Part 11 out of 19
'Oh--oh--oh,' said Lord De Griffin, just putting out his hand. 'I am
delighted;--ah, yes,' and pretending to see somebody, he made a weak
and quite ineffectual attempt to escape.
Melmotte stood directly in his way, and with unabashed audacity
repeated his demand. 'I am desirous of being presented to his Imperial
Majesty. Will you do me the honour of making my request known to Mr
Wilson?' Mr Wilson was the Secretary of State, who was as busy as a
Secretary of State is sure to be on such an occasion.
'I hardly know,' said Lord De Griffin. 'I'm afraid it's all arranged.
I don't know anything about it myself.'
'You can introduce me to Mr Wilson.'
'He's up there, Mr Melmotte; and I couldn't get at him. Really you
must excuse me. I'm very sorry. If I see him I'll tell him.' And the
poor under secretary again endeavoured to escape.
Mr Melmotte put up his hand and stopped him. 'I'm not going to stand
this kind of thing,' he said. The old Marquis of Auld Reekie was close
at hand, the father of Lord Nidderdale, and therefore the proposed
father-in-law of Melmotte's daughter, and he poked his thumb heavily
into Lord Alfred's ribs. 'It is generally understood, I believe,'
continued Melmotte, 'that the Emperor is to do me the honour of dining
at my poor house on Monday. He don't dine there unless I'm made
acquainted with him before he comes. I mean what I say. I ain't going
to entertain even an Emperor unless I'm good enough to be presented to
him. Perhaps you'd better let Mr Wilson know, as a good many people
intend to come.'
'Here's a row,' said the old Marquis. 'I wish he'd be as good as his
'He has taken a little wine,' whispered Lord Alfred. 'Melmotte,' he
said, still whispering; 'upon my word it isn't the thing. They're only
Indian chaps and Eastern swells who are presented here,--not a fellow
among 'em all who hasn't been in India or China, or isn't a Secretary
of State, or something of that kind.'
'Then they should have done it at Windsor, or at the ball,' said
Melmotte, pulling down his waistcoat. 'By George, Alfred! I'm in
earnest, and somebody had better look to it. If I'm not presented to
his Imperial Majesty to-night, by G----, there shall be no dinner in
Grosvenor Square on Monday. I'm master enough of my own house, I
suppose, to be able to manage that.'
Here was a row, as the Marquis had said! Lord De Griffin was
frightened, and Lord Alfred felt that something ought to be done.
'There's no knowing how far the pig-headed brute may go in his
obstinacy,' Lord Alfred said to Mr Lupton, who was there. It no doubt
might have been wise to have allowed the merchant prince to return
home with the resolution that his dinner should be abandoned. He would
have repented probably before the next morning; and had he continued
obdurate it would not have been difficult to explain to Celestial
Majesty that something preferable had been found for that particular
evening even to a banquet at the house of British commerce. The
Government would probably have gained the seat for Westminster, as
Melmotte would at once have become very unpopular with the great body
of his supporters. But Lord De Griffin was not the man to see this. He
did make his way up to Mr Wilson, and explained to the Amphytrion of
the night the demand which was made on his hospitality. A thoroughly
well-established and experienced political Minister of State always
feels that if he can make a friend or appease an enemy without paying
a heavy price he will be doing a good stroke of business. 'Bring him
up,' said Mr Wilson. 'He's going to do something out in the East,
isn't he?' 'Nothing in India,' said Lord De Griffin. 'The submarine
telegraph is quite impossible.' Mr Wilson, instructing some satellite
to find out in what way he might properly connect Mr Melmotte with
China, sent Lord De Griffin away with his commission.
'My dear Alfred, just allow me to manage these things myself;' Mr
Melmotte was saying when the under secretary returned. 'I know my own
position and how to keep it. There shall be no dinner. I'll be d---- if
any of the lot shall dine in Grosvenor Square on Monday.' Lord Alfred
was so astounded that he was thinking of making his way to the Prime
Minister, a man whom he abhorred and didn't know, and of acquainting
him with the terrible calamity which was threatened. But the arrival
of the under secretary saved him the trouble.
'If you will come with me,' whispered Lord De Griffin, 'it shall be
managed. It isn't just the thing, but as you wish it, it shall be
'I do wish it,' said Melmotte aloud. He was one of those men whom
success never mollified, whose enjoyment of a point gained always
demanded some hoarse note of triumph from his own trumpet.
'If you will be so kind as to follow me,' said Lord De Griffin. And so
the thing was done. Melmotte, as he was taken up to the imperial
footstool, was resolved upon making a little speech, forgetful at the
moment of interpreters,--of the double interpreters whom the Majesty
of China required; but the awful, quiescent solemnity of the celestial
one quelled even him, and he shuffled by without saying a word even of
his own banquet.
But he had gained his point, and, as he was taken home to poor Mr
Longestaffe's house in Bruton Street, was intolerable. Lord Alfred
tried to escape after putting Madame Melmotte and her daughter into
the carriage, but Melmotte insisted on his presence. 'You might as
well come, Alfred;--there are two or three things I must settle
before I go to bed.'
'I'm about knocked up,' said the unfortunate man.
'Knocked up, nonsense! Think what I've been through. I've been all day
at the hardest work a man can do.' Had he as usual got in first,
leaving his man-of-all-work to follow, the man-of-all-work would have
escaped. Melmotte, fearing such defection, put his hand on Lord
Alfred's shoulder, and the poor fellow was beaten. As they were taken
home a continual sound of cock-crowing was audible, but as the words
were not distinguished they required no painful attention; but when
the soda water and brandy and cigars made their appearance in Mr
Longestaffe's own back room, then the trumpet was sounded with a full
blast. 'I mean to let the fellows know what's what,' said Melmotte,
walking about the room. Lord Alfred had thrown himself into an
arm-chair, and was consoling himself as best he might with tobacco.
'Give and take is a very good motto. If I scratch their back, I mean
them to scratch mine. They won't find many people to spend ten
thousand pounds in entertaining a guest of the country's as a private
enterprise. I don't know of any other man of business who could do it,
or would do it. It's not much any of them can do for me. Thank God, I
don't want 'em. But if consideration is to be shown to anybody, I
intend to be considered. The Prince treated me very scurvily, Alfred,
and I shall take an opportunity of telling him so on Monday. I suppose
a man may be allowed to speak to his own guests.'
'You might turn the election against you if you said anything the
Prince didn't like.'
'D---- the election, sir. I stand before the electors of Westminster as a
man of business, not as a courtier,--as a man who understands commercial
enterprise, not as one of the Prince's toadies. Some of you fellows in
England don't realize the matter yet; but I can tell you that I think
myself quite as great a man as any Prince.' Lord Alfred looked at him,
with strong reminiscences of the old ducal home, and shuddered. 'I'll
teach them a lesson before long. Didn't I teach 'em a lesson to-night,--
eh? They tell me that Lord De Griffin has sixty thousand a-year to
spend. What's sixty thousand a year? Didn't I make him go on my
business? And didn't I make 'em do as I chose? You want to tell me
this and that, but I can tell you that I know more of men and women
than some of you fellows do, who think you know a great deal.'
This went on through the whole of a long cigar; and afterwards, as
Lord Alfred slowly paced his way back to his lodgings in Mount Street,
he thought deeply whether there might not be means of escaping from
his present servitude. 'Beast! Brute! Pig!' he said to himself over
and over again as he slowly went to Mount Street.
CHAPTER LV - CLERICAL CHARITIES
Melmotte's success, and Melmotte's wealth, and Melmotte's antecedents
were much discussed down in Suffolk at this time. He had been seen
there in the flesh, and there is no believing like that which comes
from sight. He had been staying at Caversham, and many in those parts
knew that Miss Longestaffe was now living in his house in London. The
purchase of the Pickering estate had also been noticed in all the
Suffolk and Norfolk newspapers. Rumours, therefore, of his past
frauds, rumour also as to the instability of his presumed fortune,
were as current as those which declared him to be by far the richest
man in England. Miss Melmotte's little attempt had also been
communicated in the papers; and Sir Felix, though he was not
recognized as being 'real Suffolk' himself, was so far connected with
Suffolk by name as to add something to this feeling of reality
respecting the Melmottes generally. Suffolk is very old-fashioned.
Suffolk, taken as a whole, did not like the Melmotte fashion. Suffolk,
which is, I fear, persistently and irrecoverably Conservative, did not
believe in Melmotte as a Conservative Member of Parliament. Suffolk on
this occasion was rather ashamed of the Longestaffes, and took
occasion to remember that it was barely the other day, as Suffolk
counts days, since the original Longestaffe was in trade. This selling
of Pickering, and especially the selling of it to Melmotte, was a mean
thing. Suffolk, as a whole, thoroughly believed that Melmotte had
picked the very bones of every shareholder in that Franco-Austrian
Mr Hepworth was over with Roger one morning, and they were talking
about him,--or talking rather of the attempted elopement. 'I know
nothing about it,' said Roger, 'and I do not intend to ask. Of course
I did know when they were down here that he hoped to marry her, and I
did believe that she was willing to marry him. But whether the father
had consented or not I never inquired.'
'It seems he did not consent.'
'Nothing could have been more unfortunate for either of them than such
a marriage. Melmotte will probably be in the "Gazette" before long,
and my cousin not only has not a shilling, but could not keep one if
he had it.'
'You think Melmotte will turn out a failure.'
'A failure! Of course he's a failure, whether rich or poor;--a
miserable imposition, a hollow vulgar fraud from beginning to end,--
too insignificant for you and me to talk of, were it not that his
position is a sign of the degeneracy of the age. What are we coming
to when such as he is an honoured guest at our tables?'
'At just a table here and there,' suggested his friend.
'No;--it is not that. You can keep your house free from him, and so can
I mine. But we set no example to the nation at large. They who do set
the example go to his feasts, and of course he is seen at theirs in
return. And yet these leaders of the fashion know,--at any rate they
believe,--that he is what he is because he has been a swindler greater
than other swindlers. What follows as a natural consequence? Men
reconcile themselves to swindling. Though they themselves mean to be
honest, dishonesty of itself is no longer odious to them. Then there
comes the jealousy that others should be growing rich with the
approval of all the world,--and the natural aptitude to do what all the
world approves. It seems to me that the existence of a Melmotte is not
compatible with a wholesome state of things in general.'
Roger dined with the Bishop of Elmham that evening, and the same hero
was discussed under a different heading. 'He has given £200,' said the
Bishop, 'to the Curates' Aid Society. I don't know that a man could
spend his money much better than that.'
'Clap-trap!' said Roger, who in his present mood was very bitter.
'The money is not clap-trap, my friend. I presume that the money is
'I don't feel at all sure of that.'
'Our collectors for clerical charities are usually stern men,--very
ready to make known defalcations on the part of promising subscribers.
I think they would take care to get the money during the election.'
'And you think that money got in that way redounds to his credit?'
'Such a gift shows him to be a useful member of society,--and I am
always for encouraging useful men.'
'Even though their own objects may be vile and pernicious?'
'There you beg ever so many questions, Mr Carbury. Mr Melmotte wishes
to get into Parliament, and if there would vote on the side which you
at any rate approve. I do not know that his object in that respect is
pernicious. And as a seat in Parliament has been a matter of ambition
to the best of our countrymen for centuries, I do not know why we
should say that it is vile in this man.' Roger frowned and shook his
head. 'Of course Mr Melmotte is not the sort of gentleman whom you
have been accustomed to regard as a fitting member for a Conservative
constituency. But the country is changing.'
'It's going to the dogs, I think;--about as fast as it can go.'
'We build churches much faster than we used to do.'
'Do we say our prayers in them when we have built them?' asked the
'It is very hard to see into the minds of men,' said the Bishop; 'but
we can see the results of their minds' work. I think that men on the
whole do live better lives than they did a hundred years ago. There is
a wider spirit of justice abroad, more of mercy from one to another, a
more lively charity, and if less of religious enthusiasm, less also of
superstition. Men will hardly go to heaven, Mr Carbury, by following
forms only because their fathers followed the same forms before them.'
'I suppose men will go to heaven, my Lord, by doing as they would be
'There can be no safer lesson. But we must hope that some may be saved
even if they have not practised at all times that grand self-denial.
Who comes up to that teaching? Do you not wish for, nay, almost
demand, instant pardon for any trespass that you may commit,--of temper,
or manner, for instance? and are you always ready to forgive in that
way yourself? Do you not writhe with indignation at being wrongly
judged by others who condemn you without knowing your actions or the
causes of them; and do you never judge others after that fashion?'
'I do not put myself forward as an example.'
'I apologise for the personal form of my appeal. A clergyman is apt to
forget that he is not in the pulpit. Of course I speak of men in
general. Taking society as a whole, the big and the little, the rich
and the poor, I think that it grows better from year to year, and not
worse. I think, too, that they who grumble at the times, as Horace
did, and declare that each age is worse than its forerunner, look only
at the small things beneath their eyes, and ignore the course of the
world at large.'
'But Roman freedom and Roman manners were going to the dogs when
'But Christ was about to be born, and men were already being made fit
by wider intelligence for Christ's teaching. And as for freedom, has
not freedom grown, almost every year, from that to this?'
'In Rome they were worshipping just such men as this Melmotte. Do you
remember the man who sat upon the seats of the knights and scoured the
Via Sacra with his toga, though he had been scourged from pillar to
post for his villainies? I always think of that man when I hear
Melmotte's name mentioned. Hoc, hoc tribuno militum! Is this the man
to be Conservative member for Westminster?'
'Do you know of the scourges, as a fact?'
'I think I know that they are deserved.'
'That is hardly doing to others as you would be done by. If the man is
what you say, he will surely be found out at last, and the day of his
punishment will come. Your friend in the ode probably had a bad time
of it, in spite of his farms and his horses. The world perhaps is
managed more justly than you think, Mr Carbury.'
'My Lord, I believe you're a Radical at heart,' said Roger, as he took
'Very likely,--very likely. Only don't say so to the Prime Minister,
or I shall never get any of the better things which may be going.'
The Bishop was not hopelessly in love with a young lady, and was
therefore less inclined to take a melancholy view of things in general
than Roger Carbury. To Roger everything seemed to be out of joint. He
had that morning received a letter from Lady Carbury, reminding him of
the promise of a loan, should a time come to her of great need. It had
come very quickly. Roger Carbury did not in the least begrudge the
hundred pounds which he had already sent to his cousin; but he did
begrudge any furtherance afforded to the iniquitous schemes of Sir
Felix. He felt all but sure that the foolish mother had given her son
money for his abortive attempt, and that therefore this appeal had
been made to him. He alluded to no such fear in his letter. He simply
enclosed the cheque, and expressed a hope that the amount might
suffice for the present emergency. But he was disheartened and
disgusted by all the circumstances of the Carbury family. There was
Paul Montague, bringing a woman such as Mrs Hurtle down to Lowestoft,
declaring his purpose of continuing his visits to her, and, as
Roger thought, utterly unable to free himself from his toils,--and
yet, on this man's account, Hetta was cold and hard to him. He was
conscious of the honesty of his own love, sure that he could make
her happy,--confident, not in himself, but in the fashion and ways
of his own life. What would be Hetta's lot if her heart was really
given to Paul Montague?
When he got home, he found Father Barham sitting in his library. An
accident had lately happened at Father Barham's own establishment. The
wind had blown the roof off his cottage; and Roger Carbury, though his
affection for the priest was waning, had offered him shelter while the
damage was being repaired. Shelter at Carbury Manor was very much more
comfortable than the priest's own establishment, even with the roof
on, and Father Barham was in clover. Father Barham was reading his own
favourite newspaper, 'The Surplice,' when Roger entered the room.
'Have you seen this, Mr Carbury?' he said.
'What's this? I am not likely to have seen anything that belongs
peculiarly to "The Surplice."'
'That's the prejudice of what you are pleased to call the Anglican
Church. Mr Melmotte is a convert to our faith. He is a great man, and
will perhaps be one of the greatest known on the face of the globe.'
'Melmotte a convert to Romanism! I'll make you a present of him, and
thank you to take him; but I don't believe that we've any such good
Then Father Barham read a paragraph out of 'The Surplice.' 'Mr
Augustus Melmotte, the great financier and capitalist, has presented a
hundred guineas towards the erection of an altar for the new church of
St Fabricius, in Tothill Fields. The donation was accompanied by a
letter from Mr Melmotte's secretary, which leaves but little doubt
that the new member for Westminster will be a member, and no
inconsiderable member, of the Catholic party in the House, during the
'That's another dodge, is it?' said Carbury.
'What do you mean by a dodge, Mr Carbury? Because money is given for a
pious object of which you do not happen to approve, must it be a
'But, my dear Father Barham, the day before the same great man gave
£200 to the Protestant Curates' Aid Society. I have just left the
Bishop exulting in this great act of charity.'
'I don't believe a word of it;--or it may be a parting gift to the
Church to which he belonged in his darkness.'
'And you would be really proud of Mr Melmotte as a convert?'
'I would be proud of the lowest human being that has a soul,' said the
priest; 'but of course we are glad to welcome the wealthy and the
'The great! Oh dear!'
'A man is great who has made for himself such a position as that of Mr
Melmotte. And when such a one leaves your Church and joins our own, it
is a great sign to us that the Truth is prevailing.' Roger Carbury,
without another word, took his candle and went to bed.
CHAPTER LVI - FATHER BARHAM VISITS LONDON
It was considered to be a great thing to catch the Roman Catholic vote
in Westminster. For many years it has been considered a great thing
both in the House and out of the House to 'catch' Roman Catholic
votes. There are two modes of catching these votes. This or that
individual Roman Catholic may be promoted to place, so that he
personally may be made secure; or the right hand of fellowship may be
extended to the people of the Pope generally, so that the people of
the Pope may be taught to think that a general step is being made
towards the reconversion of the nation. The first measure is the
easier, but the effect is but slight and soon passes away. The
promoted one, though as far as his prayers go he may remain as good a
Catholic as ever, soon ceases to be one of the party to be
conciliated, and is apt after a while to be regarded by them as an
enemy. But the other mode, if a step be well taken, may be very
efficacious. It has now and then occurred that every Roman Catholic in
Ireland and England has been brought to believe that the nation is
coming round to them;--and in this or that borough the same conviction
has been made to grow. To catch the Protestant,--that is the peculiarly
Protestant,--vote and the Roman Catholic vote at the same instant is a
feat difficult of accomplishment; but it has been attempted before,
and was attempted now by Mr Melmotte and his friends. It was perhaps
thought by his friends that the Protestants would not notice the £100
given for the altar to St Fabricius; but Mr Alf was wide awake, and
took care that Mr Melmotte's religious opinions should be a matter of
interest to the world at large. During all that period of newspaper
excitement there was perhaps no article that created so much general
interest as that which appeared in the 'Evening Pulpit,' with a
special question asked at the head of it, 'For Priest or Parson?' In
this article, which was more than usually delightful as being pungent
from the beginning to the end and as being unalloyed with any dry
didactic wisdom, Mr Alf's man, who did that business, declared that it
was really important that the nation at large and especially the
electors of Westminster should know what was the nature of Mr
Melmotte's faith. That he was a man of a highly religious temperament
was most certain by his munificent charities on behalf of religion.
Two noble donations, which by chance had been made just at this
crisis, were doubtless no more than the regular continuation of his
ordinary flow of Christian benevolence. The 'Evening Pulpit' by no
means insinuated that the gifts were intended to have any reference to
the approaching election. Far be it from the 'Evening Pulpit' to
imagine that so great a man as Mr Melmotte looked for any return in
this world from his charitable generosity. But still, as Protestants
naturally desired to be represented in Parliament by a Protestant
member, and as Roman Catholics as naturally desired to be represented
by a Roman Catholic, perhaps Mr Melmotte would not object to declare
This was biting, and of course did mischief; but Mr Melmotte and his
manager were not foolish enough to allow it to actuate them in any
way. He had thrown his bread upon the waters, assisting St Fabricius
with one hand and the Protestant curates with the other, and must
leave the results to take care of themselves. If the Protestants chose
to believe that he was hyper-protestant, and the Catholics that he was
tending towards papacy, so much the better for him. Any enthusiastic
religionists wishing to enjoy such convictions would not allow
themselves to be enlightened by the manifestly interested malignity of
Mr Alf's newspaper.
It may be doubted whether the donation to the Curates' Aid Society did
have much effect. It may perhaps have induced a resolution in some few
to go to the poll whose minds were active in regard to religion and
torpid as to politics. But the donation to St Fabricius certainly had
results. It was taken up and made much of by the Roman Catholic party
generally, till a report got itself spread abroad and almost believed
that Mr Melmotte was going to join the Church of Rome. These
manoeuvres require most delicate handling, or evil may follow instead
of good. On the second afternoon after the question had been asked in
the 'Evening Pulpit,' an answer to it appeared, 'For Priest and not
for Parson.' Therein various assertions made by Roman Catholic organs
and repeated in Roman Catholic speeches were brought together, so as
to show that Mr Melmotte really had at last made up his mind on this
important question. All the world knew now, said Mr Alf's writer, that
with that keen sense of honesty which was the Great Financier's
peculiar characteristic,--the Great Financier was the name which Mr Alf
had specially invented for Mr Melmotte,--he had doubted, till the truth
was absolutely borne in upon him, whether he could serve the nation
best as a Liberal or as a Conservative. He had solved that doubt with
wisdom. And now this other doubt had passed through the crucible, and
by the aid of fire a golden certainty had been produced. The world of
Westminster at last knew that Mr Melmotte was a Roman Catholic. Now
nothing was clearer than this,--that though catching the Catholic vote
would greatly help a candidate, no real Roman Catholic could hope to
be returned. This last article vexed Mr Melmotte, and he proposed to
his friends to send a letter to the 'Breakfast Table' asserting that
he adhered to the Protestant faith of his ancestors. But, as it was
suspected by many, and was now being whispered to the world at large,
that Melmotte had been born a Jew, this assurance would perhaps have
been too strong. 'Do nothing of the kind,' said Mr Beauchamp
Beauclerk. 'If any one asks you a question at any meeting, say that
you are a Protestant. But it isn't likely, as we have none but our own
people. Don't go writing letters.'
But unfortunately the gift of an altar to St Fabricius was such a
godsend that sundry priests about the country were determined to cling
to the good man who had bestowed his money so well. I think that many
of them did believe that this was a great sign of a beauteous stirring
of people's minds in favour of Rome. The fervent Romanists have always
this point in their favour, that they are ready to believe. And they
have a desire for the conversion of men which is honest in an exactly
inverse ratio to the dishonesty of the means which they employ to
produce it. Father Barham was ready to sacrifice anything personal to
himself in the good cause,--his time, his health, his money when he had
any, and his life. Much as he liked the comfort of Carbury Hall, he
would never for a moment condescend to ensure its continued enjoyment
by reticence as to his religion. Roger Carbury was hard of heart. He
could see that. But the dropping of water might hollow the stone. If
the dropping should be put an end to by outward circumstances before
the stone had been impressed that would not be his fault. He at any
rate would do his duty. In that fixed resolution Father Barham was
admirable. But he had no scruple whatsoever as to the nature of the
arguments he would use,--or as to the facts which he would proclaim.
With the mingled ignorance of his life and the positiveness of his
faith he had at once made up his mind that Melmotte was a great man,
and that he might be made a great instrument on behalf of the Pope. He
believed in the enormous proportions of the man's wealth,--believed
that he was powerful in all quarters of the globe,--and believed,
because he was so told by 'The Surplice,' that the man was at heart a
Catholic. That a man should be at heart a Catholic, and live in the
world professing the Protestant religion, was not to Father Barham
either improbable or distressing. Kings who had done so were to him
objects of veneration. By such subterfuges and falsehood of life had
they been best able to keep alive the spark of heavenly fire. There was
a mystery and religious intrigue in this which recommended itself to the
young priest's mind. But it was clear to him that this was a peculiar
time,--in which it behoved an earnest man to be doing something. He had
for some weeks been preparing himself for a trip to London in order
that he might spend a week in retreat with kindred souls who from time
to time betook themselves to the cells of St Fabricius. And so, just
at this season of the Westminster election, Father Barham made a
journey to London.
He had conceived the great idea of having a word or two with Mr
Melmotte himself. He thought that he might be convinced by a word or
two as to the man's faith. And he thought, also, that it might be a
happiness to him hereafter to have had intercourse with a man who was
perhaps destined to be the means of restoring the true faith to his
country. On Saturday night,--that Saturday night on which Mr Melmotte
had so successfully exercised his greatness at the India Office,--he
took up his quarters in the cloisters of St Fabricius; he spent a
goodly festive Sunday among the various Romanist church services of
the metropolis; and on the Monday morning he sallied forth in quest of
Mr Melmotte. Having obtained that address from some circular, he went
first to Abchurch Lane. But on this day, and on the next, which would
be the day of the election, Mr Melmotte was not expected in the City,
and the priest was referred to his present private residence in Bruton
Street. There he was told that the great man might probably be found
in Grosvenor Square, and at the house in the square Father Barham was
at last successful. Mr Melmotte was there superintending the
arrangements for the entertainment of the Emperor.
The servants, or more probably the workmen, must have been at fault in
giving the priest admittance. But in truth the house was in great
confusion. The wreaths of flowers and green boughs were being
suspended, last daubs of heavy gilding were being given to the wooden
capitals of mock pilasters, incense was being burned to kill the smell
of the paint, tables were being fixed and chairs were being moved; and
an enormous set of open presses were being nailed together for the
accommodation of hats and cloaks. The hall was chaos, and poor Father
Barham, who had heard a good deal of the Westminster election, but not
a word of the intended entertainment of the Emperor, was at a loss to
conceive for what purpose these operations were carried on. But
through the chaos he made his way, and did soon find himself in the
presence of Mr Melmotte in the banqueting hall.
Mr Melmotte was attended both by Lord Alfred and his son. He was
standing in front of the chair which had been arranged for the
Emperor, with his hat on one side of his head, and he was very angry
indeed. He had been given to understand when the dinner was first
planned, that he was to sit opposite to his august guest;--by which he
had conceived that he was to have a seat immediately in face of the
Emperor of Emperors, of the Brother of the Sun, of the Celestial One
himself. It was now explained to him that this could not be done. In
face of the Emperor there must be a wide space, so that his Majesty
might be able to look down the hall; and the royal princesses who sat
next to the Emperor, and the royal princes who sat next to the
princesses, must also be so indulged. And in this way Mr Melmotte's
own seat became really quite obscure. Lord Alfred was having a very
bad time of it. 'It's that fellow from "The Herald" office did it, not
me,' he said, almost in a passion. 'I don't know how people ought to
sit. But that's the reason.'
'I'm d----- if I'm going to be treated in this way in my own house,'
were the first words which the priest heard. And as Father Barham
walked up the room and came close to the scene of action, unperceived
by either of the Grendalls, Mr Melmotte was trying, but trying in
vain, to move his own seat nearer to Imperial Majesty. A bar had been
put up of such a nature that Melmotte, sitting in the seat prepared
for him, would absolutely be barred out from the centre of his own
hall. 'Who the d---- are you?' he asked, when the priest appeared
close before his eyes on the inner or more imperial side of the bar.
It was not the habit of Father Barham's life to appear in sleek
apparel. He was ever clothed in the very rustiest brown black that age
can produce. In Beccles where he was known it signified little, but in
the halls of the great one in Grosvenor Square, perhaps the stranger's
welcome was cut to the measure of his outer man. A comely priest in
glossy black might have been received with better grace.
Father Barham stood humbly with his hat off. He was a man of infinite
pluck; but outward humility--at any rate at the commencement of an
enterprise,--was the rule of his life. 'I am the Rev. Mr Barham,' said
the visitor. 'I am the priest of Beccles in Suffolk. I believe I am
speaking to Mr Melmotte.'
'That's my name, sir. And what may you want? I don't know whether you
are aware that you have found your way into my private dining-room
without any introduction. Where the mischief are the fellows, Alfred,
who ought to have seen about this? I wish you'd look to it, Miles. Can
anybody who pleases walk into my hall?'
'I came on a mission which I hope may be pleaded as my excuse,' said
the priest. Although he was bold, he found it difficult to explain his
mission. Had not Lord Alfred been there he could have done it better,
in spite of the very repulsive manner of the great man himself.
'Is it business?' asked Lord Alfred.
'Certainly it is business,' said Father Barham with a smile.
'Then you had better call at the office in Abchurch Lane,--in the
City,' said his lordship.
'My business is not of that nature. I am a poor servant of the Cross,
who is anxious to know from the lips of Mr Melmotte himself that his
heart is inclined to the true Faith.'
'Some lunatic,' said Melmotte. 'See that there ain't any knives about,
'No otherwise mad, sir, than they have ever been accounted mad who are
enthusiastic in their desire for the souls of others.'
'Just get a policeman, Alfred. Or send somebody; you'd better not go
'You will hardly need a policeman, Mr Melmotte,' continued the priest.
'If I might speak to you alone for a few minutes--'
'Certainly not;--certainly not. I am very busy, and if you will not go
away you'll have to be taken away. I wonder whether anybody knows
'Mr Carbury, of Carbury Hall, is my friend.'
'Carbury! D--- the Carburys! Did any of the Carburys send you here? A
set of beggars! Why don't you do something, Alfred, to get rid of
'You'd better go,' said Lord Alfred. 'Don't make a rumpus, there's a
good fellow;--but just go.'
'There shall be no rumpus,' said the priest, waxing wrathful. 'I asked
for you at the door, and was told to come in by your own servants.
Have I been uncivil that you should treat me in this fashion?'
'You're in the way,' said Lord Alfred.
'It's a piece of gross impertinence,' said Melmotte. 'Go away.'
'Will you not tell me before I go whether I shall pray for you as one
whose steps in the right path should be made sure and firm; or as one
still in error and in darkness?'
'What the mischief does he mean?' asked Melmotte.
'He wants to know whether you're a papist,' said Lord Alfred.
'What the deuce is it to him?' almost screamed Melmotte;--whereupon
Father Barham bowed and took his leave.
'That's a remarkable thing,' said Melmotte,--'very remarkable.' Even
this poor priest's mad visit added to his inflation. 'I suppose he was
'Mad as a hatter,' said Lord Alfred.
'But why did he come to me in his madness--to me especially? That's
what I want to know. I'll tell you what it is. There isn't a man in
all England at this moment thought of so much as--your humble servant.
I wonder whether the "Morning Pulpit" people sent him here now to find
out really what is my religion.'
'Mad as a hatter,' said Lord Alfred again;--'just that and no more.'
'My dear fellow, I don't think you've the gift of seeing very far. The
truth is they don't know what to make of me;--and I don't intend that
they shall. I'm playing my game, and there isn't one of 'em
understands it except myself. It's no good my sitting here, you know.
I shan't be able to move. How am I to get at you if I want anything?'
'What can you want? There'll be lots of servants about.'
'I'll have this bar down, at any rate.' And he did succeed in having
removed the bar which had been specially put up to prevent his
intrusion on his own guests in his own house. 'I look upon that
fellow's coming here as a very singular sign of the times,' he went on
to say. 'They'll want before long to know where I have my clothes
made, and who measures me for my boots!' Perhaps the most remarkable
circumstance in the career of this remarkable man was the fact that he
came almost to believe in himself.
Father Barham went away certainly disgusted; and yet not altogether
disheartened. The man had not declared that he was not a Roman
Catholic. He had shown himself to be a brute. He had blasphemed and
cursed. He had been outrageously uncivil to a man whom he must have
known to be a minister of God. He had manifested himself to this
priest, who had been born an English gentleman, as being no gentleman.
But, not the less might he be a good Catholic,--or good enough at any
rate to be influential on the right side. To his eyes Melmotte, with
all his insolent vulgarity, was infinitely a more hopeful man than
Roger Carbury. 'He insulted me,' said Father Barham to a brother
religionist that evening within the cloisters of St Fabricius.
'Did he intend to insult you?'
'Certainly he did. But what of that? It is not by the hands of
polished men, nor even of the courteous, that this work has to be
done. He was preparing for some great festival, and his mind was
intent upon that.'
'He entertains the Emperor of China this very day,' said the brother
priest, who, as a resident in London, heard from time to time what was
'The Emperor of China! Ah, that accounts for it. I do think that he is
on our side, even though he gave me but little encouragement for
saying so. Will they vote for him, here at Westminster?'
'Our people will. They think that he is rich and can help them.'
'There is no doubt of his wealth, I suppose,' said Father Barham.
'Some people do doubt;--but others say he is the richest man in the
'He looked like it,--and spoke like it,' said Father Barham. 'Think what
such a man might do, if he be really the wealthiest man in the world!
And if he had been against us would he not have said so? Though he was
uncivil, I am glad that I saw him.' Father Barham, with a simplicity
that was singularly mingled with his religious cunning, made himself
believe before he returned to Beccles that Mr Melmotte was certainly a
CHAPTER LVII - LORD NIDDERDALE TRIES HIS HAND AGAIN
Lord Nidderdale had half consented to renew his suit to Marie
Melmotte. He had at any rate half promised to call at Melmotte's house
on the Sunday with the object of so doing. As far as that promise had
been given it was broken, for on the Sunday he was not seen in Bruton
Street. Though not much given to severe thinking, he did feel that on
this occasion there was need for thought. His father's property was
not very large. His father and his grandfather had both been
extravagant men, and he himself had done something towards adding to
the family embarrassments. It had been an understood thing, since he
had commenced life, that he was to marry an heiress. In such families
as his, when such results have been achieved, it is generally
understood that matters shall be put right by an heiress. It has
become an institution, like primogeniture, and is almost as
serviceable for maintaining the proper order of things. Rank squanders
money; trade makes it;--and then trade purchases rank by re-gilding its
splendour. The arrangement, as it affects the aristocracy generally,
is well understood, and was quite approved of by the old marquis--so
that he had felt himself to be justified in eating up the property,
which his son's future marriage would renew as a matter of course.
Nidderdale himself had never dissented, had entertained no fanciful
theory opposed to this view, had never alarmed his father by any
liaison tending towards matrimony with any undowered beauty;--but had
claimed his right to 'have his fling' before he devoted himself to the
reintegration of the family property. His father had felt that it
would be wrong and might probably be foolish to oppose so natural a
desire. He had regarded all the circumstances of 'the fling' with
indulgent eyes. But there arose some little difference as to the
duration of the fling, and the father had at last found himself
compelled to inform his son that if the fling were carried on much
longer it must be done with internecine war between himself and his
heir. Nidderdale, whose sense and temper were alike good, saw the
thing quite in the proper light. He assured his father that he had no
intention of 'cutting up rough,' declared that he was ready for the
heiress as soon as the heiress should be put in his way, and set
himself honestly about the task imposed on him. This had all been
arranged at Auld Reekie Castle during the last winter, and the reader
knows the result.
But the affair had assumed abnormal difficulties. Perhaps the Marquis
had been wrong in flying at wealth which was reputed to be almost
unlimited, but which was not absolutely fixed. A couple of hundred
thousand pounds down might have been secured with greater ease. But
here there had been a prospect of endless money,--of an inheritance
which might not improbably make the Auld Reekie family conspicuous for
its wealth even among the most wealthy of the nobility. The old man
had fallen into the temptation, and abnormal difficulties had been the
result. Some of these the reader knows. Latterly two difficulties had
culminated above the others. The young lady preferred another
gentleman, and disagreeable stories were afloat, not only as to the
way in which the money had been made, but even as to its very
The Marquis, however, was a man who hated to be beaten. As far as he
could learn from inquiry, the money would be there or, at least, so
much money as had been promised. A considerable sum, sufficient to
secure the bridegroom from absolute shipwreck,--though by no means
enough to make a brilliant marriage,--had in truth been already settled
on Marie, and was, indeed, in her possession. As to that, her father
had armed himself with a power of attorney for drawing the income,--but
had made over the property to his daughter, so that in the event of
unforeseen accidents on 'Change, he might retire to obscure comfort,
and have the means perhaps of beginning again with whitewashed
cleanliness. When doing this, he had doubtless not anticipated the
grandeur to which he would soon rise, or the fact that he was about to
embark on seas so dangerous that this little harbour of refuge would
hardly offer security to his vessel. Marie had been quite correct in
her story to her favoured lover. And the Marquis's lawyer had
ascertained that if Marie ever married before she herself had restored
this money to her father, her husband would be so far safe,--with this
as a certainty and the immense remainder in prospect. The Marquis had
determined to persevere. Pickering was to be added. Mr Melmotte had
been asked to depone the title-deeds, and had promised to do so as
soon as the day of the wedding should have been fixed with the consent
of all the parties. The Marquis's lawyer had ventured to express a
doubt; but the Marquis had determined to persevere. The reader will, I
trust, remember that those dreadful misgivings, which are I trust
agitating his own mind, have been borne in upon him by information
which had not as yet reached the Marquis in all its details.
But Nidderdale had his doubts. That absurd elopement, which Melmotte
declared really to mean nothing,--the romance of a girl who wanted to
have one little fling of her own before she settled down for life,--
was perhaps his strongest objection. Sir Felix, no doubt, had not gone
with her; but then one doesn't wish to have one's intended wife even
attempt to run off with any one but oneself. 'She'll be sick of him by
this time, I should say,' his father said to him. 'What does it
matter, if the money's there?' The Marquis seemed to think that the
escapade had simply been the girl's revenge against his son for having
made his arrangements so exclusively with Melmotte, instead of
devoting himself to her. Nidderdale acknowledged to himself that he
had been remiss. He told himself that she was possessed of more spirit
than he had thought. By the Sunday evening he had determined that he
would try again. He had expected that the plum would fall into his
mouth. He would now stretch out his hand to pick it.
On the Monday he went to the house in Bruton Street, at lunch time.
Melmotte and the two Grendalls had just come over from their work in
the square, and the financier was full of the priest's visit to him.
Madame Melmotte was there, and Miss Longestaffe, who was to be sent
for by her friend Lady Monogram that afternoon,--and, after they had
sat down, Marie came in. Nidderdale got up and shook hands with her,--
of course as though nothing had happened. Marie, putting a brave face
upon it, struggling hard in the midst of very real difficulties,
succeeded in saying an ordinary word or two. Her position was
uncomfortable. A girl who has run away with her lover and has been
brought back again by her friends, must for a time find it difficult
to appear in society with ease. But when a girl has run away without
her lover,--has run away expecting her lover to go with her, and has
then been brought back, her lover not having stirred, her state of
mind must be peculiarly harassing. But Marie's courage was good, and
she ate her lunch even though she sat next to Lord Nidderdale.
Melmotte was very gracious to the young lord. 'Did you ever hear
anything like that, Nidderdale?' he said, speaking of the priest's
'Mad as a hatter,' said Lord Alfred.
'I don't know much about his madness. I shouldn't wonder if he had
been sent by the Archbishop of Westminster. Why don't we have an
Archbishop of Westminster when they've got one? I shall have to see to
that when I'm in the House. I suppose there is a bishop, isn't there,
Alfred?' Alfred shook his head. 'There's a Dean, I know, for I called
on him. He told me flat he wouldn't vote for me. I thought all those
parsons were Conservatives. It didn't occur to me that the fellow had
come from the Archbishop, or I would have been more civil to him.'
'Mad as a hatter;--nothing else,' said Lord Alfred.
'You should have seen him, Nidderdale. It would have been as good as a
play to you.'
'I suppose you didn't ask him to the dinner, sir.'
'D---- the dinner, I'm sick of it,' said Melmotte, frowning. 'We must go
back again, Alfred. Those fellows will never get along if they are not
looked after. Come, Miles. Ladies, I shall expect you to be ready at
exactly a quarter before eight. His Imperial Majesty is to arrive at
eight precisely, and I must be there to receive him. You, Madame, will
have to receive your guests in the drawing-room.' The ladies went
upstairs, and Lord Nidderdale followed them. Miss Longestaffe took her
departure, alleging that she couldn't keep her dear friend Lady
Monogram waiting for her. Then there fell upon Madame Melmotte the
duty of leaving the young people together, a duty which she found a
great difficulty in performing. After all that had happened, she did
not know how to get up and go out of the room. As regarded herself,
the troubles of these troublous times were becoming almost too much
for her. She had no pleasure from her grandeur,--and probably no belief
in her husband's achievements. It was her present duty to assist in
getting Marie married to this young man, and that duty she could only
do by going away. But she did not know how to get out of her chair.
She expressed in fluent French her abhorrence of the Emperor, and her
wish that she might be allowed to remain in bed during the whole
evening. She liked Nidderdale better than any one else who came there,
and wondered at Marie's preference for Sir Felix. Lord Nidderdale
assured her that nothing was so easy as kings and emperors, because no
one was expected to say anything. She sighed and shook her head, and
wished again that she might be allowed to go to bed. Marie, who was by
degrees plucking up her courage, declared that though kings and
emperors were horrors as a rule, she thought an Emperor of China would
be good fun. Then Madame Melmotte also plucked up her courage, rose
from her chair, and made straight for the door. 'Mamma, where are you
going?' said Marie, also rising. Madame Melmotte, putting her
handkerchief up to her face, declared that she was being absolutely
destroyed by a toothache. 'I must see if I can't do something for
her,' said Marie, hurrying to the door. But Lord Nidderdale was too
quick for her, and stood with his back to it. 'That's a shame,' said
'Your mother has gone on purpose that I may speak to you,' said his
lordship. 'Why should you grudge me the opportunity?'
Marie returned to her chair and again seated herself. She also had
thought much of her own position since her return from Liverpool. Why
had Sir Felix not been there? Why had he not come since her return,
and, at any rate, endeavoured to see her? Why had he made no attempt
to write to her? Had it been her part to do so, she would have found a
hundred ways of getting at him. She absolutely had walked inside the
garden of the square on Sunday morning, and had contrived to leave a
gate open on each side. But he had made no sign. Her father had told
her that he had not gone to Liverpool--and had assured her that he had
never intended to go. Melmotte had been very savage with her about the
money, and had loudly accused Sir Felix of stealing it. The repayment
he never mentioned,--a piece of honesty, indeed, which had showed no
virtue on the part of Sir Felix. But even if he had spent the money,
why was he not man enough to come and say so? Marie could have
forgiven that fault,--could have forgiven even the gambling and the
drunkenness which had caused the failure of the enterprise on his
side, if he had had the courage to come and confess to her. What she
could not forgive was continued indifference,--or the cowardice which
forbade him to show himself. She had more than once almost doubted his
love, though as a lover he had been better than Nidderdale. But now,
as far as she could see, he was ready to consent that the thing should
be considered as over between them. No doubt she could write to him.
She had more than once almost determined to do so. But then she had
reflected that if he really loved her he would come to her. She was
quite ready to run away with a lover, if her lover loved her; but she
would not fling herself at a man's head. Therefore she had done
nothing beyond leaving the garden gates open on the Sunday morning.
But what was she to do with herself? She also felt, she knew not why,
that the present turmoil of her father's life might be brought to an
end by some dreadful convulsion. No girl could be more anxious to be
married and taken away from her home. If Sir Felix did not appear
again, what should she do? She had seen enough of life to be aware
that suitors would come,--would come as long as that convulsion was
staved off. She did not suppose that her journey to Liverpool would
frighten all the men away. But she had thought that it would put an
end to Lord Nidderdale's courtship; and when her father had commanded
her, shaking her by the shoulders, to accept Lord Nidderdale when he
should come on Sunday, she had replied by expressing her assurance
that Lord Nidderdale would never be seen at that house any more. On
the Sunday he had not come; but here he was now, standing with his
back to the drawing-room door, and cutting off her retreat with the
evident intention of renewing his suit. She was determined at any
rate that she would speak up. 'I don't know what you should have to
say to me, Lord Nidderdale.'
'Why shouldn't I have something to say to you?'
'Because--. Oh, you know why. Besides, I've told you ever so often, my
lord. I thought a gentleman would never go on with a lady when the
lady has told him that she liked somebody else better.'
'Perhaps I don't believe you when you tell me.'
'Well; that is impudent! You may believe it then. I think I've given
you reason to believe it, at any rate.'
'You can't be very fond of him now, I should think.'
'That's all you know about it, my lord. Why shouldn't I be fond of
him? Accidents will happen, you know.'
'I don't want to make any allusion to anything that's unpleasant, Miss
'You may say just what you please. All the world knows about it. Of
course I went to Liverpool, and of course papa had me brought back
'Why did not Sir Felix go?'
'I don't think, my lord, that that can be any business of yours.'
'But I think that it is, and I'll tell you why. You might as well let
me say what I've got to say,--out at once.'
'You may say what you like, but it can't make any difference.'
'You knew me before you knew him, you know.'
'What does that matter? If it comes to that, I knew ever so many
people before I knew you.'
'And you were engaged to me.'
'You broke it off.'
'Listen to me for a moment or two. I know I did. Or, rather, your
father and my father broke it off for us.'
'If we had cared for each other they couldn't have broken it off.
Nobody in the world could break me off as long as I felt that he
really loved me;--not if they were to cut me in pieces. But you
didn't care, not a bit. You did it just because your father told
you. And so did I. But I know better than that now. You never cared
for me a bit more than for the old woman at the crossing. You
thought I didn't understand;--but I did. And now you've come again
because your father has told you again. And you'd better go away.'
'There's a great deal of truth in what you say.'
'It's all true, my lord. Every word of it.'
'I wish you wouldn't call me my lord.'
'I suppose you are a lord, and therefore I shall call you so. I never
called you anything else when they pretended that we were to be
married, and you never asked me. I never even knew what your name was
till I looked it out in the book after I had consented.'
'There is truth in what you say;--but it isn't true now. How was I to
love you when I had seen so little of you? I do love you now.'
'Then you needn't;--for it isn't any good.'
'I do love you now, and I think you'd find that I should be truer to
you than that fellow who wouldn't take the trouble to go down to
Liverpool with you.'
'You don't know why he didn't go.'
'Well;--perhaps I do. But I did not come here to say anything about
'Why didn't he go, Lord Nidderdale?' She asked the question with an
altered tone and an altered face. 'If you really know, you might as
well tell me.'
'No, Marie;--that's just what I ought not to do. But he ought to tell
you. Do you really in your heart believe that he means to come back to
'I don't know,' she said, sobbing. 'I do love him;--I do indeed. I
know that you are good-natured. You are more good-natured than he is.
But he did like me. You never did;--no; not a bit. It isn't true. I
ain't a fool. I know. No;--go away. I won't let you now. I don't care
what he is; I'll be true to him. Go away, Lord Nidderdale. You
oughtn't to go on like that because papa and mamma let you come here.
I didn't let you come. I don't want you to come. No;--I won't say any
kind word to you. I love Sir Felix Carbury better--than any person--in
all the world. There! I don't know whether you call that kind, but
'Say good-bye to me, Marie.'
'Oh, I don't mind saying good-bye. Good-bye, my lord; and don't come
'Yes, I shall. Good-bye, Marie. You'll find the difference between me
and him yet.' So he took his leave, and as he sauntered away he
thought that upon the whole he had prospered, considering the extreme
difficulties under which he had laboured in carrying on his
suit. 'She's quite a different sort of girl from what I took her to
be,' he said to himself 'Upon my word, she's awfully jolly.'
Marie, when the interview was over, walked about the room almost in
dismay. It was borne in upon her by degrees that Sir Felix Carbury was
not at all points quite as nice as she had thought him. Of his beauty
there was no doubt; but then she could trust him for no other good
quality. Why did he not come to her? Why did he not show some pluck?
Why did he not tell her the truth? She had quite believed Lord
Nidderdale when he said that he knew the cause that had kept Sir Felix
from going to Liverpool. And she had believed him, too, when he said
that it was not his business to tell her. But the reason, let it be
what it might, must, if known, be prejudicial to her love. Lord
Nidderdale was, she thought, not at all beautiful. He had a
commonplace, rough face, with a turn-up nose, high cheek bones, no
especial complexion, sandy-coloured whiskers, and bright laughing
eyes,--not at all an Adonis such as her imagination had painted. But
if he had only made love at first as he had attempted to do it now, she
thought that she would have submitted herself to be cut in pieces for
CHAPTER LVIII - MR SQUERCUM IS EMPLOYED
While these things were being done in Bruton Street and Grosvenor
Square horrid rumours were prevailing in the City and spreading from
the City westwards to the House of Commons, which was sitting this
Monday afternoon with a prospect of an adjournment at seven o'clock in
consequence of the banquet to be given to the Emperor. It is difficult
to explain the exact nature of this rumour, as it was not thoroughly
understood by those who propagated it. But it is certainly the case
that the word forgery was whispered by more than one pair of lips.
Many of Melmotte's staunchest supporters thought that he was very
wrong not to show himself that day in the City. What good could he do
pottering about among the chairs and benches in the banqueting room?
There were people to manage that kind of thing. In such an affair it
was his business to do simply as he was told, and to pay the bill. It
was not as though he were giving a little dinner to a friend, and had
to see himself that the wine was brought up in good order. His work
was in the City; and at such a time as this and in such a crisis as
this, he should have been in the City. Men will whisper forgery behind
a man's back who would not dare even to think it before his face.
Of this particular rumour our young friend Dolly Longestaffe was the
parent. With unhesitating resolution, nothing awed by his father,
Dolly had gone to his attorney, Mr Squercum, immediately after that
Friday on which Mr Longestaffe first took his seat at the Railway
Board. Dolly was possessed of fine qualities, but it must be owned
that veneration was not one of them. 'I don't know why Mr Melmotte is
to be different from anybody else,' he had said to his father. 'When I
buy a thing and don't pay for it, it is because I haven't got the tin,
and I suppose it's about the same with him. It's all right, no doubt,
but I don't see why he should have got hold of the place till the
money was paid down.'
'Of course it's all right,' said the father. 'You think you understand
everything, when you really understand nothing at all.'
'Of course I'm slow,' said Dolly. 'I don't comprehend these things.
But then Squercum does. When a fellow is stupid himself, he ought to
have a sharp fellow to look after his business.'
'You'll ruin me and yourself too, if you go to such a man as that. Why
can't you trust Mr Bideawhile? Slow and Bideawhile have been the
family lawyers for a century.' Dolly made some remark as to the old
family advisers which was by no means pleasing to the father's ears,
and went his way. The father knew his boy, and knew that his boy would
go to Squercum. All he could himself do was to press Mr Melmotte for
the money with what importunity he could assume. He wrote a timid
letter to Mr Melmotte, which had no result; and then, on the next
Friday, again went into the City and there encountered perturbation of
spirit and sheer loss of time,--as the reader has already learned.
Squercum was a thorn in the side of all the Bideawhiles. Mr Slow had
been gathered to his fathers, but of the Bideawhiles there were three
in the business, a father and two sons, to whom Squercum was a pest
and a musquito, a running sore and a skeleton in the cupboard. It was
not only in reference to Mr Longestaffe's affairs that they knew
Squercum. The Bideawhiles piqued themselves on the decorous and
orderly transaction of their business. It had grown to be a rule in
the house that anything done quickly must be done badly. They never
were in a hurry for money, and they expected their clients never to be
in a hurry for work. Squercum was the very opposite to this. He had
established himself, without predecessors and without a partner, and
we may add without capital, at a little office in Fetter Lane, and had
there made a character for getting things done after a marvellous and
new fashion. And it was said of him that he was fairly honest, though
it must be owned that among the Bideawhiles of the profession this was
not the character which he bore. He did sharp things no doubt, and had
no hesitation in supporting the interests of sons against those of
their fathers. In more than one case he had computed for a young heir
the exact value of his share in a property as compared to that of his
father, and had come into hostile contact with many family
Bideawhiles. He had been closely watched. There were some who, no
doubt, would have liked to crush a man who was at once so clever, and
so pestilential. But he had not as yet been crushed, and had become
quite in vogue with elder sons. Some three years since his name had
been mentioned to Dolly by a friend who had for years been at war with
his father, and Squercum had been quite a comfort to Dolly.
He was a mean-looking little man, not yet above forty, who always wore
a stiff light-coloured cotton cravat, an old dress coat, a coloured
dingy waistcoat, and light trousers of some hue different from his
waistcoat. He generally had on dirty shoes and gaiters. He was
light-haired, with light whiskers, with putty-formed features, a squat
nose, a large mouth, and very bright blue eyes. He looked as unlike
the normal Bideawhile of the profession as a man could be; and it must
be owned, though an attorney, would hardly have been taken for a
gentleman from his personal appearance. He was very quick, and active
in his motions, absolutely doing his law work himself, and trusting to
his three or four juvenile clerks for little more than scrivener's
labour. He seldom or never came to his office on a Saturday, and many
among his enemies said that he was a Jew. What evil will not a rival
say to stop the flow of grist to the mill of the hated one? But this
report Squercum rather liked, and assisted. They who knew the inner
life of the little man declared that he kept a horse and hunted down
in Essex on Saturday, doing a bit of gardening in the summer months;--
and they said also that he made up for this by working hard all
Sunday. Such was Mr Squercum,--a sign, in his way, that the old things
are being changed.
Squercum sat at a desk, covered with papers in chaotic confusion, on a
chair which moved on a pivot. His desk was against the wall, and when
clients came to him, he turned himself sharp round, sticking out his
dirty shoes, throwing himself back till his body was an inclined
plane, with his hands thrust into his pockets. In this attitude he
would listen to his client's story, and would himself speak as little
as possible. It was by his instructions that Dolly had insisted on
getting his share of the purchase money for Pickering into his own
hands, so that the incumbrance on his own property might be paid off.
He now listened as Dolly told him of the delay in the payment.
'Melmotte's at Pickering?' asked the attorney. Then Dolly informed him
how the tradesmen of the great financier had already half knocked down
the house. Squercum still listened, and promised to look to it. He did
ask what authority Dolly had given for the surrender of the
title-deeds. Dolly declared that he had given authority for the sale,
but none for the surrender. His father, some time since, had put
before him, for his signature, a letter, prepared in Mr Bideawhile's
office, which Dolly said that he had refused even to read, and
certainly had not signed. Squercum again said that he'd look to it,
and bowed Dolly out of his room. 'They've got him to sign something
when he was tight,' said Squercum to himself, knowing something of the
habits of his client. 'I wonder whether his father did it, or old
Bideawhile, or Melmotte himself?' Mr Squercum was inclined to think
that Bideawhile would not have done it, that Melmotte could have had
no opportunity, and that the father must have been the practitioner.
'It's not the trick of a pompous old fool either,' said Mr Squercum,
in his soliloquy. He went to work, however, making himself detestably
odious among the very respectable clerks in Mr Bideawhile's office,--
men who considered themselves to be altogether superior to Squercum
himself in professional standing.
And now there came this rumour which was so far particular in its
details that it inferred the forgery, of which it accused Mr Melmotte,
to his mode of acquiring the Pickering property. The nature of the
forgery was of course described in various ways,--as was also the
signature said to have been forged. But there were many who believed,
or almost believed, that something wrong had been done,--that some
great fraud had been committed; and in connection with this it was
ascertained,--by some as a matter of certainty,--that the Pickering
estate had been already mortgaged by Melmotte to its full value at
an assurance office. In such a transaction there would be nothing
dishonest; but as this place had been bought for the great man's own
family use, and not as a speculation, even this report of the mortgage
tended to injure his credit. And then, as the day went on, other
tidings were told as to other properties. Houses in the East-end of
London were said to have been bought and sold, without payment of the
purchase money as to the buying, and with receipt of the purchase
money as to the selling.
It was certainly true that Squercum himself had seen the letter in Mr
Bideawhile's office which conveyed to the father's lawyer the son's
sanction for the surrender of the title-deeds, and that that letter,
prepared in Mr Bideawhile's office, purported to have Dolly's
signature. Squercum said but little, remembering that his client was
not always clear in the morning as to anything he had done on the
preceding evening. But the signature, though it was scrawled as Dolly
always scrawled it, was not like the scrawl of a drunken man.
The letter was said to have been sent to Mr Bideawhile's office with
other letters and papers, direct from old Mr Longestaffe. Such was the
statement made at first to Mr Squercum by the Bideawhile party, who at
that moment had no doubt of the genuineness of the letter or of the
accuracy of their statement. Then Squercum saw his client again, and
returned to the charge at Bideawhile's office, with the positive
assurance that the signature was a forgery. Dolly, when questioned by
Squercum, quite admitted his propensity to be 'tight'. He had no
reticence, no feeling of disgrace on such matters. But he had signed
no letter when he was tight. 'Never did such a thing in my life, and
nothing could make me,' said Dolly. 'I'm never tight except at the
club, and the letter couldn't have been there. I'll be drawn and
quartered if I ever signed it. That's flat.' Dolly was intent on going
to his father at once, on going to Melmotte at once, on going to
Bideawhile's at once, and making there 'no end of a row,'--but
Squercum stopped him. 'We'll just ferret this thing out quietly,'
said Squercum, who perhaps thought that there would be high honour
in discovering the peccadillos of so great a man as Mr Melmotte. Mr
Longestaffe, the father, had heard nothing of the matter till the
Saturday after his last interview with Melmotte in the City. He had
then called at Bideawhile's office in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and had
been shown the letter. He declared at once that he had never sent the
letter to Mr Bideawhile. He had begged his son to sign the letter and
his son had refused. He did not at that moment distinctly remember
what he had done with the letter unsigned. He believed he had left it
with the other papers; but it was possible that his son might have
taken it away. He acknowledged that at the time he had been both angry
and unhappy. He didn't think that he could have sent the letter back
unsigned,--but he was not sure. He had more than once been in his own
study in Bruton Street since Mr Melmotte had occupied the house,--by
that gentleman's leave,--having left various papers there under his own
lock and key. Indeed it had been matter of agreement that he should
have access to his own study when he let the house. He thought it
probable that he would have kept back the unsigned letter, and have
kept it under lock and key, when he sent away the other papers. Then
reference was made to Mr Longestaffe's own letter to the lawyer, and
it was found that he had not even alluded to that which his son had
been asked to sign; but that he had said, in his own usually pompous
style, that Mr Longestaffe, junior, was still prone to create
unsubstantial difficulties. Mr Bideawhile was obliged to confess that
there had been a want of caution among his own people. This allusion
to the creation of difficulties by Dolly, accompanied, as it was
supposed to have been, by Dolly's letter doing away with all
difficulties, should have attracted notice. Dolly's letter must have
come in a separate envelope; but such envelope could not be found, and
the circumstance was not remembered by the clerk. The clerk who had
prepared the letter for Dolly's signature represented himself as
having been quite satisfied when the letter came again beneath his
notice with Dolly's well-known signature.
Such were the facts as far as they were known at Messrs. Slow and
Bideawhile's office,--from whom no slightest rumour emanated; and as
they had been in part collected by Squercum, who was probably less
prudent. The Bideawhiles were still perfectly sure that Dolly had
signed the letter, believing the young man to be quite incapable of
knowing on any day what he had done on the day before.
Squercum was quite sure that his client had not signed it. And it must
be owned on Dolly's behalf that his manner on this occasion was
qualified to convince. 'Yes,' he said to Squercum; 'it's easy saying
that I'm lack-a-daisical. But I know when I'm lack-a-daisical and when
I'm not. Awake or asleep, drunk or sober, I never signed that letter.'
And Mr Squercum believed him.
It would be hard to say how the rumour first got into the City on this
Monday morning. Though the elder Longestaffe had first heard of the
matter only on the previous Saturday, Mr Squercum had been at work for
above a week. Mr Squercum's little matter alone might hardly have
attracted the attention which certainly was given on this day to Mr
Melmotte's private affairs;--but other facts coming to light assisted
Squercum's views. A great many shares of the South Central Pacific and
Mexican Railway had been thrown upon the market, all of which had
passed through the hands of Mr Cohenlupe;--and Mr Cohenlupe in the City
had been all to Mr Melmotte as Lord Alfred had been at the West End.
Then there was the mortgage of this Pickering property, for which the
money certainly had not been paid; and there was the traffic with half
a street of houses near the Commercial Road, by which a large sum of
money had come into Mr Melmotte's hands. It might, no doubt, all be
right. There were many who thought that it would all be right. There
were not a few who expressed the most thorough contempt for these
rumours. But it was felt to be a pity that Mr Melmotte was not in the
This was the day of the dinner. The Lord Mayor had even made up his
mind that he would not go to the dinner. What one of his brother
aldermen said to him about leaving others in the lurch might be quite
true; but, as his lordship remarked, Melmotte was a commercial man,
and as these were commercial transactions it behoved the Lord Mayor of
London to be more careful than other men. He had always had his
doubts, and he would not go. Others of the chosen few of the City who
had been honoured with commands to meet the Emperor resolved upon
absenting themselves unless the Lord Mayor went. The affair was very
much discussed, and there were no less than six declared City
defaulters. At the last moment a seventh was taken ill and sent a note
to Miles Grendall excusing himself, which was thrust into the
secretary's hands just as the Emperor arrived.
But a reverse worse than this took place;--a defalcation more
injurious to the Melmotte interests generally even than that which was
caused either by the prudence or by the cowardice of the City Magnates.
The House of Commons, at its meeting, had heard the tidings in an
exaggerated form. It was whispered about that Melmotte had been
detected in forging the deed of conveyance of a large property, and
that he had already been visited by policemen. By some it was believed
that the Great Financier would lie in the hands of the Philistines
while the Emperor of China was being fed at his house. In the third
edition of the 'Evening Pulpit' came out a mysterious paragraph which
nobody could understand but they who had known all about it before. 'A
rumour is prevalent that frauds to an enormous extent have been
committed by a gentleman whose name we are particularly unwilling to
mention. If it be so it is indeed remarkable that they should have
come to light at the present moment. We cannot trust ourselves to say
more than this.' No one wishes to dine with a swindler. No one likes
even to have dined with a swindler,--especially to have dined with him
at a time when his swindling was known or suspected. The Emperor of
China no doubt was going to dine with this man. The motions of
Emperors are managed with such ponderous care that it was held to be
impossible now to save the country from what would doubtless be felt
to be a disgrace if it should hereafter turn out that a forger had
been solicited to entertain the imperial guest of the country. Nor was
the thing as yet so far certain as to justify such a charge, were it
possible. But many men were unhappy in their minds. How would the
story be told hereafter if Melmotte should be allowed to play out his
game of host to the Emperor, and be arrested for forgery as soon as
the Eastern Monarch should have left his house? How would the brother
of the Sun like the remembrance of the banquet which he had been
instructed to honour with his presence? How would it tell in all the
foreign newspapers, in New York, in Paris, and Vienna, that this man
who had been cast forth from the United States, from France, and from
Austria had been selected as the great and honourable type of British
Commerce? There were those in the House who thought that the absolute
consummation of the disgrace might yet be avoided, and who were of
opinion that the dinner should be 'postponed.' The leader of the
Opposition had a few words on the subject with the Prime Minister. 'It
is the merest rumour,' said the Prime Minister. 'I have inquired, and
there is nothing to justify me in thinking that the charges can be
'They say that the story is believed in the City.'
'I should not feel myself justified in acting upon such a report. The
Prince might probably find it impossible not to go. Where should we be
if Mr Melmotte to-morrow were able to prove the whole to be a calumny,
and to show that the thing had been got up with a view of influencing
the election at Westminster? The dinner must certainly go on.'
'And you will go yourself?'
'Most assuredly,' said the Prime Minister. 'And I hope that you will
keep me in countenance.' His political antagonist declared with a
smile that at such a crisis he would not desert his honourable
friend;--but he could not answer for his followers. There was, he
admitted, a strong feeling among the leaders of the Conservative party
of distrust in Melmotte. He considered it probable that among his
friends who had been invited there would be some who would be unwilling
to meet even the Emperor of China on the existing terms. 'They should
remember,' said the Prime Minister, 'that they are also to meet their
own Prince, and that empty seats on such an occasion will be a
dishonour to him.'
'Just at present I can only answer for myself' said the leader of the
Opposition.--At that moment even the Prime Minister was much disturbed
in his mind; but in such emergencies a Prime Minister can only choose
the least of two evils. To have taken the Emperor to dine with a
swindler would be very bad; but to desert him, and to stop the coming
of the Emperor and all the Princes on a false rumour, would be worse.
CHAPTER LIX - THE DINNER
It does sometimes occur in life that an unambitious man, who is in no
degree given to enterprises, who would fain be safe, is driven by the
cruelty of circumstances into a position in which he must choose a
side, and in which, though he has no certain guide as to which side he
should choose, he is aware that he will be disgraced if he should take
the wrong side. This was felt as a hardship by many who were quite
suddenly forced to make up their mind whether they would go to
Melmotte's dinner, or join themselves to the faction of those who had
determined to stay away although they had accepted invitations. Some
there were not without a suspicion that the story against Melmotte had
been got up simply as an electioneering trick,--so that Mr Alf might
carry the borough on the next day. As a dodge for an election this
might be very well, but any who might be deterred by such a manoeuvre
from meeting the Emperor and supporting the Prince would surely be
marked men. And none of the wives, when they were consulted, seemed to
care a straw whether Melmotte was a swindler or not. Would the Emperor
and the Princes and Princesses be there? This was the only question
which concerned them. They did not care whether Melmotte was arrested
at the dinner or after the dinner, so long as they, with others, could
show their diamonds in the presence of eastern and western royalty.
But yet,--what a fiasco would it be, if at this very instant of time
the host should be apprehended for common forgery! The great thing was
to ascertain whether others were going. If a hundred or more out of
the two hundred were to be absent how dreadful would be the position
of those who were present! And how would the thing go if at the last
moment the Emperor should be kept away? The Prime Minister had decided
that the Emperor and the Prince should remain altogether in ignorance
of the charges which were preferred against the man; but of that these
doubters were unaware. There was but little time for a man to go about
town and pick up the truth from those who were really informed; and
questions were asked in an uncomfortable and restless manner. 'Is your
Grace going?' said Lionel Lupton to the Duchess of Stevenage,--having
left the House and gone into the park between six and seven to pick up
some hints among those who were known to have been invited. The
Duchess was Lord Alfred's sister, and of course she was going. 'I
usually keep engagements when I make them, Mr Lupton,' said the
Duchess. She had been assured by Lord Alfred not a quarter of an hour
before that everything was as straight as a die. Lord Alfred had not
then even heard of the rumour. But ultimately both Lionel Lupton and
Beauchamp Beauclerk attended the dinner. They had received special
tickets as supporters of Mr Melmotte at the election,--out of the
scanty number allotted to that gentleman himself,--and they thought
themselves bound in honour to be there. But they, with their leader,
and one other influential member of the party, were all who at last
came as the political friends of the candidate for Westminster. The
existing ministers were bound to attend to the Emperor and the Prince.
But members of the Opposition, by their presence, would support the
man and the politician, and both as a man and as a politician they
were ashamed of him.
When Melmotte arrived at his own door with his wife and daughter he
had heard nothing of the matter. That a man so vexed with affairs of
money, so laden with cares, encompassed by such dangers, should be
free from suspicion and fear it is impossible to imagine. That such
burdens should be borne at all is a wonder to those whose shoulders
have never been broadened for such work;--as is the strength of the
blacksmith's arm to men who have never wielded a hammer. Surely his
whole life must have been a life of terrors! But of any special peril
to which he was at that moment subject, or of any embarrassment which
might affect the work of the evening, he knew nothing. He placed his
wife in the drawing-room and himself in the hall, and arranged his
immediate satellites around him,--among whom were included the two
Grendalls, young Nidderdale, and Mr Cohenlupe,--with a feeling of
gratified glory. Nidderdale down at the House had heard the rumour,
but had determined that he would not as yet fly from his colours.
Cohenlupe had also come up from the House, where no one had spoken to
him. Though grievously frightened during the last fortnight, he had
not dared to be on the wing as yet. And, indeed, to what clime could
such a bird as he fly in safety? He had not only heard,--but also
knew very much, and was not prepared to enjoy the feast. Since they
had been in the hall Miles had spoken dreadful words to his father.
'You've heard about it; haven't you?' whispered Miles. Lord Alfred,
remembering his sister's question, became almost pale, but declared
that he had heard nothing. 'They're saying all manner of things in the
City;--forgery and heaven knows what. The Lord Mayor is not coming.'
Lord Alfred made no reply. It was the philosophy of his life that
misfortunes when they came should be allowed to settle themselves. But
he was unhappy.
The grand arrivals were fairly punctual, and the very grand people all
came. The unfortunate Emperor,--we must consider a man to be unfortunate
who is compelled to go through such work as this,--with impassible and
awful dignity, was marshalled into the room on the ground floor,
whence he and other royalties were to be marshalled back into the
banqueting hall. Melmotte, bowing to the ground, walked backwards
before him, and was probably taken by the Emperor for some Court
Master of the Ceremonies especially selected to walk backwards on this
occasion. The Princes had all shaken hands with their host, and the
Princesses had bowed graciously. Nothing of the rumour had as yet been
whispered in royal palaces. Besides royalty the company allowed to
enter the room downstairs was very select. The Prime Minister, one
archbishop, two duchesses, and an ex-governor of India with whose
features the Emperor was supposed to be peculiarly familiar, were
alone there. The remainder of the company, under the superintendence
of Lord Alfred, were received in the drawing-room above. Everything
was going on well, and they who had come and had thought of not coming
were proud of their wisdom.
But when the company was seated at dinner the deficiencies were
visible enough, and were unfortunate. Who does not know the effect
made by the absence of one or two from a table intended for ten or
twelve,--how grievous are the empty places, how destructive of the
outward harmony and grace which the hostess has endeavoured to
preserve are these interstices, how the lady in her wrath declares to
herself that those guilty ones shall never have another opportunity of
filling a seat at her table? Some twenty, most of whom had been asked
to bring their wives, had slunk from their engagements, and the empty
spaces were sufficient to declare a united purpose. A week since it
had been understood that admission for the evening could not be had
for love or money, and that a seat at the dinner-table was as a seat
at some banquet of the gods! Now it looked as though the room were but
half-filled. There were six absences from the City. Another six of Mr
Melmotte's own political party were away. The archbishops and the
bishop were there, because bishops never hear worldly tidings till
after other people;--but that very Master of the Buckhounds for whom
so much pressure had been made did not come. Two or three peers were
absent, and so also was that editor who had been chosen to fill Mr
Alf's place. One poet, two painters, and a philosopher had received
timely notice at their clubs, and had gone home. The three independent
members of the House of Commons for once agreed in their policy, and
would not lend the encouragement of their presence to a man suspected
of forgery. Nearly forty places were vacant when the business of the
Melmotte had insisted that Lord Alfred should sit next to himself at
the big table, and having had the objectionable bar removed, and his
own chair shoved one step nearer to the centre, had carried his point.
With the anxiety natural to such an occasion, he glanced repeatedly
round the hall, and of course became aware that many were absent. 'How
is it that there are so many places empty?' he said to his faithful
'Don't know,' said Achates, shaking his head, steadfastly refusing to
look round upon the hall.
Melmotte waited awhile, then looked round again, and asked the
question in another shape: 'Hasn't there been some mistake about the
numbers? There's room for ever so many more.'
'Don't know,' said Lord Alfred, who was unhappy in his mind, and
repenting himself that he had ever seen Mr Melmotte.
'What the deuce do you mean?' whispered Melmotte. 'You've been at it
from the beginning and ought to know. When I wanted to ask Brehgert,
you swore that you couldn't squeeze a place.'
'Can't say anything about it,' said Lord Alfred, with his eyes fixed
upon his plate.
'I'll be d---- if I don't find out,' said Melmotte. 'There's either some
horrible blunder, or else there's been imposition. I don't see quite
clearly. Where's Sir Gregory Gribe?'
'Hasn't come, I suppose.'
'And where's the Lord Mayor?' Melmotte, in spite of royalty, was now
sitting with his face turned round upon the hall. 'I know all their
places, and I know where they were put. Have you seen the Lord Mayor?'
'No; I haven't seen him at all.'
'But he was to come. What's the meaning of it, Alfred?'
'Don't know anything about it.' He shook his head but would not, for
even a moment, look round upon the room.
'And where's Mr Killegrew,--and Sir David Boss?' Mr Killegrew and Sir
David were gentlemen of high standing, and destined for important
offices in the Conservative party. 'There are ever so many people not
here. Why, there's not above half of them down the room. What's up,
Alfred? I must know.'
'I tell you I know nothing. I could not make them come.' Lord Alfred's
answers were made not only with a surly voice, but also with a surly
heart. He was keenly alive to the failure, and alive also to the
feeling that the failure would partly be attached to himself. At the
present moment he was anxious to avoid observation, and it seemed to
him that Melmotte, by the frequency and impetuosity of his questions,
was drawing special attention to him. 'If you go on making a row,' he
said, 'I shall go away.' Melmotte looked at him with all his eyes.
'Just sit quiet and let the thing go on. You'll know all about it soon
enough.' This was hardly the way to give Mr Melmotte peace of mind.
For a few minutes he did sit quiet. Then he got up and moved down the
hall behind the guests.
In the meantime, Imperial Majesty and Royalties of various
denominations ate their dinner, without probably observing those
Banquo's seats. As the Emperor talked Manchoo only, and as there was
no one present who could even interpret Manchoo into English,--the
imperial interpreter condescending only to interpret Manchoo into
ordinary Chinese which had to be reinterpreted,--it was not within
his Imperial Majesty's power to have much conversation with his
neighbours. And as his neighbours on each side of him were all cousins
and husbands, and brothers and wives, who saw each constantly under,
let us presume, more comfortable circumstances, they had not very much
to say to each other. Like most of us, they had their duties to do,
and, like most of us, probably found their duties irksome. The
brothers and sisters and cousins were used to it; but that awful
Emperor, solid, solemn, and silent, must, if the spirit of an Eastern
Emperor be at all like that of a Western man, have had a weary time of
it. He sat there for more than two hours, awful, solid, solemn, and
silent, not eating very much,--for this was not his manner of eating;
nor drinking very much,--for this was not his manner of drinking; but
wondering, no doubt, within his own awful bosom, at the changes which
were coming when an Emperor of China was forced, by outward
circumstances, to sit and hear this buzz of voices and this clatter of
knives and forks. 'And this,' he must have said to himself, 'is what
they call royalty in the West!' If a prince of our own was forced, for
the good of the country, to go among some far-distant outlandish
people, and there to be poked in the ribs, and slapped on the back all
round, the change to him could hardly be so great.
'Where's Sir Gregory?' said Melmotte, in a hoarse whisper, bending
over the chair of a City friend. It was old Todd, the senior partner
of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner. Mr Todd was a very wealthy man,
and had a considerable following in the City.
'Ain't he here?' said Todd,--knowing very well who had come from the
City and who had declined.
'No;--and the Lord Mayor's not come;--nor Postlethwaite, nor Bunter.
What's the meaning of it?'
Todd looked first at one neighbour and then at another before he
answered. 'I'm here, that's all I can say, Mr Melmotte; and I've had a
very good dinner. They who haven't come, have lost a very good
There was a weight upon Melmotte's mind of which he could not rid
himself. He knew from the old man's manner, and he knew also from Lord
Alfred's manner, that there was something which each of them could
tell him if he would. But he was unable to make the men open their
mouths. And yet it might be so important to him that he should know!
'It's very odd,' he said, 'that gentlemen should promise to come and
then stay away. There were hundreds anxious to be present whom I
should have been glad to welcome, if I had known that there would be
room. I think it is very odd.'
'It is odd,' said Mr Todd, turning his attention to the plate before
Melmotte had lately seen much of Beaucharnp Beauclerk, in reference to
the coming election. Passing back up the table, he found the gentleman
with a vacant seat on one side of him. There were many vacant seats in
this part of the room, as the places for the Conservative gentlemen
had been set apart together. There Mr Melmotte seated himself for a
minute, thinking that he might get the truth from his new ally.
Prudence should have kept him silent. Let the cause of these
desertions have been what it might, it ought to have been clear to him
that he could apply no remedy to it now. But he was bewildered and
dismayed, and his mind within him was changing at every moment. He was
now striving to trust to his arrogance and declaring that nothing
should cow him. And then again he was so cowed that he was ready to
creep to any one for assistance. Personally, Mr Beauclerk had disliked
the man greatly. Among the vulgar, loud upstarts whom he had known,
Melmotte was the vulgarest, the loudest, and the most arrogant. But he
had taken the business of Melmotte's election in hand, and considered
himself bound to stand by Melmotte till that was over; and he was now
the guest of the man in his own house, and was therefore constrained
to courtesy. His wife was sitting by him, and he at once introduced
her to Mr Melmotte. 'You have a wonderful assemblage here, Mr
Melmotte,' said the lady, looking up at the royal table.
'Yes, ma'am, yes. His Majesty the Emperor has been pleased to intimate
that he has been much gratified.'--Had the Emperor in truth said so, no
one who looked at him could have believed his imperial word.--'Can you
tell me, Mr Beauchamp, why those other gentlemen are not here? It
looks very odd; does it not?'
'Ah; you mean Killegrew.'
'Yes; Mr Killegrew and Sir David Boss, and the whole lot. I made a
particular point of their coming. I said I wouldn't have the dinner at
all unless they were to be asked. They were going to make it a
Government thing; but I said no. I insisted on the leaders of our own
party; and now they're not here. I know the cards were sent and, by
George, I have their answers, saying they'd come.'
'I suppose some of them are engaged,' said Mr Beauchamp.
'Engaged! What business has a man to accept one engagement and then
take another? And, if so, why shouldn't he write and make his excuses?
No, Mr Beauchamp, that won't go down.'
'I'm here, at any rate,' said Beauchamp, making the very answer that
had occurred to Mr Todd.
'Oh, yes, you're here. You're all right. But what is it, Mr Beauchamp?
There's something up, and you must have heard.' And so it was clear to
Mr Beauchamp that the man knew nothing about it himself. If there was
anything wrong, Melmotte was not aware that the wrong had been
discovered. 'Is it anything about the election to-morrow?'
'One never can tell what is actuating people,' said Mr Beauchamp.
'If you know anything about the matter I think you ought to tell me.'
'I know nothing except that the ballot will be taken to-morrow. You and
I have got nothing more to do in the matter except to wait the
'Well; I suppose it's all right,' said Melmotte, rising and going back
to his seat. But he knew that things were not all right. Had his
political friends only been absent, he might have attributed their
absence to some political cause which would not have touched him
deeply. But the treachery of the Lord Mayor and of Sir Gregory Gribe
was a blow. For another hour after he had returned to his place, the
Emperor sat solemn in his chair; and then, at some signal given by
some one, he was withdrawn. The ladies had already left the room about
half an hour. According to the programme arranged for the evening, the
royal guests were to return to the smaller room for a cup of coffee,
and were then to be paraded upstairs before the multitude who would by
that time have arrived, and to remain there long enough to justify the
invited ones in saying that they had spent the evening with the
Emperor and the Princes and the Princesses. The plan was carried out
perfectly. At half-past ten the Emperor was made to walk upstairs, and
for half an hour sat awful and composed in an arm-chair that had been
prepared for him. How one would wish to see the inside of the mind of
the Emperor as it worked on that occasion!
Melmotte, when his guests ascended his stairs, went back into the
banqueting-room and through to the hall, and wandered about till he
found Miles Grendall.
'Miles,' he said, 'tell me what the row is.'
'How row?' asked Miles.
'There's something wrong, and you know all about it. Why didn't the
people come?' Miles, looking guilty, did not even attempt to deny his
knowledge. 'Come; what is it? We might as well know all about it at
once.' Miles looked down on the ground, and grunted something. 'Is it
about the election?'
'No, it's not that,' said Miles.
'Then what is it?'
'They got hold of something to-day in the City--about Pickering.'
'They did, did they? And what were they saying about Pickering? Come;
you might as well out with it. You don't suppose that I care what lies
'They say there's been something--forged. Title-deeds, I think they
'Title-deeds! that I have forged title-deeds. Well; that's beginning
well. And his lordship has stayed away from my house after accepting
my invitation because he has heard that story! All right, Miles; that
will do.' And the Great Financier went upstairs into his own
CHAPTER LX - MISS LONGESTAFFE'S LOVER
A few days before that period in our story which we have now reached,
Miss Longestaffe was seated in Lady Monogram's back drawing-room,
discussing the terms on which the two tickets for Madame Melmotte's
grand reception had been transferred to Lady Monogram,--the place on
the cards for the names of the friends whom Madame Melmotte had the
honour of inviting to meet the Emperor and the Princes, having been
left blank; and the terms also on which Miss Longestaffe had been asked
to spend two or three days with her dear friend Lady Monogram. Each lady
was disposed to get as much and to give as little as possible,--in which
desire the ladies carried out the ordinary practice of all parties to
a bargain. It had of course been settled that Lady Monogram was to
have the two tickets,--for herself and her husband,--such tickets at
that moment standing very high in the market. In payment for these
valuable considerations, Lady Monogram was to undertake to chaperon
Miss Longestaffe at the entertainment, to take Miss Longestaffe as a
visitor for three days, and to have one party at her own house during
the time, so that it might be seen that Miss Longestaffe had other
friends in London besides the Melmottes on whom to depend for her
London gaieties. At this moment Miss Longestaffe felt herself
justified in treating the matter as though she were hardly receiving a
fair equivalent. The Melmotte tickets were certainly ruling very high.
They had just culminated. They fell a little soon afterwards, and at
ten p.m. on the night of the entertainment were hardly worth anything.
At the moment which we have now in hand, there was a rush for them.
Lady Monogram had already secured the tickets. They were in her desk.
But, as will sometimes be the case in a bargain, the seller was
complaining that as she had parted with her goods too cheap, some
make-weight should be added to the stipulated price.
'As for that, my dear,' said Miss Longestaffe, who, since the rise in
Melmotte stock generally, had endeavoured to resume something of her
old manners, 'I don't see what you mean at all. You meet Lady Julia
Goldsheiner everywhere, and her father-in-law is Mr Brehgert's junior
'Lady Julia is Lady Julia, my dear, and young Mr Goldsheiner has, in
some sort of way, got himself in. He hunts, and Damask says that he is
one of the best shots at Hurlingham. I never met old Mr Goldsheiner
'Oh, yes, I dare say. Mr Melmotte, of course, entertains all the City
people. I don't think Sir Damask would like me to ask Mr Brehgert to
dine here.' Lady Monogram managed everything herself with reference to
her own parties; invited all her own guests, and never troubled Sir
Damask,--who, again, on his side, had his own set of friends; but she
was very clever in the use which she made of her husband. There were
some aspirants who really were taught to think that Sir Damask was
very particular as to the guests whom he welcomed to his own house.
'May I speak to Sir Damask about it?' asked Miss Longestaffe, who was
very urgent on the occasion.
'Well, my dear, I really don't think you ought to do that. There are
little things which a man and his wife must manage together without
'Nobody can ever say that I interfered in any family. But really,
Julia, when you tell me that Sir Damask cannot receive Mr Brehgert, it
does sound odd. As for City people, you know as well as I do, that
that kind of thing is all over now. City people are just as good as
West End people.'
'A great deal better, I dare say. I'm not arguing about that. I don't
make the lines; but there they are; and one gets to know in a sort of
way what they are. I don't pretend to be a bit better than my
neighbours. I like to see people come here whom other people who come
here will like to meet. I'm big enough to hold my own, and so is Sir
Damask. But we ain't big enough to introduce newcomers. I don't
suppose there's anybody in London understands it better than you do,
Georgiana, and therefore it's absurd my pretending to teach you. I go
pretty well everywhere, as you are aware; and I shouldn't know Mr
Brehgert if I were to see him.'
'You'll meet him at the Melmottes', and, in spite of all you said
once, you're glad enough to go there.'
'Quite true, my dear. I don't think that you are just the person to
throw that in my teeth; but never mind that. There's the butcher round
the corner in Bond Street, or the man who comes to do my hair. I don't
at all think of asking them to my house. But if they were suddenly to
turn out wonderful men, and go everywhere, no doubt I should be glad
to have them here. That's the way we live, and you are as well used to
it as I am. Mr Brehgert at present to me is like the butcher round the
corner.' Lady Monogram had the tickets safe under lock and key, or I
think she would hardly have said this.
'He is not a bit like a butcher,' said Miss Longestaffe, blazing up in
'I did not say that he was.'
'Yes, you did; and it was the unkindest thing you could possibly say.
It was meant to be unkind. It was monstrous. How would you like it if
I said that Sir Damask was like a hair-dresser?'
'You can say so if you please. Sir Damask drives four in hand, rides
as though he meant to break his neck every winter, is one of the best
shots going, and is supposed to understand a yacht as well as any
other gentleman out. And I'm rather afraid that before he was married
he used to box with all the prize-fighters, and to be a little too
free behind the scenes. If that makes a man like a hair-dresser,
well, there he is.'
'How proud you are of his vices.'
'He's very good-natured, my dear, and as he does not interfere with
me, I don't interfere with him. I hope you'll do as well. I dare say
Mr Brehgert is good-natured.'
'He's an excellent man of business, and is making a very large
'And has five or six grown-up children, who, no doubt, will be a
'If I don't mind them, why need you? You have none at all, and you
find it lonely enough.'
'Not at all lonely. I have everything that I desire. How hard you are
trying to be ill-natured, Georgiana.'
'Why did you say that he was a--butcher?'
'I said nothing of the kind. I didn't even say that he was like a
butcher. What I did say was this,--that I don't feel inclined to risk my
own reputation on the appearance of new people at my table. Of course,
I go in for what you call fashion. Some people can dare to ask anybody
they meet in the streets. I can't. I've my own line, and I mean to
follow it. It's hard work, I can tell you; and it would be harder
still if I wasn't particular. If you like Mr Brehgert to come here on
Tuesday evening, when the rooms will be full, you can ask him; but as
for having him to dinner, I--won't--do--it.' So the matter was at last
settled. Miss Longestaffe did ask Mr Brehgert for the Tuesday evening,
and the two ladies were again friends.
Perhaps Lady Monogram, when she illustrated her position by an
allusion to a butcher and a hair-dresser, had been unaware that Mr
Brehgert had some resemblance to the form which men in that trade are
supposed to bear. Let us at least hope that she was so. He was a fat,
greasy man, good-looking in a certain degree, about fifty, with hair
dyed black, and beard and moustache dyed a dark purple colour. The
charm of his face consisted in a pair of very bright black eyes, which
were, however, set too near together in his face for the general
delight of Christians. He was stout;--fat all over rather than
corpulent,--and had that look of command in his face which has become
common to master-butchers, probably by long intercourse with sheep and
oxen. But Mr Brehgert was considered to be a very good man of business,
and was now regarded as being, in a commercial point of view, the
leading member of the great financial firm of which he was the second
partner. Mr Todd's day was nearly done. He walked about constantly
between Lombard Street, the Exchange, and the Bank, and talked much to
merchants; he had an opinion too of his own on particular cases; but
the business had almost got beyond him, and Mr Brehgert was now
supposed to be the moving spirit of the firm. He was a widower, living
in a luxurious villa at Fulham with a family, not indeed grown up, as
Lady Monogram had ill-naturedly said, but which would be grown up
before long, varying from an eldest son of eighteen, who had just been
placed at a desk in the office, to the youngest girl of twelve, who
was at school at Brighton. He was a man who always asked for what he
wanted; and having made up his mind that he wanted a second wife, had
asked Miss Georgiana Longestaffe to fill that situation. He had met
her at the Melmottes', had entertained her, with Madame Melmotte and
Marie, at Beaudesert, as he called his villa, had then proposed in the
square, and two days after had received an assenting answer in Bruton
Poor Miss Longestaffe! Although she had acknowledged the fact to Lady
Monogram in her desire to pave the way for the reception of herself
into society as a married woman, she had not as yet found courage to
tell her family. The man was absolutely a Jew;--not a Jew that had been,
as to whom there might possibly be a doubt whether he or his father or
his grandfather had been the last Jew of the family; but a Jew that
was. So was Goldsheiner a Jew, whom Lady Julia Start had married,--or
at any rate had been one a very short time before he ran away with that
lady. She counted up ever so many instances on her fingers of 'decent
people' who had married Jews or Jewesses. Lord Frederic Framlinghame
had married a girl of the Berrenhoffers; and Mr Hart had married a
Miss Chute. She did not know much of Miss Chute, but was certain that
she was a Christian. Lord Frederic's wife and Lady Julia Goldsheiner
were seen everywhere. Though she hardly knew how to explain the matter
even to herself, she was sure that there was at present a general
heaving-up of society on this matter, and a change in progress which
would soon make it a matter of indifference whether anybody was Jew or
Christian. For herself she regarded the matter not at all, except as
far as it might be regarded by the world in which she wished to live.
She was herself above all personal prejudices of that kind. Jew, Turk,
or infidel was nothing to her. She had seen enough of the world to be
aware that her happiness did not lie in that direction, and could not
depend in the least on the religion of her husband. Of course she
would go to church herself. She always went to church. It was the
proper thing to do. As to her husband, though she did not suppose that
she could ever get him to church,--nor perhaps would it be desirable,--
she thought that she might induce him to go nowhere, so that she might
be able to pass him off as a Christian. She knew that such was the
Christianity of young Goldsheiner, of which the Starts were now
Had she been alone in the world she thought that she could have looked
forward to her destiny with complacency; but she was afraid of her
father and mother. Lady Pomona was distressingly old-fashioned, and
had so often spoken with horror even of the approach of a Jew,--and had
been so loud in denouncing the iniquity of Christians who allowed such
people into their houses! Unfortunately, too, Georgiana in her earlier
days had re-echoed all her mother's sentiments. And then her father,--
if he had ever earned for himself the right to be called a Conservative
politician by holding a real opinion of his own,--it had been on that
matter of admitting the Jews into parliament. When that had been done
he was certain that the glory of England was sunk for ever. And since