The Way We Live Now

by Anthony Trollope




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Chapter XXXI

Mr. Broune Has Made Up His Mind
“And now I have something to say to you.” Mr. Broune as he thus spoke to Lady Carbury rose up to his feet and then sat down again. There was an air of perturbation about him which was very manifest to the lady, and the cause and coming result of which she thought that she understood. “The susceptible old goose is going to do something highly ridiculous and very disagreeable.” It was thus that she spoke to herself of the scene that she saw was prepared for her, but she did not foresee accurately the shape in which the susceptibility of the “old goose” would declare itself. “Lady Carbury,” said Mr. Broune, standing up a second time, “we are neither of us so young as we used to be.”

“No, indeed;⁠—and therefore it is that we can afford to ourselves the luxury of being friends. Nothing but age enables men and women to know each other intimately.”

This speech was a great impediment to Mr. Broune’s progress. It was evidently intended to imply that he at least had reached a time of life at which any allusion to love would be absurd. And yet, as a fact, he was nearer fifty than sixty, was young of his age, could walk his four or five miles pleasantly, could ride his cob in the park with as free an air as any man of forty, and could afterwards work through four or five hours of the night with an easy steadiness which nothing but sound health could produce. Mr. Broune, thinking of himself and his own circumstances, could see no reason why he should not be in love. “I hope we know each other intimately at any rate,” he said somewhat lamely.

“Oh, yes;⁠—and it is for that reason that I have come to you for advice. Had I been a young woman I should not have dared to ask you.”

“I don’t see that. I don’t quite understand that. But it has nothing to do with my present purpose. When I said that we were neither of us so young as we once were, I uttered what was a stupid platitude⁠—a foolish truism.”

“I did not think so,” said Lady Carbury smiling.

“Or would have been, only that I intended something further.” Mr. Broune had got himself into a difficulty and hardly knew how to get out of it. “I was going on to say that I hoped we were not too old to⁠—love.”

Foolish old darling! What did he mean by making such an ass of himself? This was worse even than the kiss, as being more troublesome and less easily pushed on one side and forgotten. It may serve to explain the condition of Lady Carbury’s mind at the time if it be stated that she did not even at this moment suppose that the editor of the Morning Breakfast Table intended to make her an offer of marriage. She knew, or thought she knew, that middle-aged men are fond of prating about love, and getting up sensational scenes. The falseness of the thing, and the injury which may come of it, did not shock her at all. Had she known that the editor professed to be in love with some lady in the next street, she would have been quite ready to enlist the lady in the next street among her friends that she might thus strengthen her own influence with Mr. Broune. For herself such make-belief of an improper passion would be inconvenient, and therefore to be avoided. But that any man, placed as Mr. Broune was in the world⁠—blessed with power, with a large income, with influence throughout all the world around him, courted, fêted, feared and almost worshipped⁠—that he should desire to share her fortunes, her misfortunes, her struggles, her poverty and her obscurity, was not within the scope of her imagination. There was a homage in it, of which she did not believe any man to be capable⁠—and which to her would be the more wonderful as being paid to herself. She thought so badly of men and women generally, and of Mr. Broune and herself as a man and a woman individually, that she was unable to conceive the possibility of such a sacrifice. “Mr. Broune,” she said, “I did not think that you would take advantage of the confidence I have placed in you to annoy me in this way.”

“To annoy you, Lady Carbury! The phrase at any rate is singular. After much thought I have determined to ask you to be my wife. That I should be⁠—annoyed, and more than annoyed by your refusal, is a matter of course. That I ought to expect such annoyance is perhaps too true. But you can extricate yourself from the dilemma only too easily.”

The word “wife” came upon her like a thunderclap. It at once changed all her feelings towards him. She did not dream of loving him. She felt sure that she never could love him. Had it been on the cards with her to love any man as a lover, it would have been some handsome spendthrift who would have hung from her neck like a nether millstone. This man was a friend to be used⁠—to be used because he knew the world. And now he gave her this clear testimony that he knew as little of the world as any other man. Mr. Broune of the “Daily Breakfast Table” asking her to be his wife! But mixed with her other feelings there was a tenderness which brought back some memory of her distant youth, and almost made her weep. That a man⁠—such a man⁠—should offer to take half her burdens, and to confer upon her half his blessings! What an idiot! But what a God! She had looked upon the man as all intellect, alloyed perhaps by some passionless remnants of the vices of his youth; and now she found that he not only had a human heart in his bosom, but a heart that she could touch. How wonderfully sweet! How infinitely small!

It was necessary that she should answer him⁠—and to her it was only natural that she should at first think what answer would best assist her own views without reference to his. It did not occur to her that she could love him; but it did occur to her that he might lift her out of her difficulties. What a benefit it would be to her to have a father, and such a father, for Felix! How easy would be a literary career to the wife of the editor of the Morning Breakfast Table! And then it passed through her mind that somebody had told her that the man was paid £3,000 a year for his work. Would not the world, or any part of it that was desirable, come to her drawing-room if she were the wife of Mr. Broune? It all passed through her brain at once during that minute of silence which she allowed herself after the declaration was made to her. But other ideas and other feelings were present to her also. Perhaps the truest aspiration of her heart had been the love of freedom which the tyranny of her late husband had engendered. Once she had fled from that tyranny and had been almost crushed by the censure to which she had been subjected. Then her husband’s protection and his tyranny had been restored to her. After that the freedom had come. It had been accompanied by many hopes never as yet fulfilled, and embittered by many sorrows which had been always present to her; but still the hopes were alive and the remembrance of the tyranny was very clear to her. At last the minute was over and she was bound to speak. “Mr. Broune,” she said, “you have quite taken away my breath. I never expected anything of this kind.”

And now Mr. Broune’s mouth was opened, and his voice was free. “Lady Carbury,” he said, “I have lived a long time without marrying, and I have sometimes thought that it would be better for me to go on in the same way to the end. I have worked so hard all my life that when I was young I had no time to think of love. And, as I have gone on, my mind has been so fully employed, that I have hardly realised the want which nevertheless I have felt. And so it has been with me till I fancied, not that I was too old for love, but that others would think me so. Then I met you. As I said at first, perhaps with scant gallantry, you also are not as young as you once were. But you keep the beauty of your youth, and the energy, and something of the freshness of a young heart. And I have come to love you. I speak with absolute frankness, risking your anger. I have doubted much before I resolved upon this. It is so hard to know the nature of another person. But I think I understand yours;⁠—and if you can confide your happiness with me, I am prepared to 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.


“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—tomorrow; say the day after tomorrow, on Thursday. I feel that I ought to have been prepared with an answer; but I am so surprised that I have none ready.” He took her hand in his, and kissing it, left her without another word.

As he was about to open the front door to let himself out, a key from the other side raised the latch, and Sir Felix, returning from his club, entered his mother’s house. The young man looked up into Mr. Broune’s face with mingled impudence and surprise. “Halloo, old fellow,” he said, “you’ve been keeping it up late here; haven’t you?” He was nearly drunk, and Mr. Broune, perceiving his condition, passed him without a word. Lady Carbury was still standing in the drawing-room, struck with amazement at the scene which had just passed, full of doubt as to her future conduct, when she heard her son stumbling up the stairs. It was impossible for her not to go out to him. “Felix,” she said, “why do you make so much noise as you come in?”

“Noish! I’m not making any noish. I think I’m very early. Your people’s only just gone. I shaw shat editor fellow at the door that won’t call himself Brown. He’sh great ass’h, that fellow. All right, mother. Oh, ye’sh I’m all right.” And so he stumbled up to bed, and his mother followed him to see that the candle was at any rate placed squarely on the table, beyond the reach of the bed curtains.

Mr. Broune as he walked to his newspaper office experienced all those pangs of doubts which a man feels when he has just done that which for days and weeks past he has almost resolved that he had better leave undone. That last apparition which he had encountered at his lady love’s door certainly had not tended to reassure him. What curse can be much greater than that inflicted by a drunken, reprobate son? The evil, when in the course of things it comes upon a man, has to be borne; but why should a man in middle life unnecessarily afflict himself with so terrible a misfortune? The woman, too, was devoted to the cub! Then thousands of other thoughts crowded upon him. How would this new life suit him? He must have a new house, and new ways; must live under a new dominion, and fit himself to new pleasures. And what was he to gain by it? Lady Carbury was a handsome woman, and he liked her beauty. He regarded her too as a clever woman; and, because she had flattered him, he had liked her conversation. He had been long enough about town to have known better⁠—and as he now walked along the streets, he almost felt that he ought to have known better. Every now and again he warmed himself a little with the remembrance of her beauty, and told himself that his new home would be pleasanter, though it might perhaps be less free, than the old one. He tried to make the best of it; but as he did so was always repressed by the memory of the appearance of that drunken young baronet.

Whether for good or for evil, the step had been taken and the thing was done. It did not occur to him that the lady would refuse him. All his experience of the world was against such refusal. Towns which consider, always render themselves. Ladies who doubt always solve their doubts in the one direction. Of course she would accept him;⁠—and of course he would stand to his guns. As he went to his work he endeavoured to bathe himself in self-complacency; but, at the bottom of it, there was a substratum of melancholy which leavened his prospects.

Lady Carbury went from the door of her son’s room to her own chamber, and there sat thinking through the greater part of the night. During these hours she perhaps became a better woman, as being more oblivious of herself, than she had been for many a year. It could not be for the good of this man that he should marry her⁠—and she did in the midst of her many troubles try to think of the man’s condition. Although in the moments of her triumph⁠—and such moments were many⁠—she would buoy herself up with assurances that her Felix would become a rich man, brilliant with wealth and rank, an honour to her, a personage whose society would be desired by many, still in her heart of hearts she knew how great was the peril, and in her imagination she could foresee the nature of the catastrophe which might come. He would go utterly to the dogs and would take her with him. And whithersoever he might go, to what lowest canine regions he might descend, she knew herself well enough to be sure that whether married or single she would go with him. Though her reason might be ever so strong in bidding her to desert him, her heart, she knew, would be stronger than her reason. He was the one thing in the world that overpowered her. In all other matters she could scheme, and contrive, and pretend; could get the better of her feelings and fight the world with a double face, laughing at illusions and telling herself that passions and preferences were simply weapons to be used. But her love for her son mastered her⁠—and she knew it. As it was so, could it be fit that she should marry another man?

And then her liberty! Even though Felix should bring her to utter ruin, nevertheless she would be and might remain a free woman. Should the worse come to the worst she thought that she could endure a Bohemian life in which, should all her means have been taken from her, she could live on what she earned. Though Felix was a tyrant after a kind, he was not a tyrant who could bid her do this or that. A repetition of marriage vows did not of itself recommend itself to her. As to loving the man, liking his caresses, and being specially happy because he was near her⁠—no romance of that kind ever presented itself to her imagination. How would it affect Felix and her together⁠—and Mr. Broune as connected with her and Felix? If Felix should go to the dogs, then would Mr. Broune not want her. Should Felix go to the stars instead of the dogs, and become one of the gilded ornaments of the metropolis, then would not he and she want Mr. Broune. It was thus that she regarded the matter.

She thought very little of her daughter as she considered all this. There was a home for Hetta, with every comfort, if Hetta would only condescend to accept it. Why did not Hetta marry her cousin Roger Carbury and let there be an end of that trouble? Of course Hetta must live wherever her mother lived till she should marry; but Hetta’s life was so much at her own disposal that her mother did not feel herself bound to be guided in the great matter by Hetta’s predispositions.

But she must tell Hetta should she ultimately make up her mind to marry the man, and in that case the sooner this was done the better. On that night she did not make up her mind. Ever and again as she declared to herself that she would not marry him, the picture of a comfortable assured home over her head, and the conviction that the editor of the Morning Breakfast Table would be powerful for all things, brought new doubts to her mind. But she could not convince herself, and when at last she went to her bed her mind was still vacillating. The next morning she met Hetta at breakfast, and with assumed nonchalance asked a question about the man who was perhaps about to be her husband. “Do you like Mr. Broune, Hetta?”

“Yes;⁠—pretty well. I don’t care very much about him. What makes you ask, mamma?”

“Because among my acquaintances in London there is no one so truly kind to me as he is.”

“He always seems to me to like to have his own way.”

“Why shouldn’t he like it?”

“He has to me that air of selfishness which is so very common with people in London;⁠—as though what he said were all said out of surface politeness.”

“I wonder what you expect, Hetta, when you talk of⁠—London people? Why should not London people be as kind as other people? I think Mr. Broune is as obliging a man as anyone 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 midday in desirable company, and found herself in proper houses at midnight, she would have borne the rest, bad as it might have been. But it was not so. She had her horse, but could with difficulty get any proper companion. She had been in the habit of riding with one of the Primero girls⁠—and old Primero would accompany them, or perhaps a brother Primero, or occasionally her own father. And then, when once out, she would be surrounded by a cloud of young men⁠—and though there was but little in it, a walking round and round the same bit of ground with the same companions and with the smallest attempt at conversation, still it had been the proper thing and had satisfied her. Now it was with difficulty that she could get any cavalier such as the laws of society demand. Even Penelope Primero snubbed her⁠—whom she, Georgiana Longestaffe, had hitherto endured and snubbed. She was just allowed to join them when old Primero rode, and was obliged even to ask for that assistance.

But the nights were still worse. She could only go where Madame Melmotte went, and Madame Melmotte was more prone to receive people at home than to go out. And the people she did receive were antipathetic to Miss Longestaffe. She did not even know who they were, whence they came, or what was their nature. They seemed to be as little akin to her as would have been the shopkeepers in the small town near Caversham. She would sit through long evenings almost speechless, trying to fathom the depth of the vulgarity of her associates. Occasionally she was taken out, and was then, probably, taken to very grand houses. The two duchesses and the Marchioness of Auld Reekie received Madame Melmotte, and the garden parties of royalty were open to her. And some of the most elaborate fêtes of the season⁠—which indeed were very elaborate on behalf of this and that travelling potentate⁠—were attained. On these occasions Miss Longestaffe was fully aware of the struggle that was always made for invitations, often unsuccessfully, but sometimes with triumph. Even the bargains, conducted by the hands of Lord Alfred and his mighty sister, were not altogether hidden from her. The Emperor of China was to be in London and it was thought proper that some private person, some untitled individual, should give the Emperor a dinner, so that the Emperor might see how an English merchant lives. Mr. Melmotte was chosen on condition that he would spend £10,000 on the banquet;⁠—and, as a part of his payment for this expenditure, was to be admitted with his family, to a grand entertainment given to the Emperor at Windsor Park. Of these good things Georgiana Longestaffe would receive her share. But she went to them as a Melmotte and not as a Longestaffe⁠—and when amidst these gaieties, though she could see her old friends, she was not with them. She was ever behind Madame Melmotte, till she hated the make of that lady’s garments and the shape of that lady’s back.

She had told both her father and mother very plainly that it behoved her to be in London at this time of the year that she might⁠—look for a husband. She had not hesitated in declaring her purpose; and that purpose, together with the means of carrying it out, had not appeared to them to be unreasonable. She wanted to be settled in life. She had meant, when she first started on her career, to have a lord;⁠—but lords are scarce. She was herself not very highly born, not very highly gifted, not very lovely, not very pleasant, and she had no fortune. She had long made up her mind that she could do without a lord, but that she must get a commoner of the proper sort. He must be a man with a place in the country and sufficient means to bring him annually to London. He must be a gentleman⁠—and, probably, in parliament. And above all things he must be in the right set. She would rather go on forever struggling than take some country Whitstable as her sister was about to do. But now the men of the right sort never came near her. The one object for which she had subjected herself to all this ignominy seemed to have vanished altogether in the distance. When by chance she danced or exchanged a few words with the Nidderdales and Grassloughs whom she used to know, they spoke to her with a want of respect which she felt and tasted but could hardly analyse. Even Miles Grendall, who had hitherto been below her notice, attempted to patronise her in a manner that bewildered her. All this nearly broke her heart.

And then from time to time little rumours reached her ears which made her aware that, in the teeth of all Mr. Melmotte’s social successes, a general opinion that he was a gigantic swindler was rather gaining ground than otherwise. “Your host is a wonderful fellow, by George!” said Lord Nidderdale. “No one seems to know which way he’ll turn up at last.” “There’s nothing like being a robber, if you can only rob enough,” said Lord Grasslough⁠—not exactly naming Melmotte, but very clearly alluding to him. There was a vacancy for a member of parliament at Westminster, and Melmotte was about to come forward as a candidate. “If he can manage that I think he’ll pull through,” she heard one man say. “If money’ll do it, it will be done,” said another. She could understand it all. Mr. Melmotte was admitted into society, because of some enormous power which was supposed to lie in his hands; but even by those who thus admitted him he was regarded as a thief and a scoundrel. This was the man whose house had been selected by her father in order that she might make her search for a husband from beneath his wing!

In her agony she wrote to her old friend Julia Triplex, now the wife of Sir Damask Monogram. She had been really intimate with Julia Triplex, and had been sympathetic when a brilliant marriage had been achieved. Julia had been without fortune, but very pretty. Sir Damask was a man of great wealth, whose father had been a contractor. But Sir Damask himself was a sportsman, keeping many horses on which other men often rode, a yacht in which other men sunned themselves, a deer forest, a moor, a large machinery for making pheasants. He shot pigeons at Hurlingham, drove four-in-hand in the park, had a box at every racecourse, 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 tomorrow till three⁠—that is today 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. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, 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 armchair 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 stupider and stupider 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 tonight, 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 tonight, and if you can make it up wi’ him, well and good. There’s five hun’erd pound, and ye shall have the dinner and the dance and all Bungay. He ain’t a going to be put off no longer;⁠—he ain’t.”

“Whoever wanted him to be put on? Let him go his own gait.”

“If you can’t make it up wi’ him⁠—”

“Well, grandfather, I shan’t anyways.”

“Let me have my say, will ye, yer jade, you? There’s five hun’erd pound! and there ain’t ere a farmer in Suffolk or Norfolk paying rent for a bit of land like this can do as well for his darter as that⁠—let alone only a granddarter. You never thinks o’ that;⁠—you don’t. If you don’t like to take it⁠—leave it. But you’ll leave Sheep’s Acre too.”

“Bother Sheep’s Acre. Who wants to stop at Sheep’s Acre? It’s the stupidest 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. Stupid, is it? You’ll have to put up wi’ places stupider 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 farmhouse. Nor did he come alone. He was accompanied by his friend Joe Mixet, the baker of Bungay, who, as all Bungay knew, was to be his best man at his marriage. John Crumb’s character was not without many fine attributes. He could earn money⁠—and having earned it could spend and keep it in fair proportion. He was afraid of no work, and⁠—to give him his due⁠—was afraid of no man. He was honest, and ashamed of nothing that he did. And after his fashion he had chivalrous ideas about women. He was willing to thrash any man that ill-used a woman, and would certainly be a most dangerous antagonist to any man who would misuse a woman belonging to him. But Ruby had told the truth of him in saying that he was slow of speech, and what the world calls stupid in regard to all forms of expression. He knew good meal from bad as well as any man, and the price at which he could buy it so as to leave himself a fair profit at the selling. He knew the value of a clear conscience, and without much argument had discovered for himself that honesty is in truth the best policy. Joe Mixet, who was dapper of person and glib of tongue, had often declared that anyone 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 stupid as John Crumb? There’s no end to his being stupid.”

The old man had slept off his anger and his beer while Ruby had been preparing the feast, and now roused himself to entertain his guests. “What, Joe Mixet; is that thou? Thou’rt welcome. Come in, man. Well, John, how is it wi’ you? Ruby’s a stewing o’ something for us to eat a bit. Don’t ’e smell it?”⁠—John Crumb lifted up his great nose, sniffed and grinned.

“John didn’t like going home in the dark like,” said the baker, with his little joke. “So I just come along to drive away the bogies.”

“The more the merrier;⁠—the more the merrier. Ruby’ll have enough for the two o’ you, I’ll go bail. So John Crumb’s afraid of bogies;⁠—is he? The more need he to have some ’un in his house to scart ’em away.”

The lover had seated himself without speaking a word; but now he was instigated to ask a question. “Where be she, Muster Ruggles?” They were seated in the outside or front kitchen, in which the old man and his granddaughter always lived; while Ruby was at work in the back kitchen. As John Crumb asked this question she could be heard distinctly among the pots and the plates. She now came out, and wiping her hands on her apron, shook hands with the two young men. She had enveloped herself in a big household apron when the cooking was in hand, and had not cared to take it off for the greeting of this lover. “Grandfather said as how you was a coming out for your supper, so I’ve been a seeing to it. You’ll excuse the apron, Mr. Mixet.”

“You couldn’t look nicer, miss, if you was to try it ever so. My mother says as it’s housifery as recommends a girl to the young men. What do you say, John?”

“I loiks to see her loik o’ that,” said John rubbing his hands down the back of his trousers, 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 his chair. Ruby cut up the fowl standing, and dispensed the other good things, not even placing a chair for herself at the table⁠—and apparently not expected to do so, for no one invited her. “Is it to be spirits or ale, Mr. Crumb?” she said, when the other two men had helped themselves. He turned round and gave her a look of love that might have softened the heart of an Amazon; but instead of speaking he held up his tumbler, and bobbed his head at the beer jug. Then she filled it to the brim, frothing it in the manner in which he loved to have it frothed. He raised it to his mouth slowly, and poured the liquor in as though to a vat. Then she filled it again. He had been her lover, and she would be as kind to him as she knew how⁠—short of love.

There was a good deal of eating done, for more ham came in, and another mountain of cabbage; but very little or nothing was said. John Crumb ate whatever was given to him of the fowl, sedulously picking the bones, and almost swallowing them; and then finished the second dish of ham, and after that the second instalment of cabbage. He did not ask for more beer, but took it as often as Ruby replenished his glass. When the eating was done, Ruby retired into the back kitchen, and there regaled herself with some bone or merry-thought of the fowl, which she had with prudence reserved, sharing her spoils however with the other maiden. This she did standing, and then went to work, cleaning the dishes. The men lit their pipes and smoked in silence, while Ruby went through her domestic duties. So matters went on for half an hour; during which Ruby escaped by the back door, went round into the house, got into her own room, and formed the grand resolution of going to bed. She began her operations in fear and trembling, not being sure but that her grandfather would bring the man 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 somwheres,” he said. “Take a glass of sperrits and water, Mr. Crumb, and I’ll see after her.”

“I’ll just take a drop of y’ell,” said John Crumb, apparently quite unmoved by the absence of his sweetheart.

It was sad work for the old man. He went down the yard and into the garden, hobbling among the cabbages, not daring to call very loud, as he did not wish to have it supposed that the girl was lost; but still anxious, and sore at heart as to the ingratitude shown to him. He was not bound to give the girl a home at all. She was not his own child. And he had offered her £500! “Domm her,” he said aloud as he made his way back to the house. After much search and considerable loss of time he returned to the kitchen in which the two men were sitting, leading Ruby in his hand. She was not smart in her apparel, for she had half undressed herself, and been then compelled by her grandfather to make herself fit to appear in public. She had acknowledged to herself that she had better go down and tell John Crumb the truth. For she was still determined that she would never be John Crumb’s wife. “You can answer him as well as I, grandfather,” she had said. Then the farmer had cuffed her, and told her that she was an idiot. “Oh, if it comes to that,” said Ruby, “I’m not afraid of John Crumb, nor yet of nobody else. Only I didn’t think you’d go to strike me, grandfather.” “I’ll knock the life out of thee, if thou goest on this gate,” he had said. But she had consented to come down, and they entered the room together.

“We’re a disturbing you a’most too late, miss,” said Mr. Mixet.

“It ain’t that at all, Mr. Mixet. If grandfather chooses to have a few friends, I ain’t nothing against it. I wish he’d have a few friends a deal oftener than he do. I likes nothing better than to do for ’em;⁠—only when I’ve done for ’em and they’re smoking their pipes and that like, I don’t see why I ain’t to leave ’em to ’emselves.”

“But we’ve come here on a hauspicious occasion, Miss Ruby.”

“I don’t know nothing about auspicious, Mr. Mixet. If you and Mr. Crumb’ve come out to Sheep’s Acre farm for a bit of supper⁠—”

“Which we ain’t,” said John Crumb very loudly;⁠—“nor yet for beer;⁠—not by no means.”

“We’ve come for the smiles of beauty,” said Joe Mixet.

Ruby chucked up her head. “Mr. Mixet, if you’ll be so good as to stow that! There ain’t no beauty here as I knows of, and if there was it isn’t nothing to you.”

“Except in the way of friendship,” said Mixet.

“I’m just as sick of all this as a man can be,” said Mr. Ruggles, who was sitting low in his chair, with his back bent, and his head forward. “I won’t put up with it no more.”

“Who wants you to put up with it?” said Ruby. “Who wants ’em to come here with their trash? Who brought ’em tonight? 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 fireplace.

“You’ve asked Miss Ruby to be your wife a dozen times;⁠—haven’t you, John?” suggested Mixet.

“I hove.”

“And you mean to be as good as your word?”

“I do.”

“And she has promised to have you?”

“She hove.”

“More nor once or twice?” To this proposition Crumb found it only necessary to bob his head. “You’re ready⁠—and willing?”

“I om.”

“You’re wishing to have the banns said without any more delay?”

“There ain’t no delay ’bout me;⁠—never was.”

“Everything is ready in your own house?”

“They is.”

“And you will expect Miss Ruby to come to the scratch?”

“I sholl.”

“That’s about it, I think,” said Joe Mixet, turning to the grandfather. “I don’t think there was ever anything much more straightforward than that. You know, I know, Miss Ruby knows all about John Crumb. John Crumb didn’t come to Bungay yesterday⁠—nor yet the day before. There’s been a talk of five hundred pounds, Mr. Ruggles.” Mr. Ruggles made a slight gesture of assent with his head. “Five hundred pounds is very comfortable; and added to what John has will make things that snug that things never was snugger. But John Crumb isn’t after Miss Ruby along of her fortune.”

“Nohow’s,” said the lover, shaking his head and still standing upright with his hands by his side.

“Not he;⁠—it isn’t his ways, and them as knows him’ll never say it of him. John has a heart in his buzsom.”

“I has,” said John, raising his hand a little above his stomach.

“And feelings as a man. It’s true love as has brought John Crumb to Sheep’s Acre farm this night;⁠—love of that young lady, if she’ll let me make so free. He’s a proposed to her, and she’s a haccepted him, and now it’s about time as they was married. That’s what John Crumb has to say.”

“That’s what I has to say,” repeated John Crumb, “and I means it.”

“And now, miss,” continued Mixet, addressing himself to Ruby, “you’ve heard what John has to say.”

“I’ve heard you, Mr. Mixet, and I’ve heard quite enough.”

“You can’t have anything to say against it, miss; can you? There’s your grandfather as is willing, and the money as one may say counted out⁠—and John Crumb is willing, with his house so ready that there isn’t a ha’porth to do. All we want is for you to name the day.”

“Say tomorrow, Ruby, and I’ll not be agon it,” said John Crumb, slapping his thigh.

“I won’t say tomorrow, Mr. Crumb, nor yet the day after tomorrow, nor yet no day at all. I’m not going to have you. I’ve told you as much before.”

“That was only in fun, loike.”

“Then now I tell you in earnest. There’s some folk wants such a deal of telling.”

“You don’t mean⁠—never?”

“I do mean never, Mr. Crumb.”

“Didn’t you say as you would, Ruby? Didn’t you say so as plain as the nose on my face?” John as he asked these questions could hardly refrain from tears.

“Young women is allowed to change their minds,” said Ruby.

“Brute!” exclaimed old Ruggles. “Pig! Jade! I’ll tell’ee what, John. She’ll go out o’ this into the streets;⁠—that’s what she wull. I won’t keep her here, no longer;⁠—nasty, ungrateful, lying slut.”

“She ain’t that;⁠—she ain’t that,” said John. “She ain’t that at all. She’s no slut. I won’t hear her called so;⁠—not by her grandfather. But, oh, she has a mind to put me so abouts, that I’ll have to go home and hang myself.”

“Dash it, Miss Ruby, you ain’t a going to serve a young man that way,” said the baker.

“If you’ll jist keep yourself to yourself, I’ll be obliged to you, Mr. Mixet,” said Ruby. “If you hadn’t come here at all things might have been different.”

“Hark at that now,” said John, looking at his friend almost with indignation.

Mr. Mixet, who was fully aware of his rare eloquence and of the absolute necessity there had been for its exercise if any arrangement were to be made at all, could not trust himself to words after this. He put on his hat and walked out through the back kitchen into the yard declaring that his friend would find him there, round by the pig-stye wall, whenever he was ready to return to Bungay. As soon as Mixet was gone John looked at his sweetheart out of the corners of his eyes and made a slow motion towards her, putting out his right hand as a feeler. “He’s aff now, Ruby,” said John.

“And you’d better be aff after him,” said the cruel girl.

“And when’ll I come back again?”

“Never. It ain’t no use. What’s the good of more words, Mr. Crumb?”

“Domm her; domm her,” said old Ruggles. “I’ll even it to her. She’ll have to be out on the roads this night.”

“She shall have the best bed in my house if she’ll come for it,” said John, “and the old woman to look arter her; and I won’t come nigh her till she sends for me.”

“I can find a place for myself, thank ye, Mr. Crumb.” Old Ruggles sat grinding his teeth, and swearing to himself, taking his hat off and putting it on again, and meditating vengeance. “And now if you please, Mr. Crumb, I’ll go 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 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 bedpost and would not go; and he had been frightened, when the maid came up crying and screaming murder. “You’ll be out o’ this tomorrow as sure as my name’s Dannel Ruggles,” said the farmer panting for breath. But for the gin which he had taken he would hardly have struck her;⁠—but he had struck her, and pulled her by the hair, and knocked her about;⁠—and in the morning she took him at his word and was away. About twelve he heard from the servant girl that she had gone. She had packed a box and had started up the road carrying the box herself. “Grandfather says I’m to go, and I’m gone,” she had said to the girl. At the first cottage she had got a boy to carry her box into Beccles, and to Beccles she had walked. For an hour or two Ruggles sat, quiet, within the house, telling himself that she might do as she pleased with herself⁠—that he was well rid of her, and that from henceforth he would trouble himself no more about her. But by degrees there came upon him a feeling half of compassion and half of fear, with perhaps some mixture of love, instigating him to make search for her. She had been the same to him as a child, and what would people say of him if he allowed her to depart from him after this fashion? Then he remembered his violence the night before, and the fact that the servant girl had heard if she had not seen it. He could not drop his responsibility in regard to Ruby, even if he would. So, as a first step, he sent in a message to John Crumb, at Bungay, to tell him that Ruby Ruggles had gone off with a box to Beccles. John Crumb went open-mouthed with the news to Joe Mixet, and all Bungay soon knew that Ruby Ruggles had run away.

After sending his message to Crumb the old man still sat thinking, and at last made up his mind that he would go to his landlord. He held a part of his farm under Roger Carbury, and Roger Carbury would tell him what he ought to do. A great trouble had come upon him. He would fain have been quiet, but his conscience and his heart and his terrors all were at work together⁠—and he found that he could not eat his dinner. So he had out his cart and horse and drove himself off to Carbury Hall.

It was past four when he started, and he found the squire seated on the terrace after an early dinner, and with him was Father Barham, the priest. The old man was shown at once round into the garden, and was not long in telling his story. There had been words between him and his granddaughter about her lover. Her lover had been accepted and had come to the farm to claim his bride. Ruby had behaved very badly. The old man made the most of Ruby’s bad behaviour, and of course as little as possible of his own violence. But he did explain that there had been threats used when Ruby refused to take the man, and that Ruby had, this day, taken herself off.

“I always thought it was settled they were to be man and wife,” said Roger.

“It was settled, squoire;⁠—and he war to have five hun’erd pound down;⁠—money as I’d saved myself. Drat the jade.”

“Didn’t she like him, Daniel?”

“She liked him well enough till she’d seed somebody else.” Then old Daniel paused, and shook his head, and was evidently the owner of a secret. The squire got up and walked round the garden with him⁠—and then the secret was told. The farmer was of opinion that there was something between the girl and Sir Felix. Sir Felix some weeks since had been seen near the farm and on the same occasion Ruby had been observed at some little distance from the house with her best clothes on.

“He’s been so little here, Daniel,” said the squire.

“It goes as tinder and a spark o’ fire, that does,” said the farmer. “Girls like Ruby don’t want no time to be wooed by one such as that, though they’ll fall-lall with a man like John Crumb for years.”

“I suppose she’s gone to London.”

“Don’t know nothing of where she’s gone, squoire;⁠—only she have gone some’eres. May be it’s Lowestoffe. There’s lots of quality at Lowestoffe a’ washing theyselves in the sea.”

Then they returned to the priest, who might be supposed to be cognisant of the guiles of the world and competent to give advice on such an occasion as this. “If she was one of our people,” said Father Barham, “we should have her back quick enough.”

“Would ye now?” said Ruggles, wishing at the moment that he and all his family had been brought up as Roman Catholics.

“I don’t see how you would have more chance of catching her than we have,” said Carbury.

“She’d catch herself. Wherever she might be she’d go to the priest, and he wouldn’t leave her till he’d seen her put on the way back to her friends.”

“With a flea in her lug,” suggested the farmer.

“Your people never go to a clergyman in their distress. It’s the last thing they’d think of. Anyone 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 wagonette was ordered, and they all prepared to go off to the station together.

But before they started John Crumb rode up to the door. He had gone at once to the farm on hearing of Ruby’s departure, and had followed the farmer from thence to Carbury. Now he found the squire and the priest and the old man standing around as the horses were being put to the carriage. “Ye ain’t a’ found her, Mr. Ruggles, ha’ ye?” he asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“Noa;⁠—we ain’t a’ found no one yet.”

“If it was as she was to come to harm, Mr. Carbury, I’d never forgive myself⁠—never,” said Crumb.

“As far as I can understand it is no doing of yours, my friend,” said the squire.

“In one way, it ain’t; and in one way it is. I was over there last night a bothering of her. She’d a’ come round may be, if she’d a’ been left alone. She wouldn’t a’ been off now, only for our going over to Sheep’s Acre. But⁠—oh!”

“What is it, Mr. Crumb?”

“He’s a coosin o’ yours, squoire; and long as I’ve known Suffolk, I’ve never known nothing but good o’ you and yourn. But if your baronite has been and done this! Oh, Mr. Carbury! If I was to wring his neck round, you wouldn’t say as how I was wrong; would ye, now?” Roger could hardly answer the question. On general grounds the wringing of Sir Felix’s neck, let the immediate cause for such a performance have been what it might, would have seemed to him to be a good deed. The world would be better, according to his thinking, with Sir Felix out of it than in it. But still the young man was his cousin and a Carbury, and to such a one as John Crumb he was bound to defend any member of his family as far as he might be defensible. “They says as how he was groping about Sheep’s Acre when he was last here, a hiding himself and skulking behind hedges. Drat ’em all. They’ve gals enough of their own⁠—them fellows. Why can’t they let a fellow alone? I’ll do him a mischief, Master Roger; I wull;⁠—if he’s had a hand in this.” Poor John Crumb! When he had his mistress to win he could find no words for himself; but was obliged to take an eloquent baker with him to talk for him. Now in his anger he could talk freely enough.

“But you must first learn that Sir Felix has had anything to do with this, Mr. Crumb.”

“In coorse; in coorse. That’s right. That’s right. Must l’arn as he did it, afore I does it. But when I have l’arned!”⁠—And John Crumb clenched his fist as though a very short lesson would suffice for him upon this occasion.

They all went to the Beccles Station, and from thence to the Beccles post office⁠—so that Beccles soon knew as much about it as Bungay. At the railway station Ruby was distinctly remembered. She had taken a second-class ticket by the morning train for London, and had gone off without any appearance of secrecy. She had been decently dressed, with a hat and cloak, and her luggage had been such as she might have been expected to carry, had all her friends known that she was going. So much was made clear at the railway station, but nothing more could be learned there. Then a message was sent by telegraph to the station in London, and they all waited, loitering about the post office, for a reply. One of the porters in London remembered seeing such a girl as was described, but the man who was supposed to have carried her box for her to a cab had gone away for the day. It was believed that she had left the station in a four-wheel cab. “I’ll be arter her. I’ll be arter her at once,” said John Crumb. But there was no train till night, and Roger Carbury was doubtful whether his going would do any good. It was evidently fixed on Crumb’s mind that the first step towards finding Ruby would be the breaking of every bone in the body of Sir Felix Carbury. Now it was not at all apparent to the squire that his cousin had had anything to do with this affair. It had been made quite clear to him that the old man had quarrelled with his granddaughter and had threatened to turn her out of his house, not because she had misbehaved with Sir Felix, but on account of her refusing to marry John Crumb. John Crumb had gone over to the farm expecting to arrange it all, and up to that time there had been no fear about Felix Carbury. Nor was it possible that there should have been communication between Ruby and Felix since the quarrel at the farm. Even if the old man were right in supposing that Ruby and the baronet had been acquainted⁠—and such acquaintance could not but be prejudicial to the girl⁠—not on that account would the baronet be responsible for her abduction. John Crumb was thirsting for blood and was not very capable in his present mood of arguing the matter out coolly, and Roger, little as he loved his cousin, was not desirous that all Suffolk should know that Sir Felix Carbury had been thrashed within an inch of his life by John Crumb of Bungay. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said he, putting his hand kindly on the old man’s shoulder. “I’ll go up myself by the first train tomorrow. I can trace her better than Mr. Crumb can do, and you will both trust me.”

“There’s not one in the two counties I’d trust so soon,” said the old man.

“But you’ll let us know the very truth,” said John Crumb. Roger Carbury made him an indiscreet promise that he would let him know the truth. So the matter was settled, and the grandfather and lover returned together to Bungay.

Chapter XXXV

Melmotte’s Glory
Augustus Melmotte was becoming greater and greater in every direction⁠—mightier and mightier every day. He was learning to despise mere lords, and to feel that he might almost domineer over a duke. In truth he did recognise it as a fact that he must either domineer over dukes, or else go to the wall. It can hardly be said of him that he had intended to play so high a game, but the game that he had intended to play had become thus high of its own accord. A man cannot always restrain his own doings and keep them within the limits which he had himself planned for them. They will very often fall short of the magnitude to which his ambition has aspired. They will sometimes soar higher than his own imagination. So it had now been with Mr. Melmotte. He had contemplated great things; but the things which he was achieving were beyond his contemplation.

The reader will not have thought much of Fisker on his arrival in England. Fisker was, perhaps, not a man worthy of much thought. He had never read a book. He had never written a line worth reading. He had never said a prayer. He cared nothing for humanity. He had sprung out of some Californian gully, was perhaps ignorant of his own father and mother, and had tumbled up in the world on the strength of his own audacity. But, such as he was, he had sufficed to give the necessary impetus for rolling Augustus Melmotte onwards into almost unprecedented commercial greatness. When Mr. Melmotte took his offices in Abchurch Lane, he was undoubtedly a great man, but nothing so great as when the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had become not only an established fact, but a fact established in Abchurch Lane. The great company indeed had an office of its own, where the Board was held; but everything was really managed in Mr. Melmotte’s own commercial sanctum. Obeying, no doubt, some inscrutable law of commerce, the grand enterprise⁠—“perhaps the grandest when you consider the amount of territory manipulated, which has ever opened itself before the eyes of a great commercial people,” as Mr. Fisker with his peculiar eloquence observed through his nose, about this time to a meeting of shareholders at San Francisco⁠—had swung itself across from California to London, turning itself to the centre of the commercial world as the needle turns to the pole, till Mr. Fisker almost regretted the deed which himself had done. And Melmotte was not only the head, but the body also, and the feet of it all. The shares seemed to be all in Melmotte’s pocket, so that he could distribute them as he would; and it seemed also that when distributed and sold, and when bought again and sold again, they came back to Melmotte’s pocket. Men were contented to buy their shares and to pay their money, simply on Melmotte’s word. Sir Felix had realised a large portion of his winnings at cards⁠—with commendable prudence for one so young and extravagant⁠—and had brought his savings to the great man. The great man had swept the earnings of the Beargarden into his till, and had told Sir Felix that the shares were his. Sir Felix had been not only contented, but supremely happy. He could now do as Paul Montague was doing⁠—and Lord Alfred Grendall. He could realize a perennial income, buying and selling. It was only after the reflection of a day or two that he found that he had as yet got nothing to sell. It was not only Sir Felix that was admitted into these good things after this fashion. Sir Felix was but one among hundreds. In the meantime the bills in Grosvenor Square were no doubt paid with punctuality⁠—and these bills must have been stupendous. The very servants were as tall, as gorgeous, almost as numerous, as the servants of royalty⁠—and remunerated by much higher wages. There were four coachmen with egregious wigs, and eight footmen, not one with a circumference of calf less than eighteen inches.

And now there appeared a paragraph in the Morning Breakfast Table, and another appeared in the Evening Pulpit, telling the world that Mr. Melmotte had bought Pickering Park, the magnificent Sussex property of Adolphus Longestaffe, Esq., of Caversham. And it was so. The father and son who never had agreed before, and who now had come to no agreement in the presence of each other, had each considered that their affairs would be safe in the hands of so great a man as Mr. Melmotte, and had been brought to terms. The purchase-money, which was large, was to be divided between them. The thing was done with the greatest ease⁠—there being no longer any delay as is the case when small people are at work. The magnificence of Mr. Melmotte affected even the Longestaffe lawyers. Were I to buy a little property, some humble cottage with a garden⁠—or you, O reader, unless you be magnificent⁠—the money to the last farthing would be wanted, or security for the money more than sufficient, before we should be able to enter in upon our new home. But money was the very breath of Melmotte’s nostrils, and therefore his breath was taken for money. Pickering was his, and before a week was over a London builder had collected masons and carpenters by the dozen down at Chichester, and was at work upon the house to make it fit to be a residence for Madame Melmotte. There were rumours that it was to be made ready for the Goodwood week, and that the Melmotte entertainment during that festival would rival the duke’s.

But there was still much to be done in London before the Goodwood week should come round in all of which Mr. Melmotte was concerned, and of much of which Mr. Melmotte was the very centre. A member for Westminster had succeeded to a peerage, and thus a seat was vacated. It was considered to be indispensable to the country that Mr. Melmotte should go into Parliament, and what constituency could such a man as Melmotte so fitly represent as one combining as Westminster does all the essences of the metropolis? There was the popular element, the fashionable element, the legislative element, the legal element, and the commercial element. Melmotte undoubtedly was the man for Westminster. His thorough popularity was evinced by testimony which perhaps was never before given in favour of any candidate for any county or borough. In Westminster there must of course be a contest. A seat for Westminster is a thing not to be abandoned by either political party without a struggle. But, at the beginning of the affair, when each party had to seek the most suitable candidate which the country could supply, each party put its hand upon Melmotte. And when the seat, and the battle for the seat, were suggested to Melmotte, then for the first time was that great man forced to descend from the altitudes on which his mind generally dwelt, and to decide whether he would enter Parliament as a Conservative or a Liberal. He was not long in convincing himself that the Conservative element in British Society stood the most in need of that fiscal assistance which it would be in his province to give; and on the next day every hoarding in London declared to the world that Melmotte was the Conservative candidate for Westminster. It is needless to say that his committee was made up of peers, bankers, and publicans, with all that absence of class prejudice for which the party has become famous since the ballot was introduced among us. Some unfortunate Liberal was to be made to run against him, for the sake of the party; but the odds were ten to one on Melmotte.

This no doubt was a great matter⁠—this affair of the seat; but the dinner to be given to the Emperor of China was much greater. It was the middle of June, and the dinner was to be given on Monday, 8th July, now three weeks hence;⁠—but all London was already talking of it. The great purport proposed was to show to the Emperor by this banquet what an English merchant-citizen of London could do. Of course there was a great amount of scolding and a loud clamour on the occasion. Some men said that Melmotte was not a citizen of London, others that he was not a merchant, others again that he was not an Englishman. But no man could deny that he was both able and willing to spend the necessary money; and as this combination of ability and will was the chief thing necessary, they who opposed the arrangement could only storm and scold. On the 20th of June the tradesmen were at work, throwing up a building behind, knocking down walls, and generally transmuting the house in Grosvenor Square in such a fashion that two hundred guests might be able to sit down to dinner in the dining-room of a British merchant.

But who were to be the two hundred? It used to be the case that when a gentleman gave a dinner he asked his own guests;⁠—but when affairs become great, society can hardly be carried on after that simple fashion. The Emperor of China could not be made to sit at table without English royalty, and English royalty must know whom it has to meet⁠—must select at any rate some of its comrades. The minister of the day also had his candidates for the dinner⁠—in which arrangement there was however no private patronage, as the list was confined to the cabinet and their wives. The Prime Minister took some credit to himself in that he would not ask for a single ticket for a private friend. But the Opposition as a body desired their share of seats. Melmotte had elected to stand for Westminster on the Conservative interest, and was advised that he must insist on having as it were a Conservative cabinet present, with its Conservative wives. He was told that he owed it to his party, and that his party exacted payment of the debt. But the great difficulty lay with the city merchants. This was to be a city merchant’s private feast, and it was essential that the Emperor should meet this great merchant’s brother merchants at the merchant’s board. No doubt the Emperor would see all the merchants at the Guildhall; but that would be a semi-public affair, paid for out of the funds of a corporation. This was to be a private dinner. Now the Lord Mayor had set his face against it, and what was to be done? Meetings were held; a committee was appointed; merchant guests were selected, to the number of fifteen with their fifteen wives;⁠—and subsequently the Lord Mayor was made a baronet on the occasion of receiving the Emperor in the city. The Emperor with his suite was twenty. Royalty had twenty tickets, each ticket for guest and wife. The existing Cabinet was fourteen; but the coming was numbered at about eleven only;⁠—each one for self and wife. Five ambassadors and five ambassadresses were to be asked. There were to be fifteen real merchants out of the city. Ten great peers⁠—with their peeresses⁠—were selected by the general committee of management. There were to be three wise men, two poets, three independent members of the House of Commons, two Royal Academicians, three editors of papers, an African traveller who had just come home, and a novelist;⁠—but all these latter gentlemen were expected to come as bachelors. Three tickets were to be kept over for presentation to bores endowed with a power of making themselves absolutely unendurable if not admitted at the last moment⁠—and ten were left for the giver of the feast and his own family and friends. It is often difficult to make things go smooth⁠—but almost all roughnesses may be smoothed at last with patience and care, and money and patronage.

But the dinner was not to be all. Eight hundred additional tickets were to be issued for Madame Melmotte’s evening entertainment, and the fight for these was more internecine than for seats at the dinner. The dinner-seats, indeed, were handled in so statesmanlike a fashion that there was not much visible fighting about them. Royalty manages its affairs quietly. The existing Cabinet was existing, and though there were two or three members of it who could not have got themselves elected at a single unpolitical club in London, they had a right to their seats at Melmotte’s table. What disappointed ambition there might be among Conservative candidates was never known to the public. Those gentlemen do not wash their dirty linen in public. The ambassadors of course were quiet, but we may be sure that the Minister from the United States was among the favoured five. The city bankers and bigwigs, as has been already said, were at first unwilling to be present, and therefore they who were not chosen could not afterwards express their displeasure. No grumbling was heard among the peers, and that which came from the peeresses floated down into the current of the great fight about the evening entertainment. The poet laureate was of course asked, and the second poet was as much a matter of course. Only two Academicians had in this year painted royalty, so that there was no ground for jealousy there. There were three, and only three, specially insolent and specially disagreeable independent members of Parliament at that time in the House, and there was no difficulty in selecting them. The wise men were chosen by their age. Among editors of newspapers there was some ill-blood. That Mr. Alf and Mr. Broune should be selected was almost a matter of course. They were hated accordingly, but still this was expected. But why was Mr. Booker there? Was it because he had praised the Prime Minister’s translation of Catullus? The African traveller chose himself by living through all his perils and coming home. A novelist was selected; but as royalty wanted another ticket at the last moment, the gentleman was only asked to come in after dinner. His proud heart, however, resented the treatment, and he joined amicably with his literary brethren in decrying the festival altogether.

We should be advancing too rapidly into this portion of our story were we to concern ourselves deeply at the present moment with the feud as it raged before the evening came round, but it may be right to indicate that the desire for tickets at last became a burning passion, and a passion which in the great majority of cases could not be indulged. The value of the privilege was so great that Madame Melmotte thought that she was doing almost more than friendship called for when she informed her guest, Miss Longestaffe, that unfortunately there would be no seat for her at the dinner-table; but that, as payment for her loss, she should receive an evening ticket for herself and a joint ticket for a gentleman and his wife. Georgiana was at first indignant, but she accepted the compromise. What she did with her tickets shall be hereafter told.

From all this I trust it will be understood that the Mr. Melmotte of the present hour was a very different man from that Mr. Melmotte who was introduced to the reader in the early chapters of this chronicle. Royalty was not to be smuggled in and out of his house now without his being allowed to see it. No 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 anyone to come out of the house in Grosvenor Square to her parties, was groping in outer darkness. Madame Melmotte did not know. Marie Melmotte did not know. The great man did not quite know himself where, from time to time, he was standing. But the world at large knew. The world knew that Mr. Melmotte was to be Member for Westminster, that Mr. Melmotte was to entertain the Emperor of China, that Mr. Melmotte carried the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway in his pocket;⁠—and the world worshipped Mr. Melmotte.

In the meantime Mr. Melmotte was much troubled about his private affairs. He had promised his daughter to Lord Nidderdale, and as he rose in the world had lowered the price which he offered for this marriage⁠—not so much in the absolute amount of fortune to be ultimately given, as in the manner of giving it. Fifteen thousand a year was to be settled on Marie and on her eldest son, and twenty thousand pounds were to be paid into Nidderdale’s hands six months after the marriage. Melmotte gave his reasons for not paying this sum at once. Nidderdale would be more likely to be quiet, if he were kept waiting for that short time. Melmotte was to purchase and furnish for them a house in town. It was, too, almost understood that the young people were to have Pickering Park for themselves, except for a week or so at the end of July. It was absolutely given out in the papers that Pickering was to be theirs. It was said on all sides that Nidderdale was doing very well for himself. The absolute money was not perhaps so great as had been at first asked; but then, at that time, Melmotte was not the strong rock, the impregnable tower of commerce, the very navel of the commercial enterprise of the world⁠—as all men now regarded him. Nidderdale’s father, and Nidderdale himself, were, in the present condition of things, content with a very much less stringent bargain than that which they had endeavoured at first to exact.

But, in the midst of all this, Marie, who had at one time consented at her father’s instance to accept the young lord, and who in some speechless fashion had accepted him, told both the young lord and her father, very roundly, that she had changed her mind. Her father scowled at her and told her that her mind in the matter was of no concern. He intended that she should marry Lord Nidderdale, and himself fixed some day in August for the wedding. “It is no use, father, for I will never have him,” said Marie.

“Is it about that other scamp?” he asked angrily.

“If you mean Sir Felix Carbury, it is about him. He has been to you and told you, and therefore I don’t know why I need hold my tongue.”

“You’ll both starve, my lady; that’s all.” Marie however was not so wedded to the grandeur which she encountered in Grosvenor Square as to be afraid of the starvation which she thought she might have to suffer if married to Sir Felix Carbury. Melmotte had not time for any long discussion. As he left her he took hold of her and shook her. “By ⸻,” he said, “if you run rusty after all I’ve done for you, I’ll make you suffer. You little fool; that man’s a beggar. He hasn’t the price of a petticoat or a pair of stockings. He’s looking only for what you haven’t got, and shan’t have if you marry him. He wants money, not you, you little fool!”

But after that she was quite settled in her purpose when Nidderdale spoke to her. They had been engaged and then it had been off;⁠—and now the young nobleman, having settled everything with the father, expected no great difficulty in resettling everything with the girl. He was not very skilful at making love⁠—but he was thoroughly good-humoured, from his nature anxious to please, and averse to give pain. There was hardly any injury which he could not forgive, and hardly any kindness which he would not do⁠—so that the labour upon himself was not too great. “Well, Miss Melmotte,” he said; “governors are stern beings: are they not?”

“Is yours stern, my lord?”

“What I mean is that sons and daughters have to obey them. I think you understand what I mean. I was awfully spoony on you that time before; I was indeed.”

“I hope it didn’t hurt you much, Lord Nidderdale.”

“That’s so like a woman; that is. You know well enough that you and I can’t marry without leave from the governors.”

“Nor with it,” said Marie, nodding her head.

“I don’t know how that may be. There was some hitch somewhere⁠—I don’t quite know where.”⁠—The hitch had been with himself, as he demanded ready money. “But it’s all right now. The old fellows are agreed. Can’t we make a match of it, Miss Melmotte?”

“No, Lord Nidderdale; I don’t think we can.”

“Do you mean that?”

“I do mean it. When that was going on before I knew nothing about it. I have seen more of things since then.”

“And you’ve seen somebody you like better than me?”

“I say nothing about that, Lord Nidderdale. I don’t think you ought to blame me, my lord.”

“Oh dear no.”

“There was something before, but it was you that was off first. Wasn’t it now?”

“The governors were off, I think.”

“The governors have a right to be off, I suppose. But I don’t think any governor has a right to make anybody marry anyone.”

“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 anyone 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 pro-spection, into things as they have been and are to be; and the lowness of heart, the blankness of hope which follows the first remembrance of some folly lately done, some word ill-spoken, some money misspent⁠—or perhaps a cigar too much, or a glass of brandy and soda-water which he should have left untasted? And when things have gone well, how the waker comforts himself among the bedclothes as he claims for himself to be whole all over, teres atque rotundus⁠—so to have managed his little affairs that he has to fear no harm, and to blush inwardly at no error! Mr. Broune, the way of whose life took him among many perils, who in the course of his work had to steer his bark among many rocks, was in the habit of thus auditing his daily account as he shook off sleep about noon⁠—for such was his lot, that he seldom was in bed before four or five in the morning. On this Wednesday he found that he could not balance his sheet comfortably. He had taken a very great step and he feared that he had not taken it with wisdom. As he drank the cup of tea with which his servant supplied him while he was yet in bed, he could not say of himself, teres atque rotundus, as he was wont to do when things were well with him. Everything was to be changed. As he lit a cigarette he bethought himself that Lady Carbury would not like him to smoke in her bedroom. Then he remembered other things. “I’ll be d⁠⸺ if he shall live in my house,” he said to himself.

And there was no way out of it. It did not occur to the man that his offer could be refused. During the whole of that day he went about among his friends in a melancholy fashion, saying little snappish uncivil things at the club, and at last dining by himself with about fifteen newspapers around him. After dinner he did not speak a word to any man, but went early to the office of the newspaper in Trafalgar Square at which he did his nightly work. Here he was lapped in comforts⁠—if the best of chairs, of sofas, of writing tables, and of reading lamps can make a man comfortable who has to read nightly thirty columns of a newspaper, or at any rate to make himself responsible for their contents.

He seated himself to his work like a man, but immediately saw Lady Carbury’s letter on the table before him. It was his custom when he did not dine at home to have such documents brought to him at his office as had reached his home during his absence;⁠—and here was Lady Carbury’s letter. He knew her writing well, and was aware that here was the confirmation of his fate. It had not been expected, as she had given herself another day for her answer⁠—but here it was, beneath his hand. Surely this was almost unfeminine haste. He chucked the letter, unopened, a little from him, and endeavoured to fix his attention on some printed slip that was ready for him. For some ten minutes his eyes went rapidly down the lines, but he found that his mind did not follow what he was reading. He struggled again, but still his thoughts were on the letter. He did not wish to open it, having some vague idea that, till the letter should have been read, there was a chance of escape. The letter would not become due to be read till the next day. It should not have been there now to tempt his thoughts on this night. But he could do nothing while it lay there. “It shall be a part of the bargain that I shall never have to see him,” he said to himself, as he opened it. The second line told him that the danger was over.

When he had read so far he stood up with his back to the 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 realised the conviction that he had escaped, and threw from him altogether the idea of repeating his offer. Before he left he wrote her a line⁠—

Be it so. It need not break our friendship.
N. B.

This he sent by a special messenger, who returned with a note to his lodgings long before he was up on the following morning.

No;⁠—no; certainly not. No word of this will ever pass my mouth.
M. C.

Mr. Broune thought that he was very well out of the danger, and resolved that Lady Carbury should never want anything that his friendship could do for her.

Chapter XXXVII

The Boardroom
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 entrusted to his own. Lord Alfred was there, with Mr. Cohenlupe, the Hebrew gentleman, and Paul Montague, and Lord Nidderdale⁠—and even Sir Felix Carbury. Sir Felix had come, being very anxious to buy and sell, and not as yet having had an opportunity of realising his golden hopes, although he had actually paid a thousand pounds in hard money into Mr. Melmotte’s hands. The secretary, Mr. Miles Grendall, was also present as a matter of course. The Board always met at three, and had generally been dissolved at a quarter past three. Lord Alfred and Mr. Cohenlupe sat at the chairman’s right and left hand. Paul Montague generally sat immediately below, with Miles Grendall opposite to him;⁠—but on this occasion the young lord and the young baronet took the next places. It was a nice little family party, the great chairman with his two aspiring sons-in-law, his two particular friends⁠—the social friend, Lord Alfred, and the commercial friend Mr. Cohenlupe⁠—and Miles, who was Lord Alfred’s son. It would have been complete in its friendliness, but for Paul Montague, who had lately made himself disagreeable to Mr. Melmotte;⁠—and most ungratefully so, for certainly no one had been allowed so free a use of the shares as the younger member of the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague.

It was understood that Mr. Melmotte was to make a statement. Lord Nidderdale and Sir Felix had conceived that this was to be done as it were out of the great man’s own heart, of his own wish, so that something of the condition of the company might be made known to the directors of the company. But this was not perhaps exactly the truth. Paul Montague had insisted on giving vent to certain doubts at the last meeting but one, and, having made himself very disagreeable indeed, had forced this trouble on the great chairman. On the intermediate Friday the chairman had made himself very unpleasant to Paul, and this had seemed to be an effort on his part to frighten the inimical director out of his opposition, so that the promise of a statement need not be fulfilled. What nuisance can be so great to a man busied with immense affairs, as to have to explain⁠—or to attempt to explain⁠—small details to men incapable of understanding them? But Montague had stood to his guns. He had not intended, he said, to dispute the commercial success of the company. But he felt very strongly, and he thought that his brother directors should feel as strongly, that it was necessary that they should know more than they did know. Lord Alfred had declared that he did not in the least agree with his brother director. “If anybody don’t understand, it’s his own fault,” said Mr. Cohenlupe. But Paul would not give way, and it was understood that Mr. Melmotte would make a statement.

The “Boards” were always commenced by the reading of a certain record of the last meeting out of a book. This was always done by Miles Grendall; and the record was supposed to have been written by him. But Montague had discovered that this statement in the book was always prepared and written by a satellite of Melmotte’s from Abchurch Lane who was never present at the meeting. The adverse director had spoken to the secretary⁠—it will be remembered that they were both members of the Beargarden⁠—and Miles had given a somewhat evasive reply. “A cussed deal of trouble and all that, you know! He’s used to it, and it’s what he’s meant for. I’m not going to flurry myself about stuff of that kind.” Montague after this had spoken on the subject both to Nidderdale and Felix Carbury. “He couldn’t do it, if it was ever so,” Nidderdale had said. “I don’t think I’d bully him if I were you. He gets £500 a-year, and if you knew all he owes, and all he hasn’t got, you wouldn’t try to rob him of it.” With Felix Carbury Montague had as little success. Sir Felix hated the secretary, had detected him cheating at cards, had resolved to expose him⁠—and had then been afraid to do so. He had told Dolly Longestaffe, and the reader will perhaps remember with what effect. He had not mentioned the affair again, and had gradually fallen back into the habit of playing at the club. Loo, however, had given way to whist, and Sir Felix had satisfied himself with the change. He still meditated some dreadful punishment for Miles Grendall, but, in the meantime, felt himself unable to oppose him at the Board. Since the day at which the aces had been manipulated at the club he had not spoken to Miles Grendall except in reference to the affairs of the whist-table. The “Board” was now commenced as usual. Miles read the short record out of the book⁠—stumbling over every other word, and going through the performance so badly that had there been anything to understand no one could have understood it. “Gentlemen,” said Mr. Melmotte, in his usual hurried way, “is it your pleasure that I shall sign the record?” Paul Montague rose to say that it was not his pleasure that the record should be signed. But Melmotte had made his scrawl, and was deep in conversation with Mr. Cohenlupe before Paul could get upon his legs.

Melmotte, however, had watched the little struggle. Melmotte, whatever might be his faults, had eyes to see and ears to hear. He perceived that Montague had made a little struggle and had been cowed; and he knew how hard it is for one man to persevere against five or six, and for a young man to persevere against his elders. Nidderdale was filliping bits of paper across the table at Carbury. Miles Grendall was poring over the book which was in his charge. Lord Alfred sat back in his chair, the picture of a model director, with his right hand within his waistcoat. He looked aristocratic, respectable, and almost commercial. In that room he never by any chance opened his mouth, except when called on to say that Mr. Melmotte was right, and was considered by the chairman really to earn his money. Melmotte for a minute or two went on conversing with Cohenlupe, having perceived that Montague for the moment was cowed. Then Paul put both his hands upon the table, intending to rise and ask some perplexing question. Melmotte saw this also and was upon his legs before Montague had risen from his chair. “Gentlemen,” said Mr. Melmotte, “it may perhaps be as well if I take this occasion of saying a few words to you about the affairs of the company.” Then, instead of going on with his statement, he sat down again, and began to turn over sundry voluminous papers very slowly, whispering a word or two every now and then to Mr. Cohenlupe. Lord Alfred never changed his posture and never took his hand from his breast. Nidderdale and Carbury filliped their paper pellets backwards and forwards. Montague sat profoundly listening⁠—or ready to listen when anything should be said. As the chairman had risen from his chair to commence his statement, Paul felt that he was bound to be silent. When a speaker is in possession of the floor, he is in possession even though he be somewhat dilatory in looking to his references, and whispering to his neighbour. And, when that speaker is a chairman, of course some additional latitude must be allowed to him. Montague understood this, and sat silent. It seemed that Melmotte had much to say to Cohenlupe, and Cohenlupe much to say to Melmotte. Since Cohenlupe had sat at the Board he had never before developed such powers of conversation.

Nidderdale didn’t quite understand it. He had been there twenty minutes, was tired of his present amusement, having been unable to hit Carbury on the nose, and suddenly remembered that the Beargarden would now be open. He was no respecter of persons, and had got over any little feeling of awe with which the big table and the solemnity of the room may have first inspired him. “I suppose that’s about all,” he said, looking up at Melmotte.

“Well;⁠—perhaps as your lordship is in a hurry, and as my lord here is engaged elsewhere,”⁠—turning round to Lord Alfred, who had not uttered a syllable or made a sign since he had been in his seat⁠—“we had better adjourn this meeting for another week.”

“I cannot allow that,” said Paul Montague.

“I suppose then we must take the sense of the Board,” said the Chairman.

“I have been discussing certain circumstances with our friend and Chairman,” said Cohenlupe, “and I must say that it is not expedient just at present to go into matters too freely.”

“My lords and gentlemen,” said Melmotte. “I hope that you trust me.”

Lord Alfred bowed down to the table and muttered something which was intended to convey most absolute confidence. “Hear, hear,” said Mr. Cohenlupe. “All right,” said Lord Nidderdale; “go on;” and he fired another pellet with improved success.

“I trust,” said the Chairman, “that my young friend, Sir Felix, doubts neither my discretion nor my ability.”

“Oh dear, no;⁠—not at all,” said the baronet, much flattered at being addressed in this kindly tone. He had come there with objects of his own, and was quite prepared to support the Chairman on any matter whatever.

“My Lords and Gentlemen,” continued Melmotte, “I am delighted to receive this expression of your confidence. If I know anything in the world I know something of commercial matters. I am able to tell you that we are prospering. I do not know that greater prosperity has ever been achieved in a shorter time by a commercial company. I think our friend here, Mr. Montague, should be as feelingly aware of that as any gentleman.”

“What do you mean by that, Mr. Melmotte?” asked Paul.

“What do I mean?⁠—Certainly nothing adverse to your character, sir. Your firm in San Francisco, sir, know very well how the affairs of the Company are being transacted on this side of the water. No doubt you are in correspondence with Mr. Fisker. Ask him. The telegraph wires are open to you, sir. But, my Lords and Gentlemen, I am able to inform you that in affairs of this nature great discretion is necessary. On behalf of the shareholders at large whose interests are in our hands, I think it expedient that any general statement should be postponed for a short time, and I flatter myself that in that opinion I shall carry the majority of this Board with me.” Mr. Melmotte did not make his speech very fluently; but, being accustomed to the place which he occupied, he did manage to get the words spoken in such a way as to make them intelligible to the company. “I now move that this meeting be adjourned to this day week,” he added.

“I second that motion,” said Lord Alfred, without moving his hand from his breast.

“I understood that we were to have a statement,” said Montague.

“You’ve had a statement,” said Mr. Cohenlupe.

“I will put my motion to the vote,” said the Chairman.

“I shall move an amendment,” said Paul, determined that he would not be altogether silenced.

“There is nobody to second it,” said Mr. Cohenlupe.

“How do you know till I’ve made it?” asked the rebel. “I shall ask Lord Nidderdale to second it, and when he has heard it I think that he will not refuse.”

“Oh, gracious me! why me? No;⁠—don’t ask me. I’ve got to go away. I have indeed.”

“At any rate I claim the right of saying a few words. I do not say whether every affair of this Company should or should not be published to the world.”

“You’d break up everything if you did,” said Cohenlupe.

“Perhaps everything ought to be broken up. But I say nothing about that. What I do say is this. That as we sit here as directors and will be held to be responsible as such by the public, we ought to know what is being done. We ought to know where the shares really are. I for one do not even know what scrip has been issued.”

“You’ve bought and sold enough to know something about it,” said Melmotte.

Paul Montague became very red in the face. “I, at any rate, began,” he said, “by putting what was to me a large sum of money into the affair.”

“That’s more than I know,” said Melmotte. “Whatever shares you have, were issued at San Francisco, and not here.”

“I have taken nothing that I haven’t paid for,” said Montague. “Nor have I yet had allotted to me anything like the number of shares which my capital would represent. But I did not intend to speak of my own concerns.”

“It looks very like it,” said Cohenlupe.

“So far from it that I am prepared to risk the not improbable loss of everything I have in the world. I am determined to know what is being done with the shares, or to make it public to the world at large that I, one of the directors of the Company, do not in truth know anything about it. I cannot, I suppose, absolve myself from further responsibility; but I can at any rate do what is right from this time forward⁠—and that course I intend to take.”

“The gentleman had better resign his seat at this Board,” said Melmotte. “There will be no difficulty about that.”

“Bound up as I am with Fisker and Montague in California I fear that there will be difficulty.”

“Not in the least,” continued the Chairman. “You need only gazette your resignation and the thing is done. I had intended, gentlemen, to propose an addition to our number. When I name to you a gentleman, personally known to many of you, and generally esteemed throughout England as a man of business, as a man of probity, and as a man of fortune, a man standing deservedly high in all British circles, I mean Mr. Longestaffe of Caversham⁠—”

“Young Dolly, or old?” asked Lord Nidderdale.

“I mean Mr. Adolphus Longestaffe, senior, of Caversham. I am sure that you will all be glad to welcome him among you. I had thought to strengthen our number by this addition. But if Mr. Montague is determined to leave us⁠—and no one will regret the loss of his services so much as I shall⁠—it will be my pleasing duty to move that Adolphus Longestaffe, senior, Esquire, of Caversham, be requested to take his place. If on reconsideration Mr. Montague shall determine to remain with us⁠—and I for one most sincerely hope that such reconsideration may lead to such determination⁠—then I shall move that an additional director be added to our number, and that Mr. Longestaffe be requested to take the chair of that additional director.” The latter speech Mr. Melmotte got through very glibly, and then immediately left the chair, so as to show that the business of the Board was closed for that day without any possibility of reopening it.

Paul went up to him and took him by the sleeve, signifying that he wished to speak to him before they parted. “Certainly,” said the great man bowing. “Carbury,” he said, looking round on the young baronet with his blandest smile, “if you are not in a hurry, wait a moment for me. I have a word or two to say before you go. Now, Mr. Montague, what can I do for you?” Paul began his story, expressing again the opinion which he had already very plainly expressed at the table. But Melmotte stopped him very shortly, and with much less courtesy than he had shown in the speech which he had made from the chair. “The thing is about this way, I take it, Mr. Montague;⁠—you think you know more of this matter than I do.”

“Not at all, Mr. Melmotte.”

“And I think that I know more of it than you do. Either of us may be right. But as I don’t intend to give way to you, perhaps the less we speak together about it the better. You can’t be in earnest in the threat you made, because you would be making public things communicated to you under the seal of privacy⁠—and no gentleman would do that. But as long as you are hostile to me, I can’t help you;⁠—and so good afternoon.” Then, without giving Montague the possibility of a reply, he escaped into an inner room which had the word “Private” painted on the door, and which was supposed to belong to the chairman individually. He shut the door behind him, and then, after a few moments, put out his head and beckoned to Sir Felix Carbury. Nidderdale was gone. Lord Alfred with his son were already on the stairs. Cohenlupe was engaged with Melmotte’s clerk on the record-book. Paul Montague finding himself without support and alone, slowly made his way out into the court.

Sir Felix had come into the city intending to suggest to the Chairman that having paid his thousand pounds he should like to have a few shares to go on with. He was, indeed, at the present moment very nearly penniless, and had negotiated, or lost at cards, all the I.O.U.s which were in any degree serviceable. He still had a 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 anyone 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 percent profit. He would have nothing to do but to buy and sell daily. He was told that Lord Alfred was allowed to do it to a small extent; and that Melmotte was doing it to an enormous extent. But before he could do it he must get something⁠—he hardly knew what⁠—out of Melmotte’s hands. Melmotte certainly did not seem disposed to shun him, and therefore there could be no difficulty about the shares. As to danger;⁠—who could think of danger in reference to money entrusted 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 by, 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 Boardroom, 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 by, Mr. Melmotte,” said he, “could you let me have those shares?”

“What shares?” And the heavy brow became still heavier.

“Don’t you know?⁠—I gave you a thousand pounds, and I was to have ten shares.”

“You must come about that on the proper day, to the proper place.”

“When is the proper day?”

“It is the twentieth of each month I think.” Sir Felix looked very blank at hearing this, knowing that this present was the twenty-first of the month. “But what does that signify? Do you want a little money?”

“Well, I do,” said Sir Felix. “A lot of fellows owe me money, but it’s so hard to get it.”

“That tells a story of gambling,” said Mr. Melmotte. “You think I’d give my girl to a gambler?”

“Nidderdale’s in it quite as thick as I am.”

“Nidderdale has a settled property which neither he nor his father can destroy. But don’t you be such a fool as to argue with me. You won’t get anything by it. If you’ll write that letter here now⁠—”

“What;⁠—to Marie?”

“No;⁠—not to Marie at all; but to me. It need never be shown to her. If you’ll do that I’ll stick to you and make a man of you. And if you want a couple of hundred pounds I’ll give you a cheque for it before you leave the room. Mind, I can tell you this. On my word of honour as a gentleman, if my daughter were to marry you, she’d never have a single shilling. I should immediately make a will and leave all my property to St. George’s Hospital. I have quite made up my mind about that.”

“And couldn’t you manage that I should have the shares before the twentieth of next month?”

“I’ll see about it. Perhaps I could let you have a few of my own. At any rate I won’t see you short of money.”

The terms were enticing and the letter was of course written. Melmotte himself dictated the words, which were not romantic in their nature. The reader shall see the letter.

Dear Sir,
In consideration of the offers made by you to me, and on a clear understanding that such a marriage would be disagreeable to you and to the lady’s mother, and would bring down a father’s curse upon your daughter, I hereby declare and promise that I will not renew my suit to the young lady, which I hereby altogether renounce.
I am, Dear Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
Felix Carbury.
Augustus Melmotte, Esq.⁠—Grosvenor Square.

The letter was dated 21st July, and bore the printed address of the offices of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway.

“You’ll give me that cheque for £200, Mr. Melmotte?” The financier hesitated for a moment, but did give the baronet the cheque as promised. “And you’ll see about letting me have those shares?”

“You can come to me in Abchurch Lane, you know.” Sir Felix said that he would call in Abchurch Lane.

As he went westward towards the Beargarden, the baronet was not happy in his mind. Ignorant as he was as to the duties of a gentleman, indifferent as he was to the feelings of others, still he felt ashamed of himself. He was treating the girl very badly. Even he knew that he was behaving badly. He was so conscious of it that he tried to console himself by reflecting that his writing such a letter as that would not prevent his running away with the girl, should he, on consideration, find it to be worth his while to do so.

That night he was again playing at the Beargarden, and he lost a great part of Mr. Melmotte’s money. He did in fact lose much more than the £200; but when he found his ready money going from him he issued paper.


Paul Montague’s Troubles
Paul Montague had other troubles on his mind beyond this trouble of the Mexican Railway. It was now more than a fortnight since he had taken Mrs. Hurtle to the play, and she was still living in lodgings at Islington. He had seen her twice, once on the following day, when he was allowed to come and go without any special reference to their engagement, and again, three or four days afterwards, when the meeting was by no means so pleasant. She had wept, and after weeping had stormed. She had stood upon what she called her rights, and had dared him to be false to her. Did he mean to deny that he had promised to marry her? Was not his conduct to her, ever since she had now been in London, a repetition of that promise? And then again she became soft, and pleaded with him. But for the storm he might have given way. At that moment he had felt that any fate in life would be better than a marriage on compulsion. Her tears and her pleadings, nevertheless, touched him very nearly. He had promised her most distinctly. He had loved her and had won her love. And she was lovely. The very violence of the storm made the sunshine more sweet. She would sit down on a stool at his feet, and it was impossible to drive her away from him. She would look up in his face and he could not but embrace her. Then there had come a passionate flood of tears and she was in his arms. How he had escaped he hardly knew, but he did know that he had promised to be with her again before two days should have passed.

On the day named he wrote to her a letter excusing himself, which was at any rate true in words. He had been summoned, he said, to Liverpool on business, and must postpone seeing her till his return. And he explained that the business on which he was called was connected with the great American railway, and, being important, demanded his attention. In words this was true. He had been corresponding with a gentleman at Liverpool with whom he had become acquainted on his return home after having involuntarily become a partner in the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague. This man he trusted and had consulted, and the gentleman, Mr. Ramsbottom by name, had suggested that he should come to him at Liverpool. He had gone, and his conduct at the Board had been the result of the advice which he had received; but it may be doubted whether some dread of the coming interview with Mrs. Hurtle had not added strength to Mr. Ramsbottom’s invitation.

In Liverpool he had heard tidings of Mrs. Hurtle, though it can hardly be said that he obtained any trustworthy information. The lady after landing from an American steamer had been at Mr. Ramsbottom’s office, inquiring for him, Paul; and Mr. Ramsbottom had thought that the inquiries were made in a manner indicating danger. He therefore had spoken to a fellow-traveller with Mrs. Hurtle, and the fellow-traveller had opined that Mrs. Hurtle was “a queer card.” “On board ship we all gave it up to her that she was about the handsomest woman we had ever seen, but we all said that there was a bit of the wild cat in her breeding.” Then Mr. Ramsbottom had asked whether the lady was a widow. “There was a man on board from Kansas,” said the fellow-traveller, “who knew a man named Hurtle at Leavenworth, who was separated from his wife and is still alive. There was, according to him, a queer story about the man and his wife having fought a duel with pistols, and then having separated.” This Mr. Ramsbottom, who in an earlier stage of the affair had heard something of Paul and Mrs. Hurtle together, managed to communicate to the young man. His advice about the railway company was very clear and general, and such as an honest man would certainly give; but it might have been conveyed by letter. The information, such as it was, respecting Mrs. Hurtle, could only be given vivâ voce, and perhaps the invitation to Liverpool had originated in Mr. Ramsbottom’s appreciation of this fact. “As she was asking after you here, perhaps it is as well that you should know,” his friend said to him. Paul had only thanked him, not daring on the spur of the moment to speak of his own difficulties.

In all this there had been increased dismay, but there had also been some comfort. It had only been at moments in which he had been subject to her softer influences that Paul had doubted as to his adherence to the letter which he had written to her, breaking off his engagement. When she told him of her wrongs and of her love; of his promise and his former devotion to her; when she assured him that she had given up everything in life for him, and threw her arms round him, looking into his eyes;⁠—then he would almost yield. But when, what the traveller called the breeding of the wild cat, showed itself;⁠—and when, having escaped from her, he thought of Hetta Carbury and of her breeding⁠—he was fully determined that, let his fate be what it might, it should not be that of being the husband of Mrs. Hurtle. That he was in a mass of troubles from which it would be very difficult for him to extricate himself he was well aware;⁠—but if it were true that Mr. Hurtle was alive, that fact might help him. She certainly had declared him to be⁠—not separated, or even divorced⁠—but dead. And if it were true also that she had fought a duel with one husband, that also ought to be a reason why a gentleman should object to become her second husband. These facts would at any rate justify himself to himself, and would enable himself to break from his engagement without thinking himself to be a false traitor.

But he must make up his mind as to some line of conduct. She must be made to know the truth. If he meant to reject the lady finally on the score of her being a wild cat, he must tell her so. He felt very strongly that he must not flinch from the wild cat’s claws. That he would have to undergo some severe handling, an amount of clawing which might perhaps go near his life, he could perceive. Having done what he had done he would have no right to shrink from such usage. He must tell her to her face that he was not satisfied with her past life, and that therefore he would not marry her. Of course he might write to her;⁠—but when summoned to her presence he would be unable to excuse himself, even to himself, for not going. It was his misfortune⁠—and also his fault⁠—that he had submitted to be loved by a wild cat.

But it might be well that before he saw her he should get hold of information that might have the appearance of real evidence. He returned from Liverpool to London on the morning of the Friday on which the Board was held, and thought even more of all this than he did of the attack which he was prepared to make on Mr. Melmotte. If he could come across that traveller he might learn something. The husband’s name had been Caradoc Carson Hurtle. If Caradoc Carson Hurtle had been seen in the State of Kansas within the last two years, that certainly would be sufficient evidence. As to the duel he felt that it might be very hard to prove that, and that if proved, it might be hard to found upon the fact any absolute right on his part to withdraw from the engagement. But there was a rumour also, though not corroborated during his last visit to Liverpool, that she had shot a gentleman in Oregon. Could he get at the truth of that story? If they were all true, surely he could justify himself to himself.

But this detective’s work was very distasteful to him. After having had the woman in his arms how could he undertake such inquiries as these? And it would be almost necessary that he should take her in his arms again while he was making them⁠—unless indeed he made them with her knowledge. Was it not his duty, as a man, to tell everything to herself? To speak to her thus;⁠—“I am told that your life with your last husband was, to say the least of it, eccentric; that you even fought a duel with him. I could not marry a woman who had fought a duel⁠—certainly not a woman who had fought with her own husband. I am told also that you shot another gentleman in Oregon. It may well be that the gentleman deserved to be shot; but there is something in the deed so repulsive to me⁠—no doubt irrationally⁠—that, on that score also, I must decline to marry you. I am told also that Mr. Hurtle has been seen alive quite lately. I had understood from you that he is dead. No doubt you may have been deceived. But as I should not have engaged myself to you had I known the truth, so now I consider myself justified in absolving myself from an engagement which was based on a misconception.” It would no doubt be difficult to get through all these details; but it might be accomplished gradually⁠—unless in the process of doing so he should incur the fate of the gentleman in Oregon. At any rate he would declare to her as well as he could the ground on which he claimed a right to consider himself free, and would bear the consequences. Such was the resolve which he made on his journey up from Liverpool, and that trouble was also on his mind when he rose up to attack Mr. Melmotte single-handed at the Board.

When the Board was over, he also went down to the Beargarden. Perhaps, with reference to the Board, the feeling which hurt him most was the conviction that he was spending money which he would never have had to spend had there been no Board. He had been twitted with this at the Board-meeting, and had justified himself by referring to the money which had been invested in the Company of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, which money was now supposed to have been made over to the railway. But the money which he was spending had come to him after a loose fashion, and he knew that if called upon for an account, he could hardly make out one which would be square and intelligible to all parties. Nevertheless he spent much of his time at the Beargarden, dining there when no engagement carried him elsewhere. On this evening he joined his table with Nidderdale’s, at the young lord’s instigation. “What made you so savage at old Melmotte today?” said the young lord.

“I didn’t mean to be savage, but I think that as we call ourselves Directors we ought to know something about it.”

“I suppose we ought. I don’t know, you know. I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking. I can’t make out why the mischief they made me a Director.”

“Because you’re a lord,” said Paul bluntly.

“I suppose there’s something in that. But what good can I do them? Nobody thinks that I know anything about business. Of course I’m in Parliament, but I don’t often go there unless they want me to vote. Everybody knows that I’m hard up. I can’t understand it. The Governor said that I was to do it, and so I’ve done it.”

“They say, you know⁠—there’s something between you and Melmotte’s daughter.”

“But if there is, what has that to do with a railway in the city? And why should Carbury be there? And, heaven and earth, why should old Grendall be a Director? I’m impecunious; but if you were to pick out the two most hopeless men in London in regard to money, they would be old Grendall and young Carbury. I’ve been thinking a good deal about it, and I can’t make it out.”

“I have been thinking about it too,” said Paul.

“I suppose old Melmotte is all right?” asked Nidderdale. This was a question which Montague found it difficult to answer. How could he be justified in whispering suspicions to the man who was known to be at any rate one of the competitors for Marie Melmotte’s hand? “You can speak out to me, you know,” said Nidderdale, nodding his head.

“I’ve got nothing to speak. People say that he is about the richest man alive.”

“He lives as though he were.”

“I don’t see why it shouldn’t be all true. Nobody, I take it, knows very much about him.” When his companion had left him, Nidderdale sat down, thinking of it all. It occurred to him that he would “be coming a cropper rather,” were he to marry Melmotte’s daughter for her money, and then find that she had got none.

A little later in the evening he invited Montague to go up to the card-room. “Carbury, and Grasslough, and Dolly Longestaffe are there waiting,” he said. But Paul declined. He was too full of his troubles for play. “Poor Miles isn’t there, if you’re afraid of that,” said Nidderdale.

“Miles Grendall wouldn’t hinder me,” said Montague.

“Nor me either. Of course it’s a confounded shame. I know that as well as 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 £10 note. But because he has won, he goes on as though he were old Melmotte himself. You’d better come up.”

But Montague wouldn’t go up. Without any fixed purpose he left the club, and slowly sauntered northwards through the streets till he found himself in Welbeck Street. He hardly knew why he went there, and certainly had not determined to call on Lady Carbury when he left the Beargarden. His mind was full of Mrs. Hurtle. As long as she was present in London⁠—as long at any rate as he was unable to tell himself that he had finally broken away from her⁠—he knew himself to be an unfit companion for Henrietta Carbury. And, indeed, he was still under some promise made to Roger Carbury, not that he would avoid Hetta’s company, but that for a certain period, as yet unexpired, he would not ask her to be his wife. It had been a foolish promise, made and then repented without much attention to words;⁠—but still it was existing, and Paul knew well that Roger trusted that it would be kept. Nevertheless Paul made his way up to Welbeck Street and almost unconsciously knocked at the door. No;⁠—Lady Carbury was not at home. She was out somewhere with Mr. Roger Carbury. Up to that moment Paul had not heard that Roger was in town; but the reader may remember that he had come up in search of Ruby Ruggles. Miss Carbury was at home, the page went on to say. Would Mr. Montague go up and see Miss Carbury? Without much consideration Mr. Montague said that he would go up and see Miss Carbury. “Mamma is out with Roger,” said Hetta endeavouring to save herself from confusion. “There is a soirée of learned people somewhere, and she made poor Roger take her. The ticket was only for her and her friend, and therefore I could not go.”

“I am so glad to see you. What an age it is since we met.”

“Hardly since the Melmottes’ ball,” said Hetta.

“Hardly indeed. I have been here once since that. What has brought Roger up to town?”

“I don’t know what it is. Some mystery, I think. Whenever there is a mystery I am always afraid that there is something wrong about Felix. I do get so unhappy about Felix, Mr. Montague.”

“I saw him today 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 today and they seemed to be the greatest friends. When I wanted to see Mr. Melmotte he bolted himself into an inner room, but he took your brother with him. He would not have done that if they had not been friends. When I saw it I almost thought that he had consented to the marriage.”

“Roger has the greatest dislike to Mr. Melmotte.”

“I know he has,” said Paul.

“And Roger is always right. It is always safe to trust him. Don’t you think so, Mr. Montague?” Paul did think so, and was by no means disposed to deny to his rival the praise which rightly belonged to him; but still he found the subject difficult. “Of course I will never go against mamma,” continued Hetta, “but I always feel that my Cousin Roger is a rock of strength, so that if one did whatever he said one would never get wrong. I never found anyone else that I thought that of, but I do think it of him.”

“No one has more reason to praise him than I have.”

“I think everybody has reason to praise him that has to do with him. And I’ll tell you why I think it is. Whenever he thinks anything he says it;⁠—or, at least, he never says anything that he doesn’t think. If he spent a thousand pounds, everybody would know that he’d got it to spend; but other people are not like that.”

“You’re thinking of Melmotte.”

“I’m thinking of everybody, Mr. Montague;⁠—of everybody except Roger.”

“Is he the only man you can trust? But it is abominable to me to seem even to contradict you. Roger Carbury has been to me the best friend that any man ever had. I think as much of him as you do.”

“I didn’t say he was the only person;⁠—or I didn’t mean to say so. But of all my friends⁠—”

“Am I among the number, Miss Carbury?”

“Yes;⁠—I suppose so. Of course you are. Why not? Of course you are a friend⁠—because you are his friend.”

“Look here, Hetta,” he said. “It is no good going on like this. I love Roger Carbury⁠—as well as one man can love another. He is all that you say⁠—and more. You hardly know how he denies himself, and how he thinks of everybody near him. He is a gentleman all round and every inch. He never lies. He never takes what is not his own. I believe he does love his neighbour as himself.”

“Oh, Mr. Montague! I am so glad to hear you speak of him like that.”

“I love him better than any man⁠—as well as a man can love a man. If you will say that you love him as well as a woman can love a man⁠—I will leave England at once, and never return to it.”

“There’s mamma,” said Henrietta;⁠—for at that moment there was a double knock at the door.

Chapter XXXIX

“I Do Love Him.”
So it was. Lady Carbury had returned home from the soirée of learned people, and had brought Roger Carbury with her. They both came up to the drawing-room and found Paul and Henrietta together. It need hardly be said that they were both surprised. Roger supposed that Montague was still at Liverpool, and, knowing that he was not a frequent visitor in Welbeck Street, could hardly avoid a feeling that a meeting between the two had now been planned in the mother’s absence. The reader knows that it was not so. Roger certainly was a man not liable to suspicion, but the circumstances in this case were suspicious. There would have been nothing to suspect⁠—no reason why Paul should not have been there⁠—but from the promise which had been given. There was, indeed, no breach of that promise proved by Paul’s presence in Welbeck Street; but Roger felt rather than thought that the two could hardly have spent the evening together without such breach. Whether Paul had broken the promise by what he had already said the reader must be left to decide.

Lady Carbury was the first to speak. “This is quite an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Montague.” Whether Roger suspected anything or not, she did. The moment she saw Paul the idea occurred to her that the meeting between Hetta and him had been preconcerted.

“Yes,” he said⁠—making a lame excuse, where no excuse should have been made⁠—“I had nothing to do, and was lonely, and thought that I would come up and see you.” Lady Carbury disbelieved him altogether, but Roger felt assured that his coming in Lady Carbury’s absence had been an accident. The man had said so, and that was enough.

“I thought you were at Liverpool,” said Roger.

“I came back today⁠—to be present at that Board in the city. I have had a good deal to trouble me. I will tell you all about it just now. What has brought you to London?”

“A little business,” said Roger.

Then there was an awkward silence. Lady Carbury was angry, and hardly knew whether she ought or ought not to show her anger. For Henrietta it was very awkward. She, too, could not but feel that she had been caught, though no innocence could be whiter than hers. She knew well her mother’s mind, and the way in which her mother’s thoughts would run. Silence was frightful to her, and she found herself forced to speak. “Have you had a pleasant evening, mamma?”

“Have you had a pleasant evening, my dear?” said Lady Carbury, forgetting herself in her desire to punish her daughter.

“Indeed, no,” said Hetta, attempting to laugh, “I have been trying to work hard at Dante, but one never does any good when one has to try to work. I was just going to bed when Mr. Montague came in. What did you think of the wise men and the wise women, Roger?”

“I was out of my element, of course; but I think your mother liked it.”

“I was very glad indeed to meet Dr. Palmoil. It seems that if we can only open the interior of Africa a little further, we can get everything that is wanted to complete the chemical combination necessary for feeding the human race. Isn’t that a grand idea, Roger?”

“A little more elbow grease is the combination that I look to.”

“Surely, Roger, if the Bible is to go for anything, we are to believe that labour is a curse and not a blessing. Adam was not born to labour.”

“But he fell; and I doubt whether Dr. Palmoil will be able to put his descendants back into Eden.”

“Roger, for a religious man, you do say the strangest things! I have quite made up my mind to this;⁠—if ever I can see things so settled here as to enable me to move, I will visit the interior of Africa. It is the garden of the world.”

This scrap of enthusiasm so carried them through their immediate difficulties that the two men were able to take their leave and to get out of the room with fair comfort. As soon as the door was closed behind them Lady Carbury attacked her daughter. “What brought him here?”

“He brought himself, mamma.”

“Don’t answer me in that way, Hetta. Of course he brought himself. That is insolent.”

“Insolent, mamma! How can you say such hard words? I meant that he came of his own accord.”

“How long was he here?”

“Two minutes before you came in. Why do you cross-question me like this? I could not help his coming. I did not desire that he might be shown up.”

“You did not know that he was to come?”

“Mamma, if I am to be suspected, all is over between us.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“If you can think that I would deceive you, you will think so always. If you will not trust me, how am I to live with you as though you did? I knew nothing of his coming.”

“Tell me this, Hetta; are you engaged to marry him?”

“No;⁠—I am not.”

“Has he asked you to marry him?”

Hetta paused a moment, considering, before she answered this question. “I do not think he ever has.”

“You do not think?”

“I was going on to explain. He never has asked me. But he has said that which makes me know that he wishes me to be his wife.”

“What has he said? When did he say it?”

Again she paused. But again she answered with straightforward simplicity. “Just before you came in, he said⁠—; I don’t know what he said; but it meant that.”

“You told me he had been here but a minute.”

“It was but very little more. If you take me at my word in that way, of course you can make me out to be wrong, mamma. It was almost no time, and yet he said it.”

“He had come prepared to say it.”

“How could he⁠—expecting to find you?”

“Psha! He expected nothing of the kind.”

“I think you do him wrong, mamma. I am sure you are doing me wrong. I think his coming was an accident, and that what he said was⁠—an accident.”

“An accident!”

“It was not intended⁠—not then, mamma. I have known it ever so long;⁠—and so have you. It was natural that he should say so when we were alone together.”

“And you;⁠—what did you say?”

“Nothing. You came.”

“I am sorry that my coming should have been so inopportune. But I must ask one other question, Hetta. What do you intend to say?” Hetta was again silent, and now for a longer space. She put her hand up to her brow and pushed back her hair as she thought whether her mother had a right to continue this cross-examination. She had told her mother everything as it had happened. She had kept back no deed done, no word spoken, either now or at any time. But she was not sure that her mother had a right to know her thoughts, feeling as she did that she had so little sympathy from her mother. “How do you intend to answer him?” demanded Lady Carbury.

“I do not know that he will ask again.”

“That is prevaricating.”

“No, mamma;⁠—I do not prevaricate. It is unfair to say that to me. I do love him. There. I think it ought to have been enough for you to know that I should never give him encouragement without telling you about it. I do love him, and I shall never love anyone 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.”


“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 someone 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 anyone?”

“No;⁠—she went alone. But the horror of it is this. They think down there that Felix has⁠—well, made love to her, and that she has been taken to London by him.”

“That would be very bad.”

“He certainly has known her. Though he lied, as he always lies, when I first spoke to him, I brought him to admit that he and she had been friends down in Suffolk. Of course we know what such friendship means. But I do not think that she came to London at his instance. Of course he would lie about that. He would lie about anything. If his horse cost him a hundred pounds, he would tell one man that he gave fifty, and another two hundred. But he has not lived long enough yet to be able to lie and tell the truth with the same eye. When he is as old as I am he’ll be perfect.”

“He knows nothing about her coming to town?”

“He did not when I first asked him. I am not sure, but I fancy that I was too quick after her. She started last Saturday morning. I followed on the Sunday, and made him out at his club. I think that he knew nothing then of her being in town. He is very clever if he did. Since that he has avoided me. I caught him once but only for half a minute, and then he swore that he had not seen her.”

“You still believed him?”

“No;⁠—he did it very well, but I knew that he was prepared for me. I cannot say how it may have been. To make matters worse old Ruggles has now quarrelled with Crumb, and is no longer anxious to get back his granddaughter. He was frightened at first; but that has gone off, and he is now reconciled to the loss of the girl and the saving of his money.”

After that Paul told all his own story⁠—the double story, both in regard to Melmotte and to Mrs. Hurtle. As regarded the Railway, Roger could only tell him to follow explicitly the advice of his Liverpool friend. “I never believed in the thing, you know.”

“Nor did I. But what could I do?”

“I’m not going to blame you. Indeed, knowing you as I do, feeling sure that you intend to be honest, I would not for a moment insist on my own opinion, if it did not seem that Mr. Ramsbottom thinks as I do. In such a matter, when a man does not see his own way clearly, it behoves him to be able to show that he has followed the advice of some man whom the world esteems and recognises. You have to bind your character to another man’s character; and that other man’s character, if it be good, will carry you through. From what I hear Mr. Ramsbottom’s character is sufficiently good;⁠—but then you must do exactly what he tells you.”

But the Railway business, though it comprised all that Montague had in the world, was not the heaviest of his troubles. What was he to do about Mrs. Hurtle? He had now, for the first time, to tell his friend that Mrs. Hurtle had come to London, and that he had been with her three or four times. There was this difficulty in the matter, too⁠—that it was very hard to speak of his engagement with Mrs. Hurtle without in some sort alluding to his love for Henrietta Carbury. Roger knew of both loves;⁠—had been very urgent with his friend to abandon the widow, and at any rate equally urgent with him to give up the other passion. Were he to marry the widow, all danger on the other side would be at an end. And yet, in discussing the question of Mrs. Hurtle, he was to do so as though there were no such person existing as Henrietta Carbury. The discussion did take place exactly as though there were no such person as Henrietta Carbury. Paul told it all⁠—the rumoured duel, the rumoured murder, and the rumour of the existing husband.

“It may be necessary that you should go out to Kansas⁠—and to Oregon,” said Roger.

“But even if the rumours be untrue I will not marry her,” said Paul. Roger shrugged his shoulders. He was doubtless thinking of Hetta Carbury, but he said nothing. “And what would she do, remaining here?” continued Paul. Roger admitted that it would be awkward. “I am determined that under no circumstances will I marry her. I know I have been a fool. I know I have been wrong. But of course, if there be a fair cause for my broken word, I will use it if I can.”

“You will get out of it, honestly if you can; but you will get out of it honestly or⁠—any other way.”

“Did you not advise me to get out of it, Roger;⁠—before we knew as much as we do now?”

“I did⁠—and I do. If you make a bargain with the Devil, it may be dishonest to cheat him⁠—and yet I would have you cheat him if you could. As to this woman, I do believe she has deceived you. If I were you, nothing should induce me to marry her;⁠—not though her claws were strong enough to tear me utterly in pieces. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go and see her if you like it.”

But Paul would not submit to this. He felt that he was bound himself to incur the risk of those claws, and that no substitute could take his place. They sat long into the night, and it was at last resolved between them that on the next morning Paul should go to Islington, should tell Mrs. Hurtle all the stories which he had heard, and should end by declaring his resolution that under no circumstances would he marry her. They both felt how improbable it was that he should ever be allowed to get to the end of such a story⁠—how almost certain it was that the breeding of the wild cat would show itself before that time should come. But, still, that was the course to be pursued as far as circumstances would admit; and Paul was at any rate to declare, claws or no claws, husband or no husband⁠—whether the duel or the murder was admitted or denied⁠—that he would never make Mrs. Hurtle his wife. “I wish it were over, old fellow,” said Roger.

“So do I,” said Paul, as he took his leave.

He went to bed like a man condemned to die on the next morning, and he awoke in the same condition. He had slept well, but as he shook from him his happy dream, the wretched reality at once overwhelmed him. But the man who is to be hung has no choice. He cannot, when he wakes, declare that he has changed his mind, and postpone the hour. It was quite open to Paul Montague to give himself such instant relief. He put his hand up to his brow, and almost made himself believe that his head was aching. This was Saturday. Would it not be well that he should think of it further, and put off his execution till Monday? Monday was so far distant that he felt that he could go to Islington quite comfortably on Monday. Was there not some hitherto forgotten point which it would be well that he should discuss with his friend Roger before he saw the lady? Should he not rush down to Liverpool, and ask a few more questions of Mr. Ramsbottom? Why should he go forth to execution, seeing that the matter was in his own hands?

At last he jumped out of bed and into his tub, and dressed himself as quickly as he could. He worked himself up into a fit of fortitude, and resolved that the thing should be done before the fit was over. He ate his breakfast about nine, and then asked himself whether he might not be too early were he to go at once to Islington. But he remembered that she was always early. In every respect she was an energetic woman, using her time for some purpose, either good or bad, not sleeping it away in bed. If one has to be hung on a given day, would it not be well to be hung as soon after waking as possible? I can fancy that the hangman would hardly come early enough. And if one had to be hung in a given week, would not one wish to be hung on the first day of the week, even at the risk of breaking one’s last Sabbath day in this world? Whatever be the misery to be endured, get it over. The horror of every agony is in its anticipation. Paul had realised something of this when he threw himself into a Hansom cab, and ordered the man to drive him to Islington.

How quick that cab went! Nothing ever goes so quick as a Hansom cab when a man starts for a dinner-party a little too early;⁠—nothing so slow when he starts too late. Of all cabs this, surely, was the quickest. Paul was lodging in Suffolk Street, close to Pall Mall⁠—whence the way to Islington, across Oxford Street, across Tottenham Court Road, across numerous squares northeast of the Museum, seems to be long. The end of Goswell Road is the outside of the world in that direction, and Islington is beyond the end of Goswell Road. And yet that Hansom cab was there before Paul Montague had been able to arrange the words with which he would begin the interview. He had given the street and the number of the street. It was not till after he had started that it occurred to him that it might be well that he should get out at the end of the street, and walk to the house⁠—so that he might, as it were, fetch his breath before the interview was commenced. But the cabman dashed up to the door in a manner purposely devised to make every inmate of the house aware that a cab had just arrived before it. There was a little garden before the house. We all know the garden;⁠—twenty-four feet long, by twelve broad;⁠—and an iron-grated door, with the landlady’s name on a brass plate. Paul, when he had paid the cabman⁠—giving the man half-a-crown, and asking for no change in his agony⁠—pushed in the iron gate and walked very quickly up to the door, rang rather furiously, and before the door was well opened asked for Mrs. Hurtle.

“Mrs. Hurtle is out for the day,” said the girl who opened the door. “Leastways, she went out yesterday and won’t be back till tonight.” Providence had sent him a reprieve! But he almost forgot the reprieve, as he looked at the girl and saw that she was Ruby Ruggles. “Oh laws, Mr. Montague, is that you?” Ruby Ruggles had often seen Paul down in Suffolk, and recognised him as quickly as he did her. It occurred to her at once that he had come in search of herself. She knew that Roger Carbury was up in town looking for her. So much she had of course learned from Sir Felix⁠—for at this time she had seen the baronet more than once since her arrival. Montague, she knew, was Roger Carbury’s intimate friend, and now she felt that she was caught. In her terror she did not at first remember that the visitor had asked for Mrs. Hurtle.

“Yes, it is I. I was sorry to hear, Miss Ruggles, that you had left your home.”

“I’m all right, Mr. Montague;⁠—I am. Mrs. Pipkin is my aunt, or, leastways, my mother’s brother’s widow, though grandfather never would speak to her. She’s quite respectable, and has five children, and lets lodgings. There’s a lady here now, and has gone away with her just for one night down to Southend. They’ll be back this evening, and I’ve the children to mind, with the servant girl. I’m quite respectable here, Mr. Montague, and nobody need be a bit afraid about me.”

“Mrs. Hurtle has gone down to Southend?”

“Yes, Mr. Montague; she wasn’t quite well, and wanted a breath of air, she said. And aunt didn’t like she should go alone, as Mrs. Hurtle is such a stranger. And Mrs. Hurtle said as she didn’t mind paying for two, and so they’ve gone, and the baby with them. Mrs. Pipkin said as the baby shouldn’t be no trouble. And Mrs. Hurtle⁠—she’s most as fond of the baby as aunt. Do you know Mrs. Hurtle, sir?”

“Yes; she’s a friend of mine.”

“Oh; I didn’t know. I did know as there was some friend as was expected and as didn’t come. Be I to say, sir, as you was here?”

Paul thought it might be as well to shift the subject and to ask Ruby a few questions about herself while he made up his mind what message he would leave for Mrs. Hurtle. “I’m afraid they are very unhappy about you down at Bungay, Miss Ruggles.”

“Then they’ve got to be unhappy; that’s all about it, Mr. Montague. Grandfather is that provoking as a young woman can’t live with him, nor yet I won’t try never again. He lugged me all about the room by my hair, Mr. Montague. How is a young woman to put up with that? And I did everything for him⁠—that careful that no one won’t do it again;⁠—did his linen, and his victuals, and even cleaned his boots of a Sunday, ’cause he was that mean he wouldn’t have anybody about the place only me and the girl who had to milk the cows. There wasn’t nobody to do anything, only me. And then he went to drag me about by the hairs of my head. You won’t see me again at Sheep’s Acre, Mr. Montague;⁠—nor yet won’t the Squire.”

“But I thought there was somebody else was to give you a home.”

“John Crumb! Oh, yes, there’s John Crumb. There’s plenty of people to give me a home, Mr. Montague.”

“You were to have been married to John Crumb, I thought.”

“Ladies is to change their minds if they like it, Mr. Montague. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Grandfather made me say I’d have him⁠—but I never cared that for him.”

“I’m afraid, Miss Ruggles, you won’t find a better man up here in London.”

“I didn’t come here to look for a man, Mr. Montague; I can tell you that. They has to look for me, if they want me. But I am looked after; and that by one as John Crumb ain’t fit to touch.” That told the whole story. Paul when he heard the little boast was quite sure that Roger’s fear about Felix was well founded. And as for John Crumb’s fitness to touch Sir Felix, Paul felt that the Bungay mealman might have an opinion of his own on that matter. “But there’s Betsy a crying 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 down the stairs, “I don’t see why you need be saying anything about me, you know.”

“Mr. Carbury is up in town looking after you.”

“What ’m I to Mr. Carbury?”

“Your grandfather is very anxious about you.”

“Not a bit of it, Mr. Montague. Grandfather knows very well where I am. There! Grandfather doesn’t want me back, and I ain’t a going. Why should the Squire bother himself about me? I don’t bother myself about him.”

“He’s afraid, Miss Ruggles, that you are trusting yourself to a young man who is not trustworthy.”

“I can mind myself very well, Mr. Montague.”

“Tell me this. Have you seen Sir Felix Carbury since you’ve been in town?” Ruby, whose blushes came very easily, now flushed up to her forehead. “You may be sure that he means no good to you. What can come of an intimacy between you and such a one as he?”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t have my friend, Mr. Montague, as well as you. Howsomever, if you’ll not tell, I’ll be ever so much obliged.”

“But I must tell Mr. Carbury.”

“Then I ain’t obliged to you one bit,” said Ruby, shutting the door.

Paul as he walked away could not help thinking of the justice of Ruby’s reproach to him. What business had he to take upon himself to be a mentor to anyone 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 tomorrow, Sunday, at half past eleven. If you are going to church, perhaps you will make an appointment in the afternoon; if not, the morning will suit best. I want to have a few words with you in private about the Company. My messenger will wait for answer if you are at the club.
Yours truly,
Augustus Melmotte.
Paul Montague, Esq., The Beargarden.

Paul immediately wrote to say that he would call at Grosvenor Square at the hour appointed⁠—abandoning any intentions which he might have had in reference to Sunday morning service. But this was not the only letter he received that evening. On his return to his lodgings he found a note, containing only one line, which Mrs. Hurtle had found the means of sending to him after her return from Southend. “I am so sorry to have been away. I will expect you all tomorrow. 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 Boardroom⁠—especially plainly after the Board had risen. Paul had understood that war was declared, and had understood also that he was to fight the battle single-handed, knowing nothing of such strategy as would be required, while his antagonist was a great master of financial tactics. He was prepared to go to the wall in reference to his money, only hoping that in doing so he might save his character and keep the reputation of an honest man. He was quite resolved to be guided altogether by Mr. Ramsbottom, and intended to ask Mr. Ramsbottom to draw up for him such a statement as would be fitting for him to publish. But it was manifest now that Mr. Melmotte would make some proposition, and it was impossible that he should have Mr. Ramsbottom at his elbow to help him.

He had been in Melmotte’s house on the night of the ball, but had contented himself after that with leaving a card. He had heard much of the splendour of the place, but remembered simply the crush and the crowd, and that he had danced there more than once or twice with Hetta Carbury. When he was shown into the hall he was astonished to find that it was not only stripped, but was full of planks, and ladders, and trussels, and mortar. The preparations for the great dinner had been already commenced. Through all this he made his way to the stairs, and was taken up to a small room on the second floor, where the servant told him that Mr. Melmotte would come to him. Here he waited a quarter of an hour looking out into the yard at the back. There was not a book in the room, or even a picture with which he could amuse himself. He was beginning to think whether his own personal dignity would not be best consulted by taking his departure, when Melmotte himself, with slippers on his feet and enveloped in a magnificent dressing-gown, bustled into the room. “My dear sir, I am so sorry. You are a punctual man I see. So am I. A man of business should be punctual. But they ain’t always. Brehgert⁠—from the house of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner, you know⁠—has just been with me. We had to settle something about the Moldavian loan. He came a quarter late, and of course he went a quarter late. And how is a man to catch a quarter of an hour? I never could do it.” Montague assured the great man that the delay was of no consequence. “And I am so sorry to ask you into such a place as this. I had Brehgert in my room downstairs, and then the house is so knocked about! We get into a furnished house a little way off in Bruton Street tomorrow. 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 another for the Bishop of⁠—; I forget what bishop it is, but we had the two archbishops before. They say he must come because he has something to do with getting up the missionaries for 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 anyone there who does understand this matter,” said Paul.

Melmotte affected to laugh. “Well, well; I am not prepared to go quite so far as that. My friend Cohenlupe has had great experience in these affairs, and of course you are aware that he is in Parliament. And Lord Alfred sees farther into them than perhaps you give him credit for.”

“He may easily do that.”

“Well, well. Perhaps you don’t know him quite as well as I do.” The scowl began to appear on Mr. Melmotte’s brow. Hitherto it had been banished as well as he knew how to banish it. “What I wanted to say to you was this. We didn’t quite agree at the last meeting.”

“No; we did not.”

“I was very sorry for it. Unanimity is everything in the direction of such an undertaking as this. With unanimity we can do⁠—everything.” Mr. Melmotte in the ecstasy of his enthusiasm lifted up both his hands over his head. “Without unanimity we can do⁠—nothing.” And the two hands fell. “Unanimity should be printed everywhere about a Boardroom. It should, indeed, Mr. Montague.”

“But suppose the directors are not unanimous.”

“They should be unanimous. They should make themselves unanimous. God bless my soul! You don’t want to see the thing fall to pieces!”

“Not if it can be carried on honestly.”

“Honestly! Who says that anything is dishonest?” Again the brow became very heavy. “Look here, Mr. Montague. If you and I quarrel in that Boardroom, there is no knowing the amount of evil we may do to every individual shareholder in the Company. I find the responsibility on my own shoulders so great that I say the thing must be stopped. Damme, Mr. Montague, it must be stopped. We mustn’t ruin widows and children, Mr. Montague. We mustn’t let those shares run down 20 below par for a mere chimera. I’ve known a fine property blasted, Mr. Montague, sent straight to the dogs⁠—annihilated, sir;⁠—so that it all vanished into thin air, and widows and children past counting were sent out to starve about the streets⁠—just because one director sat in another director’s chair. I did, by G⁠⸺! What do you think of that, Mr. Montague? Gentlemen who don’t know the nature of credit, how strong it is⁠—as the air⁠—to buoy you up; how slight it is⁠—as a mere vapour⁠—when roughly touched, can do an amount of mischief of which they themselves don’t in the least understand the extent! What is it you want, Mr. Montague?”

“What do I want?” Melmotte’s description of the peculiar susceptibility of great mercantile speculations had not been given without some effect on Montague, but this direct appeal to himself almost drove that effect out of his mind. “I only want justice.”

“But you should know what justice is before you demand it at the expense of other people. Look here, Mr. Montague. I suppose you are like the rest of us, in this matter. You want to make money out of it.”

“For myself, I want interest for my capital; that is all. But I am not thinking of myself.”

“You are getting very good interest. If I understand the matter,”⁠—and here Melmotte pulled out a little book, showing thereby how careful he was in mastering details⁠—“you had about £6,000 embarked in the business when Fisker joined your firm. You imagine yourself to have that still.”

“I don’t know what I’ve got.”

“I can tell you then. You have that, and you’ve drawn nearly a thousand pounds since Fisker came over, in one shape or another. That’s not bad interest on your money.”

“There was back interest due to me.”

“If so, it’s due still. I’ve nothing to do with that. Look here, Mr. Montague. I am most anxious that you should remain with us. I was about to propose, only for that little rumpus the other day, that, as you’re an unmarried man, and have time on your hands, you should go out to California and probably across to Mexico, in order to get necessary information for the Company. Were I of your age, unmarried, and without impediment, it is just the thing I should like. Of course you’d go at the Company’s expense. I would see to your own personal interests while you were away;⁠—or you could appoint anyone by power of attorney. Your seat at the Board would be kept for you; but, should anything occur amiss⁠—which it won’t, for the thing is as sound as anything I know⁠—of course you, as absent, would not share the responsibility. That’s what I was thinking. It would be a delightful trip;⁠—but if you don’t like it, you can of course remain at the Board, and be of the greatest use to me. Indeed, after a bit I could devolve nearly the whole management on you;⁠—and I must do something of the kind, as I really haven’t the time for it. But⁠—if it is to be that way⁠—do be unanimous. Unanimity is the very soul of these things;⁠—the very soul, Mr. Montague.”

“But if I can’t be unanimous?”

“Well;⁠—if you can’t, and if you won’t take my advice about going out;⁠—which, pray, think about, for you would be most useful. It might be the very making of the railway;⁠—then I can only suggest that you should take your £6,000 and leave us. I, myself, should be greatly distressed; but if you are determined that way I will see that you have your money. I will make myself personally responsible for the payment of it⁠—some time before the end of the year.”

Paul Montague told the great man that he would consider the whole matter, and see him in Abchurch Lane before the next Board day. “And now, goodbye,” 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 étions encore à Francfort, ou New York,” said the elder lady, remembering the humbler but less troubled times of her earlier life. Marie did not care for Francfort or New York; for Paris or for London;⁠—but she did care for Sir Felix Carbury.

While her father on Sunday morning was transacting business in his own house with Paul Montague and the great commercial magnates of the city⁠—though it may be doubted whether that very respectable gentleman Sir Gregory Gribe was really in Grosvenor Square when his name was mentioned⁠—Marie was walking inside the gardens; Didon was also there at some distance from her; and Sir Felix Carbury was there also close 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 £200.

“Nobody ever does who gives papa money,” said the observant daughter.

“Don’t they? Dear me! But I just wrote it because I thought anything better than a downright quarrel.”

“I wouldn’t have written it, if it had been ever so.”

“It’s no good scolding, Marie. I did it for the best. What do you think we’d best do now?” Marie looked at him, almost with scorn. Surely it was for him to propose and for her to yield. “I wonder whether you’re sure you’re right about that money which you say is settled.”

“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 £800, nor the shares. And if he were true to Melmotte, Melmotte would probably supply him with ready money. But then here was the girl at his elbow, and he no more dared to tell her to her face that he meant to give her up, than he dared to tell Melmotte that he intended to stick to his engagement. Some half promise would be the only escape for the present. “What are you thinking of, Felix?” she asked.

“It’s d⁠⸺ difficult to know what to do.”

“But you do love me?”

“Of course I do. If I didn’t love you why should I be here walking round this stupid place? They talk of your being married to Nidderdale about the end of August.”

“Some day in August. But that’s all nonsense, you know. They can’t take me up and marry me, as they used to do the girls ever so long ago. I won’t marry him. He don’t care a bit for me, and never did. I don’t think you care much, Felix.”

“Yes, I do. A fellow can’t go on saying so over and over again in a beastly place like this. If we were anywhere jolly together, then I could say it often enough.”

“I wish we were, Felix. I wonder whether we ever shall be.”

“Upon my word I hardly see my way as yet.”

“You’re not going to give it up!”

“Oh no;⁠—not give it up; certainly not. But the bother is a fellow doesn’t know what to do.”

“You’ve heard of young Mr. Goldsheiner, haven’t you?” suggested Marie.

“He’s one of those city chaps.”

“And Lady Julia Start?”

“She’s old Lady Catchboy’s daughter. Yes; I’ve heard of them. They got spliced last winter.”

“Yes⁠—somewhere in Switzerland, I think. At any rate they went to Switzerland, and now they’ve got a house close to Albert Gate.”

“How jolly for them! He is awfully rich, isn’t he?”

“I don’t suppose he’s half so rich as papa. They did all they could to prevent her going, but she met him down at Folkestone just as the tidal boat was starting. Didon says that nothing was easier.”

“Oh;⁠—ah. Didon knows all about it.”

“That she does.”

“But she’d lose her place.”

“There are plenty of places. She could come and live with us, and be my maid. If you would give her £50 for herself, she’d arrange it all.”

“And would you come to Folkestone?”

“I think that would be stupid, because Lady Julia did that. We should make it a little different. If you liked I wouldn’t mind going to⁠—New York. And then, perhaps, we might⁠—get⁠—married, you know, on board. That’s what Didon thinks.”

“And would Didon go too?”

“That’s what she proposes. She could go as my aunt, and I’d call myself by her name;⁠—any French name you know. I should go as a French girl. And you could call yourself Smith, and be an American. We wouldn’t go together, but we’d get on board just at the last moment. If they wouldn’t⁠—marry us on board, they would at New York, instantly.”

“That’s Didon’s plan?”

“That’s what she thinks best⁠—and she’ll do it, if you’ll give her £50 for herself, you know. The Adriatic⁠—that’s a White Star boat, goes on Thursday week at noon. There’s an early train that would take us down that morning. You had better go and sleep at Liverpool, and take no notice of us at all till we meet on board. We could be back in a month⁠—and then papa would be obliged to make the best of it.”

Sir Felix at once felt that it would be quite unnecessary for him to go to Herr Vossner or to any other male counsellor for advice as to the best means of carrying off his love. The young lady had it all at her fingers’ ends⁠—even to the amount of the fee required by the female counsellor. But Thursday week was very near, and the whole thing was taking uncomfortably defined proportions. Where was he to get funds if he were to resolve that he would do this thing? He had been fool enough to entrust his ready money to Melmotte, and now he was told that when Melmotte got hold of ready money he was not apt to release it. And he had nothing to show;⁠—no security that he could offer to Vossner. And then⁠—this idea of starting to New York with Melmotte’s daughter immediately after he had written to Melmotte renouncing the girl, frightened him.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”

Sir Felix did not know these lines, but the lesson taught by them came home to him at this moment. Now was the tide in his affairs at which he might make himself, or utterly mar himself. “It’s deuced important,” he said at last with a groan.

“It’s not more important for you than me,” said Marie.

“If you’re wrong about the money, and he shouldn’t come round, where should we be then?”

“Nothing venture, nothing have,” said the heiress.

“That’s all very well; but one might venture everything and get nothing after all.”

“You’d get me,” said Marie with a pout.

“Yes;⁠—and I’m awfully fond of you. Of course I should get you! But⁠—”

“Very well then;⁠—if that’s your love,” said Marie, turning back from him.

Sir Felix gave a great sigh, and then announced his resolution. “I’ll venture it.”

“Oh, Felix, how grand it will be!”

“There’s a great deal to do, you know. I don’t know whether it can be Thursday week.” He was putting in the coward’s plea for a reprieve.

“I shall be afraid of Didon if it’s delayed long.”

“There’s the money to get, and all that.”

“I can get some money. Mamma has money in the house.”

“How much?” asked the baronet eagerly.

“A hundred pounds, perhaps;⁠—perhaps two hundred.”

“That would help certainly. I must go to your father for money. Won’t that be a sell? To get it from him, to take you away!”

It was decided that they were to go to New York, on a Thursday⁠—on Thursday week if possible, but as to that he was to let her know in a day or two. Didon was to pack up the clothes and get it sent out of the house. Didon was to have £50 before she went on board; and as one of the men must know about it, and must assist in having the trunks smuggled out of the house, he was to have £10. All had been settled beforehand, so that Sir Felix really had no need to think about anything. “And now,” said Marie, “there’s Didon. Nobody’s looking and she can open that gate for you. When we’re gone, do you creep out. The gate can be left, you know. Then we’ll get out on the other side.” Marie Melmotte was certainly a clever girl.

Chapter XLII

“Can You Be Ready in Ten Minutes?”
After leaving Melmotte’s house on Sunday morning Paul Montague went to Roger Carbury’s hotel and found his friend just returning from church. He was bound to go to Islington on that day, but had made up his mind that he would defer his visit till the evening. He would dine early and be with Mrs. Hurtle about seven o’clock. But it was necessary that Roger should hear the news about Ruby Ruggles. “It’s not so bad as you thought,” said he, “as she is living with her aunt.”

“I never heard of such an aunt.”

“She says her grandfather knows where she is, and that he doesn’t want her back again.”

“Does she see Felix Carbury?”

“I think she does,” said Paul.

“Then it doesn’t matter whether the woman’s her aunt or not. I’ll go and see her and try to get her back to Bungay.”

“Why not send for John Crumb?”

Roger hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “He’d give Felix such a thrashing as no man ever had before. My cousin deserves it as well as any man ever deserved a thrashing; but there are reasons why I should not like it. And he could not force her back with him. I don’t suppose the girl is all bad⁠—if she could see the truth.”

“I don’t think she’s bad at all.”

“At any rate I’ll go and see her,” said Roger. “Perhaps I shall see your widow at the same time.” Paul sighed, but said nothing more about his widow at that moment. “I’ll walk up to Welbeck Street now,” said Roger, taking his hat. “Perhaps I shall see you tomorrow.” Paul felt that he could not go to Welbeck Street with his friend.

He dined in solitude at the Beargarden, and then again made that journey to Islington in a cab. As he went he thought of the proposal that had been made to him by Melmotte. If he could do it with a clear conscience, if he could really make himself believe in the railway, such an expedition would not be displeasing to him. He had said already more than he had intended to say to Hetta Carbury; and though he was by no means disposed to flatter himself, yet he almost thought that what he had said had been well received. At the moment they had been disturbed, but she, as she heard the sound of her mother coming, had at any rate expressed no anger. He had almost been betrayed into breaking a promise. Were he to start now on this journey, the period of the promise would have passed by before his return. Of course he would take care that she should know that he had gone in the performance of a duty. And then he would escape from Mrs. Hurtle, and would be able to make those inquiries which had been suggested to him. It was possible that Mrs. Hurtle should offer to go with him⁠—an arrangement which would not at all suit him. That at any rate must be avoided. But then how could he do this without a belief in the railway generally? And how was it possible that he should have such belief? Mr. Ramsbottom did not believe in it, nor did Roger Carbury. He himself did not in the least believe in Fisker, and Fisker had originated the railway. Then, would it not be best that he should take the Chairman’s offer as to his own money? If he could get his £6,000 back and have done with the railway, he would certainly think himself a lucky man. But he did not know how far he could with honesty lay aside his responsibility; and then he doubted whether he could put implicit trust in Melmotte’s personal guarantee for the amount. This at any rate was clear to him⁠—that Melmotte was very anxious to secure his absence from the meetings of the Board.

Now he was again at Mrs. Pipkin’s door, and again it was opened by Ruby Ruggles. His heart was in his mouth as he thought of the things he had to say. “The ladies have come back from Southend, Miss Ruggles?”

“Oh yes, sir, and Mrs. Hurtle is expecting you all the day.” Then she put in a whisper on her own account. “You didn’t tell him as you’d seen me, Mr. Montague?”

“Indeed I did, Miss Ruggles.”

“Then you might as well have left it alone, and not have been ill-natured⁠—that’s all,” said Ruby as she opened the door of Mrs. Hurtle’s room.

Mrs. Hurtle got up to receive him with her sweetest smile⁠—and her smile could be very sweet. She was a witch of a woman, and, as like most witches she could be terrible, so like most witches she could charm. “Only fancy,” she said, “that you should have come the only day I have been two hundred yards from the house, except that evening when you took me to the play. I was so sorry.”

“Why should you be sorry? It is easy to come again.”

“Because I don’t like to miss you, even for a day. But I wasn’t well, and I fancied that the house was stuffy, and Mrs. Pipkin took a bright idea and proposed to carry me off to Southend. She was dying to go herself. She declared that Southend was Paradise.”

“A cockney Paradise.”

“Oh, what a place it is! Do your people really go to Southend and fancy that that is the sea?”

“I believe they do. I never went to Southend myself⁠—so that you know more about it than I do.”

“How very English it is⁠—a little yellow river⁠—and you call it the sea! Ah;⁠—you never were at Newport!”

“But I’ve been at San Francisco.”

“Yes; you’ve been at San Francisco, and heard the seals howling. Well; that’s better than Southend.”

“I suppose we do have the sea here in England. It’s generally supposed we’re an island.”

“Of course;⁠—but things are so small. If you choose to go to the west of Ireland, I suppose you’d find the Atlantic. But nobody ever does go there for fear of being murdered.” Paul thought of the gentleman in Oregon, but said nothing;⁠—thought, perhaps, of his own condition, and remembered that a man might be murdered without going either to Oregon or the west of Ireland. “But we went to Southend, I, and Mrs. Pipkin and the baby, and upon my word I enjoyed it. She was so afraid that the baby would annoy me, and I thought the baby was so much the best of it. And then we ate shrimps, and she was so humble. You must acknowledge that with us nobody would be so humble. Of course I paid. She has got all her children, and nothing but what she can make out of these lodgings. People are just as poor with us;⁠—and other people who happen to be a little better off, pay for them. But nobody is humble to another, as you are here. Of course we like to have money as well as you do, but it doesn’t make so much difference.”

“He who wants to receive, all the world over, will make himself as agreeable as he can to him who can give.”

“But Mrs. Pipkin was so humble. However we got back all right yesterday evening, and then I found that you had been here⁠—at last.”

“You knew that I had to go to Liverpool.”

“I’m not going to scold. Did you get your business done at Liverpool?”

“Yes;⁠—one generally gets something done, but never anything very satisfactorily. Of course it’s about this railway.”

“I should have thought that that was satisfactory. Everybody talks of it as being the greatest thing ever invented. I wish I was a man that I might be concerned with a really great thing like that. I hate little peddling things. I should like to manage the greatest bank in the world, or to be Captain of the biggest fleet, or to make the largest railway. It would be better even than being President of a Republic, because one would have more of one’s own way. What is it that you do in it, Paul?”

“They want me now to go out to Mexico about it,” said he slowly.

“Shall you go?” said she, throwing herself forward and asking the question with manifest anxiety.

“I think not.”

“Why not? Do go. Oh, Paul, I would go with you. Why should you not go? It is just the thing for such a one as you to do. The railway will make Mexico a new country, and then you would be the man who had done it. Why should you throw away such a chance as that? It will never come again. Emperors and kings have tried their hands at Mexico and have been able to do nothing. Emperors and kings never can do anything. Think what it would be to be the regenerator of Mexico!”

“Think what it would be to find one’s self there without the means of doing anything, and to feel that one had been sent there merely that one might be out of the way.”

“I would make the means of doing something.”

“Means are money. How can I make that?”

“There is money going. There must be money where there is all this buying and selling of shares. Where does your uncle get the money with which he is living like a prince at San Francisco? Where does Fisker get the money with which he is speculating in New York? Where does Melmotte get the money which makes him the richest man in the world? Why should not you get it as well as the others?”

“If I were anxious to rob on my own account perhaps I might do it.”

“Why should it be robbery? I do not want you to live in a palace and spend millions of dollars on yourself. But I want you to have ambition. Go to Mexico, and chance it. Take San Francisco in your way, and get across the country. I will go every yard with you. Make people there believe that you are in earnest, and there will be no difficulty about the money.”

He felt that he was taking no steps to approach the subject which he should have to discuss before he left her⁠—or rather the statement which he had resolved that he would make. Indeed every word which he allowed her to say respecting this Mexican project carried him farther away from it. He was giving reasons why the journey should not be made; but was tacitly admitting that if it were to be made she might be one of the travellers. The very offer on her part implied an understanding that his former abnegation of his engagement had been withdrawn, and yet he shrunk from the cruelty of telling her, in a 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 tomorrow 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 wildcat’s claws, and the possible fate of the gentleman in Oregon, he could not talk freely on the subjects which she introduced, as had been his wont in former years. “Thanks,” he said, changing his cup. “How well you remember!”

“Do you think I shall ever forget your preferences and dislikings? Do you recollect telling me about that blue scarf of mine, that I should never wear blue?”

She stretched herself out towards him, waiting for an answer, so that he was obliged to speak. “Of course I do. Black is your colour;⁠—black and grey; or white⁠—and perhaps yellow when you choose to be gorgeous; crimson possibly. But not blue or green.”

“I never thought much of it before, but I have taken your word for gospel. It is very good to have an eye for such things⁠—as you have, Paul. But I fancy that taste comes with, or at any rate forbodes, an effete civilisation.”

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

“You know what I mean, Paul. I speak of nations, not individuals. Civilisation was becoming effete, or at any rate men were, in the time of the great painters; but Savanarola and Galileo were individuals. You should throw your lot in with a new people. This railway to Mexico gives you the chance.”

“Are the Mexicans a new people?”

“They who will rule the Mexicans are. All American women I dare say have bad taste in gowns⁠—and so the vain ones and rich ones send to Paris for their finery; but I think our taste in men is generally good. We like our philosophers; we like our poets; we like our genuine workmen;⁠—but we love our heroes. I would have you a hero, Paul.” He got up from his chair and walked about the room in an agony of despair. To be told that he was expected to be a hero at the very moment in his life in which he felt more devoid of heroism, more thoroughly given up to cowardice than he had ever been before, was not to be endured! And yet, with what utmost stretch of courage⁠—even though he were willing to devote himself certainly and instantly to the worst fate that he had pictured to himself⁠—could he immediately rush away from these abstract speculations, encumbered as they were with personal flattery, into his own most unpleasant, most tragic matter! It was the unfitness that deterred him and not the possible tragedy. Nevertheless, through it all, he was sure⁠—nearly sure⁠—that she was playing her game, and playing it in direct antagonism to the game which she knew that he wanted to play. Would it not be better that he should go away and write another letter? In a letter he could at any rate say what he had to say;⁠—and having said it he would then strengthen himself to adhere to it. “What makes you so uneasy?” she asked; still speaking in her most winning way, caressing him with the tones of her voice. “Do you not like me to say that I would have you be a hero?”

“Winifrid,” he said, “I came here with a purpose, and I had better carry it out.”

“What purpose?” She still leaned forward, but now supported her face on her two hands with her elbows resting on her knees, looking at him intently. But one would have said that there was only love in her eyes;⁠—love which might be disappointed, but still love. The wild cat, if there, was all within, still hidden from sight. Paul stood with his hands on the back of a chair, propping himself up and trying to find fitting words for the occasion. “Stop, my dear,” she said. “Must the purpose be told tonight?”

“Why not tonight?”

“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 tonight. 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 tonight. 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 straitlaced. If Ruby chose to manage in her own way about her lover she must. Mrs. Pipkin had an idea that young women in these days did have, and would have, and must have more liberty than was allowed when she was young. The world was being changed very fast. Mrs. Pipkin knew that as well as others. And therefore when Ruby went to the theatre once and again⁠—by herself as far as Mrs. Pipkin knew, but probably in company with her lover⁠—and did not get home till past midnight, Mrs. Pipkin said very little about it, attributing such novel circumstances to the altered condition of her country. She had not been allowed to go to the theatre with a young man when she had been a girl⁠—but that had been in the earlier days of Queen Victoria, fifteen years ago, before the new dispensation had come. Ruby had never yet told the name of her lover to Mrs. Pipkin, having answered all inquiries by saying that she was all right. Sir Felix’s name had never even been mentioned in Islington till Paul Montague had mentioned it. She had been managing her own affairs after her own fashion⁠—not altogether with satisfaction, but still without interruption; but now she knew that interference would come. Mr. Montague had found her out, and had told her grandfather’s landlord. The Squire would be after her, and then John Crumb would come, accompanied of course by Mr. Mixet⁠—and after that, as she said to herself on retiring to the couch which she shared with two little Pipkins, “the fat would be in the fire.”

“Who do you think was at our place yesterday?” said Ruby one evening to her lover. They were sitting together at a music-hall⁠—half music-hall, half theatre, which pleasantly combined the allurements of the gin-palace, the theatre, and the ballroom, 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 entrusted by him to Melmotte, and had been very urgent with him to recover them. Therefore, though his body was not unfrequently present, late in the night, at the City Road Music-Hall, his mind was ever in Grosvenor Square. “Who was it, Ruby?”

“A friend of the Squire’s, a Mr. Montague. I used to see him about in Bungay and Beccles.”

“Paul Montague!”

“Do you know him, Felix?”

“Well;⁠—rather. He’s a member of our club, and I see him constantly in the city⁠—and I know him at home.”

“Is he nice?”

“Well;⁠—that depends on what you call nice. He’s a prig of a fellow.”

“He’s got a lady friend where I live.”

“The devil he has!” Sir Felix of course had heard of Roger Carbury’s suit to his sister, and of the opposition to this suit on the part of Hetta, which was supposed to have been occasioned by her preference for Paul Montague. “Who is she, Ruby?”

“Well;⁠—she’s a Mrs. Hurtle. Such a stunning woman! Aunt says she’s an American. She’s got lots of money.”

“Is Montague going to marry her?”

“Oh dear yes. It’s all arranged. Mr. Montague comes quite regular to see her;⁠—not so regular as he ought, though. When gentlemen are fixed as they’re to be married, they never are regular afterwards. I wonder whether it’ll be the same with you?”

“Wasn’t John Crumb regular, Ruby?”

“Bother John Crumb! That wasn’t none of my doings. Oh, he’d been regular enough, if I’d let him; he’d been like clockwork⁠—only the slowest clock out. But Mr. Montague has been and told the Squire as he saw me. He told me so himself. The Squire’s coming about John Crumb. I know that. What am I to tell him, Felix?”

“Tell him to mind his own business. He can’t do anything to you.”

“No;⁠—he can’t do nothing. I ain’t done nothing wrong, and he can’t send for the police to have me took back to Sheep’s Acre. But he can talk⁠—and he can look. I ain’t one of those, Felix, as don’t mind about their characters⁠—so don’t you think it. Shall I tell him as I’m with you?”

“Gracious goodness, no! What would you say that for?”

“I didn’t know. I must say something.”

“Tell him you’re nothing to him.”

“But aunt will be letting on about my being out late o’nights; I know she will. And who am I with? He’ll be asking that.”

“Your aunt does not know?”

“No;⁠—I’ve told nobody yet. But it won’t do to go on like that, you know⁠—will it? You don’t want it to go on always like that;⁠—do you?”

“It’s very jolly, I think.”

“It ain’t jolly for me. Of course, Felix, I like to be with you. That’s jolly. But I have to mind them brats all the day, and to be doing the bedrooms. And that’s not the worst of it.”

“What is the worst of it?”

“I’m pretty nigh ashamed of myself. Yes, I am.” And now Ruby burst out into tears. “Because I wouldn’t have John Crumb, I didn’t mean to be a bad girl. Nor yet I won’t. But what’ll I do, if everybody turns again me? Aunt won’t go on forever 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 tomorrow, 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 byword 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 anyone 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 anyone call John Crumb noble. But she had never respected anyone more highly than Squire Carbury, and he said that John Crumb was noble. Amidst all her misery and trouble she still told herself that it was but a dusty, mealy⁠—and also a dumb nobility.

“I’ll tell you what will take place,” continued Roger. “Mr. Crumb won’t put up with this you know.”

“He can’t do nothing to me, sir.”

“That’s true enough. Unless it be to take you in his arms and press you to his heart, he wants to do nothing to you. Do you think he’d injure you if he could? You don’t know what a man’s love really means, Ruby. But he could do something to somebody else. How do you think it would be with Felix Carbury, if they two were in a room together and nobody else by?”

“John’s mortial strong, Mr. Carbury.”

“If two men have equal pluck, strength isn’t much needed. One is a brave man, and the other⁠—a coward. Which do you think is which?”

“He’s your own cousin, and I don’t know why you should say everything again him.”

“You know I’m telling you the truth. You know it as well as I do myself;⁠—and you’re throwing yourself away, and throwing the man who loves you over⁠—for such a fellow as that! Go back to him, Ruby, and beg his pardon.”

“I never will;⁠—never.”

“I’ve spoken to Mrs. Pipkin, and while you’re here she will see that you don’t keep such hours any longer. You tell me that you’re not disgraced, and yet you are out at midnight with a young blackguard like that! I’ve said what I’ve got to say, and I’m going away. But I’ll let your grandfather know.”

“Grandfather don’t want me no more.”

“And I’ll come again. If you want money to go home, I will let you have it. Take my advice at least in this;⁠—do not see Sir Felix Carbury any more.” Then he took his leave. If he had failed to impress her with admiration for John Crumb, he had certainly been efficacious in lessening that which she had entertained for Sir Felix.

Chapter XLIV

The Coming Election
The very greatness of Mr. Melmotte’s popularity, the extent of the admiration which was accorded by the public at large to his commercial enterprise and financial sagacity, created a peculiar bitterness in the opposition that was organised against him at Westminster. As the high mountains are intersected by deep valleys, as puritanism in one age begets infidelity in the next, as in many countries the thickness of the winter’s ice will be in proportion to the number of the summer mosquitoes, 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 demigod to some, so was he a fiend to others. And indeed there was hardly any other way in which it was possible to carry on the contest against him. From the moment in which Mr. Melmotte had declared his purpose of standing for Westminster in the Conservative interest, an attempt was made to drive him down the throats of the electors by clamorous assertions of his unprecedented commercial greatness. It seemed that there was but one virtue in the world, commercial enterprise⁠—and that Melmotte was its prophet. It seemed, too, that the orators and writers of the day intended all Westminster to believe that Melmotte treated his great affairs in a spirit very different from that which animates the bosoms of merchants in general. He had risen above any feeling of personal profit. His wealth was so immense that there was no longer place for anxiety on that score. He already possessed⁠—so it was said⁠—enough to found a dozen families, and he had but one daughter! But by carrying on the enormous affairs which he held in his hands, he would be able to open up new worlds, to afford relief to the oppressed nationalities of the overpopulated 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 demigod only by making him out to be a demi-devil. These very persons, the leading Liberals of the leading borough in England as they called themselves, would perhaps have cared little about Melmotte’s antecedents had it not become their duty to fight him as a Conservative. Had the great man found at the last moment that his own British politics had been liberal in their nature, these very enemies would have been on his committee. It was their business to secure the seat. And as Melmotte’s supporters began the battle with an attempt at what the Liberals called “bounce,”⁠—to carry the borough with a rush by an overwhelming assertion of their candidate’s virtues⁠—the other party was driven to make some enquiries as to that candidate’s antecedents. They quickly warmed to the work, and were not less loud in exposing the Satan of speculation, than had been the Conservatives in declaring the commercial Jove. Emissaries were sent to Paris and Francfort, and the wires were used to Vienna and New York. It was not difficult to collect stories⁠—true or false; and some quiet men, who merely looked on at the game, expressed an opinion that Melmotte might have wisely abstained from the glories of Parliament.

Nevertheless there was at first some difficulty in finding a proper Liberal candidate to run against him. The nobleman who had been elevated out of his seat by the death of his father had been a great Whig magnate, whose family was possessed of immense wealth and of popularity equal to its possessions. One of that family might have contested the borough at a much less expense than any other person⁠—and to them the expense would have mattered but little. But there was no such member of it forthcoming. Lord This and Lord That⁠—and the Honourable This and the Honourable That, sons of other cognate Lords⁠—already had seats which they were unwilling to vacate in the present state of affairs. There was but one other session for the existing Parliament; and the odds were held to be very greatly in Melmotte’s favour. Many an outsider was tried, but the outsiders were either afraid of Melmotte’s purse or his influence. Lord Buntingford was asked, and he and his family were good old Whigs. But he was nephew to Lord Alfred Grendall, first cousin to Miles Grendall, and abstained on behalf of his relatives. An overture was made to Sir Damask Monogram, who certainly could afford the contest. But Sir Damask did not see his way. Melmotte was a working bee, while he was a drone⁠—and he did not wish to have the difference pointed out by Mr. Melmotte’s supporters. Moreover, he preferred his yacht and his four-in-hand.

At last a candidate was selected, whose nomination and whose consent to occupy the position created very great surprise in the London world. The press had of course taken up the matter very strongly. The Morning Breakfast Table supported Mr. Melmotte with all its weight. There were people who said that this support was given by Mr. Broune under the influence of Lady Carbury, and that Lady Carbury in this way endeavoured to reconcile the great man to a marriage between his daughter and Sir Felix. But it is more probable that Mr. Broune saw⁠—or thought that he saw⁠—which way the wind sat, and that he supported the commercial hero because he felt that the hero would be supported by the country at large. In praising a book, or putting foremost the merits of some official or military claimant, or writing up a charity⁠—in some small matter of merely personal interest⁠—the Editor of the Morning Breakfast Table might perhaps allow himself to listen to a lady whom he loved. But he knew his work too well to jeopardize his paper by such influences in any matter which might probably become interesting to the world of his readers. There was a strong belief in Melmotte. The clubs thought that he would be returned for Westminster. The dukes and duchesses fêted him. The city⁠—even the city was showing a wavering disposition to come round. Bishops begged for his name on the list of promoters of their pet schemes. Royalty without stint was to dine at his table. Melmotte himself was to sit at the right hand of the brother of the Sun and of the uncle of the Moon, and British Royalty was to be arranged opposite, so that everyone 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 thoroughgoing Conservative journal. This conduct on the part of the Evening Pulpit astonished the world considerably; but the world was more astonished when it was declared that Mr. Ferdinand Alf himself was going to stand for Westminster on the Liberal interest.

Various suggestions were made. Some said that as Mr. Alf had a large share in the newspaper, and as its success was now an established fact, he himself intended to retire from the laborious position which he filled, and was therefore free to go into Parliament. Others were of opinion that this was the beginning of a new era in literature, of a new order of things, and that from this time forward editors would frequently be found in Parliament, if editors were employed of sufficient influence in the world to find constituencies. Mr. Broune whispered confidentially to Lady Carbury that the man was a fool for his pains, and that he was carried away by pride. “Very clever⁠—and dashing,” said Mr. Broune, “but he never had ballast.” Lady Carbury shook her head. She did not want to give up Mr. Alf if she could help it. He had never said a civil word of her in his paper;⁠—but still she had an idea that it was well to be on good terms with so great a power. She entertained a mysterious awe for Mr. Alf⁠—much in excess of any similar feeling excited by Mr. Broune, in regard to whom her awe had been much diminished since he had made her an offer of marriage. Her sympathies as to the election of course were with Mr. Melmotte. She believed in him thoroughly. She still thought that his nod might be the means of making Felix⁠—or if not his nod, then his money without the nod.

“I suppose he is very rich,” she said, speaking to Mr. Broune respecting Mr. Alf.

“I dare say he has put by something. But this election will cost him £10,000;⁠—and if he goes on as he is doing now, he had better allow another £10,000 for action for libel. They’ve already declared that they will indict the paper.”

“Do you believe about the Austrian Insurance Company?” This was a matter as to which Mr. Melmotte was supposed to have retired from Paris not with clean hands.

“I don’t believe the Evening Pulpit can prove it⁠—and I’m sure that they can’t attempt to prove it without an expense of three or four thousand pounds. That’s a game in which nobody wins but the lawyers. I wonder at Alf. I should have thought that he would have known how to get all said that he wanted to have said without running with his head into the lion’s mouth. He has been so clever up to this! God knows he has been bitter enough, but he has always sailed within the wind.”

Mr. Alf had a powerful committee. By this time an animus in regard to the election had been created strong enough to bring out the men on both sides, and to produce heat, when otherwise there might only have been a warmth or possibly frigidity. The Whig Marquises and the Whig Barons came forward, and with them the liberal professional men, and the tradesmen who had found that party to answer best, and the democratical mechanics. If Melmotte’s money did not, at last, utterly demoralise the lower class of voters, there would still be a good fight. And there was a strong hope that, under the ballot, Melmotte’s money might be taken without a corresponding effect upon the voting. It was found upon trial that Mr. Alf was a good speaker. And though he still conducted the Evening Pulpit, he made time for addressing meetings of the constituency almost daily. And in his speeches he never spared Melmotte. No one, he said, had a greater reverence for mercantile grandeur than himself. But let them take care that the grandeur was grand. How great would be the disgrace to such a borough as that of Westminster if it should find that it had been taken in by a false spirit of speculation and that it had surrendered itself to gambling when it had thought to do honour to honest commerce. This, connected as of course it was, with the articles in the paper, was regarded as very open speaking. And it had its effect. Some men began to say that Melmotte had not been known long enough to deserve confidence in his riches, and the Lord Mayor was already beginning to think that it might be wise to escape the dinner by some excuse.

Melmotte’s committee was also very grand. If Alf was supported by Marquises and Barons, he was supported by Dukes and Earls. But his speaking in public did not of itself inspire much confidence. He had very little to say when he attempted to explain the political principles on which he intended to act. After a little he confined himself to remarks on the personal attacks made on him by the other side, and even in doing that was reiterative rather than diffusive. Let them prove it. He defied them to prove it. Englishmen were too great, too generous, too honest, too noble⁠—the men of Westminster especially were a great deal too high-minded to pay any attention to such charges as these till they were proved. Then he began again. Let them prove it. Such accusations as these were mere lies till they were proved. He did not say much himself in public as to actions for libel⁠—but assurances were made on his behalf to the electors, especially by Lord Alfred Grendall and his son, that as soon as the election was over all speakers and writers would be indicted for libel, who should be declared by proper legal advice to have made themselves liable to such action. The Evening Pulpit and Mr. Alf would of course be the first victims.

The dinner was fixed for Monday, July the 8th. The election for the borough was to be held on Tuesday the 9th. It was generally thought that the proximity of the two days had been arranged with the view of enhancing Melmotte’s expected triumph. But such in truth was not the case. It had been an accident, and an accident that was distressing to some of the Melmottites. There was much to be done about the dinner⁠—which could not be omitted; and much also as to the election⁠—which was imperative. The two Grendalls, father and son, found themselves to be so driven that the world seemed for them to be turned topsey-turvey. The elder had in old days been accustomed to electioneering in the interest of his own family, and had declared himself willing to make himself useful on behalf of Mr. Melmotte. But he found Westminster to be almost too much for him. He was called here and sent there, till he was very near rebellion. “If this goes on much longer I shall cut it,” he said to his son.

“Think of me, governor,” said the son. “I have to be in the city four or five times a week.”

“You’ve a regular salary.”

“Come, governor; you’ve done pretty well for that. What’s my salary to the shares you’ve had? The thing is;⁠—will it last?”

“How last?”

“There are a good many who say that Melmotte will burst up.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Lord Alfred. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. There are too many in the same boat to let him burst up. It would be the bursting up of half London. But I shall tell him after this that he must make it easier. He wants to know who’s to have every ticket for the dinner, and there’s nobody to tell him except me. And I’ve got to arrange all the places, and nobody to help me except that fellow from the Herald’s office. I don’t know about people’s rank. Which ought to come first: a director of the bank or a fellow who writes books?” Miles suggested that the fellow from the Herald’s office would know all about that, and that his father need not trouble himself with petty details.

“And you shall come to us for three days⁠—after it’s over,” said Lady Monogram to Miss Longestaffe; a proposition to which Miss Longestaffe acceded, willingly indeed, but not by any means as though a favour had been conferred upon her. Now the reason why Lady Monogram had changed her mind as to inviting her old friend, and thus threw open her hospitality for three whole days to the poor young lady who had disgraced herself by staying with the Melmottes, was as follows. Miss Longestaffe had the disposal of two evening tickets for Madame Melmotte’s grand reception; and so greatly had the Melmottes risen in general appreciation, that Lady Monogram had found that she was bound, on behalf of her own position in society, to be present on that occasion. It would not do that her name should not be in the printed list of the guests. Therefore she had made a serviceable bargain with her old friend Miss Longestaffe. She was to have her two tickets for the reception, and Miss Longestaffe was to be received for three days as a guest by Lady Monogram. It had also been conceded that at any rate on one of these nights Lady Monogram should take Miss Longestaffe out with her, and that she should herself receive company on another. There was perhaps something slightly painful at the commencement of the negotiation; but such feelings soon fade away, and Lady Monogram was quite a woman of the world.

Chapter XLV

Mr. Melmotte Is Pressed for Time
About this time, a fortnight or nearly so before the election, Mr. Longestaffe came up to town and saw Mr. Melmotte very frequently. He could not go into his own house, as he had let that for a month to the great financier, nor had he any establishment in town; but he slept at an hotel and lived at the Carlton. He was quite delighted to find that his new friend was an honest Conservative, and he himself proposed the honest Conservative at the club. There was some idea of electing Mr. Melmotte out of hand, but it was decided that the club could not go beyond its rule, and could only admit Mr. Melmotte out of his regular turn as soon as he should occupy a seat in the House of Commons. Mr. Melmotte, who was becoming somewhat arrogant, was heard to declare that if the club did not take him when he was willing to be taken, it might do without him. If not elected at once, he should withdraw his name. So great was his prestige at this moment with his own party that there were some, Mr. Longestaffe among the number, who pressed the thing on the committee. Mr. Melmotte was not like other men. It was a great thing to have Mr. Melmotte in the party. Mr. Melmotte’s financial capabilities would in themselves be a tower of strength. Rules were not made to control the club in a matter of such importance as this. A noble lord, one among seven who had been named as a fit leader of the Upper House on the Conservative side in the next session, was asked to take the matter up; and men thought that the thing might have been done had he complied. But he was old-fashioned, perhaps pigheaded; and the club for the time lost the honour of entertaining Mr. Melmotte.

It may be remembered that Mr. Longestaffe had been anxious to become one of the directors of the Mexican Railway, and that he was rather snubbed than encouraged when he expressed his wish to Mr. Melmotte. Like other great men, Mr. Melmotte liked to choose his own time for bestowing favours. Since that request was made the proper time had come, and he had now intimated to Mr. Longestaffe that in a somewhat altered condition of things there would be a place for him at the Board, and that he and his brother directors would be delighted to avail themselves of his assistance. The alliance between Mr. Melmotte and Mr. Longestaffe had become very close. The Melmottes had visited the Longestaffes at Caversham. Georgiana Longestaffe was staying with Madame Melmotte in London. The Melmottes were living in Mr. Longestaffe’s town house, having taken it for a month at a very high rent. Mr. Longestaffe now had a seat at Mr. Melmotte’s board. And Mr. Melmotte had bought Mr. Longestaffe’s estate at Pickering on terms very favourable to the Longestaffes. It had been suggested to Mr. Longestaffe by Mr. Melmotte that he had better qualify for his seat at the Board by taking shares in the Company to the amount of⁠—perhaps two or three thousand pounds, and Mr. Longestaffe had of course consented. There would be no need of any transaction in absolute cash. The shares could of course be paid for out of Mr. Longestaffe’s half of the purchase money for Pickering Park, and could remain for the present in Mr. Melmotte’s hands. To this also Mr. Longestaffe had consented, not quite understanding why the scrip should not be made over to him at once.

It was a part of the charm of all dealings with this great man that no ready money seemed ever to be necessary for anything. Great purchases were made and great transactions apparently completed without the signing even of a cheque. Mr. Longestaffe found himself to be afraid even to give a hint to Mr. Melmotte about ready money. In speaking of all such matters Melmotte seemed to imply that everything necessary had been done, when he had said that it was done. Pickering had been purchased and the title-deeds made over to Mr. Melmotte; but the £80,000 had not been paid⁠—had not been absolutely paid, though of course Mr. Melmotte’s note assenting to the terms was security sufficient for any reasonable man. The property had been mortgaged, though not heavily, and Mr. Melmotte had no doubt satisfied the mortgagee; but there was still a sum of £50,000 to come, of which Dolly was to have one half and the other was to be employed in paying off Mr. Longestaffe’s debts to tradesmen and debts to the bank. It would have been very pleasant to have had this at once⁠—but Mr. Longestaffe felt the absurdity of pressing such a man as Mr. Melmotte, and was partly conscious of the gradual consummation of a new æra in money matters. “If your banker is pressing you, refer him to me,” Mr. Melmotte had said. As for many years past we have exchanged paper instead of actual money for our commodities, so now it seemed that, under the new Melmotte 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. £5,000 would pay off all his tradesmen’s debts and leave him comfortably possessed of money in hand, while the other £20,000 would make his own property free. There was a charm in this which awakened even Dolly, and for the time almost reconciled him to his father’s society. But now a shade of impatience was coming over him. He had actually gone down to Caversham to arrange the terms with his father⁠—and had in fact made his own terms. His father had been unable to move him, and had consequently suffered much in spirit. Dolly had been almost triumphant⁠—thinking that the money would come on the next day, or at any rate during the next week. Now he came to his father early in the morning⁠—at about two o’clock⁠—to enquire what was being done. He had not as yet been made blessed with a single ten-pound note in his hand, as the result of the sale.

“Are you going to see Melmotte, sir?” he asked somewhat abruptly.

“Yes;⁠—I’m to be with him tomorrow, 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 tomorrow, and you’d better tell him. If you don’t like, you know, I’ll get Squercum to do it.” Mr. Squercum was a lawyer whom Dolly had employed of late years much to the annoyance of his parent. Mr. Squercum’s name was odious to Mr. Longestaffe.

“I beg you’ll do nothing of the kind. It will be very foolish if you do;⁠—perhaps ruinous.”

“Then he’d better pay up, like anybody else,” said Dolly as he left the room. The father knew the son, and was quite sure that Squercum would have his finger in the pie unless the money were paid quickly. When Dolly had taken an idea into his head, no power on earth⁠—no power at least of which the father could avail himself⁠—would turn him.

On that same day Melmotte received two visits in the city from two of his fellow directors. At the time he was very busy. Though his electioneering speeches were neither long nor pithy, still he had to think of them beforehand. Members of his Committee were always trying to see him. Orders as to the dinner and the preparation of the house could not be given by Lord Alfred without some reference to him. And then those gigantic commercial affairs which were enumerated in the last chapter could not be adjusted without much labour on his part. His hands were not empty, but still he saw each of these young men⁠—for a few minutes. “My dear young friend, what can I do for you?” he said to Sir Felix, not sitting down, so that Sir Felix also should remain standing.

“About that money, Mr. Melmotte?”

“What money, my dear fellow? You see that a good many money matters pass through my hands.”

“The thousand pounds I gave you for shares. If you don’t mind, and as the shares seem to be a bother, I’ll take the money back.”

“It was only the other day you had £200,” said Melmotte, showing that he could apply his memory to small transactions when he pleased.

“Exactly;⁠—and you might as well let me have the £800.”

“I’ve ordered the shares;⁠—gave the order to my broker the other day.”

“Then I’d better take the shares,” said Sir Felix, feeling that it might very probably be that day fortnight before he could start for New York. “Could I get them, Mr. Melmotte?”

“My dear fellow, I really think you hardly calculate the value of my time when you come to me about such an affair as this.”

“I’d like to have the money or the shares,” said Sir Felix, who was not specially averse to quarrelling with Mr. Melmotte now that he had resolved upon taking that gentleman’s daughter to New York in direct opposition to his written promise. Their quarrel would be so thoroughly internecine when the departure should be discovered, that any present anger could hardly increase its bitterness. What Felix thought of now was simply his money, and the best means of getting it out of Melmotte’s hands.

“You’re a spendthrift,” said Melmotte, apparently relenting, “and I’m afraid a gambler. I suppose I must give you £200 more on account.”

Sir Felix could not resist the touch of ready money, and consented to take the sum offered. As he pocketed the cheque he asked for the name of the brokers who were employed to buy the shares. But here Melmotte demurred. “No, my friend,” said Melmotte; “you are only entitled to shares for £600 pounds now. I will see that the thing is put right.” So Sir Felix departed with £200 only. Marie had said that she could get £200. Perhaps if he bestirred himself and wrote to some of Miles’s big relations he could obtain payment of a part of that gentleman’s debt to him.

Sir Felix going down the stairs in Abchurch Lane met Paul Montague coming up. Carbury, on the spur of the moment, thought that he would “take a rise” as he called it out of Montague. “What’s this I hear about a lady at Islington?” he asked.

“Who has told you anything about a lady at Islington?”

“A little bird. There are always little birds about telling of ladies. I’m told that I’m to congratulate you on your coming marriage.”

“Then you’ve been told an infernal falsehood,” said Montague passing on. He paused a moment and added, “I don’t know who can have told you, but if you hear it again, I’ll trouble you to contradict it.” As he was waiting in Melmotte’s outer room while the Duke’s nephew went in to see whether it was the great man’s pleasure to see him, he remembered whence Carbury must have heard tidings of Mrs. Hurtle. Of course the rumour had come through Ruby Ruggles.

Miles Grendall brought out word that the great man would see Mr. Montague; but he added a caution. “He’s awfully full of work just now⁠—you won’t forget that;⁠—will you?” Montague assured the duke’s nephew that he would be concise, and was shown in.

“I should not have troubled you,” said Paul, “only that I understood that I was to see you before the Board met.”

“Exactly;⁠—of course. It was quite necessary⁠—only you see I am a little busy. If this d⁠⸺⁠d dinner were over I shouldn’t mind. It’s a deal easier to make a treaty with an Emperor, than to give him a dinner; I can tell you that. Well;⁠—let me see. Oh;⁠—I was proposing that you should go out to Peking?”

“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 Boardroom any of the affairs of the Company which you have learned in that Boardroom. 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 Boardroom. 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 today will not sin in the same direction.” Then Mr. Melmotte bowed and smiled very sweetly on Mr. Longestaffe.

Mr. Longestaffe was astonished to find how soon the business was done, and how very little he had been called on to do. Miles Grendall had read something out of a book which he had been unable to follow. Then the chairman had read some figures. Mr. Cohenlupe had declared that their prosperity was unprecedented;⁠—and the Board was over. When Mr. Longestaffe explained to Miles Grendall that he still wished to speak to Mr. Melmotte, Miles explained to him that the chairman had been obliged to run off to a meeting of gentlemen connected with the interior of Africa, which was now being held at the Cannon Street Hotel.

Chapter XLVI

Roger Carbury and His Two Friends
Roger Carbury having found Ruby Ruggles, and having ascertained that she was at any rate living in a respectable house with her aunt, returned to Carbury. He had given the girl his advice, and had done so in a manner that was not altogether ineffectual. He had frightened her, and had also frightened Mrs. Pipkin. He had taught Mrs. Pipkin to believe that the new dispensation was not yet so completely established as to clear her from all responsibility as to her niece’s conduct. Having done so much, and feeling that there was no more to be done, he returned home. It was out of the question that he should take Ruby with him. In the first place she would not have gone. And then⁠—had she gone⁠—he would not have known where to bestow her. For it was now understood throughout Bungay⁠—and the news had spread to Beccles⁠—that old Farmer Ruggles had sworn that his granddaughter should never again be received at Sheep’s Acre Farm. The squire on his return home heard all the news from his own housekeeper. John Crumb had been at the farm and there had been a fierce quarrel between him and the old man. The old man had called Ruby by every name that is most distasteful to a woman, and John had stormed and had sworn that he would have punched the old man’s head but for his age. He wouldn’t believe any harm of Ruby⁠—or if he did he was ready to forgive that harm. But as for the Baro-nite;⁠—the Baro-nite had better look to himself! Old Ruggles had declared that Ruby should never have a shilling of his money;⁠—whereupon Crumb had anathematised old Ruggles and his money too, telling him that he was an old hunx, and that he had driven the girl away by his cruelty. Roger at once sent over to Bungay for the dealer in meal, who was with him early on the following morning.

“Did ye find her, squoire?”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Crumb, I found her. She’s living with her aunt, Mrs. Pipkin, at Islington.”

“Eh, now;⁠—look at that.”

“You knew she had an aunt of that name up in London.”

“Ye-es; I knew’d it, squoire. I a’ heard tell of Mrs. Pipkin, but I never see’d her.”

“I wonder it did not occur to you that Ruby would go there.” John Crumb scratched his head, as though acknowledging the shortcoming of his own intellect. “Of course if she was to go to London it was the proper thing for her to do.”

“I knew she’d do the thing as was right. I said that all along. Darned if I didn’t. You ask Mixet, squoire⁠—him as is baker down Bardsey Lane. I allays guv’ it her that she’d do the thing as was right. But how about she and the Baro-nite?”

Roger did not wish to speak of the Baronet just at present. “I suppose the old man down here did ill use her?”

“Oh, dreadful;⁠—there ain’t no manner of doubt o’ that. Dragged her about awful;⁠—as he ought to be took up, only for the rumpus like. D’ye think she’s see’d the Baro-nite since she’s been in Lon’on, Muster Carbury?”

“I think she’s a good girl, if you mean that.”

“I’m sure she be. I don’t want none to tell me that, squoire. Though, 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 tomorrow, and what’ll it matter her then what they say? But, squoire⁠—did ye hear if the Baro-nite had been a’ hanging about that place?”

“About Islington, you mean.”

“He goes a hanging about; he do. He don’t come out straight forrard, and tell a girl as he loves her afore all the parish. There ain’t one in Bungay, nor yet in Mettingham, nor yet in all the Ilketsals and all the Elmhams, as don’t know as I’m set on Ruby Ruggles. Huggery-Muggery is pi’son to me, squoire.”

“We all know that when you’ve made up your mind, you have made up your mind.”

“I hove. It’s made up ever so as to Ruby. What sort of a one is her aunt now, squoire?”

“She keeps lodgings;⁠—a very decent sort of a woman I should say.”

“She won’t let the Baro-nite come there?”

“Certainly not,” said Roger, who felt that he was hardly dealing sincerely with this most sincere of mealmen. Hitherto he had shuffled off every question that had been asked him about Felix, though he knew that Ruby had spent many hours with her fashionable lover. “Mrs. Pipkin won’t let him come there.”

“If I was to give her a ge’own now⁠—or a blue cloak;⁠—them lodging-house women is mostly hard put to it;⁠—or a chest of drawers like, for her best bedroom, wouldn’t that make her more o’ my side, squoire?”

“I think she’ll try to do her duty without that.”

“They do like things the like o’ that; any ways I’ll go up, squoire, arter Sax’nam market, and see how things is lying.”

“I wouldn’t go just yet, Mr. Crumb, if I were you. She hasn’t forgotten the scene at the farm yet.”

“I said nothing as warn’t as kind as kind.”

“But her own perversity runs in her own head. If you had been unkind she could have forgiven that; but as you were good-natured and she was cross, she can’t forgive that.” John Crumb again scratched his head, and felt that the depths of a woman’s character required more gauging than he had yet given to it. “And to tell you the truth, my friend, I think that a little hardship up at Mrs. Pipkin’s will do her good.”

“Don’t she have a bellyful o’ vittels?” asked John Crumb, with intense anxiety.

“I don’t quite mean that. I dare say she has enough to eat. But of course she has to work for it with her aunt. She has three or four children to look after.”

“That moight come in handy by-and-by;⁠—moightn’t it, squoire?” said John Crumb grinning.

“As you say, she’ll be learning something that may be useful to her in another sphere. Of course there is a good deal to do, and I should not be surprised if she were to think after a bit that your house in Bungay was more comfortable than Mrs. Pipkin’s kitchen in London.”

“My little back parlour;⁠—eh, squoire! And I’ve got a four-poster, most as big as any in Bungay.”

“I am sure you have everything comfortable for her, and she knows it herself. Let her think about all that⁠—and do you go and tell her again in a month’s time. She’ll be more willing to settle matters then than she is now.”

“But⁠—the Baro-nite!”

“Mrs. Pipkin will allow nothing of that.”

“Girls is so ’cute. Ruby is awful ’cute. It makes me feel as though I had two hun’erd weight o’ meal on my stomach, lying awake o’ nights and thinking as how he is, may be⁠—pulling of her about! If I thought that she’d let him⁠—; oh! I’d swing for it, Muster Carbury. They’d have to make an eend o’ me at Bury, if it was that way. They would then.”

Roger assured him again and again that he believed Ruby to be a good girl, and promised that further steps should be taken to induce Mrs. Pipkin to keep a close watch upon her niece. John Crumb made no promise that he would abstain from his journey to London after Saxmundham fair; but left the squire with a conviction that his purpose of doing so was shaken. He was still however resolved to send Mrs. Pipkin the price of a new blue cloak, and declared his purpose of getting Mixet to write the letter and enclose the money order. John Crumb had no delicacy as to declaring his own deficiency in literary acquirements. He was able to make out a bill for meal or pollards, but did little beyond that in the way of writing letters.

This happened on a Saturday morning, and on that afternoon Roger Carbury rode over to Lowestoft, to a meeting there on church matters at which his friend the bishop presided. After the meeting was over he dined at the inn with half a dozen clergymen and two or three neighbouring gentlemen, and then walked down by himself on to the long strand which has made Lowestoft what it is. It was now just the end of June, and the weather was delightful;⁠—but people were not as yet flocking to the seashore. 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 seashore, 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 anyone 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.”


“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 anyone 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 goodbye 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 anyone 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.
W. H.

This she wrote on a small slip of paper, and then having read it twice, she put it into her pocketbook. 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 seashore, 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 tonight;⁠—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 tonight. 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 tonight you’ll stay out. That’s all about it. If you go out tonight 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 tomorrow.”

“I can’t help that, my dear. The door will be open tomorrow, if you choose to go out.”

“Then why not open it tonight? 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 anyone⁠—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 tomorrow.”

“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 gentleman 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, any way. When the gentlemen had to take more trouble they thought more about it. But if you wouldn’t mind speaking to Ruby tomorrow, 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 pocketbook. 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 tomorrow. 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 tomorrow, 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 £250; 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 would 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 £250. He must certainly go to New York. “C’est tout en règle?” 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 anyone 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 £20 at the bank altogether.”

“They would let you overdraw for £50 or £60.”

“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 £60 or £70 might make a fellow for life! You could borrow it from your friend Broune.”

“I will do no such thing, Felix. £50 or £60 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 £30, 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 tonight, 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 everyone 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 tomorrow, 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 nonappearance 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 £50 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 everyone 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 cabmen 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 on 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 tomorrow 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 anyone 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 everything 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 latchkey, 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 can not 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 notepaper, 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 cannot 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 to 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 wildcat.

“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 seaside. 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 Winifrid 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 pocketbook.

“Goodbye, 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 enquire. 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, brokenhearted 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 tomorrow.”

“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—softhearted, 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 heartrending 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 £30 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 lovemaking. 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 maidservant. 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 tomorrow, 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 £600, and that he had received £250 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 £250⁠—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 £250 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 Sir 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 today;⁠—or at any rate come to me in the city. I specially want to speak to you.
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 £250, 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;
Dont 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 tomorrow. 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 tomorrow 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 tomorrow⁠—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 £40,000. I was obliged to keep it up with them. You can manage £25,000 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.

Anyone reading the Conservative papers of the time, and hearing the Conservative speeches in the borough⁠—anyone 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 headquarters 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 anyone 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 preeminence, and how ignorant of the manner in which such preeminence 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 undersecretary 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 undersecretary 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 tonight, 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 pigheaded 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 undersecretary 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 armchair, 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 realise 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 tonight⁠—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 recognised 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 enquired.”

“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 £200,” said the Bishop, “to the Curates’ Aid Society. I don’t know that a man could spend his money much better than that.”

“Claptrap!” said Roger, who in his present mood was very bitter.

“The money is not claptrap, 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 Roger thought, utterly unable to free himself from his toils⁠—and yet, on this man’s account, Hetta was cold and hard to him. He was conscious of the honesty of his own love, sure that he could make her happy⁠—confident, not in himself, but in the fashion and ways of his own life. What would be Hetta’s lot if her heart was really given to Paul Montague?

When he got home, he found Father Barham sitting in his library. An accident had lately happened at Father Barham’s own establishment. The wind had blown the roof off his cottage; and Roger Carbury, though his affection for the priest was waning, had offered him shelter while the damage was being repaired. Shelter at Carbury Manor was very much more comfortable than the priest’s own establishment, even with the roof on, and Father Barham was in clover. Father Barham was reading his own favourite newspaper, The Surplice, when Roger entered the room. “Have you seen this, Mr. Carbury?” he said.

“What’s this? I am not likely to have seen anything that belongs peculiarly to The Surplice.”

“That’s the prejudice of what you are pleased to call the Anglican Church. Mr. Melmotte is a convert to our faith. He is a great man, and will perhaps be one of the greatest known on the face of the globe.”

“Melmotte a convert to Romanism! I’ll make you a present of him, and thank you to take him; but I don’t believe that we’ve any such good riddance.”

Then Father Barham read a paragraph out of The Surplice. “Mr. Augustus Melmotte, the great financier and capitalist, has presented a hundred guineas towards the erection of an altar for the new church of St. Fabricius, in Tothill Fields. The donation was accompanied by a letter from Mr. Melmotte’s secretary, which leaves but little doubt that the new member for Westminster will be a member, and no inconsiderable member, of the Catholic party in the House, during the next session.”

“That’s another dodge, is it?” said Carbury.

“What do you mean by a dodge, Mr. Carbury? Because money is given for a pious object of which you do not happen to approve, must it be a dodge?”

“But, my dear Father Barham, the day before the same great man gave £200 to the Protestant Curates’ Aid Society. I have just left the Bishop exulting in this great act of charity.”

“I don’t believe a word of it;⁠—or it may be a parting gift to the Church to which he belonged in his darkness.”

“And you would be really proud of Mr. Melmotte as a convert?”

“I would be proud of the lowest human being that has a soul,” said the priest; “but of course we are glad to welcome the wealthy and the great.”

“The great! oh dear!”

“A man is great who has made for himself such a position as that of Mr. Melmotte. And when such a one leaves your Church and joins our own, it is a great sign to us that the Truth is prevailing.” Roger Carbury, without another word, took his candle and went to bed.

Chapter LVI

Father Barham Visits London
It was considered to be a great thing to catch the Roman Catholic vote in Westminster. For many years it has been considered a great thing both in the House and out of the House to “catch” Roman Catholic votes. There are two modes of catching these votes. This or that individual Roman Catholic may be promoted to place, so that he personally may be made secure; or the right hand of fellowship may be extended to the people of the Pope generally, so that the people of the Pope may be taught to think that a general step is being made towards the reconversion of the nation. The first measure is the easier, but the effect is but slight and soon passes away. The promoted one, though as far as his prayers go he may remain as good a Catholic as ever, soon ceases to be one of the party to be conciliated, and is apt after a while to be regarded by them as an enemy. But the other mode, if a step be well taken, may be very efficacious. It has now and then occurred that every Roman Catholic in Ireland and England has been brought to believe that the nation is coming round to them;⁠—and in this or that borough the same conviction has been made to grow. To catch the Protestant⁠—that is the peculiarly Protestant⁠—vote and the Roman Catholic vote at the same instant is a feat difficult of accomplishment; but it has been attempted before, and was attempted now by Mr. Melmotte and his friends. It was perhaps thought by his friends that the Protestants would not notice the £100 given for the altar to St. Fabricius; but Mr. Alf was wide awake, and took care that Mr. Melmotte’s religious opinions should be a matter of interest to the world at large. During all that period of newspaper excitement there was perhaps no article that created so much general interest as that which appeared in the Evening Pulpit, with a special question asked at the head of it, “For Priest or Parson?” In this article, which was more than usually delightful as being pungent from the beginning to the end and as being unalloyed with any dry didactic wisdom, Mr. Alf’s man, who did that business, declared that it was really important that the nation at large and especially the electors of Westminster should know what was the nature of Mr. Melmotte’s faith. That he was a man of a highly religious temperament was most certain by his munificent charities on behalf of religion. Two noble donations, which by chance had been made just at this crisis, were doubtless no more than the regular continuation of his ordinary flow of Christian benevolence. The Evening Pulpit by no means insinuated that the gifts were intended to have any reference to the approaching election. Far be it from the Evening Pulpit to imagine that so great a man as Mr. Melmotte looked for any return in this world from his charitable generosity. But still, as Protestants naturally desired to be represented in Parliament by a Protestant member, and as Roman Catholics as naturally desired to be represented by a Roman Catholic, perhaps Mr. Melmotte would not object to declare his creed.

This was biting, and of course did mischief; but Mr. Melmotte and his manager were not foolish enough to allow it to actuate them in any way. He had thrown his bread upon the waters, assisting St. Fabricius with one hand and the Protestant curates with the other, and must leave the results to take care of themselves. If the Protestants chose to believe that he was hyper-protestant, and the Catholics that he was tending towards papacy, so much the better for him. Any enthusiastic religionists wishing to enjoy such convictions would not allow themselves to be enlightened by the manifestly interested malignity of Mr. Alf’s newspaper.

It may be doubted whether the donation to the Curates’ Aid Society did have much effect. It may perhaps have induced a resolution in some few to go to the poll whose minds were active in regard to religion and torpid as to politics. But the donation to St. Fabricius certainly had results. It was taken up and made much of by the Roman Catholic party generally, till a report got itself spread abroad and almost believed that Mr. Melmotte was going to join the Church of Rome. These manoeuvres require most delicate handling, or evil may follow instead of good. On the second afternoon after the question had been asked in the Evening Pulpit, an answer to it appeared, “For Priest and not for Parson.” Therein various assertions made by Roman Catholic organs and repeated in Roman Catholic speeches were brought together, so as to show that Mr. Melmotte really had at last made up his mind on this important question. All the world knew now, said Mr. Alf’s writer, that with that keen sense of honesty which was the Great Financier’s peculiar characteristic⁠—the Great Financier was the name which Mr. Alf had specially invented for Mr. Melmotte⁠—he had doubted, till the truth was absolutely borne in upon him, whether he could serve the nation best as a Liberal or as a Conservative. He had solved that doubt with wisdom. And now this other doubt had passed through the crucible, and by the aid of fire a golden certainty had been produced. The world of Westminster at last knew that Mr. Melmotte was a Roman Catholic. Now nothing was clearer than this⁠—that though catching the Catholic vote would greatly help a candidate, no real Roman Catholic could hope to be returned. This last article vexed Mr. Melmotte, and he proposed to his friends to send a letter to the Breakfast Table asserting that he adhered to the Protestant faith of his ancestors. But, as it was suspected by many, and was now being whispered to the world at large, that Melmotte had been born a Jew, this assurance would perhaps have been too strong. “Do nothing of the kind,” said Mr. Beauchamp Beauclerk. “If anyone asks you a question at any meeting, say that you are a Protestant. But it isn’t likely, as we have none but our own people. Don’t go writing letters.”

But unfortunately the gift of an altar to St. Fabricius was such a godsend that sundry priests about the country were determined to cling to the good man who had bestowed his money so well. I think that many of them did believe that this was a great sign of a beauteous stirring of people’s minds in favour of Rome. The fervent Romanists have always this point in their favour, that they are ready to believe. And they have a desire for the conversion of men which is honest in an exactly inverse ratio to the dishonesty of the means which they employ to produce it. Father Barham was ready to sacrifice anything personal to himself in the good cause⁠—his time, his health, his money when he had any, and his life. Much as he liked the comfort of Carbury Hall, he would never for a moment condescend to ensure its continued enjoyment by reticence as to his religion. Roger Carbury was hard of heart. He could see that. But the dropping of water might hollow the stone. If the dropping should be put an end to by outward circumstances before the stone had been impressed that would not be his fault. He at any rate would do his duty. In that fixed resolution Father Barham was admirable. But he had no scruple whatsoever as to the nature of the arguments he would use⁠—or as to the facts which he would proclaim. With the mingled ignorance of his life and the positiveness of his faith he had at once made up his mind that Melmotte was a great man, and that he might be made a great instrument on behalf of the Pope. He believed in the enormous proportions of the man’s wealth⁠—believed that he was powerful in all quarters of the globe⁠—and believed, because he was so told by The Surplice, that the man was at heart a Catholic. That a man should be at heart a Catholic, and live in the world professing the Protestant religion, was not to Father Barham either improbable or distressing. Kings who had done so were to him objects of veneration. By such subterfuges and falsehood of life had they been best able to keep alive the spark of heavenly fire. There was a mystery and religious intrigue in this which recommended itself to the young priest’s mind. But it was clear to him that this was a peculiar time⁠—in which it behoved an earnest man to be doing something. He had for some weeks been preparing himself for a trip to London in order that he might spend a week in retreat with kindred souls who from time to time betook themselves to the cells of St. Fabricius. And so, just at this season of the Westminster election, Father Barham made a journey to London.

He had conceived the great idea of having a word or two with Mr. Melmotte himself. He thought that he might be convinced by a word or two as to the man’s faith. And he thought, also, that it might be a happiness to him hereafter to have had intercourse with a man who was perhaps destined to be the means of restoring the true faith to his country. On Saturday night⁠—that Saturday night on which Mr. Melmotte had so successfully exercised his greatness at the India Office⁠—he took up his quarters in the cloisters of St. Fabricius; he spent a goodly festive Sunday among the various Romanist church services of the metropolis; and on the Monday morning he sallied forth in quest of Mr. Melmotte. Having obtained that address from some circular, he went first to Abchurch Lane. But on this day, and on the next, which would be the day of the election, Mr. Melmotte was not expected in the City, and the priest was referred to his present private residence in Bruton Street. There he was told that the great man might probably be found in Grosvenor Square, and at the house in the square Father Barham was at last successful. Mr. Melmotte was there superintending the arrangements for the entertainment of the Emperor.

The servants, or more probably the workmen, must have been at fault in giving the priest admittance. But in truth the house was in great confusion. The wreaths of flowers and green boughs were being suspended, last daubs of heavy gilding were being given to the wooden capitals of mock pilasters, incense was being burned to kill the smell of the paint, tables were being fixed and chairs were being moved; and an enormous set of open presses were being nailed together for the accommodation of hats and cloaks. The hall was chaos, and poor Father Barham, who had heard a good deal of the Westminster election, but not a word of the intended entertainment of the Emperor, was at a loss to conceive for what purpose these operations were carried on. But through the chaos he made his way, and did soon find himself in the presence of Mr. Melmotte in the banqueting hall.

Mr. Melmotte was attended both by Lord Alfred and his son. He was standing in front of the chair which had been arranged for the Emperor, with his hat on one side of his head, and he was very angry indeed. He had been given to understand when the dinner was first planned, that he was to sit opposite to his august guest;⁠—by which he had conceived that he was to have a seat immediately in face of the Emperor of Emperors, of the Brother of the Sun, of the Celestial One himself. It was now explained to him that this could not be done. In face of the Emperor there must be a wide space, so that his Majesty might be able to look down the hall; and the royal princesses who sat next to the Emperor, and the royal princes who sat next to the princesses, must also be so indulged. And in this way Mr. Melmotte’s own seat became really quite obscure. Lord Alfred was having a very bad time of it. “It’s that fellow from The Herald office did it, not me,” he said, almost in a passion. “I don’t know how people ought to sit. But that’s the reason.”

“I’m d⁠⸺ if I’m going to be treated in this way in my own house,” were the first words which the priest heard. And as Father Barham walked up the room and came close to the scene of action, unperceived by either of the Grendalls, Mr. Melmotte was trying, but trying in vain, to move his own seat nearer to Imperial Majesty. A bar had been put up of such a nature that Melmotte, sitting in the seat prepared for him, would absolutely be barred out from the centre of his own hall. “Who the d⁠⸺ are you?” he asked, when the priest appeared close before his eyes on the inner or more imperial side of the bar. It was not the habit of Father Barham’s life to appear in sleek apparel. He was ever clothed in the very rustiest brown black that age can produce. In Beccles where he was known it signified little, but in the halls of the great one in Grosvenor Square, perhaps the stranger’s welcome was cut to the measure of his outer man. A comely priest in glossy black might have been received with better grace.

Father Barham stood humbly with his hat off. He was a man of infinite pluck; but outward humility⁠—at any rate at the commencement of an enterprise⁠—was the rule of his life. “I am the Rev. Mr. Barham,” said the visitor. “I am the priest of Beccles in Suffolk. I believe I am speaking to Mr. Melmotte.”

“That’s my name, sir. And what may you want? I don’t know whether you are aware that you have found your way into my private dining-room without any introduction. Where the mischief are the fellows, Alfred, who ought to have seen about this? I wish you’d look to it, Miles. Can anybody who pleases walk into my hall?”

“I came on a mission which I hope may be pleaded as my excuse,” said the priest. Although he was bold, he found it difficult to explain his mission. Had not Lord Alfred been there he could have done it better, in spite of the very repulsive manner of the great man himself.

“Is it business?” asked Lord Alfred.

“Certainly it is business,” said Father Barham with a smile.

“Then you had better call at the office in Abchurch Lane⁠—in the City,” said his lordship.

“My business is not of that nature. I am a poor servant of the Cross, who is anxious to know from the lips of Mr. Melmotte himself that his heart is inclined to the true Faith.”

“Some lunatic,” said Melmotte. “See that there ain’t any knives about, Alfred.”

“No otherwise mad, sir, than they have ever been accounted mad who are enthusiastic in their desire for the souls of others.”

“Just get a policeman, Alfred. Or send somebody; you’d better not go away.”

“You will hardly need a policeman, Mr. Melmotte,” continued the priest. “If I might speak to you alone for a few minutes⁠—”

“Certainly not;⁠—certainly not. I am very busy, and if you will not go away you’ll have to be taken away. I wonder whether anybody knows him.”

“Mr. Carbury, of Carbury Hall, is my friend.”

“Carbury! D⁠⸺ the Carburys! Did any of the Carburys send you here? A set of beggars! Why don’t you do something, Alfred, to get rid of him?”

“You’d better go,” said Lord Alfred. “Don’t make a rumpus, there’s a good fellow;⁠—but just go.”

“There shall be no rumpus,” said the priest, waxing wrathful. “I asked for you at the door, and was told to come in by your own servants. Have I been uncivil that you should treat me in this fashion?”

“You’re in the way,” said Lord Alfred.

“It’s a piece of gross impertinence,” said Melmotte. “Go away.”

“Will you not tell me before I go whether I shall pray for you as one whose steps in the right path should be made sure and firm; or as one still in error and in darkness?”

“What the mischief does he mean?” asked Melmotte.

“He wants to know whether you’re a papist,” said Lord Alfred.

“What the deuce is it to him?” almost screamed Melmotte;⁠—whereupon Father Barham bowed and took his leave.

“That’s a remarkable thing,” said Melmotte⁠—“very remarkable.” Even this poor priest’s mad visit added to his inflation. “I suppose he was in earnest.”

“Mad as a hatter,” said Lord Alfred.

“But why did he come to me in his madness⁠—to me especially? That’s what I want to know. I’ll tell you what it is. There isn’t a man in all England at this moment thought of so much as⁠—your humble servant. I wonder whether the Morning Pulpit people sent him here now to find out really what is my religion.”

“Mad as a hatter,” said Lord Alfred again;⁠—“just that and no more.”

“My dear fellow, I don’t think you’ve the gift of seeing very far. The truth is they don’t know what to make of me;⁠—and I don’t intend that they shall. I’m playing my game, and there isn’t one of ’em understands it except myself. It’s no good my sitting here, you know. I shan’t be able to move. How am I to get at you if I want anything?”

“What can you want? There’ll be lots of servants about.”

“I’ll have this bar down, at any rate.” And he did succeed in having removed the bar which had been specially put up to prevent his intrusion on his own guests in his own house. “I look upon that fellow’s coming here as a very singular sign of the times,” he went on to say. “They’ll want before long to know where I have my clothes made, and who measures me for my boots!” Perhaps the most remarkable circumstance in the career of this remarkable man was the fact that he came almost to believe in himself.

Father Barham went away certainly disgusted; and yet not altogether disheartened. The man had not declared that he was not a Roman Catholic. He had shown himself to be a brute. He had blasphemed and cursed. He had been outrageously uncivil to a man whom he must have known to be a minister of God. He had manifested himself to this priest, who had been born an English gentleman, as being no gentleman. But, not the less might he be a good Catholic⁠—or good enough at any rate to be influential on the right side. To his eyes Melmotte, with all his insolent vulgarity, was infinitely a more hopeful man than Roger Carbury. “He insulted me,” said Father Barham to a brother religionist that evening within the cloisters of St. Fabricius.

“Did he intend to insult you?”

“Certainly he did. But what of that? It is not by the hands of polished men, nor even of the courteous, that this work has to be done. He was preparing for some great festival, and his mind was intent upon that.”

“He entertains the Emperor of China this very day,” said the brother priest, who, as a resident in London, heard from time to time what was being done.

“The Emperor of China! Ah, that accounts for it. I do think that he is on our side, even though he gave me but little encouragement for saying so. Will they vote for him, here at Westminster?”

“Our people will. They think that he is rich and can help them.”

“There is no doubt of his wealth, I suppose,” said Father Barham.

“Some people do doubt;⁠—but others say he is the richest man in the world.”

“He looked like it⁠—and spoke like it,” said Father Barham. “Think what such a man might do, if he be really the wealthiest man in the world! And if he had been against us would he not have said so? Though he was uncivil, I am glad that I saw him.” Father Barham, with a simplicity that was singularly mingled with his religious cunning, made himself believe before he returned to Beccles that Mr. Melmotte was certainly a Roman Catholic.

Chapter LVII

Lord Nidderdale Tries His Hand Again
Lord Nidderdale had half consented to renew his suit to Marie Melmotte. He had at any rate half promised to call at Melmotte’s house on the Sunday with the object of so doing. As far as that promise had been given it was broken, for on the Sunday he was not seen in Bruton Street. Though not much given to severe thinking, he did feel that on this occasion there was need for thought. His father’s property was not very large. His father and his grandfather had both been extravagant men, and he himself had done something towards adding to the family embarrassments. It had been an understood thing, since he had commenced life, that he was to marry an heiress. In such families as his, when such results have been achieved, it is generally understood that matters shall be put right by an heiress. It has become an institution, like primogeniture, and is almost as serviceable for maintaining the proper order of things. Rank squanders money; trade makes it;⁠—and then trade purchases rank by re-gilding its splendour. The arrangement, as it affects the aristocracy generally, is well understood, and was quite approved of by the old marquis⁠—so that he had felt himself to be justified in eating up the property, which his son’s future marriage would renew as a matter of course. Nidderdale himself had never dissented, had entertained no fanciful theory opposed to this view, had never alarmed his father by any liaison tending towards matrimony with any undowered beauty;⁠—but had claimed his right to “have his fling” before he devoted himself to the redintegration of the family property. His father had felt that it would be wrong and might probably be foolish to oppose so natural a desire. He had regarded all the circumstances of “the fling” with indulgent eyes. But there arose some little difference as to the duration of the fling, and the father had at last found himself compelled to inform his son that if the fling were carried on much longer it must be done with internecine war between himself and his heir. Nidderdale, whose sense and temper were alike good, saw the thing quite in the proper light. He assured his father that he had no intention of “cutting up rough,” declared that he was ready for the heiress as soon as the heiress should be put in his way, and set himself honestly about the task imposed on him. This had all been arranged at Auld Reekie Castle during the last winter, and the reader knows the result.

But the affair had assumed abnormal difficulties. Perhaps the Marquis had been wrong in flying at wealth which was reputed to be almost unlimited, but which was not absolutely fixed. A couple of hundred thousand pounds down might have been secured with greater ease. But here there had been a prospect of endless money⁠—of an inheritance which might not improbably make the Auld Reekie family conspicuous for its wealth even among the most wealthy of the nobility. The old man had fallen into the temptation, and abnormal difficulties had been the result. Some of these the reader knows. Latterly two difficulties had culminated above the others. The young lady preferred another gentleman, and disagreeable stories were afloat, not only as to the way in which the money had been made, but even as to its very existence.

The Marquis, however, was a man who hated to be beaten. As far as he could learn from inquiry, the money would be there⁠—or, at least, so much money as had been promised. A considerable sum, sufficient to secure the bridegroom from absolute shipwreck⁠—though by no means enough to make a brilliant marriage⁠—had in truth been already settled on Marie, and was, indeed, in her possession. As to that, her father had armed himself with a power of attorney for drawing the income⁠—but had made over the property to his daughter, so that in the event of unforeseen accidents on ’Change, he might retire to obscure comfort, and have the means perhaps of beginning again with whitewashed cleanliness. When doing this, he had doubtless not anticipated the grandeur to which he would soon rise, or the fact that he was about to embark on seas so dangerous that this little harbour of refuge would hardly offer security to his vessel. Marie had been quite correct in her story to her favoured lover. And the Marquis’s lawyer had ascertained that if Marie ever married before she herself had restored this money to her father, her husband would be so far safe⁠—with this as a certainty and the immense remainder in prospect. The Marquis had determined to persevere. Pickering was to be added. Mr. Melmotte had been asked to depone the title-deeds, and had promised to do so as soon as the day of the wedding should have been fixed with the consent of all the parties. The Marquis’s lawyer had ventured to express a doubt; but the Marquis had determined to persevere. The reader will, I trust, remember that those dreadful misgivings, which are I trust agitating his own mind, have been borne in upon him by information which had not as yet reached the Marquis in all its details.

But Nidderdale had his doubts. That absurd elopement, which Melmotte declared really to mean nothing⁠—the romance of a girl who wanted to have one little fling of her own before she settled down for life⁠—was perhaps his strongest objection. Sir Felix, no doubt, had not gone with her; but then one doesn’t wish to have one’s intended wife even attempt to run off with anyone but oneself. “She’ll be sick of him by this time, I should say,” his father said to him. “What does it matter, if the money’s there?” The Marquis seemed to think that the escapade had simply been the girl’s revenge against his son for having made his arrangements so exclusively with Melmotte, instead of devoting himself to her. Nidderdale acknowledged to himself that he had been remiss. He told himself that she was possessed of more spirit than he had thought. By the Sunday evening he had determined that he would try again. He had expected that the plum would fall into his mouth. He would now stretch out his hand to pick it.

On the Monday he went to the house in Bruton Street, at lunch time. Melmotte and the two Grendalls had just come over from their work in the square, and the financier was full of the priest’s visit to him. Madame Melmotte was there, and Miss Longestaffe, who was to be sent for by her friend Lady Monogram that afternoon⁠—and, after they had sat down, Marie came in. Nidderdale got up and shook hands with her⁠—of course as though nothing had happened. Marie, putting a brave face upon it, struggling hard in the midst of very real difficulties, succeeded in saying an ordinary word or two. Her position was uncomfortable. A girl who has run away with her lover and has been brought back again by her friends, must for a time find it difficult to appear in society with ease. But when a girl has run away without her lover⁠—has run away expecting her lover to go with her, and has then been brought back, her lover not having stirred, her state of mind must be peculiarly harassing. But Marie’s courage was good, and she ate her lunch even though she sat next to Lord Nidderdale.

Melmotte was very gracious to the young lord. “Did you ever hear anything like that, Nidderdale?” he said, speaking of the priest’s visit.

“Mad as a hatter,” said Lord Alfred.

“I don’t know much about his madness. I shouldn’t wonder if he had been sent by the Archbishop of Westminster. Why don’t we have an Archbishop of Westminster when they’ve got one? I shall have to see to that when I’m in the House. I suppose there is a bishop, isn’t there, Alfred?” Alfred shook his head. “There’s a Dean, I know, for I called on him. He told me flat he wouldn’t vote for me. I thought all those parsons were Conservatives. It didn’t occur to me that the fellow had come from the Archbishop, or I would have been more civil to him.”

“Mad as a hatter;⁠—nothing else,” said Lord Alfred.

“You should have seen him, Nidderdale. It would have been as good as a play to you.”

“I suppose you didn’t ask him to the dinner, sir.”

“D⁠⸺ the dinner, I’m sick of it,” said Melmotte, frowning. “We must go back again, Alfred. Those fellows will never get along if they are not looked after. Come, Miles. Ladies, I shall expect you to be ready at exactly a quarter before eight. His Imperial Majesty is to arrive at eight precisely, and I must be there to receive him. You, Madame, will have to receive your guests in the drawing-room.” The ladies went upstairs, and Lord Nidderdale followed them. Miss Longestaffe soon took her departure, alleging that she couldn’t keep her dear friend Lady Monogram waiting for her. Then there fell upon Madame Melmotte the duty of leaving the young people together, a duty which she found a great difficulty in performing. After all that had happened, she did not know how to get up and go out of the room. As regarded herself, the troubles of these troublous times were becoming almost too much for her. She had no pleasure from her grandeur⁠—and probably no belief in her husband’s achievements. It was her present duty to assist in getting Marie married to this young man, and that duty she could only do by going away. But she did not know how to get out of her chair. She expressed in fluent French her abhorrence of the Emperor, and her wish that she might be allowed to remain in bed during the whole evening. She liked Nidderdale better than anyone else who came there, and wondered at Marie’s preference for Sir Felix. Lord Nidderdale assured her that nothing was so easy as kings and emperors, because no one was expected to say anything. She sighed and shook her head, and wished again that she might be allowed to go to bed. Marie, who was by degrees plucking up her courage, declared that though kings and emperors were horrors as a rule, she thought an Emperor of China would be good fun. Then Madame Melmotte also plucked up her courage, rose from her chair, and made straight for the door. “Mamma, where are you going?” said Marie, also rising. Madame Melmotte, putting her handkerchief up to her face, declared that she was being absolutely destroyed by a toothache. “I must see if I can’t do something for her,” said Marie, hurrying to the door. But Lord Nidderdale was too quick for her, and stood with his back to it. “That’s a shame,” said Marie.

“Your mother has gone on purpose that I may speak to you,” said his lordship. “Why should you grudge me the opportunity?”

Marie returned to her chair and again seated herself. She also had thought much of her own position since her return from Liverpool. Why had Sir Felix not been there? Why had he not come since her return, and, at any rate, endeavoured to see her? Why had he made no attempt to write to her? Had it been her part to do so, she would have found a hundred ways of getting at him. She absolutely had walked inside the garden of the square on Sunday morning, and had contrived to leave a gate open on each side. But he had made no sign. Her father had told her that he had not gone to Liverpool⁠—and had assured her that he had never intended to go. Melmotte had been very savage with her about the money, and had loudly accused Sir Felix of stealing it. The repayment he never mentioned⁠—a piece of honesty, indeed, which had showed no virtue on the part of Sir Felix. But even if he had spent the money, why was he not man enough to come and say so? Marie could have forgiven that fault⁠—could have forgiven even the gambling and the drunkenness which had caused the failure of the enterprise on his side, if he had had the courage to come and confess to her. What she could not forgive was continued indifference⁠—or the cowardice which forbade him to show himself. She had more than once almost doubted his love, though as a lover he had been better than Nidderdale. But now, as far as she could see, he was ready to consent that the thing should be considered as over between them. No doubt she could write to him. She had more than once almost determined to do so. But then she had reflected that if he really loved her he would come to her. She was quite ready to run away with a lover, if her lover loved her; but she would not fling herself at a man’s head. Therefore she had done nothing⁠—beyond leaving the garden gates open on the Sunday morning.

But what was she to do with herself? She also felt, she knew not why, that the present turmoil of her father’s life might be brought to an end by some dreadful convulsion. No girl could be more anxious to be married and taken away from her home. If Sir Felix did not appear again, what should she do? She had seen enough of life to be aware that suitors would come⁠—would come as long as that convulsion was staved off. She did not suppose that her journey to Liverpool would frighten all the men away. But she had thought that it would put an end to Lord Nidderdale’s courtship; and when her father had commanded her, shaking her by the shoulders, to accept Lord Nidderdale when he should come on Sunday, she had replied by expressing her assurance that Lord Nidderdale would never be seen at that house any more. On the Sunday he had not come; but here he was now, standing with his back to the drawing-room door, and cutting off her retreat with the evident intention of renewing his suit. She was determined at any rate that she would speak up. “I don’t know what you should have to say to me, Lord Nidderdale.”

“Why shouldn’t I have something to say to you?”

“Because⁠—. Oh, you know why. Besides, I’ve told you ever so often, my lord. I thought a gentleman would never go on with a lady when the lady has told him that she liked somebody else better.”

“Perhaps I don’t believe you when you tell me.”

“Well; that is impudent! You may believe it then. I think I’ve given you reason to believe it, at any rate.”

“You can’t be very fond of him now, I should think.”

“That’s all you know about it, my lord. Why shouldn’t I be fond of him? Accidents will happen, you know.”

“I don’t want to make any allusion to anything that’s unpleasant, Miss Melmotte.”

“You may say just what you please. All the world knows about it. Of course I went to Liverpool, and of course papa had me brought back again.”

“Why did not Sir Felix go?”

“I don’t think, my lord, that that can be any business of yours.”

“But I think that it is, and I’ll tell you why. You might as well let me say what I’ve got to say⁠—out at once.”

“You may say what you like, but it can’t make any difference.”

“You knew me before you knew him, you know.”

“What does that matter? If it comes to that, I knew ever so many people before I knew you.”

“And you were engaged to me.”

“You broke it off.”

“Listen to me for a moment or two. I know I did. Or, rather, your father and my father broke it off for us.”

“If we had cared for each other they couldn’t have broken it off. Nobody in the world could break me off as long as I felt that he really loved me;⁠—not if they were to cut me in pieces. But you didn’t care, not a bit. You did it just because your father told you. And so did I. But I know better than that now. You never cared for me a bit more than for the old woman at the crossing. You thought I didn’t understand;⁠—but I did. And now you’ve come again;⁠—because your father has told you again. And you’d better go away.”

“There’s a great deal of truth in what you say.”

“It’s all true, my lord. Every word of it.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me my lord.”

“I suppose you are a lord, and therefore I shall call you so. I never called you anything else when they pretended that we were to be married, and you never asked me. I never even knew what your name was till I looked it out in the book after I had consented.”

“There is truth in what you say;⁠—but it isn’t true now. How was I to love you when I had seen so little of you? I do love you now.”

“Then you needn’t;⁠—for it isn’t any good.”

“I do love you now, and I think you’d find that I should be truer to you than that fellow who wouldn’t take the trouble to go down to Liverpool with you.”

“You don’t know why he didn’t go.”

“Well;⁠—perhaps I do. But I did not come here to say anything about that.”

“Why didn’t he go, Lord Nidderdale?” She asked the question with an altered tone and an altered face. “If you really know, you might as well tell me.”

“No, Marie;⁠—that’s just what I ought not to do. But he ought to tell you. Do you really in your heart believe that he means to come back to you?”

“I don’t know,” she said, sobbing. “I do love him;⁠—I do indeed. I know that you are good-natured. You are more good-natured than he is. But he did like me. You never did;⁠—no; not a bit. It isn’t true. I ain’t a fool. I know. No;⁠—go away. I won’t let you now. I don’t care what he is; I’ll be true to him. Go away, Lord Nidderdale. You oughtn’t to go on like that because papa and mamma let you come here. I didn’t let you come. I don’t want you to come. No;⁠—I won’t say any kind word to you. I love Sir Felix Carbury better⁠—than any person⁠—in all the world. There! I don’t know whether you call that kind, but it’s true.”

“Say goodbye to me, Marie.”

“Oh, I don’t mind saying goodbye. Goodbye, my lord; and don’t come any more.”

“Yes, I shall. Goodbye, Marie. You’ll find the difference between me and him yet.” So he took his leave, and as he sauntered away he thought that upon the whole he had prospered, considering the extreme difficulties under which he had laboured in carrying on his suit. “She’s quite a different sort of girl from what I took her to be,” he said to himself. “Upon my word, she’s awfully jolly.”

Marie, when the interview was over, walked about the room almost in dismay. It was borne in upon her by degrees that Sir Felix Carbury was not at all points quite as nice as she had thought him. Of his beauty there was no doubt; but then she could trust him for no other good quality. Why did he not come to her? Why did he not show some pluck? Why did he not tell her the truth? She had quite believed Lord Nidderdale when he said that he knew the cause that had kept Sir Felix from going to Liverpool. And she had believed him, too, when he said that it was not his business to tell her. But the reason, let it be what it might, must, if known, be prejudicial to her love. Lord Nidderdale was, she thought, not at all beautiful. He had a commonplace, rough face, with a turn-up nose, high cheek bones, no especial complexion, sandy-coloured whiskers, and bright laughing eyes⁠—not at all an Adonis such as her imagination had painted. But if he had only made love at first as he had attempted to do it now, she thought that she would have submitted herself to be cut in pieces for him.

Chapter LVIII

Mr. Squercum Is Employed
While these things were being done in Bruton Street and Grosvenor Square horrid rumours were prevailing in the City and spreading from the City westwards to the House of Commons, which was sitting this Monday afternoon with a prospect of an adjournment at seven o’clock in consequence of the banquet to be given to the Emperor. It is difficult to explain the exact nature of this rumour, as it was not thoroughly understood by those who propagated it. But it is certainly the case that the word forgery was whispered by more than one pair of lips.

Many of Melmotte’s staunchest supporters thought that he was very wrong not to show himself that day in the City. What good could he do pottering about among the chairs and benches in the banqueting room? There were people to manage that kind of thing. In such an affair it was his business to do simply as he was told, and to pay the bill. It was not as though he were giving a little dinner to a friend, and had to see himself that the wine was brought up in good order. His work was in the City; and at such a time as this and in such a crisis as this, he should have been in the City. Men will whisper forgery behind a man’s back who would not dare even to think it before his face.

Of this particular rumour our young friend Dolly Longestaffe was the parent. With unhesitating resolution, nothing awed by his father, Dolly had gone to his attorney, Mr. Squercum, immediately after that Friday on which Mr. Longestaffe first took his seat at the Railway Board. Dolly was possessed of fine qualities, but it must be owned that veneration was not one of them. “I don’t know why Mr. Melmotte is to be different from anybody else,” he had said to his father. “When I buy a thing and don’t pay for it, it is because I haven’t got the tin, and I suppose it’s about the same with him. It’s all right, no doubt, but I don’t see why he should have got hold of the place till the money was paid down.”

“Of course it’s all right,” said the father. “You think you understand everything, when you really understand nothing at all.”

“Of course I’m slow,” said Dolly. “I don’t comprehend these things. But then Squercum does. When a fellow is stupid himself, he ought to have a sharp fellow to look after his business.”

“You’ll ruin me and yourself too, if you go to such a man as that. Why can’t you trust Mr. Bideawhile? Slow and Bideawhile have been the family lawyers for a century.” Dolly made some remark as to the old family advisers which was by no means pleasing to the father’s ears, and went his way. The father knew his boy, and knew that his boy would go to Squercum. All he could himself do was to press Mr. Melmotte for the money with what importunity he could assume. He wrote a timid letter to Mr. Melmotte, which had no result; and then, on the next Friday, again went into the City and there encountered perturbation of spirit and sheer loss of time⁠—as the reader has already learned.

Squercum was a thorn in the side of all the Bideawhiles. Mr. Slow had been gathered to his fathers, but of the Bideawhiles there were three in the business, a father and two sons, to whom Squercum was a pest and a mosquito, a running sore and a skeleton in the cupboard. It was not only in reference to Mr. Longestaffe’s affairs that they knew Squercum. The Bideawhiles piqued themselves on the decorous and orderly transaction of their business. It had grown to be a rule in the house that anything done quickly must be done badly. They never were in a hurry for money, and they expected their clients never to be in a hurry for work. Squercum was the very opposite to this. He had established himself, without predecessors and without a partner, and we may add without capital, at a little office in Fetter Lane, and had there made a character for getting things done after a marvellous and new fashion. And it was said of him that he was fairly honest, though it must be owned that among the Bideawhiles of the profession this was not the character which he bore. He did sharp things no doubt, and had no hesitation in supporting the interests of sons against those of their fathers. In more than one case he had computed for a young heir the exact value of his share in a property as compared to that of his father, and had come into hostile contact with many family Bideawhiles. He had been closely watched. There were some who, no doubt, would have liked to crush a man who was at once so clever, and so pestilential. But he had not as yet been crushed, and had become quite in vogue with elder sons. Some three years since his name had been mentioned to Dolly by a friend who had for years been at war with his father, and Squercum had been quite a comfort to Dolly.

He was a mean-looking little man, not yet above forty, who always wore a stiff light-coloured cotton cravat, an old dress coat, a coloured dingy waistcoat, and light trousers of some hue different from his waistcoat. He generally had on dirty shoes and gaiters. He was light haired, with light whiskers, with putty-formed features, a squat nose, a large mouth, and very bright blue eyes. He looked as unlike the normal Bideawhile of the profession as a man could be; and it must be owned, though an attorney, would hardly have been taken for a gentleman from his personal appearance. He was very quick, and active in his motions, absolutely doing his law work himself, and trusting to his three or four juvenile clerks for little more than scrivener’s labour. He seldom or never came to his office on a Saturday, and many among his enemies said that he was a Jew. What evil will not a rival say to stop the flow of grist to the mill of the hated one? But this report Squercum rather liked, and assisted. They who knew the inner life of the little man declared that he kept a horse and hunted down in Essex on Saturday, doing a bit of gardening in the summer months;⁠—and they said also that he made up for this by working hard all Sunday. Such was Mr. Squercum⁠—a sign, in his way, that the old things are being changed.

Squercum sat at a desk, covered with papers in chaotic confusion, on a chair which moved on a pivot. His desk was against the wall, and when clients came to him, he turned himself sharp round, sticking out his dirty shoes, throwing himself back till his body was an inclined plane, with his hands thrust into his pockets. In this attitude he would listen to his client’s story, and would himself speak as little as possible. It was by his instructions that Dolly had insisted on getting his share of the purchase money for Pickering into his own hands, so that the incumbrance on his own property might be paid off. He now listened as Dolly told him of the delay in the payment. “Melmotte’s at Pickering?” asked the attorney. Then Dolly informed him how the tradesmen of the great financier had already half knocked down the house. Squercum still listened, and promised to look to it. He did ask what authority Dolly had given for the surrender of the title-deeds. Dolly declared that he had given authority for the sale, but none for the surrender. His father, some time since, had put before him, for his signature, a letter, prepared in Mr. Bideawhile’s office, which Dolly said that he had refused even to read, and certainly had not signed. Squercum again said that he’d look to it, and bowed Dolly out of his room. “They’ve got him to sign something when he was tight,” said Squercum to himself, knowing something of the habits of his client. “I wonder whether his father did it, or old Bideawhile, or Melmotte himself?” Mr. Squercum was inclined to think that Bideawhile would not have done it, that Melmotte could have had no opportunity, and that the father must have been the practitioner. “It’s not the trick of a pompous old fool either,” said Mr. Squercum, in his soliloquy. He went to work, however, making himself detestably odious among the very respectable clerks in Mr. Bideawhile’s office⁠—men who considered themselves to be altogether superior to Squercum himself in professional standing.

And now there came this rumour which was so far particular in its details that it inferred the forgery, of which it accused Mr. Melmotte, to his mode of acquiring the Pickering property. The nature of the forgery was of course described in various ways⁠—as was also the signature said to have been forged. But there were many who believed, or almost believed, that something wrong had been done⁠—that some great fraud had been committed; and in connection with this it was ascertained⁠—by some as a matter of certainty⁠—that the Pickering estate had been already mortgaged by Melmotte to its full value at an assurance office. In such a transaction there would be nothing dishonest; but as this place had been bought for the great man’s own family use, and not as a speculation, even this report of the mortgage tended to injure his credit. And then, as the day went on, other tidings were told as to other properties. Houses in the East-end of London were said to have been bought and sold, without payment of the purchase money as to the buying, and with receipt of the purchase money as to the selling.

It was certainly true that Squercum himself had seen the letter in Mr. Bideawhile’s office which conveyed to the father’s lawyer the son’s sanction for the surrender of the title-deeds, and that that letter, prepared in Mr. Bideawhile’s office, purported to have Dolly’s signature. Squercum said but little, remembering that his client was not always clear in the morning as to anything he had done on the preceding evening. But the signature, though it was scrawled as Dolly always scrawled it, was not like the scrawl of a drunken man.

The letter was said to have been sent to Mr. Bideawhile’s office with other letters and papers, direct from old Mr. Longestaffe. Such was the statement made at first to Mr. Squercum by the Bideawhile party, who at that moment had no doubt of the genuineness of the letter or of the accuracy of their statement. Then Squercum saw his client again, and returned to the charge at Bideawhile’s office, with the positive assurance that the signature was a forgery. Dolly, when questioned by Squercum, quite admitted his propensity to be “tight.” He had no reticence, no feeling of disgrace on such matters. But he had signed no letter when he was tight. “Never did such a thing in my life, and nothing could make me,” said Dolly. “I’m never tight except at the club, and the letter couldn’t have been there. I’ll be drawn and quartered if I ever signed it. That’s flat.” Dolly was intent on going to his father at once, on going to Melmotte at once, on going to Bideawhile’s at once, and making there “no end of a row,”⁠—but Squercum stopped him. “We’ll just ferret this thing out quietly,” said Squercum, who perhaps thought that there would be high honour in discovering the peccadillos of so great a man as Mr. Melmotte. Mr. Longestaffe, the father, had heard nothing of the matter till the Saturday after his last interview with Melmotte in the City. He had then called at Bideawhile’s office in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and had been shown the letter. He declared at once that he had never sent the letter to Mr. Bideawhile. He had begged his son to sign the letter and his son had refused. He did not at that moment distinctly remember what he had done with the letter unsigned. He believed he had left it with the other papers; but it was possible that his son might have taken it away. He acknowledged that at the time he had been both angry and unhappy. He didn’t think that he could have sent the letter back unsigned⁠—but he was not sure. He had more than once been in his own study in Bruton Street since Mr. Melmotte had occupied the house⁠—by that gentleman’s leave⁠—having left various papers there under his own lock and key. Indeed it had been matter of agreement that he should have access to his own study when he let the house. He thought it probable that he would have kept back the unsigned letter, and have kept it under lock and key, when he sent away the other papers. Then reference was made to Mr. Longestaffe’s own letter to the lawyer, and it was found that he had not even alluded to that which his son had been asked to sign; but that he had said, in his own usually pompous style, that Mr. Longestaffe, junior, was still prone to create unsubstantial difficulties. Mr. Bideawhile was obliged to confess that there had been a want of caution among his own people. This allusion to the creation of difficulties by Dolly, accompanied, as it was supposed to have been, by Dolly’s letter doing away with all difficulties, should have attracted notice. Dolly’s letter must have come in a separate envelope; but such envelope could not be found, and the circumstance was not remembered by the clerk. The clerk who had prepared the letter for Dolly’s signature represented himself as having been quite satisfied when the letter came again beneath his notice with Dolly’s well-known signature.

Such were the facts as far as they were known at Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile’s office⁠—from whom no slightest rumour emanated; and as they had been in part collected by Squercum, who was probably less prudent. The Bideawhiles were still perfectly sure that Dolly had signed the letter, believing the young man to be quite incapable of knowing on any day what he had done on the day before.

Squercum was quite sure that his client had not signed it. And it must be owned on Dolly’s behalf that his manner on this occasion was qualified to convince. “Yes,” he said to Squercum; “it’s easy saying that I’m lack-a-daisical. But I know when I’m lack-a-daisical and when I’m not. Awake or asleep, drunk or sober, I never signed that letter.” And Mr. Squercum believed him.

It would be hard to say how the rumour first got into the City on this Monday morning. Though the elder Longestaffe had first heard of the matter only on the previous Saturday, Mr. Squercum had been at work for above a week. Mr. Squercum’s little matter alone might hardly have attracted the attention which certainly was given on this day to Mr. Melmotte’s private affairs;⁠—but other facts coming to light assisted Squercum’s views. A great many shares of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had been thrown upon the market, all of which had passed through the hands of Mr. Cohenlupe;⁠—and Mr. Cohenlupe in the City had been all to Mr. Melmotte as Lord Alfred had been at the West End. Then there was the mortgage of this Pickering property, for which the money certainly had not been paid; and there was the traffic with half a street of houses near the Commercial Road, by which a large sum of money had come into Mr. Melmotte’s hands. It might, no doubt, all be right. There were many who thought that it would all be right. There were not a few who expressed the most thorough contempt for these rumours. But it was felt to be a pity that Mr. Melmotte was not in the City.

This was the day of the dinner. The Lord Mayor had even made up his mind that he would not go to the dinner. What one of his brother aldermen said to him about leaving others in the lurch might be quite true; but, as his lordship remarked, Melmotte was a commercial man, and as these were commercial transactions it behoved the Lord Mayor of London to be more careful than other men. He had always had his doubts, and he would not go. Others of the chosen few of the City who had been honoured with commands to meet the Emperor resolved upon absenting themselves unless the Lord Mayor went. The affair was very much discussed, and there were no less than six declared City defaulters. At the last moment a seventh was taken ill and sent a note to Miles Grendall excusing himself, which was thrust into the secretary’s hands just as the Emperor arrived.

But a reverse worse than this took place;⁠—a defalcation more injurious to the Melmotte interests generally even than that which was caused either by the prudence or by the cowardice of the City Magnates. The House of Commons, at its meeting, had heard the tidings in an exaggerated form. It was whispered about that Melmotte had been detected in forging the deed of conveyance of a large property, and that he had already been visited by policemen. By some it was believed that the Great Financier would lie in the hands of the Philistines while the Emperor of China was being fed at his house. In the third edition of the Evening Pulpit came out a mysterious paragraph which nobody could understand but they who had known all about it before. “A rumour is prevalent that frauds to an enormous extent have been committed by a gentleman whose name we are particularly unwilling to mention. If it be so it is indeed remarkable that they should have come to light at the present moment. We cannot trust ourselves to say more than this.” No one wishes to dine with a swindler. No one likes even to have dined with a swindler⁠—especially to have dined with him at a time when his swindling was known or suspected. The Emperor of China no doubt was going to dine with this man. The motions of Emperors are managed with such ponderous care that it was held to be impossible now to save the country from what would doubtless be felt to be a disgrace if it should hereafter turn out that a forger had been solicited to entertain the imperial guest of the country. Nor was the thing as yet so far certain as to justify such a charge, were it possible. But many men were unhappy in their minds. How would the story be told hereafter if Melmotte should be allowed to play out his game of host to the Emperor, and be arrested for forgery as soon as the Eastern Monarch should have left his house? How would the brother of the Sun like the remembrance of the banquet which he had been instructed to honour with his presence? How would it tell in all the foreign newspapers, in New York, in Paris, and Vienna, that this man who had been cast forth from the United States, from France, and from Austria had been selected as the great and honourable type of British Commerce? There were those in the House who thought that the absolute consummation of the disgrace might yet be avoided, and who were of opinion that the dinner should be “postponed.” The leader of the Opposition had a few words on the subject with the Prime Minister. “It is the merest rumour,” said the Prime Minister. “I have inquired, and there is nothing to justify me in thinking that the charges can be substantiated.”

“They say that the story is believed in the City.”

“I should not feel myself justified in acting upon such a report. The Prince might probably find it impossible not to go. Where should we be if Mr. Melmotte tomorrow were able to prove the whole to be a calumny, and to show that the thing had been got up with a view of influencing the election at Westminster? The dinner must certainly go on.”

“And you will go yourself?”

“Most assuredly,” said the Prime Minister. “And I hope that you will keep me in countenance.” His political antagonist declared with a smile that at such a crisis he would not desert his honourable friend;⁠—but he could not answer for his followers. There was, he admitted, a strong feeling among the leaders of the Conservative party of distrust in Melmotte. He considered it probable that among his friends who had been invited there would be some who would be unwilling to meet even the Emperor of China on the existing terms. “They should remember,” said the Prime Minister, “that they are also to meet their own Prince, and that empty seats on such an occasion will be a dishonour to him.”

“Just at present I can only answer for myself,” said the leader of the Opposition.⁠—At that moment even the Prime Minister was much disturbed in his mind; but in such emergencies a Prime Minister can only choose the least of two evils. To have taken the Emperor to dine with a swindler would be very bad; but to desert him, and to stop the coming of the Emperor and all the Princes on a false rumour, would be worse.

Chapter LIX

The Dinner
It does sometimes occur in life that an unambitious man, who is in no degree given to enterprises, who would fain be safe, is driven by the cruelty of circumstances into a position in which he must choose a side, and in which, though he has no certain guide as to which side he should choose, he is aware that he will be disgraced if he should take the wrong side. This was felt as a hardship by many who were quite suddenly forced to make up their mind whether they would go to Melmotte’s dinner, or join themselves to the faction of those who had determined to stay away although they had accepted invitations. Some there were not without a suspicion that the story against Melmotte had been got up simply as an electioneering trick⁠—so that Mr. Alf might carry the borough on the next day. As a dodge for an election this might be very well, but any who might be deterred by such a manoeuvre from meeting the Emperor and supporting the Prince would surely be marked men. And none of the wives, when they were consulted, seemed to care a straw whether Melmotte was a swindler or not. Would the Emperor and the Princes and Princesses be there? This was the only question which concerned them. They did not care whether Melmotte was arrested at the dinner or after the dinner, so long as they, with others, could show their diamonds in the presence of eastern and western royalty. But yet⁠—what a fiasco would it be, if at this very instant of time the host should be apprehended for common forgery! The great thing was to ascertain whether others were going. If a hundred or more out of the two hundred were to be absent how dreadful would be the position of those who were present! And how would the thing go if at the last moment the Emperor should be kept away? The Prime Minister had decided that the Emperor and the Prince should remain altogether in ignorance of the charges which were preferred against the man; but of that these doubters were unaware. There was but little time for a man to go about town and pick up the truth from those who were really informed; and questions were asked in an uncomfortable and restless manner. “Is your Grace going?” said Lionel Lupton to the Duchess of Stevenage⁠—having left the House and gone into the park between six and seven to pick up some hints among those who were known to have been invited. The Duchess was Lord Alfred’s sister, and of course she was going. “I usually keep engagements when I make them, Mr. Lupton,” said the Duchess. She had been assured by Lord Alfred not a quarter of an hour before that everything was as straight as a die. Lord Alfred had not then even heard of the rumour. But ultimately both Lionel Lupton and Beauchamp Beauclerk attended the dinner. They had received special tickets as supporters of Mr. Melmotte at the election⁠—out of the scanty number allotted to that gentleman himself⁠—and they thought themselves bound in honour to be there. But they, with their leader, and one other influential member of the party, were all who at last came as the political friends of the candidate for Westminster. The existing ministers were bound to attend to the Emperor and the Prince. But members of the Opposition, by their presence, would support the man and the politician, and both as a man and as a politician they were ashamed of him.

When Melmotte arrived at his own door with his wife and daughter he had heard nothing of the matter. That a man so vexed with affairs of money, so laden with cares, encompassed by such dangers, should be free from suspicion and fear it is impossible to imagine. That such burdens should be borne at all is a wonder to those whose shoulders have never been broadened for such work;⁠—as is the strength of the blacksmith’s arm to men who have never wielded a hammer. Surely his whole life must have been a life of terrors! But of any special peril to which he was at that moment subject, or of any embarrassment which might affect the work of the evening, he knew nothing. He placed his wife in the drawing-room and himself in the hall, and arranged his immediate satellites around him⁠—among whom were included the two Grendalls, young Nidderdale, and Mr. Cohenlupe⁠—with a feeling of gratified glory. Nidderdale down at the House had heard the rumour, but had determined that he would not as yet fly from his colours. Cohenlupe had also come up from the House, where no one had spoken to him. Though grievously frightened during the last fortnight, he had not dared to be on the wing as yet. And, indeed, to what clime could such a bird as he fly in safety? He had not only heard⁠—but also knew very much, and was not prepared to enjoy the feast. Since they had been in the hall Miles had spoken dreadful words to his father. “You’ve heard about it; haven’t you?” whispered Miles. Lord Alfred, remembering his sister’s question, became almost pale, but declared that he had heard nothing. “They’re saying all manner of things in the City;⁠—forgery and heaven knows what. The Lord Mayor is not coming.” Lord Alfred made no reply. It was the philosophy of his life that misfortunes when they came should be allowed to settle themselves. But he was unhappy.

The grand arrivals were fairly punctual, and the very grand people all came. The unfortunate Emperor⁠—we must consider a man to be unfortunate who is compelled to go through such work as this⁠—with impassible and awful dignity, was marshalled into the room on the ground floor, whence he and other royalties were to be marshalled back into the banqueting hall. Melmotte, bowing to the ground, walked backwards before him, and was probably taken by the Emperor for some Court Master of the Ceremonies especially selected to walk backwards on this occasion. The Princes had all shaken hands with their host, and the Princesses had bowed graciously. Nothing of the rumour had as yet been whispered in royal palaces. Besides royalty the company allowed to enter the room downstairs was very select. The Prime Minister, one archbishop, two duchesses, and an ex-governor of India with whose features the Emperor was supposed to be peculiarly familiar, were alone there. The remainder of the company, under the superintendence of Lord Alfred, were received in the drawing-room above. Everything was going on well, and they who had come and had thought of not coming were proud of their wisdom.

But when the company was seated at dinner the deficiencies were visible enough, and were unfortunate. Who does not know the effect made by the absence of one or two from a table intended for ten or twelve⁠—how grievous are the empty places, how destructive of the outward harmony and grace which the hostess has endeavoured to preserve are these interstices, how the lady in her wrath declares to herself that those guilty ones shall never have another opportunity of filling a seat at her table? Some twenty, most of whom had been asked to bring their wives, had slunk from their engagements, and the empty spaces were sufficient to declare a united purpose. A week since it had been understood that admission for the evening could not be had for love or money, and that a seat at the dinner-table was as a seat at some banquet of the gods! Now it looked as though the room were but half-filled. There were six absences from the City. Another six of Mr. Melmotte’s own political party were away. The archbishops and the bishop were there, because bishops never hear worldly tidings till after other people;⁠—but that very Master of the Buckhounds for whom so much pressure had been made did not come. Two or three peers were absent, and so also was that editor who had been chosen to fill Mr. Alf’s place. One poet, two painters, and a philosopher had received timely notice at their clubs, and had gone home. The three independent members of the House of Commons for once agreed in their policy, and would not lend the encouragement of their presence to a man suspected of forgery. Nearly forty places were vacant when the business of the dinner commenced.

Melmotte had insisted that Lord Alfred should sit next to himself at the big table, and having had the objectionable bar removed, and his own chair shoved one step nearer to the centre, had carried his point. With the anxiety natural to such an occasion, he glanced repeatedly round the hall, and of course became aware that many were absent. “How is it that there are so many places empty?” he said to his faithful Achates.

“Don’t know,” said Achates, shaking his head, steadfastly refusing to look round upon the hall.

Melmotte waited awhile, then looked round again, and asked the question in another shape: “Hasn’t there been some mistake about the numbers? There’s room forever so many more.”

“Don’t know,” said Lord Alfred, who was unhappy in his mind, and repenting himself that he had ever seen Mr. Melmotte.

“What the deuce do you mean?” whispered Melmotte. “You’ve been at it from the beginning and ought to know. When I wanted to ask Brehgert, you swore that you couldn’t squeeze a place.”

“Can’t say anything about it,” said Lord Alfred, with his eyes fixed upon his plate.

“I’ll be d⁠⸺ if I don’t find out,” said Melmotte. “There’s either some horrible blunder, or else there’s been imposition. I don’t see quite clearly. Where’s Sir Gregory Gribe?”

“Hasn’t come, I suppose.”

“And where’s the Lord Mayor?” Melmotte, in spite of royalty, was now sitting with his face turned round upon the hall. “I know all their places, and I know where they were put. Have you seen the Lord Mayor?”

“No; I haven’t seen him at all.”

“But he was to come. What’s the meaning of it, Alfred?”

“Don’t know anything about it.” He shook his head but would not, for even a moment, look round upon the room.

“And where’s Mr. Killegrew⁠—and Sir David Boss?” Mr. Killegrew and Sir David were gentlemen of high standing, and destined for important offices in the Conservative party. “There are ever so many people not here. Why, there’s not above half of them down the room. What’s up, Alfred? I must know.”

“I tell you I know nothing. I could not make them come.” Lord Alfred’s answers were made not only with a surly voice, but also with a surly heart. He was keenly alive to the failure, and alive also to the feeling that the failure would partly be attached to himself. At the present moment he was anxious to avoid observation, and it seemed to him that Melmotte, by the frequency and impetuosity of his questions, was drawing special attention to him. “If you go on making a row,” he said, “I shall go away.” Melmotte looked at him with all his eyes. “Just sit quiet and let the thing go on. You’ll know all about it soon enough.” This was hardly the way to give Mr. Melmotte peace of mind. For a few minutes he did sit quiet. Then he got up and moved down the hall behind the guests.

In the meantime, Imperial Majesty and Royalties of various denominations ate their dinner, without probably observing those Banquo’s seats. As the Emperor talked Manchoo only, and as there was no one present who could even interpret Manchoo into English⁠—the imperial interpreter condescending only to interpret Manchoo into ordinary Chinese which had to be reinterpreted⁠—it was not within his Imperial Majesty’s power to have much conversation with his neighbours. And as his neighbours on each side of him were all cousins and husbands, and brothers and wives, who saw each constantly under, let us presume, more comfortable circumstances, they had not very much to say to each other. Like most of us, they had their duties to do, and, like most of us, probably found their duties irksome. The brothers and sisters and cousins were used to it; but that awful Emperor, solid, solemn, and silent, must, if the spirit of an Eastern Emperor be at all like that of a Western man, have had a weary time of it. He sat there for more than two hours, awful, solid, solemn, and silent, not eating very much⁠—for this was not his manner of eating; nor drinking very much⁠—for this was not his manner of drinking; but wondering, no doubt, within his own awful bosom, at the changes which were coming when an Emperor of China was forced, by outward circumstances, to sit and hear this buzz of voices and this clatter of knives and forks. “And this,” he must have said to himself, “is what they call royalty in the West!” If a prince of our own was forced, for the good of the country, to go among some far distant outlandish people, and there to be poked in the ribs, and slapped on the back all round, the change to him could hardly be so great.

“Where’s Sir Gregory?” said Melmotte, in a hoarse whisper, bending over the chair of a City friend. It was old Todd, the senior partner of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner. Mr. Todd was a very wealthy man, and had a considerable following in the City.

“Ain’t he here?” said Todd⁠—knowing very well who had come from the City and who had declined.

“No;⁠—and the Lord Mayor’s not come;⁠—nor Postlethwaite, nor Bunter. What’s the meaning of it?”

Todd looked first at one neighbour and then at another before he answered. “I’m here, that’s all I can say, Mr. Melmotte; and I’ve had a very good dinner. They who haven’t come, have lost a very good dinner.”

There was a weight upon Melmotte’s mind of which he could not rid himself. He knew from the old man’s manner, and he knew also from Lord Alfred’s manner, that there was something which each of them could tell him if he would. But he was unable to make the men open their mouths. And yet it might be so important to him that he should know! “It’s very odd,” he said, “that gentlemen should promise to come and then stay away. There were hundreds anxious to be present whom I should have been glad to welcome, if I had known that there would be room. I think it is very odd.”

“It is odd,” said Mr. Todd, turning his attention to the plate before him.

Melmotte had lately seen much of Beauchamp Beauclerk, in reference to the coming election. Passing back up the table, he found the gentleman with a vacant seat on one side of him. There were many vacant seats in this part of the room, as the places for the Conservative gentlemen had been set apart together. There Mr. Melmotte seated himself for a minute, thinking that he might get the truth from his new ally. Prudence should have kept him silent. Let the cause of these desertions have been what it might, it ought to have been clear to him that he could apply no remedy to it now. But he was bewildered and dismayed, and his mind within him was changing at every moment. He was now striving to trust to his arrogance and declaring that nothing should cow him. And then again he was so cowed that he was ready to creep to anyone for assistance. Personally, Mr. Beauclerk had disliked the man greatly. Among the vulgar, loud upstarts whom he had known, Melmotte was the vulgarest, the loudest, and the most arrogant. But he had taken the business of Melmotte’s election in hand, and considered himself bound to stand by Melmotte till that was over; and he was now the guest of the man in his own house, and was therefore constrained to courtesy. His wife was sitting by him, and he at once introduced her to Mr. Melmotte. “You have a wonderful assemblage here, Mr. Melmotte,” said the lady, looking up at the royal table.

“Yes, ma’am, yes. His Majesty the Emperor has been pleased to intimate that he has been much gratified.”⁠—Had the Emperor in truth said so, no one who looked at him could have believed his imperial word.⁠—“Can you tell me, Mr. Beauclerk, why those other gentlemen are not here? It looks very odd; does it not?”

“Ah; you mean Killegrew.”

“Yes; Mr. Killegrew and Sir David Boss, and the whole lot. I made a particular point of their coming. I said I wouldn’t have the dinner at all unless they were to be asked. They were going to make it a Government thing; but I said no. I insisted on the leaders of our own party; and now they’re not here. I know the cards were sent;⁠—and, by George, I have their answers, saying they’d come.”

“I suppose some of them are engaged,” said Mr. Beauclerk.

“Engaged! What business has a man to accept one engagement and then take another? And, if so, why shouldn’t he write and make his excuses? No, Mr. Beauclerk, that won’t go down.”

“I’m here, at any rate,” said Beauclerk, making the very answer that had occurred to Mr. Todd.

“Oh, yes, you’re here. You’re all right. But what is it, Mr. Beauclerk? There’s something up, and you must have heard.” And so it was clear to Mr. Beauclerk that the man knew nothing about it himself. If there was anything wrong, Melmotte was not aware that the wrong had been discovered. “Is it anything about the election tomorrow?”

“One never can tell what is actuating people,” said Mr. Beauclerk.

“If you know anything about the matter I think you ought to tell me.”

“I know nothing except that the ballot will be taken tomorrow. You and I have got nothing more to do in the matter except to wait the result.”

“Well; I suppose it’s all right,” said Melmotte, rising and going back to his seat. But he knew that things were not all right. Had his political friends only been absent, he might have attributed their absence to some political cause which would not have touched him deeply. But the treachery of the Lord Mayor and of Sir Gregory Gribe was a blow. For another hour after he had returned to his place, the Emperor sat solemn in his chair; and then, at some signal given by someone, he was withdrawn. The ladies had already left the room about half an hour. According to the programme arranged for the evening, the royal guests were to return to the smaller room for a cup of coffee, and were then to be paraded upstairs before the multitude who would by that time have arrived, and to remain there long enough to justify the invited ones in saying that they had spent the evening with the Emperor and the Princes and the Princesses. The plan was carried out perfectly. At half-past ten the Emperor was made to walk upstairs, and for half an hour sat awful and composed in an armchair that had been prepared for him. How one would wish to see the inside of the mind of the Emperor as it worked on that occasion!

Melmotte, when his guests ascended his stairs, went back into the banqueting-room and through to the hall, and wandered about till he found Miles Grendall. “Miles,” he said, “tell me what the row is.”

“How row?” asked Miles.

“There’s something wrong, and you know all about it. Why didn’t the people come?” Miles, looking guilty, did not even attempt to deny his knowledge. “Come; what is it? We might as well know all about it at once.” Miles looked down on the ground, and grunted something. “Is it about the election?”

“No, it’s not that,” said Miles.

“Then what is it?”

“They got hold of something today in the City⁠—about Pickering.”

“They did, did they? And what were they saying about Pickering? Come; you might as well out with it. You don’t suppose that I care what lies they tell.”

“They say there’s been something⁠—forged. Title-deeds, I think they say.”

“Title-deeds! that I have forged title-deeds. Well; that’s beginning well. And his lordship has stayed away from my house after accepting my invitation because he has heard that story! All right, Miles; that will do.” And the Great Financier went upstairs into his own drawing-room.

Chapter LX

Miss Longestaffe’s Lover
A few days before that period in our story which we have now reached, Miss Longestaffe was seated in Lady Monogram’s back drawing-room, discussing the terms on which the two tickets for Madame Melmotte’s grand reception had been transferred to Lady Monogram⁠—the place on the cards for the names of the friends whom Madame Melmotte had the honour of inviting to meet the Emperor and the Princes, having been left blank; and the terms also on which Miss Longestaffe had been asked to spend two or three days with her dear friend Lady Monogram. Each lady was disposed to get as much and to give as little as possible⁠—in which desire the ladies carried out the ordinary practice of all parties to a bargain. It had of course been settled that Lady Monogram was to have the two tickets⁠—for herself and her husband⁠—such tickets at that moment standing very high in the market. In payment for these valuable considerations, Lady Monogram was to undertake to chaperon Miss Longestaffe at the entertainment, to take Miss Longestaffe as a visitor for three days, and to have one party at her own house during the time, so that it might be seen that Miss Longestaffe had other friends in London besides the Melmotte’s on whom to depend for her London gaieties. At this moment Miss Longestaffe felt herself justified in treating the matter as though she were hardly receiving a fair equivalent. The Melmotte tickets were certainly ruling very high. They had just culminated. They fell a little soon afterwards, and at ten p.m. on the night of the entertainment were hardly worth anything. At the moment which we have now in hand, there was a rush for them. Lady Monogram had already secured the tickets. They were in her desk. But, as will sometimes be the case in a bargain, the seller was complaining that as she had parted with her goods too cheap, some makeweight should be added to the stipulated price.

“As for that, my dear,” said Miss Longestaffe, who, since the rise in Melmotte stock generally, had endeavoured to resume something of her old manners, “I don’t see what you mean at all. You meet Lady Julia Goldsheiner everywhere, and her father-in-law is Mr. Brehgert’s junior partner.”

“Lady Julia is Lady Julia, my dear, and young Mr. Goldsheiner has, in some sort of way, got himself in. He hunts, and Damask says that he is one of the best shots at Hurlingham. I never met old Mr. Goldsheiner anywhere.”

“I have.”

“Oh, yes, I dare say. Mr. Melmotte, of course, entertains all the City people. I don’t think Sir Damask would like me to ask Mr. Brehgert to dine here.” Lady Monogram managed everything herself with reference to her own parties; invited all her own guests, and never troubled Sir Damask⁠—who, again, on his side, had his own set of friends; but she was very clever in the use which she made of her husband. There were some aspirants who really were taught to think that Sir Damask was very particular as to the guests whom he welcomed to his own house.

“May I speak to Sir Damask about it?” asked Miss Longestaffe, who was very urgent on the occasion.

“Well, my dear, I really don’t think you ought to do that. There are little things which a man and his wife must manage together without interference.”

“Nobody can ever say that I interfered in any family. But really, Julia, when you tell me that Sir Damask cannot receive Mr. Brehgert, it does sound odd. As for City people, you know as well as I do, that that kind of thing is all over now. City people are just as good as West-end people.”

“A great deal better, I dare say. I’m not arguing about that. I don’t make the lines; but there they are; and one gets to know in a sort of way what they are. I don’t pretend to be a bit better than my neighbours. I like to see people come here whom other people who come here will like to meet. I’m big enough to hold my own, and so is Sir Damask. But we ain’t big enough to introduce newcomers. I don’t suppose there’s anybody in London understands it better than you do, Georgiana, and therefore it’s absurd my pretending to teach you. I go pretty well everywhere, as you are aware; and I shouldn’t know Mr. Brehgert if I were to see him.”

“You’ll meet him at the Melmottes’, and, in spite of all you said once, you’re glad enough to go there.”

“Quite true, my dear. I don’t think that you are just the person to throw that in my teeth; but never mind that. There’s the butcher round the corner in Bond Street, or the man who comes to do my hair. I don’t at all think of asking them to my house. But if they were suddenly to turn out wonderful men, and go everywhere, no doubt I should be glad to have them here. That’s the way we live, and you are as well used to it as I am. Mr. Brehgert at present to me is like the butcher round the corner.” Lady Monogram had the tickets safe under lock and key, or I think she would hardly have said this.

“He is not a bit like a butcher,” said Miss Longestaffe, blazing up in real wrath.

“I did not say that he was.”

“Yes, you did; and it was the unkindest thing you could possibly say. It was meant to be unkind. It was monstrous. How would you like it if I said that Sir Damask was like a hairdresser?”

“You can say so if you please. Sir Damask drives four in hand, rides as though he meant to break his neck every winter, is one of the best shots going, and is supposed to understand a yacht as well as any other gentleman out. And I’m rather afraid that before he was married he used to box with all the prizefighters, and to be a little too free behind the scenes. If that makes a man like a hairdresser, well, there he is.”

“How proud you are of his vices.”

“He’s very good-natured, my dear, and as he does not interfere with me, I don’t interfere with him. I hope you’ll do as well. I dare say Mr. Brehgert is good-natured.”

“He’s an excellent man of business, and is making a very large fortune.”

“And has five or six grownup children, who, no doubt, will be a comfort.”

“If I don’t mind them, why need you? You have none at all, and you find it lonely enough.”

“Not at all lonely. I have everything that I desire. How hard you are trying to be ill-natured, Georgiana.”

“Why did you say that he was a⁠—butcher?”

“I said nothing of the kind. I didn’t even say that he was like a butcher. What I did say was this⁠—that I don’t feel inclined to risk my own reputation on the appearance of new people at my table. Of course, I go in for what you call fashion. Some people can dare to ask anybody they meet in the streets. I can’t. I’ve my own line, and I mean to follow it. It’s hard work, I can tell you; and it would be harder still if I wasn’t particular. If you like Mr. Brehgert to come here on Tuesday evening, when the rooms will be full, you can ask him; but as for having him to dinner, I⁠—won’t⁠—do⁠—it.” So the matter was at last settled. Miss Longestaffe did ask Mr. Brehgert for the Tuesday evening, and the two ladies were again friends.

Perhaps Lady Monogram, when she illustrated her position by an allusion to a butcher and a hairdresser, had been unaware that Mr. Brehgert had some resemblance to the form which men in that trade are supposed to bear. Let us at least hope that she was so. He was a fat, greasy man, good-looking in a certain degree, about fifty, with hair dyed black, and beard and moustache dyed a dark purple colour. The charm of his face consisted in a pair of very bright black eyes, which were, however, set too near together in his face for the general delight of Christians. He was stout;⁠—fat all over rather than corpulent⁠—and had that look of command in his face which has become common to master-butchers, probably by long intercourse with sheep and oxen. But Mr. Brehgert was considered to be a very good man of business, and was now regarded as being, in a commercial point of view, the leading member of the great financial firm of which he was the second partner. Mr. Todd’s day was nearly done. He walked about constantly between Lombard Street, the Exchange, and the Bank, and talked much to merchants; he had an opinion too of his own on particular cases; but the business had almost got beyond him, and Mr. Brehgert was now supposed to be the moving spirit of the firm. He was a widower, living in a luxurious villa at Fulham with a family, not indeed grown up, as Lady Monogram had ill-naturedly said, but which would be grown up before long, varying from an eldest son of eighteen, who had just been placed at a desk in the office, to the youngest girl of twelve, who was at school at Brighton. He was a man who always asked for what he wanted; and having made up his mind that he wanted a second wife, had asked Miss Georgiana Longestaffe to fill that situation. He had met her at the Melmottes’, had entertained her, with Madame Melmotte and Marie, at Beaudesert, as he called his villa, had then proposed in the square, and two days after had received an assenting answer in Bruton Street.

Poor Miss Longestaffe! Although she had acknowledged the fact to Lady Monogram in her desire to pave the way for the reception of herself into society as a married woman, she had not as yet found courage to tell her family. The man was absolutely a Jew;⁠—not a Jew that had been, as to whom there might possibly be a doubt whether he or his father or his grandfather had been the last Jew of the family; but a Jew that was. So was Goldsheiner a Jew, whom Lady Julia Start had married⁠—or at any rate had been one a very short time before he ran away with that lady. She counted up ever so many instances on her fingers of “decent people” who had married Jews or Jewesses. Lord Frederic Framlinghame had married a girl of the Berrenhoffers; and Mr. Hart had married a Miss Chute. She did not know much of Miss Chute, but was certain that she was a Christian. Lord Frederic’s wife and Lady Julia Goldsheiner were seen everywhere. Though she hardly knew how to explain the matter even to herself, she was sure that there was at present a general heaving-up of society on this matter, and a change in progress which would soon make it a matter of indifference whether anybody was Jew or Christian. For herself she regarded the matter not at all, except as far as it might be regarded by the world in which she wished to live. She was herself above all personal prejudices of that kind. Jew, Turk, or infidel was nothing to her. She had seen enough of the world to be aware that her happiness did not lie in that direction, and could not depend in the least on the religion of her husband. Of course she would go to church herself. She always went to church. It was the proper thing to do. As to her husband, though she did not suppose that she could ever get him to church⁠—nor perhaps would it be desirable⁠—she thought that she might induce him to go nowhere, so that she might be able to pass him off as a Christian. She knew that such was the Christianity of young Goldsheiner, of which the Starts were now boasting.

Had she been alone in the world she thought that she could have looked forward to her destiny with complacency; but she was afraid of her father and mother. Lady Pomona was distressingly old-fashioned, and had so often spoken with horror even of the approach of a Jew⁠—and had been so loud in denouncing the iniquity of Christians who allowed such people into their houses! Unfortunately, too, Georgiana in her earlier days had reechoed all her mother’s sentiments. And then her father⁠—if he had ever earned for himself the right to be called a Conservative politician by holding a real opinion of his own⁠—it had been on that matter of admitting the Jews into parliament. When that had been done he was certain that the glory of England was sunk forever. And since that time, whenever creditors were more than ordinarily importunate, when Slow and Bideawhile could do nothing for him, he would refer to that fatal measure as though it was the cause of every embarrassment which had harassed him. How could she tell parents such as these that she was engaged to marry a man who at the present moment went to synagogue on a Saturday and carried out every other filthy abomination common to the despised people?

That Mr. Brehgert was a fat, greasy man of fifty, conspicuous for hair-dye, was in itself distressing:⁠—but this minor distress was swallowed up in the greater. Miss Longestaffe was a girl possessing considerable discrimination, and was able to weigh her own possessions in just scales. She had begun life with very high aspirations, believing in her own beauty, in her mother’s fashion, and her father’s fortune. She had now been ten years at the work, and was aware that she had always flown a little too high for her mark at the time. At nineteen and twenty and twenty-one she had thought that all the world was before her. With her commanding figure, regular long features, and bright complexion, she had regarded herself as one of the beauties of the day, and had considered herself entitled to demand wealth and a coronet. At twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four any young peer, or peer’s eldest son, with a house in town and in the country, might have sufficed. Twenty-five and six had been the years for baronets and squires; and even a leading fashionable lawyer or two had been marked by her as sufficient since that time. But now she was aware that hitherto she had always fixed her price a little too high. On three things she was still determined⁠—that she would not be poor, that she would not be banished from London, and that she would not be an old maid. “Mamma,” she had often said, “there’s one thing certain. I shall never do to be poor.” Lady Pomona had expressed full concurrence with her child. “And, mamma, to do as Sophia is doing would kill me. Fancy having to live at Toodlam all one’s life with George Whitstable!” Lady Pomona had agreed to this also, though she thought that Toodlam Hall was a very nice home for her elder daughter. “And, mamma, I should drive you and papa mad if I were to stay at home always. And what would become of me when Dolly was master of everything?” Lady Pomona, looking forward as well as she was able to the time at which she should herself have departed, when her dower and dower-house would have reverted to Dolly, acknowledged that Georgiana should provide herself with a home of her own before that time.

And how was this to be done? Lovers with all the glories and all the graces are supposed to be plentiful as blackberries by girls of nineteen, but have been proved to be rare hothouse fruits by girls of twenty-nine. Brehgert was rich, would live in London, and would be a husband. People did such odd things now and “lived them down,” that she could see no reason why she should not do this and live this down. Courage was the one thing necessary⁠—that and perseverance. She must teach herself to talk about Brehgert as Lady Monogram did of Sir Damask. She had plucked up so much courage as had enabled her to declare her fate to her old friend⁠—remembering as she did so how in days long past she and her friend Julia Triplex had scattered their scorn upon some poor girl who had married a man with a Jewish name⁠—whose grandfather had possibly been a Jew. “Dear me,” said Lady Monogram. “Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner! Mr. Todd is⁠—one of us, I suppose.”

“Yes,” said Georgiana boldly, “and Mr. Brehgert is a Jew. His name is Ezekiel Brehgert, and he is a Jew. You can say what you like about it.”

“I don’t say anything about it, my dear.”

“And you can think anything you like. Things are changed since you and I were younger.”

“Very much changed, it appears,” said Lady Monogram. Sir Damask’s religion had never been doubted, though except on the occasion of his marriage no acquaintance of his had probably ever seen him in church.

But to tell her father and mother required a higher spirit than she had shown even in her communication to Lady Monogram, and that spirit had not as yet come to her. On the morning before she left the Melmottes in Bruton Street, her lover had been with her. The Melmottes of course knew of the engagement and quite approved of it. Madame Melmotte rather aspired to credit for having had so happy an affair arranged under her auspices. It was some set-off against Marie’s unfortunate escapade. Mr. Brehgert, therefore, had been allowed to come and go as he pleased, and on that morning he had pleased to come. They were sitting alone in some back room, and Brehgert was pressing for an early day. “I don’t think we need talk of that yet, Mr. Brehgert,” she said.

“You might as well get over the difficulty and call me Ezekiel at once,” he remarked. Georgiana frowned, and made no soft little attempt at the name as ladies in such circumstances are wont to do. “Mrs. Brehgert”⁠—he alluded of course to the mother of his children⁠—“used to call me Ezzy.”

“Perhaps I shall do so some day,” said Miss Longestaffe, looking at her lover, and asking herself why she should not have been able to have the house and the money and the name of the wife without the troubles appertaining. She did not think it possible that she should ever call him Ezzy.

“And ven shall it be? I should say as early in August as possible.”

“In August!” she almost screamed. It was already July.

“Vy not, my dear? Ve would have our little holiday in Germany⁠—at Vienna. I have business there, and know many friends.” Then he pressed her hard to fix some day in the next month. It would be expedient that they should be married from the Melmottes’ house, and the Melmottes would leave town some time in August. There was truth in this. Unless married from the Melmottes’ house, she must go down to Caversham for the occasion⁠—which would be intolerable. No;⁠—she must separate herself altogether from father and mother, and become one with the Melmottes and the Brehgerts⁠—till she could live it down and make a position for herself. If the spending of money could do it, it should be done.

“I must at any rate ask mamma about it,” said Georgiana. Mr. Brehgert, with the customary good-humour of his people, was satisfied with the answer, and went away promising that he would meet his love at the great Melmotte reception. Then she sat silent, thinking how she should declare the matter to her family. Would it not be better for her to say to them at once that there must be a division among them⁠—an absolute breaking off of all old ties, so that it should be tacitly acknowledged that she, Georgiana, had gone out from among the Longestaffes altogether, and had become one with the Melmottes, Brehgerts, and Goldsheiners?