The Way We Live Now
Part 6 out of 19
telling her that as it was impossible that there should ever be
marriage between them, he felt himself bound to abstain from her
society. But then he remembered her solitude, her picture of herself
in London without even an acquaintance except himself, and he
convinced himself that it would be impossible that he should leave her
without seeing her. So he wrote to her thus:--
I will come for you to-morrow at half-past five. We will dine
together at the Thespian;--and then I will have a box at the
Haymarket. The Thespian is a good sort of place, and lots of
ladies dine there. You can dine in your bonnet.
Some half-formed idea ran through his brain that P. M. was a safer
signature than Paul Montague. Then came a long train of thoughts as to
the perils of the whole proceeding. She had told him that she had
announced herself to the keeper of the lodging-house as engaged to
him, and he had in a manner authorized the statement by declining to
contradict it at once. And now, after that announcement, he was
assenting to her proposal that they should go out and amuse themselves
together. Hitherto she had always seemed to him to be open, candid,
and free from intrigue. He had known her to be impulsive, capricious,
at times violent, but never deceitful. Perhaps he was unable to read
correctly the inner character of a woman whose experience of the world
had been much wider than his own. His mind misgave him that it might
be so; but still he thought that he knew that she was not treacherous.
And yet did not her present acts justify him in thinking that she was
carrying on a plot against him? The note, however, was sent, and he
prepared for the evening of the play, leaving the dangers of the
occasion to adjust themselves. He ordered the dinner and he took the
box, and at the hour fixed he was again at her lodgings.
The woman of the house with a smile showed him into Mrs Hurtle's
sitting-room, and he at once perceived that the smile was intended to
welcome him as an accepted lover. It was a smile half of
congratulation to the lover, half of congratulation to herself as a
woman that another man had been caught by the leg and made fast. Who
does not know the smile? What man, who has been caught and made sure,
has not felt a certain dissatisfaction at being so treated,
understanding that the smile is intended to convey to him a sense of
his own captivity? It has, however, generally mattered but little to
us. If we have felt that something of ridicule was intended, because
we have been regarded as cocks with their spurs cut away, then we also
have a pride when we have declared to ourselves that upon the whole we
have gained more than we have lost. But with Paul Montague at the
present moment there was no satisfaction, no pride,--only a feeling of
danger which every hour became deeper, and stronger, with less chance
of escape. He was almost tempted at this moment to detain the woman,
and tell her the truth,--and bear the immediate consequences. But there
would be treason in doing so, and he would not, could not do it.
He was left hardly a moment to think of this. Almost before the woman
had shut the door, Mrs Hurtle came to him out of her bedroom, with her
hat on her head. Nothing could be more simple than her dress, and
nothing prettier. It was now June, and the weather was warm, and the
lady wore a light gauzy black dress,--there is a fabric which the
milliners I think call grenadine,--coming close up round her throat. It
was very pretty, and she was prettier even than her dress. And she had
on a hat, black also, small and simple, but very pretty. There are
times at which a man going to a theatre with a lady wishes her to be
bright in her apparel,--almost gorgeous; in which he will hardly be
contented unless her cloak be scarlet, and her dress white, and her
gloves of some bright hue,--unless she wear roses or jewels in her hair.
It is thus our girls go to the theatre now, when they go intending
that all the world shall know who they are. But there are times again
in which a man would prefer that his companion should be very quiet in
her dress,--but still pretty; in which he would choose that she should
dress herself for him only. All this Mrs Hurtle had understood
accurately; and Paul Montague, who understood nothing of it, was
gratified. 'You told me to have a hat, and here I am,--hat and all.' She
gave him her hand, and laughed, and looked pleasantly at him, as
though there was no cause of unhappiness between them. The
lodging-house woman saw them enter the cab, and muttered some little
word as they went off. Paul did not hear the word, but was sure that
it bore some indistinct reference to his expected marriage.
Neither during the drive, nor at the dinner, nor during the
performance at the theatre, did she say a word in allusion to her
engagement. It was with them, as in former days it had been at New
York. She whispered pleasant words to him, touching his arm now and
again with her finger as she spoke, seeming ever better inclined to
listen than to speak. Now and again she referred, after some slightest
fashion, to little circumstances that had occurred between them, to
some joke, some hour of tedium, some moment of delight; but it was
done as one man might do it to another,--if any man could have done it
so pleasantly. There was a scent which he had once approved, and now
she bore it on her handkerchief. There was a ring which he had once
given her, and she wore it on the finger with which she touched his
sleeve. With his own hands he had once adjusted her curls, and each
curl was as he had placed it. She had a way of shaking her head, that
was very pretty,--a way that might, one would think, have been dangerous
at her age, as likely to betray those first grey hairs which will come
to disturb the last days of youth. He had once told her in sport to be
more careful. She now shook her head again, and, as he smiled, she
told him that she could still dare to be careless. There are a
thousand little silly softnesses which are pretty and endearing
between acknowledged lovers, with which no woman would like to
dispense, to which even men who are in love submit sometimes with
delight; but which in other circumstances would be vulgar,--and to the
woman distasteful. There are closenesses and sweet approaches, smiles
and nods and pleasant winkings, whispers, innuendoes and hints, little
mutual admirations and assurances that there are things known to those
two happy ones of which the world beyond is altogether ignorant. Much
of this comes of nature, but something of it sometimes comes by art.
Of such art as there may be in it Mrs Hurtle was a perfect master. No
allusion was made to their engagement,--not an unpleasant word was
spoken; but the art was practised with all its pleasant adjuncts. Paul
was flattered to the top of his bent; and, though the sword was
hanging over his head, though he knew that the sword must fall,--must
partly fall that very night,--still he enjoyed it.
There are men who, of their natures, do not like women, even though
they may have wives and legions of daughters, and be surrounded by
things feminine in all the affairs of their lives. Others again have
their strongest affinities and sympathies with women, and are rarely
altogether happy when removed from their influence. Paul Montague was
of the latter sort. At this time he was thoroughly in love with Hetta
Carbury, and was not in love with Mrs Hurtle. He would have given much
of his golden prospects in the American railway to have had Mrs Hurtle
reconveyed suddenly to San Francisco. And yet he had a delight in her
presence. 'The acting isn't very good,' he said when the piece was
'What does it signify? What we enjoy or what we suffer depends upon
the humour. The acting is not first-rate, but I have listened and
laughed and cried, because I have been happy.'
He was bound to tell her that he also had enjoyed the evening, and was
bound to say it in no voice of hypocritical constraint. 'It has been
very jolly,' he said.
'And one has so little that is really jolly, as you call it. I wonder
whether any girl ever did sit and cry like that because her lover
talked to another woman. What I find fault with is that the writers
and actors are so ignorant of men and women as we see them every day.
It's all right that she should cry, but she wouldn't cry there.' The
position described was so nearly her own, that he could say nothing to
this. She had so spoken on purpose,--fighting her own battle after her
own fashion, knowing well that her words would confuse him. 'A woman
hides such tears. She may be found crying because she is unable to
hide them;--but she does not willingly let the other woman see them.
'I suppose not.'
'Medea did not weep when she was introduced to Creusa.'
'Women are not all Medeas,' he replied.
'There's a dash of the savage princess about most of them. I am quite
ready if you like. I never want to see the curtain fall. And I have
had no nosegay brought in a wheelbarrow to throw on to the stage. Are
you going to see me home?'
'You need not. I'm not a bit afraid of a London cab by myself.' But of
course he accompanied her to Islington. He owed her at any rate as
much as that. She continued to talk during the whole journey. What a
wonderful place London was,--so immense, but so dirty! New York of
course was not so big, but was, she thought, pleasanter. But Paris was
the gem of gems among towns. She did not like Frenchmen, and she liked
Englishmen even better than Americans; but she fancied that she could
never like English women. 'I do so hate all kinds of buckram. I like
good conduct, and law, and religion too if it be not forced down one's
throat; but I hate what your women call propriety. I suppose what we
have been doing to-night is very improper; but I am quite sure that it
has not been in the least wicked.'
'I don't think it has,' said Paul Montague very tamely. It is a long
way from the Haymarket to Islington, but at last the cab reached the
lodging-house door. 'Yes, this is it,' she said. 'Even about the
houses there is an air of stiff-necked propriety which frightens me.'
She was getting out as she spoke, and he had already knocked at the
door. 'Come in for one moment,' she said as he paid the cabman. The
woman the while was standing with the door in her hand. It was near
midnight,--but, when people are engaged, hours do not matter. The woman
of the house, who was respectability herself,--a nice kind widow, with
five children, named Pipkin,--understood that and smiled again as he
followed the lady into the sitting-room. She had already taken off her
hat and was flinging it on to the sofa as he entered. 'Shut the door
for one moment,' she said; and he shut it. Then she threw herself into
his arms, not kissing him but looking up into his face. 'Oh Paul,' she
exclaimed, 'my darling! Oh Paul, my love! I will not bear to be
separated from you. No, no;--never. I swear it, and you may believe me.
There is nothing I cannot do for love of you,--but to lose you.' Then
she pushed him from her and looked away from him, clasping her hands
together. 'But Paul, I mean to keep my pledge to you to-night. It was
to be an island in our troubles, a little holiday in our hard
school-time, and I will not destroy it at its close. You will see me
again soon,--will you not?' He nodded assent, then took her in his arms
and kissed her, and left her without a word.
CHAPTER XXVIII - DOLLY LONGESTAFFE GOES INTO THE CITY
It has been told how the gambling at the Beargarden went on one Sunday
night. On the following Monday Sir Felix did not go to the club. He
had watched Miles Grendall at play, and was sure that on more than one
or two occasions the man had cheated. Sir Felix did not quite know
what in such circumstances it would be best for him to do. Reprobate
as he was himself, this work of villainy was new to him and seemed to
be very terrible. What steps ought he to take? He was quite sure of
his facts, and yet he feared that Nidderdale and Grasslough and
Longestaffe would not believe him. He would have told Montague, but
Montague had, he thought, hardly enough authority at the club to be of
any use to him. On the Tuesday again he did not go to the club. He
felt severely the loss of the excitement to which he had been
accustomed, but the thing was too important to him to be slurred over.
He did not dare to sit down and play with the man who had cheated him
without saying anything about it. On the Wednesday afternoon life was
becoming unbearable to him and he sauntered into the building at about
five in the afternoon. There, as a matter of course, he found Dolly
Longestaffe drinking sherry and bitters. 'Where the blessed angels
have you been?' said Dolly. Dolly was at that moment alert with the
sense of a duty performed. He had just called on his sister and
written a sharp letter to his father, and felt himself to be almost a
man of business.
'I've had fish of my own to fry,' said Felix, who had passed the last
two days in unendurable idleness. Then he referred again to the money
which Dolly owed him, not making any complaint, not indeed asking for
immediate payment, but explaining with an air of importance that if a
commercial arrangement could be made, it might, at this moment, be
very serviceable to him. 'I'm particularly anxious to take up those
shares,' said Felix.
'Of course you ought to have your money.'
'I don't say that at all, old fellow. I know very well that you're all
right. You're not like that fellow, Miles Grendall.'
'Well; no. Poor Miles has got nothing to bless himself with. I suppose
I could get it, and so I ought to pay.'
'That's no excuse for Grendall,' said Sir Felix, shaking his head.
'A chap can't pay if he hasn't got it, Carbury. A chap ought to pay of
course. I've had a letter from our lawyer within the last half hour--
here it is.' And Dolly pulled a letter out of his pocket which he had
opened and read indeed the last hour, but which had been duly
delivered at his lodgings early in the morning. 'My governor wants to
sell Pickering, and Melmotte wants to buy the place. My governor can't
sell without me, and I've asked for half the plunder. I know what's
what. My interest in the property is greater than his. It isn't much
of a place, and they are talking of £50,000, over and above the debt
upon it. £25,000 would pay off what I owe on my own property, and make
me very square. From what this fellow says I suppose they're going to
give in to my terms.'
'By George, that'll be a grand thing for you, Dolly.'
'Oh yes. Of course I want it. But I don't like the place going. I'm
not much of a fellow, I know. I'm awfully lazy and can't get myself to
go in for things as I ought to do; but I've a sort of feeling that I
don't like the family property going to pieces. A fellow oughtn't to
let his family property go to pieces.'
'You never lived at Pickering.'
'No;--and I don't know that it is any good. It gives us 3 per cent. on
the money it's worth, while the governor is paying 6 per cent., and
I'm paying 25, for the money we've borrowed. I know more about it than
you'd think. It ought to be sold, and now I suppose it will be sold.
Old Melmotte knows all about it, and if you like I'll go with you to
the city to-morrow and make it straight about what I owe you. He'll
advance me £1,000, and then you can get the shares. Are you going to
Sir Felix said that he would dine at the club, but declared, with
considerable mystery in his manner, that he could not stay and play
whist afterwards. He acceded willingly to Dolly's plans of visiting
Abchurch Lane on the following day, but had some difficulty in
inducing his friend to consent to fix on an hour early enough for city
purposes. Dolly suggested that they should meet at the club at 4 p.m.
Sir Felix had named noon, and promised to call at Dolly's lodgings.
They split the difference at last and agreed to start at two. They
then dined together, Miles Grendall dining alone at the next table to
them. Dolly and Grendall spoke to each other frequently, but in that
conversation the young baronet would not join. Nor did Grendall ever
address himself to Sir Felix. 'Is there anything up between you and
Miles?' said Dolly, when they had adjourned to the smoking-room.
'I can't bear him.'
'There never was any love between you two, I know. But you used to
speak, and you've played with him all through.'
'Played with him! I should think I have. Though he did get such a haul
last Sunday he owes me more than you do now.'
'Is that the reason you haven't played the last two nights?'
Sir Felix paused a moment. 'No;--that is not the reason. I'll tell you
all about it in the cab to-morrow.' Then he left the club, declaring
that he would go up to Grosvenor Square and see Marie Melmotte. He did
go up to the Square, and when he came to the house he would not go in.
What was the good? He could do nothing further till he got old
Melmotte's consent, and in no way could he so probably do that as by
showing that he had got money wherewith to buy shares in the railway.
What he did with himself during the remainder of the evening the
reader need not know, but on his return home at some comparatively
early hour, he found this note from Marie.
Why don't we see you? Mamma would say nothing if you came. Papa is
never in the drawing-room. Miss Longestaffe is here of course, and
people always come in in the evening. We are just going to dine out
at the Duchess of Stevenage's. Papa, and mamma and I. Mamma told me
that Lord Nidderdale is to be there, but you need not be a bit
afraid. I don't like Lord Nidderdale, and I will never take any one
but the man I love. You know who that is. Miss Longestaffe is so
angry because she can't go with us. What do you think of her
telling me that she did not understand being left alone? We are to
go afterwards to a musical party at Lady Gamut's. Miss Longestaffe
is going with us, but she says she hates music. She is such a set-up
thing! I wonder why papa has her here. We don't go anywhere
to-morrow evening, so pray come.
And why haven't you written me something and sent it to Didon? She
won't betray us. And if she did, what matters? I mean to be true.
If papa were to beat me into a mummy I would stick to you. He told
me once to take Lord Nidderdale, and then he told me to refuse him.
And now he wants me to take him again. But I won't. I'll take no
one but my own darling.
Yours for ever and ever,
Now that the young lady had begun to have an interest of her own in
life, she was determined to make the most of it. All this was
delightful to her, but to Sir Felix it was simply 'a bother.' Sir
Felix was quite willing to marry the girl to-morrow,--on condition of
course that the money was properly arranged; but he was not willing to
go through much work in the way of love-making with Marie Melmotte. In
such business he preferred Ruby Ruggles as a companion.
On the following day Felix was with his friend at the appointed time,
and was only kept an hour waiting while Dolly ate his breakfast and
struggled into his coat and boots. On their way to the city Felix told
his dreadful story about Miles Grendall. 'By George!' said Dolly. 'And
you think you saw him do it!'
'It's not thinking at all. I'm sure I saw him do it three times. I
believe he always had an ace somewhere about him.' Dolly sat quite
silent thinking of it. 'What had I better do?' asked Sir Felix.
'By George;--I don't know.'
'What should you do?'
'Nothing at all. I shouldn't believe my own eyes. Or if I did, should
take care not to look at him.'
'You wouldn't go on playing with him?'
'Yes I should. It'd be such a bore breaking up.'
'But Dolly,--if you think of it!'
'That's all very fine, my dear fellow, but I shouldn't think of it.'
'And you won't give me your advice.'
'Well--no; I think I'd rather not. I wish you hadn't told me. Why did
you pick me out to tell me? Why didn't you tell Nidderdale?'
'He might have said, why didn't you tell Longestaffe?'
'No, he wouldn't. Nobody would suppose that anybody would pick me out
for this kind of thing. If I'd known that you were going to tell me
such a story as this I wouldn't have come with you.'
'That's nonsense, Dolly.'
'Very well. I can't bear these kind of things. I feel all in a twitter
'You mean to go on playing just the same?'
'Of course I do. If he won anything very heavy I should begin to think
about it, I suppose. Oh; this is Abchurch Lane, is it? Now for the man
The man of money received them much more graciously than Felix had
expected. Of course nothing was said about Marie and no further
allusion was made to the painful subject of the baronet's 'property.'
Both Dolly and Sir Felix were astonished by the quick way in which the
great financier understood their views and the readiness with which he
undertook to comply with them. No disagreeable questions were asked as
to the nature of the debt between the young men. Dolly was called upon
to sign a couple of documents, and Sir Felix to sign one,--and then they
were assured that the thing was done. Mr Adolphus Longestaffe had paid
Sir Felix Carbury a thousand pounds, and Sir Felix Carbury's
commission had been accepted by Mr Melmotte for the purchase of
railway stock to that amount. Sir Felix attempted to say a word. He
endeavoured to explain that his object in this commercial transaction
was to make money immediately by reselling the shares,--and to go on
continually making money by buying at a low price and selling at a
high price. He no doubt did believe that, being a Director, if he
could once raise the means of beginning this game, he could go on with
it for an unlimited period;--buy and sell, buy and sell;--so that he
would have an almost regular income. This, as far as he could
understand, was what Paul Montague was allowed to do,--simply because
he had become a Director with a little money. Mr Melmotte was
cordiality itself, but he could not be got to go into particulars. It
was all right. 'You will wish to sell again, of course,--of course. I'll
watch the market for you.' When the young men left the room all they
knew, or thought that they knew, was, that Dolly Longestaffe had
authorized Melmotte to pay a thousand pounds on his behalf to Sir Felix,
and that Sir Felix had instructed the same great man to buy shares with
the amount. 'But why didn't he give you the scrip?' said Dolly on his
'I suppose it's all right with him,' said Sir Felix.
'Oh yes;--it's all right. Thousands of pounds to him are only like
half-crowns to us fellows. I should say it's all right. All the same,
he's the biggest rogue out, you know.' Sir Felix already began to be
unhappy about his thousand pounds.
CHAPTER XXIX - MISS MELMOTTE'S COURAGE
Lady Carbury continued to ask frequent questions as to the prosecution
of her son's suit, and Sir Felix began to think that he was
persecuted. 'I have spoken to her father,' he said crossly.
'And what did Mr Melmotte say?'
'Say;--what should he say? He wanted to know what income I had got.
After all he's an old screw.'
'Did he forbid you to come there any more?'
'Now, mother, it's no use your cross-examining me. If you'll let me
alone I'll do the best I can.'
'She has accepted you, herself?'
'Of course she has. I told you that at Carbury.'
'Then, Felix, if I were you I'd run off with her. I would indeed. It's
done every day, and nobody thinks any harm of it when you marry the
girl. You could do it now because I know you've got money. From all I
can hear she's just the sort of girl that would go with you.' The son
sat silent, listening to these maternal councils. He did believe that
Marie would go off with him, were he to propose the scheme to her. Her
own father had almost alluded to such a proceeding,--had certainly
hinted that it was feasible,--but at the same time had very clearly
stated that in such case the ardent lover would have to content
himself with the lady alone. In any such event as that there would be
no fortune. But then, might not that only be a threat? Rich fathers
generally do forgive their daughters, and a rich father with only one
child would surely forgive her when she returned to him, as she would
do in this instance, graced with a title. Sir Felix thought of all
this as he sat there silent. His mother read his thoughts as she
continued. 'Of course, Felix, there must be some risk.'
'Fancy what it would be to be thrown over at last!' he exclaimed. 'I
couldn't bear it. I think I should kill her.'
'Oh no, Felix; you wouldn't do that. But when I say there would be
some risk I mean that there would be very little. There would be
nothing in it that ought to make him really angry. He has nobody else
to give his money to, and it would be much nicer to have his daughter,
Lady Carbury, with him, than to be left all alone in the world.'
'I couldn't live with him, you know. I couldn't do it.'
'You needn't live with him, Felix. Of course she would visit her
parents. When the money was once settled you need see as little of
them as you pleased. Pray do not allow trifles to interfere with you.
If this should not succeed, what are you to do? We shall all starve
unless something be done. If I were you, Felix, I would take her away
at once. They say she is of age.'
'I shouldn't know where to take her,' said Sir Felix, almost stunned
into thoughtfulness by the magnitude of the proposition made to him.
'All that about Scotland is done with now.'
'Of course you would marry her at once.'
'I suppose so,--unless it were better to stay as we were, till the money
'Oh no; no! Everybody would be against you. If you take her off in a
spirited sort of way and then marry her, everybody will be with you.
That's what you want. The father and mother will be sure to come
'The mother is nothing.'
'He will come round if people speak up in your favour. I could get Mr
Alf and Mr Broune to help. I'd try it, Felix; indeed I would. Ten
thousand a year is not to be had every year.'
Sir Felix gave no assent to his mother's views. He felt no desire to
relieve her anxiety by an assurance of activity in the matter. But the
prospect was so grand that it had excited even him. He had money
sufficient for carrying out the scheme, and if he delayed the matter
now, it might well be that he would never again find himself so
circumstanced. He thought that he would ask somebody whither he ought
to take her, and what he ought to do with her;--and that he would then
make the proposition to herself. Miles Grendall would be the man to
tell him, because, with all his faults, Miles did understand things.
But he could not ask Miles. He and Nidderdale were good friends; but
Nidderdale wanted the girl for himself. Grasslough would be sure to
tell Nidderdale. Dolly would be altogether useless. He thought that,
perhaps, Herr Vossner would be the man to help him. There would be no
difficulty out of which Herr Vossner would not extricate 'a fellow,'--
if 'the fellow' paid him.
On Thursday evening he went to Grosvenor Square, as desired by Marie,--
but unfortunately found Melmotte in the drawing-room. Lord Nidderdale
was there also, and his lordship's old father, the Marquis of Auld
Reekie, whom Felix, when he entered the room, did not know. He was a
fierce-looking, gouty old man, with watery eyes, and very stiff grey
hair,--almost white. He was standing up supporting himself on two sticks
when Sir Felix entered the room. There were also present Madame
Melmotte, Miss Longestaffe, and Marie. As Felix had entered the hail
one huge footman had said that the ladies were not at home; then there
had been for a moment a whispering behind a door,--in which he
afterwards conceived that Madame Didon had taken a part;--and upon that
a second tall footman had contradicted the first and had ushered him
up to the drawing-room. He felt considerably embarrassed, but shook
hands with the ladies, bowed to Melmotte, who seemed to take no notice
of him, and nodded to Lord Nidderdale. He had not had time to place
himself, when the Marquis arranged things. 'Suppose we go downstairs,'
said the Marquis.
'Certainly, my lord,' said Melmotte. 'I'll show your lordship the
way.' The Marquis did not speak to his son, but poked at him with his
stick, as though poking him out of the door. So instigated, Nidderdale
followed the financier, and the gouty old Marquis toddled after them.
Madame Melmotte was beside herself with trepidation. 'You should not
have been made to come up at all,' she said. 'Il faut que vous vous
'I am very sorry,' said Sir Felix, looking quite aghast. 'I think that
I had at any rate better retire,' said Miss Longestaffe, raising
herself to her full height and stalking out of the room.
'Qu'elle est méchante,' said Madame Melmotte. 'Oh, she is so bad. Sir
Felix, you had better go too. Yes indeed.'
'No,' said Marie, running to him, and taking hold of his arm. 'Why
should he go? I want papa to know.'
'Il vous tuera,' said Madame Melmotte. 'My God, yes.'
'Then he shall,' said Marie, clinging to her lover. 'I will never
marry Lord Nidderdale. If he were to cut me into bits I wouldn't do
it. Felix, you love me; do you not?'
'Certainly,' said Sir Felix, slipping his arm round her waist.
'Mamma,' said Marie, 'I will never have any other man but him;--never,
never, never. Oh, Felix, tell her that you love me.'
'You know that, don't you, ma'am?' Sir Felix was a little troubled in
his mind as to what he should say, or what he should do.
'Oh, love! It is a beastliness,' said Madame Melmotte. 'Sir Felix, you
had better go. Yes, indeed. Will you be so obliging?'
'Don't go,' said Marie. 'No, mamma, he shan't go. What has he to be
afraid of? I will walk down among them into papa's room, and say that
I will never marry that man, and that this is my lover. Felix, will
Sir Felix did not quite like the proposition. There had been a savage
ferocity in that Marquis's eye, and there was habitually a heavy
sternness about Melmotte, which together made him resist the
invitation. 'I don't think I have a right to do that,' he said,
'because it is Mr Melmotte's own house.'
'I wouldn't mind,' said Marie. 'I told papa to-day that I wouldn't
marry Lord Nidderdale.'
'Was he angry with you?'
'He laughed at me. He manages people till he thinks that everybody
must do exactly what he tells them. He may kill me, but I will not do
it. I have quite made up my mind. Felix, if you will be true to me,
nothing shall separate us. I will not be ashamed to tell everybody
that I love you.'
Madame Melmotte had now thrown herself into a chair and was sighing.
Sir Felix stood on the rug with his arm round Marie's waist listening
to her protestations, but saying little in answer to them,--when,
suddenly, a heavy step was heard ascending the stairs. 'C'est lui,'
screamed Madame Melmotte, bustling up from her seat and hurrying out
of the room by a side door. The two lovers were alone for one moment,
during which Marie lifted up her face, and Sir Felix kissed her lips.
'Now be brave,' she said, escaping from his arm, 'and I'll be brave.'
Mr Melmotte looked round the room as he entered. 'Where are the
others?' he asked.
'Mamma has gone away, and Miss Longestaffe went before mamma.'
'Sir Felix, it is well that I should tell you that my daughter is
engaged to marry Lord Nidderdale.'
'Sir Felix, I am not engaged--to--marry Lord Nidderdale,' said Marie.
'It's no good, papa. I won't do it. If you chop me to pieces, I won't
'She will marry Lord Nidderdale,' continued Mr Melmotte, addressing
himself to Sir Felix. 'As that is arranged, you will perhaps think it
better to leave us. I shall be happy to renew my acquaintance with you
as soon as the fact is recognized;--or happy to see you in the city at
'Papa, he is my lover,' said Marie.
'It is not pooh. He is. I will never have any other. I hate Lord
Nidderdale; and as for that dreadful old man, I could not bear to look
at him. Sir Felix is as good a gentleman as he is. If you loved me,
papa, you would not want to make me unhappy all my life.'
Her father walked up to her rapidly with his hand raised, and she
clung only the closer to her lover's arm. At this moment Sir Felix did
not know what he might best do, but he thoroughly wished himself out
in the square. 'Jade,' said Melmotte, 'get to your room.'
'Of course I will go to bed, if you tell me, papa.'
'I do tell you. How dare you take hold of him in that way before me!
Have you no idea of disgrace?'
'I am not disgraced. It is not more disgraceful to love him than that
other man. Oh, papa, don't. You hurt me. I am going.' He took her by
the arm and dragged her to the door, and then thrust her out.
'I am very sorry, Mr Melmotte,' said Sir Felix, 'to have had a hand in
causing this disturbance.'
'Go away, and don't come back any more;--that's all. You can't both
marry her. All you have got to understand is this. I'm not the man to
give my daughter a single shilling if she marries against my consent.
By the God that hears me, Sir Felix, she shall not have one shilling.
But look you,--if you'll give this up, I shall be proud to co-operate
with you in anything you may wish to have done in the city.'
After this Sir Felix left the room, went down the stairs, had the door
opened for him, and was ushered into the square. But as he went
through the hall a woman managed to shove a note into his hand which
he read as soon as he found himself under a gas lamp. It was dated
that morning, and had therefore no reference to the fray which had
just taken place. It ran as follows:
I hope you will come to-night. There is something I cannot tell you
then, but you ought to know it. When we were in France papa thought
it wise to settle a lot of money on me. I don't know how much, but
I suppose it was enough to live on if other things went wrong. He
never talked to me about it, but I know it was done. And it hasn't
been undone, and can't be without my leave. He is very angry about
you this morning, for I told him I would never give you up. He says
he won't give me anything if I marry without his leave. But I am
sure he cannot take it away. I tell you, because I think I ought to
tell you everything.'
Sir Felix as he read this could not but think that he had become
engaged to a very enterprising young lady. It was evident that she did
not care to what extent she braved her father on behalf of her lover,
and now she coolly proposed to rob him. But Sir Felix saw no reason
why he should not take advantage of the money made over to the girl's
name, if he could lay his bands on it. He did not know much of such
transactions, but he knew more than Marie Melmotte, and could
understand that a man in Melmotte's position should want to secure a
portion of his fortune against accidents, by settling it on his
daughter. Whether, having so settled it, he could again resume it
without the daughter's assent, Sir Felix did not know. Marie, who had
no doubt been regarded as an absolutely passive instrument when the
thing was done, was now quite alive to the benefit which she might
possibly derive from it. Her proposition, put into plain English,
amounted to this: 'Take me and marry me without my father's consent,--
and then you and I together can rob my father of the money which, for
his own purposes, he has settled upon me.' He had looked upon the lady
of his choice as a poor weak thing, without any special character of
her own, who was made worthy of consideration only by the fact that
she was a rich man's daughter; but now she began to loom before his
eyes as something bigger than that. She had had a will of her own when
the mother had none. She had not been afraid of her brutal father when
he, Sir Felix, had trembled before him. She had offered to be beaten,
and killed, and chopped to pieces on behalf of her lover. There could
be no doubt about her running away if she were asked.
It seemed to him that within the last month he had gained a great deal
of experience, and that things which heretofore had been troublesome
to him, or difficult, or perhaps impossible, were now coming easily
within his reach. He had won two or three thousand pounds at cards,
whereas invariable loss had been the result of the small play in which
he had before indulged. He had been set to marry this heiress, having
at first no great liking for the attempt, because of its difficulties
and the small amount of hope which it offered him. The girl was
already willing and anxious to jump into his arms. Then he had
detected a man cheating at cards,--an extent of iniquity that was awful
to him before he had seen it,--and was already beginning to think that
there was not very much in that. If there was not much in it, if such
a man as Miles Grendall could cheat at cards and be brought to no
punishment, why should not he try it? It was a rapid way of winning,
no doubt. He remembered that on one or two occasions he had asked his
adversary to cut the cards a second time at whist, because he had
observed that there was no honour at the bottom. No feeling of honesty
had interfered with him. The little trick had hardly been
premeditated, but when successful without detection had not troubled
his conscience. Now it seemed to him that much more than that might be
done without detection. But nothing had opened his eyes to the ways of
the world so widely as the sweet lover-like proposition made by Miss
Melmotte for robbing her father. It certainly recommended the girl to
him. She had been able at an early age, amidst the circumstances of a
very secluded life, to throw off from her altogether those scruples of
honesty, those bugbears of the world, which are apt to prevent great
enterprises in the minds of men.
What should he do next? This sum of money of which Marie wrote so
easily was probably large. It would not have been worth the while of
such a man as Mr Melmotte to make a trifling provision of this nature.
It could hardly be less than £50,000,--might probably be very much more.
But this was certain to him,--that if he and Marie were to claim this
money as man and wife, there could then be no hope of further
liberality. It was not probable that such a man as Mr Melmotte would
forgive even an only child such an offence as that. Even if it were
obtained, £50,000 would not be very much. And Melmotte might probably
have means, even if the robbery were duly perpetrated, of making the
possession of the money very uncomfortable. These were deep waters
into which Sir Felix was preparing to plunge; and he did not feel
himself to be altogether comfortable, although he liked the deep
CHAPTER XXX - MR MELMOTTE'S PROMISE
On the following Saturday there appeared in Mr Alf's paper, the
'Evening Pulpit,' a very remarkable article on the South Central
Pacific and Mexican Railway. It was an article that attracted a great
deal of attention and was therefore remarkable, but it was in nothing
more remarkable than in this,--that it left on the mind of its reader no
impression of any decided opinion about the railway. The Editor would
at any future time be able to refer to his article with equal pride
whether the railway should become a great cosmopolitan fact, or
whether it should collapse amidst the foul struggles of a horde of
swindlers. In utrumque paratus, the article was mysterious,
suggestive, amusing, well-informed,--that in the 'Evening Pulpit' was a
matter of course,--and, above all things, ironical. Next to its
omniscience its irony was the strongest weapon belonging to the
'Evening Pulpit.' There was a little praise given, no doubt in irony,
to the duchesses who served Mr Melmotte. There was a little praise,
given of course in irony, to Mr Melmotte's Board of English Directors.
There was a good deal of praise, but still alloyed by a dash of irony,
bestowed on the idea of civilizing Mexico by joining it to California.
Praise was bestowed upon England for taking up the matter, but
accompanied by some ironical touches at her incapacity to believe
thoroughly in any enterprise not originated by herself. Then there was
something said of the universality of Mr Melmotte's commercial genius,
but whether said in a spirit prophetic of ultimate failure and
disgrace, or of heavenborn success and unequalled commercial
splendour, no one could tell.
It was generally said at the clubs that Mr Alf had written this
article himself. Old Splinter, who was one of a body of men possessing
an excellent cellar of wine and calling themselves Paides Pallados,
and who had written for the heavy quarterlies any time this last forty
years, professed that he saw through the article. The 'Evening Pulpit'
had been, he explained, desirous of going as far as it could in
denouncing Mr Melmotte without incurring the danger of an action for
libel. Mr Splinter thought that the thing was clever but mean. These
new publications generally were mean. Mr Splinter was constant in that
opinion; but, putting the meanness aside, he thought that the article
was well done. According to his view it was intended to expose Mr
Melmotte and the railway. But the Paides Pallados generally did not
agree with him. Under such an interpretation, what had been the
meaning of that paragraph in which the writer had declared that the
work of joining one ocean to another was worthy of the nearest
approach to divinity that had been granted to men? Old Splinter
chuckled and gabbled as he heard this, and declared that there was not
wit enough left now even among the Paides Pallados to understand a
shaft of irony. There could be no doubt, however, at the time, that
the world did not go with old Splinter, and that the article served to
enhance the value of shares in the great railway enterprise.
Lady Carbury was sure that the article was intended to write up the
railway, and took great joy in it. She entertained in her brain a
somewhat confused notion that if she could only bestir herself in the
right direction and could induce her son to open his eyes to his own
advantage, very great things might be achieved, so that wealth might
become his handmaid and luxury the habit and the right of his life. He
was the beloved and the accepted suitor of Marie Melmotte. He was a
Director of this great company, sitting at the same board with the
great commercial hero. He was the handsomest young man in London. And
he was a baronet. Very wild Ideas occurred to her. Should she take Mr
Alf into her entire confidence? If Melmotte and Alf could be brought
together what might they not do? Alf could write up Melmotte, and
Melmotte could shower shares upon Alf. And if Melmotte would come and
be smiled upon by herself, be flattered as she thought that she could
flatter him, be told that he was a god, and have that passage about
the divinity of joining ocean to ocean construed to him as she could
construe it, would not the great man become plastic under her hands?
And if, while this was a-doing, Felix would run away with Marie, could
not forgiveness be made easy? And her creative mind ranged still
farther. Mr Broune might help, and even Mr Booker. To such a one as
Melmotte, a man doing great things through the force of the confidence
placed in him by the world at large, the freely-spoken support of the
Press would be everything. Who would not buy shares in a railway as to
which Mr Broune and Mr Alf would combine in saying that it was managed
by 'divinity'? Her thoughts were rather hazy, but from day to day she
worked hard to make them clear to herself.
On the Sunday afternoon Mr Booker called on her and talked to her
about the article. She did not say much to Mr Booker as to her own
connection with Mr Melmotte, telling herself that prudence was
essential in the present emergency. But she listened with all her
ears. It was Mr Booker's idea that the man was going 'to make a spoon
or spoil a horn.' 'You think him honest;--don't you?' asked Lady
Carbury. Mr Booker smiled and hesitated. 'Of course, I mean honest as
men can be in such very large transactions.'
'Perhaps that is the best way of putting it,' said Mr Booker.
'If a thing can be made great and beneficent, a boon to humanity,
simply by creating a belief in it, does not a man become a benefactor
to his race by creating that belief?'
'At the expense of veracity?' suggested Mr Booker.
'At the expense of anything?' rejoined Lady Carbury with energy. 'One
cannot measure such men by the ordinary rule.'
'You would do evil to produce good?' asked Mr Booker.
'I do not call it doing evil. You have to destroy a thousand living
creatures every time you drink a glass of water, but you do not think
of that when you are athirst. You cannot send a ship to sea without
endangering lives. You do send ships to sea though men perish yearly.
You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds, but then again he may
create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy.'
'You are an excellent casuist, Lady Carbury.'
'I am an enthusiastic lover of beneficent audacity,' said Lady Carbury,
picking her words slowly, and showing herself to be quite satisfied
with herself as she picked them. 'Did I hold your place, Mr Booker, in
the literature of my country--'
'I hold no place, Lady Carbury.'
'Yes;--and a very distinguished place. Were I circumstanced as you are I
should have no hesitation in lending the whole weight of my
periodical, let it be what it might, to the assistance of so great a
man and so great an object as this.'
'I should be dismissed to-morrow,' said Mr Booker, getting up and
laughing as he took his departure. Lady Carbury felt that, as regarded
Mr Booker, she had only thrown out a chance word that could not do any
harm. She had not expected to effect much through Mr Booker's
instrumentality. On the Tuesday evening,--her regular Tuesday as she
called it,--all her three editors came to her drawing-room; but there
came also a greater man than either of them. She had taken the bull by
the horns, and without saying anything to anybody had written to Mr
Melmotte himself, asking him to honour her poor house with his
presence. She had written a very pretty note to him, reminding him of
their meeting at Caversham, telling him that on a former occasion
Madame Melmotte and his daughter had been so kind as to come to her,
and giving him to understand that of all the potentates now on earth
he was the one to whom she could bow the knee with the purest
satisfaction. He wrote back,--or Miles Grendall did for him,--a very plain
note, accepting the honour of Lady Carbury's invitation.
The great man came, and Lady Carbury took him under her immediate wing
with a grace that was all her own. She said a word about their dear
friends at Caversham, expressed her sorrow that her son's engagements
did not admit of his being there, and then with the utmost audacity
rushed off to the article in the 'Pulpit.' Her friend, Mr Alf, the
editor, had thoroughly appreciated the greatness of Mr Melmotte's
character, and the magnificence of Mr Melmotte's undertakings. Mr
Melmotte bowed and muttered something that was inaudible. 'Now I must
introduce you to Mr Alf,' said the lady. The introduction was
effected, and Mr Alf explained that it was hardly necessary, as he had
already been entertained as one of Mr Melmotte's guests.
'There were a great many there I never saw, and probably never shall
see,' said Mr Melmotte.
'I was one of the unfortunates,' said Mr Alf.
'I'm sorry you were unfortunate. If you had come into the whist room
you would have found me.'
'Ah,--if I had but known!' said Mr Alf. The editor, as was proper,
carried about with him samples of the irony which his paper used so
effectively, but it was altogether thrown away upon Melmotte.
Lady Carbury, finding that no immediate good results could be expected
from this last introduction, tried another. 'Mr Melmotte,' she said,
whispering to him, 'I do so want to make you known to Mr Broune. Mr
Broune I know you have never met before. A morning paper is a much
heavier burden to an editor than one published in the afternoon. Mr
Broune, as of course you know, manages the "Breakfast Table." There is
hardly a more influential man in London than Mr Broune. And they
declare, you know,' she said, lowering the tone of her whisper as she
communicated the fact, 'that his commercial articles are gospel,--
absolutely gospel.' Then the two men were named to each other, and
Lady Carbury retreated;--but not out of hearing.
'Getting very hot,' said Mr Melmotte.
'Very hot indeed,' said Mr Broune.
'It was over 70 in the city to-day. I call that very hot for June.'
'Very hot indeed,' said Mr Broune again. Then the conversation was
over. Mr Broune sidled away, and Mr Melmotte was left standing in the
middle of the room. Lady Carbury told herself at the moment that Rome
was not built in a day. She would have been better satisfied certainly
if she could have laid a few more bricks on this day. Perseverance,
however, was the thing wanted.
But Mr Melmotte himself had a word to say, and before he left the
house he said it. 'It was very good of you to ask me, Lady Carbury;--
very good.' Lady Carbury intimated her opinion that the goodness was
all on the other side. 'And I came,' continued Mr Melmotte, 'because I
had something particular to say. Otherwise I don't go out much to
evening parties. Your son has proposed to my daughter.' Lady Carbury
looked up into his face with all her eyes;--clasped both her hands
together; and then, having unclasped them, put one upon his sleeve.
'My daughter, ma'am, is engaged to another man.'
'You would not enslave her affections, Mr Melmotte?'
'I won't give her a shilling if she marries any one else; that's all.
You reminded me down at Caversham that your son is a Director at our
'I did;--I did.'
'I have a great respect for your son, ma'am. I don't want to hurt him
in any way. If he'll signify to my daughter that he withdraws from
this offer of his, because I'm against it, I'll see that he does
uncommon well in the city. I'll be the making of him. Good night,
ma'am.' Then Mr Melmotte took his departure without another word.
Here at any rate was an undertaking on the part of the great man that
he would be the 'making of Felix,' if Felix would only obey him,--
accompanied, or rather preceded, by a most positive assurance that if
Felix were to succeed in marrying his daughter he would not give his
son-in-law a shilling! There was very much to be considered in this.
She did not doubt that Felix might be 'made' by Mr Melmotte's city
influences, but then any perpetuity of such making must depend on
qualifications in her son which she feared that he did not possess.
The wife without the money would be terrible! That would be absolute
ruin! There could be no escape then; no hope. There was an
appreciation of real tragedy in her heart while she contemplated the
position of Sir Felix married to such a girl as she supposed Marie
Melmotte to be, without any means of support for either of them but
what she could supply. It would kill her. And for those young people
there would be nothing before them, but beggary and the workhouse. As
she thought of this she trembled with true maternal instincts. Her
beautiful boy,--so glorious with his outward gifts, so fit, as she
thought him, for all the graces of the grand world! Though the
ambition was vilely ignoble, the mother's love was noble and
But the girl was an only child. The future honours of the house of
Melmotte could be made to settle on no other head. No doubt the father
would prefer a lord for a son-in-law; and, having that preference,
would of course do as he was now doing. That he should threaten to
disinherit his daughter if she married contrary to his wishes was to
be expected. But would it not be equally a matter of course that he
should make the best of the marriage if it were once effected? His
daughter would return to him with a title, though with one of a lower
degree than his ambition desired. To herself personally, Lady Carbury
felt that the great financier had been very rude. He had taken
advantage of her invitation that he might come to her house and
threaten her. But she would forgive that. She could pass that over
altogether if only anything were to be gained by passing it over.
She looked round the room, longing for a friend, whom she might
consult with a true feeling of genuine womanly dependence. Her most
natural friend was Roger Carbury. But even had he been there she could
not have consulted him on any matter touching the Melmottes. His
advice would have been very clear. He would have told her to have
nothing at all to do with such adventurers. But then dear Roger was
old-fashioned, and knew nothing of people as they are now. He lived in
a world which, though slow, had been good in its way; but which,
whether bad or good, had now passed away. Then her eye settled on Mr
Broune. She was afraid of Mr Alf. She had almost begun to think that
Mr Alf was too difficult of management to be of use to her. But Mr
Broune was softer. Mr Booker was serviceable for an article, but would
not be sympathetic as a friend.
Mr Broune had been very courteous to her lately;--so much so that on one
occasion she had almost feared that the 'susceptible old goose' was
going to be a goose again. That would be a bore; but still she might
make use of the friendly condition of mind which such susceptibility
would produce. When her guests began to leave her, she spoke a word
aside to him. She wanted his advice. Would he stay for a few minutes
after the rest of the company? He did stay, and when all the others
were gone she asked her daughter to leave them. 'Hetta,' she said, 'I
have something of business to communicate to Mr Broune.' And so they
were left alone.
'I'm afraid you didn't make much of Mr Melmotte,' she said smiling. He
had seated himself on the end of a sofa, close to the arm-chair which
she occupied. In reply, he only shook his head and laughed. 'I saw how
it was, and I was sorry for it; for he certainly is a wonderful man.'
'I suppose he is, but he is one of those men whose powers do not lie,
I should say, chiefly in conversation. Though, indeed, there is no
reason why he should not say the same of me,--for if he said little, I
'It didn't just come off,' Lady Carbury suggested with her sweetest
smile. 'But now I want to tell you something. I think I am justified
in regarding you as a real friend.'
'Certainly,' he said, putting out his hand for hers.
She gave it to him for a moment, and then took it back again,--finding
that he did not relinquish it of his own accord. 'Stupid old goose!'
she said to herself. 'And now to my story. You know my boy, Felix?'
The editor nodded his head. 'He is engaged to marry that man's
'Engaged to marry Miss Melmotte?' Then Lady Carbury nodded her head.
'Why, she is said to be the greatest heiress that the world has ever
produced. I thought she was to marry Lord Nidderdale.'
'She has engaged herself to Felix. She is desperately in love with him,--
as is he with her.' She tried to tell her story truly, knowing that no
advice can be worth anything that is not based on a true story;--but
lying had become her nature. 'Melmotte naturally wants her to marry
the lord. He came here to tell me that if his daughter married Felix
she would not have a penny.'
'Do you mean that he volunteered that as a threat?'
'Just so;--and he told me that he had come here simply with the object
of saying so. It was more candid than civil, but we must take it as we
'He would be sure to make some such threat.'
'Exactly. That is just what I feel. And in these days young people are
often kept from marrying simply by a father's fantasy. But I must tell
you something else. He told me that if Felix would desist, he would
enable him to make a fortune in the city.'
'That's bosh,' said Broune with decision.
'Do you think it must be so;--certainly?'
'Yes, I do. Such an undertaking, if intended by Melmotte, would give
me a worse opinion of him than I have ever held.'
'He did make it.'
'Then he did very wrong. He must have spoken with the purpose of
'You know my son is one of the Directors of that great American
Railway. It was not just as though the promise were made to a young
man who was altogether unconnected with him.'
'Sir Felix's name was put there, in a hurry, merely because he has a
title, and because Melmotte thought he, as a young man, would not be
likely to interfere with him. It may be that he will be able to sell a
few shares at a profit; but, if I understand the matter rightly, he
has no capital to go into such a business.'
'No;--he has no capital.'
'Dear Lady Carbury, I would place no dependence at all on such a
promise as that.'
'You think he should marry the girl then in spite of the father?'
Mr Broune hesitated before he replied to this question. But it was to
this question that Lady Carbury especially wished for a reply. She
wanted some one to support her under the circumstances of an
elopement. She rose from her chair, and he rose at the same time.
'Perhaps I should have begun by saying that Felix is all but prepared
to take her off. She is quite ready to go. She is devoted to him. Do
you think he would be wrong?'
'That is a question very hard to answer.'
'People do it every day. Lionel Goldsheiner ran away the other day
with Lady Julia Start, and everybody visits them.'
'Oh yes, people do run away, and it all comes right. It was the
gentleman had the money then, and it is said you know that old Lady
Catchboy, Lady Julia's mother, had arranged the elopement herself as
offering the safest way of securing the rich prize. The young lord
didn't like it, so the mother had it done in that fashion.'
'There would be nothing disgraceful.'
'I didn't say there would;--but nevertheless it is one of those things a
man hardly ventures to advise. If you ask me whether I think that
Melmotte would forgive her, and make her an allowance afterwards,--I
think he would.'
'I am so glad to hear you say that.'
'And I feel quite certain that no dependence whatever should be placed
on that promise of assistance.'
'I quite agree with you. I am so much obliged to you,' said Lady
Carbury, who was now determined that Felix should run off with the
girl. 'You have been so very kind.' Then again she gave him her hand,
as though to bid him farewell for the night.
'And now,' he said, 'I also have something to say to you.'
CHAPTER XXXI - MR BROUNE HAS MADE UP HIS MIND
'And now I have something to say to you.' Mr Broune as he thus spoke
to Lady Carbury rose up to his feet and then sat down again. There was
an air of perturbation about him which was very manifest to the lady,
and the cause and coming result of which she thought that she
understood. 'The susceptible old goose is going to do something highly
ridiculous and very disagreeable.' It was thus that she spoke to
herself of the scene that she saw was prepared for her, but she did
not foresee accurately the shape in which the susceptibility of the
'old goose' would declare itself. 'Lady Carbury,' said Mr Broune,
standing up a second time, 'we are neither of us so young as we used
'No, indeed;--and therefore it is that we can afford to ourselves the
luxury of being friends. Nothing but age enables men and women to know
each other intimately.'
This speech was a great impediment to Mr Broune's progress. It was
evidently intended to imply that he at least had reached a time of
life at which any allusion to love would be absurd. And yet, as a
fact, he was nearer fifty than sixty, was young of his age, could walk
his four or five miles pleasantly, could ride his cob in the park with
as free an air as any man of forty, and could afterwards work through
four or five hours of the night with an easy steadiness which nothing
but sound health could produce. Mr Broune, thinking of himself and his
own circumstances, could see no reason why he should not be in love.
'I hope we know each other intimately at any rate,' he said somewhat
'Oh, yes;--and it is for that reason that I have come to you for advice.
Had I been a young woman I should not have dared to ask you.'
'I don't see that. I don't quite understand that. But it has nothing
to do with my present purpose. When I said that we were neither of us
so young as we once were, I uttered what was a stupid platitude,--a
'I do not think so,' said Lady Carbury smiling.
'Or would have been, only that I intended something further.' Mr
Broune had got himself into a difficulty and hardly knew how to get
out of it. 'I was going on to say that I hoped we were not too old
Foolish old darling! What did he mean by making such an ass of
himself? This was worse even than the kiss, as being more troublesome
and less easily pushed on one side and forgotten. It may serve to
explain the condition of Lady Carbury's mind at the time if it be
stated that she did not even at this moment suppose that the editor of
the 'Morning Breakfast Table' intended to make her an offer of
marriage. She knew, or thought she knew, that middle-aged men are fond
of prating about love, and getting up sensational scenes. The
falseness of the thing, and the injury which may come of it, did not
shock her at all. Had she known that the editor professed to be in
love with some lady in the next street, she would have been quite
ready to enlist the lady in the next street among her friends that she
might thus strengthen her own influence with Mr Broune. For herself
such make-believe of an improper passion would be inconvenient, and
therefore to be avoided. But that any man, placed as Mr Broune was in
the world,--blessed with power, with a large income, with influence
throughout all the world around him, courted, fêted, feared and almost
worshipped,--that he should desire to share her fortunes, her
misfortunes, her struggles, her poverty and her obscurity, was not
within the scope of her imagination. There was a homage in it, of
which she did not believe any man to be capable,--and which to her would
be the more wonderful as being paid to herself. She thought so badly
of men and women generally, and of Mr Broune and herself as a man and
a woman individually, that she was unable to conceive the possibility
of such a sacrifice. 'Mr Broune,' she said, 'I did not think that you
would take advantage of the confidence I have placed in you to annoy
me in this way.'
'To annoy you, Lady Carbury! The phrase at any rate is singular. After
much thought I have determined to ask you to be my wife. That I should
be--annoyed, and more than annoyed by your refusal, is a matter of
course. That I ought to expect such annoyance is perhaps too true. But
you can extricate yourself from the dilemma only too easily.'
The word 'wife' came upon her like a thunder-clap. It at once changed
all her feelings towards him. She did not dream of loving him. She
felt sure that she never could love him. Had it been on the cards with
her to love any man as a lover, it would have been some handsome
spendthrift who would have hung from her neck like a nether millstone.
This man was a friend to be used,--to be used because he knew the world.
And now he gave her this clear testimony that he knew as little of the
world as any other man. Mr Broune of the 'Daily Breakfast Table'
asking her to be his wife! But mixed with her other feelings there was
a tenderness which brought back some memory of her distant youth, and
almost made her weep. That a man,--such a man,--should offer to take half
her burdens, and to confer upon her half his blessings! What an idiot!
But what a god! She had looked upon the man as all intellect, alloyed
perhaps by some passionless remnants of the vices of his youth; and
now she found that he not only had a human heart in his bosom, but a
heart that she could touch. How wonderfully sweet! How infinitely
It was necessary that she should answer him;--and to her it was only
natural that she should think what answer would best assist her own
views without reference to his. It did not occur to her that she could
love him; but it did occur to her that he might lift her out of her
difficulties. What a benefit it would be to her to have a father, and
such a father, for Felix! How easy would be a literary career to the
wife of the editor of the 'Morning Breakfast Table!' And then it
passed through her mind that somebody had told her that the man was
paid £3,000 a year for his work. Would not the world, or any part of
it that was desirable, come to her drawing-room if she were the wife
of Mr Broune? It all passed through her brain at once during that
minute of silence which she allowed herself after the declaration was
made to her. But other ideas and other feelings were present to her
also. Perhaps the truest aspiration of her heart had been the love of
freedom which the tyranny of her late husband had engendered. Once she
had fled from that tyranny and had been almost crushed by the censure
to which she had been subjected. Then her husband's protection and his
tyranny had been restored to her.
After that the freedom had come. It had been accompanied by many hopes
never as yet fulfilled, and embittered by many sorrows which had been
always present to her; but still the hopes were alive and the
remembrance of the tyranny was very clear to her. At last the minute
was over and she was bound to speak. 'Mr Broune,' she said, 'you have
quite taken away my breath. I never expected anything of this kind.'
And now Mr Broune's mouth was opened, and his voice was free. 'Lady
Carbury,' he said, 'I have lived a long time without marrying, and I
have sometimes thought that it would be better for me to go on the
same way to the end. I have worked so hard all my life that when I was
young I had no time to think of love. And, as I have gone on, my mind
has been so fully employed, that I have hardly realized the want which
nevertheless I have felt. And so it has been with me till I fancied,
not that I was too old for love, but that others would think me so.
Then I met you. As I said at first, perhaps with scant gallantry, you
also are not as young as you once were. But you keep the beauty of
your youth, and the energy, and something of the freshness of a young
heart. And I have come to love you. I speak with absolute frankness,
risking your anger. I have doubted much before I resolved upon this.
It is so hard to know the nature of another person. But I think I
understand yours;--and if you can confide your happiness with me, I am
prepared to entrust mine to your keeping.' Poor Mr Broune! Though
endowed with gifts peculiarly adapted for the editing of a daily
newspaper, he could have had but little capacity for reading a woman's
character when he talked of the freshness of Lady Carbury's young
mind! And he must have surely been much blinded by love, before
convincing himself that he could trust his happiness to such keeping.
'You do me infinite honour. You pay me a great compliment,' ejaculated
'How am I to answer you at a moment? I expected nothing of this. As
God is to be my judge it has come upon me like a dream. I look upon
your position as almost the highest in England,--on your prosperity as
the uttermost that can be achieved.'
'That prosperity, such as it is, I desire most anxiously to share with
'You tell me so;--but I can hardly yet believe it. And then how am I to
know my own feelings so suddenly? Marriage as I have found it, Mr
Broune, has not been happy. I have suffered much. I have been wounded
in every joint, hurt in every nerve,--tortured till I could hardly
endure my punishment. At last I got my liberty, and to that I have
looked for happiness.'
'Has it made you happy?'
'It has made me less wretched. And there is so much to be considered!
I have a son and a daughter, Mr Broune.'
'Your daughter I can love as my own. I think I prove my devotion to
you when I say that I am willing for your sake to encounter the
troubles which may attend your son's future career.'
'Mr Broune, I love him better,--always shall love him better,--than
anything in the world.' This was calculated to damp the lover's
ardour, but he probably reflected that should he now be successful,
time might probably change the feeling which had just been expressed.
'Mr Broune,' she said, 'I am now so agitated that you had better leave
me. And it is very late. The servant is sitting up, and will wonder
that you should remain. It is near two o'clock.'
'When may I hope for an answer?'
'You shall not be kept waiting. I will write to you, almost at once. I
will write to you,--to-morrow; say the day after to-morrow, on Thursday. I
feel that I ought to have been prepared with an answer; but I am so
surprised that I have none ready.' He took her hand in his, and
kissing it, left her without another word.
As he was about to open the front door to let himself out, a key from
the other side raised the latch, and Sir Felix, returning from his
club, entered his mother's house. The young man looked up into Mr
Broune's face with mingled impudence and surprise. 'Halloo, old
fellow,' he said, 'you've been keeping it up late here; haven't you?'
He was nearly drunk, and Mr Broune, perceiving his condition, passed
him without a word. Lady Carbury was still standing in the
drawing-room, struck with amazement at the scene which had just
passed, full of doubt as to her future conduct, when she heard her son
tumbling up the stairs. It was impossible for her not to go out to
him. 'Felix,' she said, 'why do you make so much noise as you come
'Noish! I'm not making any noish. I think I'm very early. Your
people's only just gone. I shaw shat editor fellow at the door that
won't call himself Brown. He'sh great ass'h, that fellow. All right,
mother. Oh, ye'sh, I'm all right.' And so he tumbled up to bed, and
his mother followed him to see that the candle was at any rate placed
squarely on the table, beyond the reach of the bed curtains.
Mr Broune as he walked to his newspaper office experienced all those
pangs of doubt which a man feels when he has just done that which for
days and weeks past he has almost resolved that he had better leave
undone. That last apparition which he had encountered at his lady
love's door certainly had not tended to reassure him. What curse can
be much greater than that inflicted by a drunken, reprobate son? The
evil, when in the course of things it comes upon a man, has to be
borne; but why should a man in middle life unnecessarily afflict
himself with so terrible a misfortune? The woman, too, was devoted to
the cub! Then thousands of other thoughts crowded upon him. How would
this new life suit him? He must have a new house, and new ways; must
live under a new dominion, and fit himself to new pleasures. And what
was he to gain by it? Lady Carbury was a handsome woman, and he liked
her beauty. He regarded her too as a clever woman; and, because she
had flattered him, he had liked her conversation. He had been long
enough about town to have known better,--and as he now walked along the
streets, he almost felt that he ought to have known better. Every now
and again he warmed himself a little with the remembrance of her
beauty, and told himself that his new home would be pleasanter, though
it might perhaps be less free, than the old one. He tried to make the
best of it; but as he did so was always repressed by the memory of the
appearance of that drunken young baronet.
Whether for good or for evil, the step had been taken and the thing
was done. It did not occur to him that the lady would refuse him. All
his experience of the world was against such refusal. Towns which
consider, always render themselves. Ladies who doubt always solve
their doubts in the one direction. Of course she would accept him;--and
of course he would stand to his guns. As he went to his work he
endeavoured to bathe himself in self-complacency; but, at the bottom
of it, there was a substratum of melancholy which leavened his
Lady Carbury went from the door of her son's room to her own chamber,
and there sat thinking through the greater part of the night. During
these hours she perhaps became a better woman, as being more oblivious
of herself, than she had been for many a year. It could not be for the
good of this man that he should marry her,--and she did in the midst of
her many troubles try to think of the man's condition. Although in the
moments of her triumph,--and such moments were many,--she would buoy
herself up with assurances that her Felix would become a rich man,
brilliant with wealth and rank, an honour to her, a personage whose
society would be desired by many, still in her heart of hearts she
knew how great was the peril, and in her imagination she could foresee
the nature of the catastrophe which might come. He would go utterly to
the dogs and would take her with him. And whithersoever he might go,
to what lowest canine regions he might descend, she knew herself well
enough to be sure that whether married or single she would go with
him. Though her reason might be ever so strong in bidding her to
desert him, her heart, she knew, would be stronger than her reason. He
was the one thing in the world that overpowered her. In all other
matters she could scheme, and contrive, and pretend; could get the
better of her feelings and fight the world with a double face,
laughing at illusions and telling herself that passions and
preferences were simply weapons to be used. But her love for her son
mastered her,--and she knew it. As it was so, could it be fit that she
should marry another man?
And then her liberty! Even though Felix should bring her to utter
ruin, nevertheless she would be and might remain a free woman. Should
the worse come to the worst she thought that she could endure a
Bohemian life in which, should all her means have been taken from her,
she could live on what she earned. Though Felix was a tyrant after a
kind, he was not a tyrant who could bid her do this or that. A
repetition of marriage vows did not of itself recommend itself to her.
As to loving the man, liking his caresses, and being specially happy
because he was near her,--no romance of that kind ever presented itself
to her imagination. How would it affect Felix and her together,--and Mr
Broune as connected with her and Felix? If Felix should go to the
dogs, then would Mr Broune not want her. Should Felix go to the stars
instead of the dogs, and become one of the gilded ornaments of the
metropolis, then would not he and she want Mr Broune. It was thus that
she regarded the matter.
She thought very little of her daughter as she considered all this.
There was a home for Hetta, with every comfort, if Hetta would only
condescend to accept it. Why did not Hetta marry her cousin Roger
Carbury and let there be an end of that trouble? Of course Hetta must
live wherever her mother lived till she should marry; but Hetta's life
was so much at her own disposal that her mother did not feel herself
bound to be guided in the great matter by Hetta's predispositions.
But she must tell Hetta should she ultimately make up her mind to
marry the man, and in that case the sooner this was done the better.
On that night she did not make up her mind. Ever and again as she
declared to herself that she would not marry him, the picture of a
comfortable assured home over her head, and the conviction that the
editor of the 'Morning Breakfast Table' would be powerful for all
things, brought new doubts to her mind. But she could not convince
herself, and when at last she went to her bed her mind was still
vacillating. The next morning she met Hetta at breakfast, and with
assumed nonchalance asked a question about the man who was perhaps
about to be her husband. 'Do you like Mr Broune, Hetta?'
'Yes;--pretty well. I don't care very much about him. What makes you
'Because among my acquaintances in London there is no one so truly
kind to me as he is.'
'He always seems to me to like to have his own way.'
'Why shouldn't he like it?'
'He has to me that air of selfishness which is so very common with
people in London;--as though what he said were all said out of surface
'I wonder what you expect, Hetta, when you talk of London people? Why
should not London people be as kind as other people? I think Mr Broune
is as obliging a man as any one I know. But if I like anybody, you
always make little of him. The only person you seem to think well of
is Mr Montague.'
'Mamma, that is unfair and unkind. I never mention Mr Montague's name
if I can help it,--and I should not have spoken of Mr Broune, had you
not asked me.'
CHAPTER XXXII - LADY MONOGRAM
Georgiana Longestaffe had now been staying with the Melmottes for a
fortnight, and her prospects in regard to the London season had not
much improved. Her brother had troubled her no further, and her family
at Caversham had not, as far as she was aware, taken any notice of
Dolly's interference. Twice a week she received a cold, dull letter
from her mother,--such letters as she had been accustomed to receive
when away from home; and these she had answered, always endeavouring
to fill her sheet with some customary description of fashionable
doings, with some bit of scandal such as she would have repeated for
her mother's amusement,--and her own delectation in the telling of it,--
had there been nothing painful in the nature of her sojourn in London.
Of the Melmottes she hardly spoke. She did not say that she was taken
to the houses in which it was her ambition to be seen. She would have
lied directly in saying so. But she did not announce her own
disappointment. She had chosen to come up to the Melmottes in
preference to remaining at Caversham, and she would not declare her
own failure. 'I hope they are kind to you,' Lady Pomona always said.
But Georgiana did not tell her mother whether the Melmottes were kind
In truth, her 'season' was a very unpleasant season. Her mode of living
was altogether different to anything she had already known. The house
in Bruton Street had never been very bright, but the appendages of
life there had been of a sort which was not known in the gorgeous
mansion in Grosvenor Square. It had been full of books and little toys
and those thousand trifling household gods which are accumulated in
years, and which in their accumulation suit themselves to the taste of
their owners. In Grosvenor Square there were no Lares;--no toys, no
books, nothing but gold and grandeur, pomatum, powder and pride. The
Longestaffe life had not been an easy, natural, or intellectual life;
but the Melmotte life was hardly endurable even by a Longestaffe. She
had, however, come prepared to suffer much, and was endowed with
considerable power of endurance in pursuit of her own objects. Having
willed to come, even to the Melmottes, in preference to remaining at
Caversham, she fortified herself to suffer much. Could she have ridden
in the park at mid-day in desirable company, and found herself in
proper houses at midnight, she would have borne the rest, bad as it
might have been. But it was not so. She had her horse, but could with
difficulty get any proper companion. She had been in the habit of
riding with one of the Primero girls,--and old Primero would accompany
them, or perhaps a brother Primero, or occasionally her own father.
And then, when once out, she would be surrounded by a cloud of young
men,--and though there was but little in it, a walking round and round
the same bit of ground with the same companions and with the smallest
attempt at conversation, still it had been the proper thing and had
satisfied her. Now it was with difficulty that she could get any
cavalier such as the laws of society demand. Even Penelope Primero
snubbed her,--whom she, Georgiana Longestaffe, had hitherto endured and
snubbed. She was just allowed to join them when old Primero rode, and
was obliged even to ask for that assistance.
But the nights were still worse. She could only go where Madame
Melmotte went, and Madame Melmotte was more prone to receive people at
home than to go out. And the people she did receive were antipathetic
to Miss Longestaffe. She did not even know who they were, whence they
came, or what was their nature. They seemed to be as little akin to
her as would have been the shopkeepers in the small town near
Caversham. She would sit through long evenings almost speechless,
trying to fathom the depth of the vulgarity of her associates.
Occasionally she was taken out, and was then, probably, taken to very
grand houses. The two duchesses and the Marchioness of Auld Reekie
received Madame Melmotte, and the garden parties of royalty were open
to her. And some of the most elaborate fêtes of the season.--which
indeed were very elaborate on behalf of this and that travelling
potentate,--were attained. On these occasions Miss Longestaffe was fully
aware of the struggle that was always made for invitations, often
unsuccessfully, but sometimes with triumph. Even the bargains,
conducted by the hands of Lord Alfred and his mighty sister, were not
altogether hidden from her. The Emperor of China was to be in London
and it was thought proper that some private person, some untitled
individual, should give the Emperor a dinner, so that the Emperor
might see how an English merchant lives. Mr Melmotte was chosen on
condition that he would spend £10,000 on the banquet;--and, as a part of
his payment for this expenditure, was to be admitted with his family,
to a grand entertainment given to the Emperor at Windsor Park. Of
these good things Georgiana Longestaffe would receive her share. But
she went to them as a Melmotte and not as a Longestaffe,--and when
amidst these gaieties, though she could see her old friends, she was
not with them. She was ever behind Madame Melmotte, till she hated the
make of that lady's garments and the shape of that lady's back.
She had told both her father and mother very plainly that it behoved
her to be in London at this time of the year that she might--look for a
husband. She had not hesitated in declaring her purpose; and that
purpose, together with the means of carrying it out, had not appeared
to them to be unreasonable. She wanted to be settled in life. She had
meant, when she first started on her career, to have a lord;--but lords
are scarce. She was herself not very highly born, not very highly
gifted, not very lovely, not very pleasant, and she had no fortune.
She had long made up her mind that she could do without a lord, but
that she must get a commoner of the proper sort. He must be a man with
a place in the country and sufficient means to bring him annually to
London. He must be a gentleman,--and, probably, in parliament. And above
all things he must be in the right set. She would rather go on for
ever struggling than take some country Whitstable as her sister was
about to do. But now the men of the right sort never came near her.
The one object for which she had subjected herself to all this
ignominy seemed to have vanished altogether in the distance. When by
chance she danced or exchanged a few words with the Nidderdales and
Grassloughs whom she used to know, they spoke to her with a want of
respect which she felt and tasted but could hardly analyse. Even Miles
Grendall, who had hitherto been below her notice, attempted to
patronize her in a manner that bewildered her. All this nearly broke
And then from time to time little rumours reached her ears which made
her aware that, in the teeth of all Mr Melmotte's social successes, a
general opinion that he was a gigantic swindler was rather gaining
ground than otherwise. 'Your host is a wonderful fellow, by George!'
said Lord Nidderdale. 'No one seems to know which way he'll turn up at
last.' 'There's nothing like being a robber, if you can only rob
enough,' said Lord Grasslough,--not exactly naming Melmotte, but very
clearly alluding to him. There was a vacancy for a member of
parliament at Westminster, and Melmotte was about to come forward as a
candidate. 'If he can manage that I think he'll pull through,' she
heard one man say. 'If money'll do it, it will be done,' said another.
She could understand it all. Mr Melmotte was admitted into society,
because of some enormous power which was supposed to lie in his hands;
but even by those who thus admitted him he was regarded as a thief and
a scoundrel. This was the man whose house had been selected by her
father in order that she might make her search for a husband from
beneath his wing!
In her agony she wrote to her old friend Julia Triplex, now the wife
of Sir Damask Monogram. She had been really intimate with Julia
Triplex, and had been sympathetic when a brilliant marriage had been
achieved. Julia had been without fortune, but very pretty. Sir Damask
was a man of great wealth, whose father had been a contractor. But Sir
Damask himself was a sportsman, keeping many horses on which other men
often rode, a yacht in which other men sunned themselves, a deer
forest, a moor, a large machinery for making pheasants. He shot
pigeons at Hurlingham, drove four-in-hand in the park, had a box at
every race-course, and was the most good-natured fellow known. He had
really conquered the world, had got over the difficulty of being the
grandson of a butcher, and was now as good as though the Monograms had
gone to the crusades. Julia Triplex was equal to her position, and
made the very most of it. She dispensed champagne and smiles, and made
everybody, including herself, believe that she was in love with her
husband. Lady Monogram had climbed to the top of the tree, and in that
position had been, of course, invaluable to her old friend. We must
give her her due and say that she had been fairly true to friendship
while Georgiana--behaved herself. She thought that Georgiana in going
to the Melmottes had not behaved herself, and therefore she had
determined to drop Georgiana. 'Heartless, false, purse-proud
creature,' Georgiana said to herself as she wrote the following letter
in humiliating agony.
DEAR LADY MONOGRAM,
I think you hardly understand my position. Of course you have cut
me. Haven't you? And of course I must feel it very much. You did
not use to be ill-natured, and I hardly think you can have become
so now when you have everything pleasant around you. I do not
think that I have done anything that should make an old friend
treat me in this way, and therefore I write to ask you to let me
see you. Of course it is because I am staying here. You know me
well enough to be sure that it can't be my own choice. Papa
arranged it all. If there is anything against these people, I
suppose papa does not know it. Of course they are not nice. Of
course they are not like anything that I have been used to. But
when papa told me that the house in Bruton Street was to be shut
up and that I was to come here, of course I did as I was bid. I
don't think an old friend like you, whom I have always liked more
than anybody else, ought to cut me for it. It's not about the
parties, but about yourself that I mind. I don't ask you to come
here, but if you will see me I can have the carriage and will go
Yours, as ever,
It was a troublesome letter to get written. Lady Monogram was her
junior in age and had once been lower than herself in social position.
In the early days of their friendship she had sometimes domineered
over Julia Triplex, and had been entreated by Julia, in reference to
balls here and routes there. The great Monogram marriage had been
accomplished very suddenly, and had taken place,--exalting Julia very
high,--just as Georgiana was beginning to allow her aspirations to
descend. It was in that very season that she moved her castle in the
air from the Upper to the Lower House. And now she was absolutely
begging for notice, and praying that she might not be cut! She sent
her letter by post and on the following day received a reply, which
was left by a footman.
Of course I shall be delighted to see you. I don't know what you
mean by cutting. I never cut anybody. We happen to have got into
different sets, but that is not my fault. Sir Damask won't let me
call on the Melmottes. I can't help that. You wouldn't have me go
where he tells me not. I don't know anything about them myself,
except that I did go to their ball. But everybody knows that's
different. I shall be at home all to-morrow till three,--that is
to-day I mean, for I'm writing after coming home from Lady
Killarney's ball; but if you wish to see me alone you had better
come before lunch.
Georgiana condescended to borrow the carriage and reached her friend's
house a little after noon. The two ladies kissed each other when they
met--of course, and then Miss Longestaffe at once began. 'Julia, I did
think that you would at any rate have asked me to your second ball.'
'Of course you would have been asked if you had been up in Bruton
Street. You know that as well as I do. It would have been a matter of
'What difference does a house make?'
'But the people in a house make a great deal of difference, my dear. I
don't want to quarrel with you, my dear; but I can't know the
'Who asks you?'
'You are with them.'
'Do you mean to say that you can't ask anybody to your house without
asking everybody that lives with that person? It's done every day.'
'Somebody must have brought you.'
'I would have come with the Primeros, Julia.'
'I couldn't do it. I asked Damask and he wouldn't have it. When that
great affair was going on in February, we didn't know much about the
people. I was told that everybody was going and therefore I got Sir
Damask to let me go. He says now that he won't let me know them; and
after having been at their house I can't ask you out of it, without
asking them too.'
'I don't see it at all, Julia.'
'I'm very sorry, my dear, but I can't go against my husband.'
'Everybody goes to their house,' said Georgiana, pleading her cause
to the best of her ability. 'The Duchess of Stevenage has dined in
Grosvenor Square since I have been there.'
'We all know what that means,' replied Lady Monogram.
'And people are giving their eyes to be asked to the dinner party
which he is to give to the Emperor in July;--and even to the reception
'To hear you talk, Georgiana, one would think that you didn't
understand anything,' said Lady Monogram. 'People are going to see the
Emperor, not to see the Melmottes. I dare say we might have gone only
I suppose we shan't now,--because of this row.'
'I don't know what you mean by a row, Julia.'
'Well;--it is a row, and I hate rows. Going there when the Emperor of
China is there, or anything of that kind, is no more than going to the
play. Somebody chooses to get all London into his house, and all
London chooses to go. But it isn't understood that that means
acquaintance. I should meet Madame Melmotte in the park afterwards and
not think of bowing to her.'
'I should call that rude.'
'Very well. Then we differ. But really it does seem to me that you
ought to understand these things as well as anybody. I don't find any
fault with you for going to the Melmottes,--though I was very sorry to
hear it; but when you have done it, I don't think you should complain
of people because they won't have the Melmottes crammed down their
'Nobody has wanted it,' said Georgiana sobbing. At this moment the
door was opened, and Sir Damask came in. 'I'm talking to your wife
about the Melmottes,' she continued, determined to take the bull by
the horns. 'I'm staying there, and--I think it--unkind that Julia--hasn't
been--to see me. That's all.'
'How'd you do, Miss Longestaffe? She doesn't know them.' And Sir
Damask, folding his hands together, raising his eyebrows, and standing
on the rug, looked as though he had solved the whole difficulty.
'She knows me, Sir Damask.'
'Oh yes;--she knows you. That's a matter of course. We're delighted to
see you, Miss Longestaffe--I am, always. Wish we could have had you at
Ascot. But--.' Then he looked as though he had again explained
'I've told her that you don't want me to go to the Melmottes,' said
'Well, no;--not just to go there. Stay and have lunch, Miss
'No, thank you.'
'Now you're here, you'd better,' said Lady Monogram.
'No, thank you. I'm sorry that I have not been able to make you
understand me. I could not allow our very long friendship to be
dropped without a word.'
'Don't say--dropped,' exclaimed the baronet.
'I do say dropped, Sir Damask. I thought we should have understood
each other;--your wife and I. But we haven't. Wherever she might have
gone, I should have made it my business to see her; but she feels
'Good-bye, my dear. If you will quarrel, it isn't my doing.' Then Sir
Damask led Miss Longestaffe out, and put her into Madame Melmotte's
carriage. 'It's the most absurd thing I ever knew in my life,' said
the wife as soon as her husband had returned to her. 'She hasn't been
able to bear to remain down in the country for one season, when all
the world knows that her father can't afford to have a house for them
in town. Then she condescends to come and stay with these abominations
and pretends to feel surprised that her old friends don't run after
her. She is old enough to have known better.'
'I suppose she likes parties,' said Sir Damask.
'Likes parties! She'd like to get somebody to take her. It's twelve
years now since Georgiana Longestaffe came out. I remember being told
of the time when I was first entered myself. Yes, my dear, you know
all about it, I dare say. And there she is still. I can feel for her,
and do feel for her. But if she will let herself down in that way she
can't expect not to be dropped. You remember the woman;--don't you?'
'Never saw her in my life.'
'Oh yes, you did. You took me there that night when Prince--danced with
the girl. Don't you remember the blowsy fat woman at the top of the
stairs;--a regular horror?'
'Didn't look at her. I was only thinking what a lot of money it all
'I remember her, and if Georgiana Longestaffe thinks I'm going there
to make an acquaintance with Madame Melmotte she is very much
mistaken. And if she thinks that that is the way to get married, I
think she is mistaken again.' Nothing perhaps is so efficacious in
preventing men from marrying as the tone in which married women speak
of the struggles made in that direction by their unmarried friends.
CHAPTER XXXIII - JOHN CRUMB
Sir Felix Carbury made an appointment for meeting Ruby Ruggles a
second time at the bottom of the kitchen-garden belonging to Sheep's
Acre farm, which appointment he neglected, and had, indeed, made
without any intention of keeping it. But Ruby was there, and remained
hanging about among the cabbages till her grandfather returned from
Harlestone market. An early hour had been named; but hours may be
mistaken, and Ruby had thought that a fine gentleman, such as was her
lover, used to live among fine people up in London, might well mistake
the afternoon for the morning. If he would come at all she could
easily forgive such a mistake. But he did not come, and late in the
afternoon she was obliged to obey her grandfather's summons as he
called her into the house.
After that for three weeks she heard nothing of her London lover, but
she was always thinking of him;--and though she could not altogether
avoid her country lover, she was in his company as little as possible.
One afternoon her grandfather returned from Bungay and told her that
her country lover was coming to see her. 'John Crumb be a coming over
by-and-by,' said the old man. 'See and have a bit o' supper ready for
'John Crumb coming here, grandfather? He's welcome to stay away then,
'That be dommed.' The old man thrust his old hat on to his head and
seated himself in a wooden arm-chair that stood by the kitchen-fire.
Whenever he was angry he put on his hat, and the custom was well
understood by Ruby. 'Why not welcome, and he all one as your husband?
Look ye here, Ruby, I'm going to have an eend o' this. John Crumb is
to marry you next month, and the banns is to be said.'
'The parson may say what he pleases, grandfather. I can't stop his
saying of 'em. It isn't likely I shall try, neither. But no parson
among 'em all can marry me without I'm willing.'
'And why should you no be willing, you contrairy young jade, you?'
'You've been a'drinking, grandfather.'
He turned round at her sharp, and threw his old hat at her head;--
nothing to Ruby's consternation, as it was a practice to which she
was well accustomed. She picked it up, and returned it to him with a
cool indifference which was intended to exasperate him. 'Look ye here,
Ruby,' he said, 'out o' this place you go. If you go as John Crumb's
wife you'll go with five hun'erd pound, and we'll have a dinner here,
and a dance, and all Bungay.'
'Who cares for all Bungay,--a set of beery chaps as knows nothing but
swilling and smoking;--and John Crumb the main of 'em all? There never
was a chap for beer like John Crumb.'
'Never saw him the worse o' liquor in all my life.' And the old
farmer, as he gave this grand assurance, rattled his fist down upon
'It ony just makes him stoopider and stoopider the more he swills. You
can't tell me, grandfather, about John Crumb, I knows him.'
'Didn't ye say as how ye'd have him? Didn't ye give him a promise?'
'If I did, I ain't the first girl as has gone back of her word,--and I
shan't be the last.'
'You means you won't have him?'
'That's about it, grandfather.'
'Then you'll have to have somebody to fend for ye, and that pretty
sharp,--for you won't have me.'
'There ain't no difficulty about that, grandfather.'
'Very well. He's a coming here to-night, and you may settle it along
wi' him. Out o' this ye shall go. I know of your doings.'
'What doings! You don't know of no doings. There ain't no doings. You
don't know nothing ag'in me.'
'He's a coming here to-night, and if you can make it up wi' him, well
and good. There's five hun'erd pound, and ye shall have the dinner and
dance and all Bungay. He ain't a going to be put off no longer;--he
'Whoever wanted him to be put on? Let him go his own gait.'
'If you can't make it up wi' him--'
'Well, grandfather, I shan't anyways.'
'Let me have my say, will ye, yer jade, you? There's five hun'erd
pound! and there ain't ere a farmer in Suffolk or Norfolk paying rent
for a bit of land like this can do as well for his darter as that,--let
alone only a granddarter. You never thinks o' that;--you don't. If you
don't like to take it,--leave it. But you'll leave Sheep's Acre too.'
'Bother Sheep's Acre. Who wants to stop at Sheep's Acre? It's the
stoopidest place in all England.'
'Then find another. Then find another. That's all aboot it. John
Crumb's a coming up for a bit o' supper. You tell him your own mind.
I'm dommed if I trouble aboot it. On'y you don't stay here. Sheep's
Acre ain't good enough for you, and you'd best find another home.
Stoopid, is it? You'll have to put up wi' places stoopider nor Sheep's
Acre, afore you've done.'
In regard to the hospitality promised to Mr Crumb, Miss Ruggles went
about her work with sufficient alacrity. She was quite willing that
the young man should have a supper, and she did understand that, so
far as the preparation of the supper went, she owed her service to her
grandfather. She therefore went to work herself, and gave directions
to the servant girl who assisted her in keeping her grandfather's
house. But as she did this, she determined that she would make John
Crumb understand that she would never be his wife. Upon that she was
now fully resolved. As she went about the kitchen, taking down the ham
and cutting the slices that were to be broiled, and as she trussed the
fowl that was to be boiled for John Crumb, she made mental comparisons
between him and Sir Felix Carbury. She could see, as though present
to her at the moment, the mealy, floury head of the one, with hair
stiff with perennial dust from his sacks, and the sweet glossy dark
well-combed locks of the other, so bright, so seductive, that she was
ever longing to twine her fingers among them. And she remembered the
heavy, flat, broad honest face of the mealman, with his mouth slow in
motion, and his broad nose looking like a huge white promontory, and
his great staring eyes, from the corners of which he was always
extracting meal and grit;--and then also she remembered the white teeth,
the beautiful soft lips, the perfect eyebrows, and the rich complexion
of her London lover. Surely a lease of Paradise with the one, though
but for one short year, would be well purchased at the price of a life
with the other! 'It's no good going against love,' she said to herself,
'and I won't try. He shall have his supper, and be told all about it,
and then go home. He cares more for his supper than he do for me.' And
then, with this final resolution firmly made, she popped the fowl into
the pot. Her grandfather wanted her to leave Sheep's Acre. Very well.
She had a little money of her own, and would take herself off to
London. She knew what people would say, but she cared nothing for old
women's tales. She would know how to take care of herself, and could
always say in her own defence that her grandfather had turned her out
of Sheep's Acre.
Seven had been the hour named, and punctually at that hour John Crumb
knocked at the back door of Sheep's Acre farm-house. Nor did he come
alone. He was accompanied by his friend Joe Mixet, the baker of
Bungay, who, as all Bungay knew, was to be his best man at his
marriage. John Crumb's character was not without any fine attributes.
He could earn money,--and having earned it could spend and keep it in
fair proportion. He was afraid of no work, and,--to give him his due,--
was afraid of no man. He was honest, and ashamed of nothing that he
did. And after his fashion he had chivalrous ideas about women. He was
willing to thrash any man that ill-used a woman, and would certainly
be a most dangerous antagonist to any man who would misuse a woman
belonging to him. But Ruby had told the truth of him in saying that he
was slow of speech, and what the world calls stupid in regard to all
forms of expression. He knew good meal from bad as well as any man,
and the price at which he could buy it so as to leave himself a fair
profit at the selling. He knew the value of a clear conscience, and
without much argument had discovered for himself that honesty is in
Back to Full Books