PAUL MONTAGUE'S VINDICATION.
It is hoped that the reader need hardly be informed that Hetta Carbury was a very miserable young woman as soon as she decided that duty compelled her to divide herself altogether from Paul Montague.
I think that she was irrational;
but to her it seemed that the offence against herself,
--the offence against her own dignity as a woman,
--was too great to be forgiven.
There can be no doubt that it would all have been forgiven with the greatest ease had Paul told the story before it had reached her ears from any other source.
Had he said to her,
--when her heart was softest towards him,
--I once loved another woman,
and that woman is here now in London,
a trouble to me,
and her history is so and so,
and the history of my love for her was after this fashion,
and the history of my declining love is after that fashion,
and of this at any rate you may be sure,
that this woman has never been near my heart from the first moment in which I saw you;
--had he told it to her thus,
there would not have been an opening for anger.
And he doubtless would have so told it,
had not Hetta's brother interfered too quickly.
He was then forced to exculpate himself,
to confess rather than to tell his own story,
--and to admit facts which wore the air of having been concealed,
and which had already been conceived to be altogether damning if true.
It was that journey to Lowestoft,
not yet a month old,
which did the mischief,
--a journey as to which Hetta was not slow in understanding all that Roger Carbury had thought about it,
though Roger would say nothing of it to herself.
Paul had been staying at the seaside with this woman in amicable intimacy,
--this horrid woman,
--in intimacy worse than amicable,
and had been visiting her daily at Islington!
Hetta felt quite sure that he had never passed a day without going there since the arrival of the woman;
and everybody would know what that meant.
And during this very hour he had been,
perhaps not exactly making love to herself,
but looking at her and talking to her,
and behaving to her in a manner such as could not but make her understand that he intended to make love to her.
Of course they had really understood it,
since they had met at Madame Melmotte's first ball,
when she had made a plea that she could not allow herself to dance with him more than,
--say half-a-dozen times.
Of course she had not intended him then to know that she would receive his love with favour;
but equally of course she had known that he must so feel it.
She had not only told herself,
but had told her mother,
that her heart was given away to this man;
and yet the man during this very time was spending his hours with a --woman,
with a strange American woman,
to whom he acknowledged that he had been once engaged.
How could she not quarrel with him?
How could she refrain from telling him that everything must be over between them?
Everybody was against him,
and her cousin: and she felt that she had not a word to say in his defence.
A horrid woman!
bold American intriguing woman!
It was terrible to her that a friend of hers should ever have attached himself to such a creature;
--but that he should have come to her with a second tale of love long,
long before he had cleared himself from the first;
--perhaps with no intention of clearing himself from the first!
Of course she could not forgive him!
--she would never forgive him.
She would break her heart for him.
That was a matter of course;
but she would never forgive him.
She knew well what it was that her mother wanted.
Her mother thought that by forcing her into a quarrel with Montague she would force her also into a marriage with Roger Carbury.
But her mother would find out that in that she was mistaken.
She would never marry her cousin,
though she would be always ready to acknowledge his worth.
She was sure now that she would never marry any man.
As she made this resolve she had a wicked satisfaction in feeling that it would be a trouble to her mother;
--for though she was altogether in accord with Lady Carbury as to the iniquities of Paul Montague she was not the less angry with her mother for being so ready to expose those iniquities.
with what slow,
with what heartbroken tenderness did she take out from its guardian case the brooch which Paul had given her!
It had as yet been an only present,
and in thanking him for it,
which she had done with full,
free-spoken words of love,
she had begged him to send her no other,
so that that might ever be to her,
--to her dying day,
--the one precious thing that had been given to her by her lover while she was yet a girl.
Now it must be sent back;
it would go to that abominable woman!
But her fingers lingered over it as she touched it,
and she would fain have kissed it,
had she not told herself that she would have been disgraced,
even in her solitude,
by such a demonstration of affection.
She had given her answer to Paul Montague;
as she would have no further personal correspondence with him,
she took the brooch to her mother with a request that it might be returned.
I will send it back to him.
Is there nothing else?"
I have no letters,
and no other present.
You always knew everything that took place.
If you will just send that back to him,
--without a word.
You won't say anything,
"There is nothing for me to say if you have really made him understand you."
"I think he understood me,
You need not doubt about that."
"He has behaved very,
--from the beginning,"
said Lady Carbury.
But Hetta did not really think that the young man had behaved very badly from the beginning,
and certainly did not wish to be told of his misbehaviour.
No doubt she thought that the young man had behaved very well in falling in love with her directly he saw her;
--only that he had behaved so badly in taking Mrs. Hurtle to Lowestoft afterwards!
"It's no good talking about that,
I hope you will never talk of him any more."
"He is quite unworthy,"
said Lady Carbury.
"I can't bear to --have him --abused,"
said Hetta sobbing.
"My dear Hetta,
I have no doubt this has made you for the time unhappy.
Such little accidents do make people unhappy --for the time.
But it will be much for the best that you should endeavour not to be so sensitive about it.
The world is too rough and too hard for people to allow their feelings full play.
You have to look out for the future,
and you can best do so by resolving that Paul Montague shall be forgotten at once."
How is a person to resolve?
don't say any more."
there is more that I must say.
Your future life is before you,
and I must think of it,
and you must think of it.
Of course you must be married."
"There is no of course at all."
"Of course you must be married,"
continued Lady Carbury,
"and of course it is your duty to think of the way in which this may be best done.
My income is becoming less and less every day.
I already owe money to your cousin,
and I owe money to Mr. Broune."
"Money to Mr. Broune!"
--to Mr. Broune.
I had to pay a sum for Felix which Mr. Broune told me ought to be paid.
And I owe money to tradesmen.
I fear that I shall not be able to keep on this house.
And they tell me,
--your cousin and Mr. Broune,
--that it is my duty to take Felix out of London,
"Of course I shall go with you."
"It may be so at first;
even that may not be necessary.
Why should you?
What pleasure could you have in it?
Think what my life must be with Felix in some French or German town!"
why don't you let me be a comfort to you?
Why do you speak of me always as though I were a burden?"
"Everybody is a burden to other people.
It is the way of life.
--if you will only yield in ever so little,
--you may go where you will be no burden,
where you will be accepted simply as a blessing.
You have the opportunity of securing comfort for your whole life,
and of making a friend,
not only for yourself,
but for me and your brother,
of one whose friendship we cannot fail to want."
you cannot really mean to talk about that now?"
"Why should I not mean it?
What is the use of indulging in high-flown nonsense?
Make up your mind to be the wife of your cousin Roger."
"This is horrid,"
bursting out in her agony.
"Cannot you understand that I am broken-hearted about Paul,
that I love him from my very soul,
that parting from him is like tearing my heart in pieces?
I know that I must,
because he has behaved so very badly,
--and because of that wicked woman!
And so I have.
But I did not think that in the very next hour you would bid me give myself to somebody else!
I will never marry Roger Carbury.
You may be quite --quite sure that I shall never marry any one.
If you won't take me with you when you go away with Felix,
I must stay behind and try and earn my bread.
I suppose I could go out as a nurse."
without waiting for a reply she left the room and betook herself to her own apartment.
Lady Carbury did not even understand her daughter.
She could not conceive that she had in any way acted unkindly in taking the opportunity of Montague's rejection for pressing the suit of the other lover.
She was simply anxious to get a husband for her daughter,
--as she had been anxious to get a wife for her son,
--in order that her child might live comfortably.
But she felt that whenever she spoke common sense to Hetta,
her daughter took it as an offence,
and flew into tantrums,
being altogether unable to accommodate herself to the hard truths of the world.
Deep as was the sorrow which her son brought upon her,
and great as was the disgrace,
she could feel more sympathy for him than for the girl.
If there was anything that she could not forgive in life it was romance.
And yet she,
at any rate,
believed that she delighted in romantic poetry!
At the present moment she was very wretched;
and was certainly unselfish in her wish to see her daughter comfortably settled before she commenced those miserable roamings with her son which seemed to be her coming destiny.
In these days she thought a good deal of Mr. Broune's offer,
and of her own refusal.
It was odd that since that refusal she had seen more of him,
and had certainly known much more of him than she had ever seen or known before.
Previous to that little episode their intimacy had been very fictitious,
as are many intimacies.
They had played at being friends,
knowing but very little of each other.
during the last five or six weeks,
--since she had refused his offer,
--they had really learned to know each other.
In the exquisite misery of her troubles,
she had told him the truth about herself and her son,
and he had responded,
not by compliments,
but by real aid and true counsel.
His whole tone was altered to her,
as was hers to him.
There was no longer any egregious flattery between them,
in speaking to her,
would be almost rough to her.
Once he had told her that she would be a fool if she did not do so and so.
The consequence was that she almost regretted that she had allowed him to escape.
But she certainly made no effort to recover the lost prize,
for she told him all her troubles.
It was on that afternoon,
after her disagreement with her daughter,
that Marie Melmotte came to her.
on that same evening,
closeted with Mr. Broune in her back room,
she told him of both occurrences.
"If the girl has got the money --,"
regretting her son's obstinacy.
"I don't believe a bit of it,"
"From all that I can hear,
I don't think that there is any money.
And if there is,
you may be sure that Melmotte would not let it slip through his fingers in that way.
I would not have anything to do with it."
"You think it is all over with the Melmottes?"
"A rumour reached me just now that he had been already arrested."
It was now between nine and ten in the evening.
"But as I came away from my room,
I heard that he was down at the House.
That he will have to stand a trial for forgery,
I think there cannot be a doubt,
and I imagine that it will be found that not a shilling will be saved out of the property."
"What a wonderful career it has been!"
--the strangest thing that has come up in our days.
I am inclined to think that the utter ruin at this moment has been brought about by his reckless personal expenditure."
"Why did he spend such a lot of money?"
"Because he thought that he could conquer the world by it,
and obtain universal credit.
He very nearly succeeded too.
Only he had forgotten to calculate the force of the envy of his competitors."
"You think he has committed forgery?"
I think so.
Of course we know nothing as yet."
"Then I suppose it is better that Felix should not have married her."
No redemption was to have been had on that side,
and I don't think you should regret the loss of such money as his."
Lady Carbury shook her head,
meaning probably to imply that even Melmotte's money would have had no bad odour to one so dreadfully in want of assistance as her son.
"At any rate do not think of it any more."
Then she told him her grief about Hetta.
"I feel myself less able to express an authoritative opinion."
"He doesn't owe a shilling,"
said Lady Carbury,
"and he is really a fine gentleman."
"But if she doesn't like him?"
but she does.
She thinks him to be the finest person in the world.
She would obey him a great deal sooner than she would me.
But she has her mind stuffed with nonsense about love."
"A great many people,
have their minds stuffed with that nonsense."
--and ruin themselves with it,
as she will do.
Love is like any other luxury.
You have no right to it unless you can afford it.
And those who will have it when they can't afford it,
will come to the ground like this Mr. Melmotte.
How odd it seems!
It isn't a fortnight since we all thought him the greatest man in London."
Mr. Broune only smiled,
not thinking it worth his while to declare that he had never held that opinion about the late idol of Abchurch Lane.
On the following morning,
while Melmotte was still lying,
as yet undiscovered,
on the floor of Mr. Longestaffe's room,
a letter was brought up to Hetta by the maid-servant,
who told her that Mr. Montague had delivered it with his own hands.
She took it greedily,
and then repressing herself,
put it with an assumed gesture of indifference beneath her pillow.
But as soon as the girl had left the room she at once seized her treasure.
It never occurred to her as yet to think whether she would or would not receive a letter from her dismissed lover.
She had told him that he must go,
and go for ever,
and had taken it for granted that he would do so,
No doubt he would be delighted to return to the American woman.
But now that she had the letter,
she allowed no doubt to come between her and the reading of it.
As soon as she was alone she opened it,
and she ran through its contents without allowing herself a moment for thinking,
as she went on,
whether the excuses made by her lover were or were not such as she ought to accept.
I think you have been most unjust to me,
and if you have ever loved me I cannot understand your injustice.
I have never deceived you in anything,
not by a word,
or for a moment.
Unless you mean to throw me over because I did once love another woman,
I do not know what cause of anger you have.
I could not tell you about Mrs. Hurtle till you had accepted me,
as you yourself must know,
I had had no opportunity to tell you anything afterwards till the story had reached your ears.
I hardly know what I said the other day,
I was so miserable at your accusation.
But I suppose I said then,
and I again declare now,
that I had made up my mind that circumstances would not admit of her becoming my wife before I had ever seen you,
and that I have certainly never wavered in my determination since I saw you.
I can with safety refer to Roger as to this,
because I was with him when I so determined,
and made up my mind very much at his instance.
This was before I had ever even met you.
If I understand it all right you are angry because I have associated with Mrs. Hurtle since I so determined.
I am not going back to my first acquaintance with her now.
You may blame me for that if you please,
--though it cannot have been a fault against you.
after what had occurred,
was I to refuse to see her when she came to England to see me?
I think that would have been cowardly.
Of course I went to her.
And when she was all alone here,
without a single other friend,
and telling me that she was unwell,
and asking me to take her down to the seaside,
was I to refuse?
I think that that would have been unkind.
It was a dreadful trouble to me.
But of course I did it.
She asked me to renew my engagement.
I am bound to tell you that,
but I know in telling you that it will go no farther.
telling her that it was my purpose to ask another woman to be my wife.
Of course there has been anger and sorrow,
--anger on her part and sorrow on mine.
But there has been no doubt.
And at last she yielded.
As far as she was concerned my trouble was over,
--except in so far that her unhappiness has been a great trouble to me,
on a sudden,
I found that the story had reached you in such a form as to make you determined to quarrel with me!
Of course you do not know it all,
for I cannot tell you all without telling her history.
But you know everything that in the least concerns yourself,
and I do say that you have no cause whatever for anger.
I am writing at night.
This evening your brooch was brought to me with three or four cutting words from your mother.
But I cannot understand that if you really love me,
you should wish to separate yourself from me,
if you ever loved me,
you should cease to love me now because of Mrs. Hurtle.
I am so absolutely confused by the blow that I hardly know what I am writing,
and take first one outrageous idea into my head and then another.
My love for you is so thorough and so intense that I cannot bring myself to look forward to living without you,
now that you have once owned that you have loved me.
I cannot think it possible that love,
such as I suppose yours must have been,
could be made to cease all at a moment.
I don't think it is natural that we should be parted.
If you want corroboration of my story go yourself to Mrs. Hurtle.
Anything is better than that we both should be broken-hearted.
Yours most affectionately,
BREAKFAST IN BERKELEY SQUARE.
Lord Nidderdale was greatly disgusted with his own part of the performance when he left the House of Commons,
we may say,
disgusted with his own position generally,
when he considered all its circumstances.
That had been at the commencement of the evening,
and Melmotte had not then been tipsy;
but he had behaved with unsurpassable arrogance and vulgarity,
and had made the young lord drink the cup of his own disgrace to the very dregs.
Everybody now knew it as a positive fact that the charges made against the man were to become matter of investigation before the chief magistrate for the City,
everybody knew that he had committed forgery upon forgery,
everybody knew that he could not pay for the property which he had pretended to buy,
and that he was actually a ruined man;
--and yet he had seized Nidderdale by the hand,
and called the young lord "his dear boy" before the whole House.
And then he had made himself conspicuous as this man's advocate.
If he had not himself spoken openly of his coming marriage with the girl,
he had allowed other men to speak to him about it.
He had quarrelled with one man for saying that Melmotte was a rogue,
and had confidentially told his most intimate friends that in spite of a little vulgarity of manner,
Melmotte at bottom was a very good fellow.
How was he now to back out of his intimacy with the Melmottes generally?
He was engaged to marry the girl,
and there was nothing of which he could accuse her.
He acknowledged to himself that she deserved well at his hands.
Though at this moment he hated the father most bitterly,
as those odious words,
and the tone in which they had been pronounced,
rang in his ears,
nevertheless he had some kindly feeling for the girl.
Of course he could not marry her now.
That was manifestly out of the question.
as well as all others,
had known that she was to be married for her money,
and now that bubble had been burst.
But he felt that he owed it to her,
as to a comrade who had on the whole been loyal to him,
to have some personal explanation with herself.
He arranged in his own mind the sort of speech that he would make to her.
"Of course you know it can't be.
It was all arranged because you were to have a lot of money,
and now it turns out that you haven't got any.
And I haven't got any,
and we should have nothing to live upon.
It's out of the question.
upon my word,
I'm very sorry,
for I like you very much,
and I really think we should have got on uncommon well together."
That was the kind of speech that he suggested to himself,
but he did not know how to find for himself the opportunity of making it.
He thought that he must put it all into a letter.
But then that would be tantamount to a written confession that he had made her an offer of marriage,
and he feared that Melmotte,
--or Madame Melmotte on his behalf,
if the great man himself were absent,
--might make an ungenerous use of such an admission.
Between seven and eight he went into the Beargarden,
and there he saw Dolly Longestaffe and others.
Everybody was talking about Melmotte,
the prevailing belief being that he was at this moment in custody.
Dolly was full of his own griefs;
but consoled amidst them by a sense of his own importance.
"I wonder whether it's true,"
he was saying to Lord Grasslough.
"He has an appointment to meet me and my governor at twelve o'clock to-morrow,
and to pay us what he owes us.
He swore yesterday that he would have the money to-morrow.
But he can't keep his appointment,
if he's in prison."
"You won't see the money,
you may swear to that,"
"I don't suppose I shall.
what an ass my governor has been.
He had no more right than you have to give up the property.
He could tell us where he is;
but I'm afraid to speak to him since he cut up so rough the other night."
In a moment the conversation was stopped;
but when Lord Grasslough asked Nidderdale in a whisper whether he knew anything about Melmotte,
the latter answered out loud,
--I left him in the House half an hour ago."
"People are saying that he has been arrested."
"I heard that also;
but he certainly had not been arrested when I left the House."
Then he went up and put his hand on Dolly Longestaffe's shoulder,
and spoke to him.
"I suppose you were about right the other night and I was about wrong;
but you could understand what it was that I meant.
I'm afraid this is a bad look out for both of us."
It's deuced bad for me,"
"I think you're very well out of it.
But I'm glad there's not to be a quarrel.
Suppose we have a rubber of whist."
Later on in the night news was brought to the club that Melmotte had tried to make a speech in the House,
that he had been very drunk,
and that he had tumbled over,
upsetting Beauchamp Beauclerk in his fall.
I should like to have seen that!"
"I am very glad I was not there,"
It was three o'clock before they left the card table,
at which time Melmotte was lying dead upon the floor in Mr. Longestaffe's house.
On the following morning,
at ten o'clock,
Lord Nidderdale sat at breakfast with his father in the old lord's house in Berkeley Square.
From thence the house which Melmotte had hired was not above a few hundred yards distant.
At this time the young lord was living with his father,
and the two had now met by appointment in order that something might be settled between them as to the proposed marriage.
The Marquis was not a very pleasant companion when the affairs in which he was interested did not go exactly as he would have them.
He could be very cross and say most disagreeable words,
--so that the ladies of the family,
and others connected with him,
for the most part,
found it impossible to live with him.
But his eldest son had endured him;
--partly perhaps because,
being the eldest,
he had been treated with a nearer approach to courtesy,
but chiefly by means of his own extreme good humour.
What did a few hard words matter?
If his father was ungracious to him,
of course he knew what all that meant.
As long as his father would make fair allowance for his own peccadilloes,
--he also would make allowances for his father's roughness.
All this was based on his grand theory of live and let live.
He expected his father to be a little cross on this occasion,
and he acknowledged to himself that there was cause for it.
He was a little late himself,
and he found his father already buttering his toast.
"I don't believe you'd get out of bed a moment sooner than you liked if you could save the whole property by it."
"You show me how I can make a guinea by it,
and see if I don't earn the money."
Then he sat down and poured himself out a cup of tea,
and looked at the kidneys and looked at the fish.
"I suppose you were drinking last night,"
said the old lord.
The old man turned round and gnashed his teeth at him.
"The fact is,
I don't drink.
Everybody knows that."
"I know when you're in the country you can't live without champagne.
--what have you got to say about all this?"
"What have you got to say?"
"You've made a pretty kettle of fish of it."
"I've been guided by you in everything.
you ought to own that.
I suppose the whole thing is over?"
"I don't see why it should be over.
I'm told she has got her own money."
Then Nidderdale described to his father Melmotte's behaviour in the House on the preceding evening.
"What the devil does that matter?"
said the old man.
"You're not going to marry the man himself."
"I shouldn't wonder if he's in gaol now."
"And what does that matter?
She's not in gaol.
And if the money is hers,
she can't lose it because he goes to prison.
Beggars mustn't be choosers.
How do you mean to live if you don't marry this girl?"
"I shall scrape on,
I must look for somebody else."
The Marquis showed very plainly by his demeanour that he did not give his son much credit either for diligence or for ingenuity in making such a search.
"At any rate,
I can't marry the daughter of a man who is to be put upon his trial for forgery."
"I can't see what that has to do with you."
"I couldn't do it,
I'd do anything else to oblige you,
but I couldn't do that.
I don't believe in the money."
"Then you may just go to the devil,"
said the old Marquis turning himself round in his chair,
and lighting a cigar as he took up the newspaper.
Nidderdale went on with his breakfast with perfect equanimity,
and when he had finished lighted his cigar.
"They tell me,"
said the old man,
"that one of those Goldsheiner girls will have a lot of money."
"What difference does that make?"
"What difference does that make?"]
--not in the least;
--if the money's really there.
Have you heard any sum named,
The old man only grunted.
"There are two sisters and two brothers.
I don't suppose the girls would have a hundred thousand each."
"They say the widow of that brewer who died the other day has about twenty thousand a year."
"It's only for her life,
"She could insure her life.
D -- --me,
we must do something.
If you turn up your nose at one woman after another how do you mean to live?"
"I don't think that a woman of forty with only a life interest would be a good speculation.
Of course I'll think of it if you press it."
The old man growled again.
I've been so much in earnest about this girl that I haven't thought of inquiring about any one else.
There always is some one up with a lot of money.
It's a pity there shouldn't be a regular statement published with the amount of money,
and what is expected in return.
'd save a deal of trouble."
"If you can't talk more seriously than that you'd better go away,"
said the old Marquis.
At that moment a footman came into the room and told Lord Nidderdale that a man particularly wished to see him in the hall.
He was not always anxious to see those who called on him,
and he asked the servant whether he knew who the man was.
he's one of the domestics from Mr. Melmotte's in Bruton Street,"
said the footman,
who was no doubt fully acquainted with all the circumstances of Lord Nidderdale's engagement.
who was still smoking,
looked at his father as though in doubt.
"You'd better go and see,"
said the Marquis.
But Nidderdale before he went asked a question as to what he had better do if Melmotte had sent for him.
"Go and see Melmotte.
Why should you be afraid to see him?
Tell him that you are ready to marry the girl if you can see the money down,
but that you won't stir a step till it has been actually paid over."
"He knows that already,"
said Nidderdale as he left the room.
In the hall he found a man whom he recognised as Melmotte's butler,
heavy man who now had a letter in his hand.
But the lord could tell by the man's face and manner that he himself had some story to tell.
"Is there anything the matter?"
I think you'll be sorry to hear it.
There was none who came there he seemed to take to so much as your lordship."
"They've taken him to prison!"
But the man shook his head.
"What is it then?
He can't be dead."
Then the man nodded his head,
putting his hand up to his face,
burst into tears.
"Mr. Melmotte dead!
He was in the House of Commons last night.
I saw him myself.
How did he die?"
But the fat,
ponderous man was so affected by the tragedy he had witnessed,
that he could not as yet give any account of the scene of his master's death,
but simply handed the note which he had in his hand to Lord Nidderdale.
It was from Marie,
and had been written within half an hour of the time at which news had been brought to her of what had occurred.
The note was as follows: --
DEAR LORD NIDDERDALE,
The man will tell you what has happened.
I feel as though I was mad.
I do not know who to send to.
Will you come to me,
only for a few minutes?
He read it standing up in the hall,
and then again asked the man as to the manner of his master's death.
And now the Marquis,
gathering from a word or two that he heard and from his son's delay that something special had occurred,
hobbled out into the hall.
"Mr. Melmotte is --dead,"
said his son.
The old man dropped his stick,
and fell back against the wall.
"This man says that he is dead,
and here is a letter from Marie asking me to go there.
How was it that he --died?"
"It was --poison,"
said the butler solemnly.
"There has been a doctor already,
and there isn't no doubt of that.
He took it all by himself last night.
He came home,
perhaps a little fresh,
and he had in brandy and soda and cigars;
--and sat himself down all to himself.
Then in the morning,
when the young woman went in,
--there he was,
I see him lay on the ground,
and I helped to lift him up,
and there was that smell of prussic acid that I knew what he had been and done just the same as when the doctor came and told us."
Before the man could be allowed to go back,
there was a consultation between the father and son as to a compliance with the request which Marie had made in her first misery.
The Marquis thought that his son had better not go to Bruton Street.
"What's the use?
What good can you do?
She'll only be falling into your arms,
and that's what you've got to avoid,
--at any rate,
till you know how things are."
But Nidderdale's better feelings would not allow him to submit to this advice.
He had been engaged to marry the girl,
and she in her abject misery had turned to him as the friend she knew best.
At any rate for the time the heartlessness of his usual life deserted him,
and he felt willing to devote himself to the girl not for what he could get,
--but because she had so nearly been so near to him.
"I couldn't refuse her,"
he said over and over again.
"I couldn't bring myself to do it.
--I shall certainly go."
"You'll get into a mess if you do."
"Then I must get into a mess.
I shall certainly go.
I will go at once.
It is very disagreeable,
but I cannot possibly refuse.
It would be abominable."
Then going back to the hall,
he sent a message by the butler to Marie,
saying that he would be with her in less than half an hour.
"Don't you go and make a fool of yourself,"
his father said to him when he was alone.
"This is just one of those times when a man may ruin himself by being soft-hearted."
Nidderdale simply shook his head as he took his hat and gloves to go across to Bruton Street.
THE MEETING IN BRUTON STREET.
When the news of her husband's death was in some very rough way conveyed to Madame Melmotte,
it crushed her for the time altogether.
Marie first heard that she no longer had a living parent as she stood by the poor woman's bedside,
and she was enabled,
as much perhaps by the necessity incumbent upon her of attending to the wretched woman as by her own superior strength of character,
to save herself from that prostration and collapse of power which a great and sudden blow is apt to produce.
She stared at the woman who first conveyed to her tidings of the tragedy,
and then for a moment seated herself at the bedside.
But the violent sobbings and hysterical screams of Madame Melmotte soon brought her again to her feet,
and from that moment she was not only active but efficacious.
--she would not go down to the room;
she could do no good by going thither.
But they must send for a doctor.
They should send for a doctor immediately.
She was then told that a doctor and an inspector of police were already in the rooms below.
The necessity of throwing whatever responsibility there might be on to other shoulders had been at once apparent to the servants,
and they had sent out right and left,
so that the house might be filled with persons fit to give directions in such an emergency.
The officers from the police station were already there when the woman who now filled Didon's place in the house communicated to Madame Melmotte the fact that she was a widow.
It was afterwards said by some of those who had seen her at the time,
that Marie Melmotte had shown a hard heart on the occasion.
But the condemnation was wrong.
Her feeling for her father was certainly not that which we are accustomed to see among our daughters and sisters.
He had never been to her the petted divinity of the household,
whose slightest wish had been law,
whose little comforts had become matters of serious care,
whose frowns were horrid clouds,
whose smiles were glorious sunshine,
whose kisses were daily looked for,
and if missed would be missed with mourning.
How should it have been so with her?
In all the intercourses of her family,
since the first rough usage which she remembered,
there had never been anything sweet or gracious.
Though she had recognised a certain duty,
as due from herself to her father,
she had found herself bound to measure it,
so that more should not be exacted from her than duty required.
She had long known that her father would fain make her a slave for his own purposes,
and that if she put no limits to her own obedience he certainly would put none.
She had drawn no comparison between him and other fathers,
or between herself and other daughters,
because she had never become conversant with the ways of other families.
After a fashion she had loved him,
because nature creates love in a daughter's heart;
but she had never respected him,
and had spent the best energies of her character on a resolve that she would never fear him.
"He may cut me into pieces,
but he shall not make me do for his advantage that which I do not think he has a right to exact from me."
That had been the state of her mind towards her father;
and now that he had taken himself away with terrible suddenness,
leaving her to face the difficulties of the world with no protector and no assistance,
the feeling which dominated her was no doubt one of awe rather than of broken-hearted sorrow.
Those who depart must have earned such sorrow before it can be really felt.
They who are left may be overwhelmed by the death --even of their most cruel tormentors.
Madame Melmotte was altogether overwhelmed;
but it could not probably be said of her with truth that she was crushed by pure grief.
There was fear of all things,
fear of solitude,
fear of sudden change,
fear of terrible revelations,
fear of some necessary movement she knew not whither,
fear that she might be discovered to be a poor wretched impostor who never could have been justified in standing in the same presence with emperors and princes,
with duchesses and cabinet ministers.
This and the fact that the dead body of the man who had so lately been her tyrant was lying near her,
so that she might hardly dare to leave her room lest she should encounter him dead,
and thus more dreadful even than when alive,
utterly conquered her.
Feelings of the same kind,
the same fears,
and the same awe were powerful also with Marie;
--but they did not conquer her.
She was strong and conquered them;
and she did not care to affect a weakness to which she was in truth superior.
In such a household the death of such a father after such a fashion will hardly produce that tender sorrow which comes from real love.
She soon knew it all.
Her father had destroyed himself,
and had doubtless done so because his troubles in regard to money had been greater than he could bear.
When he had told her that she was to sign those deeds because ruin was impending,
he must indeed have told her the truth.
He had so often lied to her that she had had no means of knowing whether he was lying then or telling her a true story.
But she had offered to sign the deeds since that,
and he had told her that it would be of no avail,
--and at that time had not been angry with her as he would have been had her refusal been the cause of his ruin.
She took some comfort in thinking of that.
But what was she to do?
What was to be done generally by that over-cumbered household?
She and her pseudo-mother had been instructed to pack up their jewellery,
and they had both obeyed the order.
But she herself at this moment cared but little for any property.
How ought she to behave herself?
Where should she go?
On whose arm could she lean for some support at this terrible time?
As for love,
--that was all over.
In her difficulty she never for a moment thought of Sir Felix Carbury.
Though she had been silly enough to love the man because he was pleasant to look at,
she had never been so far gone in silliness as to suppose that he was a staff upon which any one might lean.
Had that marriage taken place,
she would have been the staff.
But it might be possible that Lord Nidderdale would help her.
He was good-natured and manly,
and would be efficacious,
--if only he would come to her.
He was near,
and she thought that at any rate she would try.
So she had written her note and sent it by the butler,
--thinking as she did so of the words she would use to make the young man understand that all the nonsense they had talked as to marrying each other was,
to mean nothing now.
It was past eleven when he reached the house,
and he was shown up-stairs into one of the sitting-rooms on the first-floor.
As he passed the door of the study,
which was at the moment partly open,
he saw the dress of a policeman within,
and knew that the body of the dead man was still lying there.
But he went by rapidly without a glance within,
remembering the look of the man as he had last seen his burly figure,
and that grasp of his hand,
and those odious words.
And now the man was dead,
--having destroyed his own life.
Surely the man must have known when he uttered those words what it was that he intended to do!
When he had made that last appeal about Marie,
conscious as he was that everyone was deserting him,
he must even then have looked his fate in the face and have told himself that it was better that he should die!
whatever might be their nature,
must have been heavy on him then with all their weight;
and he himself and all the world had known that he was ruined.
And yet he had pretended to be anxious about the girl's marriage,
and had spoken of it as though he still believed that it would be accomplished!
Nidderdale had hardly put his hat down on the table before Marie was with him.
He walked up to her,
took her by both hands,
and looked into her face.
There was no trace of a tear,
but her whole countenance seemed to him to be altered.
She was the first to speak.
"I thought you would come when I sent for you."
"Of course I came."
"I knew you would be a friend,
and I knew no one else who would.
You won't be afraid,
that I shall ever think any more of all those things which he was planning?"
She paused a moment,
but he was not ready enough to have a word to say in answer to this.
"You know what has happened?"
"Your servant told us."
"What are we to do?
it is so dreadful!
When I think of all that he must have suffered I wish that I could be dead too."
"Has your mother been told?"
No one tried to conceal anything for a moment.
It was better that it should be so;
--better at last.
But we have no friends who would be considerate enough to try to save us from sorrow.
But I think it was better.
Mamma is very bad.
She is always nervous and timid.
Of course this has nearly killed her.
What ought we to do?
It is Mr. Longestaffe's house,
and we were to have left it to-morrow."
"He will not mind that now."
"Where must we go?
We can't go back to that big place in Grosvenor Square.
Who will manage for us?
Who will see the doctor and the policemen?"
"I will do that."
"But there will be things that I cannot ask you to do.
Why should I ask you to do anything?"
"Because we are friends."
You cannot really regard me as a friend.
I have been an impostor.
I know that.
I had no business to know a person like you at all.
if the next six months could be over!
And then for the first time she burst into tears.
"I wish I knew what might comfort you,"
"How can there be any comfort?
There never can be comfort again!
As for comfort,
when were we ever comfortable?
It has been one trouble after another,
--one fear after another!
And now we are friendless and homeless.
I suppose they will take everything that we have."
"Your papa had a lawyer,
"I think he had ever so many,
--but I do not know who they were.
His own clerk,
who had lived with him for over twenty years,
left him yesterday.
I suppose they will know something in Abchurch Lane;
but now that Herr Croll has gone I am not acquainted even with the name of one of them.
Mr. Miles Grendall used to be with him."
"I do not think that he could be of much service."
"Nor Lord Alfred?
Lord Alfred was always with him till very lately."
Nidderdale shook his head.
"I suppose not.
They only came because papa had a big house."
The young lord could not but feel that he was included in the same rebuke.
what a life it has been!
--now it's over."
As she said this it seemed that for the moment her strength failed her,
for she fell backwards on the corner of the sofa.
He tried to raise her,
but she shook him away,
burying her face in her hands.
He was standing close to her,
still holding her arm,
when he heard a knock at the front door,
which was immediately opened,
as the servants were hanging about in the hall.
"Who are they?"
whose sharp ears caught the sound of various steps.
Lord Nidderdale went out on to the head of the stairs,
and immediately heard the voice of Dolly Longestaffe.
Dolly Longestaffe had on that morning put himself early into the care of Mr. Squercum,
and it had happened that he with his lawyer had met his father with Mr. Bideawhile at the corner of the square.
They were all coming according to appointment to receive the money which Mr. Melmotte had promised to pay them at this very hour.
Of course they had none of them as yet heard of the way in which the Financier had made his last grand payment,
and as they walked together to the door had been intent only in reference to their own money.
who had heard a good deal on the previous day,
was very certain that the money would not be forthcoming,
whereas Bideawhile was sanguine of success.
"Don't we wish we may get it?"
Dolly had said,
and by saying so had very much offended his father,
who had resented the want of reverence implied in the use of that word "we."
They had all been admitted together,
and Dolly had at once loudly claimed an old acquaintance with some of the articles around him.
"I knew I'd got a coat just like that,"
"and I never could make out what my fellow had done with it."
This was the speech which Nidderdale had heard,
standing on the top of the stairs.
The two lawyers had at once seen,
from the face of the man who had opened the door and from the presence of three or four servants in the hall,
that things were not going on in their usual course.
Before Dolly had completed his buffoonery the butler had whispered to Mr. Bideawhile that Mr. Melmotte --"was no more."
exclaimed Mr. Bideawhile.
Squercum put his hands into his trowsers pockets and opened his mouth wide.
muttered Mr. Longestaffe senior.
The butler shook his head.
Then Squercum whispered a word into the butler's ear,
and the butler thereupon nodded his head.
"It's about what I expected,"
Then the butler whispered the word to Mr. Longestaffe,
and whispered it also to Mr. Bideawhile,
and they all knew that the millionaire had swallowed poison during the night.
It was known to the servants that Mr. Longestaffe was the owner of the house,
and he was therefore,
as having authority there,
shown into the room where the body of Melmotte was lying on a sofa.
The two lawyers and Dolly of course followed,
as did also Lord Nidderdale,
who had now joined them from the lobby above.
There was a policeman in the room who seemed to be simply watching the body,
and who rose from his seat when the gentlemen entered.
Two or three of the servants followed them,
so that there was almost a crowd round the dead man's bier.
There was no further tale to be told.
That Melmotte had been in the House on the previous night,
and had there disgraced himself by intoxication,
they had known already.
That he had been found dead that morning had been already announced.
They could only stand round and gaze on the square,
livid features of the big-framed man,
and each lament that he had ever heard the name of Melmotte.
"Are you in the house here?"
said Dolly to Lord Nidderdale in a whisper.
"She sent for me.
We live quite close,
She wanted somebody to tell her something.
I must go up to her again now."
"Had you seen him before?"
I only came down when I heard your voices.
I fear it will be rather bad for you;
"He was regularly smashed,
"I know nothing myself.
He talked to me about his affairs once,
but he was such a liar that not a word that he said was worth anything.
I believed him then.
How it will go,
I can't say."
"That other thing is all over of course,"
Nidderdale intimated by a gesture of his head that the other thing was all over,
and then returned to Marie.
There was nothing further that the four gentlemen could do,
and they soon departed from the house;
till Mr. Bideawhile had given certain short injunctions to the butler concerning the property contained in Mr. Longestaffe's town residence.
"They had come to see him,"
said Lord Nidderdale in a whisper.
"There was some appointment.
He had told them to be all here at this hour."
"They didn't know,
--till the man told them."
"And did you go in?"
we all went into the room."
and again hid her face.
"I think the best thing I can do,"
"is to go to Abchurch Lane,
and find out from Smith who is the lawyer whom he chiefly trusted.
I know Smith had to do with his own affairs,
because he has told me so at the Board;
and if necessary I will find out Croll.
No doubt I can trace him.
Then we had better employ the lawyer to arrange everything for you."
"And where had we better go to?"
"Where would Madame Melmotte wish to go?"
so that we could hide ourselves.
Perhaps Frankfort would be the best.
But shouldn't we stay till something has been done here?
And couldn't we have lodgings,
so as to get away from Mr. Longestaffe's house?"
Nidderdale promised that he himself would look for lodgings,
as soon as he had seen the lawyer.
I suppose that I never shall see you again,"
"I don't know why you should say that."
"Because it will be best.
Why should you?
All this will be trouble enough to you when people begin to say what we are.
But I don't think it has been my fault."
"Nothing has ever been your fault."
I shall always think of you as one of the kindest people I ever knew.
I thought it best to send to you for different reasons,
but I do not want you to come back."
I shall always remember you."
And so they parted.
After that he did go into the City,
and succeeded in finding both Mr. Smith and Herr Croll.
When he reached Abchurch Lane,
the news of Melmotte's death had already been spread abroad;
and more was known,
or said to be known,
of his circumstances than Nidderdale had as yet heard.
The crushing blow to him,
so said Herr Croll,
had been the desertion of Cohenlupe,
--that and the sudden fall in the value of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway shares,
consequent on the rumours spread about the City respecting the Pickering property.
It was asserted in Abchurch Lane that had he not at that moment touched the Pickering property,
or entertained the Emperor,
or stood for Westminster,
by the end of the autumn,
have been able to do any or all of those things without danger,
simply as the result of the money which would then have been realised by the railway.
But he had allowed himself to become hampered by the want of comparatively small sums of ready money,
and in seeking relief had rushed from one danger to another,
till at last the waters around him had become too deep even for him,
and had overwhelmed him.
As to his immediate death,
Herr Croll expressed not the slightest astonishment.
It was just the thing,
Herr Croll said,
that he had been sure that Melmotte would do,
should his difficulties ever become too great for him.
"And dere vas a leetle ting he lay himself open by de oder day,"
"dat vas nasty,
Nidderdale shook his head,
but asked no questions.
Croll had alluded to the use of his own name,
but did not on this occasion make any further revelation.
Then Croll made a further statement to Lord Nidderdale,
which I think he must have done in pure good-nature.
whispering very gravely,
"de money of de yong lady is all her own."
Then he nodded his head three times.
"Nobody can toch it,
not if he vas in debt millions."
Again he nodded his head.
"I am very glad to hear it for her sake,"
said Lord Nidderdale as he took his leave.
DOWN AT CARBURY.
When Roger Carbury returned to Suffolk,
after seeing his cousins in Welbeck Street,
he was by no means contented with himself.
That he should be discontented generally with the circumstances of his life was a matter of course.
He knew that he was farther removed than ever from the object on which his whole mind was set.
Had Hetta Carbury learned all the circumstances of Paul's engagement with Mrs. Hurtle before she had confessed her love to Paul,
--so that her heart might have been turned against the man before she had made her confession,
she might at last have listened to him.
Even though she had loved the other man,
she might have at last done so,
as her love would have been buried in her own bosom.
But the tale had been told after the fashion which was most antagonistic to his own interests.
Hetta had never heard Mrs. Hurtle's name till she had given herself away,
and had declared to all her friends that she had given herself away to this man,
who was so unworthy of her.
The more Roger thought of this,
the more angry he was with Paul Montague,
and the more convinced that that man had done him an injury which he could never forgive.
But his grief extended even beyond that.
Though he was never tired of swearing to himself that he would not forgive Paul Montague,
yet there was present to him a feeling that an injury was being done to the man,
and that he was in some sort responsible for that injury.
He had declined to tell Hetta any part of the story about Mrs. Hurtle,
--actuated by a feeling that he ought not to betray the trust put in him by a man who was at the time his friend;
and he had told nothing.
But no one knew so well as he did the fact that all the attention latterly given by Paul to the American woman had by no means been the effect of love,
but had come from a feeling on Paul's part that he could not desert the woman he had once loved,
when she asked him for his kindness.
If Hetta could know everything exactly,
--if she could look back and read the state of Paul's mind as he,
could read it,
--then she would probably forgive the man,
or perhaps tell herself that there was nothing for her to forgive.
Roger was anxious that Hetta's anger should burn hot,
--because of the injury done to himself.
He thought that there were ample reasons why Paul Montague should be punished,
--why Paul should be utterly expelled from among them,
and allowed to go his own course.
But it was not right that the man should be punished on false grounds.
It seemed to Roger now that he was doing an injustice to his enemy by refraining from telling all that he knew.
As to the girl's misery in losing her lover,
much as he loved her,
true as it was that he was willing to devote himself and all that he had to her happiness,
I do not think that at the present moment he was disturbed in that direction.
It is hardly natural,
that a man should love a woman with such devotion as to wish to make her happy by giving her to another man.
Roger told himself that Paul would be an unsafe husband,
a fickle husband,
--one who might be carried hither and thither both in his circumstances and his feelings,
--and that it would be better for Hetta that she should not marry him;
but at the same time he was unhappy as he reflected that he himself was a party to a certain amount of deceit.
And yet he had said not a word.
He had referred Hetta to the man himself.
He thought that he knew,
and he did indeed accurately know,
the state of Hetta's mind.
She was wretched because she thought that while her lover was winning her love,
while she herself was willingly allowing him to win her love,
he was dallying with another woman,
and making to that other woman promises the same as those he made to her.
This was not true.
Roger knew that it was not true.
But when he tried to quiet his conscience by saying that they must fight it out among themselves,
he felt himself to be uneasy under that assurance.
His life at Carbury,
at this time,
was very desolate.
He had become tired of the priest,
in spite of various repulses,
had never for a moment relaxed his efforts to convert his friend.
Roger had told him once that he must beg that religion might not be made the subject of further conversation between them.
In answer to this,
Father Barham had declared that he would never consent to remain as an intimate associate with any man on those terms.
Roger had persisted in his stipulation,
and the priest had then suggested that it was his host's intention to banish him from Carbury Hall.
Roger had made no reply,
and the priest had of course been banished.
But even this added to his misery.
Father Barham was a gentleman,
was a good man,
and in great penury.
To ill-treat such a one,
to expel such a one from his house,
seemed to Roger to be an abominable cruelty.
He was unhappy with himself about the priest,
and yet he could not bid the man come back to him.
It was already being said of him among his neighbours,
and at the Bishop's palace,
that he either had become or was becoming a Roman Catholic,
under the priest's influence.
Mrs. Yeld had even taken upon herself to write to him a most affectionate letter,
in which she said very little as to any evidence that had reached her as to Roger's defection,
but dilated at very great length on the abominations of a certain lady who is supposed to indulge in gorgeous colours.
He was troubled,
about old Daniel Ruggles,
the farmer at Sheep's Acre,
who had been so angry because his niece would not marry John Crumb.
when abandoned by Ruby and accused by his neighbours of personal cruelty to the girl,
had taken freely to that source of consolation which he found to be most easily within his reach.
Since Ruby had gone he had been drunk every day,
and was making himself generally a scandal and a nuisance.
His landlord had interfered with his usual kindness,
and the old man had always declared that his niece and John Crumb were the cause of it all;
in his maudlin misery,
he attributed as much blame to the lover as he did to the girl.
John Crumb wasn't in earnest.
If he had been in earnest he would have gone after her to London at once.
--he wouldn't invite Ruby to come back.
If Ruby would come back,
full of sorrow,
--and hadn't been and made a fool of herself in the meantime,
--then he'd think of taking her back.
In the meantime,
with circumstances in their present condition,
he evidently thought that he could best face the difficulties of the world by an unfaltering adhesion to gin,
early in the day and all day long.
was a grievance to Roger Carbury.
But he did not neglect his work,
the chief of which at the present moment was the care of the farm which he kept in his own hands.
He was making hay at this time in certain meadows down by the river side;
and was standing by while the men were loading a cart,
when he saw John Crumb approaching across the field.
He had not seen John since the eventful journey to London;
nor had he seen him in London;
but he knew well all that had occurred,
--how the dealer in pollard had thrashed his cousin,
how he had been locked up by the police and then liberated,
--and how he was now regarded in Bungay as a hero,
as far as arms were concerned,
but as being very "soft" in the matter of love.
The reader need hardly be told that Roger was not at all disposed to quarrel with Mr. Crumb,
because the victim of Crumb's heroism had been his own cousin.
Crumb had acted well,
and had never said a word about Sir Felix since his return to the country.
No doubt he had now come to talk about his love,
--and in order that his confessions might not be made before all the assembled haymakers,
Roger Carbury hurried to meet him.
There was soon evident on Crumb's broad face a whole sunshine of delight.
As Roger approached him he began to laugh aloud,
and to wave a bit of paper that he had in his hands.
"She's a coomin;
she's a coomin,"
were the first words he uttered.
Roger knew very well that in his friend's mind there was but one "she" in the world,
and that the name of that she was Ruby Ruggles.
"She's a coomin;
she's a coomin."]
"I am delighted to hear it,"
"She has made it up with her grandfather?"
"Don't know now't about grandfeyther.
She have made it up wi' me.
Know'd she would when I'd polish'd t'other un off a bit;
--know'd she would."
"Has she written to you,
not just herself.
I do suppose that isn't the way they does it.
But it's all as one."
And then Mr. Crumb thrust Mrs. Hurtle's note into Roger Carbury's hand.
Roger certainly was not predisposed to think well or kindly of Mrs. Hurtle.
Since he had first known Mrs. Hurtle's name,
when Paul Montague had told the story of his engagement on his return from America,
Roger had regarded her as a wicked,
be confessed that he was prejudiced against all Americans,
looking upon Washington much as he did upon Jack Cade or Wat Tyler;
and he pictured to himself all American women as being loud,
But it certainly did seem that in this instance Mrs. Hurtle was endeavouring to do a good turn from pure charity.
"She is a lady,"
Crumb began to explain,
"who do be living with Mrs. Pipkin;
and she is a lady as is a lady."
Roger could not fully admit the truth of this assertion;
but he explained that he,
knew something of Mrs. Hurtle,
and that he thought it probable that what she said of Ruby might be true.
laughing with his whole face.
"I ha' nae a doubt it's true.
What's again its being true?
When I had dropped into t'other fellow,
of course she made her choice.
It was me as was to blame,
because I didn't do it before.
I ought to ha' dropped into him when I first heard as he was arter her.
It's that as girls like.
I'm just going again to Lon'on right away."
Roger suggested that old Ruggles would,
receive his niece;
but as to this John expressed his supreme indifference.
The old man was nothing to him.
Of course he would like to have the old man's money;
but the old man couldn't live for ever,
and he supposed that things would come right in time.
But this he knew,
--that he wasn't going to cringe to the old man about his money.
When Roger observed that it would be better that Ruby should have some home to which she might at once return,
John adverted with a renewed grin to all the substantial comforts of his own house.
It seemed to be his idea,
that on arriving in London he would at once take Ruby away to church and be married to her out of hand.
He had thrashed his rival,
and what cause could there now be for delay?
But before he left the field he made one other speech to the squire.
"You ain't a'taken it amiss,
'cause he was coosin to yourself?"
"Not in the least,
"That's koind now.
I ain't a done the yong man a ha'porth o' harm,
and I don't feel no grudge again him,
and when me and Ruby's once spliced,
I'm darned if I don't give
'un a bottle of wine the first day as he'll come to Bungay."
Roger did not feel himself justified in accepting this invitation on the part of Sir Felix;
but he renewed his assurance that he,
on his own part,
thought that Crumb had behaved well in that matter of the street encounter,
and he expressed a strong wish for the immediate and continued happiness of Mr. and Mrs. John Crumb.
said Crumb as he went exulting out of the field.
On the day after this Roger Carbury received a letter which disturbed him very much,
and to which he hardly knew whether to return any answer,
or what answer.
It was from Paul Montague,
and was written by him but a few hours after he had left his letter for Hetta with his own hands,
at the door of her mother's house.
Paul's letter to Roger was as follows: --
MY DEAR ROGER,
Though I know that you have cast me off from you I cannot write to you in any other way,
as any other way would be untrue.
You can answer me,
as you please,
but I do think that you will owe me an answer,
as I appeal to you in the name of justice.
You know what has taken place between Hetta and myself.
She had accepted me,
and therefore I am justified in feeling sure that she must have loved me.
But she has now quarrelled with me altogether,
and has told me that I am never to see her again.
Of course I don't mean to put up with this.
You will say that it is no business of yours.
But I think that you would not wish that she should be left under a false impression,
if you could put her right.
Somebody has told her the story of Mrs. Hurtle.
I suppose it was Felix,
and that he had learned it from those people at Islington.
But she has been told that which is untrue.
Nobody knows and nobody can know the truth as you do.
She supposes that I have willingly been passing my time with Mrs. Hurtle during the last two months,
although during that very time I have asked for and have received the assurance of her love.
whether or no I have been to blame about Mrs. Hurtle,
--as to which nothing at present need be said,
--it is certainly the truth that her coming to England was not only not desired by me,
but was felt by me to be the greatest possible misfortune.
But after all that had passed I certainly owed it to her not to neglect her;
--and this duty was the more incumbent on me as she was a foreigner and unknown to any one.
I went down to Lowestoft with her at her request,
having named the place to her as one known to myself,
and because I could not refuse her so small a favour.
You know that it was so,
and you know also,
as no one else does,
that whatever courtesy I have shown to Mrs. Hurtle in England,
I have been constrained to show her.
I appeal to you to let Hetta know that this is true.
She had made me understand that not only her mother and brother,
but you also,
are well acquainted with the story of my acquaintance with Mrs. Hurtle.
Neither Lady Carbury nor Sir Felix has ever known anything about it.
and you only,
have known the truth.
though at the present you are angry with me,
I call upon you to tell Hetta the truth as you know it.
You will understand me when I say that I feel that I am being destroyed by a false representation.
I think that you,
who abhor a falsehood,
will see the justice of setting me right,
at any rate as far as the truth can do so.
I do not want you to say a word for me beyond that.
What business is all that of mine?
was the first feeling produced in Roger's mind by Montague's letter.
If Hetta had received any false impression,
it had not come from him.
He had told no stories against his rival,
whether true or false.
He had been so scrupulous that he had refused to say a word at all.
And if any false impression had been made on Hetta's mind,
either by circumstances or by untrue words,
had not Montague deserved any evil that might fall upon him?
Though every word in Montague's letter might be true,
in the end,
no more than justice would be done him,
even should he be robbed at last of his mistress under erroneous impressions.
The fact that he had once disgraced himself by offering to make Mrs. Hurtle his wife,
rendered him unworthy of Hetta Carbury.
was Roger Carbury's verdict as he thought over all the circumstances.
At any rate,
it was no business of his to correct these wrong impressions.
And yet he was ill at ease as he thought of it all.
He did believe that every word in Montague's letter was true.
Though he had been very indignant when he met Paul and Mrs. Hurtle together on the sands at Lowestoft,
he was perfectly convinced that the cause of their coming there had been precisely that which Montague had stated.
It took him two days to think over all this,
two days of great discomfort and unhappiness.
why should he be a dog in the manger?
The girl did not care for him,
--looked upon him as an old man to be regarded in a fashion altogether different from that in which she regarded Paul Montague.
He had let his time for love-making go by,
and now it behoved him,
as a man,
to take the world as he found it,
and not to lose himself in regrets for a kind of happiness which he could never attain.
In such an emergency as this he should do what was fair and honest,
without reference to his own feelings.
And yet the passion which dominated John Crumb altogether,
which made the mealman so intent on the attainment of his object as to render all other things indifferent to him for the time,
was equally strong with Roger Carbury.
Unfortunately for Roger,
strong as his passion was,
it was embarrassed by other feelings.
It never occurred to Crumb to think whether he was a fit husband for Ruby,
or whether Ruby,
having a decided preference for another man,
could be a fit wife for him.
But with Roger there were a thousand surrounding difficulties to hamper him.
John Crumb never doubted for a moment what he should do.
He had to get the girl,
and he meant to get her whatever she might cost him.
He was always confident though sometimes perplexed.
But Roger had no confidence.
He knew that he should never win the game.
In his sadder moments he felt that he ought not to win it.
The people around him,
from old fashion,
still called him the young squire!
--he felt himself at times to be eighty years old,
--so old that he was unfitted for intercourse with such juvenile spirits as those of his neighbour the bishop,
and of his friend Hepworth.
by any training,
bring himself to take her happiness in hand,
altogether sacrificing his own?
In such a mood as this he did at last answer his enemy's letter,
--and he answered it as follows: --
I do not know that I am concerned to meddle in your affairs at all.
I have told no tale against you,
and I do not know that I have any that I wish to tell in your favour,
or that I could so tell if I did wish.
I think that you have behaved badly to me,
cruelly to Mrs. Hurtle,
and disrespectfully to my cousin.
as you appeal to me on a certain point for evidence which I can give,
and which you say no one else can give,
I do acknowledge that,
in my opinion,
Mrs. Hurtle's presence in England has not been in accordance with your wishes,
and that you accompanied her to Lowestoft,
not as her lover but as an old friend whom you could not neglect.
You are at liberty to show this letter to Miss Carbury,
if you please;
but if she reads part she should read the whole!
There was more perhaps of hostility in this letter than of that spirit of self-sacrifice to which Roger intended to train himself;
and so he himself felt after the letter had been dispatched.
THE INQUEST. Melmotte had been found dead on Friday morning,
and late on the evening of the same day Madame Melmotte and Marie were removed to lodgings far away from the scene of the tragedy,
up at Hampstead.
Herr Croll had known of the place,
and at Lord Nidderdale's instance had busied himself in the matter,
and had seen that the rooms were made instantly ready for the widow of his late employer.
Nidderdale himself had assisted them in their departure;
and the German,
with the poor woman's maid,
with the jewels also,
which had been packed according to Melmotte's last orders to his wife,
followed the carriage which took the mother and the daughter.
They did not start till nine o'clock in the evening,
and Madame Melmotte at the moment would fain have been allowed to rest one other night in Bruton Street.
But Lord Nidderdale,
with one hardly uttered word,
made Marie understand that the inquest would be held early on the following morning,
and Marie was imperious with her mother and carried her point.
So the poor woman was taken away from Mr. Longestaffe's residence,
and never again saw the grandeur of her own house in Grosvenor Square,
which she had not visited since the night on which she had helped to entertain the Emperor of China.
On Saturday morning the inquest was held.
There was not the slightest doubt as to any one of the incidents of the catastrophe.
and the inspector of police between them,
learned that he had come home alone,
that nobody had been near him during the night,
that he had been found dead,
and that he had undoubtedly been poisoned by prussic acid.
It was also proved that he had been drunk in the House of Commons,
a fact to which one of the clerks of the House,
very much against his will,
was called upon to testify.
That he had destroyed himself there was no doubt,
--nor was there any doubt as to the cause.
In such cases as this it is for the jury to say whether the unfortunate one who has found his life too hard for endurance,
and has rushed away to see whether he could not find an improved condition of things elsewhere,
has or has not been mad at the moment.
Surviving friends are of course anxious for a verdict of insanity,
as in that case no further punishment is exacted.
The body can be buried like any other body,
and it can always be said afterwards that the poor man was mad.
Perhaps it would be well that all suicides should be said to have been mad,
for certainly the jurymen are not generally guided in their verdicts by any accurately ascertained facts.
If the poor wretch has,
up to his last days,
been apparently living a decent life;
if he be not hated,
or has not in his last moments made himself specially obnoxious to the world at large,
then he is declared to have been mad.
Who would be heavy on a poor clergyman who has been at last driven by horrid doubts to rid himself of a difficulty from which he saw no escape in any other way?
Who would not give the benefit of the doubt to the poor woman whose lover and lord had deserted her?
Who would remit to unhallowed earth the body of the once beneficent philosopher who has simply thought that he might as well go now,
finding himself powerless to do further good upon earth?
and such like,
have of course been temporarily insane,
though no touch even of strangeness may have marked their conduct up to their last known dealings with their fellow-mortals.
But let a Melmotte be found dead,
with a bottle of prussic acid by his side --a man who has become horrid to the world because of his late iniquities,
a man who has so well pretended to be rich that he has been able to buy and to sell properties without paying for them,
a wretch who has made himself odious by his ruin to friends who had taken him up as a pillar of strength in regard to wealth,
a brute who had got into the House of Commons by false pretences,
and had disgraced the House by being drunk there,
he will not be saved by a verdict of insanity from the cross roads,
or whatever scornful grave may be allowed to those who have killed themselves,
with their wits about them.
Just at this moment there was a very strong feeling against Melmotte,
owing perhaps as much to his having tumbled over poor Mr. Beauclerk in the House of Commons as to the stories of the forgeries he had committed,
and the virtue of the day vindicated itself by declaring him to have been responsible for his actions when he took the poison.
He was -felo de se-,
and therefore carried away to the cross roads --or elsewhere.
But it may be imagined,
that during that night he may have become as mad as any other wretch,
have been driven as far beyond his powers of endurance as any other poor creature who ever at any time felt himself constrained to go.
He had not been so drunk but that he knew all that happened,
and could foresee pretty well what would happen.
The summons to attend upon the Lord Mayor had been served upon him.
There were some,
among them Croll and Mr. Brehgert,
who absolutely knew that he had committed forgery.
He had no money for the Longestaffes,
and he was well aware what Squercum would do at once.
He had assured himself long ago,
--he had assured himself indeed not very long ago,
--that he would brave it all like a man.
But we none of us know what load we can bear,
and what would break our backs.
Melmotte's back had been so utterly crushed that I almost think that he was mad enough to have justified a verdict of temporary insanity.
But he was carried away,
no one knew whither,
and for a week his name was hateful.
But after that,
a certain amount of whitewashing took place,
in some degree,
a restitution of fame was made to the manes of the departed.
In Westminster he was always odious.
which had adopted him,
never forgave him.
But in other districts it came to be said of him that he had been more sinned against than sinning;
but for the jealousy of the old stagers in the mercantile world,
he would have done very wonderful things.
which is always merciful,
took him up quite with affection,
and would have returned his ghost to Parliament could his ghost have paid for committee rooms.
Finsbury delighted for a while to talk of the great Financier,
and even Chelsea thought that he had been done to death by ungenerous tongues.
Marylebone alone that spoke of a monument.
Mr. Longestaffe came back to his house,
taking formal possession of it a few days after the verdict.
Of course he was alone.
There had been no further question of bringing the ladies of the family up to town;
and Dolly altogether declined to share with his father the honour of encountering the dead man's spirit.
But there was very much for Mr. Longestaffe to do,
and very much also for his son.
It was becoming a question with both of them how far they had been ruined by their connection with the horrible man.
It was clear that they could not get back the title-deeds of the Pickering property without paying the amount which had been advanced upon them,
and it was equally clear that they could not pay that sum unless they were enabled to do so by funds coming out of the Melmotte estate.
as he sat smoking upon the stool in Mr. Squercum's office,
where he now passed a considerable portion of his time,
looked upon himself as a miracle of ill-usage.
I shall have to go to law with the governor.
There's nothing else for it;
Squercum suggested that they had better wait till they found what pickings there might be out of the Melmotte estate.
He had made inquiries too about that,
and had been assured that there must be property,
but property so involved and tied up as to make it impossible to lay hands upon it suddenly.
"They say that the things in the square,
and the plate,
and the carriages and horses,
and all that,
ought to fetch between twenty and thirty thousand.
There were a lot of jewels,
but the women have taken them,"
they ought to be made to give up everything.
Did you ever hear of such a thing;
--the very house pulled down;
and all done without a word from me in the matter?
I don't suppose such a thing was ever known before,
since properties were properties."
Then he uttered sundry threats against the Bideawhiles,
in reference to whom he declared his intention of "making it very hot for them."
It was an annoyance added to the elder Mr. Longestaffe that the management of Melmotte's affairs fell at last almost exclusively into the hands of Mr. Brehgert.
in spite of his many dealings with Melmotte,
was an honest man,
which was perhaps of as much immediate consequence,
both an energetic and a patient man.
But then he was the man who had wanted to marry Georgiana Longestaffe,
and he was the man to whom Mr. Longestaffe had been particularly uncivil.
Then there arose necessities for the presence of Mr. Brehgert in the house in which Melmotte had lately lived and had died.
The dead man's papers were still there,
and such letters as he had not chosen to destroy;
--and these could not be removed quite at once.
"Mr. Brehgert must of course have access to my private room,
as long as it is necessary,
said Mr. Longestaffe in answer to a message which was brought to him;
"but he will of course see the expediency of relieving me from such intrusion as soon as possible."
But he soon found it preferable to come to terms with the rejected suitor,
especially as the man was singularly good-natured and forbearing after the injuries he had received.
All minor debts were to be paid at once;
an arrangement to which Mr. Longestaffe cordially agreed,
as it included a sum of £300 due to him for the rent of his house in Bruton Street.
Then by degrees it became known that there would certainly be a dividend of not less than fifty per cent.
payable on debts which could be proved to have been owing by Melmotte,
and perhaps of more;
--an arrangement which was very comfortable to Dolly,
as it had been already agreed between all the parties interested that the debt due to him should be satisfied before the father took anything.
Mr. Longestaffe resolved during these weeks that he remained in town that,
as regarded himself and his own family,
the house in London should not only not be kept up,
but that it should be absolutely sold,
with all its belongings,
and that the servants at Caversham should be reduced in number,
and should cease to wear powder.
All this was communicated to Lady Pomona in a very long letter,
which she was instructed to read to her daughters.
"I have suffered great wrongs,"
said Mr. Longestaffe,
"but I must submit to them,
and as I submit so must my wife and children.
If our son were different from what he is the sacrifice might probably be made lighter.
His nature I cannot alter,
but from my daughters I expect cheerful obedience."
From what incidents of his past life he was led to expect cheerfulness at Caversham it might be difficult to say;
but the obedience was there.
Georgey was for the time broken down;
Sophia was satisfied with her nuptial prospects,
and Lady Pomona had certainly no spirits left for a combat.
I think the loss of the hair-powder afflicted her most;
but she said not a word even about that.
But in all this the details necessary for the telling of our story are anticipated.
Mr. Longestaffe had remained in London actually over the 1st of September,
which in Suffolk is the one great festival of the year,
before the letter was written to which allusion has been made.
In the meantime he saw much of Mr. Brehgert,
and absolutely formed a kind of friendship for that gentleman,
in spite of the abomination of his religion,
--so that on one occasion he even condescended to ask Mr. Brehgert to dine alone with him in Bruton Street.
was in the early days of the arrangement of the Melmotte affairs,
when Mr. Longestaffe's heart had been softened by that arrangement with reference to the rent.
Mr. Brehgert came,
and there arose a somewhat singular conversation between the two gentlemen as they sat together over a bottle of Mr. Longestaffe's old port wine.
Hitherto not a word had passed between them respecting the connection which had once been proposed,
since the day on which the young lady's father had said so many bitter things to the expectant bridegroom.
But in this evening Mr. Brehgert,
who was by no means a coward in such matters and whose feelings were not perhaps painfully fine,
spoke his mind in a way that at first startled Mr. Longestaffe.
The subject was introduced by a reference which Brehgert had made to his own affairs.
His loss would be,
at any rate,
double that which Mr. Longestaffe would have to bear;
--but he spoke of it in an easy way,
as though it did not sit very near his heart.
"Of course there's a difference between me and you,"
Mr. Longestaffe bowed his head graciously,
as much as to say that there was of course a very wide difference.
"In our affairs,"
"we expect gains,
and of course look for occasional losses.
When a gentleman in your position sells a property he expects to get the purchase-money."
"Of course he does,
That's what made it so hard."
"I can't even yet quite understand how it was with him,
or why he took upon himself to spend such an enormous deal of money here in London.
His business was quite irregular,
but there was very much of it,
and some of it immensely profitable.
He took us in completely."
"I suppose so."
"It was old Mr. Todd that first took to him;
--but I was deceived as much as Todd,
and then I ventured on a speculation with him outside of our house.
The long and the short of it is that I shall lose something about sixty thousand pounds."
"That's a large sum of money."
--so large as to affect my daily mode of life.
In my correspondence with your daughter,
I considered it to be my duty to point out to her that it would be so.
I do not know whether she told you."
This reference to his daughter for the moment altogether upset Mr. Longestaffe.
The reference was certainly most indelicate,
most deserving of censure;
but Mr. Longestaffe did not know how to pronounce his censure on the spur of the moment,
and was moreover at the present time so very anxious for Brehgert's assistance in the arrangement of his affairs that,
so to say,
he could not afford to quarrel with the man.
But he assumed something more than his normal dignity as he asserted that his daughter had never mentioned the fact.
"It was so,"
--and Mr. Longestaffe assumed a great deal of dignity.
it was so.
I had promised your daughter when she was good enough to listen to the proposition which I made to her,
that I would maintain a second house when we should be married."
"It was impossible,"
said Mr. Longestaffe,
--meaning to assert that such hymeneals were altogether unnatural and out of the question.
"It would have been quite possible as things were when that proposition was made.
But looking forward to the loss which I afterwards anticipated from the affairs of our deceased friend,
I found it to be prudent to relinquish my intention for the present,
and I thought myself bound to inform Miss Longestaffe."
"There were other reasons,"
muttered Mr. Longestaffe,
in a suppressed voice,
almost in a whisper,
--in a whisper which was intended to convey a sense of present horror and a desire for future reticence.
"There may have been;
but in the last letter which Miss Longestaffe did me the honour to write to me,
--a letter with which I have not the slightest right to find any fault,
--she seemed to me to confine herself almost exclusively to that reason."
"Why mention this now,
why mention this now?
The subject is painful."
"Just because it is not painful to me,
and because I wish that all they who have heard of the matter should know that it is not painful.
I think that throughout I behaved like a gentleman."
in an agony,
first shook his head twice,
and then bowed it three times,
leaving the Jew to take what answer he could from so dubious an oracle.
"I am sure,"
"that I behaved like an honest man;
and I didn't quite like that the matter should be passed over as if I was in any way ashamed of myself."
"Perhaps on so delicate a subject the less said the soonest mended."
"I've nothing more to say,
and I've nothing at all to mend."
Finishing the conversation with this little speech Brehgert arose to take his leave,
making some promise at the time that he would use all the expedition in his power to complete the arrangement of the Melmotte affairs.
As soon as he was gone Mr. Longestaffe opened the door and walked about the room and blew out long puffs of breath,
as though to cleanse himself from the impurities of his late contact.
He told himself that he could not touch pitch and not be defiled!
How vulgar had the man been,
how regardless of all feeling,
how little grateful for the honour which Mr. Longestaffe had conferred upon him by asking him to dinner!
A horrid Jew!
Were not all Jews necessarily an abomination?
Yet Mr. Longestaffe was aware that in the present crisis of his fortunes he could not afford to quarrel with Mr. Brehgert.
"THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE."
It was a long time now since Lady Carbury's great historical work on the Criminal Queens of the World had been completed and given to the world.
Any reader careful as to dates will remember that it was as far back as in February that she had solicited the assistance of certain of her literary friends who were connected with the daily and weekly press.
These gentlemen had responded to her call with more or less zealous aid,
so that the "Criminal Queens" had been regarded in the trade as one of the successful books of the season.
Leadham and Loiter had published a second,
a fourth and fifth edition;
and had been able in their advertisements to give testimony from various criticisms showing that Lady Carbury's book was about the greatest historical work which had emanated from the press in the present century.
With this object a passage was extracted even from the columns of the "Evening Pulpit,"
--which showed very great ingenuity on the part of some young man connected with the establishment of Messrs.
Leadham and Loiter.
Lady Carbury had suffered something in the struggle.
What efforts can mortals make as to which there will not be some disappointment?
Paper and print cannot be had for nothing,
and advertisements are very costly.
An edition may be sold with startling rapidity,
but it may have been but a scanty edition.
When Lady Carbury received from Messrs.
Leadham and Loiter their second very moderate cheque,
with the expression of a fear on their part that there would not probably be a third,
--unless some unforeseen demand should arise,
--she repeated to herself those well-known lines from the satirist,
for a moment think What meagre profits spread from pen and ink."
But not on that account did she for a moment hesitate as to further attempts.
Indeed she had hardly completed the last chapter of her "Criminal Queens" before she was busy on another work;
and although the last six months had been to her a period of incessant trouble,
and sometimes of torture,
though the conduct of her son had more than once forced her to declare to herself that her mind would fail her,
still she had persevered.
From day to day,
with all her cares heavy upon her,
she had sat at her work,
with a firm resolve that so many lines should be always forthcoming,
let the difficulty of making them be what it might.
Leadham and Loiter had thought that they might be justified in offering her certain terms for a novel,
--terms not very high indeed,
and those contingent on the approval of the manuscript by their reader.
The smallness of the sum offered,
and the want of certainty,
and the pain of the work in her present circumstances,
had all been felt by her to be very hard.
But she had persevered,
and the novel was now complete.
It cannot with truth be said of her that she had had any special tale to tell.
She had taken to the writing of a novel because Mr. Loiter had told her that upon the whole novels did better than anything else.
She would have written a volume of sermons on the same encouragement,
and have gone about the work exactly after the same fashion.
The length of her novel had been her first question.
It must be in three volumes,
and each volume must have three hundred pages.
But what fewest number of words might be supposed sufficient to fill a page?
The money offered was too trifling to allow of very liberal measure on her part.
She had to live,
and if possible to write another novel,
as she hoped,
upon better terms,
--when this should be finished.
Then what should be the name of her novel;
what the name of her hero;
and above all what the name of her heroine?
It must be a love story of course;
but she thought that she would leave the complications of the plot to come by chance,
--and they did come.
"Don't let it end unhappily,
Mr. Loiter had said,
"because though people like it in a play,
they hate it in a book.
And whatever you do,
don't be historical.
Your historical novel,
isn't worth a --" Mr. Loiter stopping himself suddenly,
and remembering that he was addressing himself to a lady,
satisfied his energy at last by the use of the word "straw."
Lady Carbury had followed these instructions with accuracy.
The name for the story had been the great thing.
It did not occur to the authoress that,
as the plot was to be allowed to develop itself and was,
at this moment when she was perplexed as to the title,
she might as well wait to see what appellation might best suit her work when its purpose should have declared itself.
she knew well,
was most unlike a rose,
which by any other name will smell as sweet.
"The Faultless Father,"
"The Mysterious Mother,"
"The Lame Lover,"
--such names as that she was aware would be useless now.
"Mary Jane Walker,"
if she could be very simple,
or "Blanche De Veau,"
if she were able to maintain throughout a somewhat high-stilted style of feminine rapture.
But as she considered that she could best deal with rapid action and strange coincidences,
she thought that something more startling and descriptive would better suit her purpose.
After an hour's thought a name did occur to her,
and she wrote it down,
and with considerable energy of purpose framed her work in accordance with her chosen title,
"The Wheel of Fortune!"
She had no particular fortune in her mind when she chose it,
and no particular wheel;
--but the very idea conveyed by the words gave her the plot which she wanted.
A young lady was blessed with great wealth,
and lost it all by an uncle,
and got it all back by an honest lawyer,
and gave it all up to a distressed lover,
and found it all again in the third volume.
And the lady's name was Cordinga,
selected by Lady Carbury as never having been heard before either in the world of fact or in that of fiction.
And now with all her troubles thick about her,
--while her son was still hanging about the house in a condition that would break any mother's heart,
while her daughter was so wretched and sore that she regarded all those around her as her enemies,
Lady Carbury finished her work,
and having just written the last words in which the final glow of enduring happiness was given to the young married heroine whose wheel had now come full round,
sat with the sheets piled at her right hand.
She had allowed herself a certain number of weeks for the task,
and had completed it exactly in the time fixed.
As she sat with her hand near the pile,
she did give herself credit for her diligence.
Whether the work might have been better done she never asked herself.
I do not think that she prided herself much on the literary merit of the tale.
But if she could bring the papers to praise it,
if she could induce Mudie to circulate it,
if she could manage that the air for a month should be so loaded with "The Wheel of Fortune,"
as to make it necessary for the reading world to have read or to have said that it had read the book,
--then she would pride herself very much upon her work.
As she was so sitting on a Sunday afternoon,
in her own room,
Mr. Alf was announced.
According to her habit,
she expressed warm delight at seeing him.
Nothing could be kinder than such a visit just at such a time,
--when there was so very much to occupy such a one as Mr. Alf!
in his usual mildly satirical way,
declared that he was not peculiarly occupied just at present.
"The Emperor has left Europe at last,"
"Poor Melmotte poisoned himself on Friday,
and the inquest sat yesterday.
I don't know that there is anything of interest to-day."
Of course Lady Carbury was intent upon her book,
rather even than on the exciting death of a man whom she had herself known.
if she could only get Mr. Alf!
She had tried it before,
and had failed lamentably.
She was well aware of that;
and she had a deep-seated conviction that it would be almost impossible to get Mr. Alf.
But then she had another deep-seated conviction,
that that which is almost impossible may possibly be done.
How great would be the glory,
how infinite the service!
And did it not seem as though Providence had blessed her with this special opportunity,
sending Mr. Alf to her just at the one moment at which she might introduce the subject of her novel without seeming premeditation?
"I am so tired,"
affecting to throw herself back as though stretching her arms out for ease.
"I hope I am not adding to your fatigue,"
said Mr. Alf.
"Oh dear no.
It is not the fatigue of the moment,
but of the last six months.
Just as you knocked at the door,
I had finished the novel at which I have been working,
with such diligence!"
When is it to appear,
"You must ask Leadham and Loiter that question.
I have done my part of the work.
I suppose you never wrote a novel,
Oh dear no;
I never write anything."
"I have sometimes wondered whether I have hated or loved it the most.
One becomes so absorbed in one's plot and one's characters!
One loves the loveable so intensely,
and hates with such fixed aversion those who are intended to be hated.
When the mind is attuned to it,
one is tempted to think that it is all so good.
One cries at one's own pathos,
laughs at one's own humour,
and is lost in admiration at one's own sagacity and knowledge."
"How very nice!"
"But then there comes the reversed picture,
the other side of the coin.
On a sudden everything becomes flat,
The heroine who was yesterday alive with the celestial spark is found to-day to be a lump of motionless clay.
The dialogue that was so cheery on the first perusal is utterly uninteresting at a second reading.
Yesterday I was sure that there was my monument,"
and she put her hand upon the manuscript;
"to-day I feel it to be only too heavy for a gravestone!"
"One's judgment about one's-self always does vacillate,"
said Mr. Alf in a tone as phlegmatic as were the words.
"And yet it is so important that one should be able to judge correctly of one's own work!
I can at any rate trust myself to be honest,
which is more perhaps than can be said of all the critics."
"Dishonesty is not the general fault of the critics,
--at least not as far as I have observed the business.
It is incapacity.
In what little I have done in the matter,
that is the sin which I have striven to conquer.
When we want shoes we go to a professed shoemaker;
but for criticism we have certainly not gone to professed critics.
I think that when I gave up the
I left upon it a staff of writers who are entitled to be regarded as knowing their business."
"You given up the
asked Lady Carbury with astonishment,
readjusting her mind at once,
so that she might perceive whether any and if so what advantage might be taken of Mr. Alf's new position.
He was no longer editor,
and therefore his heavy sense of responsibility would no longer exist;
--but he must still have influence.
Might he not be persuaded to do one act of real friendship?
Might she not succeed if she would come down from her high seat,
sink on the ground before him,
tell him the plain truth,
and beg for a favour as a poor struggling woman?
I have given it up.
It was a matter of course that I should do so when I stood for Parliament.
Now that the new member has so suddenly vacated his seat,
I shall probably stand again."
"And you are no longer an editor?"
"I have given it up,
and I suppose I have now satisfied the scruples of those gentlemen who seemed to think that I was committing a crime against the Constitution in attempting to get into Parliament while I was managing a newspaper.
I never heard such nonsense.
Of course I know where it came from."
"Where did it come from?"
"Where should it come from but the
Broune and I have been very good friends,
but I do think that of all the men I know he is the most jealous."
"That is so little,"
said Lady Carbury.
She was really very fond of Mr. Broune,
but at the present moment she was obliged to humour Mr. Alf.
"It seems to me that no man can be better qualified to sit in Parliament than an editor of a newspaper,
--that is if he is capable as an editor."
has ever doubted that of you."
"The only question is whether he be strong enough for the double work.
I have doubted about myself,
and have therefore given up the paper.
I almost regret it."
"I dare say you do,"
said Lady Carbury,
feeling intensely anxious to talk about her own affairs instead of his.
"I suppose you still retain an interest in the paper?"
"Some pecuniary interest;
--you could do me such a favour!"
If I can,
you may be sure I will."
Of course he knew at the moment what was the favour Lady Carbury intended to ask,
and of course he had made up his mind that he would not do as he was asked.
And Lady Carbury clasped her hands together as she poured forth the words of her prayer.
"I never asked you to do anything for me as long as you were editing the paper.
I did not think it right,
and I would not do it.
I took my chance like others,
and I am sure you must own that I bore what was said of me with a good grace.
I never complained.
"But now that you have left it yourself,
--if you would have the
'Wheel of Fortune' done for me,
--really well done!"
'Wheel of Fortune'!"
"That is the name of my novel,"
said Lady Carbury,
putting her hand softly upon the manuscript.
"Just at this moment it would be the making of a fortune for me!
if you could but know how I want such assistance!"
"I have nothing further to do with the editorial management,
"Of course you could get it done.
A word from you would make it certain.
A novel is different from an historical work,
I have taken so much pains with it."
"Then no doubt it will be praised on its own merits."
"Don't say that,
'Evening Pulpit' is like,
it is like,
--like the throne of heaven!
Who can be justified before it?
Don't talk about its own merits,
but say that you will have it done.
It couldn't do any man any harm,
and it would sell five hundred copies at once,
--that is if it were done really con amore."
Mr. Alf looked at her almost piteously,
and shook his head.
"The paper stands so high,
it can't hurt it to do that kind of thing once.
A woman is asking you,
It is for my children that I am struggling.
The thing is done every day of the week,
with much less noble motives."
"I do not think that it has ever been done by the
"I have seen books praised."
"Of course you have."
"I think I saw a novel spoken highly of."
Mr. Alf laughed.
You do not suppose that it is the object of the
'Pulpit' to cry down novels?"
"I thought it was;
but I thought you might make an exception here.
I would be so thankful;
"My dear Lady Carbury,
pray believe me when I say that I have nothing to do with it.
I need not preach to you sermons about literary virtue."
not quite understanding what he meant.
"The sceptre has passed from my hands,
and I need not vindicate the justice of my successor."
"I shall never know your successor."
"But I must assure you that on no account should I think of meddling with the literary arrangement of the paper.
I would not do it for my sister."
Lady Carbury looked greatly pained.
"Send the book out,
and let it take its chance.
How much prouder you will be to have it praised because it deserves praise,
than to know that it has been eulogised as a mark of friendship."
said Lady Carbury.
"I don't believe that anything like real selling praise is ever given to anybody,
except to friends.
I don't know how they manage it,
but they do."
Mr. Alf shook his head.
that is all very well from you.
Of course you have been a dragon of virtue;
but they tell me that the authoress of the
'New Cleopatra' is a very handsome woman."
Lady Carbury must have been worried much beyond her wont,
when she allowed herself so far to lose her temper as to bring against Mr. Alf the double charge of being too fond of the authoress in question,
and of having sacrificed the justice of his columns to that improper affection.
"Of course you have been a dragon of virtue."]
"At this moment I do not remember the name of the lady to whom you allude,"
said Mr. Alf,
getting up to take his leave;
"and I am quite sure that the gentleman who reviewed the book,
--if there be any such lady and any such book,
--had never seen her!"
And so Mr. Alf departed.
Lady Carbury was very angry with herself,
and very angry also with Mr. Alf.
She had not only meant to be piteous,
but had made the attempt and then had allowed herself to be carried away into anger.
She had degraded herself to humility,
and had then wasted any possible good result by a foolish fit of chagrin.
The world in which she had to live was almost too hard for her.
When left alone she sat weeping over her sorrows;
but when from time to time she thought of Mr. Alf and his conduct,
she could hardly repress her scorn.
What lies he had told her!
Of course he could have done it had he chosen.
But the assumed honesty of the man was infinitely worse to her than his lies.
No doubt the "Pulpit" had two objects in its criticisms.
Other papers probably had but one.
The object common to all papers,
that of helping friends and destroying enemies,
of course prevailed with the "Pulpit."
There was the second purpose of enticing readers by crushing authors,
--as crowds used to be enticed to see men hanged when executions were done in public.
But neither the one object nor the other was compatible with that Aristidean justice which Mr. Alf arrogated to himself and to his paper.
She hoped with all her heart that Mr. Alf would spend a great deal of money at Westminster,
and then lose his seat.
On the following morning she herself took the manuscript to Messrs.
Leadham and Loiter,
and was hurt again by the small amount of respect which seemed to be paid to the collected sheets.
There was the work of six months;
her very blood and brains,
--the concentrated essence of her mind,
--as she would say herself when talking with energy of her own performances;
and Mr. Leadham pitched it across to a clerk,
apparently perhaps sixteen years of age,
and the lad chucked the parcel unceremoniously under a counter.
An author feels that his work should be taken from him with fast-clutching but reverential hands,
and held thoughtfully,
out of harm's way,
till it be deposited within the very sanctum of an absolutely fireproof safe.
if it should be lost!
Those scraps of paper,
so easily destroyed,
apparently so little respected,
may hereafter be acknowledged to have had a value greater,
so far greater,
than their weight in gold!
If "Robinson Crusoe" had been lost!
If "Tom Jones" had been consumed by flames!
And who knows but that this may be another "Robinson Crusoe,"
--a better than "Tom Jones"?
"Will it be safe there?"
asked Lady Carbury.
said Mr. Leadham,
who was rather busy,
and who perhaps saw Lady Carbury more frequently than the nature and amount of her authorship seemed to him to require.
"It seemed to be,
--put down there,
--under the counter!"
"That's quite right,
They're left there till they're packed."
"There are two or three dozen going to our reader this week.
He's down in Skye,
and we keep them till there's enough to fill the sack."
"Do they go by post,
"Not by post,
There are not many of them would pay the expense.
We send them by long sea to Glasgow,
because just at this time of the year there is not much hurry.
We can't publish before the winter."
If that ship should be lost on its journey by long sea to Glasgow!
as was now almost his daily habit,
Mr. Broune came to her.
There was something in the absolute friendship which now existed between Lady Carbury and the editor of the "Morning Breakfast Table,"
which almost made her scrupulous as to asking from him any further literary favour.
She fully recognised,
--no woman perhaps more fully,
--the necessity of making use of all aid and furtherance which might come within reach.
With such a son,
with such need for struggling before her,
would she not be wicked not to catch even at every straw?
But this man had now become so true to her,
that she hardly knew how to beg him to do that which she,
with all her mistaken feelings,
did in truth know that he ought not to do.
He had asked her to marry him,
--though she had refused him,
--she felt infinitely grateful.
And though she had refused him,
he had lent her money,
and had supported her in her misery by his continued counsel.
If he would offer to do this thing for her she would accept his kindness on her knees,
--but even she could not bring herself to ask to have this added to his other favours.
Her first word to him was about Mr. Alf.
"So he has given up the paper?"
"Is that all?"
"I don't suppose he'll really let it go out of his own hands.
Nobody likes to lose power.
He'll share the work,
and keep the authority.
As for Westminster,
I don't believe he has a chance.
If that poor wretch Melmotte could beat him when everybody was already talking about the forgeries,
how is it likely that he should stand against such a candidate as they'll get now?"
"He was here yesterday."
"And full of triumph,
"He never talks to me much of himself.
We were speaking of my new book,
He assured me most positively that he had nothing further to do with the paper."
"He did not care to make you a promise,
I dare say."
"That was just it.
Of course I did not believe him."
"Neither will I make a promise,
but we'll see what we can do.
If we can't be good-natured,
at any rate we will say nothing ill-natured.
Let me see,
--what is the name?"
"'The Wheel of Fortune.'"
Lady Carbury as she told the title of her new book to her old friend seemed to be almost ashamed of it.
"Let them send it early,
--a day or two before it's out,
if they can.
I can't answer,
for the opinion of the gentleman it will go to,
but nothing shall go in that you would dislike.
God bless you."
And as he took her hand,
he looked at her almost as though the old susceptibility were returning to him.
As she sat alone after he had gone,
thinking over it all,
--thinking of her own circumstances and of his kindness,
--it did not occur to her to call him an old goose again.
She felt now that she had mistaken her man when she had so regarded him.
That first and only kiss which he had given her,
which she had treated with so much derision,
for which she had rebuked him so mildly and yet so haughtily,
had now a somewhat sacred spot in her memory.
Through it all the man must have really loved her!
Was it not marvellous that such a thing should be?
And how had it come to pass that she in all her tenderness had rejected him when he had given her the chance of becoming his wife?
When Hetta Carbury received that letter from her lover which was given to the reader some chapters back,
it certainly did not tend in any way to alleviate her misery.
Even when she had read it over half-a-dozen times,
she could not bring herself to think it possible that she could be reconciled to the man.
It was not only that he had sinned against her by giving his society to another woman to whom he had at any rate been engaged not long since,
at the very time at which he was becoming engaged to her,
--but also that he had done this in such a manner as to make his offence known to all her friends.
Perhaps she had been too quick;
--but there was the fact that with her own consent she had acceded to her mother's demand that the man should be rejected.
The man had been rejected,
and even Roger Carbury knew that it was so.
After this it was,
impossible that she should recall him.
But they should all know that her heart was unchanged.
Roger Carbury should certainly know that,
if he ever asked her further question on the matter.
She would never deny it;
and though she knew that the man had behaved badly,
--having entangled himself with a nasty American woman,
--yet she would be true to him as far as her own heart was concerned.
And now he told her that she had been most unjust to him.
He said that he could not understand her injustice.
He did not fill his letter with entreaties,
but with reproaches.
And certainly his reproaches moved her more than any prayer would have done.
It was too late now to remedy the evil;
but she was not quite sure within her own bosom that she had not been unjust to him.
The more she thought of it the more puzzled her mind became.
Had she quarrelled with him because he had once been in love with Mrs. Hurtle,
or because she had grounds for regarding Mrs. Hurtle as her present rival?
She hated Mrs. Hurtle,
and she was very angry with him in that he had ever been on affectionate terms with a woman she hated;
--but that had not been the reason put forward by her for quarrelling with him.
Perhaps it was true that he,
had of late loved Mrs. Hurtle hardly better than she did herself.
It might be that he had been indeed constrained by hard circumstances to go with the woman to Lowestoft.
Having so gone with her,
it was no doubt right that he should be rejected;
--for how can it be that a man who is engaged shall be allowed to travel about the country with another woman to whom also he was engaged a few months back?
But still there might be hardship in it.
to Hetta herself,
the circumstances were very hard.
She loved the man with all her heart.
She could look forward to no happiness in life without him.
But yet it must be so.
At the end of his letter he had told her to go to Mrs. Hurtle herself if she wanted corroboration of the story as told by him.
Of course he had known when he wrote it that she could not and would not go to Mrs. Hurtle.
But when the letter had been in her possession three or four days,
as a matter of course,
no answer to it from herself was possible,
--and had been read and re-read till she knew every word of it by heart,
she began to think that if she could hear the story as it might be told by Mrs. Hurtle,
a good deal that was now dark might become light to her.
As she continued to read the letter,
and to brood over it all,
by degrees her anger was turned from her lover to her mother,
and to her cousin Roger.
Paul had of course behaved badly,
--but had it not been for them she might have had an opportunity of forgiving him.
They had driven her on to the declaration of a purpose from which she could now see no escape.
There had been a plot against her,
and she was a victim.
In the first dismay and agony occasioned by that awful story of the American woman,
at the moment,
struck her with a horror which was now becoming less and less every hour,
--she had fallen head foremost into the trap laid for her.
She acknowledged to herself that it was too late to recover her ground.
at any rate,
almost sure that it must be too late.
But yet she was disposed to do battle with her mother and her cousin in the matter --if only with the object of showing that she would not submit her own feelings to their control.
She was savage to the point of rebellion against all authority.
Roger Carbury would of course think that any communication between herself and Mrs. Hurtle must be most improper,
Two or three days ago she thought so herself.
But the world was going so hard with her,
that she was beginning to feel herself capable of throwing propriety and delicacy to the winds.
This man whom she had once accepted,
whom she altogether loved,
in spite of all his faults,
certainly still loved her,
--of that she was beginning to have no further doubt,
--accused her of dishonesty,
and referred her to her rival for a corroboration of his story.
She would appeal to Mrs. Hurtle.
The woman was odious,
a nasty intriguing American female.
But her lover desired that she should hear the woman's story;
and she would hear the story,
--if the woman would tell it.
she wrote as follows to Mrs. Hurtle,
finding great difficulty in the composition of a letter which should tell neither too little nor too much,
and determined that she would be restrained by no mock modesty,
by no girlish fear of declaring the truth about herself.
The letter at last was stiff and hard,
but it sufficed for its purpose.
Mr. Paul Montague has referred me to you as to certain circumstances which have taken place between him and you.
It is right that I should tell you that I was a short time since engaged to marry him,
but that I have found myself obliged to break off that engagement in consequence of what I have been told as to his acquaintance with you.
I make this proposition to you,
not thinking that anything you will say to me can change my mind,
but because he has asked me to do so,
at the same time,
accused me of injustice towards him.
I do not wish to rest under an accusation of injustice from one to whom I was once warmly attached.
If you will receive me,
I will make it my business to call any afternoon you may name.
When the letter was written she was not only ashamed of it,
but very much afraid of it also.
What if the American woman should put it in a newspaper!
She had heard that everything was put into newspapers in America.
What if this Mrs. Hurtle should send back to her some horribly insolent answer;
--or should send such answer to her mother,
instead of herself!
if the American woman consented to receive her,
would not the American woman,
as a matter of course,
trample upon her with rough words?
Once or twice she put the letter aside,
and almost determined that it should not be sent;
--but at last,
with desperate fortitude,
she took it out with her and posted it herself.
She told no word of it to any one.
had been cruel to her,
had disregarded her feelings,
and made her wretched for ever.
She could not ask her mother for sympathy in her present distress.
There was no friend who would sympathise with her.
She must do everything alone.
it will be remembered,
had at last determined that she would retire from the contest and own herself to have been worsted.
impossible to describe adequately the various half resolutions which she formed,
and the changing phases of her mind before she brought herself to this conclusion.
And soon after she had assured herself that this should be the conclusion,
--after she had told Paul Montague that it should be so,
--there came back upon her at times other half resolutions to a contrary effect.
She had written a letter to the man threatening desperate revenge,
and had then abstained from sending it,
and had then shown it to the man,
--not intending to give it to him as a letter upon which he would have to act,
but only that she might ask him whether,
had he received it,
he would have said that he had not deserved it.
Then she had parted with him,
refusing either to hear or to say a word of farewell,
and had told Mrs. Pipkin that she was no longer engaged to be married.
At that moment everything was done that could be done.
The game had been played and the stakes lost,
--and she had schooled herself into such restraint as to have abandoned all idea of vengeance.
But from time to time there arose in her heart a feeling that such softness was unworthy of her.
Who had ever been soft to her?
Who had spared her?
Had she not long since found out that she must fight with her very nails and teeth for every inch of ground,
if she did not mean to be trodden into the dust?
Had she not held her own among rough people after a very rough fashion,
and should she now simply retire that she might weep in a corner like a love-sick schoolgirl?
And she had been so stoutly determined that she would at any rate avenge her own wrongs,
if she could not turn those wrongs into triumph!
There were moments in which she thought that she could still seize the man by the throat,
where all the world might see her,
and dare him to deny that he was false,
Then she received a long passionate letter from Paul Montague,
written at the same time as those other letters to Roger Carbury and Hetta,
in which he told her all the circumstances of his engagement to Hetta Carbury,
and implored her to substantiate the truth of his own story.
It was certainly marvellous to her that the man who had so long been her own lover and who had parted with her after such a fashion should write such a letter to her.
But it had no tendency to increase either her anger or her sorrow.
Of course she had known that it was so,
and at certain times she had told herself that it was only natural,
--had almost told herself that it was right.
She and this young Englishman were not fit to be mated.
He was to her thinking a tame,
sleek household animal,
whereas she knew herself to be wild,
--fitter for the woods than for polished cities.
It had been one of the faults of her life that she had allowed herself to be bound by tenderness of feeling to this soft over-civilised man.
The result had been disastrous,
as might have been expected.
She was angry with him,
--almost to the extent of tearing him to pieces,
--but she did not become more angry because he wrote to her of her rival.
Her only present friend was Mrs. Pipkin,
who treated her with the greatest deference,
but who was never tired of asking questions about the lost lover.
"That letter was from Mr. Montague?"
said Mrs. Pipkin on the morning after it had been received.
"How can you know that?"
"I'm sure it was.
One does get to know handwritings when letters come frequent."
"It was from him.
And why not?"
"Oh dear no;
--why not certainly?
I wish he'd write every day of his life,
so that things would come round again.
Nothing ever troubles me so much as broken love.
Why don't he come again himself,
"It is not at all likely that he should come again.
It is all over,
and there is no good in talking of it.
I shall return to New York on Saturday week."
"I can't remain here,
all my life doing nothing.
I came over here for a certain purpose,
and that has --gone by.
Now I may just go back again."
"I know he has ill-treated you.
I know he has."
"I am not disposed to talk about it,
"I should have thought it would have done you good to speak your mind out free.
I know it would me if I'd been served in that way."
"If I had anything to say at all after that fashion it would be to the gentleman,
and not to any other else.
As it is I shall never speak of it again to any one.
You have been very kind to me,
and I shall be sorry to leave you."
you can't understand what it is to me.
It isn't only my feelings.
The likes of me can't stand by their feelings only,
as their betters do.
I've never been above telling you what a godsend you've been to me this summer;
I've paid everything,
rates and all,
just like clockwork.
And now you're going away!"
Then Mrs. Pipkin began to sob.
"I suppose I shall see Mr. Crumb before I go,"
said Mrs. Hurtle.
"She don't deserve it;
And even now she never says a word about him that I call respectful.
She looks on him as just being better than Mrs. Buggins's children.
"She'll be all right when he has once got her home."
"And I shall be all alone by myself,"
said Mrs. Pipkin,
with her apron up to her eyes.
It was after this that Mrs. Hurtle received Hetta's letter.
She had as yet returned no answer to Paul Montague,
--nor had she intended to send any written answer.
Were she to comply with his request she could do so best by writing to the girl who was concerned rather than to him.
And though she wrote no such letter she thought of it,
--of the words she would use were she to write it,
and of the tale which she would have to tell.
She sat for hours thinking of it,
trying to resolve whether she would tell the tale,
--if she told it at all,
--in a manner to suit Paul's purpose,
or so as to bring that purpose utterly to shipwreck.
She did not doubt that she could cause the shipwreck were she so minded.
She could certainly have her revenge after that fashion.
But it was a woman's fashion,
did not recommend itself to Mrs. Hurtle's feelings.
A pistol or a horsewhip,
a violent seizing by the neck,
with sharp taunts and bitter-ringing words,
would have made the fitting revenge.
If she abandoned that she could do herself no good by telling a story of her wrongs to another woman.
Then came Hetta's note,
--so like the letter of an Englishwoman,
as Mrs. Hurtle said to herself.
Mrs. Hurtle smiled as she read the letter.
"I make this proposition not thinking that anything you can say to me can change my mind."
Of course the girl's mind would be changed.
The girl's mind,
required no change.
Mrs. Hurtle could see well enough that the girl's heart was set upon the man.
Nevertheless she did not doubt but that she could tell the story after such a fashion as to make it impossible that the girl should marry him,
--if she chose to do so.
At first she thought that she would not answer the letter at all.
What was it to her?
Let them fight their own lovers' battles out after their own childish fashion.
If the man meant at last to be honest,
there could be no doubt,
Mrs. Hurtle thought,
that the girl would go to him.
It would require no interference of hers.
But after a while she thought that she might as well see this English chit who had superseded herself in the affections of the Englishman she had condescended to love.
And if it were the case that all revenge was to be abandoned,
that no punishment was to be exacted in return for all the injury that had been done,
why should she not say a kind word so as to smooth away the existing difficulties?
Wild cat as she was,
kindness was more congenial to her nature than cruelty.
So she wrote to Hetta making an appointment.
DEAR MISS CARBURY,
If you could make it convenient to yourself to call here either Thursday or Friday at any hour between two and four,
I shall be very happy to see you.
During these days the intercourse between Lady Carbury and her daughter was constrained and far from pleasant.
thinking that she was ill-used,
kept herself aloof,
and would not speak to her mother of herself or of her troubles.
Lady Carbury watching her,
but not daring to say much,
was at last almost frightened at her girl's silence.
She had assured herself,
when she found that Hetta was disposed to quarrel with her lover and to send him back his brooch,
that "things would come round,"
that Paul would be forgotten quickly,
--or laid aside as though he were forgotten,
--and that Hetta would soon perceive it to be her interest to marry her cousin.
With such a prospect before her,
Lady Carbury thought it to be her duty as a mother to show no tendency to sympathise with her girl's sorrow.
Such heart-breakings were occurring daily in the world around them.
Who were the happy people that were driven neither by ambition,
nor the cross purposes of unhappy love,
to stifle and trample upon their feelings?
She had known no one so blessed.
She had never been happy after that fashion.
She herself had within the last few weeks refused to join her lot with that of a man she really liked,
because her wicked son was so grievous a burden on her shoulders.
if she were unfortunate enough to be a lady without wealth of her own,
must give up everything,
--her very soul if she were that way troubled,
--to the procuring of a fitting maintenance for herself.
Why should Hetta hope to be more fortunate than others?
And then the position which chance now offered to her was fortunate.
This cousin of hers,
who was so devoted to her,
was in all respects good.
He would not torture her by harsh restraint and cruel temper.
He would not drink.
He would not spend his money foolishly.
He would allow her all the belongings of a fair,
Lady Carbury reiterated to herself the assertion that she was manifestly doing a mother's duty by her endeavours to constrain her girl to marry such a man.
With a settled purpose she was severe and hard.
But when she found how harsh her daughter could be in response to this,
and how severe in retaliation,
--she was almost frightened at what she herself was doing.
She had not known how stern and how enduring her daughter could be.
"why don't you speak to me?"
On this very day it was Hetta's purpose to visit Mrs. Hurtle at Islington.
She had said no word of her intention to any one.
She had chosen the Friday because on that day she knew her mother would go in the afternoon to her publisher.
There should be no deceit.
Immediately on her return she would tell her mother what she had done.
But she considered herself to be emancipated from control.
Among them they had robbed her of her lover.
She had submitted to the robbery,
but she would submit to nothing else.
why don't you speak to me?"
said Lady Carbury.
there is nothing we can talk about without making each other unhappy."
"What a dreadful thing to say!
Is there no subject in the world to interest you except that wretched young man?"
"None other at all,"
said Hetta obstinately.
"What folly it is,
--I will not say only to speak like that,
but to allow yourself to entertain such thoughts!"
"How am I to control my thoughts?
Do you think,
that after I had owned to you that I loved a man,
--after I had owned it to him and,
worst of all,
--I could have myself separated from him,
and then not think about it?
It is a cloud upon everything.
It is as though I had lost my eyesight and my speech.
It is as it would be to you if Felix were to die.
It crushes me."
There was an accusation in this allusion to her brother which the mother felt,
--as she was intended to feel it,
--but to which she could make no reply.
It accused her of being too much concerned for her son to feel any real affection for her daughter.
"You are ignorant of the world,
"I am having a lesson in it now,
at any rate."
"Do you think it is worse than others have suffered before you?
In what little you see around you do you think that girls are generally able to marry the men upon whom they set their hearts?"
but Hetta made no answer to this.
"Marie Melmotte was as warmly attached to your brother as you can be to Mr. Montague."
"She thinks as much of her feelings as you do of yours.
The truth is you are indulging a dream.
You must wake from it,
and shake yourself,
and find out that you,
have got to do the best you can for yourself in order that you may live.
The world at large has to eat dry bread,
and cannot get cakes and sweetmeats.
when she thinks of giving herself to a husband,
has to remember this.
If she has a fortune of her own she can pick and choose,
but if she have none she must allow herself to be chosen."
"Then a girl is to marry without stopping even to think whether she likes the man or not?"
"She should teach herself to like the man,
if the marriage be suitable.
I would not have you take a vicious man because he was rich,
or one known to be cruel and imperious.
Your cousin Roger,
you know --"
getting up from her seat,
"you may as well believe me.
No earthly inducement shall ever make me marry my cousin Roger.
It is to me horrible that you should propose it to me when you know that I love that other man with my whole heart."
"How can you speak so of one who has treated you with the utmost contumely?"
"I know nothing of any contumely.
What reason have I to be offended because he has liked a woman whom he knew before he ever saw me?
It has been unfortunate,
but I do not know that I have any right whatever to be angry with Mr. Paul Montague."
Having so spoken she walked out of the room without waiting for a further reply.
It was all very sad to Lady Carbury.
She perceived now that she had driven her daughter to pronounce an absolution of Paul Montague's sins,
and that in this way she had lessened and loosened the barrier which she had striven to construct between them.
But that which pained her most was the unrealistic,
romantic view of life which pervaded all Hetta's thoughts.
How was any girl to live in this world who could not be taught the folly of such idle dreams?
That afternoon Hetta trusted herself all alone to the mysteries of the Marylebone underground railway,
and emerged with accuracy at King's Cross.
She had studied her geography,
and she walked from thence to Islington.
She knew well the name of the street and the number at which Mrs. Hurtle lived.
But when she reached the door she did not at first dare to stand and raise the knocker.
She passed on to the end of the silent,
endeavouring to collect her thoughts,
striving to find and to arrange the words with which she would commence her strange petition.
And she endeavoured to dictate to herself some defined conduct should the woman be insolent to her.
Personally she was not a coward,
but she doubted her power of replying to a rough speech.
She could at any rate escape.
Should the worst come to the worst,
the woman would hardly venture to impede her departure.
Having gone to the end of the street,
she returned with a very quick step and knocked at the door.
It was opened almost immediately by Ruby Ruggles,
to whom she gave her name.
looking up into the stranger's face.
--sure enough she must be Felix's sister."
But Ruby did not dare to ask any question.
She had admitted to all around her that Sir Felix should not be her lover any more,
and that John Crumb should be allowed to return.
her heart twittered as she showed Miss Carbury up to the lodger's sitting-room.
Though it was midsummer Hetta entered the room with her veil down.
She adjusted it as she followed Ruby up the stairs,
moved by a sudden fear of her rival's scrutiny.
Mrs. Hurtle rose from her chair and came forward to greet her visitor,
putting out both her hands to do so.
She was dressed with the most scrupulous care,
and in black,
without an ornament of any kind,
without a ribbon or a chain or a flower.
But with some woman's purpose at her heart she had so attired herself as to look her very best.
Was it that she thought that she would vindicate to her rival their joint lover's first choice,
or that she was minded to teach the English girl that an American woman might have graces of her own?
As she came forward she was gentle and soft in her movements,
and a pleasant smile played round her mouth.
Hetta at the first moment was almost dumbfounded by her beauty,
--by that and by her ease and exquisite self-possession.
she said with that low,
rich voice which in old days had charmed Paul almost as much as her loveliness,
"I need not tell you how interested I am in seeing you.
May I not ask you to lay aside your veil,
so that we may look at each other fairly?"
not knowing how to speak a word,
stood gazing at the woman when she had removed her veil.
She had had no personal description of Mrs. Hurtle,
but had expected something very different from this!
She had thought that the woman would be coarse and big,
with fine eyes and a bright colour.
As it was they were both of the same complexion,
with hair nearly black,
with eyes of the same colour.
Hetta thought of all that at the moment,
--but acknowledged to herself that she had no pretension to beauty such as that which this woman owned.
"And so you have come to see me,"
said Mrs. Hurtle.
"Sit down so that I may look at you.
I am glad that you have come to see me,
"Sit down so that I may look at you."]
"I am glad at any rate that you are not angry."
"Why should I be angry?
Had the idea been distasteful to me I should have declined.
I know not why,
but it is a sort of pleasure to me to see you.
It is a poor time we women have,
--is it not,
--in becoming playthings to men?
So this Lothario that was once mine,
is behaving badly to you also.
Is it so?
He is no longer mine,
and you may ask me freely for aid,
if there be any that I can give you.
If he were an American I should say that he had behaved badly to me;
--but as he is an Englishman perhaps it is different.
Now tell me;
--what can I do,
or what can I say?"
"He told me that you could tell me the truth."
I will certainly tell you nothing that is not true.
You have quarrelled with him too.
Is it not so?"
"Certainly I have quarrelled with him."
"I am not curious;
--but perhaps you had better tell me of that.
I know him so well that I can guess that he should give offence.
He can be full of youthful ardour one day,
and cautious as old age itself the next.
But I do not suppose that there has been need for such caution with you.
What is it,
Hetta found the telling of her story to be very difficult.
"I had never heard your name when he first asked me to be his wife."
"I dare say not.
Why should he have told you anything of me?"
Surely he ought,
if it is true that he had once promised to marry you."
"That certainly is true."
"And you were here,
and I knew nothing of it.
Of course I should have been very different to him had I known that,
"That there was such a woman as Winifrid Hurtle interfering with him.
Then you heard it by chance,
and you were offended.
Was it not so?"
"And now he tells me that I have been unjust to him and he bids me ask you.
I have not been unjust."
"I am not so sure of that.
Shall I tell you what I think?
I think that he has been unjust to me,
and that therefore your injustice to him is no more than his due.
I cannot plead for him,
To me he has been the last and worst of a long series of,
But whether you will avenge my wrongs must be for you to decide."
"Why did he go with you to Lowestoft?"
"Because I asked him,
like many men,
he cannot be ill-natured although he can be cruel.
He would have given a hand not to have gone,
but he could not say me nay.
As you have come here,
you may as well know the truth.
He did love me,
but he had been talked out of his love by my enemies and his own friends long before he had ever seen you.
I am almost ashamed to tell you my own part of the story,
and yet I know not why I should be ashamed.
I followed him here to England --because I loved him.
I came after him,
as perhaps a woman should not do,
because I was true of heart.
He had told me that he did not want me;
--but I wanted to be wanted,
and I hoped that I might lure him back to his troth.
I have utterly failed,
and I must return to my own country,
--I will not say a broken-hearted woman,
for I will not admit of such a condition,
--but a creature with a broken spirit.
He has misused me foully,
and I have simply forgiven him;
not because I am a Christian,
but because I am not strong enough to punish one that I still love.
I could not put a dagger into him,
--or I would;
or a bullet,
--or I would.
He has reduced me to a nothing by his falseness,
and yet I cannot injure him!
who have sworn to myself that no man should ever lay a finger on me in scorn without feeling my wrath in return,
I cannot punish him.
But if you choose to do so it is not for me to set you against such an act of justice."
Then she paused and looked up to Hetta as though expecting a reply.
But Hetta had no reply to make.
All had been said that she had come to hear.
Every word that the woman had spoken had in truth been a comfort to her.
She had told herself that her visit was to be made in order that she might be justified in her condemnation of her lover.
She had believed that it was her intention to arm herself with proof that she had done right in rejecting him.
Now she was told that however false her lover might have been to this other woman he had been absolutely true to her.
The woman had not spoken kindly of Paul,
--had seemed to intend to speak of him with the utmost severity;
but she had so spoken as to acquit him of all sin against Hetta.
What was it to Hetta that her lover had been false to this American stranger?
It did not seem to her to be at all necessary that she should be angry with her lover on that head.
Mrs. Hurtle had told her that she herself must decide whether she would take upon herself to avenge her rival's wrongs.
In saying that Mrs. Hurtle had taught her to feel that there were no other wrongs which she need avenge.
It was all done now.
If she could only thank the woman for the pleasantness of her demeanour,
and then go,
make up her mind as to what she would do next.
She had not yet told herself she would submit herself again to Paul Montague.
She had only told herself that,
within her own breast,
she was bound to forgive him.
"You have been very kind,"
she said at last,
--speaking only because it was necessary that she should say something.
"It is well that there should be some kindness where there has been so much that is unkind.
if I speak plainly to you.
Of course you will go back to him.
Of course you will be his wife.
You have told me that you love him dearly,
as plainly as I have told you the same story of myself.
Your coming here would of itself have declared it,
even if I did not see your satisfaction at my account of his treachery to me."
do not say that of me!"
"But it is true,
and I do not in the least quarrel with you on that account.
He has preferred you to me,
and as far as I am concerned there is an end of it.
You are a girl,
whereas I am a woman,
--and he likes your youth.
I have undergone the cruel roughness of the world,
which has not as yet touched you;
and therefore you are softer to the touch.
I do not know that you are very superior in other attractions;
but that has sufficed,
and you are the victor.
I am strong enough to acknowledge that I have nothing to forgive in you;
--and am weak enough to forgive all his treachery."
Hetta was now holding the woman by the hand,
and was weeping,
she knew not why.
"I am so glad to have seen you,"
continued Mrs. Hurtle,
"so that I may know what his wife was like.
In a few days I shall return to the States,
and then neither of you will ever be troubled further by Winifrid Hurtle.
Tell him that if he will come and see me once before I go,
I will not be more unkind to him than I can help."
When Hetta did not decline to be the bearer of this message she must have at any rate resolved that she would see Paul Montague again,
--and to see him would be to tell him that she was again his own.
She now got herself quickly out of the room,
absolutely kissing the woman whom she had both dreaded and despised.
As soon as she was alone in the street she tried to think of it all.
How full of beauty was the face of that American female,
--how rich and glorious her voice in spite of a slight taint of the well-known nasal twang;
--and above all how powerful and at the same time how easy and how gracious was her manner!
That she would be an unfit wife for Paul Montague was certain to Hetta,
but that he or any man should have loved her and have been loved by her,
and then have been willing to part from her,
And yet Paul Montague had preferred herself,
to this woman!
Paul had certainly done well for his own cause when he had referred the younger lady to the elder.
Of her own quarrel of course there must be an end.
She had been unjust to the man,
and injustice must of course be remedied by repentance and confession.
As she walked quickly back to the railway station she brought herself to love her lover more fondly than she had ever done.
He had been true to her from the first hour of their acquaintance.
What truth higher than that has any woman a right to desire?
No doubt she gave to him a virgin heart.
No other man had ever touched her lips,
or been allowed to press her hand,
or to look into her eyes with unrebuked admiration.
It was her pride to give herself to the man she loved after this fashion,
pure and white as snow on which no foot has trodden.
But in taking him,
all that she wanted was that he should be true to her now and henceforward.
The future must be her own work.
As to the "now,"
she felt that Mrs. Hurtle had given her sufficient assurance.
She must at once let her mother know this change in her mind.
When she re-entered the house she was no longer sullen,
no longer anxious to be silent,
very willing to be gracious if she might be received with favour,
--but quite determined that nothing should shake her purpose.
She went at once into her mother's room,
having heard from the boy at the door that Lady Carbury had returned.
wherever have you been?"
asked Lady Carbury.
"I mean to write to Mr. Montague and tell him that I have been unjust to him."
you must do nothing of the kind,"
said Lady Carbury,
rising from her seat.
I have been unjust,
and I must do so."
"It will be asking him to come back to you."
mamma: --that is what I mean.
I shall tell him that if he will come,
I will receive him.
I know he will come.
let us be friends,
and I will tell you everything.
Why should you grudge me my love?"
"You have sent him back his brooch,"
said Lady Carbury hoarsely.
"He shall give it me again.
Hear what I have done.
I have seen that American lady."
--I have been to her.
She is a wonderful woman."
"And she has told you wonderful lies."
"Why should she lie to me?
She has told me no lies.
She said nothing in his favour."
"I can well believe that.
What can any one say in his favour?"
"But she told me that which has assured me that Mr. Montague has never behaved badly to me.
I shall write to him at once.
If you like I will show you the letter."
"Any letter to him,
I will tear,"
said Lady Carbury,
full of anger.
I have told you everything,
but in this I must judge for myself."
seeing that her mother would not relent,
left the room without further speech,
and immediately opened her desk that the letter might be written.
HAMILTON K. FISKER AGAIN.
Ten days had passed since the meeting narrated in the last chapter,
during which Hetta's letter had been sent to her lover,
but in which she had received no reply,
--when two gentlemen met each other in a certain room in Liverpool,
who were seen together in the same room in the early part of this chronicle.
These were our young friend Paul Montague,
and our not much older friend Hamilton K. Fisker.
Melmotte had died on the 18th of July,
and tidings of the event had been at once sent by telegraph to San Francisco.
Some weeks before this Montague had written to his partner,
giving his account of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway Company,
--describing its condition in England as he then believed it to be,
--and urging Fisker to come over to London.
On receipt of a message from his American correspondent he had gone down to Liverpool,
and had there awaited Fisker's arrival,
taking counsel with his friend Mr. Ramsbottom.
In the mean time Hetta's letter was lying at the Beargarden,
Paul having written from his club and having omitted to desire that the answer should be sent to his lodgings.
Just at this moment things at the Beargarden were not well managed.
They were indeed so ill managed that Paul never received that letter,
--which would have had for him charms greater than those of any letter ever before written.
"This is a terrible business,"
immediately on entering the room in which Montague was waiting him.
"He was the last man I'd have thought would be cut up in that way."
"He was utterly ruined."
"He wouldn't have been ruined,
--and couldn't have thought so if he'd known all he ought to have known.
The South Central would have pulled him through a'most anything if he'd have understood how to play it."
"We don't think much of the South Central here now,"
--that's because you've never above half spirit enough for a big thing.
You nibble at it instead of swallowing it whole,
folks see that you're only nibbling.
I thought that Melmotte would have had spirit."
no doubt that he had committed forgery.
It was the dread of detection as to that which drove him to destroy himself."
"I call it dam clumsy from beginning to end;
I took him to be a different man,
and I feel more than half ashamed of myself because I trusted such a fellow.
That chap Cohenlupe has got off with a lot of swag.
Only think of Melmotte allowing Cohenlupe to get the better of him!"
"I suppose the thing will be broken up now at San Francisco,"
"Bu'st up at Frisco!
Not if I know it.
Why should it be bu'st up?
D'you think we're all going to smash there because a fool like Melmotte blows his brains out in London?"
"He took poison."
"Or p'ison either.
That's not just our way.
I'll tell you what I'm going to do;
and why I'm over here so uncommon sharp.
These shares are at a'most nothing now in London.
I'll buy every share in the market.
I wired for as many as I dar'd,
so as not to spoil our own game,
and I'll make a clean sweep of every one of them.
I'm sorry for him because I thought him a biggish man;
--but what he's done
'll just be the making of us over there.
Will you get out of it,
or will you come back to Frisco with me?"
In answer to this Paul asserted most strenuously that he would not return to San Francisco,
perhaps too ingenuously,
gave his partner to understand that he was altogether sick of the great railway,
and would under no circumstances have anything more to do with it.
Fisker shrugged his shoulders,
and was not displeased at the proposed rupture.
He was prepared to deal fairly,
--by his partner,
having recognised the wisdom of that great commercial rule which teaches us that honour should prevail among associates of a certain class;
but he had fully convinced himself that Paul Montague was not a fit partner for Hamilton K. Fisker.
Fisker was not only unscrupulous himself,
but he had a thorough contempt for scruples in others.
According to his theory of life,
nine hundred and ninety-nine men were obscure because of their scruples,
whilst the thousandth man predominated and cropped up into the splendour of commercial wealth because he was free from such bondage.
He had his own theories,
as to commercial honesty.
That which he had promised to do he would do,
if it was within his power.
He was anxious that his bond should be good,
and his word equally so.
But the work of robbing mankind in gross by magnificently false representations,
was not only the duty,
but also the delight and the ambition of his life.
How could a man so great endure a partnership with one so small as Paul Montague?
"And now what about Winifrid Hurtle?"
"What makes you ask?
She's in London."
I know she's in London,
and Hurtle's at Frisco,
swearing that he'll come after her.
only he hasn't got the dollars."
"He's not dead then?"
nor likely to die.
She'll have a bad time of it with him yet."
"But she divorced him."
"She got a Kansas lawyer to say so,
and he's got a Frisco lawyer to say that there's nothing of the kind.
She hasn't played her game badly neither,
for she's had the handling of her own money,
and has put it so that he can't get hold of a dollar.
Even if it suited other ways,
I wouldn't marry her myself till I saw my way clearer out of the wood."
"I'm not thinking of marrying her,
--if you mean that."
"There was a talk about it in Frisco;
And I have heard Hurtle say when he was a little farther gone than usual that she was here with you,
and that he meant to drop in on you some of these days."
To this Paul made no answer,
thinking that he had now both heard enough and said enough about Mrs. Hurtle.
On the following day the two men,
who were still partners,
went together to London,
and Fisker immediately became immersed in the arrangement of Melmotte's affairs.
He put himself into communication with Mr. Brehgert,
went in and out of the offices in Abchurch Lane and the rooms which had belonged to the Railway Company,
mastered the books of the Company as far as they were to be mastered,
and actually summoned both the Grendalls,
father and son,
up to London.
and Miles with him,
had left London a day or two before Melmotte's death,
--having probably perceived that there was no further occasion for their services.
To Fisker's appeal Lord Alfred was proudly indifferent.
Who was this American that he should call upon a director of the London Company to appear?
Does not every one know that a director of a company need not direct unless he pleases?
did not even condescend to answer Fisker's letter;
--but he advised his son to run up to town.
"I should just go,
because I'd taken a salary from the d -- -- Company,"
said the careful father,
"but when there I wouldn't say a word."
So Miles Grendall,
obeying his parent,
reappeared upon the scene.
But Fisker's attention was perhaps most usefully and most sedulously paid to Madame Melmotte and her daughter.
Till Fisker arrived no one had visited them in their solitude at Hampstead,
Mr. Brehgert had abstained,
thinking that a widow,
who had become a widow under such terrible circumstances,
would prefer to be alone.
Lord Nidderdale had made his adieux,
and felt that he could do no more.
It need hardly be said that Lord Alfred had too much good taste to interfere at such a time,
although for some months he had been domestically intimate with the poor woman,
or that Sir Felix would not be prompted by the father's death to renew his suit to the daughter.
But Fisker had not been two days in London before he went out to Hampstead,
and was admitted to Madame Melmotte's presence;
--and he had not been there four days before he was aware that in spite of all misfortunes,
Marie Melmotte was still the undoubted possessor of a large fortune.
In regard to Melmotte's effects generally the Crown had been induced to abstain from interfering,
--giving up the right to all the man's plate and chairs and tables which it had acquired by the finding of the coroner's verdict,
--not from tenderness to Madame Melmotte,
for whom no great commiseration was felt,
but on behalf of such creditors as poor Mr. Longestaffe and his son.
But Marie's money was quite distinct from this.
She had been right in her own belief as to this property,
and had been right,
in refusing to sign those papers,
--unless it may be that that refusal led to her father's act.
She herself was sure that it was not so,
because she had withdrawn her refusal,
and had offered to sign the papers before her father's death.
What might have been the ultimate result had she done so when he first made the request,
no one could now say.
That the money would have gone there could be no doubt.
The money was now hers,
--a fact which Fisker soon learned with that peculiar cleverness which belonged to him.
Poor Madame Melmotte felt the visits of the American to be a relief to her in her misery.
The world makes great mistakes as to that which is and is not beneficial to those whom Death has bereaved of a companion.
It may be,
no doubt sometimes it is the case,
that grief shall be so heavy,
so absolutely crushing,
as to make any interference with it an additional trouble,
and this is felt also in acute bodily pain,
and in periods of terrible mental suffering.
It may also be,
often is the case,
that the bereaved one chooses to affect such overbearing sorrow,
and that friends abstain,
because even such affectation has its own rights and privileges.
But Madame Melmotte was neither crushed by grief nor did she affect to be so crushed.
She had been numbed by the suddenness and by the awe of the catastrophe.
The man who had been her merciless tyrant for years,
who had seemed to her to be a very incarnation of cruel power,
and shown himself to be powerless against his own misfortunes.
She was a woman of very few words,
and had spoken almost none on this occasion even to her own daughter;
but when Fisker came to her,
and told her more than she had ever known before of her husband's affairs,
and spoke to her of her future life,
and mixed for her a small glass of brandy-and-water warm,
and told her that Frisco would be the fittest place for her future residence,
she certainly did not find him to be intrusive.
And even Marie liked Fisker,
though she had been wooed and almost won both by a lord and a baronet,
and had understood,
if not much,
at least more than her mother,
of the life to which she had been introduced.
There was something of real sorrow in her heart for her father.
She was prone to love,
not prone to deep affection.
Melmotte had certainly been often cruel to her,
but he had also been very indulgent.
And as she had never been specially grateful for the one,
so neither had she ever specially resented the other.
real solicitude for her well-being,
she had never known,
and had come to regard the unevenness of her life,
vacillating between knocks and knick-knacks,
with a blow one day and a jewel the next,
as the condition of things which was natural to her.
When her father was dead she remembered for a while the jewels and the knick-knacks,
and forgot the knocks and blows.
But she was not beyond consolation,
and she also found consolation in Mr. Fisker's visits.
"I used to sign a paper every quarter,"
she said to Fisker,
as they were walking together one evening in the lanes round Hampstead.
"You'll have to do the same now,
only instead of giving the paper to any one you'll have to leave it in a banker's hands to draw the money for yourself."
"And can that be done over in California?"
"Just the same as here.
Your bankers will manage it all for you without the slightest trouble.
For the matter of that I'll do it,
if you'll trust me.
There's only one thing against it all,
"And what's that?"
"After the sort of society you've been used to here,
I don't know how you'll get on among us Americans.
We're a pretty rough lot,
what you lose in the look of the fruit,
you'll make up in the flavour."
This Fisker said in a somewhat plaintive tone,
as though fearing that the manifest substantial advantages of Frisco would not suffice to atone for the loss of that fashion to which Miss Melmotte had been used.
"I hate swells,"
flashing round upon him.
"Do you now?"
What's the use of
They never mean a word that they say,
--and they don't say so many words either.
They're never more than half awake,
and don't care the least about anybody.
I hate London."
"Do you now?"
"I wonder whether you'd hate Frisco?"
"I rather think it would be a jolly sort of place."
"Very jolly I find it.
And I wonder whether you'd hate --me?"
Why should I hate anybody?"
"But you do.
I've found out one or two that you don't love.
If you do come to Frisco,
I hope you won't just hate me,
Then he took her gently by the arm;
whisking herself away rapidly,
bade him behave himself.
Then they returned to their lodgings,
and Mr. Fisker,
before he went back to London,
mixed a little warm brandy-and-water for Madame Melmotte.
I think that upon the whole Madame Melmotte was more comfortable at Hampstead than she had been either in Grosvenor Square or Bruton Street,
although she was certainly not a thing beautiful to look at in her widow's weeds.
"I don't think much of you as a book-keeper,
Fisker said to Miles Grendall in the now almost deserted Board-room of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway.
remembering his father's advice,
answered not a word,
but merely looked with assumed amazement at the impertinent stranger who dared thus to censure his performances.
Fisker had made three or four remarks previous to this,
and had appealed both to Paul Montague and to Croll,
who were present.
He had invited also the attendance of Sir Felix Carbury,
and Mr. Longestaffe,
who were all Directors;
--but none of them had come.
Sir Felix had paid no attention to Fisker's letter.
Lord Nidderdale had written a short but characteristic reply.
"Dear Mr. Fisker,
--I really don't know anything about it.
with laborious zeal,
had closely covered four pages with his reasons for non-attendance,
with which the reader shall not be troubled,
and which it may be doubted whether even Fisker perused to the end.
"Upon my word,"
"it's astonishing to me that Melmotte should have put up with this kind of thing.
I suppose you understand something of business,
"It vas not my department,
said the German.
"Nor anybody else's either,"
said the domineering American.
"Of course it's on the cards,
that we shall have to put you into a witness-box,
because there are certain things we must get at."
Miles was silent as the grave,
but at once made up his mind that he would pass his autumn at some pleasant but economical German retreat,
and that his autumnal retirement should be commenced within a very few days;
--or perhaps hours might suffice.
But Fisker was not in earnest in his threat.
In truth the greater the confusion in the London office,
were the prospects of the Company at San Francisco.
Miles underwent purgatory on this occasion for three or four hours,
and when dismissed had certainly revealed none of Melmotte's secrets.
go to Germany,
finding that a temporary absence from England would be comfortable to him in more respects than one,
--and need not be heard of again in these pages.
When Melmotte's affairs were ultimately wound up there was found to be nearly enough of property to satisfy all his proved liabilities.
Very many men started up with huge claims,
asserting that they had been robbed,
and in the confusion it was hard to ascertain who had been robbed,
or who had simply been unsuccessful in their attempts to rob others.
as was the case with poor Mr. Brehgert,
had speculated in dependence on Melmotte's sagacity,
and had lost heavily without dishonesty.
But of those who,
like the Longestaffes,
were able to prove direct debts,
the condition at last was not very sad.
Our excellent friend Dolly got his money early in the day,
and was able,
under Mr. Squercum's guidance,
to start himself on a new career.
Having paid his debts,
and with still a large balance at his bankers',
he assured his friend Nidderdale that he meant to turn over an entirely new leaf.
"I shall just make Squercum allow me so much a month,
and I shall have all the bills and that kind of thing sent to him,
and he will do everything,
and pull me up if I'm getting wrong.
I like Squercum."
"Won't he rob you,
"Of course he will;
--but he won't let any one else do it.
One has to be plucked,
but it's everything to have it done on a system.
If he'll only let me have ten shillings out of every sovereign I think I can get along."
Let us hope that Mr. Squercum was merciful,
and that Dolly was enabled to live in accordance with his virtuous resolutions.
But these things did not arrange themselves till late in the winter,
--long after Mr. Fisker's departure for California.
was protracted till a day much later than he had anticipated before he had become intimate with Madame Melmotte and Marie.
Madame Melmotte's affairs occupied him for a while almost exclusively.
The furniture and plate were of course sold for the creditors,
but Madame Melmotte was allowed to take whatever she declared to be specially her own property;
though much was said about the jewels,
no attempt was made to recover them.
Marie advised Madame Melmotte to give them up,
assuring the old woman that she should have whatever she wanted for her maintenance.
But it was not likely that Melmotte's widow would willingly abandon any property,
and she did not abandon her jewels.
It was agreed between her and Fisker that they were to be taken to New York.
"You'll get as much there as in London,
if you like to part with them;
'll say anything about it there.
You couldn't sell a locket or a chain here without all the world talking about it."
In all these things Madame Melmotte put herself into Fisker's hands with the most absolute confidence,
with a confidence that was justified by its results.
It was not by robbing an old woman that Fisker intended to make himself great.
To Madame Melmotte's thinking,
Fisker was the finest gentleman she had ever met,
--so infinitely pleasanter in his manner than Lord Alfred even when Lord Alfred had been most gracious,
with so much more to say for himself than Miles Grendall,
understanding her so much better than any man had ever done,
--especially when he supplied her with those small warm beakers of sweet brandy-and-water.
"I shall do whatever he tells me,"
she said to Marie.
"I'm sure I've nothing to keep me here in this country."
"I'm willing to go,"
"I don't want to stay in London."
"I suppose you'll take him if he asks you?"
"I don't know anything about that,"
"A man may be very well without one's wanting to marry him.
I don't think I'll marry anybody.
What's the use?
It's only money.
Nobody cares for anything else.
Fisker's all very well;
but he only wants the money.
Do you think Fisker'd ask me to marry him if I hadn't got anything?
He ain't slow enough for that."
"I think he's a very nice young man,"
said Madame Melmotte.