--I'M A BARONET."
How eager Lady Carbury was that her son should at once go in form to Marie's father and make his proposition may be easily understood.
"My dear Felix,"
standing over his bedside a little before noon,
"pray don't put it off;
you don't know how many slips there may be between the cup and the lip."
"It's everything to get him in a good humour,"
pleaded Sir Felix.
"But the young lady will feel that she is ill-used."
"There's no fear of that;
she's all right.
What am I to say to him about money?
That's the question."
"I shouldn't think of dictating anything,
when he was on before,
stipulated for a certain sum down;
or his father did for him.
So much cash was to be paid over before the ceremony,
and it only went off because Nidderdale wanted the money to do what he liked with."
"You wouldn't mind having it settled?"
--I'd consent to that on condition that the money was paid down,
and the income insured to me,
--say £7,000 or £8,000 a year.
I wouldn't do it for less,
it wouldn't be worth while."
"But you have nothing left of your own."
"I've got a throat that I can cut,
and brains that I can blow out,"
said the son,
using an argument which he conceived might be efficacious with his mother;
had she known him,
she might have been sure that no man lived less likely to cut his own throat or blow out his own brains.
how brutal it is to speak to me in that way."
"It may be brutal;
but you know,
business is business.
You want me to marry this girl because of her money."
"You want to marry her yourself."
"I'm quite a philosopher about it.
I want her money;
and when one wants money,
one should make up one's mind how much or how little one means to take,
--and whether one is sure to get it."
"I don't think there can be any doubt."
"If I were to marry her,
and if the money wasn't there,
it would be very like cutting my throat then,
If a man plays and loses,
he can play again and perhaps win;
but when a fellow goes in for an heiress,
and gets the wife without the money,
he feels a little hampered you know."
"Of course he'd pay the money first."
"It's very well to say that.
Of course he ought;
but it would be rather awkward to refuse to go into church after everything had been arranged because the money hadn't been paid over.
He's so clever,
that he'd contrive that a man shouldn't know whether the money had been paid or not.
You can't carry £10,000 a year about in your pocket,
If you'll go,
perhaps I might think of getting up."
Lady Carbury saw the danger,
and turned over the affair on every side in her own mind.
But she could also see the house in Grosvenor Square,
the expenditure without limit,
the congregating duchesses,
the general acceptation of the people,
and the mercantile celebrity of the man.
And she could weigh against that the absolute pennilessness of her baronet-son.
As he was,
his condition was hopeless.
Such a one must surely run some risk.
The embarrassments of such a man as Lord Nidderdale were only temporary.
There were the family estates,
and the marquisate,
and a golden future for him;
but there was nothing coming to Felix in the future.
All the goods he would ever have of his own,
he had now;
and a handsome face.
Surely he could afford to risk something!
Even the ruins and wreck of such wealth as that displayed in Grosvenor Square would be better than the baronet's present condition.
though it was possible that old Melmotte should be ruined some day,
there could be no doubt as to his present means;
and would it not be probable that he would make hay while the sun shone by securing his daughter's position?
She visited her son again on the next morning,
which was Sunday,
and again tried to persuade him to the marriage.
"I think you should be content to run a little risk,"
Sir Felix had been unlucky at cards on Saturday night,
and had taken,
a little too much wine.
He was at any rate sulky,
and in a humour to resent interference.
"I wish you'd leave me alone,"
"to manage my own business."
"Is it not my business too?"
you haven't got to marry her,
and to put up with these people.
I shall make up my mind what to do myself,
and I don't want anybody to meddle with me."
"You ungrateful boy!"
"I understand all about that.
Of course I'm ungrateful when I don't do everything just as you wish it.
You don't do any good.
You only set me against it all."
"How do you expect to live,
Are you always to be a burden on me and your sister?
I wonder that you've no shame.
Your cousin Roger is right.
I will quit London altogether,
and leave you to your own wretchedness."
"That's what Roger says;
I always thought Roger was a fellow of that sort."
"He is the best friend I have."
What would Roger have thought had he heard this assertion from Lady Carbury?
"He's an ill-tempered,
and if he meddles with my affairs again,
I shall tell him what I think of him.
Upon my word,
these little disputes up in my bedroom ain't very pleasant.
Of course it's your house;
but if you do allow me a room,
I think you might let me have it to myself."
It was impossible for Lady Carbury,
in her present mood,
and in his present mood,
to explain to him that in no other way and at no other time could she ever find him.
If she waited till he came down to breakfast,
he escaped from her in five minutes,
and then he returned no more till some unholy hour in the morning.
She was as good a pelican as ever allowed the blood to be torn from her own breast to satisfy the greed of her young,
but she felt that she should have something back for her blood,
--some return for her sacrifices.
This chick would take all as long as there was a drop left,
and then resent the fondling of the mother-bird as interference.
Again and again there came upon her moments in which she thought that Roger Carbury was right.
And yet she knew that when the time came she would not be able to be severe.
She almost hated herself for the weakness of her own love,
--but she acknowledged it.
If he should fall utterly,
she must fall with him.
In spite of his cruelty,
his callous hardness,
his insolence to herself,
his wickedness and ruinous indifference to the future,
she must cling to him to the last.
All that she had done,
and all that she had borne,
--all that she was doing and bearing,
--was it not for his sake?
Sir Felix had been in Grosvenor Square since his return from Carbury,
and had seen Madame Melmotte and Marie;
but he had seen them together,
and not a word had been said about the engagement.
He could not make much use of the elder woman.
She was as gracious as was usual with her;
but then she was never very gracious.
She had told him that Miss Longestaffe was coming to her,
which was a great bore,
as the young lady was "fatigante."
Upon this Marie had declared that she intended to like the young lady very much.
said Madame Melmotte.
"You never like no person at all."
At this Marie had looked over to her lover and smiled.
that is all very well,
--while it lasts;
but you care for no friend."
From which Felix had judged that Madame Melmotte at any rate knew of his offer,
and did not absolutely disapprove of it.
On the Saturday he had received a note at his club from Marie.
"Come on Sunday at half-past two.
You will find papa after lunch."
This was in his possession when his mother visited him in his bedroom,
and he had determined to obey the behest.
But he would not tell her of his intention,
because he had drunk too much wine,
and was sulky.
At about three on Sunday he knocked at the door in Grosvenor Square and asked for the ladies.
Up to the moment of his knocking,
--even after he had knocked,
and when the big porter was opening the door,
--he intended to ask for Mr. Melmotte;
but at the last his courage failed him,
and he was shown up into the drawing-room.
There he found Madame Melmotte,
and --Lord Nidderdale.
Marie looked anxiously into his face,
thinking that he had already been with her father.
He slid into a chair close to Madame Melmotte,
and endeavoured to seem at his ease.
Lord Nidderdale continued his flirtation with Miss Longestaffe,
--a flirtation which she carried on in a half whisper,
wholly indifferent to her hostess or the young lady of the house.
"We know what brings you here,"
"I came on purpose to see you."
you didn't expect to find me here."
"Lord bless you,
I knew all about it,
and came on purpose.
It's a great institution;
"It's an institution you mean to belong to,
I did have thoughts about it as fellows do when they talk of going into the army or to the bar;
but I couldn't pass.
That fellow there is the happy man.
I shall go on coming here,
because you're here.
I don't think you'll like it a bit,
"I don't suppose I shall,
After a while Marie contrived to be alone with her lover near one of the windows for a few seconds.
"Papa is down-stairs in the book-room,"
"Lord Alfred was told when he came that he was out."
It was evident to Sir Felix that everything was prepared for him.
"You go down,"
"and ask the man to show you into the book-room."
"Shall I come up again?"
but leave a note for me here under cover to Madame Didon."
Now Sir Felix was sufficiently at home in the house to know that Madame Didon was Madame Melmotte's own woman,
commonly called Didon by the ladies of the family.
"Or send it by post,
--under cover to her.
That will be better.
Go at once,
It certainly did seem to Sir Felix that the very nature of the girl was altered.
But he went,
just shaking hands with Madame Melmotte,
and bowing to Miss Longestaffe.
In a few moments he found himself with Mr. Melmotte in the chamber which had been dignified with the name of the book-room.
The great financier was accustomed to spend his Sunday afternoons here,
generally with the company of Lord Alfred Grendall.
It may be supposed that he was meditating on millions,
and arranging the prices of money and funds for the New York,
and London Exchanges.
But on this occasion he was waked from slumber,
which he seemed to have been enjoying with a cigar in his mouth.
"How do you do,
"I suppose you want the ladies."
"I've just been in the drawing-room,
but I thought I'd look in on you as I came down."
It immediately occurred to Melmotte that the baronet had come about his share of the plunder out of the railway,
and he at once resolved to be stern in his manner,
and perhaps rude also.
He believed that he should thrive best by resenting any interference with him in his capacity as financier.
He thought that he had risen high enough to venture on such conduct,
and experience had told him that men who were themselves only half-plucked,
might easily be cowed by a savage assumption of superiority.
had generally the advantage of understanding the game,
while those with whom he was concerned did not,
at any rate,
more than half understand it.
He could thus trade either on the timidity or on the ignorance of his colleagues.
When neither of these sufficed to give him undisputed mastery,
then he cultivated the cupidity of his friends.
He liked young associates because they were more timid and less greedy than their elders.
Lord Nidderdale's suggestions had soon been put at rest,
and Mr. Melmotte anticipated no greater difficulty with Sir Felix.
Lord Alfred he had been obliged to buy.
"I'm very glad to see you,
and all that,"
assuming a certain exaltation of the eyebrows,
which they who had many dealings with him often found to be very disagreeable;
"but this is hardly a day for business,
--yet a place for business."
Sir Felix wished himself at the Beargarden.
He certainly had come about business,
--business of a particular sort;
but Marie had told him that of all days Sunday would be the best,
and had also told him that her father was more likely to be in a good humour on Sunday than on any other day.
Sir Felix felt that he had not been received with good humour.
"I didn't mean to intrude,
"I dare say not.
I only thought I'd tell you.
You might have been going to speak about that railway."
"Oh dear no."
"Your mother was saying to me down in the country that she hoped you attended to the business.
I told her that there was nothing to attend to."
"My mother doesn't understand anything at all about it,"
said Sir Felix.
"Women never do.
--what can I do for you,
now that you are here?"
--I'm come to;
I want to propose myself as a suitor for your daughter's hand."
"The d -- -- you do!"
and we hope you'll give us your consent."
"She knows you're coming then?"
"And my wife;
--does she know?"
"I've never spoken to her about it.
Perhaps Miss Melmotte has."
"And how long have you and she understood each other?"
"I've been attached to her ever since I saw her,"
said Sir Felix.
"I have indeed.
I've spoken to her sometimes.
You know how that kind of thing goes on."
"I'm blessed if I do.
I know how it ought to go on.
I know that when large sums of money are supposed to be concerned,
the young man should speak to the father before he speaks to the girl.
He's a fool if he don't,
if he wants to get the father's money.
So she has given you a promise?"
"I don't know about a promise."
"Do you consider that she's engaged to you?"
"Not if she's disposed to get out of it,"
said Sir Felix,
hoping that he might thus ingratiate himself with the father.
I should be awfully disappointed."
"She has consented to your coming to me?"
--in a sort of a way.
Of course she knows that it all depends on you."
"Not at all.
She's of age.
If she chooses to marry you,
she can marry you.
If that's all you want,
her consent is enough.
You're a baronet,
I'm a baronet."
"And therefore you've come to your own property.
You haven't to wait for your father to die,
and I dare say you are indifferent about money."
This was a view of things which Sir Felix felt that he was bound to dispel,
even at the risk of offending the father.
"Not exactly that,"
"I suppose you will give your daughter a fortune,
"Then I wonder you didn't come to me before you went to her.
If my daughter marries to please me,
I shall give her money,
How much is neither here nor there.
If she marries to please herself,
without considering me,
I shan't give her a farthing."
"I had hoped that you might consent,
"I've said nothing about that.
It is possible.
You're a man of fashion and have a title of your own,
--and no doubt a property.
If you'll show me that you've an income fit to maintain her,
I'll think about it at any rate.
What is your property,
What could three or four thousand a year,
or even five or six,
matter to a man like Melmotte?
It was thus that Sir Felix looked at it.
When a man can hardly count his millions he ought not to ask questions about trifling sums of money.
But the question had been asked,
and the asking of such a question was no doubt within the prerogative of a proposed father-in-law.
At any rate,
it must be answered.
For a moment it occurred to Sir Felix that he might conveniently tell the truth.
It would be nasty for the moment,
but there would be nothing to come after.
Were he to do so he could not be dragged down lower and lower into the mire by cross-examinings.
There might be an end of all his hopes,
but there would at the same time be an end of all his misery.
But he lacked the necessary courage.
"It isn't a large property,
"Not like the Marquis of Westminster's,
said the horrid,
--not quite like that,"
said Sir Felix,
with a sickly laugh.
"But you have got enough to support a baronet's title?"
"That depends on how you want to support it,"
said Sir Felix,
putting off the evil day.
"Where's your family seat?"
down in Suffolk,
near the Longestaffes,
is the old family place."
"That doesn't belong to you,"
But I'm the heir."
Perhaps if there is one thing in England more difficult than another to be understood by men born and bred out of England,
it is the system under which titles and property descend together,
or in various lines.
The jurisdiction of our Courts of Law is complex,
and so is the business of Parliament.
But the rules regulating them,
are easy to the memory compared with the mixed anomalies of the peerage and primogeniture.
They who are brought up among it,
learn it as children do a language,
but strangers who begin the study in advanced life,
seldom make themselves perfect in it.
It was everything to Melmotte that he should understand the ways of the country which he had adopted;
and when he did not understand,
he was clever at hiding his ignorance.
Now he was puzzled.
He knew that Sir Felix was a baronet,
and therefore presumed him to be the head of the family.
He knew that Carbury Manor belonged to Roger Carbury,
and he judged by the name it must be an old family property.
And now the baronet declared that he was heir to the man who was simply an Esquire.
the heir are you?
But how did he get it before you?
You're the head of the family?"
I am the head of the family,
said Sir Felix,
"But the place won't be mine till he dies.
It would take a long time to explain it all."
"He's a young man,
--not what you'd call a young man.
He isn't very old."
"If he were to marry and have children,
how would it be then?"
Sir Felix was beginning to think that he might have told the truth with discretion.
"I don't quite know how it would be.
I have always understood that I am the heir.
It's not very likely that he will marry."
"And in the meantime what is your own property?"
"In the meantime what is your own property?"]
"My father left me money in the funds and in railway stock,
--and then I am my mother's heir."
"You have done me the honour of telling me that you wish to marry my daughter."
"Would you then object to inform me the amount and nature of the income on which you intend to support your establishment as a married man?
I fancy that the position you assume justifies the question on my part."
The bloated swindler,
the vile city ruffian,
was certainly taking a most ungenerous advantage of the young aspirant for wealth.
It was then that Sir Felix felt his own position.
Was he not a baronet,
and a gentleman,
and a very handsome fellow,
and a man of the world who had been in a crack regiment?
If this surfeited sponge of speculation,
this crammed commercial cormorant,
wanted more than that for his daughter,
why could he not say so without asking disgusting questions such as these,
--questions which it was quite impossible that a gentleman should answer?
Was it not sufficiently plain that any gentleman proposing to marry the daughter of such a man as Melmotte,
must do so under the stress of pecuniary embarrassment?
Would it not be an understood bargain that as he provided the rank and position,
she would provide the money?
And yet the vulgar wretch took advantage of his assumed authority to ask these dreadful questions!
Sir Felix stood silent,
trying to look the man in the face,
--wishing that he was well out of the house,
and at the Beargarden.
"You don't seem to be very clear about your own circumstances,
Perhaps you will get your lawyer to write to me."
"Perhaps that will be best,"
said the lover.
or to give it up.
will have money;
but money expects money."
At this moment Lord Alfred entered the room.
"You're very late to-day,
Why didn't you come as you said you would?"
"I was here more than an hour ago,
and they said you were out."
"I haven't been out of this room all day,
--except to lunch.
Ring the bell,
and we'll have a little soda and brandy."
Sir Felix had gone through some greeting with his fellow Director,
and at last succeeded in getting Melmotte to shake hands with him before he went.
"Do you know anything about that young fellow?"
Melmotte asked as soon as the door was closed.
"He's a baronet without a shilling;
--was in the army and had to leave it,"
said Lord Alfred as he buried his face in a big tumbler.
"Without a shilling!
I supposed so.
But he's heir to a place down in Suffolk;
"Not a bit of it.
It's the same name,
and that's about all.
Mr. Carbury has a small property there,
and he might give it to me to-morrow.
I wish he would,
though there isn't much of it.
That young fellow has nothing to do with it whatever."
"Hasn't he now?"
Mr. Melmotte as he speculated upon it,
almost admired the young man's impudence.
MILES GRENDALL'S TRIUMPH.
Sir Felix as he walked down to his club felt that he had been checkmated,
--and was at the same time full of wrath at the insolence of the man who had so easily beaten him out of the field.
As far as he could see,
the game was over.
No doubt he might marry Marie Melmotte.
The father had told him so much himself,
and he perfectly believed the truth of that oath which Marie had sworn.
He did not doubt but that she'd stick to him close enough.
She was in love with him,
which was natural;
and was a fool,
--which was perhaps also natural.
But romance was not the game which he was playing.
People told him that when girls succeeded in marrying without their parents' consent,
fathers were always constrained to forgive them at last.
That might be the case with ordinary fathers.
But Melmotte was decidedly not an ordinary father.
--so Sir Felix declared to himself,
--perhaps the greatest brute ever created.
Sir Felix could not but remember that elevation of the eyebrows,
and the brazen forehead,
and the hard mouth.
He had found himself quite unable to stand up against Melmotte,
and now he cursed and swore at the man as he was carried down to the Beargarden in a cab.
But what should he do?
Should he abandon Marie Melmotte altogether,
never go to Grosvenor Square again,
and drop the whole family,
including the Great Mexican Railway?
Then an idea occurred to him.
Nidderdale had explained to him the result of his application for shares.
"You see we haven't bought any and therefore can't sell any.
There seems to be something in that.
I shall explain it all to my governor,
and get him to go a thou' or two.
If he sees his way to get the money back,
he'd do that and let me have the difference."
On that Sunday afternoon Sir Felix thought over all this.
"Why shouldn't he
'go a thou,'
and get the difference?"
He made a mental calculation.
£12 10-s.- per £100!
£125 for a thousand!
and all paid in ready money.
As far as Sir Felix could understand,
directly the one operation had been perfected the thousand pounds would be available for another.
As he looked into it with all his intelligence he thought that he began to perceive that that was the way in which the Melmottes of the world made their money.
There was but one objection.
He had not got the entire thousand pounds.
But luck had been on the whole very good to him.
He had more than the half of it in real money,
lying at a bank in the city at which he had opened an account.
And he had very much more than the remainder in I.
O. U.'s from Dolly Longestaffe and Miles Grendall.
In fact if every man had his own,
--and his bosom glowed with indignation as he reflected on the injustice with which he was kept out of his own,
--he could go into the city and take up his shares to-morrow,
and still have ready money at his command.
If he could do this,
would not such conduct on his part be the best refutation of that charge of not having any fortune which Melmotte had brought against him?
He would endeavour to work the money out of Dolly Longestaffe;
--and he entertained an idea that though it would be impossible to get cash from Miles Grendall,
he might use his claim against Miles in the city.
Miles was Secretary to the Board,
and might perhaps contrive that the money required for the shares should not be all ready money.
Sir Felix was not very clear about it,
but thought that he might possibly in this way use the indebtedness of Miles Grendall.
"How I do hate a fellow who does not pay up,"
he said to himself as he sat alone in his club,
waiting for some friend to come in.
And he formed in his head Draconic laws which he would fain have executed upon men who lost money at play and did not pay.
"How the deuce fellows can look one in the face,
is what I can't understand,"
he said to himself.
He thought over this great stroke of exhibiting himself to Melmotte as a capitalist till he gave up his idea of abandoning his suit.
So he wrote a note to Marie Melmotte in accordance with her instructions.
Your father cut up very rough,
Perhaps you had better see him yourself;
or would your mother?
he put under cover to Madame Didon,
and posted at the club.
He had put nothing at any rate in the letter which could commit him.
There was generally on Sundays a house dinner,
at eight o'clock.
Five or six men would sit down,
and would always gamble afterwards.
On this occasion Dolly Longestaffe sauntered in at about seven in quest of sherry and bitters,
and Felix found the opportunity a good one to speak of his money.
"You couldn't cash your I.
O. U.'s for me to-morrow;
"I'll tell you why.
You know I'd tell you anything because I think we are really friends.
I'm after that daughter of Melmotte's."
"I'm told you're to have her."
"I don't know about that.
I mean to try at any rate.
I've gone in you know for that Board in the city."
"I don't know anything about Boards,
You remember that American fellow,
that was here one night and won all our money."
"The chap that had the waistcoat,
and went away in the morning to California.
Fancy starting to California after a hard night.
I always wondered whether he got there alive."
--I can't explain to you all about it,
because you hate those kinds of things."
"And because I am such a fool."
"I don't think you're a fool at all,
but it would take a week.
But it's absolutely essential for me to take up a lot of shares in the city to-morrow;
--or perhaps Wednesday might do.
I'm bound to pay for them,
and old Melmotte will think that I'm utterly hard up if I don't.
Indeed he said as much,
and the only objection about me and this girl of his is as to money.
Can't you understand,
how important it may be?"
"It's always important to have a lot of money.
I know that."
"I shouldn't have gone in for this kind of thing if I hadn't thought I was sure.
You know how much you owe me,
"Not in the least."
"It's about eleven hundred pounds!"
"I shouldn't wonder."
"And Miles Grendall owes me two thousand.
Grasslough and Nidderdale when they lose always pay with Miles's I.
"So should I,
if I had them."
"It'll come to that soon that there won't be any other stuff going,
and they really ain't worth anything.
I don't see what's the use of playing when this rubbish is shoved about the table.
As for Grendall himself,
he has no feeling about it."
"Not the least,
I should say."
"You'll try and get me the money,
"Melmotte has been at me twice.
He wants me to agree to sell something.
He's an old thief,
and of course he means to rob me.
You may tell him that if he'll let me have the money in the way I've proposed,
you are to have a thousand pounds out of it.
I don't know any other way."
"You could write me that,
--in a business sort of way."
"I couldn't do that,
What's the use?
I never write any letters.
I can't do it.
You tell him that;
and if the sale comes off,
I'll make it straight."
Miles Grendall also dined there,
and after dinner,
in the smoking-room,
Sir Felix tried to do a little business with the Secretary.
He began his operations with unusual courtesy,
believing that the man must have some influence with the great distributor of shares.
"I'm going to take up my shares in that company,"
said Sir Felix.
And Miles enveloped himself from head to foot in smoke.
"I didn't quite understand about it,
but Nidderdale saw Melmotte and he has explained it.
I think I shall go in for a couple of thousand on Wednesday."
"It will be the proper thing to do;
"Very good --thing to do!"
Miles Grendall smoked harder and harder as the suggestions were made to him.
"Is it always ready money?"
"Always ready money,"
said Miles shaking his head,
as though in reprobation of so abominable an institution.
"I suppose they allow some time to their own Directors,
if a deposit,
say 50 per cent.,
is made for the shares?"
"They'll give you half the number,
which would come to the same thing."
Sir Felix turned this over in his mind,
but let him look at it as he would,
could not see the truth of his companion's remark.
"You know I should want to sell again,
--for the rise."
you'll want to sell again."
"And therefore I must have the full number."
"You could sell half the number,
"I'm determined to begin with ten shares;
--I have got the money,
but I don't want to draw out so much.
Couldn't you manage for me that I should get them on paying 50 per cent.
"Melmotte does all that himself."
"You could explain,
that you are a little short in your own payments to me."
This Sir Felix said,
thinking it to be a delicate mode of introducing his claim upon the Secretary.
said Miles frowning.
"Of course it's private;
but if you would pay me the money I could buy the shares with it,
though they are public."
"I don't think we could mix the two things together,
"You can't help me?"
"Not in that way."
when the deuce will you pay me what you owe me?"
Sir Felix was driven to this plain expression of his demand by the impassibility of his debtor.
Here was a man who did not pay his debts of honour,
who did not even propose any arrangement for paying them,
and who yet had the impudence to talk of not mixing up private matters with affairs of business!
It made the young baronet very sick.
Miles Grendall smoked on in silence.
There was a difficulty in answering the question,
and he therefore made no answer.
"Do you know how much you owe me?"
continued the baronet,
determined to persist now that he had commenced the attack.
There was a little crowd of other men in the room,
and the conversation about the shares had been commenced in an under-tone.
These two last questions Sir Felix had asked in a whisper,
but his countenance showed plainly that he was speaking in anger.
"Of course I know,"
"I'm not going to talk about it here."
"Not going to talk about it here?"
"No. This is a public room."
"I am going to talk about it,"
said Sir Felix,
raising his voice.
"Will any fellow come up-stairs and play a game of billiards?"
said Miles Grendall rising from his chair.
Then he walked slowly out of the room,
leaving Sir Felix to take what revenge he pleased.
For a moment Sir Felix thought that he would expose the transaction to the whole room;
but he was afraid,
thinking that Miles Grendall was a more popular man than himself.
It was Sunday night;
but not the less were the gamblers assembled in the card-room at about eleven.
Dolly Longestaffe was there,
and with him the two lords,
and Sir Felix,
and Miles Grendall of course,
I regret to say,
a much better man than any of them,
Sir Felix had doubted much as to the propriety of joining the party.
What was the use of playing with a man who seemed by general consent to be liberated from any obligation to pay?
But then if he did not play with him,
where should he find another gambling table?
They began with whist,
but soon laid that aside and devoted themselves to loo.
The least respected man in that confraternity was Grendall,
and yet it was in compliance with the persistency of his suggestion that they gave up the nobler game.
"Let's stick to whist;
I like cutting out,"
"It's much more jolly having nothing to do now and then;
one can always bet,"
said Dolly shortly afterwards.
"I hate loo,"
said Sir Felix in answer to a third application.
"I like whist best,"
"but I'll play anything anybody likes;
--pitch and toss if you please."
But Miles Grendall had his way,
and loo was the game.
At about two o'clock Grendall was the only winner.
The play had not been very high,
but nevertheless he had won largely.
Whenever a large pool had collected itself he swept it into his garners.
The men opposed to him hardly grudged him this stroke of luck.
He had hitherto been unlucky;
and they were able to pay him with his own paper,
which was so valueless that they parted with it without a pang.
Even Dolly Longestaffe seemed to have a supply of it.
The only man there not so furnished was Montague,
and while the sums won were quite small he was allowed to pay with cash.
But to Sir Felix it was frightful to see ready money going over to Miles Grendall,
as under no circumstances could it be got back from him.
"just change these for the time.
I'll take them back,
if you still have them when we've done."
And he handed a lot of Miles's paper across the table.
The result of course would be that Felix would receive so much real money,
and that Miles would get back more of his own worthless paper.
To Montague it would make no difference,
and he did as he was asked;
--or rather was preparing to do so,
when Miles interfered.
On what principle of justice could Sir Felix come between him and another man?
"I don't understand this kind of thing,"
"When I win from you,
I'll take my I.
as long as you have any."
"But I won't have them handed about the table to be changed."
"Pay them yourself,
said Sir Felix,
laying a handful down on the table.
"Don't let's have a row,"
said Lord Nidderdale.
"Carbury is always making a row,"
"Of course he is,"
said Miles Grendall.
"I don't make more row than anybody else;
but I do say that as we have such a lot of these things,
and as we all know that we don't get cash for them as we want it,
Grendall shouldn't take money and walk off with it."
"Who is walking off?"
"And why should you be entitled to Montague's money more than any of us?"
The matter was debated,
and was thus decided.
It was not to be allowed that Miles's paper should be negotiated at the table in the manner that Sir Felix had attempted to adopt.
But Mr. Grendall pledged his honour that when they broke up the party he would apply any money that he might have won to the redemption of his I.
paying a regular percentage to the holders of them.
The decision made Sir Felix very cross.
He knew that their condition at six or seven in the morning would not be favourable to such commercial accuracy,
--which indeed would require an accountant to effect it;
and he felt sure that Miles,
if still a winner,
would in truth walk off with the ready money.
For a considerable time he did not speak,
and became very moderate in his play,
tossing his cards about,
almost always losing,
but losing a minimum,
and watching the board.
He was sitting next to Grendall,
and he thought that he observed that his neighbour moved his chair farther and farther away from him,
and nearer to Dolly Longestaffe,
who was next to him on the other side.
This went on for an hour,
during which Grendall still won,
--and won heavily from Paul Montague.
"I never saw a fellow have such a run of luck in my life,"
"You've had two trumps dealt to you every hand almost since we began!"
"Ever so many hands I haven't played at all,"
"You've always won when I've played,"
"I've been looed every time."
"You oughtn't to begrudge me one run of luck,
when I've lost so much,"
since he began,
had destroyed paper counters of his own making,
supposed to represent considerably above £1,000,
and had also,
--which was of infinitely greater concern to him,
--received an amount of ready money which was quite a godsend to him.
"What's the good of talking about it?"
"I hate all this row about winning and losing.
Let's go on,
or go to bed."
The idea of going to bed was absurd.
So they went on.
hardly spoke at all,
played very little,
and watched Miles Grendall without seeming to watch him.
At last he felt certain that he saw a card go into the man's sleeve,
and remembered at the moment that the winner had owed his success to a continued run of aces.
He was tempted to rush at once upon the player,
and catch the card on his person.
But he feared.
Grendall was a big man;
and where would he be if there should be no card there?
in the scramble,
there would certainly be at any rate a doubt.
And he knew that the men around him would be most unwilling to believe such an accusation.
Grasslough was Grendall's friend,
and Nidderdale and Dolly Longestaffe would infinitely rather be cheated than suspect any one of their own set of cheating them.
He feared both the violence of the man he should accuse,
and also the impassive good humour of the others.
He let that opportunity pass by,
and again saw the card abstracted.
Thrice he saw it,
till it was wonderful to him that others also should not see it.
As often as the deal came round,
the man did it.
Felix watched more closely,
and was certain that in each round the man had an ace at least once.
It seemed to him that nothing could be easier.
At last he pleaded a headache,
and went away,
leaving the others playing.
He had lost nearly a thousand pounds,
but it had been all in paper.
"There's something the matter with that fellow,"
"There's always something the matter with him,
"He is so awfully greedy about his money."
Miles had become somewhat triumphant in his success.
"The less said about that,
"We have put up with a good deal,
and he has put up with as much as anybody."
Miles was cowed at once,
and went on dealing without manoeuvring a card on that hand.
IN GROSVENOR SQUARE.
Marie Melmotte was hardly satisfied with the note which she received from Didon early on the Monday morning.
With a volubility of French eloquence,
Didon declared that she would be turned out of the house if either Monsieur or Madame were to know what she was doing.
Marie told her that Madame would certainly never dismiss her.
perhaps not Madame,"
who knew too much about Madame to be dismissed;
Marie declared that by no possibility could Monsieur know anything about it.
In that house nobody ever told anything to Monsieur.
He was regarded as the general enemy,
against whom the whole household was always making ambushes,
always firing guns from behind rocks and trees.
It is not a pleasant condition for a master of a house;
but in this house the master at any rate knew how he was placed.
It never occurred to him to trust any one.
Of course his daughter might run away.
But who would run away with her without money?
And there could be no money except from him.
He knew himself and his own strength.
He was not the man to forgive a girl,
and then bestow his wealth on the Lothario who had injured him.
His daughter was valuable to him because she might make him the father-in-law of a Marquis or an Earl;
but the higher that he rose without such assistance,
the less need had he of his daughter's aid.
Lord Alfred was certainly very useful to him.
Lord Alfred had whispered into his ear that by certain conduct and by certain uses of his money,
he himself might be made a baronet.
"But if they should say that I'm not an Englishman?"
Lord Alfred had explained that it was not necessary that he should have been born in England,
or even that he should have an English name.
No questions would be asked.
Let him first get into Parliament,
and then spend a little money on the proper side,
--by which Lord Alfred meant the Conservative side,
--and be munificent in his entertainments,
and the baronetcy would be almost a matter of course.
there was no knowing what honours might not be achieved in the present days by money scattered with a liberal hand.
In these conversations,
Melmotte would speak of his money and power of making money as though they were unlimited,
--and Lord Alfred believed him.
Marie was dissatisfied with her letter,
--not because it described her father as "cutting up very rough."
To her who had known her father all her life that was a matter of course.
But there was no word of love in the note.
An impassioned correspondence carried on through Didon would be delightful to her.
She was quite capable of loving,
and she did love the young man.
consented to accept the addresses of others whom she did not love,
--but this she had done at the moment almost of her first introduction to the marvellous world in which she was now living.
As days went on she ceased to be a child,
and her courage grew within her.
She became conscious of an identity of her own,
which feeling was produced in great part by the contempt which accompanied her increasing familiarity with grand people and grand names and grand things.
She was no longer afraid of saying No to the Nidderdales on account of any awe of them personally.
It might be that she should acknowledge herself to be obliged to obey her father,
though she was drifting away even from the sense of that obligation.
Had her mind been as it was now when Lord Nidderdale first came to her,
she might indeed have loved him,
as a man,
was infinitely better than Sir Felix,
had he thought it to be necessary,
would have put some grace into his love-making.
But at that time she had been childish.
finding her to be a child,
had hardly spoken to her.
child though she was,
had resented such usage.
But a few months in London had changed all this,
and now she was a child no longer.
She was in love with Sir Felix,
and had told her love.
Whatever difficulties there might be,
she intended to be true.
she would run away.
Sir Felix was her idol,
and she abandoned herself to its worship.
But she desired that her idol should be of flesh and blood,
and not of wood.
She was at first half-inclined to be angry;
but as she sat with his letter in her hand,
she remembered that he did not know Didon as well as she did,
and that he might be afraid to trust his raptures to such custody.
She could write to him at his club,
and having no such fear,
she could write warmly.
Early Monday Morning.
I have just got your note;
--such a scrap!
Of course papa would talk about money because he never thinks of anything else.
I don't know anything about money,
and I don't care in the least how much you have got.
Papa has got plenty,
and I think he would give us some if we were once married.
I have told mamma,
but mamma is always afraid of everything.
Papa is very cross to her sometimes;
--more so than to me.
I will try to tell him,
though I can't always get at him.
I very often hardly see him all day long.
But I don't mean to be afraid of him,
and will tell him that on my word and honour I will never marry any one except you.
I don't think he will beat me,
but if he does,
I'll bear it,
--for your sake.
He does beat mamma sometimes,
You can write to me quite safely through Didon.
I think if you would call some day and give her something,
it would help,
as she is very fond of money.
Do write and tell me that you love me.
I love you better than anything in the world,
and I will never,
--never give you up.
I suppose you can come and call,
--unless papa tells the man in the hall not to let you in.
I'll find that out from Didon,
but I can't do it before sending this letter.
Papa dined out yesterday somewhere with that Lord Alfred,
so I haven't seen him since you were here.
I never see him before he goes into the city in the morning.
Now I am going down-stairs to breakfast with mamma and that Miss Longestaffe.
She is a stuck-up thing.
Didn't you think so at Caversham?
You are my own,
own darling Felix,
And I am your own,
own affectionate ladylove,
Sir Felix when he read this letter at his club in the afternoon of the Monday,
turned up his nose and shook his head.
He thought if there were much of that kind of thing to be done,
he could not go on with it,
even though the marriage were certain,
and the money secure.
"What an infernal little ass!"
he said to himself as he crumpled the letter up.
Marie having intrusted her letter to Didon,
together with a little present of gloves and shoes,
went down to breakfast.
Her mother was the first there,
and Miss Longestaffe soon followed.
when she found that she was not expected to breakfast with the master of the house,
abandoned the idea of having her meal sent to her in her own room.
Madame Melmotte she must endure.
With Madame Melmotte she had to go out in the carriage every day.
Indeed she could only go to those parties to which Madame Melmotte accompanied her.
If the London season was to be of any use at all,
she must accustom herself to the companionship of Madame Melmotte.
The man kept himself very much apart from her.
She met him only at dinner,
and that not often.
Madame Melmotte was very bad;
but she was silent,
and seemed to understand that her guest was only her guest as a matter of business.
But Miss Longestaffe already perceived that her old acquaintances were changed in their manner to her.
She had written to her dear friend Lady Monogram,
whom she had known intimately as Miss Triplex,
and whose marriage with Sir Damask Monogram had been splendid preferment,
telling how she had been kept down in Suffolk at the time of her friend's last party,
and how she had been driven to consent to return to London as the guest of Madame Melmotte.
She hoped her friend would not throw her off on that account.
She had been very affectionate,
with a poor attempt at fun,
and rather humble.
Georgiana Longestaffe had never been humble before;
but the Monograms were people so much thought of and in such an excellent set!
She would do anything rather than lose the Monograms.
But it was of no use.
She had been humble in vain,
for Lady Monogram had not even answered her note.
"She never really cared for anybody but herself,"
Georgiana said in her wretched solitude.
she had found that Lord Nidderdale's manner to her had been quite changed.
She was not a fool,
and could read these signs with sufficient accuracy.
There had been little flirtations between her and Nidderdale,
as every one knew that Nidderdale must marry money;
but in none of them had he spoken to her as he spoke when he met her in Madame Melmotte's drawing-room.
She could see it in the faces of people as they greeted her in the park,
--especially in the faces of the men.
She had always carried herself with a certain high demeanour,
and had been able to maintain it.
All that was now gone from her,
and she knew it.
Though the thing was as yet but a few days old she understood that others understood that she had degraded herself.
"What's all this about?"
Lord Grasslough had said to her,
seeing her come into a room behind Madame Melmotte.
She had simpered,
had tried to laugh,
and had then turned away her face.
she said to herself,
knowing that a fortnight ago he would not have dared to address her in such a tone.
A day or two afterwards an occurrence took place worthy of commemoration.
Dolly Longestaffe called on his sister!
His mind must have been much stirred when he allowed himself to be moved to such uncommon action.
He came too at a very early hour,
not much after noon,
when it was his custom to be eating his breakfast in bed.
He declared at once to the servant that he did not wish to see Madame Melmotte or any of the family.
He had called to see his sister.
He was therefore shown into a separate room where Georgiana joined him.
"What's all this about?"
She tried to laugh as she tossed her head.
"What brings you here,
This is quite an unexpected compliment."
"My being here doesn't matter.
I can go anywhere without doing much harm.
Why are you staying with these people?"
"I don't suppose he sent you here?"
"That's just what he did do."
"You needn't have come,
unless you liked it.
Is it because they are none of them coming up?"
What a wonderful young man you are for guessing!"
"Don't you feel ashamed of yourself?"
--not a bit."
"Then I feel ashamed for you."
"Everybody comes here."
--everybody does not come and stay here as you are doing.
Everybody doesn't make themselves a part of the family.
I have heard of nobody doing it except you.
I thought you used to think so much of yourself."
"I think as much of myself as ever I did,"
hardly able to restrain her tears.
"I can tell you nobody else will think much of you if you remain here.
I could hardly believe it when Nidderdale told me."
"What did he say,
"He didn't say much to me,
but I could see what he thought.
And of course everybody thinks the same.
How you can like the people yourself is what I can't understand!"
"I don't like them,
--I hate them."
"Then why do you come and live with them?"
it is impossible to make you understand.
A man is so different.
You can go just where you please,
and do what you like.
And if you're short of money,
people will give you credit.
And you can live by yourself,
and all that sort of thing.
How should you like to be shut up down at Caversham all the season?"
"I shouldn't mind it,
--only for the governor."
"You have got a property of your own.
Your fortune is made for you.
What is to become of me?"
"You mean about marrying?"
"I mean altogether,"
said the poor girl,
unable to be quite as explicit with her brother,
as she had been with her father,
"Of course I have to think of myself."
"I don't see how the Melmottes are to help you.
The long and the short of it is,
you oughtn't to be here.
It's not often I interfere,
but when I heard it I thought I'd come and tell you.
I shall write to the governor,
and tell him too.
He should have known better."
"Don't write to papa,
I am not going to see everything going to the devil without saying a word.
As soon as he had left he hurried down to some club that was open,
--not the Beargarden,
as it was long before the Beargarden hours,
--and actually did write a letter to his father.
MY DEAR FATHER,
I have seen Georgiana at Mr. Melmotte's house.
She ought not to be there.
I suppose you don't know it,
but everybody says he's a swindler.
For the sake of the family I hope you will get her home again.
It seems to me that Bruton Street is the proper place for the girls at this time of the year.
Your affectionate son,
This letter fell upon old Mr. Longestaffe at Caversham like a thunderbolt.
It was marvellous to him that his son should have been instigated to write a letter.
The Melmottes must be very bad indeed,
--worse than he had thought,
--or their iniquities would not have brought about such energy as this.
But the passage which angered him most was that which told him that he ought to have taken his family back to town.
This had come from his son,
who had refused to do anything to help him in his difficulties.
Paul Montague at this time lived in comfortable lodgings in Sackville Street,
and ostensibly the world was going well with him.
But he had many troubles.
His troubles in reference to Fisker,
--and also their consolation,
--are already known to the reader.
He was troubled too about his love,
though when he allowed his mind to expatiate on the success of the great railway he would venture to hope that on that side his life might perhaps be blessed.
Henrietta had at any rate as yet showed no disposition to accept her cousin's offer.
He was troubled too about the gambling,
which he disliked,
knowing that in that direction there might be speedy ruin,
and yet returning to it from day to day in spite of his own conscience.
But there was yet another trouble which culminated just at this time.
not long after that Sunday night which had been so wretchedly spent at the Beargarden,
he got into a cab in Piccadilly and had himself taken to a certain address in Islington.
Here he knocked at a decent,
--at such a house as men live in with two or three hundred a year,
--and asked for Mrs. Hurtle.
--Mrs. Hurtle lodged there,
and he was shown into the drawing-room.
There he stood by the round table for a quarter of an hour turning over the lodging-house books which lay there,
and then Mrs. Hurtle entered the room.
Mrs. Hurtle was a widow whom he had once promised to marry.
with a quick,
but with a voice which could be very pleasant when she pleased,
--taking him by the hand as she spoke,
say that that letter of yours must go for nothing.
Say that it shall be so,
and I will forgive everything."
"I cannot say that,"
laying his hand in hers.
"You cannot say it!
What do you mean?
Will you dare to tell me that your promises to me are to go for nothing?"
"Things are changed,"
said Paul hoarsely.
He had come thither at her bidding because he had felt that to remain away would be cowardly,
but the meeting was inexpressibly painful to him.
He did think that he had sufficient excuse for breaking his troth to this woman,
but the justification of his conduct was founded on reasons which he hardly knew how to plead to her.
He had heard that of her past life which,
had he heard it before,
would have saved him from his present difficulty.
But he had loved her,
--did love her in a certain fashion;
and her offences,
such as they were,
did not debar her from his sympathies.
"How are they changed?
I am two years older,
if you mean that."
As she said this she looked round at the glass,
as though to see whether she was become so haggard with age as to be unfit to become this man's wife.
She was very lovely,
with a kind of beauty which we seldom see now.
In these days men regard the form and outward lines of a woman's face and figure more than either the colour or the expression,
and women fit themselves to men's eyes.
With padding and false hair without limit a figure may be constructed of almost any dimensions.
The sculptors who construct them,
male and female,
hairdressers and milliners,
are very skilful,
and figures are constructed of noble dimensions,
sometimes with voluptuous expansion,
sometimes with classic reticence,
sometimes with dishevelled negligence which becomes very dishevelled indeed when long out of the sculptors' hands.
Colours indeed are added,
but not the colours which we used to love.
The taste for flesh and blood has for the day given place to an appetite for horsehair and pearl powder.
But Mrs. Hurtle was not a beauty after the present fashion.
She was very dark,
--a dark brunette,
--with large round blue eyes,
that could indeed be soft,
but could also be very severe.
Her silken hair,
hung in a thousand curls all round her head and neck.
Her cheeks and lips and neck were full,
and the blood would come and go,
giving a varying expression to her face with almost every word she spoke.
Her nose also was full,
and had something of the pug.
But nevertheless it was a nose which any man who loved her would swear to be perfect.
Her mouth was large,
and she rarely showed her teeth.
Her chin was full,
marked by a large dimple,
and as it ran down to her neck was beginning to form a second.
Her bust was full and beautifully shaped;
but she invariably dressed as though she were oblivious,
or at any rate neglectful,
of her own charms.
as Montague had seen her,
was always black,
--not a sad weeping widow's garment,
but silk or woollen or cotton as the case might be,
and most especially always simple.
She was certainly a most beautiful woman,
and she knew it.
She looked as though she knew it,
--but only after that fashion in which a woman ought to know it.
Of her age she had never spoken to Montague.
She was in truth over thirty,
--perhaps almost as near thirty-five as thirty.
But she was one of those whom years hardly seem to touch.
"You are beautiful as ever you were,"
Do not tell me of that.
I care nothing for my beauty unless it can bind me to your love.
Sit down there and tell me what it means."
Then she let go his hand,
and seated herself opposite to the chair which she gave him.
"I told you in my letter."
"You told me nothing in your letter,
--except that it was to be --off.
Why is it to be --off?
Do you not love me?"
Then she threw herself upon her knees,
and leaned upon his,
and looked up in his face.
"I have come again across the Atlantic on purpose to see you,
--after so many months,
--and will you not give me one kiss?
Even though you should leave me for ever,
give me one kiss."
Of course he kissed her,
but with a long,
How could it have been otherwise?
With all his heart he wished that she would have remained away,
but while she knelt there at his feet what could he do but embrace her?
"Now tell me everything,"
seating herself on a footstool at his feet.
"I have come across the Atlantic to see you."]
She certainly did not look like a woman whom a man might ill treat or scorn with impunity.
even while she was lavishing her caresses upon him,
that she might too probably turn and rend him before he left her.
He had known something of her temper before,
though he had also known the truth and warmth of her love.
He had travelled with her from San Francisco to England,
and she had been very good to him in illness,
in distress of mind and in poverty,
--for he had been almost penniless in New York.
When they landed at Liverpool they were engaged as man and wife.
He had told her all his affairs,
had given her the whole history of his life.
This was before his second journey to America,
when Hamilton K. Fisker was unknown to him.
But she had told him little or nothing of her own life,
--but that she was a widow,
and that she was travelling to Paris on business.
When he left her at the London railway station,
from which she started for Dover,
he was full of all a lover's ardour.
He had offered to go with her,
but that she had declined.
But when he remembered that he must certainly tell his friend Roger of his engagement,
and remembered also how little he knew of the lady to whom he was engaged,
he became embarrassed.
What were her means he did not know.
He did know that she was some years older than himself,
and that she had spoken hardly a word to him of her own family.
She had indeed said that her husband had been one of the greatest miscreants ever created,
and had spoken of her release from him as the one blessing she had known before she had met Paul Montague.
But it was only when he thought of all this after she had left him,
--only when he reflected how bald was the story which he must tell Roger Carbury,
--that he became dismayed.
Such had been the woman's cleverness,
such her charm,
so great her power of adaptation,
that he had passed weeks in her daily company,
with still progressing intimacy and affection,
without feeling that anything had been missing.
He had told his friend,
and his friend had declared to him that it was impossible that he should marry a woman whom he had met in a railway train without knowing something about her.
Roger did all he could to persuade the lover to forget his love,
--and partially succeeded.
It is so pleasant and so natural that a young man should enjoy the company of a clever,
beautiful woman on a long journey,
--so natural that during the journey he should allow himself to think that she may during her whole life be all in all to him as she is at that moment;
--and so natural again that he should see his mistake when he has parted from her!
though he was half false to his widow,
was half true to her.
He had pledged his word,
and that he said ought to bind him.
Then he returned to California,
and learned through the instrumentality of Hamilton K. Fisker,
that in San Francisco Mrs. Hurtle was regarded as a mystery.
Some people did not quite believe that there ever had been a Mr. Hurtle.
Others said that there certainly had been a Mr. Hurtle,
and that to the best of their belief he still existed.
best known of her was,
that she had shot a man through the head somewhere in Oregon.
She had not been tried for it,
as the world of Oregon had considered that the circumstances justified the deed.
Everybody knew that she was very clever and very beautiful,
--but everybody also thought that she was very dangerous.
"She always had money when she was here,"
Hamilton Fisker said,
"but no one knew where it came from."
Then he wanted to know why Paul inquired.
"I don't think,
that I should like to go in for a life partnership,
if you mean that,"
said Hamilton K. Fisker.
Montague had seen her in New York as he passed through on his second journey to San Francisco,
and had then renewed his promises in spite of his cousin's caution.
He told her that he was going to see what he could make of his broken fortunes,
--for at this time,
as the reader will remember,
there was no great railway in existence,
--and she had promised to follow him.
Since that they had never met till this day.
She had not made the promised journey to San Francisco,
at any rate before he had left it.
Letters from her had reached him in England,
and these he had answered by explaining to her,
or endeavouring to explain,
that their engagement must be at an end.
And now she had followed him to London!
"Tell me everything,"
leaning upon him and looking up into his face.
--when did you arrive here?"
at this house,
I arrived the night before last.
On Tuesday I reached Liverpool.
There I found that you were probably in London,
and so I came on.
I have come only to see you.
I can understand that you should have been estranged from me.
That journey home is now so long ago!
Our meeting in New York was so short and wretched.
I would not tell you because you then were poor yourself,
but at that moment I was penniless.
I have got my own now out from the very teeth of robbers."
As she said this,
she looked as though she could be very persistent in claiming her own,
--or what she might think to be her own.
"I could not get across to San Francisco as I said I would,
and when I was there you had quarrelled with your uncle and returned.
And now I am here.
I at any rate have been faithful."
As she said this his arm was again thrown over her,
so as to press her head to his knee.
"tell me about yourself?"
His position was embarrassing and very odious to himself.
Had he done his duty properly,
he would gently have pushed her from him,
have sprung to his legs,
and have declared that,
however faulty might have been his previous conduct,
he now found himself bound to make her understand that he did not intend to become her husband.
But he was either too much of a man or too little of a man for conduct such as that.
He did make the avowal to himself,
even at that moment as she sat there.
Let the matter go as it would,
she should never be his wife.
He would marry no one unless it was Hetta Carbury.
But he did not at all know how to get this said with proper emphasis,
and yet with properly apologetic courtesy.
"I am engaged here about this railway,"
"You have heard,
of our projected scheme?"
"Heard of it!
San Francisco is full of it.
Hamilton Fisker is the great man of the day there,
when I left,
your uncle was buying a villa for seventy-four thousand dollars.
And yet they say that the best of it all has been transferred to you Londoners.
Many there are very hard upon Fisker for coming here and doing as he did."
"It's doing very well,
with some feeling of shame,
as he thought how very little he knew about it.
"You are the manager here in England?"
--I am a member of the firm that manages it at San Francisco;
but the real manager here is our chairman,
--I have heard of him.
He is a great man;
is he not?
There was a talk of inviting him to California.
You know him of course?"
--I know him.
I see him once a week."
"I would sooner see that man than your Queen,
or any of your dukes or lords.
They tell me that he holds the world of commerce in his right hand.
"if it all came honestly."
"Such a man rises above honesty,"
said Mrs. Hurtle,
"as a great general rises above humanity when he sacrifices an army to conquer a nation.
Such greatness is incompatible with small scruples.
A pigmy man is stopped by a little ditch,
but a giant stalks over the rivers."
"I prefer to be stopped by the ditches,"
you were not born for commerce.
And I will grant you this,
that commerce is not noble unless it rises to great heights.
To live in plenty by sticking to your counter from nine in the morning to nine at night,
is not a fine life.
But this man with a scratch of his pen can send out or call in millions of dollars.
Do they say here that he is not honest?"
"As he is my partner in this affair perhaps I had better say nothing against him."
"Of course such a man will be abused.
People have said that Napoleon was a coward,
and Washington a traitor.
You must take me where I shall see Melmotte.
He is a man whose hand I would kiss;
but I would not condescend to speak even a word of reverence to any of your Emperors."
"I fear you will find that your idol has feet of clay."
--you mean that he is bold in breaking those precepts of yours about coveting worldly wealth.
All men and women break that commandment,
but they do so in a stealthy fashion,
half drawing back the grasping hand,
praying to be delivered from temptation while they filch only a little,
pretending to despise the only thing that is dear to them in the world.
Here is a man who boldly says that he recognises no such law;
that wealth is power,
and that power is good,
and that the more a man has of wealth the greater and the stronger and the nobler he can be.
I love a man who can turn the hobgoblins inside out and burn the wooden bogies that he meets."
Montague had formed his own opinions about Melmotte.
Though connected with the man,
he believed their Grand Director to be as vile a scoundrel as ever lived.
Mrs. Hurtle's enthusiasm was very pretty,
and there was something of feminine eloquence in her words.
But it was shocking to see them lavished on such a subject.
I do not like him,"
"I had thought to find that you and he were hand and glove."
"But you are prospering in this business?"
--I suppose we are prospering.
It is one of those hazardous things in which a man can never tell whether he be really prosperous till he is out of it.
I fell into it altogether against my will.
I had no alternative."
"It seems to me to have been a golden chance."
"As far as immediate results go it has been golden."
"That at any rate is well,
--now that we have got back into our old way of talking,
tell me what all this means.
I have talked to no one after this fashion since we parted.
Why should our engagement be over?
You used to love me,
did you not?"
He would willingly have left her question unanswered,
but she waited for an answer.
"You know I did,"
"I thought so.
This I know,
that you were sure and are sure of my love to you.
Is it not so?
speak openly like a man.
Do you doubt me?"
He did not doubt her,
and was forced to say so.
with what bated,
half-mouthed words you speak,
--fit for a girl from a nursery!
Out with it if you have anything to say against me!
You owe me so much at any rate.
I have never ill-treated you.
I have never lied to you.
I have taken nothing from you,
--if I have not taken your heart.
I have given you all that I have to give."
Then she leaped to her feet and stood a little apart from him.
"If you hate me,
calling her by her name.
now for the first time,
though I have called you Paul from the moment you entered the room.
Is there another woman that you love?"
At this moment Paul Montague proved that at any rate he was no coward.
Knowing the nature of the woman,
how impetuous she could be,
and how full of wrath,
he had come at her call intending to tell her the truth which he now spoke.
"There is another,"
She stood silent,
looking into his face,
thinking how she would commence her attack upon him.
She fixed her eyes upon him,
standing quite upright,
squeezing her own right hand with the fingers of the left.
in a whisper;
--"that is the reason why I am told that I am to be --off."
"That was not the reason."
--can there be more reason than that,
--better reason than that?
it be that as you have learned to love another so also you have learned to --hate me."
"Listen to me,
no Winifrid now!
How did you dare to kiss me,
knowing that it was on your tongue to tell me I was to be cast aside?
And so you love --some other woman!
I am too old to please you,
--too little like the dolls of your own country!
What were your --other reasons?
Let me hear your --other reasons,
that I may tell you that they are lies."
The reasons were very difficult to tell,
though when put forward by Roger Carbury they had been easily pleaded.
Paul knew but little about Winifrid Hurtle,
and nothing at all about the late Mr. Hurtle.
His reasons curtly put forward might have been so stated.
"We know too little of each other,"
"What more do you want to know?
You can know all for the asking.
Did I ever refuse to answer you?
As to my knowledge of you and your affairs,
if I think it sufficient,
need you complain?
What is it that you want to know?
Ask anything and I will tell you.
Is it about my money?
You knew when you gave me your word that I had next to none.
Now I have ample means of my own.
You knew that I was a widow.
If you wish to hear of the wretch that was my husband,
I will deluge you with stories.
I should have thought that a man who loved would not have cared to hear much of one --who perhaps was loved once."
He knew that his position was perfectly indefensible.
It would have been better for him not to have alluded to any reasons,
but to have remained firm to his assertion that he loved another woman.
He must have acknowledged himself to be false,
and very base.
A fault that may be venial to those who do not suffer,
deserving of an eternity of tortures,
in the eyes of the sufferer.
He must have submitted to be told that he was a fiend,
and might have had to endure whatever of punishment a lady in her wrath could inflict upon him.
But he would have been called upon for no further mental effort.
His position would have been plain.
But now he was all at sea.
"I wish to hear nothing,"
"Then why tell me that we know so little of each other?
is a poor excuse to make to a woman,
--after you have been false to her.
Why did you not say that when we were in New York together?
Think of it,
Is not that mean?"
"I do not think that I am mean."
--a man will lie to a woman,
and justify it always.
Who is --this lady?"
He knew that he could not at any rate be warranted in mentioning Hetta Carbury's name.
He had never even asked her for her love,
and certainly had received no assurance that he was loved.
"I can not name her."
who have come hither from California to see you,
am to return satisfied because you tell me that you have --changed your affections?
That is to be all,
and you think that fair?
That suits your own mind,
and leaves no sore spot in your heart?
You can do that,
and shake hands with me,
and go away,
--without a pang,
without a scruple?"
"I did not say so."
"And you are the man who cannot bear to hear me praise Augustus Melmotte because you think him dishonest!
Are you a liar?"
"I hope not."
"Did you say you would be my husband?
"I did say so."
"Do you now refuse to keep your promise?
You shall answer me."
"I cannot marry you."
are you not a liar?"
It would have taken him long to explain to her,
even had he been able,
that a man may break a promise and yet not tell a lie.
He had made up his mind to break his engagement before he had seen Hetta Carbury,
and therefore he could not accuse himself of falseness on her account.
He had been brought to his resolution by the rumours he had heard of her past life,
and as to his uncertainty about her husband.
If Mr. Hurtle were alive,
certainly then he would not be a liar because he did not marry Mrs. Hurtle.
He did not think himself to be a liar,
but he was not at once ready with his defence.
changing at once into softness,
--"I am pleading to you for my life.
that I could make you feel that I am pleading for my life.
Have you given a promise to this lady also?"
"I have given no promise."
"But she loves you?"
"She has never said so."
"You have told her of your love?"
"There is nothing,
And you would put her against me,
--some woman who has nothing to suffer,
no cause of complaint,
for aught you know,
cares nothing for you.
Is that so?"
"I suppose it is,"
"Then you may still be mine.
come back to me.
Will any woman love you as I do;
--live for you as I do?
Think what I have done in coming here,
where I have no friend,
--not a single friend,
--unless you are a friend.
Listen to me.
I have told the woman here that I am engaged to marry you."
"You have told the woman of the house?"
"Certainly I have.
Was I not justified?
Were you not engaged to me?
Am I to have you to visit me here,
and to risk her insults,
perhaps to be told to take myself off and to find accommodation elsewhere,
because I am too mealy-mouthed to tell the truth as to the cause of my being here?
I am here because you have promised to make me your wife,
as far as I am concerned,
I am not ashamed to have the fact advertised in every newspaper in the town.
I told her that I was the promised wife of one Paul Montague,
who was joined with Mr. Melmotte in managing the new great American railway,
and that Mr. Paul Montague would be with me this morning.
She was too far-seeing to doubt me,
but had she doubted,
I could have shown her your letters.
Now go and tell her that what I have said is false,
--if you dare."
The woman was not there,
and it did not seem to be his immediate duty to leave the room in order that he might denounce a lady whom he certainly had ill-used.
The position was one which required thought.
After a while he took up his hat to go.
"Do you mean to tell her that my statement is untrue?"
--" he said;
"And you will come back to me?"
--I will come back."
"I have no friend here,
Remember all your promises.
Remember all our love,
--and be good to me."
Then she let him go without another word.
Mrs. HURTLE GOES TO THE PLAY.
On the day after the visit just recorded,
Paul Montague received the following letter from Mrs. Hurtle: --
MY DEAR PAUL,
I think that perhaps we hardly made ourselves understood to each other yesterday,
and I am sure that you do not understand how absolutely my whole life is now at stake.
I need only refer you to our journey from San Francisco to London to make you conscious that I really love you.
To a woman such love is all important.
She cannot throw it from her as a man may do amidst the affairs of the world.
if it has to be thrown from her,
can she bear the loss as a man bears it.
Her thoughts have dwelt on it with more constancy than his;
--and then too her devotion has separated her from other things.
My devotion to you has separated me from everything.
But I scorn to come to you as a suppliant.
If you choose to say after hearing me that you will put me away from you because you have seen some one fairer than I am,
whatever course I may take in my indignation,
I shall not throw myself at your feet to tell you of my wrongs.
that you should hear me.
You say that there is some one you love better than you love me,
but that you have not committed yourself to her.
I know too much of the world to be surprised that a man's constancy should not stand out two years in the absence of his mistress.
A man cannot wrap himself up and keep himself warm with an absent love as a woman does.
But I think that some remembrance of the past must come back upon you now that you have seen me again.
I think that you must have owned to yourself that you did love me,
and that you could love me again.
You sin against me to my utter destruction if you leave me.
I have given up every friend I have to follow you.
As regards the other --nameless lady,
there can be no fault;
as you tell me,
she knows nothing of your passion.
You hinted that there were other reasons,
--that we know too little of each other.
You meant no doubt that you knew too little of me.
Is it not the case that you were content when you knew only what was to be learned in those days of our sweet intimacy,
but that you have been made discontented by stories told you by your partners at San Francisco?
If this be so,
trouble yourself at any rate to find out the truth before you allow yourself to treat a woman as you propose to treat me.
I think you are too good a man to cast aside a woman you have loved,
--like a soiled glove,
--because ill-natured words have been spoken of her by men,
or perhaps by women,
who know nothing of her life.
My late husband,
was Attorney-General in the State of Kansas when I married him,
I being then in possession of a considerable fortune left to me by my mother.
There his life was infamously bad.
He spent what money he could get of mine,
and then left me and the State,
and took himself to Texas;
--where he drank himself to death.
I did not follow him,
and in his absence I was divorced from him in accordance with the laws of Kansas State.
I then went to San Francisco about property of my mother's,
which my husband had fraudulently sold to a countryman of ours now resident in Paris,
--having forged my name.
There I met you,
and in that short story I tell you all that there is to be told.
It may be that you do not believe me now;
but if so,
are you not bound to go where you can verify your own doubts or my word?
I try to write dispassionately,
but I am in truth overborne by passion.
I also have heard in California rumours about myself,
and after much delay I received your letter.
I resolved to follow you to England as soon as circumstances would permit me.
I have been forced to fight a battle about my property,
and I have won it.
I had two reasons for carrying this through by my personal efforts before I saw you.
I had begun it and had determined that I would not be beaten by fraud.
And I was also determined that I would not plead to you as a pauper.
We have talked too freely together in past days of our mutual money matters for me to feel any delicacy in alluding to them.
When a man and woman have agreed to be husband and wife there should be no delicacy of that kind.
When we came here together we were both embarrassed.
We both had some property,
but neither of us could enjoy it.
Since that I have made my way through my difficulties.
From what I have heard at San Francisco I suppose that you have done the same.
I at any rate shall be perfectly contented if from this time our affairs can be made one.
And now about myself,
I have come here all alone.
Since I last saw you in New York I have not had altogether a good time.
I have had a great struggle and have been thrown on my own resources and have been all alone.
Very cruel things have been said of me.
You heard cruel things said,
but I presume them to have been said to you with reference to my late husband.
Since that they have been said to others with reference to you.
I have not now come,
as my countrymen do generally,
backed with a trunk full of introductions and with scores of friends ready to receive me.
It was necessary to me that I should see you and hear my fate,
--and here I am.
I appeal to you to release me in some degree from the misery of my solitude.
--no one so well,
--that my nature is social and that I am not given to be melancholy.
Let us be cheerful together,
as we once were,
if it be only for a day.
Let me see you as I used to see you,
and let me be seen as I used to be seen.
Come to me and take me out with you,
and let us dine together,
and take me to one of your theatres.
If you wish it I will promise you not to allude to that revelation you made to me just now,
though of course it is nearer to my heart than any other matter.
Perhaps some woman's vanity makes me think that if you would only see me again,
and talk to me as you used to talk,
you would think of me as you used to think.
You need not fear but you will find me at home.
I have no whither to go,
--and shall hardly stir from the house till you come to me.
Send me a line,
that I may have my hat on if you are minded to do as I ask you.
Yours with all my heart,
This letter took her much time to write,
though she was very careful so to write as to make it seem that it had flown easily from her pen.
She copied it from the first draught,
but she copied it rapidly,
with one or two premeditated erasures,
so that it should look to have been done hurriedly.
There had been much art in it.
She had at any rate suppressed any show of anger.
In calling him to her she had so written as to make him feel that if he would come he need not fear the claws of an offended lioness: --and yet she was angry as a lioness who had lost her cub.
She had almost ignored that other lady whose name she had not yet heard.
She had spoken of her lover's entanglement with that other lady as a light thing which might easily be put aside.
She had said much of her own wrongs,
but had not said much of the wickedness of the wrong doer.
Invited as she had invited him,
surely he could not but come to her!
in her reference to money,
not descending to the details of dollars and cents,
she had studied how to make him feel that he might marry her without imprudence.
As she read it over to herself she thought that there was a tone through it of natural feminine uncautious eagerness.
She put her letter up in an envelope,
stuck a stamp on it and addressed it,
--and then threw herself back in her chair to think of her position.
He should marry her,
--or there should be something done which should make the name of Winifrid Hurtle known to the world!
She had no plan of revenge yet formed.
She would not talk of revenge,
--she told herself that she would not even think of revenge,
--till she was quite sure that revenge would be necessary.
But she did think of it,
and could not keep her thoughts from it for a moment.
Could it be possible that she,
with all her intellectual gifts as well as those of her outward person,
should be thrown over by a man whom well as she loved him,
--and she did love him with all her heart,
--she regarded as greatly inferior to herself!
He had promised to marry her;
and he should marry her,
or the world should hear the story of his perjury!
Paul Montague felt that he was surrounded by difficulties as soon as he read the letter.
That his heart was all the other way he was quite sure;
but yet it did seem to him that there was no escape from his troubles open to him.
There was not a single word in this woman's letter that he could contradict.
He had loved her and had promised to make her his wife,
--and had determined to break his word to her because he found that she was enveloped in dangerous mystery.
He had so resolved before he had ever seen Hetta Carbury,
having been made to believe by Roger Carbury that a marriage with an unknown American woman,
--of whom he only did know that she was handsome and clever,
--would be a step to ruin.
as Roger said,
was an adventuress,
--might never have had a husband,
--might at this moment have two or three,
--might be overwhelmed with debt,
--might be anything bad,
All that he had heard at San Francisco had substantiated Roger's views.
"Any scrape is better than that scrape,"
Roger had said to him.
Paul had believed his Mentor,
and had believed with a double faith as soon as he had seen Hetta Carbury.
But what should he do now?
It was impossible,
after what had passed between them,
that he should leave Mrs. Hurtle at her lodgings at Islington without any notice.
It was clear enough to him that she would not consent to be so left.
Then her present proposal,
--though it seemed to be absurd and almost comical in the tragical condition of their present circumstances,
--had in it some immediate comfort.
To take her out and give her a dinner,
and then go with her to some theatre,
would be easy and perhaps pleasant.
It would be easier,
and certainly much pleasanter,
because she had pledged herself to abstain from talking of her grievances.
Then he remembered some happy evenings,
which he had so passed with her,
when they were first together at New York.
There could be no better companion for such a festival.
She could talk,
--and she could listen as well as talk.
And she could sit silent,
conveying to her neighbour the sense of her feminine charms by her simple proximity.
He had been very happy when so placed.
Had it been possible he would have escaped the danger now,
but the reminiscence of past delights in some sort reconciled him to the performance of this perilous duty.
But when the evening should be over,
how would he part with her?
When the pleasant hour should have passed away and he had brought her back to her door,
what should he say to her then?
He must make some arrangement as to a future meeting.
He knew that he was in a great peril,
and he did not know how he might best escape it.
He could not now go to Roger Carbury for advice;
for was not Roger Carbury his rival?
It would be for his friend's interest that he should marry the widow.
as he knew well,
was too honest a man to allow himself to be guided in any advice he might give by such a feeling,
on this matter,
he could no longer tell everything to Roger Carbury.
He could not say all that he would have to say without speaking of Hetta;
--and of his love for Hetta he could not speak to his rival.
He had no other friend in whom he could confide.
There was no other human being he could trust,
unless it was Hetta herself.
He thought for a moment that he would write a stern and true letter to the woman,
telling her that as it was impossible that there should ever be marriage between them,
he felt himself bound to abstain from her society.
But then he remembered her solitude,
her picture of herself in London without even an acquaintance except himself,
and he convinced himself that it would be impossible that he should leave her without seeing her.
So he wrote to her thus;
I will come for you to-morrow at half-past five.
We will dine together at the Thespian;
--and then I will have a box at the Haymarket.
The Thespian is a good sort of place,
and lots of ladies dine there.
You can dine in your bonnet.
P. M. Some half-formed idea ran through his brain that P. M.
was a safer signature than Paul Montague.
Then came a long train of thoughts as to the perils of the whole proceeding.
She had told him that she had announced herself to the keeper of the lodging-house as engaged to him,
and he had in a manner authorised the statement by declining to contradict it at once.
after that announcement,
he was assenting to her proposal that they should go out and amuse themselves together.
Hitherto she had always seemed to him to be open,
and free from intrigue.
He had known her to be impulsive,
at times violent,
but never deceitful.
Perhaps he was unable to read correctly the inner character of a woman whose experience of the world had been much wider than his own.
His mind misgave him that it might be so;
but still he thought that he knew that she was not treacherous.
And yet did not her present acts justify him in thinking that she was carrying on a plot against him?
and he prepared for the evening of the play,
leaving the dangers of the occasion to adjust themselves.
He ordered the dinner and he took the box,
and at the hour fixed he was again at her lodgings.
The woman of the house with a smile showed him into Mrs. Hurtle's sitting-room,
and he at once perceived that the smile was intended to welcome him as an accepted lover.
It was a smile half of congratulation to the lover,
half of congratulation to herself as a woman that another man had been caught by the leg and made fast.
Who does not know the smile?
who has been caught and made sure,
has not felt a certain dissatisfaction at being so treated,
understanding that the smile is intended to convey to him a sense of his own captivity?
generally mattered but little to us.
If we have felt that something of ridicule was intended,
because we have been regarded as cocks with their spurs cut away,
then we also have a pride when we have declared to ourselves that upon the whole we have gained more than we have lost.
But with Paul Montague at the present moment there was no satisfaction,
--only a feeling of danger which every hour became deeper,
with less chance of escape.
He was almost tempted at this moment to detain the woman,
and tell her the truth,
--and bear the immediate consequences.
But there would be treason in doing so,
and he would not,
could not do it.
He was left hardly a moment to think of this.
Almost before the woman had shut the door,
Mrs. Hurtle came to him out of her bedroom,
with her hat on her head.
Nothing could be more simple than her dress,
and nothing prettier.
It was now June,
and the weather was warm,
and the lady wore a light gauzy black dress,
--there is a fabric which the milliners I think call grenadine,
--coming close up round her throat.
It was very pretty,
and she was prettier even than her dress.
And she had on a hat,
small and simple,
but very pretty.
There are times at which a man going to a theatre with a lady wishes her to be bright in her apparel,
in which he will hardly be contented unless her cloak be scarlet,
and her dress white,
and her gloves of some bright hue,
--unless she wear roses or jewels in her hair.
It is thus our girls go to the theatre now,
when they go intending that all the world shall know who they are.
But there are times again in which a man would prefer that his companion should be very quiet in her dress,
--but still pretty;
in which he would choose that she should dress herself for him only.
All this Mrs. Hurtle had understood accurately;
and Paul Montague,
who understood nothing of it,
"You told me to have a hat,
and here I am,
--hat and all."
She gave him her hand,
and looked pleasantly at him,
as though there was no cause of unhappiness between them.
The lodging-house woman saw them enter the cab,
and muttered some little word as they went off.
Paul did not hear the word,
but was sure that it bore some indistinct reference to his expected marriage.
Neither during the drive,
nor at the dinner,
nor during the performance at the theatre,
did she say a word in allusion to her engagement.
It was with them,
as in former days it had been at New York.
She whispered pleasant words to him,
touching his arm now and again with her finger as she spoke,
seeming ever better inclined to listen than to speak.
Now and again she referred,
after some slightest fashion,
to little circumstances that had occurred between them,
to some joke,
some hour of tedium,
some moment of delight;
but it was done as one man might do it to another,
--if any man could have done it so pleasantly.
There was a scent which he had once approved,
and now she bore it on her handkerchief.
There was a ring which he had once given her,
and she wore it on the finger with which she touched his sleeve.
With his own hands he had once adjusted her curls,
and each curl was as he had placed it.
She had a way of shaking her head,
that was very pretty,
--a way that might,
one would think,
have been dangerous at her age,
as likely to betray those first grey hairs which will come to disturb the last days of youth.
He had once told her in sport to be more careful.
She now shook her head again,
as he smiled,
she told him that she could still dare to be careless.
There are a thousand little silly softnesses which are pretty and endearing between acknowledged lovers,
with which no woman would like to dispense,
to which even men who are in love submit sometimes with delight;
but which in other circumstances would be vulgar,
--and to the woman distasteful.
There are closenesses and sweet approaches,
smiles and nods and pleasant winkings,
innuendoes and hints,
little mutual admirations and assurances that there are things known to those two happy ones of which the world beyond is altogether ignorant.
Much of this comes of nature,
but something of it sometimes comes by art.
Of such art as there may be in it Mrs. Hurtle was a perfect master.
No allusion was made to their engagement,
--not an unpleasant word was spoken;
but the art was practised with all its pleasant adjuncts.
Paul was flattered to the top of his bent;
though the sword was hanging over his head,
though he knew that the sword must fall,
--must partly fall that very night,
--still he enjoyed it.
There are men who,
of their natures,
do not like women,
even though they may have wives and legions of daughters,
and be surrounded by things feminine in all the affairs of their lives.
Others again have their strongest affinities and sympathies with women,
and are rarely altogether happy when removed from their influence.
Paul Montague was of the latter sort.
At this time he was thoroughly in love with Hetta Carbury,
and was not in love with Mrs. Hurtle.
He would have given much of his golden prospects in the American railway to have had Mrs. Hurtle reconveyed suddenly to San Francisco.
And yet he had a delight in her presence.
"The acting isn't very good,"
he said when the piece was nearly over.
"What does it signify?
What we enjoy or what we suffer depends upon the humour.
The acting is not first-rate,
but I have listened and laughed and cried,
because I have been happy."
He was bound to tell her that he also had enjoyed the evening,
and was bound to say it in no voice of hypocritical constraint.
"It has been very jolly,"
"And one has so little that is really jolly,
as you call it.
I wonder whether any girl ever did sit and cry like that because her lover talked to another woman.
What I find fault with is that the writers and actors are so ignorant of men and women as we see them every day.
It's all right that she should cry,
but she shouldn't cry there."
The position described was so nearly her own,
that he could say nothing to this.
She had so spoken on purpose,
--fighting her own battle after her own fashion,
knowing well that her words would confuse him.
"A woman hides such tears.
She may be found crying because she is unable to hide them;
--but she does not willingly let the other woman see them.
"I suppose not."
"Medea did not weep when she was introduced to Creusa."
"Women are not all Medeas,"
"There's a dash of the savage princess about most of them.
I am quite ready if you like.
I never want to see the curtain fall.
And I have had no nosegay brought in a wheelbarrow to throw on to the stage.
Are you going to see me home?"
"You need not.
I'm not a bit afraid of a London cab by myself."
But of course he accompanied her to Islington.
He owed her at any rate as much as that.
She continued to talk during the whole journey.
What a wonderful place London was,
but so dirty!
New York of course was not so big,
But Paris was the gem of gems among towns.
She did not like Frenchmen,
and she liked Englishmen even better than Americans;
but she fancied that she could never like English women.
"I do so hate all kinds of buckram.
I like good conduct,
and religion too if it be not forced down one's throat;
but I hate what your women call propriety.
I suppose what we have been doing to-night is very improper;
but I am quite sure that it has not been in the least wicked."
"I don't think it has,"
said Paul Montague very tamely.
It is a long way from the Haymarket to Islington,
but at last the cab reached the lodging-house door.
this is it,"
"Even about the houses there is an air of stiff-necked propriety which frightens me."
She was getting out as she spoke,
and he had already knocked at the door.
"Come in for one moment,"
she said as he paid the cabman.
The woman the while was standing with the door in her hand.
It was near midnight,
when people are engaged,
hours do not matter.
The woman of the house,
who was respectability herself,
--a nice kind widow,
with five children,
--understood that and smiled again as he followed the lady into the sitting-room.
She had already taken off her hat and was flinging it on to the sofa as he entered.
"Shut the door for one moment,"
and he shut it.
Then she threw herself into his arms,
not kissing him but looking up into his face.
I will not bear to be separated from you.
I swear it,
and you may believe me.
There is nothing I cannot do for love of you,
--but to lose you."
Then she pushed him from her and looked away from him,
clasping her hands together.
I mean to keep my pledge to you to-night.
It was to be an island in our troubles,
a little holiday in our hard school-time,
and I will not destroy it at its close.
You will see me again soon,
--will you not?"
He nodded assent,
then took her in his arms and kissed her,
and left her without a word.
DOLLY LONGESTAFFE GOES INTO THE CITY.
It has been told how the gambling at the Beargarden went on one Sunday night.
On the following Monday Sir Felix did not go to the club.
He had watched Miles Grendall at play,
and was sure that on more than one or two occasions the man had cheated.
Sir Felix did not quite know what in such circumstances it would be best for him to do.
Reprobate as he was himself,
this work of villainy was new to him and seemed to be very terrible.
What steps ought he to take?
He was quite sure of his facts,
and yet he feared that Nidderdale and Grasslough and Longestaffe would not believe him.
He would have told Montague,
but Montague had,
hardly enough authority at the club to be of any use to him.
On the Tuesday again he did not go to the club.
He felt severely the loss of the excitement to which he had been accustomed,
but the thing was too important to him to be slurred over.
He did not dare to sit down and play with the man who had cheated him without saying anything about it.
On the Wednesday afternoon life was becoming unbearable to him and he sauntered into the building at about five in the afternoon.
as a matter of course,
he found Dolly Longestaffe drinking sherry and bitters.
"Where the blessed angels have you been?"
Dolly was at that moment alert with the sense of a duty performed.
He had just called on his sister and written a sharp letter to his father,
and felt himself to be almost a man of business.
"I've had fish of my own to fry,"
who had passed the last two days in unendurable idleness.
Then he referred again to the money which Dolly owed him,
not making any complaint,
not indeed asking for immediate payment,
but explaining with an air of importance that if a commercial arrangement could be made,
at this moment,
be very serviceable to him.
"I'm particularly anxious to take up those shares,"
"Of course you ought to have your money."
"I don't say that at all,
I know very well that you're all right.
You're not like that fellow,
Poor Miles has got nothing to bless himself with.
I suppose I could get it,
and so I ought to pay."
"That's no excuse for Grendall,"
said Sir Felix,
shaking his head.
"A chap can't pay if he hasn't got it,
A chap ought to pay of course.
I've had a letter from our lawyer within the last half hour --here it is."
And Dolly pulled a letter out of his pocket which he had opened and read indeed within the last hour,
but which had been duly delivered at his lodgings early in the morning.
"My governor wants to sell Pickering,
and Melmotte wants to buy the place.
My governor can't sell without me,
and I've asked for half the plunder.
I know what's what.
My interest in the property is greater than his.
It isn't much of a place,
and they are talking of £50,000,
over and above the debt upon it.
£25,000 would pay off what I owe on my own property,
and make me very square.
From what this fellow says I suppose they're going to give in to my terms."
that'll be a grand thing for you,
Of course I want it.
But I don't like the place going.
I'm not much of a fellow,
I'm awfully lazy and can't get myself to go in for things as I ought to do;
but I've a sort of feeling that I don't like the family property going to pieces.
A fellow oughtn't to let his family property go to pieces."
"You never lived at Pickering."
--and I don't know that it is any good.
It gives us 3 per cent.
on the money it's worth,
while the governor is paying 6 per cent.,
and I'm paying 25,
for the money we've borrowed.
I know more about it than you'd think.
It ought to be sold,
and now I suppose it will be sold.
Old Melmotte knows all about it,
and if you like I'll go with you to the city to-morrow and make it straight about what I owe you.
He'll advance me £1,000,
and then you can get the shares.
Are you going to dine here?"
Sir Felix said that he would dine at the club,
with considerable mystery in his manner,
that he could not stay and play whist afterwards.
He acceded willingly to Dolly's plan of visiting Abchurch Lane on the following day,
but had some difficulty in inducing his friend to consent to fix on an hour early enough for city purposes.
Dolly suggested that they should meet at the club at 4 p.m. Sir Felix had named noon,
and promised to call at Dolly's lodgings.
They split the difference at last and agreed to start at two.
They then dined together,
Miles Grendall dining alone at the next table to them.
Dolly and Grendall spoke to each other frequently,
but in that conversation the young baronet would not join.
Nor did Grendall ever address himself to Sir Felix.
"Is there anything up between you and Miles?"
when they had adjourned to the smoking-room.
"I can't bear him."
"There never was any love between you two,
But you used to speak,
and you've played with him all through."
"Played with him!
I should think I have.
Though he did get such a haul last Sunday he owes me more than you do now."
"Is that the reason you haven't played the last two nights?"
Sir Felix paused a moment.
--that is not the reason.
I'll tell you all about it in the cab to-morrow."
Then he left the club,
declaring that he would go up to Grosvenor Square and see Marie Melmotte.
He did go up to the Square,
and when he came to the house he would not go in.
What was the good?
He could do nothing further till he got old Melmotte's consent,
and in no way could he so probably do that as by showing that he had got money wherewith to buy shares in the railway.
What he did with himself during the remainder of the evening the reader need not know,
but on his return home at some comparatively early hour,
he found this note from Marie.
Why don't we see you?
Mamma would say nothing if you came.
Papa is never in the drawing-room.
Miss Longestaffe is here of course,
and people always come in in the evening.
We are just going to dine out at the Duchess of Stevenage's.
and mamma and I.
Mamma told me that Lord Nidderdale is to be there,
but you need not be a bit afraid.
I don't like Lord Nidderdale,
and I will never take any one but the man I love.
You know who that is.
Miss Longestaffe is so angry because she can't go with us.
What do you think of her telling me that she did not understand being left alone?
We are to go afterwards to a musical party at Lady Gamut's.
Miss Longestaffe is going with us,
but she says that she hates music.
She is such a set-up thing!
I wonder why papa has her here.
We don't go anywhere to-morrow evening,
so pray come.
And why haven't you written me something and sent it to Didon?
She won't betray us.
And if she did,
I mean to be true.
If papa were to beat me into a mummy I would stick to you.
He told me once to take Lord Nidderdale,
and then he told me to refuse him.
And now he wants me to take him again.
But I won't.
I'll take no one but my own darling.
Yours for ever and ever,
Now that the young lady had begun to have an interest of her own in life,
she was determined to make the most of it.
All this was delightful to her,
but to Sir Felix it was simply "a bother."
Sir Felix was quite willing to marry the girl to-morrow,
--on condition of course that the money was properly arranged;
but he was not willing to go through much work in the way of love-making with Marie Melmotte.
In such business he preferred Ruby Ruggles as a companion.
On the following day Felix was with his friend at the appointed time,
and was only kept an hour waiting while Dolly ate his breakfast and struggled into his coat and boots.
On their way to the city Felix told his dreadful story about Miles Grendall.
"And you think you saw him do it!"
"It's not thinking at all.
I'm sure I saw him do it three times.
I believe he always had an ace somewhere about him."
Dolly sat quite silent thinking of it.
"What had I better do?"
asked Sir Felix.
--I don't know."
"What should you do?"
"Nothing at all.
I shouldn't believe my own eyes.
Or if I did,
should take care not to look at him."
"You wouldn't go on playing with him?"
"Yes I should.
It'd be such a bore breaking up."
--if you think of it!"
"That's all very fine,
my dear fellow,
but I shouldn't think of it."
"And you won't give me your advice."
I think I'd rather not.
I wish you hadn't told me.
Why did you pick me out to tell me?
Why didn't you tell Nidderdale?"
"He might have said,
why didn't you tell Longestaffe?"
Nobody would suppose that anybody would pick me out for this kind of thing.
If I'd known that you were going to tell me such a story as this I wouldn't have come with you."
I can't bear these kind of things.
I feel all in a twitter already."
"You mean to go on playing just the same?"
"Of course I do.
If he won anything very heavy I should begin to think about it,
this is Abchurch Lane,
Now for the man of money."
The man of money received them much more graciously than Sir Felix had expected.
Of course nothing was said about Marie and no further allusion was made to the painful subject of the baronet's "property."
Both Dolly and Sir Felix were astonished by the quick way in which the great financier understood their views and the readiness with which he undertook to comply with them.
No disagreeable questions were asked as to the nature of the debt between the young men.
Dolly was called upon to sign a couple of documents,
and Sir Felix to sign one,
--and then they were assured that the thing was done.
Mr. Adolphus Longestaffe had paid Sir Felix Carbury a thousand pounds,
and Sir Felix Carbury's commission had been accepted by Mr. Melmotte for the purchase of railway stock to that amount.
Sir Felix attempted to say a word.
He endeavoured to explain that his object in this commercial transaction was to make money immediately by reselling the shares,
--and to go on continually making money by buying at a low price and selling at a high price.
He no doubt did believe that,
being a Director,
if he could once raise the means of beginning this game,
he could go on with it for an unlimited period;
--buy and sell,
buy and sell;
--so that he would have an almost regular income.
as far as he could understand,
was what Paul Montague was allowed to do,
--simply because he had become a Director with a little money.
Mr. Melmotte was cordiality itself,
but he could not be got to go into particulars.
It was all right.
"You will wish to sell again,
I'll watch the market for you."
When the young men left the room all they knew,
or thought that they knew,
that Dolly Longestaffe had authorised Melmotte to pay a thousand pounds on his behalf to Sir Felix,
and that Sir Felix had instructed the same great man to buy shares with the amount.
"But why didn't he give you the scrip?"
said Dolly on his way westwards.
"I suppose it's all right with him,"
said Sir Felix.
--it's all right.
Thousands of pounds to him are only like half-crowns to us fellows.
I should say it's all right.
All the same,
he's the biggest rogue out,
Sir Felix already began to be unhappy about his thousand pounds.
MISS MELMOTTE'S COURAGE.
Lady Carbury continued to ask frequent questions as to the prosecution of her son's suit,
and Sir Felix began to think that he was persecuted.
"I have spoken to her father,"
he said crossly.
"And what did Mr. Melmotte say?"
--what should he say?
He wanted to know what income I had got.
After all he's an old screw."
"Did he forbid you to come there any more?"
it's no use your cross-examining me.
If you'll let me alone I'll do the best I can."
"She has accepted you,
"Of course she has.
I told you that at Carbury."
if I were you I'd run off with her.
I would indeed.
It's done every day,
and nobody thinks any harm of it when you marry the girl.
You could do it now because I know you've got money.
From all I can hear she's just the sort of girl that would go with you."
The son sat silent,
listening to these maternal councils.
He did believe that Marie would go off with him,
were he to propose the scheme to her.
Her own father had almost alluded to such a proceeding,
--had certainly hinted that it was feasible,
--but at the same time had very clearly stated that in such case the ardent lover would have to content himself with the lady alone.
In any such event as that there would be no fortune.
might not that only be a threat?
Rich fathers generally do forgive their daughters,
and a rich father with only one child would surely forgive her when she returned to him,
as she would do in this instance,
graced with a title.
Sir Felix thought of all this as he sat there silent.
His mother read his thoughts as she continued.
there must be some risk."
"Fancy what it would be to be thrown over at last!"
"I couldn't bear it.
I think I should kill her."
you wouldn't do that.
But when I say there would be some risk I mean that there would be very little.
There would be nothing in it that ought to make him really angry.
He has nobody else to give his money to,
and it would be much nicer to have his daughter,
than to be left all alone in the world."
"I couldn't live with him,
I couldn't do it."
"You needn't live with him,
Of course she would visit her parents.
When the money was once settled you need see as little of them as you pleased.
Pray do not allow trifles to interfere with you.
If this should not succeed,
what are you to do?
We shall all starve unless something be done.
If I were you,
I would take her away at once.
They say she is of age."
"I shouldn't know where to take her,"
said Sir Felix,
almost stunned into thoughtfulness by the magnitude of the proposition made to him.
"All that about Scotland is done with now."
"Of course you would marry her at once."
"I suppose so,
--unless it were better to stay as we were,
till the money was settled."
Everybody would be against you.
If you take her off in a spirited sort of way and then marry her,
everybody will be with you.
That's what you want.
The father and mother will be sure to come round,
"The mother is nothing."
"He will come round if people speak up in your favour.
I could get Mr. Alf and Mr. Broune to help.
I'd try it,
indeed I would.
Ten thousand a year is not to be had every year."
Sir Felix gave no assent to his mother's views.
He felt no desire to relieve her anxiety by an assurance of activity in the matter.
But the prospect was so grand that it had excited even him.
He had money sufficient for carrying out the scheme,
and if he delayed the matter now,
it might well be that he would never again find himself so circumstanced.
He thought that he would ask somebody whither he ought to take her,
and what he ought to do with her;
--and that he would then make the proposition to herself.
Miles Grendall would be the man to tell him,
with all his faults,
Miles did understand things.
But he could not ask Miles.
He and Nidderdale were good friends;
but Nidderdale wanted the girl for himself.
Grasslough would be sure to tell Nidderdale.
Dolly would be altogether useless.
He thought that,
Herr Vossner would be the man to help him.
There would be no difficulty out of which Herr Vossner would not extricate "a fellow,"
--if "the fellow" paid him.
On Thursday evening he went to Grosvenor Square,
as desired by Marie,
--but unfortunately found Melmotte in the drawing-room.
Lord Nidderdale was there also,
and his lordship's old father,
the Marquis of Auld Reekie,
when he entered the room,
did not know.
He was a fierce-looking,
gouty old man,
with watery eyes,
and very stiff grey hair,
He was standing up supporting himself on two sticks when Sir Felix entered the room.
There were also present Madame Melmotte,
As Felix had entered the hall one huge footman had said that the ladies were not at home;
then there had been for a moment a whispering behind a door,
--in which he afterwards conceived that Madame Didon had taken a part;
--and upon that a second tall footman had contradicted the first and had ushered him up to the drawing-room.
He felt considerably embarrassed,
but shook hands with the ladies,
bowed to Melmotte,
who seemed to take no notice of him,
and nodded to Lord Nidderdale.
He had not had time to place himself,
when the Marquis arranged things.
"Suppose we go down-stairs,"
said the Marquis.
"I'll show your lordship the way."
The Marquis did not speak to his son,
but poked at him with his stick,
as though poking him out of the door.
So instigated Nidderdale followed the financier,
and the gouty old Marquis toddled after them.
Madame Melmotte was beside herself with trepidation.
"You should not have been made to come up at all,"
"Il faut que vous vous retirez."
"I am very sorry,"
said Sir Felix,
looking quite aghast.
"I think that I had at any rate better retire,"
said Miss Longestaffe,
raising herself to her full height and stalking out of the room.
"Qu'elle est méchante,"
said Madame Melmotte.
she is so bad.
you had better go too.
running to him,
and taking hold of his arm.
"Why should he go?
I want papa to know."
"Il vous tuera,"
said Madame Melmotte.
"Then he shall,"
clinging to her lover.
"I will never marry Lord Nidderdale.
If he were to cut me into bits I wouldn't do it.
you love me;
--do you not?"
said Sir Felix,
slipping his arm round her waist.
"I will never have any other man but him;
tell her that you love me."
"You know that,
Sir Felix was a little troubled in his mind as to what he should say,
or what he should do.
It is a beastliness,"
said Madame Melmotte.
you had better go.
Will you be so obliging?"
he shan't go.
What has he to be afraid of?
I will walk down among them into papa's room,
and say that I will never marry that man,
and that this is my lover.
will you come?"
Sir Felix did not quite like the proposition.
There had been a savage ferocity in that Marquis's eye,
and there was habitually a heavy sternness about Melmotte,
which together made him resist the invitation.
"I don't think I have a right to do that,"
"because it is Mr. Melmotte's own house."
"I wouldn't mind,"
"I told papa to-day that I wouldn't marry Lord Nidderdale."
"Was he angry with you?"
"He laughed at me.
He manages people till he thinks that everybody must do exactly what he tells them.
He may kill me,
but I will not do it.
I have quite made up my mind.
if you will be true to me,
nothing shall separate us.
I will not be ashamed to tell everybody that I love you."
Madame Melmotte had now thrown herself into a chair and was sighing.
Sir Felix stood on the rug with his arm round Marie's waist,
listening to her protestations,
but saying little in answer to them,
a heavy step was heard ascending the stairs.
screamed Madame Melmotte,
bustling up from her seat and hurrying out of the room by a side door.
The two lovers were alone for one moment,
during which Marie lifted up her face,
and Sir Felix kissed her lips.
"Now be brave,"
escaping from his arm,
"and I'll be brave."
Mr. Melmotte looked round the room as he entered.
"Where are the others?"
"Mamma has gone away,
and Miss Longestaffe went before mamma."
it is well that I should tell you that my daughter is engaged to marry Lord Nidderdale."
I am not engaged --to --marry Lord Nidderdale,"
"It's no good,
I won't do it.
If you chop me to pieces,
I won't do it."
"She will marry Lord Nidderdale,"
continued Mr. Melmotte,
addressing himself to Sir Felix.
"As that is arranged,
you will perhaps think it better to leave us.
I shall be happy to renew my acquaintance with you as soon as the fact is recognised;
--or happy to see you in the city at any time."
he is my lover,"
"It is not pooh.
I will never have any other.
I hate Lord Nidderdale;
and as for that dreadful old man,
I could not bear to look at him.
Sir Felix is as good a gentleman as he is.
If you loved me,
you would not want to make me unhappy all my life."
Her father walked up to her rapidly with his hand raised,
and she clung only the closer to her lover's arm.
At this moment Sir Felix did not know what he might best do,
but he thoroughly wished himself out in the square.
"get to your room."
"Get to your room."]
"Of course I will go to bed,
if you tell me,
"I do tell you.
How dare you take hold of him in that way before me!
Have you no idea of disgrace?"
"I am not disgraced.
It is not more disgraceful to love him than that other man.
You hurt me.
I am going."
He took her by the arm and dragged her to the door,
and then thrust her out.
"I am very sorry,
said Sir Felix,
"to have had a hand in causing this disturbance."
and don't come back any more;
You can't both marry her.
All you have got to understand is this.
I'm not the man to give my daughter a single shilling if she marries against my consent.
By the God that hears me,
she shall not have one shilling.
But look you,
--if you'll give this up,
I shall be proud to co-operate with you in anything you may wish to have done in the city."
After this Sir Felix left the room,
went down the stairs,
had the door opened for him,
and was ushered into the square.
But as he went through the hall a woman managed to shove a note into his hand,
--which he read as soon as he found himself under a gas lamp.
It was dated that morning,
and had therefore no reference to the fray which had just taken place.
It ran as follows: --
I hope you will come to-night.
There is something I cannot tell you then,
but you ought to know it.
When we were in France papa thought it wise to settle a lot of money on me.
I don't know how much,
but I suppose it was enough to live on if other things went wrong.
He never talked to me about it,
but I know it was done.
And it hasn't been undone,
and can't be without my leave.
He is very angry about you this morning,
for I told him I would never give you up.
He says he won't give me anything if I marry without his leave.
But I am sure he cannot take it away.
I tell you,
because I think I ought to tell you everything.
M. Sir Felix as he read this could not but think that he had become engaged to a very enterprising young lady.
It was evident that she did not care to what extent she braved her father on behalf of her lover,
and now she coolly proposed to rob him.
But Sir Felix saw no reason why he should not take advantage of the money made over to the girl's name,
if he could lay his hands on it.
He did not know much of such transactions,
but he knew more than Marie Melmotte,
and could understand that a man in Melmotte's position should want to secure a portion of his fortune against accidents,
by settling it on his daughter.
Whether having so settled it,
he could again resume it without the daughter's assent,
Sir Felix did not know.
who had no doubt been regarded as an absolutely passive instrument when the thing was done,
was now quite alive to the benefit which she might possibly derive from it.
put into plain English,
amounted to this:
"Take me and marry me without my father's consent,
--and then you and I together can rob my father of the money which,
for his own purposes,
he has settled upon me."
He had looked upon the lady of his choice as a poor weak thing,
without any special character of her own,
who was made worthy of consideration only by the fact that she was a rich man's daughter;
but now she began to loom before his eyes as something bigger than that.
She had had a will of her own when the mother had none.
She had not been afraid of her brutal father when he,
had trembled before him.
She had offered to be beaten,
and chopped to pieces on behalf of her lover.
There could be no doubt about her running away if she were asked.
It seemed to him that within the last month he had gained a great deal of experience,
and that things which heretofore had been troublesome to him,
or perhaps impossible,
were now coming easily within his reach.
He had won two or three thousand pounds at cards,
whereas invariable loss had been the result of the small play in which he had before indulged.
He had been set to marry this heiress,
having at first no great liking for the attempt,
because of its difficulties and the small amount of hope which it offered him.
The girl was already willing and anxious to jump into his arms.
Then he had detected a man cheating at cards,
--an extent of iniquity that was awful to him before he had seen it,
--and was already beginning to think that there was not very much in that.
If there was not much in it,
if such a man as Miles Grendall could cheat at cards and be brought to no punishment,
why should not he try it?
It was a rapid way of winning,
He remembered that on one or two occasions he had asked his adversary to cut the cards a second time at whist,
because he had observed that there was no honour at the bottom.
No feeling of honesty had interfered with him.
The little trick had hardly been premeditated,
but when successful without detection had not troubled his conscience.
Now it seemed to him that much more than that might be done without detection.
But nothing had opened his eyes to the ways of the world so widely as the sweet little lover-like proposition made by Miss Melmotte for robbing her father.
It certainly recommended the girl to him.
She had been able at an early age,
amidst the circumstances of a very secluded life,
to throw off from her altogether those scruples of honesty,
those bugbears of the world,
which are apt to prevent great enterprises in the minds of men.
What should he do next?
This sum of money of which Marie wrote so easily was probably large.
It would not have been worth the while of such a man as Mr. Melmotte to make a trifling provision of this nature.
It could hardly be less than £50,000,
--might probably be very much more.
But this was certain to him,
--that if he and Marie were to claim this money as man and wife,
there could then be no hope of further liberality.
It was not probable that such a man as Mr. Melmotte would forgive even an only child such an offence as that.
Even if it were obtained,
£50,000 would not be very much.
And Melmotte might probably have means,
even if the robbery were duly perpetrated,
of making the possession of the money very uncomfortable.
These were deep waters into which Sir Felix was preparing to plunge;
and he did not feel himself to be altogether comfortable,
although he liked the deep waters.
Mr. MELMOTTE'S PROMISE.
On the following Saturday there appeared in Mr. Alf's paper,
the "Evening Pulpit,"
a very remarkable article on the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway.
It was an article that attracted a great deal of attention and was therefore remarkable,
but it was in nothing more remarkable than in this,
--that it left on the mind of its reader no impression of any decided opinion about the railway.
The Editor would at any future time be able to refer to his article with equal pride whether the railway should become a great cosmopolitan fact,
or whether it should collapse amidst the foul struggles of a horde of swindlers.
In utrumque paratus,
the article was mysterious,
--that in the "Evening Pulpit" was a matter of course,
above all things,
Next to its omniscience its irony was the strongest weapon belonging to the "Evening Pulpit."
There was a little praise given,
no doubt in irony,
to the duchesses who served Mr. Melmotte.
There was a little praise,
given of course in irony,
to Mr. Melmotte's Board of English Directors.
There was a good deal of praise,
but still alloyed by a dash of irony,
bestowed on the idea of civilising Mexico by joining it to California.
Praise was bestowed upon England for taking up the matter,
but accompanied by some ironical touches at her incapacity to believe thoroughly in any enterprise not originated by herself.
Then there was something said of the universality of Mr. Melmotte's commercial genius,
but whether said in a spirit prophetic of ultimate failure and disgrace,
or of heavenborn success and unequalled commercial splendour,
no one could tell.
It was generally said at the clubs that Mr. Alf had written this article himself.
who was one of a body of men possessing an excellent cellar of wine and calling themselves Paides Pallados,
and who had written for the heavy quarterlies any time this last forty years,
professed that he saw through the article.
The "Evening Pulpit" had been,
desirous of going as far as it could in denouncing Mr. Melmotte without incurring the danger of an action for libel.
Mr. Splinter thought that the thing was clever but mean.
These new publications generally were mean.
Mr. Splinter was constant in that opinion;
putting the meanness aside,
he thought that the article was well done.
According to his view it was intended to expose Mr. Melmotte and the railway.
But the Paides Pallados generally did not agree with him.
Under such an interpretation,
what had been the meaning of that paragraph in which the writer had declared that the work of joining one ocean to another was worthy of the nearest approach to divinity that had been granted to men?
Old Splinter chuckled and gabbled as he heard this,
and declared that there was not wit enough left now even among the Paides Pallados to understand a shaft of irony.
There could be no doubt,
at the time,
that the world did not go with old Splinter,
and that the article served to enhance the value of shares in the great railway enterprise.
Lady Carbury was sure that the article was intended to write up the railway,
and took great joy in it.
She entertained in her brain a somewhat confused notion that if she could only bestir herself in the right direction and could induce her son to open his eyes to his own advantage,
very great things might be achieved,
so that wealth might become his handmaid and luxury the habit and the right of his life.
He was the beloved and the accepted suitor of Marie Melmotte.
He was a Director of this great company,
sitting at the same board with the great commercial hero.
He was the handsomest young man in London.
And he was a baronet.
Very wild ideas occurred to her.
Should she take Mr. Alf into her entire confidence?
If Melmotte and Alf could be brought together what might they not do?
Alf could write up Melmotte,
and Melmotte could shower shares upon Alf.
And if Melmotte would come and be smiled upon by herself,
be flattered as she thought that she could flatter him,
be told that he was a god,
and have that passage about the divinity of joining ocean to ocean construed to him as she could construe it,
would not the great man become plastic under her hands?
while this was a-doing,
Felix would run away with Marie,
could not forgiveness be made easy?
And her creative mind ranged still farther.
Mr. Broune might help,
and even Mr. Booker.
To such a one as Melmotte,
a man doing great things through the force of the confidence placed in him by the world at large,
the freely-spoken support of the Press would be everything.
Who would not buy shares in a railway as to which Mr. Broune and Mr. Alf would combine in saying that it was managed by "divinity"?
Her thoughts were rather hazy,
but from day to day she worked hard to make them clear to herself.
On the Sunday afternoon Mr. Booker called on her and talked to her about the article.
She did not say much to Mr. Booker as to her own connection with Mr. Melmotte,
telling herself that prudence was essential in the present emergency.
But she listened with all her ears.
It was Mr. Booker's idea that the man was going "to make a spoon or spoil a horn."
"You think him honest;
asked Lady Carbury.
Mr. Booker smiled and hesitated.
I mean honest as men can be in such very large transactions."
"Perhaps that is the best way of putting it,"
said Mr. Booker.
"If a thing can be made great and beneficent,
a boon to humanity,
simply by creating a belief in it,
does not a man become a benefactor to his race by creating that belief?"
"At the expense of veracity?"
suggested Mr. Booker.
"At the expense of anything?"
rejoined Lady Carbury with energy.
"One cannot measure such men by the ordinary rule."
"You would do evil to produce good?"
asked Mr. Booker.
"I do not call it doing evil.
You have to destroy a thousand living creatures every time you drink a glass of water,
but you do not think of that when you are athirst.
You cannot send a ship to sea without endangering lives.
You do send ships to sea though men perish yearly.
You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds,
but then again he may create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy."
"You are an excellent casuist,
"I am an enthusiastic lover of beneficent audacity,"
said Lady Carbury,
picking her words slowly,
and showing herself to be quite satisfied with herself as she picked them.
"Did I hold your place,
in the literature of my country,
"I hold no place,
--and a very distinguished place.
Were I circumstanced as you are I should have no hesitation in lending the whole weight of my periodical,
let it be what it might,
to the assistance of so great a man and so great an object as this."
"I should be dismissed to-morrow,"
said Mr. Booker,
getting up and laughing as he took his departure.
Lady Carbury felt that,
as regarded Mr. Booker,
she had only thrown out a chance word that could not do any harm.
She had not expected to effect much through Mr. Booker's instrumentality.
On the Tuesday evening,
--her regular Tuesday as she called it,
--all her three editors came to her drawing-room;
but there came also a greater man than either of them.
She had taken the bull by the horns,
and without saying anything to anybody had written to Mr. Melmotte himself,
asking him to honour her poor house with his presence.
She had written a very pretty note to him,
reminding him of their meeting at Caversham,
telling him that on a former occasion Madame Melmotte and his daughter had been so kind as to come to her,
and giving him to understand that of all the potentates now on earth he was the one to whom she could bow the knee with the purest satisfaction.
He wrote back,
--or Miles Grendall did for him,
--a very plain note,
accepting the honour of Lady Carbury's invitation.
The great man came,
and Lady Carbury took him under her immediate wing with a grace that was all her own.
She said a word about their dear friends at Caversham,
expressed her sorrow that her son's engagements did not admit of his being there,
and then with the utmost audacity rushed off to the article in the "Pulpit."
had thoroughly appreciated the greatness of Mr. Melmotte's character,
and the magnificence of Mr. Melmotte's undertakings.
Mr. Melmotte bowed and muttered something that was inaudible.
"Now I must introduce you to Mr. Alf,"
said the lady.
The introduction was effected,
and Mr. Alf explained that it was hardly necessary,
as he had already been entertained as one of Mr. Melmotte's guests.
"There were a great many there I never saw,
and probably never shall see,"
said Mr. Melmotte.
"I was one of the unfortunates,"
said Mr. Alf.
"I'm sorry you were unfortunate.
If you had come into the whist-room you would have found me."
--if I had but known!"
said Mr. Alf.
as was proper,
carried about with him samples of the irony which his paper used so effectively,
but it was altogether thrown away upon Melmotte.
Lady Carbury finding that no immediate good results could be expected from this last introduction,
whispering to him,
"I do so want to make you known to Mr. Broune.
Mr. Broune I know you have never met before.
A morning paper is a much heavier burden to an editor than one published in the afternoon.
as of course you know,
There is hardly a more influential man in London than Mr. Broune.
And they declare,
lowering the tone of her whisper as she communicated the fact,
"that his commercial articles are gospel,
Then the two men were named to each other,
and Lady Carbury retreated;
--but not out of hearing.
"Getting very hot,"
said Mr. Melmotte.
"Very hot indeed,"
said Mr. Broune.
"It was over 70 in the city to-day.
I call that very hot for June."
"Very hot indeed,"
said Mr. Broune again.
Then the conversation was over.
Mr. Broune sidled away,
and Mr. Melmotte was left standing in the middle of the room.
Lady Carbury told herself at the moment that Rome was not built in a day.
She would have been better satisfied certainly if she could have laid a few more bricks on this day.
was the thing wanted.
But Mr. Melmotte himself had a word to say,
and before he left the house he said it.
"It was very good of you to ask me,
Lady Carbury intimated her opinion that the goodness was all on the other side.
"And I came,"
continued Mr. Melmotte,
"because I had something particular to say.
Otherwise I don't go out much to evening parties.
Your son has proposed to my daughter."
Lady Carbury looked up into his face with all her eyes;
--clasped both her hands together;
having unclasped them,
put one upon his sleeve.
is engaged to another man."
"You would not enslave her affections,
"I won't give her a shilling if she marries any one else;
You reminded me down at Caversham that your son is a Director at our Board."
"I have a great respect for your son,
I don't want to hurt him in any way.
If he'll signify to my daughter that he withdraws from this offer of his,
because I'm against it,
I'll see that he does uncommon well in the city.
I'll be the making of him.
Then Mr. Melmotte took his departure without another word.
Here at any rate was an undertaking on the part of the great man that he would be the "making of Felix,"
if Felix would only obey him --accompanied,
or rather preceded,
by a most positive assurance that if Felix were to succeed in marrying his daughter he would not give his son-in-law a shilling!
There was very much to be considered in this.
She did not doubt that Felix might be "made" by Mr. Melmotte's city influences,
but then any perpetuity of such making must depend on qualifications in her son which she feared that he did not possess.
The wife without the money would be terrible!
That would be absolute ruin!
There could be no escape then;
There was an appreciation of real tragedy in her heart while she contemplated the position of Sir Felix married to such a girl as she supposed Marie Melmotte to be,
without any means of support for either of them but what she could supply.
It would kill her.
And for those young people there would be nothing before them,
but beggary and the workhouse.
As she thought of this she trembled with true maternal instincts.
Her beautiful boy,
--so glorious with his outward gifts,
as she thought him,
for all the graces of the grand world!
Though the ambition was vilely ignoble,
the mother's love was noble and disinterested.
But the girl was an only child.
The future honours of the house of Melmotte could be made to settle on no other head.
No doubt the father would prefer a lord for a son-in-law;
having that preference,
would of course do as he was now doing.
That he should threaten to disinherit his daughter if she married contrary to his wishes was to be expected.
But would it not be equally a matter of course that he should make the best of the marriage if it were once effected?
His daughter would return to him with a title,
though with one of a lower degree than his ambition desired.
To herself personally,
Lady Carbury felt that the great financier had been very rude.
He had taken advantage of her invitation that he might come to her house and threaten her.
But she would forgive that.
She could pass that over altogether if only anything were to be gained by passing it over.
She looked round the room,
longing for a friend,
whom she might consult with a true feeling of genuine womanly dependence.
Her most natural friend was Roger Carbury.
But even had he been there she could not have consulted him on any matter touching the Melmottes.
His advice would have been very clear.
He would have told her to have nothing at all to do with such adventurers.
But then dear Roger was old fashioned,
and knew nothing of people as they are now.
He lived in a world which,
had been good in its way;
whether bad or good,
had now passed away.
Then her eye settled on Mr. Broune.
She was afraid of Mr. Alf.
She had almost begun to think that Mr. Alf was too difficult of management to be of use to her.
But Mr. Broune was softer.
Mr. Booker was serviceable for an article,
but would not be sympathetic as a friend.
Mr. Broune had been very courteous to her lately;
--so much so that on one occasion she had almost feared that the "susceptible old goose" was going to be a goose again.
That would be a bore;
but still she might make use of the friendly condition of mind which such susceptibility would produce.
When her guests began to leave her,
she spoke a word aside to him.
She wanted his advice.
Would he stay for a few minutes after the rest of the company?
He did stay,
and when all the others were gone she asked her daughter to leave them.
"I have something of business to communicate to Mr. Broune."
And so they were left alone.
"I'm afraid you didn't make much of Mr. Melmotte,"
she said smiling.
He had seated himself on the end of a sofa,
close to the arm-chair which she occupied.
he only shook his head and laughed.
"I saw how it was,
and I was sorry for it;
for he certainly is a wonderful man."
"I suppose he is,
but he is one of those men whose powers do not lie,
I should say,
chiefly in conversation.
there is no reason why he should not say the same of me;
--for if he said little,
I said less."
"It didn't just come off,"
Lady Carbury suggested with her sweetest smile.
"But now I want to tell you something.
I think I am justified in regarding you as a real friend."
putting out his hand for hers.
She gave it to him for a moment,
and then took it back again,
--finding that he did not relinquish it of his own accord.
"Stupid old goose!"
she said to herself.
"And now to my story.
You know my boy,
The editor nodded his head.
"He is engaged to marry that man's daughter."
"Engaged to marry Miss Melmotte?"
Then Lady Carbury nodded her head.
she is said to be the greatest heiress that the world has ever produced.
I thought she was to marry Lord Nidderdale."
"She has engaged herself to Felix.
She is desperately in love with him,
--as is he with her."
She tried to tell her story truly,
knowing that no advice can be worth anything that is not based on a true story;
--but lying had become her nature.
"Melmotte naturally wants her to marry the lord.
He came here to tell me that if his daughter married Felix she should not have a penny."
"Do you mean that he volunteered that,
--as a threat?"
--and he told me that he had come here simply with the object of saying so.
It was more candid than civil,
but we must take it as we get it."
"He would be sure to make some such threat."
That is just what I feel.
And in these days young people are not often kept from marrying simply by a father's fantasy.
But I must tell you something else.
He told me that if Felix would desist,
he would enable him to make a fortune in the city."
said Broune with decision.
"Do you think it must be so;
Such an undertaking,
if intended by Melmotte,
would give me a worse opinion of him than I have ever held."
"He did make it."
"Then he did very wrong.
He must have spoken with the purpose of deceiving."
"You know my son is one of the Directors of that great American Railway.
It was not just as though the promise were made to a young man who was altogether unconnected with him."
"Sir Felix's name was put there,
in a hurry,
merely because he has a title,
and because Melmotte thought he,
as a young man,
would not be likely to interfere with him.
It may be that he will be able to sell a few shares at a profit;
if I understand the matter rightly,
he has no capital to go into such a business."
--he has no capital."
"Dear Lady Carbury,
I would place no dependence at all on such a promise as that."
"You think he should marry the girl then in spite of the father?"
Mr. Broune hesitated before he replied to this question.
But it was to this question that Lady Carbury especially wished for a reply.
She wanted some one to support her under the circumstances of an elopement.
She rose from her chair,
and he rose at the same time.
"Perhaps I should have begun by saying that Felix is all but prepared to take her off.
She is quite ready to go.
She is devoted to him.
Do you think he would be wrong?"
"That is a question very hard to answer."
"People do it every day.
Lionel Goldsheiner ran away the other day with Lady Julia Start,
and everybody visits them."
people do run away,
and it all comes right.
It was the gentleman had the money then,
and it is said you know that old Lady Catchboy,
Lady Julia's mother,
had arranged the elopement herself as offering the safest way of securing the rich prize.
The young lord didn't like it,
so the mother had it done in that fashion."
"There would be nothing disgraceful."
"I didn't say there would;
--but nevertheless it is one of those things a man hardly ventures to advise.
If you ask me whether I think that Melmotte would forgive her,
and make her an allowance afterwards,
--I think he would."
"I am so glad to hear you say that."
"And I feel quite certain that no dependence whatever should be placed on that promise of assistance."
"I quite agree with you.
I am so much obliged to you,"
said Lady Carbury,
who was now determined that Felix should run off with the girl.
"You have been so very kind."
Then again she gave him her hand,
as though to bid him farewell for the night.
"I also have something to say to you."
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.
said Mr. Broune,
standing up a second time,
"we are neither of us so young as we used to be."
--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.
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.
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.
--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.
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,
feared and almost worshipped,
--that he should desire to share her fortunes,
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.
"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,
The phrase at any rate is singular.
After much thought I have determined to ask you to be my wife.
That I should be --annoyed,
and more than annoyed by your refusal,
is a matter of course.
That I ought to expect such annoyance is perhaps too true.
But you can extricate yourself from the dilemma only too easily."
The word "wife" came upon her like a thunder-clap.
It at once changed all her feelings towards him.
She did not dream of loving him.
She felt sure that she never could love him.
Had it been on the cards with her to love any man as a lover,
it would have been some handsome spendthrift who would have hung from her neck like a nether millstone.
This man was a friend to be used,
--to be used because he knew the world.
And now he gave her this clear testimony that he knew as little of the world as any other man.
Mr. Broune of the "Daily Breakfast Table" asking her to be his wife!
But mixed with her other feelings there was a tenderness which brought back some memory of her distant youth,
and almost made her weep.
That a man,
--such a man,
--should offer to take half her burdens,
and to confer upon her half his blessings!
What an idiot!
But what a God!
She had looked upon the man as all intellect,
alloyed perhaps by some passionless remnants of the vices of his youth;
and now she found that he not only had a human heart in his bosom,
but a heart that she could touch.
How wonderfully sweet!
How infinitely small!
It was necessary that she should answer him --and to her it was only natural that she should at first think what answer would best assist her own views without reference to his.
It did not occur to her that she could love him;
but it did occur to her that he might lift her out of her difficulties.
What a benefit it would be to her to have a father,
and such a father,
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.
"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.
"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.
as I have gone on,
my mind has been so fully employed,
that I have hardly realised the want which nevertheless I have felt.
And so it has been with me till I fancied,
not that I was too old for love,
but that others would think me so.
Then I met you.
As I said at first,
perhaps with scant gallantry,
you also are not as young as you once were.
But you keep the beauty of your youth,
and the energy,
and something of the freshness of a young heart.
And I have come to love you.
I speak with absolute frankness,
risking your anger.
I have doubted much before I resolved upon this.
It is so hard to know the nature of another person.
But I think I understand yours;
--and if you can confide your happiness with me,
I am prepared to intrust mine to your keeping."
Poor Mr. Broune!
Though endowed with gifts peculiarly adapted for the editing of a daily newspaper,
he could have had but little capacity for reading a woman's character when he talked of the freshness of Lady Carbury's young mind!
And he must have surely been much blinded by love,
before convincing himself that he could trust his happiness to such keeping.
"You do me infinite honour.
You pay me a great compliment,"
ejaculated Lady Carbury.
"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."
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,
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,
"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."
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.
"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,
say the day after to-morrow,
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.
"you've been keeping it up late here;
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.
"why do you make so much noise as you come in?"
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,
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,
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?
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;
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;
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,
would be stronger than her reason.
He was the one thing in the world that overpowered her.
In all other matters she could scheme,
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,
I don't care very much about him.
What makes you ask,
"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,
when you talk of --London people?
Why should not London people be as kind as other people?
I think Mr. Broune is as obliging a man as any one I know.
But if I like anybody,
you always make little of him.
The only person you seem to think well of is Mr. Montague."
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."
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.
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;
nothing but gold and grandeur,
powder and pride.
The Longestaffe life had not been an easy,
or intellectual life;
but the Melmotte life was hardly endurable even by a Longestaffe.
come prepared to suffer much,
and was endowed with considerable power of endurance in pursuit of her own objects.
Having willed to come,
even to the Melmottes,
in preference to remaining at Caversham,
she fortified herself to suffer much.
Could she have ridden in the park at mid-day in desirable company,
and found herself in proper houses at midnight,
she would have borne the rest,
bad as it might have been.
But it was not so.
She had her horse,
but could with difficulty get any proper companion.
She had been in the habit of riding with one of the Primero girls,
--and old Primero would accompany them,
or perhaps a brother Primero,
or occasionally her own father.
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,
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,
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,
On these occasions Miss Longestaffe was fully aware of the struggle that was always made for invitations,
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;
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 above all things he must be in the right set.
She would rather go on for ever struggling than take some country Whitstable as her sister was about to do.
But now the men of the right sort never came near her.
The one object for which she had subjected herself to all this ignominy seemed to have vanished altogether in the distance.
When by chance she danced or exchanged a few words with the Nidderdales and Grassloughs whom she used to know,
they spoke to her with a want of respect which she felt and tasted but could hardly analyse.
Even Miles Grendall,
who had hitherto been below her notice,
attempted to patronise her in a manner that bewildered her.
All this nearly broke her heart.
And then from time to time little rumours reached her ears which made her aware that,
in the teeth of all Mr. Melmotte's social successes,
a general opinion that he was a gigantic swindler was rather gaining ground than otherwise.
"Your host is a wonderful fellow,
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,"
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 large machinery for making pheasants.
He shot pigeons at Hurlingham,
drove four-in-hand in the park,
had a box at every race-course,
and was the most good-natured fellow known.
He had really conquered the world,
had got over the difficulty of being the grandson of a butcher,
and was now as good as though the Monograms had gone to the crusades.
Julia Triplex was equal to her position,
and made the very most of it.
She dispensed champagne and smiles,
and made everybody,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course I shall be delighted to see you.
I don't know what you mean by cutting.
I never cut anybody.
We happen to have got into different sets,
but that is not my fault.
Sir Damask won't let me call on the Melmottes.
I can't help that.
You wouldn't have me go where he tells me not.
I don't know anything about them myself,
except that I did go to their ball.
But everybody knows that's different.
I shall be at home all to-morrow till three,
--that is to-day I mean,
for I'm writing after coming home from Lady Killarney's ball;
but if you wish to see me alone you had better come before lunch.
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.
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,
I don't want to quarrel with you,
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,
"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,
"I'm very sorry,
but I can't go against my husband."
"Everybody goes to their house,"
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,
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,
--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."
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,"
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.
"How'd you do,
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.
[Illustration: Sir Damask solving the difficulty.]
"She knows me,
--she knows you.
That's a matter of course.
We're delighted to see you,
Miss Longestaffe --I am,
Wish we could have had you at Ascot.
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.
--not just to go there.
Stay and have lunch,
"Now you're here,
said Lady Monogram.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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;
"Never saw her in my life."
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.