A DAY IN THE CITY.
Melmotte had got back his daughter,
and was half inclined to let the matter rest there.
He would probably have done so had he not known that all his own household were aware that she had gone off to meet Sir Felix Carbury,
and had he not also received the condolence of certain friends in the city.
It seemed that about two o'clock in the day the matter was known to everybody.
Of course Lord Nidderdale would hear of it,
and if so all the trouble that he had taken in that direction would have been taken in vain.
Stupid fool of a girl to throw away her chance,
to throw away the certainty of a brilliant career,
in that way!
But his anger against Sir Felix was infinitely more bitter than his anger against his daughter.
The man had pledged himself to abstain from any step of this kind,
--had given a written pledge,
--had renounced under his own signature his intention of marrying Marie!
Melmotte had of course learned all the details of the cheque for £250,
--how the money had been paid at the bank to Didon,
and how Didon had given it to Sir Felix.
Marie herself acknowledged that Sir Felix had received the money.
If possible he would prosecute the baronet for stealing his money.
Had Melmotte been altogether a prudent man he would probably have been satisfied with getting back his daughter and would have allowed the money to go without further trouble.
At this especial point in his career ready money was very valuable to him,
but his concerns were of such magnitude that £250 could make but little difference.
But there had grown upon the man during the last few months an arrogance,
a self-confidence inspired in him by the worship of other men,
which clouded his intellect,
and robbed him of much of that power of calculation which undoubtedly he naturally possessed.
He remembered perfectly his various little transactions with Sir Felix.
Indeed it was one of his gifts to remember with accuracy all money transactions,
whether great or small,
and to keep an account book in his head,
which was always totted up and balanced with accuracy.
He knew exactly how he stood,
even with the crossing-sweeper to whom he had given a penny last Tuesday,
as with the Longestaffes,
father and son,
to whom he had not as yet made any payment on behalf of the purchase of Pickering.
But Sir Felix's money had been consigned into his hands for the purchase of shares,
--and that consignment did not justify Sir Felix in taking another sum of money from his daughter.
In such a matter he thought that an English magistrate,
and an English jury,
would all be on his side,
--especially as he was Augustus Melmotte,
the man about to be chosen for Westminster,
the man about to entertain the Emperor of China!
The next day was Friday,
--the day of the Railway Board.
Early in the morning he sent a note to Lord Nidderdale.
MY DEAR NIDDERDALE,
Pray come to the Board to-day;
--or at any rate come to me in the city.
I specially want to speak to you.
A. M. This he wrote,
having made up his mind that it would be wise to make a clear breast of it with his hoped-for son-in-law.
If there was still a chance of keeping the young lord to his guns that chance would be best supported by perfect openness on his part.
The young lord would of course know what Marie had done.
But the young lord had for some weeks past been aware that there had been a difficulty in regard to Sir Felix Carbury,
and had not on that account relaxed his suit.
It might be possible to persuade the young lord that as the young lady had now tried to elope and tried in vain,
his own chance might on the whole be rather improved than injured.
Mr. Melmotte on that morning had many visitors,
among whom one of the earliest and most unfortunate was Mr. Longestaffe.
At that time there had been arranged at the offices in Abchurch Lane a mode of double ingress and egress,
--a front stairs and a back stairs approach and exit,
as is always necessary with very great men,
--in reference to which arrangement the honour and dignity attached to each is exactly contrary to that which generally prevails in the world;
the front stairs being intended for everybody,
and being both slow and uncertain,
whereas the back stairs are quick and sure,
and are used only for those who are favoured.
Miles Grendall had the command of the stairs,
and found that he had plenty to do in keeping people in their right courses.
Mr. Longestaffe reached Abchurch Lane before one,
--having altogether failed in getting a moment's private conversation with the big man on that other Friday,
when he had come later.
He fell at once into Miles's hands,
and was ushered through the front stairs passage and into the front stairs waiting-room,
with much external courtesy.
Miles Grendall was very voluble.
Did Mr. Longestaffe want to see Mr. Melmotte?
--Mr. Longestaffe wanted to see Mr. Melmotte as soon as possible!
Of course Mr. Longestaffe should see Mr. Melmotte.
knew that Mr. Melmotte was particularly desirous of seeing Mr. Longestaffe.
Mr. Melmotte had mentioned Mr. Longestaffe's name twice during the last three days.
Would Mr. Longestaffe sit down for a few minutes?
Had Mr. Longestaffe seen the "Morning Breakfast Table"?
Mr. Melmotte undoubtedly was very much engaged.
At this moment a deputation from the Canadian Government was with him;
--and Sir Gregory Gribe was in the office waiting for a few words.
But Miles thought that the Canadian Government would not be long,
--and as for Sir Gregory,
perhaps his business might be postponed.
Miles would do his very best to get an interview for Mr. Longestaffe,
--more especially as Mr. Melmotte was so very desirous himself of seeing his friend.
It was astonishing that such a one as Miles Grendall should have learned his business so well and should have made himself so handy!
We will leave Mr. Longestaffe with the "Morning Breakfast Table" in his hands,
in the front waiting-room,
merely notifying the fact that there he remained for something over two hours.
In the mean time both Mr. Broune and Lord Nidderdale came to the office,
and both were received without delay.
Mr. Broune was the first.
Miles knew who he was,
and made no attempt to seat him in the same room with Mr. Longestaffe.
"I'll just send him a note,"
said Mr. Broune,
and he scrawled a few words at the office counter.
"I'm commissioned to pay you some money on behalf of Miss Melmotte."
Those were the words,
and they at once procured him admission to the sanctum.
The Canadian Deputation must have taken its leave,
and Sir Gregory could hardly have as yet arrived.
who had presented himself almost at the same moment with the Editor,
was shown into a little private room,
Miles Grendall's own retreat.
"What's up with the Governor?"
asked the young lord.
"Anything particular do you mean?"
"There are always so many things up here."
"He has sent for me."
--you'll go in directly.
There's that fellow who does the
'Breakfast Table' in with him.
I don't know what he's come about.
You know what he has sent for you for?"
Lord Nidderdale answered this question by another.
"I suppose all this about Miss Melmotte is true?"
"She did go off yesterday morning,"
in a whisper.
"But Carbury wasn't with her."
--I suppose not.
He seems to have mulled it.
He's such a d -- -- brute,
he'd be sure to go wrong whatever he had in hand."
"You don't like him,
For that matter I've no reason to love him.
He couldn't have gone.
He staggered out of the club yesterday morning at four o'clock as drunk as Cloe.
He'd lost a pot of money,
and had been kicking up a row about you for the last hour."
with honest indignation.
"I dare say.
But though he was able to make a row,
I'm sure he couldn't get himself down to Liverpool.
And I saw all his things lying about the club hall late last night;
--no end of portmanteaux and bags;
just what a fellow would take to New York.
Fancy taking a girl to New York!
It was plucky."
"It was all her doing,"
who was of course intimate with Mr. Melmotte's whole establishment,
and had had means therefore of hearing the true story.
"What a fiasco!"
said the young lord,
"I wonder what the old boy means to say to me about it."
Then there was heard the clear tingle of a little silver bell,
and Miles told Lord Nidderdale that his time had come.
Mr. Broune had of late been very serviceable to Mr. Melmotte,
and Melmotte was correspondingly gracious.
On seeing the Editor he immediately began to make a speech of thanks in respect of the support given by the "Breakfast Table" to his candidature.
But Mr. Broune cut him short.
"I never talk about the
'Breakfast Table,'" said he.
"We endeavour to get along as right as we can,
and the less said the soonest mended."
"I have come now about quite another matter,
the less said the sooner mended about that also.
Sir Felix Carbury on a late occasion received a sum of money in trust from your daughter.
Circumstances have prevented its use in the intended manner,
as Sir Felix's friend,
I have called to return the money to you."
Mr. Broune did not like calling himself the friend of Sir Felix,
but he did even that for the lady who had been good enough to him not to marry him.
said Mr. Melmotte,
with a scowl on his face,
which he would have repressed if he could.
"No doubt you understand all about it."
D -- -- scoundrel!"
"We won't discuss that,
I've drawn a cheque myself,
payable to your order,
--to make the matter all straight.
The sum was £250,
And Mr. Broune put a cheque for that amount down upon the table.
"I dare say it's all right,"
said Mr. Melmotte.
I don't think that this absolves him.
He has been a scoundrel."
"At any rate he has paid back the money,
which chance put into his hands,
to the only person entitled to receive it on the young lady's behalf.
Mr. Melmotte did put out his hand in token of amity.
Then Mr. Broune departed and Melmotte tinkled his bell.
As Nidderdale was shown in he crumpled up the cheque,
and put it into his pocket.
He was at once clever enough to perceive that any idea which he might have had of prosecuting Sir Felix must be abandoned.
and how are you?"
said he with his pleasantest smile.
Nidderdale declared himself to be as fresh as paint.
"You don't look down in the mouth,
Then Lord Nidderdale,
--who no doubt felt that it behoved him to show a good face before his late intended father-in-law,
--sang the refrain of an old song,
which it is trusted my readers may remember.
Don't let your spirits go down.
There's many a girl that I know well,
Is waiting for you in the town."
I've no doubt there is,
--many a one.
But you won't let this stupid nonsense stand in your way with Marie."
"Upon my word,
I don't know about that.
Miss Melmotte has given the most convincing proof of her partiality for another gentleman,
and of her indifference to me."
"A foolish baggage!
A silly little romantic baggage!
She's been reading novels till she has learned to think she couldn't settle down quietly till she had run off with somebody."
"She doesn't seem to have succeeded on this occasion,
--of course we had her back again from Liverpool."
"But they say that she got further than the gentleman."
"He is a dishonest,
My girl knows very well what he is now.
She'll never try that game again.
I'm very sorry.
You know that I've been on the square with you always.
She's my only child,
and sooner or later she must have all that I possess.
What she will have at once will make any man wealthy,
if she marries with my sanction;
and in a year or two I expect that I shall be able to double what I give her now,
without touching my capital.
Of course you understand that I desire to see her occupying high rank.
I think that,
in this country,
that is a noble object of ambition.
Had she married that sweep I should have broken my heart.
I want you to say that this shall make no difference to you.
I am very honest with you.
I do not try to hide anything.
The thing of course has been a misfortune.
Girls will be romantic.
But you may be sure that this little accident will assist rather than impede your views.
After this she will not be very fond of Sir Felix Carbury."
"I dare say not.
girls will forgive anything."
"She won't forgive him.
She shall hear the whole story.
You'll come and see her just the same as ever!"
"I don't know about that,
You're not so weak as to surrender all your settled projects for such a piece of folly as that!
He didn't even see her all the time."
"That wasn't her fault."
"The money will all be there,
"The money's all right,
I've no doubt.
And there isn't a man in all London would be better pleased to settle down with a good income than I would.
it's a rather strong order when a girl has just run away with another man.
Everybody knows it."
"In three months' time everybody will have forgotten it."
"To tell you the truth,
I think Miss Melmotte has got a will of her own stronger than you give her credit for.
She has never given me the slightest encouragement.
Ever so long ago,
she did once say that she would do as you bade her.
But she is very much changed since then.
The thing was off."
"She had nothing to do with that."
--but she has taken advantage of it,
and I have no right to complain."
"You just come to the house,
and ask her again to-morrow.
Or come on Sunday morning.
Don't let us be done out of all our settled arrangements by the folly of an idle girl.
Will you come on Sunday morning about noon?"
Lord Nidderdale thought of his position for a few moments and then said that perhaps he would come on Sunday morning.
After that Melmotte proposed that they two should go and "get a bit of lunch" at a certain Conservative club in the City.
There would be time before the meeting of the Railway Board.
Nidderdale had no objection to the lunch,
but expressed a strong opinion that the Board was "rot."
"That's all very well for you,
said the chairman,
"but I must go there in order that you may be able to enjoy a splendid fortune."
Then he touched the young man on the shoulder and drew him back as he was passing out by the front stairs.
"Come this way,
--come this way.
I must get out without being seen.
There are people waiting for me there who think that a man can attend to business from morning to night without ever having a bit in his mouth."
And so they escaped by the back stairs.
At the club,
the City Conservative world,
--which always lunches well,
--welcomed Mr. Melmotte very warmly.
The election was coming on,
and there was much to be said.
He played the part of the big City man to perfection,
standing about the room with his hat on,
and talking loudly to a dozen men at once.
And he was glad to show the club that Lord Nidderdale had come there with him.
The club of course knew that Lord Nidderdale was the accepted suitor of the rich man's daughter,
by the rich man himself,
--and the club knew also that the rich man's daughter had tried,
--but had failed,
--to run away with Sir Felix Carbury.
There is nothing like wiping out a misfortune and having done with it.
The presence of Lord Nidderdale was almost an assurance to the club that the misfortune had been wiped out,
as it were,
A little before three Mr. Melmotte returned to Abchurch Lane,
intending to regain his room by the back way;
while Lord Nidderdale went westward,
considering within his own mind whether it was expedient that he should continue to show himself as a suitor for Miss Melmotte's hand.
He had an idea that a few years ago a man could not have done such a thing --that he would be held to show a poor spirit should he attempt it;
but that now it did not much matter what a man did,
--if only he were successful.
"After all it's only an affair of money,"
he said to himself.
Mr. Longestaffe in the meantime had progressed from weariness to impatience,
from impatience to ill-humour,
and from ill-humour to indignation.
More than once he saw Miles Grendall,
but Miles Grendall was always ready with an answer.
That Canadian Deputation was determined to settle the whole business this morning,
and would not take itself away.
And Sir Gregory Gribe had been obstinate,
beyond the ordinary obstinacy of a bank director.
The rate of discount at the bank could not be settled for to-morrow without communication with Mr. Melmotte,
and that was a matter on which the details were always most oppressive.
At first Mr. Longestaffe was somewhat stunned by the Deputation and Sir Gregory Gribe;
but as he waxed wroth the potency of those institutions dwindled away,
he waxed hungry,
they became as nothing to him.
Was he not Mr. Longestaffe of Caversham,
a Deputy-Lieutenant of his County,
and accustomed to lunch punctually at two o'clock?
When he had been in that waiting-room for two hours,
it occurred to him that he only wanted his own,
and that he would not remain there to be starved for any Mr. Melmotte in Europe.
It occurred to him also that that thorn in his side,
would certainly get a finger into the pie to his infinite annoyance.
Then he walked forth,
and attempted to see Grendall for the fourth time.
But Miles Grendall also liked his lunch,
and was therefore declared by one of the junior clerks to be engaged at that moment on most important business with Mr. Melmotte.
"Then say that I can't wait any longer,"
said Mr. Longestaffe,
stamping out of the room with angry feet.
At the very door he met Mr. Melmotte.
said the great financier,
seizing him by the hand,
"you are the very man I am desirous of seeing."
"I have been waiting two hours up in your place,"
said the Squire of Caversham.
--and they never told me!"
"I spoke to Mr. Grendall half a dozen times."
And he did put a slip with your name on it on my desk.
I do remember.
My dear sir,
I have so many things on my brain,
that I hardly know how to get along with them.
You are coming to the Board?
It's just the time now."
--said Mr. Longestaffe.
"I can stay no longer in the City."
It was cruel that a man so hungry should be asked to go to a Board by a chairman who had just lunched at his club.
"I was carried away to the Bank of England and could not help myself,"
"And when they get me there I can never get away again."
"My son is very anxious to have the payments made about Pickering,"
said Mr. Longestaffe,
absolutely holding Melmotte by the collar of his coat.
"Payments for Pickering!"
assuming an air of unimportant doubt,
--of doubt as though the thing were of no real moment.
"Haven't they been made?"
said Mr. Longestaffe,
"unless made this morning."
"There was something about it,
but I cannot just remember what.
My second cashier,
manages all my private affairs,
and they go clean out of my head.
I'm afraid he's in Grosvenor Square at this moment.
Let me see;
Wasn't there some question of a mortgage?
I'm sure there was something about a mortgage."
"There was a mortgage,
--but that only made three payments necessary instead of two."
"But there was some unavoidable delay about the papers;
--something occasioned by the mortgagee.
I know there was.
But you shan't be inconvenienced,
"It's my son,
He's got a lawyer of his own."
"I never knew a young man that wasn't in a hurry for his money,"
said Melmotte laughing.
--there were three payments to be made;
one to you,
one to your son,
and one to the mortgagee.
I will speak to Mr. Smith myself to-morrow --and you may tell your son that he really need not trouble his lawyer.
He will only be losing his money,
for lawyers are expensive.
you won't come to the Board?
I am sorry for that."
having after a fashion said what he had to say,
declined to go to the Board.
A painful rumour had reached him the day before,
which had been communicated to him in a very quiet way by a very old friend,
--by a member of a private firm of bankers whom he was accustomed to regard as the wisest and most eminent man of his acquaintance,
--that Pickering had been already mortgaged to its full value by its new owner.
I know nothing,"
said the banker.
"The report has reached me,
and if it be true,
it shows that Mr. Melmotte must be much pressed for money.
It does not concern you at all if you have got your price.
But it seems to be rather a quick transaction.
I suppose you have,
or he wouldn't have the title-deeds."
Mr. Longestaffe thanked his friend,
and acknowledged that there had been something remiss on his part.
as he went westward,
he was low in spirits.
But nevertheless he had been reassured by Melmotte's manner.
Sir Felix Carbury of course did not attend the Board;
nor did Paul Montague,
for reasons with which the reader has been made acquainted.
Lord Nidderdale had declined,
having had enough of the City for that day,
and Mr. Longestaffe had been banished by hunger.
The chairman was therefore supported only by Lord Alfred and Mr. Cohenlupe.
But they were such excellent colleagues that the work was got through as well as though those absentees had all attended.
When the Board was over Mr. Melmotte and Mr. Cohenlupe retired together.
"I must get that money for Longestaffe,"
said Melmotte to his friend.
eighty thousand pounds!
You can't do it this week,
--nor yet before this day week."
"It isn't eighty thousand pounds.
I've renewed the mortgage,
and that makes it only fifty.
If I can manage the half of that which goes to the son,
I can put the father off."
"You must raise what you can on the whole property."
"I've done that already,"
said Melmotte hoarsely.
"And where's the money gone?"
"Brehgert has had £40,000.
I was obliged to keep it up with them.
You can manage £25,000 for me by Monday?"
Mr. Cohenlupe said that he would try,
but intimated his opinion that there would be considerable difficulty in the operation.
THE INDIA OFFICE.
The Conservative party at this particular period was putting its shoulder to the wheel,
--not to push the coach up any hill,
but to prevent its being hurried along at a pace which was not only dangerous,
but manifestly destructive.
The Conservative party now and then does put its shoulder to the wheel,
ostensibly with the great national object above named;
but also actuated by a natural desire to keep its own head well above water and be generally doing something,
so that other parties may not suppose that it is moribund.
members of it who really think that when some object has been achieved,
a good old Tory has been squeezed into Parliament for the borough of Porcorum,
which for the last three parliaments has been represented by a Liberal,
--the coach has been really stopped.
in their delightful faith,
there comes at these triumphant moments a conviction that after all the people as a people have not been really in earnest in their efforts to take something from the greatness of the great,
and to add something to the lowliness of the lowly.
The handle of the windlass has been broken,
the wheel is turning fast the reverse way,
and the rope of Radical progress is running back.
Who knows what may not be regained if the Conservative party will only put its shoulder to the wheel and take care that the handle of the windlass be not mended!
which has ever been a doubtful little borough,
has just been carried by a majority of fifteen!
A long pull,
a strong pull,
and a pull altogether,
--and the old day will come back again.
Venerable patriarchs think of Lord Liverpool and other heroes,
and dream dreams of Conservative bishops,
and of a Conservative ministry that shall remain in for a generation.
Such a time was now present.
Porcorum and Sticinthemud had done their duty valiantly,
--with much management.
If this special seat for Westminster could be carried,
the country then could hardly any longer have a doubt on the matter.
If only Mr. Melmotte could be got in for Westminster,
it would be manifest that the people were sound at heart,
and that all the great changes which had been effected during the last forty years,
--from the first reform in Parliament down to the Ballot,
--had been managed by the cunning and treachery of a few ambitious men.
that the Ballot was just now regarded by the party as an unmitigated evil,
though it was the last triumph of Radical wickedness.
The Ballot was on the whole popular with the party.
A short time since,
no doubt it was regarded by the party as being one and the same as national ruin and national disgrace.
But it had answered well at Porcorum,
and with due manipulation had been found to be favourable at Sticinthemud.
The Ballot might perhaps help the long pull and the strong pull,
in spite of the ruin and disgrace,
was thought by some just now to be a highly Conservative measure.
It was considered that the Ballot might assist Melmotte at Westminster very materially.
Any one reading the Conservative papers of the time,
and hearing the Conservative speeches in the borough,
--any one at least who lived so remote as not to have learned what these things really mean,
--would have thought that England's welfare depended on Melmotte's return.
In the enthusiasm of the moment,
the attacks made on his character were answered by eulogy as loud as the censure was bitter.
The chief crime laid to his charge was connected with the ruin of some great continental assurance company,
as to which it was said that he had so managed it as to leave it utterly stranded,
with an enormous fortune of his own.
It was declared that every shilling which he had brought to England with him had consisted of plunder stolen from the shareholders in the company.
Now the "Evening Pulpit,"
in its endeavour to make the facts of this transaction known,
had placed what it called the domicile of this company in Paris,
whereas it was ascertained that its official head-quarters had in truth been placed at Vienna.
Was not such a blunder as this sufficient to show that no merchant of higher honour than Mr. Melmotte had ever adorned the Exchanges of modern capitals?
And then two different newspapers of the time,
both of them antagonistic to Melmotte,
failed to be in accord on a material point.
One declared that Mr. Melmotte was not in truth possessed of any wealth.
The other said that he had derived his wealth from those unfortunate shareholders.
Could anything betray so bad a cause as contradictions such as these?
Could anything be so false,
so "Liberal" as a course of action such as this?
The belief naturally to be deduced from such statements,
the unavoidable conviction on the minds --of,
at any rate,
the Conservative newspapers --was that Mr. Melmotte had accumulated an immense fortune,
and that he had never robbed any shareholder of a shilling.
The friends of Melmotte had moreover a basis of hope,
and were enabled to sound premonitory notes of triumph,
arising from causes quite external to their party.
The "Breakfast Table" supported Melmotte,
but the "Breakfast Table" was not a Conservative organ.
This support was given,
not to the great man's political opinions,
as to which a well-known writer in that paper suggested that the great man had probably not as yet given very much attention to the party questions which divided the country,
--but to his commercial position.
It was generally acknowledged that few men living,
--perhaps no man alive,
--had so acute an insight into the great commercial questions of the age as Mr. Augustus Melmotte.
In whatever part of the world he might have acquired his commercial experience,
--for it had been said repeatedly that Melmotte was not an Englishman,
--he now made London his home and Great Britain his country,
and it would be for the welfare of the country that such a man should sit in the British Parliament.
Such were the arguments used by the "Breakfast Table" in supporting Mr. Melmotte.
--and not the less so because it was asserted in other papers that the country would be absolutely disgraced by his presence in Parliament.
The hotter the opposition the keener will be the support.
Honest good men,
men who really loved their country,
who had received unsullied names from great ancestors,
shed their money right and left,
and grew hot in personally energetic struggles to have this man returned to Parliament as the head of the great Conservative mercantile interests of Great Britain!
There was one man who thoroughly believed that the thing at the present moment most essentially necessary to England's glory was the return of Mr. Melmotte for Westminster.
This man was undoubtedly a very ignorant man.
He knew nothing of any one political question which had vexed England for the last half century,
--nothing whatever of the political history which had made England what it was at the beginning of that half century.
Of such names as Hampden,
and Pitt he had hardly ever heard.
He had probably never read a book in his life.
He knew nothing of the working of parliament,
nothing of nationality,
--had no preference whatever for one form of government over another,
never having given his mind a moment's trouble on the subject.
He had not even reflected how a despotic monarch or a federal republic might affect himself,
and possibly did not comprehend the meaning of those terms.
But yet he was fully confident that England did demand and ought to demand that Mr. Melmotte should be returned for Westminster.
This man was Mr. Melmotte himself.
In this conjunction of his affairs Mr. Melmotte certainly lost his head.
He had audacity almost sufficient for the very dangerous game which he was playing;
as crisis heaped itself upon crisis,
he became deficient in prudence.
He did not hesitate to speak of himself as the man who ought to represent Westminster,
and of those who opposed him as little malignant beings who had mean interests of their own to serve.
He went about in his open carriage,
with Lord Alfred at his left hand,
with a look on his face which seemed to imply that Westminster was not good enough for him.
He even hinted to certain political friends that at the next general election he should try the City.
Six months since he had been a humble man to a Lord,
--but now he scolded Earls and snubbed Dukes,
and yet did it in a manner which showed how proud he was of connecting himself with their social pre-eminence,
and how ignorant of the manner in which such pre-eminence affects English gentlemen generally.
The more arrogant he became the more vulgar he was,
till even Lord Alfred would almost be tempted to rush away to impecuniosity and freedom.
Perhaps there were some with whom this conduct had a salutary effect.
No doubt arrogance will produce submission;
and there are men who take other men at the price those other men put upon themselves.
Such persons could not refrain from thinking Melmotte to be mighty because he swaggered;
and gave their hinder parts to be kicked merely because he put up his toe.
We all know men of this calibre,
--and how they seem to grow in number.
But the net result of his personal demeanour was injurious;
and it was debated among some of the warmest of his supporters whether a hint should not be given him.
"Couldn't Lord Alfred say a word to him?"
said the Honourable Beauchamp Beauclerk,
himself in Parliament,
a leading man in his party,
thoroughly well acquainted with the borough,
wealthy and connected by blood with half the great Conservative families in the kingdom,
had been moving heaven and earth on behalf of the great financial king,
and working like a slave for his success.
"Alfred's more than half afraid of him,"
said Lionel Lupton,
a young aristocrat,
also in Parliament,
who had been inoculated with the idea that the interests of the party demanded Melmotte in Parliament,
but who would have given up his Scotch shooting rather than have undergone Melmotte's company for a day.
"Something really must be done,
said Mr. Jones,
who was the leading member of a very wealthy firm of builders in the borough,
who had become a Conservative politician,
who had thoughts of the House for himself,
but who never forgot his own position.
"He is making a great many personal enemies."
"He's the finest old turkey cock out,"
said Lionel Lupton.
Then it was decided that Mr. Beauclerk should speak a word to Lord Alfred.
The rich man and the poor man were cousins,
and had always been intimate.
said the chosen mentor at the club one afternoon,
"I wonder whether you couldn't say something to Melmotte about his manner."
Lord Alfred turned sharp round and looked into his companion's face.
"They tell me he is giving offence.
Of course he doesn't mean it.
Couldn't he draw it a little milder?"
Lord Alfred made his reply almost in a whisper.
"If you ask me,
I don't think he could.
If you got him down and trampled on him,
you might make him mild.
I don't think there's any other way."
"You couldn't speak to him,
"Not unless I did it with a horsewhip."
coming from Lord Alfred,
who was absolutely dependent on the man,
was very strong.
Lord Alfred had been much afflicted that morning.
He had spent some hours with his friend,
either going about the borough in the open carriage,
or standing just behind him at meetings,
or sitting close to him in committee-rooms,
--and had been nauseated with Melmotte.
When spoken to about his friend he could not restrain himself.
Lord Alfred had been born and bred a gentleman,
and found the position in which he was now earning his bread to be almost insupportable.
It had gone against the grain with him at first,
when he was called Alfred;
but now that he was told "just to open the door,"
and "just to give that message,"
he almost meditated revenge.
who was quick at observation,
had seen something of this in Grosvenor Square,
and declared that Lord Alfred had invested part of his recent savings in a cutting whip.
when he had got his answer,
whistled and withdrew.
But he was true to his party.
Melmotte was not the first vulgar man whom the Conservatives had taken by the hand,
and patted on the back,
and told that he was a god.
The Emperor of China was now in England,
and was to be entertained one night at the India Office.
The Secretary of State for the second great Asiatic Empire was to entertain the ruler of the first.
This was on Saturday the 6th of July,
and Melmotte's dinner was to take place on the following Monday.
Very great interest was made by the London world generally to obtain admission to the India Office,
--the making of such interest consisting in the most abject begging for tickets of admission,
addressed to the Secretary of State,
to all the under secretaries,
to assistant secretaries,
secretaries of departments,
and to head-messengers and their wives.
If a petitioner could not be admitted as a guest into the splendour of the reception rooms,
might not he,
--be allowed to stand in some passage whence the Emperor's back might perhaps be seen,
the petitioner's name might be printed in the list of guests which would be published on the next morning?
Now Mr. Melmotte with his family was,
supplied with tickets.
who was to spend a fortune in giving the Emperor a dinner,
was of course entitled to be present at other places to which the Emperor would be brought to be shown.
Melmotte had already seen the Emperor at a breakfast in Windsor Park,
and at a ball in royal halls.
But hitherto he had not been presented to the Emperor.
Presentations have to be restricted,
--if only on the score of time;
and it had been thought that as Mr. Melmotte would of course have some communication with the hardworked Emperor at his own house,
that would suffice.
But he had felt himself to be ill-used and was offended.
He spoke with bitterness to some of his supporters of the Royal Family generally,
because he had not been brought to the front rank either at the breakfast or at the ball,
at the India Office,
was determined to have his due.
But he was not on the list of those whom the Secretary of State intended on this occasion to present to the Brother of the Sun.
He had dined freely.
At this period of his career he had taken to dining freely,
--which was in itself imprudent,
as he had need at all hours of his best intelligence.
Let it not be understood that he was tipsy.
He was a man whom wine did not often affect after that fashion.
But it made him,
who was arrogant before,
tower in his arrogance till he was almost sure to totter.
It was probably at some moment after dinner that Lord Alfred decided upon buying the cutting whip of which he had spoken.
Melmotte went with his wife and daughter to the India Office,
and soon left them far in the background with a request,
--we may say an order,
--to Lord Alfred to take care of them.
It may be observed here that Marie Melmotte was almost as great a curiosity as the Emperor himself,
and was much noticed as the girl who had attempted to run away to New York,
but had gone without her lover.
Melmotte entertained some foolish idea that as the India Office was in Westminster,
he had a peculiar right to demand an introduction on this occasion because of his candidature.
He did succeed in getting hold of an unfortunate under secretary of state,
a studious and invaluable young peer,
known as Earl De Griffin.
He was a shy man,
of enormous wealth,
of mediocre intellect,
and no great physical ability,
who never amused himself;
but worked hard night and day,
and read everything that anybody could write,
and more than any other person could read,
Had Mr. Melmotte wanted to know the exact dietary of the peasants in Orissa,
or the revenue of the Punjaub,
or the amount of crime in Bombay,
Lord De Griffin would have informed him without a pause.
But in this matter of managing the Emperor,
the under secretary had nothing to do,
and would have been the last man to be engaged in such a service.
second in command at the India Office,
and of his official rank Melmotte was unfortunately made aware.
by no means hiding his demand in a whisper,
"I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial Majesty."
Lord De Griffin looked at him in despair,
not knowing the great man,
--being one of the few men in that room who did not know him.
"This is Mr. Melmotte,"
said Lord Alfred,
who had deserted the ladies and still stuck to his master.
"Lord De Griffin,
let me introduce you to Mr. Melmotte."
"Oh --oh --oh,"
said Lord De Griffin,
just putting out his hand.
"I am delighted;
and pretending to see somebody,
he made a weak and quite ineffectual attempt to escape.
Melmotte stood directly in his way,
and with unabashed audacity repeated his demand.
"I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial Majesty.
Will you do me the honour of making my request known to Mr. Wilson?"
Mr. Wilson was the Secretary of State,
who was as busy as a Secretary of State is sure to be on such an occasion.
"I hardly know,"
said Lord De Griffin.
"I'm afraid it's all arranged.
I don't know anything about it myself."
"You can introduce me to Mr. Wilson."
"He's up there,
and I couldn't get at him.
Really you must excuse me.
I'm very sorry.
If I see him I'll tell him."
And the poor under secretary again endeavoured to escape.
Mr. Melmotte put up his hand and stopped him.
"I'm not going to stand this kind of thing,"
The old Marquis of Auld Reekie was close at hand,
the father of Lord Nidderdale,
and therefore the proposed father-in-law of Melmotte's daughter,
and he poked his thumb heavily into Lord Alfred's ribs.
"It is generally understood,
"that the Emperor is to do me the honour of dining at my poor house on Monday.
He don't dine there unless I'm made acquainted with him before he comes.
I mean what I say.
I ain't going to entertain even an Emperor unless I'm good enough to be presented to him.
Perhaps you'd better let Mr. Wilson know,
as a good many people intend to come."
"Here's a row,"
said the old Marquis.
"I wish he'd be as good as his word."
"He has taken a little wine,"
whispered Lord Alfred.
"upon my word it isn't the thing.
They're only Indian chaps and Eastern swells who are presented here,
--not a fellow among
'em all who hasn't been in India or China,
or isn't a Secretary of State,
or something of that kind."
"Then they should have done it at Windsor,
or at the ball,"
pulling down his waistcoat.
I'm in earnest,
and somebody had better look to it.
If I'm not presented to his Imperial Majesty to-night,
by G -- --,
there shall be no dinner in Grosvenor Square on Monday.
I'm master enough of my own house,
to be able to manage that."
Here was a row,
as the Marquis had said!
Lord De Griffin was frightened,
and Lord Alfred felt that something ought to be done.
"There's no knowing how far the pig-headed brute may go in his obstinacy,"
Lord Alfred said to Mr. Lupton,
who was there.
It no doubt might have been wise to have allowed the merchant prince to return home with the resolution that his dinner should be abandoned.
He would have repented probably before the next morning;
and had he continued obdurate it would not have been difficult to explain to Celestial Majesty that something preferable had been found for that particular evening even to a banquet at the house of British commerce.
The Government would probably have gained the seat for Westminster,
as Melmotte would at once have become very unpopular with the great body of his supporters.
But Lord De Griffin was not the man to see this.
He did make his way up to Mr. Wilson,
and explained to the Amphytrion of the night the demand which was made on his hospitality.
A thoroughly well-established and experienced political Minister of State always feels that if he can make a friend or appease an enemy without paying a heavy price he will be doing a good stroke of business.
"Bring him up,"
said Mr. Wilson.
"He's going to do something out in the East,
"Nothing in India,"
said Lord De Griffin.
"The submarine telegraph is quite impossible."
instructing some satellite to find out in what way he might properly connect Mr. Melmotte with China,
sent Lord De Griffin away with his commission.
"My dear Alfred,
just allow me to manage these things myself,"
Mr. Melmotte was saying when the under secretary returned.
"I know my own position and how to keep it.
There shall be no dinner.
I'll be d -- -- if any of the lot shall dine in Grosvenor Square on Monday."
Lord Alfred was so astounded that he was thinking of making his way to the Prime Minister,
a man whom he abhorred and didn't know,
and of acquainting him with the terrible calamity which was threatened.
But the arrival of the under secretary saved him the trouble.
"If you will come with me,"
whispered Lord De Griffin,
"it shall be managed.
It isn't just the thing,
but as you wish it,
it shall be done."
"I do wish it,"
said Melmotte aloud.
He was one of those men whom success never mollified,
whose enjoyment of a point gained always demanded some hoarse note of triumph from his own trumpet.
"If you will be so kind as to follow me,"
said Lord De Griffin.
And so the thing was done.
as he was taken up to the imperial footstool,
was resolved upon making a little speech,
forgetful at the moment of interpreters,
--of the double interpreters whom the Majesty of China required;
but the awful,
quiescent solemnity of the celestial one quelled even him,
and he shuffled by without saying a word even of his own banquet.
But he had gained his point,
as he was taken home to poor Mr. Longestaffe's house in Bruton Street,
Lord Alfred tried to escape after putting Madame Melmotte and her daughter into the carriage,
but Melmotte insisted on his presence.
"You might as well come,
--there are two or three things I must settle before I go to bed."
"I'm about knocked up,"
said the unfortunate man.
Think what I've been through.
I've been all day at the hardest work a man can do."
Had he as usual got in first,
leaving his man-of-all-work to follow,
the man-of-all-work would have escaped.
fearing such defection,
put his hand on Lord Alfred's shoulder,
and the poor fellow was beaten.
As they were taken home a continual sound of cock-crowing was audible,
but as the words were not distinguished they required no painful attention;
but when the soda water and brandy and cigars made their appearance in Mr. Longestaffe's own back room,
then the trumpet was sounded with a full blast.
"I mean to let the fellows know what's what,"
walking about the room.
Lord Alfred had thrown himself into an arm-chair,
and was consoling himself as best he might with tobacco.
"Give and take is a very good motto.
If I scratch their back,
I mean them to scratch mine.
They won't find many people to spend ten thousand pounds in entertaining a guest of the country's as a private enterprise.
I don't know of any other man of business who could do it,
or would do it.
It's not much any of them can do for me.
I don't want
But if consideration is to be shown to anybody,
I intend to be considered.
The Prince treated me very scurvily,
and I shall take an opportunity of telling him so on Monday.
I suppose a man may be allowed to speak to his own guests."
"You might turn the election against you if you said anything the Prince didn't like."
"D -- -- the election,
I stand before the electors of Westminster as a man of business,
not as a courtier,
--as a man who understands commercial enterprise,
not as one of the Prince's toadies.
Some of you fellows in England don't realise the matter yet;
but I can tell you that I think myself quite as great a man as any Prince."
Lord Alfred looked at him,
with strong reminiscences of the old ducal home,
"I'll teach them a lesson before long.
Didn't I teach
'em a lesson to-night,
They tell me that Lord De Griffin has sixty thousand a-year to spend.
What's sixty thousand a year?
Didn't I make him go on my business?
And didn't I make
'em do as I chose?
You want to tell me this and that,
but I can tell you that I know more of men and women than some of you fellows do,
who think you know a great deal."
This went on through the whole of a long cigar;
as Lord Alfred slowly paced his way back to his lodgings in Mount Street,
he thought deeply whether there might not be means of escaping from his present servitude.
he said to himself over and over again as he slowly went to Mount Street.
and Melmotte's wealth,
and Melmotte's antecedents were much discussed down in Suffolk at this time.
He had been seen there in the flesh,
and there is no believing like that which comes from sight.
He had been staying at Caversham,
and many in those parts knew that Miss Longestaffe was now living in his house in London.
The purchase of the Pickering estate had also been noticed in all the Suffolk and Norfolk newspapers.
of his past frauds,
rumour also as to the instability of his presumed fortune,
were as current as those which declared him to be by far the richest man in England.
Miss Melmotte's little attempt had also been communicated in the papers;
and Sir Felix,
though he was not recognised as being "real Suffolk" himself,
was so far connected with Suffolk by name as to add something to this feeling of reality respecting the Melmottes generally.
Suffolk is very old-fashioned.
taken as a whole,
did not like the Melmotte fashion.
persistently and irrecoverably Conservative,
did not believe in Melmotte as a Conservative Member of Parliament.
Suffolk on this occasion was rather ashamed of the Longestaffes,
and took occasion to remember that it was barely the other day,
as Suffolk counts days,
since the original Longestaffe was in trade.
This selling of Pickering,
and especially the selling of it to Melmotte,
was a mean thing.
as a whole,
thoroughly believed that Melmotte had picked the very bones of every shareholder in that Franco-Austrian Assurance Company.
Mr. Hepworth was over with Roger one morning,
and they were talking about him,
--or talking rather of the attempted elopement.
"I know nothing about it,"
"and I do not intend to ask.
Of course I did know when they were down here that he hoped to marry her,
and I did believe that she was willing to marry him.
But whether the father had consented or not I never enquired."
"It seems he did not consent."
"Nothing could have been more unfortunate for either of them than such a marriage.
Melmotte will probably be in the
'Gazette' before long,
and my cousin not only has not a shilling,
but could not keep one if he had it."
"You think Melmotte will turn out a failure."
Of course he's a failure,
whether rich or poor;
--a miserable imposition,
a hollow vulgar fraud from beginning to end,
--too insignificant for you and me to talk of,
were it not that his position is a sign of the degeneracy of the age.
What are we coming to when such as he is an honoured guest at our tables?"
"At just a table here and there,"
suggested his friend.
--it is not that.
You can keep your house free from him,
and so can I mine.
But we set no example to the nation at large.
They who do set the example go to his feasts,
and of course he is seen at theirs in return.
And yet these leaders of the fashion know,
--at any rate they believe,
--that he is what he is because he has been a swindler greater than other swindlers.
What follows as a natural consequence?
Men reconcile themselves to swindling.
Though they themselves mean to be honest,
dishonesty of itself is no longer odious to them.
Then there comes the jealousy that others should be growing rich with the approval of all the world,
--and the natural aptitude to do what all the world approves.
It seems to me that the existence of a Melmotte is not compatible with a wholesome state of things in general."
Roger dined with the Bishop of Elmham that evening,
and the same hero was discussed under a different heading.
"He has given £200,"
said the Bishop,
"to the Curates' Aid Society.
I don't know that a man could spend his money much better than that."
who in his present mood was very bitter.
"The money is not clap-trap,
I presume that the money is really paid."
"I don't feel at all sure of that."
"Our collectors for clerical charities are usually stern men,
--very ready to make known defalcations on the part of promising subscribers.
I think they would take care to get the money during the election."
"And you think that money got in that way redounds to his credit?"
"Such a gift shows him to be a useful member of society,
--and I am always for encouraging useful men."
"Even though their own objects may be vile and pernicious?"
"There you beg ever so many questions,
Mr. Melmotte wishes to get into Parliament,
and if there would vote on the side which you at any rate approve.
I do not know that his object in that respect is pernicious.
And as a seat in Parliament has been a matter of ambition to the best of our countrymen for centuries,
I do not know why we should say that it is vile in this man."
Roger frowned and shook his head.
"Of course Mr. Melmotte is not the sort of gentleman whom you have been accustomed to regard as a fitting member for a Conservative constituency.
But the country is changing."
"It's going to the dogs,
--about as fast as it can go."
"We build churches much faster than we used to do."
"Do we say our prayers in them when we have built them?"
asked the Squire.
"It is very hard to see into the minds of men,"
said the Bishop;
"but we can see the results of their minds' work.
I think that men on the whole do live better lives than they did a hundred years ago.
There is a wider spirit of justice abroad,
more of mercy from one to another,
a more lively charity,
and if less of religious enthusiasm,
less also of superstition.
Men will hardly go to heaven,
by following forms only because their fathers followed the same forms before them."
"I suppose men will go to heaven,
by doing as they would be done by."
"There can be no safer lesson.
But we must hope that some may be saved even if they have not practised at all times that grand self-denial.
Who comes up to that teaching?
Do you not wish for,
instant pardon for any trespass that you may commit,
and are you always ready to forgive in that way yourself?
Do you not writhe with indignation at being wrongly judged by others who condemn you without knowing your actions or the causes of them;
and do you never judge others after that fashion?"
"I do not put myself forward as an example."
"I apologise for the personal form of my appeal.
A clergyman is apt to forget that he is not in the pulpit.
Of course I speak of men in general.
Taking society as a whole,
the big and the little,
the rich and the poor,
I think that it grows better from year to year,
and not worse.
that they who grumble at the times,
as Horace did,
and declare that each age is worse than its forerunner,
look only at the small things beneath their eyes,
and ignore the course of the world at large."
"But Roman freedom and Roman manners were going to the dogs when Horace wrote."
"But Christ was about to be born,
and men were already being made fit by wider intelligence for Christ's teaching.
And as for freedom,
has not freedom grown,
almost every year,
from that to this?"
"In Rome they were worshipping just such men as this Melmotte.
Do you remember the man who sat upon the seats of the knights and scoured the Via Sacra with his toga,
though he had been scourged from pillar to post for his villainies?
I always think of that man when I hear Melmotte's name mentioned.
hoc tribuno militum!
Is this the man to be Conservative member for Westminster?"
"Do you know of the scourges,
as a fact?"
"I think I know that they are deserved."
"That is hardly doing to others as you would be done by.
If the man is what you say,
he will surely be found out at last,
and the day of his punishment will come.
Your friend in the ode probably had a bad time of it,
in spite of his farms and his horses.
The world perhaps is managed more justly than you think,
I believe you're a Radical at heart,"
as he took his leave.
Only don't say so to the Prime Minister,
or I shall never get any of the better things which may be going."
The Bishop was not hopelessly in love with a young lady,
and was therefore less inclined to take a melancholy view of things in general than Roger Carbury.
To Roger everything seemed to be out of joint.
He had that morning received a letter from Lady Carbury,
reminding him of the promise of a loan,
should a time come to her of great need.
It had come very quickly.
Roger Carbury did not in the least begrudge the hundred pounds which he had already sent to his cousin;
but he did begrudge any furtherance afforded to the iniquitous schemes of Sir Felix.
He felt all but sure that the foolish mother had given her son money for his abortive attempt,
and that therefore this appeal had been made to him.
He alluded to no such fear in his letter.
He simply enclosed the cheque,
and expressed a hope that the amount might suffice for the present emergency.
But he was disheartened and disgusted by all the circumstances of the Carbury family.
There was Paul Montague,
bringing a woman such as Mrs. Hurtle down to Lowestoft,
declaring his purpose of continuing his visits to her,
as Roger thought,
utterly unable to free himself from his toils,
on this man's account,
Hetta was cold and hard to him.
He was conscious of the honesty of his own love,
sure that he could make her happy,
not in himself,
but in the fashion and ways of his own life.
What would be Hetta's lot if her heart was really given to Paul Montague?
When he got home,
he found Father Barham sitting in his library.
An accident had lately happened at Father Barham's own establishment.
The wind had blown the roof off his cottage;
and Roger Carbury,
though his affection for the priest was waning,
had offered him shelter while the damage was being repaired.
Shelter at Carbury Manor was very much more comfortable than the priest's own establishment,
even with the roof on,
and Father Barham was in clover.
Father Barham was reading his own favourite newspaper,
when Roger entered the room.
"Have you seen this,
I am not likely to have seen anything that belongs peculiarly to
"That's the prejudice of what you are pleased to call the Anglican Church.
Mr. Melmotte is a convert to our faith.
He is a great man,
and will perhaps be one of the greatest known on the face of the globe."
"Melmotte a convert to Romanism!
I'll make you a present of him,
and thank you to take him;
but I don't believe that we've any such good riddance."
Then Father Barham read a paragraph out of "The Surplice."
"Mr. Augustus Melmotte,
the great financier and capitalist,
has presented a hundred guineas towards the erection of an altar for the new church of St. Fabricius,
in Tothill Fields.
The donation was accompanied by a letter from Mr. Melmotte's secretary,
which leaves but little doubt that the new member for Westminster will be a member,
and no inconsiderable member,
of the Catholic party in the House,
during the next session."
"That's another dodge,
"What do you mean by a dodge,
Because money is given for a pious object of which you do not happen to approve,
must it be a dodge?"
my dear Father Barham,
the day before the same great man gave £200 to the Protestant Curates' Aid Society.
I have just left the Bishop exulting in this great act of charity."
"I don't believe a word of it;
--or it may be a parting gift to the Church to which he belonged in his darkness."
"And you would be really proud of Mr. Melmotte as a convert?"
"I would be proud of the lowest human being that has a soul,"
said the priest;
"but of course we are glad to welcome the wealthy and the great."
"A man is great who has made for himself such a position as that of Mr. Melmotte.
And when such a one leaves your Church and joins our own,
it is a great sign to us that the Truth is prevailing."
without another word,
took his candle and went to bed.
FATHER BARHAM VISITS LONDON.
It was considered to be a great thing to catch the Roman Catholic vote in Westminster.
For many years it has been considered a great thing both in the House and out of the House to "catch" Roman Catholic votes.
There are two modes of catching these votes.
This or that individual Roman Catholic may be promoted to place,
so that he personally may be made secure;
or the right hand of fellowship may be extended to the people of the Pope generally,
so that the people of the Pope may be taught to think that a general step is being made towards the reconversion of the nation.
The first measure is the easier,
but the effect is but slight and soon passes away.
The promoted one,
though as far as his prayers go he may remain as good a Catholic as ever,
soon ceases to be one of the party to be conciliated,
and is apt after a while to be regarded by them as an enemy.
But the other mode,
if a step be well taken,
may be very efficacious.
It has now and then occurred that every Roman Catholic in Ireland and England has been brought to believe that the nation is coming round to them;
--and in this or that borough the same conviction has been made to grow.
To catch the Protestant,
--that is the peculiarly Protestant,
--vote and the Roman Catholic vote at the same instant is a feat difficult of accomplishment;
but it has been attempted before,
and was attempted now by Mr. Melmotte and his friends.
It was perhaps thought by his friends that the Protestants would not notice the £100 given for the altar to St. Fabricius;
but Mr. Alf was wide awake,
and took care that Mr. Melmotte's religious opinions should be a matter of interest to the world at large.
During all that period of newspaper excitement there was perhaps no article that created so much general interest as that which appeared in the "Evening Pulpit,"
with a special question asked at the head of it,
"For Priest or Parson?"
In this article,
which was more than usually delightful as being pungent from the beginning to the end and as being unalloyed with any dry didactic wisdom,
Mr. Alf's man,
who did that business,
declared that it was really important that the nation at large and especially the electors of Westminster should know what was the nature of Mr. Melmotte's faith.
That he was a man of a highly religious temperament was most certain by his munificent charities on behalf of religion.
Two noble donations,
which by chance had been made just at this crisis,
were doubtless no more than the regular continuation of his ordinary flow of Christian benevolence.
The "Evening Pulpit" by no means insinuated that the gifts were intended to have any reference to the approaching election.
Far be it from the "Evening Pulpit" to imagine that so great a man as Mr. Melmotte looked for any return in this world from his charitable generosity.
as Protestants naturally desired to be represented in Parliament by a Protestant member,
and as Roman Catholics as naturally desired to be represented by a Roman Catholic,
perhaps Mr. Melmotte would not object to declare his creed.
This was biting,
and of course did mischief;
but Mr. Melmotte and his manager were not foolish enough to allow it to actuate them in any way.
He had thrown his bread upon the waters,
assisting St. Fabricius with one hand and the Protestant curates with the other,
and must leave the results to take care of themselves.
If the Protestants chose to believe that he was hyper-protestant,
and the Catholics that he was tending towards papacy,
so much the better for him.
Any enthusiastic religionists wishing to enjoy such conviction's would not allow themselves to be enlightened by the manifestly interested malignity of Mr. Alf's newspaper.
It may be doubted whether the donation to the Curates' Aid Society did have much effect.
It may perhaps have induced a resolution in some few to go to the poll whose minds were active in regard to religion and torpid as to politics.
But the donation to St. Fabricius certainly had results.
It was taken up and made much of by the Roman Catholic party generally,
till a report got itself spread abroad and almost believed that Mr. Melmotte was going to join the Church of Rome.
These manoeuvres require most delicate handling,
or evil may follow instead of good.
On the second afternoon after the question had been asked in the "Evening Pulpit,"
an answer to it appeared,
"For Priest and not for Parson."
Therein various assertions made by Roman Catholic organs and repeated in Roman Catholic speeches were brought together,
so as to show that Mr. Melmotte really had at last made up his mind on this important question.
All the world knew now,
said Mr. Alf's writer,
that with that keen sense of honesty which was the Great Financier's peculiar characteristic,
--the Great Financier was the name which Mr. Alf had specially invented for Mr. Melmotte,
--he had doubted,
till the truth was absolutely borne in upon him,
whether he could serve the nation best as a Liberal or as a Conservative.
He had solved that doubt with wisdom.
And now this other doubt had passed through the crucible,
and by the aid of fire a golden certainty had been produced.
The world of Westminster at last knew that Mr. Melmotte was a Roman Catholic.
Now nothing was clearer than this,
--that though catching the Catholic vote would greatly help a candidate,
no real Roman Catholic could hope to be returned.
This last article vexed Mr. Melmotte,
and he proposed to his friends to send a letter to the "Breakfast Table" asserting that he adhered to the Protestant faith of his ancestors.
as it was suspected by many,
and was now being whispered to the world at large,
that Melmotte had been born a Jew,
this assurance would perhaps have been too strong.
"Do nothing of the kind,"
said Mr. Beauchamp Beauclerk.
"If any one asks you a question at any meeting,
say that you are a Protestant.
But it isn't likely,
as we have none but our own people.
Don't go writing letters."
But unfortunately the gift of an altar to St. Fabricius was such a godsend that sundry priests about the country were determined to cling to the good man who had bestowed his money so well.
I think that many of them did believe that this was a great sign of a beauteous stirring of people's minds in favour of Rome.
The fervent Romanists have always this point in their favour,
that they are ready to believe.
And they have a desire for the conversion of men which is honest in an exactly inverse ratio to the dishonesty of the means which they employ to produce it.
Father Barham was ready to sacrifice anything personal to himself in the good cause,
his money when he had any,
and his life.
Much as he liked the comfort of Carbury Hall,
he would never for a moment condescend to ensure its continued enjoyment by reticence as to his religion.
Roger Carbury was hard of heart.
He could see that.
But the dropping of water might hollow the stone.
If the dropping should be put an end to by outward circumstances before the stone had been impressed that would not be his fault.
He at any rate would do his duty.
In that fixed resolution Father Barham was admirable.
But he had no scruple whatsoever as to the nature of the arguments he would use,
--or as to the facts which he would proclaim.
With the mingled ignorance of his life and the positiveness of his faith he had at once made up his mind that Melmotte was a great man,
and that he might be made a great instrument on behalf of the Pope.
He believed in the enormous proportions of the man's wealth,
--believed that he was powerful in all quarters of the globe,
because he was so told by "The Surplice,"
that the man was at heart a Catholic.
That a man should be at heart a Catholic,
and live in the world professing the Protestant religion,
was not to Father Barham either improbable or distressing.
Kings who had done so were to him objects of veneration.
By such subterfuges and falsehood of life had they been best able to keep alive the spark of heavenly fire.
There was a mystery and religious intrigue in this which recommended itself to the young priest's mind.
But it was clear to him that this was a peculiar time,
--in which it behoved an earnest man to be doing something.
He had for some weeks been preparing himself for a trip to London in order that he might spend a week in retreat with kindred souls who from time to time betook themselves to the cells of St. Fabricius.
just at this season of the Westminster election,
Father Barham made a journey to London.
He had conceived the great idea of having a word or two with Mr. Melmotte himself.
He thought that he might be convinced by a word or two as to the man's faith.
And he thought,
that it might be a happiness to him hereafter to have had intercourse with a man who was perhaps destined to be the means of restoring the true faith to his country.
On Saturday night,
--that Saturday night on which Mr. Melmotte had so successfully exercised his greatness at the India Office,
--he took up his quarters in the cloisters of St. Fabricius;
he spent a goodly festive Sunday among the various Romanist church services of the metropolis;
and on the Monday morning he sallied forth in quest of Mr. Melmotte.
Having obtained that address from some circular,
he went first to Abchurch Lane.
But on this day,
and on the next,
which would be the day of the election,
Mr. Melmotte was not expected in the City,
and the priest was referred to his present private residence in Bruton Street.
There he was told that the great man might probably be found in Grosvenor Square,
and at the house in the square Father Barham was at last successful.
Mr. Melmotte was there superintending the arrangements for the entertainment of the Emperor.
or more probably the workmen,
must have been at fault in giving the priest admittance.
But in truth the house was in great confusion.
The wreaths of flowers and green boughs were being suspended,
last daubs of heavy gilding were being given to the wooden capitals of mock pilasters,
incense was being burned to kill the smell of the paint,
tables were being fixed and chairs were being moved;
and an enormous set of open presses were being nailed together for the accommodation of hats and cloaks.
The hall was chaos,
and poor Father Barham,
who had heard a good deal of the Westminster election,
but not a word of the intended entertainment of the Emperor,
was at a loss to conceive for what purpose these operations were carried on.
But through the chaos he made his way,
and did soon find himself in the presence of Mr. Melmotte in the banqueting hall.
Mr. Melmotte was attended both by Lord Alfred and his son.
He was standing in front of the chair which had been arranged for the Emperor,
with his hat on one side of his head,
and he was very angry indeed.
He had been given to understand when the dinner was first planned,
that he was to sit opposite to his august guest;
--by which he had conceived that he was to have a seat immediately in face of the Emperor of Emperors,
of the Brother of the Sun,
of the Celestial One himself.
It was now explained to him that this could not be done.
In face of the Emperor there must be a wide space,
so that his Majesty might be able to look down the hall;
and the royal princesses who sat next to the Emperor,
and the royal princes who sat next to the princesses,
must also be so indulged.
And in this way Mr. Melmotte's own seat became really quite obscure.
Lord Alfred was having a very bad time of it.
"It's that fellow from
'The Herald' office did it,
almost in a passion.
"I don't know how people ought to sit.
But that's the reason."
"I'm d -- -- if I'm going to be treated in this way in my own house,"
were the first words which the priest heard.
And as Father Barham walked up the room and came close to the scene of action,
unperceived by either of the Grendalls,
Mr. Melmotte was trying,
but trying in vain,
to move his own seat nearer to Imperial Majesty.
A bar had been put up of such a nature that Melmotte,
sitting in the seat prepared for him,
would absolutely be barred out from the centre of his own hall.
"Who the d -- -- are you?"
when the priest appeared close before his eyes on the inner or more imperial side of the bar.
It was not the habit of Father Barham's life to appear in sleek apparel.
He was ever clothed in the very rustiest brown black that age can produce.
In Beccles where he was known it signified little,
but in the halls of the great one in Grosvenor Square,
perhaps the stranger's welcome was cut to the measure of his outer man.
A comely priest in glossy black might have been received with better grace.
Father Barham stood humbly with his hat off.
He was a man of infinite pluck;
but outward humility --at any rate at the commencement of an enterprise,
--was the rule of his life.
"I am the Rev. Mr. Barham,"
said the visitor.
"I am the priest of Beccles in Suffolk.
I believe I am speaking to Mr. Melmotte."
[Illustration: Father Barham.]
"That's my name,
And what may you want?
I don't know whether you are aware that you have found your way into my private dining-room without any introduction.
Where the mischief are the fellows,
who ought to have seen about this?
I wish you'd look to it,
Can anybody who pleases walk into my hall?"
"I came on a mission which I hope may be pleaded as my excuse,"
said the priest.
Although he was bold,
he found it difficult to explain his mission.
Had not Lord Alfred been there he could have done it better,
in spite of the very repulsive manner of the great man himself.
"Is it business?"
asked Lord Alfred.
"Certainly it is business,"
said Father Barham with a smile.
"Then you had better call at the office in Abchurch Lane,
--in the City,"
said his lordship.
"My business is not of that nature.
I am a poor servant of the Cross,
who is anxious to know from the lips of Mr. Melmotte himself that his heart is inclined to the true Faith."
"See that there ain't any knives about,
"No otherwise mad,
than they have ever been accounted mad who are enthusiastic in their desire for the souls of others."
"Just get a policeman,
Or send somebody;
you'd better not go away."
"You will hardly need a policeman,
continued the priest.
"If I might speak to you alone for a few minutes --"
I am very busy,
and if you will not go away you'll have to be taken away.
I wonder whether anybody knows him."
of Carbury Hall,
is my friend."
D -- -- the Carburys!
Did any of the Carburys send you here?
A set of beggars!
Why don't you do something,
to get rid of him?"
"You'd better go,"
said Lord Alfred.
"Don't make a rumpus,
there's a good fellow;
--but just go."
"There shall be no rumpus,"
said the priest,
"I asked for you at the door,
and was told to come in by your own servants.
Have I been uncivil that you should treat me in this fashion?"
"You're in the way,"
said Lord Alfred.
"It's a piece of gross impertinence,"
"Will you not tell me before I go whether I shall pray for you as one whose steps in the right path should be made sure and firm;
or as one still in error and in darkness?"
"What the mischief does he mean?"
"He wants to know whether you're a papist,"
said Lord Alfred.
"What the deuce is it to him?"
almost screamed Melmotte;
--whereupon Father Barham bowed and took his leave.
"That's a remarkable thing,"
Even this poor priest's mad visit added to his inflation.
"I suppose he was in earnest."
"Mad as a hatter,"
said Lord Alfred.
"But why did he come to me in his madness --to me especially?
That's what I want to know.
I'll tell you what it is.
There isn't a man in all England at this moment thought of so much as --your humble servant.
I wonder whether the
'Morning Pulpit' people sent him here now to find out really what is my religion."
"Mad as a hatter,"
said Lord Alfred again;
--"just that and no more."
"My dear fellow,
I don't think you've the gift of seeing very far.
The truth is they don't know what to make of me;
--and I don't intend that they shall.
I'm playing my game,
and there isn't one of
'em understands it except myself.
It's no good my sitting here,
I shan't be able to move.
How am I to get at you if I want anything?"
"What can you want?
There'll be lots of servants about."
"I'll have this bar down,
at any rate."
And he did succeed in having removed the bar which had been specially put up to prevent his intrusion on his own guests in his own house.
"I look upon that fellow's coming here as a very singular sign of the times,"
he went on to say.
"They'll want before long to know where I have my clothes made,
and who measures me for my boots!"
Perhaps the most remarkable circumstance in the career of this remarkable man was the fact that he came almost to believe in himself.
Father Barham went away certainly disgusted;
and yet not altogether disheartened.
The man had not declared that he was not a Roman Catholic.
He had shown himself to be a brute.
He had blasphemed and cursed.
He had been outrageously uncivil to a man whom he must have known to be a minister of God.
He had manifested himself to this priest,
who had been born an English gentleman,
as being no gentleman.
not the less might he be a good Catholic,
--or good enough at any rate to be influential on the right side.
To his eyes Melmotte,
with all his insolent vulgarity,
was infinitely a more hopeful man than Roger Carbury.
"He insulted me,"
said Father Barham to a brother religionist that evening within the cloisters of St. Fabricius.
"Did he intend to insult you?"
"Certainly he did.
But what of that?
It is not by the hands of polished men,
nor even of the courteous,
that this work has to be done.
He was preparing for some great festival,
and his mind was intent upon that."
"He entertains the Emperor of China this very day,"
said the brother priest,
as a resident in London,
heard from time to time what was being done.
"The Emperor of China!
that accounts for it.
I do think that he is on our side,
even though he gave me but little encouragement for saying so.
Will they vote for him,
here at Westminster?"
"Our people will.
They think that he is rich and can help them."
"There is no doubt of his wealth,
said Father Barham.
"Some people do doubt;
--but others say he is the richest man in the world."
"He looked like it,
--and spoke like it,"
said Father Barham.
"Think what such a man might do,
if he be really the wealthiest man in the world!
And if he had been against us would he not have said so?
Though he was uncivil,
I am glad that I saw him."
with a simplicity that was singularly mingled with his religious cunning,
made himself believe before he returned to Beccles that Mr. Melmotte was certainly a Roman Catholic.
LORD NIDDERDALE TRIES HIS HAND AGAIN.
Lord Nidderdale had half consented to renew his suit to Marie Melmotte.
He had at any rate half promised to call at Melmotte's house on the Sunday with the object of so doing.
As far as that promise had been given it was broken,
for on the Sunday he was not seen in Bruton Street.
Though not much given to severe thinking,
he did feel that on this occasion there was need for thought.
His father's property was not very large.
His father and his grandfather had both been extravagant men,
and he himself had done something towards adding to the family embarrassments.
It had been an understood thing,
since he had commenced life,
that he was to marry an heiress.
In such families as his,
when such results have been achieved,
it is generally understood that matters shall be put right by an heiress.
It has become an institution,
and is almost as serviceable for maintaining the proper order of things.
Rank squanders money;
trade makes it;
--and then trade purchases rank by re-gilding its splendour.
as it affects the aristocracy generally,
is well understood,
and was quite approved of by the old marquis --so that he had felt himself to be justified in eating up the property,
which his son's future marriage would renew as a matter of course.
Nidderdale himself had never dissented,
had entertained no fanciful theory opposed to this view,
had never alarmed his father by any liaison tending towards matrimony with any undowered beauty;
--but had claimed his right to "have his fling" before he devoted himself to the redintegration of the family property.
His father had felt that it would be wrong and might probably be foolish to oppose so natural a desire.
He had regarded all the circumstances of "the fling" with indulgent eyes.
But there arose some little difference as to the duration of the fling,
and the father had at last found himself compelled to inform his son that if the fling were carried on much longer it must be done with internecine war between himself and his heir.
whose sense and temper were alike good,
saw the thing quite in the proper light.
He assured his father that he had no intention of "cutting up rough,"
declared that he was ready for the heiress as soon as the heiress should be put in his way,
and set himself honestly about the task imposed on him.
This had all been arranged at Auld Reekie Castle during the last winter,
and the reader knows the result.
But the affair had assumed abnormal difficulties.
Perhaps the Marquis had been wrong in flying at wealth which was reputed to be almost unlimited,
but which was not absolutely fixed.
A couple of hundred thousand pounds down might have been secured with greater ease.
But here there had been a prospect of endless money,
--of an inheritance which might not improbably make the Auld Reekie family conspicuous for its wealth even among the most wealthy of the nobility.
The old man had fallen into the temptation,
and abnormal difficulties had been the result.
Some of these the reader knows.
Latterly two difficulties had culminated above the others.
The young lady preferred another gentleman,
and disagreeable stories were afloat,
not only as to the way in which the money had been made,
but even as to its very existence.
was a man who hated to be beaten.
As far as he could learn from inquiry,
the money would be there,
so much money as had been promised.
A considerable sum,
sufficient to secure the bridegroom from absolute shipwreck,
--though by no means enough to make a brilliant marriage,
--had in truth been already settled on Marie,
in her possession.
As to that,
her father had armed himself with a power of attorney for drawing the income,
--but had made over the property to his daughter,
so that in the event of unforeseen accidents on
he might retire to obscure comfort,
and have the means perhaps of beginning again with whitewashed cleanliness.
When doing this,
he had doubtless not anticipated the grandeur to which he would soon rise,
or the fact that he was about to embark on seas so dangerous that this little harbour of refuge would hardly offer security to his vessel.
Marie had been quite correct in her story to her favoured lover.
And the Marquis's lawyer had ascertained that if Marie ever married before she herself had restored this money to her father,
her husband would be so far safe,
--with this as a certainty and the immense remainder in prospect.
The Marquis had determined to persevere.
Pickering was to be added.
Mr. Melmotte had been asked to depone the title-deeds,
and had promised to do so as soon as the day of the wedding should have been fixed with the consent of all the parties.
The Marquis's lawyer had ventured to express a doubt;
but the Marquis had determined to persevere.
The reader will,
remember that those dreadful misgivings,
which are I trust agitating his own mind,
have been borne in upon him by information which had not as yet reached the Marquis in all its details.
But Nidderdale had his doubts.
That absurd elopement,
which Melmotte declared really to mean nothing,
--the romance of a girl who wanted to have one little fling of her own before she settled down for life,
--was perhaps his strongest objection.
had not gone with her;
but then one doesn't wish to have one's intended wife even attempt to run off with any one but oneself.
"She'll be sick of him by this time,
I should say,"
his father said to him.
"What does it matter,
if the money's there?"
The Marquis seemed to think that the escapade had simply been the girl's revenge against his son for having made his arrangements so exclusively with Melmotte,
instead of devoting himself to her.
Nidderdale acknowledged to himself that he had been remiss.
He told himself that she was possessed of more spirit than he had thought.
By the Sunday evening he had determined that he would try again.
He had expected that the plum would fall into his mouth.
He would now stretch out his hand to pick it.
On the Monday he went to the house in Bruton Street,
at lunch time.
Melmotte and the two Grendalls had just come over from their work in the square,
and the financier was full of the priest's visit to him.
Madame Melmotte was there,
and Miss Longestaffe,
who was to be sent for by her friend Lady Monogram that afternoon,
after they had sat down,
Marie came in.
Nidderdale got up and shook hands with her,
--of course as though nothing had happened.
putting a brave face upon it,
struggling hard in the midst of very real difficulties,
succeeded in saying an ordinary word or two.
Her position was uncomfortable.
A girl who has run away with her lover and has been brought back again by her friends,
must for a time find it difficult to appear in society with ease.
But when a girl has run away without her lover,
--has run away expecting her lover to go with her,
and has then been brought back,
her lover not having stirred,
her state of mind must be peculiarly harassing.
But Marie's courage was good,
and she ate her lunch even though she sat next to Lord Nidderdale.
Melmotte was very gracious to the young lord.
"Did you ever hear anything like that,
speaking of the priest's visit.
"Mad as a hatter,"
said Lord Alfred.
"I don't know much about his madness.
I shouldn't wonder if he had been sent by the Archbishop of Westminster.
Why don't we have an Archbishop of Westminster when they've got one?
I shall have to see to that when I'm in the House.
I suppose there is a bishop,
Alfred shook his head.
"There's a Dean,
for I called on him.
He told me flat he wouldn't vote for me.
I thought all those parsons were Conservatives.
It didn't occur to me that the fellow had come from the Archbishop,
or I would have been more civil to him."
"Mad as a hatter;
said Lord Alfred.
"You should have seen him,
It would have been as good as a play to you."
"I suppose you didn't ask him to the dinner,
"D -- -- the dinner,
I'm sick of it,"
"We must go back again,
Those fellows will never get along if they are not looked after.
I shall expect you to be ready at exactly a quarter before eight.
His Imperial Majesty is to arrive at eight precisely,
and I must be there to receive him.
will have to receive your guests in the drawing-room."
The ladies went up-stairs,
and Lord Nidderdale followed them.
Miss Longestaffe soon took her departure,
alleging that she couldn't keep her dear friend Lady Monogram waiting for her.
Then there fell upon Madame Melmotte the duty of leaving the young people together,
a duty which she found a great difficulty in performing.
After all that had happened,
she did not know how to get up and go out of the room.
As regarded herself,
the troubles of these troublous times were becoming almost too much for her.
She had no pleasure from her grandeur,
--and probably no belief in her husband's achievements.
It was her present duty to assist in getting Marie married to this young man,
and that duty she could only do by going away.
But she did not know how to get out of her chair.
She expressed in fluent French her abhorrence of the Emperor,
and her wish that she might be allowed to remain in bed during the whole evening.
She liked Nidderdale better than any one else who came there,
and wondered at Marie's preference for Sir Felix.
Lord Nidderdale assured her that nothing was so easy as kings and emperors,
because no one was expected to say anything.
She sighed and shook her head,
and wished again that she might be allowed to go to bed.
who was by degrees plucking up her courage,
declared that though kings and emperors were horrors as a rule,
she thought an Emperor of China would be good fun.
Then Madame Melmotte also plucked up her courage,
rose from her chair,
and made straight for the door.
where are you going?"
putting her handkerchief up to her face,
declared that she was being absolutely destroyed by a toothache.
"I must see if I can't do something for her,"
hurrying to the door.
But Lord Nidderdale was too quick for her,
and stood with his back to it.
"That's a shame,"
"Your mother has gone on purpose that I may speak to you,"
said his lordship.
"Why should you grudge me the opportunity?"
Marie returned to her chair and again seated herself.
She also had thought much of her own position since her return from Liverpool.
Why had Sir Felix not been there?
Why had he not come since her return,
at any rate,
endeavoured to see her?
Why had he made no attempt to write to her?
Had it been her part to do so,
she would have found a hundred ways of getting at him.
She absolutely had walked inside the garden of the square on Sunday morning,
and had contrived to leave a gate open on each side.
But he had made no sign.
Her father had told her that he had not gone to Liverpool --and had assured her that he had never intended to go.
Melmotte had been very savage with her about the money,
and had loudly accused Sir Felix of stealing it.
The repayment he never mentioned,
--a piece of honesty,
which had showed no virtue on the part of Sir Felix.
But even if he had spent the money,
why was he not man enough to come and say so?
Marie could have forgiven that fault,
--could have forgiven even the gambling and the drunkenness which had caused the failure of the enterprise on his side,
if he had had the courage to come and confess to her.
What she could not forgive was continued indifference,
--or the cowardice which forbade him to show himself.
She had more than once almost doubted his love,
though as a lover he had been better than Nidderdale.
as far as she could see,
he was ready to consent that the thing should be considered as over between them.
No doubt she could write to him.
She had more than once almost determined to do so.
But then she had reflected that if he really loved her he would come to her.
She was quite ready to run away with a lover,
if her lover loved her;
but she would not fling herself at a man's head.
Therefore she had done nothing,
--beyond leaving the garden gates open on the Sunday morning.
But what was she to do with herself?
She also felt,
she knew not why,
that the present turmoil of her father's life might be brought to an end by some dreadful convulsion.
No girl could be more anxious to be married and taken away from her home.
If Sir Felix did not appear again,
what should she do?
She had seen enough of life to be aware that suitors would come,
--would come as long as that convulsion was staved off.
She did not suppose that her journey to Liverpool would frighten all the men away.
But she had thought that it would put an end to Lord Nidderdale's courtship;
and when her father had commanded her,
shaking her by the shoulders,
to accept Lord Nidderdale when he should come on Sunday,
she had replied by expressing her assurance that Lord Nidderdale would never be seen at that house any more.
On the Sunday he had not come;
but here he was now,
standing with his back to the drawing-room door,
and cutting off her retreat with the evident intention of renewing his suit.
She was determined at any rate that she would speak up.
"I don't know what you should have to say to me,
"Why shouldn't I have something to say to you?"
you know why.
I've told you ever so often,
I thought a gentleman would never go on with a lady when the lady has told him that she liked somebody else better."
"Perhaps I don't believe you when you tell me."
that is impudent!
You may believe it then.
I think I've given you reason to believe it,
at any rate."
"You can't be very fond of him now,
I should think."
"That's all you know about it,
Why shouldn't I be fond of him?
Accidents will happen,
"I don't want to make any allusion to anything that's unpleasant,
"You may say just what you please.
All the world knows about it.
Of course I went to Liverpool,
and of course papa had me brought back again."
"Why did not Sir Felix go?"
"I don't think,
that that can be any business of yours."
"But I think that it is,
and I'll tell you why.
You might as well let me say what I've got to say,
--out at once."
"You may say what you like,
but it can't make any difference."
"You knew me before you knew him,
"What does that matter?
If it comes to that,
I knew ever so many people before I knew you."
"And you were engaged to me."
"You broke it off."
"Listen to me for a moment or two.
I know I did.
your father and my father broke it off for us."
"If we had cared for each other they couldn't have broken it off.
Nobody in the world could break me off as long as I felt that he really loved me;
--not if they were to cut me in pieces.
But you didn't care,
not a bit.
You did it just because your father told you.
And so did I.
But I know better than that now.
You never cared for me a bit more than for the old woman at the crossing.
You thought I didn't understand;
--but I did.
And now you've come again;
--because your father has told you again.
And you'd better go away."
"There's a great deal of truth in what you say."
"It's all true,
Every word of it."
"I wish you wouldn't call me my lord."
"I suppose you are a lord,
and therefore I shall call you so.
I never called you anything else when they pretended that we were to be married,
and you never asked me.
I never even knew what your name was till I looked it out in the book after I had consented."
"There is truth in what you say;
--but it isn't true now.
How was I to love you when I had seen so little of you?
I do love you now."
"Then you needn't;
--for it isn't any good."
"I do love you now,
and I think you'd find that I should be truer to you than that fellow who wouldn't take the trouble to go down to Liverpool with you."
"You don't know why he didn't go."
--perhaps I do.
But I did not come here to say anything about that."
"Why didn't he go,
She asked the question with an altered tone and an altered face.
"If you really know,
you might as well tell me."
--that's just what I ought not to do.
But he ought to tell you.
Do you really in your heart believe that he means to come back to you?"
"I don't know,"
"I do love him;
--I do indeed.
I know that you are good-natured.
You are more good-natured than he is.
But he did like me.
You never did;
not a bit.
It isn't true.
I ain't a fool.
I won't let you now.
I don't care what he is;
I'll be true to him.
You oughtn't to go on like that because papa and mamma let you come here.
I didn't let you come.
I don't want you to come.
--I won't say any kind word to you.
I love Sir Felix Carbury better --than any person --in all the world.
I don't know whether you call that kind,
but it's true."
"Say good-bye to me,
I don't mind saying good-bye.
and don't come any more."
You'll find the difference between me and him yet."
So he took his leave,
and as he sauntered away he thought that upon the whole he had prospered,
considering the extreme difficulties under which he had laboured in carrying on his suit.
"She's quite a different sort of girl from what I took her to be,"
he said to himself.
"Upon my word,
she's awfully jolly."
when the interview was over,
walked about the room almost in dismay.
It was borne in upon her by degrees that Sir Felix Carbury was not at all points quite as nice as she had thought him.
Of his beauty there was no doubt;
but then she could trust him for no other good quality.
Why did he not come to her?
Why did he not show some pluck?
Why did he not tell her the truth?
She had quite believed Lord Nidderdale when he said that he knew the cause that had kept Sir Felix from going to Liverpool.
And she had believed him,
when he said that it was not his business to tell her.
But the reason,
let it be what it might,
be prejudicial to her love.
Lord Nidderdale was,
not at all beautiful.
He had a common-place,
with a turn-up nose,
high cheek bones,
no especial complexion,
and bright laughing eyes,
--not at all an Adonis such as her imagination had painted.
But if he had only made love at first as he had attempted to do it now,
she thought that she would have submitted herself to be cut in pieces for him.
Mr. SQUERCUM IS EMPLOYED.
While these things were being done in Bruton Street and Grosvenor Square horrid rumours were prevailing in the City and spreading from the City westwards to the House of Commons,
which was sitting this Monday afternoon with a prospect of an adjournment at seven o'clock in consequence of the banquet to be given to the Emperor.
It is difficult to explain the exact nature of this rumour,
as it was not thoroughly understood by those who propagated it.
But it is certainly the case that the word forgery was whispered by more than one pair of lips.
Many of Melmotte's staunchest supporters thought that he was very wrong not to show himself that day in the City.
What good could he do pottering about among the chairs and benches in the banqueting room?
There were people to manage that kind of thing.
In such an affair it was his business to do simply as he was told,
and to pay the bill.
It was not as though he were giving a little dinner to a friend,
and had to see himself that the wine was brought up in good order.
His work was in the City;
and at such a time as this and in such a crisis as this,
he should have been in the City.
Men will whisper forgery behind a man's back who would not dare even to think it before his face.
Of this particular rumour our young friend Dolly Longestaffe was the parent.
With unhesitating resolution,
nothing awed by his father,
Dolly had gone to his attorney,
immediately after that Friday on which Mr. Longestaffe first took his seat at the Railway Board.
Dolly was possessed of fine qualities,
but it must be owned that veneration was not one of them.
"I don't know why Mr. Melmotte is to be different from anybody else,"
he had said to his father.
"When I buy a thing and don't pay for it,
it is because I haven't got the tin,
and I suppose it's about the same with him.
It's all right,
but I don't see why he should have got hold of the place till the money was paid down."
"Of course it's all right,"
said the father.
"You think you understand everything,
when you really understand nothing at all."
"Of course I'm slow,"
"I don't comprehend these things.
But then Squercum does.
When a fellow is stupid himself,
he ought to have a sharp fellow to look after his business."
"You'll ruin me and yourself too,
if you go to such a man as that.
Why can't you trust Mr. Bideawhile?
Slow and Bideawhile have been the family lawyers for a century."
Dolly made some remark as to the old family advisers which was by no means pleasing to the father's ears,
and went his way.
The father knew his boy,
and knew that his boy would go to Squercum.
All he could himself do was to press Mr. Melmotte for the money with what importunity he could assume.
He wrote a timid letter to Mr. Melmotte,
which had no result;
on the next Friday,
again went into the City and there encountered perturbation of spirit and sheer loss of time,
--as the reader has already learned.
Squercum was a thorn in the side of all the Bideawhiles.
Mr. Slow had been gathered to his fathers,
but of the Bideawhiles there were three in the business,
a father and two sons,
to whom Squercum was a pest and a musquito,
a running sore and a skeleton in the cupboard.
It was not only in reference to Mr. Longestaffe's affairs that they knew Squercum.
The Bideawhiles piqued themselves on the decorous and orderly transaction of their business.
It had grown to be a rule in the house that anything done quickly must be done badly.
They never were in a hurry for money,
and they expected their clients never to be in a hurry for work.
Squercum was the very opposite to this.
He had established himself,
without predecessors and without a partner,
and we may add without capital,
at a little office in Fetter Lane,
and had there made a character for getting things done after a marvellous and new fashion.
And it was said of him that he was fairly honest,
though it must be owned that among the Bideawhiles of the profession this was not the character which he bore.
He did sharp things no doubt,
and had no hesitation in supporting the interests of sons against those of their fathers.
In more than one case he had computed for a young heir the exact value of his share in a property as compared to that of his father,
and had come into hostile contact with many family Bideawhiles.
He had been closely watched.
There were some who,
would have liked to crush a man who was at once so clever,
and so pestilential.
But he had not as yet been crushed,
and had become quite in vogue with elder sons.
Some three years since his name had been mentioned to Dolly by a friend who had for years been at war with his father,
and Squercum had been quite a comfort to Dolly.
He was a mean-looking little man,
not yet above forty,
who always wore a stiff light-coloured cotton cravat,
an old dress coat,
a coloured dingy waistcoat,
and light trousers of some hue different from his waistcoat.
He generally had on dirty shoes and gaiters.
He was light haired,
with light whiskers,
with putty-formed features,
a squat nose,
a large mouth,
and very bright blue eyes.
He looked as unlike the normal Bideawhile of the profession as a man could be;
and it must be owned,
though an attorney,
would hardly have been taken for a gentleman from his personal appearance.
He was very quick,
and active in his motions,
absolutely doing his law work himself,
and trusting to his three or four juvenile clerks for little more than scrivener's labour.
He seldom or never came to his office on a Saturday,
and many among his enemies said that he was a Jew.
What evil will not a rival say to stop the flow of grist to the mill of the hated one?
But this report Squercum rather liked,
They who knew the inner life of the little man declared that he kept a horse and hunted down in Essex on Saturday,
doing a bit of gardening in the summer months;
--and they said also that he made up for this by working hard all Sunday.
Such was Mr. Squercum,
in his way,
that the old things are being changed.
Squercum sat at a desk,
covered with papers in chaotic confusion,
on a chair which moved on a pivot.
His desk was against the wall,
and when clients came to him,
he turned himself sharp round,
sticking out his dirty shoes,
throwing himself back till his body was an inclined plane,
with his hands thrust into his pockets.
In this attitude he would listen to his client's story,
and would himself speak as little as possible.
It was by his instructions that Dolly had insisted on getting his share of the purchase money for Pickering into his own hands,
so that the incumbrance on his own property might be paid off.
He now listened as Dolly told him of the delay in the payment.
"Melmotte's at Pickering?"
asked the attorney.
Then Dolly informed him how the tradesmen of the great financier had already half knocked down the house.
Squercum still listened,
and promised to look to it.
He did ask what authority Dolly had given for the surrender of the title-deeds.
Dolly declared that he had given authority for the sale,
but none for the surrender.
some time since,
had put before him,
for his signature,
prepared in Mr. Bideawhile's office,
which Dolly said that he had refused even to read,
and certainly had not signed.
Squercum again said that he'd look to it,
and bowed Dolly out of his room.
"They've got him to sign something when he was tight,"
said Squercum to himself,
knowing something of the habits of his client.
"I wonder whether his father did it,
or old Bideawhile,
or Melmotte himself?"
Mr. Squercum was inclined to think that Bideawhile would not have done it,
that Melmotte could have had no opportunity,
and that the father must have been the practitioner.
"It's not the trick of a pompous old fool either,"
said Mr. Squercum,
in his soliloquy.
He went to work,
making himself detestably odious among the very respectable clerks in Mr. Bideawhile's office,
--men who considered themselves to be altogether superior to Squercum himself in professional standing.
[Illustration: Mr. Squercum in his office.]
And now there came this rumour which was so far particular in its details that it inferred the forgery,
of which it accused Mr. Melmotte,
to his mode of acquiring the Pickering property.
The nature of the forgery was of course described in various ways,
--as was also the signature said to have been forged.
But there were many who believed,
or almost believed,
that something wrong had been done,
--that some great fraud had been committed;
and in connection with this it was ascertained,
--by some as a matter of certainty,
--that the Pickering estate had been already mortgaged by Melmotte to its full value at an assurance office.
In such a transaction there would be nothing dishonest;
but as this place had been bought for the great man's own family use,
and not as a speculation,
even this report of the mortgage tended to injure his credit.
as the day went on,
other tidings were told as to other properties.
Houses in the East-end of London were said to have been bought and sold,
without payment of the purchase money as to the buying,
and with receipt of the purchase money as to the selling.
It was certainly true that Squercum himself had seen the letter in Mr. Bideawhile's office which conveyed to the father's lawyer the son's sanction for the surrender of the title-deeds,
and that that letter,
prepared in Mr. Bideawhile's office,
purported to have Dolly's signature.
Squercum said but little,
remembering that his client was not always clear in the morning as to anything he had done on the preceding evening.
But the signature,
though it was scrawled as Dolly always scrawled it,
was not like the scrawl of a drunken man.
The letter was said to have been sent to Mr. Bideawhile's office with other letters and papers,
direct from old Mr. Longestaffe.
Such was the statement made at first to Mr. Squercum by the Bideawhile party,
who at that moment had no doubt of the genuineness of the letter or of the accuracy of their statement.
Then Squercum saw his client again,
and returned to the charge at Bideawhile's office,
with the positive assurance that the signature was a forgery.
when questioned by Squercum,
quite admitted his propensity to be "tight."
He had no reticence,
no feeling of disgrace on such matters.
But he had signed no letter when he was tight.
"Never did such a thing in my life,
and nothing could make me,"
"I'm never tight except at the club,
and the letter couldn't have been there.
I'll be drawn and quartered if I ever signed it.
Dolly was intent on going to his father at once,
on going to Melmotte at once,
on going to Bideawhile's at once,
and making there "no end of a row,"
--but Squercum stopped him.
"We'll just ferret this thing out quietly,"
who perhaps thought that there would be high honour in discovering the peccadillos of so great a man as Mr. Melmotte.
had heard nothing of the matter till the Saturday after his last interview with Melmotte in the City.
He had then called at Bideawhile's office in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
and had been shown the letter.
He declared at once that he had never sent the letter to Mr. Bideawhile.
He had begged his son to sign the letter and his son had refused.
He did not at that moment distinctly remember what he had done with the letter unsigned.
He believed he had left it with the other papers;
but it was possible that his son might have taken it away.
He acknowledged that at the time he had been both angry and unhappy.
He didn't think that he could have sent the letter back unsigned,
--but he was not sure.
He had more than once been in his own study in Bruton Street since Mr. Melmotte had occupied the house,
--by that gentleman's leave,
--having left various papers there under his own lock and key.
Indeed it had been matter of agreement that he should have access to his own study when he let the house.
He thought it probable that he would have kept back the unsigned letter,
and have kept it under lock and key,
when he sent away the other papers.
Then reference was made to Mr. Longestaffe's own letter to the lawyer,
and it was found that he had not even alluded to that which his son had been asked to sign;
but that he had said,
in his own usually pompous style,
that Mr. Longestaffe,
was still prone to create unsubstantial difficulties.
Mr. Bideawhile was obliged to confess that there had been a want of caution among his own people.
This allusion to the creation of difficulties by Dolly,
as it was supposed to have been,
by Dolly's letter doing away with all difficulties,
should have attracted notice.
Dolly's letter must have come in a separate envelope;
but such envelope could not be found,
and the circumstance was not remembered by the clerk.
The clerk who had prepared the letter for Dolly's signature represented himself as having been quite satisfied when the letter came again beneath his notice with Dolly's well-known signature.
Such were the facts as far as they were known at Messrs.
Slow and Bideawhile's office,
--from whom no slightest rumour emanated;
and as they had been in part collected by Squercum,
who was probably less prudent.
The Bideawhiles were still perfectly sure that Dolly had signed the letter,
believing the young man to be quite incapable of knowing on any day what he had done on the day before.
Squercum was quite sure that his client had not signed it.
And it must be owned on Dolly's behalf that his manner on this occasion was qualified to convince.
he said to Squercum;
"it's easy saying that I'm lack-a-daisical.
But I know when I'm lack-a-daisical and when I'm not.
Awake or asleep,
drunk or sober,
I never signed that letter."
And Mr. Squercum believed him.
It would be hard to say how the rumour first got into the City on this Monday morning.
Though the elder Longestaffe had first heard of the matter only on the previous Saturday,
Mr. Squercum had been at work for above a week.
Mr. Squercum's little matter alone might hardly have attracted the attention which certainly was given on this day to Mr. Melmotte's private affairs;
--but other facts coming to light assisted Squercum's views.
A great many shares of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had been thrown upon the market,
all of which had passed through the hands of Mr. Cohenlupe;
--and Mr. Cohenlupe in the City had been all to Mr. Melmotte as Lord Alfred had been at the West End.
Then there was the mortgage of this Pickering property,
for which the money certainly had not been paid;
and there was the traffic with half a street of houses near the Commercial Road,
by which a large sum of money had come into Mr. Melmotte's hands.
all be right.
There were many who thought that it would all be right.
There were not a few who expressed the most thorough contempt for these rumours.
But it was felt to be a pity that Mr. Melmotte was not in the City.
This was the day of the dinner.
The Lord Mayor had even made up his mind that he would not go to the dinner.
What one of his brother aldermen said to him about leaving others in the lurch might be quite true;
as his lordship remarked,
Melmotte was a commercial man,
and as these were commercial transactions it behoved the Lord Mayor of London to be more careful than other men.
He had always had his doubts,
and he would not go.
Others of the chosen few of the City who had been honoured with commands to meet the Emperor resolved upon absenting themselves unless the Lord Mayor went.
The affair was very much discussed,
and there were no less than six declared City defaulters.
At the last moment a seventh was taken ill and sent a note to Miles Grendall excusing himself,
which was thrust into the secretary's hands just as the Emperor arrived.
But a reverse worse than this took place;
--a defalcation more injurious to the Melmotte interests generally even than that which was caused either by the prudence or by the cowardice of the City Magnates.
The House of Commons,
at its meeting,
had heard the tidings in an exaggerated form.
It was whispered about that Melmotte had been detected in forging the deed of conveyance of a large property,
and that he had already been visited by policemen.
By some it was believed that the Great Financier would lie in the hands of the Philistines while the Emperor of China was being fed at his house.
In the third edition of the "Evening Pulpit" came out a mysterious paragraph which nobody could understand but they who had known all about it before.
"A rumour is prevalent that frauds to an enormous extent have been committed by a gentleman whose name we are particularly unwilling to mention.
If it be so it is indeed remarkable that they should have come to light at the present moment.
We cannot trust ourselves to say more than this."
No one wishes to dine with a swindler.
No one likes even to have dined with a swindler,
--especially to have dined with him at a time when his swindling was known or suspected.
The Emperor of China no doubt was going to dine with this man.
The motions of Emperors are managed with such ponderous care that it was held to be impossible now to save the country from what would doubtless be felt to be a disgrace if it should hereafter turn out that a forger had been solicited to entertain the imperial guest of the country.
Nor was the thing as yet so far certain as to justify such a charge,
were it possible.
But many men were unhappy in their minds.
How would the story be told hereafter if Melmotte should be allowed to play out his game of host to the Emperor,
and be arrested for forgery as soon as the Eastern Monarch should have left his house?
How would the brother of the Sun like the remembrance of the banquet which he had been instructed to honour with his presence?
How would it tell in all the foreign newspapers,
in New York,
that this man who had been cast forth from the United States,
and from Austria had been selected as the great and honourable type of British Commerce?
There were those in the House who thought that the absolute consummation of the disgrace might yet be avoided,
and who were of opinion that the dinner should be "postponed."
The leader of the Opposition had a few words on the subject with the Prime Minister.
"It is the merest rumour,"
said the Prime Minister.
"I have inquired,
and there is nothing to justify me in thinking that the charges can be substantiated."
"They say that the story is believed in the City."
"I should not feel myself justified in acting upon such a report.
The Prince might probably find it impossible not to go.
Where should we be if Mr. Melmotte to-morrow were able to prove the whole to be a calumny,
and to show that the thing had been got up with a view of influencing the election at Westminster?
The dinner must certainly go on."
"And you will go yourself?"
said the Prime Minister.
"And I hope that you will keep me in countenance."
His political antagonist declared with a smile that at such a crisis he would not desert his honourable friend;
--but he could not answer for his followers.
a strong feeling among the leaders of the Conservative party of distrust in Melmotte.
He considered it probable that among his friends who had been invited there would be some who would be unwilling to meet even the Emperor of China on the existing terms.
"They should remember,"
said the Prime Minister,
"that they are also to meet their own Prince,
and that empty seats on such an occasion will be a dishonour to him."
"Just at present I can only answer for myself,"
said the leader of the Opposition.
--At that moment even the Prime Minister was much disturbed in his mind;
but in such emergencies a Prime Minister can only choose the least of two evils.
To have taken the Emperor to dine with a swindler would be very bad;
but to desert him,
and to stop the coming of the Emperor and all the Princes on a false rumour,
would be worse.
It does sometimes occur in life that an unambitious man,
who is in no degree given to enterprises,
who would fain be safe,
is driven by the cruelty of circumstances into a position in which he must choose a side,
and in which,
though he has no certain guide as to which side he should choose,
he is aware that he will be disgraced if he should take the wrong side.
This was felt as a hardship by many who were quite suddenly forced to make up their mind whether they would go to Melmotte's dinner,
or join themselves to the faction of those who had determined to stay away although they had accepted invitations.
Some there were not without a suspicion that the story against Melmotte had been got up simply as an electioneering trick,
--so that Mr. Alf might carry the borough on the next day.
As a dodge for an election this might be very well,
but any who might be deterred by such a manoeuvre from meeting the Emperor and supporting the Prince would surely be marked men.
And none of the wives,
when they were consulted,
seemed to care a straw whether Melmotte was a swindler or not.
Would the Emperor and the Princes and Princesses be there?
This was the only question which concerned them.
They did not care whether Melmotte was arrested at the dinner or after the dinner,
so long as they,
could show their diamonds in the presence of eastern and western royalty.
--what a fiasco would it be,
if at this very instant of time the host should be apprehended for common forgery!
The great thing was to ascertain whether others were going.
If a hundred or more out of the two hundred were to be absent how dreadful would be the position of those who were present!
And how would the thing go if at the last moment the Emperor should be kept away?
The Prime Minister had decided that the Emperor and the Prince should remain altogether in ignorance of the charges which were preferred against the man;
but of that these doubters were unaware.
There was but little time for a man to go about town and pick up the truth from those who were really informed;
and questions were asked in an uncomfortable and restless manner.
"Is your Grace going?"
said Lionel Lupton to the Duchess of Stevenage,
--having left the House and gone into the park between six and seven to pick up some hints among those who were known to have been invited.
The Duchess was Lord Alfred's sister,
and of course she was going.
"I usually keep engagements when I make them,
said the Duchess.
She had been assured by Lord Alfred not a quarter of an hour before that everything was as straight as a die.
Lord Alfred had not then even heard of the rumour.
But ultimately both Lionel Lupton and Beauchamp Beauclerk attended the dinner.
They had received special tickets as supporters of Mr. Melmotte at the election,
--out of the scanty number allotted to that gentleman himself,
--and they thought themselves bound in honour to be there.
with their leader,
and one other influential member of the party,
were all who at last came as the political friends of the candidate for Westminster.
The existing ministers were bound to attend to the Emperor and the Prince.
But members of the Opposition,
by their presence,
would support the man and the politician,
and both as a man and as a politician they were ashamed of him.
When Melmotte arrived at his own door with his wife and daughter he had heard nothing of the matter.
That a man so vexed with affairs of money,
so laden with cares,
encompassed by such dangers,
should be free from suspicion and fear it is impossible to imagine.
That such burdens should be borne at all is a wonder to those whose shoulders have never been broadened for such work;
--as is the strength of the blacksmith's arm to men who have never wielded a hammer.
Surely his whole life must have been a life of terrors!
But of any special peril to which he was at that moment subject,
or of any embarrassment which might affect the work of the evening,
he knew nothing.
He placed his wife in the drawing-room and himself in the hall,
and arranged his immediate satellites around him,
--among whom were included the two Grendalls,
and Mr. Cohenlupe,
--with a feeling of gratified glory.
Nidderdale down at the House had heard the rumour,
but had determined that he would not as yet fly from his colours.
Cohenlupe had also come up from the House,
where no one had spoken to him.
Though grievously frightened during the last fortnight,
he had not dared to be on the wing as yet.
to what clime could such a bird as he fly in safety?
He had not only heard,
--but also knew very much,
and was not prepared to enjoy the feast.
Since they had been in the hall Miles had spoken dreadful words to his father.
"You've heard about it;
remembering his sister's question,
became almost pale,
but declared that he had heard nothing.
"They're saying all manner of things in the City;
--forgery and heaven knows what.
The Lord Mayor is not coming."
Lord Alfred made no reply.
It was the philosophy of his life that misfortunes when they came should be allowed to settle themselves.
But he was unhappy.
The grand arrivals were fairly punctual,
and the very grand people all came.
The unfortunate Emperor,
--we must consider a man to be unfortunate who is compelled to go through such work as this,
--with impassible and awful dignity,
was marshalled into the room on the ground floor,
whence he and other royalties were to be marshalled back into the banqueting hall.
bowing to the ground,
walked backwards before him,
and was probably taken by the Emperor for some Court Master of the Ceremonies especially selected to walk backwards on this occasion.
The Princes had all shaken hands with their host,
and the Princesses had bowed graciously.
Nothing of the rumour had as yet been whispered in royal palaces.
Besides royalty the company allowed to enter the room downstairs was very select.
The Prime Minister,
and an ex-governor of India with whose features the Emperor was supposed to be peculiarly familiar,
were alone there.
The remainder of the company,
under the superintendence of Lord Alfred,
were received in the drawing-room above.
Everything was going on well,
and they who had come and had thought of not coming were proud of their wisdom.
But when the company was seated at dinner the deficiencies were visible enough,
and were unfortunate.
Who does not know the effect made by the absence of one or two from a table intended for ten or twelve,
--how grievous are the empty places,
how destructive of the outward harmony and grace which the hostess has endeavoured to preserve are these interstices,
how the lady in her wrath declares to herself that those guilty ones shall never have another opportunity of filling a seat at her table?
most of whom had been asked to bring their wives,
had slunk from their engagements,
and the empty spaces were sufficient to declare a united purpose.
A week since it had been understood that admission for the evening could not be had for love or money,
and that a seat at the dinner-table was as a seat at some banquet of the gods!
Now it looked as though the room were but half-filled.
There were six absences from the City.
Another six of Mr. Melmotte's own political party were away.
The archbishops and the bishop were there,
because bishops never hear worldly tidings till after other people;
--but that very Master of the Buckhounds for whom so much pressure had been made did not come.
Two or three peers were absent,
and so also was that editor who had been chosen to fill Mr. Alf's place.
and a philosopher had received timely notice at their clubs,
and had gone home.
The three independent members of the House of Commons for once agreed in their policy,
and would not lend the encouragement of their presence to a man suspected of forgery.
Nearly forty places were vacant when the business of the dinner commenced.
Melmotte had insisted that Lord Alfred should sit next to himself at the big table,
and having had the objectionable bar removed,
and his own chair shoved one step nearer to the centre,
had carried his.
With the anxiety natural to such an occasion,
he glanced repeatedly round the hall,
and of course became aware that many were absent.
"How is it that there are so many places empty?"
he said to his faithful Achates.
shaking his head,
steadfastly refusing to look round upon the hall.
Melmotte waited awhile,
then looked round again,
and asked the question in another shape:
"Hasn't there been some mistake about the numbers?
There's room for ever so many more."
said Lord Alfred,
who was unhappy in his mind,
and repenting himself that he had ever seen Mr. Melmotte.
"What the deuce do you mean?"
"You've been at it from the beginning and ought to know.
When I wanted to ask Brehgert,
you swore that you couldn't squeeze a place."
"Can't say anything about it,"
said Lord Alfred,
with his eyes fixed upon his plate.
"I'll be d -- -- if I don't find out,"
"There's either some horrible blunder,
or else there's been imposition.
I don't see quite clearly.
Where's Sir Gregory Gribe?"
"And where's the Lord Mayor?"
in spite of royalty,
was now sitting with his face turned round upon the hall.
"I know all their places,
and I know where they were put.
Have you seen the Lord Mayor?"
I haven't seen him at all."
"But he was to come.
What's the meaning of it,
"Don't know anything about it."
He shook his head but would not,
for even a moment,
look round upon the room.
"And where's Mr. Killegrew,
--and Sir David Boss?"
Mr. Killegrew and Sir David were gentlemen of high standing,
and destined for important offices in the Conservative party.
"There are ever so many people not here.
there's not above half of them down the room.
I must know."
"I tell you I know nothing.
I could not make them come."
Lord Alfred's answers were made not only with a surly voice,
but also with a surly heart.
He was keenly alive to the failure,
and alive also to the feeling that the failure would partly be attached to himself.
At the present moment he was anxious to avoid observation,
and it seemed to him that Melmotte,
by the frequency and impetuosity of his questions,
was drawing special attention to him.
"If you go on making a row,"
"I shall go away."
Melmotte looked at him with all his eyes.
"Just sit quiet and let the thing go on.
You'll know all about it soon enough."
This was hardly the way to give Mr. Melmotte peace of mind.
For a few minutes he did sit quiet.
Then he got up and moved down the hall behind the guests.
In the meantime,
Imperial Majesty and Royalties of various denominations ate their dinner,
without probably observing those Banquo's seats.
As the Emperor talked Manchoo only,
and as there was no one present who could even interpret Manchoo into English,
--the imperial interpreter condescending only to interpret Manchoo into ordinary Chinese which had to be reinterpreted,
--it was not within his Imperial Majesty's power to have much conversation with his neighbours.
And as his neighbours on each side of him were all cousins and husbands,
and brothers and wives,
who saw each constantly under,
let us presume,
more comfortable circumstances,
they had not very much to say to each other.
Like most of us,
they had their duties to do,
like most of us,
probably found their duties irksome.
The brothers and sisters and cousins were used to it;
but that awful Emperor,
if the spirit of an Eastern Emperor be at all like that of a Western man,
have had a weary time of it.
He sat there for more than two hours,
not eating very much,
--for this was not his manner of eating;
nor drinking very much,
--for this was not his manner of drinking;
within his own awful bosom,
at the changes which were coming when an Emperor of China was forced,
by outward circumstances,
to sit and hear this buzz of voices and this clatter of knives and forks.
he must have said to himself,
"is what they call royalty in the West!"
If a prince of our own was forced,
for the good of the country,
to go among some far distant outlandish people,
and there to be poked in the ribs,
and slapped on the back all round,
the change to him could hardly be so great.
"Where's Sir Gregory?"
in a hoarse whisper,
bending over the chair of a City friend.
It was old Todd,
the senior partner of Todd,
Mr. Todd was a very wealthy man,
and had a considerable following in the City.
"Ain't he here?"
--knowing very well who had come from the City and who had declined.
--and the Lord Mayor's not come;
What's the meaning of it?"
Todd looked first at one neighbour and then at another before he answered.
that's all I can say,
and I've had a very good dinner.
They who haven't come,
have lost a very good dinner."
There was a weight upon Melmotte's mind of which he could not rid himself.
He knew from the old man's manner,
and he knew also from Lord Alfred's manner,
that there was something which each of them could tell him if he would.
But he was unable to make the men open their mouths.
And yet it might be so important to him that he should know!
"It's very odd,"
"that gentlemen should promise to come and then stay away.
There were hundreds anxious to be present whom I should have been glad to welcome,
if I had known that there would be room.
I think it is very odd."
"It is odd,"
said Mr. Todd,
turning his attention to the plate before him.
Melmotte had lately seen much of Beauchamp Beauclerk,
in reference to the coming election.
Passing back up the table,
he found the gentleman with a vacant seat on one side of him.
There were many vacant seats in this part of the room,
as the places for the Conservative gentlemen had been set apart together.
There Mr. Melmotte seated himself for a minute,
thinking that he might get the truth from his new ally.
Prudence should have kept him silent.
Let the cause of these desertions have been what it might,
it ought to have been clear to him that he could apply no remedy to it now.
But he was bewildered and dismayed,
and his mind within him was changing at every moment.
He was now striving to trust to his arrogance and declaring that nothing should cow him.
And then again he was so cowed that he was ready to creep to any one for assistance.
Mr. Beauclerk had disliked the man greatly.
Among the vulgar,
loud upstarts whom he had known,
Melmotte was the vulgarest,
and the most arrogant.
But he had taken the business of Melmotte's election in hand,
and considered himself bound to stand by Melmotte till that was over;
and he was now the guest of the man in his own house,
and was therefore constrained to courtesy.
His wife was sitting by him,
and he at once introduced her to Mr. Melmotte.
"You have a wonderful assemblage here,
said the lady,
looking up at the royal table.
His Majesty the Emperor has been pleased to intimate that he has been much gratified."
--Had the Emperor in truth said so,
no one who looked at him could have believed his imperial word.
--"Can you tell me,
why those other gentlemen are not here?
It looks very odd;
does it not?"
you mean Killegrew."
Mr. Killegrew and Sir David Boss,
and the whole lot.
I made a particular point of their coming.
I said I wouldn't have the dinner at all unless they were to be asked.
They were going to make it a Government thing;
but I said no.
I insisted on the leaders of our own party;
and now they're not here.
I know the cards were sent;
I have their answers,
saying they'd come."
"I suppose some of them are engaged,"
said Mr. Beauclerk.
What business has a man to accept one engagement and then take another?
why shouldn't he write and make his excuses?
that won't go down."
at any rate,"
making the very answer that had occurred to Mr. Todd.
You're all right.
But what is it,
There's something up,
and you must have heard."
And so it was clear to Mr. Beauclerk that the man knew nothing about it himself.
If there was anything wrong,
Melmotte was not aware that the wrong had been discovered.
"Is it anything about the election to-morrow?"
"One never can tell what is actuating people,"
said Mr. Beauclerk.
"If you know anything about the matter I think you ought to tell me."
"I know nothing except that the ballot will be taken to-morrow.
You and I have got nothing more to do in the matter except to wait the result."
I suppose it's all right,"
rising and going back to his seat.
But he knew that things were not all right.
Had his political friends only been absent,
he might have attributed their absence to some political cause which would not have touched him deeply.
But the treachery of the Lord Mayor and of Sir Gregory Gribe was a blow.
For another hour after he had returned to his place,
the Emperor sat solemn in his chair;
at some signal given by some one,
he was withdrawn.
The ladies had already left the room about half an hour.
According to the programme arranged for the evening,
the royal guests were to return to the smaller room for a cup of coffee,
and were then to be paraded upstairs before the multitude who would by that time have arrived,
and to remain there long enough to justify the invited ones in saying that they had spent the evening with the Emperor and the Princes and the Princesses.
The plan was carried out perfectly.
At half-past ten the Emperor was made to walk upstairs,
and for half an hour sat awful and composed in an arm-chair that had been prepared for him.
How one would wish to see the inside of the mind of the Emperor as it worked on that occasion!
when his guests ascended his stairs,
went back into the banqueting-room and through to the hall,
and wandered about till he found Miles Grendall.
"tell me what the row is."
"There's something wrong,
and you know all about it.
Why didn't the people come?"
did not even attempt to deny his knowledge.
what is it?
We might as well know all about it at once."
Miles looked down on the ground,
and grunted something.
"Is it about the election?"
it's not that,"
"Then what is it?"
"They got hold of something to-day in the City --about Pickering."
And what were they saying about Pickering?
you might as well out with it.
You don't suppose that I care what lies they tell."
"They say there's been something --forged.
I think they say."
that I have forged title-deeds.
that's beginning well.
And his lordship has stayed away from my house after accepting my invitation because he has heard that story!
that will do."
And the Great Financier went upstairs into his own drawing-room.
MISS LONGESTAFFE'S LOVER.
A few days before that period in our story which we have now reached,
Miss Longestaffe was seated in Lady Monogram's back drawing-room,
discussing the terms on which the two tickets for Madame Melmotte's grand reception had been transferred to Lady Monogram,
--the place on the cards for the names of the friends whom Madame Melmotte had the honour of inviting to meet the Emperor and the Princes,
having been left blank;
and the terms also on which Miss Longestaffe had been asked to spend two or three days with her dear friend Lady Monogram.
Each lady was disposed to get as much and to give as little as possible,
--in which desire the ladies carried out the ordinary practice of all parties to a bargain.
It had of course been settled that Lady Monogram was to have the two tickets,
--for herself and her husband,
--such tickets at that moment standing very high in the market.
In payment for these valuable considerations,
Lady Monogram was to undertake to chaperon Miss Longestaffe at the entertainment,
to take Miss Longestaffe as a visitor for three days,
and to have one party at her own house during the time,
so that it might be seen that Miss Longestaffe had other friends in London besides the Melmotte's on whom to depend for her London gaieties.
At this moment Miss Longestaffe felt herself justified in treating the matter as though she were hardly receiving a fair equivalent.
The Melmotte tickets were certainly ruling very high.
They had just culminated.
They fell a little soon afterwards,
and at ten p.m. on the night of the entertainment were hardly worth anything.
At the moment which we have now in hand,
there was a rush for them.
Lady Monogram had already secured the tickets.
They were in her desk.
as will sometimes be the case in a bargain,
the seller was complaining that as she had parted with her goods too cheap,
some make-weight should be added to the stipulated price.
"As for that,
said Miss Longestaffe,
since the rise in Melmotte stock generally,
had endeavoured to resume something of her old manners,
"I don't see what you mean at all.
You meet Lady Julia Goldsheiner everywhere,
and her father-in-law is Mr. Brehgert's junior partner."
"Lady Julia is Lady Julia,
and young Mr. Goldsheiner has,
in some sort of way,
got himself in.
and Damask says that he is one of the best shots at Hurlingham.
I never met old Mr. Goldsheiner anywhere."
I dare say.
entertains all the City people.
I don't think Sir Damask would like me to ask Mr. Brehgert to dine here."
Lady Monogram managed everything herself with reference to her own parties;
invited all her own guests,
and never troubled Sir Damask,
on his side,
had his own set of friends;
but she was very clever in the use which she made of her husband.
There were some aspirants who really were taught to think that Sir Damask was very particular as to the guests whom he welcomed to his own house.
"May I speak to Sir Damask about it?"
asked Miss Longestaffe,
who was very urgent on the occasion.
I really don't think you ought to do that.
There are little things which a man and his wife must manage together without interference."
"Nobody can ever say that I interfered in any family.
when you tell me that Sir Damask cannot receive Mr. Brehgert,
it does sound odd.
As for City people,
you know as well as I do,
that that kind of thing is all over now.
City people are just as good as West-end people."
"A great deal better,
I dare say.
I'm not arguing about that.
I don't make the lines;
but there they are;
and one gets to know in a sort of way what they are.
I don't pretend to be a bit better than my neighbours.
I like to see people come here whom other people who come here will like to meet.
I'm big enough to hold my own,
and so is Sir Damask.
But we ain't big enough to introduce new-comers.
I don't suppose there's anybody in London understands it better than you do,
and therefore it's absurd my pretending to teach you.
I go pretty well everywhere,
as you are aware;
and I shouldn't know Mr. Brehgert if I were to see him."
"You'll meet him at the Melmottes',
in spite of all you said once,
you're glad enough to go there."
I don't think that you are just the person to throw that in my teeth;
but never mind that.
There's the butcher round the corner in Bond Street,
or the man who comes to do my hair.
I don't at all think of asking them to my house.
But if they were suddenly to turn out wonderful men,
and go everywhere,
no doubt I should be glad to have them here.
That's the way we live,
and you are as well used to it as I am.
Mr. Brehgert at present to me is like the butcher round the corner."
Lady Monogram had the tickets safe under lock and key,
or I think she would hardly have said this.
"He is not a bit like a butcher,"
said Miss Longestaffe,
blazing up in real wrath.
"I did not say that he was."
and it was the unkindest thing you could possibly say.
It was meant to be unkind.
It was monstrous.
How would you like it if I said that Sir Damask was like a hair-dresser?"
"You can say so if you please.
Sir Damask drives four in hand,
rides as though he meant to break his neck every winter,
is one of the best shots going,
and is supposed to understand a yacht as well as any other gentleman out.
And I'm rather afraid that before he was married he used to box with all the prize-fighters,
and to be a little too free behind the scenes.
If that makes a man like a hair-dresser,
there he is."
"How proud you are of his vices."
"He's very good-natured,
and as he does not interfere with me,
I don't interfere with him.
I hope you'll do as well.
I dare say Mr. Brehgert is good-natured."
"He's an excellent man of business,
and is making a very large fortune."
"And has five or six grown-up children,
will be a comfort."
"If I don't mind them,
why need you?
You have none at all,
and you find it lonely enough."
"Not at all lonely.
I have everything that I desire.
How hard you are trying to be ill-natured,
"Why did you say that he was a --butcher?"
"I said nothing of the kind.
I didn't even say that he was like a butcher.
What I did say was this,
--that I don't feel inclined to risk my own reputation on the appearance of new people at my table.
I go in for what you call fashion.
Some people can dare to ask anybody they meet in the streets.
I've my own line,
and I mean to follow it.
It's hard work,
I can tell you;
and it would be harder still if I wasn't particular.
If you like Mr. Brehgert to come here on Tuesday evening,
when the rooms will be full,
you can ask him;
but as for having him to dinner,
I --won't --do --it."
So the matter was at last settled.
Miss Longestaffe did ask Mr. Brehgert for the Tuesday evening,
and the two ladies were again friends.
Perhaps Lady Monogram,
when she illustrated her position by an allusion to a butcher and a hair-dresser,
had been unaware that Mr. Brehgert had some resemblance to the form which men in that trade are supposed to bear.
Let us at least hope that she was so.
He was a fat,
good-looking in a certain degree,
with hair dyed black,
and beard and moustache dyed a dark purple colour.
The charm of his face consisted in a pair of very bright black eyes,
set too near together in his face for the general delight of Christians.
He was stout;
--fat all over rather than corpulent,
--and had that look of command in his face which has become common to master-butchers,
probably by long intercourse with sheep and oxen.
But Mr. Brehgert was considered to be a very good man of business,
and was now regarded as being,
in a commercial point of view,
the leading member of the great financial firm of which he was the second partner.
Mr. Todd's day was nearly done.
He walked about constantly between Lombard Street,
and the Bank,
and talked much to merchants;
he had an opinion too of his own on particular cases;
but the business had almost got beyond him,
and Mr. Brehgert was now supposed to be the moving spirit of the firm.
He was a widower,
living in a luxurious villa at Fulham with a family,
not indeed grown up,
as Lady Monogram had ill-naturedly said,
but which would be grown up before long,
varying from an eldest son of eighteen,
who had just been placed at a desk in the office,
to the youngest girl of twelve,
who was at school at Brighton.
He was a man who always asked for what he wanted;
and having made up his mind that he wanted a second wife,
had asked Miss Georgiana Longestaffe to fill that situation.
He had met her at the Melmottes',
had entertained her,
with Madame Melmotte and Marie,
as he called his villa,
had then proposed in the square,
and two days after had received an assenting answer in Bruton Street.
Poor Miss Longestaffe!
Although she had acknowledged the fact to Lady Monogram in her desire to pave the way for the reception of herself into society as a married woman,
she had not as yet found courage to tell her family.
The man was absolutely a Jew;
--not a Jew that had been,
as to whom there might possibly be a doubt whether he or his father or his grandfather had been the last Jew of the family;
but a Jew that was.
So was Goldsheiner a Jew,
whom Lady Julia Start had married,
--or at any rate had been one a very short time before he ran away with that lady.
She counted up ever so many instances on her fingers of "decent people" who had married Jews or Jewesses.
Lord Frederic Framlinghame had married a girl of the Berrenhoffers;
and Mr. Hart had married a Miss Chute.
She did not know much of Miss Chute,
but was certain that she was a Christian.
Lord Frederic's wife and Lady Julia Goldsheiner were seen everywhere.
Though she hardly knew how to explain the matter even to herself,
she was sure that there was at present a general heaving-up of society on this matter,
and a change in progress which would soon make it a matter of indifference whether anybody was Jew or Christian.
For herself she regarded the matter not at all,
except as far as it might be regarded by the world in which she wished to live.
She was herself above all personal prejudices of that kind.
or infidel was nothing to her.
She had seen enough of the world to be aware that her happiness did not lie in that direction,
and could not depend in the least on the religion of her husband.
Of course she would go to church herself.
She always went to church.
It was the proper thing to do.
As to her husband,
though she did not suppose that she could ever get him to church,
--nor perhaps would it be desirable,
--she thought that she might induce him to go nowhere,
so that she might be able to pass him off as a Christian.
She knew that such was the Christianity of young Goldsheiner,
of which the Starts were now boasting.
Had she been alone in the world she thought that she could have looked forward to her destiny with complacency;
but she was afraid of her father and mother.
Lady Pomona was distressingly old-fashioned,
and had so often spoken with horror even of the approach of a Jew,
--and had been so loud in denouncing the iniquity of Christians who allowed such people into their houses!
Georgiana in her earlier days had re-echoed all her mother's sentiments.
And then her father,
--if he had ever earned for himself the right to be called a Conservative politician by holding a real opinion of his own,
--it had been on that matter of admitting the Jews into parliament.
When that had been done he was certain that the glory of England was sunk for ever.
And since that time,
whenever creditors were more than ordinarily importunate,
when Slow and Bideawhile could do nothing for him,
he would refer to that fatal measure as though it was the cause of every embarrassment which had harassed him.
How could she tell parents such as these that she was engaged to marry a man who at the present moment went to synagogue on a Saturday and carried out every other filthy abomination common to the despised people?
That Mr. Brehgert was a fat,
greasy man of fifty,
conspicuous for hair-dye,
was in itself distressing: --but this minor distress was swallowed up in the greater.
Miss Longestaffe was a girl possessing considerable discrimination,
and was able to weigh her own possessions in just scales.
She had begun life with very high aspirations,
believing in her own beauty,
in her mother's fashion,
and her father's fortune.
She had now been ten years at the work,
and was aware that she had always flown a little too high for her mark at the time.
At nineteen and twenty and twenty-one she had thought that all the world was before her.
With her commanding figure,
regular long features,
and bright complexion,
she had regarded herself as one of the beauties of the day,
and had considered herself entitled to demand wealth and a coronet.
and twenty-four any young peer,
or peer's eldest son,
with a house in town and in the country,
might have sufficed.
Twenty-five and six had been the years for baronets and squires;
and even a leading fashionable lawyer or two had been marked by her as sufficient since that time.
But now she was aware that hitherto she had always fixed her price a little too high.
On three things she was still determined,
--that she would not be poor,
that she would not be banished from London,
and that she would not be an old maid.
she had often said,
"there's one thing certain.
I shall never do to be poor."
Lady Pomona had expressed full concurrence with her child.
to do as Sophia is doing would kill me.
Fancy having to live at Toodlam all one's life with George Whitstable!"
Lady Pomona had agreed to this also,
though she thought that Toodlam Hall was a very nice home for her elder daughter.
I should drive you and papa mad if I were to stay at home always.
And what would become of me when Dolly was master of everything?"
looking forward as well as she was able to the time at which she should herself have departed,
when her dower and dower-house would have reverted to Dolly,
acknowledged that Georgiana should provide herself with a home of her own before that time.
And how was this to be done?
Lovers with all the glories and all the graces are supposed to be plentiful as blackberries by girls of nineteen,
but have been proved to be rare hothouse fruits by girls of twenty-nine.
Brehgert was rich,
would live in London,
and would be a husband.
People did such odd things now and "lived them down,"
that she could see no reason why she should not do this and live this down.
Courage was the one thing necessary,
--that and perseverance.
She must teach herself to talk about Brehgert as Lady Monogram did of Sir Damask.
She had plucked up so much courage as had enabled her to declare her fate to her old friend,
--remembering as she did so how in days long past she and her friend Julia Triplex had scattered their scorn upon some poor girl who had married a man with a Jewish name,
--whose grandfather had possibly been a Jew.
said Lady Monogram.
Mr. Todd is --one of us,
said Georgiana boldly,
"and Mr. Brehgert is a Jew.
His name is Ezekiel Brehgert,
and he is a Jew.
You can say what you like about it."
"I don't say anything about it,
"And you can think anything you like.
Things are changed since you and I were younger."
"Very much changed,
said Lady Monogram.
Sir Damask's religion had never been doubted,
though except on the occasion of his marriage no acquaintance of his had probably ever seen him in church.
But to tell her father and mother required a higher spirit than she had shown even in her communication to Lady Monogram,
and that spirit had not as yet come to her.
On the morning before she left the Melmottes in Bruton Street,
her lover had been with her.
The Melmottes of course knew of the engagement and quite approved of it.
Madame Melmotte rather aspired to credit for having had so happy an affair arranged under her auspices.
It was some set-off against Marie's unfortunate escapade.
had been allowed to come and go as he pleased,
and on that morning he had pleased to come.
They were sitting alone in some back room,
and Brehgert was pressing for an early day.
"I don't think we need talk of that yet,
"You might as well get over the difficulty and call me Ezekiel at once,"
and made no soft little attempt at the name as ladies in such circumstances are wont to do.
"Mrs. Brehgert" --he alluded of course to the mother of his children --"used to call me Ezzy."
"Perhaps I shall do so some day,"
said Miss Longestaffe,
looking at her lover,
and asking herself why she should not have been able to have the house and the money and the name of the wife without the troubles appertaining.
She did not think it possible that she should ever call him Ezzy.
"And ven shall it be?
I should say as early in August as possible."
she almost screamed.
It was already July.
Ve would have our little holiday in Germany,
I have business there,
and know many friends."
Then he pressed her hard to fix some day in the next month.
It would be expedient that they should be married from the Melmottes' house,
and the Melmottes would leave town some time in August.
There was truth in this.
Unless married from the Melmottes' house,
she must go down to Caversham for the occasion,
--which would be intolerable.
--she must separate herself altogether from father and mother,
and become one with the Melmottes and the Brehgerts,
--till she could live it down and make a position for herself.
If the spending of money could do it,
it should be done.
"I must at any rate ask mamma about it,"
with the customary good-humour of his people,
was satisfied with the answer,
and went away promising that he would meet his love at the great Melmotte reception.
Then she sat silent,
thinking how she should declare the matter to her family.
Would it not be better for her to say to them at once that there must be a division among them,
--an absolute breaking off of all old ties,
so that it should be tacitly acknowledged that she,
had gone out from among the Longestaffes altogether,
and had become one with the Melmottes,
LADY MONOGRAM PREPARES FOR THE PARTY.
When the little conversation took place between Lady Monogram and Miss Longestaffe,
as recorded in the last chapter,
Mr. Melmotte was in all his glory,
and tickets for the entertainment were very precious.
Gradually their value subsided.
Lady Monogram had paid very dear for hers,
--especially as the reception of Mr. Brehgert must be considered.
But high prices were then being paid.
A lady offered to take Marie Melmotte into the country with her for a week;
but this was before the elopement.
Mr. Cohenlupe was asked out to dinner to meet two peers and a countess.
Lord Alfred received various presents.
A young lady gave a lock of her hair to Lord Nidderdale,
although it was known that he was to marry Marie Melmotte.
And Miles Grendall got back an I.
of considerable nominal value from Lord Grasslough,
who was anxious to accommodate two country cousins who were in London.
Gradually the prices fell;
--not at first from any doubt in Melmotte,
but through that customary reaction which may be expected on such occasions.
But at eight or nine o'clock on the evening of the party the tickets were worth nothing.
The rumour had then spread itself through the whole town from Pimlico to Marylebone.
Men coming home from clubs had told their wives.
Ladies who had been in the park had heard it.
Even the hairdressers had it,
and ladies' maids had been instructed by the footmen and grooms who had been holding horses and seated on the coach-boxes.
It had got into the air,
and had floated round dining-rooms and over toilet-tables.
I doubt whether Sir Damask would have said a word about it to his wife as he was dressing for dinner,
had he calculated what might be the result to himself.
But he came home open-mouthed,
and made no calculation.
"Have you heard what's up,
rushing half-dressed into his wife's room.
"Have you heard what's up,
"What is up?"
"Haven't you been out?"
"I was shopping,
and that kind of thing.
I don't want to take that girl into the Park.
I've made a mistake in having her here,
but I mean to be seen with her as little as I can."
whatever you are."
I know what I'm about.
What is it you mean?"
"They say Melmotte's been found out."
exclaimed Lady Monogram,
stopping her maid in some arrangement which would not need to be continued in the event of her not going to the reception.
"What do you mean by found out?"
"I don't know exactly.
There are a dozen stories told.
It's something about that place he bought of old Longestaffe."
"Are the Longestaffes mixed up in it?
I won't have her here a day longer if there is anything against them."
"Don't be an ass,
There's nothing against him except that the poor old fellow hasn't got a shilling of his money."
"Then he's ruined,
--and there's an end of them."
"Perhaps he will get it now.
Some say that Melmotte has forged a receipt,
others a letter.
Some declare that he has manufactured a whole set of title-deeds.
You remember Dolly?"
"Of course I know Dolly Longestaffe,"
said Lady Monogram,
who had thought at one time that an alliance with Dolly might be convenient.
"They say he has found it all out.
There was always something about Dolly more than fellows gave him credit for.
At any rate,
everybody says that Melmotte will be in quod before long."
"Nobody seems to know.
Lupton was saying that the policemen would wait about in the room like servants till the Emperor and the Princes had gone away."
"Is Mr. Lupton going?"
"He was to have been at the dinner,
but hadn't made up his mind whether he'd go or not when I saw him.
Nobody seems to be quite certain whether the Emperor will go.
Somebody said that a Cabinet Council was to be called to know what to do."
"A Cabinet Council!"
you see it's rather an awkward thing,
letting the Prince go to dine with a man who perhaps may have been arrested and taken to gaol before dinner-time.
That's the worst part of it.
Lady Monogram waved her attendant away.
She piqued herself upon having a French maid who could not speak a word of English,
and was therefore quite careless what she said in the woman's presence.
everything she did say was repeated down-stairs in some language that had become intelligible to the servants generally.
Lady Monogram sat motionless for some time,
while her husband,
retreating to his own domain,
finished his operations.
when he reappeared,
"one thing is certain;
--we can't go."
"After you've made such a fuss about it!"
"It is a pity,
--having that girl here in the house.
she's going to marry one of these people?"
"I heard about her marriage yesterday.
But Brehgert isn't one of Melmotte's set.
They tell me that Brehgert isn't a bad fellow.
A vulgar cad,
and all that,
but nothing wrong about him."
"He's a Jew,
--and he's seventy years old,
and makes up horribly."
"What does it matter to you if he's eighty?
You are determined,
you won't go?"
But Lady Monogram had by no means determined that she wouldn't go.
She had paid her price,
and with that economy which sticks to a woman always in the midst of her extravagances,
she could not bear to lose the thing that she had bought.
She cared nothing for Melmotte's villainy,
as regarded herself.
That he was enriching himself by the daily plunder of the innocent she had taken for granted since she had first heard of him.
She had but a confused idea of any difference between commerce and fraud.
But it would grieve her greatly to become known as one of an awkward squad of people who had driven to the door,
and perhaps been admitted to some wretched gathering of wretched people,
to have met the Emperor and the Prince.
should she hear on the next morning that the Emperor and the Princes,
that the Princesses,
and the Duchesses,
with the Ambassadors,
and proper sort of world generally,
had all been there,
--that the world,
had ignored Melmotte's villainy,
--then would her grief be still greater.
She sat down to dinner with her husband and Miss Longestaffe,
and could not talk freely on the matter.
Miss Longestaffe was still a guest of the Melmottes,
although she had transferred herself to the Monograms for a day or two.
And a horrible idea crossed Lady Monogram's mind.
What should she do with her friend Georgiana if the whole Melmotte establishment were suddenly broken up?
Madame Melmotte would refuse to take the girl back if her husband were sent to gaol.
"I suppose you'll go,"
said Sir Damask as the ladies left the room.
"Of course we shall,
--in about an hour,"
said Lady Monogram as she left the room,
looking round at him and rebuking him for his imprudence.
you know --" and then he called her back.
"If you want me I'll stay,
but if you don't,
I'll go down to the club."
"How can I say,
You needn't mind the club to-night."
--only it's a bore being here alone."
Then Miss Longestaffe asked what "was up."
"Is there any doubt about our going to-night?"
"I can't say.
I'm so harassed that I don't know what I'm about.
There seems to be a report that the Emperor won't be there."
"It's all very well to say impossible,
said Lady Monogram;
"but still that's what people are saying.
You see Mr. Melmotte is a very great man,
but perhaps --something else has turned up,
so that he may be thrown over.
Things of that kind do happen.
You had better finish dressing.
But I shan't make sure of going till I hear that the Emperor is there."
Then she descended to her husband,
whom she found forlornly consoling himself with a cigar.
"you must find out."
"Find out what?"
"Whether the Prince and the Emperor are there."
"Send John to ask,"
suggested the husband.
"He would be sure to make a blunder about it.
If you'd go yourself you'd learn the truth in a minute.
Have a cab,
--just go into the hall and you'll soon know how it all is;
--I'd do it in a minute if I were you."
Sir Damask was the most good-natured man in the world,
but he did not like the job.
"What can be the objection?"
asked his wife.
"Go to a man's house and find out whether a man's guests are come before you go yourself!
I don't just see it,
The Emperor and all the Royal Family!
As if it were like any other party.
Such a thing,
never happened before,
and never will happen again.
If you don't go,
and I will."
after groaning and smoking for half a minute,
said that he would go.
He made many remonstrances.
It was a confounded bore.
He hated emperors and he hated princes.
He hated the whole box and dice of that sort of thing!
He "wished to goodness" that he had dined at his club and sent word up home that the affair was to be off.
But at last he submitted,
and allowed his wife to leave the room with the intention of sending for a cab.
The cab was sent for and announced,
but Sir Damask would not stir till he had finished his big cigar.
It was past ten when he left his own house.
On arriving in Grosvenor Square he could at once see that the party was going on.
The house was illuminated.
There was a concourse of servants round the door,
and half the square was already blocked up with carriages.
It was not without delay that he got to the door,
and when there he saw the royal liveries.
There was no doubt about the party.
The Emperor and the Princes and the Princesses were all there.
As far as Sir Damask could then perceive,
the dinner had been quite a success.
But again there was a delay in getting away,
and it was nearly eleven before he could reach home.
"It's all right,"
said he to his wife.
"You are sure that the Emperor is there."
"As sure as a man can be without having seen him."
Miss Longestaffe was present at this moment,
and could not but resent what appeared to be a most unseemly slur cast upon her friends.
"I don't understand it at all,"
"Of course the Emperor is there.
Everybody has known for the last month that he was coming.
What is the meaning of it,
you must allow me to manage my own little affairs my own way.
I dare say I am absurd.
But I have my reason.
if the carriage is there we had better start."
The carriage was there,
and they did start,
and with a delay which seemed unprecedented,
even to Lady Monogram,
who was accustomed to these things,
they reached the door.
There was a great crush in the hall,
and people were coming down-stairs.
But at last they made their way into the room above,
and found that the Emperor of China and all the Royalties had been there,
--but had taken their departure.
Sir Damask put the ladies into the carriage and went at once to his club.
Lady Monogram retired from Mr. Melmotte's house in disgust as soon as she was able to escape;
but we must return to it for a short time.
When the guests were once in the drawing-room the immediate sense of failure passed away.
The crowd never became so thick as had been anticipated.
They who were knowing in such matters had declared that the people would not be able to get themselves out of the room till three or four o'clock in the morning,
and that the carriages would not get themselves out of the Square till breakfast time.
With a view to this kind of thing Mr. Melmotte had been told that he must provide a private means of escape for his illustrious guests,
and with a considerable sacrifice of walls and general house arrangements this had been done.
No such gathering as was expected took place;
but still the rooms became fairly full,
and Mr. Melmotte was able to console himself with the feeling that nothing certainly fatal had as yet occurred.
There can be no doubt that the greater part of the people assembled did believe that their host had committed some great fraud which might probably bring him under the arm of the law.
When such rumours are spread abroad,
they are always believed.
There is an excitement and a pleasure in believing them.
Reasonable hesitation at such a moment is dull and phlegmatic.
If the accused one be near enough to ourselves to make the accusation a matter of personal pain,
of course we disbelieve.
if the distance be beyond this,
we are almost ready to think that anything may be true of anybody.
In this case nobody really loved Melmotte and everybody did believe.
It was so probable that such a man should have done something horrible!
It was only hoped that the fraud might be great and horrible enough.
Melmotte himself during that part of the evening which was passed up-stairs kept himself in the close vicinity of royalty.
He behaved certainly very much better than he would have done had he had no weight at his heart.
He made few attempts at beginning any conversation,
at any rate with brevity,
when he was addressed.
With scrupulous care he ticked off on his memory the names of those who had come and whom he knew,
thinking that their presence indicated a verdict of acquittal from them on the evidence already before them.
Seeing the members of the Government all there,
he wished that he had come forward in Westminster as a Liberal.
And he freely forgave those omissions of Royalty as to which he had been so angry at the India Office,
seeing that not a Prince or Princess was lacking of those who were expected.
He could turn his mind to all this,
although he knew how great was his danger.
Many things occurred to him as he stood,
striving to smile as a host should smile.
It might be the case that half-a-dozen detectives were already stationed in his own hall,
--perhaps one or two,
in the very presence of royalty,
--ready to arrest him as soon as the guests were gone,
watching him now lest he should escape.
But he bore the burden,
He had always lived with the consciousness that such a burden was on him and might crush him at any time.
He had known that he had to run these risks.
He had told himself a thousand times that when the dangers came,
dangers alone should never cow him.
He had always endeavoured to go as near the wind as he could,
to avoid the heavy hand of the criminal law of whatever country he inhabited.
He had studied the criminal laws,
so that he might be sure in his reckonings;
but he had always felt that he might be carried by circumstances into deeper waters than he intended to enter.
As the soldier who leads a forlorn hope,
or as the diver who goes down for pearls,
or as the searcher for wealth on fever-breeding coasts,
knows that as his gains may be great,
so are his perils,
Melmotte had been aware that in his life,
as it opened itself out to him,
he might come to terrible destruction.
He had not always thought,
or even hoped,
that he would be as he was now,
so exalted as to be allowed to entertain the very biggest ones of the earth;
but the greatness had grown upon him,
--and so had the danger.
He could not now be as exact as he had been.
He was prepared himself to bear all mere ignominy with a tranquil mind,
--to disregard any shouts of reprobation which might be uttered,
and to console himself when the bad quarter of an hour should come with the remembrance that he had garnered up a store sufficient for future wants and placed it beyond the reach of his enemies.
But as his intellect opened up to him new schemes,
and as his ambition got the better of his prudence,
he gradually fell from the security which he had preconceived,
and became aware that he might have to bear worse than ignominy.
Perhaps never in his life had he studied his own character and his own conduct more accurately,
or made sterner resolves,
than he did as he stood there smiling,
and acting without impropriety the part of host to an Emperor.
--he could not run away.
He soon made himself sure of that.
He had risen too high to be a successful fugitive,
even should he succeed in getting off before hands were laid upon him.
He must bide his ground,
if only that he might not at once confess his own guilt by flight;
and he would do so with courage.
Looking back at the hour or two that had just passed he was aware that he had allowed himself not only to be frightened in the dinner-room,
--but also to seem to be frightened.
The thing had come upon him unawares and he had been untrue to himself.
He acknowledged that.
He should not have asked those questions of Mr. Todd and Mr. Beauclerk,
and should have been more good-humoured than usual with Lord Alfred in discussing those empty seats.
But for spilt milk there is no remedy.
The blow had come upon him too suddenly,
and he had faltered.
But he would not falter again.
Nothing should cow him,
--no touch from a policeman,
no warrant from a magistrate,
no defalcation of friends,
no scorn in the City,
no solitude in the West End.
He would go down among the electors to-morrow and would stand his ground,
as though all with him were right.
Men should know at any rate that he had a heart within his bosom.
And he confessed also to himself that he had sinned in that matter of arrogance.
He could see it now,
--as so many of us do see the faults which we have committed,
which we strive,
but in vain,
and which we never confess except to our own bosoms.
The task which he had imposed on himself,
and to which circumstances had added weight,
had been very hard to bear.
He should have been good-humoured to these great ones whose society he had gained.
He should have bound these people to him by a feeling of kindness as well as by his money.
He could see it all now.
And he could see too that there was no help for spilt milk.
I think he took some pride in his own confidence as to his own courage,
as he stood there turning it all over in his mind.
Very much might be suspected.
Something might be found out.
But the task of unravelling it all would not be easy.
It is the small vermin and the little birds that are trapped at once.
But wolves and vultures can fight hard before they are caught.
With the means which would still be at his command,
let the worst come to the worst,
he could make a strong fight.
When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a certain safety in their very diversity and proportions.
Might it not be that the fact that these great ones of the earth had been his guests should speak in his favour?
A man who had in very truth had the real brother of the Sun dining at his table could hardly be sent into the dock and then sent out of it like a common felon.
Madame Melmotte during the evening stood at the top of her own stairs with a chair behind her on which she could rest herself for a moment when any pause took place in the arrivals.
She had of course dined at the table,
--or rather sat there;
--but had been so placed that no duty had devolved upon her.
She had heard no word of the rumours,
and would probably be the last person in that house to hear them.
It never occurred to her to see whether the places down the table were full or empty.
She sat with her large eyes fixed on the Majesty of China and must have wondered at her own destiny at finding herself with an Emperor and Princes to look at.
From the dining-room she had gone when she was told to go,
up to the drawing-room,
and had there performed her task,
longing only for the comfort of her bedroom.
had but small sympathy with her husband in all his work,
and but little understanding of the position in which she had been placed.
Money she liked,
and perhaps diamonds and fine dresses,
but she can hardly have taken pleasure in duchesses or have enjoyed the company of the Emperor.
From the beginning of the Melmotte era it had been an understood thing that no one spoke to Madame Melmotte.
Marie Melmotte had declined a seat at the dinner-table.
This at first had been cause of quarrel between her and her father,
as he desired to have seen her next to young Lord Nidderdale as being acknowledged to be betrothed to him.
But since the journey to Liverpool he had said nothing on the subject.
He still pressed the engagement,
but thought now that less publicity might be expedient.
in the drawing-room standing at first by Madame Melmotte,
and afterwards retreating among the crowd.
To some ladies she was a person of interest as the young woman who had lately run away under such strange circumstances;
but no one spoke to her till she saw a girl whom she herself knew,
and whom she addressed,
plucking up all her courage for the occasion.
This was Hetta Carbury who had been brought hither by her mother.
The tickets for Lady Carbury and Hetta had of course been sent before the elopement;
as a matter of course,
no reference had been made to them by the Melmotte family after the elopement.
Lady Carbury herself was anxious that that affair should not be considered as having given cause for any personal quarrel between herself and Mr. Melmotte,
and in her difficulty had consulted Mr. Broune.
Mr. Broune was the staff on which she leant at present in all her difficulties.
Mr. Broune was going to the dinner.
All this of course took place while Melmotte's name was as yet unsullied as snow.
Mr. Broune saw no reason why Lady Carbury should not take advantage of her tickets.
These invitations were simply tickets to see the Emperor surrounded by the Princes.
The young lady's elopement is "no affair of yours,"
Mr. Broune had said.
"I should go,
if it were only for the sake of showing that you did not consider yourself to be implicated in the matter."
Lady Carbury did as she was advised,
and took her daughter with her.
said the mother,
when Hetta objected;
"Mr. Broune sees it quite in the right light.
This is a grand demonstration in honour of the Emperor,
rather than a private party;
--and we have done nothing to offend the Melmottes.
You know you wish to see the Emperor."
A few minutes before they started from Welbeck Street a note came from Mr. Broune,
written in pencil and sent from Melmotte's house by a Commissioner.
"Don't mind what you hear;
I am here and as far as I can see it is all right.
The E. is beautiful,
and P.'s are as thick as blackberries."
who had not been in the way of hearing the reports,
understood nothing of this;
but of course she went.
And Hetta went with her.
Hetta was standing alone in a corner,
near to her mother,
who was talking to Mr. Booker,
with her eyes fixed on the awful tranquillity of the Emperor's countenance,
when Marie Melmotte timidly crept up to her and asked her how she was.
was not very cordial to the poor girl,
being afraid of her,
partly as the daughter of the great Melmotte and partly as the girl with whom her brother had failed to run away;
but Marie was not rebuked by this.
"I hope you won't be angry with me for speaking to you."
Hetta smiled more graciously.
She could not be angry with the girl for speaking to her,
feeling that she was there as the guest of the girl's mother.
"I suppose you know about your brother,"
whispering with her eyes turned to the ground.
"I have heard about it,"
"He never told me himself."
I do so wish that I knew the truth.
I know nothing.
I love him.
I do love him so dearly!
I hope you don't think I would have done it if I hadn't loved him better than anybody in the world.
Don't you think that if a girl loves a man,
--really loves him,
--that ought to go before everything?"
This was a question that Hetta was hardly prepared to answer.
She felt quite certain that under no circumstances would she run away with a man.
"I don't quite know.
It is so hard to say,"
What's the good of anything if you're to be broken-hearted?
I don't care what they say of me,
or what they do to me,
if he would only be true to me.
Why doesn't he --let me know --something about it?"
This also was a question difficult to be answered.
Since that horrid morning on which Sir Felix had stumbled home drunk,
--which was now four days since,
--he had not left the house in Welbeck Street till this evening.
He had gone out a few minutes before Lady Carbury had started,
but up to that time he had almost kept his bed.
He would not get up till dinner-time,
would come down after some half-dressed fashion,
and then get back to his bedroom,
where he would smoke and drink brandy-and-water and complain of headache.
The theory was that he was ill;
--but he was in fact utterly cowed and did not dare to show himself at his usual haunts.
He was aware that he had quarrelled at the club,
aware that all the world knew of his intended journey to Liverpool,
aware that he had tumbled about the streets intoxicated.
He had not dared to show himself,
and the feeling had grown upon him from day to day.
fairly worn out by his confinement,
he had crept out intending,
to find consolation with Ruby Ruggles.
"Do tell me.
Where is he?"
"He has not been very well lately."
"Is he ill?
do tell me.
You can understand what it is to love him as I do;
"He has been ill.
I think he is better now."
"Why does he not come to me,
or send to me;
or let me know something?
It is cruel,
is it not?
--you must know,
--does he really care for me?"
Hetta was exceedingly perplexed.
The real feeling betrayed by the girl recommended her.
Hetta could not but sympathize with the affection manifested for her own brother,
though she could hardly understand the want of reticence displayed by Marie in thus speaking of her love to one who was almost a stranger.
"Felix hardly ever talks about himself to me,"
"If he doesn't care for me,
there shall be an end of it,"
Marie said very gravely.
"If I only knew!
If I thought that he loved me,
I'd go through,
--all the world for him.
Nothing that papa could say should stop me.
That's my feeling about it.
I have never talked to any one but you about it.
Isn't that strange?
I haven't a person to talk to.
That's my feeling,
and I'm not a bit ashamed of it.
There's no disgrace in being in love.
But it's very bad to get married without being in love.
That's what I think."
"It is bad,"
thinking of Roger Carbury.
"But if Felix doesn't care for me!"
sinking her voice to a low whisper,
but still making her words quite audible to her companion.
Now Hetta was strongly of opinion that her brother did not in the least "care for" Marie Melmotte,
and that it would be very much for the best that Marie Melmotte should know the truth.
But she had not that sort of strength which would have enabled her to tell it.
"Tell me just what you think,"
Hetta was still silent.
Then I must give him up?
"What can I say,
Felix never tells me.
He is my brother,
--and of course I love you for loving him."
This was almost more than Hetta meant;
but she felt herself constrained to say some gracious word.
I wish you did.
I should so like to be loved by you.
Nobody loves me,
That man there wants to marry me.
Do you know him?
He is Lord Nidderdale.
He is very nice;
but he does not love me any more than he loves you.
That's the way with men.
It isn't the way with me.
I would go with Felix and slave for him if he were poor.
Is it all to be over then?
You will give him a message from me?"
doubting as to the propriety of the promise,
promised that she would.
"Just tell him I want to know;
I want to know.
I want to know the real truth.
I suppose I do know it now.
Then I shall not care what happens to me.
It will be all the same.
I suppose I shall marry that young man,
though it will be very bad.
I shall just be as if I hadn't any self of my own at all.
But he ought to send me word after all that has passed.
Do not you think he ought to send me word?"
"You tell him,
nodding her head as she crept away.
Nidderdale had been observing her while she had been talking to Miss Carbury.
He had heard the rumour,
and of course felt that it behoved him to be on his guard more specially than any one else.
But he had not believed what he had heard.
That men should be thoroughly immoral,
that they should gamble,
run into debt,
and make love to other men's wives,
was to him a matter of every-day life.
Nothing of that kind shocked him at all.
But he was not as yet quite old enough to believe in swindling.
It had been impossible to convince him that Miles Grendall had cheated at cards,
and the idea that Mr. Melmotte had forged was as improbable and shocking to him as that an officer should run away in battle.
might do that sort of thing.
He had almost fallen in love with Marie when he saw her last,
and was inclined to feel the more kindly to her now because of the hard things that were being said about her father.
And yet he knew that he must be careful.
If "he came a cropper" in this matter,
it would be such an awful cropper!
"How do you like the party?"
he said to Marie.
"I don't like it at all,
How do you like it?"
I think the Emperor is the greatest fun I ever saw.
--one of the German princes who was staying at the time among his English cousins,
--"Prince Frederic says that he's stuffed with hay,
and that he's made up fresh every morning at a shop in the Haymarket."
"I've seen him talk."
"He opens his mouth,
There is machinery as well as hay.
I think he's the grandest old buffer out,
and I'm awfully glad that I've dined with him.
I couldn't make out whether he really put anything to eat into his jolly old mouth."
"Of course he did."
"Have you been thinking about what we were talking about the other day?"
--I haven't thought about it since.
Why should I?"
--it's a sort of thing that people do think about,
"You don't think about it."
I've been thinking about nothing else the last three months."
"You've been thinking whether you'd get married or not."
"That's what I mean,"
said Lord Nidderdale.
"It isn't what I mean,
"I'll be shot if I can understand you."
And you never will understand me.
--they're all going,
and we must get out of the way.
Is that Prince Frederic,
who told you about the hay?
He is handsome;
And who is that in the violet dress;
--with all the pearls?"
"That's the Princess Dwarza."
--isn't it odd,
having a lot of people in one's own house,
and not being able to speak a word to them?
I don't think it's at all nice.
I'm glad you like the Emperor."
And then the people went,
and when they had all gone Melmotte put his wife and daughter into his own carriage,
telling them that he would follow them on foot to Bruton Street when he had given some last directions to the people who were putting out the lights,
and extinguishing generally the embers of the entertainment.
He had looked round for Lord Alfred,
taking care to avoid the appearance of searching;
but Lord Alfred had gone.
Lord Alfred was one of those who knew when to leave a falling house.
Melmotte at the moment thought of all that he had done for Lord Alfred,
and it was something of the real venom of ingratitude that stung him at the moment rather than this additional sign of coming evil.
He was more than ordinarily gracious as he put his wife into the carriage,
and remarked that,
considering all things,
the party had gone off very well.
"I only wish it could have been done a little cheaper,"
he said laughing.
Then he went back into the house,
and up into the drawing-rooms which were now utterly deserted.
Some of the lights had been put out,
but the men were busy in the rooms below,
and he threw himself into the chair in which the Emperor had sat.
It was wonderful that he should come to such a fate as this;
the boy out of the gutter,
should entertain at his own house,
a Chinese Emperor and English and German Royalty,
--and that he should do so almost with a rope round his neck.
Even if this were to be the end of it all,
men would at any rate remember him.
The grand dinner which he had given before he was put into prison would live in history.
And it would be remembered,
that he had been the Conservative candidate for the great borough of Westminster,
the elected member.
in his manner,
assured himself that a great part of him would escape Oblivion.
"Non omnis moriar,"
in some language of his own,
was chanted by him within his own breast,
as he sat there looking out on his own magnificent suite of rooms from the arm-chair which had been consecrated by the use of an Emperor.
No policemen had come to trouble him yet.
No hint that he would be "wanted" had been made to him.
There was no tangible sign that things were not to go on as they went before.
Things would be exactly as they were before,
but for the absence of those guests from the dinner-table,
and for the words which Miles Grendall had spoken.
Had he not allowed himself to be terrified by shadows?
Of course he had known that there must be such shadows.
His life had been made dark by similar clouds before now,
and he had lived through the storms which had followed them.
He was thoroughly ashamed of the weakness which had overcome him at the dinner-table,
and of that palsy of fear which he had allowed himself to exhibit.
There should be no more shrinking such as that.
When people talked of him they should say that he was at least a man.
As this was passing through his mind a head was pushed in through one of the doors,
and immediately withdrawn.
It was his Secretary.
"Is that you,
I'm just going home,
and came up here to see how the empty rooms would look after they were all gone.
What became of your father?"
"I suppose he went away."
"I suppose he did,"
unable to hinder himself from throwing a certain tone of scorn into his voice,
--as though proclaiming the fate of his own house and the consequent running away of the rat.
"It went off very well,
still standing at the door.
There had been a few words of consultation between him and his father,
--only a very few words.
"You'd better see it out to-night,
as you've had a regular salary,
and all that.
I shall hook it.
I sha'n't go near him to-morrow till I find out how things are going.
By G -- --,
I've had about enough of him."
But hardly enough of his money,
--or it may be presumed that Lord Alfred would have "hooked it" sooner.
"Why don't you come in,
and not stand there?"
"There's no Emperor here now for you to be afraid of."
"I'm afraid of nobody,"
walking into the middle of the room.
"Nor am I.
What's one man that another man should be afraid of him?
We've got to die,
and there'll be an end of it,
"That's about it,"
hardly following the working of his master's mind.
"I shouldn't care how soon.
When a man has worked as I have done,
he gets about tired at my age.
I suppose I'd better be down at the committee-room about ten to-morrow?"
"That's the best,
I should say."
"You'll be there by that time?"
Miles Grendall assented slowly,
and with imperfect assent.
"And tell your father he might as well be there as early as convenient."
said Miles as he took his departure.
said Melmotte almost aloud.
"They neither of them will be there.
If any evil can be done to me by treachery and desertion,
they will do it."
Then it occurred to him to think whether the Grendall article had been worth all the money that he had paid for it.
he said again.
He walked down into the hall,
and through the banqueting-room,
and stood at the place where he himself had sat.
What a scene it had been,
and how frightfully low his heart had sunk within him!
It had been the defection of the Lord Mayor that had hit him hardest.
"What cowards they are!"
The men went on with their work,
not noticing him,
and probably not knowing him.
The dinner had been done by contract,
and the contractor's foreman was there.
The care of the house and the alterations had been confided to another contractor,
and his foreman was waiting to see the place locked up.
A confidential clerk,
who had been with Melmotte for years,
and who knew his ways,
was there also to guard the property.
he said to the man in German.
Croll touched his hat and bade him good night.
Melmotte listened anxiously to the tone of the man's voice,
trying to catch from it some indication of the mind within.
Did Croll know of these rumours,
and if so,
what did he think of them?
Croll had known him in some perilous circumstances before,
and had helped him through them.
He paused a moment as though he would ask a question,
but resolved at last that silence would be safest.
"You'll see everything safe,
Croll said that he would see everything safe,
and Melmotte passed out into the Square.
He had not far to go,
round through Berkeley Square into Bruton Street,
but he stood for a few moments looking up at the bright stars.
If he could be there,
in one of those unknown distant worlds,
with all his present intellect and none of his present burdens,
do better than he had done here on earth.
If he could even now put himself down nameless,
and without possessions in some distant corner of the world,
But he was Augustus Melmotte,
and he must bear his burdens,
whatever they were,
to the end.
He could reach no place so distant but that he would be known and traced.
[Illustration: Mr. Melmotte speculates.]
Mr. MELMOTTE ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION.
No election of a Member of Parliament by ballot in a borough so large as that of Westminster had as yet been achieved in England since the ballot had been established by law.
Men who heretofore had known,
or thought that they knew,
how elections would go,
who counted up promises,
told off professed enemies,
and weighed the doubtful ones,
now confessed themselves to be in the dark.
Three days since the odds had been considerably in Melmotte's favour;
but this had come from the reputation attached to his name,
rather than from any calculation as to the politics of the voters.
Then Sunday had intervened.
On the Monday Melmotte's name had continued to go down in the betting from morning to evening.
Early in the day his supporters had thought little of this,
attributing the fall to that vacillation which is customary in such matters;
but towards the latter part of the afternoon the tidings from the City had been in everybody's mouth,
and Melmotte's committee-room had been almost deserted.
At six o'clock there were some who suggested that his name should be withdrawn.
No such suggestion,
was made to him,
--perhaps because no one dared to make it.
On the Monday evening all work and strategy for the election,
as regarded Melmotte and his party,
and the interest of the hour was turned to the dinner.
But Mr. Alf's supporters were very busy.
There had been a close consultation among a few of them as to what should be done by their Committee as to these charges against the opposite candidate.
In the "Pulpit" of that evening an allusion had been made to the affair,
which was of course sufficiently intelligible to those who were immediately concerned in the matter,
but which had given no name and mentioned no details.
Mr. Alf explained that this had been put in by the sub-editor,
and that it only afforded such news as the paper was bound to give to the public.
He himself pointed out the fact that no note of triumph had been sounded,
and that the rumour had not been connected with the election.
One old gentleman was of opinion that they were bound to make the most of it.
"It's no more than we've all believed all along,"
said the old gentleman,
"and why are we to let a fellow like that get the seat if we can keep him out?"
He was of opinion that everything should be done to make the rumour with all its exaggerations as public as possible,
--so that there should be no opening for an indictment for libel;
and the clever old gentleman was full of devices by which this might be effected.
But the Committee generally was averse to fight in this manner.
Public opinion has its Bar as well as the Law Courts.
Melmotte had committed no fraud,
as was much more probable,
should not be convicted of fraud,
--then it would be said that the accusation had been forged for purely electioneering purposes,
and there might be a rebound which would pretty well crush all those who had been concerned.
Individual gentlemen could,
say what they pleased to individual voters;
but it was agreed at last that no overt use should be made of the rumours by Mr. Alf's Committee.
In regard to other matters,
they who worked under the Committee were busy enough.
The dinner to the Emperor was turned into ridicule,
and the electors were asked whether they felt themselves bound to return a gentleman out of the City to Parliament because he had offered to spend a fortune on entertaining all the royalties then assembled in London.
There was very much said on placards and published in newspapers to the discredit of Melmotte,
but nothing was so printed which would not have appeared with equal venom had the recent rumours never been sent out from the City.
At twelve o'clock at night,
when Mr. Alf's committee-room was being closed,
and when Melmotte was walking home to bed,
the general opinion at the clubs was very much in favour of Mr. Alf.
On the next morning Melmotte was up before eight.
As yet no policeman had called for him,
nor had any official intimation reached him that an accusation was to be brought against him.
On coming down from his bedroom he at once went into the back-parlour on the ground floor,
which Mr. Longestaffe called his study,
and which Mr. Melmotte had used since he had been in Mr. Longestaffe's house for the work which he did at home.
He would be there often early in the morning,
and often late at night after Lord Alfred had left him.
There were two heavy desk-tables in the room,
furnished with drawers down to the ground.
One of these the owner of the house had kept locked for his own purposes.
When the bargain for the temporary letting of the house had been made,
Mr. Melmotte and Mr. Longestaffe were close friends.
Terms for the purchase of Pickering had just been made,
and no cause for suspicion had as yet arisen.
Everything between the two gentlemen had been managed with the greatest ease.
Mr. Longestaffe could come whenever he pleased.
always left the house at ten and never returned till six.
The ladies would never enter that room.
The servants were to regard Mr. Longestaffe quite as master of the house as far as that room was concerned.
If Mr. Longestaffe could spare it,
Mr. Melmotte would take the key of one of the tables.
The matter was arranged very pleasantly.
on entering the room bolted the door,
sitting at his own table,
took certain papers out of the drawers,
--a bundle of letters and another of small documents.
with very little examination,
he took three or four,
--two or three perhaps from each.
These he tore into very small fragments and burned the bits,
--holding them over a gas-burner and letting the ashes fall into a large china plate.
Then he blew the ashes into the yard through the open window.
This he did to all these documents but one.
This one he put bit by bit into his mouth,
chewing the paper into a pulp till he swallowed it.
When he had done this,
and had re-locked his own drawers,
he walked across to the other table,
Mr. Longestaffe's table,
and pulled the handle of one of the drawers.
without touching the contents,
he again closed it.
He then knelt down and examined the lock,
and the hole above into which the bolt of the lock ran.
Having done this he again closed the drawer,
drew back the bolt of the door,
seating himself at his own desk,
rang the bell which was close to hand.
The servant found him writing letters after his usual hurried fashion,
and was told that he was ready for breakfast.
He always breakfasted alone with a heap of newspapers around him,
and so he did on this day.
He soon found the paragraph alluding to himself in the "Pulpit,"
and read it without a quiver in his face or the slightest change in his colour.
There was no one to see him now,
--but he was acting under a resolve that at no moment,
either when alone,
or in a crowd,
or when suddenly called upon for words,
--not even when the policemen with their first hints of arrest should come upon him,
--would he betray himself by the working of a single muscle,
or the loss of a drop of blood from his heart.
He would go through it,
without a sign of shrinking.
It had to be done,
and he would do it.
At ten he walked down to the central committee-room at Whitehall Place.
He thought that he would face the world better by walking than if he were taken in his own brougham.
He gave orders that the carriage should be at the committee-room at eleven,
and wait an hour for him if he was not there.
He went along Bond Street and Piccadilly,
Regent Street and through Pall Mall to Charing Cross,
with the blandly triumphant smile of a man who had successfully entertained the great guest of the day.
As he got near the club he met two or three men whom he knew,
and bowed to them.
They returned his bow graciously enough,
but not one of them stopped to speak to him.
Of one he knew that he would have stopped,
had it not been for the rumour.
Even after the man had passed on he was careful to show no displeasure on his face.
He would take it all as it would come and still be the blandly triumphant Merchant Prince,
--as long as the police would allow him.
He probably was not aware how very different was the part he was now playing from that which he had assumed at the India Office.
At the committee-room he only found a few understrappers,
and was informed that everything was going on regularly.
The electors were balloting;
but with the ballot,
--so said the leader of the understrappers,
--there never was any excitement.
The men looked half-frightened,
--as though they did not quite know whether they ought to seize their candidate,
and hold him till the constable came.
They certainly had not expected to see him there.
"Has Lord Alfred been here?"
standing in the inner room with his back to the empty grate.
--Lord Alfred had not been there.
"Nor Mr. Grendall?"
The senior understrapper knew that Melmotte would have asked for "his Secretary,"
and not for Mr. Grendall,
but for the rumours.
It is so hard not to tumble into Scylla when you are avoiding Charybdis.
Mr. Grendall had not been there.
nobody had been there.
there is nothing more to be done,
said Mr. Melmotte.
The senior understrapper thought that there was nothing more to be done.
He left word that his brougham should be sent away,
and strolled out again on foot.
He went up into Covent Garden,
where there was a polling booth.
The place seemed to him,
as one of the chief centres for a contested election,
to be wonderfully quiet.
He was determined to face everybody and everything,
and he went close up to the booth.
Here he was recognised by various men,
who came forward and shook hands with him.
He remained there for an hour conversing with people,
and at last made a speech to a little knot around him.
He did not allude to the rumour of yesterday,
nor to the paragraph in the "Pulpit" to which his name had not been attached;
but he spoke freely enough of the general accusations that had been brought against him previously.
He wished the electors to understand that nothing which had been said against him made him ashamed to meet them here or elsewhere.
He was proud of his position,
and proud that the electors of Westminster should recognise it.
He did not,
he was glad to say,
know much of the law,
but he was told that the law would protect him from such aspersions as had been unfairly thrown upon him.
He flattered himself that he was too good an Englishman to regard the ordinary political attacks to which candidates were,
as a matter of course,
subject at elections;
--and he could stretch his back to bear perhaps a little more than these,
particularly as he looked forward to a triumphant return.
But things had been said,
which the excitement of an election could not justify,
and as to these things he must have recourse to the law.
Then he made some allusion to the Princes and the Emperor,
and concluded by observing that it was the proudest boast of his life to be an Englishman and a Londoner.
It was asserted afterwards that this was the only good speech he had ever been known to make;
and it was certainly successful,
as he was applauded throughout Covent Garden.
A reporter for the "Breakfast Table" who was on duty at the place,
looking for paragraphs as to the conduct of electors,
gave an account of the speech in that paper,
and made more of it,
than it deserved.
It was asserted afterwards,
and given as a great proof of Melmotte's cleverness,
that he had planned the thing and gone to Covent Garden all alone having considered that in that way could he best regain a step in reputation;
but in truth the affair had not been preconcerted.
It was while in Whitehall Place that he had first thought of going to Covent Garden,
and he had had no idea of making a speech till the people had gathered round him.
It was then noon,
and he had to determine what he should do next.
He was half inclined to go round to all the booths and make speeches.
His success at Covent Garden had been very pleasant to him.
But he feared that he might not be so successful elsewhere.
He had shown that he was not afraid of the electors.
Then an idea struck him that he would go boldly into the City,
--to his own offices in Abchurch Lane.
He had determined to be absent on this day,
and would not be expected.
But his appearance there could not on that account be taken amiss.
Whatever enmities there might be,
or whatever perils,
he would face them.
He got a cab therefore and had himself driven to Abchurch Lane.
The clerks were hanging about doing nothing,
as though it were a holiday.
and the rumour together had altogether demoralized them.
But some of them at least were there,
and they showed no signs of absolute insubordination.
"Mr. Grendall has not been here?"
Mr. Grendall had not been there;
but Mr. Cohenlupe was in Mr. Grendall's room.
At this moment he hardly desired to see Mr. Cohenlupe.
That gentleman was privy to many of his transactions,
but was by no means privy to them all.
Mr. Cohenlupe knew that the estate at Pickering had been purchased,
and knew that it had been mortgaged.
He knew also what had become of the money which had so been raised.
But he knew nothing of the circumstances of the purchase,
although he probably surmised that Melmotte had succeeded in getting the title-deeds on credit,
without paying the money.
He was afraid that he could hardly see Cohenlupe and hold his tongue,
and that he could not speak to him without danger.
He and Cohenlupe might have to stand in a dock together;
and Cohenlupe had none of his spirit.
But the clerks would think,
and would talk,
were he to leave the office without seeing his old friend.
He went therefore into his own room,
and called to Cohenlupe as he did so.
"Ve didn't expect you here to-day,"
said the member for Staines.
"Nor did I expect to come.
But there isn't much to do at Westminster while the ballot is going on;
so I came up,
just to look at the letters.
The dinner went off pretty well yesterday,
Vy did the Lord Mayor stay away,
"Because he's an ass and a cur,"
said Mr. Melmotte with an assumed air of indignation.
"Alf and his people had got hold of him.
There was ever so much fuss about it at first,
--whether he would accept the invitation.
I say it was an insult to the City to take it and not to come.
I shall be even with him some of these days."
"Things will go on just the same as usual,
Of course they'll go.
What's to hinder them?"
"There's ever so much been said,"
ejaculated Melmotte very loudly.
"You're not such a fool,
as to believe every word you hear.
You'll have enough to believe,
if you do."
"There's no knowing vat anybody does know,
and vat anybody does not know,"
"Look you here,
--and now Melmotte also sank his voice to a whisper,
--"keep your tongue in your mouth;
go about just as usual,
and say nothing.
It's all right.
There has been some heavy pulls upon us."
there has indeed!"
"But any paper with my name to it will come right."
--nothing at all,"
"And there is nothing;
--nothing at all!
I've bought some property and have paid for it;
and I have bought some,
and have not yet paid for it.
There's no fraud in that."
--nothing in that."
"You hold your tongue,
and go about your business.
I'm going to the bank now."
Cohenlupe had been very low in spirits,
and was still low in spirits;
but he was somewhat better after the visit of the great man to the City.
Mr. Melmotte was as good as his word and walked straight to the bank.
He kept two accounts at different banks,
one for his business,
and one for his private affairs.
The one he now entered was that which kept what we may call his domestic account.
He walked straight through,
after his old fashion,
to the room behind the bank in which sat the manager and the manager's one clerk,
and stood upon the rug before the fire-place just as though nothing had happened,
--or as nearly as though nothing had happened as was within the compass of his powers.
He could not quite do it.
In keeping up an appearance intended to be natural he was obliged to be somewhat milder than his wont.
The manager did not behave nearly as well as he did,
and the clerks manifestly betrayed their emotion.
Melmotte saw that it was so;
--but he had expected it,
and had come there on purpose to "put it down."
"We hardly expected to see you in the City to-day,
"And I didn't expect to see myself here.
But it always happens that when one expects that there's most to be done,
there's nothing to be done at all.
They're all at work down at Westminster,
but as I can't go on voting for myself,
I'm of no use.
I've been at Covent Garden this morning,
making a stump speech,
and if all that they say there is true,
I haven't much to be afraid of."
"And the dinner went off pretty well?"
asked the manager.
They say the Emperor liked it better than anything that has been done for him yet."
This was a brilliant flash of imagination.
"For a friend to dine with me every day,
I should prefer somebody who had a little more to say for himself.
if you or I were in China we shouldn't have much to say for ourselves;
The manager acceded to this proposition.
"We had one awful disappointment.
His lordship from over the way didn't come."
"The Lord Mayor,
"The Lord Mayor didn't come!
He was frightened at the last moment;
--took it into his head that his authority in the City was somehow compromised.
But the wonder was that the dinner went on without him."
Then Melmotte referred to the purport of his call there that day.
He would have to draw large cheques for his private wants.
"You don't give a dinner to an Emperor of China for nothing,
He had been in the habit of over-drawing on his private account,
--making arrangements with the manager.
in the manager's presence,
he drew a regular cheque on his business account for a large sum,
as a sort of afterthought,
paid in the £250 which he had received from Mr. Broune on account of the money which Sir Felix had taken from Marie.
"There don't seem much the matter with him,"
said the manager,
when Melmotte had left the room.
"He brazens it out,
said the senior clerk.
But the feeling of the room after full discussion inclined to the opinion that the rumours had been a political manoeuvre.
Mr. Melmotte would not now have been allowed to overdraw at the present moment.