The Way We Live Now
Part 10 out of 19
for this kind of thing.'
'Immediately. I wouldn't tell you till I had arranged everything. I've
had it in my mind for the last fortnight.'
'And how is it to be? Oh, Felix, I hope it may succeed.'
'It was your own idea, you know. We're going to;--where do you think?'
'How can I think?--Boulogne.'
'You say that just because Goldsheiner went there. That wouldn't have
done at all for us. We're going to--New York.'
'To New York! But when will you be married?'
'There will be a clergyman on board. It's all fixed. I wouldn't go
without telling you.'
'Oh; I wish you hadn't told me.'
'Come now;--that's kind. You don't mean to say it wasn't you that put me
up to it. I've got to get my things ready.'
'Of course, if you tell me that you are going on a journey, I will
have your clothes got ready for you. When do you start?'
'For New York! We must get some things ready-made. Oh, Felix, how will
it be if he does not forgive her?' He attempted to laugh. 'When I
spoke of such a thing as possible he had not sworn then that he would
never give her a shilling.'
'They always say that.'
'You are going to risk it?'
'I am going to take your advice.' This was dreadful to the poor
mother. 'There is money settled on her.'
'Settled on whom?'
'On Marie;--money which he can't get back again.'
'She doesn't know,--but a great deal; enough for them all to live upon
if things went amiss with them.'
'But that's only a form, Felix. That money can't be her own, to give
to her husband.'
'Melmotte will find that it is, unless he comes to terms. That's the
pull we've got over him. Marie knows what she's about. She's a great
deal sharper than any one would take her to be. What can you do for
me about money, mother?'
'I have none, Felix.'
'I thought you'd be sure to help me, as you wanted me so much to do
'That's not true, Felix. I didn't want you to do it. Oh, I am so sorry
that that word ever passed my mouth! I have no money. There isn't £20
at the bank altogether.'
'They would let you overdraw for £50 or £60.'
'I will not do it. I will not starve myself and Hetta. You had ever so
much money only lately. I will get some things for you, and pay for
them as I can if you cannot pay for them after your marriage;--but I
have not money to give you.'
'That's a blue look-out,' said he, turning himself in his chair 'just
when £60 or £70 might make a fellow for life! You could borrow it from
your friend Broune.'
'I will do no such thing, Felix. £50 or £60 would make very little
difference in the expense of such a trip as this. I suppose you have
'Some;--yes, some. But I'm so short that any little thing would help
me.' Before the evening was over she absolutely did give him a cheque
for £30 although she had spoken the truth in saying that she had not
so much at her banker's.
After this he went back to his club, although he himself understood
the danger. He could not bear the idea of going to bed, quietly at
home at half-past ten. He got into a cab, and was very soon up in the
card-room. He found nobody there, and went to the smoking-room, where
Dolly Longestaffe and Miles Grendall were sitting silently together,
with pipes in their mouths. 'Here's Carbury,' said Dolly, waking
suddenly into life. 'Now we can have a game at three-handed loo.'
'Thank ye; not for me,' said Sir Felix. 'I hate three-handed loo.'
'Dummy,' suggested Dolly.
'I don't think I'll play to-night, old fellow. I hate three fellows
sticking down together.' Miles sat silent, smoking his pipe, conscious
of the baronet's dislike to play with him. 'By-the-by, Grendall look
here.' And Sir Felix in his most friendly tone whispered into his
enemy's ear a petition that some of the I.O.U.'s might be converted into
''Pon my word, I must ask you to wait till next week,' said Miles.
'It's always waiting till next week with you,' said Sir Felix, getting
up and standing with his back to the fireplace. There were other men
in the room, and this was said so that every one should hear it. 'I
wonder whether any fellow would buy these for five shillings in the
pound?' And he held up the scraps of paper in his hand. He had been
drinking freely before he went up to Welbeck Street, and had taken a
glass of brandy on re-entering the club.
'Don't let's have any of that kind of thing down here,' said Dolly.
'If there is to be a row about cards, let it be in the card-room.'
'Of course,' said Miles. 'I won't say a word about the matter down
here. It isn't the proper thing.'
'Come up into the card-room, then,' said Sir Felix, getting up from
his chair. 'It seems to me that it makes no difference to you, what
room you're in. Come up, now; and Dolly Longestaffe shall come and
hear what you say.' But Miles Grendall objected to this arrangement.
He was not going up into the card-room that night, as no one was going
to play. He would be there to-morrow, and then if Sir Felix Carbury had
anything to say, he could say it.
'How I do hate a row!' said Dolly. 'One has to have rows with one's
own people, but there ought not to be rows at a club.'
'He likes a row,--Carbury does,' said Miles.
'I should like my money, if I could get it,' said Sir Felix, walking
out of the room.
On the next day he went into the City, and changed his mother's
cheque. This was done after a little hesitation: The money was given
to him, but a gentleman from behind the desks begged him to remind
Lady Carbury that she was overdrawing her account. 'Dear, dear;' said
Sir Felix, as he pocketed the notes, 'I'm sure she was unaware of it.'
Then he paid for his passage from Liverpool to New York under the name
of Walter Jones, and felt as he did so that the intrigue was becoming
very deep. This was on Tuesday. He dined again at the club, alone, and
in the evening went to the Music Hall. There he remained, from ten
till nearly twelve, very angry at the non-appearance of Ruby Ruggles.
As he smoked and drank in solitude, he almost made up his mind that
he had intended to tell her of his departure for New York. Of course
he would have done no such thing. But now, should she ever complain on
that head he would have his answer ready. He had devoted his last
night in England to the purpose of telling her, and she had broken her
appointment. Everything would now be her fault. Whatever might happen
to her she could not blame him.
Having waited till he was sick of the Music Hall,--for a music hall
without ladies' society must be somewhat dull,--he went back to his
club. He was very cross, as brave as brandy could make him, and well
inclined to expose Miles Grendall if he could find an opportunity. Up
in the card-room he found all the accustomed men,--with the exception of
Miles Grendall. Nidderdale, Grasslough, Dolly, Paul Montague, and one
or two others were there. There was, at any rate, comfort in the idea
of playing without having to encounter the dead weight of Miles
Grendall. Ready money was on the table,--and there was none of the
peculiar Beargarden paper flying about. Indeed the men at the
Beargarden had become sick of paper, and there had been formed a
half-expressed resolution that the play should be somewhat lower, but
the payments punctual. The I.O.U.'s had been nearly all converted into
money,--with the assistance of Herr Vossner,--excepting those of Miles
Grendall. The resolution mentioned did not refer back to Grendall's
former indebtedness, but was intended to include a clause that he must
in future pay ready money. Nidderdale had communicated to him the
determination of the committee. 'Bygones are bygones, old fellow; but
you really must stump up, you know, after this.' Miles had declared
that he would 'stump up.' But on this occasion Miles was absent.
At three o'clock in the morning, Sir Felix had lost over a hundred
pounds in ready money. On the following night about one he had lost a
further sum of two hundred pounds. The reader will remember that he
should at that time have been in the hotel at Liverpool.
But Sir Felix, as he played on in the almost desperate hope of
recovering the money which he so greatly needed, remembered how Fisker
had played all night, and how he had gone off from the club to catch
the early train for Liverpool, and how he had gone on to New York
CHAPTER L - THE JOURNEY TO LIVERPOOL
Marie Melmotte, as she had promised, sat up all night, as did also the
faithful Didon. I think that to Marie the night was full of pleasure,--
or at any rate of pleasurable excitement. With her door locked, she
packed and unpacked and repacked her treasures,--having more than once
laid out on the bed the dress in which she purposed to be married. She
asked Didon her opinion whether that American clergyman of whom they
had heard would marry them on board, and whether in that event the
dress would be fit for the occasion. Didon thought that the man, if
sufficiently paid, would marry them, and that the dress would not much
signify. She scolded her young mistress very often during the night
for what she called nonsense; but was true to her, and worked hard for
her. They determined to go without food in the morning, so that no
suspicion should be raised by the use of cups and plates. They could
get refreshment at the railway-station.
At six they started. Robert went first with the big boxes, having his
ten pounds already in his pocket,--and Marie and Didon with smaller
luggage followed in a second cab. No one interfered with them and
nothing went wrong. The very civil man at Euston Square gave them
their tickets, and even attempted to speak to them in French. They had
quite determined that not a word of English was to be spoken by Marie
till the ship was out at sea. At the station they got some very bad
tea and almost uneatable food,--but Marie's restrained excitement was so
great that food was almost unnecessary to her. They took their seats
without any impediment,--and then they were off.
During a great part of the journey they were alone, and then Marie
gabbled to Didon about her hopes and her future career, and all the
things she would do;--how she had hated Lord Nidderdale,--especially when,
after she had been awed into accepting him, he had given her no token
of love,--'pas un baiser!' Didon suggested that such was the way with
English lords. She herself had preferred Lord Nidderdale, but had been
willing to join in the present plan,--as she said, from devoted
affection to Marie. Marie went on to say that Nidderdale was ugly, and
that Sir Felix was as beautiful as the morning. 'Bah!' exclaimed
Didon, who was really disgusted that such considerations should
prevail. Didon had learned in some indistinct way that Lord Nidderdale
would be a marquis and would have a castle, whereas Sir Felix would
never be more than Sir Felix, and, of his own, would never have
anything at all. She had striven with her mistress, but her mistress
liked to have a will of her own. Didon no doubt had thought that New
York, with £50 and other perquisites in hand, might offer her a new
career. She had therefore yielded, but even now could hardly forbear
from expressing disgust at the folly of her mistress. Marie bore it
with imperturbable good humour. She was running away,--and was running
to a distant continent,--and her lover would be with her! She gave Didon
to understand that she cared nothing for marquises.
As they drew near to Liverpool Didon explained that they must still be
very careful. It would not do for them to declare at once their
destination on the platform,--so that every one about the station should
know that they were going on board the packet for New York. They had
time enough. They must leisurely look for the big boxes and other
things, and need say nothing about the steam packet till they were in
a cab. Marie's big box was directed simply 'Madame Racine, Passenger
to Liverpool;'--so also was directed a second box, nearly as big, which
was Didon's property. Didon declared that her anxiety would not be
over till she found the ship moving under her. Marie was sure that all
their dangers were over,--if only Sir Felix was safe on board. Poor
Marie! Sir Felix was at this moment in Welbeck Street, striving to
find temporary oblivion for his distressing situation and loss of
money, and some alleviation for his racking temples, beneath the
When the train ran into the station at Liverpool the two women sat for
a few moments quite quiet. They would not seek remark by any hurry or
noise. The door was opened, and a well-mannered porter offered to take
their luggage. Didon handed out the various packages, keeping however
the jewel-case in her own hands. She left the carriage first, and then
Marie. But Marie had hardly put her foot on the platform, before a
gentleman addressed her, touching his hat, 'You, I think, are Miss
Melmotte.' Marie was struck dumb, but said nothing. Didon immediately
became voluble in French. No; the young lady was not Miss Melmotte;
the young lady was Mademoiselle Racine, her niece. She was Madame
Racine. Melmotte! What was Melmotte? They knew nothing about
Melmottes. Would the gentleman kindly allow them to pass on to their
But the gentleman would by no means kindly allow them to pass on to
their cab. With the gentleman was another gentleman,--who did not seem
to be quite so much of a gentleman;--and again, not far in the distance
Didon quickly espied a policeman, who did not at present connect
himself with the affair, but who seemed to have his time very much at
command, and to be quite ready if he were wanted. Didon at once gave
up the game,--as regarded her mistress.
'I am afraid I must persist in asserting that you are Miss Melmotte,'
said the gentleman, 'and that this other--person is your servant, Elise
Didon. You speak English, Miss Melmotte.' Marie declared that she
spoke French. 'And English too,' said the gentleman. 'I think you had
better make up your minds to go back to London. I will accompany you.'
'Ah, Didon, nous sommes perdues!' exclaimed Marie. Didon, plucking up
her courage for the moment, asserted the legality of her own position
and of that of her mistress. They had both a right to come to
Liverpool. They had both a right to get into the cab with their
luggage. Nobody had a right to stop them. They had done nothing
against the laws. Why were they to be stopped in this way? What was it
to anybody whether they called themselves Melmotte or Racine?
The gentleman understood the French oratory, but did not commit
himself to reply in the same language. 'You had better trust yourself
to me; you had indeed,' said the gentleman.
'But why?' demanded Marie.
Then the gentleman spoke in a very low voice. 'A cheque has been
changed which you took from your father's house. No doubt your father
will pardon that when you are once with him. But in order that we may
bring you back safely we can arrest you on the score of the cheque,--
if you force us to do so. We certainly shall not let you go on board.
If you will travel back to London with me, you shall be subjected to
no inconvenience which can be avoided.'
There was certainly no help to be found anywhere. It may be well
doubted whether upon the whole the telegraph has not added more to the
annoyances than to the comforts of life, and whether the gentlemen who
spent all the public money without authority ought not to have been
punished with special severity in that they had injured humanity,
rather than pardoned because of the good they had produced. Who is
benefited by telegrams? The newspapers are robbed of all their old
interest, and the very soul of intrigue is destroyed. Poor Marie, when
she heard her fate, would certainly have gladly hanged Mr Scudamore.
When the gentleman had made his speech, she offered no further
opposition. Looking into Didon's face and bursting into tears, she sat
down on one of the boxes. But Didon became very clamorous on her own
behalf,--and her clamour was successful. 'Who was going to stop her?
What had she done? Why should not she go where she pleased. Did anybody
mean to take her up for stealing anybody's money? If anybody did, that
person had better look to himself. She knew the law. She would go
where she pleased.' So saying she began to tug the rope of her box as
though she intended to drag it by her own force out of the station.
The gentleman looked at his telegram,--looked at another document which
he now held in his hand, ready prepared, should it be wanted. Elise
Didon had been accused of nothing that brought her within the law. The
gentleman in imperfect French suggested that Didon had better return
with her mistress. But Didon clamoured only the more. No; she would go
to New York. She would go wherever she pleased;--all the world over.
Nobody should stop her. Then she addressed herself in what little
English she could command to half-a-dozen cab-men who were standing
round and enjoying the scene. They were to take her trunk at once. She
had money and she could pay. She started off to the nearest cab, and
no one stopped her. 'But the box in her hand is mine,' said Marie, not
forgetting her trinkets in her misery. Didon surrendered the
jewel-case, and ensconced herself in the cab without a word of
farewell; and her trunk was hoisted on to the roof. Then she was
driven away out of the station,--and out of our story. She had a
first-class cabin all to herself as far as New York, but what may have
been her fate after that it matters not to us to enquire.
Poor Marie! We who know how recreant a knight Sir Felix had proved
himself, who are aware that had Miss Melmotte succeeded in getting on
board the ship she would have passed an hour of miserable suspense,
looking everywhere for her lover, and would then at last have been
carried to New York without him, may congratulate her on her escape.
And, indeed, we who know his character better than she did, may still
hope in her behalf that she may be ultimately saved from so wretched a
marriage. But to her her present position was truly miserable. She
would have to encounter an enraged father; and when,--when should she
see her lover again? Poor, poor Felix! What would be his feelings when
he should find himself on his way to New York without his love! But in
one matter she made up her mind steadfastly. She would be true to him!
They might chop her in pieces! Yes;--she had said it before, and she
would say it again. There was, however, doubt in her mind from time to
time, whether one course might not be better even than constancy. If
she could contrive to throw herself out of the carriage and to be
killed,--would not that be the best termination to her present
disappointment? Would not that be the best punishment for her father?
But how then would it be with poor Felix? 'After all I don't know that
he cares for me,' she said to herself, thinking over it all.
The gentleman was very kind to her, not treating her at all as though
she were disgraced. As they got near town he ventured to give her a
little advice. 'Put a good face on it,' he said, 'and don't be cast
'Oh, I won't,' she answered. 'I don't mean.'
'Your mother will be delighted to have you back again.'
'I don't think that mamma cares. It's papa. I'd do it again to-morrow
if I had the chance.' The gentleman looked at her, not having expected
so much determination. 'I would. Why is a girl to be made to marry to
please any one but herself? I won't. And it's very mean saying that I
stole the money. I always take what I want, and papa never says
anything about it.'
'Two hundred and fifty pounds is a large sum, Miss Melmotte.'
'It is nothing in our house. It isn't about the money. It's because
papa wants me to marry another man;--and I won't. It was downright mean
to send and have me taken up before all the people.'
'You wouldn't have come back if he hadn't done that.'
'Of course I wouldn't,' said Marie.
The gentleman had telegraphed up to Grosvenor Square while on the
journey, and at Euston Square they were met by one of the Melmotte
carriages. Marie was to be taken home in the carriage, and the box was
to follow in a cab;--to follow at some interval so that Grosvenor Square
might not be aware of what had taken place. Grosvenor Square, of
course, very soon knew all about it. 'And are you to come?' Marie
asked, speaking to the gentleman. The gentleman replied that be had
been requested to see Miss Melmotte home. 'All the people will wonder
who you are,' said Marie laughing. Then the gentleman thought that
Miss Melmotte would be able to get through her troubles without much
When she got home she was hurried up at once to her mother's room,--and
there she found her father, alone. 'This is your game, is it?' said
he, looking down at her.
'Well, papa;--yes. You made me do it.'
'You fool you! You were going to New York,--were you?' To this she
vouchsafed no reply. 'As if I hadn't found out all about it. Who was
going with you?'
'If you have found out all about it, you know, papa.'
'Of course I know;--but you don't know all about it, you little idiot.'
'No doubt I'm a fool and an idiot. You always say so.'
'Where do you suppose Sir Felix Carbury is now?' Then she opened her
eyes and looked at him. 'An hour ago he was in bed at his mother's
house in Welbeck Street.'
'I don't believe it, papa.'
'You don't, don't you? You'll find it true. If you had gone to New
York, you'd have gone alone. If I'd known at first that he had stayed
behind, I think I'd have let you go.'
'I'm sure he didn't stay behind.'
'If you contradict me, I'll box your ears, you jade. He is in London
at this moment. What has become of the woman that went with you?'
'She's gone on board the ship.'
'And where is the money you took from your mother?' Marie was silent.
'Who got the cheque changed?'
'And has she got the money?'
'Have you got it?'
'Did you give it to Sir Felix Carbury?'
'Then I'll be hanged if I don't prosecute him for stealing it.'
'Oh, papa, don't do that;--pray don't do that. He didn't steal it. I
only gave it him to take care of for us. He'll give it you back
'I shouldn't wonder if he lost it at cards, and therefore didn't go to
Liverpool. Will you give me your word that you'll never attempt to
marry him again if I don't prosecute him?' Marie considered. 'Unless
you do that I shall go to a magistrate at once.'
'I don't believe you can do anything to him. He didn't steal it. I
gave it to him.'
'Will you promise me?'
'No, papa, I won't. What's the good of promising when I should only
break it. Why can't you let me have the man I love? What's the good of
all the money if people don't have what they like?'
'All the money!--What do you know about the money? Look here,' and he
took her by the arm. 'I've been very good to you. You've had your
share of everything that has been going;--carriages and horses,
bracelets and brooches, silks and gloves, and every thing else.' He
held her very hard and shook her as he spoke.
'Let me go, papa; you hurt me. I never asked for such things. I don't
care a straw about bracelets and brooches.'
'What do you care for?'
'Only for somebody to love me,' said Marie, looking down.
'You'll soon have nobody to love you if you go on this fashion. You've
had everything done for you, and if you don't do something for me in
return, by G----, you shall have a hard time of it. If you weren't such
a fool you'd believe me when I say that I know more than you do.'
'You can't know better than me what'll make me happy.'
'Do you think only of yourself? If you'll marry Lord Nidderdale you'll
have a position in the world which nothing can take from you.'
'Then I won't,' said Marie firmly. Upon this he shook her till she
cried, and calling for Madame Melmotte desired his wife not to let the
girl for one minute out of her presence.
The condition of Sir Felix was I think worse than that of the lady
with whom he was to have run away. He had played at the Beargarden
till four in the morning and had then left the club, on the
breaking-up of the card-table, intoxicated and almost penniless.
During the last half hour he had made himself very unpleasant at the
club, saying all manner of harsh things of Miles Grendall;--of whom,
indeed, it was almost impossible to say things too hard, had they been
said in a proper form and at a proper time. He declared that Grendall
would not pay his debts, that he had cheated when playing loo,--as to
which Sir Felix appealed to Dolly Longestaffe; and he ended by
asserting that Grendall ought to be turned out of the club. They had a
desperate row. Dolly of course had said that he knew nothing about it,
and Lord Grasslough had expressed an opinion that perhaps more than
one person ought to be turned out. At four o'clock the party was
broken up and Sir Felix wandered forth into the streets, with nothing
more than the change of a ten pound note in his pocket. All his
luggage was lying in the hall of the club, and there he left it.
There could hardly have been a more miserable wretch than Sir Felix
wandering about the streets of London that night. Though he was nearly
drunk, he was not drunk enough to forget the condition of his affairs.
There is an intoxication that makes merry in the midst of affliction,--
and there is an intoxication that banishes affliction by producing
oblivion. But again there is an intoxication which is conscious of
itself though it makes the feet unsteady, and the voice thick, and the
brain foolish; and which brings neither mirth nor oblivion. Sir Felix
trying to make his way to Welbeck Street and losing it at every turn,
feeling himself to be an object of ridicule to every wanderer, and of
dangerous suspicion to every policeman, got no good at all out of his
intoxication. What had he better do with himself? He fumbled in his
pocket, and managed to get hold of his ticket for New York. Should he
still make the journey? Then he thought of his luggage, and could not
remember where it was. At last, as he steadied himself against a
letter-post, he was able to call to mind that his portmanteaus were at
the club. By this time he had wandered into Marylebone Lane, but did
not in the least know where he was. But he made an attempt to get back
to his club, and stumbled half down Bond Street. Then a policeman
enquired into his purposes, and when he said that he lived in Welbeck
Street, walked back with him as far as Oxford Street. Having once
mentioned the place where he lived, he had not strength of will left
to go back to his purpose of getting his luggage and starting for
Between six and seven he was knocking at the door in Welbeck Street.
He had tried his latch-key, but had found it inefficient. As he was
supposed to be at Liverpool, the door had in fact been locked. At last
it was opened by Lady Carbury herself. He had fallen more than once,
and was soiled with the gutter. Most of my readers will not probably
know how a man looks when he comes home drunk at six in the morning;
but they who have seen the thing will acknowledge that a sorrier sight
cannot meet a mother's eye than that of a son in such a condition.
'Oh, Felix!' she exclaimed.
'It'sh all up,' he said, stumbling in.
'What has happened, Felix?'
'Discovered, and be d----- to it! The old shap'sh stopped ush.' Drunk as
he was, he was able to lie. At that moment the 'old shap' was fast
asleep in Grosvenor Square, altogether ignorant of the plot; and
Marie, joyful with excitement, was getting into the cab in the mews.
'Bettersh go to bed.' And so he stumbled upstairs by daylight, the
wretched mother helping him. She took off his clothes for him and his
boots, and having left him already asleep, she went down to her own
room, a miserable woman.
CHAPTER LI - WHICH SHALL IT BE?
Paul Montague reached London on his return from Suffolk early on the
Monday morning, and on the following day he wrote to Mrs Hurtle. As he
sat in his lodgings, thinking of his condition, he almost wished that
he had taken Melmotte's offer and gone to Mexico. He might at any rate
have endeavoured to promote the railway earnestly, and then have
abandoned it if he found the whole thing false. In such case of course
he would never have seen Hetta Carbury again; but, as things were, of
what use to him was his love,--of what use to him or to her? The kind of
life of which he dreamed, such a life in England as was that of Roger
Carbury, or, as such life would be, if Roger had a wife whom he loved,
seemed to be far beyond his reach. Nobody was like Roger Carbury!
Would it not be well that he should go away, and, as he went, write to
Hetta and bid her marry the best man that ever lived in the world?
But the journey to Mexico was no longer open to him. He had repudiated
the proposition and had quarrelled with Melmotte. It was necessary
that he should immediately take some further step in regard to Mrs
Hurtle. Twice lately he had gone to Islington determined that he would
see that lady for the last time. Then he had taken her to Lowestoft,
and had been equally firm in his resolution that he would there put an
end to his present bonds. Now he had promised to go again to
Islington;--and was aware that if he failed to keep his promise, she
would come to him. In this way there would never be an end to it.
He would certainly go again, as he had promised,--if she should still
require it; but he would first try what a letter would do,--a plain
unvarnished tale. Might it still be possible that a plain tale sent by
post should have sufficient efficacy? This was his plain tale as he
now told it.
Tuesday, 2nd July, 1873.
MY DEAR MRS HURTLE,--
I promised that I would go to you again in Islington, and so I
will, if you still require it. But I think that such a meeting
can be of no service to either of us. What is to be gained? I do
not for a moment mean to justify my own conduct. It is not to be
justified. When I met you on our journey hither from San
Francisco, I was charmed with your genius, your beauty, and your
character. They are now what I found them to be then. But
circumstances have made our lives and temperaments so far
different, that I am certain that, were we married, we should
not make each other happy. Of course the fault was mine; but it
is better to own that fault, and to take all the blame,--and
the evil consequences, let them be what they may [to be shot,
for instance, like the gentleman in Oregon] than to be married
with the consciousness that even at the very moment of the
ceremony, such marriage will be a matter of sorrow and
repentance. As soon as my mind was made up on this I wrote to
you. I can not,--I dare not,--blame you for the step you have
since taken. But I can only adhere to the resolution I then
The first day I saw you here in London you asked me whether I
was attached to another woman. I could answer you only by the
truth. But I should not of my own accord have spoken to you of
altered affections. It was after I had resolved to break my
engagement with you that I first knew this girl. It was not
because I had come to love her that I broke it. I have no
grounds whatever for hoping that my love will lead to any
I have now told you as exactly as I can the condition of my
mind. If it were possible for me in any way to compensate the
injury I have done you,--or even to undergo retribution for
it,--I would do so. But what compensation can be given, or what
retribution can you exact? I think that our further meeting can
avail nothing. But if, after this, you wish me to come again, I
will come for the last time,--because I have promised.
Your most sincere friend,
Mrs Hurtle, as she read this, was torn in two ways. All that Paul had
written was in accordance with the words written by herself on a scrap
of paper which she still kept in her own pocket. Those words, fairly
transcribed on a sheet of note-paper, would be the most generous and
the fittest answer she could give. And she longed to be generous. She
had all a woman's natural desire to sacrifice herself. But the
sacrifice which would have been most to her taste would have been of
another kind. Had she found him ruined and penniless she would have
delighted to share with him all that she possessed. Had she found him
a cripple, or blind, or miserably struck with some disease, she would
have stayed by him and have nursed him and given him comfort. Even had
he been disgraced she would have fled with him to some far country and
have pardoned all his faults. No sacrifice would have been too much
for her that would have been accompanied by a feeling that he
appreciated all that she was doing for him, and that she was loved in
return. But to sacrifice herself by going away and never more being
heard of, was too much for her! What woman can endure such sacrifice
as that? To give up not only her love, but her wrath also;--that was too
much for her! The idea of being tame was terrible to her. Her life had
not been very prosperous, but she was what she was because she had
dared to protect herself by her own spirit. Now, at last, should she
succumb and be trodden on like a worm? Should she be weaker even than
an English girl? Should she allow him to have amused himself with her
love, to have had 'a good time,' and then to roam away like a bee,
while she was so dreadfully scorched, so mutilated and punished! Had
not her whole life been opposed to the theory of such passive
endurance? She took out the scrap of paper and read it; and, in spite
of all, she felt that there was a feminine softness in it that
But no;--she could not send it. She could not even copy the words. And
so she gave play to all her strongest feelings on the other side,--
being in truth torn in two directions. Then she sat herself down to her
desk, and with rapid words, and flashing thoughts, wrote as follows:--
I have suffered many injuries, but of all injuries this is the
worst and most unpardonable,--and the most unmanly. Surely there
never was such a coward, never so false a liar. The poor wretch
that I destroyed was mad with liquor and was only acting after
his kind. Even Caradoc Hurtle never premeditated such wrong as
this. What you are to bind yourself to me by the most solemn
obligation that can join a man and a woman together, and then
tell me,--when they have affected my whole life,--that they are
to go for nothing, because they do not suit your view of things?
On thinking over it, you find that an American wife would not
make you so comfortable as some English girl;--and therefore it
is all to go for nothing! I have no brother, no man near;--me or
you would not dare to do this. You can not but be a coward.
You talk of compensation! Do you mean money? You do not dare to
say so, but you must mean it. It is an insult the more. But as
to retribution; yes. You shall suffer retribution. I desire you
to come to me,--according to your promise,--and you will find me
with a horsewhip in my hand. I will whip you till I have not a
breath in my body. And then I will see what you will dare to
do;--whether you will drag me into a court of law for the
Yes; come. You shall come. And now you know the welcome you
shall find. I will buy the whip while this is reaching you, and
you shall find that I know how to choose such a weapon. I call
upon you so come. But should you be afraid and break your
promise, I will come to you. I will make London too hot to hold
you;--and if I do not find you I will go with my story to every
friend you have.
I have now told you as exactly as I can the condition of my
Having written this she again read the short note, and again gave way
to violent tears. But on that day she sent no letter. On the following
morning she wrote a third, and sent that. This was the third letter:--
This letter duly reached Paul Montague at his lodgings. He started
immediately for Islington. He had now no desire to delay the meeting.
He had at any rate taught her that his gentleness towards her, his
going to the play with her, and drinking tea with her at Mrs Pipkin's,
and his journey with her to the sea, were not to be taken as evidence
that he was gradually being conquered. He had declared his purpose
plainly enough at Lowestoft,--and plainly enough in his last letter.
She had told him, down at the hotel, that had she by chance have been
armed at the moment, she would have shot him. She could arm herself
now if she pleased;--but his real fear had not lain in that direction.
The pang consisted in having to assure her that he was resolved to do
her wrong. The worst of that was now over.
The door was opened for him by Ruby, who by no means greeted him with
a happy countenance. It was the second morning after the night of her
imprisonment; and nothing had occurred to alleviate her woe. At this
very moment her lover should have been in Liverpool, but he was, in
fact, abed in Welbeck Street. 'Yes, sir; she's at home,' said Ruby,
with a baby in her arms and a little child hanging on to her dress.
'Don't pull so, Sally. Please, sir, is Sir Felix still in London?'
Ruby had written to Sir Felix the very night of her imprisonment, but
had not as yet received any reply. Paul, whose mind was altogether
intent on his own troubles, declared that at present he knew nothing
about Sir Felix, and was then shown into Mrs Hurtle's room.
'So you have come,' she said, without rising from her chair.
'Of course I came, when you desired it.'
'I don't know why you should. My wishes do not seem to affect you
much. Will you sit down there?' she said, pointing to a seat at some
distance from herself. 'So you think it would be best that you and I
should never see each other again?' She was very calm; but it seemed
to him that the quietness was assumed, and that at any moment it might
be converted into violence. He thought that there was that in her eye
which seemed to foretell the spring of the wild-cat.
'I did think so certainly. What more can I say?'
'Oh, nothing; clearly nothing.' Her voice was very low. 'Why should a
gentleman trouble himself to say any more than that he has changed his
mind? Why make a fuss about such little things as a woman's life, or a
woman's heart?' Then she paused. 'And having come, in consequence of
my unreasonable request, of course you are wise to hold your peace.'
'I came because I promised.'
'But you did not promise to speak;--did you?'
'What would you have me say?'
'Ah what! Am I to be so weak as to tell you now what I would have you
say? Suppose you were to say, "I am a gentleman, and a man of my word,
and I repent me of my intended perfidy," do you not think you might
get your release that way? Might it not be possible that I should
reply that as your heart was gone from me, your hand might go after
it;--that I scorned to be the wife of a man who did not want me?' As
she asked this she gradually raised her voice, and half lifted herself
in her seat, stretching herself towards him.
'You might indeed,' he replied, not well knowing what to say.
'But I should not. I at least will be true. I should take you, Paul,--
still take you; with a confidence that I should yet win you to me by
my devotion. I have still some kindness of feeling towards you,--none to
that woman who is I suppose younger than I, and gentler, and a maid.'
She still looked as though she expected a reply, but there was nothing
to be said in answer to this. 'Now that you are going to leave me,
Paul, is there any advice you can give me, as to what I shall do next?
I have given up every friend in the world for you. I have no home. Mrs
Pipkin's room here is more my home than any other spot on the earth. I
have all the world to choose from, but no reason whatever for a
choice. I have my property. What shall I do with it, Paul? If I could
die and be no more heard of, you should be welcome to it.' There was
no answer possible to all this. The questions were asked because there
was no answer possible. 'You might at any rate advise me. Paul, you
are in some degree responsible,--are you not,--for my loneliness?'
'I am. But you know that I cannot answer your questions.'
'You cannot wonder that I should be somewhat in doubt as to my future
life. As far as I can see, I had better remain here. I do good at any
rate to Mrs Pipkin. She went into hysterics yesterday when I spoke of
leaving her. That woman, Paul, would starve in our country, and I
shall be desolate in this.' Then she paused, and there was absolute
silence for a minute. 'You thought my letter very short; did you not?'
'It said, I suppose, all you had to say.'
'No, indeed. I did have much more to say. That was the third letter I
wrote. Now you shall see the other two. I wrote three, and had to
choose which I would send you. I fancy that yours to me was easier
written than either one of mine. You had no doubts, you know. I had
many doubts. I could not send them all by post, together. But you may
see them all now. There is one. You may read that first. While I was
writing it, I was determined that that should go.' Then she handed him
the sheet of paper which contained the threat of the horsewhip.
'I am glad you did not send that,' he said.
'I meant it.'
'But you have changed your mind?'
'Is there anything in it that seems to you to be unreasonable? Speak
out and tell me.'
'I am thinking of you, not of myself.'
'Think of me, then. Is there anything said there which the usage to
which I have been subjected does not justify?'
'You ask me questions which I cannot answer. I do not think that under
any provocation a woman should use a horsewhip.'
'It is certainly more comfortable for gentlemen,--who amuse
themselves,--that women should have that opinion. But, upon my word, I
don't know what to say about that. As long as there are men to fight
for women, it may be well to leave the fighting to the men. But when a
woman has no one to help her, is she to bear everything without turning
upon those who ill-use her? Shall a woman be flayed alive because it is
unfeminine in her to fight for her own skin? What is the good of being
--feminine, as you call it? Have you asked yourself that? That men may
be attracted, I should say. But if a woman finds that men only take
advantage of her assumed weakness, shall she not throw it off? If she
be treated as prey, shall she not fight as a beast of prey? Oh, no;--it
is so unfeminine! I also, Paul, had thought of that. The charm of
womanly weakness presented itself to my mind in a soft moment,--and
then I wrote this other letter. You may as well see them all.' And so
she handed him the scrap which had been written at Lowestoft, and he
read that also.
He could hardly finish it, because of the tears which filled his eyes.
But, having mastered its contents, he came across the room and threw
himself on his knees at her feet, sobbing. 'I have not sent it, you
know,' she said. 'I only show it you that you may see how my mind has
been at work'
'It hurts me more than the other,' he replied.
'Nay, I would not hurt you,--not at this moment. Sometimes I feel that
I could tear you limb from limb, so great is my disappointment, so
ungovernable my rage! Why,--why should I be such a victim? Why should
life be an utter blank to me, while you have everything before you?
There, you have seen them all. Which will you have?'
'I cannot now take that other as the expression of your mind.'
'But it will be when you have left me;--and was when you were with me at
the sea-side. And it was so I felt when I got your first letter in San
Francisco. Why should you kneel there? You do not love me. A man
should kneel to a woman for love, not for pardon.' But though she
spoke thus, she put her hand upon his forehead, and pushed back his
hair, and looked into his face. 'I wonder whether that other woman
loves you. I do not want an answer, Paul. I suppose you had better
go.' She took his hand and pressed it to her breast. 'Tell me one
thing. When you spoke of--compensation, did you mean--money?'
'No; indeed no.'
'I hope not,--I hope not that. Well, there;--go. You shall be troubled
no more with Winifred Hurtle.' She took the sheet of paper which
contained the threat of the horsewhip and tore it into scraps.
'And am I to keep the other?' he asked.
'No. For what purpose would you have it? To prove my weakness? That
also shall be destroyed.' But she took it and restored it to her
'Good-bye, my friend,' he said.
'Nay! This parting will not bear a farewell. Go, and let there be no
other word spoken.' And so he went.
As soon as the front door was closed behind him she rang the bell and
begged Ruby to ask Mrs Pipkin to come to her. 'Mrs Pipkin,' she said,
as soon as the woman had entered the room; 'everything is over between
me and Mr Montague.' She was standing upright in the middle of the
room, and as she spoke there was a smile on her face.
'Lord 'a mercy,' said Mrs Pipkin, holding up both her hands.
'As I have told you that I was to be married to him, I think it right
now to tell you that I'm not going to be married to him.'
'And why not?--and he such a nice young man,--and quiet too.'
'As to the why not, I don't know that I am prepared to speak about
that. But it is so. I was engaged to him.'
'I'm well sure of that, Mrs Hurtle.'
'And now I'm no longer engaged to him. That's all.'
'Dearie me! and you going down to Lowestoft with him, and all.' Mrs
Pipkin could not bear to think that she should hear no more of such an
'We did go down to Lowestoft together, and we both came back not
together. And there's an end of it.'
'I'm sure it's not your fault, Mrs Hurtle. When a marriage is to be,
and doesn't come off, it never is the lady's fault.'
'There's an end of it, Mrs Pipkin. If you please, we won't say
anything more about it.'
'And are you going to leave, ma'am?' said Mrs Pipkin, prepared to have
her apron up to her eyes at a moment's notice. Where should she get
such another lodger as Mrs Hurtle,--a lady who not only did not inquire
about victuals, but who was always suggesting that the children should
eat this pudding or finish that pie, and who had never questioned an
item in a bill since she had been in the house!
'We'll say nothing about that yet, Mrs Pipkin.' Then Mrs Pipkin gave
utterance to so many assurances of sympathy and help that it almost
seemed that she was prepared to guarantee to her lodger another lover
in lieu of the one who was now dismissed.
CHAPTER LII - THE RESULTS OF LOVE AND WINE
Two, three, four, and even five o'clock still found Sir Felix Carbury
in bed on that fatal Thursday. More than once or twice his mother
crept up to his room, but on each occasion he feigned to be fast
asleep and made no reply to her gentle words. But his condition was
one which only admits of short snatches of uneasy slumber. From head
to foot, he was sick and ill and sore, and could find no comfort
anywhere. To lie where he was, trying by absolute quiescence to soothe
the agony of his brows and to remember that as long as he lay there he
would be safe from attack by the outer world, was all the solace
within his reach. Lady Carbury sent the page up to him, and to the
page he was awake. The boy brought him tea. He asked for soda and
brandy; but there was none to be had, and in his present condition he
did not dare to hector about it till it was procured for him.
The world surely was now all over to him. He had made arrangements for
running away with the great heiress of the day, and had absolutely
allowed the young lady to run away without him. The details of their
arrangement had been such that she absolutely would start upon her
long journey across the ocean before she could find out that he had
failed to keep his appointment. Melmotte's hostility would be incurred
by the attempt, and hers by the failure. Then he had lost all his
money,--and hers. He had induced his poor mother to assist in raising a
fund for him,--and even that was gone. He was so cowed that he was
afraid even of his mother. And he could remember something, but no
details, of some row at the club,--but still with a conviction on his
mind that he had made the row. Ah,--when would he summon courage to
enter the club again? When could he show himself again anywhere? All
the world would know that Marie Melmotte had attempted to run off with
him, and that at the last moment he had failed her. What lie could he
invent to cover his disgrace? And his clothes! All his things were at
the club;--or he thought that they were, not being quite certain whether
he had not made some attempt to carry them off to the Railway Station.
He had heard of suicide. If ever it could be well that a man should
cut his own throat, surely the time had come for him now. But as this
idea presented itself to him he simply gathered the clothes around him
and tried to sleep. The death of Cato would hardly have for him
Between five and six his mother again came up to him, and when he
appeared to sleep, stood with her hand upon his shoulder. There must
be some end to this. He must at any rate be fed. She, wretched woman,
had been sitting all day,--thinking of it. As regarded her son himself;
his condition told his story with sufficient accuracy. What might be
the fate of the girl she could not stop to inquire. She had not heard
all the details of the proposed scheme; but she had known that Felix
had proposed to be at Liverpool on the Wednesday night, and to start
on Thursday for New York with the young lady; and with the view of
aiding him in his object she had helped him with money. She had bought
clothes for him, and had been busy with Hetta for two days preparing
for his long journey,--having told some lie to her own daughter as to
the cause of her brother's intended journey. He had not gone, but had
come, drunk and degraded, back to the house. She had searched his
pockets with less scruple than she had ever before felt, and had found
his ticket for the vessel and the few sovereigns which were left to
him. About him she could read the riddle plainly. He had stayed at his
club till he was drunk, and had gambled away all his money. When she
had first seen him she had asked herself what further lie she should
now tell to her daughter. At breakfast there was instant need for some
story. 'Mary says that Felix came back this morning, and that he has
not gone at all,' Hetta exclaimed. The poor woman could not bring
herself to expose the vices of the son to her daughter. She could not
say that he had stumbled into the house drunk at six o'clock. Hetta no
doubt had her own suspicions. 'Yes; he has come back,' said Lady
Carbury, broken-hearted by her troubles. 'It was some plan about the
Mexican railway I believe, and has broken through. He is very unhappy
and not well. I will see to him.' After that Hetta had said nothing
during the whole day. And now, about an hour before dinner, Lady
Carbury was standing by her son's bedside, determined that he should
speak to her.
'Felix,' she said,--'speak to me, Felix.--I know that you are awake.' He
groaned, and turned himself away from her, burying himself further
under the bedclothes. 'You must get up for your dinner. It is near six
'All right,' he said at last.
'What is the meaning of this, Felix? You must tell me. It must be told
sooner or later. I know you are unhappy. You had better trust your
'I am so sick, mother.'
'You will be better up. What were you doing last night? What has come
of it all? Where are your things?'
'At the club.--You had better leave me now, and let Sam come up to me.'
Sam was the page.
'I will leave you presently; but, Felix, you must tell me about this.
What has been done?'
'It hasn't come off.'
'But how has it not come off?'
'I didn't get away. What's the good of asking?'
'You said this morning when you came in, that Mr Melmotte had
'Did I? Then I suppose he has. Oh, mother, I wish I could die. I don't
see what's the use of anything. I won't get up to dinner. I'd rather
'You must have something to eat, Felix.'
'Sam can bring it me. Do let him get me some brandy and water. I'm so
faint and sick with all this that I can hardly bear myself. I can't
talk now. If he'll get me a bottle of soda water and some brandy, I'll
tell you all about it then.'
'Where is the money, Felix?'
'I paid it for the ticket,' said he, with both his hands up to his
Then his mother again left him with the understanding that he was to
be allowed to remain in bed till the next morning; but that he was to
give her some further explanation when he had been refreshed and
invigorated after his own prescription. The boy went out and got him
soda water and brandy, and meat was carried up to him, and then he did
succeed for a while in finding oblivion from his misery in sleep.
'Is he ill, mamma?' Hetta asked.
'Yes, my dear.'
'Had you not better send for a doctor?'
'No, my dear. He will be better to-morrow.'
'Mamma, I think you would be happier if you would tell me everything.'
'I can't,' said Lady Carbury, bursting out into tears. 'Don't ask.
What's the good of asking? It is all misery and wretchedness. There is
nothing to tell,--except that I am ruined.'
'Has he done anything, mamma?'
'No. What should he have done? How am I to know what he does? He tells
me nothing. Don't talk about it any more. Oh, God,--how much better it
would be to be childless!'
'Oh, mamma, do you mean me?' said Hetta, rushing across the room, and
throwing herself close to her mother's side on the sofa. 'Mamma, say
that you do not mean me.'
'It concerns you as well as me and him. I wish I were childless.'
'Oh, mamma, do not be cruel to me! Am I not good to you? Do I not try
to be a comfort to you?'
'Then marry your cousin, Roger Carbury, who is a good man, and who can
protect you. You can, at any rate, find a home for yourself, and a
friend for us. You are not like Felix. You do not get drunk and
gamble,--because you are a woman. But you are stiff-necked, and will
not help me in my trouble.'
'Shall I marry him, mamma, without loving him?'
'Love! Have I been able to love? Do you see much of what you call love
around you? Why should you not love him? He is a gentleman, and a good
man,--soft-hearted, of a sweet nature, whose life would be one effort to
make yours happy. You think that Felix is very bad.'
'I have never said so.'
'But ask yourself whether you do not give as much pain, seeing what
you could do for us if you would. But it never occurs to you to
sacrifice even a fantasy for the advantage of others.'
Hetta retired from her seat on the sofa, and when her mother again
went upstairs she turned it all over in her mind. Could it be right
that she should marry one man when she loved another? Could it be
right that she should marry at all, for the sake of doing good to her
family? This man, whom she might marry if she would,--who did in truth
worship the ground on which she trod,--was, she well knew, all that her
mother had said. And he was more than that. Her mother had spoken of
his soft heart, and his sweet nature. But Hetta knew also that he was
a man of high honour and a noble courage. In such a condition as was
hers now he was the very friend whose advice she could have asked,--
had he not been the very lover who was desirous of making her his wife.
Hetta felt that she could sacrifice much for her mother. Money, if she
had it, she could have given, though she left herself penniless. Her
time, her inclinations, her very heart's treasure, and, as she
thought, her life, she could give. She could doom herself to poverty,
and loneliness, and heart-rending regrets for her mother's sake. But
she did not know how she could give herself into the arms of a man she
did not love.
'I don't know what there is to explain,' said Felix to his mother. She
had asked him why he had not gone to Liverpool, whether he had been
interrupted by Melmotte himself, whether news had reached him from
Marie that she had been stopped, or whether,--as might have been
possible,--Marie had changed her own mind. But he could not bring
himself to tell the truth, or any story bordering on the truth. 'It
didn't come off,' he said, 'and of course that knocked me off my legs.
Well; yes. I did take some champagne when I found how it was. A fellow
does get cut up by that kind of thing. Oh, I heard it at the club,--that
the whole thing was off. I can't explain anything more. And then I was
so mad, I can't tell what I was after. I did get the ticket. There it
is. That shows I was in earnest. I spent the £30 in getting it. I
suppose the change is there. Don't take it, for I haven't another
shilling in the world.' Of course he said nothing of Marie's money, or
of that which he had himself received from Melmotte. And as his mother
had heard nothing of these sums she could not contradict what he said.
She got from him no further statement, but she was sure that there was
a story to be told which would reach her ears sooner or later.
That evening, about nine o'clock, Mr Broune called in Welbeck Street.
He very often did call now, coming up in a cab, staying for a cup of
tea, and going back in the same cab to the office of his newspaper.
Since Lady Carbury had, so devotedly, abstained from accepting his
offer, Mr Broune had become almost sincerely attached to her. There
was certainly between them now more of the intimacy of real friendship
than had ever existed in earlier days. He spoke to her more freely
about his own affairs, and even she would speak to him with some
attempt at truth. There was never between them now even a shade of
love-making. She did not look into his eyes, nor did he hold her hand.
As for kissing her,--he thought no more of it than of kissing the
maid-servant. But he spoke to her of the things that worried him,--the
unreasonable exactions of proprietors, and the perilous inaccuracy of
contributors. He told her of the exceeding weight upon his shoulders,
under which an Atlas would have succumbed. And he told her something
too of his triumphs;--how he had had this fellow bowled over in
punishment for some contradiction, and that man snuffed out for daring
to be an enemy. And he expatiated on his own virtues, his justice and
clemency. Ah,--if men and women only knew his good nature and his
patriotism;--how he had spared the rod here, how he had made the fortune
of a man there, how he had saved the country millions by the
steadiness of his adherence to some grand truth! Lady Carbury
delighted in all this and repaid him by flattery, and little
confidences of her own. Under his teaching she had almost made up her
mind to give up Mr Alf. Of nothing was Mr Broune more certain than
that Mr Alf was making a fool of himself in regard to the Westminster
election and those attacks on Melmotte. 'The world of London generally
knows what it is about,' said Mr Broune, 'and the London world
believes Mr Melmotte to be sound. I don't pretend to say that he has
never done anything that he ought not to do. I am not going into his
antecedents. But he is a man of wealth, power, and genius, and Alf will
get the worst of it.' Under such teaching as this, Lady Carbury was
almost obliged to give up Mr Alf.
Sometimes they would sit in the front room with Hetta, to whom also Mr
Broune had become attached; but sometimes Lady Carbury would be in her
own sanctum. On this evening she received him there, and at once
poured forth all her troubles about Felix. On this occasion she told
him everything, and almost told him everything truly. He had already
heard the story. 'The young lady went down to Liverpool, and Sir Felix
was not there.'
'He could not have been there. He has been in bed in this house all
day. Did she go?'
'So I am told;--and was met at the station by the senior officer of the
police at Liverpool, who brought her back to London without letting
her go down to the ship at all. She must have thought that her lover
was on board;--probably thinks so now. I pity her.'
'How much worse it would have been, had she been allowed to start,'
said Lady Carbury.
'Yes; that would have been bad. She would have had a sad journey to
New York, and a sadder journey back. Has your son told you anything
'They say that the girl entrusted him with a large sum which she had
taken from her father. If that be so he certainly ought to lose no
time in restoring it. It might be done through some friend. I would do
it, for that matter. If it be so,--to avoid unpleasantness,--it should
be sent back at once. It will be for his credit.' This Mr Broune said
with a clear intimation of the importance of his advice.
It was dreadful to Lady Carbury. She had no money to give back, nor,
as she was well aware, had her son. She had heard nothing of any
money. What did Mr Broune mean by a large sum? 'That would be
dreadful,' she said.
'Had you not better ask him about it?'
Lady Carbury was again in tears. She knew that she could not hope to
get a word of truth from her son. 'What do you mean by a large sum?'
'Two or three hundred pounds, perhaps.'
'I have not a shilling in the world, Mr Broune.' Then it all came
out,--the whole story of her poverty, as it had been brought about by
her son's misconduct. She told him every detail of her money affairs
from the death of her husband, and his will, up to the present moment.
'He is eating you up, Lady Carbury.' Lady Carbury thought that she was
nearly eaten up already, but she said nothing. 'You must put a stop to
'You must rid yourself of him. It is dreadful to say so, but it must
be done. You must not see your daughter ruined. Find out what money he
got from Miss Melmotte and I will see that it is repaid. That must be
done;--and we will then try to get him to go abroad. No;--do not
contradict me. We can talk of the money another time. I must be off
now, as I have stayed too long. Do as I bid you. Make him tell you,
and send me word down to the office. If you could do it early
to-morrow, that would be best. God bless you.' And so he hurried off.
Early on the following morning a letter from Lady Carbury was put into
Mr Broune's hands, giving the story of the money as far as she had
been able to extract it from Sir Felix. Sir Felix declared that Mr
Melmotte had owed him £600, and that he had received £250 out of this
from Miss Melmotte,--so that there was still a large balance due to him.
Lady Carbury went on to say that her son had at last confessed that he
had lost this money at play. The story was fairly true; but Lady
Carbury in her letter acknowledged that she was not justified in
believing it because it was told to her by her son.
CHAPTER LIII - A DAY IN THE CITY
Melmotte had got back his daughter, and was half inclined to let the
matter rest there. He would probably have done so had he not known
that all his own household were aware that she had gone off to meet
Sir Felix Carbury, and had he not also received the condolence of
certain friends in the city. It seemed that about two o'clock in the
day the matter was known to everybody. Of course Lord Nidderdale would
hear of it, and if so all the trouble that he had taken in that
direction would have been taken in vain. Stupid fool of a girl to
throw away her chance,--nay, to throw away the certainty of a brilliant
career, in that way! But his anger against Sir Felix was infinitely
more bitter than his anger against his daughter. The man had pledged
himself to abstain from any step of this kind,--had given a written
pledge,--had renounced under his own signature his intention of marrying
Marie! Melmotte had of course learned all the details of the cheque
for £250,--how the money had been paid at the bank to Didon, and how
Didon had given it to Sir Felix. Marie herself acknowledged that Sir
Felix had received the money. If possible he would prosecute the
baronet for stealing his money.
Had Melmotte been altogether a prudent man he would probably have been
satisfied with getting back his daughter and would have allowed the
money to go without further trouble. At this especial point in his
career ready money was very valuable to him, but his concerns were of
such magnitude that £250 could make but little difference. But there
had grown upon the man during the last few months an arrogance, a
self-confidence inspired in him by the worship of other men, which
clouded his intellect, and robbed him of much of that power of
calculation which undoubtedly he naturally possessed. He remembered
perfectly his various little transactions with Sir Felix. Indeed it
was one of his gifts to remember with accuracy all money transactions,
whether great or small, and to keep an account book in his head, which
was always totted up and balanced with accuracy. He knew exactly how
he stood, even with the crossing-sweeper to whom he had given a penny
last Tuesday, as with the Longestaffes, father and son, to whom he had
not as yet made any payment on behalf of the purchase of Pickering.
But Sir Felix's money had been consigned into his hands for the
purchase of shares,--and that consignment did not justify Six Felix in
taking another sum of money from his daughter. In such a matter he
thought that an English magistrate, and an English jury, would all be
on his side,--especially as he was Augustus Melmotte, the man about to
be chosen for Westminster, the man about to entertain the Emperor of
The next day was Friday,--the day of the Railway Board. Early in the
morning he sent a note to Lord Nidderdale.
MY DEAR NIDDERDALE,--
Pray come to the Board to-day;--or at any rate come to me in the
city. I specially want to speak to you.
This he wrote, having made up his mind that it would be wise to make a
clear breast of it with his hoped-for son-in-law. If there was still
a chance of keeping the young lord to his guns that chance would be
best supported by perfect openness on his part. The young lord would
of course know what Marie had done. But the young lord had for some
weeks past been aware that there had been a difficulty in regard to
Sir Felix Carbury, and had not on that account relaxed his suit. It
might be possible to persuade the young lord that as the young lady
had now tried to elope and tried in vain, his own chance might on the
whole be rather improved than injured.
Mr Melmotte on that morning had many visitors, among whom one of the
earliest and most unfortunate was Mr Longestaffe. At that time there
had been arranged at the offices in Abchurch Lane a mode of double
ingress and egress,--a front stairs and a back stairs approach and
exit, as is always necessary with very great men,--in reference to
which arrangement the honour and dignity attached to each is exactly
contrary to that which generally prevails in the world; the front
stairs being intended for everybody, and being both slow and
uncertain, whereas the back stairs are quick and sure, and are used
only for those who are favoured. Miles Grendall had the command of the
stairs, and found that he had plenty to do in keeping people in their
right courses. Mr Longestaffe reached Abchurch Lane before one,--having
altogether failed in getting a moment's private conversation with the
big man on that other Friday, when he had come later. He fell at once
into Miles's hands, and was ushered through the front stairs passage
and into the front stairs waiting-room, with much external courtesy.
Miles Grendall was very voluble. Did Mr Longestaffe want to see Mr
Melmotte? Oh;--Mr Longestaffe wanted to see Mr Melmotte as soon as
possible! Of course Mr Longestaffe should see Mr Melmotte. He, Miles,
knew that Mr Melmotte was particularly desirous of seeing Mr
Longestaffe. Mr Melmotte had mentioned Mr Longestaffe's name twice
during the last three days. Would Mr Longestaffe sit down for a few
minutes? Had Mr Longestaffe seen the 'Morning Breakfast Table'? Mr
Melmotte undoubtedly was very much engaged. At this moment a
deputation from the Canadian Government was with him;--and Sir Gregory
Gribe was in the office waiting for a few words. But Miles thought
that the Canadian Government would not be long,--and as for Sir Gregory,
perhaps his business might be postponed. Miles would do his very best
to get an interview for Mr Longestaffe,--more especially as Mr Melmotte
was so very desirous himself of seeing his friend. It was astonishing
that such a one as Miles Grendall should have learned his business so
well and should have made himself so handy! We will leave Mr
Longestaffe with the 'Morning Breakfast Table' in his hands, in the
front waiting-room, merely notifying the fact that there he remained
for something over two hours.
In the meantime both Mr Broune and Lord Nidderdale came to the office,
and both were received without delay. Mr Broune was the first. Miles
knew who he was, and made no attempt to seat him in the same room with
Mr Longestaffe. 'I'll just send him a note,' said Mr Broune, and he
scrawled a few words at the office counter. 'I'm commissioned to pay
you some money on behalf of Miss Melmotte.' Those were the words, and
they at once procured him admission to the sanctum. The Canadian
Deputation must have taken its leave, and Sir Gregory could hardly
have as yet arrived. Lord Nidderdale, who had presented himself almost
at the same moment with the Editor, was shown into a little private
room which was, indeed, Miles Grendall's own retreat. 'What's up with
the Governor?' asked the young lord.
'Anything particular do you mean?' said Miles. 'There are always so
many things up here.'
'He has sent for me.'
'Yes,--you'll go in directly. There's that fellow who does the
"Breakfast Table" in with him. I don't know what he's come about. You
know what he has sent for you for?'
Lord Nidderdale answered this question by another. 'I suppose all this
about Miss Melmotte is true?'
'She did go off yesterday morning,' said Miles, in a whisper.
'But Carbury wasn't with her.'
'Well, no;--I suppose not. He seems to have mulled it. He's such a
d---- brute, he'd be sure to go wrong whatever he had in hand.'
'You don't like him, of course, Miles. For that matter I've no reason
to love him. He couldn't have gone. He staggered out of the club
yesterday morning at four o'clock as drunk as Cloe. He'd lost a pot of
money, and had been kicking up a row about you for the last hour.'
'Brute!' exclaimed Miles, with honest indignation.
'I dare say. But though he was able to make a row, I'm sure he
couldn't get himself down to Liverpool. And I saw all his things lying
about the club hall late last night;--no end of portmanteaux and bags;
just what a fellow would take to New York. By George! Fancy taking a
girl to New York! It was plucky.'
'It was all her doing,' said Miles, who was of course intimate with Mr
Melmotte's whole establishment, and had had means therefore of hearing
the true story.
'What a fiasco!' said the young lord. 'I wonder what the old boy means
to say to me about it.' Then there was heard the clear tingle of a
little silver bell, and Miles told Lord Nidderdale that his time had
Mr Broune had of late been very serviceable to Mr Melmotte, and
Melmotte was correspondingly gracious. On seeing the Editor he
immediately began to make a speech of thanks in respect of the support
given by the 'Breakfast Table' to his candidature. But Mr Broune cut
him short. 'I never talk about the "Breakfast Table,"' said he. 'We
endeavour to get along as right as we can, and the less said the
soonest mended.' Melmotte bowed. 'I have come now about quite another
matter, and perhaps, the less said the sooner mended about that also.
Sir Felix Carbury on a late occasion received a sum of money in trust
from your daughter. Circumstances have prevented its use in the
intended manner, and, therefore, as Sir Felix's friend, I have called
to return the money to you.' Mr Broune did not like calling himself
the friend of Sir Felix, but he did even that for the lady who had
been good enough to him not to marry him.
'Oh, indeed,' said Mr Melmotte, with a scowl on his face, which he
would have repressed if he could.
'No doubt you understand all about it.'
'Yes;--I understand. D---- scoundrel!'
'We won't discuss that, Mr Melmotte. I've drawn a cheque myself
payable to your order,--to make the matter all straight. The sum was
£250, I think.' And Mr Broune put a cheque for that amount down upon
'I dare say it's all right,' said Mr Melmotte. 'But, remember, I don't
think that this absolves him. He has been a scoundrel.'
'At any rate he has paid back the money, which chance put into his
hands, to the only person entitled to receive it on the young lady's
behalf. Good morning.' Mr Melmotte did put out his hand in token of
amity. Then Mr Broune departed and Melmotte tinkled his bell. As
Nidderdale was shown in he crumpled up the cheque, and put it into his
pocket. He was at once clever enough to perceive that any idea which
he might have had of prosecuting Sir Felix must be abandoned. 'Well,
my Lord, and how are you?' said he with his pleasantest smile.
Nidderdale declared himself to be as fresh as paint. 'You don't look
down in the mouth, my Lord.'
Then Lord Nidderdale,--who no doubt felt that it behoved him to show a
good face before his late intended father-in-law,--sang the refrain of
an old song, which it is trusted my readers may remember.
'Cheer up, Sam;
Don't let your spirits go down.
There's many a girl that I know well,
Is waiting for you in the town.'
'Ha, ha, ha,' laughed Melmotte, 'very good. I've no doubt there is,--
many a one. But you won't let this stupid nonsense stand in your way
'Upon my word, sir, I don't know about that. Miss Melmotte has given
the most convincing proof of her partiality for another gentleman, and
of her indifference to me.'
'A foolish baggage! A silly little romantic baggage! She's been
reading novels till she has learned to think she couldn't settle down
quietly till she had run off with somebody.'
'She doesn't seem to have succeeded on this occasion, Mr Melmotte.'
'No;--of course we had her back again from Liverpool.'
'But they say that she got further than the gentleman.'
'He is a dishonest, drunken scoundrel. My girl knows very well what he
is now. She'll never try that game again. Of course, my Lord, I'm very
sorry. You know that I've been on the square with you always. She's my
only child, and sooner or later she must have all that I possess. What
she will have at once will make any man wealthy,--that is, if she
marries with my sanction; and in a year or two I expect that I shall
be able to double what I give her now, without touching my capital. Of
course you understand that I desire to see her occupying high rank. I
think that, in this country, that is a noble object of ambition. Had
she married that sweep I should have broken my heart. Now, my Lord, I
want you to say that this shall make no difference to you. I am very
honest with you. I do not try to hide anything. The thing of course
has been a misfortune. Girls will be romantic. But you may be sure
that this little accident will assist rather than impede your views.
After this she will not be very fond of Sir Felix Carbury.'
'I dare say not. Though, by Jove, girls will forgive anything.'
'She won't forgive him. By George, she shan't. She shall hear the
whole story. You'll come and see her just the same as ever!'
'I don't know about that, Mr Melmotte.'
'Why not? You're not so weak as to surrender all your settled projects
for such a piece of folly as that! He didn't even see her all the
'That wasn't her fault.'
'The money will all be there, Lord Nidderdale.'
'The money's all right, I've no doubt. And there isn't a man in all
London would be better pleased to settle down with a good income than
I would. But, by Jove, it's a rather strong order when a girl has just
run away with another man. Everybody knows it.'
'In three months' time everybody will have forgotten it.'
'To tell you the truth, sir, I think Miss Melmotte has got a will of
her own stronger than you give her credit for. She has never given me
the slightest encouragement. Ever so long ago, about Christmas, she
did once say that she would do as you bade her. But she is very much
changed since then. The thing was off.'
'She had nothing to do with that.'
'No;--but she has taken advantage of it, and I have no right to
'You just come to the house, and ask her again to-morrow. Or come on
Sunday morning. Don't let us be done out of all our settled
arrangements by the folly of an idle girl. Will you come on Sunday
morning about noon?' Lord Nidderdale thought of his position for a few
moments and then said that perhaps he would come on Sunday morning.
After that Melmotte proposed that they two should go and 'get a bit of
lunch' at a certain Conservative club in the City. There would be time
before the meeting of the Railway Board. Nidderdale had no objection
to the lunch, but expressed a strong opinion that the Board was 'rot'.
'That's all very well for you, young man,' said the chairman, 'but I
must go there in order that you may be able to enjoy a splendid
fortune.' Then he touched the young man on the shoulder and drew him
back as he was passing out by the front stairs. 'Come this way,
Nidderdale;--come this way. I must get out without being seen. There
are people waiting for me there who think that a man can attend to
business from morning to night without ever having a bit in his
mouth.' And so they escaped by the back stairs.
At the club, the City Conservative world,--which always lunches
well,--welcomed Mr Melmotte very warmly. The election was coming on,
and there was much to be said. He played the part of the big City man
to perfection, standing about the room with his hat on, and talking
loudly to a dozen men at once. And he was glad to show the club that
Lord Nidderdale had come there with him. The club of course knew that
Lord Nidderdale was the accepted suitor of the rich man's daughter,--
accepted, that is, by the rich man himself,--and the club knew also
that the rich man's daughter had tried but had failed to run away with
Sir Felix Carbury. There is nothing like wiping out a misfortune and
having done with it. The presence of Lord Nidderdale was almost an
assurance to the club that the misfortune had been wiped out, and, as
it were, abolished. A little before three Mr Melmotte returned to
Abchurch Lane, intending to regain his room by the back way; while
Lord Nidderdale went westward, considering within his own mind whether
it was expedient that he should continue to show himself as a suitor
for Miss Melmotte's hand. He had an idea that a few years ago a man
could not have done such a thing--that he would be held to show a poor
spirit should he attempt it; but that now it did not much matter what
a man did,--if only he were successful. 'After all, it's only an
affair of money,' he said to himself.
Mr Longestaffe in the meantime had progressed from weariness to
impatience, from impatience to ill-humour, and from ill-humour to
indignation. More than once he saw Miles Grendall, but Miles Grendall
was always ready with an answer. That Canadian Deputation was
determined to settle the whole business this morning, and would not
take itself away. And Sir Gregory Gribe had been obstinate, beyond the
ordinary obstinacy of a bank director. The rate of discount at the
bank could not be settled for to-morrow without communication with Mr
Melmotte, and that was a matter on which the details were always most
oppressive. At first Mr Longestaffe was somewhat stunned by the
Deputation and Sir Gregory Gribe; but as he waxed wroth the potency of
those institutions dwindled away, and as, at last, he waxed hungry,
they became as nothing to him. Was he not Mr Longestaffe of Caversham,
a Deputy-Lieutenant of his County, and accustomed to lunch punctually
at two o'clock? When he had been in that waiting-room for two hours,
it occurred to him that he only wanted his own, and that he would not
remain there to be starved for any Mr Melmotte in Europe. It occurred
to him also that that thorn in his side, Squercum, would certainly get
a finger into the pie to his infinite annoyance. Then he walked forth,
and attempted to see Grendall for the fourth time. But Miles Grendall
also liked his lunch, and was therefore declared by one of the junior
clerks to be engaged at that moment on most important business with Mr
Melmotte. 'Then say that I can't wait any longer,' said Mr
Longestaffe, stamping out of the room with angry feet.
At the very door he met Mr Melmotte. 'Ah, Mr Longestaffe,' said the
great financier, seizing him by the hand, 'you are the very man I am
desirous of seeing.'
'I have been waiting two hours up in your place,' said the Squire of
'Tut, tut, tut;--and they never told me!'
'I spoke to Mr Grendall half a dozen times.'
'Yes,--yes. And he did put a slip with your name on it on my desk. I do
remember. My dear sir, I have so many things on my brain, that I
hardly know how to get along with them. You are coming to the Board?
It's just the time now.'
'No;'--said Mr Longestaffe. 'I can stay no longer in the City.' It was
cruel that a man so hungry should be asked to go to a Board by a
chairman who had just lunched at his club.
'I was carried away to the Bank of England and could not help myself,'
said Melmotte. 'And when they get me there I can never get away
'My son is very anxious to have the payments made about Pickering,'
said Mr Longestaffe, absolutely holding Melmotte by the collar of his
'Payments for Pickering!' said Melmotte, assuming an air of
unimportant doubt,--of doubt as though the thing were of no real
moment. 'Haven't they been made?'
'Certainly not,' said Mr Longestaffe, 'unless made this morning.'
'There was something about it, but I cannot just remember what. My
second cashier, Mr Smith, manages all my private affairs, and they go
clean out of my head. I'm afraid he's in Grosvenor Square at this
moment. Let me see;--Pickering! Wasn't there some question of a
mortgage? I'm sure there was something about a mortgage.'
'There was a mortgage, of course,--but that only made three payments
necessary instead of two.'
'But there was some unavoidable delay about the papers;--something
occasioned by the mortgagee. I know there was. But you shan't be
inconvenienced, Mr Longestaffe.'
'It's my son, Mr Melmotte. He's got a lawyer of his own.'
'I never knew a young man that wasn't in a hurry for his money,'
said Melmotte laughing. 'Oh, yes;--there were three payments to be
made; one to you, one to your son, and one to the mortgagee. I will
speak to Mr Smith myself to-morrow--and you may tell your son that he
really need not trouble his lawyer. He will only be losing his
money, for lawyers are expensive. What! you won't come to the Board?
I am sorry for that.' Mr Longestaffe, having after a fashion said
what he had to say, declined to go to the Board. A painful rumour
had reached him the day before, which had been communicated to him
in a very quiet way by a very old friend,--by a member of a private
firm of bankers whom he was accustomed to regard as the wisest and
most eminent man of his acquaintance,--that Pickering had been already
mortgaged to its full value by its new owner. 'Mind, I know
nothing,' said the banker. 'The report has reached me, and if it be
true, it shows that Mr Melmotte must be much pressed for money. It
does not concern you at all if you have got your price. But it seems
to be rather a quick transaction. I suppose you have, or he wouldn't
have the title-deeds.' Mr Longestaffe thanked his friend, and
acknowledged that there had been something remiss on his part.
Therefore, as he went westward, he was low in spirits. But
nevertheless he had been reassured by Melmotte's manner.
Sir Felix Carbury of course did not attend the Board; nor did Paul
Montague, for reasons with which the reader has been made acquainted.
Lord Nidderdale had declined, having had enough of the City for that
day, and Mr Longestaffe had been banished by hunger. The chairman was
therefore supported only by Lord Alfred and Mr Cohenlupe. But they
were such excellent colleagues that the work was got through as well
as though those absentees had all attended. When the Board was over Mr
Melmotte and Mr Cohenlupe retired together.
'I must get that money for Longestaffe,' said Melmotte to his friend.
'What, eighty thousand pounds! You can't do it this week,--nor yet
before this day week.'
'It isn't eighty thousand pounds. I've renewed the mortgage, and that
makes it only fifty. If I can manage the half of that which goes to
the son, I can put the father off.'
'You must raise what you can on the whole property.'
'I've done that already,' said Melmotte hoarsely.
'And where's the money gone?'
'Brehgert has had £40,000. I was obliged to keep it up with them. You
can manage £25,000 for me by Monday?' Mr Cohenlupe said that he would
try, but intimated his opinion that there would be considerable
difficulty in the operation.
CHAPTER LIV - THE INDIA OFFICE
The Conservative party at this particular period was putting its
shoulder to the wheel,--not to push the coach up any hill, but to
prevent its being hurried along at a pace which was not only
dangerous, but manifestly destructive. The Conservative party now and
then does put its shoulder to the wheel, ostensibly with the great
national object above named; but also actuated by a natural desire to
keep its own head well above water and be generally doing something,
so that other parties may not suppose that it is moribund. There are,
no doubt, members of it who really think that when some object has
been achieved,--when, for instance, a good old Tory has been squeezed
into Parliament for the borough of Porcorum, which for the last three
parliaments has been represented by a Liberal,--the coach has been
really stopped. To them, in their delightful faith, there comes at
these triumphant moments a conviction that after all the people as a
people have not been really in earnest in their efforts to take
something from the greatness of the great, and to add something to the
lowliness of the lowly. The handle of the windlass has been broken,
the wheel is turning fast the reverse way, and the rope of Radical
progress is running back. Who knows what may not be regained if the
Conservative party will only put its shoulder to the wheel and take
care that the handle of the windlass be not mended! Sticinthemud,
which has ever been a doubtful little borough, has just been carried
by a majority of fifteen! A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull
altogether,--and the old day will come back again. Venerable patriarchs
think of Lord Liverpool and other heroes, and dream dreams of
Conservative bishops, Conservative lord-lieutenants, and of a
Conservative ministry that shall remain in for a generation.
Such a time was now present. Porcorum and Sticinthemud had done their
duty valiantly,--with much management. But Westminster! If this special
seat for Westminster could be carried, the country then could hardly
any longer have a doubt on the matter. If only Mr Melmotte could be
got in for Westminster, it would be manifest that the people were
sound at heart, and that all the great changes which had been effected
during the last forty years,--from the first reform in Parliament down
to the Ballot,--had been managed by the cunning and treachery of a few
ambitious men. Not, however, that the Ballot was just now regarded by
the party as an unmitigated evil, though it was the last triumph of
Radical wickedness. The Ballot was on the whole popular with the
party. A short time since, no doubt it was regarded by the party as
being one and the same as national ruin and national disgrace. But it
had answered well at Porcorum, and with due manipulation had been
found to be favourable at Sticinthemud. The Ballot might perhaps help
the long pull and the strong pull,--and, in spite of the ruin and
disgrace, was thought by some just now to be a highly Conservative
measure. It was considered that the Ballot might assist Melmotte at
Westminster very materially.
Any one reading the Conservative papers of the time, and hearing the
Conservative speeches in the borough,--any one at least who lived so
remote as not to have learned what these things really mean,--would
have thought that England's welfare depended on Melmotte's return. In
the enthusiasm of the moment, the attacks made on his character were
answered by eulogy as loud as the censure was bitter. The chief crime
laid to his charge was connected with the ruin of some great
continental assurance company, as to which it was said that he had so
managed it as to leave it utterly stranded, with an enormous fortune
of his own. It was declared that every shilling which he had brought
to England with him had consisted of plunder stolen from the
shareholders in the company. Now the 'Evening Pulpit,' in its
endeavour to make the facts of this transaction known, had placed what
it called the domicile of this company in Paris, whereas it was
ascertained that its official head-quarters had in truth been placed
at Vienna. Was not such a blunder as this sufficient to show that no
merchant of higher honour than Mr Melmotte had ever adorned the
Exchanges of modern capitals? And then two different newspapers of the
time, both of them antagonistic to Melmotte, failed to be in accord on
a material point. One declared that Mr Melmotte was not in truth
possessed of any wealth. The other said that he had derived his wealth
from those unfortunate shareholders. Could anything betray so bad a
cause as contradictions such as these? Could anything be so false, so
weak, so malignant, so useless, so wicked, so self-condemned,--in fact,
so 'Liberal' as a course of action such as this? The belief naturally
to be deduced from such statements, nay, the unavoidable conviction on
the minds--of, at any rate, the Conservative newspapers--was that Mr
Melmotte had accumulated an immense fortune, and that he had never
robbed any shareholder of a shilling.
The friends of Melmotte had moreover a basis of hope, and were enabled
to sound premonitory notes of triumph, arising from causes quite
external to their party. The 'Breakfast Table' supported Melmotte, but
the 'Breakfast Table' was not a Conservative organ. This support was
given, not to the great man's political opinions, as to which a
well-known writer in that paper suggested that the great man had
probably not as yet given very much attention to the party questions
which divided the country,--but to his commercial position. It was
generally acknowledged that few men living,--perhaps no man alive,--
had so acute an insight into the great commercial questions of the age
as Mr Augustus Melmotte. In whatever part of the world he might have
acquired his commercial experience,--for it had been said repeatedly
that Melmotte was not an Englishman,--he now made London his home and
Great Britain his country, and it would be for the welfare of the
country that such a man should sit in the British Parliament. Such
were the arguments used by the 'Breakfast Table' in supporting Mr
Melmotte. This was, of course, an assistance;--and not the less so
because it was asserted in other papers that the country would be
absolutely disgraced by his presence in Parliament. The hotter the
opposition the keener will be the support. Honest good men, men who
really loved their country, fine gentlemen, who had received unsullied
names from great ancestors, shed their money right and left, and grew
hot in personally energetic struggles to have this man returned to
Parliament as the head of the great Conservative mercantile interests
of Great Britain!
There was one man who thoroughly believed that the thing at the
present moment most essentially necessary to England's glory was the
return of Mr Melmotte for Westminster. This man was undoubtedly a very
ignorant man. He knew nothing of any one political question which had
vexed England for the last half century,--nothing whatever of the
political history which had made England what it was at the beginning
of that half century. Of such names as Hampden, Somers, and Pitt he
had hardly ever heard. He had probably never read a book in his life.
He knew nothing of the working of parliament, nothing of nationality,--
had no preference whatever for one form of government over another,
never having given his mind a moment's trouble on the subject. He had
not even reflected how a despotic monarch or a federal republic might
affect himself, and possibly did not comprehend the meaning of those
terms. But yet he was fully confident that England did demand and
ought to demand that Mr Melmotte should be returned for Westminster.
This man was Mr Melmotte himself.
In this conjunction of his affairs Mr Melmotte certainly lost his
head. He had audacity almost sufficient for the very dangerous game
which he was playing; but, as crisis heaped itself upon crisis, he
became deficient in prudence. He did not hesitate to speak of himself
as the man who ought to represent Westminster, and of those who
opposed him as little malignant beings who had mean interests of their
own to serve. He went about in his open carriage, with Lord Alfred at
his left hand, with a look on his face which seemed to imply that
Westminster was not good enough for him. He even hinted to certain
political friends that at the next general election he should try the
City. Six months since he had been a humble man to a Lord,--but now
he scolded Earls and snubbed Dukes, and yet did it in a manner which
showed how proud he was of connecting himself with their social
pre-eminence, and how ignorant of the manner in which such
pre-eminence affects English gentlemen generally. The more arrogant he
became the more vulgar he was, till even Lord Alfred would almost be
tempted to rush away to impecuniosity and freedom. Perhaps there were
some with whom this conduct had a salutary effect. No doubt arrogance
will produce submission; and there are men who take other men at the
price those other men put upon themselves. Such persons could not
refrain from thinking Melmotte to be mighty because he swaggered; and
gave their hinder parts to be kicked merely because he put up his toe.
We all know men of this calibre,--and how they seem to grow in number.
But the net result of his personal demeanour was injurious; and it was
debated among some of the warmest of his supporters whether a hint
should not be given him. 'Couldn't Lord Alfred say a word to him?'
said the Honourable Beauchamp Beauclerk, who, himself in Parliament, a
leading man in his party, thoroughly well acquainted with the borough,
wealthy and connected by blood with half the great Conservative
families in the kingdom, had been moving heaven and earth on behalf of
the great financial king, and working like a slave for his success.
'Alfred's more than half afraid of him,' said Lionel Lupton, a young
aristocrat, also in Parliament, who had been inoculated with the idea
that the interests of the party demanded Melmotte in Parliament, but
who would have given up his Scotch shooting rather than have undergone
Melmotte's company for a day.
'Something really must be done, Mr Beauclerk,' said Mr Jones, who was
the leading member of a very wealthy firm of builders in the borough,
who had become a Conservative politician, who had thoughts of the
House for himself, but who never forgot his own position. 'He is
making a great many personal enemies.'
'He's the finest old turkey cock out,' said Lionel Lupton.
Then it was decided that Mr Beauclerk should speak a word to Lord
Alfred. The rich man and the poor man were cousins, and had always
been intimate. 'Alfred,' said the chosen mentor at the club one
afternoon, 'I wonder whether you couldn't say something to Melmotte
about his manner.' Lord Alfred turned sharp round and looked into his
companion's face. 'They tell me he is giving offence. Of course he
doesn't mean it. Couldn't he draw it a little milder?'
Lord Alfred made his reply almost in a whisper. 'If you ask me, I don't
think he could. If you got him down and trampled on him, you might
make him mild. I don't think there's any other way.'
'You couldn't speak to him, then?'
'Not unless I did it with a horsewhip.'
This, coming from Lord Alfred, who was absolutely dependent on the
man, was very strong. Lord Alfred had been much afflicted that
morning. He had spent some hours with his friend, either going about
the borough in the open carriage, or standing just behind him at
meetings, or sitting close to him in committee-rooms,--and had been
nauseated with Melmotte. When spoken to about his friend he could not
restrain himself. Lord Alfred had been born and bred a gentleman, and
found the position in which he was now earning his bread to be almost
insupportable. It had gone against the grain with him at first, when
he was called Alfred; but now that he was told 'just to open the
door,' and 'just to give that message,' he almost meditated revenge.
Lord Nidderdale, who was quick at observation, had seen something of
this in Grosvenor Square, and declared that Lord Alfred had invested
part of his recent savings in a cutting whip. Mr Beauclerk, when he
had got his answer, whistled and withdrew. But he was true to his
party. Melmotte was not the first vulgar man whom the Conservatives
had taken by the hand, and patted on the back, and told that he was a
The Emperor of China was now in England, and was to be entertained one
night at the India Office. The Secretary of State for the second great
Asiatic Empire was to entertain the ruler of the first. This was on
Saturday the 6th of July, and Melmotte's dinner was to take place on
the following Monday. Very great interest was made by the London world
generally to obtain admission to the India Office,--the making of such
interest consisting in the most abject begging for tickets of
admission, addressed to the Secretary of State, to all the under
secretaries, to assistant secretaries, secretaries of departments,
chief clerks, and to head-messengers and their wives. If a petitioner
could not be admitted as a guest into the splendour of the reception
rooms, might not he,--or she,--be allowed to stand in some passage
whence the Emperor's back might perhaps be seen,--so that, if possible,
the petitioner's name might be printed in the list of guests which
would be published on the next morning? Now Mr Melmotte with his family
was, of course, supplied with tickets. He, who was to spend a fortune
in giving the Emperor a dinner, was of course entitled to be present
at other places to which the Emperor would be brought to be shown.
Melmotte had already seen the Emperor at a breakfast in Windsor Park,
and at a ball in royal halls. But hitherto he had not been presented
to the Emperor. Presentations have to be restricted,--if only on the
score of time; and it had been thought that as Mr Melmotte would of
course have some communication with the hardworked Emperor at his own
house, that would suffice. But he had felt himself to be ill-used and
was offended. He spoke with bitterness to some of his supporters of
the Royal Family generally, because he had not been brought to the
front rank either at the breakfast or at the ball,--and now, at the
India Office, was determined to have his due. But he was not on the
list of those whom the Secretary of State intended on this occasion to
present to the Brother of the Sun.
He had dined freely. At this period of his career he had taken to
dining freely,--which was in itself imprudent, as he had need at all
hours of his best intelligence. Let it not be understood that he was
tipsy. He was a man whom wine did not often affect after that fashion.
But it made him, who was arrogant before, tower in his arrogance till
he was almost sure to totter. It was probably at some moment after
dinner that Lord Alfred decided upon buying the cutting whip of which
he had spoken. Melmotte went with his wife and daughter to the India
Office, and soon left them far in the background with a request,--we
may say an order,--to Lord Alfred to take care of them. It may be
observed here that Marie Melmotte was almost as great a curiosity as
the Emperor himself, and was much noticed as the girl who had attempted
to run away to New York, but had gone without her lover. Melmotte
entertained some foolish idea that as the India Office was in
Westminster, he had a peculiar right to demand an introduction on this
occasion because of his candidature. He did succeed in getting hold of
an unfortunate under secretary of state, a studious and invaluable
young peer, known as Earl De Griffin. He was a shy man, of enormous
wealth, of mediocre intellect, and no great physical ability, who
never amused himself; but worked hard night and day, and read
everything that anybody could write, and more than any other person
could read, about India. Had Mr Melmotte wanted to know the exact
dietary of the peasants in Orissa, or the revenue of the Punjaub, or
the amount of crime in Bombay, Lord De Griffin would have informed him
without a pause. But in this matter of managing the Emperor, the under
secretary had nothing to do, and would have been the last man to be
engaged in such a service. He was, however, second in command at the
India Office, and of his official rank Melmotte was unfortunately made
aware. 'My Lord,' said he, by no means hiding his demand in a whisper,
'I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial Majesty.' Lord De
Griffin looked at him in despair, not knowing the great man,--being
one of the few men in that room who did not know him.
'This is Mr Melmotte,' said Lord Alfred, who had deserted the ladies
and still stuck to his master. 'Lord De Griffin, let me introduce you
to Mr Melmotte.'
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