the reason you haven't played the last two nights?"

Sir Felix paused a moment. "No;—that is not the reason. I'll tell
you all about it in the cab to-morrow." Then he left the club,
declaring that he would go up to Grosvenor Square and see Marie
Melmotte. He did go up to the Square, and when he came to the house
he would not go in. What was the good? He could do nothing further
till he got old Melmotte's consent, and in no way could he so
probably do that as by showing that he had got money wherewith to buy
shares in the railway. What he did with himself during the remainder
of the evening the reader need not know, but on his return home at
some comparatively early hour, he found this note from
Marie.
 


Wednesday Afternoon.

Dearest Felix,

Why don't we see you? Mamma would say nothing if you came.
Papa is never in the drawing-room. Miss Longestaffe is
here of course, and people always come in in the evening.
We are just going to dine out at the Duchess of
Stevenage's. Papa, and mamma and I. Mamma told me that
Lord Nidderdale is to be there, but you need not be a bit
afraid. I don't like Lord Nidderdale, and I will never
take any one but the man I love. You know who that is.
Miss Longestaffe is so angry because she can't go with us.
What do you think of her telling me that she did not
understand being left alone? We are to go afterwards to a
musical party at Lady Gamut's. Miss Longestaffe is going
with us, but she says that she hates music. She is such a
set-up thing! I wonder why papa has her here. We don't go
anywhere to-morrow evening, so pray come.

And why haven't you written me something and sent it to
Didon? She won't betray us. And if she did, what matters?
I mean to be true. If papa were to beat me into a mummy I
would stick to you. He told me once to take Lord
Nidderdale, and then he told me to refuse him. And now he
wants me to take him again. But I won't. I'll take no one
but my own darling.

Yours for ever and ever,

Marie.
 


Now that the young lady had begun to have an interest of her own in
life, she was determined to make the most of it. All this was
delightful to her, but to Sir Felix it was simply "a bother." Sir
Felix was quite willing to marry the girl to-morrow,—on condition of
course that the money was properly arranged; but he was not willing
to go through much work in the way of love-making with Marie
Melmotte. In such business he preferred Ruby Ruggles as a companion.

On the following day Felix was with his friend at the appointed time,
and was only kept an hour waiting while Dolly ate his breakfast and
struggled into his coat and boots. On their way to the city Felix
told his dreadful story about Miles Grendall. "By George!" said
Dolly. "And you think you saw him do it!"

"It's not thinking at all. I'm sure I saw him do it three times. I
believe he always had an ace somewhere about him." Dolly sat quite
silent thinking of it. "What had I better do?" asked Sir Felix.

"By George;—I don't know."

"What should you do?"

"Nothing at all. I shouldn't believe my own eyes. Or if I did, should
take care not to look at him."

"You wouldn't go on playing with him?"

"Yes I should. It'd be such a bore breaking up."

"But Dolly,—if you think of it!"

"That's all very fine, my dear fellow, but I shouldn't think of it."

"And you won't give me your advice."

"Well;—no; I think I'd rather not. I wish you hadn't told me. Why
did you pick me out to tell me? Why didn't you tell Nidderdale?"

"He might have said, why didn't you tell Longestaffe?"

"No, he wouldn't. Nobody would suppose that anybody would pick me out
for this kind of thing. If I'd known that you were going to tell me
such a story as this I wouldn't have come with you."

"That's nonsense, Dolly."

"Very well. I can't bear these kind of things. I feel all in a
twitter already."

"You mean to go on playing just the same?"

"Of course I do. If he won anything very heavy I should begin to
think about it, I suppose. Oh; this is Abchurch Lane, is it? Now for
the man of money."

The man of money received them much more graciously than Sir Felix
had expected. Of course nothing was said about Marie and no further
allusion was made to the painful subject of the baronet's "property."
Both Dolly and Sir Felix were astonished by the quick way in which
the great financier understood their views and the readiness with
which he undertook to comply with them. No disagreeable questions
were asked as to the nature of the debt between the young men. Dolly
was called upon to sign a couple of documents, and Sir Felix to sign
one,—and then they were assured that the thing was done. Mr.
Adolphus Longestaffe had paid Sir Felix Carbury a thousand pounds,
and Sir Felix Carbury's commission had been accepted by Mr. Melmotte
for the purchase of railway stock to that amount. Sir Felix attempted
to say a word. He endeavoured to explain that his object in this
commercial transaction was to make money immediately by reselling the
shares,—and to go on continually making money by buying at a low
price and selling at a high price. He no doubt did believe that,
being a Director, if he could once raise the means of beginning this
game, he could go on with it for an unlimited period;—buy and sell,
buy and sell;—so that he would have an almost regular income. This,
as far as he could understand, was what Paul Montague was allowed to
do,—simply because he had become a Director with a little money. Mr.
Melmotte was cordiality itself, but he could not be got to go into
particulars. It was all right. "You will wish to sell again, of
course;—of course. I'll watch the market for you." When the young
men left the room all they knew, or thought that they knew, was, that
Dolly Longestaffe had authorised Melmotte to pay a thousand pounds on
his behalf to Sir Felix, and that Sir Felix had instructed the same
great man to buy shares with the amount. "But why didn't he give you
the scrip?" said Dolly on his way westwards.

"I suppose it's all right with him," said Sir Felix.

"Oh yes;—it's all right. Thousands of pounds to him are only like
half-crowns to us fellows. I should say it's all right. All the same,
he's the biggest rogue out, you know." Sir Felix already began to be
unhappy about his thousand pounds.

 


 


CHAPTER XXIX.


MISS MELMOTTE'S COURAGE.
 

Lady Carbury continued to ask frequent questions as to the
prosecution of her son's suit, and Sir Felix began to think that he
was persecuted. "I have spoken to her father," he said crossly.

"And what did Mr. Melmotte say?"

"Say;—what should he say? He wanted to know what income I had got.
After all he's an old screw."

"Did he forbid you to come there any more?"

"Now, mother, it's no use your cross-examining me. If you'll let me
alone I'll do the best I can."

"She has accepted you, herself?"

"Of course she has. I told you that at Carbury."

"Then, Felix, if I were you I'd run off with her. I would indeed.
It's done every day, and nobody thinks any harm of it when you marry
the girl. You could do it now because I know you've got money. From
all I can hear she's just the sort of girl that would go with you."
The son sat silent, listening to these maternal councils. He did
believe that Marie would go off with him, were he to propose the
scheme to her. Her own father had almost alluded to such a
proceeding,—had certainly hinted that it was feasible,—but at the
same time had very clearly stated that in such case the ardent lover
would have to content himself with the lady alone. In any such event
as that there would be no fortune. But then, might not that only be a
threat? Rich fathers generally do forgive their daughters, and a rich
father with only one child would surely forgive her when she returned
to him, as she would do in this instance, graced with a title. Sir
Felix thought of all this as he sat there silent. His mother read his
thoughts as she continued. "Of course, Felix, there must be some
risk."

"Fancy what it would be to be thrown over at last!" he exclaimed. "I
couldn't bear it. I think I should kill her."

"Oh no, Felix; you wouldn't do that. But when I say there would be
some risk I mean that there would be very little. There would be
nothing in it that ought to make him really angry. He has nobody else
to give his money to, and it would be much nicer to have his
daughter, Lady Carbury, with him, than to be left all alone in the
world."

"I couldn't live with him, you know. I couldn't do it."

"You needn't live with him, Felix. Of course she would visit her
parents. When the money was once settled you need see as little of
them as you pleased. Pray do not allow trifles to interfere with you.
If this should not succeed, what are you to do? We shall all starve
unless something be done. If I were you, Felix, I would take her away
at once. They say she is of age."

"I shouldn't know where to take her," said Sir Felix, almost stunned
into thoughtfulness by the magnitude of the proposition made to him.
"All that about Scotland is done with now."

"Of course you would marry her at once."

"I suppose so,—unless it were better to stay as we were, till the
money was settled."

"Oh, no; no! Everybody would be against you. If you take her off in a
spirited sort of way and then marry her, everybody will be with you.
That's what you want. The father and mother will be sure to come
round, if—"

"The mother is nothing."

"He will come round if people speak up in your favour. I could get
Mr. Alf and Mr. Broune to help. I'd try it, Felix; indeed I would.
Ten thousand a year is not to be had every year."

Sir Felix gave no assent to his mother's views. He felt no desire to
relieve her anxiety by an assurance of activity in the matter. But
the prospect was so grand that it had excited even him. He had money
sufficient for carrying out the scheme, and if he delayed the matter
now, it might well be that he would never again find himself so
circumstanced. He thought that he would ask somebody whither he ought
to take her, and what he ought to do with her;—and that he would
then make the proposition to herself. Miles Grendall would be the man
to tell him, because, with all his faults, Miles did understand
things. But he could not ask Miles. He and Nidderdale were good
friends; but Nidderdale wanted the girl for himself. Grasslough would
be sure to tell Nidderdale. Dolly would be altogether useless. He
thought that, perhaps, Herr Vossner would be the man to help him.
There would be no difficulty out of which Herr Vossner would not
extricate "a fellow,"—if "the fellow" paid him.

On Thursday evening he went to Grosvenor Square, as desired by
Marie,—but unfortunately found Melmotte in the drawing-room. Lord
Nidderdale was there also, and his lordship's old father, the Marquis
of Auld Reekie, whom Felix, when he entered the room, did not know.
He was a fierce-looking, gouty old man, with watery eyes, and very
stiff grey hair,—almost white. He was standing up supporting himself
on two sticks when Sir Felix entered the room. There were also
present Madame Melmotte, Miss Longestaffe, and Marie. As Felix had
entered the hall one huge footman had said that the ladies were not
at home; then there had been for a moment a whispering behind a
door,—in which he afterwards conceived that Madame Didon had taken a
part;—and upon that a second tall footman had contradicted the first
and had ushered him up to the drawing-room. He felt considerably
embarrassed, but shook hands with the ladies, bowed to Melmotte, who
seemed to take no notice of him, and nodded to Lord Nidderdale. He
had not had time to place himself, when the Marquis arranged things.
"Suppose we go down-stairs," said the Marquis.

"Certainly, my lord," said Melmotte. "I'll show your lordship the
way." The Marquis did not speak to his son, but poked at him with his
stick, as though poking him out of the door. So instigated Nidderdale
followed the financier, and the gouty old Marquis toddled after them.

Madame Melmotte was beside herself with trepidation. "You should not
have been made to come up at all," she said. "Il faut que vous vous
retirez."

"I am very sorry," said Sir Felix, looking quite aghast.

"I think that I had at any rate better retire," said Miss
Longestaffe, raising herself to her full height and stalking out of
the room.

"Qu'elle est méchante," said Madame Melmotte. "Oh, she is so bad. Sir
Felix, you had better go too. Yes,—indeed."

"No," said Marie, running to him, and taking hold of his arm. "Why
should he go? I want papa to know."

"Il vous tuera," said Madame Melmotte. "My God, yes."

"Then he shall," said Marie, clinging to her lover. "I will never
marry Lord Nidderdale. If he were to cut me into bits I wouldn't do
it. Felix, you love me;—do you not?"

"Certainly," said Sir Felix, slipping his arm round her waist.

"Mamma," said Marie, "I will never have any other man but
him;—never, never, never. Oh, Felix, tell her that you love me."

"You know that, don't you, ma'am?" Sir Felix was a little troubled in
his mind as to what he should say, or what he should do.

"Oh, love! It is a beastliness," said Madame Melmotte. "Sir Felix,
you had better go. Yes, indeed. Will you be so obliging?"

"Don't go," said Marie. "No, mamma, he shan't go. What has he to be
afraid of? I will walk down among them into papa's room, and say that
I will never marry that man, and that this is my lover. Felix, will
you come?"

Sir Felix did not quite like the proposition. There had been a savage
ferocity in that Marquis's eye, and there was habitually a heavy
sternness about Melmotte, which together made him resist the
invitation. "I don't think I have a right to do that," he said,
"because it is Mr. Melmotte's own house."

"I wouldn't mind," said Marie. "I told papa to-day that I wouldn't
marry Lord Nidderdale."

"Was he angry with you?"

"He laughed at me. He manages people till he thinks that everybody
must do exactly what he tells them. He may kill me, but I will not do
it. I have quite made up my mind. Felix, if you will be true to me,
nothing shall separate us. I will not be ashamed to tell everybody
that I love you."

Madame Melmotte had now thrown herself into a chair and was sighing.
Sir Felix stood on the rug with his arm round Marie's waist,
listening to her protestations, but saying little in answer to
them,—when, suddenly, a heavy step was heard ascending the stairs.
"C'est lui," screamed Madame Melmotte, bustling up from her seat and
hurrying out of the room by a side door. The two lovers were alone
for one moment, during which Marie lifted up her face, and Sir Felix
kissed her lips. "Now be brave," she said, escaping from his arm,
"and I'll be brave." Mr. Melmotte looked round the room as he
entered. "Where are the others?" he asked.

"Mamma has gone away, and Miss Longestaffe went before mamma."

"Sir Felix, it is well that I should tell you that my daughter is
engaged to marry Lord Nidderdale."

"Sir Felix, I am not engaged—to—marry Lord Nidderdale," said Marie.
"It's no good, papa. I won't do it. If you chop me to pieces, I won't
do it."

"She will marry Lord Nidderdale," continued Mr. Melmotte, addressing
himself to Sir Felix. "As that is arranged, you will perhaps think it
better to leave us. I shall be happy to renew my acquaintance with
you as soon as the fact is recognised;—or happy to see you in the
city at any time."

"Papa, he is my lover," said Marie.

"Pooh!"

"It is not pooh. He is. I will never have any other. I hate Lord
Nidderdale; and as for that dreadful old man, I could not bear to
look at him. Sir Felix is as good a gentleman as he is. If you loved
me, papa, you would not want to make me unhappy all my life."

Her father walked up to her rapidly with his hand raised, and she
clung only the closer to her lover's arm. At this moment Sir Felix
did not know what he might best do, but he thoroughly wished himself
out in the square. "Jade!" said Melmotte, "get to your room."











"Get to your room."


"Get
to your room."


Click to ENLARGE


"Of course I will go to bed, if you tell me, papa."

"I do tell you. How dare you take hold of him in that way before me!
Have you no idea of disgrace?"

"I am not disgraced. It is not more disgraceful to love him than that
other man. Oh, papa, don't. You hurt me. I am going." He took her by
the arm and dragged her to the door, and then thrust her out.

"I am very sorry, Mr. Melmotte," said Sir Felix, "to have had a hand
in causing this disturbance."

"Go away, and don't come back any more;—that's all. You can't both
marry her. All you have got to understand is this. I'm not the man to
give my daughter a single shilling if she marries against my consent.
By the God that hears me, Sir Felix, she shall not have one shilling.
But look you,—if you'll give this up, I shall be proud to co-operate
with you in anything you may wish to have done in the city."

After this Sir Felix left the room, went down the stairs, had the
door opened for him, and was ushered into the square. But as he went
through the hall a woman managed to shove a note into his
hand,—which he read as soon as he found himself under a gas lamp. It
was dated that morning, and had therefore no reference to the fray
which had just taken place. It ran as
follows:—
 


I hope you will come to-night. There is something I cannot
tell you then, but you ought to know it. When we were in
France papa thought it wise to settle a lot of money on
me. I don't know how much, but I suppose it was enough to
live on if other things went wrong. He never talked to me
about it, but I know it was done. And it hasn't been
undone, and can't be without my leave. He is very angry
about you this morning, for I told him I would never give
you up. He says he won't give me anything if I marry
without his leave. But I am sure he cannot take it away. I
tell you, because I think I ought to tell you everything.

M.
 


Sir Felix as he read this could not but think that he had become
engaged to a very enterprising young lady. It was evident that she
did not care to what extent she braved her father on behalf of her
lover, and now she coolly proposed to rob him. But Sir Felix saw no
reason why he should not take advantage of the money made over to the
girl's name, if he could lay his hands on it. He did not know much of
such transactions, but he knew more than Marie Melmotte, and could
understand that a man in Melmotte's position should want to secure a
portion of his fortune against accidents, by settling it on his
daughter. Whether having so settled it, he could again resume it
without the daughter's assent, Sir Felix did not know. Marie, who had
no doubt been regarded as an absolutely passive instrument when the
thing was done, was now quite alive to the benefit which she might
possibly derive from it. Her proposition, put into plain English,
amounted to this: "Take me and marry me without my father's
consent,—and then you and I together can rob my father of the money
which, for his own purposes, he has settled upon me." He had looked
upon the lady of his choice as a poor weak thing, without any special
character of her own, who was made worthy of consideration only by
the fact that she was a rich man's daughter; but now she began to
loom before his eyes as something bigger than that. She had had a
will of her own when the mother had none. She had not been afraid of
her brutal father when he, Sir Felix, had trembled before him. She
had offered to be beaten, and killed, and chopped to pieces on behalf
of her lover. There could be no doubt about her running away if she
were asked.

It seemed to him that within the last month he had gained a great
deal of experience, and that things which heretofore had been
troublesome to him, or difficult, or perhaps impossible, were now
coming easily within his reach. He had won two or three thousand
pounds at cards, whereas invariable loss had been the result of the
small play in which he had before indulged. He had been set to marry
this heiress, having at first no great liking for the attempt,
because of its difficulties and the small amount of hope which it
offered him. The girl was already willing and anxious to jump into
his arms. Then he had detected a man cheating at cards,—an extent of
iniquity that was awful to him before he had seen it,—and was
already beginning to think that there was not very much in that. If
there was not much in it, if such a man as Miles Grendall could cheat
at cards and be brought to no punishment, why should not he try it?
It was a rapid way of winning, no doubt. He remembered that on one or
two occasions he had asked his adversary to cut the cards a second
time at whist, because he had observed that there was no honour at
the bottom. No feeling of honesty had interfered with him. The little
trick had hardly been premeditated, but when successful without
detection had not troubled his conscience. Now it seemed to him that
much more than that might be done without detection. But nothing had
opened his eyes to the ways of the world so widely as the sweet
little lover-like proposition made by Miss Melmotte for robbing her
father. It certainly recommended the girl to him. She had been able
at an early age, amidst the circumstances of a very secluded life, to
throw off from her altogether those scruples of honesty, those
bugbears of the world, which are apt to prevent great enterprises in
the minds of men.

What should he do next? This sum of money of which Marie wrote so
easily was probably large. It would not have been worth the while of
such a man as Mr. Melmotte to make a trifling provision of this
nature. It could hardly be less than £50,000,—might probably be very
much more. But this was certain to him,—that if he and Marie were to
claim this money as man and wife, there could then be no hope of
further liberality. It was not probable that such a man as Mr.
Melmotte would forgive even an only child such an offence as that.
Even if it were obtained, £50,000 would not be very much. And
Melmotte might probably have means, even if the robbery were duly
perpetrated, of making the possession of the money very
uncomfortable. These were deep waters into which Sir Felix was
preparing to plunge; and he did not feel himself to be altogether
comfortable, although he liked the deep waters.

 


 


CHAPTER XXX.


MR. MELMOTTE'S PROMISE.
 

On the following Saturday there appeared in Mr. Alf's paper, the
"Evening Pulpit," a very remarkable article on the South Central
Pacific and Mexican Railway. It was an article that attracted a great
deal of attention and was therefore remarkable, but it was in nothing
more remarkable than in this,—that it left on the mind of its reader
no impression of any decided opinion about the railway. The Editor
would at any future time be able to refer to his article with equal
pride whether the railway should become a great cosmopolitan fact, or
whether it should collapse amidst the foul struggles of a horde of
swindlers. In utrumque paratus, the article was mysterious,
suggestive, amusing, well-informed,—that in the "Evening Pulpit" was
a matter of course,—and, above all things, ironical. Next to its
omniscience its irony was the strongest weapon belonging to the
"Evening Pulpit." There was a little praise given, no doubt in irony,
to the duchesses who served Mr. Melmotte. There was a little praise,
given of course in irony, to Mr. Melmotte's Board of English
Directors. There was a good deal of praise, but still alloyed by a
dash of irony, bestowed on the idea of civilising Mexico by joining
it to California. Praise was bestowed upon England for taking up the
matter, but accompanied by some ironical touches at her incapacity to
believe thoroughly in any enterprise not originated by herself. Then
there was something said of the universality of Mr. Melmotte's
commercial genius, but whether said in a spirit prophetic of ultimate
failure and disgrace, or of heavenborn success and unequalled
commercial splendour, no one could tell.

It was generally said at the clubs that Mr. Alf had written this
article himself. Old Splinter, who was one of a body of men
possessing an excellent cellar of wine and calling themselves Paides
Pallados, and who had written for the heavy quarterlies any time this
last forty years, professed that he saw through the article. The
"Evening Pulpit" had been, he explained, desirous of going as far as
it could in denouncing Mr. Melmotte without incurring the danger of
an action for libel. Mr. Splinter thought that the thing was clever
but mean. These new publications generally were mean. Mr. Splinter
was constant in that opinion; but, putting the meanness aside, he
thought that the article was well done. According to his view it was
intended to expose Mr. Melmotte and the railway. But the Paides
Pallados generally did not agree with him. Under such an
interpretation, what had been the meaning of that paragraph in which
the writer had declared that the work of joining one ocean to another
was worthy of the nearest approach to divinity that had been granted
to men? Old Splinter chuckled and gabbled as he heard this, and
declared that there was not wit enough left now even among the Paides
Pallados to understand a shaft of irony. There could be no doubt,
however, at the time, that the world did not go with old Splinter,
and that the article served to enhance the value of shares in the
great railway enterprise.

Lady Carbury was sure that the article was intended to write up the
railway, and took great joy in it. She entertained in her brain a
somewhat confused notion that if she could only bestir herself in the
right direction and could induce her son to open his eyes to his own
advantage, very great things might be achieved, so that wealth might
become his handmaid and luxury the habit and the right of his life.
He was the beloved and the accepted suitor of Marie Melmotte. He was
a Director of this great company, sitting at the same board with the
great commercial hero. He was the handsomest young man in London. And
he was a baronet. Very wild ideas occurred to her. Should she take
Mr. Alf into her entire confidence? If Melmotte and Alf could be
brought together what might they not do? Alf could write up Melmotte,
and Melmotte could shower shares upon Alf. And if Melmotte would come
and be smiled upon by herself, be flattered as she thought that she
could flatter him, be told that he was a god, and have that passage
about the divinity of joining ocean to ocean construed to him as she
could construe it, would not the great man become plastic under her
hands? And if, while this was a-doing, Felix would run away with
Marie, could not forgiveness be made easy? And her creative mind
ranged still farther. Mr. Broune might help, and even Mr. Booker. To
such a one as Melmotte, a man doing great things through the force of
the confidence placed in him by the world at large, the freely-spoken
support of the Press would be everything. Who would not buy shares in
a railway as to which Mr. Broune and Mr. Alf would combine in saying
that it was managed by "divinity"? Her thoughts were rather hazy, but
from day to day she worked hard to make them clear to herself.

On the Sunday afternoon Mr. Booker called on her and talked to her
about the article. She did not say much to Mr. Booker as to her own
connection with Mr. Melmotte, telling herself that prudence was
essential in the present emergency. But she listened with all her
ears. It was Mr. Booker's idea that the man was going "to make a
spoon or spoil a horn." "You think him honest;—don't you?" asked
Lady Carbury. Mr. Booker smiled and hesitated. "Of course, I mean
honest as men can be in such very large transactions."

"Perhaps that is the best way of putting it," said Mr. Booker.

"If a thing can be made great and beneficent, a boon to humanity,
simply by creating a belief in it, does not a man become a benefactor
to his race by creating that belief?"

"At the expense of veracity?" suggested Mr. Booker.

"At the expense of anything?" rejoined Lady Carbury with energy. "One
cannot measure such men by the ordinary rule."

"You would do evil to produce good?" asked Mr. Booker.

"I do not call it doing evil. You have to destroy a thousand living
creatures every time you drink a glass of water, but you do not think
of that when you are athirst. You cannot send a ship to sea without
endangering lives. You do send ships to sea though men perish yearly.
You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds, but then again he may
create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy."

"You are an excellent casuist, Lady Carbury."

"I am an enthusiastic lover of beneficent audacity," said Lady
Carbury, picking her words slowly, and showing herself to be quite
satisfied with herself as she picked them. "Did I hold your place,
Mr. Booker, in the literature of my
country,—"

"I hold no place, Lady Carbury."

"Yes;—and a very distinguished place. Were I circumstanced as you
are I should have no hesitation in lending the whole weight of my
periodical, let it be what it might, to the assistance of so great a
man and so great an object as this."

"I should be dismissed to-morrow," said Mr. Booker, getting up and
laughing as he took his departure. Lady Carbury felt that, as
regarded Mr. Booker, she had only thrown out a chance word that could
not do any harm. She had not expected to effect much through Mr.
Booker's instrumentality. On the Tuesday evening,—her regular
Tuesday as she called it,—all her three editors came to her
drawing-room; but there came also a greater man than either of them.
She had taken the bull by the horns, and without saying anything to
anybody had written to Mr. Melmotte himself, asking him to honour her
poor house with his presence. She had written a very pretty note to
him, reminding him of their meeting at Caversham, telling him that on
a former occasion Madame Melmotte and his daughter had been so kind
as to come to her, and giving him to understand that of all the
potentates now on earth he was the one to whom she could bow the knee
with the purest satisfaction. He wrote back,—or Miles Grendall did
for him,—a very plain note, accepting the honour of Lady Carbury's
invitation.

The great man came, and Lady Carbury took him under her immediate
wing with a grace that was all her own. She said a word about their
dear friends at Caversham, expressed her sorrow that her son's
engagements did not admit of his being there, and then with the
utmost audacity rushed off to the article in the "Pulpit." Her
friend, Mr. Alf, the editor, had thoroughly appreciated the greatness
of Mr. Melmotte's character, and the magnificence of Mr. Melmotte's
undertakings. Mr. Melmotte bowed and muttered something that was
inaudible. "Now I must introduce you to Mr. Alf," said the lady. The
introduction was effected, and Mr. Alf explained that it was hardly
necessary, as he had already been entertained as one of Mr.
Melmotte's guests.

"There were a great many there I never saw, and probably never shall
see," said Mr. Melmotte.

"I was one of the unfortunates," said Mr. Alf.

"I'm sorry you were unfortunate. If you had come into the whist-room
you would have found me."

"Ah,—if I had but known!" said Mr. Alf. The editor, as was proper,
carried about with him samples of the irony which his paper used so
effectively, but it was altogether thrown away upon Melmotte.

Lady Carbury finding that no immediate good results could be expected
from this last introduction, tried another. "Mr. Melmotte," she said,
whispering to him, "I do so want to make you known to Mr. Broune. Mr.
Broune I know you have never met before. A morning paper is a much
heavier burden to an editor than one published in the afternoon. Mr.
Broune, as of course you know, manages the 'Breakfast Table.' There
is hardly a more influential man in London than Mr. Broune. And they
declare, you know," she said, lowering the tone of her whisper as she
communicated the fact, "that his commercial articles are
gospel,—absolutely gospel." Then the two men were named to each
other, and Lady Carbury retreated;—but not out of hearing.

"Getting very hot," said Mr. Melmotte.

"Very hot indeed," said Mr. Broune.

"It was over 70 in the city to-day. I call that very hot for June."

"Very hot indeed," said Mr. Broune again. Then the conversation was
over. Mr. Broune sidled away, and Mr. Melmotte was left standing in
the middle of the room. Lady Carbury told herself at the moment that
Rome was not built in a day. She would have been better satisfied
certainly if she could have laid a few more bricks on this day.
Perseverance, however, was the thing wanted.

But Mr. Melmotte himself had a word to say, and before he left the
house he said it. "It was very good of you to ask me, Lady
Carbury;—very good." Lady Carbury intimated her opinion that the
goodness was all on the other side. "And I came," continued Mr.
Melmotte, "because I had something particular to say. Otherwise I
don't go out much to evening parties. Your son has proposed to my
daughter." Lady Carbury looked up into his face with all her
eyes;—clasped both her hands together; and then, having unclasped
them, put one upon his sleeve. "My daughter, ma'am, is engaged to
another man."

"You would not enslave her affections, Mr. Melmotte?"

"I won't give her a shilling if she marries any one else; that's all.
You reminded me down at Caversham that your son is a Director at our
Board."

"I did;—I did."

"I have a great respect for your son, ma'am. I don't want to hurt him
in any way. If he'll signify to my daughter that he withdraws from
this offer of his, because I'm against it, I'll see that he does
uncommon well in the city. I'll be the making of him. Good night,
ma'am." Then Mr. Melmotte took his departure without another word.

Here at any rate was an undertaking on the part of the great man that
he would be the "making of Felix," if Felix would only obey
him—accompanied, or rather preceded, by a most positive assurance
that if Felix were to succeed in marrying his daughter he would not
give his son-in-law a shilling! There was very much to be considered
in this. She did not doubt that Felix might be "made" by Mr.
Melmotte's city influences, but then any perpetuity of such making
must depend on qualifications in her son which she feared that he did
not possess. The wife without the money would be terrible! That would
be absolute ruin! There could be no escape then; no hope. There was
an appreciation of real tragedy in her heart while she contemplated
the position of Sir Felix married to such a girl as she supposed
Marie Melmotte to be, without any means of support for either of them
but what she could supply. It would kill her. And for those young
people there would be nothing before them, but beggary and the
workhouse. As she thought of this she trembled with true maternal
instincts. Her beautiful boy,—so glorious with his outward gifts, so
fit, as she thought him, for all the graces of the grand world!
Though the ambition was vilely ignoble, the mother's love was noble
and disinterested.

But the girl was an only child. The future honours of the house of
Melmotte could be made to settle on no other head. No doubt the
father would prefer a lord for a son-in-law; and, having that
preference, would of course do as he was now doing. That he should
threaten to disinherit his daughter if she married contrary to his
wishes was to be expected. But would it not be equally a matter of
course that he should make the best of the marriage if it were once
effected? His daughter would return to him with a title, though with
one of a lower degree than his ambition desired. To herself
personally, Lady Carbury felt that the great financier had been very
rude. He had taken advantage of her invitation that he might come to
her house and threaten her. But she would forgive that. She could
pass that over altogether if only anything were to be gained by
passing it over.

She looked round the room, longing for a friend, whom she might
consult with a true feeling of genuine womanly dependence. Her most
natural friend was Roger Carbury. But even had he been there she
could not have consulted him on any matter touching the Melmottes.
His advice would have been very clear. He would have told her to have
nothing at all to do with such adventurers. But then dear Roger was
old fashioned, and knew nothing of people as they are now. He lived
in a world which, though slow, had been good in its way; but which,
whether bad or good, had now passed away. Then her eye settled on Mr.
Broune. She was afraid of Mr. Alf. She had almost begun to think that
Mr. Alf was too difficult of management to be of use to her. But Mr.
Broune was softer. Mr. Booker was serviceable for an article, but
would not be sympathetic as a friend. Mr. Broune had been very
courteous to her lately;—so much so that on one occasion she had
almost feared that the "susceptible old goose" was going to be a
goose again. That would be a bore; but still she might make use of
the friendly condition of mind which such susceptibility would
produce. When her guests began to leave her, she spoke a word aside
to him. She wanted his advice. Would he stay for a few minutes after
the rest of the company? He did stay, and when all the others were
gone she asked her daughter to leave them. "Hetta," she said, "I have
something of business to communicate to Mr. Broune." And so they were
left alone.

"I'm afraid you didn't make much of Mr. Melmotte," she said smiling.
He had seated himself on the end of a sofa, close to the arm-chair
which she occupied. In reply, he only shook his head and laughed. "I
saw how it was, and I was sorry for it; for he certainly is a
wonderful man."

"I suppose he is, but he is one of those men whose powers do not lie,
I should say, chiefly in conversation. Though, indeed, there is no
reason why he should not say the same of me;—for if he said little,
I said less."

"It didn't just come off," Lady Carbury suggested with her sweetest
smile. "But now I want to tell you something. I think I am justified
in regarding you as a real friend."

"Certainly," he said, putting out his hand for hers.

She gave it to him for a moment, and then took it back
again,—finding that he did not relinquish it of his own accord.
"Stupid old goose!" she said to herself. "And now to my story. You
know my boy, Felix?" The editor nodded his head. "He is engaged to
marry that man's daughter."

"Engaged to marry Miss Melmotte?" Then Lady Carbury nodded her head.
"Why, she is said to be the greatest heiress that the world has ever
produced. I thought she was to marry Lord Nidderdale."

"She has engaged herself to Felix. She is desperately in love with
him,—as is he with her." She tried to tell her story truly, knowing
that no advice can be worth anything that is not based on a true
story;—but lying had become her nature. "Melmotte naturally wants
her to marry the lord. He came here to tell me that if his daughter
married Felix she should not have a penny."

"Do you mean that he volunteered that,—as a threat?"

"Just so;—and he told me that he had come here simply with the
object of saying so. It was more candid than civil, but we must take
it as we get it."

"He would be sure to make some such threat."

"Exactly. That is just what I feel. And in these days young people
are not often kept from marrying simply by a father's fantasy. But I
must tell you something else. He told me that if Felix would desist,
he would enable him to make a fortune in the city."

"That's bosh," said Broune with decision.

"Do you think it must be so;—certainly?"

"Yes, I do. Such an undertaking, if intended by Melmotte, would give
me a worse opinion of him than I have ever held."

"He did make it."

"Then he did very wrong. He must have spoken with the purpose of
deceiving."

"You know my son is one of the Directors of that great American
Railway. It was not just as though the promise were made to a young
man who was altogether unconnected with him."

"Sir Felix's name was put there, in a hurry, merely because he has a
title, and because Melmotte thought he, as a young man, would not be
likely to interfere with him. It may be that he will be able to sell
a few shares at a profit; but, if I understand the matter rightly, he
has no capital to go into such a business."

"No;—he has no capital."

"Dear Lady Carbury, I would place no dependence at all on such a
promise as that."

"You think he should marry the girl then in spite of the father?"

Mr. Broune hesitated before he replied to this question. But it was
to this question that Lady Carbury especially wished for a reply. She
wanted some one to support her under the circumstances of an
elopement. She rose from her chair, and he rose at the same time.
"Perhaps I should have begun by saying that Felix is all but prepared
to take her off. She is quite ready to go. She is devoted to him. Do
you think he would be wrong?"

"That is a question very hard to answer."

"People do it every day. Lionel Goldsheiner ran away the other day
with Lady Julia Start, and everybody visits them."

"Oh yes, people do run away, and it all comes right. It was the
gentleman had the money then, and it is said you know that old Lady
Catchboy, Lady Julia's mother, had arranged the elopement herself as
offering the safest way of securing the rich prize. The young lord
didn't like it, so the mother had it done in that fashion."

"There would be nothing disgraceful."

"I didn't say there would;—but nevertheless it is one of those
things a man hardly ventures to advise. If you ask me whether I think
that Melmotte would forgive her, and make her an allowance
afterwards,—I think he would."

"I am so glad to hear you say that."

"And I feel quite certain that no dependence whatever should be
placed on that promise of assistance."

"I quite agree with you. I am so much obliged to you," said Lady
Carbury, who was now determined that Felix should run off with the
girl. "You have been so very kind." Then again she gave him her hand,
as though to bid him farewell for the night.

"And now," he said, "I also have something to say to you."

 


 


CHAPTER XXXI.


MR. BROUNE HAS MADE UP HIS MIND.
 

"And now I have something to say to you." Mr. Broune as he thus spoke
to Lady Carbury rose up to his feet and then sat down again. There
was an air of perturbation about him which was very manifest to the
lady, and the cause and coming result of which she thought that she
understood. "The susceptible old goose is going to do something
highly ridiculous and very disagreeable." It was thus that she spoke
to herself of the scene that she saw was prepared for her, but she
did not foresee accurately the shape in which the susceptibility of
the "old goose" would declare itself. "Lady Carbury," said Mr.
Broune, standing up a second time, "we are neither of us so young as
we used to be."

"No, indeed;—and therefore it is that we can afford to ourselves the
luxury of being friends. Nothing but age enables men and women to
know each other intimately."

This speech was a great impediment to Mr. Broune's progress. It was
evidently intended to imply that he at least had reached a time of
life at which any allusion to love would be absurd. And yet, as a
fact, he was nearer fifty than sixty, was young of his age, could
walk his four or five miles pleasantly, could ride his cob in the
park with as free an air as any man of forty, and could afterwards
work through four or five hours of the night with an easy steadiness
which nothing but sound health could produce. Mr. Broune, thinking of
himself and his own circumstances, could see no reason why he should
not be in love. "I hope we know each other intimately at any rate,"
he said somewhat lamely.

"Oh, yes;—and it is for that reason that I have come to you for
advice. Had I been a young woman I should not have dared to ask you."

"I don't see that. I don't quite understand that. But it has nothing
to do with my present purpose. When I said that we were neither of us
so young as we once were, I uttered what was a stupid platitude,—a
foolish truism."

"I did not think so," said Lady Carbury smiling.

"Or would have been, only that I intended something further." Mr.
Broune had got himself into a difficulty and hardly knew how to get
out of it. "I was going on to say that I hoped we were not too old
to—love."

Foolish old darling! What did he mean by making such an ass of
himself? This was worse even than the kiss, as being more troublesome
and less easily pushed on one side and forgotten. It may serve to
explain the condition of Lady Carbury's mind at the time if it be
stated that she did not even at this moment suppose that the editor
of the "Morning Breakfast Table" intended to make her an offer of
marriage. She knew, or thought she knew, that middle-aged men are
fond of prating about love, and getting up sensational scenes. The
falseness of the thing, and the injury which may come of it, did not
shock her at all. Had she known that the editor professed to be in
love with some lady in the next street, she would have been quite
ready to enlist the lady in the next street among her friends that
she might thus strengthen her own influence with Mr. Broune. For
herself such make-belief of an improper passion would be
inconvenient, and therefore to be avoided. But that any man, placed
as Mr. Broune was in the world,—blessed with power, with a large
income, with influence throughout all the world around him, courted,
fêted, feared and almost worshipped,—that he should desire to share
her fortunes, her misfortunes, her struggles, her poverty and her
obscurity, was not within the scope of her imagination. There was a
homage in it, of which she did not believe any man to be
capable,—and which to her would be the more wonderful as being paid
to herself. She thought so badly of men and women generally, and of
Mr. Broune and herself as a man and a woman individually, that she
was unable to conceive the possibility of such a sacrifice. "Mr.
Broune," she said, "I did not think that you would take advantage of
the confidence I have placed in you to annoy me in this way."

"To annoy you, Lady Carbury! The phrase at any rate is singular.
After much thought I have determined to ask you to be my wife. That I
should be—annoyed, and more than annoyed by your refusal, is a
matter of course. That I ought to expect such annoyance is perhaps
too true. But you can extricate yourself from the dilemma only too
easily."

The word "wife" came upon her like a thunder-clap. It at once changed
all her feelings towards him. She did not dream of loving him. She
felt sure that she never could love him. Had it been on the cards
with her to love any man as a lover, it would have been some handsome
spendthrift who would have hung from her neck like a nether
millstone. This man was a friend to be used,—to be used because he
knew the world. And now he gave her this clear testimony that he knew
as little of the world as any other man. Mr. Broune of the "Daily
Breakfast Table" asking her to be his wife! But mixed with her other
feelings there was a tenderness which brought back some memory of her
distant youth, and almost made her weep. That a man,—such a
man,—should offer to take half her burdens, and to confer upon her
half his blessings! What an idiot! But what a God! She had looked
upon the man as all intellect, alloyed perhaps by some passionless
remnants of the vices of his youth; and now she found that he not
only had a human heart in his bosom, but a heart that she could
touch. How wonderfully sweet! How infinitely small!

It was necessary that she should answer him—and to her it was only
natural that she should at first think what answer would best assist
her own views without reference to his. It did not occur to her that
she could love him; but it did occur to her that he might lift her
out of her difficulties. What a benefit it would be to her to have a
father, and such a father, for Felix! How easy would be a literary
career to the wife of the editor of the "Morning Breakfast Table!"
And then it passed through her mind that somebody had told her that
the man was paid £3,000 a year for his work. Would not the world, or
any part of it that was desirable, come to her drawing-room if she
were the wife of Mr. Broune? It all passed through her brain at once
during that minute of silence which she allowed herself after the
declaration was made to her. But other ideas and other feelings were
present to her also. Perhaps the truest aspiration of her heart had
been the love of freedom which the tyranny of her late husband had
engendered. Once she had fled from that tyranny and had been almost
crushed by the censure to which she had been subjected. Then her
husband's protection and his tyranny had been restored to her. After
that the freedom had come. It had been accompanied by many hopes
never as yet fulfilled, and embittered by many sorrows which had been
always present to her; but still the hopes were alive and the
remembrance of the tyranny was very clear to her. At last the minute
was over and she was bound to speak. "Mr. Broune," she said, "you
have quite taken away my breath. I never expected anything of this
kind."

And now Mr. Broune's mouth was opened, and his voice was free. "Lady
Carbury," he said, "I have lived a long time without marrying, and I
have sometimes thought that it would be better for me to go on in the
same way to the end. I have worked so hard all my life that when I
was young I had no time to think of love. And, as I have gone on, my
mind has been so fully employed, that I have hardly realised the want
which nevertheless I have felt. And so it has been with me till I
fancied, not that I was too old for love, but that others would think
me so. Then I met you. As I said at first, perhaps with scant
gallantry, you also are not as young as you once were. But you keep
the beauty of your youth, and the energy, and something of the
freshness of a young heart. And I have come to love you. I speak with
absolute frankness, risking your anger. I have doubted much before I
resolved upon this. It is so hard to know the nature of another
person. But I think I understand yours;—and if you can confide your
happiness with me, I am prepared to intrust mine to your keeping."
Poor Mr. Broune! Though endowed with gifts peculiarly adapted for the
editing of a daily newspaper, he could have had but little capacity
for reading a woman's character when he talked of the freshness of
Lady Carbury's young mind! And he must have surely been much blinded
by love, before convincing himself that he could trust his happiness
to such keeping.

"You do me infinite honour. You pay me a great compliment,"
ejaculated Lady Carbury.

"Well?"

"How am I to answer you at a moment? I expected nothing of this. As
God is to be my judge it has come upon me like a dream. I look upon
your position as almost the highest in England,—on your prosperity
as the uttermost that can be achieved."

"That prosperity, such as it is, I desire most anxiously to share
with you."

"You tell me so;—but I can hardly yet believe it. And then how am I
to know my own feelings so suddenly? Marriage as I have found it, Mr.
Broune, has not been happy. I have suffered much. I have been wounded
in every joint, hurt in every nerve,—tortured till I could hardly
endure my punishment. At last I got my liberty, and to that I have
looked for happiness."

"Has it made you happy?"

"It has made me less wretched. And there is so much to be considered!
I have a son and a daughter, Mr. Broune."

"Your daughter I can love as my own. I think I prove my devotion to
you when I say that I am willing for your sake to encounter the
troubles which may attend your son's future career."

"Mr. Broune, I love him better,—always shall love him better,—than
anything in the world." This was calculated to damp the lover's
ardour, but he probably reflected that should he now be successful,
time might probably change the feeling which had just been expressed.
"Mr. Broune," she said, "I am now so agitated that you had better
leave me. And it is very late. The servant is sitting up, and will
wonder that you should remain. It is near two o'clock."

"When may I hope for an answer?"

"You shall not be kept waiting. I will write to you, almost at once.
I will write to you,—to-morrow; say the day after to-morrow, on
Thursday. I feel that I ought to have been prepared with an answer;
but I am so surprised that I have none ready." He took her hand in
his, and kissing it, left her without another word.

As he was about to open the front door to let himself out, a key from
the other side raised the latch, and Sir Felix, returning from his
club, entered his mother's house. The young man looked up into Mr.
Broune's face with mingled impudence and surprise. "Halloo, old
fellow," he said, "you've been keeping it up late here; haven't you?"
He was nearly drunk, and Mr. Broune, perceiving his condition, passed
him without a word. Lady Carbury was still standing in the
drawing-room, struck with amazement at the scene which had just
passed, full of doubt as to her future conduct, when she heard her
son stumbling up the stairs. It was impossible for her not to go out
to him. "Felix," she said, "why do you make so much noise as you come
in?"

"Noish! I'm not making any noish. I think I'm very early. Your
people's only just gone. I shaw shat editor fellow at the door that
won't call himself Brown. He'sh great ass'h, that fellow. All right,
mother. Oh, ye'sh I'm all right." And so he stumbled up to bed, and
his mother followed him to see that the candle was at any rate placed
squarely on the table, beyond the reach of the bed curtains.

Mr. Broune as he walked to his newspaper office experienced all those
pangs of doubts which a man feels when he has just done that which
for days and weeks past he has almost resolved that he had better
leave undone. That last apparition which he had encountered at his
lady love's door certainly had not tended to reassure him. What curse
can be much greater than that inflicted by a drunken, reprobate son?
The evil, when in the course of things it comes upon a man, has to be
borne; but why should a man in middle life unnecessarily afflict
himself with so terrible a misfortune? The woman, too, was devoted to
the cub! Then thousands of other thoughts crowded upon him. How would
this new life suit him? He must have a new house, and new ways; must
live under a new dominion, and fit himself to new pleasures. And what
was he to gain by it? Lady Carbury was a handsome woman, and he liked
her beauty. He regarded her too as a clever woman; and, because she
had flattered him, he had liked her conversation. He had been long
enough about town to have known better,—and as he now walked along
the streets, he almost felt that he ought to have known better. Every
now and again he warmed himself a little with the remembrance of her
beauty, and told himself that his new home would be pleasanter,
though it might perhaps be less free, than the old one. He tried to
make the best of it; but as he did so was always repressed by the
memory of the appearance of that drunken young baronet.

Whether for good or for evil, the step had been taken and the thing
was done. It did not occur to him that the lady would refuse him. All
his experience of the world was against such refusal. Towns which
consider, always render themselves. Ladies who doubt always solve
their doubts in the one direction. Of course she would accept
him;—and of course he would stand to his guns. As he went to his
work he endeavoured to bathe himself in self-complacency; but, at the
bottom of it, there was a substratum of melancholy which leavened his
prospects.

Lady Carbury went from the door of her son's room to her own chamber,
and there sat thinking through the greater part of the night. During
these hours she perhaps became a better woman, as being more
oblivious of herself, than she had been for many a year. It could not
be for the good of this man that he should marry her,—and she did in
the midst of her many troubles try to think of the man's condition.
Although in the moments of her triumph,—and such moments were
many,—she would buoy herself up with assurances that her Felix would
become a rich man, brilliant with wealth and rank, an honour to her,
a personage whose society would be desired by many, still in her
heart of hearts she knew how great was the peril, and in her
imagination she could foresee the nature of the catastrophe which
might come. He would go utterly to the dogs and would take her with
him. And whithersoever he might go, to what lowest canine regions he
might descend, she knew herself well enough to be sure that whether
married or single she would go with him. Though her reason might be
ever so strong in bidding her to desert him, her heart, she knew,
would be stronger than her reason. He was the one thing in the world
that overpowered her. In all other matters she could scheme, and
contrive, and pretend; could get the better of her feelings and fight
the world with a double face, laughing at illusions and telling
herself that passions and preferences were simply weapons to be used.
But her love for her son mastered her,—and she knew it. As it was
so, could it be fit that she should marry another man?

And then her liberty! Even though Felix should bring her to utter
ruin, nevertheless she would be and might remain a free woman. Should
the worse come to the worst she thought that she could endure a
Bohemian life in which, should all her means have been taken from
her, she could live on what she earned. Though Felix was a tyrant
after a kind, he was not a tyrant who could bid her do this or that.
A repetition of marriage vows did not of itself recommend itself to
her. As to loving the man, liking his caresses, and being specially
happy because he was near her,—no romance of that kind ever
presented itself to her imagination. How would it affect Felix and
her together,—and Mr. Broune as connected with her and Felix? If
Felix should go to the dogs, then would Mr. Broune not want her.
Should Felix go to the stars instead of the dogs, and become one of
the gilded ornaments of the metropolis, then would not he and she
want Mr. Broune. It was thus that she regarded the matter.

She thought very little of her daughter as she considered all this.
There was a home for Hetta, with every comfort, if Hetta would only
condescend to accept it. Why did not Hetta marry her cousin Roger
Carbury and let there be an end of that trouble? Of course Hetta must
live wherever her mother lived till she should marry; but Hetta's
life was so much at her own disposal that her mother did not feel
herself bound to be guided in the great matter by Hetta's
predispositions.

But she must tell Hetta should she ultimately make up her mind to
marry the man, and in that case the sooner this was done the better.
On that night she did not make up her mind. Ever and again as she
declared to herself that she would not marry him, the picture of a
comfortable assured home over her head, and the conviction that the
editor of the "Morning Breakfast Table" would be powerful for all
things, brought new doubts to her mind. But she could not convince
herself, and when at last she went to her bed her mind was still
vacillating. The next morning she met Hetta at breakfast, and with
assumed nonchalance asked a question about the man who was perhaps
about to be her husband. "Do you like Mr. Broune, Hetta?"

"Yes;—pretty well. I don't care very much about him. What makes you
ask, mamma?"

"Because among my acquaintances in London there is no one so truly
kind to me as he is."

"He always seems to me to like to have his own way."

"Why shouldn't he like it?"

"He has to me that air of selfishness which is so very common with
people in London;—as though what he said were all said out of
surface politeness."

"I wonder what you expect, Hetta, when you talk of—London people?
Why should not London people be as kind as other people? I think Mr.
Broune is as obliging a man as any one I know. But if I like anybody,
you always make little of him. The only person you seem to think well
of is Mr. Montague."

"Mamma, that is unfair and unkind. I never mention Mr. Montague's
name if I can help it,—and I should not have spoken of Mr. Broune,
had you not asked me."

 


 


CHAPTER XXXII.


LADY MONOGRAM.
 

Georgiana Longestaffe had now been staying with the Melmottes for a
fortnight, and her prospects in regard to the London season had not
much improved. Her brother had troubled her no further, and her
family at Caversham had not, as far as she was aware, taken any
notice of Dolly's interference. Twice a week she received a cold,
dull letter from her mother,—such letters as she had been accustomed
to receive when away from home; and these she had answered, always
endeavouring to fill her sheet with some customary description of
fashionable doings, with some bit of scandal such as she would have
repeated for her mother's amusement,—and her own delectation in the
telling of it,—had there been nothing painful in the nature of her
sojourn in London. Of the Melmottes she hardly spoke. She did not say
that she was taken to the houses in which it was her ambition to be
seen. She would have lied directly in saying so. But she did not
announce her own disappointment. She had chosen to come up to the
Melmottes in preference to remaining at Caversham, and she would not
declare her own failure. "I hope they are kind to you," Lady Pomona
always said. But Georgiana did not tell her mother whether the
Melmottes were kind or unkind.

In truth, her "season" was a very unpleasant season. Her mode of
living was altogether different to anything she had already known.
The house in Bruton Street had never been very bright, but the
appendages of life there had been of a sort which was not known in
the gorgeous mansion in Grosvenor Square. It had been full of books
and little toys and those thousand trifling household gods which are
accumulated in years, and which in their accumulation suit themselves
to the taste of their owners. In Grosvenor Square there were no
Lares;—no toys, no books, nothing but gold and grandeur, pomatum,
powder and pride. The Longestaffe life had not been an easy, natural,
or intellectual life; but the Melmotte life was hardly endurable even
by a Longestaffe. She had, however, come prepared to suffer much, and
was endowed with considerable power of endurance in pursuit of her
own objects. Having willed to come, even to the Melmottes, in
preference to remaining at Caversham, she fortified herself to suffer
much. Could she have ridden in the park at mid-day in desirable
company, and found herself in proper houses at midnight, she would
have borne the rest, bad as it might have been. But it was not so.
She had her horse, but could with difficulty get any proper
companion. She had been in the habit of riding with one of the
Primero girls,—and old Primero would accompany them, or perhaps a
brother Primero, or occasionally her own father. And then, when once
out, she would be surrounded by a cloud of young men,—and though
there was but little in it, a walking round and round the same bit of
ground with the same companions and with the smallest attempt at
conversation, still it had been the proper thing and had satisfied
her. Now it was with difficulty that she could get any cavalier such
as the laws of society demand. Even Penelope Primero snubbed
her,—whom she, Georgiana Longestaffe, had hitherto endured and
snubbed. She was just allowed to join them when old Primero rode, and
was obliged even to ask for that assistance.

But the nights were still worse. She could only go where Madame
Melmotte went, and Madame Melmotte was more prone to receive people
at home than to go out. And the people she did receive were
antipathetic to Miss Longestaffe. She did not even know who they
were, whence they came, or what was their nature. They seemed to be
as little akin to her as would have been the shopkeepers in the small
town near Caversham. She would sit through long evenings almost
speechless, trying to fathom the depth of the vulgarity of her
associates. Occasionally she was taken out, and was then, probably,
taken to very grand houses. The two duchesses and the Marchioness of
Auld Reekie received Madame Melmotte, and the garden parties of
royalty were open to her. And some of the most elaborate fêtes of the
season,—which indeed were very elaborate on behalf of this and that
travelling potentate,—were attained. On these occasions Miss
Longestaffe was fully aware of the struggle that was always made for
invitations, often unsuccessfully, but sometimes with triumph. Even
the bargains, conducted by the hands of Lord Alfred and his mighty
sister, were not altogether hidden from her. The Emperor of China was
to be in London and it was thought proper that some private person,
some untitled individual, should give the Emperor a dinner, so that
the Emperor might see how an English merchant lives. Mr. Melmotte was
chosen on condition that he would spend £10,000 on the banquet;—and,
as a part of his payment for this expenditure, was to be admitted
with his family, to a grand entertainment given to the Emperor at
Windsor Park. Of these good things Georgiana Longestaffe would
receive her share. But she went to them as a Melmotte and not as a
Longestaffe,—and when amidst these gaieties, though she could see
her old friends, she was not with them. She was ever behind Madame
Melmotte, till she hated the make of that lady's garments and the
shape of that lady's back.

She had told both her father and mother very plainly that it behoved
her to be in London at this time of the year that she might—look for
a husband. She had not hesitated in declaring her purpose; and that
purpose, together with the means of carrying it out, had not appeared
to them to be unreasonable. She wanted to be settled in life. She had
meant, when she first started on her career, to have a lord;—but
lords are scarce. She was herself not very highly born, not very
highly gifted, not very lovely, not very pleasant, and she had no
fortune. She had long made up her mind that she could do without a
lord, but that she must get a commoner of the proper sort. He must be
a man with a place in the country and sufficient means to bring him
annually to London. He must be a gentleman,—and, probably, in
parliament. And above all things he must be in the right set. She
would rather go on for ever struggling than take some country
Whitstable as her sister was about to do. But now the men of the
right sort never came near her. The one object for which she had
subjected herself to all this ignominy seemed to have vanished
altogether in the distance. When by chance she danced or exchanged a
few words with the Nidderdales and Grassloughs whom she used to know,
they spoke to her with a want of respect which she felt and tasted
but could hardly analyse. Even Miles Grendall, who had hitherto been
below her notice, attempted to patronise her in a manner that
bewildered her. All this nearly broke her heart.

And then from time to time little rumours reached her ears which made
her aware that, in the teeth of all Mr. Melmotte's social successes,
a general opinion that he was a gigantic swindler was rather gaining
ground than otherwise. "Your host is a wonderful fellow, by George!"
said Lord Nidderdale. "No one seems to know which way he'll turn up
at last." "There's nothing like being a robber, if you can only rob
enough," said Lord Grasslough,—not exactly naming Melmotte, but very
clearly alluding to him. There was a vacancy for a member of
parliament at Westminster, and Melmotte was about to come forward as
a candidate. "If he can manage that I think he'll pull through," she
heard one man say. "If money'll do it, it will be done," said
another. She could understand it all. Mr. Melmotte was admitted into
society, because of some enormous power which was supposed to lie in
his hands; but even by those who thus admitted him he was regarded as
a thief and a scoundrel. This was the man whose house had been
selected by her father in order that she might make her search for a
husband from beneath his wing!

In her agony she wrote to her old friend Julia Triplex, now the wife
of Sir Damask Monogram. She had been really intimate with Julia
Triplex, and had been sympathetic when a brilliant marriage had been
achieved. Julia had been without fortune, but very pretty. Sir Damask
was a man of great wealth, whose father had been a contractor. But
Sir Damask himself was a sportsman, keeping many horses on which
other men often rode, a yacht in which other men sunned themselves, a
deer forest, a moor, a large machinery for making pheasants. He shot
pigeons at Hurlingham, drove four-in-hand in the park, had a box at
every race-course, and was the most good-natured fellow known. He had
really conquered the world, had got over the difficulty of being the
grandson of a butcher, and was now as good as though the Monograms
had gone to the crusades. Julia Triplex was equal to her position,
and made the very most of it. She dispensed champagne and smiles, and
made everybody, including herself, believe that she was in love with
her husband. Lady Monogram had climbed to the top of the tree, and in
that position had been, of course, invaluable to her old friend. We
must give her her due and say that she had been fairly true to
friendship while Georgiana—behaved herself. She thought that
Georgiana in going to the Melmottes had—not behaved herself, and
therefore she had determined to drop Georgiana. "Heartless, false,
purse-proud creature," Georgiana said to herself as she wrote the
following letter in humiliating agony.
 


Dear Lady Monogram,

I think you hardly understand my position. Of course you
have cut me. Haven't you? And of course I must feel it
very much. You did not use to be ill-natured, and I hardly
think you can have become so now when you have everything
pleasant around you. I do not think that I have done
anything that should make an old friend treat me in this
way, and therefore I write to ask you to let me see you.
Of course it is because I am staying here. You know me
well enough to be sure that it can't be my own choice.
Papa arranged it all. If there is anything against these
people, I suppose papa does not know it. Of course they
are not nice. Of course they are not like anything that I
have been used to. But when papa told me that the house in
Bruton Street was to be shut up and that I was to come
here, of course I did as I was bid. I don't think an old
friend like you, whom I have always liked more than
anybody else, ought to cut me for it. It's not about the
parties, but about yourself that I mind. I don't ask you
to come here, but if you will see me I can have the
carriage and will go to you.

Yours, as ever,

Georgiana Longestaffe.
 


It was a troublesome letter to get written. Lady Monogram was her
junior in age and had once been lower than herself in social
position. In the early days of their friendship she had sometimes
domineered over Julia Triplex, and had been entreated by Julia, in
reference to balls here and routes there. The great Monogram marriage
had been accomplished very suddenly, and had taken place,—exalting
Julia very high,—just as Georgiana was beginning to allow her
aspirations to descend. It was in that very season that she moved her
castle in the air from the Upper to the Lower House. And now she was
absolutely begging for notice, and praying that she might not be cut!
She sent her letter by post and on the following day received a
reply, which was left by a footman.
 


Dear Georgiana,

Of course I shall be delighted to see you. I don't know
what you mean by cutting. I never cut anybody. We happen
to have got into different sets, but that is not my fault.
Sir Damask won't let me call on the Melmottes. I can't
help that. You wouldn't have me go where he tells me not.
I don't know anything about them myself, except that I did
go to their ball. But everybody knows that's different. I
shall be at home all to-morrow till three,—that is to-day
I mean, for I'm writing after coming home from Lady
Killarney's ball; but if you wish to see me alone you had
better come before lunch.

Yours affectionately,

J. Monogram.
 


Georgiana condescended to borrow the carriage and reached her
friend's house a little after noon. The two ladies kissed each other
when they met—of course, and then Miss Longestaffe at once began.
"Julia, I did think that you would at any rate have asked me to your
second ball."

"Of course you would have been asked if you had been up in Bruton
Street. You know that as well as I do. It would have been a matter of
course."

"What difference does a house make?"

"But the people in a house make a great deal of difference, my dear.
I don't want to quarrel with you, my dear; but I can't know the
Melmottes."

"Who asks you?"

"You are with them."

"Do you mean to say that you can't ask anybody to your house without
asking everybody that lives with that person? It's done every day."

"Somebody must have brought you."

"I would have come with the Primeros, Julia."

"I couldn't do it. I asked Damask and he wouldn't have it. When that
great affair was going on in February, we didn't know much about the
people. I was told that everybody was going and therefore I got Sir
Damask to let me go. He says now that he won't let me know them; and
after having been at their house I can't ask you out of it, without
asking them too."

"I don't see it at all, Julia."

"I'm very sorry, my dear, but I can't go against my husband."

"Everybody goes to their house," said Georgiana, pleading her cause
to the best of her ability. "The Duchess of Stevenage has dined in
Grosvenor Square since I have been there."

"We all know what that means," replied Lady Monogram.

"And people are giving their eyes to be asked to the dinner party
which he is to give to the Emperor in July;—and even to the
reception afterwards."

"To hear you talk, Georgiana, one would think that you didn't
understand anything," said Lady Monogram. "People are going to see
the Emperor, not to see the Melmottes. I dare say we might have
gone,—only I suppose we shan't now because of this row."

"I don't know what you mean by a row, Julia."

"Well;—it is a row, and I hate rows. Going there when the Emperor of
China is there, or anything of that kind, is no more than going to
the play. Somebody chooses to get all London into his house, and all
London chooses to go. But it isn't understood that that means
acquaintance. I should meet Madame Melmotte in the park afterwards
and not think of bowing to her."

"I should call that rude."

"Very well. Then we differ. But really it does seem to me that you
ought to understand these things as well as anybody. I don't find any
fault with you for going to the Melmottes,—though I was very sorry
to hear it; but when you have done it, I don't think you should
complain of people because they won't have the Melmottes crammed down
their throats."

"Nobody has wanted it," said Georgiana sobbing. At this moment the
door was opened, and Sir Damask came in. "I'm talking to your wife
about the Melmottes," she continued, determined to take the bull by
the horns. "I'm staying there, and—I think it—unkind that
Julia—hasn't been—to see me. That's all."

"How'd you do, Miss Longestaffe? She doesn't know them." And Sir
Damask, folding his hands together, raising his eyebrows, and
standing on the rug, looked as though he had solved the whole
difficulty.











Sir Damask solving the difficulty.


Sir
Damask solving the difficulty.


Click to ENLARGE


"She knows me, Sir Damask."

"Oh yes;—she knows you. That's a matter of course. We're delighted
to see you, Miss Longestaffe—I am, always. Wish we could have had
you at Ascot. But—." Then
he looked as though he had again explained
everything.

"I've told her that you don't want me to go to the Melmottes," said
Lady Monogram.

"Well, no;—not just to go there. Stay and have lunch, Miss
Longestaffe."

"No, thank you."

"Now you're here, you'd better," said Lady Monogram.

"No, thank you. I'm sorry that I have not been able to make you
understand me. I could not allow our very long friendship to be
dropped without a word."

"Don't say—dropped," exclaimed the baronet.

"I do say dropped, Sir Damask. I thought we should have understood
each other;—your wife and I. But we haven't. Wherever she might have
gone, I should have made it my business to see her; but she feels
differently. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, my dear. If you will quarrel, it isn't my doing." Then Sir
Damask led Miss Longestaffe out, and put her into Madame Melmotte's
carriage. "It's the most absurd thing I ever knew in my life," said
the wife as soon as her husband had returned to her. "She hasn't been
able to bear to remain down in the country for one season, when all
the world knows that her father can't afford to have a house for them
in town. Then she condescends to come and stay with these
abominations and pretends to feel surprised that her old friends
don't run after her. She is old enough to have known better."

"I suppose she likes parties," said Sir Damask.

"Likes parties! She'd like to get somebody to take her. It's twelve
years now since Georgiana Longestaffe came out. I remember being told
of the time when I was first entered myself. Yes, my dear, you know
all about it, I dare say. And there she is still. I can feel for her,
and do feel for her. But if she will let herself down in that way she
can't expect not to be dropped. You remember the woman;—don't you?"

"What woman?"

"Madame Melmotte?"

"Never saw her in my life."

"Oh yes, you did. You took me there that night when
Prince ——
danced with the girl. Don't you remember the blowsy fat woman at the
top of the stairs;—a regular horror?"

"Didn't look at her. I was only thinking what a lot of money it all
cost."

"I remember her, and if Georgiana Longestaffe thinks I'm going there
to make an acquaintance with Madame Melmotte she is very much
mistaken. And if she thinks that that is the way to get married, I
think she is mistaken again." Nothing perhaps is so efficacious in
preventing men from marrying as the tone in which married women speak
of the struggles made in that direction by their unmarried friends.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXIII.


JOHN CRUMB.
 

Sir Felix Carbury made an appointment for meeting Ruby Ruggles a
second time at the bottom of the kitchen-garden belonging to Sheep's
Acre farm, which appointment he neglected, and had, indeed, made
without any intention of keeping it. But Ruby was there, and remained
hanging about among the cabbages till her grandfather returned from
Harlestone market. An early hour had been named; but hours may be
mistaken, and Ruby had thought that a fine gentleman, such as was her
lover, used to live among fine people up in London, might well
mistake the afternoon for the morning. If he would come at all she
could easily forgive such a mistake. But he did not come, and late in
the afternoon she was obliged to obey her grandfather's summons as he
called her into the house.

After that for three weeks she heard nothing of her London lover, but
she was always thinking of him;—and though she could not altogether
avoid her country lover, she was in his company as little as
possible. One afternoon her grandfather returned from Bungay and told
her that her country lover was coming to see her. "John Crumb be a
coming over by-and-by," said the old man. "See and have a bit o'
supper ready for him."

"John Crumb coming here, grandfather? He's welcome to stay away then,
for me."

"That be dommed." The old man thrust his old hat on to his head and
seated himself in a wooden arm-chair that stood by the kitchen-fire.
Whenever he was angry he put on his hat, and the custom was well
understood by Ruby. "Why not welcome, and he all one as your husband?
Look ye here, Ruby, I'm going to have an eend o' this. John Crumb is
to marry you next month, and the banns is to be said."

"The parson may say what he pleases, grandfather. I can't stop his
saying of 'em. It isn't likely I shall try, neither. But no parson
among 'em all can marry me without I'm willing."

"And why should you no be willing, you contrairy young jade, you?"

"You've been a' drinking, grandfather."

He turned round at her sharp, and threw his old hat at her
head;—nothing to Ruby's consternation, as it was a practice to which
she was well accustomed. She picked it up, and returned it to him
with a cool indifference which was intended to exasperate him. "Look
ye here, Ruby," he said, "out o' this place you go. If you go as John
Crumb's wife you'll go with five hun'erd pound, and we'll have a
dinner here, and a dance, and all Bungay."

"Who cares for all Bungay,—a set of beery chaps as knows nothing but
swilling and smoking;—and John Crumb the main of 'em all? There
never was a chap for beer like John Crumb."

"Never saw him the worse o' liquor in all my life." And the old
farmer, as he gave this grand assurance, rattled his fist down upon
the table.

"It ony just makes him stoopider and stoopider the more he swills.
You can't tell me, grandfather, about John Crumb. I knows him."

"Didn't ye say as how ye'd have him? Didn't ye give him a promise?"

"If I did, I ain't the first girl as has gone back of her word,—and
I shan't be the last."

"You means you won't have him?"

"That's about it, grandfather."

"Then you'll have to have somebody to fend for ye, and that pretty
sharp,—for you won't have me."

"There ain't no difficulty about that, grandfather."

"Very well. He's a coming here to-night, and you may settle it along
wi' him. Out o' this ye shall go. I know of your doings."

"What doings! You don't know of no doings. There ain't no doings. You
don't know nothing ag'in me."

"He's a coming here to-night, and if you can make it up wi' him, well
and good. There's five hun'erd pound, and ye shall have the dinner
and the dance and all Bungay. He ain't a going to be put off no
longer;—he ain't."

"Whoever wanted him to be put on? Let him go his own gait."

"If you can't make it up wi' him—"

"Well, grandfather, I shan't anyways."

"Let me have my say, will ye, yer jade, you? There's five hun'erd
pound! and there ain't ere a farmer in Suffolk or Norfolk paying rent
for a bit of land like this can do as well for his darter as
that,—let alone only a granddarter. You never thinks o' that;—you
don't. If you don't like to take it,—leave it. But you'll leave
Sheep's Acre too."

"Bother Sheep's Acre. Who wants to stop at Sheep's Acre? It's the
stoopidest place in all England."

"Then find another. Then find another. That's all aboot it. John
Crumb's a coming up for a bit o' supper. You tell him your own mind.
I'm dommed if I trouble aboot it. On'y you don't stay here. Sheep's
Acre ain't good enough for you, and you'd best find another home.
Stoopid, is it? You'll have to put up wi' places stoopider nor
Sheep's Acre, afore you've done."

In regard to the hospitality promised to Mr. Crumb, Miss Ruggles went
about her work with sufficient alacrity. She was quite willing that
the young man should have a supper, and she did understand that, so
far as the preparation of the supper went, she owed her service to
her grandfather. She therefore went to work herself, and gave
directions to the servant girl who assisted her in keeping her
grandfather's house. But as she did this, she determined that she
would make John Crumb understand that she would never be his wife.
Upon that she was now fully resolved. As she went about the kitchen,
taking down the ham and cutting the slices that were to be broiled,
and as she trussed the fowl that was to be boiled for John Crumb, she
made mental comparisons between him and Sir Felix Carbury. She could
see, as though present to her at the moment, the mealy, floury head
of the one, with hair stiff with perennial dust from his sacks, and
the sweet glossy dark well-combed locks of the other, so bright, so
seductive, that she was ever longing to twine her fingers among them.
And she remembered the heavy, flat, broad honest face of the
meal-man, with his mouth slow in motion, and his broad nose looking
like a huge white promontory, and his great staring eyes, from the
corners of which he was always extracting meal and grit;—and then
also she remembered the white teeth, the beautiful soft lips, the
perfect eyebrows, and the rich complexion of her London lover. Surely
a lease of Paradise with the one, though but for one short year,
would be well purchased at the price of a life with the other! "It's
no good going against love," she said to herself, "and I won't try.
He shall have his supper, and be told all about it, and then go home.
He cares more for his supper than he do for me." And then, with this
final resolution firmly made, she popped the fowl into the pot. Her
grandfather wanted her to leave Sheep's Acre. Very well. She had a
little money of her own, and would take herself off to London. She
knew what people would say, but she cared nothing for old women's
tales. She would know how to take care of herself, and could always
say in her own defence that her grandfather had turned her out of
Sheep's Acre.

Seven had been the hour named, and punctually at that hour John Crumb
knocked at the back door of Sheep's Acre farm-house. Nor did he come
alone. He was accompanied by his friend Joe Mixet, the baker of
Bungay, who, as all Bungay knew, was to be his best man at his
marriage. John Crumb's character was not without many fine
attributes. He could earn money,—and having earned it could spend
and keep it in fair proportion. He was afraid of no work, and,—to
give him his due,—was afraid of no man. He was honest, and ashamed
of nothing that he did. And after his fashion he had chivalrous ideas
about women. He was willing to thrash any man that ill-used a woman,
and would certainly be a most dangerous antagonist to any man who
would misuse a woman belonging to him. But Ruby had told the truth of
him in saying that he was slow of speech, and what the world calls
stupid in regard to all forms of expression. He knew good meal from
bad as well as any man, and the price at which he could buy it so as
to leave himself a fair profit at the selling. He knew the value of a
clear conscience, and without much argument had discovered for
himself that honesty is in truth the best policy. Joe Mixet, who was
dapper of person and glib of tongue, had often declared that any one
buying John Crumb for a fool would lose his money. Joe Mixet was
probably right; but there had been a want of prudence, a lack of
worldly sagacity, in the way in which Crumb had allowed his proposed
marriage with Ruby Ruggles to become a source of gossip to all
Bungay. His love was now an old affair; and, though he never talked
much, whenever he did talk, he talked about that. He was proud of
Ruby's beauty, and of her fortune, and of his own status as her
acknowledged lover,—and he did not hide his light under a bushel.
Perhaps the publicity so produced had some effect in prejudicing Ruby
against the man whose offer she had certainly once accepted. Now when
he came to settle the day,—having heard more than once or twice that
there was a difficulty with Ruby,—he brought his friend Mixet with
him as though to be present at his triumph. "If here isn't Joe
Mixet," said Ruby to herself. "Was there ever such a stoopid as John
Crumb? There's no end to his being stoopid."

The old man had slept off his anger and his beer while Ruby had been
preparing the feast, and now roused himself to entertain his guests.
"What, Joe Mixet; is that thou? Thou'rt welcome. Come in, man. Well,
John, how is it wi' you? Ruby's a stewing o' something for us to eat
a bit. Don't 'e smell it?"—John Crumb lifted up his great nose,
sniffed and grinned.

"John didn't like going home in the dark like," said the baker, with
his little joke. "So I just come along to drive away the bogies."

"The more the merrier;—the more the merrier. Ruby 'll have enough
for the two o' you, I'll go bail. So John Crumb's afraid of
bogies;—is he? The more need he to have some 'un in his house to
scart 'em away."

The lover had seated himself without speaking a word; but now he was
instigated to ask a question. "Where be she, Muster Ruggles?" They
were seated in the outside or front kitchen, in which the old man and
his granddaughter always lived; while Ruby was at work in the back
kitchen. As John Crumb asked this question she could be heard
distinctly among the pots and the plates. She now came out, and
wiping her hands on her apron, shook hands with the two young men.
She had enveloped herself in a big household apron when the cooking
was in hand, and had not cared to take it off for the greeting of
this lover. "Grandfather said as how you was a coming out for your
supper, so I've been a seeing to it. You'll excuse the apron, Mr.
Mixet."

"You couldn't look nicer, miss, if you was to try it ever so. My
mother says as it's housifery as recommends a girl to the young men.
What do you say, John?"

"I loiks to see her loik o' that," said John rubbing his hands down
the back of his trowsers, and stooping till he had brought his eyes
down to a level with those of his sweetheart.











"I loiks to see her loik o’ that."


"I loiks
to see her loik o' that."


Click to ENLARGE


"It looks homely; don't it, John?" said Mixet.

"Bother!" said Ruby, turning round sharp, and going back to the other
kitchen. John Crumb turned round also, and grinned at his friend, and
then grinned at the old man.

"You've got it all afore you," said the farmer,—leaving the lover to
draw what lesson he might from this oracular proposition.

"And I don't care how soon I ha'e it in hond;—that I don't," said
John.

"That's the chat," said Joe Mixet. "There ain't nothing wanting in
his house;—is there, John? It's all there,—cradle, caudle-cup, and
the rest of it. A young woman going to John knows what she'll have to
eat when she gets up, and what she'll lie down upon when she goes to
bed." This he declared in a loud voice for the benefit of Ruby in the
back kitchen.

"That she do," said John, grinning again. "There's a hun'erd and
fifty poond o' things in my house forbye what mother left behind
her."

After this there was no more conversation till Ruby reappeared with
the boiled fowl, and without her apron. She was followed by the girl
with a dish of broiled ham and an enormous pyramid of cabbage. Then
the old man got up slowly and opening some private little door of
which he kept the key in his breeches pocket, drew a jug of ale and
placed it on the table. And from a cupboard of which he also kept the
key, he brought out a bottle of gin. Everything being thus prepared,
the three men sat round the table, John Crumb looking at his chair
again and again before he ventured to occupy it. "If you'll sit
yourself down, I'll give you a bit of something to eat," said Ruby at
last. Then he sank at once into his chair. Ruby cut up the fowl
standing, and dispensed the other good things, not even placing a
chair for herself at the table,—and apparently not expected to do
so, for no one invited her. "Is it to be spirits or ale, Mr. Crumb?"
she said, when the other two men had helped themselves. He turned
round and gave her a look of love that might have softened the heart
of an Amazon; but instead of speaking he held up his tumbler, and
bobbed his head at the beer jug. Then she filled it to the brim,
frothing it in the manner in which he loved to have it frothed. He
raised it to his mouth slowly, and poured the liquor in as though to
a vat. Then she filled it again. He had been her lover, and she would
be as kind to him as she knew how,—short of love.

There was a good deal of eating done, for more ham came in, and
another mountain of cabbage; but very little or nothing was said.
John Crumb ate whatever was given to him of the fowl, sedulously
picking the bones, and almost swallowing them; and then finished the
second dish of ham, and after that the second instalment of cabbage.
He did not ask for more beer, but took it as often as Ruby
replenished his glass. When the eating was done, Ruby retired into
the back kitchen, and there regaled herself with some bone or
merry-thought of the fowl, which she had with prudence reserved,
sharing her spoils however with the other maiden. This she did
standing, and then went to work, cleaning the dishes. The men lit
their pipes and smoked in silence, while Ruby went through her
domestic duties. So matters went on for half an hour; during which
Ruby escaped by the back door, went round into the house, got into
her own room, and formed the grand resolution of going to bed. She
began her operations in fear and trembling, not being sure but that
her grandfather would bring the man up-stairs to her. As she thought
of this she stayed her hand, and looked to the door. She knew well
that there was no bolt there. It would be terrible to her to be
invaded by John Crumb after his fifth or sixth glass of beer. And,
she declared to herself, that should he come he would be sure to
bring Joe Mixet with him to speak his mind for him. So she paused and
listened.

When they had smoked for some half hour the old man called for his
granddaughter, but called of course in vain. "Where the mischief is
the jade gone?" he said, slowly making his way into the back kitchen.
The maid as soon as she heard her master moving, escaped into the
yard and made no response, while the old man stood bawling at the
back door. "The devil's in them. They're off some gates," he said
aloud. "She'll make the place hot for her, if she goes on this way."
Then he returned to the two young men. "She's playing off her games
somwheres," he said. "Take a glass of sperrits and water, Mr. Crumb,
and I'll see after her."

"I'll just take a drop of y'ell," said John Crumb, apparently quite
unmoved by the absence of his sweetheart.

It was sad work for the old man. He went down the yard and into the
garden, hobbling among the cabbages, not daring to call very loud, as
he did not wish to have it supposed that the girl was lost; but still
anxious, and sore at heart as to the ingratitude shown to him. He was
not bound to give the girl a home at all. She was not his own child.
And he had offered her £500! "Domm her," he said aloud as he made his
way back to the house. After much search and considerable loss of
time he returned to the kitchen in which the two men were sitting,
leading Ruby in his hand. She was not smart in her apparel, for she
had half undressed herself, and been then compelled by her
grandfather to make herself fit to appear in public. She had
acknowledged to herself that she had better go down and tell John
Crumb the truth. For she was still determined that she would never be
John Crumb's wife. "You can answer him as well as I, grandfather,"
she had said. Then the farmer had cuffed her, and told her that she
was an idiot. "Oh, if it comes to that," said Ruby, "I'm not afraid
of John Crumb, nor yet of nobody else. Only I didn't think you'd go
to strike me, grandfather." "I'll knock the life out of thee, if thou
goest on this gate," he had said. But she had consented to come down,
and they entered the room together.

"We're a disturbing you a'most too late, miss," said Mr. Mixet.

"It ain't that at all, Mr. Mixet. If grandfather chooses to have a
few friends, I ain't nothing against it. I wish he'd have a few
friends a deal oftener than he do. I likes nothing better than to do
for 'em;—only when I've done for 'em and they're smoking their pipes
and that like, I don't see why I ain't to leave 'em to 'emselves."

"But we've come here on a hauspicious occasion, Miss Ruby."

"I don't know nothing about auspicious, Mr. Mixet. If you and Mr.
Crumb've come out to Sheep's Acre farm for a bit of
supper—"

"Which we ain't," said John Crumb very loudly;—"nor yet for
beer;—not by no means."

"We've come for the smiles of beauty," said Joe Mixet.

Ruby chucked up her head. "Mr. Mixet, if you'll be so good as to stow
that! There ain't no beauty here as I knows of, and if there was it
isn't nothing to you."

"Except in the way of friendship," said Mixet.

"I'm just as sick of all this as a man can be," said Mr. Ruggles, who
was sitting low in his chair, with his back bent, and his head
forward. "I won't put up with it no more."

"Who wants you to put up with it?" said Ruby. "Who wants 'em to come
here with their trash? Who brought 'em to-night? I don't know what
business Mr. Mixet has interfering along o' me. I never interfere
along o' him."

"John Crumb, have you anything to say?" asked the old man.

Then John Crumb slowly arose from his chair, and stood up at his full
height. "I hove," said he, swinging his head to one side.

"Then say it."

"I will," said he. He was still standing bolt upright with his hands
down by his side. Then he stretched out his left to his glass which
was half full of beer, and strengthened himself as far as that would
strengthen him. Having done this he slowly deposited the pipe which
he still held in his right hand.

"Now speak your mind, like a man," said Mixet.

"I intends it," said John. But he still stood dumb, looking down upon
old Ruggles, who from his crouched position was looking up at him.
Ruby was standing with both her hands upon the table and her eyes
intent upon the wall over the fire-place.

"You've asked Miss Ruby to be your wife a dozen times;—haven't you,
John?" suggested Mixet.

"I hove."

"And you mean to be as good as your word?"

"I do."

"And she has promised to have you?"

"She hove."

"More nor once or twice?" To this proposition Crumb found it only
necessary to bob his head. "You're ready,—and willing?"

"I om."

"You're wishing to have the banns said without any more delay?"

"There ain't no delay 'bout me;—never was."

"Everything is ready in your own house?"

"They is."

"And you will expect Miss Ruby to come to the scratch?"

"I sholl."

"That's about it, I think," said Joe Mixet, turning to the
grandfather. "I don't think there was ever anything much more
straightforward than that. You know, I know, Miss Ruby knows all
about John Crumb. John Crumb didn't come to Bungay yesterday,—nor
yet the day before. There's been a talk of five hundred pounds, Mr.
Ruggles." Mr. Ruggles made a slight gesture of assent with his head.
"Five hundred pounds is very comfortable; and added to what John has
will make things that snug that things never was snugger. But John
Crumb isn't after Miss Ruby along of her fortune."

"Nohow's," said the lover, shaking his head and still standing
upright with his hands by his side.

"Not he;—it isn't his ways, and them as knows him'll never say it of
him. John has a heart in his buzsom."

"I has," said John, raising his hand a little above his stomach.

"And feelings as a man. It's true love as has brought John Crumb to
Sheep's Acre farm this night;—love of that young lady, if she'll let
me make so free. He's a proposed to her, and she's a haccepted him,
and now it's about time as they was married. That's what John Crumb
has to say."

"That's what I has to say," repeated John Crumb, "and I means it."

"And now, miss," continued Mixet, addressing himself to Ruby, "you've
heard what John has to say."

"I've heard you, Mr. Mixet, and I've heard quite enough."

"You can't have anything to say against it, miss; can you? There's
your grandfather as is willing, and the money as one may say counted
out,—and John Crumb is willing, with his house so ready that there
isn't a ha'porth to do. All we want is for you to name the day."

"Say to-morrow, Ruby, and I'll not be agon it," said John Crumb,
slapping his thigh.

"I won't say to-morrow, Mr. Crumb, nor yet the day after to-morrow,
nor yet no day at all. I'm not going to have you. I've told you as
much before."

"That was only in fun, loike."

"Then now I tell you in earnest. There's some folk wants such a deal
of telling."

"You don't mean,—never?"

"I do mean never, Mr. Crumb."

"Didn't you say as you would, Ruby? Didn't you say so as plain as the
nose on my face?" John as he asked these questions could hardly
refrain from tears.

"Young women is allowed to change their minds," said Ruby.

"Brute!" exclaimed old Ruggles. "Pig! Jade! I'll tell'ee what, John.
She'll go out o' this into the streets;—that's what she wull. I
won't keep her here, no longer;—nasty, ungrateful, lying slut."

"She ain't that;—she ain't that," said John. "She ain't that at all.
She's no slut. I won't hear her called so;—not by her grandfather.
But, oh, she has a mind to put me so abouts, that I'll have to go
home and hang myself."

"Dash it, Miss Ruby, you ain't a going to serve a young man that
way," said the baker.

"If you'll jist keep yourself to yourself, I'll be obliged to you,
Mr. Mixet," said Ruby. "If you hadn't come here at all things might
have been different."

"Hark at that now," said John, looking at his friend almost with
indignation.

Mr. Mixet, who was fully aware of his rare eloquence and of the
absolute necessity there had been for its exercise if any arrangement
were to be made at all, could not trust himself to words after this.
He put on his hat and walked out through the back kitchen into the
yard declaring that his friend would find him there, round by the
pig-stye wall, whenever he was ready to return to Bungay. As soon as
Mixet was gone John looked at his sweetheart out of the corners of
his eyes and made a slow motion towards her, putting out his right
hand as a feeler. "He's aff now, Ruby," said John.

"And you'd better be aff after him," said the cruel girl.

"And when'll I come back again?"

"Never. It ain't no use. What's the good of more words, Mr. Crumb?"

"Domm her; domm her," said old Ruggles. "I'll even it to her. She'll
have to be out on the roads this night."

"She shall have the best bed in my house if she'll come for it," said
John, "and the old woman to look arter her; and I won't come nigh her
till she sends for me."

"I can find a place for myself, thank ye, Mr. Crumb." Old Ruggles sat
grinding his teeth, and swearing to himself, taking his hat off and
putting it on again, and meditating vengeance. "And now if you
please, Mr. Crumb, I'll go up-stairs to my own room."

"You don't go up to any room here, you jade you." The old man as he
said this got up from his chair as though to fly at her. And he would
have struck her with his stick but that he was stopped by John Crumb.

"Don't hit the girl, no gate, Mr. Ruggles."

"Domm her, John; she breaks my heart." While her lover held her
grandfather Ruby escaped, and seated herself on the bedside, again
afraid to undress, lest she should be disturbed by her grandfather.
"Ain't it more nor a man ought to have to bear;—ain't it, Mr.
Crumb?" said the grandfather appealing to the young man.

"It's the ways on 'em, Mr. Ruggles."

"Ways on 'em! A whipping at the cart-tail ought to be the ways on
her. She's been and seen some young buck."

Then John Crumb turned red all over, through the flour, and sparks of
anger flashed from his eyes. "You ain't a meaning of it, master?"

"I'm told there's been the squoire's cousin aboot,—him as they call
the baronite."

"Been along wi' Ruby?" The old man nodded at him. "By the mortials
I'll baronite him;—I wull," said John seizing his hat and stalking
off through the back kitchen after his friend.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXIV.


RUBY RUGGLES OBEYS HER GRANDFATHER.
 

The next day there was great surprise at Sheep's Acre farm, which
communicated itself to the towns of Bungay and Beccles, and even
affected the ordinary quiet life of Carbury Manor. Ruby Ruggles had
gone away, and at about twelve o'clock in the day the old farmer
became aware of the fact. She had started early, at about seven in
the morning; but Ruggles himself had been out long before that, and
had not condescended to ask for her when he returned to the house for
his breakfast. There had been a bad scene up in the bedroom
overnight, after John Crumb had left the farm. The old man in his
anger had tried to expel the girl; but she had hung on to the
bed-post and would not go; and he had been frightened, when the maid
came up crying and screaming murder. "You'll be out o' this to-morrow
as sure as my name's Dannel Ruggles," said the farmer panting for
breath. But for the gin which he had taken he would hardly have
struck her;—but he had struck her, and pulled her by the hair, and
knocked her about;—and in the morning she took him at his word and
was away. About twelve he heard from the servant girl that she had
gone. She had packed a box and had started up the road carrying the
box herself. "Grandfather says I'm to go, and I'm gone," she had said
to the girl. At the first cottage she had got a boy to carry her box
into Beccles, and to Beccles she had walked. For an hour or two
Ruggles sat, quiet, within the house, telling himself that she might
do as she pleased with herself,—that he was well rid of her, and
that from henceforth he would trouble himself no more about her. But
by degrees there came upon him a feeling half of compassion and half
of fear, with perhaps some mixture of love, instigating him to make
search for her. She had been the same to him as a child, and what
would people say of him if he allowed her to depart from him after
this fashion? Then he remembered his violence the night before, and
the fact that the servant girl had heard if she had not seen it. He
could not drop his responsibility in regard to Ruby, even if he
would. So, as a first step, he sent in a message to John Crumb, at
Bungay, to tell him that Ruby Ruggles had gone off with a box to
Beccles. John Crumb went open-mouthed with the news to Joe Mixet, and
all Bungay soon knew that Ruby Ruggles had run away.

After sending his message to Crumb the old man still sat thinking,
and at last made up his mind that he would go to his landlord. He
held a part of his farm under Roger Carbury, and Roger Carbury would
tell him what he ought to do. A great trouble had come upon him. He
would fain have been quiet, but his conscience and his heart and his
terrors all were at work together,—and he found that he could not
eat his dinner. So he had out his cart and horse and drove himself
off to Carbury Hall.

It was past four when he started, and he found the squire seated on
the terrace after an early dinner, and with him was Father Barham,
the priest. The old man was shown at once round into the garden, and
was not long in telling his story. There had been words between him
and his granddaughter about her lover. Her lover had been accepted
and had come to the farm to claim his bride. Ruby had behaved very
badly. The old man made the most of Ruby's bad behaviour, and of
course as little as possible of his own violence. But he did explain
that there had been threats used when Ruby refused to take the man,
and that Ruby had, this day, taken herself off.

"I always thought it was settled they were to be man and wife," said
Roger.

"It was settled, squoire;—and he war to have five hun'erd pound
down;—money as I'd saved myself. Drat the jade."

"Didn't she like him, Daniel?"

"She liked him well enough till she'd seed somebody else." Then old
Daniel paused, and shook his head, and was evidently the owner of a
secret. The squire got up and walked round the garden with him,—and
then the secret was told. The farmer was of opinion that there was
something between the girl and Sir Felix. Sir Felix some weeks since
had been seen near the farm and on the same occasion Ruby had been
observed at some little distance from the house with her best clothes
on.

"He's been so little here, Daniel," said the squire.

"It goes as tinder and a spark o' fire, that does," said the farmer.
"Girls like Ruby don't want no time to be wooed by one such as that,
though they'll fall-lall with a man like John Crumb for years."

"I suppose she's gone to London."

"Don't know nothing of where she's gone, squoire;—only she have gone
some'eres. May be it's Lowestoffe. There's lots of quality at
Lowestoffe a' washing theyselves in the sea."

Then they returned to the priest, who might be supposed to be
cognisant of the guiles of the world and competent to give advice on
such an occasion as this. "If she was one of our people," said Father
Barham, "we should have her back quick enough."

"Would ye now?" said Ruggles, wishing at the moment that he and all
his family had been brought up as Roman Catholics.

"I don't see how you would have more chance of catching her than we
have," said Carbury.

"She'd catch herself. Wherever she might be she'd go to the priest,
and he wouldn't leave her till he'd seen her put on the way back to
her friends."

"With a flea in her lug," suggested the farmer.

"Your people never go to a clergyman in their distress. It's the last
thing they'd think of. Any one might more probably be regarded as a
friend than the parson. But with us the poor know where to look for
sympathy."

"She ain't that poor, neither," said the grandfather.

"She had money with her?"

"I don't know just what she had; but she ain't been brought up poor.
And I don't think as our Ruby'd go of herself to any clergyman. It
never was her way."

"It never is the way with a Protestant," said the priest.

"We'll say no more about that for the present," said Roger, who was
waxing wroth with the priest. That a man should be fond of his own
religion is right; but Roger Carbury was beginning to think that
Father Barham was too fond of his religion. "What had we better do? I
suppose we shall hear something of her at the railway. There are not
so many people leaving Beccles but that she may be remembered." So
the waggonette was ordered, and they all prepared to go off to the
station together.

But before they started John Crumb rode up to the door. He had gone
at once to the farm on hearing of Ruby's departure, and had followed
the farmer from thence to Carbury. Now he found the squire and the
priest and the old man standing around as the horses were being put
to the carriage. "Ye ain't a' found her, Mr. Ruggles, ha' ye?" he
asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

"Noa;—we ain't a' found no one yet."

"If it was as she was to come to harm, Mr. Carbury, I'd never forgive
myself,—never," said Crumb.

"As far as I can understand it is no doing of yours, my friend," said
the squire.

"In one way, it ain't; and in one way it is. I was over there last
night a bothering of her. She'd a' come round may be, if she'd a'
been left alone. She wouldn't a' been off now, only for our going
over to Sheep's Acre. But,—oh!"

"What is it, Mr. Crumb?"

"He's a coosin o' yours, squoire; and long as I've known Suffolk,
I've never known nothing but good o' you and yourn. But if your
baronite has been and done this! Oh, Mr. Carbury! If I was to wring
his neck round, you wouldn't say as how I was wrong; would ye, now?"
Roger could hardly answer the question. On general grounds the
wringing of Sir Felix's neck, let the immediate cause for such a
performance have been what it might, would have seemed to him to be a
good deed. The world would be better, according to his thinking, with
Sir Felix out of it than in it. But still the young man was his
cousin and a Carbury, and to such a one as John Crumb he was bound to
defend any member of his family as far as he might be defensible.
"They says as how he was groping about Sheep's Acre when he was last
here, a hiding himself and skulking behind hedges. Drat 'em all.
They've gals enough of their own,—them fellows. Why can't they let a
fellow alone? I'll do him a mischief, Master Roger; I wull;—if he's
had a hand in this." Poor John Crumb! When he had his mistress to win
he could find no words for himself; but was obliged to take an
eloquent baker with him to talk for him. Now in his anger he could
talk freely enough.

"But you must first learn that Sir Felix has had anything to do with
this, Mr. Crumb."

"In coorse; in coorse. That's right. That's right. Must l'arn as he
did it, afore I does it. But when I have
l'arned!"— And John Crumb
clenched his fist as though a very short lesson would suffice for him
upon this occasion.

They all went to the Beccles Station, and from thence to the Beccles
post office,—so that Beccles soon knew as much about it as Bungay.
At the railway station Ruby was distinctly remembered. She had taken
a second-class ticket by the morning train for London, and had gone
off without any appearance of secrecy. She had been decently dressed,
with a hat and cloak, and her luggage had been such as she might have
been expected to carry, had all her friends known that she was going.
So much was made clear at the railway station, but nothing more could
be learned there. Then a message was sent by telegraph to the station
in London, and they all waited, loitering about the post office, for
a reply. One of the porters in London remembered seeing such a girl
as was described, but the man who was supposed to have carried her
box for her to a cab had gone away for the day. It was believed that
she had left the station in a four-wheel cab. "I'll be arter her.
I'll be arter her at once," said John Crumb. But there was no train
till night, and Roger Carbury was doubtful whether his going would do
any good. It was evidently fixed on Crumb's mind that the first step
towards finding Ruby would be the breaking of every bone in the body
of Sir Felix Carbury. Now it was not at all apparent to the squire
that his cousin had had anything to do with this affair. It had been
made quite clear to him that the old man had quarrelled with his
granddaughter and had threatened to turn her out of his house, not
because she had misbehaved with Sir Felix, but on account of her
refusing to marry John Crumb. John Crumb had gone over to the farm
expecting to arrange it all, and up to that time there had been no
fear about Felix Carbury. Nor was it possible that there should have
been communication between Ruby and Felix since the quarrel at the
farm. Even if the old man were right in supposing that Ruby and the
baronet had been acquainted,—and such acquaintance could not but be
prejudicial to the girl,—not on that account would the baronet be
responsible for her abduction. John Crumb was thirsting for blood and
was not very capable in his present mood of arguing the matter out
coolly, and Roger, little as he loved his cousin, was not desirous
that all Suffolk should know that Sir Felix Carbury had been thrashed
within an inch of his life by John Crumb of Bungay. "I'll tell you
what I'll do," said he, putting his hand kindly on the old man's
shoulder. "I'll go up myself by the first train to-morrow. I can
trace her better than Mr. Crumb can do, and you will both trust me."

"There's not one in the two counties I'd trust so soon," said the old
man.

"But you'll let us know the very truth," said John Crumb. Roger
Carbury made him an indiscreet promise that he would let him know the
truth. So the matter was settled, and the grandfather and lover
returned together to Bungay.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXV.


MELMOTTE'S GLORY.
 

Augustus Melmotte was becoming greater and greater in every
direction,—mightier and mightier every day. He was learning to
despise mere lords, and to feel that he might almost domineer over a
duke. In truth he did recognise it as a fact that he must either
domineer over dukes, or else go to the wall. It can hardly be said of
him that he had intended to play so high a game, but the game that he
had intended to play had become thus high of its own accord. A man
cannot always restrain his own doings and keep them within the limits
which he had himself planned for them. They will very often fall
short of the magnitude to which his ambition has aspired. They will
sometimes soar higher than his own imagination. So it had now been
with Mr. Melmotte. He had contemplated great things; but the things
which he was achieving were beyond his contemplation.

The reader will not have thought much of Fisker on his arrival in
England. Fisker was, perhaps, not a man worthy of much thought. He
had never read a book. He had never written a line worth reading. He
had never said a prayer. He cared nothing for humanity. He had sprung
out of some Californian gully, was perhaps ignorant of his own father
and mother, and had tumbled up in the world on the strength of his
own audacity. But, such as he was, he had sufficed to give the
necessary impetus for rolling Augustus Melmotte onwards into almost
unprecedented commercial greatness. When Mr. Melmotte took his
offices in Abchurch Lane, he was undoubtedly a great man, but nothing
so great as when the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had
become not only an established fact, but a fact established in
Abchurch Lane. The great company indeed had an office of its own,
where the Board was held; but everything was really managed in Mr.
Melmotte's own commercial sanctum. Obeying, no doubt, some
inscrutable law of commerce, the grand enterprise,—"perhaps the
grandest when you consider the amount of territory manipulated, which
has ever opened itself before the eyes of a great commercial people,"
as Mr. Fisker with his peculiar eloquence observed through his nose,
about this time to a meeting of shareholders at San Francisco,—had
swung itself across from California to London, turning itself to the
centre of the commercial world as the needle turns to the pole, till
Mr. Fisker almost regretted the deed which himself had done. And
Melmotte was not only the head, but the body also, and the feet of it
all. The shares seemed to be all in Melmotte's pocket, so that he
could distribute them as he would; and it seemed also that when
distributed and sold, and when bought again and sold again, they came
back to Melmotte's pocket. Men were contented to buy their shares and
to pay their money, simply on Melmotte's word. Sir Felix had realised
a large portion of his winnings at cards,—with commendable prudence
for one so young and extravagant,—and had brought his savings to the
great man. The great man had swept the earnings of the Beargarden
into his till, and had told Sir Felix that the shares were his. Sir
Felix had been not only contented, but supremely happy. He could now
do as Paul Montague was doing,—and Lord Alfred Grendall. He could
realize a perennial income, buying and selling. It was only after the
reflection of a day or two that he found that he had as yet got
nothing to sell. It was not only Sir Felix that was admitted into
these good things after this fashion. Sir Felix was but one among
hundreds. In the meantime the bills in Grosvenor Square were no doubt
paid with punctuality,—and these bills must have been stupendous.
The very servants were as tall, as gorgeous, almost as numerous, as
the servants of royalty,—and remunerated by much higher wages. There
were four coachmen with egregious wigs, and eight footmen, not one
with a circumference of calf less than eighteen inches.

And now there appeared a paragraph in the "Morning Breakfast Table,"
and another appeared in the "Evening Pulpit," telling the world that
Mr. Melmotte had bought Pickering Park, the magnificent Sussex
property of Adolphus Longestaffe, Esq., of Caversham. And it was so.
The father and son who never had agreed before, and who now had come
to no agreement in the presence of each other, had each considered
that their affairs would be safe in the hands of so great a man as
Mr. Melmotte, and had been brought to terms. The purchase-money,
which was large, was to be divided between them. The thing was done
with the greatest ease,—there being no longer any delay as is the
case when small people are at work. The magnificence of Mr. Melmotte
affected even the Longestaffe lawyers. Were I to buy a little
property, some humble cottage with a garden,—or you, O reader,
unless you be magnificent,—the money to the last farthing would be
wanted, or security for the money more than sufficient, before we
should be able to enter in upon our new home. But money was the very
breath of Melmotte's nostrils, and therefore his breath was taken for
money. Pickering was his, and before a week was over a London builder
had collected masons and carpenters by the dozen down at Chichester,
and was at work upon the house to make it fit to be a residence for
Madame Melmotte. There were rumours that it was to be made ready for
the Goodwood week, and that the Melmotte entertainment during that
festival would rival the duke's.

But there was still much to be done in London before the Goodwood
week should come round in all of which Mr. Melmotte was concerned,
and of much of which Mr. Melmotte was the very centre. A member for
Westminster had succeeded to a peerage, and thus a seat was vacated.
It was considered to be indispensable to the country that Mr.
Melmotte should go into Parliament, and what constituency could such
a man as Melmotte so fitly represent as one combining as Westminster
does all the essences of the metropolis? There was the popular
element, the fashionable element, the legislative element, the legal
element, and the commercial element. Melmotte undoubtedly was the man
for Westminster. His thorough popularity was evinced by testimony
which perhaps was never before given in favour of any candidate for
any county or borough. In Westminster there must of course be a
contest. A seat for Westminster is a thing not to be abandoned by
either political party without a struggle. But, at the beginning of
the affair, when each party had to seek the most suitable candidate
which the country could supply, each party put its hand upon
Melmotte. And when the seat, and the battle for the seat, were
suggested to Melmotte, then for the first time was that great man
forced to descend from the altitudes on which his mind generally
dwelt, and to decide whether he would enter Parliament as a
Conservative or a Liberal. He was not long in convincing himself that
the Conservative element in British Society stood the most in need of
that fiscal assistance which it would be in his province to give; and
on the next day every hoarding in London declared to the world that
Melmotte was the Conservative candidate for Westminster. It is
needless to say that his committee was made up of peers, bankers, and
publicans, with all that absence of class prejudice for which the
party has become famous since the ballot was introduced among us.
Some unfortunate Liberal was to be made to run against him, for the
sake of the party; but the odds were ten to one on Melmotte.

This no doubt was a great matter,—this affair of the seat; but the
dinner to be given to the Emperor of China was much greater. It was
the middle of June, and the dinner was to be given on Monday, 8th
July, now three weeks hence;—but all London was already talking of
it. The great purport proposed was to show to the Emperor by this
banquet what an English merchant-citizen of London could do. Of
course there was a great amount of scolding and a loud clamour on the
occasion. Some men said that Melmotte was not a citizen of London,
others that he was not a merchant, others again that he was not an
Englishman. But no man could deny that he was both able and willing
to spend the necessary money; and as this combination of ability and
will was the chief thing necessary, they who opposed the arrangement
could only storm and scold. On the 20th of June the tradesmen were at
work, throwing up a building behind, knocking down walls, and
generally transmuting the house in Grosvenor Square in such a fashion
that two hundred guests might be able to sit down to dinner in the
dining-room of a British merchant.

But who were to be the two hundred? It used to be the case that when
a gentleman gave a dinner he asked his own guests;—but when affairs
become great, society can hardly be carried on after that simple
fashion. The Emperor of China could not be made to sit at table
without English royalty, and English royalty must know whom it has to
meet,—must select at any rate some of its comrades. The minister of
the day also had his candidates for the dinner,—in which arrangement
there was however no private patronage, as the list was confined to
the cabinet and their wives. The Prime Minister took some credit to
himself in that he would not ask for a single ticket for a private
friend. But the Opposition as a body desired their share of seats.
Melmotte had elected to stand for Westminster on the Conservative
interest, and was advised that he must insist on having as it were a
Conservative cabinet present, with its Conservative wives. He was
told that he owed it to his party, and that his party exacted payment
of the debt. But the great difficulty lay with the city merchants.
This was to be a city merchant's private feast, and it was essential
that the Emperor should meet this great merchant's brother merchants
at the merchant's board. No doubt the Emperor would see all the
merchants at the Guildhall; but that would be a semi-public affair,
paid for out of the funds of a corporation. This was to be a private
dinner. Now the Lord Mayor had set his face against it, and what was
to be done? Meetings were held; a committee was appointed; merchant
guests were selected, to the number of fifteen with their fifteen
wives;—and subsequently the Lord Mayor was made a baronet on the
occasion of receiving the Emperor in the city. The Emperor with his
suite was twenty. Royalty had twenty tickets, each ticket for guest
and wife. The existing Cabinet was fourteen; but the coming was
numbered at about eleven only;—each one for self and wife. Five
ambassadors and five ambassadresses were to be asked. There were to
be fifteen real merchants out of the city. Ten great peers,—with
their peeresses,—were selected by the general committee of
management. There were to be three wise men, two poets, three
independent members of the House of Commons, two Royal Academicians,
three editors of papers, an African traveller who had just come home,
and a novelist;—but all these latter gentlemen were expected to come
as bachelors. Three tickets were to be kept over for presentation to
bores endowed with a power of making themselves absolutely
unendurable if not admitted at the last moment,—and ten were left
for the giver of the feast and his own family and friends. It is
often difficult to make things go smooth,—but almost all roughnesses
may be smoothed at last with patience and care, and money and
patronage.

But the dinner was not to be all. Eight hundred additional tickets
were to be issued for Madame Melmotte's evening entertainment, and
the fight for these was more internecine than for seats at the
dinner. The dinner-seats, indeed, were handled in so statesmanlike a
fashion that there was not much visible fighting about them. Royalty
manages its affairs quietly. The existing Cabinet was existing, and
though there were two or three members of it who could not have got
themselves elected at a single unpolitical club in London, they had a
right to their seats at Melmotte's table. What disappointed ambition
there might be among Conservative candidates was never known to the
public. Those gentlemen do not wash their dirty linen in public. The
ambassadors of course were quiet, but we may be sure that the
Minister from the United States was among the favoured five. The city
bankers and bigwigs, as has been already said, were at first
unwilling to be present, and therefore they who were not chosen could
not afterwards express their displeasure. No grumbling was heard
among the peers, and that which came from the peeresses floated down
into the current of the great fight about the evening entertainment.
The poet laureate was of course asked, and the second poet was as
much a matter of course. Only two Academicians had in this year
painted royalty, so that there was no ground for jealousy there.
There were three, and only three, specially insolent and specially
disagreeable independent members of Parliament at that time in the
House, and there was no difficulty in selecting them. The wise men
were chosen by their age. Among editors of newspapers there was some
ill-blood. That Mr. Alf and Mr. Broune should be selected was almost
a matter of course. They were hated accordingly, but still this was
expected. But why was Mr. Booker there? Was it because he had praised
the Prime Minister's translation of Catullus? The African traveller
chose himself by living through all his perils and coming home. A
novelist was selected; but as royalty wanted another ticket at the
last moment, the gentleman was only asked to come in after dinner.
His proud heart, however, resented the treatment, and he joined
amicably with his literary brethren in decrying the festival
altogether.

We should be advancing too rapidly into this portion of our story
were we to concern ourselves deeply at the present moment with the
feud as it raged before the evening came round, but it may be right
to indicate that the desire for tickets at last became a burning
passion, and a passion which in the great majority of cases could not
be indulged. The value of the privilege was so great that Madame
Melmotte thought that she was doing almost more than friendship
called for when she informed her guest, Miss Longestaffe, that
unfortunately there would be no seat for her at the dinner-table; but
that, as payment for her loss, she should receive an evening ticket
for herself and a joint ticket for a gentleman and his wife.
Georgiana was at first indignant, but she accepted the compromise.
What she did with her tickets shall be hereafter told.

From all this I trust it will be understood that the Mr. Melmotte of
the present hour was a very different man from that Mr. Melmotte who
was introduced to the reader in the early chapters of this chronicle.
Royalty was not to be smuggled in and out of his house now without
his being allowed to see it. No manœuvres now were necessary to
catch a simple duchess. Duchesses were willing enough to come. Lord
Alfred when he was called by his Christian name felt no aristocratic
twinges. He was only too anxious to make himself more and more
necessary to the great man. It is true that all this came as it were
by jumps, so that very often a part of the world did not know on what
ledge in the world the great man was perched at that moment. Miss
Longestaffe who was staying in the house did not at all know how
great a man her host was. Lady Monogram when she refused to go to
Grosvenor Square, or even to allow any one to come out of the house
in Grosvenor Square to her parties, was groping in outer darkness.
Madame Melmotte did not know. Marie Melmotte did not know. The great
man did not quite know himself where, from time to time, he was
standing. But the world at large knew. The world knew that Mr.
Melmotte was to be Member for Westminster, that Mr. Melmotte was to
entertain the Emperor of China, that Mr. Melmotte carried the South
Central Pacific and Mexican Railway in his pocket;—and the world
worshipped Mr. Melmotte.

In the meantime Mr. Melmotte was much troubled about his private
affairs. He had promised his daughter to Lord Nidderdale, and as he
rose in the world had lowered the price which he offered for this
marriage,—not so much in the absolute amount of fortune to be
ultimately given, as in the manner of giving it. Fifteen thousand a
year was to be settled on Marie and on her eldest son, and twenty
thousand pounds were to be paid into Nidderdale's hands six months
after the marriage. Melmotte gave his reasons for not paying this sum
at once. Nidderdale would be more likely to be quiet, if he were kept
waiting for that short time. Melmotte was to purchase and furnish for
them a house in town. It was, too, almost understood that the young
people were to have Pickering Park for themselves, except for a week
or so at the end of July. It was absolutely given out in the papers
that Pickering was to be theirs. It was said on all sides that
Nidderdale was doing very well for himself. The absolute money was
not perhaps so great as had been at first asked; but then, at that
time, Melmotte was not the strong rock, the impregnable tower of
commerce, the very navel of the commercial enterprise of the
world,—as all men now regarded him. Nidderdale's father, and
Nidderdale himself, were, in the present condition of things, content
with a very much less stringent bargain than that which they had
endeavoured at first to exact.

But, in the midst of all this, Marie, who had at one time consented
at her father's instance to accept the young lord, and who in some
speechless fashion had accepted him, told both the young lord and her
father, very roundly, that she had changed her mind. Her father
scowled at her and told her that her mind in the matter was of no
concern. He intended that she should marry Lord Nidderdale, and
himself fixed some day in August for the wedding. "It is no use,
father, for I will never have him," said Marie.

"Is it about that other scamp?" he asked angrily.

"If you mean Sir Felix Carbury, it is about him. He has been to you
and told you, and therefore I don't know why I need hold my tongue."

"You'll both starve, my lady; that's all." Marie however was not so
wedded to the grandeur which she encountered in Grosvenor Square as
to be afraid of the starvation which she thought she might have to
suffer if married to Sir Felix Carbury. Melmotte had not time for any
long discussion. As he left her he took hold of her and shook her.
"By ——,"
he said, "if you run rusty after all I've done for you,
I'll make you suffer. You little fool; that man's a beggar. He hasn't
the price of a petticoat or a pair of stockings. He's looking only
for what you haven't got, and shan't have if you marry him. He wants
money, not you, you little fool!"

But after that she was quite settled in her purpose when Nidderdale
spoke to her. They had been engaged and then it had been off;—and
now the young nobleman, having settled everything with the father,
expected no great difficulty in resettling everything with the girl.
He was not very skilful at making love,—but he was thoroughly
good-humoured, from his nature anxious to please, and averse to give
pain. There was hardly any injury which he could not forgive, and
hardly any kindness which he would not do,—so that the labour upon
himself was not too great. "Well, Miss Melmotte," he said; "governors
are stern beings: are they not?"

"Is yours stern, my lord?"

"What I mean is that sons and daughters have to obey them. I think
you understand what I mean. I was awfully spoony on you that time
before; I was indeed."

"I hope it didn't hurt you much, Lord Nidderdale."

"That's so like a woman; that is. You know well enough that you and I
can't marry without leave from the governors."

"Nor with it," said Marie, nodding her head.

"I don't know how that may be. There was some hitch somewhere,—I
don't quite know where."—The hitch had been with himself, as he
demanded ready money. "But it's all right now. The old fellows are
agreed. Can't we make a match of it, Miss Melmotte?"

"No, Lord Nidderdale; I don't think we can."

"Do you mean that?"

"I do mean it. When that was going on before I knew nothing about it.
I have seen more of things since then."

"And you've seen somebody you like better than me?"

"I say nothing about that, Lord Nidderdale. I don't think you ought
to blame me, my lord."

"Oh dear no."

"There was something before, but it was you that was off first.
Wasn't it now?"

"The governors were off, I think."

"The governors have a right to be off, I suppose. But I don't think
any governor has a right to make anybody marry any one."

"I agree with you there;—I do indeed," said Lord Nidderdale.

"And no governor shall make me marry. I've thought a great deal about
it since that other time, and that's what I've come to determine."

"But I don't know why you shouldn't—just marry me—because you—like
me."

"Only,—just because I don't. Well; I do like you, Lord Nidderdale."

"Thanks;—so much!"

"I like you ever so,—only marrying a person is different."

"There's something in that to be sure."

"And I don't mind telling you," said Marie with an almost solemn
expression on her countenance, "because you are good-natured and
won't get me into a scrape if you can help it, that I do like
somebody else;—oh, so much."

"I supposed that was it."

"That is it."

"It's a deuced pity. The governors had settled everything, and we
should have been awfully jolly. I'd have gone in for all the things
you go in for; and though your governor was screwing us up a bit,
there would have been plenty of tin to go on with. You couldn't think
of it again?"

"I tell you, my lord, I'm—in love."

"Oh, ah;—yes. So you were saying. It's an awful bore. That's all. I
shall come to the party all the same if you send me a ticket." And so
Nidderdale took his dismissal, and went away,—not however without an
idea that the marriage would still come off. There was always,—so he
thought,—such a bother about things before they would get themselves
fixed. This happened some days after Mr. Broune's proposal to Lady
Carbury, more than a week since Marie had seen Sir Felix. As soon as
Lord Nidderdale was gone she wrote again to Sir Felix begging that
she might hear from him,—and entrusted her letter to Didon.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXVI.


MR. BROUNE'S PERILS.
 

Lady Carbury had allowed herself two days for answering Mr. Broune's
proposition. It was made on Tuesday night and she was bound by her
promise to send a reply some time on Thursday. But early on the
Wednesday morning she had made up her mind; and at noon on that day
her letter was written. She had spoken to Hetta about the man, and
she had seen that Hetta had disliked him. She was not disposed to be
much guided by Hetta's opinion. In regard to her daughter she was
always influenced by a vague idea that Hetta was an unnecessary
trouble. There was an excellent match ready for her if she would only
accept it. There was no reason why Hetta should continue to add
herself to the family burden. She never said this even to
herself,—but she felt it, and was not therefore inclined to consult
Hetta's comfort on this occasion. But nevertheless, what her daughter
said had its effect. She had encountered the troubles of one
marriage, and they had been very bad. She did not look upon that
marriage as a mistake,—having even up to this day a consciousness
that it had been the business of her life, as a portionless girl, to
obtain maintenance and position at the expense of suffering and
servility. But that had been done. The maintenance was, indeed, again
doubtful, because of her son's vices; but it might so probably be
again secured,—by means of her son's beauty! Hetta had said that Mr.
Broune liked his own way. Had not she herself found that all men
liked their own way? And she liked her own way. She liked the comfort
of a home to herself. Personally she did not want the companionship
of a husband. And what scenes would there be between Felix and the
man! And added to all this there was something within her, almost
amounting to conscience, which told her that it was not right that
she should burden any one with the responsibility and inevitable
troubles of such a son as her son Felix. What would she do were her
husband to command her to separate herself from her son? In such
circumstances she would certainly separate herself from her husband.
Having considered these things deeply, she wrote as follows to Mr.
Broune:—
 


Dearest Friend,

I need not tell you that I have thought much of your
generous and affectionate offer. How could I refuse such a
prospect as you offer me without much thought? I regard
your career as the most noble which a man's ambition can
achieve. And in that career no one is your superior. I
cannot but be proud that such a one as you should have
asked me to be his wife. But, my friend, life is subject
to wounds which are incurable, and my life has been so
wounded. I have not strength left me to make my heart
whole enough to be worthy of your acceptance. I have been
so cut and scotched and lopped by the sufferings which I
have endured that I am best alone. It cannot all be
described;—and yet with you I would have no reticence. I
would put the whole history before you to read, with all
my troubles past and still present, all my hopes, and all
my fears,—with every circumstance as it has passed by and
every expectation that remains, were it not that the poor
tale would be too long for your patience. The result of it
would be to make you feel that I am no longer fit to enter
in upon a new home. I should bring showers instead of
sunshine, melancholy in lieu of mirth.

I will, however, be bold enough to assure you that could I
bring myself to be the wife of any man I would now become
your wife. But I shall never marry again.

Nevertheless, I am your most
affectionate friend,

Matilda Carbury.
 


About six o'clock in the afternoon she sent this letter to Mr.
Broune's rooms in Pall Mall East, and then sat for awhile
alone,—full of regrets. She had thrown away from her a firm footing
which would certainly have served her for her whole life. Even at
this moment she was in debt,—and did not know how to pay her debts
without mortgaging her life income. She longed for some staff on
which she could lean. She was afraid of the future. When she would
sit with her paper before her, preparing her future work for the
press, copying a bit here and a bit there, inventing historical
details, dovetailing her chronicle, her head would sometimes seem to
be going round as she remembered the unpaid baker, and her son's
horses, and his unmeaning dissipation, and all her doubts about the
marriage. As regarded herself, Mr. Broune would have made her
secure,—but that now was all over. Poor woman! This at any rate may
be said for her,—that had she accepted the man her regrets would
have been as deep.

Mr. Broune's feelings were more decided in their tone than those of
the lady. He had not made his offer without consideration, and yet
from the very moment in which it had been made he repented it. That
gently sarcastic appellation by which Lady Carbury had described him
to herself when he had kissed her best explained that side of Mr.
Broune's character which showed itself in this matter. He was a
susceptible old goose. Had she allowed him to kiss her without
objection, the kissing might probably have gone on; and, whatever
might have come of it, there would have been no offer of marriage. He
had believed that her little manœuvres had indicated love on her
part, and he had felt himself constrained to reciprocate the passion.
She was beautiful in his eyes. She was bright. She wore her clothes
like a lady; and,—if it was written in the Book of the Fates that
some lady was to sit at the top of his table,—Lady Carbury would
look as well there as any other. She had repudiated the kiss, and
therefore he had felt himself bound to obtain for himself the right
to kiss her.

The offer had no sooner been made than he met her son reeling in,
drunk, at the front door. As he made his escape the lad had insulted
him. This, perhaps, helped to open his eyes. When he woke the next
morning, or rather late in the next day, after his night's work, he
was no longer able to tell himself that the world was all right with
him. Who does not know that sudden thoughtfulness at waking, that
first matutinal retrospection, and pro-spection, into things as they
have been and are to be; and the lowness of heart, the blankness of
hope which follows the first remembrance of some folly lately done,
some word ill-spoken, some money misspent,—or perhaps a cigar too
much, or a glass of brandy and soda-water which he should have left
untasted? And when things have gone well, how the waker comforts
himself among the bedclothes as he claims for himself to be whole all
over, teres atque rotundus,—so to have managed his little affairs
that he has to fear no harm, and to blush inwardly at no error! Mr.
Broune, the way of whose life took him among many perils, who in the
course of his work had to steer his bark among many rocks, was in the
habit of thus auditing his daily account as he shook off sleep about
noon,—for such was his lot, that he seldom was in bed before four or
five in the morning. On this Wednesday he found that he could not
balance his sheet comfortably. He had taken a very great step and he
feared that he had not taken it with wisdom. As he drank the cup of
tea with which his servant supplied him while he was yet in bed, he
could not say of himself, teres atque rotundus, as he was wont to do
when things were well with him. Everything was to be changed. As he
lit a cigarette he bethought himself that Lady Carbury would not like
him to smoke in her bedroom. Then he remembered other things. "I'll
be d—— if he
shall live in my house," he said to himself.

And there was no way out of it. It did not occur to the man that his
offer could be refused. During the whole of that day he went about
among his friends in a melancholy fashion, saying little snappish
uncivil things at the club, and at last dining by himself with about
fifteen newspapers around him. After dinner he did not speak a word
to any man, but went early to the office of the newspaper in
Trafalgar Square at which he did his nightly work. Here he was lapped
in comforts,—if the best of chairs, of sofas, of writing tables, and
of reading lamps can make a man comfortable who has to read nightly
thirty columns of a newspaper, or at any rate to make himself
responsible for their contents.

He seated himself to his work like a man, but immediately saw Lady
Carbury's letter on the table before him. It was his custom when he
did not dine at home to have such documents brought to him at his
office as had reached his home during his absence;—and here was Lady
Carbury's letter. He knew her writing well, and was aware that here
was the confirmation of his fate. It had not been expected, as she
had given herself another day for her answer,—but here it was,
beneath his hand. Surely this was almost unfeminine haste. He chucked
the letter, unopened, a little from him, and endeavoured to fix his
attention on some printed slip that was ready for him. For some ten
minutes his eyes went rapidly down the lines, but he found that his
mind did not follow what he was reading. He struggled again, but
still his thoughts were on the letter. He did not wish to open it,
having some vague idea that, till the letter should have been read,
there was a chance of escape. The letter would not become due to be
read till the next day. It should not have been there now to tempt
his thoughts on this night. But he could do nothing while it lay
there. "It shall be a part of the bargain that I shall never have to
see him," he said to himself, as he opened it. The second line told
him that the danger was over.

When he had read so far he stood up with his back to the fire-place,
leaving the letter on the table. Then, after all, the woman wasn't in
love with him! But that was a reading of the affair which he could
hardly bring himself to look upon as correct. The woman had shown her
love by a thousand signs. There was no doubt, however, that she now
had her triumph. A woman always has a triumph when she rejects a
man,—and more especially when she does so at a certain time of life.
Would she publish her triumph? Mr. Broune would not like to have it
known about among brother editors, or by the world at large, that he
had offered to marry Lady Carbury and that Lady Carbury had refused
him. He had escaped; but the sweetness of his present safety was not
in proportion to the bitterness of his late fears.

He could not understand why Lady Carbury should have refused him! As
he reflected upon it, all memory of her son for the moment passed
away from him. Full ten minutes had passed, during which he had still
stood upon the rug, before he read the entire letter. "'Cut and
scotched and lopped!' I suppose she has been," he said to himself. He
had heard much of Sir Patrick, and knew well that the old general had
been no lamb. "I shouldn't have cut her, or scotched her, or lopped
her." When he had read the whole letter patiently there crept upon
him gradually a feeling of admiration for her, greater than he had
ever yet felt,—and, for awhile, he almost thought that he would
renew his offer to her. "'Showers instead of sunshine; melancholy
instead of mirth,'" he repeated to himself. "I should have done the
best for her, taking the showers and the melancholy if they were
necessary."

He went to his work in a mixed frame of mind, but certainly without
that dragging weight which had oppressed him when he entered the
room. Gradually, through the night, he realised the conviction that
he had escaped, and threw from him altogether the idea of repeating
his offer. Before he left he wrote her a
line—
 


Be it so. It need not break our friendship.

N. B.
 


This he sent by a special messenger, who returned with a note to his
lodgings long before he was up on the following morning.
 


No;—no; certainly not. No word of this will ever pass my
mouth.

M. C.
 


Mr. Broune thought that he was very well out of the danger, and
resolved that Lady Carbury should never want anything that his
friendship could do for her.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXVII.


THE BOARD-ROOM.
 

On Friday, the 21st June, the Board of the South Central Pacific and
Mexican Railway sat in its own room behind the Exchange, as was the
Board's custom every Friday. On this occasion all the members were
there, as it had been understood that the chairman was to make a
special statement. There was the great chairman as a matter of
course. In the midst of his numerous and immense concerns he never
threw over the railway, or delegated to other less experienced hands
those cares which the commercial world had intrusted to his own. Lord
Alfred was there, with Mr. Cohenlupe, the Hebrew gentleman, and Paul
Montague, and Lord Nidderdale,—and even Sir Felix Carbury. Sir Felix
had come, being very anxious to buy and sell, and not as yet having
had an opportunity of realising his golden hopes, although he had
actually paid a thousand pounds in hard money into Mr. Melmotte's
hands. The secretary, Mr. Miles Grendall, was also present as a
matter of course. The Board always met at three, and had generally
been dissolved at a quarter past three. Lord Alfred and Mr. Cohenlupe
sat at the chairman's right and left hand. Paul Montague generally
sat immediately below, with Miles Grendall opposite to him;—but on
this occasion the young lord and the young baronet took the next
places. It was a nice little family party, the great chairman with
his two aspiring sons-in-law, his two particular friends,—the social
friend, Lord Alfred, and the commercial friend Mr. Cohenlupe,—and
Miles, who was Lord Alfred's son. It would have been complete in its
friendliness, but for Paul Montague, who had lately made himself
disagreeable to Mr. Melmotte;—and most ungratefully so, for
certainly no one had been allowed so free a use of the shares as the
younger member of the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague.











The Board-room.


The Board-room.

Click to ENLARGE


It was understood that Mr. Melmotte was to make a statement. Lord
Nidderdale and Sir Felix had conceived that this was to be done as it
were out of the great man's own heart, of his own wish, so that
something of the condition of the company might be made known to the
directors of the company. But this was not perhaps exactly the truth.
Paul Montague had insisted on giving vent to certain doubts at the
last meeting but one, and, having made himself very disagreeable
indeed, had forced this trouble on the great chairman. On the
intermediate Friday the chairman had made himself very unpleasant to
Paul, and this had seemed to be an effort on his part to frighten the
inimical director out of his opposition, so that the promise of a
statement need not be fulfilled. What nuisance can be so great to a
man busied with immense affairs, as to have to explain,—or to
attempt to explain,—small details to men incapable of understanding
them? But Montague had stood to his guns. He had not intended, he
said, to dispute the commercial success of the company. But he felt
very strongly, and he thought that his brother directors should feel
as strongly, that it was necessary that they should know more than
they did know. Lord Alfred had declared that he did not in the least
agree with his brother director. "If anybody don't understand, it's
his own fault," said Mr. Cohenlupe. But Paul would not give way, and
it was understood that Mr. Melmotte would make a statement.

The "Boards" were always commenced by the reading of a certain record
of the last meeting out of a book. This was always done by Miles
Grendall; and the record was supposed to have been written by him.
But Montague had discovered that this statement in the book was
always prepared and written by a satellite of Melmotte's from
Abchurch Lane who was never present at the meeting. The adverse
director had spoken to the secretary,—it will be remembered that
they were both members of the Beargarden,—and Miles had given a
somewhat evasive reply. "A cussed deal of trouble and all that, you
know! He's used to it, and it's what he's meant for. I'm not going to
flurry myself about stuff of that kind." Montague after this had
spoken on the subject both to Nidderdale and Felix Carbury. "He
couldn't do it, if it was ever so," Nidderdale had said. "I don't
think I'd bully him if I were you. He gets £500 a-year, and if you
knew all he owes, and all he hasn't got, you wouldn't try to rob him
of it." With Felix Carbury Montague had as little success. Sir Felix
hated the secretary, had detected him cheating at cards, had resolved
to expose him,—and had then been afraid to do so. He had told Dolly
Longestaffe, and the reader will perhaps remember with what effect.
He had not mentioned the affair again, and had gradually fallen back
into the habit of playing at the club. Loo, however, had given way to
whist, and Sir Felix had satisfied himself with the change. He still
meditated some dreadful punishment for Miles Grendall, but, in the
meantime, felt himself unable to oppose him at the Board. Since the
day at which the aces had been manipulated at the club he had not
spoken to Miles Grendall except in reference to the affairs of the
whist-table. The "Board" was now commenced as usual. Miles read the
short record out of the book,—stumbling over every other word, and
going through the performance so badly that had there been anything
to understand no one could have understood it. "Gentlemen," said Mr.
Melmotte, in his usual hurried way, "is it your pleasure that I shall
sign the record?" Paul Montague rose to say that it was not his
pleasure that the record should be signed. But Melmotte had made his
scrawl, and was deep in conversation with Mr. Cohenlupe before Paul
could get upon his legs.

Melmotte, however, had watched the little struggle. Melmotte,
whatever might be his faults, had eyes to see and ears to hear. He
perceived that Montague had made a little struggle and had been
cowed; and he knew how hard it is for one man to persevere against
five or six, and for a young man to persevere against his elders.
Nidderdale was filliping bits of paper across the table at Carbury.
Miles Grendall was poring over the book which was in his charge. Lord
Alfred sat back in his chair, the picture of a model director, with
his right hand within his waistcoat. He looked aristocratic,
respectable, and almost commercial. In that room he never by any
chance opened his mouth, except when called on to say that Mr.
Melmotte was right, and was considered by the chairman really to earn
his money. Melmotte for a minute or two went on conversing with
Cohenlupe, having perceived that Montague for the moment was cowed.
Then Paul put both his hands upon the table, intending to rise and
ask some perplexing question. Melmotte saw this also and was upon his
legs before Montague had risen from his chair. "Gentlemen," said Mr.
Melmotte, "it may perhaps be as well if I take this occasion of
saying a few words to you about the affairs of the company." Then,
instead of going on with his statement, he sat down again, and began
to turn over sundry voluminous papers very slowly, whispering a word
or two every now and then to Mr. Cohenlupe. Lord Alfred never changed
his posture and never took his hand from his breast. Nidderdale and
Carbury filliped their paper pellets backwards and forwards. Montague
sat profoundly listening,—or ready to listen when anything should be
said. As the chairman had risen from his chair to commence his
statement, Paul felt that he was bound to be silent. When a speaker
is in possession of the floor, he is in possession even though he be
somewhat dilatory in looking to his references, and whispering to his
neighbour. And, when that speaker is a chairman, of course some
additional latitude must be allowed to him. Montague understood this,
and sat silent. It seemed that Melmotte had much to say to Cohenlupe,
and Cohenlupe much to say to Melmotte. Since Cohenlupe had sat at the
Board he had never before developed such powers of conversation.

Nidderdale didn't quite understand it. He had been there twenty
minutes, was tired of his present amusement, having been unable to
hit Carbury on the nose, and suddenly remembered that the Beargarden
would now be open. He was no respecter of persons, and had got over
any little feeling of awe with which the big table and the solemnity
of the room may have first inspired him. "I suppose that's about
all," he said, looking up at Melmotte.

"Well;—perhaps as your lordship is in a hurry, and as my lord here
is engaged elsewhere,"—turning round to Lord Alfred, who had not
uttered a syllable or made a sign since he had been in his seat,—"we
had better adjourn this meeting for another week."

"I cannot allow that," said Paul Montague.

"I suppose then we must take the sense of the Board," said the
Chairman.

"I have been discussing certain circumstances with our friend and
Chairman," said Cohenlupe, "and I must say that it is not expedient
just at present to go into matters too freely."

"My lords and gentlemen," said Melmotte. "I hope that you trust me."

Lord Alfred bowed down to the table and muttered something which was
intended to convey most absolute confidence. "Hear, hear," said Mr.
Cohenlupe. "All right," said Lord Nidderdale; "go on;" and he fired
another pellet with improved success.

"I trust," said the Chairman, "that my young friend, Sir Felix,
doubts neither my discretion nor my ability."

"Oh dear, no;—not at all," said the baronet, much flattered at being
addressed in this kindly tone. He had come there with objects of his
own, and was quite prepared to support the Chairman on any matter
whatever.

"My Lords and Gentlemen," continued Melmotte, "I am delighted to
receive this expression of your confidence. If I know anything in the
world I know something of commercial matters. I am able to tell you
that we are prospering. I do not know that greater prosperity has
ever been achieved in a shorter time by a commercial company. I think
our friend here, Mr. Montague, should be as feelingly aware of that
as any gentleman."

"What do you mean by that, Mr. Melmotte?" asked Paul.

"What do I mean?—Certainly nothing adverse to your character, sir.
Your firm in San Francisco, sir, know very well how the affairs of
the Company are being transacted on this side of the water. No doubt
you are in correspondence with Mr. Fisker. Ask him. The telegraph
wires are open to you, sir. But, my Lords and Gentlemen, I am able to
inform you that in affairs of this nature great discretion is
necessary. On behalf of the shareholders at large whose interests are
in our hands, I think it expedient that any general statement should
be postponed for a short time, and I flatter myself that in that
opinion I shall carry the majority of this Board with me." Mr.
Melmotte did not make his speech very fluently; but, being accustomed
to the place which he occupied, he did manage to get the words spoken
in such a way as to make them intelligible to the company. "I now
move that this meeting be adjourned to this day week," he added.

"I second that motion," said Lord Alfred, without moving his hand
from his breast.

"I understood that we were to have a statement," said Montague.

"You've had a statement," said Mr. Cohenlupe.

"I will put my motion to the vote," said the Chairman.

"I shall move an amendment," said Paul, determined that he would not
be altogether silenced.

"There is nobody to second it," said Mr. Cohenlupe.

"How do you know till I've made it?" asked the rebel. "I shall ask
Lord Nidderdale to second it, and when he has heard it I think that
he will not refuse."

"Oh, gracious me! why me? No;—don't ask me. I've got to go away. I
have indeed."

"At any rate I claim the right of saying a few words. I do not say
whether every affair of this Company should or should not be
published to the world."

"You'd break up everything if you did," said Cohenlupe.

"Perhaps everything ought to be broken up. But I say nothing about
that. What I do say is this. That as we sit here as directors and
will be held to be responsible as such by the public, we ought to
know what is being done. We ought to know where the shares really
are. I for one do not even know what scrip has been issued."

"You've bought and sold enough to know something about it," said
Melmotte.

Paul Montague became very red in the face. "I, at any rate, began,"
he said, "by putting what was to me a large sum of money into the
affair."

"That's more than I know," said Melmotte. "Whatever shares you have,
were issued at San Francisco, and not here."

"I have taken nothing that I haven't paid for," said Montague. "Nor
have I yet had allotted to me anything like the number of shares
which my capital would represent. But I did not intend to speak of my
own concerns."

"It looks very like it," said Cohenlupe.

"So far from it that I am prepared to risk the not improbable loss of
everything I have in the world. I am determined to know what is being
done with the shares, or to make it public to the world at large that
I, one of the directors of the Company, do not in truth know anything
about it. I cannot, I suppose, absolve myself from further
responsibility; but I can at any rate do what is right from this time
forward,—and that course I intend to take."

"The gentleman had better resign his seat at this Board," said
Melmotte. "There will be no difficulty about that."

"Bound up as I am with Fisker and Montague in California I fear that
there will be difficulty."

"Not in the least," continued the Chairman. "You need only gazette
your resignation and the thing is done. I had intended, gentlemen, to
propose an addition to our number. When I name to you a gentleman,
personally known to many of you, and generally esteemed throughout
England as a man of business, as a man of probity, and as a man of
fortune, a man standing deservedly high in all British circles, I
mean Mr. Longestaffe of
Caversham—"

"Young Dolly, or old?" asked Lord Nidderdale.

"I mean Mr. Adolphus Longestaffe, senior, of Caversham. I am sure
that you will all be glad to welcome him among you. I had thought to
strengthen our number by this addition. But if Mr. Montague is
determined to leave us,—and no one will regret the loss of his
services so much as I shall,—it will be my pleasing duty to move
that Adolphus Longestaffe, senior, Esquire, of Caversham, be
requested to take his place. If on reconsideration Mr. Montague shall
determine to remain with us,—and I for one most sincerely hope that
such reconsideration may lead to such determination,—then I shall
move that an additional director be added to our number, and that Mr.
Longestaffe be requested to take the chair of that additional
director." The latter speech Mr. Melmotte got through very glibly,
and then immediately left the chair, so as to show that the business
of the Board was closed for that day without any possibility of
reopening it.

Paul went up to him and took him by the sleeve, signifying that he
wished to speak to him before they parted. "Certainly," said the
great man bowing. "Carbury," he said, looking round on the young
baronet with his blandest smile, "if you are not in a hurry, wait a
moment for me. I have a word or two to say before you go. Now, Mr.
Montague, what can I do for you?" Paul began his story, expressing
again the opinion which he had already very plainly expressed at the
table. But Melmotte stopped him very shortly, and with much less
courtesy than he had shown in the speech which he had made from the
chair. "The thing is about this way, I take it, Mr. Montague;—you
think you know more of this matter than I do."

"Not at all, Mr. Melmotte."

"And I think that I know more of it than you do. Either of us may be
right. But as I don't intend to give way to you, perhaps the less we
speak together about it the better. You can't be in earnest in the
threat you made, because you would be making public things
communicated to you under the seal of privacy,—and no gentleman
would do that. But as long as you are hostile to me, I can't help
you;—and so good afternoon." Then, without giving Montague the
possibility of a reply, he escaped into an inner room which had the
word "Private" painted on the door, and which was supposed to belong
to the chairman individually. He shut the door behind him, and then,
after a few moments, put out his head and beckoned to Sir Felix
Carbury. Nidderdale was gone. Lord Alfred with his son were already
on the stairs. Cohenlupe was engaged with Melmotte's clerk on the
record-book. Paul Montague finding himself without support and alone,
slowly made his way out into the court.

Sir Felix had come into the city intending to suggest to the Chairman
that having paid his thousand pounds he should like to have a few
shares to go on with. He was, indeed, at the present moment very
nearly penniless, and had negotiated, or lost at cards, all the
I.O.U.'s which were in any degree serviceable. He still had a
pocket-book full of those issued by Miles Grendall; but it was now an
understood thing at the Beargarden that no one was to be called upon
to take them except Miles Grendall himself;—an arrangement which
robbed the card-table of much of its delight. Beyond this, also, he
had lately been forced to issue a little paper himself,—in doing
which he had talked largely of his shares in the railway. His case
certainly was hard. He had actually paid a thousand pounds down in
hard cash, a commercial transaction which, as performed by himself,
he regarded as stupendous. It was almost incredible to himself that
he should have paid any one a thousand pounds, but he had done it
with much difficulty,—having carried Dolly junior with him all the
way into the city,—in the belief that he would thus put himself in
the way of making a continual and unfailing income. He understood
that as a director he would be always entitled to buy shares at par,
and, as a matter of course, always able to sell them at the market
price. This he understood to range from ten to fifteen and twenty per
cent. profit. He would have nothing to do but to buy and sell daily.
He was told that Lord Alfred was allowed to do it to a small extent;
and that Melmotte was doing it to an enormous extent. But before he
could do it he must get something,—he hardly knew what,—out of
Melmotte's hands. Melmotte certainly did not seem disposed to shun
him, and therefore there could be no difficulty about the shares. As
to danger;—who could think of danger in reference to money intrusted
to the hands of Augustus Melmotte?

"I am delighted to see you here," said Melmotte, shaking him
cordially by the hand. "You come regularly, and you'll find that it
will be worth your while. There's nothing like attending to business.
You should be here every Friday."

"I will," said the baronet.

"And let me see you sometimes up at my place in Abchurch Lane. I can
put you more in the way of understanding things there than I can
here. This is all a mere formal sort of thing. You can see that."

"Oh yes, I see that."

"We are obliged to have this kind of thing for men like that fellow
Montague. By-the-bye, is he a friend of yours?"

"Not particularly. He is a friend of a cousin of mine; and the women
know him at home. He isn't a pal of mine if you mean that."

"If he makes himself disagreeable, he'll have to go to the
wall;—that's all. But never mind him at present. Was your mother
speaking to you of what I said to her?"

"No, Mr. Melmotte," said Sir Felix, staring with all his eyes.

"I was talking to her about you, and I thought that perhaps she might
have told you. This is all nonsense, you know, about you and Marie."
Sir Felix looked into the man's face. It was not savage, as he had
seen it. But there had suddenly come upon his brow that heavy look of
a determined purpose which all who knew the man were wont to mark.
Sir Felix had observed it a few minutes since in the Board-room, when
the chairman was putting down the rebellious director. "You
understand that; don't you?" Sir Felix still looked at him, but made
no reply. "It's all
d—— nonsense.
You haven't got a brass farthing,
you know. You've no income at all; you're just living on your mother,
and I'm afraid she's not very well off. How can you suppose that I
shall give my girl to you?" Felix still looked at him but did not
dare to contradict a single statement made. Yet when the man told him
that he had not a brass farthing he thought of his own thousand
pounds which were now in the man's pocket. "You're a baronet, and
that's about all, you know," continued Melmotte. "The Carbury
property, which is a very small thing, belongs to a distant cousin
who may leave it to me if he pleases;—and who isn't very much older
than you are yourself."

"Oh, come, Mr. Melmotte; he's a great deal older than me."

"It wouldn't matter if he were as old as Adam. The thing is out of
the question, and you must drop it." Then the look on his brow became
a little heavier. "You hear what I say. She is going to marry Lord
Nidderdale. She was engaged to him before you ever saw her. What do
you expect to get by it?"

Sir Felix had not the courage to say that he expected to get the girl
he loved. But as the man waited for an answer he was obliged to say
something. "I suppose it's the old story," he said.

"Just so;—the old story. You want my money, and she wants you, just
because she has been told to take somebody else. You want something
to live on;—that's what you want. Come;—out with it. Is not that
it? When we understand each other I'll put you in the way of making
money."

"Of course I'm not very well off," said Felix.

"About as badly as any young man that I can hear of. You give me your
written promise that you'll drop this affair with Marie, and you
shan't want for money."

"A written promise!"

"Yes;—a written promise. I give nothing for nothing. I'll put you in
the way of doing so well with these shares that you shall be able to
marry any other girl you please;—or to live without marrying, which
you'll find to be better."

There was something worthy of consideration in Mr. Melmotte's
proposition. Marriage of itself, simply as a domestic institution,
had not specially recommended itself to Sir Felix Carbury. A few
horses at Leighton, Ruby Ruggles or any other beauty, and life at the
Beargarden were much more to his taste. And then he was quite alive
to the fact that it was possible that he might find himself possessed
of the wife without the money. Marie, indeed, had a grand plan of her
own, with reference to that settled income; but then Marie might be
mistaken,—or she might be lying. If he were sure of making money in
the way Melmotte now suggested, the loss of Marie would not break his
heart. But then also Melmotte might be—lying. "By-the-bye, Mr.
Melmotte," said he, "could you let me have those shares?"

"What shares?" And the heavy brow became still heavier.

"Don't you know?—I gave you a thousand pounds, and I was to have ten
shares."

"You must come about that on the proper day, to the proper place."

"When is the proper day?"

"It is the twentieth of each month I think." Sir Felix looked very
blank at hearing this, knowing that this present was the twenty-first
of the month. "But what does that signify? Do you want a little
money?"

"Well, I do," said Sir Felix. "A lot of fellows owe me money, but
it's so hard to get it."

"That tells a story of gambling," said Mr. Melmotte. "You think I'd
give my girl to a gambler?"

"Nidderdale's in it quite as thick as I am."

"Nidderdale has a settled property which neither he nor his father
can destroy. But don't you be such a fool as to argue with me. You
won't get anything by it. If you'll write that letter here
now—"

"What;—to Marie?"

"No;—not to Marie at all; but to me. It need never be shown to her.
If you'll do that I'll stick to you and make a man of you. And if you
want a couple of hundred pounds I'll give you a cheque for it before
you leave the room. Mind, I can tell you this. On my word of honour
as a gentleman, if my daughter were to marry you, she'd never have a
single shilling. I should immediately make a will and leave all my
property to St. George's Hospital. I have quite made up my mind about
that."

"And couldn't you manage that I should have the shares before the
twentieth of next month?"

"I'll see about it. Perhaps I could let you have a few of my own. At
any rate I won't see you short of money."

The terms were enticing and the letter was of course written.
Melmotte himself dictated the words, which were not romantic in their
nature. The reader shall see the letter.
 


Dear Sir,

In consideration of the offers made by you to me, and on a
clear understanding that such a marriage would be
disagreeable to you and to the lady's mother, and would
bring down a father's curse upon your daughter, I hereby
declare and promise that I will not renew my suit to the
young lady, which I hereby altogether renounce.

I am, Dear Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

Felix Carbury.

Augustus Melmotte, Esq.,

—, Grosvenor Square.
 


The letter was dated 21st July, and bore the printed address of the
offices of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway.

"You'll give me that cheque for £200, Mr. Melmotte?" The financier
hesitated for a moment, but did give the baronet the cheque as
promised. "And you'll see about letting me have those shares?"

"You can come to me in Abchurch Lane, you know." Sir Felix said that
he would call in Abchurch Lane.

As he went westward towards the Beargarden, the baronet was not happy
in his mind. Ignorant as he was as to the duties of a gentleman,
indifferent as he was to the feelings of others, still he felt
ashamed of himself. He was treating the girl very badly. Even he knew
that he was behaving badly. He was so conscious of it that he tried
to console himself by reflecting that his writing such a letter as
that would not prevent his running away with the girl, should he, on
consideration, find it to be worth his while to do so.

That night he was again playing at the Beargarden, and he lost a
great part of Mr. Melmotte's money. He did in fact lose much more
than the £200; but when he found his ready money going from him he
issued paper.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXVIII.


PAUL MONTAGUE'S TROUBLES.
 

Paul Montague had other troubles on his mind beyond this trouble of
the Mexican Railway. It was now more than a fortnight since he had
taken Mrs. Hurtle to the play, and she was still living in lodgings
at Islington. He had seen her twice, once on the following day, when
he was allowed to come and go without any special reference to their
engagement, and again, three or four days afterwards, when the
meeting was by no means so pleasant. She had wept, and after weeping
had stormed. She had stood upon what she called her rights, and had
dared him to be false to her. Did he mean to deny that he had
promised to marry her? Was not his conduct to her, ever since she had
now been in London, a repetition of that promise? And then again she
became soft, and pleaded with him. But for the storm he might have
given way. At that moment he had felt that any fate in life would be
better than a marriage on compulsion. Her tears and her pleadings,
nevertheless, touched him very nearly. He had promised her most
distinctly. He had loved her and had won her love. And she was
lovely. The very violence of the storm made the sunshine more sweet.
She would sit down on a stool at his feet, and it was impossible to
drive her away from him. She would look up in his face and he could
not but embrace her. Then there had come a passionate flood of tears
and she was in his arms. How he had escaped he hardly knew, but he
did know that he had promised to be with her again before two days
should have passed.

On the day named he wrote to her a letter excusing himself, which was
at any rate true in words. He had been summoned, he said, to
Liverpool on business, and must postpone seeing her till his return.
And he explained that the business on which he was called was
connected with the great American railway, and, being important,
demanded his attention. In words this was true. He had been
corresponding with a gentleman at Liverpool with whom he had become
acquainted on his return home after having involuntarily become a
partner in the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague. This man he
trusted and had consulted, and the gentleman, Mr. Ramsbottom by name,
had suggested that he should come to him at Liverpool. He had gone,
and his conduct at the Board had been the result of the advice which
he had received; but it may be doubted whether some dread of the
coming interview with Mrs. Hurtle had not added strength to Mr.
Ramsbottom's invitation.

In Liverpool he had heard tidings of Mrs. Hurtle, though it can
hardly be said that he obtained any trustworthy information. The lady
after landing from an American steamer had been at Mr. Ramsbottom's
office, inquiring for him, Paul; and Mr. Ramsbottom had thought that
the inquiries were made in a manner indicating danger. He therefore
had spoken to a fellow-traveller with Mrs. Hurtle, and the
fellow-traveller had opined that Mrs. Hurtle was "a queer card." "On
board ship we all gave it up to her that she was about the handsomest
woman we had ever seen, but we all said that there was a bit of the
wild cat in her breeding." Then Mr. Ramsbottom had asked whether the
lady was a widow. "There was a man on board from Kansas," said the
fellow-traveller, "who knew a man named Hurtle at Leavenworth, who
was separated from his wife and is still alive. There was, according
to him, a queer story about the man and his wife having fought a duel
with pistols, and then having separated." This Mr. Ramsbottom, who in
an earlier stage of the affair had heard something of Paul and Mrs.
Hurtle together, managed to communicate to the young man. His advice
about the railway company was very clear and general, and such as an
honest man would certainly give; but it might have been conveyed by
letter. The information, such as it was, respecting Mrs. Hurtle,
could only be given vivâ voce, and perhaps the invitation to
Liverpool had originated in Mr. Ramsbottom's appreciation of this
fact. "As she was asking after you here, perhaps it is as well that
you should know," his friend said to him. Paul had only thanked him,
not daring on the spur of the moment to speak of his own
difficulties.

In all this there had been increased dismay, but there had also been
some comfort. It had only been at moments in which he had been
subject to her softer influences that Paul had doubted as to his
adherence to the letter which he had written to her, breaking off his
engagement. When she told him of her wrongs and of her love; of his
promise and his former devotion to her; when she assured him that she
had given up everything in life for him, and threw her arms round
him, looking into his eyes;—then he would almost yield. But when,
what the traveller called the breeding of the wild cat, showed
itself;—and when, having escaped from her, he thought of Hetta
Carbury and of her breeding,—he was fully determined that, let his
fate be what it might, it should not be that of being the husband of
Mrs. Hurtle. That he was in a mass of troubles from which it would be
very difficult for him to extricate himself he was well aware;—but
if it were true that Mr. Hurtle was alive, that fact might help him.
She certainly had declared him to be,—not separated, or even
divorced,—but dead. And if it were true also that she had fought a
duel with one husband, that also ought to be a reason why a gentleman
should object to become her second husband. These facts would at any
rate justify himself to himself, and would enable himself to break
from his engagement without thinking himself to be a false traitor.

But he must make up his mind as to some line of conduct. She must be
made to know the truth. If he meant to reject the lady finally on the
score of her being a wild cat, he must tell her so. He felt very
strongly that he must not flinch from the wild cat's claws. That he
would have to undergo some severe handling, an amount of clawing
which might perhaps go near his life, he could perceive. Having done
what he had done he would have no right to shrink from such usage. He
must tell her to her face that he was not satisfied with her past
life, and that therefore he would not marry her. Of course he might
write to her;—but when summoned to her presence he would be unable
to excuse himself, even to himself, for not going. It was his
misfortune,—and also his fault,—that he had submitted to be loved
by a wild cat.

But it might be well that before he saw her he should get hold of
information that might have the appearance of real evidence. He
returned from Liverpool to London on the morning of the Friday on
which the Board was held, and thought even more of all this than he
did of the attack which he was prepared to make on Mr. Melmotte. If
he could come across that traveller he might learn something. The
husband's name had been Caradoc Carson Hurtle. If Caradoc Carson
Hurtle had been seen in the State of Kansas within the last two
years, that certainly would be sufficient evidence. As to the duel he
felt that it might be very hard to prove that, and that if proved, it
might be hard to found upon the fact any absolute right on his part
to withdraw from the engagement. But there was a rumour also, though
not corroborated during his last visit to Liverpool, that she had
shot a gentleman in Oregon. Could he get at the truth of that story?
If they were all true, surely he could justify himself to himself.

But this detective's work was very distasteful to him. After having
had the woman in his arms how could he undertake such inquiries as
these? And it would be almost necessary that he should take her in
his arms again while he was making them,—unless indeed he made them
with her knowledge. Was it not his duty, as a man, to tell everything
to herself? To speak to her thus;—"I am told that your life with
your last husband was, to say the least of it, eccentric; that you
even fought a duel with him. I could not marry a woman who had fought
a duel,—certainly not a woman who had fought with her own husband. I
am told also that you shot another gentleman in Oregon. It may well
be that the gentleman deserved to be shot; but there is something in
the deed so repulsive to me,—no doubt irrationally,—that, on that
score also, I must decline to marry you. I am told also that Mr.
Hurtle has been seen alive quite lately. I had understood from you
that he is dead. No doubt you may have been deceived. But as I should
not have engaged myself to you had I known the truth, so now I
consider myself justified in absolving myself from an engagement
which was based on a misconception." It would no doubt be difficult
to get through all these details; but it might be accomplished
gradually,—unless in the process of doing so he should incur the
fate of the gentleman in Oregon. At any rate he would declare to her
as well as he could the ground on which he claimed a right to
consider himself free, and would bear the consequences. Such was the
resolve which he made on his journey up from Liverpool, and that
trouble was also on his mind when he rose up to attack Mr. Melmotte
single-handed at the Board.

When the Board was over, he also went down to the Beargarden.
Perhaps, with reference to the Board, the feeling which hurt him most
was the conviction that he was spending money which he would never
have had to spend had there been no Board. He had been twitted with
this at the Board-meeting, and had justified himself by referring to
the money which had been invested in the Company of Fisker, Montague,
and Montague, which money was now supposed to have been made over to
the railway. But the money which he was spending had come to him
after a loose fashion, and he knew that if called upon for an
account, he could hardly make out one which would be square and
intelligible to all parties. Nevertheless he spent much of his time
at the Beargarden, dining there when no engagement carried him
elsewhere. On this evening he joined his table with Nidderdale's, at
the young lord's instigation. "What made you so savage at old
Melmotte to-day?" said the young lord.

"I didn't mean to be savage, but I think that as we call ourselves
Directors we ought to know something about it."

"I suppose we ought. I don't know, you know. I'll tell you what I've
been thinking. I can't make out why the mischief they made me a
Director."

"Because you're a lord," said Paul bluntly.

"I suppose there's something in that. But what good can I do them?
Nobody thinks that I know anything about business. Of course I'm in
Parliament, but I don't often go there unless they want me to vote.
Everybody knows that I'm hard up. I can't understand it. The Governor
said that I was to do it, and so I've done it."

"They say, you know,—there's something between you and Melmotte's
daughter."

"But if there is, what has that to do with a railway in the city? And
why should Carbury be there? And, heaven and earth, why should old
Grendall be a Director? I'm impecunious; but if you were to pick out
the two most hopeless men in London in regard to money, they would be
old Grendall and young Carbury. I've been thinking a good deal about
it, and I can't make it out."

"I have been thinking about it too," said Paul.

"I suppose old Melmotte is all right?" asked Nidderdale. This was a
question which Montague found it difficult to answer. How could he be
justified in whispering suspicions to the man who was known to be at
any rate one of the competitors for Marie Melmotte's hand? "You can
speak out to me, you know," said Nidderdale, nodding his head.

"I've got nothing to speak. People say that he is about the richest
man alive."

"He lives as though he were."

"I don't see why it shouldn't be all true. Nobody, I take it, knows
very much about him." When his companion had left him, Nidderdale sat
down, thinking of it all. It occurred to him that he would "be coming
a cropper rather," were he to marry Melmotte's daughter for her
money, and then find that she had got none.

A little later in the evening he invited Montague to go up to the
card-room. "Carbury, and Grasslough, and Dolly Longestaffe are there
waiting," he said. But Paul declined. He was too full of his troubles
for play. "Poor Miles isn't there, if you're afraid of that," said
Nidderdale.

"Miles Grendall wouldn't hinder me," said Montague.

"Nor me either. Of course it's a confounded shame. I know that as
well as any body. But, God bless me, I owe a fellow down in
Leicestershire heaven knows how much for keeping horses, and that's a
shame."

"You'll pay him some day."

"I suppose I shall,—if I don't die first. But I should have gone on
with the horses just the same if there had never been anything to
come;—only they wouldn't have given me tick, you know. As far as I'm
concerned it's just the same. I like to live whether I've got money
or not. And I fear I don't have many scruples about paying. But then
I like to let live too. There's Carbury always saying nasty things
about poor Miles. He's playing himself without a rap to back him. If
he were to lose, Vossner wouldn't stand him a £10 note. But because
he has won, he goes on as though he were old Melmotte himself. You'd
better come up."

But Montague wouldn't go up. Without any fixed purpose he left the
club, and slowly sauntered northwards through the streets till he
found himself in Welbeck Street. He hardly knew why he went there,
and certainly had not determined to call on Lady Carbury when he left
the Beargarden. His mind was full of Mrs. Hurtle. As long as she was
present in London,—as long at any rate as he was unable to tell
himself that he had finally broken away from her,—he knew himself to
be an unfit companion for Henrietta Carbury. And, indeed, he was
still under some promise made to Roger Carbury, not that he would
avoid Hetta's company, but that for a certain period, as yet
unexpired, he would not ask her to be his wife. It had been a foolish
promise, made and then repented without much attention to words;—but
still it was existing, and Paul knew well that Roger trusted that it
would be kept. Nevertheless Paul made his way up to Welbeck Street
and almost unconsciously knocked at the door. No;—Lady Carbury was
not at home. She was out somewhere with Mr. Roger Carbury. Up to that
moment Paul had not heard that Roger was in town; but the reader may
remember that he had come up in search of Ruby Ruggles. Miss Carbury
was at home, the page went on to say. Would Mr. Montague go up and
see Miss Carbury? Without much consideration Mr. Montague said that
he would go up and see Miss Carbury. "Mamma is out with Roger," said
Hetta endeavouring to save herself from confusion. "There is a soirée
of learned people somewhere, and she made poor Roger take her. The
ticket was only for her and her friend, and therefore I could not
go."

"I am so glad to see you. What an age it is since we met."

"Hardly since the Melmottes' ball," said Hetta.

"Hardly indeed. I have been here once since that. What has brought
Roger up to town?"

"I don't know what it is. Some mystery, I think. Whenever there is a
mystery I am always afraid that there is something wrong about Felix.
I do get so unhappy about Felix, Mr. Montague."

"I saw him to-day in the city, at the Railway Board."

"But Roger says the Railway Board is all a sham,"—Paul could not
keep himself from blushing as he heard this,—"and that Felix should
not be there. And then there is something going on about that horrid
man's daughter."

"She is to marry Lord Nidderdale, I think."

"Is she? They are talking of her marrying Felix, and of course it is
for her money. And I believe that man is determined to quarrel with
them."

"What man, Miss Carbury?"

"Mr. Melmotte himself. It's all horrid from beginning to end."

"But I saw them in the city to-day and they seemed to be the greatest
friends. When I wanted to see Mr. Melmotte he bolted himself into an
inner room, but he took your brother with him. He would not have done
that if they had not been friends. When I saw it I almost thought
that he had consented to the marriage."

"Roger has the greatest dislike to Mr. Melmotte."

"I know he has," said Paul.

"And Roger is always right. It is always safe to trust him. Don't you
think so, Mr. Montague?" Paul did think so, and was by no means
disposed to deny to his rival the praise which rightly belonged to
him; but still he found the subject difficult. "Of course I will
never go against mamma," continued Hetta, "but I always feel that my
Cousin Roger is a rock of strength, so that if one did whatever he
said one would never get wrong. I never found any one else that I
thought that of, but I do think it of him."

"No one has more reason to praise him than I have."

"I think everybody has reason to praise him that has to do with him.
And I'll tell you why I think it is. Whenever he thinks anything he
says it;—or, at least, he never says anything that he doesn't think.
If he spent a thousand pounds, everybody would know that he'd got it
to spend; but other people are not like that."

"You're thinking of Melmotte."

"I'm thinking of everybody, Mr. Montague;—of everybody except
Roger."

"Is he the only man you can trust? But it is abominable to me to seem
even to contradict you. Roger Carbury has been to me the best friend
that any man ever had. I think as much of him as you do."

"I didn't say he was the only person;—or I didn't mean to say so.
But of all my friends—"

"Am I among the number, Miss Carbury?"

"Yes;—I suppose so. Of course you are. Why not? Of course you are a
friend,—because you are his friend."

"Look here, Hetta," he said. "It is no good going on like this. I
love Roger Carbury,—as well as one man can love another. He is all
that you say,—and more. You hardly know how he denies himself, and
how he thinks of everybody near him. He is a gentleman all round and
every inch. He never lies. He never takes what is not his own. I
believe he does love his neighbour as himself."

"Oh, Mr. Montague! I am so glad to hear you speak of him like that."

"I love him better than any man,—as well as a man can love a man. If
you will say that you love him as well as a woman can love a man,—I
will leave England at once, and never return to it."

"There's mamma," said Henrietta;—for at that moment there was a
double knock at the door.

 


 


CHAPTER XXXIX.


"I DO LOVE HIM."
 

So it was. Lady Carbury had returned home from the soirée of learned
people, and had brought Roger Carbury with her. They both came up to
the drawing-room and found Paul and Henrietta together. It need
hardly be said that they were both surprised. Roger supposed that
Montague was still at Liverpool, and, knowing that he was not a
frequent visitor in Welbeck Street, could hardly avoid a feeling that
a meeting between the two had now been planned in the mother's
absence. The reader knows that it was not so. Roger certainly was a
man not liable to suspicion, but the circumstances in this case were
suspicious. There would have been nothing to suspect,—no reason why
Paul should not have been there,—but from the promise which had been
given. There was, indeed, no breach of that promise proved by Paul's
presence in Welbeck Street; but Roger felt rather than thought that
the two could hardly have spent the evening together without such
breach. Whether Paul had broken the promise by what he had already
said the reader must be left to decide.

Lady Carbury was the first to speak. "This is quite an unexpected
pleasure, Mr. Montague." Whether Roger suspected anything or not, she
did. The moment she saw Paul the idea occurred to her that the
meeting between Hetta and him had been preconcerted.

"Yes," he said,—making a lame excuse, where no excuse should have
been made,—"I had nothing to do, and was lonely, and thought that I
would come up and see you." Lady Carbury disbelieved him altogether,
but Roger felt assured that his coming in Lady Carbury's absence had
been an accident. The man had said so, and that was enough.

"I thought you were at Liverpool," said Roger.

"I came back to-day,—to be present at that Board in the city. I have
had a good deal to trouble me. I will tell you all about it just now.
What has brought you to London?"

"A little business," said Roger.

Then there was an awkward silence. Lady Carbury was angry, and hardly
knew whether she ought or ought not to show her anger. For Henrietta
it was very awkward. She, too, could not but feel that she had been
caught, though no innocence could be whiter than hers. She knew well
her mother's mind, and the way in which her mother's thoughts would
run. Silence was frightful to her, and she found herself forced to
speak. "Have you had a pleasant evening, mamma?"

"Have you had a pleasant evening, my dear?" said Lady Carbury,
forgetting herself in her desire to punish her daughter.

"Indeed, no," said Hetta, attempting to laugh, "I have been trying to
work hard at Dante, but one never does any good when one has to try
to work. I was just going to bed when Mr. Montague came in. What did
you think of the wise men and the wise women, Roger?"

"I was out of my element, of course; but I think your mother liked
it."

"I was very glad indeed to meet Dr. Palmoil. It seems that if we can
only open the interior of Africa a little further, we can get
everything that is wanted to complete the chemical combination
necessary for feeding the human race. Isn't that a grand idea,
Roger?"

"A little more elbow grease is the combination that I look to."

"Surely, Roger, if the Bible is to go for anything, we are to believe
that labour is a curse and not a blessing. Adam was not born to
labour."

"But he fell; and I doubt whether Dr. Palmoil will be able to put his
descendants back into Eden."

"Roger, for a religious man, you do say the strangest things! I have
quite made up my mind to this;—if ever I can see things so settled
here as to enable me to move, I will visit the interior of Africa. It
is the garden of the world."

This scrap of enthusiasm so carried them through their immediate
difficulties that the two men were able to take their leave and to
get out of the room with fair comfort. As soon as the door was closed
behind them Lady Carbury attacked her daughter. "What brought him
here?"

"He brought himself, mamma."

"Don't answer me in that way, Hetta. Of course he brought himself.
That is insolent."

"Insolent, mamma! How can you say such hard words? I meant that he
came of his own accord."

"How long was he here?"

"Two minutes before you came in. Why do you cross-question me like
this? I could not help his coming. I did not desire that he might be
shown up."

"You did not know that he was to come?"

"Mamma, if I am to be suspected, all is over between us."

"What do you mean by that?"

"If you can think that I would deceive you, you will think so always.
If you will not trust me, how am I to live with you as though you
did? I knew nothing of his coming."

"Tell me this, Hetta; are you engaged to marry him?"

"No;—I am not."

"Has he asked you to marry him?"

Hetta paused a moment, considering, before she answered this
question. "I do not think he ever has."

"You do not think?"

"I was going on to explain. He never has asked me. But he has said
that which makes me know that he wishes me to be his wife."

"What has he said? When did he say it?"

Again she paused. But again she answered with straightforward
simplicity. "Just before you came in, he said—; I don't know what he
said; but it meant that."

"You told me he had been here but a minute."

"It was but very little more. If you take me at my word in that way,
of course you can make me out to be wrong, mamma. It was almost no
time, and yet he said it."

"He had come prepared to say it."

"How could he,—expecting to find you?"

"Psha! He expected nothing of the kind."

"I think you do him wrong, mamma. I am sure you are doing me wrong. I
think his coming was an accident, and that what he said was—an
accident."

"An accident!"

"It was not intended,—not then, mamma. I have known it ever so
long;—and so have you. It was natural that he should say so when we
were alone together."

"And you;—what did you say?"

"Nothing. You came."

"I am sorry that my coming should have been so inopportune. But I
must ask one other question, Hetta. What do you intend to say?" Hetta
was again silent, and now for a longer space. She put her hand up to
her brow and pushed back her hair as she thought whether her mother
had a right to continue this cross-examination. She had told her
mother everything as it had happened. She had kept back no deed done,
no word spoken, either now or at any time. But she was not sure that
her mother had a right to know her thoughts, feeling as she did that
she had so little sympathy from her mother. "How do you intend to
answer him?" demanded Lady Carbury.

"I do not know that he will ask again."

"That is prevaricating."

"No, mamma;—I do not prevaricate. It is unfair to say that to me. I
do love him. There. I think it ought to have been enough for you to
know that I should never give him encouragement without telling you
about it. I do love him, and I shall never love any one else."

"He is a ruined man. Your cousin says that all this Company in which
he is involved will go to pieces."

Hetta was too clever to allow this argument to pass. She did not
doubt that Roger had so spoken of the Railway to her mother, but she
did doubt that her mother had believed the story. "If so," said she,
"Mr. Melmotte will be a ruined man too, and yet you want Felix to
marry Marie Melmotte."

"It makes me ill to hear you talk,—as if you understood these
things. And you think you will marry this man because he is to make a
fortune out of the Railway!" Lady Carbury was able to speak with an
extremity of scorn in reference to the assumed pursuit by one of her
children of an advantageous position which she was doing all in her
power to recommend to the other child.

"I have not thought of his fortune. I have not thought of marrying
him, mamma. I think you are very cruel to me. You say things so hard,
that I cannot bear them."

"Why will you not marry your cousin?"

"I am not good enough for him."

"Nonsense!"

"Very well; you say so. But that is what I think. He is so much above
me, that, though I do love him, I cannot think of him in that way.
And I have told you that I do love some one else. I have no secret
from you now. Good night, mamma," she said, coming up to her mother
and kissing her. "Do be kind to me; and pray,—pray,—do believe me."
Lady Carbury then allowed herself to be kissed, and allowed her
daughter to leave the room.











Lady Carbury allowed herself to be kissed.


Lady
Carbury allowed herself to be kissed.


Click to ENLARGE


There was a great deal said that night between Roger Carbury and Paul
Montague before they parted. As they walked together to Roger's hotel
he said not a word as to Paul's presence in Welbeck Street. Paul had
declared his visit in Lady Carbury's absence to have been
accidental,—and therefore there was nothing more to be said.
Montague then asked as to the cause of Carbury's journey to London.
"I do not wish it to be talked of," said Roger after a pause,—"and
of course I could not speak of it before Hetta. A girl has gone away
from our neighbourhood. You remember old Ruggles?"

"You do not mean that Ruby has levanted? She was to have married John
Crumb."

"Just so,—but she has gone off, leaving John Crumb in an unhappy
frame of mind. John Crumb is an honest man and almost too good for
her."

"Ruby is very pretty. Has she gone with any one?"

"No;—she went alone. But the horror of it is this. They think down
there that Felix has,—well, made love to her, and that she has been
taken to London by him."

"That would be very bad."

"He certainly has known her. Though he lied, as he always lies, when
I first spoke to him, I brought him to admit that he and she had been
friends down in Suffolk. Of course we know what such friendship
means. But I do not think that she came to London at his instance. Of
course he would lie about that. He would lie about anything. If his
horse cost him a hundred pounds, he would tell one man that he gave
fifty, and another two hundred. But he has not lived long enough yet
to be able to lie and tell the truth with the same eye. When he is as
old as I am he'll be perfect."

"He knows nothing about her coming to town?"

"He did not when I first asked him. I am not sure, but I fancy that I
was too quick after her. She started last Saturday morning. I
followed on the Sunday, and made him out at his club. I think that he
knew nothing then of her being in town. He is very clever if he did.
Since that he has avoided me. I caught him once but only for half a
minute, and then he swore that he had not seen her."

"You still believed him?"

"No;—he did it very well, but I knew that he was prepared for me. I
cannot say how it may have been. To make matters worse old Ruggles
has now quarrelled with Crumb, and is no longer anxious to get back
his granddaughter. He was frightened at first; but that has gone off,
and he is now reconciled to the loss of the girl and the saving of
his money."

After that Paul told all his own story,—the double story, both in
regard to Melmotte and to Mrs. Hurtle. As regarded the Railway, Roger
could only tell him to follow explicitly the advice of his Liverpool
friend. "I never believed in the thing, you know."

"Nor did I. But what could I do?"

"I'm not going to blame you. Indeed, knowing you as I do, feeling
sure that you intend to be honest, I would not for a moment insist on
my own opinion, if it did not seem that Mr. Ramsbottom thinks as I
do. In such a matter, when a man does not see his own way clearly, it
behoves him to be able to show that he has followed the advice of
some man whom the world esteems and recognises. You have to bind your
character to another man's character; and that other man's character,
if it be good, will carry you through. From what I hear Mr.
Ramsbottom's character is sufficiently good;—but then you must do
exactly what he tells you."

But the Railway business, though it comprised all that Montague had
in the world, was not the heaviest of his troubles. What was he to do
about Mrs. Hurtle? He had now, for the first time, to tell his friend
that Mrs. Hurtle had come to London, and that he had been with her
three or four times. There was this difficulty in the matter,
too,—that it was very hard to speak of his engagement with Mrs.
Hurtle without in some sort alluding to his love for Henrietta
Carbury. Roger knew of both loves;—had been very urgent with his
friend to abandon the widow, and at any rate equally urgent with him
to give up the other passion. Were he to marry the widow, all danger
on the other side would be at an end. And yet, in discussing the
question of Mrs. Hurtle, he was to do so as though there were no such
person existing as Henrietta Carbury. The discussion did take place
exactly as though there were no such person as Henrietta Carbury.
Paul told it all,—the rumoured duel, the rumoured murder, and the
rumour of the existing husband.

"It may be necessary that you should go out to Kansas,—and to
Oregon," said Roger.

"But even if the rumours be untrue I will not marry her," said Paul.
Roger shrugged his shoulders. He was doubtless thinking of Hetta
Carbury, but he said nothing. "And what would she do, remaining
here?" continued Paul. Roger admitted that it would be awkward. "I am
determined that under no circumstances will I marry her. I know I
have been a fool. I know I have been wrong. But of course, if there
be a fair cause for my broken word, I will use it if I can."

"You will get out of it, honestly if you can; but you will get out of
it honestly or—any other way."

"Did you not advise me to get out of it, Roger;—before we knew as
much as we do now?"

"I did,—and I do. If you make a bargain with the Devil, it may be
dishonest to cheat him,—and yet I would have you cheat him if you
could. As to this woman, I do believe she has deceived you. If I were
you, nothing should induce me to marry her;—not though her claws
were strong enough to tear me utterly in pieces. I'll tell you what
I'll do. I'll go and see her if you like it."

But Paul would not submit to this. He felt that he was bound himself
to incur the risk of those claws, and that no substitute could take
his place. They sat long into the night, and it was at last resolved
between them that on the next morning Paul should go to Islington,
should tell Mrs. Hurtle all the stories which he had heard, and
should end by declaring his resolution that under no circumstances
would he marry her. They both felt how improbable it was that he
should ever be allowed to get to the end of such a story,—how almost
certain it was that the breeding of the wild cat would show itself
before that time should come. But, still, that was the course to be
pursued as far as circumstances would admit; and Paul was at any rate
to declare, claws or no claws, husband or no husband,—whether the
duel or the murder was admitted or denied,—that he would never make
Mrs. Hurtle his wife. "I wish it were over, old fellow," said Roger.

"So do I," said Paul, as he took his leave.

He went to bed like a man condemned to die on the next morning, and
he awoke in the same condition. He had slept well, but as he shook
from him his happy dream, the wretched reality at once overwhelmed
him. But the man who is to be hung has no choice. He cannot, when he
wakes, declare that he has changed his mind, and postpone the hour.
It was quite open to Paul Montague to give himself such instant
relief. He put his hand up to his brow, and almost made himself
believe that his head was aching. This was Saturday. Would it not be
well that he should think of it further, and put off his execution
till Monday? Monday was so far distant that he felt that he could go
to Islington quite comfortably on Monday. Was there not some hitherto
forgotten point which it would be well that he should discuss with
his friend Roger before he saw the lady? Should he not rush down to
Liverpool, and ask a few more questions of Mr. Ramsbottom? Why should
he go forth to execution, seeing that the matter was in his own
hands?

At last he jumped out of bed and into his tub, and dressed himself as
quickly as he could. He worked himself up into a fit of fortitude,
and resolved that the thing should be done before the fit was over.
He ate his breakfast about nine, and then asked himself whether he
might not be too early were he to go at once to Islington. But he
remembered that she was always early. In every respect she was an
energetic woman, using her time for some purpose, either good or bad,
not sleeping it away in bed. If one has to be hung on a given day,
would it not be well to be hung as soon after waking as possible? I
can fancy that the hangman would hardly come early enough. And if one
had to be hung in a given week, would not one wish to be hung on the
first day of the week, even at the risk of breaking one's last
Sabbath day in this world? Whatever be the misery to be endured, get
it over. The horror of every agony is in its anticipation. Paul had
realised something of this when he threw himself into a Hansom cab,
and ordered the man to drive him to Islington.

How quick that cab went! Nothing ever goes so quick as a Hansom cab
when a man starts for a dinner-party a little too early;—nothing so
slow when he starts too late. Of all cabs this, surely, was the
quickest. Paul was lodging in Suffolk Street, close to Pall
Mall,—whence the way to Islington, across Oxford Street, across
Tottenham Court Road, across numerous squares north-east of the
Museum, seems to be long. The end of Goswell Road is the outside of
the world in that direction, and Islington is beyond the end of
Goswell Road. And yet that Hansom cab was there before Paul Montague
had been able to arrange the words with which he would begin the
interview. He had given the street and the number of the street. It
was not till after he had started that it occurred to him that it
might be well that he should get out at the end of the street, and
walk to the house,—so that he might, as it were, fetch his breath
before the interview was commenced. But the cabman dashed up to the
door in a manner purposely devised to make every inmate of the house
aware that a cab had just arrived before it. There was a little
garden before the house. We all know the garden;—twenty-four feet
long, by twelve broad;—and an iron-grated door, with the landlady's
name on a brass plate. Paul, when he had paid the cabman,—giving the
man half-a-crown, and asking for no change in his agony,—pushed in
the iron gate and walked very quickly up to the door, rang rather
furiously, and before the door was well opened asked for Mrs. Hurtle.

"Mrs. Hurtle is out for the day," said the girl who opened the door.
"Leastways, she went out yesterday and won't be back till to-night."
Providence had sent him a reprieve! But he almost forgot the
reprieve, as he looked at the girl and saw that she was Ruby Ruggles.
"Oh laws, Mr. Montague, is that you?" Ruby Ruggles had often seen
Paul down in Suffolk, and recognised him as quickly as he did her. It
occurred to her at once that he had come in search of herself. She
knew that Roger Carbury was up in town looking for her. So much she
had of course learned from Sir Felix,—for at this time she had seen
the baronet more than once since her arrival. Montague, she knew, was
Roger Carbury's intimate friend, and now she felt that she was
caught. In her terror she did not at first remember that the visitor
had asked for Mrs. Hurtle.

"Yes, it is I. I was sorry to hear, Miss Ruggles, that you had left
your home."

"I'm all right, Mr. Montague;—I am. Mrs. Pipkin is my aunt, or,
leastways, my mother's brother's widow, though grandfather never
would speak to her. She's quite respectable, and has five children,
and lets lodgings. There's a lady here now, and has gone away with
her just for one night down to Southend. They'll be back this
evening, and I've the children to mind, with the servant girl. I'm
quite respectable here, Mr. Montague, and nobody need be a bit afraid
about me."

"Mrs. Hurtle has gone down to Southend?"

"Yes, Mr. Montague; she wasn't quite well, and wanted a breath of
air, she said. And aunt didn't like she should go alone, as Mrs.
Hurtle is such a stranger. And Mrs. Hurtle said as she didn't mind
paying for two, and so they've gone, and the baby with them. Mrs.
Pipkin said as the baby shouldn't be no trouble. And Mrs.
Hurtle,—she's most as fond of the baby as aunt. Do you know Mrs.
Hurtle, sir?"

"Yes; she's a friend of mine."

"Oh; I didn't know. I did know as there was some friend as was
expected and as didn't come. Be I to say, sir, as you was here?"

Paul thought it might be as well to shift the subject and to ask Ruby
a few questions about herself while he made up his mind what message
he would leave for Mrs. Hurtle. "I'm afraid they are very unhappy
about you down at Bungay, Miss Ruggles."

"Then they've got to be unhappy; that's all about it, Mr. Montague.
Grandfather is that provoking as a young woman can't live with him,
nor yet I won't try never again. He lugged me all about the room by
my hair, Mr. Montague. How is a young woman to put up with that? And
I did everything for him,—that careful that no one won't do it
again;—did his linen, and his victuals, and even cleaned his boots
of a Sunday, 'cause he was that mean he wouldn't have anybody about
the place only me and the girl who had to milk the cows. There wasn't
nobody to do anything, only me. And then he went to drag me about by
the hairs of my head. You won't see me again at Sheep's Acre, Mr.
Montague;—nor yet won't the Squire."

"But I thought there was somebody else was to give you a home."

"John Crumb! Oh, yes, there's John Crumb. There's plenty of people to
give me a home, Mr. Montague."

"You were to have been married to John Crumb, I thought."

"Ladies is to change their minds if they like it, Mr. Montague. I'm
sure you've heard that before. Grandfather made me say I'd have
him,—but I never cared that for him."

"I'm afraid, Miss Ruggles, you won't find a better man up here in
London."

"I didn't come here to look for a man, Mr. Montague; I can tell you
that. They has to look for me, if they want me. But I am looked
after; and that by one as John Crumb ain't fit to touch." That told
the whole story. Paul when he heard the little boast was quite sure
that Roger's fear about Felix was well founded. And as for John
Crumb's fitness to touch Sir Felix, Paul felt that the Bungay mealman
might have an opinion of his own on that matter. "But there's Betsy a
crying up-stairs, and I promised not to leave them children for one
minute."

"I will tell the Squire that I saw you, Miss Ruggles."

"What does the Squire want o' me? I ain't nothing to the
Squire,—except that I respects him. You can tell if you please, Mr.
Montague, of course. I'm a coming, my darling."

Paul made his way into Mrs. Hurtle's sitting-room and wrote a note
for her in pencil. He had come, he said, immediately on his return
from Liverpool, and was sorry to find that she was away for the day.
When should he call again? If she would make an appointment he would
attend to it. He felt as he wrote this that he might very safely have
himself made an appointment for the morrow; but he cheated himself
into half believing that the suggestion he now made was the more
gracious and civil. At any rate it would certainly give him another
day. Mrs. Hurtle would not return till late in the evening, and as
the following day was Sunday there would be no delivery by post. When
the note was finished he left it on the table, and called to Ruby to
tell her that he was going. "Mr. Montague," she said in a
confidential whisper, as she tripped down the stairs, "I don't see
why you need be saying anything about me, you know."

"Mr. Carbury is up in town looking after you."

"What 'm I to Mr. Carbury?"

"Your grandfather is very anxious about you."

"Not a bit of it, Mr. Montague. Grandfather knows very well where I
am. There! Grandfather doesn't want me back, and I ain't a going. Why
should the Squire bother himself about me? I don't bother myself
about him."

"He's afraid, Miss Ruggles, that you are trusting yourself to a young
man who is not trustworthy."

"I can mind myself very well, Mr. Montague."

"Tell me this. Have you seen Sir Felix Carbury since you've been in
town?" Ruby, whose blushes came very easily, now flushed up to her
forehead. "You may be sure that he means no good to you. What can
come of an intimacy between you and such a one as he?"

"I don't see why I shouldn't have my friend, Mr. Montague, as well as
you. Howsomever, if you'll not tell, I'll be ever so much obliged."

"But I must tell Mr. Carbury."

"Then I ain't obliged to you one bit," said Ruby, shutting the door.

Paul as he walked away could not help thinking of the justice of
Ruby's reproach to him. What business had he to take upon himself to
be a Mentor to any one in regard to an affair of love;—he, who had
engaged himself to marry Mrs. Hurtle, and who the evening before had
for the first time declared his love to Hetta Carbury?

In regard to Mrs. Hurtle he had got a reprieve, as he thought, for
two days;—but it did not make him happy or even comfortable. As he
walked back to his lodgings he knew it would have been better for him
to have had the interview over. But, at any rate, he could now think
of Hetta Carbury, and the words he had spoken to her. Had he heard
that declaration which she had made to her mother, he would have been
able for the hour to have forgotten Mrs. Hurtle.

 


 


CHAPTER XL.


"UNANIMITY IS THE VERY SOUL OF THESE THINGS."
 

That evening Montague was surprised to receive at the Beargarden a
note from Mr. Melmotte, which had been brought thither by a messenger
from the city,—who had expected to have an immediate answer, as
though Montague lived at the club.

"Dear Sir," said the letter,
 


If not inconvenient would you call on me in Grosvenor
Square to-morrow, Sunday, at half past eleven. If you are
going to church, perhaps you will make an appointment in
the afternoon; if not, the morning will suit best. I want
to have a few words with you in private about the Company.
My messenger will wait for answer if you are at the club.

Yours truly,

Augustus Melmotte.

Paul Montague, Esq.,

The Beargarden.
 


Paul immediately wrote to say that he would call at Grosvenor Square
at the hour appointed,—abandoning any intentions which he might have
had in reference to Sunday morning service. But this was not the only
letter he received that evening. On his return to his lodgings he
found a note, containing only one line, which Mrs. Hurtle had found
the means of sending to him after her return from Southend. "I am so
sorry to have been away. I will expect you all to-morrow. W. H." The
period of the reprieve was thus curtailed to less than a day.

On the Sunday morning he breakfasted late and then walked up to
Grosvenor Square, much pondering what the great man could have to say
to him. The great man had declared himself very plainly in the
Board-room,—especially plainly after the Board had risen. Paul had
understood that war was declared, and had understood also that he was
to fight the battle single-handed, knowing nothing of such strategy
as would be required, while his antagonist was a great master of
financial tactics. He was prepared to go to the wall in reference to
his money, only hoping that in doing so he might save his character
and keep the reputation of an honest man. He was quite resolved to be
guided altogether by Mr. Ramsbottom, and intended to ask Mr.
Ramsbottom to draw up for him such a statement as would be fitting
for him to publish. But it was manifest now that Mr. Melmotte would
make some proposition, and it was impossible that he should have Mr.
Ramsbottom at his elbow to help him.

He had been in Melmotte's house on the night of the ball, but had
contented himself after that with leaving a card. He had heard much
of the splendour of the place, but remembered simply the crush and
the crowd, and that he had danced there more than once or twice with
Hetta Carbury. When he was shown into the hall he was astonished to
find that it was not only stripped, but was full of planks, and
ladders, and trussels, and mortar. The preparations for the great
dinner had been already commenced. Through all this he made his way
to the stairs, and was taken up to a small room on the second floor,
where the servant told him that Mr. Melmotte would come to him. Here
he waited a quarter of an hour looking out into the yard at the back.
There was not a book in the room, or even a picture with which he
could amuse himself. He was beginning to think whether his own
personal dignity would not be best consulted by taking his departure,
when Melmotte himself, with slippers on his feet and enveloped in a
magnificent dressing-gown, bustled into the room. "My dear sir, I am
so sorry. You are a punctual man I see. So am I. A man of business
should be punctual. But they ain't always. Brehgert,—from the house
of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner, you know,—has just been with me.
We had to settle something about the Moldavian loan. He came a
quarter late, and of course he went a quarter late. And how is a man
to catch a quarter of an hour? I never could do it." Montague assured
the great man that the delay was of no consequence. "And I am so
sorry to ask you into such a place as this. I had Brehgert in my room
down-stairs, and then the house is so knocked about! We get into a
furnished house a little way off in Bruton Street to-morrow.
Longestaffe lets me his house for a month till this affair of the
dinner is over. By-the-bye, Montague, if you'd like to come to the
dinner, I've got a ticket I can let you have. You know how they're
run after." Montague had heard of the dinner, but had perhaps heard
as little of it as any man frequenting a club at the west end of
London. He did not in the least want to be at the dinner, and
certainly did not wish to receive any extraordinary civility from Mr.
Melmotte's hands. But he was very anxious to know why Mr. Melmotte
should offer it. He excused himself saying that he was not
particularly fond of big dinners, and that he did not like standing
in the way of other people. "Ah, indeed," said Melmotte. "There are
ever so many people of title would give anything for a ticket. You'd
be astonished at the persons who have asked. We've had to squeeze in
a chair on one side for the Master of the Buckhounds, and on another
for the Bishop of—; I forget what bishop it is, but we had the two
archbishops before. They say he must come because he has something to
do with getting up the missionaries for Thibet. But I've got the
ticket, if you'll have it." This was the ticket which was to have
taken in Georgiana Longestaffe as one of the Melmotte family, had not
Melmotte perceived that it might be useful to him as a bribe. But
Paul would not take the bribe. "You're the only man in London then,"
said Melmotte, somewhat offended. "But at any rate you'll come in the
evening, and I'll have one of Madame Melmotte's tickets sent to you."
Paul, not knowing how to escape, said that he would come in the
evening. "I am particularly anxious," continued he, "to be civil to
those who are connected with our great Railway, and of course, in
this country, your name stands first,—next to my own."

Then the great man paused, and Paul began to wonder whether it could
be possible that he had been sent for to Grosvenor Square on a Sunday
morning in order that he might be asked to dine in the same house a
fortnight later. But that was impossible. "Have you anything special
to say about the Railway?" he asked.

"Well, yes. It is so hard to get things said at the Board. Of course
there are some there who do not understand matters."

"I doubt if there be any one there who does understand this matter,"
said Paul.

Melmotte affected to laugh. "Well, well; I am not prepared to go
quite so far as that. My friend Cohenlupe has had great experience in
these affairs, and of course you are aware that he is in Parliament.
And Lord Alfred sees farther into them than perhaps you give him
credit for."

"He may easily do that."

"Well, well. Perhaps you don't know him quite as well as I do." The
scowl began to appear on Mr. Melmotte's brow. Hitherto it had been
banished as well as he knew how to banish it. "What I wanted to say
to you was this. We didn't quite agree at the last meeting."

"No; we did not."

"I was very sorry for it. Unanimity is everything in the direction of
such an undertaking as this. With unanimity we can do—everything."
Mr. Melmotte in the ecstasy of his enthusiasm lifted up both his
hands over his head. "Without unanimity we can do—nothing." And the
two hands fell. "Unanimity should be printed everywhere about a
Board-room. It should, indeed, Mr. Montague."

"But suppose the directors are not unanimous."

"They should be unanimous. They should make themselves unanimous. God
bless my soul! You don't want to see the thing fall to pieces!"

"Not if it can be carried on honestly."

"Honestly! Who says that anything is dishonest?" Again the brow
became very heavy. "Look here, Mr. Montague. If you and I quarrel in
that Board-room, there is no knowing the amount of evil we may do to
every individual shareholder in the Company. I find the
responsibility on my own shoulders so great that I say the thing must
be stopped. Damme, Mr. Montague, it must be stopped. We mustn't ruin
widows and children, Mr. Montague. We mustn't let those shares run
down 20 below par for a mere chimera. I've known a fine property
blasted, Mr. Montague, sent straight to the dogs,—annihilated,
sir;—so that it all vanished into thin air, and widows and children
past counting were sent out to starve about the streets,—just
because one director sat in another director's chair. I did, by
G——!
What do you think of that, Mr. Montague? Gentlemen who don't
know the nature of credit, how strong it is,—as the air,—to buoy
you up; how slight it is,—as a mere vapour,—when roughly touched,
can do an amount of mischief of which they themselves don't in the
least understand the extent! What is it you want, Mr. Montague?"

"What do I want?" Melmotte's description of the peculiar
susceptibility of great mercantile speculations had not been given
without some effect on Montague, but this direct appeal to himself
almost drove that effect out of his mind. "I only want justice."

"But you should know what justice is before you demand it at the
expense of other people. Look here, Mr. Montague. I suppose you are
like the rest of us, in this matter. You want to make money out of
it."

"For myself, I want interest for my capital; that is all. But I am
not thinking of myself."

"You are getting very good interest. If I understand the
matter,"—and here Melmotte pulled out a little book, showing thereby
how careful he was in mastering details,—"you had about £6,000
embarked in the business when Fisker joined your firm. You imagine
yourself to have that still."

"I don't know what I've got."

"I can tell you then. You have that, and you've drawn nearly a
thousand pounds since Fisker came over, in one shape or another.
That's not bad interest on your money."

"There was back interest due to me."

"If so, it's due still. I've nothing to do with that. Look here, Mr.
Montague. I am most anxious that you should remain with us. I was
about to propose, only for that little rumpus the other day, that, as
you're an unmarried man, and have time on your hands, you should go
out to California and probably across to Mexico, in order to get
necessary information for the Company. Were I of your age, unmarried,
and without impediment, it is just the thing I should like. Of course
you'd go at the Company's expense. I would see to your own personal
interests while you were away;—or you could appoint any one by power
of attorney. Your seat at the Board would be kept for you; but,
should anything occur amiss,—which it won't, for the thing is as
sound as anything I know,—of course you, as absent, would not share
the responsibility. That's what I was thinking. It would be a
delightful trip;—but if you don't like it, you can of course remain
at the Board, and be of the greatest use to me. Indeed, after a bit I
could devolve nearly the whole management on you;—and I must do
something of the kind, as I really haven't the time for it. But,—if
it is to be that way,—do be unanimous. Unanimity is the very soul of
these things;—the very soul, Mr. Montague."

"But if I can't be unanimous?"

"Well;—if you can't, and if you won't take my advice about going
out;—which, pray, think about, for you would be most useful. It
might be the very making of the railway;—then I can only suggest
that you should take your £6,000 and leave us. I, myself, should be
greatly distressed; but if you are determined that way I will see
that you have your money. I will make myself personally responsible
for the payment of it,—some time before the end of the year."

Paul Montague told the great man that he would consider the whole
matter, and see him in Abchurch Lane before the next Board day. "And
now, good-bye," said Mr. Melmotte, as he bade his young friend adieu
in a hurry. "I'm afraid that I'm keeping Sir Gregory Gribe, the Bank
Director, waiting down-stairs."

 


 


CHAPTER XLI.


ALL PREPARED.
 

During all these days Miss Melmotte was by no means contented with
her lover's prowess, though she would not allow herself to doubt his
sincerity. She had not only assured him of her undying affection in
the presence of her father and mother, had not only offered to be
chopped in pieces on his behalf, but had also written to him, telling
how she had a large sum of her father's money within her power, and
how willing she was to make it her own, to throw over her father and
mother, and give herself and her fortune to her lover. She felt that
she had been very gracious to her lover, and that her lover was a
little slow in acknowledging the favours conferred upon him. But,
nevertheless, she was true to her lover, and believed that he was
true to her. Didon had been hitherto faithful. Marie had written
various letters to Sir Felix, and had received two or three very
short notes in reply, containing hardly more than a word or two each.
But now she was told that a day was absolutely fixed for her marriage
with Lord Nidderdale, and that her things were to be got ready. She
was to be married in the middle of August, and here they were,
approaching the end of June. "You may buy what you like, mamma," she
said; "and if papa agrees about Felix, why then I suppose they'll do.
But they'll never be of any use about Lord Nidderdale. If you were to
sew me up in the things by main force, I wouldn't have him." Madame
Melmotte groaned, and scolded in English, French, and German, and
wished that she were dead; she told Marie that she was a pig, and
ass, and a toad, and a dog. And ended, as she always did end, by
swearing that Melmotte must manage the matter himself. "Nobody shall
manage this matter for me," said Marie. "I know what I'm about now,
and I won't marry anybody just because it will suit papa." "Que nous
étions encore à Francfort, ou New York," said the elder lady,
remembering the humbler but less troubled times of her earlier life.
Marie did not care for Francfort or New York; for Paris or for
London;—but she did care for Sir Felix Carbury.

While her father on Sunday morning was transacting business in his
own house with Paul Montague and the great commercial magnates of the
city,—though it may be doubted whether that very respectable
gentleman Sir Gregory Gribe was really in Grosvenor Square when his
name was mentioned,—Marie was walking inside the gardens; Didon was
also there at some distance from her; and Sir Felix Carbury was there
also close along side of her. Marie had the key of the gardens for
her own use; and had already learned that her neighbours in the
square did not much frequent the place during church time on Sunday
morning. Her lover's letter to her father had of course been shown to
her, and she had taxed him with it immediately. Sir Felix, who had
thought much of the letter as he came from Welbeck Street to keep his
appointment,—having been assured by Didon that the gate should be
left unlocked, and that she would be there to close it after he had
come in,—was of course ready with a lie. "It was the only thing to
do, Marie;—it was indeed."

"But you said you had accepted some offer."

"You don't suppose I wrote the letter?"

"It was your handwriting, Felix."

"Of course it was. I copied just what he put down. He'd have sent you
clean away where I couldn't have got near you if I hadn't written
it."

"And you have accepted nothing?"

"Not at all. As it is, he owes me money. Is not that odd? I gave him
a thousand pounds to buy shares, and I haven't got anything from him
yet." Sir Felix, no doubt, forgot the cheque for £200.

"Nobody ever does who gives papa money," said the observant daughter.

"Don't they? Dear me! But I just wrote it because I thought anything
better than a downright quarrel."

"I wouldn't have written it, if it had been ever so."

"It's no good scolding, Marie. I did it for the best. What do you
think we'd best do now?" Marie looked at him, almost with scorn.
Surely it was for him to propose and for her to yield. "I wonder
whether you're sure you're right about that money which you say is
settled."











"It’s no good scolding."


"It's
no good scolding."


Click to ENLARGE


"I'm quite sure. Mamma told me in Paris,—just when we were coming
away,—that it was done so that there might be something if things
went wrong. And papa told me that he should want me to sign something
from time to time; and of course I said I would. But of course I
won't,—if I should have a husband of my own." Felix walked along,
pondering the matter, with his hands in his trowsers pockets. He
entertained those very fears which had latterly fallen upon Lord
Nidderdale. There would be no "cropper" which a man could "come" so
bad as would be his cropper were he to marry Marie Melmotte, and then
find that he was not to have a shilling! And, were he now to run off
with Marie, after having written that letter, the father would
certainly not forgive him. This assurance of Marie's as to the
settled money was too doubtful! The game to be played was too full of
danger! And in that case he would certainly get neither his £800, nor
the shares. And if he were true to Melmotte, Melmotte would probably
supply him with ready money. But then here was the girl at his elbow,
and he no more dared to tell her to her face that he meant to give
her up, than he dared to tell Melmotte that he intended to stick to
his engagement. Some half promise would be the only escape for the
present. "What are you thinking of, Felix?" she asked.

"It's d—— difficult to know what to do."

"But you do love me?"

"Of course I do. If I didn't love you why should I be here walking
round this stupid place? They talk of your being married to
Nidderdale about the end of August."

"Some day in August. But that's all nonsense, you know. They can't
take me up and marry me, as they used to do the girls ever so long
ago. I won't marry him. He don't care a bit for me, and never did. I
don't think you care much, Felix."

"Yes, I do. A fellow can't go on saying so over and over again in a
beastly place like this. If we were anywhere jolly together, then I
could say it often enough."

"I wish we were, Felix. I wonder whether we ever shall be."

"Upon my word I hardly see my way as yet."

"You're not going to give it up!"

"Oh no;—not give it up; certainly not. But the bother is a fellow
doesn't know what to do."

"You've heard of young Mr. Goldsheiner, haven't you?" suggested
Marie.

"He's one of those city chaps."

"And Lady Julia Start?"

"She's old Lady Catchboy's daughter. Yes; I've heard of them. They
got spliced last winter."

"Yes,—somewhere in Switzerland, I think. At any rate they went to
Switzerland, and now they've got a house close to Albert Gate."

"How jolly for them! He is awfully rich, isn't he?"

"I don't suppose he's half so rich as papa. They did all they could
to prevent her going, but she met him down at Folkestone just as the
tidal boat was starting. Didon says that nothing was easier."

"Oh;—ah. Didon knows all about it."

"That she does."

"But she'd lose her place."

"There are plenty of places. She could come and live with us, and be
my maid. If you would give her £50 for herself, she'd arrange it
all."

"And would you come to Folkestone?"

"I think that would be stupid, because Lady Julia did that. We should
make it a little different. If you liked I wouldn't mind going
to—New York. And then, perhaps, we might—get—married, you know, on
board. That's what Didon thinks."

"And would Didon go too?"

"That's what she proposes. She could go as my aunt, and I'd call
myself by her name;—any French name you know. I should go as a
French girl. And you could call yourself Smith, and be an American.
We wouldn't go together, but we'd get on board just at the last
moment. If they wouldn't—marry us on board, they would at New York,
instantly."

"That's Didon's plan?"

"That's what she thinks best,—and she'll do it, if you'll give her
£50 for herself, you know. The 'Adriatic,'—that's a White Star boat,
goes on Thursday week at noon. There's an early train that would take
us down that morning. You had better go and sleep at Liverpool, and
take no notice of us at all till we meet on board. We could be back
in a month,—and then papa would be obliged to make the best of it."

Sir Felix at once felt that it would be quite unnecessary for him to
go to Herr Vossner or to any other male counsellor for advice as to
the best means of carrying off his love. The young lady had it all at
her fingers' ends,—even to the amount of the fee required by the
female counsellor. But Thursday week was very near, and the whole
thing was taking uncomfortably defined proportions. Where was he to
get funds if he were to resolve that he would do this thing? He had
been fool enough to intrust his ready money to Melmotte, and now he
was told that when Melmotte got hold of ready money he was not apt to
release it. And he had nothing to show;—no security that he could
offer to Vossner. And then,—this idea of starting to New York with
Melmotte's daughter immediately after he had written to Melmotte
renouncing the girl, frightened him.




"There is a tide in the affairs of men,

 Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune."

Sir Felix
did not know these lines, but the lesson taught by them
came home to him at this moment. Now was the tide in his affairs at
which he might make himself, or utterly mar himself. "It's deuced
important," he said at last with a groan.

"It's not more important for you than me," said Marie.

"If you're wrong about the money, and he shouldn't come round, where
should we be then?"

"Nothing venture, nothing have," said the heiress.

"That's all very well; but one might venture everything and get
nothing after all."

"You'd get me," said Marie with a pout.

"Yes;—and I'm awfully fond of you. Of course I should get you!
But—"

"Very well then;—if that's your love," said Marie, turning back from
him.

Sir Felix gave a great sigh, and then announced his resolution. "I'll
venture it."

"Oh, Felix, how grand it will be!"

"There's a great deal to do, you know. I don't know whether it can be
Thursday week." He was putting in the coward's plea for a reprieve.

"I shall be afraid of Didon if it's delayed long."

"There's the money to get, and all that."

"I can get some money. Mamma has money in the house."

"How much?" asked the baronet eagerly.

"A hundred pounds, perhaps;—perhaps two hundred."

"That would help certainly. I must go to your father for money. Won't
that be a sell? To get it from him, to take you away!"

It was decided that they were to go to New York, on a Thursday,—on
Thursday week if possible, but as to that he was to let her know in a
day or two. Didon was to pack up the clothes and get it sent out of
the house. Didon was to have £50 before she went on board; and as one
of the men must know about it, and must assist in having the trunks
smuggled out of the house, he was to have £10. All had been settled
beforehand, so that Sir Felix really had no need to think about
anything. "And now," said Marie, "there's Didon. Nobody's looking and
she can open that gate for you. When we're gone, do you creep out.
The gate can be left, you know. Then we'll get out on the other
side." Marie Melmotte was certainly a clever girl.

 


 


CHAPTER XLII.


"CAN YOU BE READY IN TEN MINUTES?"
 

After leaving Melmotte's house on Sunday morning Paul Montague went
to Roger Carbury's hotel and found his friend just returning from
church. He was bound to go to Islington on that day, but had made up
his mind that he would defer his visit till the evening. He would
dine early and be with Mrs. Hurtle about seven o'clock. But it was
necessary that Roger should hear the news about Ruby Ruggles. "It's
not so bad as you thought," said he, "as she is living with her
aunt."

"I never heard of such an aunt."

"She says her grandfather knows where she is, and that he doesn't
want her back again."

"Does she see Felix Carbury?"

"I think she does," said Paul.

"Then it doesn't matter whether the woman's her aunt or not. I'll go
and see her and try to get her back to Bungay."

"Why not send for John Crumb?"

Roger hesitated for a moment, and then answered, "He'd give Felix
such a thrashing as no man ever had before. My cousin deserves it as
well as any man ever deserved a thrashing; but there are reasons why
I should not like it. And he could not force her back with him. I
don't suppose the girl is all bad,—if she could see the truth."

"I don't think she's bad at all."

"At any rate I'll go and see her," said Roger. "Perhaps I shall see
your widow at the same time." Paul sighed, but said nothing more
about his widow at that moment. "I'll walk up to Welbeck Street now,"
said Roger, taking his hat. "Perhaps I shall see you to-morrow." Paul
felt that he could not go to Welbeck Street with his friend.

He dined in solitude at the Beargarden, and then again made that
journey to Islington in a cab. As he went he thought of the proposal
that had been made to him by Melmotte. If he could do it with a clear
conscience, if he could really make himself believe in the railway,
such an expedition would not be displeasing to him. He had said
already more than he had intended to say to Hetta Carbury; and though
he was by no means disposed to flatter himself, yet he almost thought
that what he had said had been well received. At the moment they had
been disturbed, but she, as she heard the sound of her mother coming,
had at any rate expressed no anger. He had almost been betrayed into
breaking a promise. Were he to start now on this journey, the period
of the promise would have passed by before his return. Of course he
would take care that she should know that he had gone in the
performance of a duty. And then he would escape from Mrs. Hurtle, and
would be able to make those inquiries which had been suggested to
him. It was possible that Mrs. Hurtle should offer to go with
him,—an arrangement which would not at all suit him. That at any
rate must be avoided. But then how could he do this without a belief
in the railway generally? And how was it possible that he should have
such belief? Mr. Ramsbottom did not believe in it, nor did Roger
Carbury. He himself did not in the least believe in Fisker, and
Fisker had originated the railway. Then, would it not be best that he
should take the Chairman's offer as to his own money? If he could get
his £6,000 back and have done with the railway, he would certainly
think himself a lucky man. But he did not know how far he could with
honesty lay aside his responsibility; and then he doubted whether he
could put implicit trust in Melmotte's personal guarantee for the
amount. This at any rate was clear to him,—that Melmotte was very
anxious to secure his absence from the meetings of the Board.

Now he was again at Mrs. Pipkin's door, and again it was opened by
Ruby Ruggles. His heart was in his mouth as he thought of the things
he had to say. "The ladies have come back from Southend, Miss
Ruggles?"

"Oh yes, sir, and Mrs. Hurtle is expecting you all the day." Then she
put in a whisper on her own account. "You didn't tell him as you'd
seen me, Mr. Montague?"

"Indeed I did, Miss Ruggles."

"Then you might as well have left it alone, and not have been
ill-natured,—that's all," said Ruby as she opened the door of Mrs.
Hurtle's room.

Mrs. Hurtle got up to receive him with her sweetest smile,—and her
smile could be very sweet. She was a witch of a woman, and, as like
most witches she could be terrible, so like most witches she could
charm. "Only fancy," she said, "that you should have come the only
day I have been two hundred yards from the house, except that evening
when you took me to the play. I was so sorry."

"Why should you be sorry? It is easy to come again."

"Because I don't like to miss you, even for a day. But I wasn't well,
and I fancied that the house was stuffy, and Mrs. Pipkin took a
bright idea and proposed to carry me off to Southend. She was dying
to go herself. She declared that Southend was Paradise."

"A cockney Paradise."

"Oh, what a place it is! Do your people really go to Southend and
fancy that that is the sea?"

"I believe they do. I never went to Southend myself,—so that you
know more about it than I do."

"How very English it is,—a little yellow river,—and you call it the
sea! Ah;—you never were at Newport!"

"But I've been at San Francisco."

"Yes; you've been at San Francisco, and heard the seals howling.
Well; that's better than Southend."

"I suppose we do have the sea here in England. It's generally
supposed we're an island."

"Of course;—but things are so small. If you choose to go to the west
of Ireland, I suppose you'd find the Atlantic. But nobody ever does
go there for fear of being murdered." Paul thought of the gentleman
in Oregon, but said nothing;—thought, perhaps, of his own condition,
and remembered that a man might be murdered without going either to
Oregon or the west of Ireland. "But we went to Southend, I, and Mrs.
Pipkin and the baby, and upon my word I enjoyed it. She was so afraid
that the baby would annoy me, and I thought the baby was so much the
best of it. And then we ate shrimps, and she was so humble. You must
acknowledge that with us nobody would be so humble. Of course I paid.
She has got all her children, and nothing but what she can make out
of these lodgings. People are just as poor with us;—and other people
who happen to be a little better off, pay for them. But nobody is
humble to another, as you are here. Of course we like to have money
as well as you do, but it doesn't make so much difference."

"He who wants to receive, all the world over, will make himself as
agreeable as he can to him who can give."

"But Mrs. Pipkin was so humble. However we got back all right
yesterday evening, and then I found that you had been here,—at
last."

"You knew that I had to go to Liverpool."

"I'm not going to scold. Did you get your business done at
Liverpool?"

"Yes;—one generally gets something done, but never anything very
satisfactorily. Of course it's about this railway."

"I should have thought that that was satisfactory. Everybody talks of
it as being the greatest thing ever invented. I wish I was a man that
I might be concerned with a really great thing like that. I hate
little peddling things. I should like to manage the greatest bank in
the world, or to be Captain of the biggest fleet, or to make the
largest railway. It would be better even than being President of a
Republic, because one would have more of one's own way. What is it
that you do in it, Paul?"

"They want me now to go out to Mexico about it," said he slowly.

"Shall you go?" said she, throwing herself forward and asking the
question with manifest anxiety.

"I think not."

"Why not? Do go. Oh, Paul, I would go with you. Why should you not
go? It is just the thing for such a one as you to do. The railway
will make Mexico a new country, and then you would be the man who had
done it. Why should you throw away such a chance as that? It will
never come again. Emperors and kings have tried their hands at Mexico
and have been able to do nothing. Emperors and kings never can do
anything. Think what it would be to be the regenerator of Mexico!"

"Think what it would be to find one's self there without the means of
doing anything, and to feel that one had been sent there merely that
one might be out of the way."

"I would make the means of doing something."

"Means are money. How can I make that?"

"There is money going. There must be money where there is all this
buying and selling of shares. Where does your uncle get the money
with which he is living like a prince at San Francisco? Where does
Fisker get the money with which he is speculating in New York? Where
does Melmotte get the money which makes him the richest man in the
world? Why should not you get it as well as the others?"

"If I were anxious to rob on my own account perhaps I might do it."

"Why should it be robbery? I do not want you to live in a palace and
spend millions of dollars on yourself. But I want you to have
ambition. Go to Mexico, and chance it. Take San Francisco in your
way, and get across the country. I will go every yard with you. Make
people there believe that you are in earnest, and there will be no
difficulty about the money."

He felt that he was taking no steps to approach the subject which he
should have to discuss before he left her,—or rather the statement
which he had resolved that he would make. Indeed every word which he
allowed her to say respecting this Mexican project carried him
farther away from it. He was giving reasons why the journey should
not be made; but was tacitly admitting that if it were to be made she
might be one of the travellers. The very offer on her part implied an
understanding that his former abnegation of his engagement had been
withdrawn, and yet he shrunk from the cruelty of telling her, in a
side-way fashion, that he would not submit to her companionship
either for the purpose of such a journey or for any other purpose.
The thing must be said in a solemn manner, and must be introduced on
its own basis. But such preliminary conversation as this made the
introduction of it infinitely more difficult.

"You are not in a hurry?" she said.

"Oh no."

"You're going to spend the evening with me like a good man? Then I'll
ask them to let us have tea." She rang the bell and Ruby came in, and
the tea was ordered. "That young lady tells me that you are an old
friend of hers."

"I've known about her down in the country, and was astonished to find
her here yesterday."

"There's some lover, isn't there;—some would-be husband whom she
does not like?"

"And some won't-be husband, I fear, whom she does like."

"That's quite of course, if the other is true. Miss Ruby isn't the
girl to have come to her time of life without a preference. The
natural liking of a young woman for a man in a station above her,
because he is softer and cleaner and has better parts of
speech,—just as we keep a pretty dog if we keep a dog at all,—is
one of the evils of the inequality of mankind. The girl is content
with the love without having the love justified, because the object
is more desirable. She can only have her love justified with an
object less desirable. If all men wore coats of the same fabric, and
had to share the soil of the work of the world equally between them,
that evil would come to an end. A woman here and there might go wrong
from fantasy and diseased passions, but the ever-existing temptation
to go wrong would be at an end."

"If men were equal to-morrow and all wore the same coats, they would
wear different coats the next day."

"Slightly different. But there would be no more purple and fine
linen, and no more blue woad. It isn't to be done in a day of course,
nor yet in a century,—nor in a decade of centuries; but every human
being who looks into it honestly will see that his efforts should be
made in that direction. I remember; you never take sugar; give me
that."

Neither had he come here to discuss the deeply interesting questions
of women's difficulties and immediate or progressive equality. But
having got on to these rocks,—having, as the reader may perceive,
been taken on to them wilfully by the skill of the woman,—he did not
know how to get his bark out again into clear waters. But having his
own subject before him, with all its dangers, the wild-cat's claws,
and the possible fate of the gentleman in Oregon, he could not talk
freely on the subjects which she introduced, as had been his wont in
former years. "Thanks," he said, changing his cup. "How well you
remember!"

"Do you think I shall ever forget your preferences and dislikings? Do
you recollect telling me about that blue scarf of mine, that I should
never wear blue?"

She stretched herself out towards him, waiting for an answer, so that
he was obliged to speak. "Of course I do. Black is your
colour;—black and grey; or white,—and perhaps yellow when you
choose to be gorgeous; crimson possibly. But not blue or green."

"I never thought much of it before, but I have taken your word for
gospel. It is very good to have an eye for such things,—as you have,
Paul. But I fancy that taste comes with, or at any rate forbodes, an
effete civilisation."

"I am sorry that mine should be effete," he said smiling.

"You know what I mean, Paul. I speak of nations, not individuals.
Civilisation was becoming effete, or at any rate men were, in the
time of the great painters; but Savanarola and Galileo were
individuals. You should throw your lot in with a new people. This
railway to Mexico gives you the chance."

"Are the Mexicans a new people?"

"They who will rule the Mexicans are. All American women I dare say
have bad taste in gowns,—and so the vain ones and rich ones send to
Paris for their finery; but I think our taste in men is generally
good. We like our philosophers; we like our poets; we like our
genuine workmen;—but we love our heroes. I would have you a hero,
Paul." He got up from his chair and walked about the room in an agony
of despair. To be told that he was expected to be a hero at the very
moment in his life in which he felt more devoid of heroism, more
thoroughly given up to cowardice than he had ever been before, was
not to be endured! And yet, with what utmost stretch of
courage,—even though he were willing to devote himself certainly and
instantly to the worst fate that he had pictured to himself,—could
he immediately rush away from these abstract speculations, encumbered
as they were with personal flattery, into his own most unpleasant,
most tragic matter! It was the unfitness that deterred him and not
the possible tragedy. Nevertheless, through it all, he was
sure,—nearly sure,—that she was playing her game, and playing it in
direct antagonism to the game which she knew that he wanted to play.
Would it not be better that he should go away and write another
letter? In a letter he could at any rate say what he had to say;—and
having said it he would then strengthen himself to adhere to it.
"What makes you so uneasy?" she asked; still speaking in her most
winning way, caressing him with the tones of her voice. "Do you not
like me to say that I would have you be a hero?"

"Winifrid," he said, "I came here with a purpose, and I had better
carry it out."

"What purpose?" She still leaned forward, but now supported her face
on her two hands with her elbows resting on her knees, looking at him
intently. But one would have said that there was only love in her
eyes;—love which might be disappointed, but still love. The wild
cat, if there, was all within, still hidden from sight. Paul stood
with his hands on the back of a chair, propping himself up and trying
to find fitting words for the occasion. "Stop, my dear," she said.
"Must the purpose be told to-night?"

"Why not to-night?"

"Paul, I am not well;—I am weak now. I am a coward. You do not know
the delight to me of having a few words of pleasant talk to an old
friend after the desolation of the last weeks. Mrs. Pipkin is not
very charming. Even her baby cannot supply all the social wants of my
life. I had intended that everything should be sweet to-night. Oh,
Paul, if it was your purpose to tell me of your love, to assure me
that you are still my dear, dear friend, to speak with hope of future
days, or with pleasure of those that are past,—then carry out your
purpose. But if it be cruel, or harsh, or painful; if you had come to
speak daggers;—then drop your purpose for to-night. Try and think
what my solitude must have been to me, and let me have one hour of
comfort."

Of course he was conquered for that night, and could only have that
solace which a most injurious reprieve could give him. "I will not
harass you, if you are ill," he said.

"I am ill. It was because I was afraid that I should be really ill
that I went to Southend. The weather is hot, though of course the sun
here is not as we have it. But the air is heavy,—what Mrs. Pipkin
calls muggy. I was thinking if I were to go somewhere for a week, it
would do me good. Where had I better go?" Paul suggested Brighton.
"That is full of people; is it not?—a fashionable place?"

"Not at this time of the year."

"But it is a big place. I want some little place that would be
pretty. You could take me down; could you not? Not very far, you
know;—not that any place can be very far from here." Paul, in his
John Bull displeasure, suggested Penzance, telling her, untruly, that
it would take twenty-four hours. "Not Penzance then, which I know is
your very Ultima Thule;—not Penzance, nor yet Orkney. Is there no
other place,—except Southend?"

"There is Cromer in Norfolk,—perhaps ten hours."

"Is Cromer by the sea?"

"Yes;—what we call the sea."

"I mean really the sea, Paul?"

"If you start from Cromer right away, a hundred miles would perhaps
take you across to Holland. A ditch of that kind wouldn't do
perhaps."

"Ah,—now I see you are laughing at me. Is Cromer pretty?"

"Well, yes;—I think it is. I was there once, but I don't remember
much. There's Ramsgate."

"Mrs. Pipkin told me of Ramsgate. I don't think I should like
Ramsgate."

"There's the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is very pretty."

"That's the Queen's place. There would not be room for her and me
too."

"Or Lowestoft. Lowestoft is not so far as Cromer, and there is a
railway all the distance."

"And sea?"

"Sea enough for anything. If you can't see across it, and if there
are waves, and wind enough to knock you down, and shipwrecks every
other day, I don't see why a hundred miles isn't as good as a
thousand."

"A hundred miles is just as good as a thousand. But, Paul, at
Southend it isn't a hundred miles across to the other side of the
river. You must admit that. But you will be a better guide than Mrs.
Pipkin. You would not have taken me to Southend when I expressed a
wish for the ocean;—would you? Let it be Lowestoft. Is there an
hotel?"

"A small little place."

"Very small? uncomfortably small? But almost any place would do for
me."

"They make up, I believe, about a hundred beds; but in the States it
would be very small."

"Paul," said she, delighted to have brought him back to this humour,
"if I were to throw the tea things at you, it would serve you right.
This is all because I did not lose myself in awe at the sight of the
Southend ocean. It shall be Lowestoft." Then she rose up and came to
him, and took his arm. "You will take me down, will you not? It is
desolate for a woman to go into such a place all alone. I will not
ask you to stay. And I can return by myself." She had put both hands
on one arm, and turned herself round, and looked into his face. "You
will do that for old acquaintance sake?" For a moment or two he made
no answer, and his face was troubled, and his brow was black. He was
endeavouring to think;—but he was only aware of his danger, and
could see no way through it. "I don't think you will let me ask in
vain for such a favour as that," she said.

"No;" he replied. "I will take you down. When will you go?" He had
cockered himself up with some vain idea that the railway carriage
would be a good place for the declaration of his purpose, or perhaps
the sands at Lowestoft.

"When will I go? when will you take me? You have Boards to attend,
and shares to look to, and Mexico to regenerate. I am a poor woman
with nothing on hand but Mrs. Pipkin's baby. Can you be ready in ten
minutes?—because I could." Paul shook his head and laughed. "I've
named a time and that doesn't suit. Now, sir, you name another, and
I'll promise it shall suit." Paul suggested Saturday, the 29th. He
must attend the next Board, and had promised to see Melmotte before
the Board day. Saturday of course would do for Mrs. Hurtle. Should
she meet him at the railway station? Of course he undertook to come
and fetch her.

Then, as he took his leave, she stood close against him, and put her
cheek up for him to kiss. There are moments in which a man finds it
utterly impossible that he should be prudent,—as to which, when he
thought of them afterwards, he could never forgive himself for
prudence, let the danger have been what it may. Of course he took her
in his arms, and kissed her lips as well as her cheeks.

 


 


CHAPTER XLIII.


THE CITY ROAD.
 

The statement made by Ruby as to her connection with Mrs. Pipkin was
quite true. Ruby's father had married a Pipkin whose brother had died
leaving a widow behind him at Islington. The old man at Sheep's Acre
farm had greatly resented this marriage, had never spoken to his
daughter-in-law,—or to his son after the marriage, and had steeled
himself against the whole Pipkin race. When he undertook the charge
of Ruby he had made it matter of agreement that she should have no
intercourse with the Pipkins. This agreement Ruby had broken,
corresponding on the sly with her uncle's widow at Islington. When
therefore she ran away from Suffolk she did the best she could with
herself in going to her aunt's house. Mrs. Pipkin was a poor woman,
and could not offer a permanent home to Ruby; but she was
good-natured, and came to terms. Ruby was to be allowed to stay at
any rate for a month, and was to work in the house for her bread. But
she made it a part of her bargain that she should be allowed to go
out occasionally. Mrs. Pipkin immediately asked after a lover. "I'm
all right," said Ruby. If the lover was what he ought to be, had he
not better come and see her? This was Mrs. Pipkin's suggestion. Mrs.
Pipkin thought that scandal might in this way be avoided. "That's as
it may be, by-and-by," said Ruby. Then she told all the story of John
Crumb:—how she hated John Crumb; how resolved she was that nothing
should make her marry John Crumb. And she gave her own account of
that night on which John Crumb and Mr. Mixet ate their supper at the
farm, and of the manner in which her grandfather had treated her
because she would not have John Crumb. Mrs. Pipkin was a respectable
woman in her way, always preferring respectable lodgers if she could
get them;—but bound to live. She gave Ruby very good advice. Of
course if she was "dead-set" against John Crumb, that was one thing!
But then there was nothing a young woman should look to so much as a
decent house over her head,—and victuals. "What's all the love in
the world, Ruby, if a man can't do for you?" Ruby declared that she
knew somebody who could do for her, and could do very well for her.
She knew what she was about, and wasn't going to be put off it. Mrs.
Pipkin's morals were good wearing morals, but she was not
strait-laced. If Ruby chose to manage in her own way about her lover
she must. Mrs. Pipkin had an idea that young women in these days did
have, and would have, and must have more liberty than was allowed
when she was young. The world was being changed very fast. Mrs.
Pipkin knew that as well as others. And therefore when Ruby went to
the theatre once and again,—by herself as far as Mrs. Pipkin knew,
but probably in company with her lover,—and did not get home till
past midnight, Mrs. Pipkin said very little about it, attributing
such novel circumstances to the altered condition of her country. She
had not been allowed to go to the theatre with a young man when she
had been a girl,—but that had been in the earlier days of Queen
Victoria, fifteen years ago, before the new dispensation had come.
Ruby had never yet told the name of her lover to Mrs. Pipkin, having
answered all inquiries by saying that she was all right. Sir Felix's
name had never even been mentioned in Islington till Paul Montague
had mentioned it. She had been managing her own affairs after her own
fashion,—not altogether with satisfaction, but still without
interruption; but now she knew that interference would come. Mr.
Montague had found her out, and had told her grandfather's landlord.
The Squire would be after her, and then John Crumb would come,
accompanied of course by Mr. Mixet,—and after that, as she said to
herself on retiring to the couch which she shared with two little
Pipkins, "the fat would be in the fire."

"Who do you think was at our place yesterday?" said Ruby one evening
to her lover. They were sitting together at a music-hall,—half
music-hall, half theatre, which pleasantly combined the allurements
of the gin-palace, the theatre, and the ball-room, trenching hard on
those of other places. Sir Felix was smoking, dressed, as he himself
called it, "incognito," with a Tom-and-Jerry hat, and a blue silk
cravat, and a green coat. Ruby thought it was charming. Felix
entertained an idea that were his West End friends to see him in this
attire they would not know him. He was smoking, and had before him a
glass of hot brandy and water, which was common to himself and Ruby.
He was enjoying life. Poor Ruby! She was half-ashamed of herself,
half-frightened, and yet supported by a feeling that it was a grand
thing to have got rid of restraints, and be able to be with her young
man. Why not? The Miss Longestaffes were allowed to sit and dance and
walk about with their young men,—when they had any. Why was she to
be given up to a great mass of stupid dust like John Crumb, without
seeing anything of the world? But yet as she sat sipping her lover's
brandy and water between eleven and twelve at the music-hall in the
City Road, she was not altogether comfortable. She saw things which
she did not like to see. And she heard things which she did not like
to hear. And her lover, though he was beautiful,—oh, so
beautiful!—was not all that a lover should be. She was still a
little afraid of him, and did not dare as yet to ask him for the
promise which she expected him to make to her. Her mind was set
upon—marriage, but the word had hardly passed between them. To have
his arm round her waist was heaven to her! Could it be possible that
he and John Crumb were of the same order of human beings? But how was
this to go on? Even Mrs. Pipkin made disagreeable allusions, and she
could not live always with Mrs. Pipkin, coming out at nights to drink
brandy and water and hear music with Sir Felix Carbury. She was glad
therefore to take the first opportunity of telling her lover that
something was going to happen. "Who do you suppose was at our place
yesterday?"

Sir Felix changed colour, thinking of Marie Melmotte, thinking that
perhaps some emissary from Marie Melmotte had been there; perhaps
Didon herself. He was amusing himself during these last evenings of
his in London; but the business of his life was about to take him to
New York. That project was still being elaborated. He had had an
interview with Didon, and nothing was wanting but the money. Didon
had heard of the funds which had been intrusted by him to Melmotte,
and had been very urgent with him to recover them. Therefore, though
his body was not unfrequently present, late in the night, at the City
Road Music-Hall, his mind was ever in Grosvenor Square. "Who was it,
Ruby?"

"A friend of the Squire's, a Mr. Montague. I used to see him about in
Bungay and Beccles."

"Paul Montague!"

"Do you know him, Felix?"

"Well;—rather. He's a member of our club, and I see him constantly
in the city—and I know him at home."

"Is he nice?"

"Well;—that depends on what you call nice. He's a prig of a fellow."

"He's got a lady friend where I live."

"The devil he has!" Sir Felix of course had heard of Roger Carbury's
suit to his sister, and of the opposition to this suit on the part of
Hetta, which was supposed to have been occasioned by her preference
for Paul Montague. "Who is she, Ruby?"

"Well;—she's a Mrs. Hurtle. Such a stunning woman! Aunt says she's
an American. She's got lots of money."

"Is Montague going to marry her?"

"Oh dear yes. It's all arranged. Mr. Montague comes quite regular to
see her;—not so regular as he ought, though. When gentlemen are
fixed as they're to be married, they never are regular afterwards. I
wonder whether it'll be the same with you?"

"Wasn't John Crumb regular, Ruby?"

"Bother John Crumb! That wasn't none of my doings. Oh, he'd been
regular enough, if I'd let him; he'd been like clockwork,—only the
slowest clock out. But Mr. Montague has been and told the Squire as
he saw me. He told me so himself. The Squire's coming about John
Crumb. I know that. What am I to tell him, Felix?"

"Tell him to mind his own business. He can't do anything to you."

"No;—he can't do nothing. I ain't done nothing wrong, and he can't
send for the police to have me took back to Sheep's Acre. But he can
talk,—and he can look. I ain't one of those, Felix, as don't mind
about their characters,—so don't you think it. Shall I tell him as
I'm with you?"

"Gracious goodness, no! What would you say that for?"

"I didn't know. I must say something."

"Tell him you're nothing to him."

"But aunt will be letting on about my being out late o'nights; I know
she will. And who am I with? He'll be asking that."

"Your aunt does not know?"

"No;—I've told nobody yet. But it won't do to go on like that, you
know,—will it? You don't want it to go on always like that;—do
you?"

"It's very jolly, I think."

"It ain't jolly for me. Of course, Felix, I like to be with you.
That's jolly. But I have to mind them brats all the day, and to be
doing the bedrooms. And that's not the worst of it."

"What is the worst of it?"

"I'm pretty nigh ashamed of myself. Yes, I am." And now Ruby burst
out into tears. "Because I wouldn't have John Crumb, I didn't mean to
be a bad girl. Nor yet I won't. But what'll I do, if everybody turns
again me? Aunt won't go on for ever in this way. She said last night
that—"

"Bother what she says!" Felix was not at all anxious to hear what
aunt Pipkin might have to say upon such an occasion.

"She's right too. Of course she knows there's somebody. She ain't
such a fool as to think that I'm out at these hours to sing psalms
with a lot of young women. She says that whoever it is ought to speak
out his mind. There;—that's what she says. And she's right. A girl
has to mind herself, though she's ever so fond of a young man."

Sir Felix sucked his cigar and then took a long drink of brandy and
water. Having emptied the beaker before him, he rapped for the waiter
and called for another. He intended to avoid the necessity of making
any direct reply to Ruby's importunities. He was going to New York
very shortly, and looked on his journey thither as an horizon in his
future beyond which it was unnecessary to speculate as to any farther
distance. He had not troubled himself to think how it might be with
Ruby when he was gone. He had not even considered whether he would or
would not tell her that he was going, before he started. It was not
his fault that she had come up to London. She was an "awfully jolly
girl," and he liked the feeling of the intrigue better perhaps than
the girl herself. But he assured himself that he wasn't going to give
himself any "d——d
trouble." The idea of John Crumb coming up to
London in his wrath had never occurred to him,—or he would probably
have hurried on his journey to New York instead of delaying it, as he
was doing now. "Let's go in and have a dance," he said.

Ruby was very fond of dancing,—perhaps liked it better than anything
in the world. It was heaven to her to be spinning round the big room
with her lover's arm tight round her waist, with one hand in his and
her other hanging over his back. She loved the music, and loved the
motion. Her ear was good, and her strength was great, and she never
lacked breath. She could spin along and dance a whole room down, and
feel at the time that the world could have nothing to give better
worth having than that;—and such moments were too precious to be
lost. She went and danced, resolving as she did so that she would
have some answer to her question before she left her lover on that
night.

"And now I must go," she said at last. "You'll see me as far as the
Angel, won't you?" Of course he was ready to see her as far as the
Angel. "What am I to say to the Squire?"

"Say nothing."

"And what am I to say to aunt?"

"Say to her? Just say what you have said all along."

"I've said nothing all along,—just to oblige you, Felix. I must say
something. A girl has got herself to mind. What have you got to say
to me, Felix?"

He was silent for about a minute, meditating his answer. "If you
bother me I shall cut it, you know."

"Cut it!"

"Yes;—cut it. Can't you wait till I am ready to say something?"

"Waiting will be the ruin o' me, if I wait much longer. Where am I to
go, if Mrs. Pipkin won't have me no more?"

"I'll find a place for you."

"You find a place! No; that won't do. I've told you all that before.
I'd sooner go into service,
or—"

"Go back to John Crumb."

"John Crumb has more respect for me nor you. He'd make me his wife
to-morrow, and only be too happy."

"I didn't tell you to come away from him," said Sir Felix.

"Yes, you did. You told me as I was to come up to London when I saw
you at Sheepstone Beeches;—didn't you? And you told me you loved
me;—didn't you? And that if I wanted anything you'd get it done for
me;—didn't you?"

"So I will. What do you want? I can give you a couple of sovereigns,
if that's what it is."

"No it isn't;—and I won't have your money. I'd sooner work my
fingers off. I want you to say whether you mean to marry me. There!"

As to the additional lie which Sir Felix might now have told, that
would have been nothing to him. He was going to New York, and would
be out of the way of any trouble; and he thought that lies of that
kind to young women never went for anything. Young women, he thought,
didn't believe them, but liked to be able to believe afterwards that
they had been deceived. It wasn't the lie that stuck in his throat,
but the fact that he was a baronet. It was in his estimation
"confounded impudence" on the part of Ruby Ruggles to ask to be his
wife. He did not care for the lie, but he did not like to seem to
lower himself by telling such a lie as that at her dictation. "Marry,
Ruby! No, I don't ever mean to marry. It's the greatest bore out. I
know a trick worth two of that."

She stopped in the street and looked at him. This was a state of
things of which she had never dreamed. She could imagine that a man
should wish to put it off, but that he should have the face to
declare to his young woman that he never meant to marry at all, was a
thing that she could not understand. What business had such a man to
go after any young woman? "And what do you mean that I'm to do, Sir
Felix?" she said.

"Just go easy, and not make yourself a bother."

"Not make myself a bother! Oh, but I will; I will. I'm to be carrying
on with you, and nothing to come of it; but for you to tell me that
you don't mean to marry, never at all! Never?"

"Don't you see lots of old bachelors about, Ruby?"

"Of course I does. There's the Squire. But he don't come asking girls
to keep him company."

"That's more than you know, Ruby."

"If he did he'd marry her out of hand,—because he's a gentleman.
That's what he is, every inch of him. He never said a word to a
girl,—not to do her any harm, I'm sure," and Ruby began to cry. "You
mustn't come no further now, and I'll never see you again—never! I
think you're the falsest young man, and the basest, and the
lowest-minded that I ever heard tell of. I know there are them as
don't keep their words. Things turn up, and they can't. Or they gets
to like others better; or there ain't nothing to live on. But for a
young man to come after a young woman, and then say, right out, as he
never means to marry at all, is the lowest-spirited fellow that ever
was. I never read of such a one in none of the books. No, I won't.
You go your way, and I'll go mine." In her passion she was as good as
her word, and escaped from him, running all the way to her aunt's
door. There was in her mind a feeling of anger against the man, which
she did not herself understand, in that he would incur no risk on her
behalf. He would not even make a lover's easy promise, in order that
the present hour might be made pleasant. Ruby let herself into her
aunt's house, and cried herself to sleep with a child on each side of
her.

On the next day Roger called. She had begged Mrs. Pipkin to attend
the door, and had asked her to declare, should any gentleman ask for
Ruby Ruggles, that Ruby Ruggles was out. Mrs. Pipkin had not refused
to do so; but, having heard sufficient of Roger Carbury to imagine
the cause which might possibly bring him to the house, and having
made up her mind that Ruby's present condition of independence was
equally unfavourable to the lodging-house and to Ruby herself, she
determined that the Squire, if he did come, should see the young
lady. When therefore Ruby was called into the little back parlour and
found Roger Carbury there, she thought that she had been caught in a
trap. She had been very cross all the morning. Though in her rage she
had been able on the previous evening to dismiss her titled lover,
and to imply that she never meant to see him again, now, when the
remembrance of the loss came upon her amidst her daily work,—when
she could no longer console herself in her drudgery by thinking of
the beautiful things that were in store for her, and by flattering
herself that though at this moment she was little better than a maid
of all work in a lodging-house, the time was soon coming in which she
would bloom forth as a baronet's bride,—now in her solitude she
almost regretted the precipitancy of her own conduct. Could it be
that she would never see him again;—that she would dance no more in
that gilded bright saloon? And might it not be possible that she had
pressed him too hard? A baronet of course would not like to be
brought to book, as she could bring to book such a one as John Crumb.
But yet,—that he should have said never;—that he would never marry!
Looking at it in any light, she was very unhappy, and this coming of
the Squire did not serve to cure her misery.

Roger was very kind to her, taking her by the hand, and bidding her
sit down, and telling her how glad he was to find that she was
comfortably settled with her aunt. "We were all alarmed, of course,
when you went away without telling anybody where you were going."

"Grandfather 'd been that cruel to me that I couldn't tell him."

"He wanted you to keep your word to an old friend of yours."

"To pull me all about by the hairs of my head wasn't the way to make
a girl keep her word;—was it, Mr. Carbury? That's what he did,
then;—and Sally Hockett, who is there, heard it. I've been good to
grandfather, whatever I may have been to John Crumb; and he shouldn't
have treated me like that. No girl 'd like to be pulled about the
room by the hairs of her head, and she with her things all off, just
getting into bed."

The Squire had no answer to make to this. That old Ruggles should be
a violent brute under the influence of gin and water did not surprise
him. And the girl, when driven away from her home by such usage, had
not done amiss in coming to her aunt. But Roger had already heard a
few words from Mrs. Pipkin as to Ruby's late hours, had heard also
that there was a lover, and knew very well who that lover was. He
also was quite familiar with John Crumb's state of mind. John Crumb
was a gallant, loving fellow who might be induced to forgive
everything, if Ruby would only go back to him; but would certainly
persevere, after some slow fashion of his own, and "see the matter
out," as he would say himself, if she did not go back. "As you found
yourself obliged to run away," said Roger, "I'm glad that you should
be here; but you don't mean to stay here always?"

"I don't know," said Ruby.

"You must think of your future life. You don't want to be always your
aunt's maid."

"Oh dear, no."

"It would be very odd if you did, when you may be the wife of such a
man as Mr. Crumb."

"Oh, Mr. Crumb! Everybody is going on about Mr. Crumb. I don't like
Mr. Crumb, and I never will like him."

"Now look here, Ruby; I have come to speak to you very seriously, and
I expect you to hear me. Nobody can make you marry Mr. Crumb, unless
you please."

"Nobody can't, of course, sir."

"But I fear you have given him up for somebody else, who certainly
won't marry you, and who can only mean to ruin you."

"Nobody won't ruin me," said Ruby. "A girl has to look to herself,
and I mean to look to myself."

"I'm glad to hear you say so, but being out at night with such a one
as Sir Felix Carbury is not looking to yourself. That means going to
the devil head foremost."

"I ain't a going to the devil," said Ruby, sobbing and blushing.

"But you will, if you put yourself into the hands of that young man.
He's as bad as bad can be. He's my own cousin, and yet I'm obliged to
tell you so. He has no more idea of marrying you than I have; but
were he to marry you, he could not support you. He is ruined himself,
and would ruin any young woman who trusted him. I'm almost old enough
to be your father, and in all my experience I never came across so
vile a young man as he is. He would ruin you and cast you from him
without a pang of remorse. He has no heart in his bosom;—none." Ruby
had now given way altogether, and was sobbing with her apron to her
eyes in one corner of the room. "That's what Sir Felix Carbury is,"
said the Squire, standing up so that he might speak with the more
energy, and talk her down more thoroughly. "And if I understand it
rightly," he continued, "it is for a vile thing such as he, that you
have left a man who is as much above him in character, as the sun is
above the earth. You think little of John Crumb because he does not
wear a fine coat."

"I don't care about any man's coat," said Ruby; "but John hasn't ever
a word to say, was it ever so."











"I don’t care about any man’s coat."


"I don't
care about any man's coat."


Click to ENLARGE


"Words to say! what do words matter? He loves you. He loves you after
that fashion that he wants to make you happy and respectable, not to
make you a bye-word and a disgrace." Ruby struggled hard to make some
opposition to the suggestion, but found herself to be incapable of
speech at the moment. "He thinks more of you than of himself, and
would give you all that he has. What would that other man give you?
If you were once married to John Crumb, would any one then pull you
by the hairs of your head? Would there be any want then, or any
disgrace?"

"There ain't no disgrace, Mr. Carbury."

"No disgrace in going about at midnight with such a one as Felix
Carbury? You are not a fool, and you know that it is disgraceful. If
you are not unfit to be an honest man's wife, go back and beg that
man's pardon."

"John Crumb's pardon! No!"

"Oh, Ruby, if you knew how highly I respect that man, and how lowly I
think of the other; how I look on the one as a noble fellow, and
regard the other as dust beneath my feet, you would perhaps change
your mind a little."

Her mind was being changed. His words did have their effect, though
the poor girl struggled against the conviction that was borne in upon
her. She had never expected to hear any one call John Crumb noble.
But she had never respected any one more highly than Squire Carbury,
and he said that John Crumb was noble. Amidst all her misery and
trouble she still told herself that it was but a dusty, mealy,—and
also a dumb nobility.

"I'll tell you what will take place," continued Roger. "Mr. Crumb
won't put up with this you know."

"He can't do nothing to me, sir."

"That's true enough. Unless it be to take you in his arms and press
you to his heart, he wants to do nothing to you. Do you think he'd
injure you if he could? You don't know what a man's love really
means, Ruby. But he could do something to somebody else. How do you
think it would be with Felix Carbury, if they two were in a room
together and nobody else by?"

"John's mortial strong, Mr. Carbury."

"If two men have equal pluck, strength isn't much needed. One is a
brave man, and the other—a coward. Which do you think is which?"

"He's your own cousin, and I don't know why you should say everything
again him."

"You know I'm telling you the truth. You know it as well as I do
myself;—and you're throwing yourself away, and throwing the man who
loves you over,—for such a fellow as that! Go back to him, Ruby, and
beg his pardon."

"I never will;—never."

"I've spoken to Mrs. Pipkin, and while you're here she will see that
you don't keep such hours any longer. You tell me that you're not
disgraced, and yet you are out at midnight with a young blackguard
like that! I've said what I've got to say, and I'm going away. But
I'll let your grandfather know."

"Grandfather don't want me no more."

"And I'll come again. If you want money to go home, I will let you
have it. Take my advice at least in this;—do not see Sir Felix
Carbury any more." Then he took his leave. If he had failed to
impress her with admiration for John Crumb, he had certainly been
efficacious in lessening that which she had entertained for Sir
Felix.

 


 


CHAPTER XLIV.


THE COMING ELECTION.
 

The very greatness of Mr. Melmotte's popularity, the extent of the
admiration which was accorded by the public at large to his
commercial enterprise and financial sagacity, created a peculiar
bitterness in the opposition that was organised against him at
Westminster. As the high mountains are intersected by deep valleys,
as puritanism in one age begets infidelity in the next, as in many
countries the thickness of the winter's ice will be in proportion to
the number of the summer musquitoes, so was the keenness of the
hostility displayed on this occasion in proportion to the warmth of
the support which was manifested. As the great man was praised, so
also was he abused. As he was a demi-god to some, so was he a fiend
to others. And indeed there was hardly any other way in which it was
possible to carry on the contest against him. From the moment in
which Mr. Melmotte had declared his purpose of standing for
Westminster in the Conservative interest, an attempt was made to
drive him down the throats of the electors by clamorous assertions of
his unprecedented commercial greatness. It seemed that there was but
one virtue in the world, commercial enterprise,—and that Melmotte
was its prophet. It seemed, too, that the orators and writers of the
day intended all Westminster to believe that Melmotte treated his
great affairs in a spirit very different from that which animates the
bosoms of merchants in general. He had risen above any feeling of
personal profit. His wealth was so immense that there was no longer
place for anxiety on that score. He already possessed,—so it was
said,—enough to found a dozen families, and he had but one daughter!
But by carrying on the enormous affairs which he held in his hands,
he would be able to open up new worlds, to afford relief to the
oppressed nationalities of the over-populated old countries. He had
seen how small was the good done by the Peabodys and the Bairds, and,
resolving to lend no ear to charities and religions, was intent on
projects for enabling young nations to earn plentiful bread by the
moderate sweat of their brows. He was the head and front of the
railway which was to regenerate Mexico. It was presumed that the
contemplated line from ocean to ocean across British America would
become a fact in his hands. It was he who was to enter into terms
with the Emperor of China for farming the tea-fields of that vast
country. He was already in treaty with Russia for a railway from
Moscow to Khiva. He had a fleet,—or soon would have a fleet of
emigrant ships,—ready to carry every discontented Irishman out of
Ireland to whatever quarter of the globe the Milesian might choose
for the exercise of his political principles. It was known that he
had already floated a company for laying down a submarine wire from
Penzance to Point de Galle, round the Cape of Good Hope,—so that, in
the event of general wars, England need be dependent on no other
country for its communications with India. And then there was the
philanthropic scheme for buying the liberty of the Arabian fellahs
from the Khedive of Egypt for thirty millions sterling,—the
compensation to consist of the concession of a territory about four
times as big as Great Britain in the lately annexed country on the
great African lakes. It may have been the case that some of these
things were as yet only matters of conversation,—speculations as to
which Mr. Melmotte's mind and imagination had been at work, rather
than his pocket or even his credit; but they were all sufficiently
matured to find their way into the public press, and to be used as
strong arguments why Melmotte should become member of Parliament for
Westminster.

All this praise was of course gall to those who found themselves
called upon by the demands of their political position to oppose Mr.
Melmotte. You can run down a demi-god only by making him out to be a
demi-devil. These very persons, the leading Liberals of the leading
borough in England as they called themselves, would perhaps have
cared little about Melmotte's antecedents had it not become their
duty to fight him as a Conservative. Had the great man found at the
last moment that his own British politics had been liberal in their
nature, these very enemies would have been on his committee. It was
their business to secure the seat. And as Melmotte's supporters began
the battle with an attempt at what the Liberals called "bounce,"—to
carry the borough with a rush by an overwhelming assertion of their
candidate's virtues,—the other party was driven to make some
enquiries as to that candidate's antecedents. They quickly warmed to
the work, and were not less loud in exposing the Satan of
speculation, than had been the Conservatives in declaring the
commercial Jove. Emissaries were sent to Paris and Francfort, and the
wires were used to Vienna and New York. It was not difficult to
collect stories,—true or false; and some quiet men, who merely
looked on at the game, expressed an opinion that Melmotte might have
wisely abstained from the glories of Parliament.

Nevertheless there was at first some difficulty in finding a proper
Liberal candidate to run against him. The nobleman who had been
elevated out of his seat by the death of his father had been a great
Whig magnate, whose family was possessed of immense wealth and of
popularity equal to its possessions. One of that family might have
contested the borough at a much less expense than any other
person,—and to them the expense would have mattered but little. But
there was no such member of it forthcoming. Lord This and Lord
That,—and the Honourable This and the Honourable That, sons of other
cognate Lords,—already had seats which they were unwilling to vacate
in the present state of affairs. There was but one other session for
the existing Parliament; and the odds were held to be very greatly in
Melmotte's favour. Many an outsider was tried, but the outsiders were
either afraid of Melmotte's purse or his influence. Lord Buntingford
was asked, and he and his family were good old Whigs. But he was
nephew to Lord Alfred Grendall, first cousin to Miles Grendall, and
abstained on behalf of his relatives. An overture was made to Sir
Damask Monogram, who certainly could afford the contest. But Sir
Damask did not see his way. Melmotte was a working bee, while he was
a drone,—and he did not wish to have the difference pointed out by
Mr. Melmotte's supporters. Moreover, he preferred his yacht and his
four-in-hand.

At last a candidate was selected, whose nomination and whose consent
to occupy the position created very great surprise in the London
world. The press had of course taken up the matter very strongly. The
"Morning Breakfast Table" supported Mr. Melmotte with all its weight.
There were people who said that this support was given by Mr. Broune
under the influence of Lady Carbury, and that Lady Carbury in this
way endeavoured to reconcile the great man to a marriage between his
daughter and Sir Felix. But it is more probable that Mr. Broune
saw,—or thought that he saw,—which way the wind sat, and that he
supported the commercial hero because he felt that the hero would be
supported by the country at large. In praising a book, or putting
foremost the merits of some official or military claimant, or writing
up a charity,—in some small matter of merely personal interest,—the
Editor of the "Morning Breakfast Table" might perhaps allow himself
to listen to a lady whom he loved. But he knew his work too well to
jeopardize his paper by such influences in any matter which might
probably become interesting to the world of his readers. There was a
strong belief in Melmotte. The clubs thought that he would be
returned for Westminster. The dukes and duchesses fêted him. The
city,—even the city was showing a wavering disposition to come
round. Bishops begged for his name on the list of promoters of their
pet schemes. Royalty without stint was to dine at his table. Melmotte
himself was to sit at the right hand of the brother of the Sun and of
the uncle of the Moon, and British Royalty was to be arranged
opposite, so that every one might seem to have the place of most
honour. How could a conscientious Editor of a "Morning Breakfast
Table," seeing how things were going, do other than support Mr.
Melmotte? In fair justice it may be well doubted whether Lady Carbury
had exercised any influence in the matter.

But the "Evening Pulpit" took the other side. Now this was the more
remarkable, the more sure to attract attention, inasmuch as the
"Evening Pulpit" had never supported the Liberal interest. As was
said in the first chapter of this work, the motto of that newspaper
implied that it was to be conducted on principles of absolute
independence. Had the "Evening Pulpit," like some of its
contemporaries, lived by declaring from day to day that all Liberal
elements were godlike, and all their opposites satanic, as a matter
of course the same line of argument would have prevailed as to the
Westminster election. But as it had not been so, the vigour of the
"Evening Pulpit" on this occasion was the more alarming and the more
noticeable,—so that the short articles which appeared almost daily
in reference to Mr. Melmotte were read by everybody. Now they who are
concerned in the manufacture of newspapers are well aware that
censure is infinitely more attractive than eulogy,—but they are
quite as well aware that it is more dangerous. No proprietor or
editor was ever brought before the courts at the cost of ever so many
hundred pounds,—which if things go badly may rise to
thousands,—because he had attributed all but divinity to some very
poor specimen of mortality. No man was ever called upon for damages
because he had attributed grand motives. It might be well for
politics and literature and art,—and for truth in general, if it was
possible to do so. But a new law of libel must be enacted before such
salutary proceedings can take place. Censure on the other hand is
open to very grave perils. Let the Editor have been ever so
conscientious, ever so beneficent,—even ever so true,—let it be
ever so clear that what he has written has been written on behalf of
virtue, and that he has misstated no fact, exaggerated no fault,
never for a moment been allured from public to private matters,—and
he may still be in danger of ruin. A very long purse, or else a very
high courage is needed for the exposure of such conduct as the
"Evening Pulpit" attributed to Mr. Melmotte. The paper took up this
line suddenly. After the second article Mr. Alf sent back to Mr.
Miles Grendall, who in the matter was acting as Mr. Melmotte's
secretary, the ticket of invitation for the dinner, with a note from
Mr. Alf stating that circumstances connected with the forthcoming
election for Westminster could not permit him to have the great
honour of dining at Mr. Melmotte's table in the presence of the
Emperor of China. Miles Grendall showed the note to the dinner
committee, and, without consultation with Mr. Melmotte, it was
decided that the ticket should be sent to the Editor of a
thorough-going Conservative journal. This conduct on the part of the
"Evening Pulpit" astonished the world considerably; but the world was
more astonished when it was declared that Mr. Ferdinand Alf himself
was going to stand for Westminster on the Liberal interest.

Various suggestions were made. Some said that as Mr. Alf had a large
share in the newspaper, and as its success was now an established
fact, he himself intended to retire from the laborious position which
he filled, and was therefore free to go into Parliament. Others were
of opinion that this was the beginning of a new era in literature, of
a new order of things, and that from this time forward editors would
frequently be found in Parliament, if editors were employed of
sufficient influence in the world to find constituencies. Mr. Broune
whispered confidentially to Lady Carbury that the man was a fool for
his pains, and that he was carried away by pride. "Very clever,—and
dashing," said Mr. Broune, "but he never had ballast." Lady Carbury
shook her head. She did not want to give up Mr. Alf if she could help
it. He had never said a civil word of her in his paper;—but still
she had an idea that it was well to be on good terms with so great a
power. She entertained a mysterious awe for Mr. Alf,—much in excess
of any similar feeling excited by Mr. Broune, in regard to whom her
awe had been much diminished since he had made her an offer of
marriage. Her sympathies as to the election of course were with Mr.
Melmotte. She believed in him thoroughly. She still thought that his
nod might be the means of making Felix,—or if not his nod, then his
money without the nod.

"I suppose he is very rich," she said, speaking to Mr. Broune
respecting Mr. Alf.

"I dare say he has put by something. But this election will cost him
£10,000;—and if he goes on as he is doing now, he had better allow
another £10,000 for action for libel. They've already declared that
they will indict the paper."

"Do you believe about the Austrian Insurance Company?" This was a
matter as to which Mr. Melmotte was supposed to have retired from
Paris not with clean hands.

"I don't believe the 'Evening Pulpit' can prove it,—and I'm sure
that they can't attempt to prove it without an expense of three or
four thousand pounds. That's a game in which nobody wins but the
lawyers. I wonder at Alf. I should have thought that he would have
known how to get all said that he wanted to have said without running
with his head into the lion's mouth. He has been so clever up to
this! God knows he has been bitter enough, but he has always sailed
within the wind."

Mr. Alf had a powerful committee. By this time an animus in regard to
the election had been created strong enough to bring out the men on
both sides, and to produce heat, when otherwise there might only have
been a warmth or possibly frigidity. The Whig Marquises and the Whig
Barons came forward, and with them the liberal professional men, and
the tradesmen who had found that party to answer best, and the
democratical mechanics. If Melmotte's money did not, at last, utterly
demoralise the lower class of voters, there would still be a good
fight. And there was a strong hope that, under the ballot, Melmotte's
money might be taken without a corresponding effect upon the voting.
It was found upon trial that Mr. Alf was a good speaker. And though
he still conducted the "Evening Pulpit," he made time for addressing
meetings of the constituency almost daily. And in his speeches he
never spared Melmotte. No one, he said, had a greater reverence for
mercantile grandeur than himself. But let them take care that the
grandeur was grand. How great would be the disgrace to such a borough
as that of Westminster if it should find that it had been taken in by
a false spirit of speculation and that it had surrendered itself to
gambling when it had thought to do honour to honest commerce. This,
connected as of course it was, with the articles in the paper, was
regarded as very open speaking. And it had its effect. Some men began
to say that Melmotte had not been known long enough to deserve
confidence in his riches, and the Lord Mayor was already beginning to
think that it might be wise to escape the dinner by some excuse.

Melmotte's committee was also very grand. If Alf was supported by
Marquises and Barons, he was supported by Dukes and Earls. But his
speaking in public did not of itself inspire much confidence. He had
very little to say when he attempted to explain the political
principles on which he intended to act. After a little he confined
himself to remarks on the personal attacks made on him by the other
side, and even in doing that was reiterative rather than diffusive.
Let them prove it. He defied them to prove it. Englishmen were too
great, too generous, too honest, too noble,—the men of Westminster
especially were a great deal too high-minded to pay any attention to
such charges as these till they were proved. Then he began again. Let
them prove it. Such accusations as these were mere lies till they
were proved. He did not say much himself in public as to actions for
libel,—but assurances were made on his behalf to the electors,
especially by Lord Alfred Grendall and his son, that as soon as the
election was over all speakers and writers would be indicted for
libel, who should be declared by proper legal advice to have made
themselves liable to such action. The "Evening Pulpit" and Mr. Alf
would of course be the first victims.

The dinner was fixed for Monday, July the 8th. The election for the
borough was to be held on Tuesday the 9th. It was generally thought
that the proximity of the two days had been arranged with the view of
enhancing Melmotte's expected triumph. But such in truth was not the
case. It had been an accident, and an accident that was distressing
to some of the Melmottites. There was much to be done about the
dinner,—which could not be omitted; and much also as to the
election,—which was imperative. The two Grendalls, father and son,
found themselves to be so driven that the world seemed for them to be
turned topsey-turvey. The elder had in old days been accustomed to
electioneering in the interest of his own family, and had declared
himself willing to make himself useful on behalf of Mr. Melmotte. But
he found Westminster to be almost too much for him. He was called
here and sent there, till he was very near rebellion. "If this goes
on much longer I shall cut it," he said to his son.

"Think of me, governor," said the son. "I have to be in the city four
or five times a week."

"You've a regular salary."

"Come, governor; you've done pretty well for that. What's my salary
to the shares you've had? The thing is;—will it last?"

"How last?"

"There are a good many who say that Melmotte will burst up."

"I don't believe it," said Lord Alfred. "They don't know what they're
talking about. There are too many in the same boat to let him burst
up. It would be the bursting up of half London. But I shall tell him
after this that he must make it easier. He wants to know who's to
have every ticket for the dinner, and there's nobody to tell him
except me. And I've got to arrange all the places, and nobody to help
me except that fellow from the Herald's office. I don't know about
people's rank. Which ought to come first: a director of the bank or a
fellow who writes books?" Miles suggested that the fellow from the
Herald's office would know all about that, and that his father need
not trouble himself with petty details.

"And you shall come to us for three days,—after it's over," said
Lady Monogram to Miss Longestaffe; a proposition to which Miss
Longestaffe acceded, willingly indeed, but not by any means as though
a favour had been conferred upon her. Now the reason why Lady
Monogram had changed her mind as to inviting her old friend, and thus
threw open her hospitality for three whole days to the poor young
lady who had disgraced herself by staying with the Melmottes, was as
follows. Miss Longestaffe had the disposal of two evening tickets for
Madame Melmotte's grand reception; and so greatly had the Melmottes
risen in general appreciation, that Lady Monogram had found that she
was bound, on behalf of her own position in society, to be present on
that occasion. It would not do that her name should not be in the
printed list of the guests. Therefore she had made a serviceable
bargain with her old friend Miss Longestaffe. She was to have her two
tickets for the reception, and Miss Longestaffe was to be received
for three days as a guest by Lady Monogram. It had also been conceded
that at any rate on one of these nights Lady Monogram should take
Miss Longestaffe out with her, and that she should herself receive
company on another. There was perhaps something slightly painful at
the commencement of the negotiation; but such feelings soon fade
away, and Lady Monogram was quite a woman of the world.

 


 


CHAPTER XLV.


MR. MELMOTTE IS PRESSED FOR TIME.
 

About this time, a fortnight or nearly so before the election, Mr.
Longestaffe came up to town and saw Mr. Melmotte very frequently. He
could not go into his own house, as he had let that for a month to
the great financier, nor had he any establishment in town; but he
slept at an hotel and lived at the Carlton. He was quite delighted to
find that his new friend was an honest Conservative, and he himself
proposed the honest Conservative at the club. There was some idea of
electing Mr. Melmotte out of hand, but it was decided that the club
could not go beyond its rule, and could only admit Mr. Melmotte out
of his regular turn as soon as he should occupy a seat in the House
of Commons. Mr. Melmotte, who was becoming somewhat arrogant, was
heard to declare that if the club did not take him when he was
willing to be taken, it might do without him. If not elected at once,
he should withdraw his name. So great was his prestige at this moment
with his own party that there were some, Mr. Longestaffe among the
number, who pressed the thing on the committee. Mr. Melmotte was not
like other men. It was a great thing to have Mr. Melmotte in the
party. Mr. Melmotte's financial capabilities would in themselves be a
tower of strength. Rules were not made to control the club in a
matter of such importance as this. A noble lord, one among seven who
had been named as a fit leader of the Upper House on the Conservative
side in the next session, was asked to take the matter up; and men
thought that the thing might have been done had he complied. But he
was old-fashioned, perhaps pig-headed; and the club for the time lost
the honour of entertaining Mr. Melmotte.

It may be remembered that Mr. Longestaffe had been anxious to become
one of the directors of the Mexican Railway, and that he was rather
snubbed than encouraged when he expressed his wish to Mr. Melmotte.
Like other great men, Mr. Melmotte liked to choose his own time for
bestowing favours. Since that request was made the proper time had
come, and he had now intimated to Mr. Longestaffe that in a somewhat
altered condition of things there would be a place for him at the
Board, and that he and his brother directors would be delighted to
avail themselves of his assistance. The alliance between Mr. Melmotte
and Mr. Longestaffe had become very close. The Melmottes had visited
the Longestaffes at Caversham. Georgiana Longestaffe was staying with
Madame Melmotte in London. The Melmottes were living in Mr.
Longestaffe's town house, having taken it for a month at a very high
rent. Mr. Longestaffe now had a seat at Mr. Melmotte's board. And Mr.
Melmotte had bought Mr. Longestaffe's estate at Pickering on terms
very favourable to the Longestaffes. It had been suggested to Mr.
Longestaffe by Mr. Melmotte that he had better qualify for his seat
at the Board by taking shares in the Company to the amount
of—perhaps two or three thousand pounds, and Mr. Longestaffe had of
course consented. There would be no need of any transaction in
absolute cash. The shares could of course be paid for out of Mr.
Longestaffe's half of the purchase money for Pickering Park, and
could remain for the present in Mr. Melmotte's hands. To this also
Mr. Longestaffe had consented, not quite understanding why the scrip
should not be made over to him at once.

It was a part of the charm of all dealings with this great man that
no ready money seemed ever to be necessary for anything. Great
purchases were made and great transactions apparently completed
without the signing even of a cheque. Mr. Longestaffe found himself
to be afraid even to give a hint to Mr. Melmotte about ready money.
In speaking of all such matters Melmotte seemed to imply that
everything necessary had been done, when he had said that it was
done. Pickering had been purchased and the title-deeds made over to
Mr. Melmotte; but the £80,000 had not been paid,—had not been
absolutely paid, though of course Mr. Melmotte's note assenting to
the terms was security sufficient for any reasonable man. The
property had been mortgaged, though not heavily, and Mr. Melmotte had
no doubt satisfied the mortgagee; but there was still a sum of
£50,000 to come, of which Dolly was to have one half and the other
was to be employed in paying off Mr. Longestaffe's debts to tradesmen
and debts to the bank. It would have been very pleasant to have had
this at once,—but Mr. Longestaffe felt the absurdity of pressing
such a man as Mr. Melmotte, and was partly conscious of the gradual
consummation of a new æra in money matters. "If your banker is
pressing you, refer him to me," Mr. Melmotte had said. As for many
years past we have exchanged paper instead of actual money for our
commodities, so now it seemed that, under the new Melmotte régime, an
exchange of words was to suffice.

But Dolly wanted his money. Dolly, idle as he was, foolish as he was,
dissipated as he was and generally indifferent to his debts, liked to
have what belonged to him. It had all been arranged. £5,000 would pay
off all his tradesmen's debts and leave him comfortably possessed of
money in hand, while the other £20,000 would make his own property
free. There was a charm in this which awakened even Dolly, and for
the time almost reconciled him to his father's society. But now a
shade of impatience was coming over him. He had actually gone down to
Caversham to arrange the terms with his father,—and had in fact made
his own terms. His father had been unable to move him, and had
consequently suffered much in spirit. Dolly had been almost
triumphant,—thinking that the money would come on the next day, or
at any rate during the next week. Now he came to his father early in
the morning,—at about two o'clock,—to enquire what was being done.
He had not as yet been made blessed with a single ten-pound note in
his hand, as the result of the sale.

"Are you going to see Melmotte, sir?" he asked somewhat abruptly.

"Yes;—I'm to be with him to-morrow, and he is to introduce me to the
Board."

"You're going in for that, are you, sir? Do they pay anything?"

"I believe not."

"Nidderdale and young Carbury belong to it. It's a sort of Beargarden
affair."

"A bear-garden affair, Adolphus. How so?"

"I mean the club. We had them all there for dinner one day, and a
jolly dinner we gave them. Miles Grendall and old Alfred belong to
it. I don't think they'd go in for it, if there was no money going.
I'd make them fork out something if I took the trouble of going all
that way."

"I think that perhaps, Adolphus, you hardly understand these things."

"No, I don't. I don't understand much about business, I know. What I
want to understand is, when Melmotte is going to pay up this money."

"I suppose he'll arrange it with the banks," said the father.

"I beg that he won't arrange my money with the banks, sir. You'd
better tell him not. A cheque upon his bank which I can pay in to
mine is about the best thing going. You'll be in the city to-morrow,
and you'd better tell him. If you don't like, you know, I'll get
Squercum to do it." Mr. Squercum was a lawyer whom Dolly had employed
of late years much to the annoyance of his parent. Mr. Squercum's
name was odious to Mr. Longestaffe.

"I beg you'll do nothing of the kind. It will be very foolish if you
do;—perhaps ruinous."

"Then he'd better pay up, like anybody else," said Dolly as he left
the room. The father knew the son, and was quite sure that Squercum
would have his finger in the pie unless the money were paid quickly.
When Dolly had taken an idea into his head, no power on earth,—no
power at least of which the father could avail himself,—would turn
him.

On that same day Melmotte received two visits in the city from two of
his fellow directors. At the time he was very busy. Though his
electioneering speeches were neither long nor pithy, still he had to
think of them beforehand. Members of his Committee were always trying
to see him. Orders as to the dinner and the preparation of the house
could not be given by Lord Alfred without some reference to him. And
then those gigantic commercial affairs which were enumerated in the
last chapter could not be adjusted without much labour on his part.
His hands were not empty, but still he saw each of these young
men,—for a few minutes. "My dear young friend, what can I do for
you?" he said to Sir Felix, not sitting down, so that Sir Felix also
should remain standing.

"About that money, Mr. Melmotte?"

"What money, my dear fellow? You see that a good many money matters
pass through my hands."

"The thousand pounds I gave you for shares. If you don't mind, and as
the shares seem to be a bother, I'll take the money back."

"It was only the other day you had £200," said Melmotte, showing that
he could apply his memory to small transactions when he pleased.

"Exactly;—and you might as well let me have the £800."

"I've ordered the shares;—gave the order to my broker the other
day."

"Then I'd better take the shares," said Sir Felix, feeling that it
might very probably be that day fortnight before he could start for
New York. "Could I get them, Mr. Melmotte?"

"My dear fellow, I really think you hardly calculate the value of my
time when you come to me about such an affair as this."

"I'd like to have the money or the shares," said Sir Felix, who was
not specially averse to quarrelling with Mr. Melmotte now that he had
resolved upon taking that gentleman's daughter to New York in direct
opposition to his written promise. Their quarrel would be so
thoroughly internecine when the departure should be discovered, that
any present anger could hardly increase its bitterness. What Felix
thought of now was simply his money, and the best means of getting it
out of Melmotte's hands.

"You're a spendthrift," said Melmotte, apparently relenting, "and I'm
afraid a gambler. I suppose I must give you £200 more on account."

Sir Felix could not resist the touch of ready money, and consented to
take the sum offered. As he pocketed the cheque he asked for the name
of the brokers who were employed to buy the shares. But here Melmotte
demurred. "No, my friend," said Melmotte; "you are only entitled to
shares for £600 pounds now. I will see that the thing is put right."
So Sir Felix departed with £200 only. Marie had said that she could
get £200. Perhaps if he bestirred himself and wrote to some of
Miles's big relations he could obtain payment of a part of that
gentleman's debt to him.

Sir Felix going down the stairs in Abchurch Lane met Paul Montague
coming up. Carbury, on the spur of the moment, thought that he would
"take a rise" as he called it out of Montague. "What's this I hear
about a lady at Islington?" he asked.

"Who has told you anything about a lady at Islington?"

"A little bird. There are always little birds about telling of
ladies. I'm told that I'm to congratulate you on your coming
marriage."

"Then you've been told an infernal falsehood," said Montague passing
on. He paused a moment and added, "I don't know who can have told
you, but if you hear it again, I'll trouble you to contradict it." As
he was waiting in Melmotte's outer room while the Duke's nephew went
in to see whether it was the great man's pleasure to see him, he
remembered whence Carbury must have heard tidings of Mrs. Hurtle. Of
course the rumour had come through Ruby Ruggles.

Miles Grendall brought out word that the great man would see Mr.
Montague; but he added a caution. "He's awfully full of work just
now,—you won't forget that;—will you?" Montague assured the duke's
nephew that he would be concise, and was shown in.

"I should not have troubled you," said Paul, "only that I understood
that I was to see you before the Board met."

"Exactly;—of course. It was quite necessary,—only you see I am a
little busy. If this
d——d
dinner were over I shouldn't mind. It's a
deal easier to make a treaty with an Emperor, than to give him a
dinner; I can tell you that. Well;—let me see. Oh;—I was proposing
that you should go out to Pekin?"

"To Mexico."

"Yes, yes;—to Mexico. I've so many things running in my head!
Well;—if you'll say when you're ready to start, we'll draw up
something of instructions. You'd know better, however, than we can
tell you what to do. You'll see Fisker, of course. You and Fisker
will manage it. The chief thing will be a cheque for the expenses;
eh? We must get that passed at the next Board."

Mr. Melmotte had been so quick that Montague had been unable to
interrupt him. "There need be no trouble about that, Mr. Melmotte, as
I have made up my mind that it would not be fit that I should go."

"Oh, indeed!"

There had been a shade of doubt on Montague's mind, till the tone in
which Melmotte had spoken of the embassy grated on his ears. The
reference to the expenses disgusted him altogether. "No;—even did I
see my way to do any good in America my duties here would not be
compatible with the undertaking."

"I don't see that at all. What duties have you got here? What good
are you doing the Company? If you do stay, I hope you'll be
unanimous; that's all;—or perhaps you intend to go out. If that's
it, I'll look to your money. I think I told you that before."

"That, Mr. Melmotte, is what I should prefer."

"Very well,—very well. I'll arrange it. Sorry to lose you,—that's
all. Miles, isn't Mr. Goldsheiner waiting to see me?"

"You're a little too quick, Mr. Melmotte," said Paul.

"A man with my business on his hands is bound to be quick, sir."

"But I must be precise. I cannot tell you as a fact that I shall
withdraw from the Board till I receive the advice of a friend with
whom I am consulting. I hardly yet know what my duty may be."

"I'll tell you, sir, what can not be your duty. It cannot be your
duty to make known out of that Board-room any of the affairs of the
Company which you have learned in that Board-room. It cannot be your
duty to divulge the circumstances of the Company or any differences
which may exist between Directors of the Company, to any gentleman
who is a stranger to the Company. It cannot be your
duty—."

"Thank you, Mr. Melmotte. On matters such as that I think that I can
see my own way. I have been in fault in coming in to the Board
without understanding what duties I should have to
perform—."

"Very much in fault, I should say," replied Melmotte, whose arrogance
in the midst of his inflated glory was overcoming him.

"But in reference to what I may or may not say to any friend, or how
far I should be restricted by the scruples of a gentleman, I do not
want advice from you."

"Very well;—very well. I can't ask you to stay, because a partner
from the house of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner is waiting to see
me, about matters which are rather more important than this of
yours." Montague had said what he had to say, and departed.

On the following day, three-quarters of an hour before the meeting of
the Board of Directors, old Mr. Longestaffe called in Abchurch Lane.
He was received very civilly by Miles Grendall, and asked to sit
down. Mr. Melmotte quite expected him, and would walk with him over
to the offices of the railway, and introduce him to the Board. Mr.
Longestaffe, with some shyness, intimated his desire to have a few
moments conversation with the chairman before the Board met. Fearing
his son, especially fearing Squercum, he had made up his mind to
suggest that the little matter about Pickering Park should be
settled. Miles assured him that the opportunity should be given him,
but that at the present moment the chief secretary of the Russian
Legation was with Mr. Melmotte. Either the chief secretary was very
tedious with his business, or else other big men must have come in,
for Mr. Longestaffe was not relieved till he was summoned to walk off
to the Board five minutes after the hour at which the Board should
have met. He thought that he could explain his views in the street;
but on the stairs they were joined by Mr. Cohenlupe, and in three
minutes they were in the Board-room. Mr. Longestaffe was then
presented, and took the chair opposite to Miles Grendall. Montague
was not there, but had sent a letter to the secretary explaining that
for reasons with which the chairman was acquainted he should absent
himself from the present meeting. "All right," said Melmotte. "I know
all about it. Go on. I'm not sure but that Mr. Montague's retirement
from among us may be an advantage. He could not be made to understand
that unanimity in such an enterprise as this is essential. I am
confident that the new director whom I have had the pleasure of
introducing to you to-day will not sin in the same direction." Then
Mr. Melmotte bowed and smiled very sweetly on Mr. Longestaffe.

Mr. Longestaffe was astonished to find how soon the business was
done, and how very little he had been called on to do. Miles Grendall
had read something out of a book which he had been unable to follow.
Then the chairman had read some figures. Mr. Cohenlupe had declared
that their prosperity was unprecedented;—and the Board was over.
When Mr. Longestaffe explained to Miles Grendall that he still wished
to speak to Mr. Melmotte, Miles explained to him that the chairman
had been obliged to run off to a meeting of gentlemen connected with
the interior of Africa, which was now being held at the Cannon Street
Hotel.

 


 


CHAPTER XLVI.


ROGER CARBURY AND HIS TWO FRIENDS.
 

Roger Carbury having found Ruby Ruggles, and having ascertained that
she was at any rate living in a respectable house with her aunt,
returned to Carbury. He had given the girl his advice, and had done
so in a manner that was not altogether ineffectual. He had frightened
her, and had also frightened Mrs. Pipkin. He had taught Mrs. Pipkin
to believe that the new dispensation was not yet so completely
established as to clear her from all responsibility as to her niece's
conduct. Having done so much, and feeling that there was no more to
be done, he returned home. It was out of the question that he should
take Ruby with him. In the first place she would not have gone. And
then,—had she gone,—he would not have known where to bestow her.
For it was now understood throughout Bungay,—and the news had spread
to Beccles,—that old Farmer Ruggles had sworn that his granddaughter
should never again be received at Sheep's Acre Farm. The squire on
his return home heard all the news from his own housekeeper. John
Crumb had been at the farm and there had been a fierce quarrel
between him and the old man. The old man had called Ruby by every
name that is most distasteful to a woman, and John had stormed and
had sworn that he would have punched the old man's head but for his
age. He wouldn't believe any harm of Ruby,—or if he did he was ready
to forgive that harm. But as for the Baro-nite;—the Baro-nite had
better look to himself! Old Ruggles had declared that Ruby should
never have a shilling of his money;—whereupon Crumb had
anathematised old Ruggles and his money too, telling him that he was
an old hunx, and that he had driven the girl away by his cruelty.
Roger at once sent over to Bungay for the dealer in meal, who was
with him early on the following morning.

"Did ye find her, squoire?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Crumb, I found her. She's living with her aunt, Mrs.
Pipkin, at Islington."

"Eh, now;—look at that."

"You knew she had an aunt of that name up in London."

"Ye-es; I knew'd it, squoire. I a' heard tell of Mrs. Pipkin, but I
never see'd her."

"I wonder it did not occur to you that Ruby would go there." John
Crumb scratched his head, as though acknowledging the shortcoming of
his own intellect. "Of course if she was to go to London it was the
proper thing for her to do."

"I knew she'd do the thing as was right. I said that all along.
Darned if I didn't. You ask Mixet, squoire,—him as is baker down
Bardsey Lane. I allays guv' it her that she'd do the thing as was
right. But how about she and the Baro-nite?"

Roger did not wish to speak of the Baronet just at present. "I
suppose the old man down here did ill use her?"

"Oh, dreadful;—there ain't no manner of doubt o' that. Dragged her
about awful;—as he ought to be took up, only for the rumpus like.
D'ye think she's see'd the Baro-nite since she's been in Lon'on,
Muster Carbury?"

"I think she's a good girl, if you mean that."

"I'm sure she be. I don't want none to tell me that, squoire. Tho',
squoire, it's better to me nor a ten pun' note to hear you say so. I
allays had a leaning to you, squoire; but I'll more nor lean to you,
now. I've said all through she was good, and if e'er a man in Bungay
said she warn't—; well, I was there, and ready."

"I hope nobody has said so."

"You can't stop them women, squoire. There ain't no dropping into
them. But, Lord love 'ee, she shall come and be missus of my house
to-morrow, and what 'll it matter her then what they say? But,
squoire,—did ye hear if the Baro-nite had been a' hanging about that
place?"

"About Islington, you mean."

"He goes a hanging about; he do. He don't come out straight forrard,
and tell a girl as he loves her afore all the parish. There ain't one
in Bungay, nor yet in Mettingham, nor yet in all the Ilketsals and
all the Elmhams, as don't know as I'm set on Ruby Ruggles.
Huggery-Muggery is pi'son to me, squoire."

"We all know that when you've made up your mind, you have made up
your mind."

"I hove. It's made up ever so as to Ruby. What sort of a one is her
aunt now, squoire?"

"She keeps lodgings;—a very decent sort of a woman I should say."

"She won't let the Baro-nite come there?"

"Certainly not," said Roger, who felt that he was hardly dealing
sincerely with this most sincere of mealmen. Hitherto he had shuffled
off every question that had been asked him about Felix, though he
knew that Ruby had spent many hours with her fashionable lover. "Mrs.
Pipkin won't let him come there."

"If I was to give her a ge'own now,—or a blue cloak;—them
lodging-house women is mostly hard put to it;—or a chest of drawers
like, for her best bedroom, wouldn't that make her more o' my side,
squoire?"

"I think she'll try to do her duty without that."

"They do like things the like o' that; any ways I'll go up, squoire,
arter Sax'nam market, and see how things is lying."

"I wouldn't go just yet, Mr. Crumb, if I were you. She hasn't
forgotten the scene at the farm yet."

"I said nothing as warn't as kind as kind."

"But her own perversity runs in her own head. If you had been unkind
she could have forgiven that; but as you were good-natured and she
was cross, she can't forgive that." John Crumb again scratched his
head, and felt that the depths of a woman's character required more
gauging than he had yet given to it. "And to tell you the truth, my
friend, I think that a little hardship up at Mrs. Pipkin's will do
her good."

"Don't she have a bellyful o' vittels?" asked John Crumb, with
intense anxiety.

"I don't quite mean that. I dare say she has enough to eat. But of
course she has to work for it with her aunt. She has three or four
children to look after."

"That moight come in handy by-and-by;—moightn't it, squoire?" said
John Crumb grinning.

"As you say, she'll be learning something that may be useful to her
in another sphere. Of course there is a good deal to do, and I should
not be surprised if she were to think after a bit that your house in
Bungay was more comfortable than Mrs. Pipkin's kitchen in London."

"My little back parlour;—eh, squoire! And I've got a four-poster,
most as big as any in Bungay."

"I am sure you have everything comfortable for her, and she knows it
herself. Let her think about all that,—and do you go and tell her
again in a month's time. She'll be more willing to settle matters
then than she is now."

"But,—the Baro-nite!"

"Mrs. Pipkin will allow nothing of that."

"Girls is so 'cute. Ruby is awful 'cute. It makes me feel as though I
had two hun'erd weight o' meal on my stomach, lying awake o' nights
and thinking as how he is, may be,—pulling of her about! If I
thought that she'd let him—; oh! I'd swing for it, Muster Carbury.
They'd have to make an eend o' me at Bury, if it was that way. They
would then."

Roger assured him again and again that he believed Ruby to be a good
girl, and promised that further steps should be taken to induce Mrs.
Pipkin to keep a close watch upon her niece. John Crumb made no
promise that he would abstain from his journey to London after
Saxmundham fair; but left the squire with a conviction that his
purpose of doing so was shaken. He was still however resolved to send
Mrs. Pipkin the price of a new blue cloak, and declared his purpose
of getting Mixet to write the letter and enclose the money order.
John Crumb had no delicacy as to declaring his own deficiency in
literary acquirements. He was able to make out a bill for meal or
pollards, but did little beyond that in the way of writing letters.

This happened on a Saturday morning, and on that afternoon Roger
Carbury rode over to Lowestoft, to a meeting there on church matters
at which his friend the bishop presided. After the meeting was over
he dined at the inn with half a dozen clergymen and two or three
neighbouring gentlemen, and then walked down by himself on to the
long strand which has made Lowestoft what it is. It was now just the
end of June, and the weather was delightful;—but people were not as
yet flocking to the sea-shore. Every shopkeeper in every little town
through the country now follows the fashion set by Parliament and
abstains from his annual holiday till August or September. The place
therefore was by no means full. Here and there a few of the
townspeople, who at a bathing place are generally indifferent to the
sea, were strolling about; and another few, indifferent to fashion,
had come out from the lodging-houses and from the hotel, which had
been described as being small and insignificant,—and making up only
a hundred beds. Roger Carbury, whose house was not many miles distant
from Lowestoft, was fond of the sea-shore, and always came to loiter
there for a while when any cause brought him into the town. Now he
was walking close down upon the marge of the tide,—so that the last
little roll of the rising water should touch his feet,—with his
hands joined behind his back, and his face turned down towards the
shore, when he came upon a couple who were standing with their backs
to the land, looking forth together upon the waves. He was close to
them before he saw them, and before they had seen him. Then he
perceived that the man was his friend Paul Montague. Leaning on
Paul's arm a lady stood, dressed very simply in black, with a dark
straw hat on her head;—very simple in her attire, but yet a woman
whom it would be impossible to pass without notice. The lady of
course was Mrs. Hurtle.

Paul Montague had been a fool to suggest Lowestoft, but his folly had
been natural. It was not the first place he had named; but when fault
had been found with others, he had fallen back upon the sea sands
which were best known to himself. Lowestoft was just the spot which
Mrs. Hurtle required. When she had been shown her room, and taken
down out of the hotel on to the strand, she had declared herself to
be charmed. She acknowledged with many smiles that of course she had
had no right to expect that Mrs. Pipkin should understand what sort
of place she needed. But Paul would understand,—and had understood.
"I think the hotel charming," she said. "I don't know what you mean
by your fun about the American hotels, but I think this quite
gorgeous, and the people so civil!" Hotel people always are civil
before the crowds come. Of course it was impossible that Paul should
return to London by the mail train which started about an hour after
his arrival. He would have reached London at four or five in the
morning, and have been very uncomfortable. The following day was
Sunday, and of course he promised to stay till Monday. Of course he
had said nothing in the train of those stern things which he had
resolved to say. Of course he was not saying them when Roger Carbury
came upon him; but was indulging in some poetical nonsense, some
probably very trite raptures as to the expanse of the ocean, and the
endless ripples which connected shore with shore. Mrs. Hurtle, too,
as she leaned with friendly weight upon his arm, indulged also in
moonshine and romance. Though at the back of the heart of each of
them there was a devouring care, still they enjoyed the hour. We know
that the man who is to be hung likes to have his breakfast well
cooked. And so did Paul like the companionship of Mrs. Hurtle because
her attire, though simple, was becoming; because the colour glowed in
her dark face; because of the brightness of her eyes, and the happy
sharpness of her words, and the dangerous smile which played upon her
lips. He liked the warmth of her close vicinity, and the softness of
her arm, and the perfume from her hair,—though he would have given
all that he possessed that she had been removed from him by some
impassable gulf. As he had to be hanged,—and this woman's continued
presence would be as bad as death to him,—he liked to have his meal
well dressed.

He certainly had been foolish to bring her to Lowestoft, and the
close neighbourhood of Carbury Manor;—and now he felt his folly. As
soon as he saw Roger Carbury he blushed up to his forehead, and then
leaving Mrs. Hurtle's arm he came forward, and shook hands with his
friend. "It is Mrs. Hurtle," he said, "I must introduce you," and the
introduction was made. Roger took off his hat and bowed, but he did
so with the coldest ceremony. Mrs. Hurtle, who was quick enough at
gathering the minds of people from their looks, was just as cold in
her acknowledgment of the courtesy. In former days she had heard much
of Roger Carbury, and surmised that he was no friend to her. "I did
not know that you were thinking of coming to Lowestoft," said Roger
in a voice that was needlessly severe. But his mind at the present
moment was severe, and he could not hide his mind.











The sands at Lowestoft.


The sands
at Lowestoft.


Click to ENLARGE


"I was not thinking of it. Mrs. Hurtle wished to get to the sea, and
as she knew no one else here in England, I brought her."

"Mr. Montague and I have travelled so many miles together before
now," she said, "that a few additional will not make much
difference."

"Do you stay long?" asked Roger in the same voice.

"I go back probably on Monday," said Montague.

"As I shall be here a whole week, and shall not speak a word to any
one after he has left me, he has consented to bestow his company on
me for two days. Will you join us at dinner, Mr. Carbury, this
evening?"

"Thank you, madam;—I have dined."

"Then, Mr. Montague, I will leave you with your friend. My toilet,
though it will be very slight, will take longer than yours. We dine
you know in twenty minutes. I wish you could get your friend to join
us." So saying, Mrs. Hurtle tripped back across the sand towards the
hotel.

"Is this wise?" demanded Roger in a voice that was almost sepulchral,
as soon as the lady was out of hearing.

"You may well ask that, Carbury. Nobody knows the folly of it so
thoroughly as I do."

"Then why do you do it? Do you mean to marry her?"

"No; certainly not."

"Is it honest then, or like a gentleman, that you should be with her
in this way? Does she think that you intend to marry her?"

"I have told her that I would not. I have told
her—." Then he
stopped. He was going on to declare that he had told her that he
loved another woman, but he felt that he could hardly touch that
matter in speaking to Roger Carbury.

"What does she mean then? Has she no regard for her own character?"

"I would explain it to you all, Carbury, if I could. But you would
never have the patience to hear me."

"I am not naturally impatient."

"But this would drive you mad. I wrote to her assuring her that it
must be all over. Then she came here and sent for me. Was I not bound
to go to her?"

"Yes;—to go to her and repeat what you had said in your letter."

"I did do so. I went with that very purpose, and did repeat it."

"Then you should have left her."

"Ah; but you do not understand. She begged that I would not desert
her in her loneliness. We have been so much together that I could not
desert her."

"I certainly do not understand that, Paul. You have allowed yourself
to be entrapped into a promise of marriage; and then, for reasons
which we will not go into now but which we both thought to be
adequate, you resolved to break your promise, thinking that you would
be justified in doing so. But nothing can justify you in living with
the lady afterwards on such terms as to induce her to suppose that
your old promise holds good."

"She does not think so. She cannot think so."

"Then what must she be, to be here with you? And what must you be, to
be here, in public, with such a one as she is? I don't know why I
should trouble you or myself about it. People live now in a way that
I don't comprehend. If this be your way of living, I have no right to
complain."

"For God's sake, Carbury, do not speak in that way. It sounds as
though you meant to throw me over."

"I should have said that you had thrown me over. You come down here
to this hotel, where we are both known, with this lady whom you are
not going to marry;—and I meet you, just by chance. Had I known it,
of course I could have turned the other way. But coming on you by
accident, as I did, how am I not to speak to you? And if I speak,
what am I to say? Of course I think that the lady will succeed in
marrying you."

"Never."

"And that such a marriage will be your destruction. Doubtless she is
good-looking."

"Yes, and clever. And you must remember that the manners of her
country are not as the manners of this country."

"Then if I marry at all," said Roger, with all his prejudice
expressed strongly in his voice, "I trust I may not marry a lady of
her country. She does not think that she is to marry you, and yet she
comes down here and stays with you. Paul, I don't believe it. I
believe you, but I don't believe her. She is here with you in order
that she may marry you. She is cunning and strong. You are foolish
and weak. Believing as I do that marriage with her would be
destruction, I should tell her my mind,—and leave her." Paul at the
moment thought of the gentleman in Oregon, and of certain
difficulties in leaving. "That's what I should do. You must go in
now, I suppose, and eat your dinner."

"I may come to the hall as I go back home?"

"Certainly you may come if you please," said Roger. Then he bethought
himself that his welcome had not been cordial. "I mean that I shall
be delighted to see you," he added, marching away along the strand.
Paul did go into the hotel, and did eat his dinner. In the meantime
Roger Carbury marched far away along the strand. In all that he had
said to Montague he had spoken the truth, or that which appeared to
him to be the truth. He had not been influenced for a moment by any
reference to his own affairs. And yet he feared, he almost knew, that
this man,—who had promised to marry a strange American woman and who
was at this very moment living in close intercourse with the woman
after he had told her that he would not keep his promise,—was the
chief barrier between himself and the girl that he loved. As he had
listened to John Crumb while John spoke of Ruby Ruggles, he had told
himself that he and John Crumb were alike. With an honest, true,
heart-felt desire they both panted for the companionship of a
fellow-creature whom each had chosen. And each was to be thwarted by
the make-believe regard of unworthy youth and fatuous good looks!
Crumb, by dogged perseverance and indifference to many things, would
probably be successful at last. But what chance was there of success
for him? Ruby, as soon as want or hardship told upon her, would
return to the strong arm that could be trusted to provide her with
plenty and comparative ease. But Hetta Carbury, if once her heart had
passed from her own dominion into the possession of another, would
never change her love. It was possible, no doubt,—nay, how
probable,—that her heart was still vacillating. Roger thought that
he knew that at any rate she had not as yet declared her love. If she
were now to know,—if she could now learn,—of what nature was the
love of this other man; if she could be instructed that he was living
alone with a lady whom not long since he had promised to marry,—if
she could be made to understand this whole story of Mrs. Hurtle,
would not that open her eyes? Would she not then see where she could
trust her happiness, and where, by so trusting it, she would
certainly be shipwrecked!

"Never," said Roger to himself, hitting at the stones on the beach
with his stick. "Never." Then he got his horse and rode back to
Carbury Manor.

 


 


CHAPTER XLVII.


MRS. HURTLE AT LOWESTOFT.
 

When Paul got down into the dining-room Mrs. Hurtle was already
there, and the waiter was standing by the side of the table ready to
take the cover off the soup. She was radiant with smiles and made
herself especially pleasant during dinner, but Paul felt sure that
everything was not well with her. Though she smiled, and talked and
laughed, there was something forced in her manner. He almost knew
that she was only waiting till the man should have left the room to
speak in a different strain. And so it was. As soon as the last
lingering dish had been removed, and when the door was finally shut
behind the retreating waiter, she asked the question which no doubt
had been on her mind since she had walked across the strand to the
hotel. "Your friend was hardly civil; was he, Paul?"

"Do you mean that he should have come in? I have no doubt it was true
that he had dined."

"I am quite indifferent about his dinner,—but there are two ways of
declining as there are of accepting. I suppose he is on very intimate
terms with you?"

"Oh, yes."

"Then his want of courtesy was the more evidently intended for me. In
point of fact he disapproves of me. Is not that it?" To this question
Montague did not feel himself called upon to make any immediate
answer. "I can well understand that it should be so. An intimate
friend may like or dislike the friend of his friend, without offence.
But unless there be strong reason he is bound to be civil to his
friend's friend, when accident brings them together. You have told me
that Mr. Carbury was your beau ideal of an English gentleman."

"So he is."

"Then why didn't he behave as such?" and Mrs. Hurtle again smiled.
"Did not you yourself feel that you were rebuked for coming here with
me, when he expressed surprise at your journey? Has he authority over
you?"

"Of course he has not. What authority could he have?"

"Nay, I do not know. He may be your guardian. In this safe-going
country young men perhaps are not their own masters till they are
past thirty. I should have said that he was your guardian, and that
he intended to rebuke you for being in bad company. I dare say he did
after I had gone."

This was so true that Montague did not know how to deny it. Nor was
he sure that it would be well that he should deny it. The time must
come, and why not now as well as at any future moment? He had to make
her understand that he could not join his lot with her,—chiefly
indeed because his heart was elsewhere, a reason on which he could
hardly insist because she could allege that she had a prior right to
his heart;—but also because her antecedents had been such as to
cause all his friends to warn him against such a marriage. So he
plucked up courage for the battle. "It was nearly that," he said.

There are many,—and probably the greater portion of my readers will
be among the number,—who will declare to themselves that Paul
Montague was a poor creature, in that he felt so great a repugnance
to face this woman with the truth. His folly in falling at first
under the battery of her charms will be forgiven him. His engagement,
unwise as it was, and his subsequent determination to break his
engagement, will be pardoned. Women, and perhaps some men also, will
feel that it was natural that he should have been charmed, natural
that he should have expressed his admiration in the form which
unmarried ladies expect from unmarried men when any such expression
is to be made at all;—natural also that he should endeavour to
escape from the dilemma when he found the manifold dangers of the
step which he had proposed to take. No woman, I think, will be hard
upon him because of his breach of faith to Mrs. Hurtle. But they will
be very hard on him on the score of his cowardice,—as, I think,
unjustly. In social life we hardly stop to consider how much of that
daring spirit which gives mastery comes from hardness of heart rather
than from high purpose, or true courage. The man who succumbs to his
wife, the mother who succumbs to her daughter, the master who
succumbs to his servant, is as often brought to servility by a
continual aversion to the giving of pain, by a softness which causes
the fretfulness of others to be an agony to himself,—as by any
actual fear which the firmness of the imperious one may have
produced. There is an inner softness, a thinness of the mind's skin,
an incapability of seeing or even thinking of the troubles of others
with equanimity, which produces a feeling akin to fear; but which is
compatible not only with courage, but with absolute firmness of
purpose, when the demand for firmness arises so strongly as to assert
itself. With this man it was not really that. He feared the
woman;—or at least such fears did not prevail upon him to be silent;
but he shrank from subjecting her to the blank misery of utter
desertion. After what had passed between them he could hardly bring
himself to tell her that he wanted her no further and to bid her go.
But that was what he had to do. And for that his answer to her last
question prepared the way. "It was nearly that," he said.

"Mr. Carbury did take it upon himself to rebuke you for showing
yourself on the sands at Lowestoft with such a one as I am?"

"He knew of the letter which I wrote to you."

"You have canvassed me between you?"

"Of course we have. Is that unnatural? Would you have had me be
silent about you to the oldest and the best friend I have in the
world?"

"No, I would not have had you be silent to your oldest and best
friend. I presume you would declare your purpose. But I should not
have supposed you would have asked his leave. When I was travelling
with you, I thought you were a man capable of managing your own
actions. I had heard that in your country girls sometimes hold
themselves at the disposal of their friends,—but I did not dream
that such could be the case with a man who had gone out into the
world to make his fortune."

Paul Montague did not like it. The punishment to be endured was being
commenced. "Of course you can say bitter things," he replied.

"Is it my nature to say bitter things? Have I usually said bitter
things to you? When I have hung round your neck and have sworn that
you should be my God upon earth, was that bitter? I am alone and I
have to fight my own battles. A woman's weapon is her tongue. Say but
one word to me, Paul, as you know how to say it, and there will be
soon an end to that bitterness. What shall I care for Mr. Carbury,
except to make him the cause of some innocent joke, if you will speak
but that one word? And think what it is I am asking. Do you remember
how urgent were once your own prayers to me;—how you swore that your
happiness could only be secured by one word of mine? Though I loved
you, I doubted. There were considerations of money, which have now
vanished. But I spoke it,—because I loved you, and because I
believed you. Give me that which you swore you had given before I
made my gift to you."

"I cannot say that word."

"Do you mean that, after all, I am to be thrown off like an old
glove? I have had many dealings with men and have found them to be
false, cruel, unworthy, and selfish. But I have met nothing like
that. No man has ever dared to treat me like that. No man shall
dare."

"I wrote to you."

"Wrote to me;—yes! And I was to take that as sufficient! No. I think
but little of my life and have but little for which to live. But
while I do live I will travel over the world's surface to face
injustice and to expose it, before I will put up with it. You wrote
to me! Heaven and earth;—I can hardly control myself when I hear
such impudence!" She clenched her fist upon the knife that lay on the
table as she looked at him, and raising it, dropped it again at a
further distance. "Wrote to me! Could any mere letter of your writing
break the bond by which we were bound together? Had not the distance
between us seemed to have made you safe would you have dared to write
that letter? The letter must be unwritten. It has already been
contradicted by your conduct to me since I have been in this
country."

"I am sorry to hear you say that."

"Am I not justified in saying it?"

"I hope not. When I first saw you I told you everything. If I have
been wrong in attending to your wishes since, I regret it."

"This comes from your seeing your master for two minutes on the
beach. You are acting now under his orders. No doubt he came with the
purpose. Had you told him you were to be here?"

"His coming was an accident."

"It was very opportune at any rate. Well;—what have you to say to
me? Or am I to understand that you suppose yourself to have said all
that is required of you? Perhaps you would prefer that I should argue
the matter out with your—friend, Mr. Carbury."

"What has to be said, I believe I can say myself."

"Say it then. Or are you so ashamed of it, that the words stick in
your throat?"

"There is some truth in that. I am ashamed of it. I must say that
which will be painful, and which would not have been to be said, had
I been fairly careful."

Then he paused. "Don't spare me," she said. "I know what it all is as
well as though it were already told. I know the lies with which they
have crammed you at San Francisco. You have heard that up in
Oregon—I shot a man. That is no lie. I did. I brought him down dead
at my feet." Then she paused, and rose from her chair, and looked at
him. "Do you wonder that that is a story that a woman should hesitate
to tell? But not from shame. Do you suppose that the sight of that
dying wretch does not haunt me? that I do not daily hear his drunken
screech, and see him bound from the earth, and then fall in a heap
just below my hand? But did they tell you also that it was thus alone
that I could save myself,—and that had I spared him, I must
afterwards have destroyed myself? If I were wrong, why did they not
try me for his murder? Why did the women flock around me and kiss the
very hems of my garments? In this soft civilization of yours you know
nothing of such necessity. A woman here is protected,—unless it be
from lies."

"It was not that only," he whispered.

"No; they told you other things," she continued, still standing over
him. "They told you of quarrels with my husband. I know the lies, and
who made them, and why. Did I conceal from you the character of my
former husband? Did I not tell you that he was a drunkard and a
scoundrel? How should I not quarrel with such a one? Ah, Paul; you
can hardly know what my life has been."

"They told me that—you fought him."

"Psha;—fought him! Yes;—I was always fighting him. What are you to
do but to fight cruelty, and fight falsehood, and fight fraud and
treachery,—when they come upon you and would overwhelm you but for
fighting? You have not been fool enough to believe that fable about a
duel? I did stand once, armed, and guarded my bedroom door from him,
and told him that he should only enter it over my body. He went away
to the tavern and I did not see him for a week afterwards. That was
the duel. And they have told you that he is not dead."

"Yes;—they have told me that."

"Who has seen him alive? I never said to you that I had seen him
dead. How should I?"

"There would be a certificate."

"Certificate;—in the back of Texas;—five hundred miles from
Galveston! And what would it matter to you? I was divorced from him
according to the law of the State of Kansas. Does not the law make a
woman free here to marry again,—and why not with us? I sued for a
divorce on the score of cruelty and drunkenness. He made no
appearance, and the Court granted it me. Am I disgraced by that?"

"I heard nothing of the divorce."

"I do not remember. When we were talking of these old days before,
you did not care how short I was in telling my story. You wanted to
hear little or nothing then of Caradoc Hurtle. Now you have become
more particular. I told you that he was dead,—as I believed myself,
and do believe. Whether the other story was told or not I do not
know."

"It was not told."

"Then it was your own fault,—because you would not listen. And they
have made you believe I suppose that I have failed in getting back my
property?"

"I have heard nothing about your property but what you yourself have
said unasked. I have asked no question about your property."

"You are welcome. At last I have made it again my own. And now, sir,
what else is there? I think I have been open with you. Is it because
I protected myself from drunken violence that I am to be rejected? Am
I to be cast aside because I saved my life while in the hands of a
reprobate husband, and escaped from him by means provided by law;—or
because by my own energy I have secured my own property? If I am not
to be condemned for these things, then say why am I condemned."

She had at any rate saved him the trouble of telling the story, but
in doing so had left him without a word to say. She had owned to
shooting the man. Well; it certainly may be necessary that a woman
should shoot a man—especially in Oregon. As to the duel with her
husband,—she had half denied and half confessed it. He presumed that
she had been armed with a pistol when she refused Mr. Hurtle
admittance into the nuptial chamber. As to the question of Hurtle's
death,—she had confessed that perhaps he was not dead. But then,—as
she had asked,—why should not a divorce for the purpose in hand be
considered as good as a death? He could not say that she had not
washed herself clean;—and yet, from the story as told by herself,
what man would wish to marry her? She had seen so much of
drunkenness, had become so handy with pistols, and had done so much
of a man's work, that any ordinary man might well hesitate before he
assumed to be her master. "I do not condemn you," he replied.

"At any rate, Paul, do not lie," she answered. "If you tell me that
you will not be my husband, you do condemn me. Is it not so?"

"I will not lie if I can help it. I did ask you to be my
wife—"

"Well;—rather. How often before I consented?"

"It matters little; at any rate, till you did consent. I have since
satisfied myself that such a marriage would be miserable for both of
us."

"You have?"

"I have. Of course, you can speak of me as you please and think of me
as you please. I can hardly defend myself."

"Hardly, I think."

"But, with whatever result, I know that I shall now be acting for the
best in declaring that I will not become—your husband."

"You will not?" She was still standing, and stretched out her right
hand as though again to grasp something.

He also now rose from his chair. "If I speak with abruptness it is
only to avoid a show of indecision. I will not."

"Oh, God! what have I done that it should be my lot to meet man after
man false and cruel as this! You tell me to my face that I am to bear
it! Who is the jade that has done it? Has she money?—or rank? Or is
it that you are afraid to have by your side a woman who can speak for
herself,—and even act for herself if some action be necessary?
Perhaps you think that I am—old." He was looking