Part 13 out of 19
'Of course I heard that he was to marry the girl, and that he tried to
run off with her. I don't know much about it. They say that Lord
Nidderdale is to marry her now.'
'I think not, Mr Montague.'
'I hope not, for his sake. At any rate, your brother is well out of
'Do you know that she loves Felix? There is no pretence about that. I
do think she is good. The other night at the party she spoke to me.'
'You went to the party, then?'
'Yes;--I could not refuse to go when mamma chose to take me. And when
I was there she spoke to me about Felix. I don't think she will marry
Lord Nidderdale. Poor girl;--I do pity her. Think what a downfall it
will be if anything happens.'
But Paul Montague had certainly not come there with the intention of
discussing Melmotte's affairs, nor could he afford to lose the
opportunity which chance had given him. He was off with one love, and
now he thought that he might be on with the other. 'Hetta,' he said,
'I am thinking more of myself than of her,--or even of Felix.'
'I suppose we all do think more of ourselves than of other people,'
said Hetta, who knew from his voice at once what it was in his mind to
'Yes;--but I am not thinking of myself only. I am thinking of myself,
and you. In all my thoughts of myself I am thinking of you too.'
'I do not know why you should do that.'
'Hetta, you must know that I love you.'
'Do you?' she said. Of course she knew it. And of course she thought
that he was equally sure of her love. Had he chosen to read signs that
ought to have been plain enough to him, could he have doubted her love
after the few words that had been spoken on that night when Lady
Carbury had come in with Roger and interrupted them? She could not
remember exactly what had been said; but she did remember that he had
spoken of leaving England for ever in a certain event, and that she
had not rebuked him;--and she remembered also how she had confessed her
own love to her mother. He, of course, had known nothing of that
confession; but he must have known that he had her heart!
So at least she thought. She had been working some morsel of lace, as
ladies do when ladies wish to be not quite doing nothing. She had
endeavoured to ply her needle, very idly, while he was speaking to
her, but now she allowed her hands to fall into her lap. She would
have continued to work at the lace had she been able, but there are
times when the eyes will not see clearly, and when the hands will
hardly act mechanically.
'Yes,--I do. Hetta, say a word to me. Can it be so? Look at me for one
moment so as to let me know.' Her eyes had turned downwards after her
work. 'If Roger is dearer to you than I am, I will go at once.'
'Roger is very dear to me.'
'Do you love him as I would have you love me?'
She paused for a time, knowing that his eyes were fixed upon her, and
then she answered the question in a low voice, but very clearly. 'No,'
she said,--'not like that.'
'Can you love me like that?' He put out both his arms as though to
take her to his breast should the answer be such as he longed to hear.
She raised her hand towards him, as if to keep him back, and left it
with him when he seized it. 'Is it mine?' he said.
'If you want it.'
Then he was at her feet in a moment, kissing her hand, and her dress,
looking up into her face with his eyes full of tears, ecstatic with
joy as though he had really never ventured to hope for such success.
'Want it!' he said. 'Hetta, I have never wanted anything but that with
real desire. Oh, Hetta, my own. Since I first saw you this has been my
only dream of happiness. And now it is my own.'
She was very quiet, but full of joy. Now that she had told him the
truth she did not coy her love. Having once spoken the word she did
not care how often she repeated it. She did not think that she could
ever have loved anybody but him even,--if he had not been fond of her.
As to Roger,--dear Roger, dearest Roger,--no; it was not the same
thing. 'He is as good as gold,' she said,--'ever so much better than
you are, Paul,' stroking his hair with her hand and looking into his
'Better than anybody I have ever known,' said Montague with all his
'I think he is;--but, ah, that is not everything. I suppose we ought
to love the best people best; but I don't, Paul.'
'I do,' said he.
'No,--you don't. You must love me best, but I won't be called good. I
do not know why it has been so. Do you know, Paul, I have sometimes
thought I would do as he would have me, out of sheer gratitude. I did
not know how to refuse such a trifling thing to one who ought to have
everything that he wants.'
'Where should I have been?'
'Oh, you! Somebody else would have made you happy. But do you know,
Paul, I think he will never love any one else. I ought not to say so,
because it seems to be making so much of myself. But I feel it. He is
not so young a man, and yet I think that he never was in love before.
He almost told me so once, and what he says is true. There is an
unchanging way with him that is awful to think of. He said that he
never could be happy unless I would do as he would have me,--and he made
me almost believe even that. He speaks as though every word he says
must come true in the end. Oh, Paul, I love you so dearly,--but I almost
think that I ought to have obeyed him.' Paul Montague of course had
very much to say in answer to this. Among the holy things which did
exist to gild this every-day unholy world, love was the holiest. It
should be soiled by no falsehood, should know nothing of compromises,
should admit no excuses, should make itself subject to no external
circumstances. If Fortune had been so kind to him as to give him her
heart, poor as his claim might be, she could have no right to refuse
him the assurance of her love. And though his rival were an angel, he
could have no shadow of a claim upon her,--seeing that he had failed to
win her heart. It was very well said,--at least so Hetta thought,--and
she made no attempt at argument against him. But what was to be done in
reference to poor Roger? She had spoken the word now, and, whether for
good or bad, she had given herself to Paul Montague. Even though Roger
should have to walk disconsolate to the grave, it could not now be
helped. But would it not be right that it should be told? 'Do you know
I almost feel that he is like a father to me,' said Hetta, leaning on
her lover's shoulder.
Paul thought it over for a few minutes, and then said that he would
himself write to Roger. 'Hetta, do you know, I doubt whether he will
ever speak to me again.'
'I cannot believe that.'
'There is a sternness about him which it is very hard to understand.
He has taught himself to think that as I met you in his house, and as
he then wished you to be his wife, I should not have ventured to love
you. How could I have known?'
'That would be unreasonable.'
'He is unreasonable--about that. It is not reason with him. He always
goes by his feelings. Had you been engaged to him--'
'Oh, then, you never could have spoken to me like this.'
'But he will never look at it in that way;--and he will tell me that
I have been untrue to him and ungrateful.'
'If you think, Paul--'
'Nay; listen to me. If it be so I must bear it. It will be a great
sorrow, but it will be as nothing to that other sorrow, had that come
upon me. I will write to him, and his answer will be all scorn and
wrath. Then you must write to him afterwards. I think he will forgive
you, but he will never forgive me.' Then they parted, she having
promised that she would tell her mother directly Lady Carbury came
home, and Paul undertaking to write to Roger that evening.
And he did, with infinite difficulty, and much trembling of the
spirit. Here is his letter:--
MY DEAR ROGER,--
I think it right to tell you at once what has occurred to-day. I
have proposed to Miss Carbury and she has accepted me. You have
long known what my feelings were, and I have also known yours. I
have known, too, that Miss Carbury has more than once declined
to take your offer. Under these circumstances I cannot think
that I have been untrue to friendship in what I have done, or
that I have proved myself ungrateful for the affectionate
kindness which you have always shown me. I am authorised by
Hetta to say that, had I never spoken to her, it must have been
the same to you. [This was hardly a fair representation of what
had been said, but the writer, looking back upon his interview
with the lady, thought that it had been implied.]
I should not say so much by way of excusing myself, but that you
once said, that should such a thing occur there must be a
division between us ever after. If I thought that you would
adhere to that threat, I should be very unhappy and Hetta would
be miserable. Surely, if a man loves he is bound to tell his
love, and to take the chance. You would hardly have thought it
manly in me if I had abstained. Dear friend, take a day or two
before you answer this, and do not banish us from your heart if
you can help it.
Your affectionate friend,
Roger Carbury did not take a single day,--or a single hour to answer
the letter. He received it at breakfast, and after rushing out on the
terrace and walking there for a few minutes, he hurried to his desk
and wrote his reply. As he did so, his whole face was red with wrath,
and his eyes were glowing with indignation.
There is an old French saying that he who makes excuses is his
own accuser. You would not have written as you have done, had
you not felt yourself to be false and ungrateful. You knew where
my heart was, and there you went and undermined my treasure, and
stole it away. You have destroyed my life, and I will never
You tell me not to banish you both from my heart. How dare you
join yourself with her in speaking of my feelings! She will
never be banished from my heart. She will be there morning,
noon, and night, and as is and will be my love to her, so shall
be my enmity to you.
It was hardly a letter for a Christian to write; and, yet, in those
parts Roger Carbury had the reputation of being a good Christian.
Henrietta told her mother that morning, immediately on her return.
'Mamma, Mr Paul Montague has been here.'
'He always comes here when I am away,' said Lady Carbury.
'That has been an accident. He could not have known that you were
going to Messrs. Leadham and Loiter's.'
'I'm not so sure of that, Hetta.'
'Then, mamma, you must have told him yourself, and I don't think you
knew till just before you were going. But, mamma, what does it matter?
He has been here, and I have told him--'
'You have not accepted him?'
'Without even asking me?'
'Mamma, you knew. I will not marry him without asking you. How was I
not to tell him when he asked me whether I--loved him--'
'Marry him! How is it possible you should marry him? Whatever he had
got was in that affair of Melmotte's, and that has gone to the dogs.
He is a ruined man, and for aught I know may be compromised in all
'Oh, mamma, do not say that!'
'But I do say it. It is hard upon me. I did think that you would try
to comfort me after all this trouble with Felix. But you are as bad as
he is;--or worse, for you have not been thrown into temptation like
that poor boy! And you will break your cousin's heart. Poor Roger! I
feel for him;--he that has been so true to us! But you think nothing
'I think very much of my cousin Roger.'
'And how do you show it;--or your love for me? There would have been a
home for us all. Now we must starve, I suppose. Hetta, you have been
worse to me even than Felix.' Then Lady Carbury, in her passion, burst
out of the room, and took herself to her own chamber.
CHAPTER LXVII - SIR FELIX PROTECTS HIS SISTER
Up to this period of his life Sir Felix Carbury had probably felt but
little of the punishment due to his very numerous shortcomings. He had
spent all his fortune; he had lost his commission in the army; he had
incurred the contempt of everybody that had known him; he had
forfeited the friendship of those who were his natural friends, and
had attached to him none others in their place; he had pretty nearly
ruined his mother and sister; but, to use his own language, he had
always contrived 'to carry on the game.' He had eaten and drunk, had
gambled, hunted, and diverted himself generally after the fashion
considered to be appropriate to young men about town. He had kept up
till now. But now there seemed to him to have come an end to all
things. When he was lying in bed in his mother's house he counted up
all his wealth. He had a few pounds in ready money, he still had a
little roll of Mr Miles Grendall's notes of hand, amounting perhaps to
a couple of hundred pounds,--and Mr Melmotte owed him £600. But where
was he to turn, and what was he to do with himself? Gradually he
learned the whole story of the journey to Liverpool,--how Marie had
gone there and had been sent back by the police, how Marie's money had
been repaid to Mr Melmotte by Mr Broune, and how his failure to make
the journey to Liverpool had become known. He was ashamed to go to his
club. He could not go to Melmotte's house. He was ashamed even to show
himself in the streets by day.
He was becoming almost afraid even of his mother. Now that the
brilliant marriage had broken down, and seemed to be altogether beyond
hope, now that he had to depend on her household for all his comforts,
he was no longer able to treat her with absolute scorn,--nor was she
willing to yield as she had yielded.
One thing only was clear to him. He must realize his possessions. With
this view he wrote both to Miles Grendall and to Melmotte. To the
former he said he was going out of town,--probably for some time, and
he must really ask for a cheque for the amount due. He went on to
remark that he could hardly suppose that a nephew of the Duke of Albury
was unable to pay debts of honour to the amount of £200;--but that if
such was the case he would have no alternative but to apply to the
Duke himself. The reader need hardly be told that to this letter Mr
Grendall vouchsafed no answer whatever. In his letter to Mr Melmotte
he confined himself to one matter of business in hand. He made no
allusion whatever to Marie, or to the great man's anger, or to his
seat at the board. He simply reminded Mr Melmotte that there was a sum
of £600 still due to him, and requested that a cheque might be sent to
him for that amount. Melmotte's answer to this was not altogether
unsatisfactory, though it was not exactly what Sir Felix had wished. A
clerk from Mr Melmotte's office called at the house in Welbeck Street,
and handed to Felix railway scrip in the South Central Pacific and
Mexican Railway to the amount of the sum claimed,--insisting on a full
receipt for the money before he parted with the scrip. The clerk went
on to explain, on behalf of his employer, that the money had been left
in Mr Melmotte's hands for the purpose of buying these shares. Sir
Felix, who was glad to get anything, signed the receipt and took the
scrip. This took place on the day after the balloting at Westminster,
when the result was not yet known,--and when the shares in the railway
were very low indeed. Sir Felix had asked as to the value of the
shares at the time. The clerk professed himself unable to quote the
price,--but there were the shares if Sir Felix liked to take them. Of
course he took them;--and hurrying off into the City found that they
might perhaps be worth about half the money due to him. The broker to
whom he showed them could not quite answer for anything. Yes;--the
scrip had been very high; but there was a panic. They might recover,--
or, more probably, they might go to nothing. Sir Felix cursed the Great
Financier aloud, and left the scrip for sale. That was the first time
that he had been out of the house before dark since his little
But he was chiefly tormented in these days by the want of amusement.
He had so spent his life hitherto that he did not know how to get
through a day in which no excitement was provided for him. He never
read. Thinking was altogether beyond him. And he had never done a
day's work in his life. He could lie in bed. He could eat and drink.
He could smoke and sit idle. He could play cards; and could amuse
himself with women,--the lower the culture of the women, the better
the amusement. Beyond these things the world had nothing for him.
Therefore he again took himself to the pursuit of Ruby Ruggles.
Poor Ruby had endured a very painful incarceration at her aunt's
house. She had been wrathful and had stormed, swearing that she would
be free to come and go as she pleased. Free to go, Mrs Pipkin told her
that she was;--but not free to return if she went out otherwise than as
she, Mrs Pipkin, chose. 'Am I to be a slave?' Ruby asked, and almost
upset the perambulator which she had just dragged in at the hall door.
Then Mrs Hurtle had taken upon herself to talk to her, and poor Ruby
had been quelled by the superior strength of the American lady. But
she was very unhappy, finding that it did not suit her to be nursemaid
to her aunt. After all John Crumb couldn't have cared for her a bit,
or he would have come to look after her. While she was in this
condition Sir Felix came to Mrs Pipkin's house, and asked for her at
the door, it happened that Mrs Pipkin herself had opened the door,--
and, in her fright and dismay at the presence of so pernicious a young
man in her own passage, had denied that Ruby was in the house. But
Ruby had heard her lover's voice, and had rushed up and thrown herself
into his arms. Then there had been a great scene. Ruby had sworn that
she didn't care for her aunt, didn't care for her grandfather, or for
Mrs Hurtle, or for John Crumb,--or for any person or anything. She
cared only for her lover. Then Mrs Hurtle had asked the young man his
intentions. Did he mean to marry Ruby? Sir Felix had said that he
supposed he might as well some day. 'There,' said Ruby, 'there!'--
shouting in triumph as though an offer had been made to her with the
completest ceremony of which such an event admits. Mrs Pipkin had
been very weak. Instead of calling in the assistance of her
strong-minded lodger, she had allowed the lovers to remain together
for half an hour in the dining-room. I do not know that Sir Felix in
any way repeated his promise during that time, but Ruby was probably
too blessed with the word that had been spoken to ask for such
renewal. 'There must be an end of this,' said Mrs Pipkin, coming in
when the half-hour was over. Then Sir Felix had gone, promising to
come again on the following evening. 'You must not come here, Sir
Felix,' said Mrs Pipkin, 'unless you puts it in writing.' To this, of
course, Sir Felix made no answer. As he went home he congratulated
himself on the success of his adventure. Perhaps the best thing he
could do when he had realized the money for the shares would be to
take Ruby for a tour abroad. The money would last for three or four
months,--and three or four months ahead was almost an eternity.
That afternoon before dinner he found his sister alone in the
drawing-room. Lady Carbury had gone to her own room after hearing the
distressing story of Paul Montague's love, and had not seen Hetta
since. Hetta was melancholy, thinking of her mother's hard words,--
thinking perhaps of Paul's poverty as declared by her mother, and of
the ages which might have to wear themselves out before she could
become his wife; but still tinting all her thoughts with a rosy hue
because of the love which had been declared to her. She could not but
be happy if he really loved her. And she,--as she had told him that she
loved him,--would be true to him through everything! In her present
mood she could not speak of herself to her brother, but she took the
opportunity of making good the promise which Marie Melmotte had
extracted from her. She gave him some short account of the party, and
told him that she had talked with Marie. 'I promised to give you a
message,' she said.
'It's all of no use now,' said Felix.
'But I must tell you what she said. I think, you know, that she really
'But what's the good of it? A man can't marry a girl when all the
policemen in the country are dodging her.'
'She wants you to let her know what,--what you intend to do. If you
mean to give her up, I think you should tell her.'
'How can I tell her? I don't suppose they would let her receive a
'Shall I write to her;--or shall I see her?'
'Just as you like. I don't care.'
'Felix, you are very heartless.'
'I don't suppose I'm much worse than other men;--or for the matter of
that, worse than a great many women either. You all of you here put me
up to marry her.'
'I never put you up to it.'
'Mother did. And now because it did not go off all serene, I am to
hear nothing but reproaches. Of course I never cared so very much
'Oh, Felix, that is so shocking!'
'Awfully shocking, I dare say. You think I am as black as the very
mischief, and that sugar wouldn't melt in other men's mouths. Other
men are just as bad as I am,--and a good deal worse too. You believe
that there is nobody on earth like Paul Montague.' Hetta blushed, but
said nothing. She was not yet in a condition to boast of her lover
before her brother, but she did, in very truth, believe that but few
young men were as true-hearted as Paul Montague. 'I suppose you'd be
surprised to hear that Master Paul is engaged to marry an American
widow living at Islington.'
'Mr Montague--engaged--to marry--an American widow! I don't believe
'You'd better believe it if it's any concern of yours, for it's true.
And it's true too that he travelled about with her for ever so long in
the United States, and that he had her down with him at the hotel at
Lowestoft about a fortnight ago. There's no mistake about it.'
'I don't believe it,' repeated Hetta, feeling that to say even as much
as that was some relief to her. It could not be true. It was
impossible that the man should have come to her with such a lie in his
mouth as that. Though the words astounded her, though she felt faint,
almost as though she would fall in a swoon, yet in her heart of hearts
she did not believe it. Surely it was some horrid joke,--or perhaps
some trick to divide her from the man she loved. 'Felix, how dare you
say things so wicked as that to me?'
'What is there wicked in it? If you have been fool enough to become
fond of the man, it is only right you should be told. He is engaged to
marry Mrs Hurtle, and she is lodging with one Mrs Pipkin in Islington.
I know the house, and could take you there to-morrow, and show you the
woman. There,' said he, 'that's where she is;'--and he wrote Mrs
Hurtle's name down on a scrap of paper.
'It is not true,' said Hetta, rising from her seat, and standing
upright. 'I am engaged to Mr Montague, and I am sure he would not
treat me in that way.'
'Then, by heaven, he shall answer it to me,' said Felix, jumping up.
'If he has done that, it is time that I should interfere. As true as I
stand here, he is engaged to marry a woman called Mrs Hurtle whom he
constantly visits at that place in Islington.'
'I do not believe it,' said Hetta, repeating the only defence for her
lover which was applicable at the moment.
'By George, this is beyond a joke. Will you believe it if Roger
Carbury says it's true? I know you'd believe anything fast enough
against me, if he told you.'
'Roger Carbury will not say so?'
'Have you the courage to ask him? I say he will say so. He knows all
about it,--and has seen the woman.'
'How can you know? Has Roger told you?'
'I do know, and that's enough. I will make this square with Master
Paul. By heaven, yes! He shall answer to me. But my mother must manage
you. She will not scruple to ask Roger, and she will believe what
Roger tells her.'
'I do not believe a word of it,' said Hetta, leaving the room. But
when she was alone she was very wretched. There must be some
foundation for such a tale. Why should Felix have referred to Roger
Carbury? And she did feel that there was something in her brother's
manner which forbade her to reject the whole story as being altogether
baseless. So she sat upon her bed and cried, and thought of all the
tales she had heard of faithless lovers. And yet why should the man
have come to her, not only with soft words of love, but asking her
hand in marriage, if it really were true that he was in daily
communication with another woman whom he had promised to make his
Nothing on the subject was said at dinner. Hetta with difficulty to
herself sat at the table, and did not speak. Lady Carbury and her son
were nearly as silent. Soon after dinner Felix slunk away to some
music hall or theatre in quest probably of some other Ruby Ruggles.
Then Lady Carbury, who had now been told as much as her son knew,
again attacked her daughter. Very much of the story Felix had learned
from Ruby. Ruby had of course learned that Paul was engaged to Mrs
Hurtle. Mrs Hurtle had at once declared the fact to Mrs Pipkin, and
Mrs Pipkin had been proud of the position of her lodger. Ruby had
herself seen Paul Montague at the house, and had known that he had
taken Mrs Hurtle to Lowestoft. And it had also become known to the
two women, the aunt and her niece, that Mrs Hurtle had seen Roger
Carbury on the sands at Lowestoft. Thus the whole story with most of
its details,--not quite with all,--had come round to Lady Carbury's
ears. 'What he has told you, my dear, is true. Much as I disapprove
of Mr Montague, you do not suppose that I would deceive you.'
'How can he know, mamma?'
'He does know. I cannot explain to you how. He has been at the same
'Has he seen her?'
'I do not know that he has, but Roger Carbury has seen her. If I write
to him you will believe what he says?'
'Don't do that, mamma. Don't write to him.'
'But I shall. Why should I not write if he can tell me? If this other
man is a villain am I not bound to protect you? Of course Felix is not
steady. If it came only from him you might not credit it. And he has
not seen her. If your cousin Roger tells you that it is true,--tells
me that he knows the man is engaged to marry this woman, then I
suppose you will be contented.'
'Satisfied that what we tell you is true.'
'I shall never be contented again. If that is true, I will never
believe anything. It can't be true. I suppose there is something, but
it can't be that.'
The story was not altogether displeasing to Lady Carbury, though it
pained her to see the agony which her daughter suffered. But she had
no wish that Paul Montague should be her son-in-law, and she still
thought that if Roger would persevere he might succeed. On that very
night before she went to bed she wrote to Roger, and told him the
whole story. 'If,' she said, 'you know that there is such a person as
Mrs Hurtle, and if you know also that Mr Montague has promised to make
her his wife, of course you will tell me.' Then she declared her own
wishes, thinking that by doing so she could induce Roger Carbury to
give such real assistance in this matter that Paul Montague would
certainly be driven away. Who could feel so much interest in doing
this as Roger, or who be so closely acquainted with all the
circumstances of Montague's life? 'You know,' she said, 'what my
wishes are about Hetta, and how utterly opposed I am to Mr Montague's
interference. If it is true, as Felix says, that he is at the present
moment entangled with another woman, he is guilty of gross insolence;
and if you know all the circumstances you can surely protect us,--and
CHAPTER LXVIII - MISS MELMOTTE DECLARES HER PURPOSE
Poor Hetta passed a very bad night. The story she had heard seemed to
be almost too awful to be true,--even about any one else. The man had
come to her, and had asked her to be his wife,--and yet at that very
moment was living in habits of daily intercourse with another woman
whom he had promised to marry! And then, too, his courtship with her
had been so graceful, so soft, so modest, and yet so long continued!
Though he had been slow in speech, she had known since their first
meeting how he regarded her! The whole state of his mind had, she had
thought, been visible to her,--had been intelligible, gentle, and
affectionate. He had been aware of her friends' feeling, and had
therefore hesitated. He had kept himself from her because he had owed
so much to friendship. And yet his love had not been the less true,
and had not been less dear to poor Hetta. She had waited, sure that it
would come,--having absolute confidence in his honour and love. And
now she was told that this man had been playing a game so base, and at
the same time so foolish, that she could find not only no excuse but
no possible cause for it. It was not like any story she had heard
before of man's faithlessness. Though she was wretched and sore at
heart she swore to herself that she would not believe it. She knew
that her mother would write to Roger Carbury,--but she knew also that
nothing more would be said about the letter till the answer should
come. Nor could she turn anywhere else for comfort. She did not dare
to appeal to Paul himself. As regarded him, for the present she could
only rely on the assurance, which she continued to give herself, that
she would not believe a word of the story that had been told her.
But there was other wretchedness besides her own. She had undertaken
to give Marie Melmotte's message to her brother. She had done so, and
she must now let Marie have her brother's reply. That might be told in
a very few words--'Everything is over!' But it had to be told.
'I want to call upon Miss Melmotte, if you'll let me,' she said to her
mother at breakfast.
'Why should you want to see Miss Melmotte? I thought you hated the
'I don't hate them, mamma. I certainly don't hate her. I have a
message to take to her,--from Felix.'
'A message--from Felix.'
'It is an answer from him. She wanted to know if all that was over. Of
course it is over. Whether he said so or not, it would be so. They
could never be married now, could they, mamma?'
The marriage, in Lady Carbury's mind, was no longer even desirable.
She, too, was beginning to disbelieve in the Melmotte wealth, and did
quite disbelieve that that wealth would come to her son, even should
he succeed in marrying the daughter. It was impossible that Melmotte
should forgive such offence as had now been committed. 'It is out of
the question,' she said. 'That, like everything else with us, has been
a wretched failure. You can go, if you please. Felix is under no
obligation to them, and has taken nothing from them. I should much
doubt whether the girl will get anybody to take her now. You can't go
alone, you know,' Lady Carbury added. But Hetta said that she did not
at all object to going alone as far as that. It was only just over
So she went out and made her way into Grosvenor Square. She had heard,
but at the time remembered nothing, of the temporary migration of the
Melmottes to Bruton Street. Seeing, as she approached the house, that
there was a confusion there of carts and workmen, she hesitated. But
she went on, and rang the bell at the door, which was wide open.
Within the hall the pilasters and trophies, the wreaths and the
banners, which three or four days since had been built up with so much
trouble, were now being pulled down and hauled away. And amidst the
ruins Melmotte himself was standing. He was now a member of
Parliament, and was to take his place that night in the House.
Nothing, at any rate, should prevent that. It might be but for a short
time;--but it should be written in the history of his life that he had
sat in the British House of Commons as member for Westminster. At the
present moment he was careful to show himself everywhere. It was now
noon, and he had already been into the City. At this moment he was
talking to the contractor for the work,--having just propitiated that
man by a payment which would hardly have been made so soon but for the
necessity which these wretched stories had entailed upon him of
keeping up his credit for the possession of money. Hetta timidly asked
one of the workmen whether Miss Melmotte was there. 'Do you want my
daughter?' said Melmotte coming forward, and just touching his
hat. 'She is not living here at present.'
'Oh,--I remember now,' said Hetta.
'May I be allowed to tell her who was asking after her?' At the
present moment Melmotte was not unreasonably suspicious about his
'I am Miss Carbury,' said Hetta in a very low voice.
'Oh, indeed;--Miss Carbury!--the sister of Sir Felix Carbury?' There
was something in the tone of the man's voice which grated painfully on
Hetta's ears,--but she answered the question. 'Oh;--Sir Felix's sister!
May I be permitted to ask whether--you have any business with my
daughter?' The story was a hard one to tell, with all the workmen
around her, in the midst of the lumber, with the coarse face of the
suspicious man looking down upon her; but she did tell it very simply.
She had come with a message from her brother. There had been something
between her brother and Miss Melmotte, and her brother had felt that
it would be best that he should acknowledge that it must be all over.
'I wonder whether that is true,' said Melmotte, looking at her out of
his great coarse eyes, with his eyebrows knit, with his hat on his
head and his hands in his pockets. Hetta, not knowing how, at the
moment, to repudiate the suspicion expressed, was silent. 'Because,
you know, there has been a deal of falsehood and double dealing. Sir
Felix has behaved infamously; yes,--by G----, infamously. A day or two
before my daughter started, he gave me a written assurance that the
whole thing was over, and now he sends you here. How am I to know what
you are really after?'
'I have come because I thought I could do some good,' she said,
trembling with anger and fear. 'I was speaking to your daughter at
'Oh, you were there;--were you? It may be as you say, but how is
one to tell? When one has been deceived like that, one is apt to be
suspicious, Miss Carbury.' Here was one who had spent his life in lying
to the world, and who was in his very heart shocked at the atrocity of
a man who had lied to him! 'You are not plotting another journey to
Liverpool;--are you?' To this Hetta could make no answer. The insult
was too much, but alone, unsupported, she did not know how to give him
back scorn for scorn. At last he proposed to take her across to Bruton
Street himself and at his bidding she walked by his side. 'May I hear
what you say to her?' he asked.
'If you suspect me, Mr Melmotte, I had better not see her at all. It
is only that there may no longer be any doubt.'
'You can say it all before me.'
'No;--I could not do that. But I have told you, and you can say it
for me. If you please, I think I will go home now.'
But Melmotte knew that his daughter would not believe him on such a
subject. This girl she probably would believe. And though Melmotte
himself found it difficult to trust anybody, he thought that there was
more possible good than evil to be expected from the proposed
interview. 'Oh, you shall see her,' he said. 'I don't suppose she's
such a fool as to try that kind of thing again.' Then the door in
Bruton Street was opened, and Hetta, repenting her mission, found
herself almost pushed into the hall. She was bidden to follow Melmotte
upstairs, and was left alone in the drawing-room, as she thought, for
a long time. Then the door was slowly opened and Marie crept into the
room. 'Miss Carbury,' she said, 'this is so good of you,--so good of
you! I do so love you for coming to me! You said you would love me.
You will; will you not?' and Marie, sitting down by the stranger, took
her hand and encircled her waist.
'Mr Melmotte has told you why I have come.'
'Yes;--that is, I don't know. I never believe what papa says to me.'
To poor Hetta such an announcement as this was horrible. 'We are at
daggers drawn. He thinks I ought to do just what he tells me, as
though my very soul were not my own. I won't agree to that;--would
you?' Hetta had not come there to preach disobedience, but could not
fail to remember at the moment that she was not disposed to obey her
mother in an affair of the same kind. 'What does he say, dear?'
Hetta's message was to be conveyed in three words, and when those were
told, there was nothing more to be said. 'It must all be over, Miss
'Is that his message, Miss Carbury?' Hetta nodded her head. 'Is that
'What more can I say? The other night you told me to bid him send you
word. And I thought he ought to do so. I gave him your message, and I
have brought back the answer. My brother, you know, has no income of
his own;--nothing at all.'
'But I have,' said Marie with eagerness.
'But your father--'
'It does not depend upon papa. If papa treats me badly, I can give it
to my husband. I know I can. If I can venture, cannot he?'
'I think it is impossible.'
'Impossible! Nothing should be impossible. All the people that one
hears of that are really true to their loves never find anything
impossible. Does he love me, Miss Carbury? It all depends on that.
That's what I want to know.' She paused, but Hetta could not answer
the question. 'You must know about your brother. Don't you know
whether he does love me? If you know I think you ought to tell me.'
Hetta was still silent. 'Have you nothing to say?'
'Miss Melmotte-' began poor Hetta very slowly.
'Call me Marie. You said you would love me, did you not? I don't even
know what your name is.'
'My name is Hetta.'
'Hetta;--that's short for something. But it's very pretty. I have
no brother, no sister. And I'll tell you, though you must not tell
anybody again;--I have no real mother. Madame Melmotte is not my
mamma, though papa chooses that it should be thought so.' All this she
whispered, with rapid words, almost into Hetta's ear. 'And papa is so
cruel to me! He beats me sometimes.' The new friend, round whom Marie
still had her arm, shuddered as she heard this. 'But I never will
yield a bit for that. When he boxes and thumps me I always turn and
gnash my teeth at him. Can you wonder that I want to have a friend?
Can you be surprised that I should be always thinking of my lover?
But,--if he doesn't love me, what am I to do then?'
'I don't know what I am to say,' ejaculated Hetta amidst her sobs.
Whether the girl was good or bad, to be sought or to be avoided, there
was so much tragedy in her position that Hetta's heart was melted with
'I wonder whether you love anybody, and whether he loves you,' said
Marie. Hetta certainly had not come there to talk of her own affairs,
and made no reply to this. 'I suppose you won't tell me about
'I wish I could tell you something for your own comfort.'
'He will not try again, you think?'
'I am sure he will not.'
'I wonder what he fears. I should fear nothing,--nothing. Why should
not we walk out of the house, and be married any way? Nobody has a
right to stop me. Papa could only turn me out of his house. I will
venture if he will.'
It seemed to Hetta that even listening to such a proposition amounted
to falsehood,--to that guilt of which Mr Melmotte had dared to suppose
that she could be capable. 'I cannot listen to it. Indeed I cannot
listen to it. My brother is sure that he cannot--cannot--'
'Cannot love me, Hetta! Say it out, if it is true.'
'It is true,' said Hetta. There came over the face of the other girl a
stern hard look, as though she had resolved at the moment to throw
away from her all soft womanly things. And she relaxed her hold on
Hetta's waist. 'Oh, my dear, I do not mean to be cruel, but you ask me
for the truth.'
'Yes; I did.'
'Men are not, I think, like girls.'
'I suppose not,' said Marie slowly. 'What liars they are, what
brutes;--what wretches! Why should he tell me lies like that? Why
should he break my heart? That other man never said that he loved me.
Did he never love me,--once?'
Hetta could hardly say that her brother was incapable of such love as
Marie expected, but she knew that it was so. 'It is better that you
should think of him no more.'
'Are you like that? If you had loved a man and told him of it, and
agreed to be his wife and done as I have, could you bear to be told to
think of him no more,--just as though you had got rid of a servant or a
horse? I won't love him. No;--I'll hate him. But I must think of him.
I'll marry that other man to spite him, and then, when he finds that
we are rich, he'll be broken-hearted.'
'You should try to forgive him, Marie.'
'Never. Do not tell him that I forgive him. I command you not to tell
him that. Tell him,--tell him, that I hate him, and that if I ever meet
him, I will look at him so that he shall never forget it. I could,--oh!
--you do not know what I could do. Tell me;--did he tell you to say
that he did not love me?'
'I wish I had not come,' said Hetta.
'I am glad you have come. It was very kind. I don't hate you. Of
course I ought to know. But did he say that I was to be told that he
did not love me?'
'No;--he did not say that.'
'Then how do you know? What did he say?'
'That it was all over.'
'Because he is afraid of papa. Are you sure he does not love me?'
'I am sure.'
'Then he is a brute. Tell him that I say that he is a false-hearted
liar, and that I trample him under my foot.' Marie as she said this
thrust her foot upon the ground as though that false one were in truth
beneath it,--and spoke aloud, as though regardless who might hear her.
'I despise him;--despise him. They are all bad, but he is the worst of
all. Papa beats me, but I can bear that. Mamma reviles me and I can
bear that. He might have beaten me and reviled me, and I could have
borne it. But to think that he was a liar all the time;--that I can't
bear.' Then she burst into tears. Hetta kissed her, tried to comfort
her, and left her sobbing on the sofa.
Later in the day, two or three hours after Miss Carbury had gone,
Marie Melmotte, who had not shown herself at luncheon, walked into
Madame Melmotte's room, and thus declared her purpose. 'You can tell
papa that I will marry Lord Nidderdale whenever he pleases.' She spoke
in French and very rapidly.
On hearing this Madame Melmotte expressed herself to be delighted.
'Your papa,' said she, 'will be very glad to hear that you have
thought better of this at last. Lord Nidderdale is, I am sure, a very
good young man.'
'Yes,' continued Marie, boiling over with passion as she spoke. 'I'll
marry Lord Nidderdale, or that horrid Mr Grendall who is worse than
all the others, or his old fool of a father,--or the sweeper at the
crossing,--or the black man that waits at table, or anybody else that
he chooses to pick up. I don't care who it is the least in the world.
But I'll lead him such a life afterwards! I'll make Lord Nidderdale
repent the hour he saw me! You may tell papa.' And then, having thus
entrusted her message to Madame Melmotte, Marie left the room.
CHAPTER LXIX - MELMOTTE IN PARLIAMENT
Melmotte did not return home in time to hear the good news that day,--
good news as he would regard it, even though, when told to him, it
should be accompanied by all the extraneous additions with which Marie
had communicated her purpose to Madame Melmotte. It was nothing to him
what the girl thought of the marriage,--if the marriage could now be
brought about. He, too, had cause for vexation, if not for anger. If
Marie had consented a fortnight since he might have so hurried affairs
that Lord Nidderdale might by this time have been secured. Now there
might be,--must be, doubt, through the folly of his girl and the
villainy of Sir Felix Carbury. Were he once the father-in-law of the
eldest son of a marquis, he thought he might almost be safe. Even
though something might be all but proved against him,--which might come
to certain proof in less august circumstances,--matters would hardly be
pressed against a Member for Westminster whose daughter was married to
the heir of the Marquis of Auld Reekie! So many persons would then be
concerned! Of course his vexation with Marie had been great. Of course
his wrath against Sir Felix was unbounded. The seat for Westminster
was his. He was to be seen to occupy it before all the world on this
very day. But he had not as yet heard that his daughter had yielded in
reference to Lord Nidderdale.
There was considerable uneasiness felt in some circles as to the
manner in which Melmotte should take his seat. When he was put forward
as the Conservative candidate for the borough a good deal of fuss had
been made with him by certain leading politicians. It had been the
manifest intention of the party that his return, if he were returned,
should be hailed as a great Conservative triumph, and be made much of
through the length and the breadth of the land. He was returned,--but
the trumpets had not as yet been sounded loudly. On a sudden, within
the space of forty-eight hours, the party had become ashamed of their
man. And, now, who was to introduce him to the House? But with this
feeling of shame on one side, there was already springing up an idea
among another class that Melmotte might become as it were a
Conservative tribune of the people,--that he might be the realization
of that hitherto hazy mixture of Radicalism and old-fogyism, of which
we have lately heard from a political master, whose eloquence has been
employed in teaching us that progress can only be expected from those
whose declared purpose is to stand still. The new farthing newspaper,
'The Mob,' was already putting Melmotte forward as a political hero,
preaching with reference to his commercial transactions the grand
doctrine that magnitude in affairs is a valid defence for certain
irregularities. A Napoleon, though he may exterminate tribes in
carrying out his projects, cannot be judged by the same law as a young
lieutenant who may be punished for cruelty to a few negroes. 'The Mob'
thought that a good deal should be overlooked in a Melmotte, and that
the philanthropy of his great designs should be allowed to cover a
multitude of sins. I do not know that the theory was ever so plainly
put forward as it was done by the ingenious and courageous writer in
'The Mob'; but in practice it has commanded the assent of many
Mr Melmotte, therefore, though he was not where he had been before
that wretched Squercum had set afloat the rumours as to the purchase
of Pickering, was able to hold his head much higher than on the
unfortunate night of the great banquet. He had replied to the letter
from Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile, by a note written in the ordinary
way in the office, and only signed by himself. In this he merely said
that he would lose no time in settling matters as to the purchase of
Pickering. Slow and Bideawhile were of course anxious that things
should be settled. They wanted no prosecution for forgery. To make
themselves clear in the matter, and their client,--and if possible to
take some wind out of the sails of the odious Squercum;--this would
suit them best. They were prone to hope that for his own sake Melmotte
would raise the money. If it were raised there would be no reason why
that note purporting to have been signed by Dolly Longestaffe should
ever leave their office. They still protested their belief that it did
bear Dolly's signature. They had various excuses for themselves. It
would have been useless for them to summon Dolly to their office, as
they knew from long experience that Dolly would not come. The very
letter written by themselves,--as a suggestion,--and given to Dolly's
father, had come back to them with Dolly's ordinary signature, sent to
them,--as they believed,--with other papers by Dolly's father. What
justification could be clearer? But still the money had not been paid.
That was the fault of Longestaffe senior. But if the money could be
paid, that would set everything right. Squercum evidently thought that
the money would not be paid, and was ceaseless in his intercourse with
Bideawhile's people. He charged Slow and Bideawhile with having
delivered up the title-deeds on the authority of a mere note, and that
a note with a forged signature. He demanded that the note should be
impounded. On the receipt by Mr Bideawhile of Melmotte's rather curt
reply Mr Squercum was informed that Mr Melmotte had promised to pay
the money at once, but that a day or two must be allowed. Mr Squercum
replied that on his client's behalf he should open the matter before
the Lord Mayor.
But in this way two or three days had passed without any renewal of
the accusation before the public, and Melmotte had in a certain degree
recovered his position. The Beauclerks and the Luptons disliked and
feared him as much as ever, but they did not quite dare to be so loud
and confident in condemnation as they had been. It was pretty well
known that Mr Longestaffe had not received his money,--and that was a
condition of things tending greatly to shake the credit of a man
living after Melmotte's fashion. But there was no crime in that. No
forgery was implied by the publication of any statement to that
effect. The Longestaffes, father and son, might probably have been
very foolish. Whoever expected anything but folly from either? And
Slow and Bideawhile might have been very remiss in their duty. It was
astonishing, some people said, what things attorneys would do in these
days! But they who had expected to see Melmotte behind the bars of a
prison before this, and had regulated their conduct accordingly, now
imagined that they had been deceived.
Had the Westminster triumph been altogether a triumph it would have
become the pleasant duty of some popular Conservative to express to
Melmotte the pleasure he would have in introducing his new political
ally to the House. In such case Melmotte himself would have been
walked up the chamber with a pleasurable ovation and the thing would
have been done without trouble to him. But now this was not the
position of affairs. Though the matter was debated at the Carlton, no
such popular Conservative offered his services. 'I don't think we
ought to throw him over,' Mr Beauclerk said. Sir Orlando Drought,
quite a leading Conservative, suggested that as Lord Nidderdale was
very intimate with Mr Melmotte he might do it. But Nidderdale was not
the man for such a performance. He was a very good fellow and
everybody liked him. He belonged to the House because his father had
territorial influence in a Scotch county;--but he never did anything
there, and his selection for such a duty would be a declaration to the
world that nobody else would do it. 'It wouldn't hurt you, Lupton,'
said Mr Beauclerk. 'Not at all,' said Lupton; 'but I also, like
Nidderdale am a young man and of no use,--and a great deal too bashful.'
Melmotte, who knew but little about it, went down to the House at four
o'clock, somewhat cowed by want of companionship, but carrying out his
resolution that he would be stopped by no phantom fears,--that he would
lose nothing by want of personal pluck. He knew that he was a Member,
and concluded that if he presented himself he would be able to make
his way in and assume his right. But here again fortune befriended
him. The very leader of the party, the very founder of that new
doctrine of which it was thought that Melmotte might become an apostle
and an expounder,--who, as the reader may remember, had undertaken to
be present at the banquet when his colleagues were dismayed and untrue
to him, and who kept his promise and sat there almost in solitude,--he
happened to be entering the House, as his late host was claiming from
the doorkeeper the fruition of his privilege. 'You had better let me
accompany you,' said the Conservative leader, with something of
chivalry in his heart. And so Mr Melmotte was introduced to the House
by the head of his party! When this was seen many men supposed that
the rumours had been proved to be altogether false. Was not this a
guarantee sufficient to guarantee any man's respectability?
Lord Nidderdale saw his father in the lobby of the House of Lords that
afternoon and told him what had occurred. The old man had been in a
state of great doubt since the day of the dinner party. He was aware
of the ruin that would be incurred by a marriage with Melmotte's
daughter, if the things which had been said of Melmotte should be
proved to be true. But he knew also that if his son should now recede,
there must be an end of the match altogether;--and he did not believe
the rumours. He was fully determined that the money should be paid
down before the marriage was celebrated; but if his son were to secede
now, of course no money would be forthcoming. He was prepared to
recommend his son to go on with the affair still a little longer. 'Old
Cure tells me he doesn't believe a word of it,' said the father. Cure
was the family lawyer of the Marquises of Auld Reekie.
'There's some hitch about Dolly Longestaffe's money, sir,' said the
'What's that to us if he has our money ready? I suppose it isn't
always easy even for a man like that to get a couple of hundred
thousand together. I know I've never found it easy to get a thousand.
If he has borrowed a trifle from Longestaffe to make up the girl's
money, I shan't complain. You stand to your guns. There's no harm done
till the parson has said the word.'
'You couldn't let me have a couple of hundred;--could you, sir?'
suggested the son.
'No, I couldn't,' replied the father with a very determined aspect.
'I'm awfully hard up.'
'So am I.' Then the old man toddled into his own chamber, and after
sitting there ten minutes went away home.
Lord Nidderdale also got quickly through his legislative duties and
went to the Beargarden. There he found Grasslough and Miles Grendall
dining together, and seated himself at the next table. They were full
of news. 'You've heard it, I suppose,' said Miles in an awful whisper.
'I believe he doesn't know!' said Lord Grasslough. 'By Jove,
Nidderdale, you're in a mess like some others.'
'What's up now?'
'Only fancy that they shouldn't have known down at the House! Vossner
'Bolted!' exclaimed Nidderdale, dropping the spoon with which he was
just going to eat his soup.
'Bolted,' repeated Grasslough. Lord Nidderdale looked round the room
and became aware of the awful expression of dismay which hung upon the
features of all the dining members. 'Bolted, by George! He has sold
all our acceptances to a fellow in Great Marlbro' that's called
'I know him,' said Nidderdale shaking his head.
'I should think so,' said Miles ruefully.
'A bottle of champagne!' said Nidderdale, appealing to the waiter in
almost a humble voice, feeling that he wanted sustenance in this new
trouble that had befallen him. The waiter, beaten almost to the ground
by an awful sense of the condition of the club, whispered to him the
terrible announcement that there was not a bottle of champagne in the
house. 'Good G----,' exclaimed the unfortunate nobleman. Miles Grendall
shook his head. Grasslough shook his head.
'It's true,' said another young lord from the table on the other side.
Then the waiter, still speaking with suppressed and melancholy voice,
suggested that there was some port left. It was now the middle of
'Brandy?' suggested Nidderdale. There had been a few bottles of
brandy, but they had been already consumed. 'Send out and get some
brandy,' said Nidderdale with rapid impetuosity. But the club was so
reduced in circumstances that he was obliged to take silver out of his
pocket before he could get even such humble comfort as he now
Then Lord Grasslough told the whole story as far as it was known. Herr
Vossner had not been seen since nine o'clock on the preceding evening.
The head waiter had known for some weeks that heavy bills were due. It
was supposed that three or four thousand pounds were owing to
tradesmen, who now professed that the credit had been given, not to
Herr Vossner but to the club. And the numerous acceptances for large
sums which the accommodating purveyor held from many of the members
had all been sold to Mr Flatfleece. Mr Flatfleece had spent a
considerable portion of the day at the club, and it was now suggested
that he and Herr Vossner were in partnership. At this moment Dolly
Longestaffe came in. Dolly had been at the club before and had heard
the story,--but had gone at once to another club for his dinner when
he found that there was not even a bottle of wine to be had. 'Here's a
go,' said Dolly. 'One thing atop of another! There'll be nothing left
for anybody soon. Is that brandy you're drinking, Nidderdale? There
was none here when I left.'
'Had to send round the corner for it, to the public.'
'We shall be sending round the corner for a good many things now. Does
anybody know anything of that fellow Melmotte?'
'He's down in the House, as big as life,' said Nidderdale. 'He's all
right I think.'
'I wish he'd pay me my money then. That fellow Flatfleece was here,
and he showed me notes of mine for about £1,500! I write such a
beastly hand that I never know whether I've written it or not. But, by
George, a fellow can't eat and drink £1,500 in less than six months!'
'There's no knowing what you can do, Dolly,' said Lord Grasslough.
'He's paid some of your card money, perhaps,' said Nidderdale.
'I don't think he ever did. Carbury had a lot of my I.O.U.'s while that
was going on, but I got the money for that from old Melmotte. How is a
fellow to know? If any fellow writes D. Longestaffe, am I obliged to
pay it? Everybody is writing my name! How is any fellow to stand that
kind of thing? Do you think Melmotte's all right?' Nidderdale said
that he did think so. 'I wish he wouldn't go and write my name then.
That's a sort of thing that a man should be left to do for himself. I
suppose Vossner is a swindler; but, by Jove, I know a worse than
Vossner.' With that he turned on his heels and went into the
smoking-room. And, after he was gone, there was silence at the table,
for it was known that Lord Nidderdale was to marry Melmotte's
In the meantime a scene of a different kind was going on in the House
of Commons. Melmotte had been seated on one of the back Conservative
benches, and there he remained for a considerable time unnoticed and
forgotten. The little emotion that had attended his entrance had
passed away, and Melmotte was now no more than any one else. At first
he had taken his hat off, but, as soon as he observed that the
majority of members were covered, he put it on again. Then he sat
motionless for an hour, looking round him and wondering. He had never
hitherto been even in the gallery of the House. The place was very
much smaller than he had thought, and much less tremendous. The
Speaker did not strike him with the awe which he had expected, and it
seemed to him that they who spoke were talking much like other people
in other places. For the first hour he hardly caught the meaning of a
sentence that was said, nor did he try to do so. One man got up very
quickly after another, some of them barely rising on their legs to say
the few words that they uttered. It seemed to him to be a very
commonplace affair,--not half so awful as those festive occasions on
which he had occasionally been called upon to propose a toast or to
return thanks. Then suddenly the manner of the thing was changed, and
one gentleman made a long speech. Melmotte by this time, weary of
observing, had begun to listen, and words which were familiar to him
reached his ears. The gentleman was proposing some little addition to
a commercial treaty and was expounding in very strong language the
ruinous injustice to which England was exposed by being tempted to use
gloves made in a country in which no income tax was levied. Melmotte
listened to his eloquence caring nothing about gloves, and very little
about England's ruin. But in the course of the debate which followed,
a question arose about the value of money, of exchange, and of the
conversion of shillings into francs and dollars. About this Melmotte
really did know something and he pricked up his ears. It seemed to him
that a gentleman whom he knew very well in the city,--and who had
maliciously stayed away from his dinner,--one Mr Brown, who sat just
before him on the same side of the House, and who was plodding wearily
and slowly along with some pet fiscal theory of his own, understood
nothing at all of what he was saying. Here was an opportunity for
himself! Here was at his hand the means of revenging himself for the
injury done him, and of showing to the world at the same time that
he was not afraid of his city enemies! It required some courage
certainly,--this attempt that suggested itself to him of getting upon
his legs a couple of hours after his first introduction to
parliamentary life. But he was full of the lesson which he was now ever
teaching himself. Nothing should cow him. Whatever was to be done by
brazen-faced audacity he would do. It seemed to be very easy, and he
saw no reason why he should not put that old fool right. He knew nothing
of the forms of the House;--was more ignorant of them than an ordinary
schoolboy;--but on that very account felt less trepidation than might
another parliamentary novice. Mr Brown was tedious and prolix; and
Melmotte, though he thought much of his project and had almost told
himself that he would do the thing, was still doubting, when,
suddenly, Mr Brown sat down. There did not seem to be any particular
end to the speech, nor had Melmotte followed any general thread of
argument. But a statement had been made and repeated, containing, as
Melmotte thought, a fundamental error in finance; and he longed to set
the matter right. At any rate he desired to show the House that Mr
Brown did not know what he was talking about,--because Mr Brown had not
come to his dinner. When Mr Brown was seated, nobody at once rose. The
subject was not popular, and they who understood the business of the
House were well aware that the occasion had simply been one on which
two or three commercial gentlemen, having crazes of their own, should
be allowed to ventilate them. The subject would have dropped;--but on
a sudden the new member was on his legs.
Now it was probably not in the remembrance of any gentleman there that
a member had got up to make a speech within two or three hours of his
first entry into the House. And this gentleman was one whose recent
election had been of a very peculiar kind. It had been considered by
many of his supporters that his name should be withdrawn just before
the ballot; by others that he would be deterred by shame from showing
himself even if he were elected; and again by another party that his
appearance in Parliament would be prevented by his disappearance
within the walls of Newgate. But here he was, not only in his seat,
but on his legs! The favourable grace, the air of courteous attention,
which is always shown to a new member when he first speaks, was
extended also to Melmotte. There was an excitement in the thing which
made gentlemen willing to listen, and a consequent hum, almost of
As soon as Melmotte was on his legs, and, looking round, found that
everybody was silent with the intent of listening to him, a good deal
of his courage oozed out of his fingers' ends. The House, which, to
his thinking, had by no means been august while Mr Brown had been
toddling through his speech, now became awful. He caught the eyes of
great men fixed upon him,--of men who had not seemed to him to be at
all great as he had watched them a few minutes before, yawning beneath
their hats. Mr Brown, poor as his speech had been, had, no doubt,
prepared it,--and had perhaps made three or four such speeches every
year for the last fifteen years. Melmotte had not dreamed of putting
two words together. He had thought, as far as he had thought at all,
that he could rattle off what he had to say just as he might do it
when seated in his chair at the Mexican Railway Board. But there was
the Speaker, and those three clerks in their wigs, and the mace,--and
worse than all, the eyes of that long row of statesmen opposite to
him! His position was felt by him to be dreadful. He had forgotten
even the very point on which he had intended to crush Mr Brown.
But the courage of the man was too high to allow him to be altogether
quelled at once. The hum was prolonged; and though he was red in the
face, perspiring, and utterly confused, he was determined to make a
dash at the matter with the first words which would occur to him. 'Mr
Brown is all wrong,' he said. He had not even taken off his hat as he
rose. Mr Brown turned slowly round and looked up at him. Some one,
whom he could not exactly hear, touching him behind, suggested that he
should take off his hat. There was a cry of order, which of course he
did not understand. 'Yes, you are,' said Melmotte, nodding his head,
and frowning angrily at poor Mr Brown.
'The honourable member,' said the Speaker, with the most good-natured
voice which he could assume, 'is not perhaps as yet aware that he
should not call another member by his name. He should speak of the
gentleman to whom he alluded as the honourable member for Whitechapel.
And in speaking he should address, not another honourable member, but
'You should take your hat off,' said the good-natured gentleman
In such a position how should any man understand so many and such
complicated instructions at once, and at the same time remember the
gist of the argument to be produced? He did take off his hat, and was
of course made hotter and more confused by doing so. 'What he said was
all wrong,' continued Melmotte; 'and I should have thought a man out
of the City, like Mr Brown, ought to have known better.' Then there
were repeated calls of order, and a violent ebullition of laughter
from both sides of the House. The man stood for a while glaring around
him, summoning his own pluck for a renewal of his attack on Mr Brown,
determined that he would be appalled and put down neither by the
ridicule of those around him, nor by his want of familiarity with the
place; but still utterly unable to find words with which to carry on
the combat. 'I ought to know something about it,' said Melmotte
sitting down and hiding his indignation and his shame under his hat.
'We are sure that the honourable member for Westminster does
understand the subject,' said the leader of the House, 'and we shall
be very glad to hear his remarks. The House I am sure will pardon
ignorance of its rules in so young a member.'
But Mr Melmotte would not rise again. He had made a great effort, and
had at any rate exhibited his courage. Though they might all say that
he had not displayed much eloquence, they would be driven to admit
that he had not been ashamed to show himself. He kept his seat till
the regular stampede was made for dinner, and then walked out with as
stately a demeanour as he could assume.
'Well, that was plucky!' said Cohenlupe, taking his friend's arm in
'I don't see any pluck in it. That old fool Brown didn't know what he
was talking about, and I wanted to tell them so. They wouldn't let me
do it, and there's an end of it. It seems to me to be a stupid sort of
'Has Longestaffe's money been paid?' said Cohenlupe opening his black
eyes while he looked up into his friend's face.
'Don't you trouble your head about Longestaffe, or his money either,'
said Melmotte, getting into his brougham; 'do you leave Mr Longestaffe
and his money to me. I hope you are not such a fool as to be scared by
what the other fools say. When men play such a game as you and I are
concerned in, they ought to know better than to be afraid of every
word that is spoken.'
'Oh, dear; yes,' said Cohenlupe apologetically. 'You don't suppose
that I am afraid of anything.' But at that moment Mr Cohenlupe was
meditating his own escape from the dangerous shores of England, and
was trying to remember what happy country still was left in which an
order from the British police would have no power to interfere with
the comfort of a retired gentleman such as himself.
That evening Madame Melmotte told her husband that Marie was now
willing to marry Lord Nidderdale;--but she did not say anything as
to the crossing-sweeper or the black footman, nor did she allude to
Marie's threat of the sort of life she would lead her husband.
CHAPTER LXX - SIR FELIX MEDDLES WITH MANY MATTERS
There is no duty more certain or fixed in the world than that which
calls upon a brother to defend his sister from ill-usage; but, at the
same time, in the way we live now, no duty is more difficult, and we
may say generally more indistinct. The ill-usage to which men's
sisters are most generally exposed is one which hardly admits of
either protection or vengeance,--although the duty of protecting and
avenging is felt and acknowledged. We are not allowed to fight duels,
and that banging about of another man with a stick is always
disagreeable and seldom successful. A John Crumb can do it, perhaps,
and come out of the affair exulting; but not a Sir Felix Carbury, even
if the Sir Felix of the occasion have the requisite courage. There is
a feeling, too, when a girl has been jilted,--thrown over, perhaps, is
the proper term,--after the gentleman has had the fun of making love to
her for an entire season, and has perhaps even been allowed privileges
as her promised husband, that the less said the better. The girl does
not mean to break her heart for love of the false one, and become the
tragic heroine of a tale for three months. It is her purpose again to
--trick her beams, and with new-spangled ore
Flame in the forehead of the morning sky.
Though this one has been false, as were perhaps two or three before,
still the road to success is open. Uno avulso non deficit alter. But
if all the notoriety of cudgels and cutting whips be given to the late
unfortunate affair, the difficulty of finding a substitute will be
greatly increased. The brother recognizes his duty, and prepares for
vengeance. The injured one probably desires that she may be left to
fight her own little battles alone.
'Then, by heaven, he shall answer it to me,' Sir Felix had said very
grandly, when his sister had told him that she was engaged to a man
who was, as he thought he knew, engaged also to marry another woman.
Here, no doubt, was gross ill-usage, and opportunity at any rate for
threats. No money was required and no immediate action,--and Sir Felix
could act the fine gentleman and the dictatorial brother at very
little present expense. But Hetta, who ought perhaps to have known her
brother more thoroughly, was fool enough to believe him. On the day
but one following, no answer had as yet come from Roger Carbury,--nor
could as yet have come. But Hetta's mind was full of her trouble, and
she remembered her brother's threat. Felix had forgotten that he had
made a threat,--and, indeed, had thought no more of the matter since
his interview with his sister.
'Felix,' she said, 'you won't mention that to Mr Montague!'
'Mention what? Oh! about that woman, Mrs Hurtle? Indeed I shall. A man
who does that kind of thing ought to be crushed;--and, by heavens, if
he does it to you, he shall be crushed.'
'I want to tell you, Felix. If it is so, I will see him no more.'
'If it is so! I tell you I know it.'
'Mamma has written to Roger. At least I feel sure she has.'
'What has she written to him for? What has Roger Carbury to do with
'Only you said he knew! If he says so, that is, if you and he both say
that he is to marry that woman,--I will not see Mr Montague again. Pray
do not go to him. If such a misfortune does come, it is better to bear
it and to be silent. What good can be done?'
'Leave that to me,' said Sir Felix, walking out of the room with much
fraternal bluster. Then he went forth, and at once had himself driven
to Paul Montague's lodgings. Had Hetta not been foolish enough to
remind him of his duty, he would not now have undertaken the task. He
too, no doubt, remembered as he went that duels were things of the
past, and that even fists and sticks are considered to be out of
fashion. 'Montague,' he said, assuming all the dignity of demeanour
that his late sorrows had left to him, 'I believe I am right in saying
that you are engaged to marry that American lady, Mrs Hurtle.'
'Then let me tell you that you were never more wrong in your life.
What business have you with Mrs Hurtle?'
'When a man proposes to my sister, I think I've a great deal of
business,' said Sir Felix.
'Well;--yes; I admit that fully. If I answered you roughly, I beg your
pardon. Now as to the facts. I am not going to marry Mrs Hurtle. I
suppose I know how you have heard her name;--but as you have heard it,
I have no hesitation in telling you so much. As you know where she is
to be found you can go and ask her if you please. On the other hand,
it is the dearest wish of my heart to marry your sister. I trust that
will be enough for you.'
'You were engaged to Mrs Hurtle?'
'My dear Carbury, I don't think I'm bound to tell you all the details
of my past life. At any rate, I don't feel inclined to do so in answer
to hostile questions. I dare say you have heard enough of Mrs Hurtle
to justify you, as your sister's brother, in asking me whether I am in
any way entangled by a connection with her. I tell you that I am not.
If you still doubt, I refer you to the lady herself. Beyond that, I do
not think I am called on to go; and beyond that I won't go,--at any
rate, at present.' Sir Felix still blustered, and made what capital he
could out of his position as a brother; but he took no steps towards
positive revenge. 'Of course, Carbury,' said the other, 'I wish to
regard you as a brother; and if I am rough to you, it is only because
you are rough to me.'
Sir Felix was now in that part of town which he had been accustomed to
haunt,--for the first time since his misadventure,--and, plucking up
his courage, resolved that he would turn into the Beargarden. He would
have a glass of sherry, and face the one or two men who would as yet
be there, and in this way gradually creep back to his old habits. But
when he arrived there, the club was shut up. 'What the deuce is
Vossner about?' said he, pulling out his watch. It was nearly five
o'clock. He rang the bell, and knocked at the door, feeling that this
was an occasion for courage. One of the servants, in what we may call
private clothes, after some delay, drew back the bolts, and told him
the astounding news;--The club was shut up! 'Do you mean to say I can't
come in?' said Sir Felix. The man certainly did mean to tell him so,
for he opened the door no more than a foot, and stood in that narrow
aperture. Mr Vossner had gone away. There had been a meeting of the
Committee, and the club was shut up. Whatever further information
rested in the waiter's bosom he declined to communicate to Sir Felix
'By George!' The wrong that was done him filled the young baronet's
bosom with indignation. He had intended, he assured himself, to dine
at his club, to spend the evening there sportively, to be pleasant
among his chosen companions. And now the club was shut up, and Vossner
had gone away! What business had the club to be shut up? What right
had Vossner to go away? Had he not paid his subscription in advance?
Throughout the world, the more wrong a man does, the more indignant is
he at wrong done to him. Sir Felix almost thought that he could
recover damages from the whole Committee.
He went direct to Mrs Pipkin's house. When he made that half promise
of marriage in Mrs Pipkin's hearing, he had said that he would come
again on the morrow. This he had not done; but of that he thought
nothing. Such breaches of faith, when committed by a young man in his
position, require not even an apology. He was admitted by Ruby herself
who was of course delighted to see him. 'Who do you think is in town?'
she said. 'John Crumb; but though he came here ever so smart, I
wouldn't so much as speak to him, except to tell him to go away.' Sir
Felix, when he heard the name, felt an uncomfortable sensation creep
over him. 'I don't know I'm sure what he should come after me for, and
me telling him as plain as the nose on his face that I never want to
see him again.'
'He's not of much account,' said the baronet.
'He would marry me out and out immediately, if I'd have him,'
continued Ruby, who perhaps thought that her honest old lover should
not be spoken of as being altogether of no account. 'And he has
everything comfortable in the way of furniture, and all that. And they
do say he's ever so much money in the bank. But I detest him,' said
Ruby, shaking her pretty head, and inclining herself towards her
aristocratic lover's shoulder.
This took place in the back parlour, before Mrs Pipkin had ascended
from the kitchen prepared to disturb so much romantic bliss with
wretched references to the cold outer world. 'Well, now, Sir Felix,'
she began, 'if things is square, of course you're welcome to see my
'And what if they're round, Mrs Pipkin?' said the gallant, careless,
'Well, or round either, so long as they're honest.'
'Ruby and I are both honest;--ain't we, Ruby? I want to take her out
to dinner, Mrs Pipkin. She shall be back before late;--before ten; she
shall indeed.' Ruby inclined herself still more closely towards his
shoulder. 'Come, Ruby, get your hat and change your dress, and we'll
be off. I've ever so many things to tell you.'
Ever so many things to tell her! They must be to fix a day for the
marriage, and to let her know where they were to live, and to settle
what dress she should wear,--and perhaps to give her the money to go
and buy it! Ever so many things to tell her! She looked up into Mrs
Pipkin's face with imploring eyes. Surely on such an occasion as this
an aunt would not expect that her niece should be a prisoner and a
slave. 'Have it been put in writing, Sir Felix Carbury?' demanded Mrs
Pipkin with cruel gravity. Mrs Hurtle had given it as her decided
opinion that Sir Felix would not really mean to marry Ruby Ruggles
unless he showed himself willing to do so with all the formality of a
'Writing be bothered,' said Sir Felix.
'That's all very well, Sir Felix. Writing do bother, very often. But
when a gentleman has intentions, a bit of writing shows it plainer nor
words. Ruby don't go nowhere to dine unless you puts it into writing.'
'Aunt Pipkin!' exclaimed the wretched Ruby.
'What do you think I'm going to do with her?' asked Sir Felix.
'If you want to make her your wife, put it in writing. And if it be as
you don't, just say so, and walk away,--free.'
'I shall go,' said Ruby. 'I'm not going to be kept here a prisoner for
any one. I can go when I please. You wait, Felix, and I'll be down in
a minute.' The girl, with a nimble spring, ran upstairs, and began to
change her dress without giving herself a moment for thought.
'She don't come back no more here, Sir Felix,' said Mrs Pipkin, in her
most solemn tones. 'She ain't nothing to me, no more than she was my
poor dear husband's sister's child. There ain't no blood between us,
and won't be no disgrace. But I'd be loth to see her on the streets.'
'Then why won't you let me bring her back again?'
''Cause that'd be the way to send her there. You don't mean to marry
her.' To this Sir Felix said nothing. 'You're not thinking of that.
It's just a bit of sport,--and then there she is, an old shoe to be
chucked away, just a rag to be swept into the dust-bin. I've seen
scores of 'em, and I'd sooner a child of mine should die in a workus',
or be starved to death. But it's all nothing to the likes o' you.'
'I haven't done her any harm,' said Sir Felix, almost frightened.
'Then go away, and don't do her any. That's Mrs Hurtle's door open.
You go and speak to her. She can talk a deal better nor me.'
'Mrs Hurtle hasn't been able to manage her own affairs very well.'
'Mrs Hurtle's a lady, Sir Felix, and a widow, and one as has seen the
world.' As she spoke, Mrs Hurtle came downstairs, and an introduction,
after some rude fashion, was effected between her and Sir Felix. Mrs
Hurtle had heard often of Sir Felix Carbury, and was quite as certain
as Mrs Pipkin that he did not mean to marry Ruby Ruggles. In a few
minutes Felix found himself alone with Mrs Hurtle in her own room. He
had been anxious to see the woman since he had heard of her engagement
with Paul Montague, and doubly anxious since he had also heard of
Paul's engagement with his sister. It was not an hour since Paul
himself had referred him to her for corroboration of his own
'Sir Felix Carbury,' she said, 'I am afraid you are doing that poor
girl no good, and are intending to do her none.' It did occur to him
very strongly that this could be no affair of Mrs Hurtle's, and that
he, as a man of position in society, was being interfered with in an
unjustifiable manner. Aunt Pipkin wasn't even an aunt; but who was Mrs
Hurtle? 'Would it not be better that you should leave her to become
the wife of a man who is really fond of her?'
He could already see something in Mrs Hurtle's eye which prevented his
at once bursting into wrath;--but! who was Mrs Hurtle, that she should
interfere with him? 'Upon my word, ma'am,' he said, 'I'm very much
obliged to you, but I don't quite know to what I owe the honour of
'Interference you mean.'
'I didn't say so, but perhaps that's about it.'
'I'd interfere to save any woman that God ever made,' said Mrs Hurtle
with energy. 'We're all apt to wait a little too long, because we're
ashamed to do any little good that chance puts in our way. You must go
and leave her, Sir Felix.'
'I suppose she may do as she pleases about that.'
'Do you mean to make her your wife?' asked Mrs Hurtle sternly.
'Does Mr Paul Montague mean to make you his wife?' rejoined Sir Felix
with an impudent swagger. He had struck the blow certainly hard
enough, and it had gone all the way home. She had not surmised that he
would have heard aught of her own concerns. She only barely connected
him with that Roger Carbury who, she knew, was Paul's great friend,
and she had as yet never heard that Hetta Carbury was the girl whom
Paul loved. Had Paul so talked about her that this young scamp should
know all her story?
She thought awhile,--she had to think for a moment,--before she could
answer him. 'I do not see,' she said, with a faint attempt at a smile,
'that there is any parallel between the two cases. I, at any rate, am
old enough to take care of myself. Should he not marry me, I am as I
was before. Will it be so with that poor girl if she allows herself to
be taken about the town by you at night?' She had desired in what she
said to protect Ruby rather than herself. What could it matter whether
this young man was left in a belief that she was, or that she was not,
about to be married?
'If you'll answer me, I'll answer you,' said Sir Felix. 'Does Mr
Montague mean to make you his wife?'
'It does not concern you to know,' said she, flashing upon him. 'The
question is insolent.'
'It does concern me,--a great deal more than anything about Ruby can
concern you. And as you won't answer me, I won't answer you.'
'Then, sir, that girl's fate will be upon your head.'
'I know all about that,' said the baronet.
'And the young man who has followed her up to town will probably know
where to find you,' added Mrs Hurtle.
To such a threat as this, no answer could be made, and Sir Felix left
the room. At any rate, John Crumb was not there at present. And were
there not policemen in London? And what additional harm would be done
to John Crumb, or what increase of danger engendered in that true
lover's breast, by one additional evening's amusement? Ruby had danced
with him so often at the Music Hall that John Crumb could hardly be
made more bellicose by the fact of her dining with him on this
evening. When he descended, he found Ruby in the hall, all arrayed.
'You don't come in here again to-night,' said Mrs Pipkin, thumping the
little table which stood in the passage, 'if you goes out of that
there door with that there young man.'
'Then I shall,' said Ruby linking herself on to her lover's arm.
'Baggage! Slut!' said Mrs Pipkin; 'after all I've done for you, just
as one as though you were my own flesh and blood.'
'I've worked for it, I suppose;--haven't I?' rejoined Ruby.
'You send for your things to-morrow, for you don't come in here no
more. You ain't nothing to me no more nor no other girl. But I'd 've
saved you, if you'd but a' let me. As for you,'--and she looked at Sir
Felix,--'only because I've lodgings to let, and because of the lady
upstairs, I'd shake you that well, you'd never come here no more after
poor girls.' I do not think that she need have feared any remonstrance
from Mrs Hurtle, even had she put her threat into execution.
Sir Felix, thinking that he had had enough of Mrs Pipkin and her
lodger, left the house with Ruby on his arm. For the moment, Ruby had
been triumphant, and was happy. She did not stop to consider whether
her aunt would or would not open her door when she should return
tired, and perhaps repentant. She was on her lover's arm, in her best
clothes, and going out to have a dinner given to her. And her lover
had told her that he had ever so many things,--ever so many things to
say to her! But she would ask no impertinent questions in the first
hour of her bliss. It was so pleasant to walk with him up to
Pentonville;--so joyous to turn into a gay enclosure, half public-house
and half tea-garden; so pleasant to hear him order the good things,
which in his company would be so nice! Who cannot understand that even
an urban Rosherville must be an Elysium to those who have lately been
eating their meals in all the gloom of a small London underground
kitchen? There we will leave Ruby in her bliss.
At about nine that evening John Crumb called at Mrs Pipkin's, and was
told that Ruby had gone out with Sir Felix Carbury. He hit his leg a
blow with his fist, and glared out of his eyes. 'He'll have it hot
some day,' said John Crumb. He was allowed to remain waiting for Ruby
till midnight, and then, with a sorrowful heart, he took his
CHAPTER LXXI - JOHN CRUMB FALLS INTO TROUBLE
It was on a Friday evening, an inauspicious Friday, that poor Ruby
Ruggles had insisted on leaving the security of her Aunt Pipkin's
house with her aristocratic and vicious lover, in spite of the
positive assurance made to her by Mrs Pipkin that if she went forth in
such company she should not be allowed to return. 'Of course you must
let her in,' Mrs Hurtle had said soon after the girl's departure.
Whereupon Mrs Pipkin had cried. She knew her own softness too well to
suppose it to be possible that she could keep the girl out in the
streets all night; but yet it was hard upon her, very hard, that she
should be so troubled. 'We usen't to have our ways like that when I
was young,' she said, sobbing. What was to be the end of it? Was she
to be forced by circumstances to keep the girl always there, let the
girl's conduct be what it might? Nevertheless she acknowledged that
Ruby must be let in when she came back. Then, about nine o'clock, John
Crumb came; and the latter part of the evening was more melancholy
even than the first. It was impossible to conceal the truth from John
Crumb. Mrs Hurtle saw the poor man and told the story in Mrs Pipkin's
'She's headstrong, Mr Crumb,' said Mrs Hurtle.
'She is that, ma'am. And it was along wi' the baronite she went?'
'It was so, Mr Crumb.'
'Baro-nite! Well;--perhaps I shall catch him some of these days;--went
to dinner wi' him, did she? Didn't she have no dinner here?'
Then Mrs Pipkin spoke up with a keen sense of offence. Ruby Ruggles
had had as wholesome a dinner as any young woman in London,--a
bullock's heart and potatoes,--just as much as ever she had pleased to
eat of it. Mrs Pipkin could tell Mr Crumb that there was 'no starvation
nor yet no stint in her house.' John Crumb immediately produced a very
thick and admirably useful blue cloth cloak, which he had brought up
with him to London from Bungay, as a present to the woman who had been
good to his Ruby. He assured her that he did not doubt that her victuals
were good and plentiful, and went on to say that he had made bold to
bring her a trifle out of respect. It was some little time before Mrs
Pipkin would allow herself to be appeased;--but at last she permitted
the garment to be placed on her shoulders. But it was done after a
melancholy fashion. There was no smiling consciousness of the bestowal
of joy on the countenance of the donor as he gave it, no exuberance of
thanks from the recipient as she received it. Mrs Hurtle, standing by,
declared it to be perfect;--but the occasion was one which admitted of
no delight. 'It's very good of you, Mr Crumb, to think of an old woman
like me,--particularly when you've such a deal of trouble with a young
'It's like the smut in the wheat, Mrs Pipkin, or the d'sease in the
'tatoes;--it has to be put up with, I suppose. Is she very partial,
ma'am, to that young baronite?' This question was asked of Mrs Hurtle.
'Just a fancy for the time, Mr Crumb,' said the lady.
'They never thinks as how their fancies may wellnigh half kill a man!'
Then he was silent for a while, sitting back in his chair, not moving
a limb, with his eyes fastened on Mrs Pipkin's ceiling. Mrs Hurtle had
some work in her hand, and sat watching him. The man was to her an
extraordinary being,--so constant, so slow, so unexpressive, so unlike
her own countrymen,--willing to endure so much, and at the same time so
warm in his affections! 'Sir Felix Carbury!' he said. 'I'll Sir Felix
him some of these days. If it was only dinner, wouldn't she be back
afore this, ma'am?'
'I suppose they've gone to some place of amusement,' said Mrs Hurtle.
'Like enough,' said John Crumb in a low voice.
'She's that mad after dancing as never was,' said Mrs Pipkin.
'And where is it as 'em dances?' asked Crumb, getting up from his
chair, and stretching himself. It was evident to both the ladies that
he was beginning to think that he would follow Ruby to the music hall.
Neither of them answered him, however, and then he sat down again.
'Does 'em dance all night at them places, Mrs Pipkin?'
'They do pretty nearly all that they oughtn't to do,' said Mrs Pipkin.
John Crumb raised one of his fists, brought it down heavily on the
palm of his other hand, and then sat silent for awhile.
'I never knowed as she was fond o' dancing,' he said. 'I'd a had
dancing for her down at Bungay,--just as ready as anything. D'ye
think, ma'am, it's the dancing she's after, or the baro-nite?' This
was another appeal to Mrs Hurtle.
'I suppose they go together,' said the lady.
Then there was another long pause, at the end of which poor John Crumb
burst out with some violence. 'Domn him! Domn him! What 'ad I ever dun
to him? Nothing! Did I ever interfere wi' him? Never! But I wull. I
wull. I wouldn't wonder but I'll swing for this at Bury!'
'Oh, Mr Crumb, don't talk like that,' said Mrs Pipkin.
'Mr Crumb is a little disturbed, but he'll get over it presently,'
said Mrs Hurtle.
'She's a nasty slut to go and treat a young man as she's treating
you,' said Mrs Pipkin.
'No, ma'am;--she ain't nasty,' said the lover. 'But she's crou'll,--
horrid crou'll. It's no more use my going down about meal and pollard,
nor business, and she up here with that baro-nite,--no, no more nor
nothin'! When I handles it I don't know whether its middlings nor
nothin' else. If I was to twist his neck, ma'am, would you take it on
yourself to say as I was wrong?'
'I'd sooner hear that you had taken the girl away from him,' said Mrs
'I could pretty well eat him,--that's what I could. Half past eleven;
is it? She must come some time, mustn't she?' Mrs Pipkin, who did not
want to burn candles all night long, declared that she could give no
assurance on that head. If Ruby did come, she should, on that night,
be admitted. But Mrs Pipkin thought that it would be better to get up
and let her in than to sit up for her. Poor Mr Crumb did not at once
take the hint, and remained there for another half-hour, saying
little, but waiting with the hope that Ruby might come. But when the
clock struck twelve he was told that he must go. Then he slowly
collected his limbs and dragged them out of the house.
'That young man is a good fellow,' said Mrs Hurtle as soon as the door
'A deal too good for Ruby Ruggles,' said Mrs Pipkin. 'And he can
maintain a wife. Mr Carbury says as he's as well to do as any
tradesman down in them parts.'
Mrs Hurtle disliked the name of Mr Carbury, and took this last
statement as no evidence in John Crumb's favour. 'I don't know that I
think better of the man for having Mr Carbury's friendship,' she said.
'Mr Carbury ain't any way like his cousin, Mrs Hurtle.'
'I don't think much of any of the Carburys, Mrs Pipkin. It seems to me
that everybody here is either too humble or too overbearing. Nobody
seems content to stand firm on his own footing and interfere with
nobody else.' This was all Greek to poor Mrs Pipkin. 'I suppose we may
as well go to bed now. When that girl comes and knocks, of course we
must let her in. If I hear her, I'll go down and open the door for
Mrs Pipkin made very many apologies to her lodger for the condition of
her household. She would remain up herself to answer the door at the
first sound, so that Mrs Hurtle should not be disturbed. She would do
her best to prevent any further annoyance. She trusted Mrs Hurtle
would see that she was endeavouring to do her duty by the naughty
wicked girl. And then she came round to the point of her discourse.
She hoped that Mrs Hurtle would not be induced to quit the rooms by
these disagreeable occurrences. 'I don't mind saying it now, Mrs
Hurtle, but your being here is ever so much to me. I ain't nothing to
depend on,--only lodgers, and them as is any good is so hard to get!'
The poor woman hardly understood Mrs Hurtle, who, as a lodger, was
certainly peculiar. She cared nothing for disturbances, and rather
liked than otherwise the task of endeavouring to assist in the
salvation of Ruby. Mrs Hurtle begged that Mrs Pipkin would go to bed.
She would not be in the least annoyed by the knocking. Another
half-hour had thus been passed by the two ladies in the parlour after
Crumb's departure. Then Mrs Hurtle took her candle and had ascended
the stairs half way to her own sitting-room, when a loud double knock
was heard. She immediately joined Mrs Pipkin in the passage. The door
was opened, and there stood Ruby Ruggles, John Crumb, and two
policemen! Ruby rushed in, and casting herself on to one of the stairs
began to throw her hands about, and to howl piteously. 'Laws a mercy;
what is it?' asked Mrs Pipkin.
'He's been and murdered him!' screamed Ruby. 'He has! He's been and
'This young woman is living here;--is she?' asked one of the
'She is living here,' said Mrs Hurtle. But now we must go back to the
adventures of John Crumb after he had left the house.
He had taken a bedroom at a small inn close to the Eastern Counties
Railway Station which he was accustomed to frequent when business
brought him up to London, and thither he proposed to himself to
return. At one time there had come upon him an idea that he would
endeavour to seek Ruby and his enemy among the dancing saloons of the
metropolis; and he had asked a question with that view. But no answer
had been given which seemed to aid him in his project, and his purpose
had been abandoned as being too complex and requiring more
intelligence than he gave himself credit for possessing. So he had
turned down a street with which he was so far acquainted as to know
that it would take him to the Islington Angel,--where various roads
meet, and whence he would know his way eastwards. He had just passed
the Angel, and the end of Goswell Road, and was standing with his
mouth open, looking about, trying to make certain of himself that he
would not go wrong, thinking that he would ask a policeman whom he
saw, and hesitating because he feared that the man would want to know
his business. Then, of a sudden, he heard a woman scream, and knew
that it was Ruby's voice. The sound was very near him, but in the
glimmer of the gaslight he could not quite see whence it came. He
stood still, putting his hand up to scratch his head under his hat,--
trying to think what, in such an emergency, it would be well that he
should do. Then he heard the voice distinctly, 'I won't;--I won't,'
and after that a scream. Then there were further words. 'It's no good
--I won't.' At last he was able to make up his mind. He rushed after
the sound, and turning down a passage to the right which led back into
Goswell Road, saw Ruby struggling in a man's arms. She had left the
dancing establishment with her lover; and when they had come to the
turn of the passage, there had arisen a question as to her further
destiny for the night. Ruby, though she well remembered Mrs Pipkin's
threats, was minded to try her chance at her aunt's door. Sir Felix
was of opinion that he could make a preferable arrangement for her;
and as Ruby was not at once amenable to his arguments he had thought
that a little gentle force might avail him. He had therefore dragged
Ruby into the passage. The unfortunate one! That so ill a chance
should have come upon him in the midst of his diversion! He had
swallowed several tumblers of brandy and water, and was therefore
brave with reference to that interference of the police, the fear of
which might otherwise have induced him to relinquish his hold of
Ruby's arm when she first raised her voice. But what amount of brandy
and water would have enabled him to persevere, could he have dreamed
that John Crumb was near him? On a sudden he found a hand on his coat,
and he was swung violently away, and brought with his back against the
railings so forcibly as to have the breath almost knocked out of his
body. But he could hear Ruby's exclamation, 'If it isn't John Crumb!'
Then there came upon him a sense of coming destruction, as though the
world for him were all over; and, collapsing throughout his limbs, he
slunk down upon the ground.
'Get up, you wiper,' said John Crumb. But the baronet thought it
better to cling to the ground. 'You sholl get up,' said John, taking
him by the collar of his coat and lifting him. 'Now, Ruby, he's
a-going to have it,' said John. Whereupon Ruby screamed at the top of
her voice, with a shriek very much louder than that which had at first
attracted John Crumb's notice.
'Don't hit a man when he's down,' said the baronet, pleading as though
for his life.
'I wunt,' said John;--'but I'll hit a fellow when un's up.' Sir Felix
was little more than a child in the man's arms. John Crumb raised him,
and catching him round the neck with his left arm,--getting his head
into chancery as we used to say when we fought at school,--struck the
poor wretch some half-dozen times violently in the face, not knowing
or caring exactly where he hit him, but at every blow obliterating a
feature. And he would have continued had not Ruby flown at him and
rescued Sir Felix from his arms. 'He's about got enough of it,' said
John Crumb as he gave over his work. Then Sir Felix fell again to the
ground, moaning fearfully. 'I know'd he'd have to have it,' said John
Ruby's screams of course brought the police, one arriving from each
end of the passage on the scene of action at the same time. And now
the cruellest thing of all was that Ruby in the complaints which she
made to the policemen said not a word against Sir Felix, but was as
bitter as she knew how to be in her denunciations of John Crumb. It
was in vain that John endeavoured to make the man understand that the
young woman had been crying out for protection when he had interfered.
Ruby was very quick of speech and John Crumb was very slow. Ruby swore
that nothing so horrible, so cruel, so bloodthirsty had ever been done
before. Sir Felix himself when appealed to could say nothing. He could
only moan and make futile efforts to wipe away the stream of blood
from his face when the men stood him up leaning against the railings.
And John, though he endeavoured to make the policemen comprehend the
extent of the wickedness of the young baronet, would not say a word
against Ruby. He was not even in the least angered by her
denunciations of himself. As he himself said sometimes afterwards, he
had 'dropped into the baronite' just in time, and, having been
successful in this, felt no wrath against Ruby for having made such an
There was soon a third policeman on the spot, and a dozen other
persons, cab-drivers, haunters of the street by night, and houseless
wanderers, casuals who at this season of the year preferred the
pavements to the poorhouse wards. They all took part against John
Crumb. Why had the big man interfered between the young woman and her
young man? Two or three of them wiped Sir Felix's face, and dabbed his
eyes, and proposed this and the other remedy. Some thought that he had
better be taken straight to an hospital. One lady remarked that he was
so mashed and mauled that she was sure he would never 'come to'
again. A precocious youth remarked that he was 'all one as a dead
un'.' A cabman observed that he had ''ad it awful 'eavy.' To all these
criticisms on his condition Sir Felix himself made no direct reply,
but he intimated his desire to be carried away somewhere, though he did
not much care whither.
At last the policemen among them decided upon a course of action. They
had learned by the united testimony of Ruby and Crumb that Sir Felix
was Sir Felix. He was to be carried in a cab by one constable to
Bartholomew Hospital, who would then take his address so that he might
be produced and bound over to prosecute. Ruby should be even conducted
to the address she gave,--not half a mile from the spot on which they
now stood,--and be left there or not according to the account which
might be given of her. John Crumb must be undoubtedly locked up in the
station-house. He was the offender;--for aught that any of them yet
knew, the murderer. No one said a good word for him. He hardly said a
good word for himself, and certainly made no objection to the
treatment that had been proposed for him. But, no doubt, he was buoyed
up inwardly by the conviction that he had thoroughly thrashed his
Thus it came to pass that the two policemen with John Crumb and Ruby
came together to Mrs Pipkin's door. Ruby was still loud with
complaints against the ruffian who had beaten her lover,--who, perhaps,
had killed her loved one. She threatened the gallows, and handcuffs,
and perpetual imprisonment, and an action for damages amidst her
lamentations. But from Mrs Hurtle the policemen did manage to learn
something of the truth. Oh yes;--the girl lived there and was--