Part 7 out of 19
truth the best policy. Joe Mixet, who was dapper of person and glib of
tongue, had often declared that any one buying John Crumb for a fool
would lose his money. Joe Mixet was probably right; but there had been
a want of prudence, a lack of worldly sagacity, in the way in which
Crumb had allowed his proposed marriage with Ruby Ruggles to become a
source of gossip to all Bungay. His love was now an old affair; and,
though he never talked much, whenever he did talk, he talked about
that. He was proud of Ruby's beauty, and of her fortune, and of his
own status as her acknowledged lover,--and he did not hide his light
under a bushel. Perhaps the publicity so produced had some effect in
prejudicing Ruby against the man whose offer she had certainly once
accepted. Now when he came to settle the day,--having heard more than
once or twice that there was a difficulty with Ruby,--he brought his
friend Mixet with him as though to be present at his triumph. 'If here
isn't Joe Mixet,' said Ruby to herself. 'Was there ever such a stoopid
as John Crumb? There's no end to his being stoopid.'
The old man had slept off his anger and his beer while Ruby had been
preparing the feast, and now roused himself to entertain his guests.
'What, Joe Mixet; is that thou? Thou'rt welcome. Come in, man. Well,
John, how is it wi' you? Ruby's stewing o' something for us to eat a
bit. Don't e' smell it?'--John Crumb lifted up his great nose, sniffed
'John didn't like going home in the dark like,' said the baker, with
his little joke. 'So I just come along to drive away the bogies.'
'The more the merrier;--the more the merrier. Ruby'll have enough for
the two o' you, I'll go bail. So John Crumb's afraid of bogies;--is he?
The more need he to have some 'un in his house to scart 'em away.'
The lover had seated himself without speaking a word; but now he was
instigated to ask a question. 'Where be she, Muster Ruggles?' They
were seated in the outside or front kitchen, in which the old man and
his granddaughter always lived; while Ruby was at work in the back
kitchen. As John Crumb asked this question she could be heard
distinctly among the pots and the plates. She now came out, and wiping
her hands on her apron, shook hands with the two young men. She had
enveloped herself in a big household apron when the cooking was in
hand, and had not cared to take it off for the greeting of this lover.
'Grandfather said as how you was a coming out for your supper, so I've
been a seeing to it. You'll excuse the apron, Mr Mixet.'
'You couldn't look nicer, miss, if you was to try ever so. My mother
says as it's housifery as recommends a girl to the young men. What do
you say, John?'
'I loiks to see her loik o' that,' said John rubbing his hands down
the back of his trowsers, and stooping till he had brought his eyes
down to a level with those of his sweetheart.
'It looks homely; don't it John?' said Mixet.
'Bother!' said Ruby, turning round sharp, and going back to the other
kitchen. John Crumb turned round also, and grinned at his friend, and
then grinned at the old man.
'You've got it all afore you,' said the farmer,--leaving the lover to
draw what lesson he might from this oracular proposition.
'And I don't care how soon I ha'e it in hond;--that I don't,' said John.
'That's the chat,' said Joe Mixet. 'There ain't nothing wanting in his
house;--is there, John? It's all there,--cradle, caudle-cup, and the rest
of it. A young woman going to John knows what she'll have to eat when
she gets up, and what she'll lie down upon when she goes to bed.' This
he declared in a loud voice for the benefit of Ruby in the back
'That she do,' said John, grinning again. 'There's a hun'erd and fifty
poond o' things in my house forbye what mother left behind her.'
After this there was no more conversation till Ruby reappeared with
the boiled fowl, and without her apron. She was followed by the girl
with a dish of broiled ham and an enormous pyramid of cabbage. Then
the old man got up slowly and opening some private little door of
which he kept the key in his breeches pocket, drew a jug of ale and
placed it on the table. And from a cupboard of which he also kept the
key, he brought out a bottle of gin. Everything being thus prepared,
the three men sat round the table, John Crumb looking at his chair
again and again before he ventured to occupy it. 'If you'll sit
yourself down, I'll give you a bit of something to eat,' said Ruby at
last. Then he sank at once into has chair. Ruby cut up the fowl
standing, and dispensed the other good things, not even placing a
chair for herself at the table,--and apparently not expected to do so,
for no one invited her. 'Is it to be spirits or ale, Mr Crumb?' she
said, when the other two men had helped themselves. He turned round
and gave her a look of love that might have softened the heart of an
Amazon; but instead of speaking he held up his tumbler, and bobbed his
head at the beer jug. Then she filled it to the brim, frothing it in
the manner in which he loved to have it frothed. He raised it to his
mouth slowly, and poured the liquor in as though to a vat. Then she
filled it again. He had been her lover, and she would be as kind to
him as she knew how,--short of love.
There was a good deal of eating done, for more ham came in, and
another mountain of cabbage; but very little or nothing was said. John
Crumb ate whatever was given to him of the fowl, sedulously picking
the bones, and almost swallowing them; and then finished the second
dish of ham, and after that the second instalment of cabbage. He did
not ask for more beer, but took it as often as Ruby replenished his
glass. When the eating was done, Ruby retired into the back kitchen,
and there regaled herself with some bone or merry-thought of the fowl,
which she had with prudence reserved, sharing her spoils however with
the other maiden. This she did standing, and then went to work,
cleaning the dishes. The men lit their pipes and smoked in silence,
while Ruby went through her domestic duties. So matters went on for
half an hour; during which Ruby escaped by the back door, went round
into the house, got into her own room, and formed the grand resolution
of going to bed. She began her operations in fear and trembling, not
being sure that her grandfather would bring the man upstairs to her.
As she thought of this she stayed her hand, and looked to the door.
She knew well that there was no bolt there. It would be terrible to
her to be invaded by John Crumb after his fifth or sixth glass of
beer. And, she declared to herself, that should he come he would be
sure to bring Joe Mixet with him to speak his mind for him. So she
paused and listened.
When they had smoked for some half hour the old man called for his
granddaughter, but called of course in vain. 'Where the mischief is
the jade gone?' he said, slowly making his way into the back kitchen.
The maid, as soon as she heard her master moving, escaped into the
yard and made no response, while the old man stood bawling at the back
door. 'The devil's in them. They're off some gates,' he said
aloud. 'She'll make the place hot for her, if she goes on this way.'
Then he returned to the two young men. 'She's playing off her games
somewheres,' he said. 'Take a glass of sperrits and water, Mr Crumb,
and I'll see after her.'
'I'll just take a drop of y'ell,' said John Crumb, apparently quite
unmoved by the absence of his sweetheart.
It was sad work for the old man. He went down the yard and into the
garden, hobbling among the cabbages, not daring to call very loud, as
he did not wish to have it supposed that the girl was lost; but still
anxious, and sore at heart as to the ingratitude shown to him. He was
not bound to give the girl a home at all. She was not his own child.
And he had offered her £500! 'Domm her,' he said aloud as he made his
way back to the house. After much search and considerable loss of time
he returned to the kitchen in which the two men were sitting, leading
Ruby in his hand. She was not smart in her apparel, for she had half
undressed herself, and been then compelled by her grandfather to make
herself fit to appear in public. She had acknowledged to herself that
she had better go down and tell John Crumb the truth. For she was
still determined that she would never be John Crumb's wife. 'You can
answer him as well as I, grandfather,' she had said. Then the farmer
had cuffed her, and told her that she was an idiot. 'Oh, if it comes
to that,' said Ruby, 'I'm not afraid of John Crumb, nor yet of nobody
else. Only I didn't think you'd go to strike me, grandfather.' 'I'll
knock the life out of thee, if thou goest on this gate,' he had said.
But she had consented to come down, and they entered the room
'We're a disturbing you a'most too late, miss,' said Mr Mixet.
'It ain't that at all, Mr Mixet. If grandfather chooses to have a few
friends, I ain't nothing against it. I wish he'd have a few friends a
deal oftener than he do. I likes nothing better than to do for 'em;--
only when I've done for 'em and they're smoking their pipes and that
like, I don't see why I ain't to leave 'em to 'emselves.'
'But we've come here on a hauspicious occasion, Miss Ruby.'
'I don't know nothing about auspicious, Mr Mixet. If you and Mr
Crumb've come out to Sheep's Acre farm for a bit of supper--'
'Which we ain't,' said John Crumb very loudly;--'nor yet for beer;--not
by no means.'
'We've come for the smiles of beauty,' said Joe Mixet. Ruby chucked up
her head. 'Mr Mixet, if you'll be so good as to stow that! There ain't
no beauty here as I knows of, and if there was it isn't nothing to
'Except in the way of friendship,' said Mixet.
'I'm just as sick of all this as a man can be,' said Mr Ruggles, who
was sitting low in his chair, with his back bent, and his head
forward. 'I won't put up with it no more.'
'Who wants you to put up with it?' said Ruby. 'Who wants 'em to come
here with their trash? Who brought 'em to-night? I don't know what
business Mr Mixet has interfering along o' me. I never interfere along
'John Crumb, have you anything to say?' asked the old man.
Then John Crumb slowly arose from his chair, and stood up at his full
height. 'I hove,' said he, swinging his head to one side.
'Then say it.'
'I will,' said he. He was still standing bolt upright with his hands
down by his side. Then he stretched out his left to his glass which
was half full of beer, and strengthened himself as far as that would
strengthen him. Having done this he slowly deposited the pipe which he
still held in his right hand.
'Now speak your mind, like a man,' said Mixet.
'I intends it,' said John. But he still stood dumb, looking down upon
old Ruggles, who from his crouched position was looking up at him.
Ruby was standing with both her hands upon the table and her eyes
intent upon the wall over the fire-place.
'You've asked Miss Ruby to be your wife a dozen times;--haven't you,
John?' suggested Mixet.
'And you mean to be as good as your word?'
'And she has promised to have you?'
'More nor once or twice?' To this proposition Crumb found it only
necessary to bob his head. 'You're ready?--and willing?'
'You're wishing to have the banns said without any more delay?'
'There ain't no delay 'bout me;--never was.'
'Everything is ready in your own house?'
'And you will expect Miss Ruby to come to the scratch?'
'That's about it, I think,' said Joe Mixet, turning to the
grandfather. 'I don't think there was ever anything much more
straightforward than that. You know, I know, Miss Ruby knows all about
John Crumb. John Crumb didn't come to Bungay yesterday nor yet the day
before. There's been a talk of five hundred pounds, Mr Ruggles.' Mr
Ruggles made a slight gesture of assent with his head. 'Five hundred
pounds is very comfortable; and added to what John has will make
things that snug that things never was snugger. But John Crumb isn't
after Miss Ruby along of her fortune.'
'Nohows,' said the lover, shaking his head and still standing upright
with his hands by his side.
'Not he;--it isn't his ways, and them as knows him'll never say it of
him. John has a heart in his buzsom.'
'I has,' said John, raising his hand a little above his stomach.
'And feelings as a man. It's true love as has brought John Crumb to
Sheep's Acre farm this night;--love of that young lady, if she'll let me
make so free. He's a proposed to her, and she's a haccepted him, and
now it's about time as they was married. That's what John Crumb has to
'That's what I has to say,' repeated John Crumb, 'and I means it.'
'And now, miss,' continued Mixet, addressing himself to Ruby, 'you've
heard what John has to say.'
'I've heard you, Mr Mixet, and I've heard quite enough.'
'You can't have anything to say against it, Miss; can you? There's
your grandfather as is willing, and the-money as one may say counted
out,--and John Crumb is willing, with his house so ready that there
isn't a ha'porth to do. All we want is for you to name the day.'
'Say to-morrow, Ruby, and I'll not be agen it,' said John Crumb,
slapping his thigh.
'I won't say to-morrow, Mr Crumb, nor yet the day after to-morrow, nor
yet no day at all. I'm not going to have you. I've told you as much
'That was only in fun, loike.'
'Then now I tell you in earnest. There's some folk wants such a deal
'You don't mean,--never?'
'I do mean never, Mr Crumb.'
'Didn't you say as you would, Ruby? Didn't you say so as plain as the
nose on my face?' John as he asked these questions could hardly
refrain from tears.
'Young women is allowed to change their minds,' said Ruby.
'Brute!' exclaimed old Ruggles. 'Pig! Jade! I'll tell you what, John.
She'll go out o' this into the streets;--that's what she wull. I won't
keep her here, no longer;--nasty, ungrateful, lying slut.'
'She ain't that;--she ain't that,' said John. 'She ain't that at all.
She's no slut. I won't hear her called so;--not by her grandfather. But,
oh, she has a mind to put me so abouts, that I'll have to go home and
'Dash it, Miss Ruby, you ain't a going to serve a young man that way,'
said the baker.
'If you'll jist keep yourself to yourself, I'll be obliged to you, Mr
Mixet,' said Ruby. 'If you hadn't come here at all things might have
'Hark at that now,' said John, looking at his friend almost with
Mr Mixet, who was fully aware of his rare eloquence and of the
absolute necessity there had been for its exercise if any arrangement
were to be made at all, could not trust himself to words after this.
He put on his hat and walked out through the back kitchen into the
yard declaring that his friend would find him there, round by the
pigsty wall, whenever he was ready to return to Bungay. As soon as
Mixet was gone John looked at his sweetheart out of the corners of his
eyes and made a slow motion towards her, putting out his right hand as
a feeler. 'He's aff now, Ruby,' said John.
'And you'd better be aff after him,' said the cruel girl.
'And when'll I come back again?'
'Never. It ain't no use. What's the good of more words, Mr Crumb?'
'Domm her; domm her,' said old Ruggles. 'I'll even it to her. She'll
have to be out on the roads this night.'
'She shall have the best bed in my house if she'll come for it,' said
John, 'and the old woman to look arter her; and I won't come nigh her
till she sends for me.'
'I can find a place for myself, thank ye, Mr Crumb.' Old Ruggles sat
grinding his teeth, and swearing to himself, taking his hat off and
putting it on again, and meditating vengeance.
'And now if you please, Mr Crumb, I'll go upstairs to my own room.'
'You don't go up to any room here, you jade you.' The old man as he
said this got up from his chair as though to fly at her. And he would
have struck her with his stick but that he was stopped by John Crumb.
'Don't hit the girl, no gate, Mr Ruggles.'
'Domm her, John; she breaks my heart.' While her lover held her
grandfather Ruby escaped, and seated herself on the bedside, again
afraid to undress, lest she should be disturbed by her grandfather.
'Ain't it more nor a man ought to have to bear;--ain't it, Mr Crumb?'
said the grandfather appealing to the young man.
'It's the ways on 'em, Mr Ruggles.'
'Ways on 'em! A whipping at the cart-tail ought to be the ways on her.
She's been and seen some young buck.'
Then John Crumb turned red all over, through the flour, and sparks of
anger flashed from his eyes. 'You ain't a meaning of it, master?'
'I'm told there's been the squoire's cousin aboot,--him as they call the
'Been along wi' Ruby?' The old man nodded at him. 'By the mortials
I'll baronite him;--I wull,' said John, seizing his hat and stalking off
through the back kitchen after his friend.
CHAPTER XXXIV - RUBY RUGGLES OBEYS HER GRANDFATHER
The next day there was a great surprise at Sheep's Acre farm, which
communicated itself to the towns of Bungay and Beccles, and even
affected the ordinary quiet life of Carbury Manor. Ruby Ruggles had
gone away, and at about twelve o'clock in the day the old farmer
became aware of the fact. She had started early, at about seven in the
morning; but Ruggles himself had been out long before that, and had
not condescended to ask for her when he returned to the house for his
breakfast. There had been a bad scene up in the bedroom overnight,
after John Crumb had left the farm. The old man in his anger had tried
to expel the girl; but she had hung on to the bed-post and would not
go; and he had been frightened, when the maid came up crying and
screaming murder. 'You'll be out o' this to-morrow as sure as my name's
Dannel Ruggles,' said the farmer panting for breath. But for the gin
which he had taken he would hardly have struck her;--but he had
struck her, and pulled her by the hair, and knocked her about;--and in
the morning she took him at his word and was away. About twelve he
heard from the servant girl that she had gone. She had packed a box
and had started up the road carrying the box herself. 'Grandfather
says I'm to go, and I'm gone,' she had said to the girl. At the first
cottage she had got a boy to carry her box into Beccles, and to
Beccles she had walked. For an hour or two Ruggles sat, quiet, within
the house, telling himself that she might do as she pleased with
herself,--that he was well rid of her, and that from henceforth he
would trouble himself no more about her. But by degrees there came
upon him a feeling half of compassion and half of fear, with perhaps
some mixture of love, instigating him to make search for her. She had
been the same to him as a child, and what would people say of him if
he allowed her to depart from him after this fashion? Then he
remembered his violence the night before, and the fact that the
servant girl had heard if she had not seen it. He could not drop his
responsibility in regard to Ruby, even if he would. So, as a first
step, he sent in a message to John Crumb, at Bungay, to tell him that
Ruby Ruggles had gone off with a box to Beccles. John Crumb went
open-mouthed with the news to Joe Mixet, and all Bungay soon knew
that Ruby Ruggles had run away.
After sending his message to Crumb the old man still sat thinking, and
at last made up his mind that he would go to his landlord. He held a
part of his farm under Roger Carbury, and Roger Carbury would tell him
what he ought to do. A great trouble had come upon him. He would fain
have been quiet, but his conscience and his heart and his terrors all
were at work together,--and he found that he could not eat his dinner.
So he had out his cart and horse and drove himself off to Carbury
It was past four when he started, and he found the squire seated on
the terrace after an early dinner, and with him was Father Barham, the
priest. The old man was shown at once round into the garden, and was
not long in telling his story. There had been words between him and
his granddaughter about her lover. Her lover had been accepted and had
come to the farm to claim his bride. Ruby had behaved very badly. The
old man made the most of Ruby's bad behaviour, and of course as little
as possible of his own violence. But he did explain that there had
been threats used when Ruby refused to take the man, and that Ruby
had, this day, taken herself off.
'I always thought it was settled that they were to be man and wife,'
'It was settled, squoire;--and he war to have five hun'erd pound
down;--money as I'd saved myself. Drat the jade.'
'Didn't she like him, Daniel?'
'She liked him well enough till she'd seed somebody else.' Then old
Daniel paused, and shook his head, and was evidently the owner of a
secret. The squire got up and walked round the garden with him,--and
then the secret was told. The farmer was of opinion that there was
something between the girl and Sir Felix. Sir Felix some weeks since
had been seen near the farm and on the same occasion Ruby had been
observed at some little distance from the house with her best clothes
'He's been so little here, Daniel,' said the squire.
'It goes as tinder and a spark o' fire, that does,' said the farmer.
'Girls like Ruby don't want no time to be wooed by one such as that,
though they'll fall-lall with a man like John Crumb for years.'
'I suppose she's gone to London.'
'Don't know nothing of where she's gone, squoire;--only she have gone
some'eres. May be it's Lowestoft. There's lots of quality at
Lowestoft a'washing theyselves in the sea.'
Then they returned to the priest, who might be supposed to be
cognizant of the guiles of the world and competent to give advice on
such an occasion as this. 'If she was one of our people,' said Father
Barham, 'we should have her back quick enough.'
'Would ye now?' said Ruggles, wishing at the moment that he and all
his family had been brought up as Roman Catholics.
'I don't see how you would have more chance of catching her than we
have,' said Carbury.
'She'd catch herself. Wherever she might be she'd go to the priest,
and he wouldn't leave her till he'd seen her put on the way back to
'With a flea in her lug,' suggested the farmer.
'Your people never go to a clergyman in their distress. It's the last
thing they'd think of. Any one might more probably be regarded as a
friend than the parson. But with us the poor know where to look for
'She ain't that poor, neither,' said the grandfather.
'She had money with her?'
'I don't know just what she had; but she ain't been brought up poor.
And I don't think as our Ruby'd go of herself to any clergyman. It
never was her way.'
'It never is the way with a Protestant,' said the priest.
'We'll say no more about that for the present,' said Roger, who was
waxing wroth with the priest. That a man should be fond of his own
religion is right; but Roger Carbury was beginning to think that
Father Barham was too fond of his religion. 'What had we better do? I
suppose we shall hear something of her at the railway. There are not
so many people leaving Beccles but that she may be remembered.' So the
waggonette was ordered, and they all prepared to go off to the station
But before they started John Crumb rode up to the door. He had gone at
once to the farm on hearing of Ruby's departure, and had followed the
farmer from thence to Carbury. Now he found the squire and the priest
and the old man standing around as the horses were being put to the
carriage. 'Ye ain't a' found her, Mr Ruggles, ha' ye?' he asked as he
wiped the sweat from his brow.
'Noa;--we ain't a' found no one yet.'
'If it was as she was to come to harm, Mr Carbury, I'd never forgive
myself,--never,' said Crumb.
'As far as I can understand it is no doing of yours, my friend,' said
'In one way, it ain't; and in one way it is. I was over there last
night a bothering of her. She'd a' come round may be, if she'd a' been
left alone. She wouldn't a' been off now, only for our going over to
Sheep's Acre. But,--oh!'
'What is it, Mr Crumb?'
'He's a coosin o' yours, squoire; and long as I've known Suffolk, I've
never known nothing but good o' you and yourn. But if your baronite
has been and done this! Oh, Mr Carbury! If I was to wring his neck
round, you wouldn't say as how I was wrong; would ye, now?' Roger
could hardly answer the question. On general grounds the wringing of
Sir Felix's neck, let the immediate cause for such a performance have
been what it might, would have seemed to him to be a good deed. The
world would be better, according to his thinking, with Sir Felix out
of it than in it. But still the young man was his cousin and a
Carbury, and to such a one as John Crumb he was bound to defend any
member of his family as far as he might be defensible. 'They says as
how he was groping about Sheep's Acre when he was last here, a hiding
himself and skulking behind hedges. Drat 'em all. They've gals enough
of their own,--them fellows. Why can't they let a fellow alone? I'll do
him a mischief, Master Roger; I wull;--if he's had a hand in this.' Poor
John Crumb! When he had his mistress to win he could find no words for
himself; but was obliged to take an eloquent baker with him to talk
for him. Now in his anger he could talk freely enough.
'But you must first learn that Sir Felix has had anything to do with
this, Mr Crumb.'
'In coorse; in coorse. That's right. That's right. Must l'arn as he
did it, afore I does it. But when I have l'arned--!' And John Crumb
clenched his fist as though a very short lesson would suffice for him
upon this occasion.
They all went to the Beccles Station, and from thence to the Beccles
Post-office,--so that Beccles soon knew as much about it as Bungay. At
the railway station Ruby was distinctly remembered. She had taken a
second-class ticket by the morning train for London, and had gone off
without any appearance of secrecy. She had been decently dressed, with
a hat and cloak, and her luggage had been such as she might have been
expected to carry, had all her friends known that she was going. So
much was made clear at the railway station, but nothing more could be
learned there. Then a message was sent by telegraph to the station in
London, and they all waited, loitering about the Post-office, for a
reply. One of the porters in London remembered seeing such a girl as
was described, but the man who was supposed to have carried her box
for her to a cab had gone away for the day. It was believed that she
had left the station in a four-wheel cab. 'I'll be arter her. I'll be
arter her at once,' said John Crumb. But there was no train till
night, and Roger Carbury was doubtful whether his going would do any
good. It was evidently fixed on Crumb's mind that the first step
towards finding Ruby would be the breaking of every bone in the body
of Sir Felix Carbury. Now it was not at all apparent to the squire
that his cousin had had anything to do with this affair. It had been
made quite clear to him that the old man had quarrelled with his
granddaughter and had threatened to turn her out of his house, not
because she had misbehaved with Sir Felix, but on account of her
refusing to marry John Crumb. John Crumb had gone over to the farm
expecting to arrange it all, and up to that time there had been no
fear about Felix Carbury. Nor was it possible that there should have
been communication between Ruby and Felix since the quarrel at the
farm. Even if the old man were right in supposing that Ruby and the
baronet had been acquainted,--and such acquaintance could not but be
prejudicial to the girl,--not on that account would the baronet be
responsible for her abduction. John Crumb was thirsting for blood and
was not very capable in his present mood of arguing the matter out
coolly, and Roger, little as he toyed his cousin, was not desirous
that all Suffolk should know that Sir Felix Carbury had been thrashed
within an inch of his life by John Crumb of Bungay. 'I'll tell you
what I'll do,' said he, putting his hand kindly on the old man's
shoulder. 'I'll go up myself by the first train to-morrow. I can trace
her better than Mr Crumb can do, and you will both trust me.'
'There's not one in the two counties I'd trust so soon,' said the old
'But you'll let us know the very truth,' said John Crumb. Roger
Carbury made him an indiscreet promise that he would let him know the
truth. So the matter was settled, and the grandfather and lover
returned together to Bungay.
CHAPTER XXXV - MELMOTTE'S GLORY
Augustus Melmotte was becoming greater and greater in every direction,--
mightier and mightier every day. He was learning to despise mere
lords, and to feel that he might almost domineer over a duke. In truth
he did recognize it as a fact that he must either domineer over dukes,
or else go to the wall. It can hardly be said of him that he had
intended to play so high a game, but the game that he had intended to
play had become thus high of its own accord. A man cannot always
restrain his own doings and keep them within the limits which he had
himself planned for them. They will very often fall short of the
magnitude to which his ambition has aspired. They will sometimes soar
higher than his own imagination. So it had now been with Mr Melmotte.
He had contemplated great things; but the things which he was
achieving were beyond his contemplation.
The reader will not have thought much of Fisker on his arrival in
England. Fisker was, perhaps, not a man worthy of much thought. He had
never read a book. He had never written a line worth reading. He had
never said a prayer. He cared nothing for humanity. He had sprung out
of some Californian gully, was perhaps ignorant of his own father and
mother, and had tumbled up in the world on the strength of his own
audacity. But, such as he was, he had sufficed to give the necessary
impetus for rolling Augustus Melmotte onwards into almost
unprecedented commercial greatness. When Mr Melmotte took his offices
in Abchurch Lane, he was undoubtedly a great man, but nothing so great
as when the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway had become not
only an established fact, but a fact established in Abchurch Lane. The
great company indeed had an office of its own, where the Board was
held; but everything was really managed in Mr Melmotte's own commercial
sanctum. Obeying, no doubt, some inscrutable law of commerce, the
grand enterprise,--'perhaps the grandest when you consider the amount
of territory manipulated, which has ever opened itself before the eyes
of a great commercial people,' as Mr Fisker with his peculiar
eloquence observed through his nose, about this time, to a meeting
of shareholders at San Francisco,--had swung itself across from
California to London, turning itself to the centre of the commercial
world as the needle turns to the pole, till Mr Fisker almost regretted
the deed which himself had done. And Melmotte was not only the head,
but the body also, and the feet of it all. The shares seemed to be all
in Melmotte's pocket, so that he could distribute them as he would;
and it seemed also that when distributed and sold, and when bought
again and sold again, they came back to Melmotte's pocket. Men were
contented to buy their shares and to pay their money, simply on
Melmotte's word. Sir Felix had realized a large portion of his
winnings at cards,--with commendable prudence for one so young and
extravagant,--and had brought his savings to the great man. The great
man had swept the earnings of the Beargarden into his till, and had
told Sir Felix that the shares were his. Sir Felix had been not only
contented, but supremely happy. He could now do as Paul Montague was
doing,--and Lord Alfred Grendall. He could realize a perennial income,
buying and selling. It was only after the reflection of a day or two
that he found that he had as yet got nothing to sell. It was not only
Sir Felix that was admitted into these good things after this fashion.
Sir Felix was but one among hundreds. In the meantime the bills in
Grosvenor Square were no doubt paid with punctuality,--and these
bills must have been stupendous. The very servants were as tall, as
gorgeous, almost as numerous, as the servants of royalty,--and
remunerated by much higher wages. There were four coachmen with
egregious wigs, and eight footmen, not one with a circumference of
calf less than eighteen inches.
And now there appeared a paragraph in the 'Morning Breakfast Table,'
and another appeared in the 'Evening Pulpit,' telling the world that
Mr Melmotte had bought Pickering Park, the magnificent Sussex property
of Adolphus Longestaffe, Esq., of Caversham. And it was so. The father
and son, who never had agreed before, and who now had come to no
agreement in the presence of each other, had each considered that
their affairs would be safe in the hands of so great a man as Mr
Melmotte, and had been brought to terms. The purchase-money, which was
large, was to be divided between them. The thing was done with the
greatest ease,--there being no longer any delay as is the case when
small people are at work. The magnificence of Mr Melmotte affected
even the Longestaffe lawyers. Were I to buy a little property, some
humble cottage with a garden,--or you, O reader, unless you be
magnificent,--the money to the last farthing would be wanted, or
security for the money more than sufficient, before we should be able
to enter in upon our new home. But money was the very breath of
Melmotte's nostrils, and therefore his breath was taken for money.
Pickering was his, and before a week was over a London builder had
collected masons and carpenters by the dozen down at Chichester, and
was at work upon the house to make it fit to be a residence for Madame
Melmotte. There were rumours that it was to be made ready for the
Goodwood week, and that the Melmotte entertainment during that
festival would rival the duke's.
But there was still much to be done in London before the Goodwood week
should come round, in all of which Mr Melmotte was concerned, and of
much of which Mr Melmotte was the very centre. A member for
Westminster had succeeded to a peerage, and thus a seat was vacated.
It was considered to be indispensable to the country that Mr Melmotte
should go into Parliament, and what constituency could such a man as
Melmotte so fitly represent as one combining as Westminster does all
the essences of the metropolis? There was the popular element, the
fashionable element, the legislative element, the legal element, and
the commercial element. Melmotte undoubtedly was the man for
Westminster. His thorough popularity was evinced by testimony which
perhaps was never before given in favour of any candidate for any
county or borough. In Westminster there must of course be a contest. A
seat for Westminster is a thing not to be abandoned by either
political party without a struggle. But, at the beginning of the
affair, when each party had to seek the most suitable candidate which
the country could supply, each party put its hand upon Melmotte. And
when the seat, and the battle for the seat, were suggested to
Melmotte, then for the first time was that great man forced to descend
from the altitudes on which his mind generally dwelt, and to decide
whether he would enter Parliament as a Conservative or a Liberal. He
was not long in convincing himself that the conservative element in
British Society stood the most in need of that fiscal assistance which
it would be in his province to give; and on the next day every
hoarding in London declared to the world that Melmotte was the
conservative candidate for Westminster. It is needless to say that his
committee was made up of peers, bankers, and publicans, with all that
absence of class prejudice for which the party has become famous since
the ballot was introduced among us. Some unfortunate Liberal was to be
made to run against him, for the sake of the party; but the odds were
ten to one on Melmotte.
This no doubt was a great matter,--this affair of the seat; but the
dinner to be given to the Emperor of China was much greater. It was
the middle of June, and the dinner was to be given on Monday, 8th
July, now three weeks hence;--but all London was already talking of it.
The great purport proposed was to show to the Emperor by this banquet
what an English merchant-citizen of London could do. Of course there
was a great amount of scolding and a loud clamour on the occasion.
Some men said that Melmotte was not a citizen of London, others that
he was not a merchant, others again that he was not an Englishman. But
no man could deny that he was both able and willing to spend the
necessary money; and as this combination of ability and will was the
chief thing necessary, they who opposed the arrangement could only
storm and scold. On the 20th of June the tradesmen were at work,
throwing up a building behind, knocking down walls, and generally
transmuting the house in Grosvenor Square in such a fashion that two
hundred guests might be able to sit down to dinner in the dining-room
of a British merchant.
But who were to be the two hundred? It used to be the case that when
a gentleman gave a dinner he asked his own guests;--but when affairs
become great, society can hardly be carried on after that simple
fashion. The Emperor of China could not be made to sit at table
without English royalty, and English royalty must know whom it has to
meet,--must select at any rate some of its comrades. The minister of the
day also had his candidates for the dinner,--in which arrangement there
was however no private patronage, as the list was confined to the
cabinet and their wives. The Prime Minister took some credit to
himself in that he would not ask for a single ticket for a private
friend. But the Opposition as a body desired their share of seats.
Melmotte had elected to stand for Westminster on the conservative
interest, and was advised that he must insist on having as it were a
conservative cabinet present, with its conservative wives. He was told
that he owed it to his party, and that his party exacted payment of
the debt. But the great difficulty lay with the city merchants. This
was to be a city merchant's private feast, and it was essential that
the Emperor should meet this great merchant's brother merchants at the
merchant's board. No doubt the Emperor would see all the merchants at
the Guildhall; but that would be a semi-public affair, paid for out of
the funds of a corporation. This was to be a private dinner. Now the
Lord Mayor had set his face against it, and what was to be done?
Meetings were held; a committee was appointed; merchant guests were
selected, to the number of fifteen with their fifteen wives;--and
subsequently the Lord Mayor was made a baronet on the occasion of
receiving the Emperor in the city. The Emperor with his suite was
twenty. Royalty had twenty tickets, each ticket for guest and wife.
The existing Cabinet was fourteen; but the coming was numbered at
about eleven only;--each one for self and wife. Five ambassadors and
five ambassadresses were to be asked. There were to be fifteen real
merchants out of the city. Ten great peers,--with their peeresses,--
were selected by the general committee of management. There were to be
three wise men, two poets, three independent members of the House of
Commons, two Royal Academicians, three editors of papers, an African
traveller who had just come home, and a novelist;--but all these latter
gentlemen were expected to come as bachelors. Three tickets were to be
kept over for presentation to bores endowed with a power of making
themselves absolutely unendurable if not admitted at the last moment,--
and ten were left for the giver of the feast and his own family and
friends. It is often difficult to make things go smooth,--but almost all
roughnesses may be smoothed at last with patience and care, and money,
But the dinner was not to be all. Eight hundred additional tickets were
to be issued for Madame Melmotte's evening entertainment, and the fight
for these was more internecine than for seats at the dinner. The
dinner-seats, indeed, were handled in so statesmanlike a fashion that
there was not much visible fighting about them. Royalty manages its
affairs quietly. The existing Cabinet was existing, and though there
were two or three members of it who could not have got themselves
elected at a single unpolitical club in London, they had a right to
their seats at Melmotte's table. What disappointed ambition there might
be among conservative candidates was never known to the public. Those
gentlemen do not wash their dirty linen in public. The ambassadors of
course were quiet, but we may be sure that the Minister from the United
States was among the favoured five. The city bankers and bigwigs, as
has been already said, were at first unwilling to be present, and
therefore they who were not chosen could not afterwards express their
displeasure. No grumbling was heard among the peers, and that which
came from the peeresses floated down into the current of the great
fight about the evening entertainment. The poet laureate was of course
asked, and the second poet was as much a matter of course. Only two
Academicians had in this year painted royalty, so that there was no
ground for jealousy there. There were three, and only three, specially
insolent and specially disagreeable independent members of Parliament
at that time in the House, and there was no difficulty in selecting
them. The wise men were chosen by their age. Among editors of
newspapers there was some ill-blood. That Mr Alf and Mr Broune should
be selected was almost a matter of course. They were hated accordingly,
but still this was expected. But why was Mr Booker there? Was it
because he had praised the Prime Minister's translation of Catullus?
The African traveller chose himself by living through all his perils
and coming home. A novelist was selected; but as royalty wanted another
ticket at the last moment, the gentleman was only asked to come in
after dinner. His proud heart, however, resented the treatment, and he
joined amicably with his literary brethren in decrying the festival
We should be advancing too rapidly into this portion of our story were
we to concern ourselves deeply at the present moment with the feud as
it raged before the evening came round, but it may be right to
indicate that the desire for tickets at last became a burning passion,
and a passion which in the great majority of cases could not be
indulged. The value of the privilege was so great that Madame Melmotte
thought that she was doing almost more than friendship called for when
she informed her guest, Miss Longestaffe, that unfortunately there
would be no seat for her at the dinner-table; but that, as payment
for her loss, she should receive an evening ticket for herself and a
joint ticket for a gentleman and his wife. Georgiana was at first
indignant, but she accepted the compromise. What she did with her
tickets shall be hereafter told.
From all this I trust it will be understood that the Mr Melmotte of
the present hour was a very different man from that Mr Melmotte who
was introduced to the reader in the early chapters of this chronicle.
Royalty was not to be smuggled in and out of his house now without his
being allowed to see it. No manoeuvres now were necessary to catch a
simple duchess. Duchesses were willing enough to come. Lord Alfred
when he was called by his Christian name felt no aristocratic twinges.
He was only too anxious to make himself more and more necessary to the
great man. It is true that all this came as it were by jumps, so that
very often a part of the world did not know on what ledge in the world
the great man was perched at that moment. Miss Longestaffe who was
staying in the house did not at all know how great a man her host was.
Lady Monogram when she refused to go to Grosvenor Square, or even to
allow any one to come out of the house in Grosvenor Square to her
parties, was groping in outer darkness. Madame Melmotte did not know.
Marie Melmotte did not know. The great man did not quite know himself
where, from time to time, he was standing. But the world at large
knew. The world knew that Mr Melmotte was to be Member for
Westminster, that Mr Melmotte was to entertain the Emperor of China,
that Mr Melmotte carried the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway
in his pocket;--and the world worshipped Mr Melmotte.
In the meantime Mr Melmotte was much troubled about his private
affairs. He had promised his daughter to Lord Nidderdale, and as he
rose in the world had lowered the price which he offered for this
marriage,--not so much in the absolute amount of fortune to be
ultimately given, as in the manner of giving it. Fifteen thousand a
year was to be settled on Marie and on her eldest son, and twenty
thousand pounds were to be paid into Nidderdale's hands six months
after the marriage. Melmotte gave his reasons for not paying this sum
at once. Nidderdale would be more likely to be quiet, if he were kept
waiting for that short time. Melmotte was to purchase and furnish for
them a house in town. It was, too, almost understood that the young
people were to have Pickering Park for themselves, except for a week
or so at the end of July. It was absolutely given out in the papers
that Pickering was to be theirs. It was said on all sides that
Nidderdale was doing very well for himself. The absolute money was not
perhaps so great as had been at first asked; but then, at that time,
Melmotte was not the strong rock, the impregnable tower of commerce,
the very navel of the commercial enterprise of the world,--as all men
now regarded him. Nidderdale's father, and Nidderdale himself, were,
in the present condition of things, content with a very much less
stringent bargain than that which they had endeavoured at first to
But, in the midst of all this, Marie, who had at one time consented at
her father's instance to accept the young lord, and who in some
speechless fashion had accepted him, told both the young lord and her
father, very roundly, that she had changed her mind. Her father
scowled at her and told her that her mind in the matter was of no
concern. He intended that she should marry Lord Nidderdale, and
himself fixed some day in August for the wedding. 'It is no use,
father, for I will never have him,' said Marie.
'Is it about that other scamp?' he asked angrily.
'If you mean Sir Felix Carbury, it is about him. He has been to you
and told you, and therefore I don't know why I need hold my tongue.'
'You'll both starve, my lady; that's all.' Marie however was not so
wedded to the grandeur which she encountered in Grosvenor Square as to
be afraid of the starvation which she thought she might have to suffer
if married to Sir Felix Carbury. Melmotte had not time for any long
discussion. As he left her he took hold of her and shook her. 'By--,'
he said, 'if you run rusty after all I've done for you, I'll make you
suffer. You little fool; that man's a beggar. He hasn't the price of a
petticoat or a pair of stockings. He's looking only for what you
haven't got, and shan't have if you marry him. He wants money, not
you, you little fool!'
But after that she was quite settled in her purpose when Nidderdale
spoke to her. They had been engaged and then it had been off;--and now
the young nobleman, having settled everything with the father,
expected no great difficulty in resettling everything with the girl.
He was not very skilful at making love,--but he was thoroughly
good-humoured, from his nature anxious to please, and averse to give
pain. There was hardly any injury which he could not forgive, and
hardly any kindness which he would not do,--so that the labour upon
himself was not too great. 'Well, Miss Melmotte,' he said, 'governors
are stern beings: are they not?'
'Is yours stern, my lord?'
'What I mean is that sons and daughters have to obey them. I think you
understand what I mean. I was awfully spoony on you that time before; I
'I hope it didn't hurt you much, Lord Nidderdale.'
'That's so like a woman; that is. You know well enough that you and I
can't marry without leave from the governors.'
'Nor with it,' said Marie, holding her head.
'I don't know how that may be. There was some hitch somewhere,--I don't
quite know where.' The hitch had been with himself, as he demanded
ready money. 'But it's all right now. The old fellows are agreed.
Can't we make a match of it, Miss Melmotte?'
'No, Lord Nidderdale; I don't think we can.'
'Do you mean that?'
'I do mean it. When that was going on before I knew nothing about it.
I have seen more of things since then.'
'And you've seen somebody you like better than me?'
'I say nothing about that, Lord Nidderdale. I don't think you ought to
blame me, my lord.'
'Oh dear no.'
'There was something before, but it was you that was off first. Wasn't
'The governors were off, I think.'
'The governors have a right to be off, I suppose. But I don't think
any governor has a right to make anybody marry any one.'
'I agree with you there;--I do indeed,' said Lord Nidderdale.
'And no governor shall make me marry. I've thought a great deal about
it since that other time, and that's what I've come to determine.'
'But I don't know why you shouldn't--just marry me--because you--like
'Only,--just because I don't. Well; I do like you, Lord Nidderdale.'
'I like you ever so,--only marrying a person is different.'
'There's something in that, to be sure.'
'And I don't mind telling you,' said Marie with an almost solemn
expression on her countenance, 'because you are good-natured and won't
get me into a scrape if you can help it, that I do like somebody
else;--oh, so much.'
'I supposed that was it.'
'That is it.'
'It's a deuced pity. The governors had settled everything, and we
should have been awfully jolly. I'd have gone in for all the things
you go in for; and though your governor was screwing us up a bit,
there would have been plenty of tin to go on with. You couldn't think
of it again?'
'I tell you, my lord, I'm--in love.'
'Oh, ah;--yes. So you were saying. It's an awful bore. That's all. I
shall come to the party all the same if you send me a ticket.' And so
Nidderdale took his dismissal, and went away,--not however without an
idea that the marriage would still come off. There was always,--so he
thought,--such a bother about things before they would get themselves
fixed. This happened some days after Mr Broune's proposal to Lady
Carbury, more than a week since Marie had seen Sir Felix. As soon as
Lord Nidderdale was gone she wrote again to Sir Felix begging that she
might hear from him,--and entrusted her letter to Didon.
CHAPTER XXXVI - MR BROUNE'S PERILS
Lady Carbury had allowed herself two days for answering Mr Broune's
proposition. It was made on Tuesday night and she was bound by her
promise to send a reply some time on Thursday. But early on the
Wednesday morning she had made up her mind; and at noon on that day
her letter was written. She had spoken to Hetta about the man, and she
had seen that Hetta had disliked him. She was not disposed to be much
guided by Hetta's opinion. In regard to her daughter she was always
influenced by a vague idea that Hetta was an unnecessary trouble.
There was an excellent match ready for her if she would only accept
it. There was no reason why Hetta should continue to add herself to
the family burden. She never said this even to herself,--but she felt
it, and was not therefore inclined to consult Hetta's comfort on this
occasion. But nevertheless, what her daughter said had its effect. She
had encountered the troubles of one marriage, and they had been very
bad. She did not look upon that marriage as a mistake,--having even up
to this day a consciousness that it had been the business of her life,
as a portionless girl, to obtain maintenance and position at the
expense of suffering and servility. But that had been done. The
maintenance was, indeed, again doubtful, because of her son's vices;
but it might so probably be again secured,--by means of her son's
beauty! Hetta had said that Mr Broune liked his own way. Had not she
herself found that all men liked their own way? And she liked her own
way. She liked the comfort of a home to herself. Personally she did
not want the companionship of a husband. And what scenes would there
be between Felix and the man! And added to all this there was
something within her, almost amounting to conscience, which told her
that it was not right that she should burden any one with the
responsibility and inevitable troubles of such a son as her son Felix.
What would she do were her husband to command her to separate herself
from her son? In such circumstances she would certainly separate
herself from her husband. Having considered these things deeply, she
wrote as follows to Mr Broune:--
I need not tell you that I have thought much of your generous and
affectionate offer. How could I refuse such a prospect as you offer
me without much thought? I regard your career as the most noble
which a man's ambition can achieve. And in that career no one is
your superior. I cannot but be proud that such a one as you should
have asked me to be his wife. But, my friend, life is subject to
wounds which are incurable, and my life has been so wounded. I have
not strength left me to make my heart whole enough to be worthy of
your acceptance. I have been so cut and scotched and lopped by the
sufferings which I have endured that I am best alone. It cannot all
be described;--and yet with you I would have no reticence. I would
put the whole history before you to read, with all my troubles past
and still present, all my hopes, and all my fears,--with every
circumstance as it has passed by and every expectation that
remains, were it not that the poor tale would be too long for your
patience. The result of it would be to make you feel that I am no
longer fit to enter in upon a new home. I should bring showers
instead of sunshine, melancholy in lieu of mirth.
I will, however, be bold enough to assure you that could I bring
myself to be the wife of any man I would now become your wife. But
I shall never marry again.
Nevertheless, I am your most affectionate friend,
About six o'clock in the afternoon she sent this letter to Mr Broune's
rooms in Pall Mall East, and then sat for awhile alone,--full of
regrets. She had thrown away from her a firm footing which would
certainly have served her for her whole life. Even at this moment she
was in debt,--and did not know how to pay her debts without mortgaging
her life income. She longed for some staff on which she could lean.
She was afraid of the future. When she would sit with her paper before
her, preparing her future work for the press, copying a bit here and a
bit there, inventing historical details, dovetailing her chronicle,
her head would sometimes seem to be going round as she remembered the
unpaid baker, and her son's horses, and his unmeaning dissipation, and
all her doubts about the marriage. As regarded herself, Mr Broune
would have made her secure,--but that now was all over. Poor woman! This
at any rate may be said for her,--that had she accepted the man her
regrets would have been as deep.
Mr Broune's feelings were more decided in their tone than those of the
lady. He had not made his offer without consideration, and yet from
the very moment in which it had been made he repented it. That gently
sarcastic appellation by which Lady Carbury had described him to
herself when he had kissed her best explained that side of Mr Broune's
character which showed itself in this matter. He was a susceptible old
goose. Had she allowed him to kiss her without objection, the kissing
might probably have gone on; and, whatever might have come of it,
there would have been no offer of marriage. He had believed that her
little manoeuvres had indicated love on her part, and he had felt
himself constrained to reciprocate the passion. She was beautiful in
his eyes. She was bright. She wore her clothes like a lady; and,--if it
was written in the Book of the Fates that some lady was to sit at the
top of his table,--Lady Carbury would look as well there as any other.
She had repudiated the kiss, and therefore he had felt himself bound
to obtain for himself the right to kiss her.
The offer had no sooner been made than he met her son reeling in,
drunk, at the front door. As he made his escape the lad had insulted
him. This perhaps helped to open his eyes. When he woke the next
morning, or rather late in the next day, after his night's work, he
was no longer able to tell himself that the world was all right with
him. Who does not know that sudden thoughtfulness at waking, that
first matutinal retrospection, and prospection, into things as they
have been and are to be; and the lowness of heart, the blankness of
hope which follows the first remembrance of some folly lately done,
some word ill-spoken, some money misspent,--or perhaps a cigar too much,
or a glass of brandy and soda-water which he should have left
untasted? And when things have gone well, how the waker comforts
himself among the bedclothes as he claims for himself to be whole all
over, teres atque rotundus,--so to have managed his little affairs that
he has to fear no harm, and to blush inwardly at no error! Mr Broune,
the way of whose life took him among many perils, who in the course of
his work had to steer his bark among many rocks, was in the habit of
thus auditing his daily account as he shook off sleep about noon,--for
such was his lot, that he seldom was in bed before four or five in the
morning. On this Wednesday he found that he could not balance his
sheet comfortably. He had taken a very great step and he feared that
he had not taken it with wisdom. As he drank the cup of tea with which
his servant supplied him while he was yet in bed, he could not say of
himself, teres atque rotundus, as he was wont to do when things were
well with him. Everything was to be changed. As he lit a cigarette he
bethought himself that Lady Carbury would not like him to smoke in her
bedroom. Then he remembered other things. 'I'll be d----- if he shall
live in my house,' he said to himself.
And there was no way out of it. It did not occur to the man that his
offer could be refused. During the whole of that day he went about
among his friends in a melancholy fashion, saying little snappish
uncivil things at the club, and at last dining by himself with about
fifteen newspapers around him. After dinner he did not speak a word to
any man, but went early to the office of the newspaper in Trafalgar
Square at which he did his nightly work. Here he was lapped in
comforts,--if the best of chairs, of sofas, of writing tables, and of
reading lamps can make a man comfortable who has to read nightly
thirty columns of a newspaper, or at any rate to make himself
responsible for their contents.
He seated himself to his work like a man, but immediately saw Lady
Carbury's letter on the table before him. It was his custom when he
did not dine at home to have such documents brought to him at his
office as had reached his home during his absence;--and here was Lady
Carbury's letter. He knew her writing well, and was aware that here
was the confirmation of his fate. It had not been expected, as she had
given herself another day for her answer,--but here it was, beneath his
hand. Surely this was almost unfeminine haste. He chucked the letter,
unopened, a little from him, and endeavoured to fix his attention on
some printed slip that was ready for him. For some ten minutes his
eyes went rapidly down the lines, but he found that his mind did not
follow what he was reading. He struggled again, but still his thoughts
were on the letter. He did not wish to open it, having some vague idea
that, till the letter should have been read, there was a chance of
escape. The letter would not become due to be read till the next day.
It should not have been there now to tempt his thoughts on this night.
But he could do nothing while it lay there. 'It shall be a part of the
bargain that I shall never have to see him,' he said to himself, as he
opened it. The second line told him that the danger was over.
When he had read so far he stood up with his back to the fireplace,
leaving the letter on the table. Then, after all, the woman wasn't in
love with him! But that was a reading of the affair which he could
hardly bring himself to look upon as correct. The woman had shown her
love by a thousand signs. There was no doubt, however, that she now
had her triumph. A woman always has a triumph when she rejects a man,--
and more especially when she does so at a certain time of life. Would
she publish her triumph? Mr Broune would not like to have it known
about among brother editors, or by the world at large, that he had
offered to marry Lady Carbury and that Lady Carbury had refused him.
He had escaped; but the sweetness of his present safety was not in
proportion to the bitterness of his late fears.
He could not understand why Lady Carbury should have refused him! As
he reflected upon it, all memory of her son for the moment passed away
from him. Full ten minutes had passed, during which he had still stood
upon the rug, before he read the entire letter. '"Cut and scotched and
lopped!" I suppose she has been,' he said to himself. He had heard
much of Sir Patrick, and knew well that the old general had been no
lamb. 'I shouldn't have cut her, or scotched her, or lopped her.' When
he had read the whole letter patiently there crept upon him gradually
a feeling of admiration for her, greater than he had ever yet felt,--
and, for awhile, he almost thought that he would renew his offer to
her. '"Showers instead of sunshine; melancholy instead of mirth,"' he
repeated to himself. 'I should have done the best for her, taking the
showers and the melancholy if they were necessary.'
He went to his work in a mixed frame of mind, but certainly without
that dragging weight which had oppressed him when he entered the room.
Gradually, through the night, he realized the conviction that he had
escaped, and threw from him altogether the idea of repeating his
offer. Before he left he wrote her a line:
'Be it so. It need not break our friendship.
This he sent by a special messenger, who returned with a note to his
lodgings long before he was up on the following morning.
'No;--no; certainly not. No word of this will ever pass my mouth.
Mr Broune thought that he was very well out of the danger, and
resolved that Lady Carbury should never want anything that his
friendship could do for her.
CHAPTER XXXVII - THE BOARD-ROOM
On Friday, the 21st June, the Board of the South Central Pacific and
Mexican Railway sat in its own room behind the Exchange, as was the
Board's custom every Friday. On this occasion all the members were
there, as it had been understood that the chairman was to make a
special statement. There was the great chairman as a matter of course.
In the midst of his numerous and immense concerns he never threw over
the railway, or delegated to other less experienced hands those cares
which the commercial world had intrusted to his own. Lord Alfred was
there, with Mr Cohenlupe, the Hebrew gentleman, and Paul Montague, and
Lord Nidderdale,--and even Sir Felix Carbury. Sir Felix had come, being
very anxious to buy and sell, and not as yet having had an opportunity
of realizing his golden hopes, although he had actually paid a
thousand pounds in hard money into Mr Melmotte's hands. The secretary,
Mr Miles Grendall, was also present as a matter of course. The Board
always met at three, and had generally been dissolved at a quarter
past three. Lord Alfred and Mr Cohenlupe sat at the chairman's right
and left hand. Paul Montague generally sat immediately below, with
Miles Grendall opposite to him;--but on this occasion the young lord and
the young baronet took the next places. It was a nice little family
party, the great chairman with his two aspiring sons-in-law, his two
particular friends,--the social friend, Lord Alfred, and the commercial
friend Mr Cohenlupe,--and Miles, who was Lord Alfred's son. It would
have been complete in its friendliness, but for Paul Montague, who had
lately made himself disagreeable to Mr Melmotte;--and most ungratefully
so, for certainly no one had been allowed so free a use of the shares
as the younger member of the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague.
It was understood that Mr Melmotte was to make a statement. Lord
Nidderdale and Sir Felix had conceived that this was to be done as it
were out of the great man's heart, of his own wish, so that something
of the condition of the company might be made known to the directors
of the company. But this was not perhaps exactly the truth. Paul
Montague had insisted on giving vent to certain doubts at the last
meeting but one, and, having made himself very disagreeable indeed,
had forced this trouble on the great chairman. On the intermediate
Friday the chairman had made himself very unpleasant to Paul, and this
had seemed to be an effort on his part to frighten the inimical
director out of his opposition, so that the promise of a statement
need not be fulfilled. What nuisance can be so great to a man busied
with immense affairs, as to have to explain,--or to attempt to
explain,--small details to men incapable of understanding them? But
Montague had stood to his guns. He had not intended, he said, to
dispute the commercial success of the company. But he felt very
strongly, and he thought that his brother directors should feel as
strongly, that it was necessary that they should know more than they
did know. Lord Alfred had declared that he did not in the least agree
with his brother director. 'If anybody don't understand, it's his own
fault,' said Mr Cohenlupe. But Paul would not give way, and it was
understood that Mr Melmotte would make a statement.
The 'Boards' were always commenced by the reading of a certain record
of the last meeting out of a book. This was always done by Miles
Grendall; and the record was supposed to have been written by him. But
Montague had discovered that this statement in the book was always
prepared and written by a satellite of Melmotte's from Abchurch Lane
who was never present at the meeting. The adverse director had spoken
to the secretary,--it will be remembered that they were both members of
the Beargarden,--and Miles had given a somewhat evasive reply. 'A cussed
deal of trouble and all that, you know! He's used to it, and it's what
he's meant for. I'm not going to flurry myself about stuff of that
kind.' Montague after this had spoken on the subject both to
Nidderdale and Felix Carbury. 'He couldn't do it, if it was ever so,'
Nidderdale had said. 'I don't think I'd bully him if I were you. He
gets £500 a-year, and if you knew all he owes, and all he hasn't got,
you wouldn't try to rob him of it.' With Felix Carbury, Montague had
as little success. Sir Felix hated the secretary, had detected him
cheating at cards, had resolved to expose him,--and had then been afraid
to do so. He had told Dolly Longestaffe, and the reader will perhaps
remember with what effect. He had not mentioned the affair again, and
had gradually fallen back into the habit of playing at the club. Loo,
however, had given way to whist, and Sir Felix had satisfied himself
with the change. He still meditated some dreadful punishment for Miles
Grendall, but, in the meantime, felt himself unable to oppose him at
the Board. Since the day at which the aces had been manipulated at the
club he had not spoken to Miles Grendall except in reference to the
affairs of the whist table. The 'Board' was now commenced as usual.
Miles read the short record out of the book,--stumbling over every other
word, and going through the performance so badly that had there been
anything to understand no one could have understood it. 'Gentlemen,'
said Mr Melmotte, in his usual hurried way, 'is it your pleasure that
I shall sign the record?' Paul Montague rose to say that it was not
his pleasure that the record should be signed. But Melmotte had made
his scrawl, and was deep in conversation with Mr Cohenlupe before Paul
could get upon his legs.
Melmotte, however, had watched the little struggle. Melmotte, whatever
might be his faults, had eyes to see and ears to hear. He perceived
that Montague had made a little struggle and had been cowed; and he
knew how hard it is for one man to persevere against five or six, and
for a young man to persevere against his elders. Nidderdale was
filliping bits of paper across the table at Carbury. Miles Grendall
was poring over the book which was in his charge. Lord Alfred sat back
in his chair, the picture of a model director, with his right hand
within his waistcoat. He looked aristocratic, respectable, and almost
commercial. In that room he never by any chance opened his mouth,
except when called on to say that Mr Melmotte was right, and was
considered by the chairman really to earn his money. Melmotte for a
minute or two went on conversing with Cohenlupe, having perceived that
Montague for the moment was cowed. Then Paul put both his hands upon
the table, intending to rise and ask some perplexing question.
Melmotte saw this also and was upon his legs before Montague had risen
from his chair. 'Gentlemen,' said Mr Melmotte, 'it may perhaps be as
well if I take this occasion of saying a few words to you about the
affairs of the company.' Then, instead of going on with his statement,
he sat down again, and began to turn over sundry voluminous papers
very slowly, whispering a word or two every now and then to Mr
Cohenlupe. Lord Alfred never changed his posture and never took his
hand from his breast. Nidderdale and Carbury filliped their paper
pellets backwards and forwards. Montague sat profoundly listening,--or
ready to listen when anything should be said. As the chairman had
risen from his chair to commence his statement, Paul felt that he was
bound to be silent. When a speaker is in possession of the floor, he
is in possession even though he be somewhat dilatory in looking to his
references, and whispering to his neighbour. And, when that speaker is
a chairman, of course some additional latitude must be allowed to him.
Montague understood this, and sat silent. It seemed that Melmotte had
much to say to Cohenlupe, and Cohenlupe much to say to Melmotte. Since
Cohenlupe had sat at the Board he had never before developed such
powers of conversation.
Nidderdale didn't quite understand it. He had been there twenty
minutes, was tired of his present amusement, having been unable to hit
Carbury on the nose, and suddenly remembered that the Beargarden would
now be open. He was no respecter of persons, and had got over any
little feeling of awe with which the big table and the solemnity of
the room may have first inspired him. 'I suppose that's about all,' he
said, looking up at Melmotte.
'Well;--perhaps as your lordship is in a hurry, and as my lord here is
engaged elsewhere,--' turning round to Lord Alfred, who had not uttered
a syllable or made a sign since he had been in his seat, '--we had better
adjourn this meeting for another week.'
'I cannot allow that,' said Paul Montague.
'I suppose then we must take the sense of the Board,' said the
'I have been discussing certain circumstances with our friend and
Chairman,' said Cohenlupe, 'and I must say that it is not expedient
just at present to go into matters too freely.'
'My Lords and Gentlemen,' said Melmotte. 'I hope that you trust me.'
Lord Alfred bowed down to the table and muttered something which was
intended to convey most absolute confidence. 'Hear, hear,' said Mr
Cohenlupe. 'All right,' said Lord Nidderdale; 'go on;' and he fired
another pellet with improved success.
'I trust,' said the Chairman, 'that my young friend, Sir Felix, doubts
neither my discretion nor my ability.'
'Oh dear, no;--not at all,' said the baronet, much tattered at being
addressed in this kindly tone. He had come there with objects of his
own, and was quite prepared to support the Chairman on any matter
'My Lords and Gentlemen,' continued Melmotte, 'I am delighted to
receive this expression of your confidence. If I know anything in the
world I know something of commercial matters. I am able to tell you
that we are prospering. I do not know that greater prosperity has ever
been achieved in a shorter time by a commercial company. I think our
friend here, Mr Montague, should be as feelingly aware of that as any
'What do you mean by that, Mr Melmotte?' asked Paul.
'What do I mean?--Certainly nothing adverse to your character, sir.
Your firm in San Francisco, sir, know very well how the affairs of the
Company are being transacted on this side of the water. No doubt you
are in correspondence with Mr Fisker. Ask him. The telegraph wires are
open to you, sir. But, my Lords and Gentlemen, I am able to inform you
that in affairs of this nature great discretion is necessary. On
behalf of the shareholders at large whose interests are in our hands,
I think it expedient that any general statement should be postponed
for a short time, and I flatter myself that in that opinion I shall
carry the majority of this Board with me.' Mr Melmotte did not make
his speech very fluently; but, being accustomed to the place which he
occupied, he did manage to get the words spoken in such a way as to
make them intelligible to the company. 'I now move that this meeting
be adjourned to this day week,' he added.
'I second that motion,' said Lord Alfred, without moving his hand from
'I understood that we were to have a statement,' said Montague.
'You've had a statement,' said Mr Cohenlupe.
'I will put my motion to the vote,' said the Chairman. 'I shall move
an amendment,' said Paul, determined that he would not be altogether
'There is nobody to second it,' said Mr Cohenlupe.
'How do you know till I've made it?' asked the rebel. 'I shall ask
Lord Nidderdale to second it, and when he has heard it I think that
he will not refuse.'
'Oh, gracious me! why me? No;--don't ask me. I've got to go away. I have
'At any rate I claim the right of saying a few words. I do not say
whether every affair of this Company should or should not be published
to the world.'
'You'd break up everything if you did,' said Cohenlupe.
'Perhaps everything ought to be broken up. But I say nothing about
that. What I do say is this. That as we sit here as directors and will
be held to be responsible as such by the public, we ought to know what
is being done. We ought to know where the shares really are. I for one
do not even know what scrip has been issued.'
'You've bought and sold enough to know something about it,' said
Paul Montague became very red in the face. 'I, at any rate, began,' he
said, 'by putting what was to me a large sum of money into the
'That's more than I know,' said Melmotte. 'Whatever shares you have,
were issued at San Francisco, and not here.'
'I have taken nothing that I haven't paid for,' said Montague. 'Nor
have I yet had allotted to me anything like the number of shares which
my capital would represent. But I did not intend to speak of my own
'It looks very like it,' said Cohenlupe.
'So far from it that I am prepared to risk the not improbable loss of
everything I have in the world. I am determined to know what is being
done with the shares, or to make it public to the world at large that
I, one of the directors of the Company, do not in truth know anything
about it. I cannot, I suppose, absolve myself from further
responsibility; but I can at any rate do what is right from this time
forward,--and that course I intend to take.'
'The gentleman had better resign his seat at this Board,' said
Melmotte. 'There will be no difficulty about that.'
'Bound up as I am with Fisker and Montague in California I fear that
there will be difficulty.'
'Not in the least,' continued the Chairman. 'You need only gazette
your resignation and the thing is done. I had intended, gentlemen, to
propose an addition to our number. When I name to you a gentleman,
personally known to many of you, and generally esteemed throughout
England as a man of business, as a man of probity, and as a man of
fortune, a man standing deservedly high in all British circles, I mean
Mr Longestaffe of Caversham--'
'Young Dolly, or old,' asked Lord Nidderdale.
'I mean Mr Adolphus Longestaffe, senior, of Caversham. I am sure that
you will all be glad to welcome him among you. I had thought to
strengthen our number by this addition. But if Mr Montague is
determined to leave us,--and no one will regret the loss of his services
so much as I shall,--it will be my pleasing duty to move that Adolphus
Longestaffe, senior, Esquire, of Caversham, be requested to take his
place. If on consideration Mr Montague shall determine to remain with
us,--and I for one most sincerely hope that such reconsideration may
lead to such determination,--then I shall move that an additional
director be added to our number, and that Mr Longestaffe be requested
to take the chair of that additional director.' The latter speech Mr
Melmotte got through very glibly, and then immediately left the chair,
so as to show that the business of the Board was closed for that day
without any possibility of re-opening it.
Paul went up to him and took him by the sleeve, signifying that he
wished to speak to him before they parted. 'Certainly,' said the great
man bowing. 'Carbury,' he said, looking round on the young baronet
with his blandest smile, 'if you are not in a hurry, wait a moment for
me. I have a word or two to say before you go. Now, Mr Montague, what
can I do for you?' Paul began his story, expressing again the opinion
which he had already very plainly expressed at the table. But Melmotte
stopped him very shortly, and with much less courtesy than he had
shown in the speech which he had made from the chair. 'The thing is
about this way, I take it, Mr Montague;--you think you know more of this
matter than I do.'
'Not at all, Mr Melmotte.'
'And I think that I know more of it than you do. Either of us may be
right. But as I don't intend to give way to you, perhaps the less we
speak together about it the better. You can't be in earnest in the
threat you made, because you would be making public things communicated
to you under the seal of privacy,--and no gentleman would do that. But
as long as you are hostile to me, I can't help you,--and so good
afternoon.' Then, without giving Montague the possibility of a
reply, he escaped into an inner room which had the word 'Private'
painted on the door, and which was supposed to belong to the chairman
individually. He shut the door behind him, and then, after a few
moments, put out his head and beckoned to Sir Felix Carbury.
Nidderdale was gone. Lord Alfred with his son were already on the
stairs. Cohenlupe was engaged with Melmotte's clerk on the
record-book. Paul Montague, finding himself without support and alone,
slowly made his way out into the court.
Sir Felix had come into the city intending to suggest to the Chairman
that having paid his thousand pounds he should like to have a few
shares to go on with. He was, indeed, at the present moment very
nearly penniless, and had negotiated, or lost at cards, all the
I.O.U.'s which were in any degree serviceable. He still had a
pocketbook full of those issued by Miles Grendall; but it was now an
understood thing at the Beargarden that no one was to be called upon
to take them except Miles Grendall himself;--an arrangement which robbed
the card-table of much of its delight. Beyond this, also, he had
lately been forced to issue a little paper himself,--in doing which he
had talked largely of his shares in the railway. His case certainly
was hard. He had actually paid a thousand pounds down in hard cash, a
commercial transaction which, as performed by himself, he regarded as
stupendous. It was almost incredible to himself that he should have
paid any one a thousand pounds, but he had done it with much
difficulty,--having carried Dolly junior with him all the way into the
city,--in the belief that he would thus put himself in the way of making
a continual and unfailing income. He understood that as a director he
would be always entitled to buy shares at par, and, as a matter of
course, always able to sell them at the market price. This he
understood to range from ten to fifteen and twenty per cent, profit.
He would have nothing to do but to buy and sell daily. He was told
that Lord Alfred was allowed to do it to a small extent; and that
Melmotte was doing it to an enormous extent. But before he could do it
he must get something,--he hardly knew what,--out of Melmotte's hands.
Melmotte certainly did not seem to shun him, and therefore there could
be no difficulty about the shares. As to danger,--who could think of
danger in reference to money intrusted to the hands of Augustus
'I am delighted to see you here,' said Melmotte, shaking him cordially
by the hand. 'You come regularly, and you'll find that it will be
worth your while. There's nothing like attending to business. You
should be here every Friday.'
'I will,' said the baronet.
'And let me see you sometimes up at my place in Abchurch Lane. I can
put you more in the way of understanding things there than I can here.
This is all a mere formal sort of thing. You can see that.'
'Oh yes, I see that.'
'We are obliged to have this kind of thing for men like that fellow
Montague. By-the-bye, is he a friend of yours?'
'Not particularly. He is a friend of a cousin of mine; and the women
know him at home. He isn't a pal of mine if you mean that.'
'If he makes himself disagreeable, he'll have to go to the wall;--that's
all. But never mind him at present. Was your mother speaking to you of
what I said to her?'
'No, Mr Melmotte,' said Sir Felix, staring with all his eyes.
'I was talking to her about you, and I thought that perhaps she might
have told you. This is all nonsense, you know, about you and Marie.'
Sir Felix looked into the man's face. It was not savage, as he had
seen it. But there had suddenly come upon his brow that heavy look of
a determined purpose which all who knew the man were wont to mark. Sir
Felix had observed it a few minutes since in the Board-room, when the
chairman was putting down the rebellious director. 'You understand
that; don't you?' Sir Felix still looked at him, but made no reply.
'It's all d---- nonsense. You haven't got a brass farthing, you know.
You've no income at all; you're just living on your mother, and I'm
afraid she's not very well off. How can you suppose that I shall give
my girl to you?' Felix still looked at him but did not dare to
contradict a single statement made. Yet when the man told him that he
had not a brass farthing he thought of his own thousand pounds which
were now in the man's pocket. 'You're a baronet, and that's about all,
you know,' continued Melmotte. 'The Carbury property, which is a very
small thing, belongs to a distant cousin who may leave it to me if he
pleases;--and who isn't very much older than you are yourself.'
'Oh, come, Mr Melmotte; he's a great deal older than me.'
'It wouldn't matter if he were as old as Adam. The thing is out of the
question, and you must drop it.' Then the look on his brow became a
little heavier. 'You hear what I say. She is going to marry Lord
Nidderdale. She was engaged to him before you ever saw her. What do
you expect to get by it?'
Sir Felix had not the courage to say that he expected to get the girl
he loved. But as the man waited for an answer he was obliged to say
something. 'I suppose it's the old story,' he said.
'Just so;--the old story. You want my money, and she wants you, just
because she has been told to take somebody else. You want something to
live on;--that's what you want. Come;--out with it. Is not that it? When
we understand each other I'll put you in the way of making money.'
'Of course I'm not very well off,' said Felix.
'About as badly as any young man that I can hear of. You give me your
written promise that you'll drop this affair with Marie, and you
shan't want for money.'
'A written promise!'
'Yes;--a written promise. I give nothing for nothing. I'll put you in
the way of doing so well with these shares that you shall be able to
marry any other girl you please;--or to live without marrying, which
you'll find to be better.'
There was something worthy of consideration in Mr Melmotte's
proposition. Marriage of itself, simply as a domestic institution, had
not specially recommended itself to Sir Felix Carbury. A few horses at
Leighton, Ruby Ruggles or any other beauty, and life at the Beargarden
were much more to his taste. And then he was quite alive to the fact
that it was possible that he might find himself possessed of the wife
without the money. Marie, indeed, had a grand plan of her own, with
reference to that settled income; but then Marie might be mistaken,--or
she might be lying. If he were sure of making money in the way
Melmotte now suggested, the loss of Marie would not break his heart.
But then also Melmotte might be--lying. 'By-the-bye, Mr Melmotte,' said
he, 'could you let me have those shares?'
'What shares?' And the heavy brow became still heavier.
'Don't you know?--I gave you a thousand pounds, and I was to have ten
'You must come about that on the proper day, to the proper place.'
'When is the proper day?'
'It is the twentieth of each month, I think.' Sir Felix looked very
blank at hearing this, knowing that this present was the twenty-first
of the month. 'But what does that signify? Do you want a little
'Well, I do,' said Sir Felix. 'A lot of fellows owe me money, but it's
so hard to get it.'
'That tells a story of gambling,' said Mr Melmotte. 'You think I'd
give my girl to a gambler?'
'Nidderdale's in it quite as thick as I am.'
'Nidderdale has a settled property which neither he nor his father can
destroy. But don't you be such a fool as to argue with me. You won't
get anything by it. If you'll write that letter here now--'
'No;--not to Marie at all; but to me. It need never be known to her. If
you'll do that I'll stick to you and make a man of you. And if you
want a couple of hundred pounds I'll give you a cheque for it before
you leave the room. Mind, I can tell you this. On my word of honour as
a gentleman, if my daughter were to marry you, she'd never have a
single shilling. I should immediately make a will and leave all my
property to St. George's Hospital. I have quite made up my mind about
'And couldn't you manage that I should have the shares before the
twentieth of next month?'
'I'll see about it. Perhaps I could let you have a few of my own. At
any rate I won't see you short of money.'
The terms were enticing and the letter was of course written. Melmotte
himself dictated the words, which were not romantic in their nature.
The reader shall see the letter.
In consideration of the offers made by you to me, and on a clear
understanding that such a marriage would be disagreeable to you
and to the lady's mother, and would bring down a father's curse
upon your daughter, I hereby declare and promise that I will not
renew my suit to the young lady, which I hereby altogether
I am, Dear Sir,
Your obedient servant,
AUGUSTUS MELMOTTE, Esq.,
The letter was dated 21st July, and bore the printed address of the
offices of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway.
'You'll give me that cheque for £200, Mr Melmotte?' The financier
hesitated for a moment, but did give the baronet the cheque as
promised. 'And you'll see about letting me have those shares?'
'You can come to me in Abchurch Lane, you know.' Sir Felix said that
he would call in Abchurch Lane.
As he went westward towards the Beargarden, the baronet was not happy
in his mind. Ignorant as he was as to the duties of a gentleman,
indifferent as he was to the feelings of others, still he felt ashamed
of himself. He was treating the girl very badly. Even he knew that he
was behaving badly. He was so conscious of it that he tried to console
himself by reflecting that his writing such a letter as that would not
prevent his running away with the girl, should he, on consideration,
find it to be worth his while to do so.
That night he was again playing at the Beargarden, and he lost a great
part of Mr Melmotte's money. He did in fact lose much more than the
£200; but when he found his ready money going from him he issued
CHAPTER XXXVIII - PAUL MONTAGUE'S TROUBLES
Paul Montague had other troubles on his mind beyond this trouble of
the Mexican Railway. It was now more than a fortnight since he had
taken Mrs Hurtle to the play, and she was still living in lodgings at
Islington. He had seen her twice, once on the following day, when he
was allowed to come and go without any special reference to their
engagement, and again, three or four days afterwards, when the meeting
was by no means so pleasant. She had wept, and after weeping had
stormed. She had stood upon what she called her rights, and had dared
him to be false to her. Did he mean to deny that he had promised to
marry her? Was not his conduct to her, ever since she had now been in
London, a repetition of that promise? And then again she became soft,
and pleaded with him. But for the storm he might have given way. At
the moment he had felt that any fate in life would be better than a
marriage on compulsion. Her tears and her pleadings, nevertheless,
touched him very nearly. He had promised her most distinctly. He had
loved her and had won her love. And she was lovely. The very violence
of the storm made the sunshine more sweet. She would sit down on a
stool at his feet, and it was impossible to drive her away from him.
She would look up in his face and he could not but embrace her. Then
there had come a passionate flood of tears and she was in his arms.
How he had escaped he hardly knew, but he did know that he had
promised to be with her again before two days should have passed.
On the day named he wrote to her a letter excusing himself, which was
at any rate true in words. He had been summoned, he said, to Liverpool
on business, and must postpone seeing her till his return. And he
explained that the business on which he was called was connected with
the great American railway, and, being important, demanded his
attention. In words this was true. He had been corresponding with a
gentleman at Liverpool with whom he had become acquainted on his
return home after having involuntarily become a partner in the house
of Fisker, Montague, and Montague. This man he trusted and had
consulted, and the gentleman, Mr Ramsbottom by name, had suggested
that he should come to him at Liverpool. He had gone, and his conduct
at the Board had been the result of the advice which he had received;
but it may be doubted whether some dread of the coming interview with
Mrs Hurtle had not added strength to Mr Ramsbottom's invitation.
In Liverpool he had heard tidings of Mrs Hurtle, though it can hardly
be said that he obtained any trustworthy information. The lady after
landing from an American steamer had been at Mr Ramsbottom's office,
inquiring for him, Paul; and Mr Ramsbottom had thought that the
inquiries were made in a manner indicating danger. He therefore had
spoken to a fellow-traveller with Mrs Hurtle, and the fellow-traveller
had opined that Mrs Hurtle was 'a queer card.' 'On board ship we all
gave it up to her that she was about the handsomest woman we had ever
seen, but we all said that there was a bit of the wild cat in her
breeding.' Then Mr Ramsbottom had asked whether the lady was a widow.
'There was a man on board from Kansas,' said the fellow-traveller,
'who knew a man named Hurtle at Leavenworth, who was separated from
his wife and is still alive. There was, according to him, a queer
story about the man and his wife having fought a duel with pistols,
and then having separated.' This Mr Ramsbottom, who in an earlier
stage of the affair had heard something of Paul and Mrs Hurtle
together, managed to communicate to the young man. His advice about
the railway company was very clear and general, and such as an honest
man would certainly give; but it might have been conveyed by letter.
The information, such as it was, respecting Mrs Hurtle, could only be
given vivâ voce, and perhaps the invitation to Liverpool had
originated in Mr Ramsbottom's appreciation of this fact. 'As she was
asking after you here, perhaps it is well that you should know,' his
friend said to him. Paul had only thanked him, not daring on the spur
of the moment to speak of his own difficulties.
In all this there had been increased dismay, but there had also been
some comfort. It had only been at moments in which he had been subject
to her softer influences that Paul had doubted as to his adherence to
the letter which he had written to her, breaking off his engagement.
When she told him of her wrongs and of her love; of his promise and
his former devotion to her; when she assured him that she had given up
everything in life for him, and threw her arms round him, looking into
his eyes;--then he would almost yield. But when, what the traveller
called the breeding of the wild cat, showed itself;--and when, having
escaped from her, he thought of Hetta Carbury and of her breeding,--he
was fully determined that, let his fate be what it might, it should
not be that of being the husband of Mrs Hurtle. That he was in a mass
of troubles from which it would be very difficult for him to extricate
himself he was well aware;--but if it were true that Mr Hurtle was
alive, that fact might help him. She certainly had declared him to be,--
not separated, or even divorced,--but dead. And if it were true also
that she had fought a duel with one husband, that also ought to be a
reason why a gentleman should object to become her second husband.
These facts would at any rate justify himself to himself, and would
enable himself to break from his engagement without thinking himself
to be a false traitor.
But he must make up his mind as to some line of conduct. She must be
made to know the truth. If he meant to reject the lady finally on the
score of her being a wild cat, he must tell her so. He felt very
strongly that he must not flinch from the wild cat's claws. That he
would have to undergo some severe handling, an amount of clawing which
might perhaps go near his life, he could perceive. Having done what he
had done he would have no right to shrink from such usage. He must
tell her to her face that he was not satisfied with her past life, and
that therefore he would not marry her. Of course he might write to
her;--but when summoned to her presence he would be unable to excuse
himself, even to himself, for not going. It was his misfortune,--and
also his fault,--that he had submitted to be loved by a wild cat.
But it might be well that before he saw her he should get hold of
information that might have the appearance of real evidence. He
returned from Liverpool to London on the morning of the Friday on
which the Board was held, and thought even more of all this than he
did of the attack which he was prepared to make on Mr Melmotte. If he
could come across that traveller he might learn something. The
husband's name had been Caradoc Carson Hurtle. If Caradoc Carson
Hurtle had been seen in the State of Kansas within the last two years,
that certainly would be sufficient evidence. As to the duel he felt
that it might be very hard to prove that, and that if proved, it might
be hard to found upon the fact any absolute right on his part to
withdraw from the engagement. But there was a rumour also, though not
corroborated during his last visit to Liverpool, that she had shot a
gentleman in Oregon. Could he get at the truth of that story? If they
were all true, surely he could justify himself to himself.
But this detective's work was very distasteful to him. After having
had the woman in his arms how could he undertake such inquiries as
these? And it would be almost necessary that he should take her in his
arms again while he was making them,--unless indeed he made them with
her knowledge. Was it not his duty, as a man, to tell everything to
herself? To speak to her thus:--'I am told that your life with your last
husband was, to say the least of it, eccentric; that you even fought a
duel with him. I could not marry a woman who had fought a duel,--
certainly not a woman who had fought with her own husband. I am told
also that you shot another gentleman in Oregon. It may well be that
the gentleman deserved to be shot; but there is something in the deed
so repulsive to me,--no doubt irrationally,--that, on that score also, I
must decline to marry you. I am told also that Mr Hurtle has been seen
alive quite lately. I had understood from you that he is dead. No
doubt you may have been deceived. But as I should not have engaged
myself to you had I known the truth, so now I consider myself
justified in absolving myself from an engagement which was based on a
misconception.' It would no doubt be difficult to get through all
these details; but it might be accomplished gradually,--unless in the
process of doing so he should incur the fate of the gentleman in
Oregon. At any rate he would declare to her as well as he could the
ground on which he claimed a right to consider himself free, and would
bear the consequences. Such was the resolve which he made on his
journey up from Liverpool, and that trouble was also on his mind when
he rose up to attack Mr Melmotte single-handed at the Board.
When the Board was over, he also went down to the Beargarden. Perhaps,
with reference to the Board, the feeling which hurt him most was the
conviction that he was spending money which he would never have had to
spend had there been no Board. He had been twitted with this at the
Board-meeting, and had justified himself by referring to the money
which had been invested in the company of Fisker, Montague, and
Montague, which money was now supposed to have been made over to the
railway. But the money which he was spending had come to him after a
loose fashion, and he knew that if called upon for an account, he
could hardly make out one which would be square and intelligible to
all parties. Nevertheless he spent much of his time at the
Beargarden, dining there when no engagement carried him elsewhere. On
this evening he joined his table with Nidderdale's, at the young
lord's instigation. 'What made you so savage at old Melmotte to-day?'
said the young lord.
'I didn't mean to be savage, but I think that as we call ourselves
Directors we ought to know something about it.'
'I suppose we ought. I don't know, you know. I'll tell you what I've
been thinking. I can't make out why the mischief they made me a
'Because you're a lord,' said Paul bluntly.
'I suppose there's something in that. But what good can I do them?
Nobody thinks that I know anything about business. Of course I'm in
Parliament, but I don't often go there unless they want me to vote.
Everybody knows that I'm hard up. I can't understand it. The Governor
said that I was to do it, and so I've done it.'
'They say, you know,--there's something between you and Melmotte's
'But if there is, what has that to do with a railway in the city? And
why should Carbury be there? And, heaven and earth, why should old
Grendall be a Director? I'm impecunious; but if you were to pink out
the two most hopeless men in London in regard to money, they would be
old Grendall and young Carbury. I've been thinking a good deal about
it, and I can't make it out.'
'I have been thinking about it too,' said Paul.
'I suppose old Melmotte is all right?' asked Nidderdale. This was a
question which Montague found it difficult to answer. How could he be
justified in whispering suspicions to the man who was known to be at
any rate one of the competitors for Marie Melmotte's hand? 'You can
speak out to me, you know,' said Nidderdale, nodding his head.
'I've got nothing to speak. People say that he is about the richest
'He lives as though he were.'
'I don't see why it shouldn't be all true. Nobody, I take it, knows
very much about him.'
When his companion had left him, Nidderdale sat down, thinking of it
all. It occurred to him that he would 'be coming a cropper rather,'
were he to marry Melmotte's daughter for her money, and then find that
she had got none.
A little later in the evening he invited Montague to go up to the
card-room. 'Carbury, and Grasslough, and Dolly Longestaffe are there
waiting,' he said. But Paul declined. He was too full of his troubles
for play. 'Poor Miles isn't there, if you're afraid of that,' said
'Miles Grendall wouldn't hinder me,' said Montague.
'Nor me either. Of course it's a confounded shame. I know that as well
as anybody. But, God bless me, I owe a fellow down in Leicestershire
heaven knows how much for keeping horses, and that's a shame.'
'You'll pay him some day.'
'I suppose I shall,--if I don't die first. But I should have gone on
with the horses just the same if there had never been anything to
come;--only they wouldn't have given me tick, you know. As far as I'm
concerned it's just the same. I like to live whether I've got money or
not. And I fear I don't have many scruples about paying. But then I
like to let live too. There's Carbury always saying nasty things about
poor Miles. He's playing himself without a rap to back him. If he were
to lose, Vossner wouldn't stand him a £10 note. But because he has
won, he goes on as though he were old Melmotte himself. You'd better
But Montague wouldn't go up. Without any fixed purpose he left the
club, and slowly sauntered northwards through the streets till he
found himself in Welbeck Street. He hardly knew why he went there, and
certainly had not determined to call on Lady Carbury when he left the
Beargarden. His mind was full of Mrs Hurtle. As long as she was
present in London,--as long at any rate as he was unable to tell himself
that he had finally broken away from her,--he knew himself to be an
unfit companion for Henrietta Carbury. And, indeed, he was still under
some promise made to Roger Carbury, not that he would avoid Hetta's
company, but that for a certain period, as yet unexpired, he would not
ask her to be his wife. It had been a foolish promise, made and then
repented without much attention to words;--but still it was existing,
and Paul knew well that Roger trusted that it would be kept.
Nevertheless Paul made his way up to Welbeck Street and almost
unconsciously knocked at the door. No;--Lady Carbury was not at home.
She was out somewhere with Mr Roger Carbury. Up to that moment Paul
had not heard that Roger was in town; but the reader may remember that
he had come up in search of Ruby Ruggles. Miss Carbury was at home,
the page went on to say. Would Mr Montague go up and see Miss Carbury?
Without much consideration Mr Montague said that he would go up and
see Miss Carbury. 'Mamma is out with Roger,' said Hetta, endeavouring
to save herself from confusion. 'There is a soirée of learned people
somewhere, and she made poor Roger take her. The ticket was only for
her and her friend, and therefore I could not go.'
'I am so glad to see you. What an age it is since we met.'
'Hardly since the Melmottes' ball,' said Hetta.
'Hardly indeed. I have been here once since that. What has brought
Roger up to town?'
'I don't know what it is. Some mystery, I think. Whenever there is a
mystery I am always afraid that there is something wrong about Felix.
I do get so unhappy about Felix, Mr Montague.'
'I saw him to-day in the city, at the Railway Board.'
'But Roger says the Railway Board is all a sham,'--Paul could not keep
himself from blushing as he heard this,--'and that Felix should not be
there. And then there is something going on about that horrid man's
'She is to marry Lord Nidderdale, I think.'
'Is she? They are talking of her marrying Felix, and of course it is
for her money. And I believe that man is determined to quarrel with