Part 5 out of 19
give a wife a comfortable home. In all his aspirations, and in all his
fears, he was true to Hetta Carbury, and made her the centre of his
hopes. Nevertheless, had Hetta known everything, it may be feared that
she would have at any rate endeavoured to dismiss him from her heart.
There was considerable uneasiness in the bosoms of others of the
Directors, and a disposition to complain against the Grand Director,
arising from a grievance altogether different from that which
afflicted Montague. Neither had Sir Felix Carbury nor Lord Nidderdale
been invited to sell shares, and consequently neither of them had
received any remuneration for the use of their names. They knew well
that Montague had sold shares. He was quite open on the subject, and
had told Felix, whom he hoped some day to regard as his
brother-in-law, exactly what shares he had sold, and for how much;--and
the two men had endeavoured to make the matter intelligible between
themselves. The original price of the shares being £100 each, and £12
10s. a share having been paid to Montague as the premium, it was to be
supposed that the original capital was re-invested in other shares.
But each owned to the other that the matter was very complicated to
him, and Montague could only write to Hamilton K. Fisker at San
Francisco asking for explanation. As yet he had received no answer.
But it was not the wealth flowing into Montague's hands which
embittered Nidderdale and Carbury. They understood that he had really
brought money into the concern, and was therefore entitled to take
money out of it. Nor did it occur to them to grudge Melmotte his more
noble pickings, for they knew how great a man was Melmotte. Of
Cohenlupe's doings they heard nothing; but he was a regular city man,
and had probably supplied funds. Cohenlupe was too deep for their
inquiry. But they knew that Lord Alfred had sold shares, and had
received the profit; and they knew also how utterly impossible it was
that Lord Alfred should have produced capital. If Lord Alfred Grendall
was entitled to plunder, why were not they? And if their day for
plunder had not yet come, why Lord Alfred's? And if there was so much
cause to fear Lord Alfred that it was necessary to throw him a bone,
why should not they also make themselves feared? Lord Alfred passed
all his time with Melmotte,--had, as these young men said, become
Melmotte's head valet,--and therefore had to be paid. But that reason
did not satisfy the young men.
'You haven't sold any shares;--have you?' This question Sir Felix asked
Lord Nidderdale at the club. Nidderdale was constant in his attendance
at the Board, and Felix was not a little afraid that he might be
jockied also by him.
'Not a share.'
'Nor got any profits?'
'Not a shilling of any kind. As far as money is concerned my only
transaction has been my part of the expense of Fisker's dinner.'
'What do you get then, by going into the city?' asked Sir Felix.
'I'm blessed if I know what I get. I suppose something will turn up
'In the meantime, you know, there are our names. And Grendall is
making a fortune out of it.'
'Poor old duffer,' said his lordship. 'If he's doing so well, I think
Miles ought to be made to pay up something of what he owes. I think we
ought to tell him that we shall expect him to have the money ready
when that bill of Vossner's comes round.'
'Yes, by George; let's tell him that. Will you do it?'
'Not that it will be the least good. It would be quite unnatural to
him to pay anything.'
'Fellows used to pay their gambling debts,' said Sir Felix, who was
still in funds, and who still held a considerable assortment of
'They don't now,--unless they like it. How did a fellow manage before,
if he hadn't got it?'
'He went smash,' said Sir Felix, 'and disappeared and was never heard
of any more. It was just the same as if he'd been found cheating. I
believe a fellow might cheat now and nobody'd say anything!'
'I shouldn't,' said Lord Nidderdale. 'What's the use of being beastly
ill-natured? I'm not very good at saying my prayers, but I do think
there's something in that bit about forgiving people. Of course
cheating isn't very nice: and it isn't very nice for a fellow to play
when he knows he can't pay; but I don't know that it's worse than
getting drunk like Dolly Longestaffe, or quarrelling with everybody as
Grasslough does,--or trying to marry some poor devil of a girl merely
because she's got money. I believe in living in glass houses, but I
don't believe in throwing stones. Do you ever read the Bible,
'Read the Bible! Well;--yes;--no;--that is, I suppose, I used to do.'
'I often think I shouldn't have been the first to pick up a stone and
pitch it at that woman. Live and let;--live that's my motto.'
'But you agree that we ought to do something about these shares?' said
Sir Felix, thinking that this doctrine of forgiveness might be carried
'Oh, certainly. I'll let old Grendall live with all my heart; but then
he ought to let me live too. Only, who's to bell the cat?'
'It's no good our going to old Grendall,' said Lord Nidderdale, who
had some understanding in the matter, 'nor yet to young Grendall. The
one would only grunt and say nothing, and the other would tell every
lie that came into his head. The cat in this matter I take to be our
great master, Augustus Melmotte.'
This little meeting occurred on the day after Felix Carbury's return
from Suffolk, and at a time at which, as we know, it was the great
duty of his life to get the consent of old Melmotte to his marriage
with Marie Melmotte. In doing that he would have to put one bell on
the cat, and he thought that for the present that was sufficient. In
his heart of hearts he was afraid of Melmotte. But, then, as be knew
very well, Nidderdale was intent on the same object. Nidderdale, he
thought, was a very queer fellow. That talking about the Bible, and
the forgiving of trespasses, was very queer; and that allusion to the
marrying of heiresses very queer indeed. He knew that Nidderdale
wanted to marry the heiress, and Nidderdale must also know that he
wanted to marry her. And yet Nidderdale was indelicate enough to talk
about it! And now the man asked who should bell the cat! 'You go there
oftener than I do, and perhaps you could do it best,' said Sir Felix.
'To the Board.'
'But you're always at his house. He'd be civil to me, perhaps, because
I'm a lord: but then, for the same reason, he'd think I was the bigger
fool of the two.'
'I don't see that at all,' said Sir Felix.
'I ain't afraid of him, if you mean that,' continued Lord Nidderdale.
'He's a wretched old reprobate, and I don't doubt but he'd skin you
and me if he could make money off our carcases. But as he can't skin
me, I'll have a shy at him. On the whole I think he rather likes me,
because I've always been on the square with him. If it depended on
him, you know, I should have the girl to-morrow.'
'Would you?' Sir Felix did not at all mean to doubt his friend's
assertion, but felt it hard to answer so very strange a statement.
'But then she don't want me, and I ain't quite sure that I want her.
Where the devil would a fellow find himself if the money wasn't all
there?' Lord Nidderdale then sauntered away, leaving the baronet in a
deep study of thought as to such a condition of things as that which
his lordship had suggested. Where the mischief would he, Sir Felix
Carbury, be, if he were to marry the girl, and then to find that the
money was not all there?
On the following Friday, which was the Board day, Nidderdale went to
the great man's offices in Abchurch Lane, and so contrived that he
walked with the great man to the Board meeting. Melmotte was always
very gracious in his manner to Lord Nidderdale, but had never, up to
this moment, had any speech with his proposed son-in-law about
business. 'I wanted just to ask you something,' said the lord, hanging
on the chairman's arm.
'Anything you please, my lord.'
'Don't you think that Carbury and I ought to have some shares to
'No, I don't,--if you ask me.'
'Oh;--I didn't know. But why shouldn't we as well as the others?'
'Have you and Sir Felix put any money into it?'
'Well, if you come to that, I don't suppose we have. How much has Lord
Alfred put into it?'
'I have taken shares for Lord Alfred,' said Melmotte, putting very
heavy emphasis on the personal pronoun. 'If it suits me to advance
money to Lord Alfred Grendall, I suppose I may do so without asking
your lordship's consent, or that of Sir Felix Carbury.'
'Oh, certainly. I don't want to make inquiry as to what you do with
'I'm sure you don't, and, therefore, we won't say anything more about
it. You wait awhile, Lord Nidderdale, and you'll find it will come all
right. If you've got a few thousand pounds loose, and will put them
into the concern, why, of course you can sell; and, if the shares are
up, can sell at a profit. It's presumed just at present that, at some
early day, you'll qualify for your directorship by doing so, and till
that is done, the shares are allocated to you, but cannot be
transferred to you.'
'That's it, is it?' said Lord Nidderdale, pretending to understand all
'If things go on as we hope they will between you and Marie, you can
have pretty nearly any number of shares that you please;--that is, if
your father consents to a proper settlement.'
'I hope it'll all go smooth, I'm sure,' said Nidderdale. 'Thank you;
I'm ever so much obliged to you, and I'll explain it all to Carbury.'
CHAPTER XXIII - 'YES I'M A BARONET'
How eager Lady Carbury was that her son should at once go in form to
Marie's father and make his proposition may be easily understood. 'My
dear Felix,' she said, standing over his bedside a little before noon,
'pray don't put it off; you don't know how many slips there may be
between the cup and the lip.'
'It's everything to get him in a good humour,' pleaded Sir Felix.
'But the young lady will feel that she is ill-used.'
'There's no fear of that; she's all right. What am I to say to him
about money? That's the question.'
'I shouldn't think of dictating anything, Felix.'
'Nidderdale, when he was on before, stipulated for a certain sum down;
or his father did for him. So much cash was to be paid over before the
ceremony, and it only went off because Nidderdale wanted the money to
do what he liked with.'
'You wouldn't mind having it settled?'
'No;--I'd consent to that on condition that the money was paid down, and
the income insured to me,--say £7,000 or £8,000 a year. I wouldn't do it
for less, mother; it wouldn't be worth while.'
'But you have nothing left of your own.'
'I've got a throat that I can cut, and brains that I can blow out,'
said the son, using an argument which he conceived might be
efficacious with his mother; though, had she known him, she might have
been sure that no man lived less likely to cut his own throat or blow
out his own brains.
'Oh, Felix! how brutal it is to speak to me in that way.'
'It may be brutal; but you know, mother, business is business. You
want me to marry this girl because of her money.'
'You want to marry her yourself.'
'I'm quite a philosopher about it. I want her money; and when one
wants money, one should make up one's mind how much or how little one
means to take,--and whether one is sure to get it.'
'I don't think there can be any doubt.'
'If I were to marry her, and if the money wasn't there, it would be
very like cutting my throat then, mother. If a man plays and loses, he
can play again and perhaps win; but when a fellow goes in for an
heiress, and gets the wife without the money, he feels a little
hampered you know.'
'Of course he'd pay the money first.'
'It's very well to say that. Of course he ought; but it would be
rather awkward to refuse to go into church after everything had been
arranged because the money hadn't been paid over. He's so clever, that
he'd contrive that a man shouldn't know whether the money had been
paid or not. You can't carry £10,000 a year about in your pocket, you
know. If you'll go, mother, perhaps I might think of getting up.'
Lady Carbury saw the danger, and turned over the affair on every side
in her own mind. But she could also see the house in Grosvenor Square,
the expenditure without limit, the congregating duchesses, the general
acceptation of the people, and the mercantile celebrity of the man.
And she could weigh against that the absolute pennilessness of her
baronet-son. As he was, his condition was hopeless. Such a one must
surely run some risk. The embarrassments of such a man as Lord
Nidderdale were only temporary. There were the family estates, and the
marquisate, and a golden future for him; but there was nothing coming
to Felix in the future.
All the goods he would ever have of his own, he had now;--position, a
title, and a handsome face. Surely he could afford to risk something!
Even the ruins and wreck of such wealth as that displayed in Grosvenor
Square would be better than the baronet's present condition. And then,
though it was possible that old Melmotte should be ruined some day,
there could be no doubt as to his present means; and would it not be
probable that he would make hay while the sun shone by securing his
daughter's position? She visited her son again on the next morning,
which was Sunday, and again tried to persuade him to the marriage. 'I
think you should be content to run a little risk,' she said.
Sir Felix had been unlucky at cards on Saturday night, and had taken,
perhaps, a little too much wine. He was at any rate sulky, and in a
humour to resent interference. 'I wish you'd leave me alone,' he said,
'to manage my own business.'
'Is it not my business too?'
'No; you haven't got to marry her, and to put up with these people. I
shall make up my mind what to do myself, and I don't want anybody to
meddle with me.'
'You ungrateful boy!'
'I understand all about that. Of course I'm ungrateful when I don't do
everything just as you wish it. You don't do any good. You only set me
against it all.'
'How do you expect to live, then? Are you always to be a burden on me
and your sister? I wonder that you've no shame. Your cousin Roger is
right. I will quit London altogether, and leave you to your own
'That's what Roger says; is it? I always thought Roger was a fellow of
'He is the best friend I have.' What would Roger have thought had he
heard this assertion from Lady Carbury?
'He's an ill-tempered, close-fisted, interfering cad, and if he
meddles with my affairs again, I shall tell him what I think of him.
Upon my word, mother, these little disputes up in my bedroom ain't
very pleasant. Of course it's your house; but if you do allow me a
room, I think you might let me have it to myself.' It was impossible
for Lady Carbury, in her present mood, and in his present mood, to
explain to him that in no other way and at no other time could she
ever find him. If she waited till he came down to breakfast, he
escaped from her in five minutes, and then he returned no more till
some unholy hour in the morning. She was as good a pelican as ever
allowed the blood to be torn from her own breast to satisfy the greed
of her young, but she felt that she should have something back for her
blood,--some return for her sacrifices. This chick would take all as
long as there was a drop left, and then resent the fondling of the
mother-bird as interference. Again and again there came upon her
moments in which she thought that Roger Carbury was right. And yet she
knew that when the time came she would not be able to be severe. She
almost hated herself for the weakness of her own love,--but she
acknowledged it. If he should fall utterly, she must fall with him. In
spite of his cruelty, his callous hardness, his insolence to herself,
his wickedness, and ruinous indifference to the future, she must cling
to him to the last. All that she had done, and all that she had borne,
all that she was doing and bearing,--was it not for his sake?
Sir Felix had been in Grosvenor Square since his return from Carbury,
and had seen Madame Melmotte and Marie; but he had seen them together,
and not a word had been said about the engagement. He could not make
much use of the elder woman. She was as gracious as was usual with
her; but then she was never very gracious. She had told him that Miss
Longestaffe was coming to her, which was a great bore, as the young
lady was 'fatigante.' Upon this Marie had declared that she intended
to like the young lady very much. 'Pooh!' said Madame Melmotte. 'You
never like no person at all.' At this Marie had looked over to her
lover and smiled. 'Ah, yes; that is all very well,--while it lasts; but
you care for no friend.' From which Felix had judged that Madame
Melmotte at any rate knew of his offer, and did not absolutely
disapprove of it. On the Saturday he had received a note at his club
from Marie. 'Come on Sunday at half-past two. You will find papa after
lunch.' This was in his possession when his mother visited him in his
bedroom, and he had determined to obey the behest. But he would not
tell her of his intention, because he had drunk too much wine, and was
At about three on Sunday he knocked at the door in Grosvenor Square
and asked for the ladies. Up to the moment of his knocking,--even after
he had knocked, and when the big porter was opening the door,--he
intended to ask for Mr Melmotte; but at the last his courage failed
him, and he was shown up into the drawing-room. There he found Madame
Melmotte, Marie, Georgiana Longestaffe, and--Lord Nidderdale. Marie
looked anxiously into his face, thinking that he had already been with
her father. He slid into a chair close to Madame Melmotte, and
endeavoured to seem at his ease. Lord Nidderdale continued his
flirtation with Miss Longestaffe,--a flirtation which she carried on in
a half whisper, wholly indifferent to her hostess or the young lady of
the house. 'We know what brings you here,' she said.
'I came on purpose to see you.'
'I'm sure, Lord Nidderdale, you didn't expect to find me here.'
'Lord bless you, I knew all about it, and came on purpose. It's a
great institution; isn't it?'
'It's an institution you mean to belong to,--permanently.'
'No, indeed. I did have thoughts about it as fellows do when they talk
of going into the army or to the bar; but I couldn't pass. That fellow
there is the happy man. I shall go on coming here, because you're
here. I don't think you'll like it a bit, you know.'
'I don't suppose I shall, Lord Nidderdale.'
After a while Marie contrived to be alone with her lover near one of
the windows for a few seconds. 'Papa is downstairs in the book-room,'
she said. 'Lord Alfred was told when he came that he was out.' It was
evident to Sir Felix that everything was prepared for him. 'You go
down,' she continued, 'and ask the man to show you into the
'Shall I come up again?'
'No; but leave a note for me here under cover to Madame Didon.' Now
Sir Felix was sufficiently at home in the house to know that Madame
Didon was Madame Melmotte's own woman, commonly called Didon by the
ladies of the family. 'Or send it by post,--under cover to her. That
will be better. Go at once, now.' It certainly did seem to Sir Felix
that the very nature of the girl was altered. But he went, just
shaking hands with Madame Melmotte, and bowing to Miss Longestaffe.
In a few moments he found himself with Mr Melmotte in the chamber
which had been dignified with the name of the book-room. The great
financier was accustomed to spend his Sunday afternoons here,
generally with the company of Lord Alfred Grendall. It may be supposed
that he was meditating on millions, and arranging the prices of money
and funds for the New York, Paris, and London Exchanges. But on this
occasion he was waked from slumber, which he seemed to have been
enjoying with a cigar in his mouth. 'How do you do, Sir Felix?' he
said. 'I suppose you want the ladies.'
'I've just been in the drawing-room, but I thought I'd look in on you
as I came down.' It immediately occurred to Melmotte that the baronet
had come about his share of the plunder out of the railway, and he at
once resolved to be stern in his manner, and perhaps rude also. He
believed that he should thrive best by resenting any interference with
him in his capacity as financier. He thought that he had risen high
enough to venture on such conduct, and experience had told him that
men who were themselves only half-plucked, might easily be cowed by a
savage assumption of superiority. And he, too, had generally the
advantage of understanding the game, while those with whom he was
concerned did not, at any rate, more than half understand it. He
could thus trade either on the timidity or on the ignorance of his
colleagues. When neither of these sufficed to give him undisputed
mastery, then he cultivated the cupidity of his friends. He liked
young associates because they were more timid and less greedy than
their elders. Lord Nidderdale's suggestions had soon been put at rest,
and Mr Melmotte anticipated no greater difficulty with Sir Felix. Lord
Alfred he had been obliged to buy.
'I'm very glad to see you, and all that,' said Melmotte, assuming a
certain exaltation of the eyebrows which they who had many dealings
with him often found to be very disagreeable; 'but this is hardly a
day for business, Sir Felix, nor,--yet a place for business.'
Sir Felix wished himself at the Beargarden. He certainly had come
about business,--business of a particular sort; but Marie had told him
that of all days Sunday would be the best, and had also told him that
her father was more likely to be in a good humour on Sunday than on
any other day. Sir Felix felt that he had not been received with good
humour. 'I didn't mean to intrude, Mr Melmotte,' he said.
'I dare say not. I only thought I'd tell you. You might have been
going to speak about that railway.'
'Oh dear no.'
'Your mother was saying to me down in the county that she hoped you
attended to the business. I told her that there was nothing to attend
'My mother doesn't understand anything at all about it,' said Sir
'Women never do. Well;--what can I do for you, now that you are here?'
'Mr Melmotte, I'm come,--I'm come to;--in short, Mr Melmotte, I want to
propose myself as a suitor for your daughter's hand.'
'The d---- you do!'
'Well, yes; and we hope you'll give us your consent.'
'She knows you're coming, then?'
'And my wife,--does she know?'
'I've never spoken to her about it. Perhaps Miss Melmotte has.'
'And how long have you and she understood each other?'
'I've been attached to her ever since I saw her,' said Sir Felix. 'I
have indeed. I've spoken to her sometimes. You know how that kind of
thing goes on.'
'I'm blessed if I do. I know how it ought to go on. I know that when
large sums of money are supposed to be concerned, the young man should
speak to the father before he speaks to the girl. He's a fool if he
don't, if he wants to get the father's money. So she has given you a
'I don't know about a promise.'
'Do you consider that she's engaged to you?'
'Not if she's disposed to get out of it,' said Sir Felix, hoping that
he might thus ingratiate himself with the father. 'Of course, I should
be awfully disappointed.'
'She has consented to your coming to me?'
'Well, yes;--in a sort of a way. Of course she knows that it all depends
'Not at all. She's of age. If she chooses to marry you she can marry
you. If that's all you want, her consent is enough. You're a baronet,
'Oh, yes, I'm a baronet.'
'And therefore you've come to your own property. You haven't to wait
for your father to die, and I dare say you are indifferent about
This was a view of things which Sir Felix felt that he was bound to
dispel, even at the risk of offending the father. 'Not exactly that,'
he said. 'I suppose you will give your daughter a fortune, of course.'
'Then I wonder you didn't come to me before you went to her. If my
daughter marries to please me, I shall give her money, no doubt. How
much is neither here nor there. If she marries to please herself,
without considering me, I shan't give her a farthing.'
'I had hoped that you might consent, Mr Melmotte.'
'I've said nothing about that. It is possible. You're a man of fashion
and have a title of your own,--and no doubt a property. If you'll show
me that you've an income fit to maintain her, I'll think about it at
any rate. What is your property, Sir Felix?'
What could three or four thousand a year, or even five or six, matter
to a man like Melmotte? It was thus that Sir Felix looked at it. When
a man can hardly count his millions he ought not to ask questions
about trifling sums of money. But the question had been asked, and the
asking of such a question was no doubt within the prerogative of a
proposed father-in-law. At any rate, it must be answered. For a moment
it occurred to Sir Felix that he might conveniently tell the truth. It
would be nasty for the moment, but there would be nothing to come
after. Were he to do so he could not be dragged down lower and lower
into the mire by cross-examinings. There might be an end of all his
hopes, but there would at the same time be an end of all his misery.
But he lacked the necessary courage. 'It isn't a large property, you
know,' he said.
'Not like the Marquis of Westminster's, I suppose,' said the horrid,
big, rich scoundrel.
'No;--not quite like that,' said Sir Felix, with a sickly laugh.
'But you have got enough to support a baronet's title?'
'That depends on how you want to support it,' said Sir Felix, putting
off the evil day.
'Where's your family seat?'
'Carbury Manor, down in Suffolk, near the Longestaffes, is the old
'That doesn't belong to you,' said Melmotte, very sharply.
'No; not yet. But I'm the heir.'
Perhaps if there is one thing in England more difficult than another
to be understood by men born and bred out of England, it is the system
under which titles and property descend together, or in various lines.
The jurisdiction of our Courts of Law is complex, and so is the
business of Parliament. But the rules regulating them, though
anomalous, are easy to the memory compared with the mixed anomalies of
the peerage and primogeniture. They who are brought up among it, learn
it as children do a language, but strangers who begin the study in
advanced life, seldom make themselves perfect in it. It was everything
to Melmotte that he should understand the ways of the country which he
had adopted; and when he did not understand, he was clever at hiding
his ignorance. Now he was puzzled. He knew that Sir Felix was a
baronet, and therefore presumed him to be the head of the family. He
knew that Carbury Manor belonged to Roger Carbury, and he judged by
the name it must be an old family property. And now the baronet
declared that he was heir to the man who was simply an Esquire. 'Oh,
the heir are you? But how did he get it before you? You're the head of
'Yes, I am the head of the family, of course,' said Sir Felix, lying
directly. 'But the place won't be mine till he dies. It would take a
long time to explain it all.'
'He's a young man, isn't he?'
'No;--not what you'd call a young man. He isn't very old.'
'If he were to marry and have children, how would it be then?'
Sir Felix was beginning to think that he might have told the truth
with discretion. 'I don't quite know how it would be. I have always
understood that I am the heir. It's not very likely that he will
'And in the meantime what is your own property?'
'My father left me money in the funds and in railway stock,--and then I
am my mother's heir.'
'You have done me the honour of telling me that you wish to marry my
'Would you then object to inform me the amount and nature of the
income on which you intend to support your establishment as a married
man? I fancy that the position you assume justifies the question on my
part.' The bloated swindler, the vile city ruffian, was certainly
taking a most ungenerous advantage of the young aspirant for wealth.
It was then that Sir Felix felt his own position. Was he not a
baronet, and a gentleman, and a very handsome fellow, and a man of the
world who had been in a crack regiment? If this surfeited sponge of
speculation, this crammed commercial cormorant, wanted more than that
for his daughter why could he not say so without asking disgusting
questions such as these,--questions which it was quite impossible that a
gentleman should answer? Was it not sufficiently plain that any
gentleman proposing to marry the daughter of such a man as Melmotte,
must do so under the stress of pecuniary embarrassment? Would it not
be an understood bargain that, as he provided the rank and position,
she would provide the money? And yet the vulgar wretch took advantage
of his assumed authority to ask these dreadful questions! Sir Felix
stood silent, trying to look the man in the face, but failing;--wishing
that he was well out of the house, and at the Beargarden. 'You don't
seem to be very clear about your own circumstances, Sir Felix. Perhaps
you will get your lawyer to write to me.'
'Perhaps that will be best,' said the lover.
'Either that, or to give it up. My daughter, no doubt, will have
money; but money expects money.' At this moment Lord Alfred entered
the room. 'You're very late to-day, Alfred. Why didn't you come as you
said you would?'
'I was here more than an hour ago, and they said you were out.'
'I haven't been out of this room all day,--except to lunch. Good
morning, Sir Felix. Ring the bell, Alfred, and we'll have a little
soda and brandy.' Sir Felix had gone through some greeting with his
fellow Director Lord Alfred, and at last succeeded in getting Melmotte
to shake hands with him before he went. 'Do you know anything about
that young fellow?' Melmotte asked as soon as the door was closed.
'He's a baronet without a shilling;--was in the army and had to leave
it,' said Lord Alfred as he buried his face in a big tumbler.
'Without a shilling! I supposed so. But he's heir to a place down in
'Not a bit of it. It's the same name, and that's about all. Mr Carbury
has a small property there, and he might give it to me to-morrow. I
wish he would, though there isn't much of it. That young fellow has
nothing to do with it whatever.'
'Hasn't he now!' Mr Melmotte, as he speculated upon it, almost admired
the young man's impudence.
CHAPTER XXIV - MILES GRENDALL'S TRIUMPH
Sir Felix as he walked down to his club felt that he had been
checkmated,--and was at the same time full of wrath at the insolence of
the man who had so easily beaten him out of the field. As far as he
could see, the game was over. No doubt he might marry Marie Melmotte.
The father had told him so much himself, and he perfectly believed the
truth of that oath which Marie had sworn. He did not doubt but that
she'd stick to him close enough. She was in love with him, which was
natural; and was a fool,--which was perhaps also natural. But romance
was not the game which he was playing. People told him that when girls
succeeded in marrying without their parents' consent, fathers were
always constrained to forgive them at last. That might be the case
with ordinary fathers. But Melmotte was decidedly not an ordinary
father. He was,--so Sir Felix declared to himself,--perhaps the greatest
brute ever created. Sir Felix could not but remember that elevation of
the eyebrows, and the brazen forehead, and the hard mouth. He had
found himself quite unable to stand up against Melmotte, and now he
cursed and swore at the man as he was carried down to the Beargarden
in a cab.
But what should he do? Should he abandon Marie Melmotte altogether,
never go to Grosvenor Square again, and drop the whole family,
including the Great Mexican Railway? Then an idea occurred to him.
Nidderdale had explained to him the result of his application for
shares. 'You see we haven't bought any and therefore can't sell any.
There seems to be something in that. I shall explain it all to my
governor, and get him to go a thou' or two. If he sees his way to get
the money back, he'd do that and let me have the difference.' On that
Sunday afternoon Sir Felix thought over all this. 'Why shouldn't he
"go a thou," and get the difference?' He made a mental calculation.
£12 10s per £100! £125 for a thousand! and all paid in ready money. As
far as Sir Felix could understand, directly the one operation had been
perfected the thousand pounds would be available for another. As he
looked into it with all his intelligence he thought that he began to
perceive that that was the way in which the Melmottes of the world
made their money. There was but one objection. He had not got the
entire thousand pounds. But luck had been on the whole very good to
him. He had more than the half of it in real money, lying at a bank in
the city at which he had opened an account. And he had very much more
than the remainder in I.O.U.'s from Dolly Longestaffe and Miles
Grendall. In fact if every man had his own,--and his bosom glowed with
indignation as he reflected on the injustice with which he was kept
out of his own,--he could go into the city and take up his shares
to-morrow, and still have ready money at his command. If he could do
this, would not such conduct on his part be the best refutation of
that charge of not having any fortune which Melmotte had brought
against him? He would endeavour to work the money out of Dolly
Longestaffe;--and he entertained an idea that though it would be
impossible to get cash from Miles Grendall, he might use his claim
against Miles in the city. Miles was Secretary to the Board, and might
perhaps contrive that the money required for the shares should not be
all ready money. Sir Felix was not very clear about it, but thought
that he might possibly in this way use the indebtedness of Miles
Grendall. 'How I do hate a fellow who does not pay up,' he said to
himself as he sat alone in his club, waiting for some friend to come
in. And he formed in his head Draconic laws which he would fain have
executed upon men who lost money at play and did not pay. 'How the
deuce fellows can look one in the face, is what I can't understand,'
he said to himself.
He thought over this great stroke of exhibiting himself to Melmotte as
a capitalist till he gave up his idea of abandoning his suit. So he
wrote a note to Marie Melmotte in accordance with her instructions.
Your father cut up very rough about money. Perhaps you had better
see him yourself; or would your mother?
This, as directed, he put under cover to Madame Didon,--Grosvenor
Square, and posted at the club. He had put nothing at any rate in the
letter which would commit him.
There was generally on Sundays a house dinner, so called, at eight
o'clock. Five or six men would sit down, and would always gamble
afterwards. On this occasion Dolly Longestaffe sauntered in at about
seven in quest of sherry and bitters, and Felix found the opportunity
a good one to speak of his money. 'You couldn't cash your I.O.U.'s
for me to-morrow;--could you?'
'To-morrow! oh, lord!'
'I'll tell you why. You know I'd tell you anything because I think we
are really friends. I'm after that daughter of Melmotte's.'
'I'm told you're to have her.'
'I don't know about that. I mean to try at any rate. I've gone in you
know for that Board in the city.'
'I don't know anything about Boards, my boy.'
'Yes, you do, Dolly. You remember that American fellow, Montague's
friend, that was here one night and won all our money.'
'The chap that had the waistcoat, and went away in the morning to
California. Fancy starting to California after a hard night. I always
wondered whether he got there alive.'
'Well;--I can't explain to you all about it, because you hate those
kinds of things.'
'And because I am such a fool.'
'I don't think you're a fool at all, but it would take a week. But
it's absolutely essential for me to take up a lot of shares in the
city to-morrow;--or perhaps Wednesday might do. I'm bound to pay for
them, and old Melmotte will think that I'm utterly hard up if I don't.
Indeed he said as much, and the only objection about me and this girl
of his is as to money. Can't you understand, now, how important it may
'It's always important to have a lot of money. I know that.'
'I shouldn't have gone in for this kind of thing if I hadn't thought I
was sure. You know how much you owe me, don't you?'
'Not in the least.'
'It's about eleven hundred pounds!'
'I shouldn't wonder.'
'And Miles Grendall owes me two thousand. Grasslough and Nidderdale
when they lose always pay with Miles's I.O.U.'s.'
'So should I, if I had them.'
'It'll come to that soon that there won't be any other stuff going,
and they really ain't worth anything. I don't see what's the use of
playing when this rubbish is shoved about the table. As for Grendall
himself, he has no feeling about it.'
'Not the least, I should say.'
'You'll try and get me the money, won't you, Dolly?'
'Melmotte has been at me twice. He wants me to agree to sell
something. He's an old thief, and of course he means to rob me. You
may tell him that if he'll let me have the money in the way I've
proposed, you are to have a thousand pounds out of it. I don't know
any other way.'
'You could write me that,--in a business sort of way.'
'I couldn't do that, Carbury. What's the use? I never write any
letters, I can't do it. You tell him that; and if the sale comes off,
I'll make it straight.'
Miles Grendall also dined there, and after dinner, in the
smoking-room, Sir Felix tried to do a little business with the
Secretary. He began his operations with unusual courtesy, believing
that the man must have some influence with the great distributor of
'I'm going to take up my shares in that company,' said Sir Felix.
'Ah;--indeed.' And Miles enveloped himself from head to foot in smoke.
'I didn't quite understand about it, but Nidderdale saw Melmotte and
he has explained it, I think I shall go in for a couple of thousand on
'It will be the proper thing to do--won't it?'
'Very good--thing to do!' Miles Grendall smoked harder and harder as
the suggestions were made to him.
'Is it always ready money?'
'Always ready money,' said Miles shaking his head, as though in
reprobation of so abominable an institution.
'I suppose they allow some time to their own Directors, if a deposit,
say 50 per cent., is made for the shares?'
'They'll give you half the number, which would come to the same
Sir Felix turned this over in his mind, but let him look at it as he
would, could not see the truth of his companion's remark. 'You know I
should want to sell again,--for the rise.'
'Oh; you'll want to sell again.'
'And therefore I must have the full number.'
'You could sell half the number, you know,' said Miles.
'I'm determined to begin with ten shares;--that's £1,000. Well;--I
have got the money, but I don't want to draw out so much. Couldn't
you manage for me that I should get them on paying 50 per cent,
'Melmotte does all that himself.'
'You could explain, you know, that you are a little short in your own
payments to me.' This Sir Felix said, thinking it to be a delicate
mode of introducing his claim upon the Secretary.
'That's private,' said Miles frowning.
'Of course it's private; but if you would pay me the money I could buy
the shares with it though they are public.'
'I don't think we could mix the two things together, Carbury.'
'You can't help me?'
'Not in that way.'
'Then, when the deuce will you pay me what you owe me?' Sir Felix was
driven to this plain expression of his demand by the impassibility of
his debtor. Here was a man who did not pay his debts of honour, who
did not even propose any arrangement for paying them, and who yet had
the impudence to talk of not mixing up private matters with affairs of
business! It made the young baronet very sick. Miles Grendall smoked
on in silence. There was a difficulty in answering the question, and
he therefore made no answer. 'Do you know how much you owe me?'
continued the baronet, determined to persist now that he had commenced
the attack. There was a little crowd of other men in the room, and the
conversation about the shares had been commenced in an undertone.
These two last questions Sir Felix had asked in a whisper, but his
countenance showed plainly that he was speaking in anger.
'Of course I know,' said Miles.
'I'm not going to talk about it here,'
'Not going to talk about it here?'
'No. This is a public room.'
'I am going to talk about it,' said Sir Felix, raising his voice.
'Will any fellow come upstairs and play a game of billiards?' said
Miles Grendall rising from his chair. Then he walked slowly out of the
room, leaving Sir Felix to take what revenge he pleased. For a moment
Sir Felix thought that he would expose the transaction to the whole
room; but he was afraid, thinking that Miles Grendall was a more
popular man than himself.
It was Sunday night; but not the less were the gamblers assembled in
the card-room at about eleven. Dolly Longestaffe was there, and with
him the two lords, and Sir Felix, and Miles Grendall of course, and, I
regret to say, a much better man than any of them, Paul Montague. Sir
Felix had doubted much as to the propriety of joining the party. What
was the use of playing with a man who seemed by general consent to be
liberated from any obligation to pay? But then if he did not play with
him, where should he find another gambling table? They began with
whist, but soon laid that aside and devoted themselves to loo. The
least respected man in that confraternity was Grendall, and yet it was
in compliance with the persistency of his suggestion that they gave up
the nobler game. 'Let's stick to whist; I like cutting out,' said
Grasslough. 'It's much more jolly having nothing to do now and then;
one can always bet,' said Dolly shortly afterwards. 'I hate loo,' said
Sir Felix in answer to a third application. 'I like whist best,' said
Nidderdale, 'but I'll play anything anybody likes,--pitch and toss if
you please.' But Miles Grendall had his way, and loo was the game.
At about two o'clock Grendall was the only winner. The play had not
been very high, but nevertheless he had won largely. Whenever a large
pool had collected itself he swept it into his garners. The men
opposed to him hardly grudged him this stroke of luck. He had hitherto
been unlucky; and they were able to pay him with his own paper, which
was so valueless that they parted with it without a pang. Even Dolly
Longestaffe seemed to have a supply of it. The only man there not so
furnished was Montague, and while the sums won were quite small he was
allowed to pay with cash. But to Sir Felix it was frightful to see
ready money going over to Miles Grendall, as under no circumstances
could it be got back from him. 'Montague,' he said, 'just change these
for the time. I'll take them back, if you still have them when we've
done.' And he handed a lot of Miles's paper across the table. The
result of course would be that Felix would receive so much real money,
and that Miles would get back more of his own worthless paper. To
Montague it would make no difference, and he did as he was asked,--or
rather was preparing to do so, when Miles interfered. On what
principle of justice could Sir Felix come between him and another man?
'I don't understand this kind of thing,' he said. 'When I win from
you, Carbury, I'll take my I.O.U.'s, as long as you have any.'
'By George, that's kind.'
'But I won't have them handed about the table to be changed.'
'Pay them yourself, then,' said Sir Felix, laying a handful down on
'Don't let's have a row,' said Lord Nidderdale.
'Carbury is always making a row,' said Grasslough.
'Of course he is,' said Miles Grendall.
'I don't make more row than anybody else; but I do say that as we have
such a lot of these things, and as we all know that we don't get cash
for them as we want it, Grendall shouldn't take money and walk off
'Who is walking off?' said Miles.
'And why should you be entitled to Montague's money more than any of
us?' asked Grasslough.
The matter was debated, and was thus decided. It was not to be allowed
that Miles's paper should be negotiated at the table in the manner
that Sir Felix had attempted to adopt. But Mr Grendall pledged his
honour that when they broke up the party he would apply any money that
he might have won to the redemption of his I.O.U.'s, paying a regular
percentage to the holders of them. The decision made Sir Felix very
cross. He knew that their condition at six or seven in the morning
would not be favourable to such commercial accuracy,--which indeed would
require an accountant to effect it; and he felt sure that Miles, if
still a winner, would in truth walk off with the ready money.
For a considerable time he did not speak, and became very moderate in
his play, tossing his cards about, almost always losing, but losing a
minimum, and watching the board. He was sitting next to Grendall, and
he thought that he observed that his neighbour moved his chair farther
and farther away from him, and nearer to Dolly Longestaffe, who was
next to him on the other side. This went on for an hour, during which
Grendall still won,--and won heavily from Paul Montague. 'I never saw a
fellow have such a run of luck in my life,' said Grasslough. 'You've
had two trumps dealt to you every hand almost since we began!'
'Ever so many hands I haven't played at all,' said Miles.
'You've always won when I've played,' said Dolly. 'I've been looed
'You oughtn't to begrudge me one run of luck, when I've lost so much,'
said Miles, who, since he began, had destroyed paper counters of his
own making, supposed to represent considerably above £1,000, and had
also,--which was of infinitely greater concern to him,--received an amount
of ready money which was quite a godsend to him.
'What's the good of talking about it?' said Nidderdale. 'I hate all
this row about winning and losing. Let's go on, or go to bed.' The
idea of going to bed was absurd. So they went on. Sir Felix, however,
hardly spoke at all, played very little, and watched Miles Grendall
without seeming to watch him. At last he felt certain that he saw a
card go into the man's sleeve, and remembered at the moment that the
winner had owed his success to a continued run of aces. He was tempted
to rush at once upon the player, and catch the card on his person. But
he feared. Grendall was a big man; and where would he be if there
should be no card there? And then, in the scramble, there would
certainly be at any rate a doubt. And he knew that the men around him
would be most unwilling to believe such an accusation. Grasslough was
Grendall's friend, and Nidderdale and Dolly Longestaffe would
infinitely rather be cheated than suspect any one of their own set of
cheating them. He feared both the violence of the man he should
accuse, and also the unpassive good humour of the others. He let that
opportunity pass by, again watched, and again saw the card abstracted.
Thrice he saw it, till it was wonderful to him that others also should
not see it. As often as the deal came round, the man did it. Felix
watched more closely, and was certain that in each round the man had
an ace at least once. It seemed to him that nothing could be easier.
At last he pleaded a headache, got up, and went away, leaving the
others playing. He had lost nearly a thousand pounds, but it had been
all in paper. 'There's something the matter with that fellow,' said
'There's always something the matter with him, I think,' said Miles.
'He is so awfully greedy about his money.' Miles had become somewhat
triumphant in his success.
'The less said about that, Grendall, the better,' said Nidderdale. 'We
have put up with a good deal, you know, and he has put up with as much
as anybody.' Miles was cowed at once, and went on dealing without
manoeuvring a card on that hand.
CHAPTER XXV - IN GROSVENOR SQUARE
Marie Melmotte was hardly satisfied with the note which she received
from Didon early on the Monday morning. With a volubility of French
eloquence, Didon declared that she would be turned out of the house if
either Monsieur or Madame were to know what she was doing. Marie told
her that Madame would certainly never dismiss her. 'Well, perhaps not
Madame,' said Didon, who knew too much about Madame to be dismissed;
'but Monsieur!' Marie declared that by no possibility could Monsieur
know anything about it. In that house nobody ever told anything to
Monsieur. He was regarded as the general enemy, against whom the whole
household was always making ambushes, always firing guns from behind
rocks and trees. It is not a pleasant condition for a master of a
house; but in this house the master at any rate knew how he was
placed. It never occurred to him to trust any one. Of course his
daughter might run away. But who would run away with her without
money? And there could be no money except from him. He knew himself
and his own strength. He was not the man to forgive a girl, and then
bestow his wealth on the Lothario who had injured him. His daughter
was valuable to him because she might make him the father-in-law of a
Marquis or an Earl; but the higher that he rose without such
assistance, the less need had he of his daughter's aid. Lord Alfred
was certainly very useful to him. Lord Alfred had whispered into his
ear that by certain conduct and by certain uses of his money, he
himself might be made a baronet. 'But if they should say that I'm not
an Englishman?' suggested Melmotte. Lord Alfred had explained that it
was not necessary that he should have been born in England, or even
that he should have an English name. No questions would be asked. Let
him first get into Parliament, and then spend a little money on the
proper side,--by which Lord Alfred meant the Conservative side,--and be
munificent in his entertainments, and the baronetcy would be almost a
matter of course. Indeed, there was no knowing what honours might not
be achieved in the present days by money scattered with a liberal
hand. In these conversations, Melmotte would speak of his money and
power of making money as though they were unlimited,--and Lord Alfred
Marie was dissatisfied with her letter,--not because it described her
father as 'cutting up rough.' To her who had known her father all her
life that was a matter of course. But there was no word of love in the
note. An impassioned correspondence carried on through Didon would be
delightful to her. She was quite capable of loving, and she did love
the young man. She had, no doubt, consented to accept the addresses of
others whom she did not love,--but this she had done at the moment
almost of her first introduction to the marvellous world in which she
was now living. As days went on she ceased to be a child, and her
courage grew within her. She became conscious of an identity of her
own, which feeling was produced in great part by the contempt which
accompanied her increasing familiarity with grand people and grand
names and grand things. She was no longer afraid of saying No to the
Nidderdales on account of any awe of them personally. It might be that
she should acknowledge herself to be obliged to obey her father,
though she was drifting away even from the sense of that obligation.
Had her mind been as it was now when Lord Nidderdale first came to
her, she might indeed have loved him, who, as a man, was infinitely
better than Sir Felix, and who, had he thought it to be necessary,
would have put some grace into his lovemaking. But at that time she
had been childish. He, finding her to be a child, had hardly spoken to
her. And she, child though she was, had resented such usage. But a few
months in London had changed all this, and now she was a child no
longer. She was in love with Sir Felix, and had told her love.
Whatever difficulties there might be, she intended to be true. If
necessary, she would run away. Sir Felix was her idol, and she
abandoned herself to its worship. But she desired that her idol should
be of flesh and blood, and not of wood. She was at first half-inclined
to be angry; but as she sat with his letter in her hand, she
remembered that he did not know Didon as well as she did, and that he
might be afraid to trust his raptures to such custody. She could write
to him at his club, and having no such fear, she could write warmly.
Grosvenor Square. Early Monday Morning.
DEAREST, DEAREST FELIX,
I have just got your note;--such a scrap! Of course papa would
talk about money because he never thinks of anything else. I don't
know anything about money, and I don't care in the least how much
you have got. Papa has got plenty, and I think he would give us
some if we were once married. I have told mamma, but mamma is
always afraid of everything. Papa is very cross to her sometimes;--
more so than to me. I will try to tell him, though I can't always
get at him. I very often hardly see him all day long. But I don't
mean to be afraid of him, and will tell him that on my word and
honour I will never marry any one except you. I don't think he
will beat me, but if he does, I'll bear it,--for your sake. He does
beat mamma sometimes, I know.
You can write to me quite safely through Didon. I think if you
would call some day and give her something, it would help, as she
is very fond of money. Do write and tell me that you love me. I
love you better than anything in the world, and I will never,--never
give you up. I suppose you can come and call,--unless papa tells the
man in the hall not to let you in. I'll find that out from Didon,
but I can't do it before sending this letter. Papa dined out
yesterday somewhere with that Lord Alfred, so I haven't seen him
since you were here. I never see him before he goes into the city
in the morning. Now I am going downstairs to breakfast with mamma
and that Miss Longestaffe. She is a stuck-up thing. Didn't you
think so at Caversham?
Good-bye. You are my own, own, own darling Felix.
And I am your own, own affectionate ladylove,
Sir Felix when he read this letter at his club in the afternoon of the
Monday, turned up his nose and shook his head. He thought if there
were much of that kind of thing to be done, he could not go on with
it, even though the marriage were certain, and the money secure. 'What
an infernal little ass!' he said to himself as he crumpled the letter
Marie having intrusted her letter to Didon, together with a little
present of gloves and shoes, went down to breakfast. Her mother was
the first there, and Miss Longestaffe soon followed. That lady, when
she found that she was not expected to breakfast with the master of
the house, abandoned the idea of having her meal sent to her in her
own room. Madame Melmotte she must endure. With Madame Melmotte she
had to go out in the carriage every day. Indeed she could only go to
those parties to which Madame Melmotte accompanied her. If the London
season was to be of any use at all, she must accustom herself to the
companionship of Madame Melmotte. The man kept himself very much apart
from her. She met him only at dinner, and that not often. Madame
Melmotte was very bad; but she was silent, and seemed to understand
that her guest was only her guest as a matter of business.
But Miss Longestaffe already perceived that her old acquaintances were
changed in their manner to her. She had written to her dear friend
Lady Monogram, whom she had known intimately as Miss Triplex, and
whose marriage with Sir Damask Monogram had been splendid preferment,
telling how she had been kept down in Suffolk at the time of her
friend's last party, and how she had been driven to consent to return
to London as the guest of Madame Melmotte. She hoped her friend would
not throw her off on that account. She had been very affectionate,
with a poor attempt at fun, and rather humble. Georgiana Longestaffe
had never been humble before; but the Monograms were people so much
thought of and in such an excellent set! She would do anything rather
then lose the Monograms. But it was of no use. She had been humble in
vain, for Lady Monogram had not even answered her note. 'She never
really cared for anybody but herself,' Georgiana said in her wretched
solitude. Then, too, she had found that Lord Nidderdale's manner to
her had been quite changed. She was not a fool, and could read these
signs with sufficient accuracy. There had been little flirtations
between her and Nidderdale,--meaning nothing, as every one knew that
Nidderdale must marry money; but in none of them had he spoken to her
as he spoke when he met her in Madame Melmotte's drawing-room. She
could see it in the faces of people as they greeted her in the park,--
especially in the faces of the men. She had always carried herself
with a certain high demeanour, and had been able to maintain it. All
that was now gone from her, and she knew it. Though the thing was as
yet but a few days old she understood that others understood that she
had degraded herself. 'What's all this about?' Lord Grasslough had
said to her, seeing her come into a room behind Madame Melmotte. She
had simpered, had tried to laugh, and had then turned away her face.
'Impudent scoundrel!' she said to herself, knowing that a fortnight
ago he would not have dared to address her in such a tone.
A day or two afterwards an occurrence took place worthy of
commemoration. Dolly Longestaffe called on his sister! His mind must
have been much stirred when he allowed himself to be moved to such
uncommon action. He came too at a very early hour, not much after
noon, when it was his custom to be eating his breakfast in bed. He
declared at once to the servant that he did not wish to see Madame
Melmotte or any of the family. He had called to see his sister. He was
therefore shown into a separate room where Georgiana joined him.
'What's all this about?'
She tried to laugh as she tossed her head. 'What brings you here, I
wonder? This is quite an unexpected compliment.'
'My being here doesn't matter. I can go anywhere without doing much
harm. Why are you staying with these people?'
'I don't suppose he sent you here?'
'That's just what he did do.'
'You needn't have come, I suppose, unless you liked it. Is it because
they are none of them coming up?'
'Exactly that, Dolly. What a wonderful young man you are for
'Don't you feel ashamed of yourself?'
'No;--not a bit.'
'Then I feel ashamed for you.'
'Everybody comes here.'
'No;--everybody does not come and stay here as you are doing. Everybody
doesn't make themselves a part of the family. I have heard of nobody
doing it except you. I thought you used to think so much of yourself.'
'I think as much of myself as ever I did,' said Georgiana, hardly able
to restrain her tears.
'I can tell you nobody else will think much of you if you remain here.
I could hardly believe it when Nidderdale told me.'
'What did he say, Dolly?'
'He didn't say much to me, but I could see what he thought. And of
course everybody thinks the same. How you can like the people yourself
is what I can't understand!'
'I don't like them,--I hate them.'
'Then why do you come and live with them?'
'Oh, Dolly, it is impossible to make you understand. A man is so
different. You can go just where you please, and do what you like. And
if you're short of money, people will give you credit. And you can
live by yourself and all that sort of thing. How should you like to be
shut up down at Caversham all the season?'
'I shouldn't mind it,--only for the governor.'
'You have got a property of your own. Your fortune is made for you.
What is to become of me?'
'You mean about marrying?'
'I mean altogether,' said the poor girl, unable to be quite as
explicit with her brother, as she had been with her father, and
mother, and sister. 'Of course I have to think of myself.'
'I don't see how the Melmottes are to help you. The long and the short
of it is, you oughtn't to be here. It's not often I interfere, but
when I heard it I thought I'd come and tell you. I shall write to the
governor, and tell him too. He should have known better.'
'Don't write to papa, Dolly!'
'Yes, I shall. I am not going to see everything going to the devil
without saying a word. Good-bye.'
As soon as he had left he hurried down to some club that was open,--not
the Beargarden, as it was long before the Beargarden hours,--and
actually did write a letter to his father.
'MY DEAR FATHER,
I have seen Georgiana at Mr Melmotte's house. She ought not to be
there. I suppose you don't know it, but everybody says he's a
swindler. For the sake of the family I hope you will get her home
again. It seems to me that Bruton Street is the proper place for the
girls at this time of the year.
Your affectionate son,
This letter fell upon old Mr Longestaffe at Caversham like a
thunderbolt. It was marvellous to him that his son should have been
instigated to write a letter. The Melmottes must be very bad indeed,--
worse than he had thought,--or their iniquities would not have brought
about such energy as this. But the passage which angered him most was
that which told him that he ought to have taken his family back to
town. This had come from his son, who had refused to do anything to
help him in his difficulties.
CHAPTER XXVI - MRS HURTLE
Paul Montague at this time lived in comfortable lodgings in Sackville
Street, and ostensibly the world was going well with him. But he had
many troubles. His troubles in reference to Fisker, Montague, and
Montague,--and also their consolation,--are already known to the reader.
He was troubled too about his love, though when he allowed his mind to
expatiate on the success of the great railway he would venture to hope
that on that side his life might perhaps be blessed. Henrietta had at
any rate as yet showed no disposition to accept her cousin's offer. He
was troubled too about the gambling, which he disliked, knowing that
in that direction there might be speedy ruin, and yet returning to it
from day to day in spite of his own conscience. But there was yet
another trouble which culminated just at this time. One morning, not
long after that Sunday night which had been so wretchedly spent at the
Beargarden, he got into a cab in Piccadilly and had himself taken to a
certain address in Islington. Here he knocked at a decent, modest door,--
at such a house as men live in with two or three hundred a year,--and
asked for Mrs Hurtle. Yes;--Mrs Hurtle lodged there, and he was shown
into the drawing-room. There he stood by the round table for a quarter
of an hour turning over the lodging-house books which lay there, and
then Mrs Hurtle entered the room. Mrs Hurtle was a widow whom he had
once promised to marry. 'Paul,' she said, with a quick, sharp voice,
but with a voice which could be very pleasant when she pleased,--taking
him by the hand as she spoke, 'Paul, say that that letter of yours
must go for nothing. Say that it shall be so, and I will forgive
'I cannot say that,' he replied, laying his hand on hers.
'You cannot say it! What do you mean? Will you dare to tell me that
your promises to me are to go for nothing?'
'Things are changed,' said Paul hoarsely. He had come thither at her
bidding because he had felt that to remain away would be cowardly, but
the meeting was inexpressibly painful to him. He did think that he had
sufficient excuse for breaking his troth to this woman, but the
justification of his conduct was founded on reasons which he hardly
knew how to plead to her. He had heard that of her past life which,
had he heard it before, would have saved him from his present
difficulty. But he had loved her,--did love her in a certain fashion;
and her offences, such as they were, did not debar her from his
'How are they changed? I am two years older, if you mean that.' As she
said this she looked round at the glass, as though to see whether she
was become so haggard with age as to be unfit to become this man's
wife. She was very lovely, with a kind of beauty which we seldom see
now. In these days men regard the form and outward lines of a woman's
face and figure more than either the colour or the expression, and
women fit themselves to men's eyes. With padding and false hair
without limit a figure may be constructed of almost any dimensions.
The sculptors who construct them, male and female, hairdressers and
milliners, are very skilful, and figures are constructed of noble
dimensions, sometimes with voluptuous expansion, sometimes with
classic reticence, sometimes with dishevelled negligence which becomes
very dishevelled indeed when long out of the sculptor's hands. Colours
indeed are added, but not the colours which we used to love. The taste
for flesh and blood has for the day given place to an appetite for
horsehair and pearl powder. But Mrs Hurtle was not a beauty after the
present fashion. She was very dark,--a dark brunette,--with large round
blue eyes, that could indeed be soft, but could also be very severe.
Her silken hair, almost black, hung in a thousand curls all round her
head and neck. Her cheeks and lips and neck were full, and the blood
would come and go, giving a varying expression to her face with almost
every word she spoke. Her nose also was full, and had something of the
pug. But nevertheless it was a nose which any man who loved her would
swear to be perfect. Her mouth was large, and she rarely showed her
teeth. Her chin was full, marked by a large dimple, and as it ran down
to her neck was beginning to form a second. Her bust was full and
beautifully shaped; but she invariably dressed as though she were
oblivious, or at any rate neglectful, of her own charms. Her dress, as
Montague had seen her, was always black,--not a sad weeping widow's
garment, but silk or woollen or cotton as the case might be, always
new, always nice, always well-fitting, and most especially always
simple. She was certainly a most beautiful woman, and she knew it. She
looked as though she knew it,--but only after that fashion in which a
woman ought to know it. Of her age she had never spoken to Montague.
She was in truth over thirty,--perhaps almost as near thirty-five as
thirty. But she was one of those whom years hardly seem to touch.
'You are beautiful as ever you were,' he said.
'Psha! Do not tell me of that. I care nothing for my beauty unless it
can bind me to your love. Sit down there and tell me what it means.'
Then she let go his hand, and seated herself opposite to the chair
which she gave him.
'I told you in my letter.'
'You told me nothing in your letter,--except that it was to be--off. Why
is it to be--off? Do you not love me?' Then she threw herself upon her
knees, and leaned upon his, and looked up in his face. 'Paul,' she
said, 'I have come across the Atlantic on purpose to see you,--after so
many months,--and will you not give me one kiss? Even though you should
leave me for ever, give me one kiss.' Of course he kissed her, not
once, but with a long, warm embrace. How could it have been otherwise?
With all his heart he wished that she would have remained away, but
while she knelt there at his feet what could he do but embrace her?
'Now tell me everything,' she said, seating herself on a footstool at
She certainly did not look like a woman whom a man might ill-treat or
scorn with impunity. Paul felt, even while she was lavishing her
caresses upon him, that she might too probably turn and rend him
before he left her. He had known something of her temper before,
though he had also known the truth and warmth of her love. He had
travelled with her from San Francisco to England, and she had been
very good to him in illness, in distress of mind and in poverty,--for he
had been almost penniless in New York. When they landed at Liverpool
they were engaged as man and wife. He had told her all his affairs,
had given her the whole history of his life. This was before his
second journey to America, when Hamilton K. Fisker was unknown to him.
But she had told him little or nothing of her own life,--but that she
was a widow, and that she was travelling to Paris on business. When he
left her at the London railway station, from which she started for
Dover, he was full of all a lover's ardour. He had offered to go with
her, but that she had declined. But when he remembered that he must
certainly tell his friend Roger of his engagement, and remembered also
how little he knew of the lady to whom he was engaged, he became
embarrassed. What were her means he did not know. He did know that she
was some years older than himself, and that she had spoken hardly a
word to him of her own family. She had indeed said that her husband
had been one of the greatest miscreants ever created, and had spoken
of her release from him as the one blessing she had known before she
had met Paul Montague. But it was only when he thought of all this
after she had left him,--only when he reflected how bald was the story
which he must tell Roger Carbury,--that he became dismayed. Such had
been the woman's cleverness, such her charm, so great her power of
adaptation, that he had passed weeks in her daily company, with still
progressing intimacy and affection, without feeling that anything had
He had told his friend, and his friend had declared to him that it was
impossible that he should marry a woman whom he had met in a railway
train without knowing something about her. Roger did all he could to
persuade the lover to forget his love,--and partially succeeded. It is
so pleasant and so natural that a young man should enjoy the company
of a clever, beautiful woman on a long journey,--so natural that during
the journey he should allow himself to think that she may during her
whole life be all in all to him as she is at that moment;--and so
natural again that he should see his mistake when he has parted from
her! But Montague, though he was half false to his widow, was half
true to her. He had pledged his word, and that he said ought to bind
him. Then he returned to California, and learned, through the
instrumentality of Hamilton K. Fisker, that in San Francisco Mrs
Hurtle was regarded as a mystery. Some people did not quite believe
that there ever had been a Mr Hurtle. Others said that there certainly
had been a Mr Hurtle, and that to the best of their belief he still
existed. The fact, however, best known of her was that she had shot a
man through the head somewhere in Oregon. She had not been tried for
it, as the world of Oregon had considered that the circumstances
justified the deed. Everybody knew that she was very clever and very
beautiful,--but everybody also thought that she was very dangerous. 'She
always had money when she was here,' Hamilton Fisker said, 'but no one
knew where it came from.' Then he wanted to know why Paul inquired. 'I
don't think, you know, that I should like to go in for a life
partnership, if you mean that,' said Hamilton K. Fisker.
Montague had seen her in New York as he passed through on his second
journey to San Francisco, and had then renewed his promises in spite
of his cousin's caution. He told her that he was going to see what he
could make of his broken fortunes,--for at this time, as the reader will
remember, there was no great railway in existence,--and she had promised
to follow him. Since that, they had never met till this day. She had
not made the promised journey to San Francisco, at any rate before he
had left it. Letters from her had reached him in England, and these he
had answered by explaining to her, or endeavouring to explain, that
their engagement must be at an end. And now she had followed him to
London! 'Tell me everything,' she said, leaning upon him and looking
up into his face.
'But you,--when did you arrive here?'
'Here, at this house, I arrived the night before last. On Tuesday I
reached Liverpool. There I found that you were probably in London, and
so I came on. I have come only to see you. I can understand that you
should have been estranged from me. That journey home is now so long
ago! Our meeting in New York was so short and wretched. I would not
tell you because you then were poor yourself, but at that moment I was
penniless. I have got my own now out from the very teeth of robbers.'
As she said this, she looked as though she could be very persistent in
claiming her own,--or what she might think to be her own. 'I could not
get across to San Francisco as I said I would, and when I was there
you had quarrelled with your uncle and returned. And now I am here. I
at any rate have been faithful.' As she said this his arm was again
thrown over her, so as to press her head to his knee. 'And now,' she
said, 'tell me about yourself?'
His position was embarrassing and very odious to himself. Had he done
his duty properly, he would gently have pushed her from him, have
sprung to his legs, and have declared that, however faulty might have
been his previous conduct, he now found himself bound to make her
understand that he did not intend to become her husband. But he was
either too much of a man or too little of a man for conduct such as
that. He did make the avowal to himself, even at that moment as she
sat there. Let the matter go as it would, she should never be his
wife. He would marry no one unless it was Hetta Carbury. But he did
not at all know how to get this said with proper emphasis, and yet
with properly apologetic courtesy. 'I am engaged here about this
railway,' he said. 'You have heard, I suppose, of our projected
'Heard of it! San Francisco is full of it. Hamilton Fisker is the
great man of the day there, and, when I left, your uncle was buying a
villa for seventy-four thousand dollars. And yet they say that the
best of it all has been transferred to you Londoners. Many there are
very hard upon Fisker for coming here and doing as he did.'
'It's doing very well, I believe,' said Paul, with some feeling of
shame, as he thought how very little he knew about it.
'You are the manager here in England?'
'No,--I am a member of the firm that manages it at San Francisco; but
the real manager here is our chairman, Mr Melmotte.'
'Ah I have heard of him. He is a great man;--a Frenchman, is he not?
There was a talk of inviting him to California. You know him, of
'Yes,--I know him. I see him once a week.'
'I would sooner see that man than your Queen, or any of your dukes or
lords. They tell me that he holds the world of commerce in his right
hand. What power;--what grandeur!'
'Grand enough,' said Paul, 'if it all came honestly.'
'Such a man rises above honesty,' said Mrs Hurtle, 'as a great general
rises above humanity when he sacrifices an army to conquer a nation.
Such greatness is incompatible with small scruples. A pigmy man is
stopped by a little ditch, but a giant stalks over the rivers.'
'I prefer to be stopped by the ditches,' said Montague.
'Ah, Paul, you were not born for commerce. And I will grant you this,
that commerce is not noble unless it rises to great heights. To live
in plenty by sticking to your counter from nine in the morning to nine
at night, is not a fine life. But this man with a scratch of his pen
can send out or call in millions of dollars. Do they say here that he
is not honest?'
'As he is my partner in this affair perhaps I had better say nothing
'Of course such a man will be abused. People have said that Napoleon
was a coward, and Washington a traitor. You must take me where I shall
see Melmotte. He is a man whose hand I would kiss; but I would not
condescend to speak even a word of reverence to any of your Emperors.'
'I fear you will find that your idol has feet of clay.'
'Ah,--you mean that he is bold in breaking those precepts of yours about
coveting worldly wealth. All men and women break that commandment, but
they do so in a stealthy fashion, half drawing back the grasping hand,
praying to be delivered from temptation while they filch only a
little, pretending to despise the only thing that is dear to them in
the world. Here is a man who boldly says that he recognises no such
law; that wealth is power, and that power is good, and that the more a
man has of wealth the greater and the stronger and the nobler be can
be. I love a man who can turn the hobgoblins inside out and burn the
wooden bogies that he meets.'
Montague had formed his own opinions about Melmotte. Though connected
with the man, he believed their Grand Director to be as vile a
scoundrel as ever lived. Mrs Hurtle's enthusiasm was very pretty, and
there was something of feminine eloquence in her words. But it was
shocking to see them lavished on such a subject. 'Personally, I do not
like him,' said Paul.
'I had thought to find that you and he were hand and glove.'
'But you are prospering in this business?'
'Yes,--I suppose we are prospering. It is one of those hazardous things
in which a man can never tell whether he be really prosperous till he
is out of it. I fell into it altogether against my will. I had no
'It seems to me to have been a golden chance.'
'As far as immediate results go it has been golden.'
'That at any rate is well, Paul. And now,--now that we have got back
into our old way of talking, tell me what all this means. I have
talked to no one after this fashion since we parted. Why should our
engagement be over? You used to love me, did you not?'
He would willingly have left her question unanswered, but she waited
for an answer. 'You know I did,' he said.
'I thought so. This I know, that you were sure and are sure of my love
to you. Is it not so? Come, speak openly like a man. Do you doubt me?'
He did not doubt her, and was forced to say so. 'No, indeed.'
'Oh, with what bated, half-mouthed words you speak,--fit for a girl from
a nursery! Out with it if you have anything to say against me! You owe
me so much at any rate. I have never ill-treated you. I have never
lied to you. I have taken nothing from you,--if I have not taken your
heart. I have given you all that I can give.' Then she leaped to her
feet and stood a little apart from him. 'If you hate me, say so.'
'Winifred,' he said, calling her by her name.
'Winifred! Yes, now for the first time, though I have called you Paul
from the moment you entered the room. Well, speak out. Is there
another woman that you love?'
At this moment Paul Montague proved that at any rate he was no coward.
Knowing the nature of the woman, how ardent, how impetuous she could
be, and how full of wrath, he had come at her call intending to tell
her the truth which he now spoke. 'There is another,' he said.
She stood silent, looking into his face, thinking how she would
commence her attack upon him. She fixed her eyes upon him, standing
quite upright, squeezing her own right hand with the fingers of the
left. 'Oh,' she said, in a whisper 'that is the reason why I am told
that I am to be--off.'
'That was not the reason.'
'What,--can there be more reason than that,--better reason than that?
Unless, indeed, it be that as you have learned to love another so also
you have learned to--hate me.'
'Listen to me, Winifred.'
'No, sir; no Winifred now! How did you dare to kiss me, knowing that
it was on your tongue to tell me I was to be cast aside? And so you
love--some other woman! I am too old to please you, too rough,--too
little like the dolls of your own country! What were your--other
reasons? Let me hear your--other reasons, that I may tell you that they
The reasons were very difficult to tell, though when put forward by
Roger Carbury they had been easily pleaded. Paul knew but little about
Winifred Hurtle, and nothing at all about the late Mr Hurtle. His
reasons curtly put forward might have been so stated. 'We know too
little of each other,' he said.
'What more do you want to know? You can know all for the asking. Did I
ever refuse to answer you? As to my knowledge of you and your affairs,
if I think it sufficient, need you complain? What is it that you want
to know? Ask anything and I will tell you. Is it about my money? You
knew when you gave me your word that I had next to none. Now I have
ample means of my own. You knew that I was a widow. What more? If you
wish to hear of the wretch that was my husband, I will deluge you with
stories. I should have thought that a man who loved would not have
cared to hear much of one--who perhaps was loved once.'
He knew that his position was perfectly indefensible. It would have
been better for him not to have alluded to any reasons, but to have
remained firm to his assertion that he loved another woman. He must
have acknowledged himself to be false, perjured, inconstant, and very
base. A fault that may be venial to those who do not suffer, is
damnable, deserving of an eternity of tortures, in the eyes of the
sufferer. He must have submitted to be told that he was a fiend, and
might have had to endure whatever of punishment a lady in her wrath
could inflict upon him. But he would have been called upon for no
further mental effort. His position would have been plain. But now he
was all at sea. 'I wish to hear nothing,' he said.
'Then why tell me that we know so little of each other? That, surely,
is a poor excuse to make to a woman,--after you have been false to her.
Why did you not say that when we were in New York together? Think of
it, Paul. Is not that mean?'
'I do not think that I am mean.'
'No;--a man will lie to a woman, and justify it always. Who is--this
He knew that he could not at any rate be warranted in mentioning Hetta
Carbury's name. He had never even asked her for her love, and
certainly had received no assurance that he was loved. 'I cannot name
'And I, who have come hither from California to see you, am to return
satisfied because you tell me that you have--changed your affections?
That is to be all, and you think that fair? That suits your own mind,
and leaves no sore spot in your heart? You can do that, and shake
hands with me, and go away,--without a pang, without a scruple?'
'I did not say so.'
'And you are the man who cannot bear to hear me praise Augustus
Melmotte because you think him dishonest! Are you a liar?'
'I hope not.'
'Did you say you would be my husband? Answer me, sir.'
'I did say so.'
'Do you now refuse to keep your promise? You shall answer me.'
'I cannot marry you.'
'Then, sir, are you not a liar?' It would have taken him long to
explain to her, even had he been able, that a man may break a promise
and yet not tell a lie. He had made up his mind to break his
engagement before he had seen Hetta Carbury, and therefore he could
not accuse himself of falseness on her account. He had been brought to
his resolution by the rumours he had heard of her past life, and as to
his uncertainty about her husband. If Mr Hurtle were alive, certainly
then he would not be a liar because he did not marry Mrs Hurtle. He
did not think himself to be a liar, but he was not at once ready with
his defence. 'Oh, Paul,' she said, changing at once into softness,--'I
am pleading to you for my life. Oh, that I could make you feel that I
am pleading for my life. Have you given a promise to this lady also?'
'No,' said he. 'I have given no promise.'
'But she loves you?'
'She has never said so.'
'You have told her of your love?'
'There is nothing, then, between you? And you would put her against
me,--some woman who has nothing to suffer, no cause of complaint,
who, for aught you know, cares nothing for you. Is that so?'
'I suppose it is,' said Paul.
'Then you may still be mine. Oh, Paul, come back to me. Will any woman
love you as I do,--live for you as I do? Think what I have done in
coming here, where I have no friend,--not a single friend,--unless you are
a friend. Listen to me. I have told the woman here that I am engaged
to marry you.'
'You have told the woman of the house?'
'Certainly I have. Was I not justified? Were you not engaged to me? Am
I to have you to visit me here, and to risk her insults, perhaps to be
told to take myself off and to find accommodation elsewhere, because I
am too mealy-mouthed to tell the truth as to the cause of my being
here? I am here because you have promised to make me your wife, and,
as far as I am concerned, I am not ashamed to have the fact advertised
in every newspaper in the town. I told her that I was the promised
wife of one Paul Montague, who was joined with Mr Melmotte in managing
the new great American railway, and that Mr Paul Montague would be
with me this morning. She was too far-seeing to doubt me, but had she
doubted, I could have shown her your letters. Now go and tell her that
what I have said is false,--if you dare.' The woman was not there, and
it did not seem to be his immediate duty to leave the room in order
that he might denounce a lady whom he certainly had ill-used. The
position was one which required thought. After a while he took up his
hat to go. 'Do you mean to tell her that my statement is untrue?'
'No,--' he said; 'not to-day.'
'And you will come back to me?'
'Yes;--I will come back.'
'I have no friend here, but you, Paul. Remember that. Remember all
your promises. Remember all our love,--and be good to me.' Then she let
him go without another word.
CHAPTER XXVII - MRS HURTLE GOES TO THE PLAY
On the day after the visit just recorded, Paul Montague received the
following letter from Mrs Hurtle:--
MY DEAR PAUL,--
I think that perhaps we hardly made ourselves understood to each
other yesterday, and I am sure that you do not understand how
absolutely my whole life is now at stake. I need only refer you to
our journey from San Francisco to London to make you conscious
that I really love you. To a woman such love is all important. She
cannot throw it from her as a man may do amidst the affairs of the
world. Nor, if it has to be thrown from her, can she bear the loss
as a man bears it. Her thoughts have dwelt on it with more
constancy than his;--and then too her devotion has separated her
from other things. My devotion to you has separated me from
But I scorn to come to you as a suppliant. If you choose to say
after hearing me that you will put me away from you because you
have seen some one fairer than I am, whatever course I may take in
my indignation, I shall not throw myself at your feet to tell you
of my wrongs. I wish, however, that you should hear me. You say
that there is some one you love better than you love me, but that
you have not committed yourself to her. Alas, I know too much of
the world to be surprised that a man's constancy should not stand
out two years in the absence of his mistress. A man cannot wrap
himself up and keep himself warm with an absent love as a woman
does. But I think that some remembrance of the past must come back
upon you now that you have seen me again. I think that you must
have owned to yourself that you did love me, and that you could
love me again. You sin against me to my utter destruction if you
leave me. I have given up every friend I have to follow you. As
regards the other--nameless lady, there can be no fault; for, as
you tell me, she knows nothing of your passion.
You hinted that there were other reasons,--that we know too little
of each other. You meant no doubt that you knew too little of me.
Is it not the case that you were content when you knew only what
was to be learned in those days of our sweet intimacy, but that
you have been made discontented by stories told you by your
partners at San Francisco? If this be so, trouble yourself at any
rate to find out the truth before you allow yourself to treat a
woman as you propose to treat me. I think you are too good a man
to cast aside a woman you have loved,--like a soiled glove,--
because ill-natured words have been spoken of her by men, or
perhaps by women, who know nothing of her life. My late husband,
Caradoc Hurtle, was Attorney-General in the State of Kansas when I
married him, I being then in possession of a considerable fortune
left to me by my mother. There his life was infamously bad. He
spent what money he could get of mine, and then left me and the
State, and took himself to Texas;--where he drank himself to
death. I did not follow him, and in his absence I was divorced
from him in accordance with the laws of Kansas State. I then went
to San Francisco about property of my mother's, which my husband
had fraudulently sold to a countryman of ours now resident in
Paris,--having forged my name. There I met you, and in that short
story I tell you all that there is to be told. It may be that you
do not believe me now; but if so, are you not bound to go where
you can verify your own doubts or my word?
I try to write dispassionately, but I am in truth overborne by
passion. I also have heard in California rumours about myself, and
after much delay I received your letter. I resolved to follow you
to England as soon as circumstances would permit me. I have been
forced to fight a battle about my property, and I have won it. I
had two reasons for carrying this through by my personal efforts
before I saw you. I had begun it and had determined that I would
not be beaten by fraud. And I was also determined that I would not
plead to you as a pauper. We have talked too freely together in
past days of our mutual money matters for me to feel any delicacy
in alluding to them. When a man and woman have agreed to be
husband and wife there should be no delicacy of that kind. When we
came here together we were both embarrassed. We both had some
property, but neither of us could enjoy it. Since that I have made
my way through my difficulties. From what I have heard at San
Francisco I suppose that you have done the same. I at any rate
shall be perfectly contented if from this time our affairs can be
And now about myself,--immediately. I have come here all alone.
Since I last saw you in New York I have not had altogether a good
time. I have had a great struggle and have been thrown on my own
resources and have been all alone. Very cruel things have been
said of me. You heard cruel things said, but I presume them to
have been said to you with reference to my late husband. Since
that they have been said to others with reference to you. I have
not now come, as my countrymen do generally, backed with a trunk
full of introductions and with scores of friends ready to receive
me. It was necessary to me that I should see you and hear my
fate,--and here I am. I appeal to you to release me in some degree
from the misery of my solitude. You know,--no one so well,--that
my nature is social and that I am not given to be melancholy. Let
us be cheerful together, as we once were, if it be only for a day.
Let me see you as I used to see you, and let me be seen as I used
to be seen.
Come to me and take me out with you, and let us dine together, and
take me to one of your theatres. If you wish it I will promise you
not to allude to that revelation you made to me just now, though
of course it is nearer to my heart than any other matter. Perhaps
some woman's vanity makes me think that if you would only see me
again, and talk to me as you used to talk, you would think of me
as you used to think.
You need not fear but you will find me at home. I have no whither
to go,--and shall hardly stir from the house till you come to me.
Send me a line, however, that I may have my hat on if you are
minded to do as I ask you.
Yours with all my heart,
This letter took her much time to write, though she was very careful
so to write as to make it seem that it had flown easily from her pen.
She copied it from the first draught, but she copied it rapidly, with
one or two premeditated erasures, so that it should look to have been
done hurriedly. There had been much art in it. She had at any rate
suppressed any show of anger. In calling him to her she had so written
as to make him feel that if he would come he need not fear the claws
of an offended lioness:--and yet she was angry as a lioness who had lost
her cub. She had almost ignored that other lady whose name she had not
yet heard. She had spoken of her lover's entanglement with that other
lady as a light thing which might easily be put aside. She had said
much of her own wrongs, but had not said much of the wickedness of the
wrong-doer. Invited as she had invited him, surely he could not but
come to her! And then, in her reference to money, not descending to
the details of dollars and cents, she had studied how to make him feel
that he might marry her without imprudence. As she read it over to
herself she thought that there was a tone through it of natural
feminine uncautious eagerness. She put her letter up in an envelope,
stuck a stamp on it and addressed it,--and then threw herself back in
her chair to think of her position.
He should marry her,--or there should be something done which should
make the name of Winifred Hurtle known to the world! She had no plan
of revenge yet formed. She would not talk of revenge,--she told herself
that she would not even think of revenge till she was quite sure that
revenge would be necessary. But she did think of it, and could not
keep her thoughts from it for a moment. Could it be possible that she,
with all her intellectual gifts as well as those of her outward
person, should be thrown over by a man whom well as she loved him,--and
she did love him with all her heart,--she regarded as greatly inferior
to herself! He had promised to marry her; and he should marry her, or
the world should hear the story of his perjury!
Paul Montague felt that he was surrounded by difficulties as soon as
he read the letter. That his heart was all the other way he was quite
sure; but yet it did seem to him that there was no escape from his
troubles open to him. There was not a single word in this woman's
letter that he could contradict. He had loved her and had promised to
make her his wife,--and had determined to break his word to her because
he found that she was enveloped in dangerous mystery. He had so
resolved before he had ever seen Hetta Carbury, having been made to
believe by Roger Carbury that a marriage with an unknown American
woman,--of whom he only did know that she was handsome and clever would
be a step to ruin. The woman, as Roger said, was an adventuress,--might
never have had a husband,--might at this moment have two or three,--might
be overwhelmed with debt,--might be anything bad, dangerous, and
abominable. All that he had heard at San Francisco had substantiated
Roger's views. 'Any scrape is better than that scrape,' Roger had said
to him. Paul had believed his Mentor, and had believed with a double
faith as soon as he had seen Hetta Carbury.
But what should he do now? It was impossible, after what had passed
between them, that he should leave Mrs Hurtle at her lodgings at
Islington without any notice. It was clear enough to him that she
would not consent to be so left. Then her present proposal,--though it
seemed to be absurd and almost comical in the tragical condition of
their present circumstances,--had in it some immediate comfort. To take
her out and give her a dinner, and then go with her to some theatre,
would be easy and perhaps pleasant. It would be easier, and certainly
much pleasanter, because she had pledged herself to abstain from
talking of her grievances. Then he remembered some happy evenings,
delicious hours, which he had so passed with her, when they were first
together at New York. There could be no better companion for such a
festival. She could talk,--and she could listen as well as talk. And she
could sit silent, conveying to her neighbour the sense of her feminine
charms by her simple proximity. He had been very happy when so placed.
Had it been possible he would have escaped the danger now, but the
reminiscence of past delights in some sort reconciled him to the
performance of this perilous duty.
But when the evening should be over, how would he part with her? When
the pleasant hour should have passed away and he had brought her back
to her door, what should he say to her then? He must make some
arrangement as to a future meeting. He knew that he was in a great
peril, and he did not know how he might best escape it. He could not
now go to Roger Carbury for advice; for was not Roger Carbury his
rival? It would be for his friend's interest that he should marry the
widow. Roger Carbury, as he knew well, was too honest a man to allow
himself to be guided in any advice he might give by such a feeling,
but, still, on this matter, he could no longer tell everything to
Roger Carbury. He could not say all that he would have to say without
speaking of Hetta,--and of his love for Hetta he could not speak to his
He had no other friend in whom he could confide. There was no other
human being he could trust, unless it was Hetta herself. He thought
for a moment that he would write a stern and true letter to the woman,