Part 2 out of 19
Then there had come a sudden and rapid interchange of quick speaking
between the men, each of them speaking the truth exactly, each of them
declaring himself to be in the right and to be ill-used by the other,
each of them equally hot, equally generous, and equally unreasonable.
Montague at once asserted that he also loved Henrietta Carbury. He
blurted out his assurance in the baldest and most incomplete manner,
but still in such words as to leave no doubt. No;--he had not said a
word to her. He had intended to consult Roger Carbury himself,--should
have done so in a day or two,--perhaps on that very day had not Roger
spoken to him. 'You have neither of you a shilling in the world,' said
Roger; 'and now you know what my feelings are you must abandon it.'
Then Montague declared that he had a right to speak to Miss Carbury.
He did not suppose that Miss Carbury cared a straw about him. He had
not the least reason to think that she did. It was altogether
impossible. But he had a right to his chance. That chance was all the
world to him. As to money,--he would not admit that he was a pauper,
and, moreover, he might earn an income as well as other men. Had
Carbury told him that the young lady had shown the slightest intention
to receive his, Carbury's, addresses, he, Paul, would at once have
disappeared from the scene. But as it was not so, he would not say
that he would abandon his hope.
The scene lasted for above an hour. When it was ended, Paul Montague
packed up all his clothes and was driven away to the railway station
by Roger himself, without seeing either of the ladies. There had been
very hot words between the men, but the last words which Roger spoke
to the other on the railway platform were not quarrelsome in their
nature. 'God bless you, old fellow,' he said, pressing Paul's hands.
Paul's eyes were full of tears, and he replied only by returning the
Paul Montague's father and mother had long been dead. The father had
been a barrister in London, having perhaps some small fortune of his
own. He had, at any rate, left to this son, who was one among others,
a sufficiency with which to begin the world. Paul when he had come of
age had found himself possessed of about £6,000. He was then at
Oxford, and was intended for the bar. An uncle of his, a younger
brother of his father, had married a Carbury, the younger sister of
two, though older than her brother Roger. This uncle many years since
had taken his wife out to California, and had there become an
American. He had a large tract of land, growing wool, and wheat, and
fruit; but whether he prospered or whether he did not, had not always
been plain to the Montagues and Carburys at home. The intercourse
between the two families had, in the quite early days of Paul
Montague's life, created an affection between him and Roger, who, as
will be understood by those who have carefully followed the above
family history, were not in any degree related to each other. Roger,
when quite a young man, had had the charge of the boy's education, and
had sent him to Oxford. But the Oxford scheme, to be followed by the
bar, and to end on some one of the many judicial benches of the
country, had not succeeded. Paul had got into a 'row' at Balliol, and
had been rusticated,--had then got into another row, and was sent down.
Indeed he had a talent for rows,--though, as Roger Carbury always
declared, there was nothing really wrong about any of them. Paul was
then twenty-one, and he took himself and his money out to California,
and joined his uncle. He had perhaps an idea,--based on very
insufficient grounds,--that rows are popular in California. At the end
of three years he found that he did not like farming life in
California,--and he found also that he did not like his uncle. So he
returned to England, but on returning was altogether unable to get his
£6,000 out of the Californian farm. Indeed he had been compelled to
come away without any of it, with funds insufficient even to take him
home, accepting with much dissatisfaction an assurance from his uncle
that an income amounting to ten per cent, upon his capital should be
remitted to him with the regularity of clockwork. The clock alluded to
must have been one of Sam Slick's. It had gone very badly. At the end
of the first quarter there came the proper remittance,--then half the
amount,--then there was a long interval without anything; then some
dropping payments now and again;--and then a twelvemonth without
anything. At the end of that twelvemonth he paid a second visit to
California, having borrowed money from Roger for his journey. He had
now again returned, with some little cash in hand, and with the
additional security of a deed executed in his favour by one Hamilton
K. Fisker, who had gone into partnership with his uncle, and who had
added a vast flour-mill to his uncle's concerns. In accordance with
this deed he was to get twelve per cent, on his capital, and had
enjoyed the gratification of seeing his name put up as one of the
firm, which now stood as Fisker, Montague, and Montague. A business
declared by the two elder partners to be most promising had been
opened at Fiskerville, about two hundred and fifty miles from San
Francisco, and the hearts of Fisker and the elder Montague were very
high. Paul hated Fisker horribly, did not love his uncle much, and
would willingly have got back his £6,000 had he been able. But he was
not able, and returned as one of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, not
altogether unhappy, as he had succeeded in obtaining enough of his
back income to pay what he owed to Roger, and to live for a few
months. He was intent on considering how he should bestow himself,
consulting daily with Roger on the subject, when suddenly Roger had
perceived that the young man was becoming attached to the girl whom he
himself loved. What then occurred has been told.
Not a word was said to Lady Carbury or her daughter of the real cause
of Paul's sudden disappearance. It had been necessary that he should
go to London. Each of the ladies probably guessed something of the
truth, but neither spoke a word to the other on the subject Before
they left the Manor the squire again pleaded his cause with Henrietta,
but he pleaded it in vain. Henrietta was colder than ever,--but she made
use of one unfortunate phrase which destroyed all the effect which her
coldness might have had. She said that she was too young to think of
marrying yet. She had meant to imply that the difference in their ages
was too great, but had not known how to say it. It was easy to tell
her that in a twelve-month she would be older;--but it was impossible to
convince her that any number of twelvemonths would alter the disparity
between her and her cousin. But even that disparity was not now her
strongest reason for feeling sure that she could not marry Roger
Within a week of the departure of Lady Carbury from the Manor House,
Paul Montague returned, and returned as a still dear friend. He had
promised before he went that he would not see Henrietta again for
three months, but he would promise nothing further. 'If she won't take
you, there is no reason why I shouldn't try.' That had been his
argument. Roger would not accede to the justice even of this. It
seemed to him that Paul was bound to retire altogether, partly because
he had got no income, partly because of Roger's previous claim,--partly
no doubt in gratitude, but of this last reason Roger never said a
word. If Paul did not see this himself, Paul was not such a man as his
friend had taken him to be.
Paul did see it himself, and had many scruples. But why should his
friend be a dog in the manger? He would yield at once to Roger
Carbury's older claims if Roger could make anything of them. Indeed he
could have no chance if the girl were disposed to take Roger for her
husband. Roger had all the advantage of Carbury Manor at his back,
whereas he had nothing but his share in the doubtful business of
Fisker, Montague, and Montague, in a wretched little town 250 miles
further off than San Francisco! But if with all this, Roger could not
prevail, why should he not try? What Roger said about want of money
was mere nonsense. Paul was sure that his friend would have created no
such difficulty had not he himself been interested. Paul declared to
himself that he had money, though doubtful money, and that he
certainly would not give up Henrietta on that score.
He came up to London at various times in search of certain employment
which had been half promised him, and, after the expiration of the
three months, constantly saw Lady Carbury and her daughter. But from
time to time he had given renewed promises to Roger Carbury that he
would not declare his passion,--now for two months, then for six weeks,
then for a month. In the meantime the two men were fast friends,--so
fast that Montague spent by far the greater part of his time as his
friend's guest,--and all this was done with the understanding that Roger
Carbury was to blaze up into hostile wrath should Paul ever receive
the privilege to call himself Henrietta Carbury's favoured lover, but
that everything was to be smooth between them should Henrietta be
persuaded to become the mistress of Carbury Hall. So things went on up
to the night at which Montague met Henrietta at Madame Melmotte's
ball. The reader should also be informed that there had been already a
former love affair in the young life of Paul Montague. There had been,
and indeed there still was, a widow, one Mrs Hurtle, whom he had been
desperately anxious to marry before his second journey to California;--
but the marriage had been prevented by the interference of Roger
CHAPTER VII - MENTOR
Lady Carbury's desire for a union between Roger and her daughter was
greatly increased by her solicitude in respect to her son. Since
Roger's offer had first been made, Felix had gone on from bad to
worse, till his condition had become one of hopeless embarrassment. If
her daughter could but be settled in the world, Lady Carbury said to
herself, she could then devote herself to the interests of her son.
She had no very clear idea of what that devotion would be. But she did
know that she had paid so much money for him, and would have so much
more extracted from her, that it might well come to pass that she
would be unable to keep a home for her daughter. In all these troubles
she constantly appealed to Roger Carbury for advice,--which, however,
she never followed. He recommended her to give up her house in town,
to find a home for her daughter elsewhere, and also for Felix if he
would consent to follow her. Should he not so consent, then let the
young man bear the brunt of his own misdoings. Doubtless, when he
could no longer get bread in London he would find her out. Roger was
always severe when he spoke of the baronet,--or seemed to Lady Carbury
to be severe.
But, in truth, she did not ask for advice in order that she might
follow it. She had plans in her head with which she knew that Roger
would not sympathise. She still thought that Sir Felix might bloom and
burst out into grandeur, wealth, and fashion, as the husband of a
great heiress, and in spite of her son's vices, was proud of him in
that anticipation. When he succeeded in obtaining from her money, as
in the case of that £20,--when, with brazen-faced indifference to her
remonstrances, he started off to his club at two in the morning, when
with impudent drollery he almost boasted of the hopelessness of his
debts, a sickness of heart would come upon her, and she would weep
hysterically, and lie the whole night without sleeping. But could he
marry Miss Melmotte, and thus conquer all his troubles by means of his
own personal beauty,--then she would be proud of all that had passed.
With such a condition of mind Roger Carbury could have no sympathy. To
him it seemed that a gentleman was disgraced who owed money to a
tradesman which he could not pay. And Lady Carbury's heart was high
with other hopes,--in spite of her hysterics and her fears. The
'Criminal Queens' might be a great literary success. She almost
thought that it would be a success. Messrs. Leadham and Loiter, the
publishers, were civil to her. Mr Broune had promised. Mr Booker had
said that he would see what could be done. She had gathered from Mr
Alf's caustic and cautious words that the book would be noticed in the
'Evening Pulpit.' No;--she would not take dear Roger's advice as to
leaving London. But she would continue to ask Roger's advice. Men like
to have their advice asked. And, if possible, she would arrange the
marriage. What country retirement could be so suitable for a Lady
Carbury when she wished to retire for awhile,--as Carbury Manor, the
seat of her own daughter? And then her mind would fly away into
regions of bliss. If only by the end of this season Henrietta could be
engaged to her cousin, Felix be the husband of the richest bride in
Europe, and she be the acknowledged author of the cleverest book of
the year, what a Paradise of triumph might still be open to her after
all her troubles. Then the sanguine nature of the woman would bear her
up almost to exultation, and for an hour she would be happy in spite
A few days after the ball Roger Carbury was up in town and was
closeted with her in her back drawing-room. The declared cause of his
coming was the condition of the baronet's affairs and the
indispensable necessity,--so Roger thought,--of taking some steps by
which at any rate the young man's present expenses might be brought to
an end. It was horrible to him that a man who had not a shilling in
the world or any prospect of a shilling, who had nothing and never
thought of earning anything should have hunters! He was very much in
earnest about it, and quite prepared to speak his mind to the young
man himself,--if he could get hold of him. 'Where is he now, Lady
Carbury,--at this moment?'
'I think he's out with the Baron.' Being 'out with the Baron.' meant
that the young man was hunting with the staghounds some forty miles
away from London.
'How does he manage it? Whose horses does he ride? Who pays for them?'
'Don't be angry with me, Roger. What can I do to prevent it?'
'I think you should refuse to have anything to do with him while he
continues in such courses.'
'My own son!'
'Yes;--exactly. But what is to be the end of it? Is he to be allowed to
ruin you and Hetta? It can't go on long.'
'You wouldn't have me throw him over.'
'I think he is throwing you over. And then it is so thoroughly
dishonest,--so ungentlemanlike! I don't understand how it goes on from
day to day. I suppose you don't supply him with ready money?'
'He has had a little.'
Roger frowned angrily. 'I can understand that you should provide him
with bed and food, but not that you should pander to his vices by
giving him money.' This was very plain speaking, and Lady Carbury
winced under it. 'The kind of life that he is leading requires a large
income of itself. I understand the thing, and know that with all I
have in the world I could not do it myself.'
'You are so different.'
'I am older of course,--very much older. But he is not so young that he
should not begin to comprehend. Has he any money beyond what you give
Then Lady Carbury revealed certain suspicions which she had begun to
entertain during the last day or two. 'I think he has been playing.'
'That is the way to lose money,--not to get it.' said Roger.
'I suppose somebody wins,--sometimes.'
'They who win are the sharpers. They who lose are the dupes. I would
sooner that he were a fool than a knave.'
'O Roger, you are so severe!'
'You say he plays. How would he pay, were he to lose?'
'I know nothing about it. I don't even know that he does play; but I
have reason to think that during the last week he has had money at his
command. Indeed I have seen it. He comes home at all manner of hours
and sleeps late. Yesterday I went into his room about ten and did not
wake him. There were notes and gold lying on his table;--ever so much.'
'Why did you not take them?'
'What; rob my own boy?'
'When you tell me that you are absolutely in want of money to pay your
own bills, and that he has not hesitated to take yours from you! Why
does he not repay you what he has borrowed?'
'Ah, indeed;--why not? He ought to if he has it. And there were papers
there;--I.O.U.'s signed by other men.'
'You looked at them.'
'I saw as much as that. It is not that I am curious but one does feel
about one's own son. I think he has bought another horse. A groom came
here and said something about it to the servants.'
'Oh dear oh dear!'
'If you could only induce him to stop the gambling! Of course it is
very bad whether he wins or loses,--though I am sure that Felix would do
nothing unfair. Nobody ever said that of him. If he has won money, it
would be a great comfort if he would let me have some of it,--for to
tell the truth. I hardly know how to turn. I am sure nobody can say
that I spend it on myself.'
Then Roger again repeated his advice. There could be no use in
attempting to keep up the present kind of life in Welbeck Street.
Welbeck Street might be very well without a penniless spendthrift such
as Sir Felix but must be ruinous under the present conditions. If Lady
Carbury felt, as no doubt she did feel, bound to afford a home to her
ruined son in spite of all his wickedness and folly, that home should
be found far away from London. If he chose to remain in London, let
him do so on his own resources. The young man should make up his mind
to do something for himself. A career might possibly be opened for him
in India. 'If he be a man he would sooner break stones than live on
you.' said Roger. Yes, he would see his cousin to-morrow and speak to
him;--that is if he could possibly find him. "Young men who gamble all
night, and hunt all day are not easily found." But he would come at
twelve as Felix generally breakfasted at that hour. Then he gave an
assurance to Lady Carbury which to her was not the least comfortable
part of the interview. In the event of her son not giving her the
money which she at one once required he, Roger, would lend her a
hundred pounds till her half year's income should be due. After that
his voice changed altogether, as he asked a question on another
subject. 'Can I see Henrietta to-morrow?'
'Certainly;--why not? She is at, home now, I think.'
'I will wait till to-morrow,--when I call to see Felix. I should like her
to know that I am coming. Paul Montague was in town the other day. He
was here, I suppose?'
'Was that all you saw of him?'
'He was at the Melmottes' ball. Felix got a card for him;--and we were
there. Has he gone down to Carbury?'
'No;--not to Carbury. I think he had some business about his partners at
Liverpool. There is another case of a young man without anything to
do. Not that Paul is at all like Sir Felix.' This he was induced to
say by the spirit of honesty which was always strong within him.
'Don't be too hard upon poor Felix.' said Lady Carbury. Roger, as he
took his leave, thought that it would be impossible to be too hard
upon Sir Felix Carbury.
The next morning Lady Carbury was in her son's bedroom before he was
up, and with incredible weakness told him that his cousin Roger was
coming to lecture him. 'What the devil's the use of it?' said Felix
from beneath the bedclothes.
'If you speak to me in that way, Felix, I must leave the room.'
'But what is the use of his coming to me? I know what he has got to
say just as if it were said. It's all very well preaching sermons to
good people, but nothing ever was got by preaching to people who ain't
'Why shouldn't you be good?'
'I shall do very well, mother, if that fellow will leave me alone. I
can play my hand better than he can play for me. If you'll go now I'll
get up.' She had intended to ask him for some of the money which she
believed he still possessed; but her courage failed her. If she asked
for his money, and took it, she would in some fashion recognise and
tacitly approve his gambling. It was not yet eleven, and it was early
for him to leave his bed; but he had resolved that he would get out of
the house before that horrible bore should be upon him with his
sermon. To do this he must be energetic. He was actually eating his
breakfast at half-past eleven, and had already contrived in his mind
how he would turn the wrong way as soon as he got into the street,--
towards Marylebone Road, by which route Roger would certainly not
come. He left the house at ten minutes before twelve, cunningly turned
away, dodging round by the first corner,--and just as he had turned it
encountered his cousin. Roger, anxious in regard to his errand, with
time at his command, had come before the hour appointed and had
strolled about, thinking not of Felix but of Felix's sister. The
baronet felt that he had been caught,--caught unfairly, but by no means
abandoned all hope of escape. 'I was going to your mother's house on
purpose to see you,' said Roger.
'Were you indeed? I am so sorry. I have an engagement out here with a
fellow which I must keep. I could meet you at any other time, you
'You can come back for ten minutes,' said Roger, taking him by the
'Well;--not conveniently at this moment.'
'You must manage it. I am here at your mother's request, and can't
afford to remain in town day after day looking for you. I go down to
Carbury this afternoon. Your friend can wait. Come along.' His
firmness was too much for Felix, who lacked the courage to shake his
cousin off violently, and to go his way. But as he returned he
fortified himself with the remembrance of all the money in his pocket,--
for he still had his winnings,--remembered too certain sweet words which
had passed between him and Marie Melmotte since the ball, and resolved
that he would not be sat upon by Roger Carbury. The time was coming,--he
might almost say that the time had come,--in which he might defy Roger
Carbury. Nevertheless, he dreaded the words which were now to be
spoken to him with a craven fear.
'Your mother tells me,' said Roger, 'that you still keep hunters.'
'I don't know what she calls hunters. I have one that I didn't part
with when the others went.'
'You have only one horse?'
'Well;--if you want to be exact, I have a hack as well as the horse I
'And another up here in town?'
'Who told you that? No; I haven't. At least there is one staying at
some stables which, has been sent for me to look at.'
'Who pays for all these horses?'
'At any rate I shall not ask you to pay for them.'
'No;--you would be afraid to do that. But you have no scruple in asking
your mother, though you should force her to come to me or to other
friends for assistance. You have squandered every shilling of your
own, and now you are ruining her.'
'That isn't true. I have money of my own.'
'Where did you get it?'
'This is all very well. Roger; but I don't know that you have any
right to ask me these questions. I have money. If I buy a horse I can
pay for it. If I keep one or two I can pay for them. Of course I owe a
lot of money, but other people owe me money too. I'm all right, and
you needn't frighten yourself.'
'Then why do you beg her last shilling from your mother, and when you
have money not pay it back to her?'
'She can have the twenty pounds, if you mean that.'
'I mean that, and a good deal more than that. I suppose you have been
'I don't know that I am bound to answer your questions, and I won't do
it. If you have nothing else to say, I'll go about my own business.'
'I have something else to say, and I mean to say it.' Felix had walked
towards the door, but Roger was before him, and now leaned his back
'I'm not going to be kept here against my will,' said Felix.
'You have to listen to me, so you may as well sit still. Do you wish
to be looked upon as a blackguard by all the world?'
'That is what it will be. You have spent every shilling of your own,--
and because your mother is affectionate and weak you are now spending
all that she has, and are bringing her and your sister to beggary.'
'I don't ask her to pay anything for me.'
'Not when you borrow her money?'
'There is the £20. Take it and give it her.' said Felix, counting the
notes out of the pocket-book. 'When I asked, her for it, I did not
think she would make such a row about such a trifle.' Roger took up
the notes and thrust them into his pocket. 'Now, have you done?' said
'Not quite. Do you purpose that your mother should keep you and clothe
you for the rest of your life?'
'I hope to be able to keep her before long, and to do it much better
than it has ever been done before. The truth is, Roger, you know
nothing about it. If you'll leave me to myself you'll find that I
shall do very well.'
'I don't know any young man who ever did worse or one who had less
moral conception of what is right and wrong.'
'Very well. That's your idea. I differ from you. People can't all
think alike, you know. Now, if you please, I'll go.'
Roger felt that he hadn't half said what he had to say, but he hardly
knew how to get it said. And of what use could it be to talk to a young
man who was altogether callous and without feeling? The remedy for the
evil ought to be found in the mother's conduct rather than the son's.
She, were she not foolishly weak, would make up her mind to divide
herself utterly from her son, at any rate for a while, and to leave
him to suffer utter penury. That would bring him round. And then when
the agony of want had tamed him, he would be content to take bread and
meat from her hand and would be humble. At present he had money in his
pocket, and would eat and drink of the best, and be free from
inconvenience for the moment. While this prosperity remained it would
be impossible to touch him. 'You will ruin your sister, and break your
mother's heart.' said Roger, firing a last harmless shot after the
When Lady Carbury came into the room, which she did as soon as the
front door was closed behind her son, she seemed to think that a
great success had been achieved because the £20 had been recovered. 'I
knew he would give it me back, if he had it.' she said.
'Why did he not bring it to you of his own accord?'
'I suppose he did not like to talk about it. Has he said that he got
'No,--he did not speak a word of truth while he was here. You may take
it for granted that he did get it by gambling. How else should he have
it? And you may take it for granted also that he will lose all that he
has got. He talked in the wildest way,--saying that he would soon have a
home for you and Hetta.'
'Did he,--dear boy!'
'Had he any meaning?'
'Oh; yes. And it is quite on the cards that it should be so. You have
heard of Miss Melmotte.'
'I have heard of the great French swindler who has come over here, and
who is buying his way into society.'
'Everybody visits them now, Roger.'
'More shame for everybody. Who knows anything about him,--except that he
left Paris with the reputation of a specially prosperous rogue? But
what of him?'
'Some people think that Felix will marry his only child. Felix is
handsome; isn't he? What young man is there nearly so handsome? They
say she'll have half a million of money.'
'That's his game;--is it?'
'Don't you think he is right?'
'No; I think he's wrong. But we shall hardly agree with each other
about that. Can I see Henrietta for a few minutes?'
CHAPTER VIII - LOVE-SICK
Roger Carbury said well that it was very improbable that he and his
cousin, the widow, should agree in their opinions as to the
expedience of fortune-hunting by marriage. It was impossible that they
should ever understand each other. To Lady Carbury the prospect of a
union between her son and Miss Melmotte was one of unmixed joy and
triumph. Could it have been possible that Marie Melmotte should be
rich and her father be a man doomed to a deserved sentence in a penal
settlement, there might perhaps be a doubt about it. The wealth even
in that case would certainly carry the day, against the disgrace, and
Lady Carbury would find reasons why poor Marie should not be punished
for her father's sins even while enjoying the money which those sins
had produced. But how different were the existing facts? Mr Melmotte
was not at the galleys, but was entertaining duchesses in Grosvenor
Square. People said that Mr Melmotte had a reputation throughout
Europe as a gigantic swindler,--as one who in the dishonest and
successful pursuit of wealth had stopped at nothing. People said of
him that he had framed and carried out long premeditated and
deeply-laid schemes for the ruin of those who had trusted him, that he
had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him,
that he was fed with the blood of widows and children;--but what was all
this to Lady Carbury? If the duchesses condoned it all, did it become
her to be prudish? People also said that Melmotte would yet get a
fall,--that a man who had risen after such a fashion never could long
keep his head up. But he might keep his head up long enough to give
Marie her fortune. And then Felix wanted a fortune so badly;--was so
exactly the young man who ought to marry a fortune! To Lady Carbury
there was no second way of looking at the matter.
And to Roger Carbury also there was no second way of looking at it.
That condonation of antecedents which, in the hurry of the world, is
often vouchsafed to success, that growing feeling which induces
people to assert to themselves that they are not bound to go outside
the general verdict, and that they may shake hands with whomsoever the
world shakes hands with, had never reached him. The old-fashioned idea
that the touching of pitch will defile still prevailed with him. He
was a gentleman;--and would have felt himself disgraced to enter the
house of such a one as Augustus Melmotte. Not all the duchesses in the
peerage, or all the money in the city, could alter his notions or
induce him to modify his conduct. But he knew that it would be useless
for him to explain this to Lady Carbury. He trusted, however, that one
of the family might be taught to appreciate the difference between
honour and dishonour. Henrietta Carbury had, he thought, a higher turn
of mind than her mother, and had as yet been kept free from soil. As
for Felix,--he had so grovelled in the gutters as to be dirt all over.
Nothing short of the prolonged sufferings of half a life could cleanse
He found Henrietta alone in the drawing-room. 'Have you seen Felix?'
she said, as soon as they had greeted each other.
'Yes. I caught him in the street.'
'We are so unhappy about him.'
'I cannot say but that you have reason. I think, you know, that your
mother indulges him foolishly.'
'Poor mamma! She worships the very ground he treads on.'
'Even a mother should not throw her worship away like that. The fact
is that your brother will ruin you both if this goes on.'
'What can mamma do?'
'Leave London, and then refuse to pay a shilling on his behalf.'
'What would Felix do in the country?'
'If he did nothing, how much better would that be than what he does in
town? You would not like him to become a professional gambler.'
'Oh, Mr Carbury; you do not mean that he does that!'
'It seems cruel to say such things to you,--but in a matter of such
importance one is bound to speak the truth. I have no influence over
your mother; but you may have some. She asks my advice, but has not
the slightest idea of listening to it. I don't blame her for that; but
I am anxious, for the sake of--for the sake of the family.'
'I am sure you are.'
'Especially for your sake. You will never throw him over.'
'You would not ask me to throw him over.'
'But he may drag you into the mud. For his sake you have already been
taken into the house of that man Melmotte.'
'I do not think that I shall be injured by anything of that kind,'
said Henrietta drawing herself up.
'Pardon me if I seem to interfere.'
'Oh, no;--it is no interference from you.'
'Pardon me then if I am rough. To me it seems that an injury is done
to you if you are made to go to the house of such a one as this man.
Why does your mother seek his society? Not because she likes him; not
because she has any sympathy with him or his family;--but simply because
there is a rich daughter.'
'Everybody goes there, Mr Carbury.'
'Yes,--that is the excuse which everybody makes. Is that sufficient
reason for you to go to a man's house? Is there not another place, to
which we are told that a great many are going, simply because the road
has become thronged and fashionable? Have you no feeling that you
ought to choose your friends for certain reasons of your own? I admit
there is one reason here. They have a great deal of money, and it is
thought possible that he may get some of it by falsely swearing to a
girl that he loves her. After what you have heard, are the Melmottes
people with whom you would wish to be connected?'
'I don't know.'
'I do. I know very well. They are absolutely disgraceful. A social
connection with the first crossing-sweeper would be less
objectionable.' He spoke with a degree of energy of which he was
himself altogether unaware. He knit his brows, and his eyes flashed,
and his nostrils were extended. Of course she thought of his own offer
to herself. Of course, her mind at once conceived,--not that the
Melmotte connection could ever really affect him, for she felt sure
that she would never accept his offer,--but that he might think that he
would be so affected. Of course he resented the feeling which she thus
attributed to him. But, in truth, he was much too simple-minded for
any such complex idea. 'Felix,' he continued, 'has already descended
so far that I cannot pretend to be anxious as to what houses he may
frequent. But I should be sorry to think that you should often be seen
at Mr Melmotte's.'
'I think, Mr Carbury, that mamma will take care that I am not taken
where I ought not to be taken.'
'I wish you to have some opinion of your own as to what is proper for
'I hope I have. I am sorry you should think that I have not.'
'I am old-fashioned, Hetta.'
'And we belong to a newer and worse sort of world. I dare say it is
so. You have been always very kind, but I almost doubt whether you can
change us, now. I have sometimes thought that you and mamma were
hardly fit for each other.'
'I have thought that you and I were,--or possibly might be fit for each
'Oh,--as for me. I shall always take mamma's side. If mamma chooses to
go to the Melmottes I shall certainly go with her. If that is
contamination, I suppose I must be contaminated. I don't see why I'm
to consider myself better than any one else.'
'I have always thought that you were better than any one else.'
'That was before I went to the Melmottes. I am sure you have altered
your opinion now. Indeed you have told me so. I am afraid, Mr Carbury,
you must go your way, and we must go ours.'
He looked into her face as she spoke, and gradually began to perceive
the working of her mind. He was so true to himself that he did not
understand that there should be with her even that violet-coloured
tinge of prevarication which women assume as an additional charm.
Could she really have thought that he was attending to his own
possible future interests when he warned her as to the making of new
'For myself.' he said, putting out his hand and making a slight vain
effort to get hold of hers, 'I have only one wish in the world; and
that is, to travel the same road with you. I do not say that you ought
to wish it too; but you ought to know that I am sincere. When I spoke
of the Melmottes did you believe that I was thinking of myself?'
'Oh no;--how should I?'
'I was speaking to you then as to a cousin who might regard me as an
elder brother. No contact with legions of Melmottes could make you
other to me than the woman on whom my heart has settled. Even were you
in truth disgraced could disgrace touch one so pure as you it would be
the same. I love you so well that I have already taken you for better
or for worse. I cannot change. My nature is too stubborn for such
changes. Have you a word to say to comfort me?' She turned away her
head, but did not answer him at once. 'Do you understand how much I am
in need of comfort?'
'You can do very well without comfort from me.'
'No, indeed. I shall live, no doubt; but I shall not do very well. As
it is, I am not doing at all well. I am becoming sour and moody, and
ill at ease with my friends. I would have you believe me, at any rate,
when I say I love you.'
'I suppose you mean something.'
'I mean a great deal, dear. I mean all that a man can mean. That is
it. You hardly understand that I am serious to the extent of ecstatic
joy on the one side, and utter indifference to the world on the other.
I shall never give it up till I learn that you are to be married to
some one else.'
'What can I say, Mr Carbury?'
'That you will love me.'
'But if I don't?'
'Say that you will try.'
'No; I will not say that. Love should come without a struggle. I
don't know how one person is to try to love another in that way. I
like you very much; but being married is such a terrible thing.'
'It would not be terrible to me, dear.'
'Yes;--when you found that I was too young for your tastes.'
'I shall persevere, you know. Will you assure me of this,--that if you
promise your hand to another man you will let me know at once?'
'I suppose I may promise that,' she said, after pausing for a moment.
'There is no one as yet?'
'There is no one. But, Mr Carbury, you have no right to question me. I
don't think it generous. I allow you to say things that nobody else
could say because you are a cousin and because mamma trusts you so
much. No one but mamma has a right to ask me whether I care for any
'Are you angry with me?'
'If I have offended you it is because I love you so dearly.'
'I am not offended, but I don't like to be questioned by a gentleman.
I don't think any girl would like it. I am not to tell everybody all
'Perhaps when you reflect how much of my happiness depends upon it you
will forgive me. Good-bye now.' She put out her hand to him and
allowed it to remain in his for a moment. 'When I walk about the old
shrubberies at Carbury where we used to be together, I am always
asking myself what chance there is of your walking there as the
'There is no chance.'
'I am, of course, prepared to hear you say so. Well; good-bye, and may
God bless you.'
The man had no poetry about him. He did not even care for romance. All
the outside belongings of love which are so pleasant to many men and
which to many women afford the one sweetness in life which they really
relish, were nothing to him. There are both men and women to whom even
the delays and disappointments of love are charming, even when they
exist to the detriment of hope. It is sweet to such persons to be
melancholy, sweet to pine, sweet to feel that they are now wretched
after a romantic fashion as have been those heroes and heroines of
whose sufferings they have read in poetry. But there was nothing of
this with Roger Carbury. He had, as he believed, found the woman that
he really wanted, who was worthy of his love, and now, having fixed
his heart upon her, he longed for her with an amazing longing. He had
spoken the simple truth when he declared that life had become
indifferent to him without her. No man in England could be less likely
to throw himself off the Monument or to blow out his brains. But he
felt numbed in all the joints of his mind by this sorrow. He could not
make one thing bear upon another, so as to console himself after any
fashion. There was but one thing for him;--to persevere till he got her,
or till he had finally lost her. And should the latter be his fate, as
he began to fear that it would be, then, he would live, but live only,
like a crippled man.
He felt almost sure in his heart of hearts that the girl loved that
other younger man. That she had never owned to such love he was quite
sure. The man himself and Henrietta also had both assured him on this
point, and he was a man easily satisfied by words and prone to
believe. But he knew that Paul Montague was attached to her, and that
it was Paul's intention to cling to his love. Sorrowfully looking
forward through the vista of future years, he thought he saw that
Henrietta would become Paul's wife. Were it so, what should he do?
Annihilate himself as far as all personal happiness in the world was
concerned, and look solely to their happiness, their prosperity, and
their joys? Be as it were a beneficent old fairy to them, though the
agony of his own disappointment should never depart from him? Should
he do this and be blessed by them,--or should he let Paul Montague know
what deep resentment such ingratitude could produce? When had a father
been kinder to a son, or a brother to a brother, than he had been to
Paul? His home had been the young man's home, and his purse the young
man's purse. What right could the young man have to come upon him just
as he was perfecting his bliss and rob him of all that he had in the
world? He was conscious all the while that there was a something wrong
in his argument,--that Paul when he commenced to love the girl knew
nothing of his friend's love,--that the girl, though Paul had never come
in the way, might probably have been as obdurate as she was now to his
entreaties. He knew all this because his mind was clear. But yet the
injustice,--at any rate, the misery was so great, that to forgive it and
to reward it would be weak, womanly, and foolish. Roger Carbury did
not quite believe in the forgiveness of injuries. If you pardon all
the evil done to you, you encourage others to do you evil! If you give
your cloak to him who steals your coat, how long will it be, before
your shirt and trousers will go also? Roger Carbury, returned that
afternoon to Suffolk, and as he thought of it all throughout the
journey, he resolved that he would never forgive Paul Montague if Paul
Montague should become his cousin's husband.
CHAPTER IX - THE GREAT RAILWAY TO VERA CRUZ
'You have been a guest in his house. Then, I guess, the thing's about
as good as done.' These words were spoken with a fine, sharp, nasal
twang by a brilliantly-dressed American gentleman in one of the
smartest private rooms of the great railway hotel at Liverpool, and
they were addressed to a young Englishman who was sitting opposite to
him. Between them there was a table covered with maps, schedules, and
printed programmes. The American was smoking a very large cigar, which
he kept constantly turning in his mouth, and half of which was inside
his teeth. The Englishman had a short pipe. Mr Hamilton K. Fisker, of
the firm of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, was the American, and the
Englishman was our friend Paul, the junior member of that firm.
'But I didn't even speak to him,' said Paul.
'In commercial affairs that matters nothing. It quite justifies you in
introducing me. We are not going to ask your friend to do us a favour.
We don't want to borrow money.'
'I thought you did.'
'If he'll go in for the thing he'd be one of us, and there would be no
borrowing then. He'll join us if he's as clever as they say, because
he'll see his way to making a couple of million of dollars out of it.
If he'd take the trouble to run over and show himself in San
Francisco, he'd make double that. The moneyed men would go in with him
at once, because they know that he understands the game and has got
the pluck. A man who has done what he has by financing in Europe,--by
George! there's no limit to what he might do with us. We're a bigger
people than any of you and have more room. We go after bigger things,
and don't stand shilly-shally on the brink as you do. But Melmotte
pretty nigh beats the best among us. Anyway he should come and try his
luck, and he couldn't have a bigger thing or a safer thing than this.
He'd see it immediately if I could talk to him for half an hour.'
'Mr Fisker,' said Paul mysteriously, 'as we are partners, I think I
ought to let you know that many people speak very badly of Mr
Mr Fisker smiled gently, turned his cigar twice round in his mouth,
and then closed one eye. 'There is always a want of charity,' he
said, 'when a man is successful.'
The scheme in question was the grand proposal for a South Central
Pacific and Mexican railway, which was to run from the Salt Lake City,
thus branching off from the San Francisco and Chicago line,--and pass
down through the fertile lands of New Mexico and Arizona into the
territory of the Mexican Republic, run by the city of Mexico, and
come out on the gulf at the port of Vera Cruz. Mr Fisker admitted at
once that it was a great undertaking, acknowledged that the distance
might be perhaps something over 2000 miles, acknowledged that no
computation had or perhaps could be made as to the probable cost of
the railway; but seemed to think that questions such as these were
beside the mark and childish. Melmotte, if he would go into the matter
at all, would ask no such questions.
But we must go back a little. Paul Montague had received a telegram
from his partner, Hamilton K. Fisker, sent on shore at Queenstown from
one of the New York liners, requesting him to meet Fisker at Liverpool
immediately. With this request he had felt himself bound to comply.
Personally he had disliked Fisker,--and perhaps not the less so because
when in California he had never found himself able to resist the man's
good humour, audacity, and cleverness combined. He had found himself
talked into agreeing with any project which Mr Fisker might have in
hand. It was altogether against the grain with him, and yet by his own
consent, that the flour-mill had been opened at Fiskerville. He
trembled for his money and never wished to see Fisker again; but
still, when Fisker came to England, he was proud to remember that
Fisker was his partner, and he obeyed the order and went down to
If the flour-mill had frightened him, what must the present project
have done! Fisker explained that he had come with two objects,--first to
ask the consent of the English partner to the proposed change in their
business, and secondly to obtain the cooperation of English
capitalists. The proposed change in the business meant simply the
entire sale of the establishment at Fiskerville, and the absorption of
the whole capital in the work of getting up the railway. 'If you could
realise all the money it wouldn't make a mile of the railway,' said
Paul. Mr Fisker laughed at him. The object of Fisker, Montague, and
Montague was not to make a railway to Vera Cruz, but to float a
company. Paul thought that Mr Fisker seemed to be indifferent whether
the railway should ever be constructed or not. It was clearly his idea
that fortunes were to be made out of the concern before a spadeful of
earth had been moved. If brilliantly printed programmes might avail
anything, with gorgeous maps, and beautiful little pictures of trains
running into tunnels beneath snowy mountains and coming out of them on
the margin of sunlit lakes, Mr Fisker had certainly done much. But
Paul, when he saw all these pretty things, could not keep his mind
from thinking whence had come the money to pay for them. Mr Fisker had
declared that he had come over to obtain his partner's consent, but it
seemed to that partner that a great deal had been done without any
consent. And Paul's fears on this hand were not allayed by finding
that on all these beautiful papers he himself was described as one of
the agents and general managers of the company. Each document was
signed Fisker, Montague, and Montague. References on all matters were
to be made to Fisker, Montague, and Montague,--and in one of the
documents it was stated that a member of the firm had proceeded to
London with the view of attending to British interests in the matter.
Fisker had seemed to think that his young partner would express
unbounded satisfaction at the greatness which was thus falling upon
him. A certain feeling of importance, not altogether unpleasant, was
produced, but at the same time there was another conviction forced
upon Montague's mind, not altogether pleasant, that his, money was
being made to disappear without any consent given by him, and that it
behoved him to be cautious lest such consent should be extracted from
'What has become of the mill?' he asked
'We have put an agent into it.'
'Is not that dangerous? What check have you on him?'
'He pays us a fixed sum sir. But, my word! when there is such a thing
as this on hand a trumpery mill like that is not worth speaking of.'
'You haven't sold it?'
'Well;--no. But we've arranged a price for a sale.'
'You haven't taken the money for it?'
'Well;--yes; we have. We've raised money on it, you know. You see you
weren't there, and so the two resident partners acted for the firm.
But Mr Montague, you'd better go with us. You had indeed.'
'And about my own income?'
'That's a flea-bite. When we've got a little ahead with this it won't
matter, sir, whether you spend twenty thousand or forty thousand
dollars a year. We've got the concession from the United States
Government through the territories, and we're in correspondence with
the President of the Mexican Republic. I've no doubt we've an office
open already in Mexico and another at Vera Cruz.'
'Where's the money to come from?'
'Money to come from, sir? Where do you suppose the money comes from in
all these undertakings? If we can float the shares, the money'll come
in quick enough. We hold three million dollars of the stock
'Six hundred thousand pounds!' said Montague.
'We take them at par, of course,--and as we sell we shall pay for them.
But of course we shall only sell at a premium. If we can run them up
even to 110, there would be three hundred thousand dollars. But we'll
do better than that. I must try and see Melmotte at once. You had
better write a letter now.'
'I don't know the man.'
'Never mind. Look here I'll write it, and you can sign it.' Whereupon
Mr Fisker did write the following letter:--
Langham Hotel, London. March 4, 18--.
I have the pleasure of informing you that my partner Mr Fisker,--
of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, of San Francisco,--is now in
London with the view of allowing British capitalists to assist in
carrying out perhaps the greatest work of the age,--namely, the
South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway, which is to give direct
communication between San Francisco and the Gulf of Mexico. He is
very anxious to see you upon his arrival, as he is aware that your
co-operation would be desirable. We feel assured that with your
matured judgment in such matters, you would see, at once, the
magnificence of the enterprise. If you will name a day and an
hour, Mr Fisker will call upon you.
I have to thank you and Madame Melmotte for a very pleasant
evening spent at your house last week.
Mr Fisker proposes returning to New York. I shall remain here,
superintending the British interests which may be involved.
I have the honour to be,
Most faithfully yours.
'But I have never said that I would superintend the interests,' said
'You can say so now. It binds you to nothing. You regular John Bull
Englishmen are so full of scruples that you lose as much of life as
should serve to make an additional fortune.'
After some further conversation Paul Montague recopied the letter and
signed it. He did it with doubt,--almost with dismay. But he told
himself that he could do no good by refusing. If this wretched
American, with his hat on one side and rings on his fingers, had so
far got the upper hand of Paul's uncle as to have been allowed to do
what he liked with the funds of the partnership, Paul could not stop
it. On the following morning they went up to London together, and in
the course of the afternoon Mr Fisker presented himself in Abchurch
Lane. The letter written at Liverpool, but dated from the Langham
Hotel, had been posted at the Euston Square Railway Station at the
moment of Fisker's arrival. Fisker sent in his card, and was asked to
wait. In the course of twenty minutes he was ushered into the great
man's presence by no less a person than Miles Grendall.
It has been already said that Mr Melmotte was a big man with large
whiskers, rough hair, and with an expression of mental power on a
harsh vulgar face. He was certainly a man to repel you by his presence
unless attracted to him by some internal consideration. He was
magnificent in his expenditure, powerful in his doings, successful in
his business, and the world around him therefore was not repelled.
Fisker, on the other hand, was a shining little man,--perhaps about
forty years of age, with a well-twisted moustache, greasy brown hair,
which was becoming bald at the top, good-looking if his features were
analysed, but insignificant in appearance. He was gorgeously dressed,
with a silk waistcoat, and chains, and he carried a little stick. One
would at first be inclined to say that Fisker was not much of a man;
but after a little conversation most men would own that there was
something in Fisker. He was troubled by no shyness, by no scruples,
and by no fears. His mind was not capacious, but such as it was it was
his own, and he knew how to use it.
Abchurch Lane is not a grand site for the offices of a merchant
prince. Here, at a small corner house, there was a small brass plate
on a swing door, bearing the words 'Melmotte & Co.' Of whom the Co was
composed no one knew. In one sense Mr Melmotte might be said to be in
company with all the commercial world, for there was no business to
which he would refuse his co-operation on certain terms. But he had
never burdened himself with a partner in the usual sense of the term.
Here Fisker found three or four clerks seated at desks, and was
desired to walk upstairs. The steps were narrow and crooked, and the
rooms were small and irregular. Here he stayed for a while in a small
dark apartment in which 'The Daily Telegraph' was left for the
amusement of its occupant till Miles Grendall announced to him that Mr
Melmotte would see him. The millionaire looked at him for a moment or
two, just condescending to touch with his fingers the hand which
Fisker had projected.
'I don't seem to remember,' he said, 'the gentleman who has done me
the honour of writing to me about you.'
'I dare say not, Mr Melmotte. When I'm at home in San Francisco, I
make acquaintance with a great many gents whom I don't remember
afterwards. My partner I think told me that he went to your house with
his friend, Sir Felix Carbury.'
'I know a young man called Sir Felix Carbury.'
'That's it. I could have got any amount of introductions to you if I
had thought this would not have sufficed.' Mr Melmotte bowed. 'Our
account here in London is kept with the City and West End Joint Stock.
But I have only just arrived, and as my chief object in coming to
London is to see you, and as I met my partner, Mr Montague, in
Liverpool, I took a note from him and came on straight.'
'And what can I do for you, Mr Fisker?'
Then Mr Fisker began his account of the Great South Central Pacific
and Mexican Railway, and exhibited considerable skill by telling it
all in comparatively few words. And yet he was gorgeous and florid. In
two minutes he had displayed his programme, his maps, and his pictures
before Mr Melmotte's eyes, taking care that Mr Melmotte should see how
often the names of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, reappeared upon
them. As Mr Melmotte read the documents, Fisker from time to time put
in a word. But the words had no reference at all to the future profits
of the railway, or to the benefit which such means of communication
would confer upon the world at large; but applied solely to the
appetite for such stock as theirs, which might certainly be produced
in the speculating world by a proper manipulation of the affairs.
'You seem to think you couldn't get it taken up in your own country,'
'There's not a doubt about getting it all taken up there. Our folk,
sir, are quick enough at the game; but you don't want them to teach
you, Mr Melmotte, that nothing encourages this kind of thing like
competition. When they hear at St. Louis and Chicago that the thing is
alive in London, they'll be alive there. And it's the same here, sir.
When they know that the stock is running like wildfire in America,
they'll make it run here too.'
'How far have you got?'
'What we've gone to work upon is a concession for making the line
from the United States Congress. We're to have the land for nothing,
of course, and a grant of one thousand acres round every station, the
stations to be twenty-five miles apart.'
'And the land is to be made over to you,--when?'
'When we have made the line up to the station.' Fisker understood
perfectly that Mr Melmotte did not ask the question in reference to
any value that he might attach to the possession of such lands, but to
the attractiveness of such a prospectus in the eyes of the outside
world of speculators.
'And what do you want me to do, Mr Fisker?'
'I want to have your name there,' he said. And he placed his finger
down on a spot on which it was indicated that there was, or was to be,
a chairman of an English Board of Directors, but with a space for the
name hitherto blank.
'Who are to be your directors here, Mr Fisker?'
'We should ask you to choose them, sir. Mr Paul Montague should be
one, and perhaps his friend Sir Felix Carbury might be another. We
could get probably one of the Directors of the City and West End. But
we would leave it all to you,--as also the amount of stock you would
like to take yourself. If you gave yourself to it, heart and soul, Mr
Melmotte, it would be the finest thing that there has been out for a
long time. There would be such a mass of stock!'
'You have to back that with a certain amount of paid-up capital?'
'We take care, sir, in the West not to cripple commerce too closely by
old-fashioned bandages. Look at what we've done already, sir, by
having our limbs pretty free. Look at our line, sir, right across the
continent, from San Francisco to New York. Look at--'
'Never mind that, Mr Fisker. People wanted to go from New York to San
Francisco, and I don't know that they do want to go to Vera Cruz. But
I will look at it, and you shall hear from me.' The interview was over,
and Mr Fisker was contented with it. Had Mr Melmotte not intended at
least to think of it, he would not have given ten minutes to the
subject. After all, what was wanted from Mr Melmotte was little more
than his name, for the use of which Mr Fisker proposed that he should
receive from the speculative public two or three hundred thousand
At the end of a fortnight from the date of Mr Fisker's arrival in
London, the company was fully launched in England, with a body of
London directors, of whom Mr Melmotte was the chairman. Among the
directors were Lord Alfred Grendall, Sir Felix Carbury, Samuel
Cohenlupe, Esq., Member of Parliament for Staines, a gentleman of the
Jewish persuasion, Lord Nidderdale, who was also in Parliament, and Mr
Paul Montague. It may be thought that the directory was not strong,
and that but little help could be given to any commercial enterprise
by the assistance of Lord Alfred or Sir Felix,--but it was felt that Mr
Melmotte was himself so great a tower of strength that the fortune of
the Company,--as a company,--was made.
CHAPTER X - MR FISKER'S SUCCESS
Mr Fisker was fully satisfied with the progress he had made, but he
never quite succeeded in reconciling Paul Montague to the whole
transaction. Mr Melmotte was indeed so great a reality, such a fact in
the commercial world of London, that it was no longer possible for
such a one as Montague to refuse to believe in the scheme. Melmotte
had the telegraph at his command, and had been able to make as close
inquiries as though San Francisco and Salt Lake City had been suburbs
of London. He was chairman of the British branch of the Company, and
had had shares allocated to him,--or, as he said, to the house,--to the
extent of two millions of dollars. But still there was a feeling of
doubt, and a consciousness that Melmotte, though a tower of strength,
was thought by many to have been built upon the sands.
Paul had now of course given his full authority to the work, much in
opposition to the advice of his old friend Roger Carbury,--and had come
up to live in town, that he might personally attend to the affairs of
the great railway. There was an office just behind the Exchange, with
two or three clerks and a secretary, the latter position being held by
Miles Grendall, Esq. Paul, who had a conscience in the matter and was
keenly alive to the fact that he was not only a director but was also
one of the firm of Fisker, Montague, and Montague which was
responsible for the whole affair, was grievously anxious to be really
at work, and would attend most inopportunely at the Company's offices.
Fisker, who still lingered in London, did his best to put a stop to
this folly, and on more than one occasion somewhat snubbed his
partner. 'My dear fellow, what's the use of your flurrying yourself?
In a thing of this kind, when it has once been set agoing, there is
nothing else to do. You may have to work your fingers off before you
can make it move, and then fail. But all that has been done for you.
If you go there on the Thursdays that's quite as much as you need do.
You don't suppose that such a man as Melmotte would put up with any
real interference.' Paul endeavoured to assert himself, declaring that
as one of the managers he meant to take a part in the management;--that
his fortune, such as it was, had been embarked in the matter, and was
as important to him as was Mr Melmotte's fortune to Mr Melmotte. But
Fisker got the better of him and put him down. 'Fortune! what fortune
had either of us? a few beggarly thousands of dollars not worth
talking of, and barely sufficient to enable a man to look at an
enterprise. And now where are you? Look here, sir;--there's more to be
got out of the smashing-up of such an affair as this, if it should
smash up, than could, be made by years of hard work out of such
fortunes as yours and mine in the regular way of trade.'
Paul Montague certainly did not love Mr Fisker personally, nor did he
relish his commercial doctrines; but he allowed himself to be carried
away by them. 'When and how was I to have helped myself?' he wrote to
Roger Carbury. 'The money had been raised and spent before this man
came here at all. It's all very well to say that he had no right to do
it; but he had done it. I couldn't even have gone to law with him
without going over to California, and then I should have got no
redress.' Through it all he disliked Fisker, and yet Fisker had one
great merit which certainly recommended itself warmly to Montague's
appreciation. Though he denied the propriety of Paul's interference in
the business, he quite acknowledged Paul's right to a share in the
existing dash of prosperity. As to the real facts of the money affairs
of the firm he would tell Paul nothing. But he was well provided with
money himself, and took care that his partner should he in the same
position. He paid him all the arrears of his stipulated income up to
the present moment, and put him nominally into possession of a large
number of shares in the railway,--with, however, an understanding that
he was not to sell them till they had reached ten per cent. above par,
and that in any sale transacted he was to touch no other money than
the amount of profit which would thus accrue. What Melmotte was to be
allowed to do with his shares, he never heard. As far as Montague
could understand, Melmotte was in truth to be powerful over
everything. All this made the young man unhappy, restless, and
extravagant. He was living in London and had money at command, but he
never could rid himself of the fear that the whole affair might tumble
to pieces beneath his feet and that he might be stigmatised as one
among a gang of swindlers.
We all know how, in such circumstances, by far the greater proportion
of a man's life will be given up to the enjoyments that are offered to
him and the lesser proportion to the cares, sacrifices, and sorrows.
Had this young director been describing to his intimate friend the
condition in which he found himself, he would have declared himself to
be distracted by doubts, suspicions, and fears till his life was a
burden to him. And yet they who were living with him at this time
found him to be a very pleasant fellow, fond of amusement, and
disposed to make the most of all the good things which came in his
way. Under the auspices of Sir Felix Carbury he had become a member of
the Beargarden, at which best of all possible clubs the mode of
entrance was as irregular as its other proceedings. When any young man
desired to come in who was thought to be unfit for its style of
living, it was shown to him that it would take three years before
his name could be brought up at the usual rate of vacancies; but in
regard to desirable companions the committee had a power of putting
them at the top of the list of candidates and bringing them in at
once. Paul Montague had suddenly become credited with considerable
commercial wealth and greater commercial influence. He sat at the same
Board with Melmotte and Melmotte's men; and was on this account
elected at the Beargarden without any of that harassing delay to which
other less fortunate candidates are subjected.
And,--let it be said with regret, for Paul Montague was at heart honest
and well-conditioned,--he took to living a good deal at the Beargarden.
A man must dine somewhere, and everybody knows that a man dines
cheaper at his club than elsewhere. It was thus he reasoned with
himself. But Paul's dinners at the Beargarden were not cheap. He saw a
good deal of his brother directors, Sir Felix Carbury and Lord
Nidderdale, entertained Lord Alfred more than once at the club, and
had twice dined with his great chairman amidst all the magnificence of
merchant-princely hospitality in Grosvenor Square. It had indeed been
suggested to him by Mr Fisker that he also ought to enter himself for
the great Marie Melmotte plate. Lord Nidderdale had again declared his
intention of running, owing to considerable pressure put upon him by
certain interested tradesmen, and with this intention had become one
of the directors of the Mexican Railway Company. At the time, however,
of which we are now writing, Sir Felix was the favourite for the race
among fashionable circles generally.
The middle of April had come, and Fisker was still in London. When
millions of dollars are at stake,--belonging perhaps to widows and
orphans, as Fisker remarked,--a man was forced to set his own
convenience on one side. But this devotion was not left without
reward, for Mr Fisker had 'a good time' in London. He also was made
free of the Beargarden, as an honorary member, and he also spent a
good deal of money. But there is this comfort in great affairs, that
whatever you spend on yourself can be no more than a trifle. Champagne
and ginger-beer are all the same when you stand to win or lose
thousands,--with this only difference, that champagne may have
deteriorating results which the more innocent beverage will not
produce. The feeling that the greatness of these operations relieved
them from the necessity of looking to small expenses operated in the
champagne direction, both on Fisker and Montague, and the result was
deleterious. The Beargarden, no doubt, was a more lively place than
Carbury Manor, but Montague found that he could not wake up on these
London mornings with thoughts as satisfactory as those which attended
his pillow at the old Manor House.
On Saturday, the 19th of April, Fisker was to leave London on his
return to New York, and on the 18th a farewell dinner was to be given
to him at the club. Mr Melmotte was asked to meet him, and on such an
occasion all the resources of the club were to be brought forth. Lord
Alfred Grendall was also to be a guest, and Mr Cohenlupe, who went
about a good deal with Melmotte. Nidderdale, Carbury, Montague, and
Miles Grendall were members of the club, and gave the dinner. No
expense was spared. Herr Vossner purveyed the viands and wines,--and
paid for them. Lord Nidderdale took the chair, with Fisker on his
right hand, and Melmotte on his left, and, for a fast-going young
lord, was supposed to have done the thing well. There were only two
toasts drunk, to the healths of Mr Melmotte and Mr Fisker, and two
speeches were of course made by them. Mr Melmotte may have been held
to have clearly proved the genuineness of that English birth which he
claimed by the awkwardness and incapacity which he showed on the
occasion. He stood with his hands on the table and with his face
turned to his plate blurted out his assurance that the floating of
this railway company would be one of the greatest and most successful
commercial operations ever conducted on either side of the Atlantic.
It was a great thing,--a very great thing;--he had no hesitation in saying
that it was one of the greatest things out. He didn't believe a
greater thing had ever come out. He was happy to give his humble
assistance to the furtherance of so great a thing,--and so on. These
assertions, not varying much one from the other, he jerked out like so
many separate interjections, endeavouring to look his friends in the
face at each, and then turning his countenance back to his plate as
though seeking for inspiration for the next attempt. He was not
eloquent; but the gentlemen who heard him remembered that he was the
great Augustus Melmotte, that he might probably make them all rich
men, and they cheered him to the echo. Lord Alfred had reconciled
himself to be called by his Christian name, since he had been put in
the way of raising two or three hundred pounds on the security of
shares which were to be allotted to him, but of which in the flesh he
had as yet seen nothing. Wonderful are the ways of trade! If one can
only get the tip of one's little finger into the right pie, what noble
morsels, what rich esculents, will stick to it as it is extracted!
When Melmotte sat down Fisker made his speech, and it was fluent,
fast, and florid. Without giving it word for word, which would be
tedious, I could not adequately set before the reader's eye the
speaker's pleasing picture of world-wide commercial love and harmony
which was to be produced by a railway from Salt Lake City to Vera
Cruz, nor explain the extent of gratitude from the world at large
which might be claimed by, and would finally be accorded to, the great
firms of Melmotte & Co, of London, and Fisker, Montague, and Montague
of San Francisco. Mr Fisker's arms were waved gracefully about. His
head was turned now this way and now that, but never towards his
plate. It was very well done. But there was more faith in one
ponderous word from Mr Melmotte's mouth than in all the American's
There was not one of them then present who had not after some fashion
been given to understand that his fortune was to be made, not by the
construction of the railway, but by the floating of the railway
shares. They had all whispered to each other their convictions on this
head. Even Montague did not beguile himself into an idea that he was
really a director in a company to be employed in the making and
working of a railway. People out of doors were to be advertised into
buying shares, and they who were so to say indoors were to have the
privilege of manufacturing the shares thus to be sold. That was to be
their work, and they all knew it. But now, as there were eight of them
collected together, they talked of humanity at large and of the coming
harmony of nations.
After the first cigar, Melmotte withdrew, and Lord Alfred went with
him. Lord Alfred would have liked to remain, being a man who enjoyed
tobacco and soda-and-brandy,--but momentous days had come upon him, and
he thought well to cling to his Melmotte. Mr Samuel Cohenlupe also
went, not having taken a very distinguished part in the entertainment.
Then the young men were left alone, and it was soon proposed that they
should adjourn to the cardroom. It had been rather hoped that Fisker
would go with the elders. Nidderdale, who did not understand much
about the races of mankind, had his doubts whether the American
gentleman might not be a 'Heathen Chinee,' such as he had read of in
poetry. But Mr Fisker liked to have his amusement as well as did the
others, and went up resolutely into the cardroom. Here they were
joined by Lord Grasslough, and were very quickly at work, having
chosen loo as their game. Mr Fisker made an allusion to poker as a
desirable pastime, but Lord Nidderdale, remembering his poetry, shook
his head. 'Oh! bother,' he said, 'let's have some game that Christians
play.' Mr Fisker declared himself ready for any game,--irrespective of
It must be explained that the gambling at the Beargarden had gone on
with very little interruption, and that on the whole Sir Felix Carbury
kept his luck. There had of course been vicissitudes, but his star had
been in the ascendant. For some nights together this had been so
continual that Mr Miles Grendall had suggested to his friend Lord
Grasslough that there must be foul play. Lord Grasslough, who had not
many good gifts, was, at least, not suspicious, and repudiated the
idea. 'We'll keep an eye on him,' Miles Grendall had said. 'You may do
as you like, but I'm not going to watch any one,' Grasslough had
replied. Miles 'had watched,' and had watched in vain, and it may as
well be said at once that Sir Felix, with all his faults, was not as
yet a blackleg. Both of them now owed Sir Felix a considerable sum of
money, as did also Dolly Longestaffe, who was not present on this
occasion. Latterly very little ready money had passed hands,--very
little in proportion to the sums which had been written down on paper,--
though Sir Felix was still so well in funds as to feel himself
justified in repudiating any caution that his mother might give him.
When I.O.U.'s have for some time passed freely in such a company as
that now assembled the sudden introduction of a stranger is very
disagreeable, particularly when that stranger intends to start for San
Francisco on the following morning. If it could be arranged that the
stranger should certainly lose, no doubt then he would be regarded as
a godsend. Such strangers have ready money in their pockets, a portion
of which would be felt to descend like a soft shower in a time of
drought. When these dealings in unsecured paper have been going on for
a considerable time real bank notes come to have a loveliness which
they never possessed before. But should the stranger win, then there
may arise complications incapable of any comfortable solution. In such
a state of things some Herr Vossner must be called in, whose terms are
apt to be ruinous. On this occasion things did not arrange themselves
comfortably. From the very commencement Fisker won, and quite a budget
of little papers fell into his possession, many of which were passed
to him from the hands of Sir Felix,--bearing, however, a 'G' intended to
stand for Grasslough, or an 'N' for Nidderdale, or a wonderful
hieroglyphic which was known at the Beargarden to mean D. L.,--or Dolly
Longestaffe, the fabricator of which was not present on the occasion.
Then there was the M.G. of Miles Grendall, which was a species of
paper peculiarly plentiful and very unattractive on these commercial
occasions. Paul Montague hitherto had never given an I.O.U. at the
Beargarden,--nor of late had our friend Sir Felix. On the present
occasion Montague won, though not heavily. Sir Felix lost continually,
and was almost the only loser. But Mr Fisker won nearly all that was
lost. He was to start for Liverpool by train at 8.30 a.m., and at 6
a.m., he counted up his bits of paper and found himself the winner of
about £600. 'I think that most of them came from you, Sir Felix,' he
said,--handing the bundle across the table.
'I dare say they did, but they are all good against these other
fellows.' Then Fisker, with most perfect good humour, extracted one
from the mass which indicated Dolly Longestaffe's indebtedness to the
amount of £50. 'That's Longestaffe,' said Felix, 'and I'll change that
of course.' Then out of his pocket-book he extracted other minute
documents bearing that M.G. which was so little esteemed among them,--
and so made up the sum. 'You seem to have £150 from Grasslough, £145
from Nidderdale, and £322 10s from Grendall,' said the baronet. Then
Sir Felix got up as though he had paid his score. Fisker, with smiling
good humour, arranged the little bits of paper before him and looked
round upon the company.
'This won't do, you know,' said Nidderdale. 'Mr Fisker must have his
money before he leaves. You've got it, Carbury.'
'Of course he has,' said Grasslough.
'As it happens, I have not,' said Sir Felix,--'but what if I had?'
'Mr Fisker starts for New York immediately,' said Lord Nidderdale. 'I
suppose we can muster £600 among us. Ring the bell for Vossner. I
think Carbury ought to pay the money as he lost it, and we didn't
expect to have our I.O.U.'s brought up in this way.'
'Lord Nidderdale,' said Sir Felix, 'I have already said that I have
not got the money about me. Why should I have it more than you,
especially as I knew I had I.O.U.'s more than sufficient to meet
anything I could lose when I sat down?'
'Mr Fisker must have his money at any rate,' said Lord Nidderdale,
ringing the bell again.
'It doesn't matter one straw, my lord,' said the American. 'Let it be
sent to me to Frisco, in a bill, my lord.' And so he got up to take
his hat, greatly to the delight of Miles Grendall.
But the two young lords would not agree to this. 'If you must go this
very minute I'll meet you at the train with the money,' said
Nidderdale. Fisker begged that no such trouble should be taken. Of
course he would wait ten minutes if they wished. But the affair was
one of no consequence. Wasn't the post running every day? Then Herr
Vossner came from his bed, suddenly arrayed in a dressing-gown, and
there was a conference in a corner between him, the two lords, and Mr
Grendall. In a very few minutes Herr Vossner wrote a cheque for the
amount due by the lords, but he was afraid that he had not money at
his banker's sufficient for the greater claim. It was well understood
that Herr Vossner would not advance money to Mr Grendall unless others
would pledge themselves for the amount.
'I suppose I'd better send you a bill over to America,' said Miles
Grendall, who had taken no part in the matter as long as he was in the
same boat with the lords.
'Just so. My partner, Montague, will tell you the address.' Then
bustling off, taking an affectionate adieu of Paul, shaking hands with
them all round, and looking as though he cared nothing for the money,
he took his leave. 'One cheer for the South Central Pacific and
Mexican Railway,' he, said as he went out of the room. Not one there
had liked Fisker. His manners were not as their manners; his waistcoat
not as their waistcoats. He smoked his cigar after a fashion different
from theirs, and spat upon the carpet. He said 'my lord' too often,
and grated their prejudices equally whether he treated them with
familiarity or deference. But he had behaved well about the money, and
they felt that they were behaving badly. Sir Felix was the immediate
offender, as he should have understood that he was not entitled to pay
a stranger with documents which, by tacit contract, were held to be
good among themselves. But there was no use now in going back to that.
Something must be done.
'Vossner must get the money,' said Nidderdale. 'Let's have him up
'I don't think it's my fault,' said Miles. 'Of course no one thought
he was to be called upon in this sort of way.'
'Why shouldn't you be called upon?' said Carbury. 'You acknowledge
that you owe the money.'
'I think Carbury ought to have paid it,' said Grasslough.
'Grassy, my boy,' said the baronet, 'your attempts at thinking are
never worth much. Why was I to suppose that a stranger would be
playing among us? Had you a lot of ready money with you to pay if you
had lost it? I don't always walk about with six hundred pounds in my
pocket;--nor do you!'
'It's no good jawing,' said Nidderdale. 'let's get the money.' Then
Montague offered to undertake the debt himself, saying that there were
money transactions between him and his partner. But this could not be
allowed. He had only lately come among them, had as yet had no dealing
in I.O.U.'s, and was the last man in the company who ought to be made
responsible for the impecuniosity of Miles Grendall. He, the
impecunious one,--the one whose impecuniosity extended to the absolute
want of credit,--sat silent, stroking his heavy moustache.
There was a second conference between Herr Vossner and the two lords,
in another room, which ended in the preparation of a document by which
Miles Grendall undertook to pay to Herr Vossner £450 at the end of
three months, and this was endorsed by the two lords, by Sir Felix,
and by Paul Montague; and in return for this the German produced £322
10s. in notes and gold. This had taken some considerable time. Then a
cup of tea was prepared and swallowed; after which Nidderdale, with
Montague, started off to meet Fisker at the railway station. 'It'll
only be a trifle over £100 each,' said Nidderdale, in the cab.
'Won't Mr Grendall pay it?'
'Oh, dear no. How the devil should he?'
'Then he shouldn't play.'
'That'd be hard, on him, poor fellow. If you went to his uncle the
duke, I suppose you could get it. Or Buntingford might put it right
for you. Perhaps he might win, you know, some day, and then he'd make
it square. He'd be fair enough if he had it. Poor Miles!'
They found Fisker wonderfully brilliant with bright rugs, and
greatcoats with silk linings. 'We've brought you the tin,' said
Nidderdale, accosting him on the platform.
'Upon my word, my lord, I'm sorry you have taken so much trouble about
such a trifle.'
'A man should always have his money when he wins.'
'We don't think anything about such little matters at Frisco, my
'You're fine fellows at Frisco, I dare say. Here we pay up when we
can. Sometimes we can't, and then it is not pleasant.' Fresh adieus
were made between the two partners, and between the American and the
lord,--and then Fisker was taken off on his way towards Frisco.
'He's not half a bad fellow, but he's not a bit like an Englishman,'
said Lord Nidderdale, as he walked out of the station.
CHAPTER XI - LADY CARBURY AT HOME
During the last six weeks Lady Carbury had lived a life of very mixed
depression and elevation. Her great work had come out,--the 'Criminal
Queens,'--and had been very widely reviewed. In this matter it had been
by no means all pleasure, inasmuch as many very hard words had been
said of her. In spite of the dear friendship between herself and Mr
Alf, one of Mr Alf's most sharp-nailed subordinates had been set upon
her book, and had pulled it to pieces with almost rabid malignity. One
would have thought that so slight a thing could hardly have been
worthy of such protracted attention. Error after error was laid bare
with merciless prolixity. No doubt the writer of the article must have
had all history at his finger-ends, as in pointing out the various
mistakes made he always spoke of the historical facts which had been
misquoted, misdated, or misrepresented, as being familiar in all their
bearings to every schoolboy of twelve years old. The writer of the
criticism never suggested the idea that he himself, having been fully
provided with books of reference, and having learned the art of
finding in them what he wanted at a moment's notice, had, as he went
on with his work, checked off the blunders without any more permanent
knowledge of his own than a housekeeper has of coals when she counts
so many sacks into the coal-cellar. He spoke of the parentage of one
wicked ancient lady, and the dates of the frailties of another, with
an assurance intended to show that an exact knowledge of all these
details abided with him always. He must have been a man of vast and
varied erudition, and his name was Jones. The world knew him not, but
his erudition was always there at the command of Mr Alf,--and his
cruelty. The greatness of Mr Alf consisted in this, that he always had
a Mr Jones or two ready to do his work for him. It was a great
business, this of Mr Alf's, for he had his Jones also for philology,
for science, for poetry, for politics, as well as for history, and one
special Jones, extraordinarily accurate and very well posted up in his
references, entirely devoted to the Elizabethan drama.
There is the review intended to sell a book,--which comes out
immediately after the appearance of the book, or sometimes before it;
the review which gives reputation, but does not affect the sale, and
which comes a little later; the review which snuffs a book out
quietly; the review which is to raise or lower the author a single
peg, or two pegs, as the case may be; the review which is suddenly to
make an author, and the review which is to crush him. An exuberant
Jones has been known before now to declare aloud that he would crush a
man, and a self-confident Jones has been known to declare that he has
accomplished the deed. Of all reviews, the crushing review is the most
popular, as being the most readable. When the rumour goes abroad that
some notable man has been actually crushed,--been positively driven over
by an entire Juggernaut's car of criticism till his literary body be a
mere amorphous mass,--then a real success has been achieved, and the Alf
of the day has done a great thing; but even the crushing of a poor
Lady Carbury, if it be absolute, is effective. Such a review will not
make all the world call for the 'Evening Pulpit', but it will cause
those who do take the paper to be satisfied with their bargain.
Whenever the circulation of such a paper begins to slacken, the
proprietors should, as a matter of course, admonish their Alf to add a
little power to the crushing department.
Lady Carbury had been crushed by the 'Evening Pulpit.' We may fancy
that it was easy work, and that Mr Alf's historical Mr Jones was not
forced to fatigue himself by the handling of many books of reference.
The errors did lie a little near the surface; and the whole scheme of
the work, with its pandering to bad tastes by pretended revelations of
frequently fabulous crime, was reprobated in Mr Jones's very best
manner. But the poor authoress, though utterly crushed, and reduced to
little more than literary pulp for an hour or two, was not destroyed.
On the following morning she went to her publishers, and was closeted
for half an hour with the senior partner, Mr Leadham. 'I've got it all
in black and white,' she said, full of the wrong which had been done
her, 'and can prove him to be wrong. It was in 1522 that the man first
came to Paris, and he couldn't have been her lover before that. I got
it all out of the "Biographie Universelle." I'll write to Mr Alf
myself,--a letter to be published, you know.'
'Pray don't do anything of the kind, Lady Carbury.'
'I can prove that I'm right.'
'And they can prove that you're wrong.'
'I've got all the facts--and the figures.'
Mr Leadham did not care a straw for facts or figures,--had no opinion
of his own whether the lady or the reviewer were right; but he knew
very well that the 'Evening Pulpit' would surely get the better of any
mere author in such a contention. 'Never fight the newspapers, Lady
Carbury. Who ever yet got any satisfaction by that kind of thing?
It's their business, and you are not used to it.'
'And Mr Alf my particular friend! It does seem so hard,' said Lady
Carbury, wiping hot tears from her cheeks.
'It won't do us the least harm, Lady Carbury.'
'It'll stop the sale?'
'Not much. A book of that sort couldn't hope to go on very long, you
know. The "Breakfast Table" gave it an excellent lift, and came just
at the right time. I rather like the notice in the "Pulpit," myself.'
'Like it!' said Lady Carbury, still suffering in every fibre of her
self-love from the soreness produced by those Juggernaut's car-wheels.
'Anything is better than indifference, Lady Carbury. A great many
people remember simply that the book has been noticed, but carry away
nothing as to the purport of the review. It's a very good
'But to be told that I have got to learn the A B C of history after
working as I have worked!'
'That's a mere form of speech, Lady Carbury.'
'You think the book has done pretty well?'
'Pretty well;--just about what we hoped, you know.'
'There'll be something coming to me, Mr Leadham?'
Mr Leadham sent for a ledger, and turned over a few pages and ran up a
few figures, and then scratched his head. There would be something,
but Lady Carbury was not to imagine that it could be very much. It did
not often happen that a great deal could be made by a first book.
Nevertheless, Lady Carbury, when she left the publisher's shop, did
carry a cheque with her. She was smartly dressed and looked very well,
and had smiled on Mr Leadham. Mr Leadham, too, was no more than man,
and had written--a small cheque.
Mr Alf certainly had behaved badly to her; but both Mr Broune, of the
'Breakfast Table' and Mr Booker of the 'Literary Chronicle' had been
true to her interests. Lady Carbury had, as she promised, 'done' Mr
Booker's 'New Tale of a Tub' in the 'Breakfast Table.' That is, she
had been allowed, as a reward for looking into Mr Broune's eyes, and
laying her soft hand on Mr Broune's sleeve, and suggesting to Mr
Broune that no one understood her so well as he did, to bedaub Mr
Booker's very thoughtful book in a very thoughtless fashion,--and to be
paid for her work. What had been said about his work in the 'Breakfast
Table' had been very distasteful to poor Mr Booker. It grieved his
inner contemplative intelligence that such rubbish should be thrown
upon him; but in his outside experience of life he knew that even the
rubbish was valuable, and that he must pay for it in the manner to
which he had unfortunately become accustomed. So Mr Booker himself
wrote the article on the 'Criminal Queens' in the 'Literary
Chronicle,' knowing that what he wrote would also be rubbish.
'Remarkable vivacity.' 'Power of delineating character.' 'Excellent
choice of subject.' 'Considerable intimacy with the historical details
of various periods.' 'The literary world would be sure to hear of Lady
Carbury again.' The composition of the review, together with the
reading of the book, consumed altogether perhaps an hour of Mr
Booker's time. He made no attempt to cut the pages, but here and there
read those that were open. He had done this kind of thing so often,
that he knew well what he was about. He could have reviewed such a
book when he was three parts asleep. When the work was done he threw
down his pen and uttered a deep sigh. He felt it to be hard upon him
that he should be compelled, by the exigencies of his position, to
descend so low in literature; but it did not occur to him to reflect
that in fact he was not compelled, and that he was quite at liberty to
break stones, or to starve honestly, if no other honest mode of
carrying on his career was open to him. 'If I didn't, somebody else
would,' he said to himself.
But the review in the 'Morning Breakfast Table' was the making of Lady
Carbury's book, as far as it ever was made. Mr Broune saw the lady
after the receipt of the letter given in the first chapter of this
Tale, and was induced to make valuable promises which had been fully
performed. Two whole columns had been devoted to the work, and the
world had been assured that no more delightful mixture of amusement
and instruction had ever been concocted than Lady Carbury's 'Criminal
Queens.' It was the very book that had been wanted for years. It was a
work of infinite research and brilliant imagination combined. There
had been no hesitation in the laying on of the paint. At that last
meeting Lady Carbury had been very soft, very handsome, and very
winning; Mr Broune had given the order with good will, and it had been
obeyed in the same feeling.
Therefore, though the crushing had been very real, there had also been
some elation; and as a net result, Lady Carbury was disposed to think
that her literary career might yet be a success. Mr Leadham's cheque
had been for a small amount, but it might probably lead the way to
something better. People at any rate were talking about her, and her
Tuesday evenings at home were generally full. But her literary life,
and her literary successes, her flirtations with Mr Broune, her
business with Mr Booker, and her crushing by Mr Alf's Mr Jones, were
after all but adjuncts to that real inner life of hers of which the
absorbing interest was her son. And with regard to him too she was
partly depressed, and partly elated, allowing her hopes however to
dominate her fears. There was very much to frighten her. Even the
moderate reform in the young man's expenses which had been effected
under dire necessity had been of late abandoned. Though he never told
her anything, she became aware that during the last month of the
hunting season he had hunted nearly every day. She knew, too, that he
had a horse up in town. She never saw him but once in the day, when
she visited him in his bed about noon, and was aware that he was
always at his club throughout the night. She knew that he was
gambling, and she hated gambling as being of all pastimes the most
dangerous. But she knew that he had ready money for his immediate
purposes, and that two or three tradesmen who were gifted with a
peculiar power of annoying their debtors, had ceased to trouble her in
Welbeck Street. For the present, therefore, she consoled herself by
reflecting that his gambling was successful. But her elation sprang
from a higher source than this. From all that she could hear, she
thought it likely that Felix would carry off the great prize; and then,--
should he do that,--what a blessed son would he have been to her! How
constantly in her triumph would she be able to forget all his vices,
his debts, his gambling, his late hours, and his cruel treatment of
herself! As she thought of it the bliss seemed to be too great for the
possibility of realisation. She was taught to understand that £10,000
a year, to begin with, would be the least of it; and that the ultimate
wealth might probably be such as to make Sir Felix Carbury the richest
commoner in England. In her very heart of hearts she worshipped
wealth, but desired it for him rather than for herself. Then her mind
ran away to baronies and earldoms, and she was lost in the coming
glories of the boy whose faults had already nearly engulfed her in his
And she had another ground for elation, which comforted her much,
though elation from such a cause was altogether absurd. She had
discovered that her son had become a Director of the South Central
Pacific and Mexican Railway Company. She must have known,--she certainly
did know,--that Felix, such as he was, could not lend assistance by his
work to any company or commercial enterprise in the world. She was
aware that there was some reason for such a choice hidden from the
world, and which comprised and conveyed a falsehood. A ruined baronet
of five-and-twenty, every hour of whose life since he had been left to
go alone had been loaded with vice and folly,--whose egregious
misconduct warranted his friends in regarding him as one incapable of
knowing what principle is,--of what service could he be, that he should
be made a Director? But Lady Carbury, though she knew that he could be
of no service, was not at all shocked. She was now able to speak up a
little for her boy, and did not forget to send the news by post to
Roger Carbury. And her son sat at the same Board with Mr Melmotte!
What an indication was this of coming triumphs!
Fisker had started, as the reader will perhaps remember, on the
morning of Saturday 19th April, leaving Sir Felix at the Club at about
seven in the morning. All that day his mother was unable to see him.
She found him asleep in his room at noon and again at two; and when
she sought him again he had flown. But on the Sunday she caught him.
'I hope,' she said, 'you'll stay at home on Tuesday evening.' Hitherto
she had never succeeded in inducing him to grace her evening parties
by his presence.
'All your people are coming! You know, mother, it is such an awful
'Madame Melmotte and her daughter will be here.'
'One looks such a fool carrying on that kind of thing in one's own
house. Everybody sees that it has been contrived. And it is such a
pokey, stuffy little place!'
Then Lady Carbury spoke out her mind. 'Felix, I think you must be a
fool. I have given over ever expecting that you would do anything to
please me. I sacrifice everything for you and I do not even hope for a
return. But when I am doing everything to advance your own interests,
when I am working night and day to rescue you from ruin, I think you
might at any rate help a little,--not for me of course, but for
'I don't know what you mean by working day and night. I don't want you
to work day and night.'
'There is hardly a young man in London that is not thinking of this
girl, and you have chances that none of them have. I am told they are
going out of town at Whitsuntide, and that she's to meet Lord
Nidderdale down in the country.'
'She can't endure Nidderdale. She says so herself.'
'She will do as she is told,--unless she can be made to be downright in
love with some one like yourself. Why not ask her at once on
'If I'm to do it at all I must do it after my own fashion. I'm not
going to be driven.'
'Of course if you will not take the trouble to be here to see her when
she comes to your own house, you cannot expect her to think that you
really love her.'
'Love her! what a bother there is about loving! Well;--I'll look in.
What time do the animals come to feed?'
'There will be no feeding. Felix, you are so heartless and so cruel
that I sometimes think I will make up my mind to let you go your own
way and never to speak to you again. My friends will be here about
ten;--I should say from ten till twelve. I think you should be here to
receive her, not later than ten.'
'If I can get my dinner out of my throat by that time, I will come.'
When the Tuesday came, the over-driven young man did contrive to get
his dinner eaten, and his glass of brandy sipped, and his cigar
smoked, and perhaps his game of billiards played, so as to present
himself in his mother's drawing-room not long after half-past ten.
Madame Melmotte and her daughter were already there,--and many others,
of whom the majority were devoted to literature. Among them Mr Alf was
in the room, and was at this very moment discussing Lady Carbury's
book with Mr Booker. He had been quite graciously received, as though
he had not authorised the crushing. Lady Carbury had given him her
hand with that energy of affection with which she was wont to welcome
her literary friends, and had simply thrown one glance of appeal into
his eyes as she looked into his face,--as though asking him how he had
found it in his heart to be so cruel to one so tender, so unprotected,
so innocent as herself. 'I cannot stand this kind of thing,' said Mr
Alf, to Mr Booker. 'There's a regular system of touting got abroad,
and I mean to trample it down.'
'If you're strong enough,' said Mr Booker.
'Well, I think I am. I'm strong enough, at any rate, to show that I'm
not afraid to lead the way. I've the greatest possible regard for our
friend here,--but her book is a bad book, a thoroughly rotten book, an
unblushing compilation from half-a-dozen works of established
reputation, in pilfering from which she has almost always managed to
misapprehend her facts, and to muddle her dates. Then she writes to me
and asks me to do the best I can for her. I have done the best I
Mr Alf knew very well what Mr Booker had done, and Mr Booker was aware
of the extent of Mr Alf's knowledge. 'What you say is all very right,'
said Mr Booker; 'only you want a different kind of world to live in.'
'Just so;--and therefore we must make it different. I wonder how our
friend Broune felt when he saw that his critic had declared that the
"Criminal Queens" was the greatest historical work of modern days.'
'I didn't see the notice. There isn't much in the book, certainly, as
far as I have looked at it. I should have said that violent censure or
violent praise would be equally thrown away upon it. One doesn't want
to break a butterfly on the wheel;--especially a friendly butterfly.'
'As to the friendship, it should be kept separate. That's my idea,'
said Mr Alf, moving away.
'I'll never forget what you've done for me,--never!' said Lady Carbury,
holding Mr Broune's hand for a moment, as she whispered to him.
'Nothing more than my duty,' said he, smiling.
'I hope you'll learn to know that a woman can really be grateful,' she
replied. Then she let go his hand and moved away to some other guest.
There was a dash of true sincerity in what she had said. Of enduring
gratitude it may be doubtful whether she was capable: but at this
moment she did feel that Mr Broune had done much for her, and that she
would willingly make him some return of friendship. Of any feeling of
another sort, of any turn at the moment towards flirtation, of any
idea of encouragement to a gentleman who had once acted as though he
were her lover, she was absolutely innocent. She had forgotten that
little absurd episode in their joint lives. She was at any rate too
much in earnest at the present moment to think about it. But it was
otherwise with Mr Broune. He could not quite make up his mind whether
the lady was or was not in love with him,--or whether, if she were, it
was incumbent on him to indulge her;--and if so, in what manner. Then as
he looked after her, he told himself that she was certainly very
beautiful, that her figure was distinguished, that her income was
certain, and her rank considerable. Nevertheless, Mr Broune knew of
himself that he was not a marrying man. He had made up his mind that
marriage would not suit his business, and he smiled to himself as he
reflected how impossible it was that such a one as Lady Carbury should
turn him from his resolution.
'I am so glad that you have come to-night, Mr Alf,' Lady Carbury said
to the high-minded editor of the 'Evening Pulpit.'
'Am I not always glad to come, Lady Carbury?'
'You are very good. But I feared--'
'Feared what, Lady Carbury?'
'That you might perhaps have felt that I should be unwilling to
welcome you after,--well, after the compliments of last Thursday.'
'I never allow the two things to join themselves together. You see,
Lady Carbury, I don't write all these things myself.'
'No indeed. What a bitter creature you would be if you did.'
'To tell the truth, I never write any of them. Of course we endeavour