The Prime Minister
Part 10 out of 16
if they'll turn up trumps. Isn't that gambling?'
'I cannot say. I do not know.' She felt now that her husband
had been accused, and that part of that accusation had been
levelled at herself. There was something in her manner of saying
these few words which the poor complaining woman perceived,
feeling immediately that she had been inhospitable and perhaps
unjust. She put out her hand softly, touching the other woman's
arm, and looking up into her guest's face. 'If this is so, it's
terrible,' said Emily.
'Perhaps I shouldn't speak so free.'
'Oh, yes;--for your children, and yourself, and your husband.'
'It's them,--and him. Of course it's not your doing, and Mr
Lopez, I'm sure, is a very fine gentleman. And if he gets wrong
one way, he'll get himself right in another.' Upon hearing this
Emily shook her head. 'Your papa is a rich man, and won't see
you and yours come to want. There's nothing more to come to me
or Sexty let it be ever so.'
'Why does he do it?'
'Why does who do it?'
'Your husband. Why don't you speak to him as you do to me, and
tell him to mind only his proper business?'
'Now you are angry with me.'
'Angry! No;--indeed I am not angry. Every word that you say is
good and true, and just what you ought to say. I am not angry;
but I am terrified. I know nothing of my husband's business. I
cannot tell you that you should trust to it. He is very clever,
'But what, ma'am?'
'Perhaps I should say that he is ambitious.'
'You mean he wants to get rich too quick, ma'am.'
'I'm afraid so.'
'Then it's just the same with Sexty. He's ambitious too. But
what's the good of being ambitious, Mrs Lopez, if you never know
whether you're on your head or your heels? And what's the good
of being ambitious if you're to get into the workhouse? I know
what that means. There's one or two of them sort of men gets
into Parliament, and has houses as big as the Queen's palace,
while hundreds of them has their wives and children in the
gutter. Who ever hears of them? Nobody. It don't become any
man to be ambitious who has got a wife and family. If he's a
bachelor, who, of course, he can go to the Colonies. There's
Mary Jane and the two little ones right down on the sea, with
their feet in the water. She we put on our hats, Mrs Lopez, and
go and look after them?' To this proposition Emily assented, and
the two ladies went out after the children.
'Mix yourself another glass,' said Sexty to his partner.
'I'd rather not. Don't ask me again. You know I never drink,
and I don't like being pressed.'
'By George,--you're particular.'
'What's the use of teasing a fellow to do a thing he doesn't
'You won't mind me having another?'
'Fifty if you please, so that I'm not forced to join you.'
'Forced! It's liberty 'all here, and you can do as you please.
Only when a fellow will take a drop with me, he's better
'Then I'm d-d bad company, and you'd better get somebody else to
be jolly with. To tell you the truth, Sexty, I suit you better
at business than at this sort of thing. I'm like Shylock, you
'I don't know about Shylock, but I'm blessed if I think you suit
me very well at anything. I'm putting up with a deal of ill-
usage, and when I try to be happy with you, you won't drink, and
you tell me about Shylock. He was a Jew, wasn't he?'
'That is the general idea.'
'Then you ain't much very like him, for they're the sort of
people that always has money about them.'
'How do you suppose he made his money to begin with? What an ass
'That's true, I am. Ever since I began putting my name on the
same bit of paper with yours, I've been an ass.'
'You'll have to be one a bit longer yet;--unless you mean to
throw up everything. At this present moment you are six or seven
thousand pounds richer than you were before you first met me.'
'I wish I could see the money.'
'That's like you. What's the use of money you can see? How are
you to make money out of money by looking at it? I like to know
that my money is fructifying.'
'I like to know that it's all there,--and I did know it before I
ever saw you. I'm blessed if I know it now. Go down and join
the ladies, will you? You ain't much of a companion up here.'
Shortly after that Lopez told Mrs Parker that he had already bade
adieu to her husband, and then he took his wife to their own
AS FOR LOVE!
The time spent by Mrs Lopez at Dovercourt was by no means one of
complete happiness. Her husband did not come down very
frequently, alleging that his business kept him in town, and that
the journey was too long. When he did come he annoyed her either
by moroseness or tyranny, or by an affectation of loving good-
humour, which was the more disagreeable alternative of the two.
She knew that he had not right to be good-humoured, and she was
quite able to appreciate the difference between fictitious love
and love that was real. He did not while she was at Dovercourt
speak to her again directly about her father's money,--but he
gave her to understand that he required from her very close
economy. Then again she referred to the brougham which she knew
was to be in readiness on her return to London, but he told her
that he was the best judge of that. The economy which he
demanded was that comfortless heartrending economy which nips the
practiser at every turn, but does not betray itself to the world
at large. He would have her save out of her washerwoman and
linendraper, and yet have a smart gown and go in a brougham. He
begrudged her postage stamps, and stopped the subscription at
Mudie's, though he insisted on a front seat in the Dovercourt
church, paying half a guinea more for it than he would for a
place at the side. And then before their sojourn at the place
had come to an end he left her for a while absolutely penniless,
so that when the butcher and baker called for their money she
could not pay them. That was a dreadful calamity to her, and of
which she was hardly able to measure the real worth. It had
never happened to her before to have to refuse an application for
money that was due. In her father's house such a thing, as far
as she knew, had never happened. She had sometimes heard that
Everett was impecunious, but that had simply indicated an
additional call upon her father. When the butcher came the
second time she wrote to her husband in an agony. Should she
write to her father for a supply? She was sure that her father
would not leave them in actual want. Then he sent her a cheque,
enclosed in an angry letter. Apply to her father! Had she not
learnt as yet that she was to lean upon her father any longer,
but simply on him? And was she such a fool as to suppose that a
tradesman could not wait a month for his money?
During all this time she had no friend,--no person to whom she
could speak,--except Mrs Parker. Mrs Parker was very open and
very confidential about the business, really knowing very much
more about it than did Mrs Lopez. There was some sympathy and
confidence between her and her husband, though they had latterly
been much lessened by Sexty's conduct. Mrs Parker talked daily
about the business now that her mouth had been opened, and was
very clearly of the opinion that it was not a good business.
'Sexty don't think it good himself,' she said.
'Then why does he go on with it?'
'Business is a thing, Mrs Lopez, as people can't drop out of just
at a moment. A man gets himself entangled, and must free himself
as best he can. I know he's terribly afeard;--and sometimes he
does say such things of your husband!' Emily shrunk almost into
herself as she heard this. 'You mustn't be angry, for indeed
it's better you should know all.'
'I'm not angry; only very unhappy. Surely, Mr Parker could
separate himself from Mr Lopez if he pleased?'
'That's what I say to him. Give it up, though it be ever so much
as you've got to lose by him. Give it up, and begin again.
You've always got your experience, and if it's only a crust you
can earn, that's sure and safe. But then he declares that he
means to pull through, Mrs Lopez. There shouldn't be no need of
pulling through. It should all come just of its own accord,--
little and little, but safe.' Then, when the days of their
marine holiday were coming to an end,--in the first week in
October,--the day before the return of the Parkers to Ponder's
End, she made a strong appeal to her new friend. 'You ain't
afraid of him, are you?'
'Of my husband?' said Mrs Lopez. 'I hope not. Why should you
'Believe me, a woman should never be afraid of 'em. I never
would give in to be bullied and made little of by Sexty. I'd do
a'most anything to make him comfortable. I'm soft-hearted. And
why not, when he's the father of my children? But I'm not going
not to say a thing if I think it right, because I'm afeard.'
'I think I could say anything if I thought it right.'
'Then tell him of me and my babes,--as how I can never have a
quiet night while this is going on. It isn't that they two men
are fond of one another. Nothing of the sort. Now you;--I've
got to be downright fond of you, though, of course, you think me
common.' Mrs Lopez would not contradict her but stooped forward
and kissed her cheek. 'I'm downright fond of you, I am,'
continued Mrs Parker, snuffling and sobbing, 'but they two men
are only together because Mr Lopez wants to gamble, and Parker
has got a little money to gamble with.' This aspect of the thing
was so terrible to Mrs Lopez that she could only weep and hid her
face. 'Now, if you would tell him the truth! Tell him what I
say, and that I've been a-saying it! Tell him it's for my
children I'm a-speaking, who won't have bread in their very
mouths if their father's squeezed dry like a sponge! Sure, if
you'd tell him this, he wouldn't go on!' Then she paused a
moment, looking up into the other woman's face. 'He'd have some
bowels of compassion;--wouldn't he now?'
'I'll try,' said Mrs Lopez.
'I know you're good and kind-hearted, my dear. I saw it in your
eyes from the very first. But then men, when they get on at
money-making,--or money-losing, which makes 'em worse,--are
like tigers clawing one another. They don't care how many they
kills, so that they has at least bit for themselves. There ain't
no fear of God init, nor yet no mercy, nor ere a morsel of heart.
It ain't what I call manly,--not that longing after other folk's
money. When it's come by hard work, as I tell Sexty,--by the
very sweat of his brow,--oh,--it's sweet as sweet. When he'd
tell me that he'd made his three pound, or his five pound, or,
perhaps, his ten in a day, and'd calculate it up, how much it'd
come to if he did that every day, and where we could go to, and
what we could do for the children, I loved to hear him talk about
money. But now--! why, it's altered the looks of the man
altogether. It's just as though he was a-thirsting for blood.'
Thirsting for blood! Yes, indeed. It was the very idea that had
occurred to Mrs Lopez herself when her husband bade her to 'get
round her father'. No;--it certainly was not manly. There
certainly was neither the fear of God in it, nor mercy. Yes;--
she would try. But as for bowels of compassion in Ferdinand
Lopez--; she, the young wife, had already seen enough of her
husband to think that he was not to be moved by any prayers on
that side. Then the two women bade each other farewell. 'Parker
has been talking of my going to Manchester Square,' said Mrs
Parker, 'but I shan't. What'd I be in Manchester Square? And,
besides, there'd better be an end of it. Mr Lopez'd turn Sexty
and me out of the house at a moment's notice if it wasn't for the
'It's papa's house,' said Mrs Lopez, not, however, meaning to
make an attack upon her husband.
'I suppose so, but I shan't come to trouble no one, and we live
ever so far away, at Ponder's End,--out or your line altogether,
Mrs Lopez. But I've taken to you and will never think ill of you
in any way--and do as you said you would.'
'I will try,' said Mrs Lopez.
In the meantime Lopez received from Mr Wharton an answer to his
letter about the missing caravels, which did not please him.
Here is the letter:
MY DEAR LOPEZ,
I cannot say that your statement is satisfactory, nor can
I reconcile it to your assurance to me that you have made
a trade income for some years past of 2,000 pounds a
year. I do not know much of business, but I cannot
imagine such a result from such a condition of things as
you describe. Have you any books; and if so, will you
allow them to be inspected by any accountant that I may
You say that a sum of 20,000 pounds would suit your
business better now than when I am dead. Very likely.
But with such an account of the business as that you have
given me, I do not know that I feel disposed to confide
my savings of my life to assist so very doubtful an
enterprise. Of course whatever I may do to your
advantage will be done for the sake of Emily and her
children, should she have any. As far I can see at
present, I shall best do my duty to her, by leaving what
I may have to leave to her, to trustees, for her benefit
and that of her children.
This, of course, did not tend to mollify the spirit of the man to
whom it was written, or to make him gracious towards his wife.
He received the letter three weeks before the lodgings at
Dovercourt were given up,--but during these three weeks he was
very little at the place, and when there did not mention the
letter. On these occasions he said nothing about business, but
satisfied himself with giving strict injunctions as to economy.
Then he took her back to town on the day after her promise to Mrs
Parker that she would 'try'. Mrs Parker had told her that no
woman ought to be afraid to speak to her husband, and, if
necessary, to speak roundly on such subjects. Mrs Parker was
certainly not a highly educated lady, but she had impressed Emily
with an admiration for her practical good sense and proper
feeling. The lady who was a lady had begun to feel that in the
troubles of her life she might find a much less satisfactory
companion than the lady who was not a lady. She would do as Mrs
Parker had told her. She would not be afraid. Of course it was
right that she should speak on such a matter. She knew herself
to be an obedient wife. She had borne all her unexpected sorrows
without a complaint, with a resolve that she would bear all for
his sake,--not because she loved him, but because she had made
herself his wife. Into whatever calamities he might fall, she
would share them. Though he should bring her utterly into the
dirt, she would remain in that dirt with him. It seemed probable
to her that it might be so;--that they might have to go into the
dirt;--and if it were so, she would still be true to him. She
had chosen to marry him, and she would be a true wife. But, as
such, she would not be afraid of him. Mrs Parker had told her
that 'a woman should never be afraid of 'em', and she believed in
Mrs Parker. In this case, too, it was clearly her duty to speak,
--for the injury being done was terrible, and might too probably
become tragical. How could she endure to think of that woman and
her children, should she come to know that the husband of the
woman and the father of the children had been ruined by her
Yes;--she would speak to him. But she did fear. It is all very
well for a woman to tell herself that she will encounter some
anticipated difficulty without fear,--or for a man either. The
fear cannot be overcome by will. The thing, however, may be
done, whether it be leading a forlorn hope, or speaking to an
angry husband,--in spite of fear. She would do it; but when the
moment for doing it came, her very heart trembled within her. He
had been so masterful with her, so persistent in repudiating her
interference, so exacting in his demands for obedience, so
capable of making her miserable by his moroseness when she failed
to comply with his wishes, that she could not go to her task
without fear. But she did feel that she ought not to be afraid,
or that her fears, at any rate, should not be allowed to restrain
her. A wife, she knew, should be prepared to yield, but yet was
entitled to be her husband's counsellor. And it was now the case
that in this matter she was conversant with circumstances which
were unknown to her husband. It was to her that Mrs Parker's
appeal had been made, and with a direct request from the poor
woman that it should be repeated to her husband's partner.
She found that she could not do it on the journey home from
Dovercourt, nor yet on that evening. Mrs Dick Roby, who had come
back from sojourn at Boulogne, was with them in the Square, and
brought her dear friend Mrs Leslie with her, and also Lady
Eustace. The reader may remember that Mr Wharton had met these
ladies at Mrs Dick's house some months before his daughter's
marriage, but he certainly had never asked them into his own. On
this occasion Emily had given them no invitation, but had been
told by her husband that her aunt would probably bring them with
her. 'Mrs Leslie and Lady Eustace!' she exclaimed with a little
shudder. 'I suppose your aunt may bring a couple of friends with
her to see you, though it is your father's house?' he had
replied. She had said no more, not daring to have a fight on
that subject at present, while the other matter was pressing on
her mind. The evening passed away pleasantly enough, she
thought, to all except herself. Mrs Leslie and Lady Eustace had
talked a great deal, and her husband had borne himself quite as
though he had been a wealthy man and the owner of the house in
Manchester Square. In the course of the evening Dick Roby came
in and Major Pountney, who since the late affairs at Silverbridge
had become intimate with Lopez. So that there was quite a party;
and Emily was astonished to hear her husband declare that he was
only watching the opportunity of another vacancy in order that he
might get into the House, and expose the miserable duplicity of
the Duke of Omnium. And yet this man, within the last month, had
taken away her subscription at Mudie's, and told her that she
shouldn't wear things that wanted washing! But he was able to
say so ever many pretty little things to Lady Eustace, and had
given a new fan to Mrs Dick, and talked of taking a box for Mrs
Leslie at The Gaiety.
But on the next morning before breakfast she began. 'Ferdinand,'
she said, 'while I was at Dovercourt I saw a good deal of Mrs
'I could not help that. Or rather you might have helped it if
you pleased. It was necessary that you should meet, but I didn't
tell you that you were to see a great deal of her.'
'I liked her very much.'
'Then I must say you've got a very odd taste. Did you like him?'
'No. I did not see very much of him, and I think that the
manners of women are less objectionable than those of men. But I
want to tell you what passed between her and me.'
'If it is about her husband's business she ought to have held her
tongue, and you had better hold yours now.'
This was not a happy beginning, but still she was determined to
go on. 'It was I think more about your business than his.'
'Then it was infernal impudence on her part, and you should not
have listened to her for a moment.'
'You do not want to ruin her and her children?'
'What have I to do with her and her children? I did not marry
her, and I am not their father. He has got to look to that.'
'She thinks you are enticing him into risks which he cannot
'Am I doing anything for him that I ain't doing for myself! If
there is money made, will not he share it? If money has to be
lost, of course he must do the same.' Lopez stating his case
omitted to say that whatever capital was now being used belonged
to his partner. 'But women when they get together talk all
manner of nonsense. Is it likely that I shall alter my course of
action because you tell me that she tells you that he tells her
that he is losing money? He is a half-hearted fellow who quails
at every turn against him. And when he is crying drunk I dare
say he makes a poor mouth to her.'
'I think, Ferdinand, it is more than that. She says that--'
'To tell the truth, Emily, I don't give a d--what she says. Now
give me some tea.'
The roughness of this absolutely quelled her. It was not now
that she was afraid of him, but that she was knocked down as
though by a blow. She had been altogether so unused to such
language that she could not get on with her matter in hand,
letting the bad word pass by her as an unmeaning expletive. She
wearily poured out the cup of tea and sat herself down silent.
The man was too strong for her, and would be so always. She told
herself at this moment that language such as that must always
absolutely silence her. Then, within a few minutes, he desired
her, quite cheerfully, to ask her uncle and aunt to dinner the
day but one following, and also to ask Lady Eustace and Mrs
Leslie. 'I will pick up a couple of men which will make us all
right,' he said.
This was in every way horrible to her. Her father had been back
in town, had not been very well, and had been recommended to
return to the country. He had consequently removed himself,--
not to Hertfordshire,--but to Brighton, and was now living at an
hotel, almost within an hour of London. Had he been at home he
certainly would not have invited Mrs Leslie and Lady Eustace to
his house. He had often expressed a feeling of dislike to the
former lady in the hearing of his son-in-law, and had ridiculed
his sister-in-law for allowing herself to be acquainted with Lady
Eustace, whose name had at one time been very common in the
mouths of people. Emily also felt that she was hardly entitled
to give a dinner party in his house in his absence. And, after
all that she had lately heard about her husband's poverty, she
could not understand how he should wish to incur the expense.
'You would not ask Mrs Leslie here!' she said.
'Why should we not ask Mrs Leslie?'
'Papa dislikes her.'
'But "papa", as you call him, isn't going to meet her.'
'He has said that he doesn't know what day he may be home. And
he does more than dislike her. He disapproves of her.'
'Nonsense! She is your aunt's friend. Because your father once
heard some cock-and-bull story about her, and because he has
always taken it upon himself to criticize your aunt's friends, I
am not to be civil to a person I like.'
'But, Ferdinand, I do not like her myself. She never was in this
house till that other night.'
'Look here, my dear. Lady Eustace can be useful to me, and I
cannot ask Lady Eustace without asking her friend. You do as I
bid you,--or else I shall do it myself.'
She paused for a moment, and then she positively refused. 'I
cannot bring myself to ask Mrs Leslie to dine in this house. If
she comes to dine with you, of course I shall sit at the table,
but she will be sure to see that she is not welcome.'
'It seems to me that you are determined to go against me in
everything I propose.'
'I don't think you would say that if you knew how miserable yo
'I tell you that that other woman can be very useful to me.'
'In what way useful?'
'Are you jealous, my dear?'
'Certainly not of Lady Eustace,--nor of any woman. But it seems
so odd that such a person's services should be required.'
'Will you do as I tell you, and ask them? You can go round and
tell your aunt about it. She knows that I mean to ask them.
Lady Eustace is a very rich woman, and is disposed to do a little
in commerce. Now do you understand?'
'Not in the least,' said Emily.
'Why shouldn't a woman who has money buy coffee as well as buy
'Does she buy shares?'
'By George, Emily, I think you are a fool.'
'I dare say I am, Ferdinand. I do not in the least know what it
all means. But I do know this, that you ought not, in papa's
absence, to ask people to dine here whom he particularly
dislikes, and whom he would not wish to have in the house.'
'You think I am to be governed by you in such a matter as that?'
'I don't want to govern you.'
'You think that a wife should dictate to a husband as to the way
in which he is to do his work, and the partners he may be allowed
to have in his business, and the persons whom he may ask to
dinner! Because you have been dictating to me on all these
matters. Now, look here, my dear. As to my business, you had
better never speak to me about it any more. I have endeavoured
to take you into my confidence and to get you to act with me, but
you have declined that, and have preferred to stick to your
father. As to my partners, whether I may choose to have Sexty
Parker or Lady Eustace, I am a better judge thanyou. And as to
asking Mrs Leslie and Lady Eustace or any other persons to
dinner, as I am obliged to make even the recreation of life
subservient to work, I must claim permission to have my own way.'
She had listened, but when he paused she made no reply. 'Do you
mean to do as I bid and ask these ladies?'
'I cannot do that. I know that it ought not to be done. This is
papa's house, and we are living here as his guests.'
'D--your papa!' he said as he burst out of the room. After a
quarter of an hour he put his head into the room and saw her
sitting, like a statue, exactly where he had left her. 'I have
written the notes to Lady Eustace and to Mrs Leslie,' he said.
'You can't think it any sin at any rate to ask your aunt.'
'I will see my aunt,' she said.
'And remember I am not going to be your father's guest as you
call it. I mean to pay for the dinner myself, and to send in my
own wines. Your father shall have nothing to complain of on that
'Could you not ask them to Richmond, or to some hotel?' she said.
'What, in October! If you think I am going to live in a house in
which I can't invite a friend to dinner, you are mistaken.' And
with that he took his departure.
The whole thing had now become so horrible to her that she felt
unable any longer to hold up her head. It seemed to her to be
sacrilege that these women should come and sit in her father's
room, but when she spoke of her father her husband had cursed him
with scorn! Lopez was going to send food and wine into the
house, which would be gall and wormwood to her father. At one
time she thought she would at once write to her father and tell
him of it all,--or perhaps telegraph to him; but she could not
do so without letting her husband know what she had done, and
then he would have justice on his side in calling her
disobedient. Were she to do that, then it would indeed be
necessary that she should take part against her husband.
She had brought all this misery on herself and on her father
because she had been obstinate in thinking she could with
certainty read a lover's character. As for love,--that of
course had died away in her heart,--imperceptibly, though, alas,
so quickly! It was impossible that she could continue to love a
man who from day to day was teaching her mean lessons, and who
was ever doing mean things, the meanness of which was so little
apparent to himself that he did not scruple to divulge them to
her. How could she love a man who would make no sacrifice either
to her comfort or her pride, or her conscience? But still she
might obey him,--if she could feel sure that obedience to him
was a duty. Could it be a duty to sin against her father's
wishes, and to assist in profaning his house and abusing his
hospitality after this fashion? Then her mind again went back to
the troubles of Mrs Parker, and her absolute inefficiency in that
matter. It seemed to her that she had given herself over body
and soul and mind to some evil genius, and that there was no
'Of course we'll come,' said Mrs Roby had said to her when she
went round the corner into Berkeley Street early in the day.
'Lopez spoke to me about it before.'
'What will papa say about it, Aunt Harriet?'
'I suppose he and Lopez understand each other.'
'I do not think papa will understand this.'
'I am sure Mr Wharton would not lend his house to his son-in-law
and then object to the man he had lent it to asking a friend to
dine with him. And I am sure that Mr Lopez would not consent to
occupy a house on those terms. If you don't like it, of course
we won't come.'
'Pray do not say that. As these other women are to come, pray do
not desert me. But I cannot say I think it is right.' Mrs Dick,
however, only laughed at her scruples.
In the course of the evening Emily got letters addressed to
herself, from Lady Eustace and Mrs Leslie, informing her that
they would have very much pleasure in dining with her on the day
named. And Lady Eustace went on to say, with much pleasantry,
that she always regarded little parties, got up without any
ceremony, as being the pleasantest, and that she should come on
this occasion without any ceremonial observance. Then Emily was
aware that her husband had not only written the notes in her
name, but had put into her mouth some studied apology as to the
shortness of the invitation. Well! She was the man's wife, and
she supposed that he was entitled to put any words that he please
into her mouth.
'HAS HE ILL-TREATED YOU?'
Lopez relieved his wife from all care as to provision for his
guests. 'I've been to a shop in Wigmore Street,' he said, 'and
everything will be done. They'll send in a cook to make the
things hot, and your father won't have to pay even for a crust of
'Papa doesn't mind paying for anything,' she said in her
'It is all very pretty for you to say so, but my experience of
him goes just the other way. At any rate there will be nothing
to be paid for. Stewam and Sugarscraps will send in everything,
if you'll only tell the old fogies downstairs not to interfere.'
Then she made a little request. Might she ask Everett who was
now in town? 'I've already got Major Pountney and Captain
Gunner,' he said. She pleaded that one more would make no
difference. 'But that's just what one more always does. It
destroys everything, and turns a pretty little dinner into an
awkward feed. We won't have him this time. Pountney'll take
you, and I'll take her ladyship. Dick will take Mrs Leslie, and
Gunner will have Aunt Harriet. Dick will sit opposite to me, and
the four ladies will sit at the four corners. We shall be very
pleasant, but one more would spoil us.'
She did speak to the 'old fogies' downstairs,--the housekeeper,
who had lived with her father since she was a child, and the
butler, who had been there still longer, and the cook, who,
having been in her place only three years, resigned impetuously
within half an hour after the advent of Mr Sugarscaps' head man.
The 'fogies' were indignant. The butler expressed his intention
of locking himself up in his own peculiar pantry, and the
housekeeper took it upon herself to tell her young mistress that
'Master wouldn't like it'. Since she had known Mr Wharton such a
thing as cooked food being sent into the house from a shop had
never been so much as heard of. Emily, who had hitherto been
regarded in the house as a rather strong-minded young woman,
could only break down and weep. Why, oh why, had she consented
to bring herself and her misery into her father's house? She
could at any rate have prevented that by explaining to her father
the unfitness of such an arrangement.
The 'party' came. There was Major Pountney, very fine, rather
loud, very intimate with the host, whom on one occasion had
called 'Ferdy, my boy', and very full of abuse of the Duke and
Duchess of Omnium. 'And yet she was a good creature when I knew
her', said Lady Eustace. Pountney suggested that the Duchess had
not then taken up politics. 'I've got out of her way,' said Lady
Eustace, 'since she did that.' And there was Captain Gunner, who
defended the Duchess, but who acknowledged that the Duke was the
'most consumedly stuck up coxcomb' then existing. 'And the most
dishonest', said Lopez, who had told his new friends nothing
about the repayment of the election expenses. And Dick was
there. He liked these little parties, in which a good deal of
wine could be drunk, and at which ladies were not supposed to be
very stiff. The Major and the Captain, and Mrs Leslie and Lady
Eustace, were such people as he liked,--all within the pale, but
having a piquant relish of fastness and impropriety. Dick was
wont to declare that he hated the world in buckram. Aunt Harriet
was triumphant in a manner which disgusted Emily, and which she
thought to be most disrespectful to her father;--but in truth
Aunt Harriett did not now care very much for Mr Wharton,
preferring the friendship of Mr Wharton's son-in-law. Mrs Leslie
came in gorgeous clothes, which, as she was known to be very
poor, and to have attached herself lately with almost more than
feminine affection to Lady Eustace, were at any rate open to
suspicious cavil. In former days Mrs Leslie had taken upon
herself to say bitter things about Mr Lopez, which Emily could
now have repeated, to that lady's discomfiture, had such a mode
of revenge suited her disposition. With Mrs Leslie there was
Lady Eustace, pretty as ever, and sharp and witty, with the old
passion for some excitement, the old proneness to pretend to
trust everybody, and the old capacity for trusting nobody.
Ferdinand Lopez had lately been at her feet, and had fired her
imagination with stories of the grand things to be done in trade.
Ladies do it? Yes; why not women as well as men? Anyone might
do it who had money in his pocket and experience to tell him or
to tell her, what to buy and what to sell. And the experience,
luckily, might be vicarious. At the present moment half the
jewels worn in London were,--if Ferdinand Lopez knew anything
about it,--bought from the proceeds of such commerce. Of course
there were misfortunes. But these came from a want of that
experience which Ferdinand Lopez possessed, and which he was
quite willing to place at the service of one whom he admired so
thoroughly as he did Lady Eustace. Lady Eustace had been
charmed, had seen her way into a new and most delightful life,--
but had not yet put any of her money into the hands of Ferdinand
I cannot say that the dinner was good. It may be a doubt whether
such tradesmen as Messrs Stewam and Sugarscraps do ever produce
good food;--or whether, with all the will in the world to do so,
such a result is within their power. It is certain, I think,
that the humblest mutton chop is better eating than any 'Supreme
of chicken after martial manner',--as I have seen the dish named
in a French bill of fare, translated by a French pastrycook for
the benefit of his English customers,--when sent in from Messrs
Stewam and Sugarscraps even with their best exertions. Nor can
it be said that the wine was good, though Mr Sugarscraps, when he
contracted for the whole entertainment, was eager in his
assurance that he procured the very best that London could
produce. But the outside look of the things was handsome, and
there were many dishes, and enough servants to hand them, and the
wines, if not good, were various. Probably Pountney and Gunner
did not know good wines. Roby did, but was contented on this
occasion to drink them bad. And everything went pleasantly, with
perhaps a little too much noise;--everything except the hostess,
who was allowed by general consent to be sad and silent,--till
there came a loud double-rap at the door.
'There's papa,' said Emily, jumping up from her seat.
Mrs Dick looked at Lopez, and saw at a glance for a moment his
courage had failed him. But he recovered himself quickly.
'Hadn't you better keep your seat, my dear?' he said to his wife.
'The servants will attend to Mr Wharton, and I will go to him
'Oh, no,' said Emily, who by this time was almost at the door.
'You didn't expect him,--did you?' asked Dick Roby.
'Nobody knew when he was coming. I think he told Emily that he
might be here any day.'
'He's the most uncertain man alive,' said Mrs Dick, who was a
good deal scared by the arrival, though determined to hold up her
head and exhibit no fear.
'I suppose the old gentleman will come and have some dinner,'
whispered Captain Gunner to his neighbour Mrs Leslie.
'Not if he knows I'm here,' replied Mrs Leslie, tittering. 'He
thinks that I am,--oh, something a great deal worse than I can
'Is he given to be cross?' asked Lady Eustace, also affecting to
'Never saw him in my life,' answered the major, 'but I shouldn't
wonder if he was. Old gentlemen generally are cross. Gout, and
that kind of thing, you know.'
For a minute or two the servants stopped in their ministrations,
and things were very uncomfortable; but Lopez, as soon as he had
recovered himself, directed Mr Sugarscraps' men to proceed with
the banquet. 'We can eat our dinner, I suppose, though my
father-in-law has come back,' he said. 'I wish my wife was not
so fussy, though that is the kind of thing, Lady Eustace, that
one must expect from young wives.' The banquet did go on, but
the feeling was general that a misfortune had come upon them, and
that something dreadful might possibly happen.
Emily, when she rushed out, met her father in the hall, and ran
into his arms. 'Oh, papa!' she exclaimed.
'What's all this about?' he asked, and as he spoke he passed on
through the hall to his own room at the back of the house. There
were of course many evidences on all sides of the party,--the
strange servants, the dishes going in and out, the clatter of
glasses, and the smell of viands. 'You've got a dinner party,'
he said. 'Had you not better go back to your friends?'
'What is the matter, Emily? You are unhappy.'
'Oh, so unhappy?'
'What is it all about? Who are they? Whose doing is it,--yours
or his? What makes you unhappy?'
He was now seated in his arm-chair, and she threw herself on her
knees at his feet. 'He would have them. You mustn't be angry
with me. You won't be angry with me;--will you?'
He put his hand upon her head, and stroked her hair. 'Why should
I be angry with you because your husband has asked friends to
dinner?' She was so unlike her usual self that he knew not what
to make of it. It had not been her nature to kneel and ask for
pardon, or to be timid and submissive. 'What is it, Emily, that
makes you like this?'
'He shouldn't have had the people.'
'Well;--granted. But it does not signify much. Is your Aunt
'It can't be very bad, then.'
'Mrs Leslie is here, and Lady Eustace,--and two men I don't
'Is Everett here?'
'No;--he wouldn't have Everett.'
'Oughtn't you go to them?'
'Don't make me go. I should only cry. I have been crying all
day, and the whole of yesterday.' Then she buried her face upon
his knees, and sobbed as though she would break her heart.
He couldn't at all understand it. Though he distrusted his son-
in-law, and certainly did not love him, he had not as yet learned
to hold him in aversion. When the connection was once made he
had determined to make the best of it, and had declared to
himself that as far as manners went the man was well enough. He
had not as yet seen the inside of the man, as it had been the sad
fate of the poor wife to see him. It had never occurred to him
that his daughter's love had failed her, or that she could
already be repenting what she had done. And now, when she was
weeping at his feet and deploring the sin of the dinner party,--
which, after all, was a trifling sin,--he could not comprehend
the feelings which were actuating her. 'I suppose your Aunt
Harriet made up the party,' he said.
'He did it.'
'Yes;--he did it. He wrote to the women in my name when I
refused.' Then Mr Wharton began to perceive that there had been
a quarrel. 'I told him Mrs Leslie oughtn't to come here.'
'I don't love Mrs Leslie,--nor, for the matter of that,--Lady
Eustace. But they won't hurt the house, my dear.'
'And he has had the dinner sent in from a shop.'
'Why couldn't he let Mrs Williams do it?' As he said this, the
tone of his voice for the first time became angry.
'Cook has gone away. She wouldn't stand it. And Mrs Williams is
very angry. And Barker wouldn't wait at table.'
'What's the meaning of it all?'
'He would have it so. Oh, papa, you don't know what I've
undergone. I wish,--I wish we had not come here. It would have
been better anywhere else.'
'What would have been better, dear?'
'Everything. Whether we lived or died, it would have been
better. Why should I bring my misery to you? Oh, papa, you do
not know,--you can never know.'
'But I must know. Is there more than this dinner to disturb
Oh, yes;--more than that. Only I couldn't bear that it should
be done in your house.'
'Has he--ill-treated you?'
Then she got up, and stood before him. 'I do not mean to
complain. I should have said nothing only that you have found us
in this way. For myself I will bear it all, whatever it may be.
But, papa, I want you to tell him that we must leave this house.'
'He has got no other home for you.'
'He must find one. I will go anywhere. I don't care where it
is. But I won't stay here. I have done it myself, but I won't
bring it upon you. I could bear it all if I thought that you
would never see me again.'
'Yes;--if you would never see me again. I know it all, and that
would be best.' She was now walking about the room. 'Why should
you see it all?'
'See what, my love?'
'See his ruin, and my unhappiness, and my baby. Oh--oh--oh!'
'I think so very differently, Emily, that under no circumstances
will I have you taken to another home. I cannot understand much
of all this as yet, but I suppose that I shall come to see it.
If Lopez be, as you say, ruined, it is well that I have still
enough for us to live on. This is a bad time just now to talk
about your husband's affairs.'
'I did not mean to talk about them, papa.'
'What would you like best to do now,--now at once. Can you go
down again to your husband's friends?'
'As for the dinner, never mind about that. I can't blame him for
making use of my house in my absence, as far as that goes,--
though I wish he could have contented himself with such a dinner
as my servants could have prepared for him. I will have some tea
'Let me stay with you, papa, and make it for you.'
'Very well, dear. I do not mean to be ashamed to enter my own
dining-room. I shall, therefore, go in and make your apologies.'
Thereupon Mr Wharton walked slowly forth, and marched into the
'Oh, Mr Wharton,' said Mrs Dick, 'we didn't expect you.'
'Have you dined yet, sir?' asked Lopez.
'I have dined early,' said Mr Wharton. 'I should not now have
come in to disturb you, but that I have found Mrs Lopez unwell,
and she has begged me to ask you to excuse her.'
'I will go to her,' said Lopez, rising.
'It is not necessary,' said Wharton. 'She is not ill, but hardly
able to take her place at table.' Then Mrs Dick proposed to go
to her dear niece, but Mr Wharton would not allow it, and left
the room, having succeeded in persuading them to go on with their
dinner. Lopez certainly was not happy during the evening, but he
was strong enough to hide his misgivings, and to do his duty as
host with seeming cheerfulness.
WHERE IS GUATEMALA?
Though his daughter's words to him had been very wild they did
almost more to convince Mr Wharton that he should not give his
money to his son-in-law than even the letters which had passed
between them. To Emily herself he spoke very little as to what
had occurred that evening. 'Papa,' she said, 'do not ask me
anything more about it. I was very miserable,--because of the
dinner.' Nor did he at that time ask her any questions,
contenting himself with assuring her that, at any rate at
present, and till after her baby should have been born, she must
remain at Manchester Square. 'He won't hurt me,' said Mr
Wharton, and than added with a smile, 'He won't want to have any
more dinner parties while I am here.'
Nor did he make any complaint to Lopez as to what had been done,
or even allude to the dinner. But when he had been back about a
week he announced to his son-in-law his final determination as to
money. 'I had better tell you, Lopez, what I mean to do, so that
you may not be left in doubt. I shall not entrust any further
sum of money into your hands on behalf of Emily.'
'You can do as you please, sir,--of course.'
'Just so. You have had what to me is a very considerable sum,--
though I fear that it did not go for much in your large concern.'
'It was not very much, Mr Wharton.'
'I dare say not. Opinions on such a matter differ, you know. At
any rate there will be no more. At present I wish Emily to live
here, and you, of course, are welcome here also. If things are
not going well with you, this will, at any rate, relieve you from
'Mine are more minute. The necessities of my life have caused me
to think of these little things. When I am dead there will be
provision for Emily made by my will;--the income going to
trustees for her benefit, and the capital to her children after
her death. I thought it only fair to you that this should be
'And you will do nothing for me?'
'Nothing;--if that is nothing. I should have thought that your
present maintenance and the future support of your wife and
children would have been regarded as something.'
'It is nothing;--nothing!'
'Then let it be nothing. Good morning.'
Two days after that Lopez recurred to the subject. 'You were
very explicit with me the other day, sir.'
'I meant to be so.'
'And I will be equally so to you now. Both I and your daughter
are absolutely ruined unless you reconsider your purpose.'
'If you mean money by reconsideration;--present money to be
given to you,--I certainly shall not reconsider it. You may
take my solemn assurance that I will give you nothing that can be
of any service to you in trade.'
Then, sir,--I must tell you my purpose, and give you my
assurance, which is equally solemn. Under those circumstances I
must leave England, and try my fortune in Central America. There
is an opening for me at Guatemala, though not a very hopeful
'Yes;--friends of mine have a connection there. I have not
broken it to Emily yet, but under these circumstances she will
have to go.'
'You will not take her to Guatemala!'
'Not take my wife, sir? Indeed I shall. Do you suppose that I
would go away and leave my wife a pensioner on your bounty? Do
you think that she would wish to desert her husband? I don't
think you know your daughter.'
'I wish you had never known her.'
'That is neither here not there, sir. If I cannot succeed in
this country I must go elsewhere. As I have told you before
20,000 pounds at the present moment would enable me to surmount
all my difficulties, and make me a very wealthy man. But unless
I can command some such sum by Christmas everything here must be
'Never in my life did I hear so base a proposition,' said Mr
'Why is it base? I can only tell you the truth.'
'So be it. You will find that I have meant what I said.'
'So do I, Mr Wharton.'
'As to my daughter, she must, of course, do as she thinks fit.'
'She must do as I think fit, Mr Wharton.'
'I will not argue with you. Alas, alas, poor girl.'
'Poor girl indeed! She is likely to be a poor girl if she is
treated in this way by her father. As I understand that you
intend to use, or to try to use, authority over her, I shall take
steps for removing her at once from your house.' And so the
interview was ended.
Lopez had thought the matter over, and had determined to 'brazen
it out', as he himself called it. Nothing further was, he
thought, to be got by civility and obedience. Now he must use
his power. His idea of going to Guatemala was not an invention
of the moment, nor was it devoid of a certain basis of truth.
Such a suggestion had been made to him some time since by Mr
Mills Happerton. There were mines in Guatemala which wanted, or
at some future date, might want, a resident director. The
proposition had been made to Lopez before his marriage, and Mr
Happerton probably had now forgotten all about it;--but the
thing was of service now. He broke the matter very suddenly to
his wife. 'Has your father been speaking to you of my plans?'
'Not lately;--not that I remember.'
'He could not speak of them without your remembering, I should
think. Has he told you that I am going to Guatemala?'
'Guatemala! Where is Guatemala, Ferdinand?'
'You can answer my question though your geography is deficient.'
'He has said nothing about your going anywhere.'
'You will have to go,--as soon after Christmas as you may be
'But where is Guatemala;--and for how long, Ferdinand?'
'Guatemala is in Central America, and we shall probably settle
there for the rest of our lives. I have got nothing to live on
During the next two months this plan of seeking a distant home
and a strange country was constantly spoken of in Manchester
Square, and did receive corroboration from Mr Happerton himself.
Lopez renewed his application and received a letter saying that
the thing might probably be arranged if he were in earnest. 'I
am quite earnest,' Lopez said as he showed the letter to Mr
Wharton. 'I suppose Emily will be able to start two months after
her confinement. They tell me babies do very well at sea.'
During this time, in spite of his threat, he continued to live
with Mr Wharton in Manchester Square, and went every day into the
city,--whether to make arrangements and receive instructions as
to Guatemala, or to carry on his old business, neither Emily nor
her father knew. He never at this time spoke about his affairs
to either of them, but daily referred to her future expatriation
as a thing that was certain. At last there came up the actual
question,--whether she were to go or not. Her father told her
that though she was doubtless bound by law to obey her husband, in
such a matter as this she might defy the law. 'I do not think
that he can actually force you on board the ship,' her father
'But if he tells me I must go?'
'Stay with me,' said the father. 'Stay here with your baby.
I'll fight it out for you. I'll so manage that you shall have
all the world on your side.'
Emily at the moment came to no decision, but on the following day
she discussed the matter with Lopez himself. 'Of course you will
go with me,' he said, when she asked the question.
'You mean that I must, whether I wish to go or not.'
'Certainly you must. Good G-! Where is a wife's place? Am I to
go without my child, and without you, while you are enjoying all
the comforts of your father's wealth at home? That is not my
idea of life.'
'Ferdinand, I have been thinking about it very much. I must beg
you to allow me to remain. I ask it of you as if I were asking
'Your father has put you up to this.'
'No;--not to this.'
'To what then.'
'My father thinks I should refuse to go.'
'He does, does he?'
'But I shall not refuse. I shall go if you insist upon it.
There shall be no contest between us about that.'
'Well, I should hope not.'
'But I do implore you to spare me.'
'That is very selfish, Emily.'
'Yes,'--she said, 'yes, I cannot contradict that. But so is the
man selfish who prays the judge to spare his life.'
'But you do not think of me. I must go.'
'I shall not make you happier, Ferdinand.'
'Do you think that it is a fine thing for a man to live in such a
country as that all alone?'
'I think it would be better so than with a wife he does not--
'Who says I do not love you?'
'Or with one who does--not--love him.' This she said very
slowly, very softly, but looking up into his eyes as she said it.
'Do you tell me that to my face?'
'Yes;--what good can I do now by lying? You have not been to me
as I thought you would be.'
'And, because you have built some castle in the air that has
fallen to pieces, you tell your husband to his face that you do
not love him, and that you prefer not to live with him. Is that
your idea of duty?'
'Why have you been so cruel?'
'Cruel! What have I done? Tell me what cruelty. Have I beat
you? Have you been starved? Have I not asked and implored your
assistance,--only to be refused? The fact is that your father
and you have found out that I am not a rich man, and you want to
be rid of me. Is that true or false?'
'It is not true that I want to be rid of you because you are
'I do not mean to be rid of you. You will have to settle down
and do your work as my wife in whatever place it may suit me to
live. Your father is a rich man, but you shall not have the
advantage of his wealth unless it comes to you, as it ought to
come, through my hands. If your father would give me the fortune
which ought to be yours there need be no going abroad. He cannot
bear to part with his money, and therefore we must go. Now you
know all about it.' She was then turning to leave him, when he
asked her a direct question. 'Am I to understand that you intend
to resist my right to take you with me?'
'If you bid me go,--I shall go.'
'It will be better, as you will save both trouble and expense.'
Of course she told her father what had taken place; but he could
only shake his head, and groaning over his misery in his
chambers. He had explained to her what he was willing to do on
her behalf, but she declined his aid. He could not tell her that
she was wrong. She was the man's wife, and out of that terrible
destiny she could not now escape. The only question with him was
whether it would not be best to buy the man,--give him a some of
money to go, and to go alone. Could he have been quit of the man
even for 20,000 pounds, he would willingly have paid the money.
But the man would either not go, or would come back as soon as he
got the money. His own life, as he passed it now, with this man
in the house with him, was horrible to him. For Lopez, though he
had more than once threatened that he would carry his wife to
another home, had taken no steps towards getting that other house
ready for her.
During all this time Mr Wharton had not seen his son. Everett
had gone abroad just as his father returned to London from
Brighton, and was still on the continent. He received his
allowance punctually, and that was the only intercourse which
took place between them. But Emily had written to him, not
telling him much of her troubles,--only saying that she believed
her husband would take her to Central America early in the
spring, and begging him to come home before she went.
Just before Christmas her baby was born, but the poor child did
not live a couple of days. She herself at the time was so worn
with care, so thin and wan and wretched, that looking in the
glass she hardly knew her own face. 'Ferdinand,' she said to
him, 'I know he will not live. The Doctor says so.'
'Noting thrives that I have to do with,' he answered gloomily.
'Will you not look at him?'
'Well; yes. I have looked at him, have I not? I wish to God
that where he is going I could go with him.'
'I wish I was;--I wish I was going,' said the poor mother. Then
the father went out, and before he had returned to the house the
child was dead. 'Oh, Ferdinand, speak one kind word to me now,'
'What kind word can I speak when you have told me that you do not
love me. Do you think that I can forget that because, because he
'A woman's love may always be won back by kindness.'
'Psha! How am I to kiss and make pretty speeches with my mind
harassed as it is now?' But he did touch her brow with his lips
before he went away.
The infant was buried, and then there was not much show of
mourning in the house. The poor mother would sit gloomily alone
day after day, telling herself that it was perhaps better that
she should have been robbed of her treasure than have gone forth
with him into the wide, unknown, harsh world with such a father
as she had given him. Then she would look at all the
preparations she had made,--the happy work of her fingers when
her thoughts of their future use were her sweetest consolation,--
and weep till she would herself feel that there never could be an
end to her tears.
The second week in January had come and yet nothing further had
been settled as to the Guatemala project. Lopez talked about it
as though it was certain, and even told his wife as they would
move so soon it would not be now worth while for him to take
other lodgings for her. But when she asked as to her own
preparations,--the wardrobe necessary for the long voyage and
her general outfit,--he told her that three weeks or a fortnight
would be enough for all, and that he would give her sufficient
notice. 'Upon my word he is very kind to honour my poor house as
he does,' said Mr Wharton.
'Papa, we will go at once if you wish it,' said his daughter.
'Nay, Emily; do not turn upon me. I cannot but be sensible to
the insult of his daily presence, but even that is better than
Then there occurred a ludicrous incident,--or the combination of
incidents,--which, in spite of their absurdity, drove Mr Wharton
almost frantic. First there came to him the bill from Messrs
Stewam and Sugarscraps for the dinner. At this time he kept
nothing back from his daughter. 'Look at that!' he said. The
bill was absolutely made out in his name.
'It is a mistake, papa.'
'Not at all. The dinner was given in my house, and I must pay
for it. I would sooner do so than he should pay it,--even if he
had the means.' So he paid Messrs Stewam and Sugarscraps 25
pounds 9s 6d., begging them as he did so never to send another
dinner into his house, and observing that he was in the habit of
entertaining his friends at less than three guineas a head. 'But
Chateau Yquem and Cote d'Or!' said Mr Sugarscraps. 'Chateau
fiddlesticks!' said Mr Wharton, walking out of the house with his
Then came the bill for the brougham,--for the brougham from the
very day of their return to town after their wedding trip. This
he showed to Lopez. Indeed the bill had been made out to Lopez
and sent to Mr Wharton with an apologetic note. 'I didn't tell
him to send it,' said Lopez.
'But will you pay it?'
'I certainly shall not ask you to pay it.' But Mr Wharton at
last did pay it, and he also paid the rent of the rooms in the
Belgrave Mansions, and between 30 pounds and 40 pounds for
dresses which Emily had got at Lewes and Allenby's under her
husband's orders in the first days of their married life in
'Oh, papa, I wish I had not gone there,' she said.
'My dear, anything that you may have had I do not grudge in the
least. And even for him, if he would let you remain here, I
would pay willingly. I would supply all he wants if he would
MR SLIDE'S REVENGE.
'Do you mean to say, my lady, that the Duke paid his
electioneering bill down at Silverbridge?'
'I do mean to say so, Mr Slide,' Lady Eustace nodded her head,
and Mr Quintus Slide opened his mouth.
'Goodness gracious!' said Mrs Leslie, who was sitting with them.
They were in Lady Eustace's drawing-room, and the patriotic
editor of the "People's Banner" was obtaining from a new ally
information which might be useful to the country.
'But 'ow do you know, Lady Eustace? You'll pardon the
persistency of my inquiries, but when you come to public
information accuracy is everything. I never trust myself to mere
report, I always travel up to the very fountain 'ead of truth.'
'I know it,' said Lizzy Eustace oracularly.
'Um--m!' The Editor as he ejaculated the sound looked at her
ladyship with admiring eyes,--with eyes that were intended to
flatter. But Lizzie had been looked at so often in so many ways,
and was so well accustomed to admiration, that this had no effect
on her at all. 'He didn't tell you himself, did 'e now?'
'Can you tell me the truth as to trusting him with my money?'
'Yes, I can.'
'Shall I be safe if I take the papers which he calls bills of
'One good turn deserves another, my lady.'
'I don't want to make a secret of it, Mr Slide. Pountney found
it out. You know the Major?'
'Yes, I know Major Pountney. He was at Gatherum 'imself, and got
a little bit of a cold shoulder,--didn't he?'
'I dare say he did. What has that to do with it? You may be
sure that Lopez applied to the Duke for his expenses at
Silverbridge, and that the Duke sent him the money.'
'There's no doubt about it, Mr Slide,' said Mrs Leslie. 'We got
it all from Major Pountney. There was some bet between him and
Pountney, and he had to show Pountney the cheque.'
'Pountney saw the money,' said Lady Eustace.
Mr Slide stroked his had over his mouth and chin as he sat
thinking of the tremendous national importance of this
communication. The man who had paid the money was the Prime
Minister of England,--and was, moreover, Mr Slide's enemy!
'When the right 'and of fellowship had been rejected, I never
forgive!' Mr Slide has been heard to say. Even Lady Eustace,
who was not particular as to the appearance of people, remarked
afterwards to her friend that Mr Slide looked like the devil as
he was stroking his face. 'It's very remarkable,' said Mr Slide;
'You won't tell the Major that we told you,' said her Ladyship.
'Oh dear not. I only wanted to 'ear how it was. And as to
embarking your money, my lady, with Ferdinand Lopez,--I wouldn't
'Not if I get the bills of sale? It's for rum, and they say rum
will go up to any price.'
'Don't Lady Eustace. I can't say any more,--but don't. I never
mention names. But don't.'
Then Mr Slide went out in search of Major Pountney, and having
found the major at his club extracted from him all that he knew
about the Silverbridge payment. Pountney had really seen the
Duke's cheque for 500 pounds. 'There was some bet,--eh, Major?'
asked Mr Slide.
'No, there wasn't. I know who had been telling you. That's
Lizzie Eustace, and just like her mischief. They way of it was
this,--Lopez, who was very angry, had boasted that he would
bring the Duke down on his marrow-bones. I was laughing at him
as we sat at dinner on day afterwards, and he took out the cheque
and showed it me. There was the Duke's own signature for 500
pounds,--"Omnium", as plain as letters could make it.' Armed
with this full information, Mr Slide felt that he had done all
that the punctilious devotion to accuracy could demand of him,
and immediately shut himself up in his cage at the "People's
Banner" office and went to work.
This occurred about the first week of January. The Duke was then
at Matching with his wife and a very small party. The singular
arrangement which had been effected by the Duchess in the early
autumn had passed off without any wonderful effects. It had been
done by her in pique, and the result had been apparently so
absurd that it had at first frightened her. But in the end it
answered very well. The Duke took great pleasure in Lady
Rosina's company, and enjoyed the apparent solitude which enabled
him to work all day without interruption. His wife protested
that it was just what she liked, though it must be feared that
she soon became weary of it. To Lady Rosina it was of course
Paradise on earth. In September, Phineas Finn and his wife came
to them, and in October there were other relaxations and other
business. The Prime Minister and his wife visited their
Sovereign, and he made some very useful speeches through the
country on his old favourite subject of decimal coinage. At
Christmas, for a fortnight, they went to Gatherum Castle and
entertained the neighbourhood,--the nobility and squirearchy
dining there on one day, and the tenants and other farmers on
another. All this went very smoothly, and the Duke did not
become outrageously unhappy because the "People's Banner" made
sundry severe remarks on the absence of Cabinet Councils through
After Christmas they returned to Matching, and had some of their
old friends with them. There was the Duke of St Bungay and the
Duchess, and Phineas Finn and his wife, and Lord and Lady
Cantrip, Barrington Erle, and one or two others. But at this
period there came a great trouble. One morning as the Duke sat
in his own room after breakfast he read an article in the
"People's Banner", of which the following sentences are a part.
"We wish to know by whom were paid the expenses incurred by Mr
Ferdinand Lopez during the late contest at Silverbridge. It may
be that they were paid by that gentleman himself,--in which case
we shall have nothing further to say, not caring at the present
moment to inquire whether those expenses were or were not
excessive. It may be that they were paid by subscription among
his political friends,--and if so, again we shall be satisfied.
Or it is possible that funds were supplied by a new political
club of which we have lately heard much, and with the action of
such body we of course have nothing to do. If an assurance can
be given to us by Mr Lopez or his friends that such was the case
we shall be satisfied.
"But a report has reached us, and we may say more than a report,
which makes it our duty to ask this question. Were those
expenses paid out of the private pocket of the present Prime
Minister? If so, we maintain that we have discovered a blot in
that nobleman's character which it is our duty to the public to
expose. We will go farther and say that if it be so,--if these
expenses were paid out of the private pocket of the Duke of
Omnium, it is not fit that that nobleman should any longer hold
the high office which he now fills.
"We know that a peer should not interfere in elections for the
House of Commons. We certainly know that a Minister of the Crown
should not attempt to purchase parliamentary support. We happen
to know also the almost more than public manner,--are we not
justified in saying the ostentation?--with which at the last
election the Duke repudiated all that influence with the borough
which his predecessors, and we believe he himself, had so long
exercised. He came forward telling us that he, at least, meant
to have clean hands,--that he would not do as his forefathers
had done,--that he would not even do as he himself had done in
former years. What are we to think of the Duke of Omnium as a
Minister of this country, if, after such assurances, he has out
of is own pocket paid the electioneering expenses of a candidate
at Silverbridge?" There was much more in the article, but the
passages quoted will suffice to give the reader a sufficient idea
of the accusation made, and which the Duke read in the retirement
of his own chamber.
He read it twice before he allowed himself to think of the
matter. The statement made was at any rate true to the letter.
He had paid the man's electioneering expenses. That he had done
so from the purest motives he knew and the reader knows,--but he
could even explain those motives without exposing his wife.
Since the cheque was sent he had never spoken of the occurrence
to any human being,--but he had thought of it very often. At
the time his private Secretary, with much hesitation, almost with
trepidation, had counselled him not to send the money. The Duke
was a man with whom it was very easy to work, whose courtesy to
all dependent on him was almost exaggerated, who never found
fault, and was anxious as far as possible to do everything for
himself. The comfort of those around him was always a matter of
interest to him. Everything he held, he held as it were in trust
for the enjoyment of others. But he was a man whom it was
difficult to advise. He did not like advice. He was so thin-
skinned that any counsel offered him took the form of criticism.
When cautioned what shoes he should wear,--as had been done by
Lady Rosina, or what wine or what horses he should buy, as was
done by his butler and coachman, he was thankful, taking no pride
to himself for knowledge as to shoes, wine, or horses. But as to
his own conduct, private or public, as to any question of
politics, as to his opinions and resolutions, he was jealous of
interference. Mr Warburton therefore had almost trembled when
asking the Duke whether he was quite sure about sending the money
to Lopez. 'Quite sure,' the Duke had answered, having at that
time made up his mind. Mr Warburton had not dared to express a
further doubt, and the money had been sent. But from the moment
of sending it doubts had repeated themselves in the Prime
Now he sat with the newspaper in his hand thinking of it. Of
course it was open to him to take no notice of the matter,--to
go on as though he had never seen the article, and to let the
thing die if it would die. But he knew Mr Quintus Slide and his
paper well enough to be sure that it would not die. The charge
would be repeated in the "People's Banner" till it was copied
into other papers, and then the further question would be asked,
--why had the Prime Minister allowed such an accusation to remain
unanswered? But if he did notice it, what notice should he take
of it? It was true. And surely he disobeyed no law. He had
bribed no one. He had spent his money with no corrupt purpose.
His sense of honour had taught him to think the man had received
injury through his wife's imprudence, and that he therefore was
responsible as far as the pecuniary loss was concerned. He was
not ashamed that it should be discussed in public.
Why had he allowed himself to be put into a position in which he
was subject to such grievous annoyance? Since he had held his
office he had not had a happy day, nor,--or so he told himself,--
had he received from it any slightest gratification, nor could he
buoy himself up with the idea that he was doing good service for
his country. After a while he walked into the next room and
showed the paper to Mr Warburton. 'Perhaps you were right,' he
said, 'when you told me not to send the money.'
'It will matter nothing,' said the private Secretary when he had
read it,--thinking, however, that it might matter much, but
wishing to spare the Duke.
'I was obliged to repay the man as the Duchess had,--had
encouraged him. The Duchess had not quite,--quite understood my
wishes.' Mr Warburton knew the whole history, having discussed
it all with the Duchess more than once.
'I think your Grace should take no notice of the article.'
No notice was taken of it, but three days afterwards there
appeared a short paragraph in large type,--beginning with a
question. "Does the Duke of Omnium intend to answer the question
asked by us last Friday? Is it true that paid the expenses of Mr
Lopez when that gentleman stood for Silverbridge? The Duke may
be assured that the question will be repeated till it is
answered." This the Duke also saw and took to his private
'I would do nothing at any rate till it be noticed in some other
paper,' said the private Secretary. 'The "People's Banner" is
known to be scandalous.'
'Of course, it is scandalous. And, moreover, I know the motives
and the malice of the wretched man who is the editor. But the
paper is read, and the foul charge if repeated will become known,
and the allegation made is true. I did pay the man's election
expenses,--and moreover to tell the truth openly as I do not
scruple to do to you, I am not prepared to state publicly the
reason why I did so. And nothing but that reason could justify
'Then I think your Grace should state it.'
'I cannot do so.'
'The Duke of St Bungay is here. Would it not be well to tell the
whole affair to him?'
'I will think of it. I do not know why I should have troubled
'Oh, my lord!'
'Except that there is always some comfort in speaking even of
one's trouble. I will think about it. In the meantime you need
perhaps not mention it again.'
'Who? I? Oh, certainly not.'
'I did not mean to others,--but to myself. I will turn it in my
mind and speak of it when I have decided anything.' And he did
think about it, thinking of it so much that he could hardly get
the matter out of mind day or night. To his wife he did not
allude to it at all. Why trouble her with it? She had caused
the evil, and he had cautioned her as to the future. She could
not help him out of the difficulty she had created. He continued
to turn the matter over in his thoughts till he so magnified it,
and built it up into such proportions, that he again began to
think that he must resign. It was, he thought, true that a man
should not remain in office as Prime Minister who in such a
matter could not clear his own conduct.
Then there was a third attack in the "People's Banner", and after
that the matter was noticed in the "Evening Pulpit". This notice
the Duke of St Bungay saw and mentioned it to Mr Warburton. 'Has
the Duke spoken to you of some allegations made in the press as
to the expenses of the late election at Silverbridge?' The old
Duke was at this time, and had been for some months, in a state
of nervous anxiety about his friend. He had almost admitted to
himself that he had been wrong in recommending a politician so
weakly organized to take the office of Prime Minister. He had
expected the man to be more manly,--had perhaps expected him to
be less conscientiously scrupulous. But now, as the thing had
been done, it must be maintained. Who else was there to take the
office? Mr Gresham would not. To keep Mr Daubney out was the
very essence of the Duke of St Bungay's life,--the turning-point
of his political creed, the one grand duty the idea of which was
always present to him. And he had, moreover, a most true and
affectionate regard for the man whom he now supported,
appreciating the sweetness of his character,--believing still in
the Minister's patriotism, intelligence, devotion, and honesty;
though he was forced to own to himself that the strength of a
man's heart was wanting.
'Yes,' said Warburton, 'he did mention it.'
'Does it trouble him?'
'Perhaps you had better speak to him about it.' Both the old
Duke and the private Secretary were as fearful and nervous about
the Prime Minister as a mother is for a weakly child. They could
hardly tell their opinions to each other, but they understood one
another, and between them they coddled the Prime Minister. They
were specially nervous as to what might be done by the Prime
Minister's wife, nervous as to what was done by everyone who came
in contact with him. It had been once suggested by the private
Secretary that Lady Rosina should be sent for, as she had a
soothing effect upon the Prime Minister's spirit.
'Has it irritated him?' asked the Duke.
'Well;--yes, it has,--a little, you know. I think your Grace
had better speak to him;--and not perhaps mention my name.' The
Duke of St Bungay nodded his head, and said he would speak to the
great man and would not mention anyone's name.
And he did speak. 'Has anyone said anything to you about it?'
asked the Prime Minister.
'I saw it in the "Evening Pulpit" myself. I have not heard it
'I did pay the man's expenses.'
'Yes,--when the election was over, and, as far as I can
remember, some time after it was over. He wrote to me saying
that he had incurred such and such expenses, and asking me to
repay him. I sent him a cheque for the amount.
'I was bound in honour to do it.'
There was a short pause before this second question was answered.
'The man had been induced to stand by representations made to him
from my house. He had been, I fear, promised certain support
which certainly was not given him when the time came.'
'You had not promised it?'
'Was it the Duchess?'
'Upon the whole, my friend, I think I would rather not discuss it
further, even with you. It is right that you should know that I
did pay the money,--and also why I paid it. It may also be
necessary that we should consider whether there may be any
further probable result from my doing so. But the money has been
paid, by me myself,--and was paid for the reason I have stated.'
'A question might be asked in the House.'
'If so, it must be answered as I have answered you. I certainly
shall not shirk any responsibility that may be attached to me.'
'You would not like Warburton to write a line to the newspaper?'
'What;--to the "People's Banner"!'
'It began there, did it? No, not to the "People's Banner", but
to the "Evening Pulpit". He could say, you know, that the money
was paid by you, and the payment had been made because your
agents had misapprehended your instructions.'
'It would not be true,' said the Prime Minister, slowly.
'As far as I can understand that was what occurred,' said the
'My instructions were not misapprehended. They were disobeyed.
I think that perhaps we had better say no more about it.'
'Do not think I wish to press you,' said the old man tenderly,
'but I fear that something ought to be done;--I mean for your
'My comfort!' said the Prime Minister. 'That has vanished long
ago;--and my peace of mind, and my happiness.'
'There has been nothing done which cannot be explained with
perfect truth. There has been no impropriety.'
'I do not know.'
'The money was paid simply from an over-nice sense of honour.'
'It cannot be explained. I cannot explain it even to you; and
how then can I do it to all the gaping fools of the country who
are ready to trample upon a man simply because he is some way
conspicuous among them?'
After that the old Duke again spoke to Mr Warburton, but Mr
Warburton was very loyal to his chief. 'Could one do anything by
speaking to the Duchess?' said the old Duke.
'I think not.'
'I suppose it was her Grace who did it all?'
'I cannot say. My own impression is that he had better wait till
the Houses meet, and then, if any question is asked, let it be
answered. He himself would do it in the House of Lords, or Mr
Finn or Barrington Erle, in our House. It would be surely enough
to explain that his Grace had been made to believe that the man
had received encouragement at Silverbridge from his own agents,
which he himself had not intended should be given, and that
therefore he had thought it right to pay the money. After such
an explanation what more could anyone say?'
'You might do it yourself.'
'I never speak.'
'But in such a case as that you might do so; and then there would
be no necessity for him to talk to another person on the matter.'
So the affair was left for the present, though the allusions to
it in the "People's Banner" were still continued. Nor did any
other of the Prime Minister's colleagues dare to speak to him on
the subject. Barrington Erle and Phineas Finn talked of it among
themselves, but they did not mention it even to the Duchess. She
would have gone to her husband at once, and they were too careful
of him to risk such a proceeding. It certainly was the case that
among them they coddled the Prime Minister.
CODDLING THE PRIME MINISTER.
Parliament was to meet on the 12th of February, and it was of
course necessary that there should be a Cabinet Council before
that time. The Prime Minister, about the end of the third week
in January, was prepared to name a day for this, and did so, most
unwillingly. But he was then ill, and talked both to his friend
the old Duke, and his private Secretary of having the meeting
held without him. 'Impossible,' said the old Duke.
'If I could not go it would have to be possible.'
'We could all come here if it were necessary.'
'Bring fourteen or fifteen ministers out to town because a poor
creature such as I am is ill!' But in truth the Duke of St
Bungay hardly believed in this illness. The Prime Minister was
unhappy rather than ill.
By this time everyone in the House,--and almost everybody in the
country who read the newspapers,--had heard of Mr Lopez and his
election expenses,--except the Duchess. No one had yet dared to
tell her. She saw the newspapers daily, but probably did not
read them very attentively. Nevertheless she knew that something
was wrong. Mr Warburton hovered about the Prime Minister more
tenderly than usual; the Duke of St Bungay was more concerned;
the world around her was more mysterious, and her husband more
wretched. 'What is it that's going on?' she said one day to
'Everything,--in the same dull way as usual.'
'If you don't tell me, I'll never speak to you again. I know
there is something wrong.'
'The Duke, I'm afraid, is not quite well.'
'What makes him ill? I know well when he's ill, and when he's
well. He's troubled by something.'
'I think he is, Duchess. But as he has not spoken to me I am
loath to make guesses. If there be anything I can only guess at
Then she questioned Mrs Finn, and got an answer, which, if not
satisfactory, was at any rate explanatory. 'I think he is uneasy
about that Silverbridge affair.'
'What Silverbridge affair?'
'You know that he paid the expenses which that man Lopez says
that he incurred.'
'Yes;--I know that.'
'And you know that that other man Slide has found it out, and
published it all in the "People's Banner".'
'Yes, indeed. And a whole army of accusations has been brought
against him. I have never liked to tell you, and yet I do not
think that you should be left in the dark.'
'Everybody deceives me,' said the Duchess angrily.
'Nay;--there has been no deceit.'
'Everybody keeps things from me. I think you will kill me among
you. It was my doing. Why do they attack him? I will write to
the papers. I encouraged the man after Plantagenet had
determined that he should not be assisted,--and, because I had
done so, he paid the man his beggarly money. What is there to
hurt him in that? Let me bear it. My back is broad enough.'
'The Duke is very sensitive.'
'I hate people to be sensitive. It makes them cowards. A man
when he is afraid of being blamed, dares not at last even show
himself, and has to be wrapped in lamb's wool.'
'Of course men are differently organized.'
'Yes;--but the worst of it is, that when they suffer from this
weakness, which you call sensitiveness, they think that they are
made of finer material than other people. Men shouldn't be made
of Sevres china, but of good stone earthenware. However, I don't
want to abuse him, poor fellow.'
'I don't think you ought.'
'I know what that means. You do not want to abuse me. So
they've been bullying him about the money he paid to that man
Lopez. How did anybody know anything about it?'
'Lopez must have told of it,' said Mrs Finn.
'The worst, my dear, of trying to know a great many people is,
that you are sure to get hold of some that are very bad. Now
that man is very bad. Yet they say he has married a nice wife.'
'That's often the case, Duchess.'
'And the contrary;--isn't it, my dear? But I shall have it out
with Plantagenet. I have to write letters to all the newspapers
myself, I'll put it right.' She certainly coddled her husband
less than the others, and, indeed in her hearts of hearts
disapproved altogether of the coddling system. But she was wont
at this particular time to be somewhat tender to him because she
was aware that she herself had been imprudent. Since he had
discovered her interference at Silverbridge, and had made her
understand its pernicious results, she had been,--not, perhaps,
shamefaced, for that word describes a condition to which hardly
any series of misfortunes could have reduced the Duchess of
Omnium,--but inclined to quiescence by feelings of penitence.
She was less disposed than heretofore to attack him with what the
world of yesterday calls 'chaff', or with what the world of to-
day calls 'cheek'. She would not admit to herself that she was
cowed;--but the greatness of the game and the high interest
attached to her husband's position did in some degree dismay her.
Nevertheless she executed her purpose of 'having it out with
Plantagenet,' 'I have just heard,' she said, having knocked at
the door of his own room, and having found him alone,--'I have
just hear, for the first time, that there is a row about the
money you paid to Mr Lopez.'
'Who told you?'
'Nobody told me,--in the usual sense of the word. I presumed
that something was the matter, and then I got it from Marie. Why
had you not told me?'
'Why should I tell you?'
'But why not? If anything troubled me, I should tell you. That
is, if it troubled me much.'
'You take it for granted that this does trouble me much.' He was
smiling as he said this, but the smile passed very quickly from
his face. 'I will not, however, deceive you. It does trouble
'I knew very well that something was wrong.'
'I have not complained.'
'One can see as much as that without words. What is it that you
fear? What can the man do to you? What matter is it to you if
such a one as that pours out his malice on you? Let it run off
like the rain from the housetops. You are too big even to be
stung by such a reptile as that.' He looked into her face,
admiring the energy with which she spoke to him. 'As for
answering him,' she continued to say, 'that may or may not be
proper. If it should be done, there are people to do it. But I
am speaking of your own inner self. You have a shield against
your equals, and a sword to attack them with if necessary. Have
you no armour of proof against such a creature as that? Have you
nothing inside you to make you feel that he is too contemptible
to be regarded?'
'Cora, there a different natures which have each their own
excellencies, and their own defects. I will not admit that I am
a coward, believing as I do that I could dare to face necessary
danger. But I cannot endure to have my character impugned,--
even by Mr Lopez.'
'What matter,--if you are in the right? Why blench if your
conscience accuses you of no fault? I would not blench if it
did. What,--is a man to be put in the front of everything, and
then to be judged as though he could give all his time to the
picking of his steps?'
'Just so! And he must pick them more warily than another.'
'I do not believe it. You see all this with jaundiced eyes. I
read somewhere the other day that the great ships have always
little worms attached to them, but that the great ships swim on
and know nothing of the worms.'
'The worms conquer at last.'
'They shouldn't conquer me! After all, what is it that they say
about the money? That you ought not to have had it?'
'I begin to think I was wrong to pay it.'
'You certainly were not wrong. I had led the man on. I had been
mistaken. I had thought he was a gentleman. Having led him on
at first, before you had spoken to me, I did not like to go back
from my word. I did go to the man at Silverbridge who sells the
pots, and no doubt the man, when thus encouraged, told it all to
Lopez. When Lopez went to the town he did suppose that he would
have what the people call the Castle interest.'
'And I had done so much to prevent it.'
'What's the use of going back on that now, unless you want me to
put my neck down to be trodden on? I am confessing my own sins
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