Part 8 out of 19
'What man, Miss Carbury?'
'Mr Melmotte himself. It's all horrid from beginning to end.'
'But I saw them in the city to-day and they seemed to b the greatest
friends. When I wanted to see Mr Melmotte he bolted himself into an
inner room, but he took your brother with him. He would not have done
that if they had not been friends. When I saw it I almost thought that
he had consented to the marriage.'
'Roger has the greatest dislike to Mr Melmotte.'
'I know he has,' said Paul.
'And Roger is always right. It is always safe to trust him. Don't you
think so, Mr Montague?' Paul did think so, and was by no means
disposed to deny to his rival the praise which rightly belonged to
him; but still he found the subject difficult. 'Of course I will never
go against mamma,' continued Hetta, 'but I always feel that my cousin
Roger is a rock of strength, so that if one did whatever he said one
would never get wrong. I never found any one else that I thought that
of, but I do think it of him.'
'No one has more reason to praise him than I have.'
'I think everybody has reason to praise him that has to do with him.
And I'll tell you why I think it is. Whenever he thinks anything he
says it;--or, at least, he never says anything that he doesn't think. If
he spent a thousand pounds, everybody would know that he'd got it to
spend; but other people are not like that.'
'You're thinking of Melmotte.'
'I'm thinking of everybody, Mr Montague;--of everybody except Roger.'
'Is he the only man you can trust? But it is abominable to me to seem
even to contradict you. Roger Carbury has been to me the best friend
that any man ever had. I think as much of him as you do.'
'I didn't say he was the only person;--or I didn't mean to say so. But
all my friends--'
'Am I among the number, Miss Carbury?'
'Yes;--I suppose so. Of course you are. Why not? Of course you are a
friend,--because you are his friend.'
'Look here, Hetta,' he said. 'It is no good going on like this. I love
Roger Carbury,--as well as one man can love another. He is all that you
say,--and more. You hardly know how he denies himself, and how he thinks
of everybody near him. He is a gentleman all round and every inch. He
never lies. He never takes what is not his own. I believe he does love
his neighbour as himself.'
'Oh, Mr Montague! I am so glad to hear you speak of him like that.'
'I love him better than any man,--as well as a man can love a man. If
you will say that you love him as well as a woman can love a man,--I
will leave England at once, and never return to it.'
'There's mamma,' said Henrietta;--for at that moment there was a double
knock at the door.
CHAPTER XXXIX - 'I DO LOVE HIM'
So it was. Lady Carbury had returned home from the soirée of learned
people, and had brought Roger Carbury with her. They both came up to
the drawing-room and found Paul and Henrietta together. It need hardly
be said that they were both surprised. Roger supposed that Montague
was still at Liverpool, and, knowing that he was not a frequent
visitor in Welbeck Street, could hardly avoid a feeling that a meeting
between the two had now been planned in the mother's absence. The
reader knows that it was not so. Roger certainly was a man not liable
to suspicion, but the circumstances in this case were suspicious.
There would have been nothing to suspect,--no reason why Paul should not
have been there,--but from the promise which had been given. There was,
indeed, no breach of that promise proved by Paul's presence in Welbeck
Street; but Roger felt rather than thought that the two could hardly
have spent the evening together without such breach. Whether Paul had
broken the promise by what he had already said the reader must be left
Lady Carbury was the first to speak. 'This is quite an unexpected
pleasure, Mr Montague.' Whether Roger suspected anything or not, she
did. The moment she saw Paul the idea occurred to her that the meeting
between Hetta and him had been preconcerted.
'Yes,' he said making a lame excuse, where no excuse should have been
made,--'I had nothing to do, and was lonely, and thought that I would
come up and see you.' Lady Carbury disbelieved him altogether, but
Roger felt assured that his coming in Lady Carbury's absence had been
an accident. The man had said so, and that was enough.
'I thought you were at Liverpool,' said Roger.
'I came back to-day,--to be present at that Board in the city. I have had
a good deal to trouble me. I will tell you all about it just now. What
has brought you to London?'
'A little business,' said Roger.
Then there was an awkward silence. Lady Carbury was angry, and hardly
knew whether she ought not to show her anger. For Henrietta it was
very awkward. She, too, could not but feel that she had been caught,
though no innocence could be whiter than hers. She knew well her
mother's mind, and the way in which her mother's thoughts would run.
Silence was frightful to her, and she found herself forced to speak.
'Have you had a pleasant evening, mamma?'
'Have you had a pleasant evening, my dear?' said Lady Carbury,
forgetting herself in her desire to punish her daughter.
'Indeed, no,' said Hetta, attempting to laugh, 'I have been trying to
work hard at Dante, but one never does any good when one has to try to
work. I was just going to bed when Mr Montague came in. What did you
think of the wise men and the wise women, Roger?'
'I was out of my element, of course; but I think your mother liked
'I was very glad indeed to meet Dr Palmoil. It seems that if we can
only open the interior of Africa a little further, we can get
everything that is wanted to complete the chemical combination
necessary for feeding the human race. Isn't that a grand idea, Roger?'
'A little more elbow grease is the combination that I look to.'
'Surely, Roger, if the Bible is to go for anything, we are to believe
that labour is a curse and not a blessing. Adam was not born to
'But he fell; and I doubt whether Dr Palmoil will be able to put his
descendants back into Eden.'
'Roger, for a religious man, you do say the strangest things! I have
quite made up my mind to this;--if ever I can see things so settled here
as to enable me to move, I will visit the interior of Africa. It is
the garden of the world.'
This scrap of enthusiasm so carried them through their immediate
difficulties that the two men were able to take their leave and to get
out of the room with fair comfort. As soon as the door was closed
behind them Lady Carbury attacked her daughter. 'What brought him
'He brought himself, mamma.'
'Don't answer me in that way, Hetta. Of course he brought himself.
That is insolent.'
'Insolent, mamma! How can you say such hard words? I meant that he
came of his own accord.'
'How long was he here?'
'Two minutes before you came in. Why do you cross-question me like
this? I could not help his coming. I did not desire that he might be
'You did not know that he was to come?'
'Mamma, if I am to be suspected, all is over between us.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'If you can think that I would deceive you, you will think so always.
If you will not trust me, how am I to live with you as though you did?
I knew nothing of his coming.'
'Tell me this, Hetta; are you engaged to marry him?'
'No;--I am not.'
'Has he asked you to marry him?'
Hetta paused a moment, considering, before she answered this question.
'I do not think he ever has.'
'You do not think?'
'I was going on to explain. He never has asked me. But he has said
that which makes me know that he wishes me to be his wife.'
'What has he said? When did he say it?'
Again she paused. But again she answered with straightforward
simplicity. 'Just before you came in, he said--; I don't know what he
said; but it meant that.'
'You told me he had been here but a minute.'
'It was but very little more. If you take me at my word in that way,
of course you can make me out to be wrong, mamma. It was almost no
time, and yet he said it.'
'He had come prepared to say it.'
'How could he,--expecting to find you?'
'Psha! He expected nothing of the kind.'
'I think you do him wrong, mamma. I am sure you are doing me wrong. I
think his coming was an accident, and that what he said was--an
'It was not intended,--not then, mamma. I have known it ever so long;--
and so have you. It was natural that he should say so when we were alone
'And you;--what did you say?'
'Nothing. You came.'
'I am sorry that my coming should have been so inopportune. But I must
ask one other question, Hetta. What do you intend to say?' Hetta was
again silent, and now for a longer space. She put her hand up to her
brow and pushed back her hair as she thought whether her mother had a
right to continue this cross-examination. She had told her mother
everything as it had happened. She had kept back no deed done, no word
spoken, either now or at any time. But she was not sure that her
mother had a right to know her thoughts, feeling as she did that she
had so little sympathy from her mother. 'How do you intend to answer
him?' demanded Lady Carbury.
'I do not know that he will ask again.'
'That is prevaricating.'
'No, mamma;--I do not prevaricate. It is unfair to say that to me. I do
love him. There. I think it ought to have been enough for you to know
that I should never give him encouragement without telling you about
it. I do love him, and I shall never love any one else.'
'He is a ruined man. Your cousin says that all this Company in which
he is involved will go to pieces.'
Hetta was too clever to allow this argument to pass. She did not doubt
that Roger had so spoken of the Railway to her mother, but she did
doubt that her mother had believed the story. 'If so,' said she, 'Mr
Melmotte will be a ruined man too, and yet you want Felix to marry
'It makes me ill to hear you talk,--as if you understood these things.
And you think you will marry this man because he is to make a fortune
out of the Railway!' Lady Carbury was able to speak with an extremity
of scorn in reference to the assumed pursuit by one of her children of
an advantageous position which she was doing all in her power to
recommend to the other child.
'I have not thought of his fortune. I have not thought of marrying
him, mamma. I think you are very cruel to me. You say things so hard,
that I cannot bear them.'
'Why will you not marry your cousin?'
'I am not good enough for him.'
'Very well; you say so. But that is what I think. He is so much above
me, that, though I do love him, I cannot think of him in that way. And
I have told you that I do love some one else. I have no secret from
you now. Good night, mamma,' she said, coming up to her mother and
kissing her. 'Do be kind to me; and pray,--pray,--do believe me.' Lady
Carbury then allowed herself to be kissed, and allowed her daughter to
leave the room.
There was a great deal said that night between Roger Carbury and Paul
Montague before they parted. As they walked together to Roger's hotel
he said not a word as to Paul's presence in Welbeck Street. Paul had
declared his visit in Lady Carbury's absence to have been accidental,--
and therefore there was nothing more to be said. Montague then asked
as to the cause of Carbury's journey to London. 'I do not wish it to
be talked of,' said Roger after a pause,--'and of course I could not
speak of it before Hetta. A girl has gone away from our neighbourhood.
You remember old Ruggles?'
'You do not mean that Ruby has levanted? She was to have married John
'Just so,--but she has gone off, leaving John Crumb in an unhappy frame
of mind. John Crumb is an honest man and almost too good for her.'
'Ruby is very pretty. Has she gone with any one?'
'No;--she went alone. But the horror of it is this. They think down
there that Felix has,--well, made love to her, and that she has been
taken to London by him.'
'That would be very bad.'
'He certainly has known her. Though he lied, as he always lies, when I
first spoke to him, I brought him to admit that he and she had been
friends down in Suffolk. Of course we know what such friendship means.
But I do not think that she came to London at his instance. Of course
he would lie about that. He would lie about anything. If his horse
cost him a hundred pounds, he would tell one man that he gave fifty,
and another two hundred. But he has not lived long enough yet to be
able to lie and tell the truth with the same eye. When he is as old as
I am he'll be perfect.'
'He knows nothing about her coming to town?'
'He did not when I first asked him. I am not sure, but I fancy that I
was too quick after her. She started last Saturday morning. I followed
on the Sunday, and made him out at his club. I think that he knew
nothing then of her being in town. He is very clever if he did. Since
that he has avoided me. I caught him once but only for half a minute,
and then he swore that he had not seen her.'
'You still believed him?'
'No;--he did it very well, but I knew that he was prepared for me. I
cannot say how it may have been. To make matters worse old Ruggles has
now quarrelled with Crumb, and is no longer anxious to get back his
granddaughter. He was frightened at first; but that has gone off, and
he is now reconciled to the loss of the girl and the saving of his
After that Paul told all his own story,--the double story, both in
regard to Melmotte and to Mrs Hurtle. As regarded the Railway, Roger
could only tell him to follow explicitly the advice of his Liverpool
friend. 'I never believed in the thing, you know.'
'Nor did I. But what could I do?'
'I'm not going to blame you. Indeed, knowing you as I do, feeling sure
that you intend to be honest, I would not for a moment insist on my
own opinion, if it did not seem that Mr Ramsbottom thinks as I do. In
such a matter, when a man does not see his own way clearly, it behoves
him to be able to show that he has followed the advice of some man
whom the world esteems and recognizes. You have to bind your character
to another man's character; and that other man's character, if it be
good, will carry you through. From what I hear Mr Ramsbottom's
character is sufficiently good;--but then you must do exactly what he
But the Railway business, though it comprised all that Montague had in
the world, was not the heaviest of his troubles. What was he to do
about Mrs Hurtle? He had now, for the first time, to tell his friend
that Mrs Hurtle had come to London and that he had been with her three
or four times. There was this great difficulty in the matter, too,--that
it was very hard to speak of his engagement with Mrs Hurtle without in
some sort alluding to his love for Henrietta Carbury. Roger knew of
both loves;--had been very urgent with his friend to abandon the widow,
and at any rate equally urgent with him to give up the other passion.
Were he to marry the widow, all danger on the other side would be at
an end. And yet, in discussing the question of Mrs Hurtle, he was to
do so as though there were no such person existing as Henrietta
Carbury. The discussion did take place exactly as though there were no
such person as Henrietta Carbury. Paul told it all,--the rumoured duel,
the rumoured murder, and the rumour of the existing husband.
'It may be necessary that you should go out to Kansas and to Oregon,'
'But even if the rumours be untrue I will not marry her,' said Paul.
Roger shrugged his shoulders. He was doubtless thinking of Hetta
Carbury, but he said nothing. 'And what would she do, remaining here?'
continued Paul. Roger admitted that it would be awkward. 'I am
determined that under no circumstances will I marry her. I know I have
been a fool. I know I have been wrong. But of course, if there be a
fair cause for my broken word, I will use it if I can.'
'You will get out of it, honestly if you can; but you will get out of
it honestly or--any other way.'
'Did you not advise me to get out of it, Roger;--before we knew as much
as we do now?'
'I did,--and I do. If you make a bargain with the Devil, it may be
dishonest to cheat him,--and yet I would have you cheat him if you
could. As to this woman, I do believe she has deceived you. If I were
you, nothing should induce me to marry her;--not though her claws were
strong enough to tear me utterly in pieces. I'll tell you what I'll
do. I'll go and see her if you like it.'
But Paul would not submit to this. He felt he was bound himself to
incur the risk of those claws, and that no substitute could take his
place. They sat long into the night, and it was at last resolved
between them that on the next morning Paul should go to Islington,
should tell Mrs Hurtle all the stories which he had heard, and should
end by declaring his resolution that under no circumstances would he
marry her. They both felt how improbable it was that he should ever be
allowed to get to the end of such a story,--how almost certain it was
that the breeding of the wild cat would show itself before that time
should come. But, still, that was the course to be pursued as far as
circumstances would admit; and Paul was at any rate to declare, claws
or no claws, husband or no husband,--whether the duel or the murder was
admitted or denied,--that he would never make Mrs Hurtle his wife. 'I
wish it were over, old fellow,' said Roger.
'So do I,' said Paul, as he took his leave.
He went to bed like a man condemned to die on the next morning, and he
awoke in the same condition. He had slept well, but as he shook from
him his happy dream, the wretched reality at once overwhelmed him. But
the man who is to be hung has no choice. He cannot, when he wakes,
declare that he has changed his mind, and postpone the hour. It was
quite open to Paul Montague to give himself such instant relief. He
put his hand up to his brow, and almost made himself believe that his
head was aching. This was Saturday. Would it not be as well that he
should think of it further, and put off his execution till Monday?
Monday was so far distant that he felt that he could go to Islington
quite comfortably on Monday. Was there not some hitherto forgotten
point which it would be well that he should discuss with his friend
Roger before he saw the lady? Should he not rush down to Liverpool,
and ask a few more questions of Mr Ramsbottom? Why should he go forth
to execution, seeing that the matter was in his own hands?
At last he jumped out of bed and into his tub, and dressed himself as
quickly as he could. He worked himself up into a fit of fortitude, and
resolved that the thing should be done before the fit was over. He ate
his breakfast about nine, and then asked himself whether he might not
be too early were he to go at once to Islington. But he remembered
that she was always early. In every respect she was an energetic
woman, using her time for some purpose, either good or bad, not
sleeping it away in bed. If one has to be hung on a given day, would
it not be well to be hung as soon after waking as possible? I can
fancy that the hangman would hardly come early enough. And if one had
to be hung in a given week, would not one wish to be hung on the first
day of the week, even at the risk of breaking one's last Sabbath day
in this world? Whatever be the misery to be endured, get it over. The
horror of every agony is in its anticipation. Paul had realized
something of this when he threw himself into a Hansom cab, and ordered
the man to drive to Islington.
How quick that cab went! Nothing ever goes so quick as a Hansom cab
when a man starts for a dinner-party a little too early;--nothing so
slow when he starts too late. Of all cabs this, surely, was the
quickest. Paul was lodging in Suffolk Street, close to Pall Mall--
whence the way to Islington, across Oxford Street, across Tottenham
Court Road, across numerous squares north-east of the Museum, seems to
be long. The end of Goswell Road is the outside of the world in that
direction, and Islington is beyond the end of Goswell Road. And yet
that Hansom cab was there before Paul Montague had been able to
arrange the words with which he would begin the interview. He had
given the Street and the number of the street. It was not till after
he had started that it occurred to him that it might be well that he
should get out at the end of the street, and walk to the house,--so that
he might, as it were, fetch breath before the interview was commenced.
But the cabman dashed up to the door in a manner purposely devised to
make every inmate of the house aware that a cab had just arrived
before it. There was a little garden before the house. We all know the
garden;--twenty-four feet long, by twelve broad;--and an iron-grated
door, with the landlady's name on a brass plate. Paul, when he had
paid the cabman,--giving the man half-a-crown, and asking for no change
in his agony,--pushed in the iron gate and walked very quickly up to the
door, rang rather furiously, and before the door was well opened asked
for Mrs Hurtle.
'Mrs Hurtle is out for the day,' said the girl who opened the door.
'Leastways, she went out yesterday and won't be back till to-night.'
Providence had sent him a reprieve! But he almost forgot the reprieve,
as he looked at the girl and saw that she was Ruby Ruggles. 'Oh laws,
Mr Montague, is that you?' Ruby Ruggles had often seen Paul down in
Suffolk, and recognized him as quickly as he did her. It occurred to
her at once that he had come in search of herself. She knew that Roger
Carbury was up in town looking for her. So much she had of course
learned from Sir Felix,--for at this time she had seen the baronet more
than once since her arrival. Montague, she knew, was Roger Carbury's
intimate friend, and now she felt that she was caught. In her terror
she did not at first remember that the visitor had asked for Mrs
'Yes, it is I. I was sorry to hear, Miss Ruggles, that you had left
'I'm all right, Mr Montague;--I am. Mrs Pipkin is my aunt, or,
leastways, my mother's brother's widow, though grandfather never would
speak to her. She's quite respectable, and has five children, and lets
lodgings. There's a lady here now, and has gone away with her just for
one night down to Southend. They'll be back this evening, and I've the
children to mind, with the servant girl. I'm quite respectable here,
Mr Montague, and nobody need be a bit afraid about me.'
'Mrs Hurtle has gone down to Southend?'
'Yes, Mr Montague; she wasn't quite well, and wanted a breath of air,
she said. And aunt didn't like she should go alone, as Mrs Hurtle is
such a stranger. And Mrs Hurtle said as she didn't mind paying for
two, and so they've gone, and the baby with them. Mrs Pipkin said as
the baby shouldn't be no trouble. And Mrs Hurtle,--she's most as fond of
the baby as aunt. Do you know Mrs Hurtle, sir?'
'Yes; she's a friend of mine.'
'Oh; I didn't know. I did know as there was some friend as was
expected and as didn't come. Be I to say, sir, as you was here?'
Paul thought it might be as well to shift the subject and to ask Ruby
a few questions about herself while he made up his mind what message
he would leave for Mrs Hurtle. 'I'm afraid they are very unhappy about
you down at Bungay, Miss Ruggles.'
'Then they've got to be unhappy; that's all about it, Mr Montague.
Grandfather is that provoking as a young woman can't live with him,
nor yet I won't try never again. He lugged me all about the room by my
hair, Mr Montague. How is a young woman to put up with that? And I did
everything for him,--that careful that no one won't do it again;--did
his linen, and his victuals, and even cleaned his boots of a Sunday,
'cause he was that mean he wouldn't have anybody about the place only
me and the girl who had to milk the cows. There wasn't nobody to do
anything, only me. And then he went to drag me about by the hairs of
my head. You won't see me again at Sheep's Acre, Mr Montague;--nor yet
won't the Squire.'
'But I thought there was somebody else was to give you a home.'
'John Crumb! Oh yes, there's John Crumb. There's plenty of people to
give me a home, Mr Montague.'
'You were to have been married to John Crumb, I thought.'
'Ladies is to change their minds if they like it, Mr Montague. I'm
sure you've heard that before. Grandfather made me say I'd have him,--
but I never cared that for him.'
'I'm afraid, Miss Ruggles, you won't find a better man up here in
'I didn't come here to look for a man, Mr Montague; I can tell you
that. They has to look at me, if they want me. But I am looked after;
and that by one as John Crumb ain't fit to touch.' That told the whole
story. Paul when he heard the little boast was quite sure that Roger's
fear about Felix was well founded. And as for John Crumb's fitness to
touch Sir Felix, Paul felt that the Bungay mealman might have an
opinion of his own on that matter. 'But there's Betsy a-crying
upstairs, and I promised not to leave them children for one minute.'
'I will tell the Squire that I saw you, Miss Ruggles.'
'What does the Squire want o' me? I ain't nothing to the Squire,--
except that I respects him. You can tell if you please, Mr Montague,
of course. I'm a coming, my darling.'
Paul made his way into Mrs Hurtle's sitting-room and wrote a note for
her in pencil. He had come, he said, immediately on his return from
Liverpool, and was sorry to find that she was away for the day. When
should he call again? If she would make an appointment he would attend
to it. He felt as he wrote this that he might very safely have himself
made an appointment for the morrow; but he cheated himself into half
believing that the suggestion he now made was the more gracious and
civil. At any rate it would certainly give him another day. Mrs Hurtle
would not return till late in the evening, and as the following day
was Sunday there would be no delivery by post. When the note was
finished he left it on the table, and called to Ruby to tell her that
he was going. 'Mr Montague,' she said in a confidential whisper, as
she tripped clown the stairs, 'I don't see why you need be saying
anything about me, you know.'
'Mr Carbury is up in town looking after you.'
'What am I to Mr Carbury?'
'Your grandfather is very anxious about you.'
'Not a bit of it, Mr Montague. Grandfather knows very well where I am.
There! Grandfather doesn't want me back, and I ain't a going. Why
should the Squire bother himself about me? I don't bother myself about
'He's afraid, Miss Ruggles, that you are trusting yourself to a young
man who is not trustworthy.'
'I can mind myself very well, Mr Montague.'
'Tell me this. Have you seen Sir Felix Carbury since you've been in
town?' Ruby, whose blushes came very easily, now flushed up to her
forehead. 'You may be sure that he means no good to you. What can come
of an intimacy between you and such a one as he?'
'I don't see why I shouldn't have my friend, Mr Montague, as well as
you. Howsomever, if you'll not tell, I'll be ever so much obliged.'
'But I must tell Mr Carbury.'
'Then I ain't obliged to you one bit,' said Ruby, shutting the door.
Paul as he walked away could not help thinking of the justice of
Ruby's reproach to him. What business had he to take upon himself to
be a Mentor to any one in regard to an affair of love;--he, who had
engaged himself to marry Mrs Hurtle, and who the evening before had
for the first time declared his love to Hetta Carbury?
In regard to Mrs Hurtle he had got a reprieve, as he thought, for two
days;--but it did not make him happy or even comfortable. As he walked
back to his lodgings he knew it would have been better for him to have
had the interview over. But, at any rate, he could now think of Hetta
Carbury, and the words he had spoken to her. Had he heard that
declaration which she had made to her mother, he would have been able
for the hour to have forgotten Mrs Hurtle.
CHAPTER XL - 'UNANIMITY IS THE VERY SOUL OF THESE THINGS'
That evening Montague was surprised to receive at the Beargarden a
note from Mr Melmotte, which had been brought thither by a messenger
from the city,--who had expected to have an immediate answer, as though
Montague lived at the club.
'DEAR SIR,' said the letter,
If not inconvenient would you call on me in Grosvenor Square
to-morrow, Sunday, at half past eleven. If you are going to
church, perhaps you will make an appointment in the afternoon;
if not, the morning will suit best. I want to have a few words
with you in private about the Company. My messenger will wait
for answer if you are at the club.
PAUL MONTAGUE, Esq.,
Paul immediately wrote to say that he would call at Grosvenor Square
at the hour appointed,--abandoning any intentions which he might have
had in reference to Sunday morning service. But this was not the only
letter he received that evening. On his return to his lodgings, he
found a note, containing only one line, which Mrs Hurtle had found the
means of sending to him after her return from Southend. 'I am sorry to
have been away. I will expect you all to-morrow. W. H.' The period of
the reprieve was thus curtailed to less than a day.
On the Sunday morning he breakfasted late and then walked up to
Grosvenor Square, much pondering what the great man could have to say
to him. The great man had declared himself very plainly in the
Board-room,--especially plainly after the Board had risen. Paul had
understood that war was declared, and had understood also that he was
to fight the battle single-handed, knowing nothing of such strategy as
would be required, while his antagonist was a great master of
financial tactics. He was prepared to go to the wall in reference to
his money, only hoping that in doing so he might save his character
and keep the reputation of an honest man. He was quite resolved to be
guided altogether by Mr Ramsbottom, and intended to ask Mr Ramsbottom
to draw up for him such a statement as would be fitting for him to
publish. But it was manifest now that Mr Melmotte would make some
proposition, and it was impossible that he should have Mr Ramsbottom
at his elbow to help him.
He had been in Melmotte's house on the night of the ball, but had
contented himself after that with leaving a card. He had heard much of
the splendour of the place, but remembered simply the crush and the
crowd, and that he had danced there more than once or twice with Hetta
Carbury. When he was shown into the hail he was astonished to find
that it was not only stripped, but was full of planks, and ladders,
and trussels, and mortar. The preparations for the great dinner had
been already commenced. Through all this he made his way to the
stairs, and was taken up to a small room on the second floor, where
the servant told him that Mr Melmotte would come to him. Here he
waited a quarter of an hour looking out into the yard at the back.
There was not a book in the room, or even a picture with which he
could amuse himself. He was beginning to think whether his own
personal dignity would not be best consulted by taking his departure,
when Melmotte himself, with slippers on his feet and enveloped in a
magnificent dressing-gown, bustled into the room. 'My dear sir, I am
so sorry. You are a punctual man, I see. So am I. A man of business
should be punctual. But they ain't always. Brehgert,--from the house
of Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner, you know,--has just been with me. We
had to settle something about the Moldavian loan. He came a quarter
late, and of course he went a quarter late. And how is a man to catch
a quarter of an hour? I never could do it.' Montague assured the great
man that the delay was of no consequence. 'And I am so sorry to ask
you into such a place as this. I had Brehgert in my room downstairs,
and then the house is so knocked about! We get into a furnished house
a little way off in Bruton Street to-morrow. Longestaffe lets me his
house for a month till this affair of the dinner is over. By-the by,
Montague, if you'd like to come to the dinner, I've got a ticket I can
let you have. You know how they're run after.' Montague had heard of
the dinner, but had perhaps heard as little of it as any man
frequenting a club at the west end of London. He did not in the least
want to be at the dinner, and certainly did not wish to receive any
extraordinary civility from Mr Melmotte's hands.
But he was very anxious to know why Mr Melmotte should offer it. He
excused himself saying that he was not particularly fond of big
dinners, and that he did not like standing in the way of other people.
'Ah, indeed,' said Melmotte. 'There are ever so many people of title
would give anything for a ticket. You'd be astonished at the persons
who have asked. We've had to squeeze in a chair on one side for the
Master of the Buckhounds, and on the other for the Bishop of--; I
forget what bishop it is, but we had the two archbishops before. They
say he must come because he has something to do with getting up the
missionaries for Tibet. But I've got the ticket, if you'll have it.'
This was the ticket which was to have taken in Georgiana Longestaffe
as one of the Melmotte family, had not Melmotte perceived that it
might be useful to him as a bribe. But Paul would not take the bribe.
'You're the only man in London, then,' said Melmotte, somewhat
offended. 'But at any rate you'll come in the evening, and I'll have
one of Madame Melmotte's tickets sent to you.' Paul not knowing how to
escape, said that he would come in the evening. 'I am particularly
anxious,' continued he, 'to be civil to those who are connected with
our great Railway, and of course, in this country, your name stands
first,--next to my own.'
Then the great man paused, and Paul began to wonder whether it could
be possible that he had been sent for to Grosvenor Square on a Sunday
morning in order that he might be asked to dine in the same house a
fortnight later. But that was impossible. 'Have you anything special
to say about the Railway?' he asked.
'Well, yes. It is so hard to get things said at the Board. Of course
there are some there who do not understand matters.'
'I doubt if there be any one there who does understand this matter,'
Melmotte affected to laugh. 'Well, well; I am not prepared to go quite
so far as that. My friend Cohenlupe has had great experience in these
affairs, and of course you are aware that he is in Parliament. And
Lord Alfred sees farther into them than perhaps you give him credit
'He may easily do that.'
'Well, well. Perhaps you don't know quite as well as I do.' The scowl
began to appear on Mr Melmotte's brow. Hitherto it had been banished
as well as he knew how to banish it. 'What I wanted to say to you was
this. We didn't quite agree at the last meeting.'
'No; we did not.'
'I was very sorry for it. Unanimity is everything in the direction of
such an undertaking as this. With unanimity we can do--everything.' Mr
Melmotte in the ecstasy of his enthusiasm lifted up both his hands
over his head. 'Without unanimity we can do--nothing.' And the two
hands fell. 'Unanimity should be printed everywhere about a
Board-room. It should, indeed, Mr Montague.'
'But suppose the directors are not unanimous.'
'They should be unanimous. They should make themselves unanimous. God
bless my soul! You don't want to see the thing fall to pieces!'
'Not if it can be carried on honestly.'
'Honestly! Who says that anything is dishonest?' Again the brow
became very heavy. 'Look here, Mr Montague. If you and I quarrel in
the Board-room, there is no knowing the amount of evil we may do to
every individual shareholder in the Company. I find the responsibility
on my shoulders so great that I say the thing must be stopped. Damme,
Mr Montague, it must be stopped. We mustn't ruin widows and children,
Mr Montague. We mustn't let those shares run down 20 below par for a
mere chimera. I've known a fine property blasted, Mr Montague, sent
straight to the dogs,--annihilated, sir;--so that it all vanished into
thin air, and widows and children past counting were sent out to
starve about the streets,--just because one director sat in another
director's chair. I did, by G--! What do you think of that, Mr
Montague? Gentlemen who don't know the nature of credit, how strong it
is,--as the air,--to buoy you up; how slight it is,--as a mere vapour,--
when roughly touched, can do an amount of mischief of which they
themselves don't in the least understand the extent! What is it you
want, Mr Montague?'
'What do I want?' Melmotte's description of the peculiar
susceptibility of great mercantile speculations had not been given
without some effect on Montague, but this direct appeal to himself
almost drove that effect out of his mind. 'I only want justice.'
'But you should know what justice is before you demand it at the
expense of other people. Look here, Mr Montague. I suppose you are
like the rest of us, in this matter. You want to make money out of
'For myself, I want interest for my capital; that is all. But I am not
thinking of myself.'
'You are getting very good interest. If I understand the matter,' and
here Melmotte pulled out a little book, showing thereby how careful he
was in mastering details,--'you had about £6,000 embarked in the
business when Fisker joined your firm. You imagine yourself to have
'I don't know what I've got.'
'I can tell you then. You have that, and you've drawn nearly a
thousand pounds since Fisker came over, in one shape or another.
That's not bad interest on your money.'
'There was back interest due to me.'
'If so, it's due still. I've nothing to do with that. Look here, Mr
Montague. I am most anxious that you should remain with us. I was
about to propose, only for that little rumpus the other day, that, as
you're an unmarried man, and have time on your hands, you should go
out to California and probably across to Mexico, in order to get
necessary information for the Company. Were I of your age, unmarried,
and without impediment, it is just the thing I should like. Of course
you'd go at the Company's expense. I would see to your own personal
interests while you were away;--or you could appoint any one by power of
attorney. Your seat at the Board would be kept for you; but, should
anything occur amiss,--which it won't, for the thing is as sound as
anything I know,--of course you, as absent, would not share the
responsibility. That's what I was thinking. It would be a delightful
trip;--but if you don't like it, you can of course remain at the Board,
and be of the greatest use to me. Indeed, after a bit I could devolve
nearly the whole management on you;--and I must do something of the
kind, as I really haven't the time for it. But,--if it is to be that
way,--do be unanimous. Unanimity is the very soul of these things;--the
very soul, Mr Montague.'
'But if I can't be unanimous?'
'Well;--if you can't, and if you won't take my advice about going out;--
which, pray, think about, for you would be most useful. It might be
the very making of the railway;--then I can only suggest that you
should take your £6,000 and leave us. I, myself, should be greatly
distressed; but if you are determined that way I will see that you
have your money. I will make myself personally responsible for the
payment of it,--some time before the end of the year.'
Paul Montague told the great man that he would consider the whole
matter, and see him in Abchurch Lane before the next Board day. 'And
now, good-bye,' said Mr Melmotte, as he bade his young friend adieu in
a hurry. 'I'm afraid that I'm keeping Sir Gregory Gribe, the Bank
Director, waiting downstairs.'
CHAPTER XLI - ALL PREPARED
During all these days Miss Melmotte was by no means contented with her
lover's prowess, though she would not allow herself to doubt his
sincerity. She had not only assured him of her undying affection in
the presence of her father and mother, had not only offered to be
chopped in pieces on his behalf, but had also written to him, telling
how she had a large sum of her father's money within her power, and
how willing she was to make it her own, to throw over her father and
mother, and give herself and her fortune to her lover. She felt that
she had been very gracious to her lover, and that her lover was a
little slow in acknowledging the favours conferred upon him. But,
nevertheless, she was true to her lover, and believed that he was true
to her. Didon had been hitherto faithful. Marie had written various
letters to Sir Felix and had received two or three very short notes in
reply, containing hardly more than a word or two each. But now she was
told that a day was absolutely fixed for her marriage with Lord
Nidderdale, and that her things were to be got ready. She was to be
married in the middle of August, and here they were, approaching the
end of June. 'You may buy what you like, mamma,' she said; 'and if
papa agrees about Felix, why then I suppose they'll do. But they'll
never be of any use about Lord Nidderdale. If you were to sew me up in
the things by main force, I wouldn't have him.' Madame Melmotte
groaned, and scolded in English, French, and German, and wished that
she were dead; she told Marie that she was a pig, and ass, and a toad,
and a dog. And, ended, as she always did end, by swearing that
Melmotte must manage the matter himself. 'Nobody shall manage this
matter for me,' said Marie. 'I know what I'm about now, and I won't
marry anybody just because it will suit papa.' 'Que nous étions encore
à Frankfort, ou New-York,' said the elder lady, remembering the
humbler but less troubled times of her earlier life. Marie did not
care for Frankfort or New York; for Paris or for London;--but she did
care for Sir Felix Carbury.
While her father on Sunday morning was transacting business in his own
house with Paul Montague and the great commercial magnates of the
city,--though it may be doubted whether that very respectable gentleman
Sir Gregory Gribe was really in Grosvenor Square when his name was
mentioned,--Marie was walking inside the gardens; Didon was also there
at some distance from her; and Sir Felix Carbury was there also close
alongside of her. Marie had the key of the gardens for her own use;
and had already learned that her neighbours in the square did not much
frequent the place during church time on Sunday morning. Her lover's
letter to her father had of course been shown to her, and she had
taxed him with it immediately. Sir Felix, who had thought much of the
letter as he came from Welbeck Street to keep his appointment,--having
been assured by Didon that the gate should be left unlocked, and that
she would be there to close it after he had come in,--was of course
ready with a lie. 'It was the only thing to do, Marie;--it was indeed.'
'But you said you had accepted some offer.'
'You don't suppose I wrote the letter?'
'It was your handwriting, Felix.'
'Of course it was. I copied just what he put down. He'd have sent you
clean away where I couldn't have got near you if I hadn't written it.'
'And you have accepted nothing?'
'Not at all. As it is, he owes me money. Is not that odd? I gave him a
thousand pounds to buy shares, and I haven't got anything from him
yet.' Sir Felix, no doubt, forgot the cheque for £200.
'Nobody ever does who gives papa money,' said the observant daughter.
'Don't they? Dear me! But I just wrote it because I thought anything
better than a downright quarrel.'
'I wouldn't have written it, if it had been ever so.'
'It's no good scolding, Marie. I did it for the best. What do you
think we'd best do now?' Marie looked at him, almost with scorn.
Surely it was for him to propose and for her to yield. 'I wonder
whether you're right about that money which you say is settled.'
'I'm quite sure. Mamma told me in Paris,--just when we were coming
away,--that it was done so that there might be something if things went
wrong. And papa told me that he should want me to sign something from
time to time; and of course I said I would. But of course I won't,--if
I should have a husband of my own.' Felix walked along, pondering the
matter, with his hands in his trousers pockets. He entertained those
very fears which had latterly fallen upon Lord Nidderdale. There would
be no 'cropper' which a man could 'come' so bad as would be his
cropper were he to marry Marie Melmotte, and then find that he was not
to have a shilling! And, were he now to run off with Marie, after
having written that letter, the father would certainly not forgive
him. This assurance of Marie's as to the settled money was too
doubtful! The game to be played was too full of danger! And in that
case he would certainly get neither his £800, nor the shares. And if
he were true to Melmotte, Melmotte would probably supply him with
ready money. But then there was the girl at his elbow, and he no more
dared to tell her to her face that he meant to give her up, than he
dared to tell Melmotte that he intended to stick to his engagement.
Some half promise would be the only escape for the present. 'What are
you thinking of, Felix?' she asked.
'It's d---- difficult to know what to do.'
'But you do love me?'
'Of course I do. If I didn't love you why should I be here walking
round this stupid place? They talk of your being married to Nidderdale
about the end of August.'
'Some day in August. But that's all nonsense, you know. They can't
take me up and marry me, as they used to do the girls ever so long
ago. I won't marry him. He don't care a bit for me, and never did. I
don't think you care much, Felix.'
'Yes, I do. A fellow can't go on saying so over and over again in a
beastly place like this. If we were anywhere jolly together, then I
could say it often enough.'
'I wish we were, Felix. I wonder whether we ever shall be.'
'Upon my word I hardly see my way as yet.'
'You're not going to give it up!'
'Oh no;--not give it up; certainly not. But the bother is a fellow
doesn't know what to do.'
'You've heard of young Mr Goldsheiner, haven't you?' suggested Marie.
'He's one of those city chaps.'
'And Lady Julia Start?'
'She's old Lady Catchboy's daughter. Yes; I've heard of them. They got
spliced last winter.'
'Yes;--somewhere in Switzerland, I think. At any rate they went to
Switzerland, and now they've got a house close to Albert Gate.'
'How jolly for them! He is awfully rich, isn't he?'
'I don't suppose he's half so rich as papa. They did all they could to
prevent her going, but she met him down at Folkestone just as the
tidal boat was starting. Didon says that nothing was easier.'
'Oh;--ah. Didon knows all about it.'
'That she does.'
'But she'd lose her place.'
'There are plenty of places. She could come and live with us, and be
my maid. If you would give her £50 for herself, she'd arrange it all.'
'And would you come to Folkstone?'
'I think that would be stupid, because Lady Julia did that. We should
make it a little different. If you liked I wouldn't mind going to--New
York. And then, perhaps, we might--get--married, you know, on board.
That's what Didon thinks.'
'And would Didon go too?'
'That's what she proposes. She could go as my aunt, and I'd call
myself by her name,--any French name you know. I should go as a French
girl. And you could call yourself Smith, and be an American. We
wouldn't go together, but we'd get on board just at the last moment.
If they wouldn't--marry us on board, they would at New York,
'That's Didon's plan?'
'That's what she thinks best,--and she'll do it, if you'll give her £50
for herself, you know. The "Adriatic,"--that's a White Star boat, goes
on Thursday week at noon. There's an early train that would take us
down that morning. You had better go and sleep at Liverpool, and take
no notice of us at all till we meet on board. We could be back in a
month,--and then papa would be obliged to make the best of it.'
Sir Felix at once felt that it would be quite unnecessary for him to
go to Herr Vossner or to any other male counsellor for advice as to
the best means of carrying off his love. The young lady had it all at
her fingers' ends,--even to the amount of the fee required by the female
counsellor. But Thursday week was very near, and the whole thing was
taking uncomfortably defined proportions. Where was he to get funds if
he were to resolve that he would do this thing? He had been fool
enough to intrust his ready money to Melmotte, and now he was told
that when Melmotte got hold of ready money he was not apt to release
it. And he had nothing to show;--no security that he could offer to
Vossner. And then,--this idea of starting to New York with Melmotte's
daughter immediately after he had written to Melmotte renouncing the
girl, frightened him.
'There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.'
Sir Felix did not know these lines, but the lesson taught by them came
home to him at this moment. Now was the tide in his affairs at which
he might make himself, or utterly mar himself. 'It's deuced
important,' he said at last with a groan.
'It's not more important for you than me,' said Marie.
'If you're wrong about the money, and he shouldn't come round, where
should we be then?'
'Nothing venture, nothing have,' said the heiress.
'That's all very well; but one might venture everything and get
nothing after all.'
'You'd get me,' said Marie with a pout.
'Yes;--and I'm awfully fond of you. Of course I should get you! But--'
'Very well then;--if that's your love, said Marie turning back from him.
Sir Felix gave a great sigh, and then announced his resolution. 'I'll
'Oh, Felix, how grand it will be!'
'There's a great deal to do, you know. I don't know whether it can be
Thursday week.' He was putting in the coward's plea for a reprieve.
'I shall be afraid of Didon if it's delayed long.'
'There's the money to get, and all that.'
'I can get some money. Mamma has money in the house.'
'How much?' asked the baronet eagerly.
'A hundred pounds, perhaps;--perhaps two hundred.
'That would help certainly. I must go to your father for money. Won't
that be a sell? To get it from him, to take you away!'
It was decided that they were to go to New York on a Thursday,--on
Thursday week if possible, but as to that he was to let her know in a
day or two. Didon was to pack up the clothes and get them sent out of
the house. Didon was to have £50 before she went on board; and as one
of the men must know about it, and must assist in having the trunks
smuggled out of the house, he was to have £10. All had been settled
beforehand, so that Sir Felix really had no need to think about
anything. 'And now,' said Marie, 'there's Didon. Nobody's looking and
she can open that gate for you. When we're gone, do you creep out. The
gate can be left, you know. Then we'll get out on the other side.'
Marie Melmotte was certainly a clever girl.
CHAPTER XLII - 'CAN YOU BE READY IN TEN MINUTES?'
After leaving Melmotte's house, on Sunday morning Paul Montague, went
to Roger Carbury's hotel and found his friend just returning from
church. He was bound to go to Islington on that day, but had made up
his mind that he would defer his visit till the evening. He would dine
early and be with Mrs Hurtle about seven o'clock. But it was necessary
that Roger should hear the news about Ruby Ruggles. 'It's not so bad
as you thought,' said he, 'as she is living with her aunt.'
'I never heard of such an aunt.'
'She says her grandfather knows where she is, and that he doesn't want
her back again.'
'Does she see Felix Carbury?'
'I think she does,' said Paul.
'Then it doesn't matter whether the woman's her aunt or not. I'll go
and see her and try to get her back to Bungay.'
'Why not send for John Crumb?'
Roger hesitated for a moment, and then answered, 'He'd give Felix such
a thrashing as no man ever had before. My cousin deserves it as well
as any man ever deserved a thrashing; but there are reasons why I
should not like it. And he could not force her back with him. I don't
suppose the girl is all bad,--if she could see the truth.'
'I don't think she's bad at all.'
'At any rate I'll go and see her,' said Roger. 'Perhaps I shall see
your widow at the same time.' Paul sighed, but said nothing more about
his widow at that moment. 'I'll walk up to Welbeck Street now,' said
Roger, taking his hat. 'Perhaps I shall see you to-morrow.' Paul felt
that he could not go to Welbeck Street with his friend.
He dined in solitude at the Beargarden, and then again made that
journey to Islington in a cab. As he went he thought of the proposal
that had been made to him by Melmotte. If he could do it with a clear
conscience, if he could really make himself believe in the railway,
such an expedition would not be displeasing to him. He had said
already more than he had intended to say to Hetta Carbury; and though
he was by no means disposed to flatter himself, yet he almost thought
that what he had said had been well received. At the moment they had
been disturbed, but she, as she heard the sound of her mother coming,
had at any rate expressed no anger. He had almost been betrayed into
breaking a promise. Were he to start now on this journey, the period
of the promise would have passed by before his return. Of course he
would take care that she should know that he had gone in the
performance of a duty. And then he would escape from Mrs Hurtle, and
would be able to make those inquiries which had been suggested to him.
It was possible that Mrs Hurtle should offer to go with him,--an
arrangement which would not at all suit him.
That at any rate must be avoided. But then how could he do this
without a belief in the railway generally? And how was it possible
that he should have such belief? Mr Ramsbottom did not believe in it,
nor did Roger Carbury. He himself did not in the least believe in
Fisker, and Fisker had originated the railway. Then, would it not be
best that he should take the Chairman's offer as to his own money? If
he could get his £6,000 back and have done with the railway, he would
certainly think himself a lucky man. But he did not know how far he
could with honesty lay aside his responsibility; and then he doubted
whether he could put implicit trust in Melmotte's personal guarantee
for the amount. This at any rate was clear to him,--that Melmotte was
very anxious to secure his absence from the meetings of the Board.
Now he was again at Mrs Pipkin's door, and again it was opened by Ruby
Ruggles. His heart was in his mouth as he thought of the things he had
to say. 'The ladies have come back from Southend, Miss Ruggles?'
'Oh yes, sir, and Mrs Hurtle is expecting you all the day.' Then she
put in a whisper on her own account. 'You didn't tell him as you'd
seen me, Mr Montague?'
'Indeed I did, Miss Ruggles.'
'Then you might as well have left it alone, and not have been
ill-natured,--that's all,' said Ruby as she opened the door of Mrs
Mrs Hurtle got up to receive him with her sweetest smile,--and her smile
could be very sweet. She was a witch of a woman, and, as like most
witches she could be terrible, so like most witches she could charm.
'Only fancy,' she said, 'that you should have come the only day I have
been two hundred yards from the house, except that evening when you
took me to the play. I was so sorry.'
'Why should you be sorry? It is easy to come again.'
'Because I don't like to miss you, even for a day. But I wasn't well,
and I fancied that the house was stuffy, and Mrs Pipkin took a bright
idea and proposed to carry me off to Southend. She was dying to go
herself. She declared that Southend was Paradise.'
'A cockney Paradise.'
'Oh, what a place it is! Do your people really go to Southend and
fancy that that is the sea?'
'I believe they do. I never went to Southend myself,--so that you know
more about it than I do.'
'How very English it is,--a little yellow river,--and you call it the
sea! Ah;--you never were at Newport!'
'But I've been at San Francisco.'
'Yes; you've been at San Francisco, and heard the seals howling. Well;
that's better than Southend.'
'I suppose we do have the sea here in England. It's generally supposed
we're an island.'
'Of course;--but things are so small. If you choose to go to the west of
Ireland, I suppose you'd find the Atlantic. But nobody ever does go
there for fear of being murdered.' Paul thought of the gentleman in
Oregon, but said nothing;--thought, perhaps, of his own condition, and
remembered that a man might be murdered without going either to Oregon
or the west of Ireland. 'But we went to Southend, I, and Mrs Pipkin
and the baby, and upon my word I enjoyed it. She was so afraid that
the baby would annoy me, and I thought the baby was so much the best
of it. And then we ate shrimps, and she was so humble. You must
acknowledge that with us nobody would be so humble. Of course I paid.
She has got all her children, and nothing but what she can make out of
these lodgings. People are just as poor with us;--and other people who
happen to be a little better off, pay for them. But nobody is humble
to another, as you are here. Of course we like to have money as well
as you do, but it doesn't make so much difference.'
'He who wants to receive, all the world over, will make himself as
agreeable as he can to him who can give.'
'But Mrs Pipkin was so humble. However, we got back all right
yesterday evening, and then I found that you had been here,--at last.'
'You knew that I had to go to Liverpool.'
'I'm not going to scold. Did you get your business done at Liverpool?'
'Yes;--one generally gets something done, but never anything very
satisfactorily. Of course it's about this railway.'
'I should have thought that that was satisfactory. Everybody talks of
it as being the greatest thing ever invented. I wish I was a man that
I might be concerned with a really great thing like that. I hate
little peddling things. I should like to manage the greatest bank in
the world, or to be Captain of the biggest fleet, or to make the
largest railway. It would be better even than being President of a
Republic, because one would have more of one's own way. What is it
that you do in it, Paul?'
'They want me now to go out to Mexico about it,' said he slowly.
'Shall you go?' said she, throwing herself forward and asking the
question with manifest anxiety.
'I think not.'
'Why not? Do go. Oh, Paul, I would go with you. Why should you not go?
It is just the thing for such a one as you to do. The railway will
make Mexico a new country, and then you would be the man who had done
it. Why should you throw away such a chance as that? It will never
come again. Emperors and kings have tried their hands at Mexico and
have been able to do nothing. Emperors and kings never can do
anything. Think what it would be to be the regenerator of Mexico!'
'Think what it would be to find one's self there without the means of
doing anything, and to feel that one had been sent there merely that
one might be out of the way'
'I would make the means of doing something.'
'Means are money. How can I make that?'
'There is money going. There must be money where there is all this
buying and selling of shares. Where does your uncle get the money with
which he is living like a prince at San Francisco? Where does Fisker
get the money with which he is speculating in New York? Where does
Melmotte get the money which makes him the richest man in the world?
Why should not you get it as well as the others?'
'If I were anxious to rob on my own account perhaps I might do it.'
'Why should it be robbery? I do not want you to live in a palace and
spend millions of dollars on yourself. But I want you to have
ambition. Go to Mexico, and chance it. Take San Francisco in your way,
and get across the country. I will go every yard with you. Make people
there believe that you are in earnest, and there will be no difficulty
about the money.'
He felt that he was taking no steps to approach the subject which he
should have to discuss before he left her,--or rather the statement
which he had resolved that he would make. Indeed every word which he
allowed her to say respecting this Mexican project carried him farther
away from it. He was giving reasons why the journey should not be
made; but was tacitly admitting that if it were to be made she might
be one of the travellers. The very offer on her part implied an
understanding that his former abnegation of the engagement had been
withdrawn, and yet he shrunk from the cruelty of telling her, in a
sideway fashion, that he would not submit to her companionship either
for the purpose of such a journey or for any other purpose. The thing
must be said in a solemn manner, and must be introduced on its own
basis. But such preliminary conversation as this made the introduction
of it infinitely more difficult.
'You are not in a hurry?' she said.
'You're going to spend the evening with me like a good man? Then I'll
ask them to let us have tea.' She rang the bell and Ruby came in, and
the tea was ordered. 'That young lady tells me that you are an old
friend of hers.'
'I've known about her down in the country, and was astonished to find
her here yesterday.'
'There's some lover, isn't there;--some would-be husband whom she does
'And some won't-be husband, I fear, whom she does like.'
'That's quite of course, if the other is true. Miss Ruby isn't the
girl to have come to her time of life without a preference. The
natural liking of a young woman for a man in a station above her,
because he is softer and cleaner and has better parts of speech,--just
as we keep a pretty dog if we keep a dog at all,--is one of the evils of
the inequality of mankind. The girl is content with the love without
having the love justified, because the object is more desirable. She
can only have her love justified with an object less desirable. If all
men wore coats of the same fabric, and had to share the soil of the
work of the world equally between them, that evil would come to an
end. A woman here and there might go wrong from fantasy and diseased
passions, but the ever-existing temptation to go wrong would be at an
'If men were equal to-morrow and all wore the same coats, they would
wear different coats the next day.'
'Slightly different. But there would be no more purple and fine linen,
and no more blue woad. It isn't to be done in a day of course, nor yet
in a century,--nor in a decade of centuries; but every human being who
looks into it honestly will see that his efforts should be made in
that direction. I remember; you never take sugar; give me that.'
Neither had he come here to discuss the deeply interesting questions
of women's difficulties and immediate or progressive equality. But
having got on to these rocks,--having, as the reader may perceive, been
taken on to them wilfully by the skill of the woman,--he did not know
how to get his bark out again into clear waters. But having his own
subject before him, with all its dangers, the wild-cat's claws, and
the possible fate of the gentleman in Oregon, he could not talk freely
on the subjects which she introduced, as had been his wont in former
years. 'Thanks,' he said, changing his cup. 'How well you remember!'
'Do you think I shall ever forget your preferences and dislikings? Do
you recollect telling me about that blue scarf of mine, that I should
never wear blue?'
She stretched herself out towards him, waiting for an answer, so that
he was obliged to speak. 'Of course I do. Black is your colour;--black
and grey; or white,--and perhaps yellow when you choose to be gorgeous;
crimson possibly. But not blue or green.'
'I never thought much of it before, but I have taken your word for
gospel. It is very good to have an eye for such things,--as you have,
Paul. But I fancy that taste comes with, or at any rate forebodes, an
'I am sorry that mine should be effete,' he said smiling.
'You know what I mean, Paul. I speak of nations, not individuals.
Civilization was becoming effete, or at any rate men were, in the time
of the great painters; but Savonarola and Galileo were individuals.
You should throw your lot in with a new people. This railway to Mexico
gives you the chance.'
'Are the Mexicans a new people?'
'They who will rule the Mexicans are. All American women I dare say
have bad taste in gowns,--and so the vain ones and rich ones send to
Paris for their finery; but I think our taste in men is generally
good. We like our philosophers; we like our poets; we like our genuine
workmen;--but we love our heroes. I would have you a hero, Paul.' He got
up from his chair and walked about the room in an agony of despair. To
be told that he was expected to be a hero at the very moment in his
life in which he felt more devoid of heroism, more thoroughly given up
to cowardice than he had ever been before, was not to be endured! And
yet, with what utmost stretch of courage,--even though he were willing
to devote himself certainly and instantly to the worst fate that he
had pictured to himself,--could he immediately rush away from these
abstract speculations, encumbered as they were with personal flattery,
into his own most unpleasant, most tragic matter! It was the unfitness
that deterred him and not the possible tragedy. Nevertheless, through
it all, he was sure,--nearly sure,--that she was playing her game, and
playing it in direct antagonism to the game which she knew that he
wanted to play. Would it not be better that he should go away and
write another letter? In a letter he could at any rate say what he had
to say;--and having said it he would then strengthen himself to adhere
'What makes you so uneasy?' she asked; still speaking in her most
winning way, caressing him with the tones of her voice. 'Do you not
like me to say that I would have you be a hero?'
'Winifred,' he said, 'I came here with a purpose, and I had better
carry it out.'
'What purpose?' She still leaned forward, but now supported her face
on her two hands, with her elbows resting on her knees, looking at him
intently. But one would have said that there was only love in her
eyes;--love which might be disappointed, but still love. The wild cat,
if there, was all within, still hidden from sight. Paul stood with his
hands on the back of a chair, propping himself up and trying to find
fitting words for the occasion. 'Stop, my dear,' she said. 'Must the
purpose be told to-night?'
'Why not to-night?'
'Paul, I am not well;--I am weak now. I am a coward. You do not know the
delight to me of having a few words of pleasant talk to an old friend
after the desolation of the last weeks. Mrs Pipkin is not very
charming. Even her baby cannot supply all the social wants of my life.
I had intended that everything should be sweet to-night. Oh, Paul, if
it was your purpose to tell me of your love, to assure me that you are
still my dear, dear friend, to speak with hope of future days, or with
pleasure of those that are past,--then carry out your purpose. But if it
be cruel, or harsh, or painful; if you had come to speak daggers;--then
drop your purpose for to-night. Try and think what my solitude must
have been to me, and let me have one hour of comfort.'
Of course he was conquered for that night, and could only have that
solace which a most injurious reprieve could give him. 'I will not
harass you, if you are ill,' he said.
'I am ill. It was because I was afraid that I should be really ill
that I went to Southend. The weather is hot, though of course the sun
here is not as we have it. But the air is heavy,--what Mrs Pipkin calls
muggy. I was thinking if I were to go somewhere for a week, it would
do me good. Where had I better go?' Paul suggested Brighton. 'That is
full of people; is it not?--a fashionable place?'
'Not at this time of the year.'
'But it is a big place. I want some little place that would be pretty.
You could take me down; could you not? Not very far, you know;--not that
any place can be very far from here.' Paul, in his John Bull
displeasure, suggested Penzance, telling her, untruly, that it would
take twenty-four hours. 'Not Penzance then, which I know is your very
Ultima Thule;--not Penzance, nor yet Orkney. Is there no other place
'There is Cromer in Norfolk,--perhaps ten hours.'
'Is Cromer by the sea?'
'Yes;--what we call the sea.'
'I mean really the sea, Paul?'
'If you start from Cromer right away, a hundred miles would perhaps
take you across to Holland. A ditch of that kind wouldn't do perhaps.'
'Ah,--now I see you are laughing at me. Is Cromer pretty?'
'Well, yes;--I think it is. I was there once, but I don't remember
much. There's Ramsgate.'
'Mrs Pipkin told me of Ramsgate. I don't think I should like
'There's the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is very pretty.'
'That's the Queen's place. There would not be room for her and me
'Or Lowestoft. Lowestoft is not so far as Cromer, and there is a
railway all the distance.'
'Sea enough for anything. If you can't see across it, and if there are
waves, and wind enough to knock you down, and shipwrecks every other
day, I don't see why a hundred miles isn't as good as a thousand.'
'A hundred miles is just as good as a thousand. But, Paul, at Southend
it isn't a hundred miles across to the other side of the river. You
must admit that. But you will be a better guide than Mrs Pipkin. You
would not have taken me to Southend when I expressed a wish for the
ocean;--would you? Let it be Lowestoft. Is there an hotel?'
'A small little place.'
'Very small? uncomfortably small? But almost any place would do for
'They make up, I believe, about a hundred beds; but in the States it
would be very small.'
'Paul,' said she, delighted to have brought him back to this humour,
'if I were to throw the tea things at you, it would serve you right.
This is all because I did not lose myself in awe at the sight of the
Southend ocean. It shall be Lowestoft.' Then she rose up and came to
him, and took his arm. 'You will take me down, will you not? It is
desolate for a woman to go into such a place all alone. I will not ask
you to stay. And I can return by myself.' She had put both hands on
one arm, and turned herself round, and looked into his face. 'You will
do that for old acquaintance sake?' For a moment or two he made no
answer, and his face was troubled, and his brow was black. He was
endeavouring to think;--but he was only aware of his danger, and could
see no way through it. 'I don't think you will let me ask in vain for
such a favour as that,' she said.
'No;' he replied. 'I will take you down. When will you go?' He had
cockered himself up with some vain idea that the railway carriage
would be a good place for the declaration of his purpose, or perhaps
the sands at Lowestoft.
'When will I go? when will you take me? You have Boards to attend, and
shares to look to, and Mexico to regenerate. I am a poor woman with
nothing on hand but Mrs Pipkin's baby. Can you be ready in ten
minutes?--because I could.' Paul shook his head and laughed. 'I've
named a time and that doesn't suit. Now, sir, you name another, and
I'll promise it shall suit.' Paul suggested Saturday, the 29th. He
must attend the next Board, and had promised to see Melmotte before
the Board day. Saturday of course would do for Mrs Hurtle. Should she
meet him at the railway station? Of course he undertook to come and
Then, as he took his leave, she stood close against him, and put her
cheek up for him to kiss. There are moments in which a man finds it
utterly impossible that he should be prudent,--as to which, when he
thought of them afterwards, he could never forgive himself for
prudence, let the danger have been what it may. Of course he took her
in his arms, and kissed her lips as well as her cheeks.
CHAPTER XLIII - THE CITY ROAD
The statement made by Ruby as to her connection with Mrs Pipkin was
quite true. Ruby's father had married a Pipkin whose brother had died
leaving a widow behind him at Islington. The old man at Sheep's Acre
farm had greatly resented this marriage, had never spoken to his
daughter-in-law,--or to his son after the marriage, and had steeled
himself against the whole Pipkin race. When he undertook the charge of
Ruby he had made it matter of agreement that she should have no
intercourse with the Pipkins. This agreement Ruby had broken,
corresponding on the sly with her uncle's widow at Islington. When
therefore she ran away from Suffolk she did the best she could with
herself in going to her aunt's house. Mrs Pipkin was a poor woman, and
could not offer a permanent home to Ruby; but she was good-natured,
and came to terms. Ruby was to be allowed to stay at any rate for a
month, and was to work in the house for her bread. But she made it a
part of her bargain that she should be allowed to go out occasionally.
Mrs Pipkin immediately asked after a lover. 'I'm all right,' said
Ruby. If the lover was what he ought to be, had he not better come and
see her? This was Mrs Pipkin's suggestion. Mrs Pipkin thought that
scandal might in this way be avoided 'That's as it may be, by-and-by,'
Then she told all the story of John Crumb;--how she hated John Crumb,
how resolved she was that nothing should make her marry John Crumb.
And she gave her own account of that night on which John Crumb and Mr
Mixet ate their supper at the farm, and of the manner in which her
grandfather had treated her because she would not have John Crumb. Mrs
Pipkin was a respectable woman in her way, always preferring
respectable lodgers if she could get them;--but bound to live. She gave
Ruby very good advice. Of course if she was 'dead-set' against John
Crumb, that was one thing! But then there was nothing a young woman
should look to so much as a decent house over her head,--and victuals.
'What's all the love in the world, Ruby, if a man can't do for you?'
Ruby declared that she knew somebody who could do for her, and could
do very well for her. She knew what she was about, and wasn't going to
be put off it. Mrs Pipkin's morals were good wearing morals, but she
was not strait-laced. If Ruby chose to manage in her own way about her
lover she must. Mrs Pipkin had an idea that young women in these days
did have, and would have, and must have more liberty than was allowed
when she was young. The world was being changed very fast. Mrs Pipkin
knew that as well as others. And therefore when Ruby went to the
theatre once and again,--by herself as far as Mrs Pipkin knew, but
probably in company with her lover,--and did not get home till past
midnight, Mrs Pipkin said very little about it, attributing such novel
circumstances to the altered condition of her country. She had not
been allowed to go to the theatre with a young man when she had been a
girl,--but that had been in the earlier days of Queen Victoria, fifteen
years ago, before the new dispensation had come. Ruby had never yet
told the name of her lover to Mrs Pipkin, having answered all
inquiries by saying that she was right. Sir Felix's name had never
even been mentioned in Islington till Paul Montague had mentioned it.
She had been managing her own affairs after her own fashion,--not
altogether with satisfaction, but still without interruption; but now
she knew that interference would come. Mr Montague had found her out,
and had told her grandfather's landlord. The Squire would be after
her, and then John Crumb would come, accompanied of course by Mr
Mixet,--and after that, as she said to herself on retiring to the
couch which she shared with two little Pipkins, 'the fat would be in
'Who do you think was at our place yesterday?' said Ruby one evening
to her lover. They were sitting together at a music-hall,--half
music-hall, half theatre, which pleasantly combined the allurements of
the gin-palace, the theatre, and the ball-room, trenching hard on
those of other places. Sir Felix was smoking, dressed, as he himself
called it, 'incognito,' with a Tom-and-Jerry hat, and a blue silk
cravat, and a green coat. Ruby thought it was charming. Felix
entertained an idea that were his West End friends to see him in this
attire they would not know him. He was smoking, and had before him a
glass of hot brandy and water, which was common to himself and Ruby.
He was enjoying life. Poor Ruby! She was half-ashamed of herself,
half-frightened, and yet supported by a feeling that it was a grand
thing to have got rid of restraints, and be able to be with her young
man. Why not? The Miss Longestaffes were allowed to sit and dance and
walk about with their young men,--when they had any. Why was she to be
given up to a great mass of stupid dust like John Crumb, without
seeing anything of the world? But yet, as she sat sipping her lover's
brandy and water between eleven and twelve at the music-hall in the
City Road, she was not altogether comfortable. She saw things which
she did not like to see. And she heard things which she did not like
to hear. And her lover, though he was beautiful,--oh, so beautiful!--
was not all that a lover should be. She was still a little afraid of
him, and did not dare as yet to ask him for the promise which she
expected him to make to her. Her mind was set upon--marriage, but the
word had hardly passed between them. To have his arm round her waist
was heaven to her. Could it be possible that he and John Crumb were of
the same order of human beings? But how was this to go on? Even Mrs
Pipkin made disagreeable allusions, and she could not live always with
Mrs Pipkin, coming out at nights to drink brandy and water and hear
music with Sir Felix Carbury. She was glad therefore to take the first
opportunity of telling her lover that something was going to happen.
'Who do you suppose was at our place yesterday?'
Sir Felix changed colour, thinking of Marie Melmotte, thinking that
perhaps some emissary from Marie Melmotte had been there; perhaps
Didon herself. He was amusing himself during these last evenings of
his in London; but the business of his life was about to take him to
New York. That project was still being elaborated. He had had an
interview with Didon, and nothing was wanting but the money. Didon had
heard of the funds which had been intrusted by him to Melmotte, and
had been very urgent with him to recover them. Therefore, though his
body was not unfrequently present, late in the night, at the City Road
Music-Hall, his mind was ever in Grosvenor Square. 'Who was it, Ruby?'
'A friend of the Squire's, a Mr Montague. I used to see him about in
Bungay and Beccles.'
'Do you know him, Felix?'
'Well;--rather. He's a member of our club, and I see him constantly in
the city--and I know him at home.'
'Is he nice?'
'Well;--that depends on what you call nice. He's a prig of a fellow.'
'He's got a lady friend where I live.'
'The devil he has!' Sir Felix of course had heard of Roger Carbury's
suit to his sister, and of the opposition to this suit on the part of
Hetta, which was supposed to have been occasioned by her preference
for Paul Montague. 'Who is she, Ruby?'
'Well;--she's a Mrs Hurtle. Such a stunning woman! Aunt says she's an
American. She's got lots of money.'
'Is Montague going to marry her?'
'Oh dear yes. It's all arranged. Mr Montague comes quite regular to
see her;--not so regular as be ought, though. When gentlemen are fixed
as they're to be married, they never are regular afterwards. I wonder
whether it'll be the same with you?'
'Wasn't John Crumb regular, Ruby?'
'Bother John Crumb! That wasn't none of my doings. Oh, he'd been
regular enough, if I'd let him; he'd been like clockwork,--only the
slowest clock out. But Mr Montague has been and told the Squire as he
saw me. He told me so himself. The Squire's coming about John Crumb. I
know that. What am I to tell him, Felix?'
'Tell him to mind his own business. He can't do anything to you.'
'No;--he can't do nothing. I ain't done nothing wrong, and he can't
send for the police to have me took back to Sheep's Acre. But he can
talk,--and he can look. I ain't one of those, Felix, as don't mind about
their characters,--so don't you think it. Shall I tell him as I'm with
'Gracious goodness, no! What would you say that for?'
'I didn't know. I must say something.'
'Tell him you're nothing to him.'
'But aunt will be letting on about my being out late o'nights; I know
she will. And who am I with? He'll be asking that.'
'Your aunt does not know?'
'No;--I've told nobody yet. But it won't do to go on like that, you
know,--will it? You don't want it to go on always like that;--do you?'
'It's very jolly, I think.'
'It ain't jolly for me. Of course, Felix, I like to be with you.
That's jolly. But I have to mind them brats all the day, and to be
doing the bedrooms. And that's not the worst of it.'
'What is the worst of it?'
'I'm pretty nigh ashamed of myself. Yes, I am.' And now Ruby burst out
into tears. 'Because I wouldn't have John Crumb, I didn't mean to be a
bad girl. Nor yet I won't. But what'll I do, if everybody turns
against me? Aunt won't go on for ever in this way. She said last
'Bother what she says!' Felix was not at all anxious to hear what aunt
Pipkin might have to say upon such an occasion.
'She's right too. Of course she knows there's somebody. She ain't such
a fool as to think that I'm out at these hours to sing psalms with a
lot of young women. She says that whoever it is ought to speak out his
mind. There;--that's what she says. And she's right. A girl has to mind
herself, though she's ever so fond of a young man.'
Sir Felix sucked his cigar and then took a long drink of brandy and
water. Having emptied the beaker before him, he rapped, for the waiter
and called for another. He intended to avoid the necessity of making
any direct reply to Ruby's importunities. He was going to New York
very shortly, and looked on his journey thither as an horizon in his
future beyond which it was unnecessary to speculate as to any farther
distance. He had not troubled himself to think how it might be with
Ruby when he was gone. He had not even considered whether he would or
would not tell her that he was going, before he started. It was not
his fault that she had come up to London. She was an 'awfully jolly
girl,' and he liked the feeling of the intrigue better, perhaps, than
the girl herself. But he assured himself that he wasn't going to give
himself any 'd---d trouble.' The idea of John Crumb coming up to London
in his wrath had never occurred to him,--or he would probably have
hurried on his journey to New York instead of delaying it, as he was
doing now. 'Let's go in, and have a dance,' he said.
Ruby was very fond of dancing,--perhaps liked it better than anything in
the world. It was heaven to her to be spinning round the big room
with her lover's arm tight round her waist, with one hand in his and
her other hanging over his back. She loved the music, and loved the
motion. Her ear was good, and her strength was great, and she never
lacked breath. She could spin along and dance a whole room down, and
feel at the time that the world could have nothing to give better
worth having than that;--and such moments were too precious to be lost.
She went and danced, resolving as she did so that she would have some
answer to her question before she left her lover on that night.
'And now I must go,' she said at last. 'You'll see me as far as the
Angel, won't you?' Of course he was ready to see her as far as the
Angel. 'What am I to say to the Squire?'
'And what am I to say to aunt?'
'Say to her? Just say what you have said all along.'
'I've said nothing all along,--just to oblige you, Felix. I must say
something. A girl has got herself to mind. What have you got to say to
He was silent for about a minute, meditating his answer. 'If you
bother me I shall cut it, you know.'
'Yes;--cut it. Can't you wait till I am ready to say something?'
'Waiting will be the ruin o' me, if I wait much longer. Where am I to
go, if Mrs Pipkin won't have me no more?'
'I'll find a place for you.'
'You find a place! No; that won't do. I've told you all that before.
I'd sooner go into service, or--'
'Go back to John Crumb.'
'John Crumb has more respect for me nor you. He'd make me his wife
to-morrow, and only be too happy.'
'I didn't tell you to come away from him,' said Sir Felix.
'Yes, you did. You told me as I was to come up to London when I saw
you at Sheepstone Beeches;--didn't you? And you told me you loved me;--
didn't you? And that if I wanted anything you'd get it done for me;--
'So I will. What do you want? I can give you a couple of sovereigns,
if that's what it is.'
'No it isn't;--and I won't have your money. I'd sooner work my fingers
off. I want you to say whether you mean to marry me. There!'
As to the additional lie which Sir Felix might now have told, that
would have been nothing to him. He was going to New York, and would be
out of the way of any trouble; and he thought that lies of that kind
to young women never went for anything. Young women, he thought,
didn't believe them, but liked to be able to believe afterwards that
they had been deceived. It wasn't the lie that stuck in his throat,
but the fact that he was a baronet. It was in his estimation
'confounded impudence' on the part of Ruby Ruggles to ask to be his
wife. He did not care for the lie, but he did not like to seem to
lower himself by telling such a lie as that at her dictation. 'Marry,
Ruby! No, I don't ever mean to marry. It's the greatest bore out. I
know a trick worth two of that.'
She stopped in the street and looked at him. This was a state of
things of which she had never dreamed. She could imagine that a man
should wish to put it off, but that he should have the face to declare
to his young woman that he never meant to marry at all, was a thing
that she could not understand. What business had such a man to go
after any young woman? 'And what do you mean that I'm to do, Sir
Felix?' she said.
'Just go easy, and not make yourself a bother.'
'Not make myself a bother! Oh, but I will; I will. I'm to be carrying
on with you, and nothing to come of it; but for you to tell me that
you don't mean to marry, never at all! Never?'
'Don't you see lots of old bachelors about, Ruby?'
'Of course I does. There's the Squire. But he don't come asking girls
to keep him company.'
'That's more than you know, Ruby.'
'If he did he'd marry her out of hand,--because he's a gentleman. That's
what he is, every inch of him. He never said a word to a girl,--not to
do her any harm, I'm sure,' and Ruby began to, cry. 'You mustn't come
no further now, and I'll never see you again--never! I think you're the
falsest young man, and the basest, and the lowest-minded that I ever
heard tell of. I know there are them as don't keep their words. Things
turn up, and they can't. Or they gets to like others better; or there
ain't nothing to live on. But for a young man to come after a young
woman, and then say, right out, as he never means to marry at all, is
the lowest-spirited fellow that ever was. I never read of such a one
in none of the books. No, I won't. You go your way, and I'll go mine.'
In her passion she was as good as her word, and escaped from him,
running all the way to her aunt's door. There was in her mind a
feeling of anger against the man, which she did not herself
understand, in that he would incur no risk on her behalf. He would not
even make a lover's easy promise, in order that the present hour might
be made pleasant. Ruby let herself into her aunt's house, and cried
herself to sleep with a child on each side of her.
On the next day Roger called. She had begged Mrs Pipkin to attend the
door, and had asked her to declare, should any gentleman ask for Ruby
Ruggles, that Ruby Ruggles was out. Mrs Pipkin had not refused to do
so; but, having heard sufficient of Roger Carbury to imagine the cause
which might possibly bring him to the house, and having made up her
mind that Ruby's present condition of independence was equally
unfavourable to the lodging-house and to Ruby herself, she determined
that the Squire, if he did come, should see the young lady. When
therefore Ruby was called into the little back parlour and found Roger
Carbury there, she thought that she had been caught in a trap. She had
been very cross all the morning. Though in her rage she had been able
on the previous evening to dismiss her titled lover, and to imply that
she never meant to see him again, now, when the remembrance of the
loss came upon her amidst her daily work,--when she could no longer
console herself in her drudgery by thinking of the beautiful things
that were in store for her, and by flattering herself that though at
this moment she was little better than a maid of all work in a
lodging-house, the time was soon coming in which she would bloom forth
as a baronet's bride,--now in her solitude she almost regretted the
precipitancy of her own conduct. Could it be that she would never see
him again;--that she would dance no more in that gilded bright saloon?
And might it not be possible that she had pressed him too hard? A
baronet of course would not like to be brought to book, as she could
bring to book such a one as John Crumb. But yet,--that he should have
said never;--that he would never marry! Looking at it in any light, she
was very unhappy, and this coming of the Squire did not serve to cure
Roger was very kind to her, taking her by the hand, and bidding her
sit down, and telling her how glad he was to find that she was
comfortably settled with her aunt. 'We were all alarmed, of course,
when you went away without telling anybody where you were going.'
'Grandfather'd been that cruel to me that I couldn't tell him.'
'He wanted you to keep your word to an old friend of yours.'
'To pull me all about by the hairs of my head wasn't the way to make a
girl keep her word;--was it, Mr Carbury? That's what he did, then;--and
Sally Hockett, who is there, heard it. I've been good to grandfather,
whatever I may have been to John Crumb; and he shouldn't have treated
me like that. No girl'd like to be pulled about the room by the hairs
of her head, and she with her things all off, just getting into bed.'
The Squire had no answer to make to this. That old Ruggles should be a
violent brute under the influence of gin and water did not surprise
him. And the girl, when driven away from her home by such usage, had
not done amiss in coming to her aunt. But Roger had already heard a
few words from Mrs Pipkin as to Ruby's late hours, had heard also that
there was a lover, and knew very well who that lover was. He also was
quite familiar with John Crumb's state of mind. John Crumb was a
gallant, loving fellow who might be induced to forgive everything, if
Ruby would only go back to him; but would certainly persevere, after
some slow fashion of his own, and 'see the matter out,' as he would say
himself, if she did not go back. 'As you found yourself obliged to run
away,' said Roger, 'I'm glad that you should be here; but you don't
mean to stay here always?'
'I don't know,' said Ruby.
'You must think of your future life. You don't want to be always your
'Oh dear, no.'
'It would be very odd if you did, when you may be the wife of such a
man as Mr Crumb.'
'Oh, Mr Crumb! Everybody is going on about Mr Crumb. I don't like Mr
Crumb, and I never will like him.'
'Now look here, Ruby; I have come to speak to you very seriously, and
I expect you to hear me. Nobody can make you marry Mr Crumb, unless
'Nobody can't, of course, sir.'
'But I fear you have given him up for somebody else, who certainly
won't marry you, and who can only mean to ruin you.'
'Nobody won't ruin me,' said Ruby. 'A girl has to look to herself, and
I mean to look to myself.'
'I'm glad to hear you say so, but being out at night with such a one
as Sir Felix Carbury is not looking to yourself. That means going to
the devil head foremost.'
'I ain't a going to the devil,' said Ruby, sobbing and blushing.
'But you will, if you put yourself into the hands of that young man.
He's as bad as bad can be. He's my own cousin, and yet I'm obliged to
tell you so. He has no more idea of marrying you than I have; but were
he to marry you, he could not support you. He is ruined himself, and
would ruin any young woman who trusted him. I'm almost old enough to
be your father, and in all my experience I never came across so vile a
young man as he is. He would ruin you and cast you from him without a
pang of remorse. He has no heart in his bosom;--none.' Ruby had now
given way altogether, and was sobbing with her apron to her eyes in
one corner of the room. 'That's what Sir Felix Carbury is,' said the
Squire, standing up so that he might speak with the more energy, and
talk her down more thoroughly. 'And if I understand it rightly,' he
continued, 'it is for a vile thing such as he, that you have left a
man who is as much above him in character, as the sun is above the
earth. You think little of John Crumb because he does not wear a fine
'I don't care about any man's coat,' said Ruby; 'but John hasn't ever
a word to say, was it ever so.'
'Words to say! what do words matter? He loves you. He loves you after
that fashion that he wants to make you happy and respectable, not to
make you a bye-word and a disgrace.' Ruby struggled hard to make some
opposition to the suggestion, but found herself to be incapable of
speech at the moment. 'He thinks more of you than of himself, and
would give you all that he has. What would that other man give you? If
you were once married to John Crumb, would any one then pull you by
the hairs of your head? Would there be any want then, or any
'There ain't no disgrace, Mr Carbury.'
'No disgrace in going about at midnight with such a one as Felix
Carbury? You are not a fool, and you know that it is disgraceful. If
you are not unfit to be an honest man's wife, go back and beg that
'John Crumb's pardon! No!'
'Oh, Ruby, if you knew how highly I respect that man, and how lowly I
think of the other; how I look on the one as a noble fellow, and
regard the other as dust beneath my feet, you would perhaps change
your mind a little.'
Her mind was being changed. His words did have their effect, though
the poor girl struggled against the conviction that was borne in upon
her. She had never expected to hear any one call John Crumb noble. But
she had never respected any one more highly than Squire Carbury, and
he said that John Crumb was noble. Amidst all her misery and trouble
she still told herself that it was but a dusty, mealy,--and also a
'I'll tell you what will take place,' continued Roger. 'Mr Crumb won't
put up with this you know.'
'He can't do nothing to me, sir.'
'That's true enough. Unless it be to take you in his arms and press
you to his heart, he wants to do nothing to you. Do you think he'd
injure you if he could? You don't know what a man's love really means,
Ruby. But he could do something to somebody else. How do you think it
would be with Felix Carbury, if they two were in a room together and
nobody else by?'
'John's mortial strong, Mr Carbury.'