Part 4 out of 19
CHAPTER XVII - MARIE MELMOTTE HEARS A LOVE TALE
On the following morning there came a telegram from Felix. He was to
be expected at Beccles on that afternoon by a certain train; and
Roger, at Lady Carbury's request, undertook to send a carriage to the
station for him. This was done, but Felix did not arrive. There was
still another train by which he might come so as to be just in time
for dinner if dinner were postponed for half an hour. Lady Carbury
with a tender look, almost without speaking a word, appealed to her
cousin on behalf of her son. He knit his brows, as he always did,
involuntarily, when displeased; but he assented. Then the carriage had
to be sent again. Now carriages and carriage-horses were not numerous
at Carbury. The squire kept a waggonette and a pair of horses which,
when not wanted for house use, were employed about the farm. He
himself would walk home from the train, leaving the luggage to be
brought by some cheap conveyance. He had already sent the carriage
once on this day,--and now sent it again, Lady Carbury having said a
word which showed that she hoped that this would be done. But he did
it with deep displeasure. To the mother her son was Sir Felix, the
baronet, entitled to special consideration because of his position and
rank,--because also of his intention to marry the great heiress of the
day. To Roger Carbury, Felix was a vicious young man, peculiarly
antipathetic to himself, to whom no respect whatever was due.
Nevertheless the dinner was put off, and the waggonette was sent. But
the waggonette again came back empty. That evening was spent by Roger,
Lady Carbury, and Henrietta, in very much gloom.
About four in the morning the house was roused by the coming of the
baronet. Failing to leave town by either of the afternoon trains, he
had contrived to catch the evening mail, and had found himself
deposited at some distant town from which he had posted to Carbury.
Roger came down in his dressing-gown to admit him, and Lady Carbury
also left her room. Sir Felix evidently thought that he had been a
very fine fellow in going through so much trouble. Roger held a very
different opinion, and spoke little or nothing. 'Oh, Felix,' said the
mother, 'you have so terrified us!'
'I can tell you I was terrified myself when I found that I had to come
fifteen miles across the country with a pair of old jades who could
hardly get up a trot.'
'But why didn't you come by the train you named?'
'I couldn't get out of the city,' said the baronet with a ready lie.
'I suppose you were at the Board?' To this Felix made no direct
answer. Roger knew that there had been no Board. Mr Melmotte was in
the country and there could be no Board, nor could Sir Felix have had
business in the city. It was sheer impudence,--sheer indifference, and,
into the bargain, a downright lie. The young man, who was of himself
so unwelcome, who had come there on a project which he, Roger, utterly
disapproved,--who had now knocked him and his household up at four
o'clock in the morning,--had uttered no word of apology. 'Miserable
cub!' Roger muttered between his teeth. Then he spoke aloud, 'You had
better not keep your mother standing here. I will show you your room.'
'All right, old fellow,' said Sir Felix. 'I'm awfully sorry to disturb
you all in this way. I think I'll just take a drop of brandy and soda
before I go to bed, though.' This was another blow to Roger.
'I doubt whether we have soda-water in the house, and if we have, I
don't know where to get it. I can give you some brandy if you will
come with me.' He pronounced the word 'brandy' in a tone which implied
that it was a wicked, dissipated beverage. It was a wretched work to
Roger. He was forced to go upstairs and fetch a key in order that he
might wait upon this cub,--this cur! He did it, however, and the cub
drank his brandy-and-water, not in the least disturbed by his host's
ill-humour. As he went to bed he suggested the probability of his not
showing himself till lunch on the following day, and expressed a wish
that he might have breakfast sent to him in bed. 'He is born to be
hung,' said Roger to himself as he went to his room,--'and he'll deserve
On the following morning, being Sunday, they all went to church,--except
Felix. Lady Carbury always went to church when she was in the country,
never when she was at home in London. It was one of those moral
habits, like early dinners and long walks, which suited country life.
And she fancied that were she not to do so, the bishop would be sure
to know it and would be displeased. She liked the bishop. She liked
bishops generally; and was aware that it was a woman's duty to
sacrifice herself for society. As to the purpose for which people go
to church, it had probably never in her life occurred to Lady Carbury
to think of it. On their return they found Sir Felix smoking a cigar
on the gravel path, close in front of the open drawing-room window.
'Felix,' said his cousin, 'take your cigar a little farther. You are
filling the house with tobacco.'
'Oh heavens,--what a prejudice!' said the baronet.
'Let it be so, but still do as I ask you.' Sir Felix chucked the cigar
out of his mouth on to the gravel walk, whereupon Roger walked up to
the spot and kicked the offending weed away. This was the first
greeting of the day between the two men.
After lunch Lady Carbury strolled about with her son, instigating him
to go over at once to Caversham. 'How the deuce am I to get there?'
'Your cousin will lend you a horse.'
'He's as cross as a bear with a sore head. He's a deal older than I
am, and a cousin and all that, but I'm not going to put up with
insolence. If it were anywhere else I should just go into the yard and
ask if I could have a horse and saddle as a matter of course.'
'Roger has not a great establishment.'
'I suppose he has a horse and saddle, and a man to get it ready. I
don't want anything grand.'
'He is vexed because he sent twice to the station for you yesterday.'
'I hate the kind of fellow who is always thinking of little
grievances. Such a man expects you to go like clockwork, and because
you are not wound up just as he is, he insults you. I shall ask him
for a horse as I would any one else, and if he does not like it, he
may lump it.' About half an hour after this he found his cousin. 'Can
I have a horse to ride over to Caversham this afternoon?' he said.
'Our horses never go out on Sunday,' said Roger. Then he added, after
a pause, 'You can have it. I'll give the order.' Sir Felix would be
gone on Tuesday, and it should be his own fault if that odious cousin
ever found his way into Carbury House again! So he declared to himself
as Felix rode out of the yard; but he soon remembered how probable it
was that Felix himself would be the owner of Carbury. And should it
ever come to pass,--as still was possible,--that Henrietta should be
the mistress of Carbury, he could hardly forbid her to receive her
brother. He stood for a while on the bridge watching his cousin as he
cantered away upon the road, listening to the horse's feet. The young
man was offensive in every possible way. Who does not know that ladies
only are allowed to canter their friends' horses upon roads? A
gentleman trots his horse, and his friend's horse. Roger Carbury had
but one saddle horse,--a favourite old hunter that he loved as a friend.
And now this dear old friend, whose legs probably were not quite so
good as they once were, was being galloped along the hard road by that
odious cub! 'Soda and brandy!' Roger exclaimed to himself almost aloud,
thinking of the discomfiture of that early morning. 'He'll die some
day of delirium tremens in a hospital!'
Before the Longestaffes left London to receive their new friends the
Melmottes at Caversham, a treaty had been made between Mr Longestaffe,
the father, and Georgiana, the strong-minded daughter. The daughter on
her side undertook that the guests should be treated with feminine
courtesy. This might be called the most-favoured-nation clause. The
Melmottes were to be treated exactly as though old Melmotte had been a
gentleman and Madame Melmotte a lady. In return for this the
Longestaffe family were to be allowed to return to town. But here
again the father had carried another clause. The prolonged sojourn in
town was to be only for six weeks. On the 10th of July the
Longestaffes were to be removed into the country for the remainder of
the year. When the question of a foreign tour was proposed, the father
became absolutely violent in his refusal. 'In God's name where do you
expect the money is to come from?' When Georgiana urged that other
people had money to go abroad, her father told her that a time was
coming in which she might think it lucky if she had a house over her
head. This, however, she took as having been said with poetical
licence, the same threat having been made more than once before. The
treaty was very clear, and the parties to it were prepared to carry it
out with fair honesty. The Melmottes were being treated with decent
courtesy, and the house in town was not dismantled.
The idea, hardly ever in truth entertained but which had been barely
suggested from one to another among the ladies of the family, that
Dolly should marry Marie Melmotte, had been abandoned. Dolly, with all
his vapid folly, had a will of his own, which, among his own family,
was invincible. He was never persuaded to any course either by his
father or mother. Dolly certainly would not marry Marie Melmotte.
Therefore when the Longestaffes heard that Sir Felix was coming to the
country, they had no special objection to entertaining him at
Caversham. He had been lately talked of in London as the favourite in
regard to Marie Melmotte. Georgiana Longestaffe had a grudge of her
own against Lord Nidderdale, and was on that account somewhat well
inclined towards Sir Felix's prospects. Soon after the Melmottes'
arrival she contrived to say a word to Marie respecting Sir Felix.
'There is a friend of yours going to dine here on Monday, Miss
Melmotte.' Marie, who was at the moment still abashed by the grandeur
and size and general fashionable haughtiness of her new acquaintances,
made hardly any answer. 'I think you know Sir Felix Carbury,' continued
'Oh yes, we know Sir Felix Carbury.'
'He is coming down to his cousin's. I suppose it is for your bright
eyes, as Carbury Manor would hardly be just what he would like.'
'I don't think he is coming because of me,' said Marie blushing. She
had once told him that he might go to her father, which according to
her idea had been tantamount to accepting his offer as far as her
power of acceptance went. Since that she had seen him, indeed, but he
had not said a word to press his suit, nor, as far as she knew, had he
said a word to Mr Melmotte. But she had been very rigorous in
declining the attentions of other suitors. She had made up her mind
that she was in love with Felix Carbury, and she had resolved on
constancy. But she had begun to tremble, fearing his faithlessness.
'We had heard,' said Georgiana, 'that he was a particular friend of
yours.' And she laughed aloud, with a vulgarity which Madame Melmotte
certainly could not have surpassed.
Sir Felix, on the Sunday afternoon, found all the ladies out on the
lawn, and he also found Mr Melmotte there. At the last moment Lord
Alfred Grendall had been asked,--not because he was at all in favour
with any of the Longestaffes, but in order that he might be useful in
disposing of the great Director. Lord Alfred was used to him and could
talk to him, and might probably know what he liked to eat and drink.
Therefore Lord Alfred had been asked to Caversham, and Lord Alfred had
come, having all his expenses paid by the great Director. When Sir
Felix arrived, Lord Alfred was earning his entertainment by talking to
Mr Melmotte in a summerhouse. He had cool drink before him and a box
of cigars, but was probably thinking at the time how hard the world
had been to him. Lady Pomona was languid, but not uncivil in her
reception. She was doing her best to perform her part of the treaty in
reference to Madame Melmotte. Sophia was walking apart with a certain
Mr Whitstable, a young squire in the neighbourhood, who had been asked
to Caversham because as Sophia was now reputed to be twenty-eight,--they
who decided the question might have said thirty-one without falsehood.--
it was considered that Mr Whitstable was good enough, or at least as
good as could be expected. Sophia was handsome, but with a big, cold,
unalluring handsomeness, and had not quite succeeded in London.
Georgiana had been more admired, and boasted among her friends of the
offers which she had rejected. Her friends on the other hand were apt
to tell of her many failures. Nevertheless she held her head up, and
had not as yet come down among the rural Whitstables. At the present
moment her hands were empty, and she was devoting herself to such a
performance of the treaty as should make it impossible for her father
to leave his part of it unfulfilled.
For a few minutes Sir Felix sat on a garden chair making conversation
to Lady Pomona and Madame Melmotte. 'Beautiful garden,' he said; 'for
myself I don't much care for gardens; but if one is to live in the
country, this is the sort of thing that one would like.'
'Delicious,' said Madame Melmotte, repressing a yawn, and drawing her
shawl higher round her throat. It was the end of May, and the weather
was very warm for the time of the year; but, in her heart of hearts,
Madame Melmotte did not like sitting out in the garden.
'It isn't a pretty place; but the house is comfortable, and we make
the best of it,' said Lady Pomona.
'Plenty of glass, I see,' said Sir Felix. 'If one is to live in the
country, I like that kind of thing. Carbury is a very poor place.'
There was offence in this;--as though the Carbury property and the
Carbury position could be compared to the Longestaffe property and the
Longestaffe position. Though dreadfully hampered for money, the
Longestaffes were great people. 'For a small place,' said Lady Pomona,
'I think Carbury is one of the nicest in the county. Of course it is
'No, by Jove,' said Sir Felix, 'you may say that, Lady Pomona. It's
like a prison to me with that moat round it.' Then he jumped up and
joined Marie Melmotte and Georgiana. Georgiana, glad to be released
for a time from performance of the treaty, was not long before she
left them together. She had understood that the two horses now in the
running were Lord Nidderdale and Sir Felix; and though she would not
probably have done much to aid Sir Felix, she was quite willing to
destroy Lord Nidderdale.
Sir Felix had his work to do, and was willing to do it,--as far as such
willingness could go with him. The prize was so great, and the comfort
of wealth was so sure, that even he was tempted to exert himself. It
was this feeling which had brought him into Suffolk, and induced him
to travel all night, across dirty roads, in an old cab. For the girl
herself he cared not the least. It was not in his power really to care
for anybody. He did not dislike her much. He was not given to
disliking people strongly, except at the moments in which they
offended him. He regarded her simply as the means by which a portion
of Mr Melmotte's wealth might be conveyed to his uses. In regard to
feminine beauty he had his own ideas, and his own inclinations. He was
by no means indifferent to such attraction. But Marie Melmotte, from
that point of view, was nothing to him. Such prettiness as belonged to
her came from the brightness of her youth, and from a modest shy
demeanour joined to an incipient aspiration for the enjoyment of
something in the world which should be her own. There was, too,
arising within her bosom a struggle to be something in the world, an
idea that she, too, could say something, and have thoughts of her own,
if only she had some friend near her whom she need not fear. Though
still shy, she was always resolving that she would abandon her
shyness, and already had thoughts of her own as to the perfectly open
confidence which should exist between two lovers. When alone--and she
was much alone--she would build castles in the air, which were bright
with art and love, rather than with gems and gold. The books she read,
poor though they generally were, left something bright on her
imagination. She fancied to herself brilliant conversations in which
she bore a bright part, though in real life she had hitherto hardly
talked to any one since she was a child. Sir Felix Carbury, she knew,
had made her an offer. She knew also, or thought that she knew, that
she loved the man. And now she was with him alone! Now surely had come
the time in which some one of her castles in the air might be found to
be built of real materials.
'You know why I have come down here?' he said.
'To see your cousin.'
'No, indeed. I'm not particularly fond of my cousin, who is a
methodical stiff-necked old bachelor,--as cross as the mischief.'
'Yes; he is disagreeable. I didn't come down to see him, I can tell
you. But when I heard that you were going to be here with the
Longestaffes, I determined to come at once. I wonder whether you are
glad to see me?'
'I don't know,' said Marie, who could not at once find that brilliancy
of words with which her imagination supplied her readily enough in her
'Do you remember what you said to me that evening at my mother's?'
'Did I say anything? I don't remember anything particular.'
'Do you not? Then I fear you can't think very much of me.' He paused
as though he supposed that she would drop into his mouth like a
cherry. 'I thought you told me that you would love me.'
'Did you not?'
'I don't know what I said. Perhaps if I said that, I didn't mean it.'
'Am I to believe that?'
'Perhaps you didn't mean it yourself.'
'By George, I did. I was quite in earnest. There never was a fellow
more in earnest than I was. I've come down here on purpose to say it
'To say what?'
'Whether you'll accept me?'
'I don't know whether you love me well enough.' She longed to be told
by him that he loved her. He had no objection to tell her so, but,
without thinking much about it, felt it to be a bore. All that kind of
thing was trash and twaddle. He desired her to accept him; and he
would have wished, were it possible, that she should have gone to her
father for his consent. There was something in the big eyes and heavy
jaws of Mr Melmotte which he almost feared. 'Do you really love me
well enough?' she whispered.
'Of course I do. I'm bad at making pretty speeches, and all that, but
you know I love you.'
'By George, yes. I always liked you from the first moment I saw you. I
It was a poor declaration of love, but it sufficed. 'Then I will love
you,' she said. 'I will with all my heart.'
'There's a darling!'
'Shall I be your darling? Indeed I will. I may call you Felix now
'Oh, Felix, I hope you will love me. I will so dote upon you. You know
a great many men have asked me to love them.'
'I suppose so.'
'But I have never, never cared for one of them in the least,--not in the
'You do care for me?'
'Oh yes.' She looked up into his beautiful face as she spoke, and he
saw that her eyes were swimming with tears. He thought at the moment
that she was very common to look at. As regarded appearance only he
would have preferred even Sophia Longestaffe. There was indeed a
certain brightness of truth which another man might have read in
Marie's mingled smiles and tears, but it was thrown away altogether
upon him. They were walking in some shrubbery quite apart from the
house, where they were unseen; so, as in duty bound, he put his arm
round her waist and kissed her. 'Oh, Felix,' she said, giving her face
up to him; 'no one ever did it before.' He did not in the least
believe her, nor was the matter one of the slightest importance to
him. 'Say that you will be good to me, Felix. I will be so good to
'Of course I will be good to you.'
'Men are not always good to their wives. Papa is often very cross to
'I suppose he can be cross?'
'Yes, he can. He does not often scold me. I don't know what he'll say
when we tell him about this.'
'But I suppose he intends that you shall be married?'
'He wanted me to marry Lord Nidderdale and Lord Grasslough, but I
hated them both. I think he wants me to marry Lord Nidderdale again
now. He hasn't said so, but mamma tells me. But I never will,--never!'
'I hope not, Marie.'
'You needn't be a bit afraid. I would not do it if they were to kill
me. I hate him,--and I do so love you.' Then she leaned with all her
weight upon his arm and looked up again into his beautiful face. 'You
will speak to papa; won't you?'
'Will that be the best way?'
'I suppose so. How else?'
'I don't know whether Madame Melmotte ought not--'
'Oh dear no. Nothing would induce her. She is more afraid of him than
anybody;--more afraid of him than I am. I thought the gentleman always
'Of course I'll do it,' said Sir Felix. 'I'm not afraid of him. Why
should I? He and I are very good friends, you know.'
'I'm glad of that.'
'He made me a Director of one of his companies the other day.'
'Did he? Perhaps he'll like you for a son-in-law.'
'There's no knowing;--is there?'
'I hope he will. I shall like you for papa's son-in-law. I hope it
isn't wrong to say that. Oh, Felix, say that you love me.' Then she
put her face up towards his again.
'Of course I love you,' he said, not thinking it worth his while to
kiss her. 'It's no good speaking to him here. I suppose I had better
go and see him in the city.'
'He is in a good humour now,' said Marie.
'But I couldn't get him alone. It wouldn't be the thing to do down
'Not in the country,--in another person's house. Shall you tell Madame
'Yes, I shall tell mamma; but she won't say anything to him. Mamma
does not care much about me. But I'll tell you all that another time.
Of course I shall tell you everything now. I never yet had anybody to
tell anything to, but I shall never be tired of telling you.' Then he
left her as soon as he could, and escaped to the other ladies. Mr
Melmotte was still sitting in the summerhouse, and Lord Alfred was
still with him, smoking and drinking brandy and seltzer. As Sir Felix
passed in front of the great man he told himself that it was much
better that the interview should be postponed till they were all in
London. Mr Melmotte did not look as though he were in a good humour.
Sir Felix said a few words to Lady Pomona and Madame Melmotte. Yes; he
hoped to have the pleasure of seeing them with his mother and sister
on the following day. He was aware that his cousin was not coming. He
believed that his cousin Roger never did go anywhere like any one
else. No; he had not seen Mr Longestaffe. He hoped to have the
pleasure of seeing him to-morrow. Then he escaped, and got on his
horse, and rode away.
'That's going to be the lucky man,' said Georgiana to her mother, that
'In what way lucky?'
'He is going to get the heiress and all the money. What a fool Dolly
'I don't think it would have suited Dolly,' said Lady Pomona. 'After
all, why should not Dolly marry a lady?'
CHAPTER XVIII - RUBY RUGGLES HEARS A LOVE TALE
Ruby Ruggles, the granddaughter of old Daniel Ruggles, of Sheep's
Acre, in the parish of Sheepstone, close to Bungay, received the
following letter from the hands of the rural post letter-carrier on
that Sunday morning;--'A friend will be somewhere near Sheepstone
Birches between four and five o'clock on Sunday afternoon.' There was
not another word in the letter, but Miss Ruby Ruggles knew well from
whom it came.
Daniel Ruggles was a farmer, who had the reputation of considerable
wealth, but who was not very well looked on in the neighbourhood as
being somewhat of a curmudgeon and a miser. His wife was dead;--he had
quarrelled with his only son, whose wife was also dead, and had
banished him from his home;--his daughters were married and away; and
the only member of his family who lived with him was his granddaughter
Ruby. And this granddaughter was a great trouble to the old man. She
was twenty-three years old, and had been engaged to a prosperous young
man at Bungay in the meal and pollard line, to whom old Ruggles had
promised to give £500 on their marriage. But Ruby had taken it into
her foolish young head that she did not like meal and pollard, and now
she had received the above very dangerous letter. Though the writer
had not dared to sign his name she knew well that it came from Sir
Felix Carbury,--the most beautiful gentleman she had ever set her eyes
upon. Poor Ruby Ruggles! Living down at Sheep's Acre, on the Waveney,
she had heard both too much and too little of the great world beyond
her ken. There were, she thought, many glorious things to be seen
which she would never see were she in these her early years to become
the wife of John Crumb, the dealer in meal and pollard at Bungay.
Therefore she was full of a wild joy, half joy half fear, when she got
her letter; and, therefore, punctually at four o'clock on that Sunday
she was ensconced among the Sheepstone Birches, so that she might see
without much danger of being seen. Poor Ruby Ruggles, who was left to
be so much mistress of herself at the time of her life in which she
most required the kindness of a controlling hand!
Mr Ruggles held his land, or the greater part of it, on what is called
a bishop's lease, Sheep's Acre Farm being a part of the property which
did belong to the bishopric of Elmham, and which was still set apart
for its sustentation;--but he also held a small extent of outlying
meadow which belonged to the Carbury estate, so that he was one of the
tenants of Roger Carbury. Those Sheepstone Birches, at which Felix
made his appointment, belonged to Roger. On a former occasion, when
the feeling between the two cousins was kinder than that which now
existed, Felix had ridden over with the landlord to call on the old
man, and had then first seen Ruby;--and had heard from Roger something
of Ruby's history up to that date. It had then been just made known
that she was to marry John Crumb. Since that time not a word had been
spoken between the men respecting the girl. Mr Carbury had heard, with
sorrow, that the marriage was either postponed or abandoned,--but his
growing dislike to the baronet had made it very improbable that there
should be any conversation between them on the subject. Sir Felix,
however, had probably heard more of Ruby Ruggles than her
There is, perhaps, no condition of mind more difficult for the
ordinarily well-instructed inhabitant of a city to realise than that
of such a girl as Ruby Ruggles. The rural day labourer and his wife
live on a level surface which is comparatively open to the eye. Their
aspirations, whether for good or evil,--whether for food and drink to be
honestly earned for themselves and children, or for drink first, to be
come by either honestly or dishonestly,--are, if looked at at all, fairly
visible. And with the men of the Ruggles class one can generally find
out what they would be at, and in what direction their minds are at
work. But the Ruggles woman,--especially the Ruggles young woman,--is
better educated, has higher aspirations and a brighter imagination,
and is infinitely more cunning than the man. If she be good-looking
and relieved from the pressure of want, her thoughts soar into a world
which is as unknown to her as heaven is to us, and in regard to which
her longings are apt to be infinitely stronger than are ours for
heaven. Her education has been much better than that of the man. She
can read, whereas he can only spell words from a book. She can write a
letter after her fashion, whereas he can barely spell words out on a
paper. Her tongue is more glib, and her intellect sharper. But her
ignorance as to the reality of things is much more gross than his. By
such contact as he has with men in markets, in the streets of the
towns he frequents, and even in the fields, he learns something
unconsciously of the relative condition of his countrymen,--and, as to
that which he does not learn, his imagination is obtuse. But the woman
builds castles in the air, and wonders, and longs. To the young farmer
the squire's daughter is a superior being very much out of his way. To
the farmer's daughter the young squire is an Apollo, whom to look at
is a pleasure,--by whom to be looked at is a delight. The danger for the
most part is soon over. The girl marries after her kind, and then
husband and children put the matter at rest for ever.
A mind more absolutely uninstructed than that of Ruby Ruggles as to
the world beyond Suffolk and Norfolk it would be impossible to find.
But her thoughts were as wide as they were vague, and as active as
they were erroneous. Why should she with all her prettiness, and all
her cleverness,--with all her fortune to boot,--marry that dustiest of all
men, John Crumb, before she had seen something of the beauties of the
things of which she had read in the books which came in her way? John
Crumb was not bad-looking. He was a sturdy, honest fellow, too,--slow of
speech but sure of his points when be had got them within his grip,--
fond of his beer but not often drunk, and the very soul of industry at
his work. But though she had known him all her life she had never
known him otherwise than dusty. The meal had so gotten within his
hair, and skin, and raiment, that it never came out altogether even on
Sundays. His normal complexion was a healthy pallor, through which
indeed some records of hidden ruddiness would make themselves visible,
but which was so judiciously assimilated to his hat and coat and
waistcoat, that he was more like a stout ghost than a healthy young
man. Nevertheless it was said of him that he could thrash any man in
Bungay, and carry two hundredweight of flour upon his back. And Ruby
also knew this of him,--that he worshipped the very ground on which she
But, alas, she thought there might be something better than such
worship; and, therefore, when Felix Carbury came in her way, with his
beautiful oval face, and his rich brown colour, and his bright hair
and lovely moustache, she was lost in a feeling which she mistook for
love; and when he sneaked over to her a second and a third time, she
thought more of his listless praise than ever she had thought of John
Crumb's honest promises. But, though she was an utter fool, she was
not a fool without a principle. She was miserably ignorant; but she
did understand that there was a degradation which it behoved her to
avoid. She thought, as the moths seem to think, that she might fly
into the flame and not burn her wings. After her fashion she was
pretty, with long glossy ringlets, which those about the farm on week
days would see confined in curl-papers, and large round dark eyes, and
a clear dark complexion, in which the blood showed itself plainly
beneath the soft brown skin. She was strong, and healthy, and tall,--
and had a will of her own which gave infinite trouble to old Daniel
Ruggles, her grandfather.
Felix Carbury took himself two miles out of his way in order that he
might return by Sheepstone Birches, which was a little copse distant
not above half a mile from Sheep's Acre farmhouse. A narrow angle of
the little wood came up to the road, by which there was a gate leading
into a grass meadow, which Sir Felix had remembered when he made his
appointment. The road was no more than a country lane, unfrequented at
all times, and almost sure to be deserted on Sundays. He approached
the gate in a walk, and then stood awhile looking into the wood. He
had not stood long before he saw the girl's bonnet beneath a tree
standing just outside the wood, in the meadow, but on the bank of the
ditch. Thinking for a moment what he would do about his horse, he rode
him into the field, and then, dismounting, fastened him to a rail
which ran down the side of the copse. Then he sauntered on till he
stood looking down upon Ruby Ruggles as she sat beneath the tree. 'I
like your impudence,' she said, 'in calling yourself a friend.'
'Ain't I a friend, Ruby?'
'A pretty sort of friend, you! When you was going away, you was to be
back at Carbury in a fortnight; and that is,--oh, ever so long ago now.'
'But I wrote to you, Ruby.'
'What's letters? And the postman to know all as in 'em for anything
anybody knows, and grandfather to be almost sure to see 'em. I don't
call letters no good at all, and I beg you won't write 'em any more.'
'Did he see them?'
'No thanks to you if he didn't. I don't know why you are come here,
Sir Felix,--nor yet I don't know why I should come and meet you. It's
all just folly like.'
'Because I love you;--that's why I come; eh, Ruby? And you have come
because you love me; eh, Ruby? Is not that about it?' Then he threw
himself on the ground beside her, and got his arm round her waist.
It would boot little to tell here all that they said to each other.
The happiness of Ruby Ruggles for that half-hour was no doubt
complete. She had her London lover beside her; and though in every
word he spoke there was a tone of contempt, still he talked of love,
and made her promises, and told her that she was pretty. He probably
did not enjoy it much; he cared very little about her, and carried on
the liaison simply because it was the proper sort of thing for a young
man to do. He had begun to think that the odour of patchouli was
unpleasant, and that the flies were troublesome, and the ground hard,
before the half-hour was over. She felt that she could be content to
sit there for ever and to listen to him. This was a realisation of
those delights of life of which she had read in the thrice-thumbed old
novels which she had gotten from the little circulating library at
But what was to come next? She had not dared to ask him to marry her,--
had not dared to say those very words; and he had not dared to ask her
to be his mistress. There was an animal courage about her, and an
amount of strength also, and a fire in her eye, of which he had
learned to be aware. Before the half-hour was over I think that he
wished himself away;--but when he did go, he made a promise to see her
again on the Tuesday morning. Her grandfather would be at Harlestone
market, and she would meet him at about noon at the bottom of the
kitchen garden belonging to the farm. As he made the promise he
resolved that he would not keep it. He would write to her again, and
bid her come to him in London, and would send her money for the
'I suppose I am to be his wedded wife,' said Ruby to herself, as she
crept away down from the road, away also from her own home;--so that on
her return her presence should not be associated with that of the
young man, should any one chance to see the young man on the road.
'I'll never be nothing unless I'm that,' she said to herself. Then she
allowed her mind to lose itself in expatiating on the difference
between John Crumb and Sir Felix Carbury.
CHAPTER XIX - HETTA CARBURY HEARS A LOVE TALE
'I half a mind to go back to-morrow morning,' Felix said to his mother
that Sunday evening after dinner. At that moment Roger was walking
round the garden by himself, and Henrietta was in her own room.
'To-morrow morning, Felix! You are engaged to dine with the
'You could make any excuse you like about that.'
'It would be the most uncourteous thing in the world. The Longestaffes
you know are the leading people in this part of the country. No one
knows what may happen. If you should ever be living at Carbury, how
sad it would be that you should have quarrelled with them.'
'You forget, mother, that Dolly Longestaffe is about the most intimate
friend I have in the world.'
'That does not justify you in being uncivil to the father and mother.
And you should remember what you came here for.'
'What did I come for?'
'That you might see Marie Melmotte more at your ease than you can in
their London house.'
'That's all settled,' said Sir Felix, in the most indifferent tone
that he could assume.
'As far as the girl is concerned. I can't very well go to the old
fellow for his consent down here.'
'Do you mean to say, Felix, that Marie Melmotte has accepted you?'
'I told you that before.'
'My dear Felix. Oh, my boy!' In her joy the mother took her unwilling
son in her arms and caressed him. Here was the first step taken not
only to success, but to such magnificent splendour as should make her
son to be envied by all young men, and herself to be envied by all
mothers in England! 'No, you didn't tell me before. But I am so happy.
Is she really fond of you? I don't wonder that any girl should be fond
'I can't say anything about that, but I think she means to stick to
'If she is firm, of course her father will give way at last. Fathers
always do give way when the girl is firm. Why should he oppose it?'
'I don't know that he will.'
'You are a man of rank, with a title of your own. I suppose what he
wants is a gentleman for his girl. I don't see why he should not be
perfectly satisfied. With all his enormous wealth a thousand a year or
so can't make any difference. And then he made you one of the
Directors at his Board. Oh Felix;--it is almost too good to be true.'
'I ain't quite sure that I care very much about being married, you
'Oh, Felix, pray don't say that. Why shouldn't you like being married?
She is a very nice girl, and we shall all be so fond of her! Don't let
any feeling of that kind come over you; pray don't. You will be able
to do just what you please when once the question of her money is
settled. Of course you can hunt as often as you like, and you can have
a house in any part of London you please. You must understand by this
time how very disagreeable it is to have to get on without an
'I quite understand that.'
'If this were once done you would never have any more trouble of that
kind. There would be plenty of money for everything as long as you
live. It would be complete success. I don't know how to say enough to
you, or to tell you how dearly I love you, or to make you understand
how well I think you have done it all.' Then she caressed him again,
and was almost beside herself in an agony of mingled anxiety and joy.
If, after all, her beautiful boy, who had lately been her disgrace and
her great trouble because of his poverty, should shine forth to the
world as a baronet with £20,000 a year, how glorious would it be! She
must have known,--she did know,--how poor, how selfish a creature he was.
But her gratification at the prospect of his splendour obliterated the
sorrow with which the vileness of his character sometimes oppressed
her. Were he to win this girl with all her father's money, neither she
nor his sister would be the better for it, except in this, that the
burden of maintaining him would be taken from her shoulders. But his
magnificence would be established. He was her son, and the prospect of
his fortune and splendour was sufficient to elate her into a very
heaven of beautiful dreams. 'But, Felix,' she continued, 'you really
must stay and go to the Longestaffes' to-morrow. It will only be one
day. And now were you to run away--'
'Run away! What nonsense you talk.'
'If you were to start back to London at once I mean, it would be an
affront to her, and the very thing to set Melmotte against you. You
should lay yourself out to please him;--indeed you should.'
'Oh, bother!' said Sir Felix. But nevertheless he allowed himself to
be persuaded to remain. The matter was important even to him, and he
consented to endure the almost unendurable nuisance of spending
another day at the Manor House. Lady Carbury, almost lost in delight,
did not know where to turn for sympathy. If her cousin were not so
stiff, so pig-headed, so wonderfully ignorant of the affairs of the
world, he would have at any rate consented to rejoice with her. Though
he might not like Felix,--who, as his mother admitted to herself, had
been rude to her cousin,--he would have rejoiced for the sake of the
family. But, as it was, she did not dare to tell him. He would have
received her tidings with silent scorn. And even Henrietta would not
be enthusiastic. She felt that though she would have delighted to
expatiate on this great triumph, she must be silent at present. It
should now be her great effort to ingratiate herself with Mr Melmotte
at the dinner party at Caversham.
During the whole of that evening Roger Carbury hardly spoke to his
cousin Hetta. There was not much conversation between them till quite
late, when Father Barham came in for supper. He had been over at
Bungay among his people there, and had walked back, taking Carbury on
the way. 'What did you think of our bishop?' Roger asked him, rather
'Not much of him as a bishop. I don't doubt that he makes a very nice
lord, and that he does more good among his neighbours than an average
lord. But you don't put power or responsibility into the hands of any
one sufficient to make him a bishop.'
'Nine-tenths of the clergy in the diocese would be guided by him in
any matter of clerical conduct which might come before him.'
'Because they know that he has no strong opinion of his own, and would
not therefore desire to dominate theirs. Take any of your bishops that
has an opinion,--if there be one left,--and see how far your clergy
consent to his teaching!' Roger turned round and took up his book. He
was already becoming tired of his pet priest. He himself always
abstained from saying a word derogatory to his new friend's religion
in the man's hearing; but his new friend did not by any means return
the compliment. Perhaps also Roger felt that were he to take up the
cudgels for an argument he might be worsted in the combat, as in such
combats success is won by practised skill rather than by truth.
Henrietta was also reading, and Felix was smoking elsewhere,--wondering
whether the hours would ever wear themselves away in that castle of
dulness, in which no cards were to be seen, and where, except at
meal-times, there was nothing to drink. But Lady Carbury was quite
willing to allow the priest to teach her that all appliances for the
dissemination of religion outside his own Church must be naught.
'I suppose our bishops are sincere in their beliefs,' she said with
her sweetest smile.
'I'm sure I hope so. I have no possible reason to doubt it as to the
two or three whom I have seen,--nor indeed as to all the rest whom I
have not seen.'
'They are so much respected everywhere as good and pious men!'
'I do not doubt it. Nothing tends so much to respect as a good income.
But they may be excellent men without being excellent bishops. I find
no fault with them, but much with the system by which they are
controlled. Is it probable that a man should be fitted to select
guides for other men's souls because he has succeeded by infinite
labour in his vocation in becoming the leader of a majority in the
House of Commons?'
'Indeed, no,' said Lady Carbury, who did not in the least understand
the nature of the question put to her.
'And when you've got your bishop, is it likely that a man should be
able to do his duty in that capacity who has no power of his own to
decide whether a clergyman under him is or is not fit for his duty?'
'The English people, or some of them,--that some being the richest, and,
at present, the most powerful,--like to play at having a Church, though
there is not sufficient faith in them to submit to the control of a
'Do you think men should be controlled by clergymen, Mr Barham?'
'In matters of faith I do; and so, I suppose, do you; at least you
make that profession. You declare it to be your duty to submit
yourself to your spiritual pastors and masters.'
'That, I thought, was for children,' said Lady Carbury. 'The
clergyman, in the catechism, says, "My good child."'
'It is what you were taught as a child before you had made profession
of your faith to a bishop, in order that you might know your duty when
you had ceased to be a child. I quite agree, however, that the matter,
as viewed by your Church, is childish altogether, and intended only
for children. As a rule, adults with you want no religion.'
'I am afraid that is true of a great many.'
'It is marvellous to me that, when a man thinks of it, he should not
be driven by very fear to the comforts of a safer faith,--unless,
indeed, he enjoy the security of absolute infidelity.'
'That is worse than anything,' said Lady Carbury with a sigh and a
'I don't know that it is worse than a belief which is no belief,' said
the priest with energy;--'than a creed which sits so easily on a man
that he does not even know what it contains, and never asks himself as
he repeats it, whether it be to him credible or incredible.'
'That is very bad,' said Lady Carbury.
'We're getting too deep, I think,' said Roger, putting down the book
which he had in vain been trying to read.
'I think it is so pleasant to have a little serious conversation on
Sunday evening,' said Lady Carbury. The priest drew himself back into
his chair and smiled. He was quite clever enough to understand that
Lady Carbury had been talking nonsense, and clever enough also to be
aware of the cause of Roger's uneasiness. But Lady Carbury might be
all the easier converted because she understood nothing and was fond
of ambitious talking; and Roger Carbury might possibly be forced into
conviction by the very feeling which at present made him unwilling to
'I don't like hearing my Church ill-spoken of,' said Roger.
'You wouldn't like me if I thought ill of it and spoke well of it,'
said the priest.
'And, therefore, the less said the sooner mended,' said Roger, rising
from his chair. Upon this Father Barham look his departure and walked
away to Beccles. It might be that he had sowed some seed. It might be
that he had, at any rate, ploughed some ground. Even the attempt to
plough the ground was a good work which would not be forgotten.
The following morning was the time on which Roger had fixed for
repeating his suit to Henrietta. He had determined that it should be
so, and though the words had been almost on his tongue during that
Sunday afternoon, he had repressed them because he would do as he had
determined. He was conscious, almost painfully conscious, of a certain
increase of tenderness in his cousin's manner towards him. All that
pride of independence, which had amounted almost to roughness, when
she was in London, seemed to have left her. When he greeted her
morning and night, she looked softly into his face. She cherished the
flowers which he gave her. He could perceive that if he expressed the
slightest wish in any matter about the house she would attend to it.
There had been a word said about punctuality, and she had become
punctual as the hand of the clock. There was not a glance of her eye,
nor a turn of her hand, that he did not watch, and calculate its
effect as regarded himself. But because she was tender to him and
observant, he did not by any means allow himself to believe that her
heart was growing into love for him. He thought that he understood the
working of her mind. She could see how great was his disgust at her
brother's doings; how fretted he was by her mother's conduct. Her
grace, and sweetness, and sense, took part with him against those who
were nearer to herself, and therefore,--in pity,--she was kind to him. It
was thus he read it, and he read it almost with exact accuracy.
'Hetta,' he said after breakfast, 'come out into the garden awhile.'
'Are not you going to the men?'
'Not yet, at any rate. I do not always go to the men as you call it.'
She put on her hat and tripped out with him, knowing well that she had
been summoned to hear the old story. She had been sure, as soon as she
found the white rose in her room, that the old story would be repeated
again before she left Carbury;--and, up to this time, she had hardly
made up her mind what answer she would give to it. That she could not
take his offer, she thought she did know. She knew well that she loved
the other man. That other man had never asked her for her love, but
she thought that she knew that he desired it. But in spite of all this
there had in truth grown up in her bosom a feeling of tenderness
towards her cousin so strong that it almost tempted her to declare to
herself that he ought to have what he wanted, simply because he wanted
it. He was so good, so noble, so generous, so devoted, that it almost
seemed to her that she could not be justified in refusing him. And she
had gone entirely over to his side in regard to the Melmottes. Her
mother had talked to her of the charm of Mr Melmotte's money, till her
very heart had been sickened. There was nothing noble there; but, as
contrasted with that, Roger's conduct and bearing were those of a fine
gentleman who knew neither fear nor shame. Should such a one be doomed
to pine for ever because a girl could not love him,--a man born to be
loved, if nobility and tenderness and truth were lovely!
'Hetta,' he said, 'put your arm here.' She gave him her arm. 'I was a
little annoyed last night by that priest. I want to be civil to him,
and now he is always turning against me.'
'He doesn't do any harm, I suppose?'
'He does do harm if he teaches you and me to think lightly of those
things which we have been brought up to revere.' So, thought
Henrietta, it isn't about love this time; it's only about the Church.
'He ought not to say things before my guests as to our way of
believing, which I wouldn't under any circumstances say as to his. I
didn't quite like your hearing it.'
'I don't think he'll do me any harm. I'm not at all that way given. I
suppose they all do it. It's their business.'
'Poor fellow! I brought him here just because I thought it was a pity
that a man born and bred like a gentleman should never see the inside
of a comfortable house.'
'I liked him;--only I didn't like his saying stupid things about the
'And I like him.' Then there was a pause. 'I suppose your brother does
not talk to you much about his own affairs.'
'His own affairs, Roger? Do you mean money? He never says a word to me
'I meant about the Melmottes.'
'No; not to me. Felix hardly ever speaks to me about anything.'
'I wonder whether she has accepted him.'
'I think she very nearly did accept him in London.'
'I can't quite sympathise with your mother in all her feelings about
this marriage, because I do not think that I recognise as she does the
necessity of money.'
'Felix is so disposed to be extravagant.'
'Well; yes. But I was going to say that though I cannot bring myself
to say anything to encourage her about this heiress, I quite recognise
her unselfish devotion to his interests.'
'Mamma thinks more of him than of anything,' said Hetta, not in the
least intending to accuse her mother of indifference to herself.
'I know it; and though I happen to think myself that her other child
would better repay her devotion,'--this he said, looking up to Hetta
and smiling,--'I quite feel how good a mother she is to Felix. You know,
when she first came the other day we almost had a quarrel.'
'I felt that there was something unpleasant.'
'And then Felix coming after his time put me out. I am getting old and
cross, or I should not mind such things.'
'I think you are so good and so kind.' As she said this she leaned
upon his arm almost as though she meant to tell him that she loved
'I have been angry with myself,' he said, 'and so I am making you my
father confessor. Open confession is good for the soul sometimes, and
I think that you would understand me better than your mother.'
'I do understand you; but don't think there is any fault to confess.'
'You will not exact any penance?' She only looked at him and smiled.
'I am going to put a penance on myself all the same. I can't
congratulate your brother on his wooing over at Caversham, as I know
nothing about it, but I will express some civil wish to him about
things in general.'
'Will that be a penance?'
'If you could look into my mind you'd find that it would. I'm full of
fretful anger against him for half-a-dozen little frivolous things.
Didn't he throw his cigar on the path? Didn't he lie in bed on Sunday
instead of going to church?'
'But then he was travelling all the Saturday night.'
'Whose fault was that? But don't you see it is the triviality of the
offence which makes the penance necessary. Had he knocked me over the
head with a pickaxe, or burned the house down, I should have had a
right to be angry. But I was angry because he wanted a horse on Sunday;--
and therefore I must do penance.'
There was nothing of love in all this. Hetta, however, did not wish
him to talk of love. He was certainly now treating her as a friend,--as
a most intimate friend. If he would only do that without making love
to her, how happy could she be! But his determination still held good.
'And now,' said he, altering his tone altogether, 'I must speak about
myself.' Immediately the weight of her hand upon his arm was lessened.
Thereupon he put his left hand round and pressed her arm to his. 'No,'
he said; 'do not make any change towards me while I speak to you.
Whatever comes of it we shall at any rate be cousins and friends.'
'Always friends!' she said.
'Yes,--always friends. And now listen to me for I have much to say. I
will not tell you again that I love you. You know it, or else you must
think me the vainest and falsest of men. It is not only that I love
you, but I am so accustomed to concern myself with one thing only, so
constrained by the habits and nature of my life to confine myself to
single interests, that I cannot as it were escape from my love. I am
thinking of it always, often despising myself because I think of it so
much. For, after all, let a woman be ever so good,--and you to me are
all that is good,--a man should not allow his love to dominate his
'I do. I calculate my chances within my own bosom almost as a man
might calculate his chances of heaven. I should like you to know me
just as I am, the weak and the strong together. I would not win you by
a lie if I could. I think of you more than I ought to do. I am sure,--
quite sure that you are the only possible mistress of this house
during my tenure of it. If I am ever to live as other men do, and to
care about the things which other men care for, it must be as your
'Pray,--pray do not say that.'
'Yes; I think that I have a right to say it,--and a right to expect that
you should believe me. I will not ask you to be my wife if you do not
love me. Not that I should fear aught for myself, but that you should
not be pressed to make a sacrifice of yourself because I am your
friend and cousin. But I think it is quite possible you might come to
love me,--unless your heart be absolutely given away elsewhere.'
'What am I to say?'
'We each of us know of what the other is thinking. If Paul Montague
has robbed me of my love?'
'Mr Montague has never said a word.'
'If he had, I think he would have wronged me. He met you in my house,
and I think must have known what my feelings were towards you.'
'But he never has.'
'We have been like brothers together,--one brother being very much older
than the other, indeed; or like father and son. I think he should
place his hopes elsewhere.'
'What am I to say? If he have such hope he has not told me. I think it
almost cruel that a girl should be asked in that way.'
'Hetta, I should not wish to be cruel to you. Of course I know the way
of the world in such matters. I have no right to ask you about Paul
Montague,--no right to expect an answer. But it is all the world to me.
You can understand that I should think you might learn to love even
me, if you loved no one else.' The tone of his voice was manly, and at
the same time full of entreaty. His eyes as he looked at her were
bright with love and anxiety. She not only believed him as to the tale
which he now told her; but she believed in him altogether. She knew
that he was a staff on which a woman might safely lean, trusting to it
for comfort and protection in life. In that moment she all but yielded
to him. Had he seized her in his arms and kissed her then, I think she
would have yielded. She did all but love him. She so regarded him that
had it been some other woman that he craved, she would have used every
art she knew to have backed his suit, and would have been ready to
swear that any woman was a fool who refused him. She almost hated
herself because she was unkind to one who so thoroughly deserved
kindness. As it was, she made him no answer, but continued to walk
beside him trembling. 'I thought I would tell it you all, because I
wish you to know exactly the state of my mind. I would show you if I
could all my heart and all my thoughts about yourself as in a glass
case. Do not coy your love for me if you can feel it. When you know,
dear, that a man's heart is set upon a woman as mine is set on you, so
that it is for you to make his life bright or dark, for you to open or
to shut the gates of his earthly Paradise, I think you will be above
keeping him in darkness for the sake of a girlish scruple.'
'If ever there should come a time in which you can say it truly,
remember my truth to you and say it boldly. I at least shall never
change. Of course if you love another man and give yourself to him, it
will be all over. Tell me that boldly also. I have said it all now.
God bless you, my own heart's darling. I hope,--I hope I may be strong
enough through it all to think more of your happiness than of my own.'
Then he parted from her abruptly, taking his way over one of the
bridges, and leaving her to find her way into the house alone.
CHAPTER XX - LADY POMONA'S DINNER PARTY
Roger Carbury's half-formed plan of keeping Henrietta at home while
Lady Carbury and Sir Felix went to dine at Caversham fell to the
ground. It was to be carried out only in the event of Hetta's yielding
to his prayer. But he had in fact not made a prayer, and Hetta had
certainly yielded nothing. When the evening came, Lady Carbury started
with her son and daughter, and Roger was left alone. In the ordinary
course of his life he was used to solitude. During the greater part of
the year he would eat and drink and live without companionship; so
that there was to him nothing peculiarly sad in this desertion. But on
the present occasion he could not prevent himself from dwelling on the
loneliness of his lot in life. These cousins of his who were his
guests cared nothing for him. Lady Carbury had come to his house
simply that it might be useful to her; Sir Felix did not pretend to
treat him with even ordinary courtesy; and Hetta herself, though she
was soft to him and gracious, was soft and gracious through pity
rather than love. On this day he had, in truth, asked her for nothing;
but he had almost brought himself to think that she might give all
that he wanted without asking. And yet, when he told her of the
greatness of his love, and of its endurance, she was simply silent.
When the carriage taking them to dinner went away down the road, he
sat on the parapet of the bridge in front of the house listening to
the sound of the horses' feet, and telling himself that there was
nothing left for him in life.
If ever one man had been good to another, he had been good to Paul
Montague, and now Paul Montague was robbing him of everything he
valued in the world. His thoughts were not logical, nor was his mind
exact. The more he considered it, the stronger was his inward
condemnation of his friend. He had never mentioned to any one the
services he had rendered to Montague. In speaking of him to Hetta he
had alluded only to the affection which had existed between them. But
he felt that because of those services his friend Montague had owed it
to him not to fall in love with the girl he loved; and he thought that
if, unfortunately, this had happened unawares, Montague should have
retired as soon as he learned the truth. He could not bring himself to
forgive his friend, even though Hetta had assured him that his friend
had never spoken to her of love. He was sore all over, and it was Paul
Montague who made him sore. Had there been no such man at Carbury when
Hetta came there, Hetta might now have been mistress of the house. He
sat there till the servant came to tell him that his dinner was on the
table. Then he crept in and ate,--so that the man might not see his
sorrow; and, after dinner, he sat with a book in his hand seeming to
read. But he read not a word, for his mind was fixed altogether on
his cousin Hetta. 'What a poor creature a man is,' he said to himself,
'who is not sufficiently his own master to get over a feeling like
At Caversham there was a very grand party,--as grand almost as a dinner
party can be in the country. There were the Earl and Countess of
Loddon and Lady Jane Pewet from Loddon Park, and the bishop and his
wife, and the Hepworths. These, with the Carburys and the parson's
family, and the people staying in the house, made twenty-four at the
dinner table. As there were fourteen ladies and only ten men, the
banquet can hardly be said to have been very well arranged. But those
things cannot be done in the country with the exactness which the
appliances of London make easy; and then the Longestaffes, though they
were decidedly people of fashion, were not famous for their excellence
in arranging such matters. If aught, however, was lacking in
exactness, it was made up in grandeur. There were three powdered
footmen, and in that part of the country Lady Pomona alone was served
after this fashion; and there was a very heavy butler, whose
appearance of itself was sufficient to give éclat to a family. The
grand saloon in which nobody ever lived was thrown open, and sofas and
chairs on which nobody ever sat were uncovered. It was not above once
in the year that this kind of thing vas done at Caversham; but when it
was done, nothing was spared which could contribute to the
magnificence of the fête. Lady Pomona and her two tall daughters
standing up to receive the little Countess of Loddon and Lady Jane
Pewet, who was the image of her mother on a somewhat smaller scale,
while Madame Melmotte and Marie stood behind as though ashamed of
themselves, was a sight to see. Then the Carburys came, and then Mrs
Yeld with the bishop. The grand room was soon fairly full; but nobody
had a word to say. The bishop was generally a man of much
conversation, and Lady Loddon, if she were well pleased with her
listeners, could talk by the hour without ceasing. But on this
occasion nobody could utter a word. Lord Loddon pottered about, making
a feeble attempt, in which he was seconded by no one. Lord Alfred
stood, stock-still, stroking his grey moustache with his hand. That
much greater man, Augustus Melmotte, put his thumbs into the arm-holes
of his waistcoat, and was impassible. The bishop saw at a glance the
hopelessness of the occasion, and made no attempt. The master of the
house shook hands with each guest as he entered, and then devoted his
mind to expectation of the next corner. Lady Pomona and her two
daughters were grand and handsome, but weary and dumb. In accordance
with the treaty, Madame Melmotte had been entertained civilly for four
entire days. It could not be expected that the ladies of Caversham
should come forth unwearied after such a struggle.
When dinner was announced Felix was allowed to take in Marie Melmotte.
There can be no doubt but that the Caversham ladies did execute their
part of the treaty. They were led to suppose that this arrangement
would be desirable to the Melmottes, and they made it. The great
Augustus himself went in with Lady Carbury, much to her satisfaction.
She also had been dumb in the drawing-room; but now, if ever, it would
be her duty to exert herself. 'I hope you like Suffolk,' she said.
'Pretty well, I thank you. Oh, yes;--very nice place for a little fresh
'Yes;--that's just it, Mr Melmotte. When the summer comes one does long
so to see the flowers.'
'We have better flowers in our balconies than any I see down here,'
said Mr Melmotte.
'No doubt;--because you can command the floral tribute of the world at
large. What is there that money will not do? It can turn a London
street into a bower of roses, and give you grottoes in Grosvenor
'It's a very nice place, is London.'
'If you have got plenty of money, Mr Melmotte.'
'And if you have not, it's the best place I know to get it. Do you
live in London, ma'am?' He had quite forgotten Lady Carbury even if he
had seen her at his house, and with the dulness of hearing common to
men, had not picked up her name when told to take her out to dinner.
'Oh, yes, I live in London. I have had the honour of being entertained
by you there.' This she said with her sweetest smile.
'Oh, indeed. So many do come, that I don't always just remember.'
'How should you,--with all the world flocking round you? I am Lady
Carbury, the mother of Sir Felix Carbury, whom I think you will
'Yes; I know Sir Felix. He's sitting there, next to my daughter.'
'I don't know much about that. Young men don't get their happiness in
that way now. They've got other things to think of.'
'He thinks so much of his business.'
'Oh! I didn't know,' said Mr Melmotte.
'He sits at the same Board with you, I think, Mr Melmotte.'
'Oh;--that's his business!' said Mr Melmotte, with a grim smile.
Lady Carbury was very clever as to many things, and was not
ill-informed on matters in general that were going on around her; but
she did not know much about the city, and was profoundly ignorant as
to the duties of those Directors of whom, from time to time, she saw
the names in a catalogue. 'I trust that he is diligent there,' she
said; 'and that he is aware of the great privilege which he enjoys in
having the advantage of your counsel and guidance.'
'He don't trouble me much, ma'am, and I don't trouble him much.' After
this Lady Carbury said no more as to her son's position in the city.
She endeavoured to open various other subjects of conversation; but
she found Mr Melmotte to be heavy on her hands. After a while she had
to abandon him in despair, and give herself up to raptures in favour
of Protestantism at the bidding of the Caversham parson, who sat on
the other side of her, and who had been worked to enthusiasm by some
mention of Father Barham's name.
Opposite to her, or nearly so, sat Sir Felix and his love. 'I have told
mamma,' Marie had whispered, as she walked in to dinner with him. She
was now full of the idea so common to girls who are engaged,--and as
natural as it is common,--that she might tell everything to her lover.
'Did she say anything?' he asked. Then Marie had to take her place and
arrange her dress before she could reply to him. 'As to her, I suppose
it does not matter what she says, does it?'
'She said a great deal. She thinks that papa will think you are not
rich enough. Hush! Talk about something else, or people will hear.' So
much she had been able to say during the bustle.
Felix was not at all anxious to talk about his love, and changed the
subject very willingly. 'Have you been riding?' he asked.
'No; I don't think there are horses here,--not for visitors, that is.
How did you get home? Did you have any adventures?'
'None at all,' said Felix, remembering Ruby Ruggles. 'I just rode home
quietly. I go to town to-morrow.'
'And we go on Wednesday. Mind you come and see us before long.' This
she said bringing her voice down to a whisper.
'Of course I shall. I suppose I'd better go to your father in the
city. Does he go every day?'
'Oh yes, every day. He's back always about seven. Sometimes he's
good-natured enough when he comes back, but sometimes he's very cross.
He's best just after dinner. But it's so hard to get to him then. Lord
Alfred is almost always there; and then other people come, and they
play cards. I think the city will be best.'
'You'll stick to it?' he asked.
'Oh, yes;--indeed I will. Now that I've once said it nothing will ever
turn me. I think papa knows that.' Felix looked at her as she said
this, and thought that he saw more in her countenance than he had ever
read there before. Perhaps she would consent to run away with him;
and, if so, being the only child, she would certainly,--almost certainly,
--be forgiven. But if he were to run away with her and marry her, and
then find that she were not forgiven, and that Melmotte allowed her to
starve without a shilling of fortune, where would he be then? Looking
at the matter in all its bearings, considering among other things the
trouble and the expense of such a measure, he thought that he could
not afford to run away with her.
After dinner he hardly spoke to her; indeed, the room itself,--the same
big room in which they had been assembled before the feast,--seemed to
be ill-adapted for conversation. Again nobody talked to anybody, and
the minutes went very heavily till at last the carriages were there to
take them all home. 'They arranged that you should sit next to her,'
said Lady Carbury to her son, as they were in the carriage.
'Oh, I suppose that came naturally;--one young man and one young woman,
'Those things are always arranged, and they would not have done it
unless they had thought that it would please Mr Melmotte. Oh, Felix!
if you can bring it about.'
'I shall if I can, mother; you needn't make a fuss about it.'
'No, I won't. You cannot wonder that I should be anxious. You behaved
beautifully to her at dinner; I was so happy to see you together. Good
night, Felix, and God bless you!' she said again, as they were parting
for the night. 'I shall be the happiest and the proudest mother in
England if this comes about.'
CHAPTER XXI - EVERYBODY GOES TO THEM
When the Melmottes went from Caversham the house was very desolate.
The task of entertaining these people was indeed over, and had the
return to London been fixed for a certain near day, there would have
been comfort at any rate among the ladies of the family. But this was
so far from being the case that the Thursday and Friday passed without
anything being settled, and dreadful fears began to fill the minds of
Lady Pomona and Sophia Longestaffe. Georgiana was also impatient, but
she asserted boldly that treachery, such as that which her mother and
sister contemplated, was impossible. Their father, she thought, would
not dare to propose it. On each of these days,--three or four times
daily,--hints were given and questions were asked, but without avail. Mr
Longestaffe would not consent to have a day fixed till he had received
some particular letter, and would not even listen to the suggestion of
a day. 'I suppose we can go at any rate on Tuesday,' Georgiana said on
the Friday evening. 'I don't know why you should suppose anything of
the kind,' the father replied. Poor Lady Pomona was urged by her
daughters to compel him to name a day; but Lady Pomona was less
audacious in urging the request than her younger child, and at the
same time less anxious for its completion. On the Sunday morning
before they went to church there was a great discussion upstairs. The
Bishop of Elmham was going to preach at Caversham church, and the
three ladies were dressed in their best London bonnets. They were in
their mother's room, having just completed the arrangements of their
church-going toilet. It was supposed that the expected letter had
arrived. Mr Longestaffe had certainly received a despatch from his
lawyer, but had not as yet vouchsafed any reference to its contents.
He had been more than ordinarily silent at breakfast, and,--so Sophia
asserted,--more disagreeable than ever. The question had now arisen
especially in reference to their bonnets. 'You might as well wear
them,' said Lady Pomona, 'for I am sure you will not be in London
again this year.'
'You don't mean it, mamma,' said Sophia.
'I do, my dear. He looked like it when he put those papers back into
his pocket. I know what his face means so well.'
'It is not possible,' said Sophia. 'He promised, and he got us to have
those horrid people because he promised.'
'Well, my dear, if your father says that we can't go back, I suppose
we must take his word for it. It is he must decide of course. What he
meant I suppose was, that he would take us back if he could.'
'Mamma!' shouted Georgiana. Was there to be treachery not only on the
part of their natural adversary, who, adversary though he was, had
bound himself to terms by a treaty, but treachery also in their own
'My dear, what can we do?' said Lady Pomona.
'Do!' Georgiana was now going to speak out plainly. 'Make him
understand that we are not going to be sat upon like that. I'll do
something, if that's going to be the way of it. If he treats me like
that I'll run off with the first man that will take me, let him be who
'Don't talk like that, Georgiana, unless you wish to kill me.'
'I'll break his heart for him. He does not care about us not the least
whether we are happy or miserable; but he cares very much about the
family name. I'll tell him that I'm not going to be a slave. I'll
marry a London tradesman before I'll stay down here.' The younger Miss
Longestaffe was lost in passion at the prospect before her.
'Oh, Georgey, don't say such horrid things as that,' pleaded her
'It's all very well for you, Sophy. You've got George Whitstable.'
'I haven't got George Whitstable.'
'Yes, you have, and your fish is fried. Dolly does just what he
pleases, and spends money as fast as he likes. Of course it makes no
difference to you, mamma, where you are.'
'You are very unjust,' said Lady Pomona, wailing, 'and you say horrid
'I ain't unjust at all. It doesn't matter to you. And Sophy is the
same as settled. But I'm to be sacrificed! How am I to see anybody
down here in this horrid hole? Papa promised and he must keep his
Then there came to them a loud voice calling to them from the hall.
'Are any of you coming to church, or are you going to keep the
carriage waiting all day?' Of course they were all going to church.
They always did go to church when they were at Caversham; and would
more especially do so to-day, because of the bishop and because of the
bonnets. They trooped down into the hall and into the carriage, Lady
Pomona leading the way. Georgiana stalked along, passing her father at
the front door without condescending to look at him. Not a word was
spoken on the way to church, or on the way home. During the service Mr
Longestaffe stood up in the corner of his pew, and repeated the
responses in a loud voice. In performing this duty he had been an
example to the parish all his life. The three ladies knelt on their
hassocks in the most becoming fashion, and sat during the sermon
without the slightest sign either of weariness or of attention. They
did not collect the meaning of any one combination of sentences. It
was nothing to them whether the bishop had or had not a meaning.
Endurance of that kind was their strength. Had the bishop preached for
forty-five minutes instead of half an hour they would not have
complained. It was the same kind of endurance which enabled Georgiana
to go on from year to year waiting for a husband of the proper sort.
She could put up with any amount of tedium if only the fair chance of
obtaining ultimate relief were not denied to her. But to be kept at
Caversham all the summer would be as bad as hearing a bishop preach
for ever! After the service they came back to lunch, and that meal
also was eaten in silence. When it was over the head of the family put
himself into the dining-room arm-chair, evidently meaning to be left
alone there. In that case he would have meditated upon his troubles
till he went to sleep, and would have thus got through the afternoon
with comfort. But this was denied to him. The two daughters remained
steadfast while the things were being removed; and Lady Pomona, though
she made one attempt to leave the room, returned when she found that
her daughters would not follow her. Georgiana had told her sister
that she meant to 'have it out' with her father, and Sophia had of
course remained in the room in obedience to her sister's behest. When
the last tray had been taken out, Georgiana began. 'Papa, don't you
think you could settle now when we are to go back to town? Of course
we want to know about engagements and all that. There is Lady
Monogram's party on Wednesday. We promised to be there ever so long
'You had better write to Lady Monogram and say you can't keep your
'But why not, papa? We could go up on Wednesday morning.'
'You can't do anything of the kind.'
'But, my dear, we should all like to have a day fixed,' said Lady
Pomona. Then there was a pause. Even Georgiana, in her present state
of mind, would have accepted some distant, even some undefined time,
as a compromise.
'Then you can't have a day fixed,' said Mr Longestaffe.
'How long do you suppose that we shall be kept here?' said Sophia, in
a low constrained voice.
'I do not know what you mean by being kept here. This is your home,
and this is where you may make up your minds to live.'
'But we are to go back?' demanded Sophia. Georgiana stood by in
silence, listening, resolving, and biding her time.
'You'll not return to London this season,' said Mr Longestaffe,
turning himself abruptly to a newspaper which he held in his hands.
'Do you mean that that is settled?' said Lady Pomona. 'I mean to say
that that is settled,' said Mr Longestaffe. Was there ever treachery
like this! The indignation in Georgiana's mind approached almost to
virtue as she thought of her father's falseness. She would not have
left town at all but for that promise. She would not have contaminated
herself with the Melmottes but for that promise. And now she was told
that the promise was to be absolutely broken, when it was no longer
possible that she could get back to London,--even to the house of the
hated Primeros,--without absolutely running away from her father's
residence! 'Then, papa,' she said, with affected calmness, 'you have
simply and with premeditation broken your word to us.'
'How dare you speak to me in that way, you wicked child!'
'I am not a child, papa, as you know very well. I am my own mistress,--
'Then go and be your own mistress. You dare to tell me, your father,
that I have premeditated a falsehood! If you tell me that again, you
shall eat your meals in your own room or not eat them in this house.'
'Did you not promise that we should go back if we would come down and
entertain these people?'
'I will not argue with a child, insolent and disobedient as you are.
If I have anything to say about it, I will say it to your mother. It
should be enough for you that I, your father, tell you that you have
to live here. Now go away, and if you choose to be sullen, go and be
sullen where I shan't see you.' Georgiana looked round on her mother
and sister and then marched majestically out of the room. She still
meditated revenge, but she was partly cowed, and did not dare in her
father's presence to go on with her reproaches. She stalked off into
the room in which they generally lived, and there she stood panting
with anger, breathing indignation through her nostrils.
'And you mean to put up with it, mamma?' she said.
'What can we do, my dear?'
'I will do something. I'm not going to be cheated and swindled and
have my life thrown away into the bargain. I have always behaved well
to him. I have never run up bills without saying anything about them.'
This was a cut at her elder sister, who had once got into some little
trouble of that kind. 'I have never got myself talked about with
anybody. If there is anything to be done I always do it. I have
written his letters for him till I have been sick, and when you were
ill I never asked him to stay out with us after two or half-past two
at the latest. And now he tells me that I am to eat my meals up in my
bedroom because I remind him that he distinctly promised to take us
back to London! Did he not promise, mamma?'
'I understood so, my dear.'
'You know he promised, mamma. If I do anything now he must bear the
blame of it. I am not going to keep myself straight for the sake of
the family, and then be treated in that way.'
'You do that for your own sake, I suppose,' said her sister.
'It is more than you've been able to do for anybody's sake,' said
Georgiana, alluding to a very old affair to an ancient flirtation, in
the course of which the elder daughter had made a foolish and a futile
attempt to run away with an officer of dragoons whose private fortune
was very moderate. Ten years had passed since that, and the affair was
never alluded to except in moments of great bitterness.
'I've kept myself as straight as you have,' said Sophia. 'It's easy
enough to be straight, when a person never cares for anybody, and
nobody cares for a person.'
'My dears, if you quarrel what am I to do?' said their mother.
'It is I that have to suffer,' continued Georgiana. 'Does he expect me
to find anybody here that I could take? Poor George Whitstable is not
much; but there is nobody else at all.'
'You may have him if you like,' said Sophia, with a chuck of her head.
'Thank you, my dear, but I shouldn't like it at all. I haven't come to
that quite yet.'
'You were talking of running away with somebody.'
'I shan't run away with George Whitstable; you may be sure of that.
I'll tell you what I shall do,--I will write papa a letter. I suppose
he'll condescend to read it. If he won't take me up to town himself,
he must send me up to the Primeros. What makes me most angry in the
whole thing is that we should have condescended to be civil to the
Melmottes down in the country. In London one does those things, but to
have them here was terrible!'
During that entire afternoon nothing more was said. Not a word passed
between them on any subject beyond those required by the necessities
of life. Georgiana had been as hard to her sister as to her father,
and Sophia in her quiet way resented the affront. She was now almost
reconciled to the sojourn in the country, because it inflicted a
fitting punishment on Georgiana, and the presence of Mr Whitstable at
a distance of not more than ten miles did of course make a difference
to herself. Lady Pomona complained of a headache, which was always an
excuse with her for not speaking;--and Mr Longestaffe went to sleep.
Georgiana during the whole afternoon remained apart, and on the next
morning the head of the family found the following letter on his
My DEAR PAPA
I don't think you ought to be surprised because we feel that our
going up to town is so very important to us. If we are not to be
in London at this time of the year we can never see anybody, and
of course you know what that must mean for me. If this goes on
about Sophia, it does not signify for her, and, though mamma likes
London, it is not of real importance. But it is very, very hard
upon me. It isn't for pleasure that I want to go up. There isn't
so very much pleasure in it. But if I'm to be buried down here at
Caversham, I might just as well be dead at once. If you choose to
give up both houses for a year, or for two years, and take us all
abroad, I should not grumble in the least. There are very nice
people to be met abroad, and perhaps things go easier that way
than in town. And there would be nothing for horses, and we could
dress very cheap and wear our old things. I'm sure I don't want to
run up bills. But if you would only think what Caversham must be
to me, without any one worth thinking about within twenty miles,
you would hardly ask me to stay here.
You certainly did say that if we would come down here with those
Melmottes we should be taken back to town, and you cannot be
surprised that we should be disappointed when we are told that we
are to be kept here after that. It makes me feel that life is so
hard that I can't bear it. I see other girls having such chances
when I have none, that sometimes I think I don't know what will
happen to me.' (This was the nearest approach which she dared to
make in writing to that threat which she had uttered to her mother
of running away with somebody.) 'I suppose that now it is useless
for me to ask you to take us all back this summer,--though it was
promised; but I hope you'll give me money to go up to the
Primeros. It would only be me and my maid. Julia Primero asked me
to stay with them when you first talked of not going up, and I
should not in the least object to reminding her, only it should be
done at once. Their house in Queen's Gate is very large, and I
know they've a room. They all ride, and I should want a horse; but
there would be nothing else, as they have plenty of carriages, and
the groom who rides with Julia would do for both of us. Pray
answer this at once, papa.
Your affectionate daughter,
Mr Longestaffe did condescend to read the letter. He, though he had
rebuked his mutinous daughter with stern severity, was also to some
extent afraid of her. At a sudden burst he could stand upon his
authority, and assume his position with parental dignity; but not the
less did he dread the wearing toil of continued domestic strife. He
thought that upon the whole his daughter liked a row in the house. If
not, there surely would not be so many rows. He himself thoroughly
hated them. He had not any very lively interest in life. He did not
read much; he did not talk much; he was not specially fond of eating
and drinking; he did not gamble, and he did not care for the farm. To
stand about the door and hall and public rooms of the clubs to which he
belonged and hear other men talk politics or scandal, was what he
liked better than anything else in the world. But he was quite willing
to give this up for the good of his family. He would be contented to
drag through long listless days at Caversham, and endeavour to nurse
his property, if only his daughter would allow it. By assuming a
certain pomp in his living, which had been altogether unserviceable to
himself and family, by besmearing his footmen's heads, and bewigging
his coachmen, by aping, though never achieving, the grand ways of
grander men than himself, he had run himself into debt. His own
ambition had been a peerage, and he had thought that this was the way
to get it. A separate property had come to his son from his wife's
mother,--some £2,000 or £3,000 a year, magnified by the world into
double its amount,--and the knowledge of this had for a time reconciled
him to increasing the burdens on the family estates. He had been sure
that Adolphus, when of age, would have consented to sell the Sussex
property in order that the Suffolk property might be relieved. But
Dolly was now in debt himself, and though in other respects the most
careless of men, was always on his guard in any dealings with his
father. He would not consent to the sale of the Sussex property unless
half of the proceeds were to be at once handed to himself. The father
could not bring himself to consent to this, but, while refusing it,
found the troubles of the world very hard upon him. Melmotte had done
something for him,--but in doing this Melmotte was very hard and
tyrannical. Melmotte, when at Caversham, had looked into his affairs,
and had told him very plainly that with such an establishment in the
country he was not entitled to keep a house in town. Mr Longestaffe
had then said something about his daughters,--something especially about
Georgiana,--and Mr Melmotte had made a suggestion.
Mr Longestaffe, when he read his daughter's appeal, did feel for her,
in spite of his anger. But if there was one man he hated more than
another, it was his neighbour Mr Primero; and if one woman, it was Mrs
Primero. Primero, whom Mr Longestaffe regarded as quite an upstart,
and anything but a gentleman, owed no man anything. He paid his
tradesmen punctually, and never met the squire of Caversham without
seeming to make a parade of his virtue in that direction. He had spent
many thousands for his party in county elections and borough
elections, and was now himself member for a metropolitan district. He
was a radical, of course, or, according to Mr Longestaffe's view of
his political conduct, acted and voted on the radical side because
there was nothing to be got by voting and acting on the other. And now
there had come into Suffolk a rumour that Mr Primero was to have a
peerage. To others the rumour was incredible, but Mr Longestaffe
believed it, and to Mr Longestaffe that belief was an agony. A Baron
Bundlesham just at his door, and such a Baron Bundlesham, would be
more than Mr Longestaffe could endure. It was quite impossible that
his daughter should be entertained in London by the Primeros.
But another suggestion had been made. Georgiana's letter had been laid
on her father's table on the Monday morning. On the following morning,
when there could have been no intercourse with London by letter, Lady
Pomona called her younger daughter to her, and handed her a note to
read. 'Your papa has this moment given it me. Of course you must judge
for yourself.' This was the note;--
MY DEAR MR LONGESTAFFE,
As you seem determined not to return to London this season,
perhaps one of your young ladies would like to come to us. Mrs
Melmotte would be delighted to have Miss Georgiana for June and
July. If so, she need only give Mrs Melmotte a day's notice.
Georgiana, as soon as her eye had glanced down the one side of note
paper on which this invitation was written, looked up for the date. It
was without a date, and had, she felt sure, been left in her father's
hands to be used as he might think fit. She breathed very hard. Both
her father and mother had heard her speak of these Melmottes, and knew
what she thought of them. There was an insolence in the very
suggestion. But at the first moment she said nothing of that. 'Why
shouldn't I go to the Primeros?' she asked.
'Your father will not hear of it. He dislikes them especially.'
'And I dislike the Melmottes. I dislike the Primeros of course, but
they are not so bad as the Melmottes. That would be dreadful.'
'You must judge for yourself; Georgiana.'
'It is that,--or staying here?'
'I think so, my dear.'
'If papa chooses I don't know why I am to mind. It will be awfully
'She seemed to be very quiet.'
'Pooh, mamma! Quiet! She was quiet here because she was afraid of us.
She isn't yet used to be with people like us. She'll get over that if
I'm in the house with her. And then she is, oh! so frightfully vulgar!
She must have been the very sweeping of the gutters. Did you not see
it, mamma? She could not even open her mouth, she was so ashamed of
herself. I shouldn't wonder if they turned out to be something quite
horrid. They make me shudder. Was there ever anything so dreadful to
look at as he is?'
'Everybody goes to them,' said Lady Pomona. 'The Duchess of Stevenage
has been there over and over again, and so has Lady Auld Reekie.
Everybody goes to their house.'
'But everybody doesn't go and live with them. Oh, mamma,--to have to sit
down to breakfast every day for ten weeks with that man and that
'Perhaps they'll let you have your breakfast upstairs.'
'But to have to go out with them;--walking into the room after her! Only
think of it!'
'But you are so anxious to be in London, my dear.'
'Of course I am anxious. What other chance have I, mamma? And, oh
dear, I am so tired of it! Pleasure, indeed! Papa talks of pleasure.
If papa had to work half as hard as I do, I wonder what he'd think of
it. I suppose I must do it. I know it will make me so ill that I shall
almost die under it. Horrid, horrid people! And papa to propose it,
who has always been so proud of everything,--who used to think so much
of being with the right set'
'Things are changed, Georgiana,' said the anxious mother.
'Indeed they are when papa wants me to go and stay with people like
that. Why, mamma, the apothecary in Bungay is a fine gentleman
compared with Mr Melmotte, and his wife is a fine lady compared with
Madame Melmotte. But I'll go. If papa chooses me to be seen with such
people it is not my fault. There will be no disgracing one's self
after that. I don't believe in the least that any decent man would
propose to a girl in such a house, and you and papa must not be
surprised if I take some horrid creature from the Stock Exchange. Papa
has altered his ideas; and so, I suppose, I had better alter mine.'
Georgiana did not speak to her father that night, but Lady Pomona
informed Mr Longestaffe that Mr Melmotte's invitation was to be
accepted. She herself would write a line to Madame Melmotte, and
Georgiana would go up on the Friday following. 'I hope she'll like
it,' said Mr Longestaffe. The poor man had no intention of irony. It
was not in his nature to be severe after that fashion. But to poor
Lady Pomona the words sounded very cruel. How could any one like to
live in a house with Mr and Madame Melmotte!
On the Friday morning there was a little conversation between the two
sisters, just before Georgiana's departure to the railway station,
which was almost touching. She had endeavoured to hold up her head as
usual, but had failed. The thing that she was going to do cowed her
even in the presence of her sister. 'Sophy, I do so envy you staying
'But it was you who were so determined to be in London.'
'Yes; I was determined, and am determined. I've got to get myself
settled somehow, and that can't be done down here. But you are not
going to disgrace yourself.'
'There's no disgrace in it, Georgey.'
'Yes, there is. I believe the man to be a swindler and a thief; and I
believe her to be anything low that you can think of. As to their
pretensions to be gentlefolk, it is monstrous. The footmen and
housemaids would be much better.'
'Then don't go, Georgey.'
'I must go. It's the only chance that is left. If I were to remain
down here everybody would say that I was on the shelf. You are going
to marry Whitstable, and you'll do very well. It isn't a big place,
but there's no debt on it, and Whitstable himself isn't a bad sort of
'Is he, now?'
'Of course he hasn't much to say for himself; for he's always at home.
But he is a gentleman.'
'That he certainly is.'
'As for me I shall give over caring about gentlemen now. The first man
that comes to me with four or five thousand a year, I'll take him,
though he'd come out of Newgate or Bedlam. And I shall always say it
has been papa's doing.'
And so Georgiana Longestaffe went up to London and stayed with the
CHAPTER XXII - LORD NIDDERDALE'S MORALITY
It was very generally said in the city about this time that the Great
South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway was the very best thing out.
It was known that Mr Melmotte had gone into it with heart and hand.
There were many who declared,--with gross injustice to the Great
Fisker,--that the railway was Melmotte's own child, that he had
invented it, advertised it, agitated it, and floated it; but it was not
the less popular on that account. A railway from Salt Lake City to
Mexico no doubt had much of the flavour of a castle in Spain. Our
far-western American brethren are supposed to be imaginative. Mexico has
not a reputation among us for commercial security, or that stability
which produces its four, five, or six per cent, with the regularity of
clockwork. But there was the Panama railway, a small affair which had
paid twenty-five per cent.; and there was the great line across the
continent to San Francisco, in which enormous fortunes had been made.
It came to be believed that men with their eyes open might do as well
with the Great South Central as had ever been done before with other
speculations, and this belief was no doubt founded on Mr Melmotte's
partiality for the enterprise. Mr Fisker had 'struck 'ile' when he
induced his partner, Montague, to give him a note to the great man.
Paul Montague himself, who cannot be said to have been a man having
his eyes open, in the city sense of the word, could not learn how the
thing was progressing. At the regular meetings of the Board, which
never sat for above half an hour, two or three papers were read by
Miles Grendall. Melmotte himself would speak a few slow words,
intended to be cheery, and always indicative of triumph, and then
everybody would agree to everything, somebody would sign something,
and the 'Board' for that day would be over. To Paul Montague this was
very unsatisfactory. More than once or twice he endeavoured to stay
the proceedings, not as disapproving, but simply as desirous of being
made to understand; but the silent scorn of his chairman put him out
of countenance, and the opposition of his colleagues was a barrier
which he was not strong enough to overcome. Lord Alfred Grendall would
declare that he 'did not think all that was at all necessary.' Lord
Nidderdale, with whom Montague had now become intimate at the
Beargarden, would nudge him in the ribs and bid him hold his tongue.
Mr Cohenlupe would make a little speech in fluent but broken English,
assuring the Committee that everything was being done after the
approved city fashion. Sir Felix, after the first two meetings, was
never there. And thus Paul Montague, with a sorely burdened
conscience, was carried along as one of the Directors of the Great
South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway Company.
I do not know whether the burden was made lighter to him or heavier, by
the fact that the immediate pecuniary result was certainly very
comfortable. The Company had not yet been in existence quite six
weeks,--or at any rate Melmotte had not been connected with it above
that time,--and it had already been suggested to him twice that he
should sell fifty shares at £112 10s. He did not even yet know how many
shares he possessed, but on both occasions he consented to the
proposal, and on the following day received a cheque for £625,--that
sum representing the profit over and above the original nominal price
of £100 a share. The suggestion was made to him by Miles Grendall, and
when he asked some questions as to the manner in which the shares had
been allocated, he was told that all that would be arranged in
accordance with the capital invested and must depend on the final
disposition of the Californian property. 'But from what we see, old
fellow,' said Miles, 'I don't think you have anything to fear. You seem
to be about the best in of them all. Melmotte wouldn't advise you to
sell out gradually, if he didn't look upon the thing as a certain
income as far as you are concerned.'
Paul Montague understood nothing of all this, and felt that he was
standing on ground which might be blown from under his feet at any
moment. The uncertainty, and what he feared might be the dishonesty,
of the whole thing, made him often very miserable. In those wretched
moments his conscience was asserting itself. But again there were
times in which he also was almost triumphant, and in which he felt the
delight of his wealth. Though he was snubbed at the Board when he
wanted explanations, he received very great attention outside the
board-room from those connected with the enterprise. Melmotte had
asked him to dine two or three times. Mr Cohenlupe had begged him to
go down to his little place at Rickmansworth,--an entreaty with which
Montague had not as yet complied. Lord Alfred was always gracious to
him, and Nidderdale and Carbury were evidently anxious to make him one
of their set at the club. Many other houses became open to him from
the same source. Though Melmotte was supposed to be the inventor of
the railway, it was known that Fisker, Montague, and Montague were
largely concerned in it, and it was known also that Paul Montague was
one of the Montagues named in that firm. People, both in the City and
the West End, seemed to think that he knew all about it, and treated
him as though some of the manna falling from that heaven were at his
disposition. There were results from this which were not unpleasing to
the young man. He only partially resisted the temptation; and though
determined at times to probe the affair to the bottom, was so
determined only at times. The money was very pleasant to him. The
period would now soon arrive before which he understood himself to be
pledged not to make a distinct offer to Henrietta Carbury; and when
that period should have been passed, it would be delightful to him to
know that he was possessed of property sufficient to enable him to