MELMOTTE MAKES A FRIEND.
"Have you been thinking any more about it?"
Lord Nidderdale said to the girl as soon as Madame Melmotte had succeeded in leaving them alone together.
"I have thought ever so much more about it,"
"And what's the result?"
--I'll have you."
throwing himself on the sofa close to her,
so that he might put his arm round her waist.
"Wait a moment,
"You might as well call me John."
"Then wait a moment,
You think you might as well marry me,
though you don't love me a bit."
"That's not true,
"Yes it is;
--it's quite true.
And I think just the same,
--that I might as well marry you,
though I don't love you a bit."
"But you will."
"I don't know.
I don't feel like it just at present.
You had better know the exact truth,
I have told my father that I did not think you'd ever come again,
but that if you did I would accept you.
But I'm not going to tell any stories about it.
You know who I've been in love with."
"But you can't be in love with him now."
I can't marry him.
I know that.
And if he were to come to me,
I don't think that I would.
He has behaved bad."
"Have I behaved bad?"
"Not like him.
You never did care,
and you never said you cared."
"Not at first.
You say it now because you think that I shall like it.
But it makes no difference now.
I don't mind about your arm being there if we are to be married,
only it's just as well for both of us to look on it as business."
"How very hard you are,
I wasn't hard to Sir Felix Carbury,
and so I tell you.
I did love him."
"Surely you have found him out now."
"He's a poor creature."
"He has just been thrashed,
in the streets,
Marie had not been told of this,
and started back from her lover's arms.
"You hadn't heard it?"
"Who has thrashed him?"
"I don't want to tell the story against him,
but they say he has been cut about in a terrible manner."
"Why should anybody beat him?
Did he do anything?"
"There was a young lady in the question,
"A young lady!
What young lady?
I don't believe it.
But it's nothing to me.
I don't care about anything,
--not a bit.
I suppose you've made up all that out of your own head."
I believe he was beaten,
and I believe it was about a young woman.
But it signifies nothing to me,
and I don't suppose it signifies much to you.
Don't you think we might fix a day,
"I don't care the least,"
"The longer it's put off the better I shall like it;
"Because I'm so detestable?"
--you ain't detestable.
I think you are a very good fellow;
only you don't care for me.
But it is detestable not being able to do what one wants.
It's detestable having to quarrel with everybody and never to be good friends with anybody.
And it's horribly detestable having nothing on earth to give one any interest."
"You couldn't take any interest in me?"
"Not the least."
"Suppose you try.
Wouldn't you like to know anything about the place where we live?"
"It's a castle,
ever so many hundred years old."
"I hate old places.
I should like a new house,
and a new dress,
and a new horse every week,
--and a new lover.
Your father lives at the castle.
I don't suppose we are to go and live there too."
"We shall be there sometimes.
When shall it be?"
"The year after next."
"You wouldn't be ready."
"You may manage it all just as you like with papa.
of course you may.
If I'm to belong to you what does it matter?
--I won't say that I love you.
But if ever I do say it,
you may be sure it will be true.
That's more than you can say of yourself,
So the interview was over and Nidderdale walked back to the house thinking of his lady love,
as far as he was able to bring his mind to any operation of thinking.
He was fully determined to go on with it.
As far as the girl herself was concerned,
in these latter days,
become much more attractive to him than when he had first known her.
She certainly was not a fool.
though he could not tell himself that she was altogether like a lady,
still she had a manner of her own which made him think that she would be able to live with ladies.
And he did think that,
in spite of all she said to the contrary,
she was becoming fond of him,
--as he certainly had become fond of her.
"Have you been up with the ladies?"
Melmotte asked him.
"And what does Marie say?"
"That you must fix the day."
"We'll have it very soon then;
--some time next month.
You'll want to get away in August.
And to tell the truth so shall I.
I never was worked so hard in my life as I've been this summer.
The election and that horrid dinner had something to do with it.
And I don't mind telling you that I've had a fearful weight on my mind in reference to money.
I never had to find so many large sums in so short a time!
And I'm not quite through it yet."
"I wonder why you gave the dinner then."
"My dear boy,"
--it was very pleasant to him to call the son of a marquis his dear boy,
--"as regards expenditure that was a flea-bite.
Nothing that I could spend myself would have the slightest effect upon my condition,
--one way or the other."
"I wish it could be the same way with me,"
"If you chose to go into business with me instead of taking Marie's money out,
it very soon would be so with you.
But the burden is very great.
I never know whence these panics arise,
or why they come,
or whither they go.
But when they do come,
they are like a storm at sea.
It is only the strong ships that can stand the fury of the winds and waves.
And then the buffeting which a man gets leaves him only half the man he was.
I've had it very hard this time."
"I suppose you are getting right now."
--I am getting right.
I am not in any fear if you mean that.
I don't mind telling you everything as it is settled now that you are to be Marie's husband.
I know that you are honest,
and that if you could hurt me by repeating what I say you wouldn't do it."
"Certainly I would not."
"You see I've no partner,
--nobody that is bound to know my affairs.
My wife is the best woman in the world,
but is utterly unable to understand anything about it.
Of course I can't talk freely to Marie.
Cohenlupe whom you see so much with me is all very well,
--in his way,
but I never talk over my affairs with him.
He is concerned with me in one or two things,
--our American railway for instance,
but he has no interest generally in my house.
It is all on my own shoulders,
and I can tell you the weight is a little heavy.
It will be the greatest comfort to me in the world if I can get you to have an interest in the matter."
"I don't suppose I could ever really be any good at business,"
said the modest young lord.
"You wouldn't come and work,
I shouldn't expect that.
But I should be glad to think that I could tell you how things are going on.
Of course you heard all that was said just before the election.
For forty-eight hours I had a very bad time of it then.
The fact was that Alf and they who were supporting him thought that they could carry the election by running me down.
They were at it for a fortnight,
--perfectly unscrupulous as to what they said or what harm they might do me and others.
I thought that very cruel.
They couldn't get their man in,
but they could and did have the effect of depreciating my property suddenly by nearly half a million of money.
Think what that is!"
"I don't understand how it could be done."
"Because you don't understand how delicate a thing is credit.
They persuaded a lot of men to stay away from that infernal dinner,
and consequently it was spread about the town that I was ruined.
The effect upon shares which I held was instantaneous and tremendous.
The Mexican railway were at 117,
and they fell from that in two days to something quite nominal,
--so that selling was out of the question.
Cohenlupe and I between us had about 8,000 of these shares.
Think what that comes to!"
Nidderdale tried to calculate what it did come to,
but failed altogether.
"That's what I call a blow;
--a terrible blow.
When a man is concerned as I am with money interests,
and concerned largely with them all,
he is of course exchanging one property for another every day of his life,
--according as the markets go.
I don't keep such a sum as that in one concern as an investment.
Then when a panic comes,
don't you see how it hits?"
"Will they never go up again?"
--perhaps higher than ever.
But it will take time.
And in the meantime I am driven to fall back upon property intended for other purposes.
That's the meaning of what you hear about that place down in Sussex which I bought for Marie.
I was so driven that I was obliged to raise forty or fifty thousand wherever I could.
But that will be all right in a week or two.
And as for Marie's money,
He quite succeeded in making Nidderdale believe every word that he spoke,
and he produced also a friendly feeling in the young man's bosom,
with something approaching to a desire that he might be of service to his future father-in-law.
as through a thick fog,
Lord Nidderdale thought that he did see something of the troubles,
as he had long seen something of the glories,
of commerce on an extended scale,
and an idea occurred to him that it might be almost more exciting than whist or unlimited loo.
He resolved too that whatever the man might tell him should never be divulged.
He was on this occasion somewhat captivated by Melmotte,
and went away from the interview with a conviction that the financier was a big man;
--one with whom he could sympathise,
and to whom in a certain way he could become attached.
And Melmotte himself had derived positive pleasure even from a simulated confidence in his son-in-law.
It had been pleasant to him to talk as though he were talking to a young friend whom he trusted.
It was impossible that he could really admit any one to a participation in his secrets.
It was out of the question that he should ever allow himself to be betrayed into speaking the truth of his own affairs.
Of course every word he had said to Nidderdale had been a lie,
or intended to corroborate lies.
But it had not been only on behalf of the lies that he had talked after this fashion.
Even though his friendship with the young man were but a mock friendship,
--though it would too probably be turned into bitter enmity before three months had passed by,
--still there was a pleasure in it.
The Grendalls had left him since the day of the dinner,
--Miles having sent him a letter up from the country complaining of severe illness.
It was a comfort to him to have someone to whom he could speak,
and he much preferred Nidderdale to Miles Grendall.
This conversation took place in the smoking-room.
When it was over Melmotte went into the House,
and Nidderdale strolled away to the Beargarden.
The Beargarden had been opened again though with difficulty,
and with diminished luxury.
Nor could even this be done without rigid laws as to the payment of ready money.
Herr Vossner had never more been heard of,
but the bills which Vossner had left unpaid were held to be good against the club,
whereas every note of hand which he had taken from the members was left in the possession of Mr. Flatfleece.
Of course there was sorrow and trouble at the Beargarden;
but still the institution had become so absolutely necessary to its members that it had been reopened under a new management.
No one had felt this need more strongly during every hour of the day,
--of the day as he counted his days,
rising as he did about an hour after noon and going to bed three or four hours after midnight,
--than did Dolly Longestaffe.
The Beargarden had become so much to him that he had begun to doubt whether life would be even possible without such a resort for his hours.
But now the club was again open,
and Dolly could have his dinner and his bottle of wine with the luxury to which he was accustomed.
But at this time he was almost mad with the sense of injury.
Circumstances had held out to him a prospect of almost unlimited ease and indulgence.
The arrangement made as to the Pickering estate would pay all his debts,
would disembarrass his own property,
and would still leave him a comfortable sum in hand.
Squercum had told him that if he would stick to his terms he would surely get them.
He had stuck to his terms and he had got them.
And now the property was sold,
and the title-deeds gone,
--and he had not received a penny!
He did not know whom to be loudest in abusing,
or Mr. Melmotte.
And then it was said that he had signed that letter!
He was very open in his manner of talking about his misfortune at the club.
His father was the most obstinate old fool that ever lived.
As for the Bideawhiles,
--he would bring an action against them.
Squercum had explained all that to him.
But Melmotte was the biggest rogue the world had ever produced.
"must be coming to an end.
There's that infernal scoundrel sitting in Parliament just as if he had not robbed me of my property,
and forged my name,
and --and --by George!
he ought to be hung.
If any man ever deserved to be hung,
that man deserves to be hung."
This he spoke openly in the coffee-room of the club,
and was still speaking as Nidderdale was taking his seat at one of the tables.
Dolly had been dining,
and had turned round upon his chair so as to face some half-dozen men whom he was addressing.
Nidderdale leaving his chair walked up to him very gently.
"do not go on in that way about Melmotte when I am in the room.
I have no doubt you are mistaken,
and so you'll find out in a day or two.
You don't know Melmotte."
Dolly still continued to exclaim with a loud voice.
"Am I mistaken in supposing that I haven't been paid my money?"
"I don't believe it has been owing very long."
"Am I mistaken in supposing that my name has been forged to a letter?"
"I am sure you are mistaken if you think that Melmotte had anything to do with it."
"Squercum says --"
"Never mind Squercum.
We all know what are the suspicions of a fellow of that kind."
"I'd believe Squercum a deuced sight sooner than Melmotte."
I know more probably of Melmotte's affairs than you do or perhaps than anybody else.
If it will induce you to remain quiet for a few days and to hold your tongue here,
--I'll make myself responsible for the entire sum he owes you."
"The devil you will."
"I will indeed."
Nidderdale was endeavouring to speak so that only Dolly should hear him,
and probably nobody else did hear him;
but Dolly would not lower his voice.
"That's out of the question,
"How could I take your money?
The truth is,
the man is a thief,
and so you'll find out,
sooner or later.
He has broken open a drawer in my father's room and forged my name to a letter.
Everybody knows it.
Even my governor knows it now,
Before many days are over you'll find that he will be in gaol for forgery."
This was very unpleasant,
as every one knew that Nidderdale was either engaged or becoming engaged to Melmotte's daughter.
"Since you will speak about it in this public way --" began Nidderdale.
"I think it ought to be spoken about in a public way,"
"I deny it as publicly.
I can't say anything about the letter except that I am sure Mr. Melmotte did not put your name to it.
From what I understand there seems to have been some blunder between your father and his lawyer."
"That's true enough,"
"but it doesn't excuse Melmotte."
"As to the money,
there can be no more doubt that it will be paid than that I stand here.
What is it?
It's impossible to suppose that such a man as Melmotte shouldn't be able to raise eighty thousand pounds."
"Why don't he do it then?"
All this was very unpleasant and made the club less social than it used to be in old days.
There was an attempt that night to get up a game of cards;
but Nidderdale would not play because he was offended with Dolly Longestaffe;
and Miles Grendall was away in the country,
--a fugitive from the face of Melmotte,
and Carbury was in hiding at home with his countenance from top to bottom supported by plasters,
and Montague in these days never went to the club.
At the present moment he was again in Liverpool,
having been summoned thither by Mr. Ramsbottom.
as he filled another pipe and ordered more brandy and water,
"I think everything is going to come to an end.
I do indeed.
I never heard of such a thing before as a man being done in this way.
And then Vossner has gone off,
and it seems everybody is to pay just what he says they owed him.
And now one can't even get up a game of cards.
I feel as though there were no good in hoping that things would ever come right again."
The opinion of the club was a good deal divided as to the matter in dispute between Lord Nidderdale and Dolly Longestaffe.
It was admitted by some to be "very fishy."
If Melmotte were so great a man why didn't he pay the money,
and why should he have mortgaged the property before it was really his own?
But the majority of the men thought that Dolly was wrong.
As to the signature of the letter,
Dolly was a man who would naturally be quite unable to say what he had and what he had not signed.
even into the Beargarden there had filtered,
through the outer world,
a feeling that people were not now bound to be so punctilious in the paying of money as they were a few years since.
No doubt it suited Melmotte to make use of the money,
--as he had succeeded in getting the property into his hands,
--he did make use of it.
But it would be forthcoming sooner or later!
In this way of looking at the matter the Beargarden followed the world at large.
The world at large,
in spite of the terrible falling-off at the Emperor of China's dinner,
in spite of all the rumours,
in spite of the ruinous depreciation of the Mexican Railway stock,
and of the undoubted fact that Dolly Longestaffe had not received his money,
was inclined to think that Melmotte would "pull through."
IN BRUTON STREET.
Mr. Squercum all this time was in a perfect fever of hard work and anxiety.
It may be said of him that he had been quite sharp enough to perceive the whole truth.
He did really know it all,
--if he could prove that which he knew.
He had extended his enquiries in the city till he had convinced himself that,
whatever wealth Melmotte might have had twelve months ago,
there was not enough of it left at present to cover the liabilities.
Squercum was quite sure that Melmotte was not a falling,
but a fallen star,
--perhaps not giving sufficient credence to the recuperative powers of modern commerce.
Squercum told a certain stockbroker in the City,
who was his specially confidential friend,
that Melmotte was a "gone coon."
The stockbroker made also some few enquiries,
and on that evening agreed with Squercum that Melmotte was a "gone coon."
If such were the case it would positively be the making of Squercum if it could be so managed that he should appear as the destroying angel of this offensive dragon.
So Squercum raged among the Bideawhiles,
who were unable altogether to shut their doors against him.
They could not dare to bid defiance to Squercum,
--feeling that they had themselves blundered,
and feeling also that they must be careful not to seem to screen a fault by a falsehood.
"I suppose you give it up about the letter having been signed by my client,"
said Squercum to the elder of the two younger Bideawhiles.
"I give up nothing and I assert nothing,"
said the superior attorney.
"Whether the letter be genuine or not we had no reason to believe it to be otherwise.
The young gentleman's signature is never very plain,
and this one is about as like any other as that other would be like the last."
"Would you let me look at it again,
Then the letter which had been very often inspected during the last ten days was handed to Mr. Squercum.
"It's a stiff resemblance;
--such as he never could have written had he tried it ever so."
We are not generally on the lookout for forgeries in letters from our clients or our clients' sons."
But then Mr. Longestaffe had already told you that his son would not sign the letter."
"How is one to know when and how and why a young man like that will change his purpose?"
But you see after such a declaration as that on the part of my client's father,
--which is in itself a little irregular perhaps --"
"I don't know that it's irregular at all."
--it didn't reach you in a very confirmatory manner.
We'll just say that.
What Mr. Longestaffe can have been at to wish to give up his title-deeds without getting anything for them --"
but that's between Mr. Longestaffe and us."
--but as Mr. Longestaffe and you have jeopardised my client's property it is natural that I should make a few remarks.
I think you'd have made a few remarks yourself,
if the case had been reversed.
I shall bring the matter before the Lord Mayor,
To this Mr. Bideawhile said not a word.
"And I think I understand you now that you do not intend to insist on the signature as being genuine."
"I say nothing about it,
I think you'll find it very hard to prove that it's not genuine."
"My client's oath,
"I'm afraid your client is not always very clear as to what he does."
"I don't know what you mean by that,
I fancy that if I were to speak in that way of your client you would be very angry with me.
what does it all amount to?
Will the old gentleman say that he gave the letter into his son's hands,
even if such a freak should have come into my client's head,
he could have signed it and sent it off?
If I understand,
Mr. Longestaffe says that he locked the letter up in a drawer in the very room which Melmotte occupied,
and that he afterwards found the drawer open.
be alleged that my client knew so little what he was about that he broke open the drawer in order that he might get at the letter.
Look at it whichever way you will,
he did not sign it,
"I have never said he did.
All I say is that we had fair ground for supposing that it was his letter.
I really don't know that I can say anything more."
"Only that we are to a certain degree in the same boat together in this matter."
"I won't admit even that,
"The difference being that your client by his fault has jeopardised his own interests and those of my client,
while my client has not been in fault at all.
I shall bring the matter forward before the Lord Mayor to-morrow,
and as at present advised shall ask for an investigation with reference to a charge of fraud.
I presume you will be served with a subpoena to bring the letter into court."
"If so you may be sure that we shall produce it."
Then Mr. Squercum took his leave and went straight away to Mr. Bumby,
a barrister well known in the City.
The game was too powerful to be hunted down by Mr. Squercum's unassisted hands.
He had already seen Mr. Bumby on the matter more than once.
Mr. Bumby was inclined to doubt whether it might not be better to get the money,
or some guarantee for the money.
Mr. Bumby thought that if a bill at three months could be had for Dolly's share of the property it might be expedient to take it.
Mr. Squercum suggested that the property itself might be recovered,
no genuine sale having been made.
Mr. Bumby shook his head.
"Title-deeds give possession,
You don't suppose that the company which has lent money to Melmotte on the title-deeds would have to lose it.
Take the bill;
and if it is dishonoured run your chance of what you'll get out of the property.
There must be assets."
"Every rap will have been made over,"
said Mr. Squercum.
This took place on the Monday,
the day on which Melmotte had offered his full confidence to his proposed son-in-law.
On the following Wednesday three gentlemen met together in the study in the house in Bruton Street from which it was supposed that the letter had been abstracted.
There were Mr. Longestaffe,
and Mr. Bideawhile.
The house was still in Melmotte's possession,
and Melmotte and Mr. Longestaffe were no longer on friendly terms.
Direct application for permission to have this meeting in this place had been formally made to Mr. Melmotte,
and he had complied.
The meeting took place at eleven o'clock --a terribly early hour.
Dolly had at first hesitated as to placing himself as he thought between the fire of two enemies,
and Mr. Squercum had told him that as the matter would probably soon be made public,
he could not judiciously refuse to meet his father and the old family lawyer.
Therefore Dolly had attended,
at great personal inconvenience to himself.
it's hardly worth having if one is to take all this trouble about it,"
Dolly had said to Lord Grasslough,
with whom he had fraternised since the quarrel with Nidderdale.
Dolly entered the room last,
and at that time neither Mr. Longestaffe nor Mr. Bideawhile had touched the drawer,
or even the table,
in which the letter had been deposited.
said Mr. Bideawhile,
"perhaps you will show us where you think you put the letter."
"I don't think at all,"
"Since the matter has been discussed the whole thing has come back upon my memory."
"I never signed it,"
standing with his hands in his pockets and interrupting his father.
"Nobody says you did,
rejoined the father with an angry voice.
"If you will condescend to listen we may perhaps arrive at the truth."
"But somebody has said that I did.
I've been told that Mr. Bideawhile says so."
We have never said so.
We have only said that we had no reason for supposing the letter to be other than genuine.
We have never gone beyond that."
"Nothing on earth would have made me sign it,"
"Why should I have given my property up before I got my money?
I never heard such a thing in my life."
The father looked up at the lawyer and shook his head,
testifying as to the hopelessness of his son's obstinacy.
continued the lawyer,
"let us see where you put the letter."
Then the father very slowly,
and with much dignity of deportment,
opened the drawer,
--the second drawer from the top,
and took from it a bundle of papers very carefully folded and docketed.
"the letter was not placed in the envelope but on the top of it,
and the two were the two first documents in the bundle."
He went on to say that as far as he knew no other paper had been taken away.
He was quite certain that he had left the drawer locked.
He was very particular in regard to that particular drawer,
and he remembered that about this time Mr. Melmotte had been in the room with him when he had opened it,
--as he was certain,
--had locked it again.
At that special time there had been,
considerable intimacy between him and Melmotte.
It was then that Mr. Melmotte had offered him a seat at the Board of the Mexican railway.
"Of course he picked the lock,
and stole the letter,"
"It's as plain as a pike-staff.
It's clear enough to hang any man."
"I am afraid that it falls short of evidence,
however strong and just may be the suspicion induced,"
said the lawyer.
"Your father for a time was not quite certain about the letter."
"He thought that I had signed it,"
"I am quite certain now,"
rejoined the father angrily.
"A man has to collect his memory before he can be sure of anything."
"I am thinking you know how it would go to a jury."
"What I want to know is how we are to get the money,"
"I should like to see him hung,
but I'd sooner have the money.
Squercum says --"
we don't want to know here what Mr. Squercum says."
"I don't know why what Mr. Squercum says shouldn't be as good as what Mr. Bideawhile says.
Of course Squercum doesn't sound very aristocratic."
"Quite as much so as Bideawhile,
said the lawyer laughing.
Squercum isn't aristocratic,
and Fetter Lane is a good deal lower than Lincoln's Inn.
Nevertheless Squercum may know what he's about.
It was Squercum who was first down upon Melmotte in this matter,
and if it wasn't for Squercum we shouldn't know as much about it as we do at present."
Squercum's name was odious to the elder Longestaffe.
probably without much reason,
that all his family troubles came to him from Squercum,
thinking that if his son would have left his affairs in the hands of the old Slows and the old Bideawhiles,
money would never have been scarce with him,
and that he would not have made this terrible blunder about the Pickering property.
And the sound of Squercum,
as his son knew,
was horrid to his ears.
He hummed and hawed,
and fumed and fretted about the room,
shaking his head and frowning.
His son looked at him as though quite astonished at his displeasure.
"There's nothing more to be done here,
said Dolly putting on his hat.
said Mr. Bideawhile.
"It may be that I shall have to instruct counsel,
and I thought it well that I should see in the presence of both of you exactly how the thing stood.
You speak so positively,
that there can be no doubt?"
"There is no doubt."
"And now perhaps you had better lock the drawer in our presence.
Stop a moment --I might as well see whether there is any sign of violence having been used."
So saying Mr. Bideawhile knelt down in front of the table and began to examine the lock.
This he did very carefully and satisfied himself that there was "no sign of violence."
"Whoever has done it,
did it very well,"
"I might as well see whether there is any sign of violence having been used."]
"Of course Melmotte did it,"
said Dolly Longestaffe standing immediately over Bideawhile's shoulder.
At that moment there was a knock at the door,
--a very distinct,
we may say,
a formal knock.
There are those who knock and immediately enter without waiting for the sanction asked.
Had he who knocked done so on this occasion Mr. Bideawhile would have been found still on his knees,
with his nose down to the level of the keyhole.
But the intruder did not intrude rapidly,
and the lawyer jumped on to his feet,
almost upsetting Dolly with the effort.
There was a pause,
during which Mr. Bideawhile moved away from the table,
--as he might have done had he been picking a lock;
--and then Mr. Longestaffe bade the stranger come in with a sepulchral voice.
The door was opened,
and Mr. Melmotte appeared.
Now Mr. Melmotte's presence certainly had not been expected.
It was known that it was his habit to be in the City at this hour.
It was known also that he was well aware that this meeting was to be held in this room at this special hour,
--and he might well have surmised with what view.
There was now declared hostility between both the Longestaffes and Mr. Melmotte,
and it certainly was supposed by all the gentlemen concerned that he would not have put himself out of the way to meet them on this occasion.
"perhaps you think that I am intruding at the present moment."
No one said that he did not think so.
The elder Longestaffe simply bowed very coldly.
Mr. Bideawhile stood upright and thrust his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets.
who at first forgot to take his hat off,
whistled a bar,
and then turned a pirouette on his heel.
That was his mode of expressing his thorough surprise at the appearance of his debtor.
"I fear that you do think I am intruding,"
"but I trust that what I have to say will be held to excuse me.
turning to Mr. Longestaffe,
and glancing at the still open drawer,
"that you have been examining your desk.
I hope that you will be more careful in locking it than you were when you left it before."
"The drawer was locked when I left it,"
said Mr. Longestaffe.
"I make no deductions and draw no conclusions,
but the drawer was locked."
"Then I should say it must have been locked when you returned to it."
I found it open.
I make no deductions and draw no conclusions,
--but I left it locked and I found it open."
"I should make a deduction and draw a conclusion,"
"and that would be that somebody else had opened it."
"This can answer no purpose at all,"
"It was but a chance remark,"
"I did not come here out of the City at very great personal inconvenience to myself to squabble about the lock of the drawer.
As I was informed that you three gentlemen would be here together,
I thought the opportunity a suitable one for meeting you and making you an offer about this unfortunate business."
He paused a moment;
but neither of the three spoke.
It did occur to Dolly to ask them to wait while he should fetch Squercum;
but on second thoughts he reflected that a great deal of trouble would have to be taken,
and probably for no good.
and the lawyer bowed his head.
"If I remember rightly I wrote to you offering to pay the money due to your clients --"
"Squercum is my lawyer,"
"That will make no difference."
"It makes a deal of difference,"
"offering my bills at three and six months' date."
"They couldn't be accepted,
"I would have allowed interest.
I never have had my bills refused before."
"You must be aware,
said the lawyer,
"that the sale of a property is not like an ordinary mercantile transaction in which bills are customarily given and taken.
The understanding was that money should be paid in the usual way.
And when we learned,
as we did learn,
that the property had been at once mortgaged by you,
of course we became,
I think I may be justified in saying more than suspicious.
It was a most,
--most --unusual proceeding.
You say you have another offer to make,
"Of course I have been short of money.
I have had enemies whose business it has been for some time past to run down my credit,
with my credit,
has fallen the value of stocks in which it has been known that I have been largely interested.
I tell you the truth openly.
When I purchased Pickering I had no idea that the payment of such a sum of money could inconvenience me in the least.
When the time came at which I should pay it,
stocks were so depreciated that it was impossible to sell.
Very hostile proceedings are threatened against me now.
Accusations are made,
false as hell,"
--Mr. Melmotte as he spoke raised his voice and looked round the room,
--"but which at the present crisis may do me most cruel damage.
I have come to say that,
if you will undertake to stop proceedings which have been commenced in the City,
I will have fifty thousand pounds,
--which is the amount due to these two gentlemen,
--ready for payment on Friday at noon."
"I have taken no proceedings as yet,"
continued Melmotte addressing Dolly,
"let me assure you that if these proceedings are stayed the money will be forthcoming;
--but if not,
I cannot produce the money.
I little thought two months ago that I should ever have to make such a statement in reference to such a sum as fifty thousand pounds.
But so it is.
To raise that money by Friday,
I shall have to cripple my resources frightfully.
It will be done at a terrible cost.
But what Mr. Bideawhile says is true.
I have no right to suppose that the purchase of this property should be looked upon as an ordinary commercial transaction.
The money should have been paid,
if you will now take my word,
the money shall be paid.
But this cannot be done if I am made to appear before the Lord Mayor to-morrow.
The accusations brought against me are damnably false.
I do not know with whom they have originated.
Whoever did originate them,
they are damnably false.
false as they are,
in the present crisis,
they may be ruinous to me.
perhaps you will give me an answer."
Both the father and the lawyer looked at Dolly.
Dolly was in truth the accuser through the mouthpiece of his attorney Squercum.
It was at Dolly's instance that these proceedings were being taken.
on behalf of my client,"
said Mr. Bideawhile,
"will consent to wait till Friday at noon."
that you will say as much,"
said the elder Longestaffe.
Dolly Longestaffe was certainly not an impressionable person,
but Melmotte's eloquence had moved even him.
It was not that he was sorry for the man,
but that at the present moment he believed him.
Though he had been absolutely sure that Melmotte had forged his name or caused it to be forged,
--and did not now go so far into the matter as to abandon that conviction,
--he had been talked into crediting the reasons given for Melmotte's temporary distress,
and also into a belief that the money would be paid on Friday.
Something of the effect which Melmotte's false confessions had had upon Lord Nidderdale,
they now also had on Dolly Longestaffe.
"I'll ask Squercum,
"Of course Mr. Squercum will act as you instruct him,"
"I'll ask Squercum.
I'll go to him at once.
I can't do any more than that.
And upon my word,
you've given me a great deal of trouble."
Melmotte with a smile apologized.
Then it was settled that they three should meet in that very room on Friday at noon,
and that the payment should then be made,
--Dolly stipulating that as his father would be attended by Bideawhile,
so would he be attended by Squercum.
To this Mr. Longestaffe senior yielded with a very bad grace.
HETTA AND HER LOVER.
Lady Carbury was at this time so miserable in regard to her son that she found herself unable to be active as she would otherwise have been in her endeavours to separate Paul Montague and her daughter.
Roger had come up to town and given his opinion,
very freely at any rate with regard to Sir Felix.
But Roger had immediately returned to Suffolk,
and the poor mother in want of assistance and consolation turned naturally to Mr. Broune,
who came to see her for a few minutes almost every evening.
It had now become almost a part of Mr. Broune's life to see Lady Carbury once in the day.
She told him of the two propositions which Roger had made: first,
that she should fix her residence in some second-rate French or German town,
and that Sir Felix should be made to go with her;
that she should take possession of Carbury manor for six months.
"And where would Mr. Carbury go?"
asked Mr. Broune.
"He's so good that he doesn't care what he does with himself.
There's a cottage on the place,
that he would move to."
Mr. Broune shook his head.
Mr. Broune did not think that an offer so quixotically generous as this should be accepted.
As to the German or French town,
Mr. Broune said that the plan was no doubt feasible,
but he doubted whether the thing to be achieved was worth the terrible sacrifice demanded.
He was inclined to think that Sir Felix should go to the colonies.
"That he might drink himself to death,"
said Lady Carbury,
who now had no secrets from Mr. Broune.
Sir Felix in the mean time was still in the doctor's hands up-stairs.
He had no doubt been very severely thrashed,
but there was not in truth very much ailing him beyond the cuts on his face.
at the present moment better satisfied to be an invalid than to have to come out of his room and to meet the world.
"As to Melmotte,"
said Mr. Broune,
"they say now that he is in some terrible mess which will ruin him and all who have trusted him."
"And the girl?"
"It is impossible to understand it all.
Melmotte was to have been summoned before the Lord Mayor to-day on some charge of fraud;
--but it was postponed.
And I was told this morning that Nidderdale still means to marry the girl.
I don't think anybody knows the truth about it.
We shall hold our tongue about him till we really do know something."
The "we" of whom Mr. Broune spoke was,
the "Morning Breakfast Table."
But in all this there was nothing about Hetta.
thought very much of her own condition,
and found herself driven to take some special step by the receipt of two letters from her lover,
written to her from Liverpool.
They had never met since she had confessed her love to him.
The first letter she did not at once answer,
as she was at that moment waiting to hear what Roger Carbury would say about Mrs. Hurtle.
Roger Carbury had spoken,
leaving a conviction on her mind that Mrs. Hurtle was by no means a fiction,
--but indeed a fact very injurious to her happiness.
Then Paul's second love-letter had come,
full of joy,
--with not a word in it which seemed to have been in the slightest degree influenced by the existence of a Mrs. Hurtle.
Had there been no Mrs. Hurtle,
the letter would have been all that Hetta could have desired;
and she could have answered it,
unless forbidden by her mother,
with all a girl's usual enthusiastic affection for her chosen lord.
But it was impossible that she should now answer it in that strain;
--and it was equally impossible that she should leave such letters unanswered.
Roger had told her to "ask himself;"
and she now found herself constrained to bid him either come to her and answer the question,
if he thought it better,
to give her some written account of Mrs. Hurtle,
--so that she might know who the lady was,
and whether the lady's condition did in any way interfere with her own happiness.
So she wrote to Paul,
as follows: --
MY DEAR PAUL.
She found that after that which had passed between them she could not call him "My dear Sir,"
or "My dear Mr. Montague,"
and that it must either be "Sir" or "My dear Paul."
He was dear to her,
and she thought that he had not been as yet convicted of any conduct bad enough to force her to treat him as an outcast.
Had there been no Mrs. Hurtle he would have been her "Dearest Paul,"
--but she made her choice,
and so commenced.
MY DEAR PAUL,
A strange report has come round to me about a lady called Mrs. Hurtle.
I have been told that she is an American lady living in London,
and that she is engaged to be your wife.
I cannot believe this.
It is too horrid to be true.
But I fear,
--I fear there is something true that will be very very sad for me to hear.
It was from my brother I first heard it,
--who was of course bound to tell me anything he knew.
I have talked to mamma about it,
and to my cousin Roger.
I am sure Roger knows it all;
--but he will not tell me.
And so I ask you.
Of course I can write about nothing else till I have heard about this.
I am sure I need not tell you that it has made me very unhappy.
If you cannot come and see me at once,
you had better write.
I have told mamma about this letter.
Then came the difficulty of the signature,
with the declaration which must naturally be attached to it.
After some hesitation she subscribed herself,
Your affectionate friend,
"Most affectionately your own Hetta" would have been the form in which she would have wished to finish the first letter she had ever written to him.
Paul received it at Liverpool on the Wednesday morning,
and on the Wednesday evening he was in Welbeck Street.
He had been quite aware that it had been incumbent on him to tell her the whole history of Mrs. Hurtle.
He had meant to keep back --almost nothing.
But it had been impossible for him to do so on that one occasion on which he had pleaded his love to her successfully.
Let any reader who is intelligent in such matters say whether it would have been possible for him then to have commenced the story of Mrs. Hurtle and to have told it to the bitter end.
Such a story must be postponed for a second or a third interview.
Or it may,
be communicated by letter.
When Paul was called away to Liverpool he did consider whether he should write the story.
But there are many reasons strong against such written communications.
A man may desire that the woman he loves should hear the record of his folly,
in after days,
there may be nothing to be detected;
should the Mrs. Hurtle of his life at any time intrude upon his happiness,
he may with a clear brow and undaunted heart say to his beloved one,
this is the trouble of which I spoke to you."
And then he and his beloved one will be in one cause together.
But he hardly wishes to supply his beloved one with a written record of his folly.
And then who does not know how much tenderness a man may show to his own faults by the tone of his voice,
by half-spoken sentences,
and by an admixture of words of love for the lady who has filled up the vacant space once occupied by the Mrs. Hurtle of his romance?
But the written record must go through from beginning to end,
with no sweet,
soft falsehoods hidden under the half-expressed truth.
The soft falsehoods which would be sweet as the scent of violets in a personal interview,
would stand in danger of being denounced as deceit added to deceit,
if sent in a letter.
I think therefore that Paul Montague did quite right in hurrying up to London.
He asked for Miss Carbury,
and when told that Miss Henrietta was with her mother,
he sent his name up and said that he would wait in the dining-room.
He had thoroughly made up his mind to this course.
They should know that he had come at once;
but he would not,
if it could be helped,
make his statement in the presence of Lady Carbury.
there was a little discussion.
Hetta pleaded her right to see him alone.
She had done what Roger had advised,
and had done it with her mother's consent.
Her mother might be sure that she would not again accept her lover till this story of Mrs. Hurtle had been sifted to the very bottom.
But she must herself hear what her lover had to say for himself.
Felix was at the time in the drawing-room and suggested that he should go down and see Paul Montague on his sister's behalf;
--but his mother looked at him with scorn,
and his sister quietly said that she would rather see Mr. Montague herself.
Felix had been so cowed by circumstances that he did not say another word,
and Hetta left the room alone.
When she entered the parlour Paul stept forward to take her in his arms.
That was a matter of course.
She knew it would be so,
and she had prepared herself for it.
"let me hear about all this --first."
She sat down at some distance from him,
--and he found himself compelled to seat himself at some little distance from her.
"And so you have heard of Mrs. Hurtle,"
with a faint attempt at a smile.
--Felix told me,
and Roger evidently had heard about her."
Roger Carbury has heard about her from the beginning;
--knows the whole history almost as well as I know it myself.
I don't think your brother is as well informed."
But --isn't it a story that --concerns me?"
"Certainly it so far concerns you,
that you ought to know it.
And I trust you will believe that it was my intention to tell it you."
"I will believe anything that you will tell me."
I don't think that you will quarrel with me when you know all.
I was engaged to marry Mrs. Hurtle."
"Is she a widow?"
--He did not answer this at once.
"I suppose she must be a widow if you were going to marry her."
--she is a widow.
She was divorced."
And she is an American?"
"And you loved her?"
Montague was desirous of telling his own story,
and did not wish to be interrogated.
"If you will allow me I will tell it you all from beginning to end."
But I suppose you loved her.
If you meant to marry her you must have loved her."
There was a frown upon Hetta's brow and a tone of anger in her voice which made Paul uneasy.
--I loved her once;
but I will tell you all."
Then he did tell his story,
with a repetition of which the reader need not be detained.
Hetta listened with fair attention,
--not interrupting very often,
though when she did interrupt,
the little words which she spoke were bitter enough.
But she heard the story of the long journey across the American continent,
of the ocean journey before the end of which Paul had promised to make this woman his wife.
"Had she been divorced then?"
--"because I believe they get themselves divorced just when they like."
Simple as the question was he could not answer it.
"I could only know what she told me,"
as he went on with his story.
Then Mrs. Hurtle had gone on to Paris,
as soon as he reached Carbury,
had revealed everything to Roger.
"Did you give her up then?"
demanded Hetta with stern severity.
He had gone back to San Francisco,
--he had not intended to say that the engagement had been renewed,
but he was forced to acknowledge that it had not been broken off.
Then he had written to her on his second return to England,
--and then she had appeared in London at Mrs. Pipkin's lodgings in Islington.
"I can hardly tell you how terrible that was to me,"
"for I had by that time become quite aware that my happiness must depend upon you."
He tried the gentle,
soft falsehoods that should have been as sweet as violets.
Perhaps they were sweet.
It is odd how stern a girl can be,
while her heart is almost breaking with love.
Hetta was very stern.
"But Felix says you took her to Lowestoft,
--quite the other day."
Montague had intended to tell all,
There was a something about the journey to Lowestoft which it would be impossible to make Hetta understand,
and he thought that that might be omitted.
"It was on account of her health."
--on account of her health.
And did you go to the play with her?"
"Was that for her --health?"
do not speak to me like that!
Cannot you understand that when she came here,
I could not desert her?"
"I cannot understand why you deserted her at all,"
"You say you loved her,
and you promised to marry her.
It seems horrid to me to marry a divorced woman,
--a woman who just says that she was divorced.
But that is because I don't understand American ways.
And I am sure you must have loved her when you took her to the theatre,
and down to Lowestoft,
--for her health.
That was only a week ago."
"It was nearly three weeks,"
said Paul in despair.
--nearly three weeks!
That is not such a very long time for a gentleman to change his mind on such a matter.
You were engaged to her,
not three weeks ago."
I was not engaged to her then."
"I suppose she thought you were when she went to Lowestoft with you."
"She wanted then to force me to --to --to --.
it is so hard to explain,
but I am sure that you understand.
I do know that you do not,
cannot think that I have,
even for one moment,
been false to you."
"But why should you be false to her?
Why should I step in and crush all her hopes?
I can understand that Roger should think badly of her because she was --divorced.
Of course he would.
But an engagement is an engagement.
You had better go back to Mrs. Hurtle and tell her that you are quite ready to keep your promise."
"You had better go back to Mrs. Hurtle."]
"She knows now that it is all over."
"I dare say you will be able to persuade her to reconsider it.
When she came all the way here from San Francisco after you,
and when she asked you to take her to the theatre,
and to Lowestoft --because of her health,
she must be very much attached to you.
And she is waiting here,
--no doubt on purpose for you.
She is a very old friend,
--and you ought not to treat her unkindly.
I think you had better lose no time in going --back to Mrs. Hurtle."
All this she said with sundry little impedimentary gurgles in her throat,
but without a tear and without any sign of tenderness.
"You don't mean to tell me,
that you are going to quarrel with me!"
"I don't know about quarrelling.
I don't wish to quarrel with any one.
But of course we can't be friends when you have married --Mrs. Hurtle."
"Nothing on earth would induce me to marry her."
"Of course I cannot say anything about that.
When they told me this story I did not believe them.
I hardly believed Roger when,
--he would not tell it for he was too kind,
--but when he would not contradict it.
It seemed to be almost impossible that you should have come to me just at the very same moment.
nearly three weeks is a very short time.
That trip to Lowestoft couldn't have been much above a week before you came to me."
"What does it matter?"
of course not;
--nothing to you.
I think I will go away now,
It was very good of you to come and tell me all.
It makes it so much easier."
"Do you mean to say that --you are going to --throw me over?"
"I don't want you to throw Mrs. Hurtle over.
I will not have you lay your hand upon me.
And so she left him.
Paul Montague was beside himself with dismay as he left the house.
He had never allowed himself for a moment to believe that this affair of Mrs. Hurtle would really separate him from Hetta Carbury.
If she could only really know it all,
there could be no such result.
He had been true to her from the first moment in which he had seen her,
never swerving from his love.
It was to be supposed that he had loved some woman before;
as the world goes,
that would not,
But her anger was founded on the presence of Mrs. Hurtle in London,
--which he would have given half his possessions to have prevented.
But when she did come,
was he to have refused to see her?
Would Hetta have wished him to be cold and cruel like that?
No doubt he had behaved badly to Mrs. Hurtle;
--but that trouble he had overcome.
And now Hetta was quarrelling with him,
though he certainly had never behaved badly to her.
He was almost angry with Hetta as he walked home.
Everything that he could do he had done for her.
For her sake he had quarrelled with Roger Carbury.
For her sake,
--in order that he might be effectually free from Mrs. Hurtle,
--he had determined to endure the spring of the wild cat.
For her sake,
--so he told himself,
--he had been content to abide by that odious railway company,
in order that he might if possible preserve an income on which to support her.
And now she told him that they must part,
--and that only because he had not been cruelly indifferent to the unfortunate woman who had followed him from America.
There was no logic in it,
as he thought,
very little heart.
"I don't want you to throw Mrs. Hurtle over,"
she had said.
Why should Mrs. Hurtle be anything to her?
Surely she might have left Mrs. Hurtle to fight her own battles.
But they were all against him.
and Sir Felix;
and the end of it would be that she would be forced into marriage with a man almost old enough to be her father!
She could not ever really have loved him.
That was the truth.
She must be incapable of such love as was his own for her.
True love always forgives.
And here there was really so very little to forgive!
Such were his thoughts as he went to bed that night.
But he probably omitted to ask himself whether he would have forgiven her very readily had he found that she had been living "nearly three weeks ago" in close intercourse with another lover of whom he had hitherto never even heard the name.
--as all the world knows,
--there is a wide difference between young men and young women!
as soon as she had dismissed her lover,
went up at once to her own room.
Thither she was soon followed by her mother,
whose anxious ear had heard the closing of the front door.
what has he said?"
asked Lady Carbury.
Hetta was in tears,
--or very nigh to tears,
--struggling to repress them,
and struggling almost successfully.
"You have found that what we told you about that woman was all true."
"Enough of it was true,"
angry as she was with her lover,
was not on that account less angry with her mother for disturbing her bliss.
"What do you mean by that,
Had you not better speak to me openly?"
that enough was true.
I do not know how to speak more openly.
I need not go into all the miserable story of the woman.
He is like other men,
He has entangled himself with some abominable creature and then when he is tired of her thinks that he has nothing to do but to say so,
--and to begin with somebody else."
"Roger Carbury is very different."
you will make me ill if you go on like that.
It seems to me that you do not understand in the least."
"I say he is not like that."
"Not in the least.
Of course I know that he is not in the least like that."
"I say that he can be trusted."
"Of course he can be trusted.
Who doubts it?"
"And that if you would give yourself to him,
there would be no cause for any alarm."
said Hetta jumping up,
"how can you talk to me in that way?
As soon as one man doesn't suit,
I am to give myself to another!
how can you propose it?
Nothing on earth will ever induce me to be more to Roger Carbury than I am now."
"You have told Mr. Montague that he is not to come here again?"
"I don't know what I told him,
but he knows very well what I mean."
"That it is all over?"
Hetta made no reply.
I have a right to ask that,
and I have a right to expect a reply.
I do not say that you have hitherto behaved badly about Mr. Montague."
"I have not behaved badly.
I have told you everything.
I have done nothing that I am ashamed of."
"But we have now found out that he has behaved very badly.
He has come here to you,
--with unexampled treachery to your cousin Roger --"
"I deny that,"
"And at the very time was almost living with this woman who says that she is divorced from her husband in America!
Have you told him that you will see him no more?"
"He understood that."
"If you have not told him so plainly,
I must tell him."
you need not trouble yourself.
I have told him very plainly."
Then Lady Carbury expressed herself satisfied for the moment,
and left her daughter to her solitude.
ANOTHER SCENE IN BRUTON STREET.
When Mr. Melmotte made his promise to Mr. Longestaffe and to Dolly,
in the presence of Mr. Bideawhile,
that he would,
on the next day but one,
pay to them a sum of fifty thousand pounds,
satisfactorily as far as they were concerned,
the purchase of the Pickering property,
he intended to be as good as his word.
The reader knows that he had resolved to face the Longestaffe difficulty,
--that he had resolved that at any rate he would not get out of it by sacrificing the property to which he had looked forward as a safe haven when storms should come.
day by day,
every resolution that he made was forced to undergo some change.
Latterly he had been intent on purchasing a noble son-in-law with this money,
--still trusting to the chapter of chances for his future escape from the Longestaffe and other difficulties.
But Squercum had been very hard upon him;
and in connexion with this accusation as to the Pickering property,
there was another,
which he would be forced to face also,
respecting certain property in the East of London,
with which the reader need not much trouble himself specially,
but in reference to which it was stated that he had induced a foolish old gentleman to consent to accept railway shares in lieu of money.
The old gentleman had died during the transaction,
and it was asserted that the old gentleman's letter was hardly genuine.
Melmotte had certainly raised between twenty and thirty thousand pounds on the property,
and had made payments for it in stock which was now worth --almost nothing at all.
Melmotte thought that he might face this matter successfully if the matter came upon him single-handed;
--but in regard to the Longestaffes he considered that now,
at this last moment,
he had better pay for Pickering.
The property from which he intended to raise the necessary funds was really his own.
There could be no doubt about that.
It had never been his intention to make it over to his daughter.
When he had placed it in her name,
he had done so simply for security,
--feeling that his control over his only daughter would be perfect and free from danger.
No girl apparently less likely to take it into her head to defraud her father could have crept quietly about a father's house.
Nor did he now think that she would disobey him when the matter was explained to her.
Heavens and earth!
That he should be robbed by his own child,
with brazen audacity!
It was impossible.
But still he had felt the necessity of going about this business with some little care.
It might be that she would disobey him if he simply sent for her and bade her to affix her signature here and there.
He thought much about it and considered that it would be wise that his wife should be present on the occasion,
and that a full explanation should be given to Marie,
by which she might be made to understand that the money had in no sense become her own.
So he gave instructions to his wife when he started into the city that morning;
and when he returned,
for the sake of making his offer to the Longestaffes,
he brought with him the deeds which it would be necessary that Marie should sign,
and he brought also Mr. Croll,
that Mr. Croll might witness the signature.
When he left the Longestaffes and Mr. Bideawhile he went at once to his wife's room.
"Is she here?"
"I will send for her.
I have told her."
"You haven't frightened her?"
"Why should I frighten her?
It is not very easy to frighten her,
She is changed since these young men have been so much about her."
"I shall frighten her if she does not do as I bid her.
Bid her come now."
This was said in French.
Then Madame Melmotte left the room,
and Melmotte arranged a lot of papers in order upon a table.
Having done so,
he called to Croll,
who was standing on the landing-place,
and told him to seat himself in the back drawing-room till he should be called.
Melmotte then stood with his back to the fire-place in his wife's sitting-room,
with his hands in his pockets,
contemplating what might be the incidents of the coming interview.
He would be very gracious,
--affectionate if it were possible,
above all things,
if there were continued opposition to his demand,
--to his just demand,
--if this girl should dare to insist upon exercising her power to rob him,
he would not then be affectionate,
There was some little delay in the coming of the two women,
and he was already beginning to lose his temper when Marie followed Madame Melmotte into the room.
He at once swallowed his rising anger --with an effort.
He would put a constraint upon himself.
The affection and the graciousness should be all there,
--as long as they might secure the purpose in hand.
"I spoke to you the other day about some property which for certain purposes was placed in your name just as we were leaving Paris."
"You were such a child then,
--I mean when we left Paris,
--that I could hardly explain to you the purpose of what I did."
"I understood it,
"You had better listen to me,
I don't think you did quite understand it.
It would have been very odd if you had,
as I never explained it to you."
"You wanted to keep it from going away if you got into trouble."
This was so true that Melmotte did not know how at the moment to contradict the assertion.
And yet he had not intended to talk of the possibility of trouble.
"I wanted to lay aside a large sum of money which should not be liable to the ordinary fluctuations of commercial enterprise."
"So that nobody could get at it."
"You are a little too quick,
why can't you let your papa speak?"
said Madame Melmotte.
"But of course,
"I had no idea of putting the money beyond my own reach.
Such a transaction is very common;
and in such cases a man naturally uses the name of some one who is very near and dear to him,
and in whom he is sure that he can put full confidence.
And it is customary to choose a young person,
as there will then be less danger of the accident of death.
It was for these reasons,
which I am sure that you will understand,
that I chose you.
Of course the property remained exclusively my own."
"But it is really mine,"
it was never yours,"
almost bursting out into anger,
but restraining himself.
"How could it become yours,
Did I ever make you a gift of it?"
"But I know that it did become mine,
"By a quibble of law,
but not so as to give you any right to it.
I always draw the income."
"But I could stop that,
--and if I were married,
of course it would be stopped."
quick as a flash of lightning,
another idea occurred to Melmotte,
who feared that he already began to see that this child of his might be stiff-necked.
"As we are thinking of your marriage,"
"it is necessary that a change should be made.
Settlements must be drawn for the satisfaction of Lord Nidderdale and his father.
The old Marquis is rather hard upon me,
but the marriage is so splendid that I have consented.
You must now sign these papers in four or five places.
Mr. Croll is here,
in the next room,
to witness your signature,
and I will call him."
"Wait a moment,
"Why should we wait?"
"I don't think I will sign them."
"Why not sign them?
You can't really suppose that the property is your own.
You could not even get it if you did think so."
"I don't know how that may be;
but I had rather not sign them.
If I am to be married,
I ought not to sign anything except what he tells me."
"He has no authority over you yet.
I have authority over you.
do not give more trouble.
I am very much pressed for time.
Let me call in Mr. Croll."
Then came across his brow that look which had probably first induced Marie to declare that she would endure to be "cut to pieces,"
rather than to yield in this or that direction.
The lower jaw squared itself,
and the teeth became set,
and the nostrils of his nose became extended,
--and Marie began to prepare herself to be "cut to pieces."
But he reminded himself that there was another game which he had proposed to play before he resorted to anger and violence.
He would tell her how much depended on her compliance.
Therefore he relaxed the frown,
--as well as he knew how,
and softened his face towards her,
and turned again to his work.
"I am sure,
that you will not refuse to do this when I explain to you its importance to me.
I must have that property for use in the city to-morrow,
or --I shall be ruined."
The statement was very short,
but the manner in which he made it was not without effect.
shrieked his wife.
"It is true.
These harpies have so beset me about the election that they have lowered the price of every stock in which I am concerned,
and have brought the Mexican Railway so low that they cannot be sold at all.
I don't like bringing my troubles home from the city;
but on this occasion I cannot help it.
The sum locked up here is very large,
and I am compelled to use it.
In point of fact it is necessary to save us from destruction."
This he said,
and with the utmost solemnity.
"But you told me just now you wanted it because I was going to be married,"
A liar has many points in his favour,
--but he has this against him,
that unless he devote more time to the management of his lies than life will generally allow,
he cannot make them tally.
Melmotte was thrown back for a moment,
and almost felt that the time for violence had come.
He longed to be at her that he might shake the wickedness and the folly,
and the ingratitude out of her.
But he once more condescended to argue and to explain.
"I think you misunderstood me,
I meant you to understand that settlements must be made,
and that of course I must get my own property back into my own hands before anything of that kind can be done.
I tell you once more,
that if you do not do as I bid you,
so that I may use that property the first thing to-morrow,
we are all ruined.
Everything will be gone."
"This can't be gone,"
nodding her head at the papers.
--do you wish to see me disgraced and ruined?
I have done a great deal for you."
"You turned away the only person I ever cared for,"
how can you be so wicked?
Do as your papa bids you,"
said Madame Melmotte.
"She does not care who is ruined,
because we saved her from that reprobate."
"She will sign them now,"
said Madame Melmotte.
--I will not sign them,"
"If I am to be married to Lord Nidderdale as you all say,
I am sure I ought to sign nothing without telling him.
And if the property was once made to be mine,
I don't think I ought to give it up again because papa says that he is going to be ruined.
I think that's a reason for not giving it up again."
"It isn't yours to give.
said Melmotte gnashing his teeth.
"Then you can do what you like with it without my signing,"
He paused a moment,
and then laying his hand gently upon her shoulder,
he asked her yet once again.
His voice was changed,
and was very hoarse.
But he still tried to be gentle with her.
"will you do this to save your father from destruction?"
But she did not believe a word that he said to her.
How could she believe him?
He had taught her to regard him as her natural enemy,
making her aware that it was his purpose to use her as a chattel for his own advantage,
and never allowing her for a moment to suppose that aught that he did was to be done for her happiness.
almost in a breath,
he had told her that this money was wanted that it might be settled on her and the man to whom she was to be married,
and then that it might be used to save him from instant ruin.
She believed neither one story nor the other.
That she should have done as she was desired in this matter can hardly be disputed.
The father had used her name because he thought that he could trust her.
She was his daughter and should not have betrayed his trust.
But she had steeled herself to obstinacy against him in all things.
after all that had passed,
although she had consented to marry Lord Nidderdale,
though she had been forced by what she had learned to despise Sir Felix Carbury,
there was present to her an idea that she might escape with the man she really loved.
But any such hope could depend only on the possession of the money which she now claimed as her own.
Melmotte had endeavoured to throw a certain supplicatory pathos into the question he had asked her;
though he was in some degree successful with his voice,
his eyes and his mouth and his forehead still threatened her.
He was always threatening her.
All her thoughts respecting him reverted to that inward assertion that he might "cut her to pieces" if he liked.
He repeated his question in the pathetic strain.
"Will you do this now,
--to save us all from ruin?"
But his eyes still threatened her.
looking up into his face as though watching for the personal attack which would be made upon her;
exclaimed Madame Melmotte.
She glanced round for a moment at her pseudo-mother with contempt.
"I don't think I ought,
--and I won't."
She merely shook her head.
"Do you mean that you,
my own child,
will attempt to rob your father just at the moment you can destroy him by your wickedness?"
She shook her head but said no other word.
"Nec pueros coram populo Medea trucidet."
"Let not Medea with unnatural rage Slaughter her mangled infants on the stage."
Nor will I attempt to harrow my readers by a close description of the scene which followed.
That cutting her up into pieces was commenced after a most savage fashion.
Marie crouching down hardly uttered a sound.
But Madame Melmotte frightened beyond endurance screamed at the top of her voice,
tu la tueras!"
And then she tried to drag him from his prey.
"Will you sign them now?"
At that moment Croll,
frightened by the screams,
burst into the room.
It was perhaps not the first time that he had interfered to save Melmotte from the effects of his own wrath.
vat is de matter?"
asked the clerk.
Melmotte was out of breath and could hardly tell his story.
Marie gradually recovered herself,
in a corner of a sofa,
by no means vanquished in spirit,
but with a feeling that the very life had been crushed out of her body.
Madame Melmotte was standing weeping copiously,
with her handkerchief up to her eyes.
"Will you sign the papers?"
lying as she was,
all in a heap,
merely shook her head.
"you should oblige your fader."
"you should oblige your fader."]
collecting the papers together.
Then he left the room,
and followed by Croll descended to the study,
whence the Longestaffes and Mr. Bideawhile had long since taken their departure.
Madame Melmotte came and stood over the girl,
but for some minutes spoke never a word.
Marie lay on the sofa,
all in a heap,
with her hair dishevelled and her dress disordered,
but uttering no sobs and shedding no tears.
--if she might so be called,
--did not think of attempting to persuade where her husband had failed.
She feared Melmotte so thoroughly,
and was so timid in regard to her own person,
that she could not understand the girl's courage.
Melmotte was to her an awful being,
powerful as Satan,
--whom she never openly disobeyed,
though she daily deceived him,
and was constantly detected in her deceptions.
Marie seemed to her to have all her father's stubborn,
and very much of his power.
At the present moment she did not dare to tell the girl that she had been wrong.
But she had believed her husband when he had said that destruction was coming,
and had partly believed him when he declared that the destruction might be averted by Marie's obedience.
Her life had been passed in almost daily fear of destruction.
To Marie the last two years of splendour had been so long that they had produced a feeling of security.
But to the elder woman the two years had not sufficed to eradicate the remembrance of former reverses,
and never for a moment had she felt herself to be secure.
At last she asked the girl what she would like to have done for her.
"I wish he had killed me,"
slowly dragging herself up from the sofa,
and retreating without another word to her own room.
In the meantime another scene was being acted in the room below.
Melmotte after he reached the room hardly made a reference to his daughter,
--merely saying that nothing would overcome her wicked obstinacy.
He made no allusion to his own violence,
nor had Croll the courage to expostulate with him now that the immediate danger was over.
The Great Financier again arranged the papers,
just as they had been laid out before,
--as though he thought that the girl might be brought down to sign them there.
And then he went on to explain to Croll what he had wanted to have done,
--how necessary it was that the thing should be done,
and how terribly cruel it was to him that in such a crisis of his life he should be hampered,
--he did not venture to his clerk to say ruined,
--by the ill-conditioned obstinacy of a girl!
He explained very fully how absolutely the property was his own,
how totally the girl was without any right to withhold it from him!
How monstrous in its injustice was the present position of things!
In all this Croll fully agreed.
Then Melmotte went on to declare that he would not feel the slightest scruple in writing Marie's signature to the papers himself.
He was the girl's father and was justified in acting for her.
The property was his own property,
and he was justified in doing with it as he pleased.
Of course he would have no scruple in writing his daughter's name.
Then he looked up at the clerk.
The clerk again assented,
--after a fashion,
not by any means with the comfortable certainty with which he had signified his accordance with his employer's first propositions.
But he did not,
at any rate,
hint any disapprobation of the step which Melmotte proposed to take.
Then Melmotte went a step farther,
and explained that the only difficulty in reference to such a transaction would be that the signature of his daughter would be required to be corroborated by that of a witness before he could use it.
Then he again looked up at Croll;
--but on this occasion Croll did not move a muscle of his face.
There certainly was no assent.
Melmotte continued to look at him;
but then came upon the old clerk's countenance a stern look which amounted to very strong dissent.
And yet Croll had been conversant with some irregular doings in his time,
and Melmotte knew well the extent of Croll's experience.
Then Melmotte made a little remark to himself.
"He knows that the game is pretty well over."
"You had better return to the city now,"
he said aloud.
"I shall follow you in half an hour.
It is quite possible that I may bring my daughter with me.
If I can make her understand this thing I shall do so.
In that case I shall want you to be ready."
Croll again smiled,
and again assented,
and went his way.
But Melmotte made no further attempt upon his daughter.
As soon as Croll was gone he searched among various papers in his desk and drawers,
and having found two signatures,
those of his daughter and of this German clerk,
set to work tracing them with some thin tissue paper.
He commenced his present operation by bolting his door and pulling down the blinds.
He practised the two signatures for the best part of an hour.
Then he forged them on the various documents;
having completed the operation,
placed them in a little locked bag of which he had always kept the key in his purse,
with the bag in his hand,
was taken in his brougham into the city.
MISS LONGESTAFFE AGAIN AT CAVERSHAM.
All this time Mr. Longestaffe was necessarily detained in London while the three ladies of his family were living forlornly at Caversham.
He had taken his younger daughter home on the day after his visit to Lady Monogram,
and in all his intercourse with her had spoken of her suggested marriage with Mr. Brehgert as a thing utterly out of the question.
Georgiana had made one little fight for her independence at the Jermyn Street Hotel.
I think it's very hard,"
I think a great many things are hard;
but I have to bear them."
"You can do nothing for me."
"Do nothing for you!
Haven't you got a home to live in,
and clothes to wear,
and a carriage to go about in,
--and books to read if you choose to read them?
What do you expect?"
"How do you dare to tell me that what I say is nonsense?"
"Of course there's a house to live in and clothes to wear;
but what's to be the end of it?
is going to be married."
"I am happy to say she is,
--to a most respectable young man and a thorough gentleman."
"And Dolly has his own way of going on."
"You have nothing to do with Adolphus."
"Nor will he have anything to do with me.
If I don't marry what's to become of me?
It isn't that Mr. Brehgert is the sort of man I should choose."
"Do not mention his name to me."
"But what am I to do?
You give up the house in town,
and how am I to see people?
It was you sent me to Mr. Melmotte."
"I didn't send you to Mr. Melmotte."
"It was at your suggestion I went there,
And of course I could only see the people he had there.
I like nice people as well as anybody."
"There's no use talking any more about it."
"I don't see that.
I must talk about it,
and think about it too.
If I can put up with Mr. Brehgert I don't see why you and mamma should complain."
"People don't think about that as they used to,
He has a very fine income,
and I should always have a house in --"
Then Mr. Longestaffe became so furious and loud,
that he stopped her for that time.
"if you mean to tell me that you will marry that man without my consent,
I can't prevent it.
But you shall not marry him as my daughter.
You shall be turned out of my house,
and I will never have your name pronounced in my presence again.
It is disgusting,
And then he left her.
On the next morning before he started for Caversham he did see Mr. Brehgert;
but he told Georgiana nothing of the interview,
nor had she the courage to ask him.
The objectionable name was not mentioned again in her father's hearing,
but there was a sad scene between herself,
and her sister.
When Mr. Longestaffe and his younger daughter arrived,
the poor mother did not go down into the hall to meet her child,
--from whom she had that morning received the dreadful tidings about the Jew.
As to these tidings she had as yet heard no direct condemnation from her husband.
The effect upon Lady Pomona had been more grievous even than that made upon the father.
Mr. Longestaffe had been able to declare immediately that the proposed marriage was out of the question,
that nothing of the kind should be allowed,
and could take upon himself to see the Jew with the object of breaking off the engagement.
But poor Lady Pomona was helpless in her sorrow.
If Georgiana chose to marry a Jew tradesman she could not help it.
But such an occurrence in the family would,
be to her as though the end of all things had come.
She could never again hold up her head,
never go into society,
never take pleasure in her powdered footmen.
When her daughter should have married a Jew,
she didn't think that she could pluck up the courage to look even her neighbours Mrs. Yeld and Mrs. Hepworth in the face.
Georgiana found no one in the hall to meet her,
and dreaded to go to her mother.
She first went with her maid to her own room,
and waited there till Sophia came to her.
As she sat pretending to watch the process of unpacking,
she strove to regain her courage.
Why need she be afraid of anybody?
at any rate,
should she be afraid of other females?
Had she not always been dominant over her mother and sister?
"this is wonderful news!"
"I suppose it seems wonderful that anybody should be going to be married except yourself."
--but such a very odd match!"
If you don't like it,
you need not talk about it.
We shall always have a house in town,
and you will not.
If you don't like to come to us,
That's about all."
"George wouldn't let me go there at all,"
"Then --George --had better keep you at home at Toodlam.
I should have thought somebody might have come and met me to say a word to me,
instead of allowing me to creep into the house like this."
"Mamma isn't at all well;
but she's up and in her own room.
You mustn't be surprised,
if you find mamma very --very much cut up about this."
Then Georgiana understood that she must be content to stand all alone in the world,
unless she made up her mind to give up Mr. Brehgert.
"So I've come back,"
stooping down and kissing her mother.
said Lady Pomona,
slowly raising herself and covering her face with one of her hands.
"This is dreadful.
It will kill me.
It will indeed.
I didn't expect it from you."
"What is the good of all that,
"It seems to me that it can't be possible.
It's worse than your wife's sister.
I'm sure there's something in the Bible against it.
You never would read your Bible,
or you wouldn't be going to do this."
"Lady Julia Start has done just the same thing,
--and she goes everywhere."
"What does your papa say?
I'm sure your papa won't allow it.
If he's fixed about anything,
it's about the Jews.
An accursed race;
--think of that,
--expelled from Paradise."
"Scattered about all over the world,
so that nobody knows who anybody is.
And it's only since those nasty Radicals came up that they have been able to sit in Parliament."
"One of the greatest judges in the land is a Jew,"
who had already learned to fortify her own case.
"Nothing that the Radicals can do can make them anything else but what they are.
I'm sure that Mr. Whitstable,
who is to be your brother-in-law,
will never condescend to speak to him."
if there was anybody whom Georgiana Longestaffe had despised from her youth upwards it was George Whitstable.
He had been a laughing-stock to her when they were children,
had been regarded as a lout when he left school,
and had been her common example of rural dullness since he had become a man.
He certainly was neither beautiful nor bright;
--but he was a Conservative squire born of Tory parents.
Nor was he rich,
--having but a moderate income,
sufficient to maintain a moderate country house and no more.
When first there came indications that Sophia intended to put up with George Whitstable,
the more ambitious sister did not spare the shafts of her scorn.
And now she was told that George Whitstable would not speak to her future husband!
She was not to marry Mr. Brehgert lest she should bring disgrace,
upon George Whitstable!
This was not to be endured.
"Then Mr. Whitstable may keep himself at home at Toodlam and not trouble his head at all about me or my husband.
I'm sure I shan't trouble myself as to what a poor creature like that may think about me.
George Whitstable knows as much about London as I do about the moon."
"He has always been in county society,"
"and was staying only the other day at Lord Cantab's."
"Then there were two fools together,"
who at this moment was very unhappy.
"Mr. Whitstable is an excellent young man,
and I am sure he will make your sister happy;
but as for Mr. Brehgert,
--I can't bear to have his name mentioned in my hearing."
it had better not be mentioned.
At any rate it shan't be mentioned again by me."
Having so spoken,
Georgiana bounced out of the room and did not meet her mother and sister again till she came down into the drawing-room before dinner.
Her position was one very trying both to her nerves and to her feelings.
She presumed that her father had seen Mr. Brehgert,
but did not in the least know what had passed between them.
It might be that her father had been so decided in his objection as to induce Mr. Brehgert to abandon his intention,
--and if this were so,
there could be no reason why she should endure the misery of having the Jew thrown in her face.
Among them all they had made her think that she would never become Mrs. Brehgert.
She certainly was not prepared to nail her colours upon the mast and to live and die for Brehgert.
She was almost sick of the thing herself.
But she could not back out of it so as to obliterate all traces of the disgrace.
Even if she should not ultimately marry the Jew,
it would be known that she had been engaged to a Jew,
--and then it would certainly be said afterwards that the Jew had jilted her.
She was thus vacillating in her mind,
not knowing whether to go on with Brehgert or to abandon him.
That evening Lady Pomona retired immediately after dinner,
being "far from well."
It was of course known to them all that Mr. Brehgert was her ailment.
She was accompanied by her elder daughter,
and Georgiana was left with her father.
Not a word was spoken between them.
He sat behind his newspaper till he went to sleep,
and she found herself alone and deserted in that big room.
It seemed to her that even the servants treated her with disdain.
Her own maid had already given her notice.
It was manifestly the intention of her family to ostracise her altogether.
Of what service would it be to her that Lady Julia Goldsheiner should be received everywhere,
if she herself were to be left without a single Christian friend?
Would a life passed exclusively among the Jews content even her lessened ambition?
At ten o'clock she kissed her father's head and went to bed.
Her father grunted less audibly than usual under the operation.
She had always given herself credit for high spirits,
but she began to fear that her courage would not suffice to carry her through sufferings such as these.
On the next day her father returned to town,
and the three ladies were left alone.
Great preparations were going on for the Whitstable wedding.
Dresses were being made and linen marked,
and consultations held,
--from all which things Georgiana was kept quite apart.
The accepted lover came over to lunch,
and was made as much of as though the Whitstables had always kept a town house.
Sophy loomed so large in her triumph and happiness,
that it was not to be borne.
All Caversham treated her with a new respect.
And yet if Toodlam was a couple of thousand a year,
it was all it was;
--and there were two unmarried sisters!
Lady Pomona went half into hysterics every time she saw her younger daughter,
and became in her way a most oppressive parent.
--was Mr. Brehgert with his two houses worth all this?
A feeling of intense regret for the things she was losing came over her.
the Caversham of old days which she had hated,
but in which she had made herself respected and partly feared by everybody about the place,
--had charms for her which seemed to her delightful now that they were lost for ever.
Then she had always considered herself to be the first personage in the house,
--superior even to her father;
--but now she was decidedly the last.
Her second evening was worse even than the first.
When Mr. Longestaffe was not at home the family sat in a small dingy room between the library and the dining-room,
and on this occasion the family consisted only of Georgiana.
In the course of the evening she went up-stairs and calling her sister out into the passage demanded to be told why she was thus deserted.
"Poor mamma is very ill,"
"I won't stand it if I'm to be treated like this,"
"I'll go away somewhere."
"How can I help it,
It's your own doing.
Of course you must have known that you were going to separate yourself from us."
On the next morning there came a dispatch from Mr. Longestaffe,
--of what nature Georgey did not know as it was addressed to Lady Pomona.
But one enclosure she was allowed to see.
"thinks you ought to know how Dolly feels about it."
And then a letter from Dolly to his father was put into Georgey's hands.
The letter was as follows: --
MY DEAR FATHER,
Can it be true that Georgey is thinking of marrying that horrid vulgar Jew,
The fellows say so;
but I can't believe it.
I'm sure you wouldn't let her.
You ought to lock her up.
Dolly's letters made his father very angry,
short as they were,
they always contained advice or instruction,
such as should come from a father to a son,
rather than from a son to a father.
This letter had not been received with a welcome.
Nevertheless the head of the family had thought it worth his while to make use of it,
and had sent it to Caversham in order that it might be shown to his rebellious daughter.
And so Dolly had said that she ought to be locked up!
She'd like to see somebody do it!
As soon as she had read her brother's epistle she tore it into fragments and threw it away in her sister's presence.
"How can mamma be such a hypocrite as to pretend to care what Dolly says?
Who doesn't know that he's an idiot?
And papa has thought it worth his while to send that down here for me to see!
after that I must say that I don't much care what papa does."
"I don't see why Dolly shouldn't have an opinion as well as anybody else,"
"As well as George Whitstable?
As far as stupidness goes they are about the same.
But Dolly has a little more knowledge of the world."
"Of course we all know,
rejoined the elder sister,
"that for cuteness and that kind of thing one must look among the commercial classes,
and especially among a certain sort."
"I've done with you all,"
said Georgey rushing out of the room.
"I'll have nothing more to do with any one of you."
But it is very difficult for a young lady to have done with her family!
A young man may go anywhere,
and may be lost at sea;
or come and claim his property after twenty years.
A young man may demand an allowance,
and has almost a right to live alone.
The young male bird is supposed to fly away from the paternal nest.
But the daughter of a house is compelled to adhere to her father till she shall get a husband.
The only way in which Georgey could "have done" with them all at Caversham would be by trusting herself to Mr. Brehgert,
and at the present moment she did not know whether Mr. Brehgert did or did not consider himself as engaged to her.
That day also passed away with ineffable tedium.
At one time she was so beaten down by ennui that she almost offered her assistance to her sister in reference to the wedding garments.
In spite of the very bitter words which had been spoken in the morning she would have done so had Sophy afforded her the slightest opportunity.
But Sophy was heartlessly cruel in her indifference.
In her younger days she had had her bad things,
--with George Whitstable by her side,
--she meant to have good things,
the goodness of which was infinitely enhanced by the badness of her sister's things.
She had been so greatly despised that the charm of despising again was irresistible.
And she was able to reconcile her cruelty to her conscience by telling herself that duty required her to show implacable resistance to such a marriage as this which her sister contemplated.
Therefore Georgiana dragged out another day,
not in the least knowing what was to be her fate.
THE BREHGERT CORRESPONDENCE.
Mr. Longestaffe had brought his daughter down to Caversham on a Wednesday.
During the Thursday and Friday she had passed a very sad time,
not knowing whether she was or was not engaged to marry Mr. Brehgert.
Her father had declared to her that he would break off the match,
and she believed that he had seen Mr. Brehgert with that purpose.
She had certainly given no consent,
and had never hinted to any one of the family an idea that she was disposed to yield.
But she felt that,
at any rate with her father,
she had not adhered to her purpose with tenacity,
and that she had allowed him to return to London with a feeling that she might still be controlled.
She was beginning to be angry with Mr. Brehgert,
thinking that he had taken his dismissal from her father without consulting her.
It was necessary that something should be settled,
Life such as that she was leading now would drive her mad.
She had all the disadvantages of the Brehgert connection and none of the advantages.
She could not comfort herself with thinking of the Brehgert wealth and the Brehgert houses,
and yet she was living under the general ban of Caversham on account of her Brehgert associations.
She was beginning to think that she herself must write to Mr. Brehgert,
--only she did not know what to say to him.
But on the Saturday morning she got a letter from Mr. Brehgert.
It was handed to her as she was sitting at breakfast with her sister,
--who at that moment was triumphant with a present of gooseberries which had been sent over from Toodlam.
The Toodlam gooseberries were noted throughout Suffolk,
and when the letters were being brought in Sophia was taking her lover's offering from the basket with her own fair hands.
Georgey had exclaimed,
"to send a pottle of gooseberries to his lady love across the country!
Who but George Whitstable would do that?"
"I dare say you get nothing but gems and gold,"
"I don't suppose that Mr. Brehgert knows what a gooseberry is."
At that moment the letter was brought in,
and Georgiana knew the writing.
"I suppose that's from Mr. Brehgert,"
"I don't think it matters much to you who it's from."
She tried to be composed and stately,
but the letter was too important to allow of composure,
and she retired to read it in privacy.
The letter was as follows: --
MY DEAR GEORGIANA,
Your father came to me the day after I was to have met you at Lady Monogram's party.
I told him then that I would not write to you till I had taken a day or two to consider what he said to me;
--and also that I thought it better that you should have a day or two to consider what he might say to you.
He has now repeated what he said at our first interview,
almost with more violence;
for I must say that I think he has allowed himself to be violent when it was surely unnecessary.
The long and short of it is this.
He altogether disapproves of your promise to marry me.
He has given three reasons;
--first that I am in trade;
secondly that I am much older than you,
and have a family;
and thirdly that I am a Jew.
In regard to the first I can hardly think that he is earnest.
I have explained to him that my business is that of a banker;
and I can hardly conceive it to be possible that any gentleman in England should object to his daughter marrying a banker,
simply because the man is a banker.
There would be a blindness of arrogance in such a proposition of which I think your father to be incapable.
This has merely been added in to strengthen his other objections.
As to my age,
it is just fifty-one.
I do not at all think myself too old to be married again.
Whether I am too old for you is for you to judge,
--as is also that question of my children who,
should you become my wife will be to some extent a care upon your shoulders.
As this is all very serious you will not,
think me wanting in gallantry if I say that I should hardly have ventured to address you if you had been quite a young girl.
No doubt there are many years between us;
--and so I think there should be.
A man of my age hardly looks to marry a woman of the same standing as himself.
But the question is one for the lady to decide,
--and you must decide it now.
As to my religion,
I acknowledge the force of what your father says,
--though I think that a gentleman brought up with fewer prejudices would have expressed himself in language less likely to give offence.
However I am a man not easily offended;
and on this occasion I am ready to take what he has said in good part.
I can easily conceive that there should be those who think that the husband and wife should agree in religion.
I am indifferent to it myself.
I shall not interfere with you if you make me happy by becoming my wife,
will you with me.
Should you have a daughter or daughters I am quite willing that they should be brought up subject to your influence.
There was a plain-speaking in this which made Georgiana look round the room as though to see whether any one was watching her as she read it.
But no doubt your father objects to me specially because I am a Jew.
If I were an atheist he might,
say nothing on the subject of religion.
On this matter as well as on others it seems to me that your father has hardly kept pace with the movements of the age.
Fifty years ago whatever claim a Jew might have to be as well considered as a Christian,
he certainly was not so considered.
Society was closed against him,
except under special circumstances,
and so were all the privileges of high position.
But that has been altered.
Your father does not admit the change;
but I think he is blind to it,
because he does not wish to see.
I say all this more as defending myself than as combating his views with you.
It must be for you and for you alone to decide how far his views shall govern you.
He has told me,
after a rather peremptory fashion,
that I have behaved badly to him and to his family because I did not go to him in the first instance when I thought of obtaining the honour of an alliance with his daughter.
I have been obliged to tell him that in this matter I disagree with him entirely,
though in so telling him I endeavoured to restrain myself from any appearance of warmth.
I had not the pleasure of meeting you in his house,
nor had I any acquaintance with him.
at the risk of being thought uncourteous,
I must say that you are to a certain degree emancipated by age from that positive subordination to which a few years ago you probably submitted without a question.
If a gentleman meets a lady in society,
as I met you in the home of our friend Mr. Melmotte,
I do not think that the gentleman is to be debarred from expressing his feelings because the lady may possibly have a parent.
no doubt with propriety,
had left you to be the guardian of yourself,
and I cannot submit to be accused of improper conduct because,
finding you in that condition,
I availed myself of it.
having said so much,
I must leave the question to be decided entirely by yourself.
I beg you to understand that I do not at all wish to hold you to a promise merely because the promise has been given.
I readily acknowledge that the opinion of your family should be considered by you,
though I will not admit that I was bound to consult that opinion before I spoke to you.
It may well be that your regard for me or your appreciation of the comforts with which I may be able to surround you,
will not suffice to reconcile you to such a breach from your own family as your father,
with much repetition,
has assured me will be inevitable.
Take a day or two to think of this and turn it well over in your mind.
When I last had the happiness of speaking to you,
you seemed to think that your parents might raise objections,
but that those objections would give way before an expression of your own wishes.
I was flattered by your so thinking;
if I may form any judgment from your father's manner,
I must suppose that you were mistaken.
You will understand that I do not say this as any reproach to you.
Quite the contrary.
I think your father is irrational;
and you may well have failed to anticipate that he should be so.
As to my own feelings they remain exactly as they were when I endeavoured to explain them to you.
Though I do not find myself to be too old to marry,
I do think myself too old to write love letters.
I have no doubt you believe me when I say that I entertain a most sincere affection for you;
and I beseech you to believe me in saying further that should you become my wife it shall be the study of my life to make you happy.
It is essentially necessary that I should allude to one other matter,
as to which I have already told your father what I will now tell you.
I think it probable that within this week I shall find myself a loser of a very large sum of money through the failure of a gentleman whose bad treatment of me I will the more readily forgive because he was the means of making me known to you.
This you must understand is private between you and me,
though I have thought it proper to inform your father.
if it fall upon me,
will not interfere in the least with the income which I have proposed to settle upon you for your use after my death;
as your father declares that in the event of your marrying me he will neither give to you nor bequeath to you a shilling,
he might have abstained from telling me to my face that I was a bankrupt merchant when I myself told him of my loss.
I am not a bankrupt merchant nor at all likely to become so.
Nor will this loss at all interfere with my present mode of living.
But I have thought it right to inform you of it,
if it occur,
--as I think it will,
--I shall not deem it right to keep a second establishment probably for the next two or three years.
But my house at Fulham and my stables there will be kept up just as they are at present.
I have now told you everything which I think it is necessary you should know,
in order that you may determine either to adhere to or to recede from your engagement.
When you have resolved you will let me know,
--but a day or two may probably be necessary for your decision.
I hope I need not say that a decision in my favour will make me a happy man.
in the meantime,
your affectionate friend,
This very long letter puzzled Georgey a good deal,
and left her,
at the time of reading it,
very much in doubt as to what she would do.
She could understand that it was a plain-spoken and truth-telling letter.
Not that she,
gave it praise for those virtues;
but that it imbued her unconsciously with a thorough belief.
She was apt to suspect deceit in other people;
--but it did not occur to her that Mr. Brehgert had written a single word with an attempt to deceive her.
But the single-minded genuine honesty of the letter was altogether thrown away upon her.
She never said to herself,
as she read it,
that she might safely trust herself to this man,
though he were a Jew,
though greasy and like a butcher,
though over fifty and with a family,
because he was an honest man.
She did not see that the letter was particularly sensible;
--but she did allow herself to be pained by the total absence of romance.
She was annoyed at the first allusion to her age,
and angry at the second;
and yet she had never supposed that Brehgert had taken her to be younger than she was.
She was well aware that the world in general attributes more years to unmarried women than they have lived,
as a sort of equalising counter-weight against the pretences which young women make on the other side,
or the lies which are told on their behalf.
Nor had she wished to appear peculiarly young in his eyes.
she regarded the reference to be uncivil,
--perhaps almost butcher-like,
--and it had its effect upon her.
And then the allusion to the "daughter or daughters" troubled her.
She told herself that it was vulgar,
--just what a butcher might have said.
And although she was quite prepared to call her father the most irrational,
the most prejudiced,
and most ill-natured of men,
yet she was displeased that Mr. Brehgert should take such a liberty with him.
But the passage in Mr. Brehgert's letter which was most distasteful to her was that which told her of the loss which he might probably incur through his connection with Melmotte.
What right had he to incur a loss which would incapacitate him from keeping his engagements with her?
The town-house had been the great persuasion,
and now he absolutely had the face to tell her that there was to be no town-house for three years.
When she read this she felt that she ought to be indignant,
and for a few moments was minded to sit down without further consideration and tell the man with considerable scorn that she would have nothing more to say to him.
But on that side too there would be terrible bitterness.
How would she have fallen from her greatness when,
barely forgiven by her father and mother for the vile sin which she had contemplated,
she should consent to fill a common bridesmaid place at the nuptials of George Whitstable!
And what would then be left to her in life?
This episode of the Jew would make it quite impossible for her again to contest the question of the London house with her father.
Lady Pomona and Mrs. George Whitstable would be united with him against her.
There would be no "season" for her,
and she would be nobody at Caversham.
As for London,
she would hardly wish to go there!
Everybody would know the story of the Jew.
She thought that she could have plucked up courage to face the world as the Jew's wife,
but not as the young woman who had wanted to marry the Jew and had failed.
How would her future life go with her,
should she now make up her mind to retire from the proposed alliance?
If she could get her father to take her abroad at once,
she would do it;
but she was not now in a condition to make any terms with her father.
As all this gradually passed through her mind,
she determined that she would so far take Mr. Brehgert's advice as to postpone her answer till she had well considered the matter.
She slept upon it,
and the next day she asked her mother a few questions.
have you any idea what papa means to do?"
"In what way,
Lady Pomona's voice was not gracious,
as she was free from that fear of her daughter's ascendancy which had formerly affected her.
--I suppose he must have some plan."
"You must explain yourself.
I don't know why he should have any particular plan."
"Will he go to London next year?"
"That will depend upon money,
What makes you ask?"
"Of course I have been very cruelly circumstanced.
Everybody must see that.
I'm sure you do,
The long and the short of it is this;
--if I give up my engagement,
will he take us abroad for a year?"
"Why should he?"
"You can't suppose that I should be very comfortable in England.
If we are to remain here at Caversham,
how am I to hope ever to get settled?"
"Sophy is doing very well."
there are not two George Whitstables;
She had meant to be humble and supplicating,
but she could not restrain herself from the use of that one shaft.
"I don't mean but what Sophy may be very happy,
and I am sure that I hope she will.
But that won't do me any good.
I should be very unhappy here."
"I don't see how you are to find any one to marry you by going abroad,"
said Lady Pomona,
"and I don't see why your papa is to be taken away from his own home.
He likes Caversham."
"Then I am to be sacrificed on every side,"
stalking out of the room.
But still she could not make up her mind what letter she would write to Mr. Brehgert,
and she slept upon it another night.
On the next day after breakfast she did write her letter,
though when she sat down to her task she had not clearly made up her mind what she would say.
But she did get it written,
and here it is.
MY DEAR Mr. BREHGERT,
As you told me not to hurry,
I have taken a little time to think about your letter.
Of course it would be very disagreeable to quarrel with papa and mamma and everybody.
And if I do do so,
I'm sure somebody ought to be very grateful.
But papa has been very unfair in what he has said.
As to not asking him,
it could have been of no good,
for of course he would be against it.
He thinks a great deal of the Longestaffe family,
But the world does change so quick that one doesn't think of anything now as one used to do.
I don't feel that I'm bound to do what papa tells me just because he says it.
Though I'm not quite so old as you seem to think,
I'm old enough to judge for myself,
--and I mean to do so.
You say very little about affection,
but I suppose I am to take all that for granted.
I don't wonder at papa being annoyed about the loss of the money.
It must be a very great sum when it will prevent your having a house in London,
--as you agreed.
It does make a great difference,
as you have no regular place in the country,
one could only see one's friends in London.
Fulham is all very well now and then,
but I don't think I should like to live at Fulham all the year through.
You talk of three years,
which would be dreadful.
If as you say it will not have any lasting effect,
could you not manage to have a house in town?
If you can do it in three years,
I should think you could do it now.
I should like to have an answer to this question.
I do think so much about being the season in town!
As for the other parts of your letter,
I knew very well beforehand that papa would be unhappy about it.
But I don't know why I'm to let that stand in my way when so very little is done to make me happy.
Of course you will write to me again,
and I hope you will say something satisfactory about the house in London.
Yours always sincerely,
It probably never occurred to Georgey that Mr. Brehgert would under any circumstances be anxious to go back from his engagement.
She so fully recognised her own value as a Christian lady of high birth and position giving herself to a commercial Jew,
that she thought that under any circumstances Mr. Brehgert would be only too anxious to stick to his bargain.
Nor had she any idea that there was anything in her letter which could probably offend him.
She thought that she might at any rate make good her claim to the house in London;
and that as there were other difficulties on his side,
he would yield to her on this point.
But as yet she hardly knew Mr. Brehgert.
He did not lose a day in sending to her a second letter.
He took her letter with him to his office in the city,
and there answered it without a moment's delay.
St. Cuthbert's Court,
MY DEAR MISS LONGESTAFFE,
You say it would be very disagreeable to you to quarrel with your papa and mamma;
and as I agree with you,
I will take your letter as concluding our intimacy.
I should not,
be dealing quite fairly with you or with myself if I gave you to understand that I felt myself to be coerced to this conclusion simply by your qualified assent to your parents' views.
It is evident to me from your letter that you would not wish to be my wife unless I can supply you with a house in town as well as with one in the country.
But this for the present is out of my power.
I would not have allowed my losses to interfere with your settlement because I had stated a certain income;
and must therefore to a certain extent have compromised my children.
But I should not have been altogether happy till I had replaced them in their former position,
and must therefore have abstained from increased expenditure till I had done so.
But of course I have no right to ask you to share with me the discomfort of a single home.
I may perhaps add that I had hoped that you would have looked to your happiness to another source,
and that I will bear my disappointment as best I may.
As you may perhaps under these circumstances be unwilling that I should wear the ring you gave me,
I return it by post.
I trust you will be good enough to keep the trifle you were pleased to accept from me,
in remembrance of one who will always wish you well.
And so it was all over!
when she read this letter,
was very indignant at her lover's conduct.
She did not believe that her own letter had at all been of a nature to warrant it.
She had regarded herself as being quite sure of him,
and only so far doubting herself,
as to be able to make her own terms because of such doubts.
And now the Jew had rejected her!
She read this last letter over and over again,
and the more she read it the more she felt that in her heart of hearts she had intended to marry him.
There would have been inconveniences no doubt,
but they would have been less than the sorrow on the other side.
Now she saw nothing before her but a long vista of Caversham dullness,
in which she would be trampled upon by her father and mother,
and scorned by Mr. and Mrs. George Whitstable.
She got up and walked about the room thinking of vengeance.
But what vengeance was possible to her?
Everybody belonging to her would take the part of the Jew in that which he had now done.
She could not ask Dolly to beat him;
nor could she ask her father to visit him with the stern frown of paternal indignation.
There could be no revenge.
For a time,
--only for a few seconds,
--she thought that she would write to Mr. Brehgert and tell him that she had not intended to bring about this termination of their engagement.
would have been an appeal to the Jew for mercy;
--and she could not quite descend to that.
But she would keep the watch and chain he had given her,
and which somebody had told her had not cost less than a hundred and fifty guineas.
She could not wear them,
as people would know whence they had come;
but she might exchange them for jewels which she could wear.
At lunch she said nothing to her sister,
but in the course of the afternoon she thought it best to inform her mother.
"as you and papa take it so much to heart,
I have broken off everything with Mr. Brehgert."
"Of course it must be broken off,"
said Lady Pomona.
This was very ungracious,
--so much so that Georgey almost flounced out of the room.
"Have you heard from the man?"
asked her ladyship.
"I have written to him,
and he has answered me;
and it is all settled.
I thought that you would have said something kind to me."
And the unfortunate young woman burst out into tears.
"It was so dreadful,"
said Lady Pomona;
--"so very dreadful.
I never heard of anything so bad.
When young what's-his-name married the tallow-chandler's daughter I thought it would have killed me if it had been Dolly;
but this was worse than that.
Her father was a methodist."
"They had neither of them a shilling of money,"
said Georgey through her tears.
"And your papa says this man was next door to a bankrupt.
But it's all over?"
"And now we must all remain here at Caversham till people forget it.
It has been very hard upon George Whitstable,
because of course everybody has known it through the county.
I once thought he would have been off,
and I really don't know that we could have said anything."
At that moment Sophy entered the room.
"It's all over between Georgiana and the --man,"
said Lady Pomona,
who hardly saved herself from stigmatising him by a further reference to his religion.
"I knew it would be,"
"Of course it could never have really taken place,"
said their mother.
"And now I beg that nothing more may be said about it,"
you will write to papa?"
"You must send him back his watch and chain,
"What business is that of yours?"
"Of course she must.
Her papa would not let her keep it."
To such a miserable depth of humility had the younger Miss Longestaffe been brought by her ill-considered intimacy with the Melmottes!
when she looked back on this miserable episode in her life,
always attributed her grief to the scandalous breach of compact of which her father had been guilty.
RUBY PREPARES FOR SERVICE.
Our poor old honest friend John Crumb was taken away to durance vile after his performance in the street with Sir Felix,
and was locked up for the remainder of the night.
This indignity did not sit so heavily on his spirits as it might have done on those of a quicker nature.
He was aware that he had not killed the baronet,
and that he had therefore enjoyed his revenge without the necessity of "swinging for it at Bury."
That in itself was a comfort to him.
Then it was a great satisfaction to think that he had "served the young man out" in the actual presence of his Ruby.
He was not prone to give himself undue credit for his capability and willingness to knock his enemies about;
but he did think that Ruby must have observed on this occasion that he was the better man of the two.
a night in the station-house was no great personal inconvenience.
Though he was very proud of his four-post bed at home,
he did not care very much for such luxuries as far as he himself was concerned.
Nor did he feel any disgrace from being locked up for the night.
He was very good-humoured with the policeman,
who seemed perfectly to understand his nature,
and was as meek as a child when the lock was turned upon him.
As he lay down on the hard bench,
he comforted himself with thinking that Ruby would surely never care any more for the "baronite" since she had seen him go down like a cur without striking a blow.
He thought a good deal about Ruby,
but never attributed any blame to her for her share in the evils that had befallen him.
The next morning he was taken before the magistrates,
but was told at an early hour of the day that he was again free.
Sir Felix was not much the worse for what had happened to him,
and had refused to make any complaint against the man who had beaten him.
John Crumb shook hands cordially with the policeman who had had him in charge,
and suggested beer.
was forced to decline,
and bade adieu to his late prisoner with the expression of a hope that they might meet again before long.
"You come down to Bungay,"
"and I'll show you how we live there."
From the police-office he went direct to Mrs. Pipkin's house,
and at once asked for Ruby.
He was told that Ruby was out with the children,
and was advised both by Mrs. Pipkin and Mrs. Hurtle not to present himself before Ruby quite yet.
said Mrs. Pipkin,
"she's a thinking how heavy you were upon that young gentleman."
"But I wasn't;
Lord love you,
he ain't a hair the wuss."
"You let her alone for a time,"
said Mrs. Hurtle.
"A little neglect will do her good."
--"only I wouldn't like her to have it bad.
You'll let her have her wittles regular,
It was then explained to him that the neglect proposed should not extend to any deprivation of food,
and he took his leave,
receiving an assurance from Mrs. Hurtle that he should be summoned to town as soon as it was thought that his presence there would serve his purposes;
and with loud promises repeated to each of the friendly women that as soon as ever a "line should be dropped" he would appear again upon the scene,
he took Mrs. Pipkin aside,
and suggested that if there were "any hextras,"
he was ready to pay for them.
Then he took his leave without seeing Ruby,
and went back to Bungay.
When Ruby returned with the children she was told that John Crumb had called.
"I thought as he was in prison,"
"What should they keep him in prison for?"
said Mrs. Pipkin.
"He hasn't done nothing as he oughtn't to have done.
That young man was dragging you about as far as I can make out,
and Mr. Crumb just did as anybody ought to have done to prevent it.
Of course they weren't going to keep him in prison for that.
It isn't him as ought to be in prison."
"And where is he now,
"Gone down to Bungay to mind his business,
and won't be coming here any more of a fool's errand.
He must have seen now pretty well what's worth having,
and what ain't.
Beauty is but skin deep,
'd be after me again to-morrow,
if I'd give him encouragement,"
"If I'd hold up my finger he'd come."
"Then John Crumb's a fool for his pains,
and now do you go about your work."
Ruby didn't like to be told to go about her work,
and tossed her head,
and slammed the kitchen door,
and scolded the servant girl,
and then sat down to cry.
What was she to do with herself now?
She had an idea that Felix would not come back to her after the treatment he had received;
--and a further idea that if he did come he was not,
as she phrased it to herself,
"of much account."
She certainly did not like him the better for having been beaten,
at the time,
she had been disposed to take his part.
She did not believe that she would ever dance with him again.
That had been the charm of her life in London,
and that was now all over.
And as for marrying her,
--she began to feel certain that he did not intend it.
John Crumb was a big,
uncouth lump of a man,
with whom Ruby thought it impossible that a girl should be in love.
Love and John Crumb were poles asunder.
Ruby did not like wheeling the perambulator about Islington,
and being told by her aunt Pipkin to go about her work.
What Ruby did like was being in love and dancing;
but if all that must come to an end,
then there would be a question whether she could not do better for herself,
than by staying with her aunt and wheeling the perambulator about Islington.
Mrs. Hurtle was still living in solitude in the lodgings,
and having but little to do on her own behalf,
had devoted herself to the interest of John Crumb.
A man more unlike one of her own countrymen she had never seen.
"I wonder whether he has any ideas at all in his head,"
she had said to Mrs. Pipkin.
Mrs. Pipkin had replied that Mr. Crumb had certainly a very strong idea of marrying Ruby Ruggles.
Mrs. Hurtle had smiled,
thinking that Mrs. Pipkin was also very unlike her own countrywomen.
But she was very kind to Mrs. Pipkin,
ordering rice-puddings on purpose that the children might eat them,
and she was quite determined to give John Crumb all the aid in her power.
In order that she might give effectual aid she took Mrs. Pipkin into confidence,
and prepared a plan of action in reference to Ruby.
Mrs. Pipkin was to appear as chief actor on the scene,
but the plan was altogether Mrs. Hurtle's plan.
On the day following John's return to Bungay Mrs. Pipkin summoned Ruby into the back parlour,
and thus addressed her.
this must come to an end now."
"What must come to an end?"
"You can't stay here always,
"I'm sure I work hard,
and I don't get no wages."
"I can't do with more than one girl,
--and there's the keep if there isn't wages.
there's other reasons.
Your grandfather won't have you back there;
"I wouldn't go back to grandfather,
if it was ever so."
"But you must go somewheres.
You didn't come to stay here always,
--nor I couldn't have you.
You must go into service."
"I don't know anybody as
'd have me,"
"You must put a
'vertisement into the paper.
You'd better say as nursemaid,
as you seems to take kindly to children.
And I must give you a character;
--only I shall say just the truth.
You mustn't ask much wages just at first."
Ruby looked very sorrowful,
and the tears were near her eyes.
The change from the glories of the music hall was so startling and so oppressive!
"It has got to be done sooner or later,
so you may as well put the
'vertisement in this afternoon."
"You're going to turn me out,
--if that's turning out,
You see you never would be said by me as though I was mistress.
You would go out with that rapscallion when I bid you not.
Now when you're in a regular place like,
you must mind when you're spoke to,
and it will be best for you.
You've had your swing,
and now you see you've got to pay for it.
You must earn your bread,
as you've quarrelled both with your lover and with your grandfather."
There was no possible answer to this,
and therefore the necessary notice was put into the paper,
--Mrs. Hurtle paying for its insertion.
said Mrs. Hurtle,
"she must stay here really,
till Mr. Crumb comes and takes her away."
Mrs. Pipkin expressed her opinion that Ruby was a "baggage" and John Crumb a "soft."
Mrs. Pipkin was perhaps a little jealous at the interest which her lodger took in her niece,
thinking perhaps that all Mrs. Hurtle's sympathies were due to herself.
Ruby went hither and thither for a day or two,
calling upon the mothers of children who wanted nursemaids.
The answers which she had received had not come from the highest members of the aristocracy,
and the houses which she visited did not appal her by their splendour.
Many objections were made to her.
A character from an aunt was objectionable.
Her ringlets were objectionable.
She was a deal too flighty-looking.
She spoke up much too free.
At last one happy mother of five children offered to take her on approval for a month,
at £12 a year,
Ruby to find her own tea and wash for herself.
This was slavery;
And she too,
who had been the beloved of a baronet,
and who might even now be the mistress of a better house than that into which she was to go as a servant,
--if she would only hold up her finger!
But the place was accepted,
and with broken-hearted sobbings Ruby prepared herself for her departure from aunt Pipkin's roof.
"I hope you like your place,
Mrs. Hurtle said on the afternoon of her last day.
"Indeed then I don't like it at all.
They're the ugliest children you ever see,
"Ugly children must be minded as well as pretty ones."
"And the mother of
'em is as cross as cross."
"It's your own fault,
"I don't know as I've done anything out of the way."
"Don't you think it's anything out of the way to be engaged to a young man and then to throw him over?
All this has come because you wouldn't keep your word to Mr. Crumb.
Only for that your grandfather wouldn't have turned you out of his house."
"He didn't turn me out.
I ran away.
And it wasn't along of John Crumb,
but because grandfather hauled me about by the hair of my head."
"But he was angry with you about Mr. Crumb.
When a young woman becomes engaged to a young man,
she ought not to go back from her word."
No doubt Mrs. Hurtle,
when preaching this doctrine,
thought that the same law might be laid down with propriety for the conduct of young men.
"Of course you have brought trouble on yourself.
I am sorry that you don't like the place.
I'm afraid you must go to it now."
"I am agoing,
probably feeling that if she could but bring herself to condescend so far there might yet be open for her a way of escape.
"I shall write and tell Mr. Crumb where you are placed."
What should you write to him for?
It ain't nothing to him."
"I told him I'd let him know if any steps were taken."
"You can forget that,
Pray don't write.
I don't want him to know as I'm in service."
"I must keep my promise.
Why shouldn't he know?
I don't suppose you care much now what he hears about you."
"Yes I do.
I wasn't never in service before,
and I don't want him to know."
"What harm can it do you?"
I don't want him to know.
It is such a come down,
"There is nothing to be ashamed of in that.
What you have to be ashamed of is jilting him.
It was a bad thing to do;
"I didn't mean nothing bad,
only why couldn't he say what he had to say himself,
instead of bringing another to say it for him?
What would you feel,
if a man was to come and say it all out of another man's mouth?"
"I don't think I should much care if the thing was well said at last.
You know he meant it."
--I did know that."
"And you know he means it now?"
"I'm not so sure about that.
He's gone back to Bungay,
and he isn't no good at writing letters no more than at speaking.
--he'll go and get somebody else now."
"Of course he will if he hears nothing about you.
I think I'd better tell him.
I know what would happen."
"What would happen,
"He'd be up in town again in half a jiffey to see what sort of a place you'd got.
I'll tell you what I'll do,
if you'll say the word.
I'll have him up here at once and you shan't go to Mrs. Buggins'."
Ruby dropped her hands and stood still,
staring at Mrs. Hurtle.
But if he comes you mustn't behave this time as you did before."
"But I'm to go to Mrs. Buggins' to-morrow."
"We'll send to Mrs. Buggins and tell her to get somebody else.
You're breaking your heart about going there;
--are you not?"
"I don't like it,
"And this man will make you mistress of his house.
You say he isn't good at speaking;
but I tell you I never came across an honester man in the whole course of my life,
or one who I think would treat a woman better.
What's the use of a glib tongue if there isn't a heart with it?
What's the use of a lot of tinsel and lacker,
if the real metal isn't there?
Sir Felix Carbury could talk,
I dare say,
but you don't think now he was a very fine fellow."
"He was so beautiful,
"But he hadn't the spirit of a mouse in his bosom.
you have one more choice left you.
Shall it be John Crumb or Mrs. Buggins?"
"He wouldn't come,
"Leave that to me,
May I bring him if I can?"
Then Ruby in a very low whisper told Mrs. Hurtle,
that if she thought proper she might bring John Crumb back again.
"And there shall be no more nonsense?"
On that same night a letter was sent to Mrs. Buggins,
which Mrs. Hurtle also composed,
informing that lady that unforeseen circumstances prevented Ruby Ruggles from keeping the engagement she had made;
to which a verbal answer was returned that Ruby Ruggles was an impudent hussey.
And then Mrs. Hurtle in her own name wrote a short note to Mr. John Crumb.
DEAR Mr. CRUMB,
If you will come back to London I think you will find Miss Ruby Ruggles all that you desire.
"She's had a deal more done for her than I ever knew to be done for young women in my time,"
said Mrs. Pipkin,
"and I'm not at all so sure that she has deserved it."
"John Crumb will think she has."
"John Crumb's a fool;
--and as to Ruby;
I haven't got no patience with girls like them.
it is for the best;
and as for you,
there's no words to say how good you've been.
you ain't thinking of going away because this is all done."
Mr. COHENLUPE LEAVES LONDON.
Dolly Longestaffe had found himself compelled to go to Fetter Lane immediately after that meeting in Bruton Street at which he had consented to wait two days longer for the payment of his money.
This was on a Wednesday,
the day appointed for the payment being Friday.
He had undertaken that,
on his part,
Squercum should be made to desist from further immediate proceedings,
and he could only carry out his word by visiting Squercum.
The trouble to him was very great,
but he began to feel that he almost liked it.
The excitement was nearly as good as that of loo.
Of course it was a "horrid bore,"
--this having to go about in cabs under the sweltering sun of a London July day.
Of course it was a "horrid bore,"
--this doubt about his money.
And it went altogether against the grain with him that he should be engaged in any matter respecting the family property in agreement with his father and Mr. Bideawhile.
But there was an importance in it that sustained him amidst his troubles.
It is said that if you were to take a man of moderate parts and make him Prime Minister out of hand,
he might probably do as well as other Prime Ministers,
the greatness of the work elevating the man to its own level.
In that way Dolly was elevated to the level of a man of business,
and felt and enjoyed his own capacity.
It depended chiefly upon him whether such a man as Melmotte should or should not be charged before the Lord Mayor.
"Perhaps I oughtn't to have promised,"
he said to Squercum,
sitting in the lawyer's office on a high-legged stool with a cigar in his mouth.
He preferred Squercum to any other lawyer he had met because Squercum's room was untidy and homely,
because there was nothing awful about it,
and because he could sit in what position he pleased,
and smoke all the time.
I don't think you ought,
if you ask me,"
"You weren't there to be asked,
"Bideawhile shouldn't have asked you to agree to anything in my absence,"
said Squercum indignantly.
"It was a very unprofessional thing on his part,
and so I shall take an opportunity of telling him."
"It was you told me to go."
I wanted you to see what they were at in that room;
but I told you to look on and say nothing."
"I didn't speak half-a-dozen words."
"You shouldn't have spoken those words.
Your father then is quite clear that you did not sign the letter?"
--the governor is pig-headed,
but he's honest."
"That's a matter of course,"
said the lawyer.
"All men are honest;
but they are generally specially honest to their own side.
but you've got to fight him deuced close to prevent his getting the better of you.
Melmotte has promised to pay the money on Friday,
"He's to bring it with him to Bruton Street."
"I don't believe a word of it;
--and I'm sure Bideawhile doesn't.
In what shape will he bring it?
He'll give you a cheque dated on Monday,
and that'll give him two days more,
and then on Monday there'll be a note to say the money can't be lodged till Wednesday.
There should be no compromising with such a man.
You only get from one mess into another.
I told you neither to do anything or to say anything."
"I suppose we can't help ourselves now.
You're to be there on Friday.
I particularly bargained for that.
If you're there,
there won't be any more compromising."
Squercum made one or two further remarks to his client,
not at all flattering to Dolly's vanity,
--which might have caused offence had not there been such perfectly good feeling between the attorney and the young man.
As it was Dolly replied to everything that was said with increased flattery.
"If I was a sharp fellow like you,
"of course I should get along better;
but I ain't,
It was then settled that they should meet each other,
and also meet Mr. Longestaffe senior,
at twelve o'clock on Friday morning in Bruton Street.
Squercum was by no means satisfied.
He had busied himself in this matter,
and had ferreted things out,
till he had pretty nearly got to the bottom of that affair about the houses in the East,
and had managed to induce the heirs of the old man who had died to employ him.
As to the Pickering property he had not a doubt on the subject.
Old Longestaffe had been induced by promises of wonderful aid and by the bribe of a seat at the Board of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway to give up the title-deeds of the property,
--as far as it was in his power to give them up;
and had endeavoured to induce Dolly to do so also.
As he had failed,
Melmotte had supplemented his work by ingenuity,
with which the reader is acquainted.
All this was perfectly clear to Squercum,
who thought that he saw before him a most attractive course of proceeding against the Great Financier.
It was pure ambition rather than any hope of lucre that urged him on.
He regarded Melmotte as a grand swindler,
--perhaps the grandest that the world had ever known,
--and he could conceive no greater honour than the detection,
and ultimate destroying of so great a man.
To have hunted down Melmotte would make Squercum as great almost as Melmotte himself.
But he felt himself to have been unfairly hampered by his own client.
He did not believe that the money would be paid;
but delay might rob him of his Melmotte.
He had heard a good many things in the City,
and believed it to be quite out of the question that Melmotte should raise the money,
--but there were various ways in which a man might escape.
It may be remembered that Croll,
the German clerk,
preceded Melmotte into the City on Wednesday after Marie's refusal to sign the deeds.
had his eyes open,
and had perceived that things were not looking as well as they used to look.
Croll had for many years been true to his patron,
upon the whole,
very well paid for such truth.
There had been times when things had gone badly with him,
but he had believed in Melmotte,
when Melmotte rose,
had been rewarded for his faith.
Mr. Croll at the present time had little investments of his own,
not made under his employer's auspices,
which would leave him not absolutely without bread for his family should the Melmotte affairs at any time take an awkward turn.
Melmotte had never required from him service that was actually fraudulent,
--had at any rate never required it by spoken words.
Mr. Croll had not been over-scrupulous,
and had occasionally been very useful to Mr. Melmotte.
But there must be a limit to all things;
and why should any man sacrifice himself beneath the ruins of a falling house,
--when convinced that nothing he can do can prevent the fall?
Mr. Croll would have been of course happy to witness Miss Melmotte's signature;
but as for that other kind of witnessing,
--this clearly to his thinking was not the time for such good-nature on his part.
"You know what's up now;
said one of the junior clerks to Mr. Croll when he entered the office in Abchurch Lane.
"A good deal will be up soon,"
said the German.
"Cohenlupe has gone!"
"And to vere has Mr. Cohenlupe gone?"
"He hasn't been civil enough to leave his address.
I fancy he don't want his friends to have to trouble themselves by writing to him.
Nobody seems to know what's become of him."
suggested Mr. Croll.
"They seem to think not.
They're too hospitable in New York for Mr. Cohenlupe just at present.
He's travelling private.
He's on the continent somewhere,
--half across France by this time;
but nobody knows what route he has taken.
That'll be a poke in the ribs for the old boy;
Croll merely shook his head.
"I wonder what has become of Miles Grendall,"
continued the clerk.
"Ven de rats is going avay it is bad for de house.
I like de rats to stay."
"There seems to have been a regular manufactory of Mexican Railway scrip."
"Our governor knew noding about dat,"
"He has a hat full of them at any rate.
If they could have been kept up another fortnight they say Cohenlupe would have been worth nearly a million of money,
and the governor would have been as good as the bank.
Is it true they are going to have him before the Lord Mayor about the Pickering title-deeds?"
Croll declared that he knew nothing about the matter,
and settled himself down to his work.
In little more than two hours he was followed by Melmotte,
who thus reached the City late in the afternoon.
It was he knew too late to raise the money on that day,
but he hoped that he might pave the way for getting it on the next day,
which would be Thursday.
Of course the first news which he heard was of the defection of Mr. Cohenlupe.
It was Croll who told him.
He turned back,
and his jaw fell,
but at first he said nothing.
"It's a bad thing,"
said Mr. Croll.
--it is bad.
He had a vast amount of my property in his hands.
Where has he gone?"
Croll shook his head.
"It never rains but it pours,"
I'll weather it all yet.
I've been worse than I am now,
as you know,
and have had a hundred thousand pounds at my banker's,
--before the month was out."
"But the worst of it is that every one around me is so damnably jealous.
It isn't what I've lost that will crush me,
but what men will say that I've lost.
Ever since I began to stand for Westminster there has been a dead set against me in the City.
The whole of that affair of the dinner was planned,
--planned by G -- --,
that it might ruin me.
It was all laid out just as you would lay the foundation of a building.
It is hard for one man to stand against all that when he has dealings so large as mine."
"But they'll find they're mistaken yet.
There's too much of the real stuff,
for them to crush me.
Property's a kind of thing that comes out right at last.
It's cut and come again,
if the stuff is really there.
But I mustn't stop talking here.
I suppose I shall find Brehgert in Cuthbert's Court."
"I should say so,
Mr. Brehgert never leaves much before six."
Then Mr. Melmotte took his hat and gloves,
and the stick that he usually carried,
and went out with his face carefully dressed in its usually jaunty air.
But Croll as he went heard him mutter the name of Cohenlupe between his teeth.
The part which he had to act is one very difficult to any actor.
The carrying an external look of indifference when the heart is sinking within,
--or has sunk almost to the very ground,
--is more than difficult;
it is an agonizing task.
In all mental suffering the sufferer longs for solitude,
--for permission to cast himself loose along the ground,
so that every limb and every feature of his person may faint in sympathy with his heart.
A grandly urbane deportment over a crushed spirit and ruined hopes is beyond the physical strength of most men;
--but there have been men so strong.
Melmotte very nearly accomplished it.
It was only to the eyes of such a one as Herr Croll that the failure was perceptible.
Melmotte did find Mr. Brehgert.
At this time Mr. Brehgert had completed his correspondence with Miss Longestaffe,
in which he had mentioned the probability of great losses from the anticipated commercial failure in Mr. Melmotte's affairs.
He had now heard that Mr. Cohenlupe had gone upon his travels,
and was therefore nearly sure that his anticipation would be correct.
he received his old friend with a smile.
When large sums of money are concerned there is seldom much of personal indignation between man and man.
The loss of fifty pounds or of a few hundreds may create personal wrath;
--but fifty thousand require equanimity.
"So Cohenlupe hasn't been seen in the City to-day,"
"He has gone,"
said Melmotte hoarsely.
"I think I once told you that Cohenlupe was not the man for large dealings."
--it can't be helped;
And what is it now?"
Then Melmotte explained to Mr. Brehgert what it was that he wanted then,
taking the various documents out of the bag which throughout the afternoon he had carried in his hand.
Mr. Brehgert understood enough of his friend's affairs,
and enough of affairs in general,
to understand readily all that was required.
He examined the documents,
declaring as he did so that he did not know how the thing could be arranged by Friday.
Melmotte replied that £50,000 was not a very large sum of money,
that the security offered was worth twice as much as that.
"You will leave them with me this evening,"
Melmotte paused for a moment,
and said that he would of course do so.
He would have given much,
to have been sufficiently master of himself to have assented without hesitation;
--but then the weight within was so very heavy!
Having left the papers and the bag with Mr. Brehgert,
he walked westwards to the House of Commons.
He was accustomed to remain in the City later than this,
often not leaving it till seven,
--though during the last week or ten days he had occasionally gone down to the House in the afternoon.
It was now Wednesday,
and there was no evening sitting;
--but his mind was too full of other things to allow him to remember this.
As he walked along the Embankment,
his thoughts were very heavy.
How would things go with him?
--What would be the end of it?
but there were worse things than ruin.
And a short time since he had been so fortunate;
--had made himself so safe!
As he looked back at it,
he could hardly say how it had come to pass that he had been driven out of the track that he had laid down for himself.
He had known that ruin would come,
and had made himself so comfortably safe,
so brilliantly safe,
in spite of ruin.
But insane ambition had driven him away from his anchorage.
He told himself over and over again that the fault had been not in circumstances,
--not in that which men call Fortune,
--but in his own incapacity to bear his position.
He saw it now.
He felt it now.
If he could only begin again,
how different would his conduct be!
But of what avail were such regrets as these?
He must take things as they were now,
and see that,
in dealing with them,
he allowed himself to be carried away neither by pride nor cowardice.
And if the worst should come to the worst,
then let him face it like a man!
There was a certain manliness about him which showed itself perhaps as strongly in his own self-condemnation as in any other part of his conduct at this time.
Judging of himself,
as though he were standing outside himself and looking on to another man's work,
he pointed out to himself his own shortcomings.
If it were all to be done again he thought that he could avoid this bump against the rocks on one side,
and that terribly shattering blow on the other.
There was much that he was ashamed of,
--many a little act which recurred to him vividly in this solitary hour as a thing to be repented of with inner sackcloth and ashes.
But never once,
not for a moment,
did it occur to him that he should repent of the fraud in which his whole life had been passed.
No idea ever crossed his mind of what might have been the result had he lived the life of an honest man.
Though he was inquiring into himself as closely as he could,
he never even told himself that he had been dishonest.
Fraud and dishonesty had been the very principle of his life,
and had so become a part of his blood and bones that even in this extremity of his misery he made no question within himself as to his right judgment in regard to them.
Not to cheat,
not to be a scoundrel,
not to live more luxuriously than others by cheating more brilliantly,
was a condition of things to which his mind had never turned itself.
In that respect he accused himself of no want of judgment.
But why had he,
so unrighteous himself,
not made friends to himself of the Mammon of unrighteousness?
Why had he not conciliated Lord Mayors?
Why had he trod upon all the corns of all his neighbours?
Why had he been insolent at the India Office?
Why had he trusted any man as he had trusted Cohenlupe?
Why had he not stuck to Abchurch Lane instead of going into Parliament?
Why had he called down unnecessary notice on his head by entertaining the Emperor of China?
It was too late now,
and he must bear it;
but these were the things that had ruined him.
He walked into Palace Yard and across it,
to the door of Westminster Abbey,
before he found out that Parliament was not sitting.
Of course it is,"
turning round and directing his steps towards Grosvenor Square.
Then he remembered that in the morning he had declared his purpose of dining at home,
and now he did not know what better use to make of the present evening.
His house could hardly be very comfortable to him.
Marie no doubt would keep out of his way,
and he did not habitually receive much pleasure from his wife's company.
But in his own house he could at least be alone.
as he walked slowly across the park,
thinking so intently on matters as hardly to observe whether he himself were observed or no,
he asked himself whether it still might not be best for him to keep the money which was settled on his daughter,
to tell the Longestaffes that he could make no payment,
and to face the worst that Mr. Squercum could do to him,
--for he knew already how busy Mr. Squercum was in the matter.
Though they should put him on his trial for forgery,
what of that?
He had heard of trials in which the accused criminals had been heroes to the multitude while their cases were in progress,
--who had been fêted from the beginning to the end though no one had doubted their guilt,
--and who had come out unscathed at the last.
What evidence had they against him?
It might be that the Longestaffes and Bideawhiles and Squercums should know that he was a forger,
but their knowledge would not produce a verdict.
as member for Westminster,
as the man who had entertained the Emperor,
as the owner of one of the most gorgeous houses in London,
as the great Melmotte,
could certainly command the best half of the bar.
He already felt what popular support might do for him.
Surely there need be no despondency while so good a hope remained to him!
He did tremble as he remembered Dolly Longestaffe's letter,
and the letter of the old man who was dead.
And he knew that it was possible that other things might be adduced;
but would it not be better to face it all than surrender his money and become a pauper,
as he did very clearly,
that even by such surrender he could not cleanse his character?
But he had given those forged documents into the hands of Mr. Brehgert!
Again he had acted in a hurry,
--without giving sufficient thought to the matter in hand.
He was angry with himself for that also.
But how is a man to give sufficient thought to his affairs when no step that he takes can be other than ruinous?
--he had certainly put into Brehgert's hands means of proving him to have been absolutely guilty of forgery.
He did not think that Marie would disclaim the signatures,
even though she had refused to sign the deeds,
when she should understand that her father had written her name;
nor did he think that his clerk would be urgent against him,
as the forgery of Croll's name could not injure Croll.
should he discover what had been done,
would certainly not permit him to escape.
And now he had put these forgeries without any guard into Brehgert's hands.
He would tell Brehgert in the morning that he had changed his mind.
He would see Brehgert before any action could have been taken on the documents,
and Brehgert would no doubt restore them to him.
Then he would instruct his daughter to hold the money fast,
to sign no paper that should be put before her,
and to draw the income herself.
Having done that,
he would let his foes do their worst.
They might drag him to gaol.
They probably would do so.
He had an idea that he could not be admitted to bail if accused of forgery.
But he would bear all that.
If convicted he would bear the punishment,
still hoping that an end might come.
But how great was the chance that they might fail to convict him!
As to the dead man's letter,
and as to Dolly Longestaffe's letter,
he did not think that any sufficient evidence could be found.
The evidence as to the deeds by which Marie was to have released the property was indeed conclusive;
but he believed that he might still recover those documents.
For the present it must be his duty to do nothing,
--when he should have recovered and destroyed those documents,
--and to live before the eyes of men as though he feared nothing.
He dined at home alone,
in the study,
and after dinner carefully went through various bundles of papers,
preparing them for the eyes of those ministers of the law who would probably before long have the privilege of searching them.
and while he was thus employed,
he drank a bottle of champagne,
--feeling himself greatly comforted by the process.
If he could only hold up his head and look men in the face,
he thought that he might still live through it all.
How much had he done by his own unassisted powers!
He had once been imprisoned for fraud at Hamburgh,
and had come out of gaol a pauper;
with all his wretched antecedents against him.
Now he was a member of the British House of Parliament,
the undoubted owner of perhaps the most gorgeously furnished house in London,
a man with an established character for high finance,
--a commercial giant whose name was a familiar word on all the exchanges of the two hemispheres.
Even though he should be condemned to penal servitude for life,
he would not all die.
He rang the bell and desired that Madame Melmotte might be sent to him,
and bade the servant bring him brandy.
In ten minutes his poor wife came crawling into the room.
Every one connected with Melmotte regarded the man with a certain amount of awe,
--every one except Marie,
to whom alone he had at times been himself almost gentle.
The servants all feared him,
and his wife obeyed him implicitly when she could not keep away from him.
She came in now and stood opposite to him,
while he spoke to her.
She never sat in his presence in that room.
He asked her where she and Marie kept their jewelry;
--for during the last twelvemonths rich trinkets had been supplied to both of them.
Of course she answered by another question.
"Is anything going to happen,
"A good deal is going to happen.
Are they here in this house,
or in Grosvenor Square?"
"They are here."
"Then have them all packed up,
--as small as you can;
never mind about wool and cases and all that.
Have them close to your hand so that if you have to move you can take them with you.
Do you understand?"
"Why don't you speak,
"What is going to happen,
"How can I tell?
You ought to know by this time that when a man's work is such as mine,
things will happen.
You'll be safe enough.
Nothing can hurt you."
"Can they hurt you,
I don't know what you call hurting.
Whatever there is to be borne,
I suppose it is I must bear it.
I have not had it very soft all my life hitherto,
and I don't think it's going to be very soft now."
"Shall we have to move?"
What's the harm of moving?
You talk of moving as though that were the worst thing that could happen.
How would you like to be in some place where they wouldn't let you move?"
"Are they going to send you to prison?"
"Hold your tongue."
--are they going to?"
Then the poor woman did sit down,
overcome by her feelings.
"I didn't ask you to come here for a scene,"
"Do as I bid you about your own jewels,
The thing is to have them in small compass,
and that you should not have it to do at the last moment,
when you will be flurried and incapable.
Now you needn't stay any longer,
and it's no good asking any questions because I shan't answer them."
the poor woman crept out again,
after her own slow fashion,
went to work with her ornaments.
Melmotte sat up during the greater part of the night,
sometimes sipping brandy and water,
and sometimes smoking.
But he did no work,
and hardly touched a paper after his wife left him.
Very early the next morning,
very early that is for London life,
Melmotte was told by a servant that Mr. Croll had called and wanted to see him.
Then it immediately became a question with him whether he wanted to see Croll.
"Is it anything special?"
The man thought that it was something special,
as Croll had declared his purpose of waiting when told that Mr. Melmotte was not as yet dressed.
This happened at about nine o'clock in the morning.
Melmotte longed to know every detail of Croll's manner,
--to know even the servant's opinion of the clerk's manner,
--but he did not dare to ask a question.
Melmotte thought that it might be well to be gracious.
"Ask him if he has breakfasted,
and if not give him something in the study."
But Mr. Croll had breakfasted and declined any further refreshment.
Nevertheless Melmotte had not as yet made up his mind that he would meet his clerk.
His clerk was his clerk.
It might perhaps be well that he should first go into the City and send word to Croll,
bidding him wait for his return.
Over and over again,
against his will,
the question of flying would present itself to him;
though he discussed it within his own bosom in every form,
he knew that he could not fly.
And if he stood his ground,
--as most assuredly he would do,
--then must he not be afraid to meet any man,
let the man come with what thunderbolts in his hand he might.
Of course sooner or later some man must come with a thunderbolt,
--and why not Croll as well as another?
He stood against a press in his chamber,
with a razor in his hand,
and steadied himself.
How easily might he put an end to it all!
Then he rang his bell and desired that Croll might be shown up into his room.
The three or four minutes which intervened seemed to him to be very long.
He had absolutely forgotten in his anxiety that the lather was still upon his face.
But he could not smother his anxiety.
He was fighting with it at every turn,
but he could not conquer it.
When the knock came at his door,
he grasped at his own breast as though to support himself.
With a hoarse voice he told the man to come in,
and Croll himself appeared,
opening the door gently and very slowly.
Melmotte had left the bag which contained the papers in possession of Mr. Brehgert,
and he now saw,
at a glance,
that Croll had got the bag in his hand,
--and could see also by the shape of the bag that the bag contained the papers.
The man therefore had in his own hands,
in his own keeping,
the very documents to which his own name had been forged!
There was no longer a hope,
no longer a chance that Croll should be ignorant of what had been done.
he said with an attempt at a smile,
"what brings you here so early?"
He was pale as death,
and let him struggle as he would,
could not restrain himself from trembling.
"Herr Brehgert vas vid me last night,"
"And he thought I had better bring these back to you.
Croll spoke in a very low voice,
with his eyes fixed on his master's face,
but with nothing of a threat in his attitude or manner.
"He thought I had better bring these back to you."]
Even though he might have saved himself from all coming evils by a bold demeanour at that moment,
he could not assume it.
But it all flashed upon him at a moment.
Brehgert had seen Croll after he,
had left the City,
had then discovered the forgery,
and had taken this way of sending back all the forged documents.
He had known Brehgert to be of all men who ever lived the most good-natured,
but he could hardly believe in pure good-nature such as this.
It seemed that the thunderbolt was not yet to fall.
"Mr. Brehgert came to me,"
"because one signature was wanting.
It was very late,
so I took them home with me.
I said I'd bring them to you in the morning."
They both knew that he had forged the documents,
Brehgert and Croll;
but how would that concern him,
if these two friends had resolved together that they would not expose him?
He had desired to get the documents back into his own hands,
and here they were!
Melmotte's immediate trouble arose from the difficulty of speaking in a proper manner to his own servant who had just detected him in forgery.
He couldn't speak.
There were no words appropriate to such an occasion.
"It vas a strong order,
Melmotte tried to smile but only grinned.
"I vill not be back in the Lane,
"Not back at the office,
"I tink not;
De leetle money coming to me,
you will send it.
And so Mr. Croll took his final leave of his old master after an intercourse which had lasted twenty years.
We may imagine that Herr Croll found his spirits to be oppressed and his capacity for business to be obliterated by his patron's misfortunes rather than by his patron's guilt.
But he had not behaved unkindly.
He had merely remarked that the forgery of his own name half-a-dozen times over was a "strong order."
Melmotte opened the bag,
and examined the documents one by one.
It had been necessary that Marie should sign her name some half-dozen times,
and Marie's father had made all the necessary forgeries.
It had been of course necessary that each name should be witnessed;
--but here the forger had scamped his work.
Croll's name he had written five times;
but one forged signature he had left unattested!
Again he had himself been at fault.
Again he had aided his own ruin by his own carelessness.
One seems inclined to think sometimes that any fool might do an honest business.
But fraud requires a man to be alive and wide awake at every turn!
Melmotte had desired to have the documents back in his own hands,
and now he had them.
Did it matter much that Brehgert and Croll both knew the crime which he had committed?
Had they meant to take legal steps against him they would not have returned the forgeries to his own hands.
would never tell the tale,
--unless there should arise some most improbable emergency in which he might make money by telling it;
but he was by no means so sure of Croll.
Croll had signified his intention of leaving Melmotte's service,
and would therefore probably enter some rival service,
and thus become an enemy to his late master.
There could be no reason why Croll should keep the secret.
Even if he got no direct profit by telling it,
he would curry favour by making it known.
Of course Croll would tell it.
But what harm could the telling of such a secret do him?
The girl was his own daughter!
The money had been his own money!
The man had been his own servant!
There had been no fraud;
no purpose of peculation.
as he thought of this,
became almost proud of what he had done,
thinking that if the evidence were suppressed the knowledge of the facts could do him no harm.
But the evidence must be suppressed,
and with the view of suppressing it he took the little bag and all the papers down with him to the study.
Then he ate his breakfast,
--and suppressed the evidence by the aid of his gas lamp.
When this was accomplished he hesitated as to the manner in which he would pass his day.
He had now given up all idea of raising the money for Longestaffe.
He had even considered the language in which he would explain to the assembled gentlemen on the morrow the fact that a little difficulty still presented itself,
and that as he could not exactly name a day,
he must leave the matter in their hands.
For he had resolved that he would not evade the meeting.
Cohenlupe had gone since he had made his promise,
and he would throw all the blame on Cohenlupe.
Everybody knows that when panics arise the breaking of one merchant causes the downfall of another.
Cohenlupe should bear the burden.
But as that must be so,
he could do no good by going into the City.
His pecuniary downfall had now become too much a matter of certainty to be staved off by his presence;
and his personal security could hardly be assisted by it.
There would be nothing for him to do.
Cohenlupe had gone.
Miles Grendall had gone.
Croll had gone.
He could hardly go to Cuthbert's Court and face Mr. Brehgert!
He would stay at home till it was time for him to go down to the House,
and then he would face the world there.
He would dine down at the House,
and stand about in the smoking-room with his hat on,
and be visible in the lobbies,
and take his seat among his brother legislators,
if it were possible,
rise on his legs and make a speech to them.
He was about to have a crushing fall,
--but the world should say that he had fallen like a man.
About eleven his daughter came to him as he sat in the study.
It can hardly be said that he had ever been kind to Marie,
but perhaps she was the only person who in the whole course of his career had received indulgence at his hands.
He had often beaten her;
but he had also often made her presents and smiled on her,
and in the periods of his opulence,
had allowed her pocket-money almost without limit.
Now she had not only disobeyed him,
but by most perverse obstinacy on her part had driven him to acts of forgery which had already been detected.
He had cause to be angry now with Marie if he had ever had cause for anger.
But he had almost forgotten the transaction.
He had at any rate forgotten the violence of his own feelings at the time of its occurrence.
He was no longer anxious that the release should be made,
and therefore no longer angry with her for her refusal.
coming very gently into the room,
"I think that perhaps I was wrong yesterday."
"Of course you were wrong;
--but it doesn't matter now."
"If you wish it I'll sign those papers.
I don't suppose Lord Nidderdale means to come any more;
--and I'm sure I don't care whether he does or not."
"What makes you think that,
"I was out last night at Lady Julia Goldsheiner's,
and he was there.
I'm sure he doesn't mean to come here any more."
"Was he uncivil to you?"
"O dear no.
He's never uncivil.
But I'm sure of it.
Never mind how.
I never told him that I cared for him and I never did care for him.
is there something going to happen?"
"What do you mean?"
why didn't you let me marry that other man?"
"He is a penniless adventurer."
"But he would have had this money that I call my money,
and then there would have been enough for us all.
he would marry me still if you would let him."
"Have you seen him since you went to Liverpool?"
"Or heard from him?"
"Not a line."
"Then what makes you think he would marry you?"
"He would if I got hold of him and told him.
And he is a baronet.
And there would be plenty of money for us all.
And we could go and live in Germany."
"We could do that just as well without your marrying."
"But I suppose,
I am to be considered as somebody.
I don't want after all to run away from London,
just as if everybody had turned up their noses at me.
I like him,
and I don't like anybody else."
"He wouldn't take the trouble to go to Liverpool with you."
"He got tipsy.
I know all about that.
I don't mean to say that he's anything particularly grand.
I don't know that anybody is very grand.
He's as good as anybody else."
"It can't be done,
"Why can't it be done?"
"There are a dozen reasons.
Why should my money be given up to him?
And it is too late.
There are other things to be thought of now than marriage."
"You don't want me to sign the papers?"
--I haven't got the papers.
But I want you to remember that the money is mine and not yours.
It may be that much may depend on you,
and that I shall have to trust to you for nearly everything.
Do not let me find myself deceived by my daughter."
--if you'll let me see Sir Felix Carbury once more."
Then the father's pride again reasserted itself and he became angry.
"I tell you,
you little fool,
that it is out of the question.
Why cannot you believe me?
Has your mother spoken to you about your jewels?
Get them packed up,
so that you can carry them away in your hand if we have to leave this suddenly.
You are an idiot to think of that young man.
As you say,
I don't know that any of them are very good,
but among them all he is about the worst.
Go away and do as I bid you."
That afternoon the page in Welbeck Street came up to Lady Carbury and told her that there was a young lady down-stairs who wanted to see Sir Felix.
At this time the dominion of Sir Felix in his mother's house had been much curtailed.
His latch-key had been surreptitiously taken away from him,
and all messages brought for him reached his hands through those of his mother.
The plasters were not removed from his face,
so that he was still subject to that loss of self-assertion with which we are told that hitherto dominant cocks become afflicted when they have been daubed with mud.
Lady Carbury asked sundry questions about the lady,
suspecting that Ruby Ruggles,
of whom she had heard,
had come to seek her lover.
The page could give no special description,
merely saying that the young lady wore a black veil.
Lady Carbury directed that the young lady should be shown into her own presence,
--and Marie Melmotte was ushered into the room.
"I dare say you don't remember me,
"I am Marie Melmotte."
At first Lady Carbury had not recognised her visitor;
--but she did so before she replied.
I remember you."
--I am Mr. Melmotte's daughter.
How is your son?
I hope he is better.
They told me he had been horribly used by a dreadful man in the street."
He is getting better."
Now Lady Carbury had heard within the last two days from Mr. Broune that "it was all over" with Melmotte.
Broune had declared his very strong belief,
his thorough conviction,
that Melmotte had committed various forgeries,
that his speculations had gone so much against him as to leave him a ruined man,
that the great Melmotte bubble was on the very point of bursting.
"Everybody says that he'll be in gaol before a week is over."
That was the information which had reached Lady Carbury about the Melmottes only on the previous evening.
"I want to see him,"
hardly knowing what answer to make,
was silent for a while.
"I suppose he told you everything;
You know that we were to have been married?
I loved him very much,
and so I do still.
I am not ashamed of coming and telling you."
"I thought it was all off,"
said Lady Carbury.
"I never said so.
Does he say so?
Your daughter came to me and was very good to me.
I do so love her.
She said that it was all over;
but perhaps she was wrong.
It shan't be all over if he will be true."
Lady Carbury was taken greatly by surprise.
It seemed to her at the moment that this young lady,
knowing that her own father was ruined,
was looking out for another home,
and was doing so with a considerable amount of audacity.
She gave Marie little credit either for affection or for generosity;
but yet she was unwilling to answer her roughly.
"I am afraid,"
"that it would not be suitable."
"Why should it not be suitable?
They can't take my money away.
There is enough for all of us even if papa wanted to live with us;
--but it is mine.
It is ever so much;
--I don't know how much,
but a great deal.
We should be quite rich enough.
I ain't a bit ashamed to come and tell you,
because we were engaged.
I know he isn't rich,
and I should have thought it would be suitable."
It then occurred to Lady Carbury that if this were true the marriage after all might be suitable.
But how was she to find out whether it was true?
"I understand that your papa is opposed to it,"
--but papa can't prevent me,
and papa can't make me give up the money.
It's ever so many thousands a year,
If I can dare to do it,
why can't he?"
Lady Carbury was so beside herself with doubts,
that she found it impossible to form any decision.
It would be necessary that she should see Mr. Broune.
What to do with her son,
how to bestow him,
in what way to get rid of him so that in ridding herself of him she might not aid in destroying him,
--this was the great trouble of her life,
the burden that was breaking her back.
Now this girl was not only willing but persistently anxious to take her black sheep and to endow him,
--as she declared,
--with ever so many thousands a year.
If the thousands were there,
--or even an income of a single thousand a year,
--then what a blessing would such a marriage be!
Sir Felix had already fallen so low that his mother on his behalf would not be justified in declining a connection with the Melmottes because the Melmottes had fallen.
To get any niche in the world for him in which he might live with comparative safety would now be to her a heaven-sent comfort.
"My son is up-stairs,"
"I will go up and speak to him."
"Tell him I am here and that I have said that I will forgive him everything,
and that I love him still,
and that if he will be true to me,
I will be true to him."
"I couldn't go down to her,"
said Sir Felix,
"with my face all in this way."
"I don't think she would mind that."
"I couldn't do it.
I don't believe about her money.
I never did believe it.
That was the real reason why I didn't go to Liverpool."
"I think I would see her if I were you,
We could find out to a certainty about her fortune.
It is evident at any rate that she is very fond of you."
"What's the use of that,
if he is ruined?"
He would not go down to see the girl,
--because he could not endure to expose his face,
and was ashamed of the wounds which he had received in the street.
As regarded the money he half-believed and half-disbelieved Marie's story.
But the fruition of the money,
if it were within his reach,
would be far off and to be attained with much trouble;
whereas the nuisance of a scene with Marie would be immediate.
How could he kiss his future bride,
with his nose bound up with a bandage?
"What shall I say to her?"
asked his mother.
"She oughtn't to have come.
I should tell her just that.
You might send the maid to her to tell her that you couldn't see her again."
But Lady Carbury could not treat the girl after that fashion.
She returned to the drawing-room,
descending the stairs very slowly,
and thinking what answer she would make.
"my son feels that everything has been so changed since he and you last met,
that nothing can be gained by a renewal of your acquaintance."
"That is his message;
Lady Carbury remained silent.
"Then he is indeed all that they have told me;
and I am ashamed that I should have loved him.
I am ashamed;
--not of coming here,
although you will think that I have run after him.
I don't see why a girl should not run after a man if they have been engaged together.
But I'm ashamed of thinking so much of so mean a person.
I don't think you should be angry with me."
I am not angry with you.
You can forget me now as soon as you please,
and I will try to forget him."
Then with a rapid step she walked back to Bruton Street,
going round by Grosvenor Square and in front of her old house on the way.
What should she now do with herself?
What sort of life should she endeavour to prepare for herself?
The life that she had led for the last year had been thoroughly wretched.
The poverty and hardship which she remembered in her early days had been more endurable.
The servitude to which she had been subjected before she had learned by intercourse with the world to assert herself,
had been preferable.
In these days of her grandeur,
in which she had danced with princes,
and seen an emperor in her father's house,
and been affianced to lords,
she had encountered degradation which had been abominable to her.
She had really loved;
--but had found out that her golden idol was made of the basest clay.
She had then declared to herself that bad as the clay was she would still love it;
--but even the clay had turned away from her and had refused her love!
She was well aware that some catastrophe was about to happen to her father.
Catastrophes had happened before,
and she had been conscious of their coming.
But now the blow would be a very heavy blow.
They would again be driven to pack up and move and seek some other city,
--probably in some very distant part.
But go where she might,
she would now be her own mistress.
That was the one resolution she succeeded in forming before she re-entered the house in Bruton Street.
MELMOTTE AGAIN AT THE HOUSE.
On that Thursday afternoon it was known everywhere that there was to be a general ruin of all the Melmotte affairs.
As soon as Cohenlupe had gone,
no man doubted.
The City men who had not gone to the dinner prided themselves on their foresight,
as did also the politicians who had declined to meet the Emperor of China at the table of the suspected Financier.
They who had got up the dinner and had been instrumental in taking the Emperor to the house in Grosvenor Square,
and they also who had brought him forward at Westminster and had fought his battle for him,
were aware that they would have to defend themselves against heavy attacks.
No one now had a word to say in his favour,
or a doubt as to his guilt.
The Grendalls had retired altogether out of town,
and were no longer even heard of.
Lord Alfred had not been seen since the day of the dinner.
The Duchess of Albury,
went into the country some weeks earlier than usual,
as the world said,
by the general Melmotte failure.
But this departure had not as yet taken place at the time at which we have now arrived.
When the Speaker took his seat in the House,
soon after four o'clock,
there were a great many members present,
and a general feeling prevailed that the world was more than ordinarily alive because of Melmotte and his failures.
It had been confidently asserted throughout the morning that he would be put upon his trial for forgery in reference to the purchase of the Pickering property from Mr. Longestaffe,
and it was known that he had not as yet shown himself anywhere on this day.
People had gone to look at the house in Grosvenor Square,
--not knowing that he was still living in Mr. Longestaffe's house in Bruton Street,
and had come away with the impression that the desolation of ruin and crime was already plainly to be seen upon it.
"I wonder where he is,"
said Mr. Lupton to Mr. Beauchamp Beauclerk in one of the lobbies of the House.
"They say he hasn't been in the City all day.
I suppose he's in Longestaffe's house.
That poor fellow has got it heavy all round.
The man has got his place in the country and his house in town.
I wonder what he thinks about it all."
"This is awful;
"It might have been worse,
I should say,
as far as you are concerned,"
replied Mr. Lupton.
But I'll tell you what,
I don't quite understand it all yet.
Our lawyer said three days ago that the money was certainly there."
"And Cohenlupe was certainly here three days ago,"
--"but he isn't here now.
It seems to me that it has just happened in time for you."
Lord Nidderdale shook his head and tried to look very grave.
said Sir Orlando Drought,
hurrying up to the commercial gentleman whose mistakes about finance Mr. Melmotte on a previous occasion had been anxious to correct.
"He'll be able to tell us where he is.
It was rumoured,
an hour ago,
that he was off to the continent after Cohenlupe."
But Mr. Brown shook his head.
Mr. Brown didn't know anything.
But Mr. Brown was very strongly of opinion that the police would know all that there was to be known about Mr. Melmotte before this time on the following day.
Mr. Brown had been very bitter against Melmotte since that memorable attack made upon him in the House.
Even ministers as they sat to be badgered by the ordinary question-mongers of the day were more intent upon Melmotte than upon their own defence.
"Do you know anything about it?"
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
"I understand that no order has been given for his arrest.
There is a general opinion that he has committed forgery;
but I doubt whether they've got their evidence together."
"He's a ruined man,
said the Chancellor.
"I doubt whether he ever was a rich man.
But I'll tell you what;
--he has been about the grandest rogue we've seen yet.
He must have spent over a hundred thousand pounds during the last twelve months on his personal expenses.
I wonder how the Emperor will like it when he learns the truth."
Another minister sitting close to the Secretary of State was of opinion that the Emperor of China would not care half so much about it as our own First Lord of the Treasury.
At this moment there came a silence over the House which was almost audible.
They who know the sensation which arises from the continued hum of many suppressed voices will know also how plain to the ear is the feeling caused by the discontinuance of the sound.
Everybody looked up,
but everybody looked up in perfect silence.
An Under-Secretary of State had just got upon his legs to answer a most indignant question as to an alteration of the colour of the facings of a certain regiment,
his prepared answer to which,
was so happy as to allow him to anticipate quite a little triumph.
It is not often that such a Godsend comes in the way of an under-secretary;
and he was intent upon his performance.
But even he was startled into momentary oblivion of his well-arranged point.
the member for Westminster,
was walking up the centre of the House.
He had succeeded by this time in learning so much of the forms of the House as to know what to do with his hat,
--when to wear it,
and when to take it off,
--and how to sit down.
As he entered by the door facing the Speaker,
he wore his hat on one side of his head,
as was his custom.
Much of the arrogance of his appearance had come from this habit,
which had been adopted probably from a conviction that it added something to his powers of self-assertion.
At this moment he was more determined than ever that no one should trace in his outer gait or in any feature of his face any sign of that ruin which,
as he well knew,
all men were anticipating.
his hat was a little more cocked than usual,
and the lapels of his coat were thrown back a little wider,
displaying the large jewelled studs which he wore in his shirt;
and the arrogance conveyed by his mouth and chin was specially conspicuous.
He had come down in his brougham,
and as he had walked up Westminster Hall and entered the House by the private door of the members,
and then made his way in across the great lobby and between the doorkeepers,
--no one had spoken a word to him.
He had of course seen many whom he had known.
He had indeed known nearly all whom he had seen;
--but he had been aware,
from the beginning of this enterprise of the day,
that men would shun him,
and that he must bear their cold looks and colder silence without seeming to notice them.
He had schooled himself to the task,
and he was now performing it.
It was not only that he would have to move among men without being noticed,
but that he must endure to pass the whole evening in the same plight.
But he was resolved,
and he was now doing it.
He bowed to the Speaker with more than usual courtesy,
raising his hat with more than usual care,
and seated himself,
on the third opposition-bench,
but with more than his usual fling.
He was a big man,
who always endeavoured to make an effect by deportment,
and was therefore customarily conspicuous in his movements.
He was desirous now of being as he was always,
neither more nor less demonstrative;
as a matter of course,
and it seemed to those who looked at him that there was a special impudence in the manner in which he walked up the House and took his seat.
The Under-Secretary of State,
who was on his legs,
was struck almost dumb,
and his morsel of wit about the facings was lost to Parliament for ever.
That unfortunate young man,
occupied the seat next to that on which Melmotte had placed himself.
It had so happened three or four times since Melmotte had been in the House,
as the young lord,
fully intending to marry the Financier's daughter,
had resolved that he would not be ashamed of his father-in-law.
He had understood that countenance of the sort which he as a young aristocrat could give to the man of millions who had risen no one knew whence,
was part of the bargain in reference to the marriage,
and he was gifted with a mingled honesty and courage which together made him willing and able to carry out his idea.
He had given Melmotte little lessons as to ordinary forms of the House,
and had done what in him lay to earn the money which was to be forthcoming.
But it had become manifest both to him and to his father during the last two days,
--very painfully manifest to his father,
--that the thing must be abandoned.
And if so,
--then why should he be any longer gracious to Melmotte?
though he had been ready to be courteous to a very vulgar and a very disagreeable man,
he was not anxious to extend his civilities to one who,
as he was now assured,
had been certainly guilty of forgery.
But to get up at once and leave his seat because Melmotte had placed himself by his side,
did not suit the turn of his mind.
He looked round to his neighbour on the right,
with a half-comic look of misery,
and then prepared himself to bear his punishment,
whatever it might be.
"Have you been up with Marie to-day?"
replied the lord.
"Why don't you go?
She's always asking about you now.
I hope we shall be in our own house again next week,
and then we shall be able to make you comfortable."
Could it be possible that the man did not know that all the world was united in accusing him of forgery?
"I'll tell you what it is,"
"I think you had better see my governor again,
"There's nothing wrong,
--I don't know.
You'd better see him.
I'm going now.
I only just came down to enter an appearance."
He had to cross Melmotte on his way out,
and as he did so Melmotte grasped him by the hand.
said Melmotte quite aloud,
--in a voice much louder than that which members generally allow themselves for conversation.
Nidderdale was confused and unhappy;
but there was probably not a man in the House who did not understand the whole thing.
He rushed down through the gangway and out through the doors with a hurried step,
and as he escaped into the lobby he met Lionel Lupton,
since his little conversation with Mr. Beauclerk,
had heard further news.
"You know what has happened,
"He has been arrested in his own house within the last half-hour on a charge of forgery."
"I wish he had,"
"with all my heart.
If you go in you'll find him sitting there as large as life.
He has been talking to me as though everything were all right."
"Compton was here not a moment ago,
and said that he had been taken under a warrant from the Lord Mayor."
"The Lord Mayor is a member and had better come and fetch his prisoner himself.
At any rate he's there.
I shouldn't wonder if he wasn't on his legs before long."
Melmotte kept his seat steadily till seven,
at which hour the House adjourned till nine.
He was one of the last to leave,
and then with a slow step,
--with almost majestic steps,
--he descended to the dining-room and ordered his dinner.
There were many men there,
and some little difficulty about a seat.
No one was very willing to make room for him.
But at last he secured a place,
almost jostling some unfortunate who was there before him.
It was impossible to expel him,
--almost as impossible to sit next him.
Even the waiters were unwilling to serve him;
--but with patience and endurance he did at last get his dinner.
He was there in his right,
as a member of the House of Commons,
and there was no ground on which such service as he required could be refused to him.
It was not long before he had the table all to himself.
But of this he took no apparent notice.
He spoke loudly to the waiters and drank his bottle of champagne with much apparent enjoyment.
Since his friendly intercourse with Nidderdale no one had spoken to him,
nor had he spoken to any man.
They who watched him declared among themselves that he was happy in his own audacity;
--but in truth he was probably at that moment the most utterly wretched man in London.
He would have better studied his personal comfort had he gone to his bed,
and spent his evening in groans and wailings.
But even he,
with all the world now gone from him,
with nothing before him but the extremest misery which the indignation of offended laws could inflict,
was able to spend the last moments of his freedom in making a reputation at any rate for audacity.
It was thus that Augustus Melmotte wrapped his toga around him before his death!
He went from the dining-room to the smoking-room,
taking from his pocket a huge case which he always carried,
proceeded to light a cigar about eight inches long.
from the City,
was in the room,
with a smile and a bow,
offered Mr. Brown one of the same.
Mr. Brown was a short,
round little man,
who was always endeavouring to give to a somewhat commonplace set of features an air of importance by the contraction of his lips and the knitting of his brows.
It was as good as a play to see Mr. Brown jumping back from any contact with the wicked one,
and putting on a double frown as he looked at the impudent sinner.
"You needn't think so much,
of what I said the other night.
I didn't mean any offence."
So spoke Melmotte,
and then laughed with a loud,
looking round upon the assembled crowd as though he were enjoying his triumph.
He sat after that and smoked in silence.
Once again he burst out into a laugh,
as though peculiarly amused with his own thoughts;
--as though he were declaring to himself with much inward humour that all these men around him were fools for believing the stories which they had heard;
but he made no further attempt to speak to any one.
Soon after nine he went back again into the House,
and again took his old place.
At this time he had swallowed three glasses of brandy and water,
as well as the champagne,
and was brave enough almost for anything.
There was some debate going on in reference to the game laws,
--a subject on which Melmotte was as ignorant as one of his own housemaids,
as some speaker sat down,
he jumped up to his legs.
Another gentleman had also risen,
and when the House called to that other gentleman Melmotte gave way.
The other gentleman had not much to say,
and in a few minutes Melmotte was again on his legs.
Who shall dare to describe the thoughts which would cross the august mind of a Speaker of the House of Commons at such a moment?
Of Melmotte's villainy he had no official knowledge.
And even could he have had such knowledge it was not for him to act upon it.
The man was a member of the House,
and as much entitled to speak as another.
But it seemed on that occasion that the Speaker was anxious to save the House from disgrace;
--for twice and thrice he refused to have his "eye caught" by the member for Westminster.
As long as any other member would rise he would not have his eye caught.
But Melmotte was persistent,
and determined not to be put down.
At last no one else would speak,
and the House was about to negative the motion without a division,
--when Melmotte was again on his legs,
The Speaker scowled at him and leaned back in his chair.
Melmotte standing erect,
turning his head round from one side of the House to another,
as though determined that all should see his audacity,
propping himself with his knees against the seat before him,
remained for half a minute perfectly silent.
He was drunk,
--but better able than most drunken men to steady himself,
and showing in his face none of those outward signs of intoxication by which drunkenness is generally made apparent.
But he had forgotten in his audacity that words are needed for the making of a speech,
and now he had not a word at his command.
He stumbled forward,
then looked once more round the House with a glance of anger,
and after that toppled headlong forward over the shoulders of Mr. Beauchamp Beauclerk,
who was now sitting in front of him.
He might have wrapped his toga around him better perhaps had he remained at home,
but if to have himself talked about was his only object,
he could hardly have taken a surer course.
as it occurred,
was one very likely to be remembered when the performer should have been carried away into enforced obscurity.
There was much commotion in the House.
a man of natural good nature,
though at the moment put to considerable personal inconvenience,
when he recovered his own equilibrium,
to assist the drunken man.
But Melmotte had by no means lost the power of helping himself.
He quickly recovered his legs,
and then reseating himself,
put his hat on,
and endeavoured to look as though nothing special had occurred.
The House resumed its business,
taking no further notice of Melmotte,
and having no special rule of its own as to the treatment to be adopted with drunken members.
But the member for Westminster caused no further inconvenience.
He remained in his seat for perhaps ten minutes,
not with a very steady step,
but still with capacity sufficient for his own guidance,
he made his way down to the doors.
His exit was watched in silence,
and the moment was an anxious one for the Speaker,
and all who were near him.
Had he fallen some one,
--or rather some two or three,
--must have picked him up and carried him out.
But he did not fall either there or in the lobbies,
or on his way down to Palace Yard.
Many were looking at him,
but none touched him.
When he had got through the gates,
leaning against the wall he hallooed for his brougham,
and the servant who was waiting for him soon took him home to Bruton Street.
That was the last which the British Parliament saw of its new member for Westminster.
Melmotte as soon as he reached home got into his own sitting-room without difficulty,
and called for more brandy and water.
Between eleven and twelve he was left there by his servant with a bottle of brandy,
three or four bottles of soda-water,
and his cigar-case.
Neither of the ladies of the family came to him,
nor did he speak of them.
Nor was he so drunk then as to give rise to any suspicion in the mind of the servant.
He was habitually left there at night,
and the servant as usual went to his bed.
But at nine o'clock on the following morning the maid-servant found him dead upon the floor.
Drunk as he had been,
--more drunk as he probably became during the night,
--still he was able to deliver himself from the indignities and penalties to which the law might have subjected him by a dose of prussic acid.