Part 16 out of 19
face, but with nothing of a threat in his attitude or manner.
'Eh!' repeated Melmotte. Even though he might have saved himself from
all coming evils by a bold demeanour at that moment, he could not
assume it. But it all flashed upon him at a moment. Brehgert had seen
Croll after he, Melmotte, had left the City, had then discovered the
forgery, and had taken this way of sending back all the forged
documents. He had known Brehgert to be of all men who ever lived the
most good-natured, but he could hardly believe in pure good-nature
such as this. It seemed that the thunderbolt was not yet to fall.
'Mr Brehgert came to me,' continued Croll, 'because one signature was
wanting. It was very late, so I took them home with me. I said I'd
bring them to you in the morning.'
They both knew that he had forged the documents, Brehgert and Croll;
but how would that concern him, Melmotte, if these two friends had
resolved together that they would not expose him? He had desired to
get the documents back into his own hands, and here they were!
Melmotte's immediate trouble arose from the difficulty of speaking in
a proper manner to his own servant who had just detected him in
forgery. He couldn't speak. There were no words appropriate to such an
occasion. 'It vas a strong order, Mr Melmotte,' said Croll. Melmotte
tried to smile but only grinned. 'I vill not be back in the Lane, Mr
'Not back at the office, Croll?'
'I tink not;--no. De leetle money coming to me, you will send it.
Adieu.' And so Mr Croll took his final leave of his old master after
an intercourse which had lasted twenty years. We may imagine that Herr
Croll found his spirits to be oppressed and his capacity for business
to be obliterated by his patron's misfortunes rather than by his
patron's guilt. But he had not behaved unkindly. He had merely
remarked that the forgery of his own name half-a-dozen times over was
a 'strong order.'
Melmotte opened the bag, and examined the documents one by one. It had
been necessary that Marie should sign her name some half-dozen times,
and Marie's father had made all the necessary forgeries. It had been
of course necessary that each name should be witnessed;--but here the
forger had scamped his work. Croll's name he had written five times;
but one forged signature he had left unattested! Again he had himself
been at fault. Again he had aided his own ruin by his own
carelessness. One seems inclined to think sometimes that any fool
might do an honest business. But fraud requires a man to be alive and
wide awake at every turn!
Melmotte had desired to have the documents back in his own hands, and
now he had them. Did it matter much that Brehgert and Croll both knew
the crime which he had committed? Had they meant to take legal steps
against him they would not have returned the forgeries to his own
hands. Brehgert, he thought, would never tell the tale;--unless there
should arise some most improbable emergency in which he might make
money by telling it; but he was by no means so sure of Croll. Croll
had signified his intention of leaving Melmotte's service, and would
therefore probably enter some rival service, and thus become an enemy
to his late master. There could be no reason why Croll should keep the
secret. Even if he got no direct profit by telling it, he would curry
favour by making it known. Of course Croll would tell it.
But what harm could the telling of such a secret do him? The girl was
his own daughter! The money had been his own money! The man had been
his own servant! There had been no fraud; no robbery; no purpose of
peculation. Melmotte, as he thought of this, became almost proud of
what he had done, thinking that if the evidence were suppressed the
knowledge of the facts could do him no harm. But the evidence must be
suppressed, and with the view of suppressing it he took the little bag
and all the papers down with him to the study. Then he ate his
breakfast,--and suppressed the evidence by the aid of his gas lamp.
When this was accomplished he hesitated as to the manner in which he
would pass his day. He had now given up all idea of raising the money
for Longestaffe. He had even considered the language in which he would
explain to the assembled gentlemen on the morrow the fact that a
little difficulty still presented itself, and that as he could not
exactly name a day, he must leave the matter in their hands. For he
had resolved that he would not evade the meeting. Cohenlupe had gone
since he had made his promise, and he would throw all the blame on
Cohenlupe. Everybody knows that when panics arise the breaking of one
merchant causes the downfall of another. Cohenlupe should bear the
burden. But as that must be so, he could do no good by going into the
City. His pecuniary downfall had now become too much a matter of
certainty to be staved off by his presence; and his personal security
could hardly be assisted by it. There would be nothing for him to do.
Cohenlupe had gone. Miles Grendall had gone. Croll had gone. He could
hardly go to Cuthbert's Court and face Mr Brehgert! He would stay at
home till it was time for him to go down to the House, and then he
would face the world there. He would dine down at the House, and stand
about in the smoking-room with his hat on, and be visible in the
lobbies, and take his seat among his brother legislators,--and, if it
were possible, rise on his legs and make a speech to them. He was
about to have a crushing fall,--but the world should say that he had
fallen like a man.
About eleven his daughter came to him as he sat in the study. It can
hardly be said that he had ever been kind to Marie, but perhaps she
was the only person who in the whole course of his career had received
indulgence at his hands. He had often beaten her; but he had also
often made her presents and smiled on her, and in the periods of his
opulence, had allowed her pocket-money almost without limit. Now she
had not only disobeyed him, but by most perverse obstinacy on her part
had driven him to acts of forgery which had already been detected. He
had cause to be angry now with Marie if he had ever had cause for
anger. But he had almost forgotten the transaction. He had at any rate
forgotten the violence of his own feelings at the time of its
occurrence. He was no longer anxious that the release should be made,
and therefore no longer angry with her for her refusal.
'Papa,' she said, coming very gently into the room, 'I think that
perhaps I was wrong yesterday.'
'Of course you were wrong;--but it doesn't matter now.'
'If you wish it I'll sign those papers. I don't suppose Lord
Nidderdale means to come any more;--and I'm sure I don't care whether
he does or not.'
'What makes you think that, Marie?'
'I was out last night at Lady Julia Goldsheiner's, and he was there.
I'm sure he doesn't mean to come here any more.'
'Was he uncivil to you?'
'Oh dear no. He's never uncivil. But I'm sure of it. Never mind how. I
never told him that I cared for him and I never did care for him.
Papa, is there something going to happen?'
'What do you mean?'
'Some misfortune! Oh, papa, why didn't you let me marry that other
'He is a penniless adventurer.'
'But he would have had this money that I call my money, and then there
would have been enough for us all. Papa, he would marry me still if
you would let him.'
'Have you seen him since you went to Liverpool?'
'Or heard from him?'
'Not a line.'
'Then what makes you think he would marry you?'
'He would if I got hold of him and told him. And he is a baronet. And
there would be plenty of money for us all. And we could go and live in
'We could do that just as well without your marrying.'
'But I suppose, papa, I am to be considered as somebody. I don't want
after all to run away from London, just as if everybody had turned up
their noses at me. I like him, and I don't like anybody else.'
'He wouldn't take the trouble to go to Liverpool with you.'
'He got tipsy. I know all about that. I don't mean to say that he's
anything particularly grand. I don't know that anybody is very grand.
He's as good as anybody else.'
'It can't be done, Marie.'
'Why can't it be done?'
'There are a dozen reasons. Why should my money be given up to him?
And it is too late. There are other things to be thought of now than
'You don't want me to sign the papers?'
'No;--I haven't got the papers. But I want you to remember that the
money is mine and not yours. It may be that much may depend on you,
and that I shall have to trust to you for nearly everything. Do not
let me find myself deceived by my daughter.'
'I won't,--if you'll let me see Sir Felix Carbury once more.'
Then the father's pride again reasserted itself and he became angry.
'I tell you, you little fool, that it is out of the question. Why
cannot you believe me? Has your mother spoken to you about your
jewels? Get them packed up, so that you can carry them away in your
hand if we have to leave this suddenly. You are an idiot to think of
that young man. As you say, I don't know that any of them are very
good, but among them all he is about the worst. Go away and do as I
That afternoon the page in Welbeck Street came up to Lady Carbury and
told her that there was a young lady downstairs who wanted to see Sir
Felix. At this time the dominion of Sir Felix in his mother's house
had been much curtailed. His latch-key had been surreptitiously taken
away from him, and all messages brought for him reached his hands
through those of his mother. The plasters were not removed from his
face, so that he was still subject to that loss of self-assertion with
which we are told that hitherto dominant cocks become afflicted when
they have been daubed with mud. Lady Carbury asked sundry questions
about the lady, suspecting that Ruby Ruggles, of whom she had heard,
had come to seek her lover. The page could give no special
description, merely saying that the young lady wore a black veil. Lady
Carbury directed that the young lady should be shown into her own
presence,--and Marie Melmotte was ushered into the room. 'I dare say
you don't remember me, Lady Carbury,' Marie said. 'I am Marie
At first Lady Carbury had not recognized her visitor;--but she did so
before she replied. 'Yes, Miss Melmotte, I remember you.'
'Yes;--I am Mr Melmotte's daughter. How is your son? I hope he is
better. They told me he had been horribly used by a dreadful man in
'Sit down, Miss Melmotte. He is getting better.' Now Lady Carbury had
heard within the last two days from Mr Broune that 'it was all over'
with Melmotte. Broune had declared his very strong belief, his
thorough conviction, that Melmotte had committed various forgeries,
that his speculations had gone so much against him as to leave him a
ruined man, and, in short, that the great Melmotte bubble was on the
very point of bursting. 'Everybody says that he'll be in gaol before a
week is over.' That was the information which had reached Lady Carbury
about the Melmottes only on the previous evening.
'I want to see him,' said Marie. Lady Carbury, hardly knowing what
answer to make, was silent for a while. 'I suppose he told you
everything;--didn't he? You know that we were to have been married? I
loved him very much, and so I do still. I am not ashamed of coming and
'I thought it was all off,' said Lady Carbury.
'I never said so. Does he say so? Your daughter came to me and was
very good to me. I do so love her. She said that it was all over; but
perhaps she was wrong. It shan't be all over if he will be true.'
Lady Carbury was taken greatly by surprise. It seemed to her at the
moment that this young lady, knowing that her own father was ruined,
was looking out for another home, and was doing so with a considerable
amount of audacity. She gave Marie little credit either for affection
or for generosity; but yet she was unwilling to answer her roughly. 'I
am afraid,' she said, 'that it would not be suitable.'
'Why should it not be suitable? They can't take my money away. There
is enough for all of us even if papa wanted to live with us;--but it is
mine. It is ever so much;--I don't know how much, but a great deal. We
should be quite rich enough. I ain't a bit ashamed to come and tell
you, because we were engaged. I know he isn't rich, and I should have
thought it would be suitable.'
It then occurred to Lady Carbury that if this were true the marriage
after all might be suitable. But how was she to find out whether it
was true? 'I understand that your papa is opposed to it,' she said.
'Yes, he is;--but papa can't prevent me, and papa can't make me give up
the money. It's ever so many thousands a year, I know. If I can dare
to do it, why can't he?'
Lady Carbury was so beside herself with doubts, that she found it
impossible to form any decision. It would be necessary that she should
see Mr Broune. What to do with her son, how to bestow him, in what way
to get rid of him so that in ridding herself of him she might not aid
in destroying him,--this was the great trouble of her life, the burden
that was breaking her back. Now this girl was not only willing but
persistently anxious to take her black sheep and to endow him,--as she
declared,--with ever so many thousands a year. If the thousands were
there,--or even an income of a single thousand a year,--then what a
blessing would such a marriage be! Sir Felix had already fallen so low
that his mother on his behalf would not be justified in declining a
connection with the Melmottes because the Melmottes had fallen. To get
any niche in the world for him in which he might live with comparative
safety would now be to her a heaven-sent comfort. 'My son is
upstairs,' she said. 'I will go up and speak to him.'
'Tell him I am here and that I have said that I will forgive him
everything, and that I love him still, and that if he will be true to
me, I will be true to him.'
'I couldn't go down to her,' said Sir Felix, 'with my face all in this
'I don't think she would mind that.'
'I couldn't do it. Besides, I don't believe about her money. I never
did believe it. That was the real reason why I didn't go to
'I think I would see her if I were you, Felix. We could find out to a
certainty about her fortune. It is evident at any rate that she is
very fond of you.'
'What's the use of that, if he is ruined?' He would not go down to see
the girl,--because he could not endure to expose his face, and was
ashamed of the wounds which he had received in the street. As regarded
the money he half-believed and half-disbelieved Marie's story. But the
fruition of the money, if it were within his reach, would be far off
and to be attained with much trouble; whereas the nuisance of a scene
with Marie would be immediate. How could he kiss his future bride,
with his nose bound up with a bandage?
'What shall I say to her?' asked his mother.
'She oughtn't to have come. I should tell her just that. You might
send the maid to her to tell her that you couldn't see her again.'
But Lady Carbury could not treat the girl after that fashion. She
returned to the drawing-room, descending the stairs very slowly, and
thinking what answer she would make. 'Miss Melmotte,' she said, 'my
son feels that everything has been so changed since he and you last
met, that nothing can be gained by a renewal of your acquaintance.'
'That is his message;--is it?' Lady Carbury remained silent. 'Then he
is indeed all that they have told me; and I am ashamed that I should
have loved him. I am ashamed;--not of coming here, although you will
think that I have run after him. I don't see why a girl should not run
after a man if they have been engaged together. But I'm ashamed of
thinking so much of so mean a person. Goodbye, Lady Carbury.'
'Good-bye, Miss Melmotte. I don't think you should be angry with me.'
'No;--no. I am not angry with you. You can forget me now as soon as you
please, and I will try to forget him.'
Then with a rapid step she walked back to Bruton Street, going round
by Grosvenor Square and in front of her old house on the way. What
should she now do with herself? What sort of life should she endeavour
to prepare for herself? The life that she had led for the last year
had been thoroughly wretched. The poverty and hardship which she
remembered in her early days had been more endurable. The servitude to
which she had been subjected before she had learned by intercourse
with the world to assert herself, had been preferable. In these days
of her grandeur, in which she had danced with princes, and seen an
emperor in her father's house, and been affianced to lords, she had
encountered degradation which had been abominable to her. She had
really loved;--but had found out that her golden idol was made of the
basest clay. She had then declared to herself that bad as the clay was
she would still love it;--but even the clay had turned away from her
and had refused her love!
She was well aware that some catastrophe was about to happen to her
father. Catastrophes had happened before, and she had been conscious
of their coming. But now the blow would be a very heavy blow. They
would again be driven to pack up and move and seek some other city,--
probably in some very distant part. But go where she might, she would
now be her own mistress. That was the one resolution she succeeded in
forming before she re-entered the house in Bruton Street.
CHAPTER LXXXIII - MELMOTTE AGAIN AT THE HOUSE
On that Thursday afternoon it was known everywhere that there was to
be a general ruin of all the Melmotte affairs. As soon as Cohenlupe
had gone, no man doubted. The City men who had not gone to the dinner
prided themselves on their foresight, as did also the politicians who
had declined to meet the Emperor of China at the table of the
suspected Financier. They who had got up the dinner and had been
instrumental in taking the Emperor to the house in Grosvenor Square,
and they also who had brought him forward at Westminster and had
fought his battle for him, were aware that they would have to defend
themselves against heavy attacks. No one now had a word to say in his
favour, or a doubt as to his guilt. The Grendalls had retired
altogether out of town, and were no longer even heard of. Lord Alfred
had not been seen since the day of the dinner. The Duchess of Albury,
too, went into the country some weeks earlier than usual, quelled, as
the world said, by the general Melmotte failure. But this departure
had not as yet taken place at the time at which we have now arrived.
When the Speaker took his seat in the House, soon after four o'clock,
there were a great many members present, and a general feeling
prevailed that the world was more than ordinarily alive because of
Melmotte and his failures. It had been confidently asserted throughout
the morning that he would be put upon his trial for forgery in
reference to the purchase of the Pickering property from Mr
Longestaffe, and it was known that he had not as yet shown himself
anywhere on this day. People had gone to look at the house in
Grosvenor Square,--not knowing that he was still living in Mr
Longestaffe's house in Bruton Street, and had come away with the
impression that the desolation of ruin and crime was already plainly
to be seen upon it. 'I wonder where he is,' said Mr Lupton to Mr
Beauchamp Beauclerk in one of the lobbies of the House.
'They say he hasn't been in the City all day. I suppose he's in
Longestaffe's house. That poor fellow has got it heavy all round. The
man has got his place in the country and his house in town. There's
Nidderdale. I wonder what he thinks about it all.'
'This is awful;--ain't it?' said Nidderdale.
'It might have been worse, I should say, as far as you are concerned,'
replied Mr Lupton.
'Well, yes. But I'll tell you what, Lupton. I don't quite understand
it all yet. Our lawyer said three days ago that the money was
'And Cohenlupe was certainly here three days ago,' said Lupton,--'but
he isn't here now. It seems to me that it has just happened in time
for you.' Lord Nidderdale shook his head and tried to look very grave.
'There's Brown,' said Sir Orlando Drought, hurrying up to the
commercial gentleman whose mistakes about finance Mr Melmotte on a
previous occasion had been anxious to correct. 'He'll be able to tell
us where he is. It was rumoured, you know, an hour ago, that he was
off to the continent after Cohenlupe.' But Mr Brown shook his head. Mr
Brown didn't know anything. But Mr Brown was very strongly of opinion
that the police would know all that there was to be known about Mr
Melmotte before this time on the following day. Mr Brown had been very
bitter against Melmotte since that memorable attack made upon him in
Even ministers as they sat to be badgered by the ordinary
question-mongers of the day were more intent upon Melmotte than upon
their own defence. 'Do you know anything about it?' asked the
Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Secretary of State for the Home
'I understand that no order has been given for his arrest. There is a
general opinion that he has committed forgery; but I doubt whether
they've got their evidence together.'
'He's a ruined man, I suppose,' said the Chancellor. 'I doubt whether
he ever was a rich man. But I'll tell you what;--he has been about
the grandest rogue we've seen yet. He must have spent over a hundred
thousand pounds during the last twelve months on his personal
expenses. I wonder how the Emperor will like it when he learns the
truth.' Another minister sitting close to the Secretary of State was
of opinion that the Emperor of China would not care half so much about
it as our own First Lord of the Treasury.
At this moment there came a silence over the House which was almost
audible. They who know the sensation which arises from the continued
hum of many suppressed voices will know also how plain to the ear is
the feeling caused by the discontinuance of the sound. Everybody
looked up, but everybody looked up in perfect silence. An
Under-Secretary of State had just got upon his legs to answer a most
indignant question as to an alteration of the colour of the facings of
a certain regiment, his prepared answer to which, however, was so
happy as to allow him to anticipate quite a little triumph. It is not
often that such a Godsend comes in the way of an under-secretary; and
he was intent upon his performance. But even he was startled into
momentary oblivion of his well-arranged point. Augustus Melmotte, the
member for Westminster, was walking up the centre of the House.
He had succeeded by this time in learning so much of the forms of the
House as to know what to do with his hat,--when to wear it, and when to
take it off,--and how to sit down. As he entered by the door facing the
Speaker, he wore his hat on the side of his head, as was his custom.
Much of the arrogance of his appearance had come from this habit,
which had been adopted probably from a conviction that it added
something to his powers of self-assertion. At this moment he was more
determined than ever that no one should trace in his outer gait or in
any feature of his face any sign of that ruin which, as he well knew,
all men were anticipating. Therefore, perhaps, his hat was a little
more cocked than usual, and the lapels of his coat were thrown back a
little wider, displaying the large jewelled studs which he wore in his
shirt; and the arrogance conveyed by his mouth and chin was specially
conspicuous. He had come down in his brougham, and as he had walked up
Westminster Hall and entered the House by the private door of the
members, and then made his way in across the great lobby and between
the doorkeepers,--no one had spoken a word to him. He had of course
seen many whom he had known. He had indeed known nearly all whom he had
seen;--but he had been aware, from the beginning of this enterprise of
the day, that men would shun him, and that he must bear their cold
looks and colder silence without seeming to notice them. He had
schooled himself to the task, and he was now performing it. It was not
only that he would have to move among men without being noticed, but
that he must endure to pass the whole evening in the same plight. But
he was resolved, and he was now doing it. He bowed to the Speaker with
more than usual courtesy, raising his hat with more than usual care,
and seated himself, as usual, on the third opposition-bench, but with
more than his usual fling. He was a big man, who always endeavoured to
make an effect by deportment, and was therefore customarily
conspicuous in his movements. He was desirous now of being as he was
always, neither more nor less demonstrative;--but, as a matter of
course, he exceeded; and it seemed to those who looked at him that
there was a special impudence in the manner in which he walked up the
House and took his seat. The Under-Secretary of State, who was on his
legs, was struck almost dumb, and his morsel of wit about the facings
was lost to Parliament for ever.
That unfortunate young man, Lord Nidderdale, occupied the seat next to
that on which Melmotte had placed himself. It had so happened three or
four times since Melmotte had been in the House, as the young lord,
fully intending to marry the Financier's daughter, had resolved that
he would not be ashamed of his father-in-law. He understood that
countenance of the sort which he as a young aristocrat could give to
the man of millions who had risen no one knew whence, was part of the
bargain in reference to the marriage, and he was gifted with a mingled
honesty and courage which together made him willing and able to carry
out his idea. He had given Melmotte little lessons as to ordinary
forms of the House, and had done what in him lay to earn the money
which was to be forthcoming. But it had become manifest both to him
and to his father during the last two days,--very painfully manifest to
his father,--that the thing must be abandoned. And if so,--then why
should he be any longer gracious to Melmotte? And, moreover, though he
had been ready to be courteous to a very vulgar and a very disagreeable
man, he was not anxious to extend his civilities to one who, as he was
now assured, had been certainly guilty of forgery. But to get up at
once and leave his seat because Melmotte had placed himself by his
side, did not suit the turn of his mind. He looked round to his
neighbour on the right with a half-comic look of misery, and then
prepared himself to bear his punishment, whatever it might be.
'Have you been up with Marie to-day?' said Melmotte.
'No;--I've not,' replied the lord.
'Why don't you go? She's always asking about you now. I hope we shall
be in our own house again next week, and then we shall be able to make
Could it be possible that the man did not know that all the world was
united in accusing him of forgery? 'I'll tell you what it is,' said
Nidderdale. 'I think you had better see my governor again, Mr
'There's nothing wrong, I hope.'
'Well;--I don't know. You'd better see him. I'm going now. I only just
came down to enter an appearance.' He had to cross Melmotte on his way
out, and as he did so Melmotte grasped him by the hand. 'Good night,
my boy,' said Melmotte quite aloud,--in a voice much louder than that
which members generally allow themselves for conversation. Nidderdale
was confused and unhappy; but there was probably not a man in the
House who did not understand the whole thing. He rushed down through
the gangway and out through the doors with a hurried step, and as he
escaped into the lobby he met Lionel Lupton, who, since his little
conversation with Mr Beauclerk, had heard further news.
'You know what has happened, Nidderdale?'
'About Melmotte, you mean?'
'Yes, about Melmotte,' continued Lupton. 'He has been arrested in his
own house within the last half-hour on a charge of forgery.'
'I wish he had,' said Nidderdale, 'with all my heart. If you go in
you'll find him sitting there as large as life. He has been talking to
me as though everything were all right.'
'Compton was here not a moment ago, and said that he had been taken
under a warrant from the Lord Mayor.'
'The Lord Mayor is a member and had better come and fetch his prisoner
himself. At any rate he's there. I shouldn't wonder if he wasn't on
his legs before long.'
Melmotte kept his seat steadily till seven, at which hour the House
adjourned till nine. He was one of the last to leave, and then with a
slow step,--with almost majestic steps,--he descended to the dining-room
and ordered his dinner. There were many men there, and some little
difficulty about a seat. No one was very willing to make room for him.
But at last he secured a place, almost jostling some unfortunate who
was there before him. It was impossible to expel him,--almost as
impossible to sit next him. Even the waiters were unwilling to serve
him;--but with patience and endurance he did at last get his dinner. He
was there in his right, as a member of the House of Commons, and there
was no ground on which such service as he required could be refused to
him. It was not long before he had the table all to himself. But of
this he took no apparent notice. He spoke loudly to the waiters and
drank his bottle of champagne with much apparent enjoyment. Since his
friendly intercourse with Nidderdale no one had spoken to him, nor had
he spoken to any man. They who watched him declared among themselves
that he was happy in his own audacity;--but in truth he was probably
at that moment the most utterly wretched man in London. He would have
better studied his personal comfort had he gone to his bed, and spent
his evening in groans and wailings. But even he, with all the world
now gone from him, with nothing before him but the extremest misery
which the indignation of offended laws could inflict, was able to
spend the last moments of his freedom in making a reputation at any
rate for audacity. It was thus that Augustus Melmotte wrapped his toga
around him before his death!
He went from the dining-room to the smoking-room, and there, taking
from his pocket a huge case which he always carried, proceeded to
light a cigar about eight inches long. Mr Brown, from the City, was in
the room, and Melmotte, with a smile and a bow, offered Mr Brown one
of the same. Mr Brown was a short, fat, round little man, over sixty,
who was always endeavouring to give to a somewhat commonplace set of
features an air of importance by the contraction of his lips and the
knitting of his brows. It was as good as a play to see Mr Brown
jumping back from any contact with the wicked one, and putting on a
double frown as he looked at the impudent sinner. 'You needn't think
so much, you know, of what I said the other night. I didn't mean any
offence.' So spoke Melmotte, and then laughed with a loud, hoarse
laugh, looking round upon the assembled crowd as though he were
enjoying his triumph.
He sat after that and smoked in silence. Once again he burst out into
a laugh, as though peculiarly amused with his own thoughts;--as though
he were declaring to himself with much inward humour that all these
men around him were fools for believing the stories which they had
heard; but he made no further attempt to speak to any one. Soon after
nine he went back again into the House, and again took his old place.
At this time he had swallowed three glasses of brandy and water, as
well as the champagne, and was brave enough almost for anything. There
was some debate going on in reference to the game laws,--a subject on
which Melmotte was as ignorant as one of his housemaids,--but, as some
speaker sat down, he jumped up to his legs. Another gentleman had also
risen, and when the House called to that other gentleman Melmotte gave
way. The other gentleman had not much to say, and in a few minutes
Melmotte was again on his legs. Who shall dare to describe the
thoughts which would cross the august mind of a Speaker of the House
of Commons at such a moment? Of Melmotte's villainy he had no official
knowledge. And even could he have had such knowledge it was not for
him to act upon it. The man was a member of the House, and as much
entitled to speak as another. But it seemed on that occasion that the
Speaker was anxious to save the House from disgrace;--for twice and
thrice he refused to have his 'eye caught' by the member for
Westminster. As long as any other member would rise he would not have
his eye caught. But Melmotte was persistent, and determined not to be
put down. At last no one else would speak, and the House was about to
negative the motion without a division,--when Melmotte was again on his
legs, still persisting. The Speaker scowled at him and leaned back in
his chair. Melmotte standing erect, turning his head round from one
side of the House to another, as though determined that all should see
his audacity, propping himself with his knees against the seat before
him, remained for half a minute perfectly silent. He was drunk,--but
better able than most drunken men to steady himself, and showing in
his face none of those outward signs of intoxication by which
drunkenness is generally made apparent. But he had forgotten in his
audacity that words are needed for the making of a speech, and now he
had not a word at his command. He stumbled forward, recovered himself,
then looked once more round the House with a glance of anger, and
after that toppled headlong over the shoulders of Mr Beauchamp
Beauclerk, who was sitting in front of him.
He might have wrapped his toga around him better perhaps had he
remained at home, but if to have himself talked about was his only
object, he could hardly have taken a surer course. The scene, as it
occurred, was one very likely to be remembered when the performer
should have been carried away into enforced obscurity. There was much
commotion in the House. Mr Beauclerk, a man of natural good nature,
though at the moment put to considerable personal inconvenience,
hastened, when he recovered his own equilibrium, to assist the drunken
man. But Melmotte had by no means lost the power of helping himself.
He quickly recovered his legs, and then reseating himself, put his hat
on, and endeavoured to look as though nothing special had occurred.
The House resumed its business, taking no further notice of Melmotte,
and having no special rule of its own as to the treatment to be
adopted with drunken members. But the member for Westminster caused no
further inconvenience. He remained in his seat for perhaps ten
minutes, and then, not with a very steady step, but still with
capacity sufficient for his own guidance, he made his way down to the
doors. His exit was watched in silence, and the moment was an anxious
one for the Speaker, the clerks, and all who were near him. Had he
fallen some one,--or rather some two or three,--must have picked him
up and carried him out. But he did not fall either there or in the
lobbies, or on his way down to Palace Yard. Many were looking at him,
but none touched him. When he had got through the gates, leaning
against the wall he hallooed for his brougham, and the servant who was
waiting for him soon took him home to Bruton Street. That was the last
which the British Parliament saw of its new member for Westminster.
Melmotte as soon as he reached home got into his own sitting-room
without difficulty, and called for more brandy and water. Between
eleven and twelve he was left there by his servant with a bottle of
brandy, three or four bottles of soda-water, and his cigar-case.
Neither of the ladies of the family came to him, nor did he speak of
them. Nor was he so drunk then as to give rise to any suspicion in the
mind of the servant. He was habitually left there at night, and the
servant as usual went to his bed. But at nine o'clock on the following
morning the maid-servant found him dead upon the floor. Drunk as he
had been,--more drunk as he probably became during the night,--still
he was able to deliver himself from the indignities and penalties to
which the law might have subjected him by a dose of prussic acid.
CHAPTER LXXXIV - PAUL MONTAGUE'S VINDICATION
It is hoped that the reader need hardly be informed that Hetta Carbury
was a very miserable young woman as soon as she decided that duty
compelled her to divide herself altogether from Paul Montague. I think
that she was irrational; but to her it seemed that the offence against
herself,--the offence against her own dignity as a woman,--was too
great to be forgiven. There can be no doubt that it would all have been
forgiven with the greatest ease had Paul told the story before it had
reached her ears from any other source. Had he said to her,--when her
heart was softest towards him,--I once loved another woman, and that
woman is here now in London, a trouble to me, persecuting me, and her
history is so and so, and the history of my love for her was after
this fashion, and the history of my declining love is after that
fashion, and of this at any rate you may be sure, that this woman has
never been near my heart from the first moment in which I saw you;--had
he told it to her thus, there would not have been an opening for
anger. And he doubtless would have so told it, had not Hetta's brother
interfered too quickly. He was then forced to exculpate himself, to
confess rather than to tell his own story,--and to admit facts which
wore the air of having been concealed, and which had already been
conceived to be altogether damning if true. It was that journey to
Lowestoft, not yet a month old, which did the mischief,--a journey as
to which Hetta was not slow in understanding all that Roger Carbury
had thought about it, though Roger would say nothing of it to herself.
Paul had been staying at the seaside with this woman in amicable
intimacy,--this horrid woman,--in intimacy worse than amicable, and had
been visiting her daily at Islington! Hetta felt quite sure that he
had never passed a day without going there since the arrival of the
woman; and everybody would know what that meant. And during this very
hour he had been,--well, perhaps not exactly making love to herself,
but looking at her and talking to her, and behaving to her in a manner
such as could not but make her understand that he intended to make
love to her. Of course they had really understood it, since they had
met at Madame Melmotte's first ball, when she had made a plea that she
could not allow herself to dance with him more than,--say half-a-dozen
times. Of course she had not intended him then to know that she would
receive his love with favour, but equally of course she had known that
he must so feel it. She had not only told herself, but had told her
mother, that her heart was given away to this man; and yet the man
during this very time was spending his hours with a--woman, with a
strange American woman, to whom he acknowledged that he had been once
engaged. How could she not quarrel with him? How could she refrain
from telling him that everything must be over between them? Everybody
was against him,--her mother, her brother, and her cousin: and she
felt that she had not a word to say in his defence. A horrid woman! A
wretched, bad, bold American intriguing woman! It was terrible to her
that a friend of hers should ever have attached himself to such a
creature;--but that he should have come to her with a second tale of
love long, long before he had cleared himself from the first;--perhaps
with no intention of clearing himself from the first! Of course she
could not forgive him! No;--she would never forgive him. She would
break her heart for him. That was a matter of course; but she would
never forgive him. She knew well what it was that her mother wanted.
Her mother thought that by forcing her into a quarrel with Montague
she would force her also into a marriage with Roger Carbury. But her
mother would find out that in that she was mistaken. She would never
marry her cousin, though she would be always ready to acknowledge his
worth. She was sure now that she would never marry any man. As she
made this resolve she had a wicked satisfaction in feeling that it
would be a trouble to her mother;--for though she was altogether in
accord with Lady Carbury as to the iniquities of Paul Montague she was
not the less angry with her mother for being so ready to expose those
Oh, with what slow, cautious fingers, with what heartbroken tenderness
did she take out from its guardian case the brooch which Paul had
given her! It had as yet been an only present, and in thanking him for
it, which she had done with full, free-spoken words of love, she had
begged him to send her no other, so that that might ever be to her,--to
her dying day,--the one precious thing that had been given to her by
her lover while she was yet a girl. Now it must be sent back;--and, no
doubt, it would go to that abominable woman! But her fingers lingered
over it as she touched it, and she would fain have kissed it, had she
not told herself that she would have been disgraced, even in her
solitude, by such a demonstration of affection. She had given her
answer to Paul Montague; and, as she would have no further personal
correspondence with him, she took the brooch to her mother with a
request that it might be returned.
'Of course, my dear, I will send it back to him. Is there nothing
'No, mamma;--nothing else. I have no letters, and no other present.
You always knew everything that took place. If you will just send that
back to him,--without a word. You won't say anything, will you, mamma?'
'There is nothing for me to say if you have really made him understand
'I think he understood me, mamma. You need not doubt about that.'
'He has behaved very, very badly,--from the beginning,' said Lady
But Hetta did not really think that the young man had behaved very
badly from the beginning, and certainly did not wish to be told of his
misbehaviour. No doubt she thought that the young man had behaved very
well in falling in love with her directly he saw her;--only that he had
behaved so badly in taking Mrs Hurtle to Lowestoft afterwards! 'It's
no good talking about that, mamma. I hope you will never talk of him
'He is quite unworthy,' said Lady Carbury.
'I can't bear to--have him--abused,' said Hetta sobbing.
'My dear Hetta, I have no doubt this has made you for the time
unhappy. Such little accidents do make people unhappy--for the time.
But it will be much for the best that you should endeavour not to be
so sensitive about it. The world is too rough and too hard for people
to allow their feelings full play. You have to look out for the
future, and you can best do so by resolving that Paul Montague shall
be forgotten at once.'
'Oh, mamma, don't. How is a person to resolve? Oh, mamma, don't say
'But, my dear, there is more that I must say. Your future life is
before you, and I must think of it, and you must think of it. Of
course you must be married.'
'There is no of course at all.'
'Of course you must be married,' continued Lady Carbury, 'and of
course it is your duty to think of the way in which this may be best
done. My income is becoming less and less every day. I already owe
money to your cousin, and I owe money to Mr Broune.'
'Money to Mr Broune!'
'Yes,--to Mr Broune. I had to pay a sum for Felix which Mr Broune told
me ought to be paid. And I owe money to tradesmen. I fear that I shall
not be able to keep on this house. And they tell me,--your cousin and
Mr Broune,--that it is my duty to take Felix out of London probably
'Of course I shall go with you.'
'It may be so at first; but, perhaps, even that may not be necessary.
Why should you? What pleasure could you have in it? Think what my life
must be with Felix in some French or German town!'
'Mamma, why don't you let me be a comfort to you? Why do you speak of
me always as though I were a burden?'
'Everybody is a burden to other people. It is the way of life. But
you,--if you will only yield in ever so little,--you may go where you
will be no burden, where you will be accepted simply as a blessing. You
have the opportunity of securing comfort for your whole life, and of
making a friend, not only for yourself, but for me and your brother,
of one whose friendship we cannot fail to want.'
'Mamma, you cannot really mean to talk about that now?'
'Why should I not mean it? What is the use of indulging in high-flown
nonsense? Make up your mind to be the wife of your cousin Roger.'
'This is horrid,' said Hetta, bursting out in her agony. 'Cannot you
understand that I am broken-hearted about Paul, that I love him from
my very soul, that parting from him is like tearing my heart in
pieces? I know that I must, because he has behaved so very badly,--and
because of that wicked woman! And so I have. But I did not think that
in the very next hour you would bid me give myself to somebody else! I
will never marry Roger Carbury. You may be quite--quite sure that I
shall never marry any one. If you won't take me with you when you go
away with Felix, I must stay behind and try and earn my bread. I
suppose I could go out as a nurse.' Then, without waiting for a reply,
she left the room and betook herself to her own apartment.
Lady Carbury did not even understand her daughter. She could not
conceive that she had in any way acted unkindly in taking the
opportunity of Montague's rejection for pressing the suit of the other
lover. She was simply anxious to get a husband for her daughter,--as
she had been anxious to get a wife for her son,--in order that her
child might live comfortably. But she felt that whenever she spoke
common sense to Hetta, her daughter took it as an offence, and flew
into tantrums, being altogether unable to accommodate herself to the
hard truths of the world. Deep as was the sorrow which her son brought
upon her, and great as was the disgrace, she could feel more sympathy
for him than for the girl. If there was anything that she could not
forgive in life it was romance. And yet she, at any rate, believed
that she delighted in romantic poetry! At the present moment she was
very wretched; and was certainly unselfish in her wish to see her
daughter comfortably settled before she commenced those miserable
roamings with her son which seemed to be her coming destiny.
In these days she thought a good deal of Mr Broune's offer, and of her
own refusal. It was odd that since that refusal she had seen more of
him, and had certainly known much more of him than she had ever seen
or known before. Previous to that little episode their intimacy had
been very fictitious, as are many intimacies. They had played at
being friends, knowing but very little of each other. But now,
during the last five or six weeks,--since she had refused his offer,--
they had really learned to know each other. In the exquisite misery
of her troubles, she had told him the truth about herself and her
son, and he had responded, not by compliments, but by real aid and
true counsel. His whole tone was altered to her, as was hers to
him. There was no longer any egregious flattery between them,--and
he, in speaking to her, would be almost rough to her. Once he had
told her that she would be a fool if she did not do so and so. The
consequence was that she almost regretted that she had allowed him
to escape. But she certainly made no effort to recover the lost
prize, for she told him all her troubles. It was on that afternoon,
after her disagreement with her daughter, that Marie Melmotte came
to her. And, on the same evening, closeted with Mr Broune in her
back room, she told him of both occurrences. 'If the girl has got
the money--,' she began, regretting her son's obstinacy.
'I don't believe a bit of it,' said Broune. 'From all that I can hear,
I don't think that there is any money. And if there is, you may be
sure that Melmotte would not let it slip through his fingers in that
way. I would not have anything to do with it.'
'You think it is all over with the Melmottes?'
'A rumour reached me just now that he had been already arrested.' It
was now between nine and ten in the evening. 'But as I came away from
my room, I heard that he was down at the House. That he will have to
stand a trial for forgery, I think there cannot be a doubt, and I
imagine that it will be found that not a shilling will be saved out of
'What a wonderful career it has been!'
'Yes;--the strangest thing that has come up in our days. I am inclined
to think that the utter ruin at this moment has been brought about by
his reckless personal expenditure.'
'Why did he spend such a lot of money?'
'Because he thought he could conquer the world by it, and obtain
universal credit. He very nearly succeeded too. Only he had forgotten
to calculate the force of the envy of his competitors.'
'You think he has committed forgery?'
'Certainly, I think so. Of course we know nothing as yet.'
'Then I suppose it is better that Felix should not have married her.'
'Certainly better. No redemption was to have been had on that side,
and I don't think you should regret the loss of such money as his.'
Lady Carbury shook her head, meaning probably to imply that even
Melmotte's money would have had no bad odour to one so dreadfully in
want of assistance as her son. 'At any rate do not think of it any
more.' Then she told him her grief about Hetta. 'Ah, there,' said he,
'I feel myself less able to express an authoritative opinion.'
'He doesn't owe a shilling,' said Lady Carbury, 'and he is really a
'But if she doesn't like him?'
'Oh, but she does. She thinks him to be the finest person in the
world. She would obey him a great deal sooner than she would me. But
she has her mind stuffed with nonsense about love.'
'A great many people, Lady Carbury, have their minds stuffed with that
'Yes;--and ruin themselves with it, as she will do. Love is like any
other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it. And
those who will have it when they can't afford it, will come to the
ground like this Mr Melmotte. How odd it seems! It isn't a fortnight
since we all thought him the greatest man in London.' Mr Broune only
smiled, not thinking it worth his while to declare that he had never
held that opinion about the late idol of Abchurch Lane.
On the following morning, very early, while Melmotte was still lying,
as yet undiscovered, on the floor of Mr Longestaffe's room, a letter
was brought up to Hetta by the maid-servant, who told her that Mr
Montague had delivered it with his own hands. She took it greedily,
and then repressing herself, put it with an assumed gesture of
indifference beneath her pillow. But as soon as the girl had left the
room she at once seized her treasure. It never occurred to her as yet
to think whether she would or would not receive a letter from her
dismissed lover. She had told him that he must go, and go for ever,
and had taken it for granted that he would do so,--probably willingly.
No doubt he would be delighted to return to the American woman. But
now that she had the letter, she allowed no doubt to come between her
and the reading of it. As soon as she was alone she opened it, and she
ran through its contents without allowing herself a moment for
thinking, as she went on, whether the excuses made by her lover were
or were not such as she ought to accept.
I think you have been most unjust to me, and if you have ever
loved me I cannot understand your injustice. I have never
deceived you in anything, not by a word, or for a moment. Unless
you mean to throw me over because I did once love another woman,
I do not know what cause of anger you have. I could not tell you
about Mrs Hurtle till you had accepted me, and, as you yourself
must know, I had had no opportunity to tell you anything
afterwards till the story had reached your ears. I hardly know
what I said the other day, I was so miserable at your
accusation. But I suppose I said then, and I again declare now,
that I had made up my mind that circumstances would not admit of
her becoming my wife before I had ever seen you, and that I have
certainly never wavered in my determination since I saw you. I
can with safety refer to Roger as to this, because I was with
him when I so determined, and made up my mind very much at his
instance. This was before I had ever even met you.
If I understand it all right you are angry because I have
associated with Mrs Hurtle since I so determined. I am not going
back to my first acquaintance with her now. You may blame me for
that if you please,--though it cannot have been a fault against
you. But, after what had occurred, was I to refuse to see her
when she came to England to see me? I think that would have been
cowardly. Of course I went to her. And when she was all alone
here, without a single other friend and telling me that she was
unwell, and asking me to take her down to the seaside, was I to
refuse? I think that that would have been unkind. It was a
dreadful trouble to me. But of course I did it.
She asked me to renew my engagement. I am bound to tell you
that, but I know in telling you that it will go no farther. I
declined, telling her that it was my purpose to ask another
woman to be my wife. Of course there has been anger and
sorrow,--anger on her part and sorrow on mine. But there has
been no doubt. And at last she yielded. As far as she was
concerned my trouble was over except in so far that her
unhappiness has been a great trouble to me,--when, on a sudden,
I found that the story had reached you in such a form as to make
you determined to quarrel with me!
Of course you do not know it all, for I cannot tell you all
without telling her history. But you know everything that in the
least concerns yourself, and I do say that you have no cause
whatever for anger. I am writing at night. This evening your
brooch was brought to me with three or four cutting words from
your mother. But I cannot understand that if you really love me,
you should wish to separate yourself from me,--or that, if you
ever loved me, you should cease to love me now because of Mrs
I am so absolutely confused by the blow that I hardly know what
I am writing, and take first one outrageous idea into my head
and then another. My love for you is so thorough and so intense
that I cannot bring myself to look forward to living without
you, now that you have once owned that you have loved me. I
cannot think it possible that love, such as I suppose yours must
have been, could be made to cease all at a moment. Mine can't. I
don't think it is natural that we should be parted.
If you want corroboration of my story go yourself to Mrs Hurtle.
Anything is better than that we both should be broken-hearted.
Yours most affectionately,
CHAPTER LXXXV - BREAKFAST IN BERKELEY SQUARE
Lord Nidderdale was greatly disgusted with his own part of the
performance when he left the House of Commons, and was, we may say,
disgusted with his own position generally, when he considered all its
circumstances. That had been at the commencement of the evening, and
Melmotte had not then been tipsy; but he had behaved with
unsurpassable arrogance and vulgarity, and had made the young lord
drink the cup of his own disgrace to the very dregs. Everybody now
knew it as a positive fact that the charges made against the man were
to become matter of investigation before the chief magistrate for the
City, everybody knew that he had committed forgery upon forgery,
everybody knew that he could not pay for the property which he had
pretended to buy, and that actually he was a ruined man;--and yet he
had seized Nidderdale by the hand, and called the young lord 'his
dear boy' before the whole House.
And then he had made himself conspicuous as this man's advocate. If he
had not himself spoken openly of his coming marriage with the girl, he
had allowed other men to speak to him about it. He had quarrelled with
one man for saying that Melmotte was a rogue, and had confidentially
told his most intimate friends that in spite of a little vulgarity of
manner, Melmotte at bottom was a very good fellow. How was he now to
back out of his intimacy with the Melmottes generally? He was engaged
to marry the girl, and there was nothing of which he could accuse her.
He acknowledged to himself that she deserved well at his hands. Though
at this moment he hated the father most bitterly, as those odious
words, and the tone in which they had been pronounced, rang in his
ears, nevertheless he had some kindly feeling for the girl. Of course
he could not marry her now. That was manifestly out of the question.
She herself, as well as all others, had known that she was to be
married for her money, and now that bubble had been burst. But he felt
that he owed it to her, as to a comrade who had on the whole been
loyal to him, to have some personal explanation with herself. He
arranged in his own mind the sort of speech that he would make to her.
'Of course you know it can't be. It was all arranged because you were
to have a lot of money, and now it turns out that you haven't got any.
And I haven't got any, and we should have nothing to live upon. It's
out of the question. But, upon my word, I'm very sorry, for I like you
very much, and I really think we should have got on uncommon well
together.' That was the kind of speech that he suggested to himself,
but he did not know how to find for himself the opportunity of making
it. He thought that he must put it all into a letter. But then that
would be tantamount to a written confession that he had made her an
offer of marriage, and he feared that Melmotte,--or Madame Melmotte on
his behalf, if the great man himself were absent, in prison,--might
make an ungenerous use of such an admission.
Between seven and eight he went into the Beargarden, and there he saw
Dolly Longestaffe and others. Everybody was talking about Melmotte,
the prevailing belief being that he was at this moment in custody.
Dolly was full of his own griefs; but consoled amidst them by a sense
of his own importance. 'I wonder whether it's true,' he was saying to
Lord Grasslough. 'He has an appointment to meet me and my governor at
twelve o'clock to-morrow, and to pay us what he owes us. He swore
yesterday that he would have the money to-morrow. But he can't keep his
appointment, you know, if he's in prison.'
'You won't see the money, Dolly, you may swear to that,' said
'I don't suppose I shall. By George, what an ass my governor has been.
He had no more right than you have to give up the property. Here's
Nidderdale. He could tell us where he is; but I'm afraid to speak to
him since he cut up so rough the other night.'
In a moment the conversation was stopped; but when Lord Grasslough
asked Nidderdale in a whisper whether he knew anything about Melmotte,
the latter answered out loud, 'Yes I left him in the House half an
'People are saying that he has been arrested.'
'I heard that also; but he certainly had not been arrested when I left
the House.' Then he went up and put his hand on Dolly Longestaffe's
shoulder, and spoke to him. 'I suppose you were about right the other
night and I was about wrong; but you could understand what it was that
I meant. I'm afraid this is a bad look out for both of us.'
'Yes;--I understand. It's deuced bad for me,' said Dolly. 'I think
you're very well out of it. But I'm glad there's not to be a quarrel.
Suppose we have a rubber of whist.'
Later on in the night news was brought to the club that Melmotte had
tried to make a speech in the House, that he had been very drunk, and
that he had tumbled over, upsetting Beauchamp Beauclerk in his fall.
'By George, I should like to have seen that!' said Dolly.
'I am very glad I was not there,' said Nidderdale. It was three
o'clock before they left the card table, at which time Melmotte was
lying dead upon the floor in Mr Longestaffe's house.
On the following morning, at ten o'clock, Lord Nidderdale sat at
breakfast with his father in the old lord's house in Berkeley Square.
From thence the house which Melmotte had hired was not above a few
hundred yards distant. At this time the young lord was living with his
father, and the two had now met by appointment in order that something
might be settled between them as to the proposed marriage. The Marquis
was not a very pleasant companion when the affairs in which he was
interested did not go exactly as he would have them. He could be very
cross and say most disagreeable words,--so that the ladies of the
family, and others connected with him, for the most part, found it
impossible to live with him. But his eldest son had endured him;--
partly perhaps because, being the eldest, he had been treated with a
nearer approach to courtesy, but chiefly by means of his own extreme
good humour. What did a few hard words matter? If his father was
ungracious to him, of course he knew what all that meant. As long as
his father would make fair allowance for his own peccadilloes,--he
also would make allowances for his father's roughness. All this was
based on his grand theory of live and let live. He expected his father
to be a little cross on this occasion, and he acknowledged to himself
that there was cause for it.
He was a little late himself, and he found his father already
buttering his toast. 'I don't believe you'd get out of bed a moment
sooner than you liked if you could save the whole property by it.'
'You show me how I can make a guinea by it, sir, and see if I don't
earn the money.' Then he sat down and poured himself out a cup of tea,
and looked at the kidneys and looked at the fish.
'I suppose you were drinking last night,' said the old lord.
'Not particular.' The old man turned round and gnashed his teeth at
him. 'The fact is, sir, I don't drink. Everybody knows that.'
'I know when you're in the country you can't live without champagne.
Well;--what have you got to say about all this?'
'What have you got to say?'
'You've made a pretty kettle of fish of it.'
'I've been guided by you in everything. Come, now; you ought to own
that. I suppose the whole thing is over?'
'I don't see why it should be over. I'm told she has got her own
money.' Then Nidderdale described to his father Melmotte's behaviour
in the House on the preceding evening. 'What the devil does that
matter?' said the old man. 'You're not going to marry the man
'I shouldn't wonder if he's in gaol now.'
'And what does that matter? She's not in gaol. And if the money is
hers, she can't lose it because he goes to prison. Beggars mustn't be
choosers. How do you mean to live if you don't marry this girl?'
'I shall scrape on, I suppose. I must look for somebody else.' The
Marquis showed very plainly by his demeanour that he did not give his
son much credit either for diligence or for ingenuity in making such a
search. 'At any rate, sir, I can't marry the daughter of a man who is
to be put upon his trial for forgery.'
'I can't see what that has to do with you.'
'I couldn't do it, sir. I'd do anything else to oblige you, but I
couldn't do that. And, moreover, I don't believe in the money.'
'Then you may just go to the devil,' said the old Marquis turning
himself round in his chair, and lighting a cigar as he took up the
newspaper. Nidderdale went on with his breakfast with perfect
equanimity, and when he had finished lighted his cigar. 'They tell
me,' said the old man, 'that one of those Goldsheiner girls will have
a lot of money.'
'A Jewess,' suggested Nidderdale.
'What difference does that make?'
'Oh no;--not in the least if the money's really there. Have you heard
any sum named, sir?'
The old man only grunted. 'There are two sisters and two brothers. I
don't suppose the girls would have a hundred thousand each.'
'They say the widow of that brewer who died the other day has about
twenty thousand a year.'
'It's only for her life, sir.'
'She could insure her life. D--- me, sir, we must do something. If you
turn up your nose at one woman after another how do you mean to live?'
'I don't think that a woman of forty with only a life interest would
be a good speculation. Of course I'll think of it if you press it.' The
old man growled again. 'You see, sir, I've been so much in earnest
about this girl that I haven't thought of inquiring about any one
else. There always is some one up with a lot of money. It's a pity
there shouldn't be a regular statement published with the amount of
money, and what is expected in return. It'd save a deal of trouble.'
'If you can't talk more seriously than that you'd better go away,'
said the old Marquis.
At that moment a footman came into the room and told Lord Nidderdale
that a man particularly wished to see him in the hall. He was not
always anxious to see those who called on him, and he asked the
servant whether he knew who the man was. 'I believe, my lord, he's one
of the domestics from Mr Melmotte's in Bruton Street,' said the
footman, who was no doubt fully acquainted with all the circumstances
of Lord Nidderdale's engagement. The son, who was still smoking,
looked at his father as though in doubt. 'You'd better go and see,'
said the Marquis. But Nidderdale before he went asked a question as to
what he had better do if Melmotte had sent for him. 'Go and see
Melmotte. Why should you be afraid to see him? Tell him you are ready
to marry the girl if you can see the money down, but that you won't
stir a step till it has been actually paid over.'
'He knows that already,' said Nidderdale as he left the room.
In the hall he found a man whom he recognized as Melmotte's butler, a
ponderous, elderly, heavy man who now had a letter in his hand. But
the lord could tell by the man's face and manner that he himself had
some story to tell. 'Is there anything the matter?'
'Yes, my lord,--yes. Oh, dear,--oh, dear! I think you'll be sorry to
hear it. There was none who came there he seemed to take to so much as
'They've taken him to prison!' exclaimed Nidderdale. But the man shook
his head. 'What is it then? He can't be dead.' Then the man nodded his
head, and, putting his hand up to his face, burst into tears. 'Mr
Melmotte dead! He was in the House of Commons last night. I saw him
myself. How did he die?' But the fat, ponderous man was so affected by
the tragedy he had witnessed, that he could not as yet give any
account of the scene of his master's death, but simply handed the note
which he had in his hand to Lord Nidderdale. It was from Marie, and
had been written within half an hour of the time at which news had
been brought to her of what had occurred. The note was as follows:
DEAR LORD NIDDERDALE,
The man will tell you what has happened. I feel as though I was
mad. I do not know who to send to. Will you come to me, only for
a few minutes?
He read it standing up in the hall, and then again asked the man as to
the manner of his master's death. And now the Marquis, gathering from
a word or two that he heard and from his son's delay that something
special had occurred, hobbled out into the hall. 'Mr Melmotte is--
dead,' said his son. The old man dropped his stick, and fell back
against the wall. 'This man says that he is dead, and here is a letter
from Marie asking me to go there. How was it that he--died?'
'It was--poison,' said the butler solemnly. 'There has been a doctor
already, and there isn't no doubt of that. He took it all by himself
last night. He came home, perhaps a little fresh, and he had in brandy
and soda and cigars;--and sat himself down all to himself. Then in the
morning, when the young woman went in,--there he was,--poisoned! I see
him lay on the ground, and I helped to lift him up, and there was that
smell of prussic acid that I knew what he had been and done just the
same as when the doctor came and told us.'
Before the man could be allowed to go back, there was a consultation
between the father and son as to a compliance with the request which
Marie had made in her first misery. The Marquis thought that his son
had better not go to Bruton Street. 'What's the use? What good can you
do? She'll only be falling into your arms, and that's what you've got
to avoid,--at any rate, till you know how things are.'
But Nidderdale's better feelings would not allow him to submit to this
advice. He had been engaged to marry the girl, and she in her abject
misery had turned to him as the friend she knew best. At any rate for
the time the heartlessness of his usual life deserted him, and he felt
willing to devote himself to the girl not for what he could get,--but
because she had so nearly been so near to him. 'I couldn't refuse
her,' he said over and over again. 'I couldn't bring myself to do it.
Oh, no;--I shall certainly go.'
'You'll get into a mess if you do.'
'Then I must get into a mess. I shall certainly go. I will go at once.
It is very disagreeable, but I cannot possibly refuse. It would be
abominable.' Then going back to the hall, he sent a message by the
butler to Marie, saying that he would be with her in less than half an
'Don't you go and make a fool of yourself,' his father said to him
when he was alone. 'This is just one of those times when a man may
ruin himself by being softhearted.' Nidderdale simply shook his head
as he took his hat and gloves to go across to Bruton Street.
CHAPTER LXXXVI - THE MEETING IN BRUTON STREET
When the news of her husband's death was in some very rough way
conveyed to Madame Melmotte, it crushed her for the time altogether.
Marie first heard that she no longer had a living parent as she stood
by the poor woman's bedside, and she was enabled, as much perhaps by
the necessity incumbent upon her of attending to the wretched woman as
by her own superior strength of character, to save herself from that
prostration and collapse of power which a great and sudden blow is apt
to produce. She stared at the woman who first conveyed to her tidings
of the tragedy, and then for a moment seated herself at the bedside.
But the violent sobbings and hysterical screams of Madame Melmotte
soon brought her again to her feet, and from that moment she was not
only active but efficacious. No;--she would not go down to the room;
she could do no good by going thither. But they must send for a doctor.
They should send for a doctor immediately. She was then told that a
doctor and an inspector of police were already in the rooms below. The
necessity of throwing whatever responsibility there might be on to
other shoulders had been at once apparent to the servants, and they
had sent out right and left, so that the house might be filled with
persons fit to give directions in such an emergency. The officers from
the police station were already there when the woman who now filled
Didon's place in the house communicated to Madame Melmotte the fact
that she was a widow.
It was afterwards said by some of those who had seen her at the time,
that Marie Melmotte had shown a hard heart on the occasion. But the
condemnation was wrong. Her feeling for her father was certainly not
that which we are accustomed to see among our daughters and sisters.
He had never been to her the petted divinity of the household, whose
slightest wish had been law, whose little comforts had become matters
of serious care, whose frowns were horrid clouds, whose smiles were
glorious sunshine, whose kisses were daily looked for, and if missed
would be missed with mourning. How should it have been so with her? In
all the intercourses of her family, since the first rough usage which
she remembered, there had never been anything sweet or gracious.
Though she had recognized a certain duty, as due from herself to her
father, she had found herself bound to measure it, so that more should
not be exacted from her than duty required. She had long known that
her father would fain make her a slave for his own purposes, and that
if she put no limits to her own obedience he certainly would put none.
She had drawn no comparison between him and other fathers, or between
herself and other daughters, because she had never become conversant
with the ways of other families. After a fashion she had loved him,
because nature creates love in a daughter's heart; but she had never
respected him, and had spent the best energies of her character on a
resolve that she would never fear him. 'He may cut me into pieces, but
he shall not make me do for his advantage that which I do not think he
has a right to exact from me.' That had been the state of her mind
towards her father; and now that he had taken himself away with
terrible suddenness, leaving her to face the difficulties of the world
with no protector and no assistance, the feeling which dominated her
was no doubt one of awe rather than of broken-hearted sorrow. Those
who depart must have earned such sorrow before it can be really felt.
They who are left may be overwhelmed by the death--even of their most
cruel tormentors. Madame Melmotte was altogether overwhelmed; but it
could not probably be said of her with truth that she was crushed by
pure grief. There was fear of all things, fear of solitude, fear of
sudden change, fear of terrible revelations, fear of some necessary
movement she knew not whither, fear that she might be discovered to be
a poor wretched impostor who never could have been justified in
standing in the same presence with emperors and princes, with
duchesses and cabinet ministers. This and the fact that the dead body
of the man who had so lately been her tyrant was lying near her, so
that she might hardly dare to leave her room lest she should encounter
him dead, and thus more dreadful even than when alive, utterly
conquered her. Feelings of the same kind, the same fears, and the same
awe were powerful also with Marie;--but they did not conquer her. She
was strong and conquered them; and she did not care to affect a
weakness to which she was in truth superior. In such a household the
death of such a father after such a fashion will hardly produce that
tender sorrow which comes from real love.
She soon knew it all. Her father had destroyed himself, and had
doubtless done so because his troubles in regard to money had been
greater than he could bear. When he had told her that she was to sign
those deeds because ruin was impending, he must indeed have told her
the truth. He had so often lied to her that she had had no means of
knowing whether he was lying then or telling her a true story. But she
had offered to sign the deeds since that, and he had told her that it
would be of no avail,--and at that time had not been angry with her
as he would have been had her refusal been the cause of his ruin. She
took some comfort in thinking of that.
But what was she to do? What was to be done generally by that
over-cumbered household? She and her pseudo-mother had been instructed
to pack up their jewellery, and they had both obeyed the order. But
she herself at this moment cared but little for any property. How
ought she to behave herself? Where should she go? On whose arm could
she lean for some support at this terrible time? As for love, and
engagements, and marriage,--that was all over. In her difficulty she
never for a moment thought of Sir Felix Carbury. Though she had been
silly enough to love the man because he was pleasant to look at, she
had never been so far gone in silliness as to suppose that he was a
staff upon which any one might lean. Had that marriage taken place,
she would have been the staff. But it might be possible that Lord
Nidderdale would help her. He was good-natured and manly, and would be
efficacious,--if only he would come to her. He was near, and she
thought that at any rate she would try. So she had written her note
and sent it by the butler,--thinking as she did so of the words she
would use to make the young man understand that all the nonsense they
had talked as to marrying each other was, of course, to mean nothing
It was past eleven when he reached the house, and he was shown
upstairs into one of the sitting-rooms on the first-floor. As he
passed the door of the study, which was at the moment partly open, he
saw the dress of a policeman within, and knew that the body of the
dead man was still lying there. But he went by rapidly without a
glance within, remembering the look of the man as he had last seen his
burly figure, and that grasp of his hand, and those odious words. And
now the man was dead,--having destroyed his own life. Surely the man
must have known when he uttered those words what it was that he
intended to do! When he had made that last appeal about Marie,
conscious as he was that every one was deserting him, he must even
then have looked his fate in the face and have told himself that it
was better that he should die! His misfortunes, whatever might be
their nature, must have been heavy on him then with all their weight;
and he himself and all the world had known that he was ruined. And yet
he had pretended to be anxious about the girl's marriage, and had
spoken of it as though he still believed that it would be
Nidderdale had hardly put his hat down on the table before Marie was
with him. He walked up to her, took her by both hands, and looked into
her face. There was no trace of a tear, but her whole countenance
seemed to him to be altered. She was the first to speak.
'I thought you would come when I sent for you.'
'Of course I came.'
'I knew you would be a friend, and I knew no one else who would. You
won't be afraid, Lord Nidderdale, that I shall ever think any more of
all those things which he was planning?' She paused a moment, but he
was not ready enough to have a word to say in answer to this. 'You
know what has happened?'
'Your servant told us.'
'What are we to do? Oh, Lord Nidderdale, it is so dreadful! Poor papa!
Poor papa! When I think of all that he must have suffered I wish that
I could be dead too.'
'Has your mother been told?'
'Oh yes. She knows. No one tried to conceal anything for a moment. It
was better that it should be so;--better at last. But we have no
friends who would be considerate enough to try to save us from sorrow.
But I think it was better. Mamma is very bad. She is always nervous and
timid. Of course this has nearly killed her. What ought we to do? It
is Mr Longestaffe's house, and we were to have left it to-morrow.'
'He will not mind that now.'
'Where must we go? We can't go back to that big place in Grosvenor
Square. Who will manage for us? Who will see the doctor and the
'I will do that.'
'But there will be things that I cannot ask you to do. Why should I
ask you to do anything?'
'Because we are friends.'
'No,' she said, 'no. You cannot really regard me as a friend. I have
been an impostor. I know that. I had no business to know a person like
you at all. Oh, if the next six months could be over! Poor papa,--poor
papa!' And then for the first time she burst into tears.
'I wish I knew what might comfort you,' he said.
'How can there be any comfort? There never can be comfort again! As
for comfort, when were we ever comfortable? It has been one trouble
after another,--one fear after another! And now we are friendless and
homeless. I suppose they will take everything that we have.'
'Your papa had a lawyer, I suppose?'
'I think he had ever so many,--but I do not know who they were. His
own clerk, who had lived with him for over twenty years, left him
yesterday. I suppose they will know something in Abchurch Lane; but
now that Herr Croll has gone I am not acquainted even with the name of
one of them. Mr Miles Grendall used to be with him.'
'I do not think that he could be of much service.'
'Nor Lord Alfred? Lord Alfred was always with him till very lately.'
Nidderdale shook his head. 'I suppose not. They only came because papa
had a big house.' The young lord could not but feel that he was
included in the same rebuke. 'Oh, what a life it has been! And now,--
now it's over.' As she said this it seemed that for the moment her
strength failed her, for she fell backwards on the corner of the sofa.
He tried to raise her, but she shook him away, burying her face in her
hands. He was standing close to her, still holding her arm, when he
heard a knock at the front door, which was immediately opened, as the
servants were hanging about in the hall. 'Who are they?' said Marie,
whose sharp ears caught the sound of various steps. Lord Nidderdale
went out on to the head of the stairs, and immediately heard the voice
of Dolly Longestaffe.
Dolly Longestaffe had on that morning put himself early into the care
of Mr Squercum, and it had happened that he with his lawyer had met
his father with Mr Bideawhile at the corner of the square. They were
all coming according to appointment to receive the money which Mr
Melmotte had promised to pay them at this very hour. Of course they
had none of them as yet heard of the way in which the Financier had
made his last grand payment, and as they walked together to the door
had been intent only in reference to their own money. Squercum, who
had heard a good deal on the previous day, was very certain that the
money would not be forthcoming, whereas Bideawhile was sanguine of
success. 'Don't we wish we may get it?' Dolly had said, and by saying
so had very much offended his father, who had resented the want of
reverence implied in the use of that word 'we'. They had all been
admitted together, and Dolly had at once loudly claimed an old
acquaintance with some of the articles around him. 'I knew I'd got a
coat just like that,' said Dolly, 'and I never could make out what my
fellow had done with it.' This was the speech which Nidderdale had
heard, standing on the top of the stairs.
The two lawyers had at once seen, from the face of the man who had
opened the door and from the presence of three or four servants in the
hall, that things were not going on in their usual course. Before
Dolly had completed his buffoonery the butler had whispered to Mr
Bideawhile that Mr Melmotte--'was no more.'
'Dead!' exclaimed Mr Bideawhile. Squercum put his hands into his
trousers pockets and opened his mouth wide. 'Dead!' muttered Mr
Longestaffe senior. 'Dead!' said Dolly. 'Who's dead?' The butler shook
his head. Then Squercum whispered a word into the butler's ear, and
the butler thereupon nodded his head. 'It's about what I expected,'
said Squercum. Then the butler whispered the word to Mr Longestaffe,
and whispered it also to Mr Bideawhile, and they all knew that the
millionaire had swallowed poison during the night.
It was known to the servants that Mr Longestaffe was the owner of the
house, and he was therefore, as having authority there, shown into the
room where the body of Melmotte was lying on a sofa. The two lawyers
and Dolly of course followed, as did also Lord Nidderdale, who had now
joined them from the lobby above. There was a policeman in the room
who seemed to be simply watching the body, and who rose from his seat
when the gentlemen entered. Two or three of the servants followed
them, so that there was almost a crowd round the dead man's bier.
There was no further tale to be told. That Melmotte had been in the
House on the previous night, and had there disgraced himself by
intoxication, they had known already. That he had been found dead that
morning had been already announced. They could only stand round and
gaze on the square, sullen, livid features of the big-framed man, and
each lament that he had ever heard the name of Melmotte.
'Are you in the house here?' said Dolly to Lord Nidderdale in a
'She sent for me. We live quite close, you know. She wanted somebody
to tell her something. I must go up to her again now.'
'Had you seen him before?'
'No indeed. I only came down when I heard your voices. I fear it will
be rather bad for you;--won't it?'
'He was regularly smashed, I suppose?' asked Dolly.
'I know nothing myself. He talked to me about his affairs once, but he
was such a liar that not a word that he said was worth anything. I
believed him then. How it will go, I can't say.'
'That other thing is all over of course,' suggested Dolly. Nidderdale
intimated by a gesture of his head that the other thing was all over,
and then returned to Marie. There was nothing further that the four
gentlemen could do, and they soon departed from the house;--not,
however, till Mr Bideawhile had given certain short injunctions to the
butler concerning the property contained in Mr Longestaffe's town
'They had come to see him,' said Lord Nidderdale in a whisper. 'There
was some appointment. He had told them to be all here at this hour.'
'They didn't know, then?' asked Marie.
'Nothing;--till the man told them.'
'And did you go in?'
'Yes; we all went into the room.' Marie shuddered, and again hid her
face. 'I think the best thing I can do,' said Nidderdale, 'is to go to
Abchurch Lane, and find out from Smith who is the lawyer whom he
chiefly trusted. I know Smith had to do with his own affairs, because
he has told me so at the Board; and if necessary I will find out
Croll. No doubt I can trace him. Then we had better employ the lawyer
to arrange everything for you.'
'And where had we better go to?'
'Where would Madame Melmotte wish to go?'
'Anywhere, so that we could hide ourselves. Perhaps Frankfort would be
the best. But shouldn't we stay till something has been done here? And
couldn't we have lodgings, so as to get away from Mr Longestaffe's
house?' Nidderdale promised that he himself would look for lodgings,
as soon as he had seen the lawyer. 'And now, my lord, I suppose that I
never shall see you again,' said Marie.
'I don't know why you should say that.'
'Because it will be best. Why should you? All this will be trouble
enough to you when people begin to say what we are. But I don't think
it has been my fault.'
'Nothing has ever been your fault.'
'Good-bye, my lord. I shall always think of you as one of the kindest
people I ever knew. I thought it best to send to you for different
reasons, but I do not want you to come back.'
'Good-bye, Marie. I shall always remember you.' And so they parted.
After that he did go into the City, and succeeded in finding both Mr
Smith and Herr Croll. When he reached Abchurch Lane, the news of
Melmotte's death had already been spread abroad; and more was known or
said to be known, of his circumstances than Nidderdale had as yet
heard. The crushing blow to him, so said Herr Croll, had been the
desertion of Cohenlupe,--that and the sudden fall in the value of the
South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway shares, consequent on the
rumours spread about the City respecting the Pickering property. It
was asserted in Abchurch Lane that had he not at that moment touched
the Pickering property, or entertained the Emperor, or stood for
Westminster, he must, by the end of the autumn, have been able to do
any or all of those things without danger, simply as the result of the
money which would then have been realized by the railway. But he had
allowed himself to become hampered by the want of comparatively small
sums of ready money, and in seeking relief had rushed from one danger
to another, till at last the waters around him had become too deep
even for him, and had overwhelmed him. As to his immediate death, Herr
Croll expressed not the slightest astonishment. It was just the thing,
Herr Croll said, that he had been sure that Melmotte would do, should
his difficulties ever become too great for him. 'And dere vas a leetle
ting he lay himself open by de oder day,' said Croll, 'dat vas nasty,--
very nasty.' Nidderdale shook his head, but asked no questions. Croll
had alluded to the use of his own name, but did not on this occasion
make any further revelation. Then Croll made a further statement to
Lord Nidderdale, which I think he must have done in pure good-nature.
'Mylor,' he said, whispering very gravely, 'de money of de yong lady
is all her own.' Then he nodded his head three times. 'Nobody can toch
it, not if he vas in debt millions.' Again he nodded his head.
'I am very glad to hear it for her sake,' said Lord Nidderdale as he
took his leave.
CHAPTER LXXXVII - DOWN AT CARBURY
When Roger Carbury returned to Suffolk, after seeing his cousins in
Welbeck Street, he was by no means contented with himself. That he
should be discontented generally with the circumstances of his life
was a matter of course. He knew that he was farther removed than ever
from the object on which his whole mind was set. Had Hetta Carbury
learned all the circumstances of Paul's engagement with Mrs Hurtle
before she had confessed her love to Paul,--so that her heart might
have been turned against the man before she had made her confession,--
then, he thought, she might at last have listened to him. Even though
she had loved the other man, she might have at last done so, as her
love would have been buried in her own bosom. But the tale had been
told after the fashion which was most antagonistic to his own
interests. Hetta had never heard Mrs Hurtle's name till she had given
herself away, and had declared to all her friends that she had given
herself away to this man, who was so unworthy of her. The more Roger
thought of this, the more angry he was with Paul Montague, and the more
convinced that that man had done him an injury which he could never
But his grief extended even beyond that. Though he was never tired of
swearing to himself that he would not forgive Paul Montague, yet there
was present to him a feeling that an injury was being done to the man,
and that he was in some sort responsible for that injury. He had
declined to tell Hetta any part of the story about Mrs Hurtle,--actuated
by a feeling that he ought not to betray the trust put in him by a man
who was at the time his friend; and he had told nothing. But no one
knew so well as he did the fact that all the attention latterly given
by Paul to the American woman had by no means been the effect of love,
but had come from a feeling on Paul's part that he could not desert
the woman he had once loved, when she asked him for his kindness. If
Hetta could know everything exactly,--if she could look back and read
the state of Paul's mind as he, Roger, could read it,--then she would
probably forgive the man, or perhaps tell herself that there was
nothing for her to forgive. Roger was anxious that Hetta's anger
should burn hot,--because of the injury done to himself. He thought that
there were ample reasons why Paul Montague should be punished,--why Paul
should be utterly expelled from among them, and allowed to go his own
course. But it was not right that the man should be punished on false
grounds. It seemed to Roger now that he was doing an injustice to his
enemy by refraining from telling all that he knew.
As to the girl's misery in losing her lover, much as he loved her,
true as it was that he was willing to devote himself and all that he
had to her happiness, I do not think that at the present moment he was
disturbed in that direction. It is hardly natural, perhaps, that a man
should love a woman with such devotion as to wish to make her happy by
giving her to another man. Roger told himself that Paul would be an
unsafe husband, a fickle husband,--one who might be carried hither and
thither both in his circumstances and his feelings,--and that it would
be better for Hetta that she should not marry him; but at the same
time he was unhappy as he reflected that he himself was a party to a
certain amount of deceit.
And yet he had said not a word. He had referred Hetta to the man
himself. He thought that he knew, and he did indeed accurately know,
the state of Hetta's mind. She was wretched because she thought that
while her lover was winning her love, while she herself was willingly
allowing him to win her love, he was dallying with another woman, and
making to that other woman promises the same as those he made to her.
This was not true. Roger knew that it was not true. But when he tried
to quiet his conscience by saying that they must fight it out among
themselves, he felt himself to be uneasy under that assurance.
His life at Carbury, at this time, was very desolate. He had become
tired of the priest, who, in spite of various repulses, had never for
a moment relaxed his efforts to convert his friend. Roger had told him
once that he must beg that religion might not be made the subject of
further conversation between them. In answer to this, Father Barham
had declared that he would never consent to remain as an intimate
associate with any man on those terms. Roger had persisted in his
stipulation, and the priest had then suggested that it was his host's
intention to banish him from Carbury Hall. Roger had made no reply,
and the priest had of course been banished. But even this added to his
misery. Father Barham was a gentleman, was a good man, and in great
penury. To ill-treat such a one, to expel such a one from his house,
seemed to Roger to be an abominable cruelty. He was unhappy with
himself about the priest, and yet he could not bid the man come back
to him. It was already being said of him among his neighbours, at
Eardly, at Caversham, and at the Bishop's palace, that he either had
become or was becoming a Roman Catholic, under the priest's influence.
Mrs Yeld had even taken upon herself to write to him a most
affectionate letter, in which she said very little as to any evidence
that had reached her as to Roger's defection, but dilated at very
great length on the abominations of a certain lady who is supposed to
indulge in gorgeous colours.
He was troubled, too, about old Daniel Ruggles, the farmer at Sheep's
Acre, who had been so angry because his niece would not marry John
Crumb. Old Ruggles, when abandoned by Ruby and accused by his
neighbours of personal cruelty to the girl, had taken freely to that
source of consolation which he found to be most easily within his
reach. Since Ruby had gone he had been drunk every day, and was making
himself generally a scandal and a nuisance. His landlord had
interfered with his usual kindness, and the old man had always
declared that his niece and John Crumb were the cause of it all; for
now, in his maudlin misery, he attributed as much blame to the lover
as he did to the girl. John Crumb wasn't in earnest. If he had been in
earnest he would have gone after her to London at once. No;--he wouldn't
invite Ruby to come back. If Ruby would come back, repentant, full of
sorrow,--and hadn't been and made a fool of herself in the meantime,--
then he'd think of taking her back. In the meantime, with circumstances
in their present condition, he evidently thought that he could best face
the difficulties of the world by an unfaltering adhesion to gin, early
in the day and all day long. This, too, was a grievance to Roger
But he did not neglect his work, the chief of which at the present
moment was the care of the farm which he kept in his own hands. He was
making hay at this time in certain meadows down by the river side; and
was standing by while the men were loading a cart, when he saw John
Crumb approaching across the field. He had not seen John since the
eventful journey to London; nor had he seen him in London; but he knew
well all that had occurred,--how the dealer in pollard had thrashed his
cousin, Sir Felix, how he had been locked up by the police and then
liberated,--and how he was now regarded in Bungay as a hero, as far as
arms were concerned, but as being very 'soft' in the matter of love.
The reader need hardly be told that Roger was not at all disposed to
quarrel with Mr Crumb, because the victim of Crumb's heroism had been
his own cousin. Crumb had acted well, and had never said a word about
Sir Felix since his return to the country. No doubt he had now come to
talk about his love,--and in order that his confessions might not be
made before all the assembled haymakers, Roger Carbury hurried to meet
him. There was soon evident on Crumb's broad face a whole sunshine of
delight. As Roger approached him he began to laugh aloud, and to wave
a bit of paper that he had in his hands. 'She's a coomin; she's a
coomin,' were the first words he uttered. Roger knew very well that in
his friend's mind there was but one 'she' in the world, and that the
name of that she was Ruby Ruggles.
'I am delighted to hear it,' said Roger. 'She has made it up with her
'Don't know now't about grandfeyther. She have made it up wi' me.
Know'd she would when I'd polish'd t'other un off a bit;--know'd she
'Has she written to you, then?'
'Well, squoire,--she ain't; not just herself. I do suppose that isn't
the way they does it. But it's all as one.' And then Mr Crumb thrust
Mrs Hurtle's note into Roger Carbury's hand.
Roger certainly was not predisposed to think well or kindly of Mrs
Hurtle. Since he had first known Mrs Hurtle's name, when Paul Montague
had told the story of his engagement on his return from America, Roger
had regarded her as a wicked, intriguing, bad woman. It may, perhaps,
be confessed that he was prejudiced against all Americans, looking
upon Washington much as he did upon Jack Cade or Wat Tyler; and he
pictured to himself all American women as being loud, masculine, and
atheistical. But it certainly did seem that in this instance Mrs
Hurtle was endeavouring to do a good turn from pure charity. 'She is a
lady,' Crumb began to explain, 'who do be living with Mrs Pipkin; and
she is a lady as is a lady.'
Roger could not fully admit the truth of this assertion; but he
explained that he, too, knew something of Mrs Hurtle, and that he
thought it probable that what she said of Ruby might be true. 'True,
squoire,' said Crumb, laughing with his whole face. 'I ha' nae a doubt
it's true. What's again its being true? When I had dropped into
t'other fellow, of course she made her choice. It was me as was to
blame, because I didn't do it before. I ought to ha' dropped into him
when I first heard as he was arter her. It's that as girls like. So,
squoire, I'm just going again to Lon'on right away.'
Roger suggested that old Ruggles would, of course, receive his niece;
but as to this John expressed his supreme indifference. The old man
was nothing to him. Of course he would like to have the old man's
money; but the old man couldn't live for ever, and he supposed that
things would come right in time. But this he knew,--that he wasn't
going to cringe to the old man about his money. When Roger observed
that it would be better that Ruby should have some home to which she
might at once return, John adverted with a renewed grin to all the
substantial comforts of his own house. It seemed to be his idea, that
on arriving in London he would at once take Ruby away to church and be
married to her out of hand. He had thrashed his rival, and what cause
could there now be for delay?
But before he left the field he made one other speech to the squire.
'You ain't a'taken it amiss, squoire, 'cause he was coosin to
'Not in the least, Mr Crumb.'
'That's koind now. I ain't a done the yong man a ha'porth o' harm, and
I don't feel no grudge again him, and when me and Ruby's once spliced,
I'm darned if I don't give 'un a bottle of wine the first day as he'll
come to Bungay.'
Roger did not feel himself justified in accepting this invitation on
the part of Sir Felix; but he renewed his assurance that he, on his
own part, thought that Crumb had behaved well in that matter of the
street encounter, and he expressed a strong wish for the immediate and
continued happiness of Mr and Mrs John Crumb.
'Oh, ay, we'll be 'appy, squoire,' said Crumb as he went exulting out
of the field.
On the day after this Roger Carbury received a letter which disturbed
him very much, and to which he hardly knew whether to return any
answer, or what answer. It was from Paul Montague, and was written by
him but a few hours after he had left his letter for Hetta with his
own hands, at the door of her mother's house. Paul's letter to Roger
was as follows:--
MY DEAR ROGER,--
Though I know that you have cast me off from you I cannot write
to you in any other way, as any other way would be untrue. You
can answer me, of course, as you please, but I do think that you
will owe me an answer, as I appeal to you in the name of
You know what has taken place between Hetta and myself. She had
accepted me, and therefore I am justified in feeling sure that
she must have loved me. But she has now quarrelled with me
altogether, and has told me that I am never to see her again. Of
course I don't mean to put up with this. Who would? You will say
that it is no business of yours. But I think that you would not
wish that she should be left under a false impression, if you
could put her right.
Somebody has told her the story of Mrs Hurtle. I suppose it was
Felix, and that he had learned it from those people at
Islington. But she has been told that which is untrue. Nobody
knows and nobody can know the truth as you do. She supposes that
I have willingly been passing my time with Mrs Hurtle during the
last two months, although during that very time I have asked for
and received the assurance of her love. Now, whether or no I
have been to blame about Mrs Hurtle,--as to which nothing at
present need be said,--it is certainly the truth that her coming
to England was not only not desired by me, but was felt by me to
be the greatest possible misfortune. But after all that had
passed I certainly owed it to her not to neglect her;--and this
duty was the more incumbent on me as she was a foreigner and
unknown to any one. I went down to Lowestoft with her at her
request, having named the place to her as one known to myself,
and because I could not refuse her so small a favour. You know
that it was so, and you know also, as no one else does, that
whatever courtesy I have shown to Mrs Hurtle in England, I have
been constrained to show her.
I appeal to you to let Hetta know that this is true. She had
made me understand that not only her mother and brother, but you
also, are well acquainted with the story of my acquaintance with
Mrs Hurtle. Neither Lady Carbury nor Sir Felix has ever known
anything about it. You, and you only, have known the truth. And
now, though at the present you are angry with me, I call upon
you to tell Hetta the truth as you know it. You will understand
me when I say that I feel that I am being destroyed by a false
representation. I think that you, who abhor a falsehood, will
see the justice of setting me right, at any rate as far as the
truth can do so. I do not want you to say a word for me beyond
'What business is all that of mine?' This, of course, was the first
feeling produced in Roger's mind by Montague's letter. If Hetta had
received any false impression, it had not come from him. He had told
no stories against his rival, whether true or false. He had been so
scrupulous that he had refused to say a word at all. And if any false
impression had been made on Hetta's mind, either by circumstances or
by untrue words, had not Montague deserved any evil that might fall
upon him? Though every word in Montague's letter might be true,
nevertheless, in the end, no more than justice would be done him,
even should he be robbed at last of his mistress under erroneous
impressions. The fact that he had once disgraced himself by offering
to make Mrs Hurtle his wife, rendered him unworthy of Hetta Carbury.
Such, at least, was Roger Carbury's verdict as he thought over all
the circumstances. At any rate, it was no business of his to correct
these wrong impressions.
And yet he was ill at ease as he thought of it all. He did believe
that every word in Montague's letter was true. Though he had been very
indignant when he met Roger and Mrs Hurtle together on the sands at
Lowestoft, he was perfectly convinced that the cause of their coming
there had been precisely that which Montague had stated. It took him
two days to think over all this, two days of great discomfort and
unhappiness. After all, why should he be a dog in the manger? The girl
did not care for him,--looked upon him as an old man to be regarded
in a fashion altogether different from that in which she regarded
Paul Montague. He had let his time for love-making go by, and now it
behoved him, as a man, to take the world as he found it, and not to
lose himself in regrets for a kind of happiness which he could never
attain. In such an emergency as this he should do what was fair and
honest, without reference to his own feelings. And yet the passion
which dominated John Crumb altogether, which made the mealman so
intent on the attainment of his object as to render all other things
indifferent to him for the time, was equally strong with Roger
Carbury. Unfortunately for Roger, strong as his passion was, it was
embarrassed by other feelings. It never occurred to Crumb to think
whether he was a fit husband for Ruby, or whether Ruby, having a
decided preference for another man, could be a fit wife for him. But
with Roger there were a thousand surrounding difficulties to hamper
him. John Crumb never doubted for a moment what he should do. He had
to get the girl, if possible, and he meant to get her whatever she
might cost him. He was always confident though sometimes perplexed.
But Roger had no confidence. He knew that he should never win the
game. In his sadder moments he felt that he ought not to win it. The
people around him, from old fashion, still called him the young
squire! Why;--he felt himself at times to be eighty years old,--so old
that he was unfitted for intercourse with such juvenile spirits as
those of his neighbour the bishop, and of his friend Hepworth. Could
he, by any training, bring himself to take her happiness in hand,
altogether sacrificing his own?
In such a mood as this he did at last answer his enemy's letter,--and
he answered it as follows:--
I do not know that I am concerned to meddle in your affairs at
all. I have told no tale against you, and I do not know that I
have any that I wish to tell in your favour, or that I could so
tell if I did wish. I think that you have behaved badly to me,