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Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Title: The Way We Live Now
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Title: The Way We Live Now


Author: Anthony Trollope

Release Date: March, 2004  [eBook #5231]
[This e-book was first posted on June 10, 2002]
[This edition 12 was first posted on March 1, 2004]
[Most recently updated: May 17, 2005]

Language: English

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***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WAY WE LIVE NOW***


E-text prepared by Andrew Turek and extensively revised by Joseph E.
Loewenstein, M.D.



THE WAY WE LIVE NOW

by Anthony Trollope







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 world 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 blackballed 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 recognized 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
L6,000 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 lifelike 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 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 manoeuvres. 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
L1,000 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 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 riveted 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, commonplace, 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 lock 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 L40,000, 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 pitfall. 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 L40,000 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
anyone 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
Croesus 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?'

'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 L20 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 went upstairs. 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 curacoa 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 upstairs 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 L20, 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 L300, 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 L700. 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 L20. 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 shilling.




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 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
cooperation 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 a 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 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 a part
of the 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 L500 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 don'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
L20,000 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 drunk 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.

'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 upstairs. 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 L2,000. 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
L400 to Carbury,--an amount, indeed, that mattered little, as Miles
could, at present, as easily have raised L40,000. 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 L3,000!




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 L2,000 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 goodnature 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 L7,000 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 L6,000. 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
L6,000 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 L6,000 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 twelve-month 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 L20,--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 staghounds 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 one 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 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'm 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 her to pay anything for me.'

'Not when you borrow her money?'

'There is the L20. 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.

'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 L20 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 he 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 to 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 2000 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 cooperation 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 burdened 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 upstairs. 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.

'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 them 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 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 L600. '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 L50. '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 L150 from Grasslough, L145
from Nidderdale, and L322 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 L600 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 L450 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 L322
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 L100 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, inasmuch 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 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 A B C 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 sprang
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 L10,000
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 Hamburg, 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 Frankfort. 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
Frankfort 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 wouldn't 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 L20,000 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 objectionable 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-by.'

'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 upstairs 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 usual
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 Sidney
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, 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
woeful 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.

'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 upstairs 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 any one but 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 fireplaces 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 any one, 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 out-houses, 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 county 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 manoeuvre 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 sympathise 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.'

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 waggonette 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 manoeuvres 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 timeserver, 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 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 sties. 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 waggonette 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 waggonette was sent. But
the waggonette 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 upstairs 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 summerhouse. 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.

'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 summerhouse, 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 anywhere 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


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 L500 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 hundredweight 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 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 L20,000 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 look 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 any one 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 eclat 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 vas done at Caversham; but when it
was done, nothing was spared which could contribute to the
magnificence of the fete. 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 corner. 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 upstairs. 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 despatch 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.

'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
anybody. 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 L2,000 or L3,000 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 upstairs.'

'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 L112 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 L625,--that
sum representing the profit over and above the original nominal price
of L100 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 L100 each, and L12
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 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 carcases. 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 L7,000 or L8,000 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 L10,000 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 downstairs 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 county 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?'

'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.
L12 10s per L100! L125 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 would 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 L1,000. 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 undertone.
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 upstairs 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 L1,000, 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 unpassive 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
manoeuvring 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 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 lovemaking. 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 downstairs 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
then 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 on 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 sculptor's 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 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.

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 be 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 can give.' Then she leaped to her
feet and stood a little apart from him. 'If you hate me, say so.'

'Winifred,' he said, calling her by her name.

'Winifred! 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, Winifred.'

'No, sir; no Winifred 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
Winifred 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 cannot 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 Winifred 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 authorized 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 wouldn'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 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 L50,000, over and above the debt
upon it. L25,000 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 L1,000, 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 plans 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 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 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
authorized 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 hail
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 downstairs,'
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
retiriez.'

'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 mechante,' 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 recognized;--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.'

'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 bands 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 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 L50,000,--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, L50,000 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 civilizing 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 would 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
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 do 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-believe 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, feted, 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 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 L3,000 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 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 realized 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 entrust 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
tumbling 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 tumbled 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 doubt 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 fetes 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 L10,000 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
patronize 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.

'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
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 mealman, 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 any 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 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 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.

'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 has 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 that her grandfather would bring the man upstairs 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
somewheres,' 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 L500! '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 am.'

'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.'

'Nohows,' 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 agen 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 you 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
pigsty 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 upstairs 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 a 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 that 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 Lowestoft. There's lots of quality at
Lowestoft a'washing theyselves in the sea.'

Then they returned to the priest, who might be supposed to be
cognizant 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 toyed 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 recognize 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 realized 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 manoeuvres 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, holding 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 manoeuvres 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 prospection, 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 fireplace,
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 realized 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 realizing 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.

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 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 L500 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 tattered 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 consideration 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 re-opening 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
pocketbook 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 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 known 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 L200, 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
L200; 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
the 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 viva 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 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 pink 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 anybody. 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 L10 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 soiree 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 b 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
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 soiree 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 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.

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 recognizes. 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 great 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 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 as 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 realized
something of this when he threw himself into a Hansom cab, and ordered
the man to drive 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 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 recognized 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 at 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
upstairs, 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 clown 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 am 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 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 hail 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 downstairs,
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 by,
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 the other 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 Tibet. 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 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
the 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 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 L6,000 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 L6,000 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 downstairs.'




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 etions encore
a Frankfort, ou New-York,' said the elder lady, remembering the
humbler but less troubled times of her earlier life. Marie did not
care for Frankfort 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
alongside 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 L200.

'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 right about that money which you say is settled.'

'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 trousers 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 L800, nor the shares. And if
he were true to Melmotte, Melmotte would probably supply him with
ready money. But then there 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 L50 for herself, she'd arrange it all.'

'And would you come to Folkstone?'

'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 L50
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 them sent out of
the house. Didon was to have L50 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 L10. 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 L6,000 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 the engagement had been
withdrawn, and yet he shrunk from the cruelty of telling her, in a
sideway 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 forebodes, an
effete civilization.'

'I am sorry that mine should be effete,' he said smiling.

'You know what I mean, Paul. I speak of nations, not individuals.
Civilization was becoming effete, or at any rate men were, in the time
of the great painters; but Savonarola 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?'

'Winifred,' 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 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
against 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.'

'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 organized 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 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 Frankfort, 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 feted 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
L10,000;--and if he goes on as he is doing now, he had better allow
another L10,000 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 highminded 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 topsy-turvy.
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
L80,000 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 L50,000 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 era 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 regime, 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. L5,000 would pay
off all his tradesmen's debts and leave him comfortably possessed of
money in hand, while the other L20,000 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 inquire 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 L200,' 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 L800.'

'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 L200 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 L600 pounds now. I will see that the thing is put right.'
So Sir Felix departed with L200 only. Marie had said that she could
get L200. 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;-hereupon 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 guy' 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 meal-men. 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 wasn'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'erdweight 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.

'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, heartfelt 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 at her intently as she spoke,
and it did seem to him that many years had been added to her face. It
was full of lines round the mouth, and the light play of drollery was
gone, and the colour was fixed and her eyes seemed to be deep in her
head. 'Speak, man,--is it that you want a younger wife?'

'You know it is not.'

'Know! How should any one know anything from a liar? From what you
tell me I know nothing. I have to gather what I can from your
character. I see that you are a coward. It is that man that came to
you, and who is your master, that has forced you to this. Between me
and him you tremble, and are a thing to be pitied. As for knowing what
you would be at, from anything that you would say,--that is impossible.
Once again I have come across a mean wretch. Oh, fool!--that men should
be so vile, and think themselves masters of the world! My last word to
you is, that you are--a liar. Now for the present you can go. Ten
minutes since, had I had a weapon in my hand I should have shot
another man.'

Paul Montague, as he looked round the room for his hat, could not but
think that perhaps Mrs Hurtle might have had some excuse. It seemed at
any rate to be her custom to have a pistol with her,--though luckily,
for his comfort, she had left it in her bedroom on the present
occasion. 'I will say good-bye to you,' he said, when he had found his
hat.

'Say no such thing. Tell me that you have triumphed and got rid of me.
Pluck up your spirits, if you have any, and show me your joy. Tell me
that an Englishman has dared to ill-treat an American woman. You
would,--were you not afraid to indulge yourself.' He was now standing
in the doorway, and before he escaped she gave him an imperative
command. 'I shall not stay here now,' she said--'I shall return on
Monday. I must think of what you have said, and must resolve what I
myself will do. I shall not bear this without seeking a means of
punishing you for your treachery. I shall expect you to come to me on
Monday.'

He closed the door as he answered her. 'I do not see that it will
serve any purpose.'

'It is for me, sir, to judge of that. I suppose you are not so much a
coward that you are afraid to come to me. If so, I shall come to you;
and you may be assured that I shall not be too timid to show myself
and to tell my story.' He ended by saying that if she desired it he
would wait upon her, but that he would not at present fix a day. On
his return to town he would write to her.

When he was gone she went to the door and listened awhile. Then she
closed it, and turning the lock, stood with her back against the door
and with her hands clasped. After a few moments she ran forward, and
falling on her knees, buried her face in her hands upon the table.
Then she gave way to a flood of tears, and at last lay rolling upon
the floor.

Was this to be the end of it? Should she never know rest;--never have
one draught of cool water between her lips? Was there to be no end to
the storms and turmoils and misery of her life? In almost all that she
had said she had spoken the truth, though doubtless not all the truth,--
as which among us would in giving the story of his life? She had
endured violence, and had been violent. She had been schemed against,
and had schemed. She had fitted herself to the life which had befallen
her. But in regard to money, she had been honest and she had been
loving of heart. With her heart of hearts she had loved this young
Englishman;--and now, after all her scheming, all her daring, with all
her charms, this was to be the end of it! Oh, what a journey would
this be which she must now make back to her own country, all alone!

But the strongest feeling which raged within her bosom was that of
disappointed love. Full as had been the vials of wrath which she had
poured forth over Montague's head, violent as had been the storm of
abuse with which she had assailed him, there had been after all
something counterfeited in her indignation. But her love was no
counterfeit. At any moment if he would have returned to her and taken
her in his arms, she would not only have forgiven him but have blessed
him also for his kindness. She was in truth sick at heart of violence
and rough living and unfeminine words. When driven by wrongs the old
habit came back upon her. But if she could only escape the wrongs, if
she could find some niche in the world which would be bearable to her,
in which, free from harsh treatment, she could pour forth all the
genuine kindness of her woman's nature,--then, she thought she could put
away violence and be gentle as a young girl. When she first met this
Englishman and found that he took delight in being near her, she had
ventured to hope that a haven would at last be open to her. But the
reek of the gunpowder from that first pistol shot still clung to her,
and she now told herself again, as she had often told herself before,
that it would have been better for her to have turned the muzzle
against her own bosom.

After receiving his letter she had run over on what she had told
herself was a vain chance. Though angry enough when that letter first
reached her, she had, with that force of character which marked her,
declared to herself that such a resolution on his part was natural. In
marrying her he must give up all his old allies, all his old haunts.
The whole world must be changed to him. She knew enough of herself,
and enough of Englishwomen, to be sure that when her past life should
be known, as it would be known, she would be avoided in England. With
all the little ridicule she was wont to exercise in speaking of the
old country there was ever mixed, as is so often the case in the minds
of American men and women, an almost envious admiration of English
excellence. To have been allowed to forget the past and to live the
life of an English lady would have been heaven to her. But she, who
was sometimes scorned and sometimes feared in the eastern cities of
her own country, whose name had become almost a proverb for violence
out in the far West,--how could she dare to hope that her lot should be
so changed for her?

She had reminded Paul that she had required to be asked often before
she had consented to be his wife; but she did not tell him that that
hesitation had arisen from her own conviction of her own unfitness.
But it had been so. Circumstances had made her what she was.
Circumstances had been cruel to her. But she could not now alter them.
Then gradually, as she came to believe in his love, as she lost
herself in love for him, she told herself that she would be changed.
She had, however, almost known that it could not be so. But this man
had relatives, had business, had property in her own country. Though
she could not be made happy in England, might not a prosperous life
be opened for him in the far West? Then had risen the offer of that
journey to Mexico with much probability that work of no ordinary
kind might detain him there for years. With what joy would she have
accompanied him as his wife! For that at any rate she would have been
fit.

She was conscious, perhaps too conscious, of her own beauty. That at
any rate, she felt, had not deserted her. She was hardly aware that
time was touching it. And she knew herself to be clever, capable of
causing happiness, and mirth and comfort. She had the qualities of a
good comrade--which are so much in a woman. She knew all this of
herself. If he and she could be together in some country in which
those stories of her past life would be matter of indifference, could
she not make him happy? But what was she that a man should give up
everything and go away and spend his days in some half-barbarous
country for her alone? She knew it all and was hardly angry with him
in that he had decided against her. But treated as she had been she
must play her game with such weapons as she possessed. It was
consonant with her old character, it was consonant with her present
plans that she should at any rate seem to be angry.

Sitting there alone late into the night she made many plans, but the
plan that seemed best to suit the present frame of her mind was the
writing of a letter to Paul bidding him adieu, sending him her fondest
love, and telling him that he was right. She did write the letter, but
wrote it with a conviction that she would not have the strength to
send it to him. The reader may judge with what feeling she wrote the
following words:--


   DEAR PAUL

   You are right and I am wrong. Our marriage would not have been
   fitting. I do not blame you. I attracted you when we were
   together; but you have learned and have learned truly that you
   should not give up your life for such attractions. If I have
   been violent with you, forgive me. You will acknowledge that I
   have suffered.

   Always know that there is one woman who will love you better
   than any one else. I think too that you will love me even when
   some other woman is by your side. God bless you, and make you
   happy. Write me the shortest, shortest word of adieu. Not to do
   so would make you think yourself heartless. But do not come to
   me.

   For ever

   W. H.


This she wrote on a small slip of paper, and then having read it
twice, she put it into her pocket-book. She told herself that she
ought to send it; but told herself as plainly that she could not bring
herself to do so. It was early in the morning before she went to bed
but she had admitted no one into the room after Montague had left her.

Paul, when he escaped from her presence, roamed out on to the
sea-shore, and then took himself to bed, having ordered a conveyance
to take him to Carbury Manor early in the morning. At breakfast he
presented himself to the squire. 'I have come earlier than you
expected,' he said.

'Yes, indeed;--much earlier. Are you going back to Lowestoft?'

Then he told the whole story. Roger expressed his satisfaction,
recalling however the pledge which he had given as to his return. 'Let
her follow you, and bear it,' he said. 'Of course you must suffer the
effects of your own imprudence.' On that evening Paul Montague
returned to London by the mail train, being sure that he would thus
avoid a meeting with Mrs Hurtle in the railway-carriage.




CHAPTER XLVIII - RUBY A PRISONER


Ruby had run away from her lover in great dudgeon after the dance at
the Music Hall, and had declared that she never wanted to see him
again. But when reflection came with the morning her misery was
stronger than her wrath. What would life be to her now without her
lover? When she escaped from her grandfather's house she certainly had
not intended to become nurse and assistant maid-of-all-work at a
London lodging-house. The daily toil she could endure, and the hard
life, as long as she was supported by the prospect of some coming
delight. A dance with Felix at the Music Hall, though it were three
days distant from her, would so occupy her mind that she could wash
and dress all the children without complaint. Mrs Pipkin was forced to
own to herself that Ruby did earn her bread. But when she had parted
with her lover almost on an understanding that they were never to meet
again, things were very different with her. And perhaps she had been
wrong. A gentleman like Sir Felix did not of course like to be told
about marriage. If she gave him another chance, perhaps he would
speak. At any rate she could not live without another dance. And so
she wrote him a letter.

Ruby was glib enough with her pen, though what she wrote will hardly
bear repeating. She underscored all her loves to him. She underscored
the expression of her regret if she had vexed him. She did not want to
hurry a gentleman. But she did want to have another dance at the Music
Hall. Would he be there next Saturday? Sir Felix sent her a very short
reply to say that he would be at the Music Hall on the Tuesday. As at
this time he proposed to leave London on the Wednesday on his way to
New York, he was proposing to devote his very last night to the
companionship of Ruby Ruggles.

Mrs Pipkin had never interfered with her niece's letters. It is
certainly a part of the new dispensation that young women shall send
and receive letters without inspection. But since Roger Carbury's
visit Mrs Pipkin had watched the postman, and had also watched her
niece. For nearly a week Ruby said not a word of going out at night.
She took the children for an airing in a broken perambulator, nearly
as far as Holloway, with exemplary care, and washed up the cups and
saucers as though her mind was intent upon them. But Mrs Pipkin's mind
was intent on obeying Mr Carbury's behests. She had already hinted
something as to which Ruby had made no answer. It was her purpose to
tell her and to swear to her most,--solemnly should she find her
preparing herself to leave the house after six in the evening,--that she
should be kept out the whole night, having a purpose equally clear in
her own mind that she would break her oath should she be unsuccessful
in her effort to keep Ruby at home. But on the Tuesday, when Ruby went
up to her room to deck herself, a bright idea as to a better
precaution struck Mrs Pipkin's mind. Ruby had been careless,--had left
her lover's scrap of a note in an old pocket when she went out with
the children, and Mrs Pipkin knew all about it. It was nine o'clock
when Ruby went upstairs,--and then Mrs Pipkin locked both the front door
and the area gate. Mrs Hurtle had come home on the previous day. 'You
won't be wanting to go out to-night;--will you, Mrs Hurtle?' said Mrs
Pipkin, knocking at her lodger's door. Mrs Hurtle declared her purpose
of remaining at home all the evening. 'If you should hear words
between me and my niece, don't you mind, ma'am.'

'I hope there's nothing wrong, Mrs Pipkin?'

'She'll be wanting to go out, and I won't have it. It isn't right; is
it, ma'am? She's a good girl; but they've got such a way nowadays of
doing just as they pleases, that one doesn't know what's going to come
next.' Mrs Pipkin must have feared downright rebellion when she thus
took her lodger into her confidence.

Ruby came down in her silk frock, as she had done before, and made her
usual little speech. 'I'm just going to step out, aunt, for a little
time to-night. I've got the key, and I'll let myself in quite quiet.'

'Indeed, Ruby, you won't,' said Mrs Pipkin.

'Won't what, aunt?'

'Won't let yourself in, if you go out. If you go out to-night you'll
stay out. That's all about it. If you go out to-night you won't come
back here any more. I won't have it, and it isn't right that I should.
You're going after that young man that they tell me is the greatest
scamp in all England.'

'They tell you lies then, Aunt Pipkin.'

'Very well. No girl is going out any more at nights out of my house;
so that's all about it. If you had told me you was going before, you
needn't have gone up and bedizened yourself. For now it's all to take
off again.'

Ruby could hardly believe it. She had expected some opposition,--what
she would have called a few words; but she had never imagined that her
aunt would threaten to keep her in the streets all night. It seemed to
her that she had bought the privilege of amusing herself by hard work.
Nor did she believe now that her aunt would be as hard as her threat.
'I've a right to go if I like,' she said.

'That's as you think. You haven't a right to come back again, any
way.'

'Yes, I have. I've worked for you a deal harder than the girl
downstairs, and I don't want no wages. I've a right to go out, and a
right to come back;--and go I shall.'

'You'll be no better than you should be, if you do.'

'Am I to work my very nails off, and push that perambulator about all
day till my legs won't carry me,--and then I ain't to go out, not once
in a week?'

'Not unless I know more about it, Ruby. I won't have you go and throw
yourself into the gutter;--not while you're with me.'

'Who's throwing themselves into the gutter? I've thrown myself into no
gutter. I know what I'm about.'

'There's two of us that way, Ruby;--for I know what I'm about.'

'I shall just go then.' And Ruby walked off towards the door.

'You won't get out that way, any way, for the door's locked;--and the
area gate. You'd better be said, Ruby, and just take your things off.'

Poor Ruby for the moment was struck dumb with mortification. Mrs
Pipkin had given her credit for more outrageous perseverance than she
possessed, and had feared that she would rattle at the front door, or
attempt to climb over the area gate. She was a little afraid of Ruby,
not feeling herself justified in holding absolute dominion over her as
over a servant. And though she was now determined in her conduct,--being
fully resolved to surrender neither of the keys which she held in her
pocket,--still she feared that she might so far collapse as to fall away
into tears, should Ruby be violent. But Ruby was crushed. Her lover
would be there to meet her, and the appointment would be broken by
her! 'Aunt Pipkin,' she said, 'let me go just this once.'

'No, Ruby;--it ain't proper.'

'You don't know what you're a doing of, aunt; you don't. You'll ruin
me,--you will. Dear Aunt Pipkin, do, do! I'll never ask again, if you
don't like.'

Mrs Pipkin had not expected this, and was almost willing to yield. But
Mr Carbury had spoken so very plainly! 'It ain't the thing, Ruby; and
I won't do it.'

'And I'm to be--a prisoner! What have I done to be--a prisoner? I
don't believe as you've any right to lock me up.'

'I've a right to lock my own doors.'

'Then I shall go away to-morrow.'

'I can't help that, my dear. The door will be open to-morrow, if you
choose to go out.'

'Then why not open it to-night? Where's the difference?' But Mrs Pipkin
was stern, and Ruby, in a flood of tears, took herself up to her
garret.

Mrs Pipkin knocked at Mrs Hurtle's door again. 'She's gone to bed,' she
said.

'I'm glad to hear it. There wasn't any noise about it;--was there?'

'Not as I expected, Mrs Hurtle, certainly. But she was put out a bit.
Poor girl! I've been a girl too, and used to like a bit of outing as
well as any one,--and a dance too; only it was always when mother knew.
She ain't got a mother, poor dear! and as good as no father. And she's
got it into her head that she's that pretty that a great gentleman
will marry her.'

'She is pretty!'

'But what's beauty, Mrs Hurtle? It's no more nor skin deep, as the
scriptures tell us. And what'd a grand gentleman see in Ruby to marry
her? She says she'll leave to-morrow.'

'And where will she go?'

'Just nowhere. After this gentleman,--and you know what that means!
You're going to be married yourself, Mrs Hurtle.'

'We won't mind about that now, Mrs Pipkin.'

'And this'll be your second, and you know how these things are
managed. No gentleman'll marry her because she runs after him. Girls
as knows what they're about should let the gentlemen run after them.
That's my way of looking at it.'

'Don't you think they should be equal in that respect?'

'Anyways the girls shouldn't let on as they are running after the
gentlemen. A gentlemen goes here and he goes there, and he speaks up
free, of course. In my time, girls usen't to do that. But then, maybe,
I'm old-fashioned,' added Mrs Pipkin, thinking of the new
dispensation.

'I suppose girls do speak for themselves more than they did formerly.'

'A deal more, Mrs Hurtle; quite different. You hear them talk of
spooning with this fellow, and spooning with that fellow,--and that
before their very fathers and mothers! When I was young we used to do
it, I suppose,--only not like that.'

'You did it on the sly.'

'I think we got married quicker than they do, anyway. When the
gentlemen had to take more trouble they thought more about it. But if
you wouldn't mind speaking to Ruby to-morrow, Mrs Hurtle, she'd listen
to you when she wouldn't mind a word I said to her. I don't want her
to go away from this, out into the Street, till she knows where she's
to go to, decent. As for going to her young man,--that's just walking
the streets.'

Mrs Hurtle promised that she would speak to Ruby, though when making
the promise she could not but think of her unfitness for the task. She
knew nothing of the country. She had not a single friend in it, but
Paul Montague;--and she had run after him with as little discretion as
Ruby Ruggles was showing in running after her lover. Who was she that
she should take upon herself to give advice to any female?

She had not sent her letter to Paul, but she still kept it in her
pocket-book. At some moments she thought that she would send it; and
at others she told herself that she would never surrender this last
hope till every stone had been turned. It might still be possible to
shame him into a marriage. She had returned from Lowestoft on the
Monday, and had made some trivial excuse to Mrs Pipkin in her mildest
voice. The place had been windy, and too cold for her;--and she had not
liked the hotel. Mrs Pipkin was very glad to see her back again.




CHAPTER XLIX - SIR FELIX MAKES HIMSELF READY


Sir Felix, when he promised to meet Ruby at the Music Hall on the
Tuesday, was under an engagement to start with Marie Melmotte for New
York on the Thursday following, and to go down to Liverpool on the
Wednesday. There was no reason, he thought, why he should not enjoy
himself to the last, and he would say a parting word to poor little
Ruby. The details of his journey were settled between him and Marie,
with no inconsiderable assistance from Didon, in the garden of Grosvenor
Square, on the previous Sunday,--where the lovers had again met during
the hours of morning service. Sir Felix had been astonished at the
completion of the preparations which had been made. 'Mind you go by
the 5 p.m. train,' Marie said. 'That will take you into Liverpool at
10:15. There's an hotel at the railway station. Didon has got our
tickets under the names of Madame and Mademoiselle Racine. We are to
have one cabin between us. You must get yours to-morrow. She has found
out that there is plenty of room.'

'I'll be all right.'

'Pray don't miss the train that afternoon. Somebody would be sure to
suspect something if we were seen together in the same train. We leave
at 7 a.m. I shan't go to bed all night, so as to be sure to be in
time. Robert,--he's the man,--will start a little earlier in the cab
with my heavy box. What do you think is in it?'

'Clothes,' suggested Felix.

'Yes, but what clothes?--my wedding dresses. Think of that! What a job
to get them and nobody to know anything about it except Didon and
Madame Craik at the shop in Mount Street! They haven't come yet, but I
shall be there whether they come or not. And I shall have all my
jewels. I'm not going to leave them behind. They'll go off in our cab.
We can get the things out behind the house into the mews. Then Didon
and I follow in another cab. Nobody ever is up before near nine, and I
don't think we shall be interrupted.'

'If the servants were to hear.'

'I don't think they'd tell. But if I was to be brought back again, I
should only tell papa that it was no good. He can't prevent me
marrying.'

'Won't your mother find out?'

'She never looks after anything. I don't think she'd tell if she
knew. Papa leads her such a life! Felix! I hope you won't be like
that.'--And she looked up into his face, and thought that it would be
impossible that he should be.

'I'm all right,' said Felix, feeling very uncomfortable at the time.
This great effort of his life was drawing very near. There had been a
pleasurable excitement in talking of running away with the great
heiress of the day, but now that the deed had to be executed,--and
executed after so novel and stupendous a fashion, he almost wished
that he had not undertaken it. It must have been much nicer when men
ran away with their heiresses only as far as Gretna Green. And even
Goldsheiner with Lady Julia had nothing of a job in comparison with
this which he was expected to perform. And then if they should be
wrong about the girl's fortune! He almost repented. He did repent, but
he had not the courage to recede. 'How about money though?' he said
hoarsely.

'You have got some?'

'I have just the two hundred pounds which your father paid me, and not
a shilling more. I don't see why he should keep my money, and not let
me have it back.'

'Look here,' said Marie, and she put her hand into her pocket. 'I told
you I thought I could get some. There is a cheque for two hundred and
fifty pounds. I had money of my own enough for the tickets.'

'And whose is this?' said Felix, taking the bit of paper with much
trepidation.

'It is papa's cheque. Mamma gets ever so many of them to carry on the
house and pay for things. But she gets so muddled about it that she
doesn't know what she pays and what she doesn't.' Felix looked at the
cheque and saw that it was payable to House or Bearer, and that it was
signed by Augustus Melmotte. 'If you take it to the bank you'll get
the money,' said Marie. 'Or shall I send Didon, and give you the money
on board the ship?'

Felix thought over the matter very anxiously. If he did go on the
journey he would much prefer to have the money in his own pocket. He
liked the feeling of having money in his pocket. Perhaps if Didon were
entrusted with the cheque she also would like the feeling. But then
might it not be possible that if he presented the cheque himself he
might be arrested for stealing Melmotte's money? 'I think Didon had
better get the money,' he said, 'and bring it to me to-morrow, at four
o'clock in the afternoon, to the club.' If the money did not come he
would not go down to Liverpool, nor would he be at the expense of his
ticket for New York. 'You see,' he said, 'I'm so much in the City that
they might know me at the bank.' To this arrangement Marie assented
and took back the cheque. 'And then I'll come on board on Thursday
morning,' he said, 'without looking for you.'

'Oh dear, yes;--without looking for us. And don't know us even till we
are out at sea. Won't it be fun when we shall be walking about on the
deck and not speaking to one another! And, Felix;--what do you think?
Didon has found out that there is to be an American clergyman on
board. I wonder whether he'd marry us.'

'Of course he will.'

'Won't that be jolly? I wish it was all done. Then, directly it's
done, and when we get to New York, we'll telegraph and write to papa,
and we'll be ever so penitent and good; won't we? Of course he'll make
the best of it.'

'But he's so savage; isn't he?'

'When there's anything to get;--or just at the moment. But I don't think
he minds afterwards. He's always for making the best of everything;--
misfortunes and all. Things go wrong so often that if he was to go on
thinking of them always they'd be too many for anybody. It'll be all
right in a month's time. I wonder how Lord Nidderdale will look when
he hears that we've gone off. I should so like to see him. He never
can say that I've behaved bad to him. We were engaged, but it was he
broke it. Do you know, Felix, that though we were engaged to be
married, and everybody knew it, he never once kissed me!' Felix at
this moment almost wished that he had never done so. As to what the
other man had done, he cared nothing at all.

Then they parted with the understanding that they were not to see each
other again till they met on board the boat. All arrangements were
made. But Felix was determined that he would not stir in the matter
unless Didon brought him the full sum of L250; and he almost thought,
and indeed hoped, that she would not. Either she would be suspected at
the bank and apprehended, or she would run off with the money on her
own account when she got it;--or the cheque would have been missed and
the payment stopped. Some accident would occur, and then he would be
able to recede from his undertaking. He would do nothing till after
Monday afternoon.

Should he tell his mother that he was going? His mother had clearly
recommended him to run away with the girl, and must therefore approve
of the measure. His mother would understand how great would be the
expense of such a trip, and might perhaps add something to his stock
of money. He determined that he could tell his mother;--that is, if
Didon should bring him full change for the cheque.

He walked into the Beargarden exactly at four o'clock on the Monday,
and there he found Didon standing in the hall. His heart sank within
him as he saw her. Now must he certainly go to New York. She made him
a little curtsey, and without a word handed him an envelope, soft and
fat with rich enclosures. He bade her wait a moment, and going into a
little waiting-room counted the notes. The money was all there;--the
full sum of L250. He must certainly go to New York. 'C'est tout en
regle?' said Didon in a whisper as he returned to the hall. Sir Felix
nodded his head, and Didon took her departure.

Yes; he must go now. He had Melmotte's money in his pocket, and was
therefore bound to run away with Melmotte's daughter. It was a great
trouble to him as he reflected that Melmotte had more of his money
than he had of Melmotte's. And now how should he dispose of his time
before he went? Gambling was too dangerous. Even he felt that. Where
would he be were he to lose his ready money? He would dine that night
at the club, and in the evening go up to his mother. On the Tuesday he
would take his place for New York in the City, and would spend the
evening with Ruby at the Music Hall. On the Wednesday, he would start
for Liverpool,--according to his instructions. He felt annoyed that
he had been so fully instructed. But should the affair turn out well
nobody would know that. All the fellows would give him credit for the
audacity with which he had carried off the heiress to America.

At ten o'clock he found his mother and Hetta in Welbeck Street--
'What; Felix?' exclaimed Lady Carbury.

'You're surprised; are you not?' Then he threw himself into a chair.
'Mother,' he said, 'would you mind coming into the other room?' Lady
Carbury of course went with him. 'I've got something to tell you,' he
said.

'Good news?' she asked, clasping her hands together. From his manner
she thought that it was good news. Money had in some way come into his
hands,--or at any rate a prospect of money.

'That's as may be,' he said, and then he paused.

'Don't keep me in suspense, Felix.'

'The long and the short of it is that I'm going to take Marie off.'

'Oh, Felix.'

'You said you thought it was the right thing to do;--and therefore I'm
going to do it. The worst of it is that one wants such a lot of money
for this kind of thing.'

'But when?'

'Immediately. I wouldn't tell you till I had arranged everything. I've
had it in my mind for the last fortnight.'

'And how is it to be? Oh, Felix, I hope it may succeed.'

'It was your own idea, you know. We're going to;--where do you think?'

'How can I think?--Boulogne.'

'You say that just because Goldsheiner went there. That wouldn't have
done at all for us. We're going to--New York.'

'To New York! But when will you be married?'

'There will be a clergyman on board. It's all fixed. I wouldn't go
without telling you.'

'Oh; I wish you hadn't told me.'

'Come now;--that's kind. You don't mean to say it wasn't you that put me
up to it. I've got to get my things ready.'

'Of course, if you tell me that you are going on a journey, I will
have your clothes got ready for you. When do you start?'

'Wednesday afternoon.'

'For New York! We must get some things ready-made. Oh, Felix, how will
it be if he does not forgive her?' He attempted to laugh. 'When I
spoke of such a thing as possible he had not sworn then that he would
never give her a shilling.'

'They always say that.'

'You are going to risk it?'

'I am going to take your advice.' This was dreadful to the poor
mother. 'There is money settled on her.'

'Settled on whom?'

'On Marie;--money which he can't get back again.'

'How much?'

'She doesn't know,--but a great deal; enough for them all to live upon
if things went amiss with them.'

'But that's only a form, Felix. That money can't be her own, to give
to her husband.'

'Melmotte will find that it is, unless he comes to terms. That's the
pull we've got over him. Marie knows what she's about. She's a great
deal sharper than any one would take her to be. What can you do for
me about money, mother?'

'I have none, Felix.'

'I thought you'd be sure to help me, as you wanted me so much to do
it.'

'That's not true, Felix. I didn't want you to do it. Oh, I am so sorry
that that word ever passed my mouth! I have no money. There isn't L20
at the bank altogether.'

'They would let you overdraw for L50 or L60.'

'I will not do it. I will not starve myself and Hetta. You had ever so
much money only lately. I will get some things for you, and pay for
them as I can if you cannot pay for them after your marriage;--but I
have not money to give you.'

'That's a blue look-out,' said he, turning himself in his chair 'just
when L60 or L70 might make a fellow for life! You could borrow it from
your friend Broune.'

'I will do no such thing, Felix. L50 or L60 would make very little
difference in the expense of such a trip as this. I suppose you have
some money?'

'Some;--yes, some. But I'm so short that any little thing would help
me.' Before the evening was over she absolutely did give him a cheque
for L30 although she had spoken the truth in saying that she had not
so much at her banker's.

After this he went back to his club, although he himself understood
the danger. He could not bear the idea of going to bed, quietly at
home at half-past ten. He got into a cab, and was very soon up in the
card-room. He found nobody there, and went to the smoking-room, where
Dolly Longestaffe and Miles Grendall were sitting silently together,
with pipes in their mouths. 'Here's Carbury,' said Dolly, waking
suddenly into life. 'Now we can have a game at three-handed loo.'

'Thank ye; not for me,' said Sir Felix. 'I hate three-handed loo.'

'Dummy,' suggested Dolly.

'I don't think I'll play to-night, old fellow. I hate three fellows
sticking down together.' Miles sat silent, smoking his pipe, conscious
of the baronet's dislike to play with him. 'By-the-by, Grendall look
here.' And Sir Felix in his most friendly tone whispered into his
enemy's ear a petition that some of the I.O.U.'s might be converted into
cash.

''Pon my word, I must ask you to wait till next week,' said Miles.

'It's always waiting till next week with you,' said Sir Felix, getting
up and standing with his back to the fireplace. There were other men
in the room, and this was said so that every one should hear it. 'I
wonder whether any fellow would buy these for five shillings in the
pound?' And he held up the scraps of paper in his hand. He had been
drinking freely before he went up to Welbeck Street, and had taken a
glass of brandy on re-entering the club.

'Don't let's have any of that kind of thing down here,' said Dolly.
'If there is to be a row about cards, let it be in the card-room.'

'Of course,' said Miles. 'I won't say a word about the matter down
here. It isn't the proper thing.'

'Come up into the card-room, then,' said Sir Felix, getting up from
his chair. 'It seems to me that it makes no difference to you, what
room you're in. Come up, now; and Dolly Longestaffe shall come and
hear what you say.' But Miles Grendall objected to this arrangement.
He was not going up into the card-room that night, as no one was going
to play. He would be there to-morrow, and then if Sir Felix Carbury had
anything to say, he could say it.

'How I do hate a row!' said Dolly. 'One has to have rows with one's
own people, but there ought not to be rows at a club.'

'He likes a row,--Carbury does,' said Miles.

'I should like my money, if I could get it,' said Sir Felix, walking
out of the room.

On the next day he went into the City, and changed his mother's
cheque. This was done after a little hesitation: The money was given
to him, but a gentleman from behind the desks begged him to remind
Lady Carbury that she was overdrawing her account. 'Dear, dear;' said
Sir Felix, as he pocketed the notes, 'I'm sure she was unaware of it.'
Then he paid for his passage from Liverpool to New York under the name
of Walter Jones, and felt as he did so that the intrigue was becoming
very deep. This was on Tuesday. He dined again at the club, alone, and
in the evening went to the Music Hall. There he remained, from ten
till nearly twelve, very angry at the non-appearance of Ruby Ruggles.
As he smoked and drank in solitude, he almost made up his mind that
he had intended to tell her of his departure for New York. Of course
he would have done no such thing. But now, should she ever complain on
that head he would have his answer ready. He had devoted his last
night in England to the purpose of telling her, and she had broken her
appointment. Everything would now be her fault. Whatever might happen
to her she could not blame him.

Having waited till he was sick of the Music Hall,--for a music hall
without ladies' society must be somewhat dull,--he went back to his
club. He was very cross, as brave as brandy could make him, and well
inclined to expose Miles Grendall if he could find an opportunity. Up
in the card-room he found all the accustomed men,--with the exception of
Miles Grendall. Nidderdale, Grasslough, Dolly, Paul Montague, and one
or two others were there. There was, at any rate, comfort in the idea
of playing without having to encounter the dead weight of Miles
Grendall. Ready money was on the table,--and there was none of the
peculiar Beargarden paper flying about. Indeed the men at the
Beargarden had become sick of paper, and there had been formed a
half-expressed resolution that the play should be somewhat lower, but
the payments punctual. The I.O.U.'s had been nearly all converted into
money,--with the assistance of Herr Vossner,--excepting those of Miles
Grendall. The resolution mentioned did not refer back to Grendall's
former indebtedness, but was intended to include a clause that he must
in future pay ready money. Nidderdale had communicated to him the
determination of the committee. 'Bygones are bygones, old fellow; but
you really must stump up, you know, after this.' Miles had declared
that he would 'stump up.' But on this occasion Miles was absent.

At three o'clock in the morning, Sir Felix had lost over a hundred
pounds in ready money. On the following night about one he had lost a
further sum of two hundred pounds. The reader will remember that he
should at that time have been in the hotel at Liverpool.

But Sir Felix, as he played on in the almost desperate hope of
recovering the money which he so greatly needed, remembered how Fisker
had played all night, and how he had gone off from the club to catch
the early train for Liverpool, and how he had gone on to New York
without delay.




CHAPTER L - THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL


Marie Melmotte, as she had promised, sat up all night, as did also the
faithful Didon. I think that to Marie the night was full of pleasure,--
or at any rate of pleasurable excitement. With her door locked, she
packed and unpacked and repacked her treasures,--having more than once
laid out on the bed the dress in which she purposed to be married. She
asked Didon her opinion whether that American clergyman of whom they
had heard would marry them on board, and whether in that event the
dress would be fit for the occasion. Didon thought that the man, if
sufficiently paid, would marry them, and that the dress would not much
signify. She scolded her young mistress very often during the night
for what she called nonsense; but was true to her, and worked hard for
her. They determined to go without food in the morning, so that no
suspicion should be raised by the use of cups and plates. They could
get refreshment at the railway-station.

At six they started. Robert went first with the big boxes, having his
ten pounds already in his pocket,--and Marie and Didon with smaller
luggage followed in a second cab. No one interfered with them and
nothing went wrong. The very civil man at Euston Square gave them
their tickets, and even attempted to speak to them in French. They had
quite determined that not a word of English was to be spoken by Marie
till the ship was out at sea. At the station they got some very bad
tea and almost uneatable food,--but Marie's restrained excitement was so
great that food was almost unnecessary to her. They took their seats
without any impediment,--and then they were off.

During a great part of the journey they were alone, and then Marie
gabbled to Didon about her hopes and her future career, and all the
things she would do;--how she had hated Lord Nidderdale,--especially when,
after she had been awed into accepting him, he had given her no token
of love,--'pas un baiser!' Didon suggested that such was the way with
English lords. She herself had preferred Lord Nidderdale, but had been
willing to join in the present plan,--as she said, from devoted
affection to Marie. Marie went on to say that Nidderdale was ugly, and
that Sir Felix was as beautiful as the morning. 'Bah!' exclaimed
Didon, who was really disgusted that such considerations should
prevail. Didon had learned in some indistinct way that Lord Nidderdale
would be a marquis and would have a castle, whereas Sir Felix would
never be more than Sir Felix, and, of his own, would never have
anything at all. She had striven with her mistress, but her mistress
liked to have a will of her own. Didon no doubt had thought that New
York, with L50 and other perquisites in hand, might offer her a new
career. She had therefore yielded, but even now could hardly forbear
from expressing disgust at the folly of her mistress. Marie bore it
with imperturbable good humour. She was running away,--and was running
to a distant continent,--and her lover would be with her! She gave Didon
to understand that she cared nothing for marquises.

As they drew near to Liverpool Didon explained that they must still be
very careful. It would not do for them to declare at once their
destination on the platform,--so that every one about the station should
know that they were going on board the packet for New York. They had
time enough. They must leisurely look for the big boxes and other
things, and need say nothing about the steam packet till they were in
a cab. Marie's big box was directed simply 'Madame Racine, Passenger
to Liverpool;'--so also was directed a second box, nearly as big, which
was Didon's property. Didon declared that her anxiety would not be
over till she found the ship moving under her. Marie was sure that all
their dangers were over,--if only Sir Felix was safe on board. Poor
Marie! Sir Felix was at this moment in Welbeck Street, striving to
find temporary oblivion for his distressing situation and loss of
money, and some alleviation for his racking temples, beneath the
bedclothes.

When the train ran into the station at Liverpool the two women sat for
a few moments quite quiet. They would not seek remark by any hurry or
noise. The door was opened, and a well-mannered porter offered to take
their luggage. Didon handed out the various packages, keeping however
the jewel-case in her own hands. She left the carriage first, and then
Marie. But Marie had hardly put her foot on the platform, before a
gentleman addressed her, touching his hat, 'You, I think, are Miss
Melmotte.' Marie was struck dumb, but said nothing. Didon immediately
became voluble in French. No; the young lady was not Miss Melmotte;
the young lady was Mademoiselle Racine, her niece. She was Madame
Racine. Melmotte! What was Melmotte? They knew nothing about
Melmottes. Would the gentleman kindly allow them to pass on to their
cab?

But the gentleman would by no means kindly allow them to pass on to
their cab. With the gentleman was another gentleman,--who did not seem
to be quite so much of a gentleman;--and again, not far in the distance
Didon quickly espied a policeman, who did not at present connect
himself with the affair, but who seemed to have his time very much at
command, and to be quite ready if he were wanted. Didon at once gave
up the game,--as regarded her mistress.

'I am afraid I must persist in asserting that you are Miss Melmotte,'
said the gentleman, 'and that this other--person is your servant, Elise
Didon. You speak English, Miss Melmotte.' Marie declared that she
spoke French. 'And English too,' said the gentleman. 'I think you had
better make up your minds to go back to London. I will accompany you.'

'Ah, Didon, nous sommes perdues!' exclaimed Marie. Didon, plucking up
her courage for the moment, asserted the legality of her own position
and of that of her mistress. They had both a right to come to
Liverpool. They had both a right to get into the cab with their
luggage. Nobody had a right to stop them. They had done nothing
against the laws. Why were they to be stopped in this way? What was it
to anybody whether they called themselves Melmotte or Racine?

The gentleman understood the French oratory, but did not commit
himself to reply in the same language. 'You had better trust yourself
to me; you had indeed,' said the gentleman.

'But why?' demanded Marie.

Then the gentleman spoke in a very low voice. 'A cheque has been
changed which you took from your father's house. No doubt your father
will pardon that when you are once with him. But in order that we may
bring you back safely we can arrest you on the score of the cheque,--
if you force us to do so. We certainly shall not let you go on board.
If you will travel back to London with me, you shall be subjected to
no inconvenience which can be avoided.'

There was certainly no help to be found anywhere. It may be well
doubted whether upon the whole the telegraph has not added more to the
annoyances than to the comforts of life, and whether the gentlemen who
spent all the public money without authority ought not to have been
punished with special severity in that they had injured humanity,
rather than pardoned because of the good they had produced. Who is
benefited by telegrams? The newspapers are robbed of all their old
interest, and the very soul of intrigue is destroyed. Poor Marie, when
she heard her fate, would certainly have gladly hanged Mr Scudamore.

When the gentleman had made his speech, she offered no further
opposition. Looking into Didon's face and bursting into tears, she sat
down on one of the boxes. But Didon became very clamorous on her own
behalf,--and her clamour was successful. 'Who was going to stop her?
What had she done? Why should not she go where she pleased. Did anybody
mean to take her up for stealing anybody's money? If anybody did, that
person had better look to himself. She knew the law. She would go
where she pleased.' So saying she began to tug the rope of her box as
though she intended to drag it by her own force out of the station.
The gentleman looked at his telegram,--looked at another document which
he now held in his hand, ready prepared, should it be wanted. Elise
Didon had been accused of nothing that brought her within the law. The
gentleman in imperfect French suggested that Didon had better return
with her mistress. But Didon clamoured only the more. No; she would go
to New York. She would go wherever she pleased;--all the world over.
Nobody should stop her. Then she addressed herself in what little
English she could command to half-a-dozen cab-men who were standing
round and enjoying the scene. They were to take her trunk at once. She
had money and she could pay. She started off to the nearest cab, and
no one stopped her. 'But the box in her hand is mine,' said Marie, not
forgetting her trinkets in her misery. Didon surrendered the
jewel-case, and ensconced herself in the cab without a word of
farewell; and her trunk was hoisted on to the roof. Then she was
driven away out of the station,--and out of our story. She had a
first-class cabin all to herself as far as New York, but what may have
been her fate after that it matters not to us to enquire.

Poor Marie! We who know how recreant a knight Sir Felix had proved
himself, who are aware that had Miss Melmotte succeeded in getting on
board the ship she would have passed an hour of miserable suspense,
looking everywhere for her lover, and would then at last have been
carried to New York without him, may congratulate her on her escape.
And, indeed, we who know his character better than she did, may still
hope in her behalf that she may be ultimately saved from so wretched a
marriage. But to her her present position was truly miserable. She
would have to encounter an enraged father; and when,--when should she
see her lover again? Poor, poor Felix! What would be his feelings when
he should find himself on his way to New York without his love! But in
one matter she made up her mind steadfastly. She would be true to him!
They might chop her in pieces! Yes;--she had said it before, and she
would say it again. There was, however, doubt in her mind from time to
time, whether one course might not be better even than constancy. If
she could contrive to throw herself out of the carriage and to be
killed,--would not that be the best termination to her present
disappointment? Would not that be the best punishment for her father?
But how then would it be with poor Felix? 'After all I don't know that
he cares for me,' she said to herself, thinking over it all.

The gentleman was very kind to her, not treating her at all as though
she were disgraced. As they got near town he ventured to give her a
little advice. 'Put a good face on it,' he said, 'and don't be cast
down.'

'Oh, I won't,' she answered. 'I don't mean.'

'Your mother will be delighted to have you back again.'

'I don't think that mamma cares. It's papa. I'd do it again to-morrow
if I had the chance.' The gentleman looked at her, not having expected
so much determination. 'I would. Why is a girl to be made to marry to
please any one but herself? I won't. And it's very mean saying that I
stole the money. I always take what I want, and papa never says
anything about it.'

'Two hundred and fifty pounds is a large sum, Miss Melmotte.'

'It is nothing in our house. It isn't about the money. It's because
papa wants me to marry another man;--and I won't. It was downright mean
to send and have me taken up before all the people.'

'You wouldn't have come back if he hadn't done that.'

'Of course I wouldn't,' said Marie.

The gentleman had telegraphed up to Grosvenor Square while on the
journey, and at Euston Square they were met by one of the Melmotte
carriages. Marie was to be taken home in the carriage, and the box was
to follow in a cab;--to follow at some interval so that Grosvenor Square
might not be aware of what had taken place. Grosvenor Square, of
course, very soon knew all about it. 'And are you to come?' Marie
asked, speaking to the gentleman. The gentleman replied that he had
been requested to see Miss Melmotte home. 'All the people will wonder
who you are,' said Marie laughing. Then the gentleman thought that
Miss Melmotte would be able to get through her troubles without much
suffering.

When she got home she was hurried up at once to her mother's room,--and
there she found her father, alone. 'This is your game, is it?' said
he, looking down at her.

'Well, papa;--yes. You made me do it.'

'You fool you! You were going to New York,--were you?' To this she
vouchsafed no reply. 'As if I hadn't found out all about it. Who was
going with you?'

'If you have found out all about it, you know, papa.'

'Of course I know;--but you don't know all about it, you little idiot.'

'No doubt I'm a fool and an idiot. You always say so.'

'Where do you suppose Sir Felix Carbury is now?' Then she opened her
eyes and looked at him. 'An hour ago he was in bed at his mother's
house in Welbeck Street.'

'I don't believe it, papa.'

'You don't, don't you? You'll find it true. If you had gone to New
York, you'd have gone alone. If I'd known at first that he had stayed
behind, I think I'd have let you go.'

'I'm sure he didn't stay behind.'

'If you contradict me, I'll box your ears, you jade. He is in London
at this moment. What has become of the woman that went with you?'

'She's gone on board the ship.'

'And where is the money you took from your mother?' Marie was silent.
'Who got the cheque changed?'

'Didon did.'

'And has she got the money?'

'No, papa.'

'Have you got it?'

'No, papa.'

'Did you give it to Sir Felix Carbury?'

'Yes, papa.'

'Then I'll be hanged if I don't prosecute him for stealing it.'

'Oh, papa, don't do that;--pray don't do that. He didn't steal it. I
only gave it him to take care of for us. He'll give it you back
again.'

'I shouldn't wonder if he lost it at cards, and therefore didn't go to
Liverpool. Will you give me your word that you'll never attempt to
marry him again if I don't prosecute him?' Marie considered. 'Unless
you do that I shall go to a magistrate at once.'

'I don't believe you can do anything to him. He didn't steal it. I
gave it to him.'

'Will you promise me?'

'No, papa, I won't. What's the good of promising when I should only
break it. Why can't you let me have the man I love? What's the good of
all the money if people don't have what they like?'

'All the money!--What do you know about the money? Look here,' and he
took her by the arm. 'I've been very good to you. You've had your
share of everything that has been going;--carriages and horses,
bracelets and brooches, silks and gloves, and every thing else.' He
held her very hard and shook her as he spoke.

'Let me go, papa; you hurt me. I never asked for such things. I don't
care a straw about bracelets and brooches.'

'What do you care for?'

'Only for somebody to love me,' said Marie, looking down.

'You'll soon have nobody to love you if you go on this fashion. You've
had everything done for you, and if you don't do something for me in
return, by G----, you shall have a hard time of it. If you weren't such
a fool you'd believe me when I say that I know more than you do.'

'You can't know better than me what'll make me happy.'

'Do you think only of yourself? If you'll marry Lord Nidderdale you'll
have a position in the world which nothing can take from you.'

'Then I won't,' said Marie firmly. Upon this he shook her till she
cried, and calling for Madame Melmotte desired his wife not to let the
girl for one minute out of her presence.

The condition of Sir Felix was I think worse than that of the lady
with whom he was to have run away. He had played at the Beargarden
till four in the morning and had then left the club, on the
breaking-up of the card-table, intoxicated and almost penniless.
During the last half hour he had made himself very unpleasant at the
club, saying all manner of harsh things of Miles Grendall;--of whom,
indeed, it was almost impossible to say things too hard, had they been
said in a proper form and at a proper time. He declared that Grendall
would not pay his debts, that he had cheated when playing loo,--as to
which Sir Felix appealed to Dolly Longestaffe; and he ended by
asserting that Grendall ought to be turned out of the club. They had a
desperate row. Dolly of course had said that he knew nothing about it,
and Lord Grasslough had expressed an opinion that perhaps more than
one person ought to be turned out. At four o'clock the party was
broken up and Sir Felix wandered forth into the streets, with nothing
more than the change of a ten pound note in his pocket. All his
luggage was lying in the hall of the club, and there he left it.

There could hardly have been a more miserable wretch than Sir Felix
wandering about the streets of London that night. Though he was nearly
drunk, he was not drunk enough to forget the condition of his affairs.
There is an intoxication that makes merry in the midst of affliction,--
and there is an intoxication that banishes affliction by producing
oblivion. But again there is an intoxication which is conscious of
itself though it makes the feet unsteady, and the voice thick, and the
brain foolish; and which brings neither mirth nor oblivion. Sir Felix
trying to make his way to Welbeck Street and losing it at every turn,
feeling himself to be an object of ridicule to every wanderer, and of
dangerous suspicion to every policeman, got no good at all out of his
intoxication. What had he better do with himself? He fumbled in his
pocket, and managed to get hold of his ticket for New York. Should he
still make the journey? Then he thought of his luggage, and could not
remember where it was. At last, as he steadied himself against a
letter-post, he was able to call to mind that his portmanteaus were at
the club. By this time he had wandered into Marylebone Lane, but did
not in the least know where he was. But he made an attempt to get back
to his club, and stumbled half down Bond Street. Then a policeman
enquired into his purposes, and when he said that he lived in Welbeck
Street, walked back with him as far as Oxford Street. Having once
mentioned the place where he lived, he had not strength of will left
to go back to his purpose of getting his luggage and starting for
Liverpool.

Between six and seven he was knocking at the door in Welbeck Street.
He had tried his latch-key, but had found it inefficient. As he was
supposed to be at Liverpool, the door had in fact been locked. At last
it was opened by Lady Carbury herself. He had fallen more than once,
and was soiled with the gutter. Most of my readers will not probably
know how a man looks when he comes home drunk at six in the morning;
but they who have seen the thing will acknowledge that a sorrier sight
cannot meet a mother's eye than that of a son in such a condition.
'Oh, Felix!' she exclaimed.

'It'sh all up,' he said, stumbling in.

'What has happened, Felix?'

'Discovered, and be d----- to it! The old shap'sh stopped ush.' Drunk as
he was, he was able to lie. At that moment the 'old shap' was fast
asleep in Grosvenor Square, altogether ignorant of the plot; and
Marie, joyful with excitement, was getting into the cab in the mews.
'Bettersh go to bed.' And so he stumbled upstairs by daylight, the
wretched mother helping him. She took off his clothes for him and his
boots, and having left him already asleep, she went down to her own
room, a miserable woman.




CHAPTER LI - WHICH SHALL IT BE?


Paul Montague reached London on his return from Suffolk early on the
Monday morning, and on the following day he wrote to Mrs Hurtle. As he
sat in his lodgings, thinking of his condition, he almost wished that
he had taken Melmotte's offer and gone to Mexico. He might at any rate
have endeavoured to promote the railway earnestly, and then have
abandoned it if he found the whole thing false. In such case of course
he would never have seen Hetta Carbury again; but, as things were, of
what use to him was his love,--of what use to him or to her? The kind of
life of which he dreamed, such a life in England as was that of Roger
Carbury, or, as such life would be, if Roger had a wife whom he loved,
seemed to be far beyond his reach. Nobody was like Roger Carbury!
Would it not be well that he should go away, and, as he went, write to
Hetta and bid her marry the best man that ever lived in the world?

But the journey to Mexico was no longer open to him. He had repudiated
the proposition and had quarrelled with Melmotte. It was necessary
that he should immediately take some further step in regard to Mrs
Hurtle. Twice lately he had gone to Islington determined that he would
see that lady for the last time. Then he had taken her to Lowestoft,
and had been equally firm in his resolution that he would there put an
end to his present bonds. Now he had promised to go again to
Islington;--and was aware that if he failed to keep his promise, she
would come to him. In this way there would never be an end to it.

He would certainly go again, as he had promised,--if she should still
require it; but he would first try what a letter would do,--a plain
unvarnished tale. Might it still be possible that a plain tale sent by
post should have sufficient efficacy? This was his plain tale as he
now told it.


   Tuesday, 2nd July, 1873.

   MY DEAR MRS HURTLE,--

   I promised that I would go to you again in Islington, and so I
   will, if you still require it. But I think that such a meeting
   can be of no service to either of us. What is to be gained? I do
   not for a moment mean to justify my own conduct. It is not to be
   justified. When I met you on our journey hither from San
   Francisco, I was charmed with your genius, your beauty, and your
   character. They are now what I found them to be then. But
   circumstances have made our lives and temperaments so far
   different, that I am certain that, were we married, we should
   not make each other happy. Of course the fault was mine; but it
   is better to own that fault, and to take all the blame,--and
   the evil consequences, let them be what they may [to be shot,
   for instance, like the gentleman in Oregon] than to be married
   with the consciousness that even at the very moment of the
   ceremony, such marriage will be a matter of sorrow and
   repentance. As soon as my mind was made up on this I wrote to
   you. I can not,--I dare not,--blame you for the step you have
   since taken. But I can only adhere to the resolution I then
   expressed.

   The first day I saw you here in London you asked me whether I
   was attached to another woman. I could answer you only by the
   truth. But I should not of my own accord have spoken to you of
   altered affections. It was after I had resolved to break my
   engagement with you that I first knew this girl. It was not
   because I had come to love her that I broke it. I have no
   grounds whatever for hoping that my love will lead to any
   results.

   I have now told you as exactly as I can the condition of my
   mind. If it were possible for me in any way to compensate the
   injury I have done you,--or even to undergo retribution for
   it,--I would do so. But what compensation can be given, or what
   retribution can you exact? I think that our further meeting can
   avail nothing. But if, after this, you wish me to come again, I
   will come for the last time,--because I have promised.

   Your most sincere friend,

   PAUL MONTAGUE.


Mrs Hurtle, as she read this, was torn in two ways. All that Paul had
written was in accordance with the words written by herself on a scrap
of paper which she still kept in her own pocket. Those words, fairly
transcribed on a sheet of note-paper, would be the most generous and
the fittest answer she could give. And she longed to be generous. She
had all a woman's natural desire to sacrifice herself. But the
sacrifice which would have been most to her taste would have been of
another kind. Had she found him ruined and penniless she would have
delighted to share with him all that she possessed. Had she found him
a cripple, or blind, or miserably struck with some disease, she would
have stayed by him and have nursed him and given him comfort. Even had
he been disgraced she would have fled with him to some far country and
have pardoned all his faults. No sacrifice would have been too much
for her that would have been accompanied by a feeling that he
appreciated all that she was doing for him, and that she was loved in
return. But to sacrifice herself by going away and never more being
heard of, was too much for her! What woman can endure such sacrifice
as that? To give up not only her love, but her wrath also;--that was too
much for her! The idea of being tame was terrible to her. Her life had
not been very prosperous, but she was what she was because she had
dared to protect herself by her own spirit. Now, at last, should she
succumb and be trodden on like a worm? Should she be weaker even than
an English girl? Should she allow him to have amused himself with her
love, to have had 'a good time,' and then to roam away like a bee,
while she was so dreadfully scorched, so mutilated and punished! Had
not her whole life been opposed to the theory of such passive
endurance? She took out the scrap of paper and read it; and, in spite
of all, she felt that there was a feminine softness in it that
gratified her.

But no;--she could not send it. She could not even copy the words. And
so she gave play to all her strongest feelings on the other side,--
being in truth torn in two directions. Then she sat herself down to her
desk, and with rapid words, and flashing thoughts, wrote as follows:--


   PAUL MONTAGUE,--

   I have suffered many injuries, but of all injuries this is the
   worst and most unpardonable,--and the most unmanly. Surely there
   never was such a coward, never so false a liar. The poor wretch
   that I destroyed was mad with liquor and was only acting after
   his kind. Even Caradoc Hurtle never premeditated such wrong as
   this. What you are to bind yourself to me by the most solemn
   obligation that can join a man and a woman together, and then
   tell me,--when they have affected my whole life,--that they are
   to go for nothing, because they do not suit your view of things?
   On thinking over it, you find that an American wife would not
   make you so comfortable as some English girl;--and therefore it
   is all to go for nothing! I have no brother, no man near;--me or
   you would not dare to do this. You can not but be a coward.

   You talk of compensation! Do you mean money? You do not dare to
   say so, but you must mean it. It is an insult the more. But as
   to retribution; yes. You shall suffer retribution. I desire you
   to come to me,--according to your promise,--and you will find me
   with a horsewhip in my hand. I will whip you till I have not a
   breath in my body. And then I will see what you will dare to
   do;--whether you will drag me into a court of law for the
   assault.

   Yes; come. You shall come. And now you know the welcome you
   shall find. I will buy the whip while this is reaching you, and
   you shall find that I know how to choose such a weapon. I call
   upon you so come. But should you be afraid and break your
   promise, I will come to you. I will make London too hot to hold
   you;--and if I do not find you I will go with my story to every
   friend you have.

   I have now told you as exactly as I can the condition of my
   mind.

   WINIFRED HURTLE.


Having written this she again read the short note, and again gave way
to violent tears. But on that day she sent no letter. On the following
morning she wrote a third, and sent that. This was the third letter:--

'Yes. Come.
       W. H.'

This letter duly reached Paul Montague at his lodgings. He started
immediately for Islington. He had now no desire to delay the meeting.
He had at any rate taught her that his gentleness towards her, his
going to the play with her, and drinking tea with her at Mrs Pipkin's,
and his journey with her to the sea, were not to be taken as evidence
that he was gradually being conquered. He had declared his purpose
plainly enough at Lowestoft,--and plainly enough in his last letter.
She had told him, down at the hotel, that had she by chance have been
armed at the moment, she would have shot him. She could arm herself
now if she pleased;--but his real fear had not lain in that direction.
The pang consisted in having to assure her that he was resolved to do
her wrong. The worst of that was now over.

The door was opened for him by Ruby, who by no means greeted him with
a happy countenance. It was the second morning after the night of her
imprisonment; and nothing had occurred to alleviate her woe. At this
very moment her lover should have been in Liverpool, but he was, in
fact, abed in Welbeck Street. 'Yes, sir; she's at home,' said Ruby,
with a baby in her arms and a little child hanging on to her dress.
'Don't pull so, Sally. Please, sir, is Sir Felix still in London?'
Ruby had written to Sir Felix the very night of her imprisonment, but
had not as yet received any reply. Paul, whose mind was altogether
intent on his own troubles, declared that at present he knew nothing
about Sir Felix, and was then shown into Mrs Hurtle's room.

'So you have come,' she said, without rising from her chair.

'Of course I came, when you desired it.'

'I don't know why you should. My wishes do not seem to affect you
much. Will you sit down there?' she said, pointing to a seat at some
distance from herself. 'So you think it would be best that you and I
should never see each other again?' She was very calm; but it seemed
to him that the quietness was assumed, and that at any moment it might
be converted into violence. He thought that there was that in her eye
which seemed to foretell the spring of the wild-cat.

'I did think so certainly. What more can I say?'

'Oh, nothing; clearly nothing.' Her voice was very low. 'Why should a
gentleman trouble himself to say any more than that he has changed his
mind? Why make a fuss about such little things as a woman's life, or a
woman's heart?' Then she paused. 'And having come, in consequence of
my unreasonable request, of course you are wise to hold your peace.'

'I came because I promised.'

'But you did not promise to speak;--did you?'

'What would you have me say?'

'Ah what! Am I to be so weak as to tell you now what I would have you
say? Suppose you were to say, "I am a gentleman, and a man of my word,
and I repent me of my intended perfidy," do you not think you might
get your release that way? Might it not be possible that I should
reply that as your heart was gone from me, your hand might go after
it;--that I scorned to be the wife of a man who did not want me?' As
she asked this she gradually raised her voice, and half lifted herself
in her seat, stretching herself towards him.

'You might indeed,' he replied, not well knowing what to say.

'But I should not. I at least will be true. I should take you, Paul,--
still take you; with a confidence that I should yet win you to me by
my devotion. I have still some kindness of feeling towards you,--none to
that woman who is I suppose younger than I, and gentler, and a maid.'
She still looked as though she expected a reply, but there was nothing
to be said in answer to this. 'Now that you are going to leave me,
Paul, is there any advice you can give me, as to what I shall do next?
I have given up every friend in the world for you. I have no home. Mrs
Pipkin's room here is more my home than any other spot on the earth. I
have all the world to choose from, but no reason whatever for a
choice. I have my property. What shall I do with it, Paul? If I could
die and be no more heard of, you should be welcome to it.' There was
no answer possible to all this. The questions were asked because there
was no answer possible. 'You might at any rate advise me. Paul, you
are in some degree responsible,--are you not,--for my loneliness?'

'I am. But you know that I cannot answer your questions.'

'You cannot wonder that I should be somewhat in doubt as to my future
life. As far as I can see, I had better remain here. I do good at any
rate to Mrs Pipkin. She went into hysterics yesterday when I spoke of
leaving her. That woman, Paul, would starve in our country, and I
shall be desolate in this.' Then she paused, and there was absolute
silence for a minute. 'You thought my letter very short; did you not?'

'It said, I suppose, all you had to say.'

'No, indeed. I did have much more to say. That was the third letter I
wrote. Now you shall see the other two. I wrote three, and had to
choose which I would send you. I fancy that yours to me was easier
written than either one of mine. You had no doubts, you know. I had
many doubts. I could not send them all by post, together. But you may
see them all now. There is one. You may read that first. While I was
writing it, I was determined that that should go.' Then she handed him
the sheet of paper which contained the threat of the horsewhip.

'I am glad you did not send that,' he said.

'I meant it.'

'But you have changed your mind?'

'Is there anything in it that seems to you to be unreasonable? Speak
out and tell me.'

'I am thinking of you, not of myself.'

'Think of me, then. Is there anything said there which the usage to
which I have been subjected does not justify?'

'You ask me questions which I cannot answer. I do not think that under
any provocation a woman should use a horsewhip.'

'It is certainly more comfortable for gentlemen,--who amuse
themselves,--that women should have that opinion. But, upon my word, I
don't know what to say about that. As long as there are men to fight
for women, it may be well to leave the fighting to the men. But when a
woman has no one to help her, is she to bear everything without turning
upon those who ill-use her? Shall a woman be flayed alive because it is
unfeminine in her to fight for her own skin? What is the good of being
--feminine, as you call it? Have you asked yourself that? That men may
be attracted, I should say. But if a woman finds that men only take
advantage of her assumed weakness, shall she not throw it off? If she
be treated as prey, shall she not fight as a beast of prey? Oh, no;--it
is so unfeminine! I also, Paul, had thought of that. The charm of
womanly weakness presented itself to my mind in a soft moment,--and
then I wrote this other letter. You may as well see them all.' And so
she handed him the scrap which had been written at Lowestoft, and he
read that also.

He could hardly finish it, because of the tears which filled his eyes.
But, having mastered its contents, he came across the room and threw
himself on his knees at her feet, sobbing. 'I have not sent it, you
know,' she said. 'I only show it you that you may see how my mind has
been at work'

'It hurts me more than the other,' he replied.

'Nay, I would not hurt you,--not at this moment. Sometimes I feel that
I could tear you limb from limb, so great is my disappointment, so
ungovernable my rage! Why,--why should I be such a victim? Why should
life be an utter blank to me, while you have everything before you?
There, you have seen them all. Which will you have?'

'I cannot now take that other as the expression of your mind.'

'But it will be when you have left me;--and was when you were with me at
the sea-side. And it was so I felt when I got your first letter in San
Francisco. Why should you kneel there? You do not love me. A man
should kneel to a woman for love, not for pardon.' But though she
spoke thus, she put her hand upon his forehead, and pushed back his
hair, and looked into his face. 'I wonder whether that other woman
loves you. I do not want an answer, Paul. I suppose you had better
go.' She took his hand and pressed it to her breast. 'Tell me one
thing. When you spoke of--compensation, did you mean--money?'

'No; indeed no.'

'I hope not,--I hope not that. Well, there;--go. You shall be troubled
no more with Winifred Hurtle.' She took the sheet of paper which
contained the threat of the horsewhip and tore it into scraps.

'And am I to keep the other?' he asked.

'No. For what purpose would you have it? To prove my weakness? That
also shall be destroyed.' But she took it and restored it to her
pocket-book.

'Good-bye, my friend,' he said.

'Nay! This parting will not bear a farewell. Go, and let there be no
other word spoken.' And so he went.

As soon as the front door was closed behind him she rang the bell and
begged Ruby to ask Mrs Pipkin to come to her. 'Mrs Pipkin,' she said,
as soon as the woman had entered the room; 'everything is over between
me and Mr Montague.' She was standing upright in the middle of the
room, and as she spoke there was a smile on her face.

'Lord 'a mercy,' said Mrs Pipkin, holding up both her hands.

'As I have told you that I was to be married to him, I think it right
now to tell you that I'm not going to be married to him.'

'And why not?--and he such a nice young man,--and quiet too.'

'As to the why not, I don't know that I am prepared to speak about
that. But it is so. I was engaged to him.'

'I'm well sure of that, Mrs Hurtle.'

'And now I'm no longer engaged to him. That's all.'

'Dearie me! and you going down to Lowestoft with him, and all.' Mrs
Pipkin could not bear to think that she should hear no more of such an
interesting story.

'We did go down to Lowestoft together, and we both came back not
together. And there's an end of it.'

'I'm sure it's not your fault, Mrs Hurtle. When a marriage is to be,
and doesn't come off, it never is the lady's fault.'

'There's an end of it, Mrs Pipkin. If you please, we won't say
anything more about it.'

'And are you going to leave, ma'am?' said Mrs Pipkin, prepared to have
her apron up to her eyes at a moment's notice. Where should she get
such another lodger as Mrs Hurtle,--a lady who not only did not inquire
about victuals, but who was always suggesting that the children should
eat this pudding or finish that pie, and who had never questioned an
item in a bill since she had been in the house!

'We'll say nothing about that yet, Mrs Pipkin.' Then Mrs Pipkin gave
utterance to so many assurances of sympathy and help that it almost
seemed that she was prepared to guarantee to her lodger another lover
in lieu of the one who was now dismissed.




CHAPTER LII - THE RESULTS OF LOVE AND WINE


Two, three, four, and even five o'clock still found Sir Felix Carbury
in bed on that fatal Thursday. More than once or twice his mother
crept up to his room, but on each occasion he feigned to be fast
asleep and made no reply to her gentle words. But his condition was
one which only admits of short snatches of uneasy slumber. From head
to foot, he was sick and ill and sore, and could find no comfort
anywhere. To lie where he was, trying by absolute quiescence to soothe
the agony of his brows and to remember that as long as he lay there he
would be safe from attack by the outer world, was all the solace
within his reach. Lady Carbury sent the page up to him, and to the
page he was awake. The boy brought him tea. He asked for soda and
brandy; but there was none to be had, and in his present condition he
did not dare to hector about it till it was procured for him.

The world surely was now all over to him. He had made arrangements for
running away with the great heiress of the day, and had absolutely
allowed the young lady to run away without him. The details of their
arrangement had been such that she absolutely would start upon her
long journey across the ocean before she could find out that he had
failed to keep his appointment. Melmotte's hostility would be incurred
by the attempt, and hers by the failure. Then he had lost all his
money,--and hers. He had induced his poor mother to assist in raising a
fund for him,--and even that was gone. He was so cowed that he was
afraid even of his mother. And he could remember something, but no
details, of some row at the club,--but still with a conviction on his
mind that he had made the row. Ah,--when would he summon courage to
enter the club again? When could he show himself again anywhere? All
the world would know that Marie Melmotte had attempted to run off with
him, and that at the last moment he had failed her. What lie could he
invent to cover his disgrace? And his clothes! All his things were at
the club;--or he thought that they were, not being quite certain whether
he had not made some attempt to carry them off to the Railway Station.
He had heard of suicide. If ever it could be well that a man should
cut his own throat, surely the time had come for him now. But as this
idea presented itself to him he simply gathered the clothes around him
and tried to sleep. The death of Cato would hardly have for him
persuasive charms.

Between five and six his mother again came up to him, and when he
appeared to sleep, stood with her hand upon his shoulder. There must
be some end to this. He must at any rate be fed. She, wretched woman,
had been sitting all day,--thinking of it. As regarded her son himself;
his condition told his story with sufficient accuracy. What might be
the fate of the girl she could not stop to inquire. She had not heard
all the details of the proposed scheme; but she had known that Felix
had proposed to be at Liverpool on the Wednesday night, and to start
on Thursday for New York with the young lady; and with the view of
aiding him in his object she had helped him with money. She had bought
clothes for him, and had been busy with Hetta for two days preparing
for his long journey,--having told some lie to her own daughter as to
the cause of her brother's intended journey. He had not gone, but had
come, drunk and degraded, back to the house. She had searched his
pockets with less scruple than she had ever before felt, and had found
his ticket for the vessel and the few sovereigns which were left to
him. About him she could read the riddle plainly. He had stayed at his
club till he was drunk, and had gambled away all his money. When she
had first seen him she had asked herself what further lie she should
now tell to her daughter. At breakfast there was instant need for some
story. 'Mary says that Felix came back this morning, and that he has
not gone at all,' Hetta exclaimed. The poor woman could not bring
herself to expose the vices of the son to her daughter. She could not
say that he had stumbled into the house drunk at six o'clock. Hetta no
doubt had her own suspicions. 'Yes; he has come back,' said Lady
Carbury, broken-hearted by her troubles. 'It was some plan about the
Mexican railway I believe, and has broken through. He is very unhappy
and not well. I will see to him.' After that Hetta had said nothing
during the whole day. And now, about an hour before dinner, Lady
Carbury was standing by her son's bedside, determined that he should
speak to her.

'Felix,' she said,--'speak to me, Felix.--I know that you are awake.' He
groaned, and turned himself away from her, burying himself further
under the bedclothes. 'You must get up for your dinner. It is near six
o'clock.'

'All right,' he said at last.

'What is the meaning of this, Felix? You must tell me. It must be told
sooner or later. I know you are unhappy. You had better trust your
mother.'

'I am so sick, mother.'

'You will be better up. What were you doing last night? What has come
of it all? Where are your things?'

'At the club.--You had better leave me now, and let Sam come up to me.'
Sam was the page.

'I will leave you presently; but, Felix, you must tell me about this.
What has been done?'

'It hasn't come off.'

'But how has it not come off?'

'I didn't get away. What's the good of asking?'

'You said this morning when you came in, that Mr Melmotte had
discovered it.'

'Did I? Then I suppose he has. Oh, mother, I wish I could die. I don't
see what's the use of anything. I won't get up to dinner. I'd rather
stay here.'

'You must have something to eat, Felix.'

'Sam can bring it me. Do let him get me some brandy and water. I'm so
faint and sick with all this that I can hardly bear myself. I can't
talk now. If he'll get me a bottle of soda water and some brandy, I'll
tell you all about it then.'

'Where is the money, Felix?'

'I paid it for the ticket,' said he, with both his hands up to his
head.

Then his mother again left him with the understanding that he was to
be allowed to remain in bed till the next morning; but that he was to
give her some further explanation when he had been refreshed and
invigorated after his own prescription. The boy went out and got him
soda water and brandy, and meat was carried up to him, and then he did
succeed for a while in finding oblivion from his misery in sleep.

'Is he ill, mamma?' Hetta asked.

'Yes, my dear.'

'Had you not better send for a doctor?'

'No, my dear. He will be better to-morrow.'

'Mamma, I think you would be happier if you would tell me everything.'

'I can't,' said Lady Carbury, bursting out into tears. 'Don't ask.
What's the good of asking? It is all misery and wretchedness. There is
nothing to tell,--except that I am ruined.'

'Has he done anything, mamma?'

'No. What should he have done? How am I to know what he does? He tells
me nothing. Don't talk about it any more. Oh, God,--how much better it
would be to be childless!'

'Oh, mamma, do you mean me?' said Hetta, rushing across the room, and
throwing herself close to her mother's side on the sofa. 'Mamma, say
that you do not mean me.'

'It concerns you as well as me and him. I wish I were childless.'

'Oh, mamma, do not be cruel to me! Am I not good to you? Do I not try
to be a comfort to you?'

'Then marry your cousin, Roger Carbury, who is a good man, and who can
protect you. You can, at any rate, find a home for yourself, and a
friend for us. You are not like Felix. You do not get drunk and
gamble,--because you are a woman. But you are stiff-necked, and will
not help me in my trouble.'

'Shall I marry him, mamma, without loving him?'

'Love! Have I been able to love? Do you see much of what you call love
around you? Why should you not love him? He is a gentleman, and a good
man,--soft-hearted, of a sweet nature, whose life would be one effort to
make yours happy. You think that Felix is very bad.'

'I have never said so.'

'But ask yourself whether you do not give as much pain, seeing what
you could do for us if you would. But it never occurs to you to
sacrifice even a fantasy for the advantage of others.'

Hetta retired from her seat on the sofa, and when her mother again
went upstairs she turned it all over in her mind. Could it be right
that she should marry one man when she loved another? Could it be
right that she should marry at all, for the sake of doing good to her
family? This man, whom she might marry if she would,--who did in truth
worship the ground on which she trod,--was, she well knew, all that her
mother had said. And he was more than that. Her mother had spoken of
his soft heart, and his sweet nature. But Hetta knew also that he was
a man of high honour and a noble courage. In such a condition as was
hers now he was the very friend whose advice she could have asked,--
had he not been the very lover who was desirous of making her his wife.
Hetta felt that she could sacrifice much for her mother. Money, if she
had it, she could have given, though she left herself penniless. Her
time, her inclinations, her very heart's treasure, and, as she
thought, her life, she could give. She could doom herself to poverty,
and loneliness, and heart-rending regrets for her mother's sake. But
she did not know how she could give herself into the arms of a man she
did not love.

'I don't know what there is to explain,' said Felix to his mother. She
had asked him why he had not gone to Liverpool, whether he had been
interrupted by Melmotte himself, whether news had reached him from
Marie that she had been stopped, or whether,--as might have been
possible,--Marie had changed her own mind. But he could not bring
himself to tell the truth, or any story bordering on the truth. 'It
didn't come off,' he said, 'and of course that knocked me off my legs.
Well; yes. I did take some champagne when I found how it was. A fellow
does get cut up by that kind of thing. Oh, I heard it at the club,--that
the whole thing was off. I can't explain anything more. And then I was
so mad, I can't tell what I was after. I did get the ticket. There it
is. That shows I was in earnest. I spent the L30 in getting it. I
suppose the change is there. Don't take it, for I haven't another
shilling in the world.' Of course he said nothing of Marie's money, or
of that which he had himself received from Melmotte. And as his mother
had heard nothing of these sums she could not contradict what he said.
She got from him no further statement, but she was sure that there was
a story to be told which would reach her ears sooner or later.

That evening, about nine o'clock, Mr Broune called in Welbeck Street.
He very often did call now, coming up in a cab, staying for a cup of
tea, and going back in the same cab to the office of his newspaper.
Since Lady Carbury had, so devotedly, abstained from accepting his
offer, Mr Broune had become almost sincerely attached to her. There
was certainly between them now more of the intimacy of real friendship
than had ever existed in earlier days. He spoke to her more freely
about his own affairs, and even she would speak to him with some
attempt at truth. There was never between them now even a shade of
love-making. She did not look into his eyes, nor did he hold her hand.
As for kissing her,--he thought no more of it than of kissing the
maid-servant. But he spoke to her of the things that worried him,--the
unreasonable exactions of proprietors, and the perilous inaccuracy of
contributors. He told her of the exceeding weight upon his shoulders,
under which an Atlas would have succumbed. And he told her something
too of his triumphs;--how he had had this fellow bowled over in
punishment for some contradiction, and that man snuffed out for daring
to be an enemy. And he expatiated on his own virtues, his justice and
clemency. Ah,--if men and women only knew his good nature and his
patriotism;--how he had spared the rod here, how he had made the fortune
of a man there, how he had saved the country millions by the
steadiness of his adherence to some grand truth! Lady Carbury
delighted in all this and repaid him by flattery, and little
confidences of her own. Under his teaching she had almost made up her
mind to give up Mr Alf. Of nothing was Mr Broune more certain than
that Mr Alf was making a fool of himself in regard to the Westminster
election and those attacks on Melmotte. 'The world of London generally
knows what it is about,' said Mr Broune, 'and the London world
believes Mr Melmotte to be sound. I don't pretend to say that he has
never done anything that he ought not to do. I am not going into his
antecedents. But he is a man of wealth, power, and genius, and Alf will
get the worst of it.' Under such teaching as this, Lady Carbury was
almost obliged to give up Mr Alf.

Sometimes they would sit in the front room with Hetta, to whom also Mr
Broune had become attached; but sometimes Lady Carbury would be in her
own sanctum. On this evening she received him there, and at once
poured forth all her troubles about Felix. On this occasion she told
him everything, and almost told him everything truly. He had already
heard the story. 'The young lady went down to Liverpool, and Sir Felix
was not there.'

'He could not have been there. He has been in bed in this house all
day. Did she go?'

'So I am told;--and was met at the station by the senior officer of the
police at Liverpool, who brought her back to London without letting
her go down to the ship at all. She must have thought that her lover
was on board;--probably thinks so now. I pity her.'

'How much worse it would have been, had she been allowed to start,'
said Lady Carbury.

'Yes; that would have been bad. She would have had a sad journey to
New York, and a sadder journey back. Has your son told you anything
about money?'

'What money?'

'They say that the girl entrusted him with a large sum which she had
taken from her father. If that be so he certainly ought to lose no
time in restoring it. It might be done through some friend. I would do
it, for that matter. If it be so,--to avoid unpleasantness,--it should
be sent back at once. It will be for his credit.' This Mr Broune said
with a clear intimation of the importance of his advice.

It was dreadful to Lady Carbury. She had no money to give back, nor,
as she was well aware, had her son. She had heard nothing of any
money. What did Mr Broune mean by a large sum? 'That would be
dreadful,' she said.

'Had you not better ask him about it?'

Lady Carbury was again in tears. She knew that she could not hope to
get a word of truth from her son. 'What do you mean by a large sum?'

'Two or three hundred pounds, perhaps.'

'I have not a shilling in the world, Mr Broune.' Then it all came
out,--the whole story of her poverty, as it had been brought about by
her son's misconduct. She told him every detail of her money affairs
from the death of her husband, and his will, up to the present moment.

'He is eating you up, Lady Carbury.' Lady Carbury thought that she was
nearly eaten up already, but she said nothing. 'You must put a stop to
this.'

'But how?'

'You must rid yourself of him. It is dreadful to say so, but it must
be done. You must not see your daughter ruined. Find out what money he
got from Miss Melmotte and I will see that it is repaid. That must be
done;--and we will then try to get him to go abroad. No;--do not
contradict me. We can talk of the money another time. I must be off
now, as I have stayed too long. Do as I bid you. Make him tell you,
and send me word down to the office. If you could do it early
to-morrow, that would be best. God bless you.' And so he hurried off.

Early on the following morning a letter from Lady Carbury was put into
Mr Broune's hands, giving the story of the money as far as she had
been able to extract it from Sir Felix. Sir Felix declared that Mr
Melmotte had owed him L600, and that he had received L250 out of this
from Miss Melmotte,--so that there was still a large balance due to him.
Lady Carbury went on to say that her son had at last confessed that he
had lost this money at play. The story was fairly true; but Lady
Carbury in her letter acknowledged that she was not justified in
believing it because it was told to her by her son.




CHAPTER LIII - A DAY IN THE CITY


Melmotte had got back his daughter, and was half inclined to let the
matter rest there. He would probably have done so had he not known
that all his own household were aware that she had gone off to meet
Sir Felix Carbury, and had he not also received the condolence of
certain friends in the city. It seemed that about two o'clock in the
day the matter was known to everybody. Of course Lord Nidderdale would
hear of it, and if so all the trouble that he had taken in that
direction would have been taken in vain. Stupid fool of a girl to
throw away her chance,--nay, to throw away the certainty of a brilliant
career, in that way! But his anger against Sir Felix was infinitely
more bitter than his anger against his daughter. The man had pledged
himself to abstain from any step of this kind,--had given a written
pledge,--had renounced under his own signature his intention of marrying
Marie! Melmotte had of course learned all the details of the cheque
for L250,--how the money had been paid at the bank to Didon, and how
Didon had given it to Sir Felix. Marie herself acknowledged that Sir
Felix had received the money. If possible he would prosecute the
baronet for stealing his money.

Had Melmotte been altogether a prudent man he would probably have been
satisfied with getting back his daughter and would have allowed the
money to go without further trouble. At this especial point in his
career ready money was very valuable to him, but his concerns were of
such magnitude that L250 could make but little difference. But there
had grown upon the man during the last few months an arrogance, a
self-confidence inspired in him by the worship of other men, which
clouded his intellect, and robbed him of much of that power of
calculation which undoubtedly he naturally possessed. He remembered
perfectly his various little transactions with Sir Felix. Indeed it
was one of his gifts to remember with accuracy all money transactions,
whether great or small, and to keep an account book in his head, which
was always totted up and balanced with accuracy. He knew exactly how
he stood, even with the crossing-sweeper to whom he had given a penny
last Tuesday, as with the Longestaffes, father and son, to whom he had
not as yet made any payment on behalf of the purchase of Pickering.
But Sir Felix's money had been consigned into his hands for the
purchase of shares,--and that consignment did not justify Six Felix in
taking another sum of money from his daughter. In such a matter he
thought that an English magistrate, and an English jury, would all be
on his side,--especially as he was Augustus Melmotte, the man about to
be chosen for Westminster, the man about to entertain the Emperor of
China!

The next day was Friday,--the day of the Railway Board. Early in the
morning he sent a note to Lord Nidderdale.


   MY DEAR NIDDERDALE,--

   Pray come to the Board to-day;--or at any rate come to me in the
   city. I specially want to speak to you.

   Yours,

   A. M.


This he wrote, having made up his mind that it would be wise to make a
clear breast of it with his hoped-for son-in-law. If there was still
a chance of keeping the young lord to his guns that chance would be
best supported by perfect openness on his part. The young lord would
of course know what Marie had done. But the young lord had for some
weeks past been aware that there had been a difficulty in regard to
Sir Felix Carbury, and had not on that account relaxed his suit. It
might be possible to persuade the young lord that as the young lady
had now tried to elope and tried in vain, his own chance might on the
whole be rather improved than injured.

Mr Melmotte on that morning had many visitors, among whom one of the
earliest and most unfortunate was Mr Longestaffe. At that time there
had been arranged at the offices in Abchurch Lane a mode of double
ingress and egress,--a front stairs and a back stairs approach and
exit, as is always necessary with very great men,--in reference to
which arrangement the honour and dignity attached to each is exactly
contrary to that which generally prevails in the world; the front
stairs being intended for everybody, and being both slow and
uncertain, whereas the back stairs are quick and sure, and are used
only for those who are favoured. Miles Grendall had the command of the
stairs, and found that he had plenty to do in keeping people in their
right courses. Mr Longestaffe reached Abchurch Lane before one,--having
altogether failed in getting a moment's private conversation with the
big man on that other Friday, when he had come later. He fell at once
into Miles's hands, and was ushered through the front stairs passage
and into the front stairs waiting-room, with much external courtesy.
Miles Grendall was very voluble. Did Mr Longestaffe want to see Mr
Melmotte? Oh;--Mr Longestaffe wanted to see Mr Melmotte as soon as
possible! Of course Mr Longestaffe should see Mr Melmotte. He, Miles,
knew that Mr Melmotte was particularly desirous of seeing Mr
Longestaffe. Mr Melmotte had mentioned Mr Longestaffe's name twice
during the last three days. Would Mr Longestaffe sit down for a few
minutes? Had Mr Longestaffe seen the 'Morning Breakfast Table'? Mr
Melmotte undoubtedly was very much engaged. At this moment a
deputation from the Canadian Government was with him;--and Sir Gregory
Gribe was in the office waiting for a few words. But Miles thought
that the Canadian Government would not be long,--and as for Sir Gregory,
perhaps his business might be postponed. Miles would do his very best
to get an interview for Mr Longestaffe,--more especially as Mr Melmotte
was so very desirous himself of seeing his friend. It was astonishing
that such a one as Miles Grendall should have learned his business so
well and should have made himself so handy! We will leave Mr
Longestaffe with the 'Morning Breakfast Table' in his hands, in the
front waiting-room, merely notifying the fact that there he remained
for something over two hours.

In the meantime both Mr Broune and Lord Nidderdale came to the office,
and both were received without delay. Mr Broune was the first. Miles
knew who he was, and made no attempt to seat him in the same room with
Mr Longestaffe. 'I'll just send him a note,' said Mr Broune, and he
scrawled a few words at the office counter. 'I'm commissioned to pay
you some money on behalf of Miss Melmotte.' Those were the words, and
they at once procured him admission to the sanctum. The Canadian
Deputation must have taken its leave, and Sir Gregory could hardly
have as yet arrived. Lord Nidderdale, who had presented himself almost
at the same moment with the Editor, was shown into a little private
room which was, indeed, Miles Grendall's own retreat. 'What's up with
the Governor?' asked the young lord.

'Anything particular do you mean?' said Miles. 'There are always so
many things up here.'

'He has sent for me.'

'Yes,--you'll go in directly. There's that fellow who does the
"Breakfast Table" in with him. I don't know what he's come about. You
know what he has sent for you for?'

Lord Nidderdale answered this question by another. 'I suppose all this
about Miss Melmotte is true?'

'She did go off yesterday morning,' said Miles, in a whisper.

'But Carbury wasn't with her.'

'Well, no;--I suppose not. He seems to have mulled it. He's such a
d---- brute, he'd be sure to go wrong whatever he had in hand.'

'You don't like him, of course, Miles. For that matter I've no reason
to love him. He couldn't have gone. He staggered out of the club
yesterday morning at four o'clock as drunk as Cloe. He'd lost a pot of
money, and had been kicking up a row about you for the last hour.'

'Brute!' exclaimed Miles, with honest indignation.

'I dare say. But though he was able to make a row, I'm sure he
couldn't get himself down to Liverpool. And I saw all his things lying
about the club hall late last night;--no end of portmanteaux and bags;
just what a fellow would take to New York. By George! Fancy taking a
girl to New York! It was plucky.'

'It was all her doing,' said Miles, who was of course intimate with Mr
Melmotte's whole establishment, and had had means therefore of hearing
the true story.

'What a fiasco!' said the young lord. 'I wonder what the old boy means
to say to me about it.' Then there was heard the clear tingle of a
little silver bell, and Miles told Lord Nidderdale that his time had
come.

Mr Broune had of late been very serviceable to Mr Melmotte, and
Melmotte was correspondingly gracious. On seeing the Editor he
immediately began to make a speech of thanks in respect of the support
given by the 'Breakfast Table' to his candidature. But Mr Broune cut
him short. 'I never talk about the "Breakfast Table,"' said he. 'We
endeavour to get along as right as we can, and the less said the
soonest mended.' Melmotte bowed. 'I have come now about quite another
matter, and perhaps, the less said the sooner mended about that also.
Sir Felix Carbury on a late occasion received a sum of money in trust
from your daughter. Circumstances have prevented its use in the
intended manner, and, therefore, as Sir Felix's friend, I have called
to return the money to you.' Mr Broune did not like calling himself
the friend of Sir Felix, but he did even that for the lady who had
been good enough to him not to marry him.

'Oh, indeed,' said Mr Melmotte, with a scowl on his face, which he
would have repressed if he could.

'No doubt you understand all about it.'

'Yes;--I understand. D---- scoundrel!'

'We won't discuss that, Mr Melmotte. I've drawn a cheque myself
payable to your order,--to make the matter all straight. The sum was
L250, I think.' And Mr Broune put a cheque for that amount down upon
the table.

'I dare say it's all right,' said Mr Melmotte. 'But, remember, I don't
think that this absolves him. He has been a scoundrel.'

'At any rate he has paid back the money, which chance put into his
hands, to the only person entitled to receive it on the young lady's
behalf. Good morning.' Mr Melmotte did put out his hand in token of
amity. Then Mr Broune departed and Melmotte tinkled his bell. As
Nidderdale was shown in he crumpled up the cheque, and put it into his
pocket. He was at once clever enough to perceive that any idea which
he might have had of prosecuting Sir Felix must be abandoned. 'Well,
my Lord, and how are you?' said he with his pleasantest smile.
Nidderdale declared himself to be as fresh as paint. 'You don't look
down in the mouth, my Lord.'

Then Lord Nidderdale,--who no doubt felt that it behoved him to show a
good face before his late intended father-in-law,--sang the refrain of
an old song, which it is trusted my readers may remember.

    'Cheer up, Sam;
     Don't let your spirits go down.
     There's many a girl that I know well,
     Is waiting for you in the town.'

'Ha, ha, ha,' laughed Melmotte, 'very good. I've no doubt there is,--
many a one. But you won't let this stupid nonsense stand in your way
with Marie.'

'Upon my word, sir, I don't know about that. Miss Melmotte has given
the most convincing proof of her partiality for another gentleman, and
of her indifference to me.'

'A foolish baggage! A silly little romantic baggage! She's been
reading novels till she has learned to think she couldn't settle down
quietly till she had run off with somebody.'

'She doesn't seem to have succeeded on this occasion, Mr Melmotte.'

'No;--of course we had her back again from Liverpool.'

'But they say that she got further than the gentleman.'

'He is a dishonest, drunken scoundrel. My girl knows very well what he
is now. She'll never try that game again. Of course, my Lord, I'm very
sorry. You know that I've been on the square with you always. She's my
only child, and sooner or later she must have all that I possess. What
she will have at once will make any man wealthy,--that is, if she
marries with my sanction; and in a year or two I expect that I shall
be able to double what I give her now, without touching my capital. Of
course you understand that I desire to see her occupying high rank. I
think that, in this country, that is a noble object of ambition. Had
she married that sweep I should have broken my heart. Now, my Lord, I
want you to say that this shall make no difference to you. I am very
honest with you. I do not try to hide anything. The thing of course
has been a misfortune. Girls will be romantic. But you may be sure
that this little accident will assist rather than impede your views.
After this she will not be very fond of Sir Felix Carbury.'

'I dare say not. Though, by Jove, girls will forgive anything.'

'She won't forgive him. By George, she shan't. She shall hear the
whole story. You'll come and see her just the same as ever!'

'I don't know about that, Mr Melmotte.'

'Why not? You're not so weak as to surrender all your settled projects
for such a piece of folly as that! He didn't even see her all the
time.'

'That wasn't her fault.'

'The money will all be there, Lord Nidderdale.'

'The money's all right, I've no doubt. And there isn't a man in all
London would be better pleased to settle down with a good income than
I would. But, by Jove, it's a rather strong order when a girl has just
run away with another man. Everybody knows it.'

'In three months' time everybody will have forgotten it.'

'To tell you the truth, sir, I think Miss Melmotte has got a will of
her own stronger than you give her credit for. She has never given me
the slightest encouragement. Ever so long ago, about Christmas, she
did once say that she would do as you bade her. But she is very much
changed since then. The thing was off.'

'She had nothing to do with that.'

'No;--but she has taken advantage of it, and I have no right to
complain.'

'You just come to the house, and ask her again to-morrow. Or come on
Sunday morning. Don't let us be done out of all our settled
arrangements by the folly of an idle girl. Will you come on Sunday
morning about noon?' Lord Nidderdale thought of his position for a few
moments and then said that perhaps he would come on Sunday morning.
After that Melmotte proposed that they two should go and 'get a bit of
lunch' at a certain Conservative club in the City. There would be time
before the meeting of the Railway Board. Nidderdale had no objection
to the lunch, but expressed a strong opinion that the Board was 'rot'.
'That's all very well for you, young man,' said the chairman, 'but I
must go there in order that you may be able to enjoy a splendid
fortune.' Then he touched the young man on the shoulder and drew him
back as he was passing out by the front stairs. 'Come this way,
Nidderdale;--come this way. I must get out without being seen. There
are people waiting for me there who think that a man can attend to
business from morning to night without ever having a bit in his
mouth.' And so they escaped by the back stairs.

At the club, the City Conservative world,--which always lunches
well,--welcomed Mr Melmotte very warmly. The election was coming on,
and there was much to be said. He played the part of the big City man
to perfection, standing about the room with his hat on, and talking
loudly to a dozen men at once. And he was glad to show the club that
Lord Nidderdale had come there with him. The club of course knew that
Lord Nidderdale was the accepted suitor of the rich man's daughter,--
accepted, that is, by the rich man himself,--and the club knew also
that the rich man's daughter had tried but had failed to run away with
Sir Felix Carbury. There is nothing like wiping out a misfortune and
having done with it. The presence of Lord Nidderdale was almost an
assurance to the club that the misfortune had been wiped out, and, as
it were, abolished. A little before three Mr Melmotte returned to
Abchurch Lane, intending to regain his room by the back way; while
Lord Nidderdale went westward, considering within his own mind whether
it was expedient that he should continue to show himself as a suitor
for Miss Melmotte's hand. He had an idea that a few years ago a man
could not have done such a thing--that he would be held to show a poor
spirit should he attempt it; but that now it did not much matter what
a man did,--if only he were successful. 'After all, it's only an
affair of money,' he said to himself.

Mr Longestaffe in the meantime had progressed from weariness to
impatience, from impatience to ill-humour, and from ill-humour to
indignation. More than once he saw Miles Grendall, but Miles Grendall
was always ready with an answer. That Canadian Deputation was
determined to settle the whole business this morning, and would not
take itself away. And Sir Gregory Gribe had been obstinate, beyond the
ordinary obstinacy of a bank director. The rate of discount at the
bank could not be settled for to-morrow without communication with Mr
Melmotte, and that was a matter on which the details were always most
oppressive. At first Mr Longestaffe was somewhat stunned by the
Deputation and Sir Gregory Gribe; but as he waxed wroth the potency of
those institutions dwindled away, and as, at last, he waxed hungry,
they became as nothing to him. Was he not Mr Longestaffe of Caversham,
a Deputy-Lieutenant of his County, and accustomed to lunch punctually
at two o'clock? When he had been in that waiting-room for two hours,
it occurred to him that he only wanted his own, and that he would not
remain there to be starved for any Mr Melmotte in Europe. It occurred
to him also that that thorn in his side, Squercum, would certainly get
a finger into the pie to his infinite annoyance. Then he walked forth,
and attempted to see Grendall for the fourth time. But Miles Grendall
also liked his lunch, and was therefore declared by one of the junior
clerks to be engaged at that moment on most important business with Mr
Melmotte. 'Then say that I can't wait any longer,' said Mr
Longestaffe, stamping out of the room with angry feet.

At the very door he met Mr Melmotte. 'Ah, Mr Longestaffe,' said the
great financier, seizing him by the hand, 'you are the very man I am
desirous of seeing.'

'I have been waiting two hours up in your place,' said the Squire of
Caversham.

'Tut, tut, tut;--and they never told me!'

'I spoke to Mr Grendall half a dozen times.'

'Yes,--yes. And he did put a slip with your name on it on my desk. I do
remember. My dear sir, I have so many things on my brain, that I
hardly know how to get along with them. You are coming to the Board?
It's just the time now.'

'No;'--said Mr Longestaffe. 'I can stay no longer in the City.' It was
cruel that a man so hungry should be asked to go to a Board by a
chairman who had just lunched at his club.

'I was carried away to the Bank of England and could not help myself,'
said Melmotte. 'And when they get me there I can never get away
again.'

'My son is very anxious to have the payments made about Pickering,'
said Mr Longestaffe, absolutely holding Melmotte by the collar of his
coat.

'Payments for Pickering!' said Melmotte, assuming an air of
unimportant doubt,--of doubt as though the thing were of no real
moment. 'Haven't they been made?'

'Certainly not,' said Mr Longestaffe, 'unless made this morning.'

'There was something about it, but I cannot just remember what. My
second cashier, Mr Smith, manages all my private affairs, and they go
clean out of my head. I'm afraid he's in Grosvenor Square at this
moment. Let me see;--Pickering! Wasn't there some question of a
mortgage? I'm sure there was something about a mortgage.'

'There was a mortgage, of course,--but that only made three payments
necessary instead of two.'

'But there was some unavoidable delay about the papers;--something
occasioned by the mortgagee. I know there was. But you shan't be
inconvenienced, Mr Longestaffe.'

'It's my son, Mr Melmotte. He's got a lawyer of his own.'

'I never knew a young man that wasn't in a hurry for his money,'
said Melmotte laughing. 'Oh, yes;--there were three payments to be
made; one to you, one to your son, and one to the mortgagee. I will
speak to Mr Smith myself to-morrow--and you may tell your son that he
really need not trouble his lawyer. He will only be losing his
money, for lawyers are expensive. What! you won't come to the Board?
I am sorry for that.' Mr Longestaffe, having after a fashion said
what he had to say, declined to go to the Board. A painful rumour
had reached him the day before, which had been communicated to him
in a very quiet way by a very old friend,--by a member of a private
firm of bankers whom he was accustomed to regard as the wisest and
most eminent man of his acquaintance,--that Pickering had been already
mortgaged to its full value by its new owner. 'Mind, I know
nothing,' said the banker. 'The report has reached me, and if it be
true, it shows that Mr Melmotte must be much pressed for money. It
does not concern you at all if you have got your price. But it seems
to be rather a quick transaction. I suppose you have, or he wouldn't
have the title-deeds.' Mr Longestaffe thanked his friend, and
acknowledged that there had been something remiss on his part.
Therefore, as he went westward, he was low in spirits. But
nevertheless he had been reassured by Melmotte's manner.

Sir Felix Carbury of course did not attend the Board; nor did Paul
Montague, for reasons with which the reader has been made acquainted.
Lord Nidderdale had declined, having had enough of the City for that
day, and Mr Longestaffe had been banished by hunger. The chairman was
therefore supported only by Lord Alfred and Mr Cohenlupe. But they
were such excellent colleagues that the work was got through as well
as though those absentees had all attended. When the Board was over Mr
Melmotte and Mr Cohenlupe retired together.

'I must get that money for Longestaffe,' said Melmotte to his friend.

'What, eighty thousand pounds! You can't do it this week,--nor yet
before this day week.'

'It isn't eighty thousand pounds. I've renewed the mortgage, and that
makes it only fifty. If I can manage the half of that which goes to
the son, I can put the father off.'

'You must raise what you can on the whole property.'

'I've done that already,' said Melmotte hoarsely.

'And where's the money gone?'

'Brehgert has had L40,000. I was obliged to keep it up with them. You
can manage L25,000 for me by Monday?' Mr Cohenlupe said that he would
try, but intimated his opinion that there would be considerable
difficulty in the operation.




CHAPTER LIV - THE INDIA OFFICE


The Conservative party at this particular period was putting its
shoulder to the wheel,--not to push the coach up any hill, but to
prevent its being hurried along at a pace which was not only
dangerous, but manifestly destructive. The Conservative party now and
then does put its shoulder to the wheel, ostensibly with the great
national object above named; but also actuated by a natural desire to
keep its own head well above water and be generally doing something,
so that other parties may not suppose that it is moribund. There are,
no doubt, members of it who really think that when some object has
been achieved,--when, for instance, a good old Tory has been squeezed
into Parliament for the borough of Porcorum, which for the last three
parliaments has been represented by a Liberal,--the coach has been
really stopped. To them, in their delightful faith, there comes at
these triumphant moments a conviction that after all the people as a
people have not been really in earnest in their efforts to take
something from the greatness of the great, and to add something to the
lowliness of the lowly. The handle of the windlass has been broken,
the wheel is turning fast the reverse way, and the rope of Radical
progress is running back. Who knows what may not be regained if the
Conservative party will only put its shoulder to the wheel and take
care that the handle of the windlass be not mended! Sticinthemud,
which has ever been a doubtful little borough, has just been carried
by a majority of fifteen! A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull
altogether,--and the old day will come back again. Venerable patriarchs
think of Lord Liverpool and other heroes, and dream dreams of
Conservative bishops, Conservative lord-lieutenants, and of a
Conservative ministry that shall remain in for a generation.

Such a time was now present. Porcorum and Sticinthemud had done their
duty valiantly,--with much management. But Westminster! If this special
seat for Westminster could be carried, the country then could hardly
any longer have a doubt on the matter. If only Mr Melmotte could be
got in for Westminster, it would be manifest that the people were
sound at heart, and that all the great changes which had been effected
during the last forty years,--from the first reform in Parliament down
to the Ballot,--had been managed by the cunning and treachery of a few
ambitious men. Not, however, that the Ballot was just now regarded by
the party as an unmitigated evil, though it was the last triumph of
Radical wickedness. The Ballot was on the whole popular with the
party. A short time since, no doubt it was regarded by the party as
being one and the same as national ruin and national disgrace. But it
had answered well at Porcorum, and with due manipulation had been
found to be favourable at Sticinthemud. The Ballot might perhaps help
the long pull and the strong pull,--and, in spite of the ruin and
disgrace, was thought by some just now to be a highly Conservative
measure. It was considered that the Ballot might assist Melmotte at
Westminster very materially.

Any one reading the Conservative papers of the time, and hearing the
Conservative speeches in the borough,--any one at least who lived so
remote as not to have learned what these things really mean,--would
have thought that England's welfare depended on Melmotte's return. In
the enthusiasm of the moment, the attacks made on his character were
answered by eulogy as loud as the censure was bitter. The chief crime
laid to his charge was connected with the ruin of some great
continental assurance company, as to which it was said that he had so
managed it as to leave it utterly stranded, with an enormous fortune
of his own. It was declared that every shilling which he had brought
to England with him had consisted of plunder stolen from the
shareholders in the company. Now the 'Evening Pulpit,' in its
endeavour to make the facts of this transaction known, had placed what
it called the domicile of this company in Paris, whereas it was
ascertained that its official head-quarters had in truth been placed
at Vienna. Was not such a blunder as this sufficient to show that no
merchant of higher honour than Mr Melmotte had ever adorned the
Exchanges of modern capitals? And then two different newspapers of the
time, both of them antagonistic to Melmotte, failed to be in accord on
a material point. One declared that Mr Melmotte was not in truth
possessed of any wealth. The other said that he had derived his wealth
from those unfortunate shareholders. Could anything betray so bad a
cause as contradictions such as these? Could anything be so false, so
weak, so malignant, so useless, so wicked, so self-condemned,--in fact,
so 'Liberal' as a course of action such as this? The belief naturally
to be deduced from such statements, nay, the unavoidable conviction on
the minds--of, at any rate, the Conservative newspapers--was that Mr
Melmotte had accumulated an immense fortune, and that he had never
robbed any shareholder of a shilling.

The friends of Melmotte had moreover a basis of hope, and were enabled
to sound premonitory notes of triumph, arising from causes quite
external to their party. The 'Breakfast Table' supported Melmotte, but
the 'Breakfast Table' was not a Conservative organ. This support was
given, not to the great man's political opinions, as to which a
well-known writer in that paper suggested that the great man had
probably not as yet given very much attention to the party questions
which divided the country,--but to his commercial position. It was
generally acknowledged that few men living,--perhaps no man alive,--
had so acute an insight into the great commercial questions of the age
as Mr Augustus Melmotte. In whatever part of the world he might have
acquired his commercial experience,--for it had been said repeatedly
that Melmotte was not an Englishman,--he now made London his home and
Great Britain his country, and it would be for the welfare of the
country that such a man should sit in the British Parliament. Such
were the arguments used by the 'Breakfast Table' in supporting Mr
Melmotte. This was, of course, an assistance;--and not the less so
because it was asserted in other papers that the country would be
absolutely disgraced by his presence in Parliament. The hotter the
opposition the keener will be the support. Honest good men, men who
really loved their country, fine gentlemen, who had received unsullied
names from great ancestors, shed their money right and left, and grew
hot in personally energetic struggles to have this man returned to
Parliament as the head of the great Conservative mercantile interests
of Great Britain!

There was one man who thoroughly believed that the thing at the
present moment most essentially necessary to England's glory was the
return of Mr Melmotte for Westminster. This man was undoubtedly a very
ignorant man. He knew nothing of any one political question which had
vexed England for the last half century,--nothing whatever of the
political history which had made England what it was at the beginning
of that half century. Of such names as Hampden, Somers, and Pitt he
had hardly ever heard. He had probably never read a book in his life.
He knew nothing of the working of parliament, nothing of nationality,--
had no preference whatever for one form of government over another,
never having given his mind a moment's trouble on the subject. He had
not even reflected how a despotic monarch or a federal republic might
affect himself, and possibly did not comprehend the meaning of those
terms. But yet he was fully confident that England did demand and
ought to demand that Mr Melmotte should be returned for Westminster.
This man was Mr Melmotte himself.

In this conjunction of his affairs Mr Melmotte certainly lost his
head. He had audacity almost sufficient for the very dangerous game
which he was playing; but, as crisis heaped itself upon crisis, he
became deficient in prudence. He did not hesitate to speak of himself
as the man who ought to represent Westminster, and of those who
opposed him as little malignant beings who had mean interests of their
own to serve. He went about in his open carriage, with Lord Alfred at
his left hand, with a look on his face which seemed to imply that
Westminster was not good enough for him. He even hinted to certain
political friends that at the next general election he should try the
City. Six months since he had been a humble man to a Lord,--but now
he scolded Earls and snubbed Dukes, and yet did it in a manner which
showed how proud he was of connecting himself with their social
pre-eminence, and how ignorant of the manner in which such
pre-eminence affects English gentlemen generally. The more arrogant he
became the more vulgar he was, till even Lord Alfred would almost be
tempted to rush away to impecuniosity and freedom. Perhaps there were
some with whom this conduct had a salutary effect. No doubt arrogance
will produce submission; and there are men who take other men at the
price those other men put upon themselves. Such persons could not
refrain from thinking Melmotte to be mighty because he swaggered; and
gave their hinder parts to be kicked merely because he put up his toe.
We all know men of this calibre,--and how they seem to grow in number.
But the net result of his personal demeanour was injurious; and it was
debated among some of the warmest of his supporters whether a hint
should not be given him. 'Couldn't Lord Alfred say a word to him?'
said the Honourable Beauchamp Beauclerk, who, himself in Parliament, a
leading man in his party, thoroughly well acquainted with the borough,
wealthy and connected by blood with half the great Conservative
families in the kingdom, had been moving heaven and earth on behalf of
the great financial king, and working like a slave for his success.

'Alfred's more than half afraid of him,' said Lionel Lupton, a young
aristocrat, also in Parliament, who had been inoculated with the idea
that the interests of the party demanded Melmotte in Parliament, but
who would have given up his Scotch shooting rather than have undergone
Melmotte's company for a day.

'Something really must be done, Mr Beauclerk,' said Mr Jones, who was
the leading member of a very wealthy firm of builders in the borough,
who had become a Conservative politician, who had thoughts of the
House for himself, but who never forgot his own position. 'He is
making a great many personal enemies.'

'He's the finest old turkey cock out,' said Lionel Lupton.

Then it was decided that Mr Beauclerk should speak a word to Lord
Alfred. The rich man and the poor man were cousins, and had always
been intimate. 'Alfred,' said the chosen mentor at the club one
afternoon, 'I wonder whether you couldn't say something to Melmotte
about his manner.' Lord Alfred turned sharp round and looked into his
companion's face. 'They tell me he is giving offence. Of course he
doesn't mean it. Couldn't he draw it a little milder?'

Lord Alfred made his reply almost in a whisper. 'If you ask me, I don't
think he could. If you got him down and trampled on him, you might
make him mild. I don't think there's any other way.'

'You couldn't speak to him, then?'

'Not unless I did it with a horsewhip.'

This, coming from Lord Alfred, who was absolutely dependent on the
man, was very strong. Lord Alfred had been much afflicted that
morning. He had spent some hours with his friend, either going about
the borough in the open carriage, or standing just behind him at
meetings, or sitting close to him in committee-rooms,--and had been
nauseated with Melmotte. When spoken to about his friend he could not
restrain himself. Lord Alfred had been born and bred a gentleman, and
found the position in which he was now earning his bread to be almost
insupportable. It had gone against the grain with him at first, when
he was called Alfred; but now that he was told 'just to open the
door,' and 'just to give that message,' he almost meditated revenge.
Lord Nidderdale, who was quick at observation, had seen something of
this in Grosvenor Square, and declared that Lord Alfred had invested
part of his recent savings in a cutting whip. Mr Beauclerk, when he
had got his answer, whistled and withdrew. But he was true to his
party. Melmotte was not the first vulgar man whom the Conservatives
had taken by the hand, and patted on the back, and told that he was a
god.

The Emperor of China was now in England, and was to be entertained one
night at the India Office. The Secretary of State for the second great
Asiatic Empire was to entertain the ruler of the first. This was on
Saturday the 6th of July, and Melmotte's dinner was to take place on
the following Monday. Very great interest was made by the London world
generally to obtain admission to the India Office,--the making of such
interest consisting in the most abject begging for tickets of
admission, addressed to the Secretary of State, to all the under
secretaries, to assistant secretaries, secretaries of departments,
chief clerks, and to head-messengers and their wives. If a petitioner
could not be admitted as a guest into the splendour of the reception
rooms, might not he,--or she,--be allowed to stand in some passage
whence the Emperor's back might perhaps be seen,--so that, if possible,
the petitioner's name might be printed in the list of guests which
would be published on the next morning? Now Mr Melmotte with his family
was, of course, supplied with tickets. He, who was to spend a fortune
in giving the Emperor a dinner, was of course entitled to be present
at other places to which the Emperor would be brought to be shown.
Melmotte had already seen the Emperor at a breakfast in Windsor Park,
and at a ball in royal halls. But hitherto he had not been presented
to the Emperor. Presentations have to be restricted,--if only on the
score of time; and it had been thought that as Mr Melmotte would of
course have some communication with the hardworked Emperor at his own
house, that would suffice. But he had felt himself to be ill-used and
was offended. He spoke with bitterness to some of his supporters of
the Royal Family generally, because he had not been brought to the
front rank either at the breakfast or at the ball,--and now, at the
India Office, was determined to have his due. But he was not on the
list of those whom the Secretary of State intended on this occasion to
present to the Brother of the Sun.

He had dined freely. At this period of his career he had taken to
dining freely,--which was in itself imprudent, as he had need at all
hours of his best intelligence. Let it not be understood that he was
tipsy. He was a man whom wine did not often affect after that fashion.
But it made him, who was arrogant before, tower in his arrogance till
he was almost sure to totter. It was probably at some moment after
dinner that Lord Alfred decided upon buying the cutting whip of which
he had spoken. Melmotte went with his wife and daughter to the India
Office, and soon left them far in the background with a request,--we
may say an order,--to Lord Alfred to take care of them. It may be
observed here that Marie Melmotte was almost as great a curiosity as
the Emperor himself, and was much noticed as the girl who had attempted
to run away to New York, but had gone without her lover. Melmotte
entertained some foolish idea that as the India Office was in
Westminster, he had a peculiar right to demand an introduction on this
occasion because of his candidature. He did succeed in getting hold of
an unfortunate under secretary of state, a studious and invaluable
young peer, known as Earl De Griffin. He was a shy man, of enormous
wealth, of mediocre intellect, and no great physical ability, who
never amused himself; but worked hard night and day, and read
everything that anybody could write, and more than any other person
could read, about India. Had Mr Melmotte wanted to know the exact
dietary of the peasants in Orissa, or the revenue of the Punjaub, or
the amount of crime in Bombay, Lord De Griffin would have informed him
without a pause. But in this matter of managing the Emperor, the under
secretary had nothing to do, and would have been the last man to be
engaged in such a service. He was, however, second in command at the
India Office, and of his official rank Melmotte was unfortunately made
aware. 'My Lord,' said he, by no means hiding his demand in a whisper,
'I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial Majesty.' Lord De
Griffin looked at him in despair, not knowing the great man,--being
one of the few men in that room who did not know him.

'This is Mr Melmotte,' said Lord Alfred, who had deserted the ladies
and still stuck to his master. 'Lord De Griffin, let me introduce you
to Mr Melmotte.'

'Oh--oh--oh,' said Lord De Griffin, just putting out his hand. 'I am
delighted;--ah, yes,' and pretending to see somebody, he made a weak
and quite ineffectual attempt to escape.

Melmotte stood directly in his way, and with unabashed audacity
repeated his demand. 'I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial
Majesty. Will you do me the honour of making my request known to Mr
Wilson?' Mr Wilson was the Secretary of State, who was as busy as a
Secretary of State is sure to be on such an occasion.

'I hardly know,' said Lord De Griffin. 'I'm afraid it's all arranged.
I don't know anything about it myself.'

'You can introduce me to Mr Wilson.'

'He's up there, Mr Melmotte; and I couldn't get at him. Really you
must excuse me. I'm very sorry. If I see him I'll tell him.' And the
poor under secretary again endeavoured to escape.

Mr Melmotte put up his hand and stopped him. 'I'm not going to stand
this kind of thing,' he said. The old Marquis of Auld Reekie was close
at hand, the father of Lord Nidderdale, and therefore the proposed
father-in-law of Melmotte's daughter, and he poked his thumb heavily
into Lord Alfred's ribs. 'It is generally understood, I believe,'
continued Melmotte, 'that the Emperor is to do me the honour of dining
at my poor house on Monday. He don't dine there unless I'm made
acquainted with him before he comes. I mean what I say. I ain't going
to entertain even an Emperor unless I'm good enough to be presented to
him. Perhaps you'd better let Mr Wilson know, as a good many people
intend to come.'

'Here's a row,' said the old Marquis. 'I wish he'd be as good as his
word.'

'He has taken a little wine,' whispered Lord Alfred. 'Melmotte,' he
said, still whispering; 'upon my word it isn't the thing. They're only
Indian chaps and Eastern swells who are presented here,--not a fellow
among 'em all who hasn't been in India or China, or isn't a Secretary
of State, or something of that kind.'

'Then they should have done it at Windsor, or at the ball,' said
Melmotte, pulling down his waistcoat. 'By George, Alfred! I'm in
earnest, and somebody had better look to it. If I'm not presented to
his Imperial Majesty to-night, by G----, there shall be no dinner in
Grosvenor Square on Monday. I'm master enough of my own house, I
suppose, to be able to manage that.'

Here was a row, as the Marquis had said! Lord De Griffin was
frightened, and Lord Alfred felt that something ought to be done.
'There's no knowing how far the pig-headed brute may go in his
obstinacy,' Lord Alfred said to Mr Lupton, who was there. It no doubt
might have been wise to have allowed the merchant prince to return
home with the resolution that his dinner should be abandoned. He would
have repented probably before the next morning; and had he continued
obdurate it would not have been difficult to explain to Celestial
Majesty that something preferable had been found for that particular
evening even to a banquet at the house of British commerce. The
Government would probably have gained the seat for Westminster, as
Melmotte would at once have become very unpopular with the great body
of his supporters. But Lord De Griffin was not the man to see this. He
did make his way up to Mr Wilson, and explained to the Amphytrion of
the night the demand which was made on his hospitality. A thoroughly
well-established and experienced political Minister of State always
feels that if he can make a friend or appease an enemy without paying
a heavy price he will be doing a good stroke of business. 'Bring him
up,' said Mr Wilson. 'He's going to do something out in the East,
isn't he?' 'Nothing in India,' said Lord De Griffin. 'The submarine
telegraph is quite impossible.' Mr Wilson, instructing some satellite
to find out in what way he might properly connect Mr Melmotte with
China, sent Lord De Griffin away with his commission.

'My dear Alfred, just allow me to manage these things myself;' Mr
Melmotte was saying when the under secretary returned. 'I know my own
position and how to keep it. There shall be no dinner. I'll be d---- if
any of the lot shall dine in Grosvenor Square on Monday.' Lord Alfred
was so astounded that he was thinking of making his way to the Prime
Minister, a man whom he abhorred and didn't know, and of acquainting
him with the terrible calamity which was threatened. But the arrival
of the under secretary saved him the trouble.

'If you will come with me,' whispered Lord De Griffin, 'it shall be
managed. It isn't just the thing, but as you wish it, it shall be
done.'

'I do wish it,' said Melmotte aloud. He was one of those men whom
success never mollified, whose enjoyment of a point gained always
demanded some hoarse note of triumph from his own trumpet.

'If you will be so kind as to follow me,' said Lord De Griffin. And so
the thing was done. Melmotte, as he was taken up to the imperial
footstool, was resolved upon making a little speech, forgetful at the
moment of interpreters,--of the double interpreters whom the Majesty
of China required; but the awful, quiescent solemnity of the celestial
one quelled even him, and he shuffled by without saying a word even of
his own banquet.

But he had gained his point, and, as he was taken home to poor Mr
Longestaffe's house in Bruton Street, was intolerable. Lord Alfred
tried to escape after putting Madame Melmotte and her daughter into
the carriage, but Melmotte insisted on his presence. 'You might as
well come, Alfred;--there are two or three things I must settle
before I go to bed.'

'I'm about knocked up,' said the unfortunate man.

'Knocked up, nonsense! Think what I've been through. I've been all day
at the hardest work a man can do.' Had he as usual got in first,
leaving his man-of-all-work to follow, the man-of-all-work would have
escaped. Melmotte, fearing such defection, put his hand on Lord
Alfred's shoulder, and the poor fellow was beaten. As they were taken
home a continual sound of cock-crowing was audible, but as the words
were not distinguished they required no painful attention; but when
the soda water and brandy and cigars made their appearance in Mr
Longestaffe's own back room, then the trumpet was sounded with a full
blast. 'I mean to let the fellows know what's what,' said Melmotte,
walking about the room. Lord Alfred had thrown himself into an
arm-chair, and was consoling himself as best he might with tobacco.
'Give and take is a very good motto. If I scratch their back, I mean
them to scratch mine. They won't find many people to spend ten
thousand pounds in entertaining a guest of the country's as a private
enterprise. I don't know of any other man of business who could do it,
or would do it. It's not much any of them can do for me. Thank God, I
don't want 'em. But if consideration is to be shown to anybody, I
intend to be considered. The Prince treated me very scurvily, Alfred,
and I shall take an opportunity of telling him so on Monday. I suppose
a man may be allowed to speak to his own guests.'

'You might turn the election against you if you said anything the
Prince didn't like.'

'D---- the election, sir. I stand before the electors of Westminster as a
man of business, not as a courtier,--as a man who understands commercial
enterprise, not as one of the Prince's toadies. Some of you fellows in
England don't realize the matter yet; but I can tell you that I think
myself quite as great a man as any Prince.' Lord Alfred looked at him,
with strong reminiscences of the old ducal home, and shuddered. 'I'll
teach them a lesson before long. Didn't I teach 'em a lesson to-night,--
eh? They tell me that Lord De Griffin has sixty thousand a-year to
spend. What's sixty thousand a year? Didn't I make him go on my
business? And didn't I make 'em do as I chose? You want to tell me
this and that, but I can tell you that I know more of men and women
than some of you fellows do, who think you know a great deal.'

This went on through the whole of a long cigar; and afterwards, as
Lord Alfred slowly paced his way back to his lodgings in Mount Street,
he thought deeply whether there might not be means of escaping from
his present servitude. 'Beast! Brute! Pig!' he said to himself over
and over again as he slowly went to Mount Street.




CHAPTER LV - CLERICAL CHARITIES


Melmotte's success, and Melmotte's wealth, and Melmotte's antecedents
were much discussed down in Suffolk at this time. He had been seen
there in the flesh, and there is no believing like that which comes
from sight. He had been staying at Caversham, and many in those parts
knew that Miss Longestaffe was now living in his house in London. The
purchase of the Pickering estate had also been noticed in all the
Suffolk and Norfolk newspapers. Rumours, therefore, of his past
frauds, rumour also as to the instability of his presumed fortune,
were as current as those which declared him to be by far the richest
man in England. Miss Melmotte's little attempt had also been
communicated in the papers; and Sir Felix, though he was not
recognized as being 'real Suffolk' himself, was so far connected with
Suffolk by name as to add something to this feeling of reality
respecting the Melmottes generally. Suffolk is very old-fashioned.
Suffolk, taken as a whole, did not like the Melmotte fashion. Suffolk,
which is, I fear, persistently and irrecoverably Conservative, did not
believe in Melmotte as a Conservative Member of Parliament. Suffolk on
this occasion was rather ashamed of the Longestaffes, and took
occasion to remember that it was barely the other day, as Suffolk
counts days, since the original Longestaffe was in trade. This selling
of Pickering, and especially the selling of it to Melmotte, was a mean
thing. Suffolk, as a whole, thoroughly believed that Melmotte had
picked the very bones of every shareholder in that Franco-Austrian
Assurance Company.

Mr Hepworth was over with Roger one morning, and they were talking
about him,--or talking rather of the attempted elopement. 'I know
nothing about it,' said Roger, 'and I do not intend to ask. Of course
I did know when they were down here that he hoped to marry her, and I
did believe that she was willing to marry him. But whether the father
had consented or not I never inquired.'

'It seems he did not consent.'

'Nothing could have been more unfortunate for either of them than such
a marriage. Melmotte will probably be in the "Gazette" before long,
and my cousin not only has not a shilling, but could not keep one if
he had it.'

'You think Melmotte will turn out a failure.'

'A failure! Of course he's a failure, whether rich or poor;--a
miserable imposition, a hollow vulgar fraud from beginning to end,--
too insignificant for you and me to talk of, were it not that his
position is a sign of the degeneracy of the age. What are we coming
to when such as he is an honoured guest at our tables?'

'At just a table here and there,' suggested his friend.

'No;--it is not that. You can keep your house free from him, and so can
I mine. But we set no example to the nation at large. They who do set
the example go to his feasts, and of course he is seen at theirs in
return. And yet these leaders of the fashion know,--at any rate they
believe,--that he is what he is because he has been a swindler greater
than other swindlers. What follows as a natural consequence? Men
reconcile themselves to swindling. Though they themselves mean to be
honest, dishonesty of itself is no longer odious to them. Then there
comes the jealousy that others should be growing rich with the
approval of all the world,--and the natural aptitude to do what all the
world approves. It seems to me that the existence of a Melmotte is not
compatible with a wholesome state of things in general.'

Roger dined with the Bishop of Elmham that evening, and the same hero
was discussed under a different heading. 'He has given L200,' said the
Bishop, 'to the Curates' Aid Society. I don't know that a man could
spend his money much better than that.'

'Clap-trap!' said Roger, who in his present mood was very bitter.

'The money is not clap-trap, my friend. I presume that the money is
really paid.'

'I don't feel at all sure of that.'

'Our collectors for clerical charities are usually stern men,--very
ready to make known defalcations on the part of promising subscribers.
I think they would take care to get the money during the election.'

'And you think that money got in that way redounds to his credit?'

'Such a gift shows him to be a useful member of society,--and I am
always for encouraging useful men.'

'Even though their own objects may be vile and pernicious?'

'There you beg ever so many questions, Mr Carbury. Mr Melmotte wishes
to get into Parliament, and if there would vote on the side which you
at any rate approve. I do not know that his object in that respect is
pernicious. And as a seat in Parliament has been a matter of ambition
to the best of our countrymen for centuries, I do not know why we
should say that it is vile in this man.' Roger frowned and shook his
head. 'Of course Mr Melmotte is not the sort of gentleman whom you
have been accustomed to regard as a fitting member for a Conservative
constituency. But the country is changing.'

'It's going to the dogs, I think;--about as fast as it can go.'

'We build churches much faster than we used to do.'

'Do we say our prayers in them when we have built them?' asked the
Squire.

'It is very hard to see into the minds of men,' said the Bishop; 'but
we can see the results of their minds' work. I think that men on the
whole do live better lives than they did a hundred years ago. There is
a wider spirit of justice abroad, more of mercy from one to another, a
more lively charity, and if less of religious enthusiasm, less also of
superstition. Men will hardly go to heaven, Mr Carbury, by following
forms only because their fathers followed the same forms before them.'

'I suppose men will go to heaven, my Lord, by doing as they would be
done by.'

'There can be no safer lesson. But we must hope that some may be saved
even if they have not practised at all times that grand self-denial.
Who comes up to that teaching? Do you not wish for, nay, almost
demand, instant pardon for any trespass that you may commit,--of temper,
or manner, for instance? and are you always ready to forgive in that
way yourself? Do you not writhe with indignation at being wrongly
judged by others who condemn you without knowing your actions or the
causes of them; and do you never judge others after that fashion?'

'I do not put myself forward as an example.'

'I apologise for the personal form of my appeal. A clergyman is apt to
forget that he is not in the pulpit. Of course I speak of men in
general. Taking society as a whole, the big and the little, the rich
and the poor, I think that it grows better from year to year, and not
worse. I think, too, that they who grumble at the times, as Horace
did, and declare that each age is worse than its forerunner, look only
at the small things beneath their eyes, and ignore the course of the
world at large.'

'But Roman freedom and Roman manners were going to the dogs when
Horace wrote.'

'But Christ was about to be born, and men were already being made fit
by wider intelligence for Christ's teaching. And as for freedom, has
not freedom grown, almost every year, from that to this?'

'In Rome they were worshipping just such men as this Melmotte. Do you
remember the man who sat upon the seats of the knights and scoured the
Via Sacra with his toga, though he had been scourged from pillar to
post for his villainies? I always think of that man when I hear
Melmotte's name mentioned. Hoc, hoc tribuno militum! Is this the man
to be Conservative member for Westminster?'

'Do you know of the scourges, as a fact?'

'I think I know that they are deserved.'

'That is hardly doing to others as you would be done by. If the man is
what you say, he will surely be found out at last, and the day of his
punishment will come. Your friend in the ode probably had a bad time
of it, in spite of his farms and his horses. The world perhaps is
managed more justly than you think, Mr Carbury.'

'My Lord, I believe you're a Radical at heart,' said Roger, as he took
his leave.

'Very likely,--very likely. Only don't say so to the Prime Minister,
or I shall never get any of the better things which may be going.'

The Bishop was not hopelessly in love with a young lady, and was
therefore less inclined to take a melancholy view of things in general
than Roger Carbury. To Roger everything seemed to be out of joint. He
had that morning received a letter from Lady Carbury, reminding him of
the promise of a loan, should a time come to her of great need. It had
come very quickly. Roger Carbury did not in the least begrudge the
hundred pounds which he had already sent to his cousin; but he did
begrudge any furtherance afforded to the iniquitous schemes of Sir
Felix. He felt all but sure that the foolish mother had given her son
money for his abortive attempt, and that therefore this appeal had
been made to him. He alluded to no such fear in his letter. He simply
enclosed the cheque, and expressed a hope that the amount might
suffice for the present emergency. But he was disheartened and
disgusted by all the circumstances of the Carbury family. There was
Paul Montague, bringing a woman such as Mrs Hurtle down to Lowestoft,
declaring his purpose of continuing his visits to her, and, as
Roge