Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury,
upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have,
as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street.
Lady Carbury spent many hours at her desk,
and wrote many letters,
--wrote also very much beside letters.
She spoke of herself in these days as a woman devoted to Literature,
always spelling the word with a big L. Something of the nature of her devotion may be learned by the perusal of three letters which on this morning she had written with a quickly running hand.
Lady Carbury was rapid in everything,
and in nothing more rapid than in the writing of letters.
Here is Letter No. 1;
I have taken care that you shall have the early sheets of my two new volumes to-morrow,
or Saturday at latest,
so that you may,
if so minded,
give a poor struggler like myself a lift in your next week's paper.
Do give a poor struggler a lift.
You and I have so much in common,
and I have ventured to flatter myself that we are really friends!
I do not flatter you when I say,
that not only would aid from you help me more than from any other quarter,
but also that praise from you would gratify my vanity more than any other praise.
I almost think you will like my "Criminal Queens."
The sketch of Semiramis is at any rate spirited,
though I had to twist it about a little to bring her in guilty.
I have taken from Shakespeare.
What a wench she was!
I could not quite make Julia a queen;
but it was impossible to pass over so piquant a character.
You will recognise in the two or three ladies of the empire how faithfully I have studied my Gibbon.
Poor dear old Belisarius!
I have done the best I could with Joanna,
but I could not bring myself to care for her.
In our days she would simply have gone to Broadmore.
I hope you will not think that I have been too strong in my delineations of Henry VIII.
and his sinful but unfortunate Howard.
I don't care a bit about Anne Boleyne.
I am afraid that I have been tempted into too great length about the Italian Catherine;
but in truth she has been my favourite.
What a woman!
What a devil!
Pity that a second Dante could not have constructed for her a special hell.
How one traces the effect of her training in the life of our Scotch Mary.
I trust you will go with me in my view as to the Queen of Scots.
and all the rest of it.
But recommended to mercy because she was royal.
A queen bred,
born and married,
and with such other queens around her,
how could she have escaped to be guilty?
Marie Antoinette I have not quite acquitted.
It would be uninteresting;
I have accused her lovingly,
and have kissed when I scourged.
I trust the British public will not be angry because I do not whitewash Caroline,
especially as I go along with them altogether in abusing her husband.
But I must not take up your time by sending you another book,
though it gratifies me to think that I am writing what none but yourself will read.
Do it yourself,
like a dear man,
as you are great,
as you are a friend,
Yours gratefully and faithfully,
After all how few women there are who can raise themselves above the quagmire of what we call love,
and make themselves anything but playthings for men.
Of almost all these royal and luxurious sinners it was the chief sin that in some phase of their lives they consented to be playthings without being wives.
I have striven so hard to be proper;
but when girls read everything,
why should not an old woman write anything?
This letter was addressed to Nicholas Broune,
the editor of the "Morning Breakfast Table,"
a daily newspaper of high character;
as it was the longest,
so was it considered to be the most important of the three.
Mr. Broune was a man powerful in his profession,
--and he was fond of ladies.
Lady Carbury in her letter had called herself an old woman,
but she was satisfied to do so by a conviction that no one else regarded her in that light.
Her age shall be no secret to the reader,
though to her most intimate friends,
even to Mr. Broune,
it had never been divulged.
She was forty-three,
but carried her years so well,
and had received such gifts from nature,
that it was impossible to deny that she was still a beautiful woman.
And she used her beauty not only to increase her influence,
--as is natural to women who are well-favoured,
--but also with a well-considered calculation that she could obtain material assistance in the procuring of bread and cheese,
which was very necessary to her,
by a prudent adaptation to her purposes of the good things with which providence had endowed her.
She did not fall in love,
she did not wilfully flirt,
she did not commit herself;
but she smiled and whispered,
and made confidences,
and looked out of her own eyes into men's eyes as though there might be some mysterious bond between her and them --if only mysterious circumstances would permit it.
But the end of all was to induce some one to do something which would cause a publisher to give her good payment for indifferent writing,
or an editor to be lenient when,
upon the merits of the case,
he should have been severe.
Among all her literary friends,
Mr. Broune was the one in whom she most trusted;
and Mr. Broune was fond of handsome women.
It may be as well to give a short record of a scene which had taken place between Lady Carbury and her friend about a month before the writing of this letter which has been produced.
She had wanted him to take a series of papers for the "Morning Breakfast Table,"
and to have them paid for at rate No. 1,
whereas she suspected that he was rather doubtful as to their merit,
and knew that,
without special favour,
she could not hope for remuneration above rate No. 2,
or possibly even No. 3.
So she had looked into his eyes,
and had left her soft,
plump hand for a moment in his.
A man in such circumstances is so often awkward,
not knowing with any accuracy when to do one thing and when another!
in a moment of enthusiasm,
had put his arm round Lady Carbury's waist and had kissed her.
To say that Lady Carbury was angry,
as most women would be angry if so treated,
would be to give an unjust idea of her character.
It was a little accident which really carried with it no injury,
unless it should be the injury of leading to a rupture between herself and a valuable ally.
No feeling of delicacy was shocked.
What did it matter?
No unpardonable insult had been offered;
no harm had been done,
if only the dear susceptible old donkey could be made at once to understand that that wasn't the way to go on!
Without a flutter,
and without a blush,
she escaped from his arm,
and then made him an excellent little speech.
Is it not so?
Surely you do not wish to put an end to the friendship between us!"
"Put an end to our friendship,
certainly not that."
"Then why risk it by such an act?
Think of my son and of my daughter,
--both grown up.
Think of the past troubles of my life;
--so much suffered and so little deserved.
No one knows them so well as you do.
Think of my name,
that has been so often slandered but never disgraced!
Say that you are sorry,
and it shall be forgotten."
When a man has kissed a woman it goes against the grain with him to say the very next moment that he is sorry for what he has done.
It is as much as to declare that the kiss had not answered his expectation.
Mr. Broune could not do this,
and perhaps Lady Carbury did not quite expect it.
"You know that for worlds I would not offend you,"
Lady Carbury again looked into his eyes,
and a promise was given that the articles should be printed --and with generous remuneration.
When the interview was over Lady Carbury regarded it as having been quite successful.
Of course when struggles have to be made and hard work done,
there will be little accidents.
The lady who uses a street cab must encounter mud and dust which her richer neighbour,
who has a private carriage,
She would have preferred not to have been kissed;
--but what did it matter?
With Mr. Broune the affair was more serious.
"Confound them all,"
he said to himself as he left the house;
"no amount of experience enables a man to know them."
As he went away he almost thought that Lady Carbury had intended him to kiss her again,
and he was almost angry with himself in that he had not done so.
He had seen her three or four times since,
but had not repeated the offence.
We will now go on to the other letters,
both of which were addressed to the editors of other newspapers.
The second was written to Mr. Booker,
of the "Literary Chronicle."
Mr. Booker was a hard-working professor of literature,
by no means without talent,
by no means without influence,
and by no means without a conscience.
from the nature of the struggles in which he had been engaged,
by compromises which had gradually been driven upon him by the encroachment of brother authors on the one side and by the demands on the other of employers who looked only to their profits,
he had fallen into a routine of work in which it was very difficult to be scrupulous,
and almost impossible to maintain the delicacies of a literary conscience.
He was now a bald-headed old man of sixty,
with a large family of daughters,
one of whom was a widow dependent on him with two little children.
He had five hundred a year for editing the "Literary Chronicle,"
through his energy,
had become a valuable property.
He wrote for magazines,
and brought out some book of his own almost annually.
He kept his head above water,
and was regarded by those who knew about him,
but did not know him,
as a successful man.
He always kept up his spirits,
and was able in literary circles to show that he could hold his own.
But he was driven by the stress of circumstances to take such good things as came in his way,
and could hardly afford to be independent.
It must be confessed that literary scruple had long departed from his mind.
Letter No. 2 was as follows;
DEAR Mr. BOOKER,
I have told Mr. Leadham --[Mr. Leadham was senior partner in the enterprising firm of publishers known as Messrs.
Leadham and Loiter] --to send you an early copy of my "Criminal Queens."
I have already settled with my friend Mr. Broune that I am to do your "New Tale of a Tub" in the "Breakfast Table."
I am about it now,
and am taking great pains with it.
If there is anything you wish to have specially said as to your view of the Protestantism of the time,
let me know.
I should like you to say a word as to the accuracy of my historical details,
which I know you can safely do.
Don't put it off,
as the sale does so much depend on early notices.
I am only getting a royalty,
which does not commence till the first four hundred are sold.
There was nothing in this which shocked Mr. Booker.
He laughed inwardly,
with a pleasantly reticent chuckle,
as he thought of Lady Carbury dealing with his views of Protestantism,
--as he thought also of the numerous historical errors into which that clever lady must inevitably fall in writing about matters of which he believed her to know nothing.
But he was quite alive to the fact that a favourable notice in the "Breakfast Table" of his very thoughtful work,
called the "New Tale of a Tub,"
would serve him,
even though written by the hand of a female literary charlatan,
and he would have no compunction as to repaying the service by fulsome praise in the "Literary Chronicle."
He would not probably say that the book was accurate,
but he would be able to declare that it was delightful reading,
that the feminine characteristics of the queens had been touched with a masterly hand,
and that the work was one which would certainly make its way into all drawing-rooms.
He was an adept at this sort of work,
and knew well how to review such a book as Lady Carbury's "Criminal Queens,"
without bestowing much trouble on the reading.
He could almost do it without cutting the book,
so that its value for purposes of after sale might not be injured.
And yet Mr. Booker was an honest man,
and had set his face persistently against many literary malpractices.
and the French habit of meandering with a few words over an entire page,
had been rebuked by him with conscientious strength.
He was supposed to be rather an Aristides among reviewers.
But circumstanced as he was he could not oppose himself altogether to the usages of the time.
of course it is bad,"
he said to a young friend who was working with him on his periodical.
"Who doubts that?
How many very bad things are there that we do!
But if we were to attempt to reform all our bad ways at once,
we should never do any good thing.
I am not strong enough to put the world straight,
and I doubt if you are."
Such was Mr. Booker.
Then there was letter No. 3,
to Mr. Ferdinand Alf.
Mr. Alf managed,
as it was supposed,
the "Evening Pulpit,"
which during the last two years had become "quite a property,"
as men connected with the press were in the habit of saying.
The "Evening Pulpit" was supposed to give daily to its readers all that had been said and done up to two o'clock in the day by all the leading people in the metropolis,
and to prophesy with wonderful accuracy what would be the sayings and doings of the twelve following hours.
This was effected with an air of wonderful omniscience,
and not unfrequently with an ignorance hardly surpassed by its arrogance.
But the writing was clever.
if not true,
were well invented;
if not logical,
The presiding spirit of the paper had the gift,
at any rate,
of knowing what the people for whom he catered would like to read,
and how to get his subjects handled,
so that the reading should be pleasant.
Mr. Booker's "Literary Chronicle" did not presume to entertain any special political opinions.
The "Breakfast Table" was decidedly Liberal.
The "Evening Pulpit" was much given to politics,
but held strictly to the motto which it had assumed;
"Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri;"
and consequently had at all times the invaluable privilege of abusing what was being done,
whether by one side or by the other.
A newspaper that wishes to make its fortune should never waste its columns and weary its readers by praising anything.
Eulogy is invariably dull,
--a fact that Mr. Alf had discovered and had utilized.
Mr. Alf had,
discovered another fact.
Abuse from those who occasionally praise is considered to be personally offensive,
and they who give personal offence will sometimes make the world too hot to hold them.
But censure from those who are always finding fault is regarded so much as a matter of course that it ceases to be objectionable.
who draws only caricatures,
is held to be justifiable,
let him take what liberties he may with a man's face and person.
It is his trade,
and his business calls upon him to vilify all that he touches.
But were an artist to publish a series of portraits,
in which two out of a dozen were made to be hideous,
he would certainly make two enemies,
if not more.
Mr. Alf never made enemies,
for he praised no one,
as far as the expression of his newspaper went,
was satisfied with nothing.
Mr. Alf was a remarkable man.
No one knew whence he came or what he had been.
He was supposed to have been born a German Jew;
and certain ladies said that they could distinguish in his tongue the slightest possible foreign accent.
Nevertheless it was conceded to him that he knew England as only an Englishman can know it.
During the last year or two he had "come up" as the phrase goes,
and had come up very thoroughly.
He had been black-balled at three or four clubs,
but had effected an entrance at two or three others,
and had learned a manner of speaking of those which had rejected him calculated to leave on the minds of hearers a conviction that the societies in question were antiquated,
He was never weary of implying that not to know Mr. Alf,
not to be on good terms with Mr. Alf,
not to understand that let Mr. Alf have been born where he might and how he might he was always to be recognised as a desirable acquaintance,
was to be altogether out in the dark.
And that which he so constantly asserted,
men and women around him began at last to believe,
--and Mr. Alf became an acknowledged something in the different worlds of politics,
He was a good-looking man,
about forty years old,
but carrying himself as though he was much younger,
below the middle height,
with dark brown hair which would have shown a tinge of grey but for the dyer's art,
with well-cut features,
with a smile constantly on his mouth the pleasantness of which was always belied by the sharp severity of his eyes.
He dressed with the utmost simplicity,
but also with the utmost care.
He was unmarried,
had a small house of his own close to Berkeley Square at which he gave remarkable dinner parties,
kept four or five hunters in Northamptonshire,
and was reputed to earn £6,000 a year out of the "Evening Pulpit" and to spend about half of that income.
He also was intimate after his fashion with Lady Carbury,
whose diligence in making and fostering useful friendships had been unwearied.
Her letter to Mr. Alf was as follows;
DEAR Mr. ALF,
Do tell me who wrote the review on Fitzgerald Barker's last poem.
Only I know you won't.
I remember nothing done so well.
I should think the poor wretch will hardly hold his head up again before the autumn.
But it was fully deserved.
I have no patience with the pretensions of would-be poets who contrive by toadying and underground influences to get their volumes placed on every drawing-room table.
I know no one to whom the world has been so good-natured in this way as to Fitzgerald Barker,
but I have heard of no one who has extended the good nature to the length of reading his poetry.
Is it not singular how some men continue to obtain the reputation of popular authorship without adding a word to the literature of their country worthy of note?
It is accomplished by unflagging assiduity in the system of puffing.
To puff and to get one's self puffed have become different branches of a new profession.
I wish I might find a class open in which lessons could be taken by such a poor tyro as myself.
Much as I hate the thing from my very soul,
and much as I admire the consistency with which the "Pulpit" has opposed it,
I myself am so much in want of support for my own little efforts,
and am struggling so hard honestly to make for myself a remunerative career,
that I think,
were the opportunity offered to me,
I should pocket my honour,
lay aside the high feeling which tells me that praise should be bought neither by money nor friendship,
and descend among the low things,
in order that I might one day have the pride of feeling that I had succeeded by my own work in providing for the needs of my children.
But I have not as yet commenced the descent downwards;
and therefore I am still bold enough to tell you that I shall look,
not with concern but with a deep interest,
to anything which may appear in the "Pulpit" respecting my "Criminal Queens."
I venture to think that the book,
--though I wrote it myself,
--has an importance of its own which will secure for it some notice.
That my inaccuracy will be laid bare and presumption scourged I do not in the least doubt,
but I think your reviewer will be able to certify that the sketches are life-like and the portraits well considered.
You will not hear me told,
at any rate,
that I had better sit at home and darn my stockings,
as you said the other day of that poor unfortunate Mrs. Effington Stubbs.
I have not seen you for the last three weeks.
I have a few friends every Tuesday evening;
--pray come next week or the week following.
And pray believe that no amount of editorial or critical severity shall make me receive you otherwise than with a smile.
Most sincerely yours,
having finished her third letter,
threw herself back in her chair,
and for a moment or two closed her eyes,
as though about to rest.
But she soon remembered that the activity of her life did not admit of such rest.
She therefore seized her pen and began scribbling further notes.
THE CARBURY FAMILY.
Something of herself and condition Lady Carbury has told the reader in the letters given in the former chapter,
but more must be added.
She has declared she had been cruelly slandered;
but she has also shown that she was not a woman whose words about herself could be taken with much confidence.
If the reader does not understand so much from her letters to the three editors they have been written in vain.
She has been made to say that her object in work was to provide for the need of her children,
and that with that noble purpose before her she was struggling to make for herself a career in literature.
Detestably false as had been her letters to the editors,
absolutely and abominably foul as was the entire system by which she was endeavouring to achieve success,
far away from honour and honesty as she had been carried by her ready subserviency to the dirty things among which she had lately fallen,
nevertheless her statements about herself were substantially true.
She had been ill-treated.
She had been slandered.
She was true to her children,
--especially devoted to one of them,
--and was ready to work her nails off if by doing so she could advance their interests.
She was the widow of one Sir Patrick Carbury,
who many years since had done great things as a soldier in India,
and had been thereupon created a baronet.
He had married a young wife late in life and,
having found out when too late that he had made a mistake,
had occasionally spoilt his darling and occasionally ill used her.
In doing each he had done it abundantly.
Among Lady Carbury's faults had never been that of even incipient,
--not even of sentimental infidelity to her husband.
When as a very lovely and penniless girl of eighteen she had consented to marry a man of forty-four who had the spending of a large income,
she had made up her mind to abandon all hope of that sort of love which poets describe and which young people generally desire to experience.
Sir Patrick at the time of his marriage was red-faced,
generous in money,
suspicious in temper,
He knew how to govern men.
He could read and understand a book.
There was nothing mean about him.
He had his attractive qualities.
He was a man who might be loved;
--but he was hardly a man for love.
The young Lady Carbury had understood her position and had determined to do her duty.
She had resolved before she went to the altar that she would never allow herself to flirt and she had never flirted.
For fifteen years things had gone tolerably well with her,
--by which it is intended that the reader should understand that they had so gone that she had been able to tolerate them.
They had been home in England for three or four years,
and then Sir Patrick had returned with some new and higher appointment.
For fifteen years,
though he had been passionate,
and often cruel,
he had never been jealous.
A boy and a girl had been born to them,
to whom both father and mother had been over indulgent;
--but the mother,
according to her lights,
had endeavoured to do her duty by them.
But from the commencement of her life she had been educated in deceit,
and her married life had seemed to make the practice of deceit necessary to her.
Her mother had run away from her father,
and she had been tossed to and fro between this and that protector,
sometimes being in danger of wanting any one to care for her,
till she had been made sharp,
and untrustworthy by the difficulties of her position.
But she was clever,
and had picked up an education and good manners amidst the difficulties of her childhood,
--and had been beautiful to look at.
To marry and have the command of money,
to do her duty correctly,
to live in a big house and be respected,
had been her ambition,
--and during the first fifteen years of her married life she was successful amidst great difficulties.
She would smile within five minutes of violent ill-usage.
Her husband would even strike her,
--and the first effort of her mind would be given to conceal the fact from all the world.
In latter years he drank too much,
and she struggled hard first to prevent the evil,
and then to prevent and to hide the ill effects of the evil.
But in doing all this she schemed,
and lived a life of manoeuvres.
when she felt that she was no longer quite a young woman,
she allowed herself to attempt to form friendships for herself,
and among her friends was one of the other sex.
If fidelity in a wife be compatible with such friendship,
if the married state does not exact from a woman the necessity of debarring herself from all friendly intercourse with any man except her lord,
Lady Carbury was not faithless.
But Sir Carbury became jealous,
spoke words which even she could not endure,
did things which drove even her beyond the calculations of her prudence,
--and she left him.
But even this she did in so guarded a way that,
as to every step she took,
she could prove her innocence.
Her life at that period is of little moment to our story,
except that it is essential that the reader should know in what she had been slandered.
For a month or two all hard words had been said against her by her husband's friends,
and even by Sir Patrick himself.
But gradually the truth was known,
and after a year's separation they came again together and she remained the mistress of his house till he died.
She brought him home to England,
but during the short period left to him of life in his old country he had been a worn-out,
But the scandal of her great misfortune had followed her,
and some people were never tired of reminding others that in the course of her married life Lady Carbury had run away from her husband,
and had been taken back again by the kind-hearted old gentleman.
Sir Patrick had left behind him a moderate fortune,
though by no means great wealth.
To his son,
who was now Sir Felix Carbury,
he had left £1,000 a year;
and to his widow as much,
with a provision that after her death the latter sum should be divided between his son and daughter.
It therefore came to pass that the young man,
who had already entered the army when his father died,
and upon whom devolved no necessity of keeping a house,
and who in fact not unfrequently lived in his mother's house,
had an income equal to that with which his mother and his sister were obliged to maintain a roof over their head.
Now Lady Carbury,
when she was released from her thraldom at the age of forty,
had no idea at all of passing her future life amidst the ordinary penances of widowhood.
She had hitherto endeavoured to do her duty,
knowing that in accepting her position she was bound to take the good and the bad together.
She had certainly encountered hitherto much that was bad.
To be scolded,
and sworn at by a choleric old man till she was at last driven out of her house by the violence of his ill-usage;
to be taken back as a favour with the assurance that her name would for the remainder of her life be unjustly tarnished;
to have her flight constantly thrown in her face;
and then at last to become for a year or two the nurse of a dying debauchee,
was a high price to pay for such good things as she had hitherto enjoyed.
Now at length had come to her a period of relaxation --her reward,
her chance of happiness.
She thought much about herself,
and resolved on one or two things.
The time for love had gone by,
and she would have nothing to do with it.
Nor would she marry again for convenience.
But she would have friends,
friends who could help her,
--and whom possibly she might help.
make some career for herself,
so that life might not be without an interest to her.
She would live in London,
and would become somebody at any rate in some circle.
Accident at first rather than choice had thrown her among literary people,
but that accident had,
during the last two years,
been supported and corroborated by the desire which had fallen upon her of earning money.
She had known from the first that economy would be necessary to her,
--not chiefly or perhaps not at all from a feeling that she and her daughter could not live comfortably together on a thousand a year,
--but on behalf of her son.
She wanted no luxury but a house so placed that people might conceive of her that she lived in a proper part of the town.
Of her daughter's prudence she was as well convinced as of her own.
She could trust Henrietta in everything.
But her son,
was not very trustworthy.
And yet Sir Felix was the darling of her heart.
At the time of the writing of the three letters,
at which our story is supposed to begin,
she was driven very hard for money.
Sir Felix was then twenty-five,
had been in a fashionable regiment for four years,
had already sold out,
to own the truth at once,
had altogether wasted the property which his father had left him.
So much the mother knew,
that with her limited income she must maintain not only herself and daughter,
but also the baronet.
She did not know,
the amount of the baronet's obligations;
or any one else.
holding a commission in the Guards,
and known to have had a fortune left him by his father,
may go very far in getting into debt;
and Sir Felix had made full use of all his privileges.
His life had been in every way bad.
He had become a burden on his mother so heavy,
--and on his sister also,
--that their life had become one of unavoidable embarrassments.
But not for a moment had either of them ever quarrelled with him.
Henrietta had been taught by the conduct of both father and mother that every vice might be forgiven in a man and in a son,
though every virtue was expected from a woman,
and especially from a daughter.
The lesson had come to her so early in life that she had learned it without the feeling of any grievance.
She lamented her brother's evil conduct as it affected him,
but she pardoned it altogether as it affected herself.
That all her interests in life should be made subservient to him was natural to her;
and when she found that her little comforts were discontinued,
and her moderate expenses curtailed because he,
having eaten up all that was his own,
was now eating up also all that was his mother's,
she never complained.
Henrietta had been taught to think that men in that rank of life in which she had been born always did eat up everything.
The mother's feeling was less noble,
it might better be said,
more open to censure.
who had been beautiful as a star,
had ever been the cynosure of her eyes,
the one thing on which her heart had rivetted itself.
Even during the career of his folly she had hardly ventured to say a word to him with the purport of stopping him on his road to ruin.
In everything she had spoilt him as a boy,
and in everything she still spoilt him as a man.
She was almost proud of his vices,
and had taken delight in hearing of doings which if not vicious of themselves had been ruinous from their extravagance.
She had so indulged him that even in her own presence he was never ashamed of his own selfishness or apparently conscious of the injustice which he did to others.
From all this it had come to pass that that dabbling in literature which had been commenced partly perhaps from a sense of pleasure in the work,
partly as a passport into society,
had been converted into hard work by which money if possible might be earned.
So that Lady Carbury when she wrote to her friends,
of her struggles was speaking the truth.
Tidings had reached her of this and the other man's success,
--coming near to her still,
--of this and that other woman's earnings in literature.
And it had seemed to her that,
within moderate limits,
she might give a wide field to her hopes.
Why should she not add a thousand a year to her income,
so that Felix might again live like a gentleman and marry that heiress who,
in Lady Carbury's look-out into the future,
was destined to make all things straight!
Who was so handsome as her son?
Who could make himself more agreeable?
Who had more of that audacity which is the chief thing necessary to the winning of heiresses?
And then he could make his wife Lady Carbury.
If only enough money might be earned to tide over the present evil day,
all might be well.
The one most essential obstacle to the chance of success in all this was probably Lady Carbury's conviction that her end was to be obtained not by producing good books,
but by inducing certain people to say that her books were good.
She did work hard at what she wrote,
--hard enough at any rate to cover her pages quickly;
a clever woman.
She could write after a glib,
and had already acquired the knack of spreading all she knew very thin,
so that it might cover a vast surface.
She had no ambition to write a good book,
but was painfully anxious to write a book that the critics should say was good.
Had Mr. Broune,
in his closet,
told her that her book was absolutely trash,
but had undertaken at the same time to have it violently praised in the "Breakfast Table,"
it may be doubted whether the critic's own opinion would have even wounded her vanity.
The woman was false from head to foot,
but there was much of good in her,
false though she was.
Whether Sir Felix,
had become what he was solely by bad training,
or whether he had been born bad,
who shall say?
It is hardly possible that he should not have been better had he been taken away as an infant and subjected to moral training by moral teachers.
And yet again it is hardly possible that any training or want of training should have produced a heart so utterly incapable of feeling for others as was his.
He could not even feel his own misfortunes unless they touched the outward comforts of the moment.
It seemed that he lacked sufficient imagination to realise future misery though the futurity to be considered was divided from the present but by a single month,
a single week,
--but by a single night.
He liked to be kindly treated,
to be praised and petted,
to be well fed and caressed;
and they who so treated him were his chosen friends.
He had in this the instincts of a horse,
not approaching the higher sympathies of a dog.
But it cannot be said of him that he had ever loved any one to the extent of denying himself a moment's gratification on that loved one's behalf.
His heart was a stone.
But he was beautiful to look at,
He was very dark,
with that soft olive complexion which so generally gives to young men an appearance of aristocratic breeding.
which was never allowed to become long,
was nearly black,
and was soft and silky without that taint of grease which is so common with silken-headed darlings.
His eyes were long,
brown in colour,
and were made beautiful by the perfect arch of the perfect eyebrow.
But perhaps the glory of the face was due more to the finished moulding and fine symmetry of the nose and mouth than to his other features.
On his short upper lip he had a moustache as well formed as his eyebrows,
but he wore no other beard.
The form of his chin too was perfect,
but it lacked that sweetness and softness of expression,
indicative of softness of heart,
which a dimple conveys.
He was about five feet nine in height,
and was as excellent in figure as in face.
It was admitted by men and clamorously asserted by women that no man had ever been more handsome than Felix Carbury,
and it was admitted also that he never showed consciousness of his beauty.
He had given himself airs on many scores;
--on the score of his money,
while it lasted;
on the score of his title;
on the score of his army standing till he lost it;
and especially on the score of superiority in fashionable intellect.
But he had been clever enough to dress himself always with simplicity and to avoid the appearance of thought about his outward man.
As yet the little world of his associates had hardly found out how callous were his affections,
--or rather how devoid he was of affection.
His airs and his appearance,
joined with some cleverness,
had carried him through even the viciousness of his life.
In one matter he had marred his name,
and by a moment's weakness had injured his character among his friends more than he had done by the folly of three years.
There had been a quarrel between him and a brother officer,
in which he had been the aggressor;
when the moment came in which a man's heart should have produced manly conduct,
he had first threatened and had then shown the white feather.
That was now a year since,
and he had partly outlived the evil;
--but some men still remembered that Felix Carbury had been cowed,
and had cowered.
It was now his business to marry an heiress.
He was well aware that it was so,
and was quite prepared to face his destiny.
But he lacked something in the art of making love.
He was beautiful,
had the manners of a gentleman,
could talk well,
lacked nothing of audacity,
and had no feeling of repugnance at declaring a passion which he did not feel.
But he knew so little of the passion,
that he could hardly make even a young girl believe that he felt it.
When he talked of love,
he not only thought that he was talking nonsense,
but showed that he thought so.
From this fault he had already failed with one young lady reputed to have £40,000,
who had refused him because,
as she naively said,
she knew "he did not really care."
"How can I show that I care more than by wishing to make you my wife?"
he had asked.
"I don't know that you can,
but all the same you don't care,"
And so that young lady escaped the pit-fall.
Now there was another young lady,
to whom the reader shall be introduced in time,
whom Sir Felix was instigated to pursue with unremitting diligence.
Her wealth was not defined,
as had been the £40,000 of her predecessor,
but was known to be very much greater than that.
generally supposed to be fathomless,
It was said that in regard to money for ordinary expenditure,
money for houses,
and the like,
one sum was the same as another to the father of this young lady.
He had great concerns;
--concerns so great that the payment of ten or twenty thousand pounds upon any trifle was the same thing to him,
--as to men who are comfortable in their circumstances it matters little whether they pay sixpence or ninepence for their mutton chops.
Such a man may be ruined at any time;
but there was no doubt that to any one marrying his daughter during the present season of his outrageous prosperity he could give a very large fortune indeed.
who had known the rock on which her son had been once wrecked,
was very anxious that Sir Felix should at once make a proper use of the intimacy which he had effected in the house of this topping Croesus of the day.
And now there must be a few words said about Henrietta Carbury.
Of course she was of infinitely less importance than her brother,
who was a baronet,
the head of that branch of the Carburys,
and her mother's darling;
a few words should suffice.
She also was very lovely,
being like her brother;
but somewhat less dark and with features less absolutely regular.
But she had in her countenance a full measure of that sweetness of expression which seems to imply that consideration of self is subordinated to consideration for others.
This sweetness was altogether lacking to her brother.
And her face was a true index of her character.
who shall say why the brother and sister had become so opposite to each other;
whether they would have been thus different had both been taken away as infants from their father's and mother's training,
or whether the girl's virtues were owing altogether to the lower place which she had held in her parent's heart?
at any rate,
had not been spoilt by a title,
by the command of money,
and by the temptations of too early acquaintance with the world.
At the present time she was barely twenty-one years old,
and had not seen much of London society.
Her mother did not frequent balls,
and during the last two years there had grown upon them a necessity for economy which was inimical to many gloves and costly dresses.
Sir Felix went out of course,
but Hetta Carbury spent most of her time at home with her mother in Welbeck Street.
Occasionally the world saw her,
and when the world did see her the world declared that she was a charming girl.
The world was so far right.
But for Henrietta Carbury the romance of life had already commenced in real earnest.
There was another branch of the Carburys,
the head branch,
which was now represented by one Roger Carbury,
of Carbury Hall.
Roger Carbury was a gentleman of whom much will have to be said,
at this moment,
it need only be told that he was passionately in love with his cousin Henrietta.
nearly forty years old,
and there was one Paul Montague whom Henrietta had seen.
Lady Carbury's house in Welbeck Street was a modest house enough,
--with no pretensions to be a mansion,
hardly assuming even to be a residence;
having some money in her hands when she first took it,
she had made it pretty and pleasant,
and was still proud to feel that in spite of the hardness of her position she had comfortable belongings around her when her literary friends came to see her on her Tuesday evenings.
Here she was now living with her son and daughter.
The back drawing-room was divided from the front by doors that were permanently closed,
and in this she carried on her great work.
Here she wrote her books and contrived her system for the inveigling of editors and critics.
Here she was rarely disturbed by her daughter,
and admitted no visitors except editors and critics.
But her son was controlled by no household laws,
and would break in upon her privacy without remorse.
She had hardly finished two galloping notes after completing her letter to Mr. Ferdinand Alf,
when Felix entered the room with a cigar in his mouth and threw himself upon the sofa.
"My dear boy,"
"pray leave your tobacco below when you come in here."
"What affectation it is,
the half-smoked cigar into the fire-place.
"Some women swear they like smoke,
others say they hate it like the devil.
It depends altogether on whether they wish to flatter or snub a fellow."
"You don't suppose that I wish to snub you?"
"Upon my word I don't know.
I wonder whether you can let me have twenty pounds?"
"My dear Felix!"
--but how about the twenty pounds?"
--but how about the twenty pounds?"]
"What is it for,
--to tell the truth,
to carry on the game for the nonce till something is settled.
A fellow can't live without some money in his pocket.
I do with as little as most fellows.
I pay for nothing that I can help.
I even get my hair cut on credit,
and as long as it was possible I had a brougham,
to save cabs."
"What is to be the end of it,
"I never could see the end of anything,
I never could nurse a horse when the hounds were going well in order to be in at the finish.
I never could pass a dish that I liked in favour of those that were to follow.
What's the use?"
The young man did not say "carpe diem,"
but that was the philosophy which he intended to preach.
"Have you been at the Melmottes' to-day?"
It was now five o'clock on a winter afternoon,
the hour at which ladies are drinking tea,
and idle men playing whist at the clubs,
--at which young idle men are sometimes allowed to flirt,
and at which,
as Lady Carbury thought,
her son might have been paying his court to Marie Melmotte the great heiress.
"I have just come away."
"And what do you think of her?"
"To tell the truth,
I have thought very little about her.
She is not pretty,
she is not plain;
she is not clever,
she is not stupid;
she is neither saint nor sinner."
"The more likely to make a good wife."
I am at any rate quite willing to believe that as wife she would be
'good enough for me.'"
"What does the mother say?"
"The mother is a caution.
I cannot help speculating whether,
if I marry the daughter,
I shall ever find out where the mother came from.
Dolly Longestaffe says that somebody says that she was a Bohemian Jewess;
but I think she's too fat for that."
"What does it matter,
"Not in the least."
"Is she civil to you?"
"And the father?"
he does not turn me out,
or anything of that sort.
Of course there are half-a-dozen after her,
and I think the old fellow is bewildered among them all.
He's thinking more of getting dukes to dine with him than of his daughter's lovers.
Any fellow might pick her up who happened to hit her fancy."
"And why not you?"
I am doing my best,
and it's no good flogging a willing horse.
Can you let me have the money?"
I think you hardly know how poor we are.
You have still got your hunters down at the place!"
"I have got two horses,
if you mean that;
and I haven't paid a shilling for their keep since the season began.
this is a risky sort of game,
but I am playing it by your advice.
If I can marry Miss Melmotte,
I suppose all will be right.
But I don't think the way to get her would be to throw up everything and let all the world know that I haven't got a copper.
To do that kind of thing a man must live a little up to the mark.
I've brought my hunting down to a minimum,
but if I gave it up altogether there would be lots of fellows to tell them in Grosvenor Square why I had done so."
There was an apparent truth in this argument which the poor woman was unable to answer.
Before the interview was over the money demanded was forthcoming,
though at the time it could be but ill afforded,
and the youth went away apparently with a light heart,
hardly listening to his mother's entreaties that the affair with Marie Melmotte might,
be brought to a speedy conclusion.
when he left his mother,
went down to the only club to which he now belonged.
Clubs are pleasant resorts in all respects but one.
They require ready money,
or even worse than that in respect to annual payments,
--money in advance;
and the young baronet had been absolutely forced to restrict himself.
as a matter of course,
out of those to which he had possessed the right of entrance,
chose the worst.
It was called the Beargarden,
and had been lately opened with the express view of combining parsimony with profligacy.
Clubs were ruined,
so said certain young parsimonious profligates,
by providing comforts for old fogies who paid little or nothing but their subscriptions,
and took out by their mere presence three times as much as they gave.
This club was not to be opened till three o'clock in the afternoon,
before which hour the promoters of the Beargarden thought it improbable that they and their fellows would want a club.
There were to be no morning papers taken,
and card-rooms would suffice for the Beargarden.
Everything was to be provided by a purveyor,
so that the club should be cheated only by one man.
Everything was to be luxurious,
but the luxuries were to be achieved at first cost.
It had been a happy thought,
and the club was said to prosper.
was a jewel,
and so carried on affairs that there was no trouble about anything.
He would assist even in smoothing little difficulties as to the settling of card accounts,
and had behaved with the greatest tenderness to the drawers of cheques whose bankers had harshly declared them to have "no effects."
Herr Vossner was a jewel,
and the Beargarden was a success.
Perhaps no young man about town enjoyed the Beargarden more thoroughly than did Sir Felix Carbury.
The club was in the close vicinity of other clubs,
in a small street turning out of St. James's Street,
and piqued itself on its outward quietness and sobriety.
Why pay for stone-work for other people to look at;
--why lay out money in marble pillars and cornices,
seeing that you can neither eat such things,
nor drink them,
nor gamble with them?
But the Beargarden had the best wines,
--or thought that it had,
--and the easiest chairs,
and two billiard-tables than which nothing more perfect had ever been made to stand upon legs.
Hither Sir Felix wended on that January afternoon as soon as he had his mother's cheque for £20 in his pocket.
He found his special friend,
standing on the steps with a cigar in his mouth,
and gazing vacantly at the dull brick house opposite.
"Going to dine here,
said Sir Felix.
"I suppose I shall,
because it's such a lot of trouble to go anywhere else.
I'm engaged somewhere,
but I'm not up to getting home and dressing.
I don't know how fellows do that kind of thing.
"Going to hunt to-morrow?"
but I don't suppose I shall.
I was going to hunt every day last week,
but my fellow never would get me up in time.
I can't tell why it is that things are done in such a beastly way.
Why shouldn't fellows begin to hunt at two or three,
so that a fellow needn't get up in the middle of the night?"
"Because one can't ride by moonlight,
"It isn't moonlight at three.
At any rate I can't get myself to Euston Square by nine.
I don't think that fellow of mine likes getting up himself.
He says he comes in and wakes me,
but I never remember it."
"How many horses have you got at Leighton,
There were five,
but I think that fellow down there sold one;
but then I think he bought another.
I know he did something."
"Who rides them?"
I ride them myself,
only I so seldom get down.
Somebody told me that Grasslough was riding two of them last week.
I don't think I ever told him he might.
I think he tipped that fellow of mine;
and I call that a low kind of thing to do.
I'd ask him,
only I know he'd say that I had lent them.
Perhaps I did when I was tight,
"You and Grasslough were never pals."
"I don't like him a bit.
He gives himself airs because he is a lord,
and is devilish ill-natured.
I don't know why he should want to ride my horses."
"To save his own."
"He isn't hard up.
Why doesn't he have his own horses?
I'll tell you what,
I've made up my mind to one thing,
I'll stick to it.
I never will lend a horse again to anybody.
If fellows want horses let them buy them."
"But some fellows haven't got any money,
"Then they ought to go tick.
I don't think I've paid for any of mine I've bought this season.
There was somebody here yesterday --"
here at the club?"
followed me here to say he wanted to be paid for something!
It was horses,
because of the fellow's trousers."
"What did you say?"
I didn't say anything."
"And how did it end?"
"When he'd done talking I offered him a cigar,
and while he was biting off the end I went up-stairs.
I suppose he went away when he was tired of waiting."
"I'll tell you what,
I wish you'd let me ride two of yours for a couple of days,
if you don't want them yourself.
You ain't tight now,
at any rate."
I ain't tight,"
with melancholy acquiescence.
"I mean that I wouldn't like to borrow your horses without your remembering all about it.
Nobody knows as well as you do how awfully done up I am.
I shall pull through at last,
but it's an awful squeeze in the meantime.
There's nobody I'd ask such a favour of except you."
you may have them;
for two days.
I don't know whether that fellow of mine will believe you.
He wouldn't believe Grasslough,
and told him so.
But Grasslough took them out of the stables.
That's what somebody told me."
"You could write a line to your groom."
my dear fellow,
that is such a bore;
I don't think I could do that.
My fellow will believe you,
because you and I have been pals.
I think I'll have a little drop of curaçoa before dinner.
Come along and try it.
It'll give us an appetite."
It was then nearly seven o'clock.
Nine hours afterwards the same two men,
with two others,
--of whom young Lord Grasslough,
Dolly Longestaffe's peculiar aversion,
--were just rising from a card-table in one of the up-stairs rooms of the club.
For it was understood that,
though the Beargarden was not to be open before three o'clock in the afternoon,
the accommodation denied during the day was to be given freely during the night.
No man could get a breakfast at the Beargarden,
but suppers at three o'clock in the morning were quite within the rule.
Such a supper,
or rather succession of suppering,
there had been to-night,
various devils and broils and hot toasts having been brought up from time to time first for one and then for another.
But there had been no cessation of gambling since the cards had first been opened about ten o'clock.
At four in the morning Dolly Longestaffe was certainly in a condition to lend his horses and to remember nothing about it.
He was quite affectionate with Lord Grasslough,
as he was also with his other companions,
--affection being the normal state of his mind when in that condition.
He was by no means helplessly drunk,
hardly more silly than when he was sober;
but he was willing to play at any game whether he understood it or not,
and for any stakes.
When Sir Felix got up and said he would play no more,
Dolly also got up,
apparently quite contented.
When Lord Grasslough,
with a dark scowl on his face,
expressed his opinion that it was not just the thing for men to break up like that when so much money had been lost,
Dolly as willingly sat down again.
But Dolly's sitting down was not sufficient.
"I'm going to hunt to-morrow,"
said Sir Felix,
--meaning that day,
--"and I shall play no more.
A man must go to bed at some time."
"I don't see it at all,"
said Lord Grasslough.
"It's an understood thing that when a man has won as much as you have he should stay."
"Stay how long?"
said Sir Felix,
with an angry look.
there must be an end of everything,
and there's an end of this for me to-night."
if you choose,"
said his lordship.
"I do choose.
we'll settle this next time we meet.
I've got it all entered."
The night had been one very serious in its results to Sir Felix.
He had sat down to the card-table with the proceeds of his mother's cheque,
a poor £20,
and now he had,
--he didn't at all know how much in his pockets.
He also had drunk,
but not so as to obscure his mind.
He knew that Longestaffe owed him over £800,
and he knew also that he had received more than that in ready money and cheques from Lord Grasslough and the other player.
Dolly Longestaffe's money,
would certainly be paid,
though Dolly did complain of the importunity of his tradesmen.
As he walked up St. James's Street,
looking for a cab,
he presumed himself to be worth over £700.
When begging for a small sum from Lady Carbury,
he had said that he could not carry on the game without some ready money,
and had considered himself fortunate in fleecing his mother as he had done.
Now he was in the possession of wealth,
--of wealth that might,
at any rate,
be sufficient to aid him materially in the object he had in hand.
He never for a moment thought of paying his bills.
Even the large sum of which he had become so unexpectedly possessed would not have gone far with him in such a quixotic object as that;
but he could now look bright,
and buy presents,
and be seen with money in his hands.
It is hard even to make love in these days without something in your purse.
He found no cab,
but in his present frame of mind was indifferent to the trouble of walking home.
There was something so joyous in the feeling of the possession of all this money that it made the night air pleasant to him.
of a sudden,
he remembered the low wail with which his mother had spoken of her poverty when he demanded assistance from her.
Now he could give her back the £20.
But it occurred to him sharply,
with an amount of carefulness quite new to him,
that it would be foolish to do so.
How soon might he want it again?
he could not repay the money without explaining to her how he had gotten it.
It would be preferable to say nothing about his money.
As he let himself into the house and went up to his room he resolved that he would not say anything about it.
On that morning he was at the station at nine,
and hunted down in Buckinghamshire,
riding two of Dolly Longestaffe's horses,
--for the use of which he paid Dolly Longestaffe's "fellow" thirty shillings.
MADAME MELMOTTE'S BALL.
The next night but one after that of the gambling transaction at the Beargarden,
a great ball was given in Grosvenor Square.
It was a ball on a scale so magnificent that it had been talked about ever since Parliament met,
now about a fortnight since.
Some people had expressed an opinion that such a ball as this was intended to be could not be given successfully in February.
Others declared that the money which was to be spent,
--an amount which would make this affair something quite new in the annals of ball-giving,
--would give the thing such a character that it would certainly be successful.
And much more than money had been expended.
Almost incredible efforts had been made to obtain the co-operation of great people,
and these efforts had at last been grandly successful.
The Duchess of Stevenage had come up from Castle Albury herself to be present at it and to bring her daughters,
though it has never been her Grace's wont to be in London at this inclement season.
No doubt the persuasion used with the Duchess had been very strong.
Lord Alfred Grendall,
was known to be in great difficulties,
--so people said,
--had been considerably modified by opportune pecuniary assistance.
And then it was certain that one of the young Grendalls,
Lord Alfred's second son,
had been appointed to some mercantile position,
for which he received a salary which his most intimate friends thought that he was hardly qualified to earn.
It was certainly a fact that he went to Abchurch Lane,
in the City,
four or five days a week,
and that he did not occupy his time in so unaccustomed a manner for nothing.
Where the Duchess of Stevenage went all the world would go.
And it became known at the last moment,
that is to say only the day before the party,
that a prince of the blood royal was to be there.
How this had been achieved nobody quite understood;
but there were rumours that a certain lady's jewels had been rescued from the pawnbroker's.
Everything was done on the same scale.
The Prime Minister had indeed declined to allow his name to appear on the list;
but one Cabinet Minister and two or three under-secretaries had agreed to come because it was felt that the giver of the ball might before long be the master of considerable parliamentary interest.
It was believed that he had an eye to politics,
and it is always wise to have great wealth on one's own side.
There had at one time been much solicitude about the ball.
Many anxious thoughts had been given.
When great attempts fail,
the failure is disastrous,
and may be ruinous.
But this ball had now been put beyond the chance of failure.
The giver of the ball was Augustus Melmotte,
the father of the girl whom Sir Felix Carbury desired to marry,
and the husband of the lady who was said to have been a Bohemian Jewess.
It was thus that the gentleman chose to have himself designated,
though within the last two years he had arrived in London from Paris,
and had at first been known as M. Melmotte.
But he had declared of himself that he had been born in England,
and that he was an Englishman.
He admitted that his wife was a foreigner,
--an admission that was necessary as she spoke very little English.
Melmotte himself spoke his "native" language fluently,
but with an accent which betrayed at least a long expatriation.
--who a very short time since had been known as Mademoiselle Marie,
--spoke English well,
but as a foreigner.
In regard to her it was acknowledged that she had been born out of England,
--some said in New York;
but Madame Melmotte,
who must have known,
had declared that the great event had taken place in Paris.
It was at any rate an established fact that Mr. Melmotte had made his wealth in France.
He no doubt had had enormous dealings in other countries,
as to which stories were told which must surely have been exaggerated.
It was said that he had made a railway across Russia,
that he provisioned the Southern army in the American civil war,
that he had supplied Austria with arms,
and had at one time bought up all the iron in England.
He could make or mar any company by buying or selling stock,
and could make money dear or cheap as he pleased.
All this was said of him in his praise,
--but it was also said that he was regarded in Paris as the most gigantic swindler that had ever lived;
that he had made that City too hot to hold him;
that he had endeavoured to establish himself in Vienna,
but had been warned away by the police;
and that he had at length found that British freedom would alone allow him to enjoy,
the fruits of his industry.
He was now established privately in Grosvenor Square and officially in Abchurch Lane;
and it was known to all the world that a Royal Prince,
a Cabinet Minister,
and the very cream of duchesses were going to his wife's ball.
All this had been done within twelve months.
There was but one child in the family,
one heiress for all this wealth.
Melmotte himself was a large man,
with bushy whiskers and rough thick hair,
with heavy eyebrows,
and a wonderful look of power about his mouth and chin.
This was so strong as to redeem his face from vulgarity;
but the countenance and appearance of the man were on the whole unpleasant,
I may say,
He looked as though he were purse-proud and a bully.
She was fat and fair,
--unlike in colour to our traditional Jewesses;
but she had the Jewish nose and the Jewish contraction of the eyes.
There was certainly very little in Madame Melmotte to recommend her,
unless it was a readiness to spend money on any object that might be suggested to her by her new acquaintances.
It sometimes seemed that she had a commission from her husband to give away presents to any who would accept them.
The world had received the man as Augustus Melmotte,
The world so addressed him on the very numerous letters which reached him,
and so inscribed him among the directors of three dozen companies to which he belonged.
But his wife was still Madame Melmotte.
The daughter had been allowed to take her rank with an English title.
She was now Miss Melmotte on all occasions.
Marie Melmotte had been accurately described by Felix Carbury to his mother.
She was not beautiful,
she was not clever,
and she was not a saint.
But then neither was she plain,
She was a little thing,
hardly over twenty years of age,
very unlike her father or mother,
having no trace of the Jewess in her countenance,
who seemed to be overwhelmed by the sense of her own position.
With such people as the Melmottes things go fast,
and it was very well known that Miss Melmotte had already had one lover who had been nearly accepted.
had gone off.
In this "going off" no one imputed to the young lady blame or even misfortune.
It was not supposed that she had either jilted or been jilted.
As in royal espousals interests of State regulate their expedience with an acknowledged absence,
with even a proclaimed impossibility,
of personal predilections,
so in this case was money allowed to have the same weight.
Such a marriage would or would not be sanctioned in accordance with great pecuniary arrangements.
The young Lord Nidderdale,
the eldest son of the Marquis of Auld Reekie,
had offered to take the girl and make her Marchioness in the process of time for half a million down.
Melmotte had not objected to the sum,
--so it was said,
--but had proposed to tie it up.
Nidderdale had desired to have it free in his own grasp,
and would not move on any other terms.
Melmotte had been anxious to secure the Marquis,
--very anxious to secure the Marchioness;
for at that time terms had not been made with the Duchess;
but at last he had lost his temper,
and had asked his lordship's lawyer whether it was likely that he would entrust such a sum of money to such a man.
"You are willing to trust your only child to him,"
said the lawyer.
Melmotte scowled at the man for a few seconds from under his bushy eyebrows;
then told him that his answer had nothing in it,
and marched out of the room.
So that affair was over.
I doubt whether Lord Nidderdale had ever said a word of love to Marie Melmotte,
--or whether the poor girl had expected it.
Her destiny had no doubt been explained to her.
Others had tried and had broken down somewhat in the same fashion.
Each had treated the girl as an encumbrance he was to undertake,
--at a very great price.
But as affairs prospered with the Melmottes,
as princes and duchesses were obtained by other means,
--costly no doubt,
but not so ruinously costly,
--the immediate disposition of Marie became less necessary,
and Melmotte reduced his offers.
The girl herself,
began to have an opinion.
It was said that she had absolutely rejected Lord Grasslough,
whose father indeed was in a state of bankruptcy,
who had no income of his own,
who was ugly,
and without any power of recommending himself to a girl.
She had had experience since Lord Nidderdale,
with a half laugh,
had told her that he might just as well take her for his wife,
and was now tempted from time to time to contemplate her own happiness and her own condition.
People around were beginning to say that if Sir Felix Carbury managed his affairs well he might be the happy man.
There was considerable doubt whether Marie was the daughter of that Jewish-looking woman.
Enquiries had been made,
but not successfully,
as to the date of the Melmotte marriage.
There was an idea abroad that Melmotte had got his first money with his wife,
and had gotten it not very long ago.
Then other people said that Marie was not his daughter at all.
Altogether the mystery was rather pleasant as the money was certain.
Of the certainty of the money in daily use there could be no doubt.
There was the house.
There was the furniture.
There were the carriages,
the servants with the livery coats and powdered heads,
and the servants with the black coats and unpowdered heads.
There were the gems,
and the presents,
and all the nice things that money can buy.
There were two dinner parties every day,
one at two o'clock called lunch,
and the other at eight.
The tradesmen had learned enough to be quite free of doubt,
and in the City Mr. Melmotte's name was worth any money,
--though his character was perhaps worth but little.
The large house on the south side of Grosvenor Square was all ablaze by ten o'clock.
The broad verandah had been turned into a conservatory,
had been covered in with boards contrived to look like trellis-work,
was heated with hot air and filled with exotics at some fabulous price.
A covered way had been made from the door,
down across the pathway,
to the road,
and the police had,
been bribed to frighten foot passengers into a belief that they were bound to go round.
The house had been so arranged that it was impossible to know where you were,
when once in it.
The hall was a paradise.
The staircase was fairyland.
The lobbies were grottoes rich with ferns.
Walls had been knocked away and arches had been constructed.
The leads behind had been supported and walled in,
and covered and carpeted.
The ball had possession of the ground floor and first floor,
and the house seemed to be endless.
"It's to cost sixty thousand pounds,"
said the Marchioness of Auld Reekie to her old friend the Countess of Mid-Lothian.
The Marchioness had come in spite of her son's misfortune when she heard that the Duchess of Stevenage was to be there.
"And worse spent money never was wasted,"
said the Countess.
"By all accounts it was as badly come by,"
said the Marchioness.
Then the two old noblewomen,
one after the other,
made graciously flattering speeches to the much-worn Bohemian Jewess,
who was standing in fairyland to receive her guests,
almost fainting under the greatness of the occasion.
The three saloons on the first or drawing-room floor had been prepared for dancing,
and here Marie was stationed.
The Duchess had however undertaken to see that somebody should set the dancing going,
and she had commissioned her nephew Miles Grendall,
the young gentleman who now frequented the City,
to give directions to the band and to make himself generally useful.
Indeed there had sprung up a considerable intimacy between the Grendall family,
--that is Lord Alfred's branch of the Grendalls,
--and the Melmottes;
which was as it should be,
as each could give much and each receive much.
It was known that Lord Alfred had not a shilling;
but his brother was a duke and his sister was a duchess,
and for the last thirty years there had been one continual anxiety for poor dear Alfred,
who had tumbled into an unfortunate marriage without a shilling,
had spent his own moderate patrimony,
had three sons and three daughters,
and had lived now for a very long time entirely on the unwilling contributions of his noble relatives.
Melmotte could support the whole family in affluence without feeling the burden;
--and why should he not?
There had once been an idea that Miles should attempt to win the heiress,
but it had soon been found expedient to abandon it.
Miles had no title,
no position of his own,
and was hardly big enough for the place.
It was in all respects better that the waters of the fountain should be allowed to irrigate mildly the whole Grendall family;
--and so Miles went into the city.
The ball was opened by a quadrille in which Lord Buntingford,
the eldest son of the Duchess,
stood up with Marie.
Various arrangements had been made,
and this among them.
We may say that it had been part of a bargain.
Lord Buntingford had objected mildly,
being a young man devoted to business,
fond of his own order,
and not given to dancing.
But he had allowed his mother to prevail.
"Of course they are vulgar,"
the Duchess had said,
--"so much so as to be no longer distasteful because of the absurdity of the thing.
I dare say he hasn't been very honest.
When men make so much money,
I don't know how they can have been honest.
Of course it's done for a purpose.
It's all very well saying that it isn't right,
but what are we to do about Alfred's children?
Miles is to have £500 a-year.
And then he is always about the house.
And between you and me they have got up those bills of Alfred's,
and have said they can lie in their safe till it suits your uncle to pay them."
"They will lie there a long time,"
said Lord Buntingford.
"Of course they expect something in return;
do dance with the girl once."
Lord Buntingford disapproved --mildly,
and did as his mother asked him.
The affair went off very well.
There were three or four card-tables in one of the lower rooms,
and at one of them sat Lord Alfred Grendall and Mr. Melmotte,
with two or three other players,
cutting in and out at the end of each rubber.
Playing whist was Lord Alfred's only accomplishment,
and almost the only occupation of his life.
He began it daily at his club at three o'clock,
and continued playing till two in the morning with an interval of a couple of hours for his dinner.
This he did during ten months of the year,
and during the other two he frequented some watering-place at which whist prevailed.
He did not gamble,
never playing for more than the club stakes and bets.
He gave to the matter his whole mind,
and must have excelled those who were generally opposed to him.
But so obdurate was fortune to Lord Alfred that he could not make money even of whist.
Melmotte was very anxious to get into Lord Alfred's club,
It was pleasant to see the grace with which he lost his money,
and the sweet intimacy with which he called his lordship Alfred.
Lord Alfred had a remnant of feeling left,
and would have liked to kick him.
Though Melmotte was by far the bigger man,
and was also the younger,
Lord Alfred would not have lacked the pluck to kick him.
in spite of his habitual idleness and vapid uselessness,
had still left about him a dash of vigour,
and sometimes thought that he would kick Melmotte and have done with it.
But there were his poor boys,
and those bills in Melmotte's safe.
And then Melmotte lost his points so regularly,
and paid his bets with such absolute good humour!
"Come and have a glass of champagne,
as the two cut out together.
Lord Alfred liked champagne,
and followed his host;
but as he went he almost made up his mind that on some future day he would kick the man.
Late in the evening Marie Melmotte was waltzing with Felix Carbury,
and Henrietta Carbury was then standing by talking to one Mr. Paul Montague.
Lady Carbury was also there.
She was not well inclined either to balls or to such people as the Melmottes;
nor was Henrietta.
But Felix had suggested that,
bearing in mind his prospects as to the heiress,
they had better accept the invitation which he would cause to have sent to them.
They did so;
and then Paul Montague also got a card,
not altogether to Lady Carbury's satisfaction.
Lady Carbury was very gracious to Madame Melmotte for two minutes,
and then slid into a chair expecting nothing but misery for the evening.
was a woman who could do her duty and endure without complaint.
"It is the first great ball I ever was at in London,"
said Hetta Carbury to Paul Montague.
"And how do you like it?"
"Not at all.
How should I like it?
I know nobody here.
I don't understand how it is that at these parties people do know each other,
or whether they all go dancing about without knowing."
I suppose when they are used to it they get introduced backwards and forwards,
and then they can know each other as fast as they like.
If you would wish to dance why won't you dance with me?"
"I have danced with you,
"Is there any law against dancing three times?"
"But I don't especially want to dance,"
"I think I'll go and console poor mamma,
who has got nobody to speak to her."
Just at this moment,
Lady Carbury was not in that wretched condition,
as an unexpected friend had come to her relief.
Sir Felix and Marie Melmotte had been spinning round and round throughout a long waltz,
thoroughly enjoying the excitement of the music and the movement.
To give Felix Carbury what little praise might be his due,
it is necessary to say that he did not lack physical activity.
He would dance,
and shoot eagerly,
with an animation that made him happy for the moment.
It was an affair not of thought or calculation,
but of physical organisation.
And Marie Melmotte had been thoroughly happy.
She loved dancing with all her heart if she could only dance in a manner pleasant to herself.
She had been warned especially as to some men,
--that she should not dance with them.
She had been almost thrown into Lord Nidderdale's arms,
and had been prepared to take him at her father's bidding.
But she had never had the slightest pleasure in his society,
and had only not been wretched because she had not as yet recognised that she had an identity of her own in the disposition of which she herself should have a voice.
She certainly had never cared to dance with Lord Nidderdale.
Lord Grasslough she had absolutely hated,
though at first she had hardly dared to say so.
One or two others had been obnoxious to her in different ways,
but they had passed on,
or were passing on,
out of her way.
There was no one at the present moment whom she had been commanded by her father to accept should an offer be made.
But she did like dancing with Sir Felix Carbury.
It was not only that the man was handsome but that he had a power of changing the expression of his countenance,
a play of face,
which belied altogether his real disposition.
He could seem to be hearty and true till the moment came in which he had really to expose his heart,
--or to try to expose it.
Then he failed,
knowing nothing about it.
But in the approaches to intimacy with a girl he could be very successful.
He had already nearly got beyond this with Marie Melmotte;
but Marie was by no means quick in discovering his deficiencies.
To her he had seemed like a god.
If she might be allowed to be wooed by Sir Felix Carbury,
and to give herself to him,
she thought that she would be contented.
"How well you dance,"
said Sir Felix,
as soon as he had breath for speaking.
She spoke with a slightly foreign accent,
which gave a little prettiness to her speech.
"I was never told so.
But nobody ever told me anything about myself."
"I should like to tell you everything about yourself,
from the beginning to the end."
--but you don't know."
"I would find out.
I think I could make some good guesses.
I'll tell you what you would like best in all the world."
"What is that?"
"Somebody that liked you best in all the world."
if one knew who?"
"How can you know,
but by believing?"
"That is not the way to know.
If a girl told me that she liked me better than any other girl,
I should not know it,
just because she said so.
I should have to find it out."
"And if a gentleman told you so?"
"I shouldn't believe him a bit,
and I should not care to find out.
But I should like to have some girl for a friend whom I could love,
ten times better than myself."
"So should I."
"Have you no particular friend?"
"I mean a girl whom I could love,
ten times better than myself."
"Now you are laughing at me,
said Miss Melmotte.
"I wonder whether that will come to anything?"
said Paul Montague to Miss Carbury.
They had come back into the drawing-room,
and had been watching the approaches to love-making which the baronet was opening.
"You mean Felix and Miss Melmotte.
I hate to think of such things,
"It would be a magnificent chance for him."
"To marry a girl,
the daughter of vulgar people,
just because she will have a great deal of money?
He can't care for her really,
--because she is rich."
"But he wants money so dreadfully!
It seems to me that there is no other condition of things under which Felix can face the world,
but by being the husband of an heiress."
"What a dreadful thing to say!"
"But isn't it true?
He has beggared himself."
"And he will beggar you and your mother."
"I don't care about myself."
"Others do though."
As he said this he did not look at her,
but spoke through his teeth,
as if he were angry both with himself and her.
"I did not think you would have spoken so harshly of Felix."
"I don't speak harshly of him,
I haven't said that it was his own fault.
He seems to be one of those who have been born to spend money;
and as this girl will have plenty of money to spend,
I think it would be a good thing if he were to marry her.
If Felix had £20,000 a year,
everybody would think him the finest fellow in the world."
In saying this,
Mr. Paul Montague showed himself unfit to gauge the opinion of the world.
Whether Sir Felix be rich or poor,
evil-hearted as it is,
will never think him a fine fellow.
Lady Carbury had been seated for nearly half an hour in uncomplaining solitude under a bust,
when she was delighted by the appearance of Mr. Ferdinand Alf.
Melmotte and I are brother adventurers."
"I should have thought you would find so little here to amuse you."
"I have found you;
in addition to that,
duchesses and their daughters without number.
They expect Prince George!"
"And Legge Wilson from the India Office is here already.
I spoke to him in some jewelled bower as I made my way here,
not five minutes since.
It's quite a success.
Don't you think it very nice,
"I don't know whether you are joking or in earnest."
"I never joke.
I say it is very nice.
These people are spending thousands upon thousands to gratify you and me and others,
and all they want in return is a little countenance."
"Do you mean to give it then?"
"I am giving it them."
--but the countenance of the
Do you mean to give them that?"
it is not in our line exactly to give a catalogue of names and to record ladies' dresses.
Perhaps it may be better for our host himself that he should be kept out of the newspapers."
"Are you going to be very severe upon poor me,
said the lady after a pause.
"We are never severe upon anybody,
Here's the Prince.
What will they do with him now they've caught him!
they're going to make him dance with the heiress.
said Lady Carbury.
"Not at all.
She's a nice little girl enough,
and he'll have nothing to trouble him.
But how is she,
to talk to royal blood?"
Poor thing indeed!
The Prince was brought into the big room where Marie was still being talked to by Felix Carbury,
and was at once made to understand that she was to stand up and dance with royalty.
The introduction was managed in a very business-like manner.
Miles Grendall first came in and found the female victim;
the Duchess followed with the male victim.
who had been on her legs till she was ready to sink,
but was not allowed to take any part in the affair.
The band were playing a galop,
but that was stopped at once,
to the great confusion of the dancers.
In two minutes Miles Grendall had made up a set.
He stood up with his aunt,
as vis-a-vis to Marie and the Prince,
about the middle of the quadrille,
Legge Wilson was found and made to take his place.
Lord Buntingford had gone away;
but then there were still present two daughters of the Duchess who were rapidly caught.
Sir Felix Carbury,
being good-looking and having a name,
was made to dance with one of them,
and Lord Grasslough with the other.
There were four other couples,
all made up of titled people,
as it was intended that this special dance should be chronicled,
if not in the "Evening Pulpit,"
in some less serious daily journal.
A paid reporter was present in the house ready to rush off with the list as soon as the dance should be a realized fact.
The Prince himself did not quite understand why he was there,
but they who marshalled his life for him had so marshalled it for the present moment.
He himself probably knew nothing about the lady's diamonds which had been rescued,
or the considerable subscription to St. George's Hospital which had been extracted from Mr. Melmotte as a make-weight.
Poor Marie felt as though the burden of the hour would be greater than she could bear,
and looked as though she would have fled had flight been possible.
But the trouble passed quickly,
and was not really severe.
The Prince said a word or two between each figure,
and did not seem to expect a reply.
He made a few words go a long way,
and was well trained in the work of easing the burden of his own greatness for those who were for the moment inflicted with it.
When the dance was over he was allowed to escape after the ceremony of a single glass of champagne drank in the presence of the hostess.
Considerable skill was shown in keeping the presence of his royal guest a secret from the host himself till the Prince was gone.
Melmotte would have desired to pour out that glass of wine with his own hands,
to solace his tongue by Royal Highnesses,
and would probably have been troublesome and disagreeable.
Miles Grendall had understood all this and had managed the affair very well.
"Bless my soul;
--his Royal Highness come and gone!"
"You and my father were so fast at your whist that it was impossible to get you away,"
Melmotte was not a fool,
and understood it all;
--understood not only that it had been thought better that he should not speak to the Prince,
but also that it might be better that it should be so.
He could not have everything at once.
Miles Grendall was very useful to him,
and he would not quarrel with Miles,
at any rate as yet.
[Illustration: The Duchess followed with the male victim.]
"Have another rubber,
he said to Miles's father as the carriages were taking away the guests.
Lord Alfred had taken sundry glasses of champagne,
and for a moment forgot the bills in the safe,
and the good things which his boys were receiving.
"Damn that kind of nonsense,"
"Call people by their proper names."
Then he left the house without a further word to the master of it.
That night before they went to sleep Melmotte required from his weary wife an account of the ball,
and especially of Marie's conduct.
Madame Melmotte said,
"had behaved well,
but had certainly preferred
'Sir Carbury' to any other of the young men."
Hitherto Mr. Melmotte had heard very little of "Sir Carbury,"
except that he was a baronet.
Though his eyes and ears were always open,
though he attended to everything,
and was a man of sharp intelligence,
he did not yet quite understand the bearing and sequence of English titles.
He knew that he must get for his daughter either an eldest son,
or one absolutely in possession himself.
he had learned,
was only a baronet;
but then he was in possession.
He had discovered also that Sir Felix's son would in course of time also become Sir Felix.
He was not therefore at the present moment disposed to give any positive orders as to his daughter's conduct to the young baronet.
He did not,
conceive that the young baronet had as yet addressed his girl in such words as Felix had in truth used when they parted.
"You know who it is,"
"likes you better than any one else in the world."
he said as he held her hand for a minute.
He looked into her face and she thought it very sweet.
He had studied the words as a lesson,
repeating them as a lesson,
he did it fairly well.
He did it well enough at any rate to send the poor girl to bed with a sweet conviction that at last a man had spoken to her whom she could love.
CHAPTER V. AFTER THE BALL.
"It's weary work,"
said Sir Felix as he got into the brougham with his mother and sister.
"What must it have been to me then,
who had nothing to do?"
said his mother.
"It's the having something to do that makes me call it weary work.
now I think of it,
I'll run down to the club before I go home."
So saying he put his head out of the brougham,
and stopped the driver.
"It is two o'clock,
said his mother.
"I'm afraid it is,
but you see I'm hungry.
You had supper,
I had none."
"Are you going down to the club for supper at this time in the morning?"
"I must go to bed hungry if I don't.
Then he jumped out of the brougham,
called a cab,
and had himself driven to the Beargarden.
He declared to himself that the men there would think it mean of him if he did not give them their revenge.
He had renewed his play on the preceding night,
and had again won.
Dolly Longestaffe owed him now a considerable sum of money,
and Lord Grasslough was also in his debt.
He was sure that Grasslough would go to the club after the ball,
and he was determined that they should not think that he had submitted to be carried home by his mother and sister.
So he argued with himself;
but in truth the devil of gambling was hot within his bosom;
and though he feared that in losing he might lose real money,
and that if he won it would be long before he was paid,
yet he could not keep himself from the card-table.
Neither mother or daughter said a word till they reached home and had got up-stairs.
Then the elder spoke of the trouble that was nearest to her heart at the moment.
"Do you think he gambles?"
"He has got no money,
"I fear that might not hinder him.
And he has money with him,
for him and such friends as he has,
it is not much.
If he gambles everything is lost."
"I suppose they all do play,
--more or less."
"I have not known that he played.
I am wearied too,
out of all heart,
by his want of consideration to me.
It is not that he will not obey me.
A mother perhaps should not expect obedience from a grown-up son.
But my word is nothing to him.
He has no respect for me.
He would as soon do what is wrong before me as before the merest stranger."
"He has been so long his own master,
--his own master!
And yet I must provide for him as though he were but a child.
you spent the whole evening talking to Paul Montague."
--that is unjust."
"He was always with you."
"I knew nobody else.
I could not tell him not to speak to me.
I danced with him twice."
Her mother was seated,
with both her hands up to her forehead,
and shook her head.
"If you did not want me to speak to Paul you should not have taken me there."
"I don't wish to prevent your speaking to him.
You know what I want."
Henrietta came up and kissed her,
and bade her good night.
"I think I am the unhappiest woman in all London,"
"Is it my fault,
"You could save me from much if you would.
I work like a horse,
and I never spend a shilling that I can help.
I want nothing for myself,
--nothing for myself.
Nobody has suffered as I have.
But Felix never thinks of me for a moment."
"I think of you,
"If you did you would accept your cousin's offer.
What right have you to refuse him?
I believe it is all because of that young man."
it is not because of that young man.
I like my cousin very much;
--but that is all.
Lady Carbury just allowed herself to be kissed,
and then was left alone.
At eight o'clock the next morning daybreak found four young men who had just risen from a card-table at the Beargarden.
The Beargarden was so pleasant a club that there was no rule whatsoever as to its being closed,
--the only law being that it should not be opened before three in the afternoon.
A sort of sanction had,
been given to the servants to demur to producing supper or drinks after six in the morning,
unrelieved tobacco began to be too heavy even for juvenile constitutions.
The party consisted of Dolly Longestaffe,
and Felix Carbury,
and the four had amused themselves during the last six hours with various innocent games.
They had commenced with whist,
and had culminated during the last half-hour with blind hookey.
But during the whole night Felix had won.
Miles Grendall hated him,
and there had been an expressed opinion between Miles and the young lord that it would be both profitable and proper to relieve Sir Felix of the winnings of the last two nights.
The two men had played with the same object,
and being young had shown their intention,
--so that a certain feeling of hostility had been engendered.
The reader is not to understand that either of them had cheated,
or that the baronet had entertained any suspicion of foul play.
But Felix had felt that Grendall and Grasslough were his enemies,
and had thrown himself on Dolly for sympathy and friendship.
was very tipsy.
At eight o'clock in the morning there came a sort of settling,
though no money then passed.
The ready-money transactions had not lasted long through the night.
Grasslough was the chief loser,
and the figures and scraps of paper which had been passed over to Carbury,
when counted up,
amounted to nearly £2,000.
His lordship contested the fact bitterly,
but contested it in vain.
There were his own initials and his own figures,
and even Miles Grendall,
who was supposed to be quite wide awake,
could not reduce the amount.
Then Grendall had lost over £400 to Carbury,
that mattered little,
as Miles could,
as easily have raised £40,000.
he gave his I.O.U.
to his opponent with an easy air.
but he had a father,
but with them the matter would not be hopeless.
Dolly Longestaffe was so tipsy that he could not even assist in making up his own account.
That was to be left between him and Carbury for some future occasion.
"I suppose you'll be here to-morrow,
--that is to-night,"
--only one thing,"
"What one thing?"
"I think these things should be squared before we play any more!"
"What do you mean by that?"
said Grasslough angrily.
"Do you mean to hint anything?"
"I never hint anything,
"I believe when people play cards,
it's intended to be ready-money,
But I'm not going to stand on P's and Q's with you.
I'll give you your revenge to-night."
"That's all right,"
"I was speaking to Lord Grasslough,"
"He is an old friend,
and we know each other.
You have been rather rough to-night,
--what the devil do you mean by that?"
"And I think it will be as well that our account should be settled before we begin again."
"A settlement once a week is the kind of thing I'm used to,"
There was nothing more said;
but the young men did not part on good terms.
as he got himself taken home,
calculated that if he could realize his spoil,
he might begin the campaign again with horses,
and all luxuries as before.
If all were paid,
he would have over £3,000!
ROGER CARBURY AND PAUL MONTAGUE.
of Carbury Hall,
the owner of a small property in Suffolk,
was the head of the Carbury family.
The Carburys had been in Suffolk a great many years,
--certainly from the time of the War of the Roses,
--and had always held up their heads.
But they had never held them very high.
It was not known that any had risen ever to the honour of knighthood before Sir Patrick,
going higher than that,
had been made a baronet.
been true to their acres and their acres true to them through the perils of civil wars,
and the head Carbury of the day had always owned,
and had always lived at,
At the beginning of the present century the squire of Carbury had been a considerable man,
if not in his county,
at any rate in his part of the county.
The income of the estate had sufficed to enable him to live plenteously and hospitably,
to drink port wine,
to ride a stout hunter,
and to keep an old lumbering coach for his wife's use when she went avisiting.
He had an old butler who had never lived anywhere else,
and a boy from the village who was in a way apprenticed to the butler.
There was a cook,
not too proud to wash up her own dishes,
and a couple of young women;
--while the house was kept by Mrs. Carbury herself,
who marked and gave out her own linen,
made her own preserves,
and looked to the curing of her own hams.
In the year 1800 the Carbury property was sufficient for the Carbury house.
Since that time the Carbury property has considerably increased in value,
and the rents have been raised.
Even the acreage has been extended by the enclosure of commons.
But the income is no longer comfortably adequate to the wants of an English gentleman's household.
If a moderate estate in land be left to a man now,
there arises the question whether he is not damaged unless an income also be left to him wherewith to keep up the estate.
Land is a luxury,
and of all luxuries is the most costly.
Now the Carburys never had anything but land.
Suffolk has not been made rich and great either by coal or iron.
No great town had sprung up on the confines of the Carbury property.
No eldest son had gone into trade or risen high in a profession so as to add to the Carbury wealth.
No great heiress had been married.
There had been no ruin,
But in the days of which we write the Squire of Carbury Hall had become a poor man simply through the wealth of others.
His estate was supposed to bring him in £2,000 a year.
Had he been content to let the Manor House,
to live abroad,
and to have an agent at home to deal with the tenants,
he would undoubtedly have had enough to live luxuriously.
But he lived on his own land among his own people,
as all the Carburys before him had done,
and was poor because he was surrounded by rich neighbours.
The Longestaffes of Caversham,
--of which family Dolly Longestaffe was the eldest son and hope,
--had the name of great wealth,
but the founder of the family had been a Lord Mayor of London and a chandler as lately as in the reign of Queen Anne.
who could boast good blood enough on their own side,
had married into new money.
--though the good nature of the country folk had accorded to the head of them the title of Squire Primero,
--had been trading Spaniards fifty years ago,
and had bought the Bundlesham property from a great duke.
The estates of those three gentlemen,
with the domain of the Bishop of Elmham,
lay all around the Carbury property,
and in regard to wealth enabled their owners altogether to overshadow our squire.
The superior wealth of a bishop was nothing to him.
He desired that bishops should be rich,
and was among those who thought that the country had been injured when the territorial possessions of our prelates had been converted into stipends by Act of Parliament.
But the grandeur of the Longestaffes and the too apparent wealth of the Primeros did oppress him,
though he was a man who would never breathe a word of such oppression into the ear even of his dearest friend.
It was his opinion,
--which he did not care to declare loudly,
but which was fully understood to be his opinion by those with whom he lived intimately,
--that a man's standing in the world should not depend at all upon his wealth.
The Primeros were undoubtedly beneath him in the social scale,
although the young Primeros had three horses apiece,
and killed legions of pheasants annually at about 10-s-.
Hepworth of Eardly was a very good fellow,
who gave himself no airs and understood his duties as a country gentleman;
but he could not be more than on a par with Carbury of Carbury,
though he was supposed to enjoy £7,000 a year.
The Longestaffes were altogether oppressive.
even in the country,
had powdered hair.
They had a house in town,
--a house of their own,
--and lived altogether as magnates.
The lady was Lady Pomona Longestaffe.
who certainly were handsome,
had been destined to marry peers.
The only son,
or had had,
a fortune of his own.
They were an oppressive people in a country neighbourhood.
And to make the matter worse,
rich as they were,
they never were able to pay anybody anything that they owed.
They continued to live with all the appurtenances of wealth.
The girls always had horses to ride,
both in town and country.
The acquaintance of Dolly the reader has already made.
who certainly was a poor creature though good natured,
had energy in one direction.
He would quarrel perseveringly with his father,
who only had a life interest in the estate.
The house at Caversham Park was during six or seven months,
of the year full of servants,
if not of guests,
and all the tradesmen in the little towns around,
were aware that the Longestaffes were the great people of that country.
Though occasionally much distressed for money,
they would always execute the Longestaffe orders with submissive punctuality,
because there was an idea that the Longestaffe property was sound at the bottom.
the owner of a property so managed cannot scrutinise bills very closely.
Carbury of Carbury had never owed a shilling that he could not pay,
or his father before him.
His orders to the tradesmen at Beccles were not extensive,
and care was used to see that the goods supplied were neither overcharged nor unnecessary.
of Beccles did not care much for Carbury of Carbury;
--though perhaps one or two of the elders among them entertained some ancient reverence for the family.
was Carbury of Carbury,
--a distinction of itself,
from its nature,
could not belong to the Longestaffes and Primeros,
which did not even belong to the Hepworths of Eardly.
The very parish in which Carbury Hall stood,
--or Carbury Manor House,
as it was more properly called,
--was Carbury parish.
And there was Carbury Chase,
partly in Carbury parish and partly in Bundlesham,
in its entirety to the Bundlesham estate.
Roger Carbury himself was all alone in the world.
His nearest relatives of the name were Sir Felix and Henrietta,
but they were no more than second cousins.
He had sisters,
but they had long since been married and had gone away into the world with their husbands,
one to India,
and another to the far west of the United States.
At present he was not much short of forty years of age,
and was still unmarried.
He was a stout,
with a firmly set square face,
with features finely cut,
a small mouth,
and well-formed chin.
His hair was red,
curling round his head,
which was now partly bald at the top.
He wore no other beard than small,
almost unnoticeable whiskers.
His eyes were small,
and very cheery when his humour was good.
He was about five feet nine in height,
having the appearance of great strength and perfect health.
A more manly man to the eye was never seen.
And he was one with whom you would instinctively wish at first sight to be on good terms,
--partly because in looking at him there would come on you an unconscious conviction that he would be very stout in holding his own against his opponents;
partly also from a conviction equally strong,
that he would be very pleasant to his friends.
When Sir Patrick had come home from India as an invalid,
Roger Carbury had hurried up to see him in London,
and had proffered him all kindness.
Would Sir Patrick and his wife and children like to go down to the old place in the country?
Sir Patrick did not care a straw for the old place in the country,
and so told his cousin in almost those very words.
There had not,
been much friendship during Sir Patrick's life.
But when the violent ill-conditioned old man was dead,
Roger paid a second visit,
and again offered hospitality to the widow and her daughter,
--and to the young baronet.
The young baronet had just joined his regiment and did not care to visit his cousin in Suffolk;
but Lady Carbury and Henrietta had spent a month there,
and everything had been done to make them happy.
The effort as regarded Henrietta had been altogether successful.
As regarded the widow,
it must be acknowledged that Carbury Hall had not quite suited her tastes.
She had already begun to sigh for the glories of a literary career.
A career of some kind,
--sufficient to repay her for the sufferings of her early life,
--she certainly desired.
"Dear cousin Roger,"
as she called him,
had not seemed to her to have much power of assisting her in these views.
She was a woman who did not care much for country charms.
She had endeavoured to get up some mild excitement with the bishop,
but the bishop had been too plain spoken and sincere for her.
The Primeros had been odious;
the Hepworths stupid;
--she had endeavoured to make up a little friendship with Lady Pomona,
She had declared to Henrietta "that Carbury Hall was very dull."
But then there had come a circumstance which altogether changed her opinions as to Carbury Hall,
and its proprietor.
The proprietor after a few weeks followed them up to London,
and made a most matter-of-fact offer to the mother for the daughter's hand.
He was at that time thirty-six,
and Henrietta was not yet twenty.
He was very cool;
--some might have thought him phlegmatic in his love-making.
Henrietta declared to her mother that she had not in the least expected it.
But he was very urgent,
and very persistent.
Lady Carbury was eager on his side.
Though the Carbury Manor House did not exactly suit her,
it would do admirably for Henrietta.
And as for age,
to her thinking,
she being then over forty,
a man of thirty-six was young enough for any girl.
But Henrietta had an opinion of her own.
She liked her cousin,
but did not love him.
She was amazed,
and even annoyed by the offer.
She had praised him and praised the house so loudly to her mother,
--having in her innocence never dreamed of such a proposition as this,
--so that now she found it difficult to give an adequate reason for her refusal.
--she had undoubtedly said that her cousin was charming,
but she had not meant charming in that way.
She did refuse the offer very plainly,
but still with some apparent lack of persistency.
When Roger suggested that she should take a few months to think of it,
and her mother supported Roger's suggestion,
she could say nothing stronger than that she was afraid that thinking about it would not do any good.
Their first visit to Carbury had been made in September.
In the following February she went there again,
--much against the grain as far as her own wishes were concerned;
and when there had been cold,
almost dumb in the presence of her cousin.
Before they left the offer was renewed,
but Henrietta declared that she could not do as they would have her.
She could give no reason,
only she did not love her cousin in that way.
But Roger declared that he by no means intended to abandon his suit.
In truth he verily loved the girl,
and love with him was a serious thing.
All this happened a full year before the beginning of our present story.
But something else happened also.
While that second visit was being made at Carbury there came to the hall a young man of whom Roger Carbury had said much to his cousins,
--one Paul Montague,
of whom some short account shall be given in this chapter.
--Roger Carbury was always called the squire about his own place,
--had anticipated no evil when he so timed this second visit of his cousins to his house that they must of necessity meet Paul Montague there.
But great harm had come of it.
Paul Montague had fallen into love with his cousin's guest,
and there had sprung up much unhappiness.
Lady Carbury and Henrietta had been nearly a month at Carbury,
and Paul Montague had been there barely a week,
when Roger Carbury thus spoke to the guest who had last arrived.
"I've got to tell you something,
"Very serious to me.
I may say so serious that nothing in my own life can approach it in importance."
He had unconsciously assumed that look,
which his friend so thoroughly understood,
indicating his resolve to hold to what he believed to be his own,
and to fight if fighting be necessary.
Montague knew him well,
and became half aware that he had done something,
he knew not what,
militating against this serious resolve of his friend.
He looked up,
but said nothing.
"I have offered my hand in marriage to my cousin Henrietta,"
said Roger very gravely.
to Henrietta Carbury.
She has not accepted it.
She has refused me twice.
But I still have hopes of success.
Perhaps I have no right to hope,
but I do.
I tell it you just as it is.
Everything in life to me depends upon it.
I think I may count upon your sympathy."
"Why did you not tell me before?"
said Paul Montague in a hoarse voice.
Then there had come a sudden and rapid interchange of quick speaking between the men,
each of them speaking the truth exactly,
each of them declaring himself to be in the right and to be ill-used by the other,
each of them equally hot,
and equally unreasonable.
Montague at once asserted that he also loved Henrietta Carbury.
He blurted out his assurance in the baldest and most incomplete manner,
but still in such words as to leave no doubt.
--he had not said a word to her.
He had intended to consult Roger Carbury himself,
--should have done so in a day or two,
--perhaps on that very day had not Roger spoken to him.
"You have neither of you a shilling in the world,"
"and now you know what my feelings are you must abandon it."
Then Montague declared that he had a right to speak to Miss Carbury.
He did not suppose that Miss Carbury cared a straw about him.
He had not the least reason to think that she did.
It was altogether impossible.
But he had a right to his chance.
That chance was all the world to him.
As to money,
--he would not admit that he was a pauper,
he might earn an income as well as other men.
Had Carbury told him that the young lady had shown the slightest intention to receive his,
would at once have disappeared from the scene.
But as it was not so,
he would not say that he would abandon his hope.
The scene lasted for above an hour.
When it was ended,
Paul Montague packed up all his clothes and was driven away to the railway station by Roger himself,
without seeing either of the ladies.
There had been very hot words between the men,
but the last words which Roger spoke to the other on the railway platform were not quarrelsome in their nature.
"God bless you,
pressing Paul's hands.
Paul's eyes were full of tears,
and he replied only by returning the pressure.
Paul Montague's father and mother had long been dead.
The father had been a barrister in London,
having perhaps some small fortune of his own.
at any rate,
left to this son,
who was one among others,
a sufficiency with which to begin the world.
Paul when he had come of age had found himself possessed of about £6,000.
He was then at Oxford,
and was intended for the bar.
An uncle of his,
a younger brother of his father,
had married a Carbury,
the younger sister of two,
though older than her brother Roger.
This uncle many years since had taken his wife out to California,
and had there become an American.
He had a large tract of land,
but whether he prospered or whether he did not,
had not always been plain to the Montagues and Carburys at home.
The intercourse between the two families had in the quite early days of Paul Montague's life,
created an affection between him and Roger,
as will be understood by those who have carefully followed the above family history,
were not in any degree related to each other.
when quite a young man,
had had the charge of the boy's education,
and had sent him to Oxford.
But the Oxford scheme,
to be followed by the bar,
and to end on some one of the many judicial benches of the country,
had not succeeded.
Paul had got into a "row" at Balliol,
and had been rusticated,
--had then got into another row,
and was sent down.
Indeed he had a talent for rows,
as Roger Carbury always declared,
there was nothing really wrong about any of them.
Paul was then twenty-one,
and he took himself and his money out to California,
and joined his uncle.
He had perhaps an idea,
--based on very insufficient grounds,
--that rows are popular in California.
At the end of three years he found that he did not like farming life in California,
--and he found also that he did not like his uncle.
So he returned to England,
but on returning was altogether unable to get his £6,000 out of the Californian farm.
Indeed he had been compelled to come away without any of it,
with funds insufficient even to take him home,
accepting with much dissatisfaction an assurance from his uncle that an income amounting to ten per cent.
upon his capital should be remitted to him with the regularity of clockwork.
The clock alluded to must have been one of Sam Slick's.
It had gone very badly.
At the end of the first quarter there came the proper remittance;
--then half the amount;
--then there was a long interval without anything;
then some dropping payments now and again;
--and then a twelvemonth without anything.
At the end of that twelvemonth he paid a second visit to California,
having borrowed money from Roger for his journey.
He had now again returned,
with some little cash in hand,
and with the additional security of a deed executed in his favour by one Hamilton K. Fisker,
who had gone into partnership with his uncle,
and who had added a vast flour-mill to his uncle's concerns.
In accordance with this deed he was to get twelve per cent.
on his capital,
and had enjoyed the gratification of seeing his name put up as one of the firm,
which now stood as Fisker,
A business declared by the two elder partners to be most promising had been opened at Fiskerville,
about two hundred and fifty miles from San Francisco,
and the hearts of Fisker and the elder Montague were very high.
Paul hated Fisker horribly,
did not love his uncle much,
and would willingly have got back his £6,000 had he been able.
But he was not able,
and returned as one of Fisker,
not altogether unhappy,
as he had succeeded in obtaining enough of his back income to pay what he owed to Roger,
and to live for a few months.
He was intent on considering how he should bestow himself,
consulting daily with Roger on the subject,
when suddenly Roger had perceived that the young man was becoming attached to the girl whom he himself loved.
What then occurred has been told.
Not a word was said to Lady Carbury or her daughter of the real cause of Paul's sudden disappearance.
It had been necessary that he should go to London.
Each of the ladies probably guessed something of the truth,
but neither spoke a word to the other on the subject.
Before they left the Manor the squire again pleaded his cause with Henrietta,
but he pleaded it in vain.
Henrietta was colder than ever,
--but she made use of one unfortunate phrase which destroyed all the effect which her coldness might have had.
She said that she was too young to think of marrying yet.
She had meant to imply that the difference in their ages was too great,
but had not known how to say it.
It was easy to tell her that in a twelvemonth she would be older;
--but it was impossible to convince her that any number of twelvemonths would alter the disparity between her and her cousin.
But even that disparity was not now her strongest reason for feeling sure that she could not marry Roger Carbury.
Within a week of the departure of Lady Carbury from the Manor House,
Paul Montague returned,
and returned as a still dear friend.
He had promised before he went that he would not see Henrietta again for three months,
but he would promise nothing further.
"If she won't take you,
there is no reason why I shouldn't try."
That had been his argument.
Roger would not accede to the justice even of this.
It seemed to him that Paul was bound to retire altogether,
partly because he had got no income,
partly because of Roger's previous claim,
--partly no doubt in gratitude,
but of this last reason Roger never said a word.
If Paul did not see this himself,
Paul was not such a man as his friend had taken him to be.
Paul did see it himself,
and had many scruples.
But why should his friend be a dog in the manger?
He would yield at once to Roger Carbury's older claims if Roger could make anything of them.
Indeed he could have no chance if the girl were disposed to take Roger for her husband.
Roger had all the advantage of Carbury Manor at his back,
whereas he had nothing but his share in the doubtful business of Fisker,
in a wretched little town 250 miles further off than San Francisco!
with all this,
Roger could not prevail,
why should he not try?
What Roger said about want of money was mere nonsense.
Paul was sure that his friend would have created no such difficulty had not he himself been interested.
Paul declared to himself that he had money,
though doubtful money,
and that he certainly would not give up Henrietta on that score.
He came up to London at various times in search of certain employment which had been half promised him,
after the expiration of the three months,
constantly saw Lady Carbury and her daughter.
But from time to time he had given renewed promises to Roger Carbury that he would not declare his passion,
--now for two months,
then for six weeks,
then for a month.
In the meantime the two men were fast friends,
--so fast that Montague spent by far the greater part of his time as his friend's guest,
--and all this was done with the understanding that Roger Carbury was to blaze up into hostile wrath should Paul ever receive the privilege to call himself Henrietta Carbury's favoured lover,
but that everything was to be smooth between them should Henrietta be persuaded to become the mistress of Carbury Hall.
So things went on up to the night at which Montague met Henrietta at Madame Melmotte's ball.
The reader should also be informed that there had been already a former love affair in the young life of Paul Montague.
There had been,
and indeed there still was,
one Mrs. Hurtle,
whom he had been desperately anxious to marry before his second journey to California;
--but the marriage had been prevented by the interference of Roger Carbury.
Lady Carbury's desire for a union between Roger and her daughter was greatly increased by her solicitude in respect to her son.
Since Roger's offer had first been made,
Felix had gone on from bad to worse,
till his condition had become one of hopeless embarrassment.
If her daughter could but be settled in the world,
Lady Carbury said to herself,
she could then devote herself to the interests of her son.
She had no very clear idea of what that devotion would be.
But she did know that she had paid so much money for him,
and would have so much more extracted from her,
that it might well come to pass that she would be unable to keep a home for her daughter.
In all these troubles she constantly appealed to Roger Carbury for advice,
she never followed.
He recommended her to give up her house in town,
to find a home for her daughter elsewhere,
and also for Felix if he would consent to follow her.
Should he not so consent,
then let the young man bear the brunt of his own misdoings.
when he could no longer get bread in London he would find her out.
Roger was always severe when he spoke of the baronet,
--or seemed to Lady Carbury to be severe.
she did not ask for advice in order that she might follow it.
She had plans in her head with which she knew that Roger would not sympathise.
She still thought that Sir Felix might bloom and burst out into grandeur,
as the husband of a great heiress,
and in spite of her son's vices,
was proud of him in that anticipation.
When he succeeded in obtaining from her money,
as in the case of that £20,
with brazen-faced indifference to her remonstrances,
he started off to his club at two in the morning,
when with impudent drollery he almost boasted of the hopelessness of his debts,
a sickness of heart would come upon her,
and she would weep hysterically,
and lie the whole night without sleeping.
But could he marry Miss Melmotte,
and thus conquer all his troubles by means of his own personal beauty,
--then she would be proud of all that had passed.
With such a condition of mind Roger Carbury could have no sympathy.
To him it seemed that a gentleman was disgraced who owed money to a tradesman which he could not pay.
And Lady Carbury's heart was high with other hopes,
--in spite of her hysterics and her fears.
The "Criminal Queens" might be a great literary success.
She almost thought that it would be a success.
Leadham and Loiter,
were civil to her.
Mr. Broune had promised.
Mr. Booker had said that he would see what could be done.
She had gathered from Mr. Alf's caustic and cautious words that the book would be noticed in the "Evening Pulpit."
--she would not take dear Roger's advice as to leaving London.
But she would continue to ask Roger's advice.
Men like to have their advice asked.
she would arrange the marriage.
What country retirement could be so suitable for a Lady Carbury when she wished to retire for awhile,
--as Carbury Manor,
the seat of her own daughter?
And then her mind would fly away into regions of bliss.
If only by the end of this season Henrietta could be engaged to her cousin,
Felix be the husband of the richest bride in Europe,
and she be the acknowledged author of the cleverest book of the year,
what a Paradise of triumph might still be open to her after all her troubles!
Then the sanguine nature of the woman would bear her up almost to exultation,
and for an hour she would be happy,
in spite of everything.
A few days after the ball Roger Carbury was up in town,
and was closeted with her in her back drawing-room.
The declared cause of his coming was the condition of the baronet's affairs and the indispensable necessity,
--so Roger thought,
--of taking some steps by which at any rate the young man's present expenses might be brought to an end.
It was horrible to him that a man who had not a shilling in the world or any prospect of a shilling,
who had nothing and never thought of earning anything,
should have hunters!
He was very much in earnest about it,
and quite prepared to speak his mind to the young man himself,
--if he could get hold of him.
"Where is he now,
--at this moment?"
"I think he's out with the Baron."
Being "out with the Baron" meant that the young man was hunting with the stag hounds some forty miles away from London.
"How does he manage it?
Whose horses does he ride?
Who pays for them?"
"Don't be angry with me,
What can I do to prevent it?"
"I think you should refuse to have anything to do with him while he continues in such courses."
"My own son!"
But what is to be the end of it?
Is he to be allowed to ruin you,
It can't go on long."
"You wouldn't have me throw him over."
"I think he is throwing you over.
And then it is so thoroughly dishonest,
I don't understand how it goes on from day to day.
I suppose you don't supply him with ready money."
"He has had a little."
Roger frowned angrily.
"I can understand that you should provide him with bed and food,
but not that you should pander to his vices by giving him money."
This was very plain speaking,
and Lady Carbury winced under it.
"The kind of life that he is leading requires a large income of itself.
I understand the thing,
and know that with all I have in the world I could not do it myself."
"You are so different."
"I am older of course,
--very much older.
But he is not so young that he should not begin to comprehend.
Has he any money beyond what you give him?"
Then Lady Carbury revealed certain suspicions which she had begun to entertain during the last day or two.
"I think he has been playing."
"That is the way to lose money,
--not to get it,"
"I suppose somebody wins,
"They who win are the sharpers.
They who lose are the dupes.
I would sooner that he were a fool than a knave."
you are so severe!"
"You say he plays.
How would he pay,
were he to lose?"
"I know nothing about it.
I don't even know that he does play;
but I have reason to think that during the last week he has had money at his command.
Indeed I have seen it.
He comes home at all manner of hours and sleeps late.
Yesterday I went into his room about ten and did not wake him.
There were notes and gold lying on his table;
--ever so much."
"Why did you not take them?"
rob my own boy?"
"When you tell me that you are absolutely in want of money to pay your own bills,
and that he has not hesitated to take yours from you!
Why does he not repay you what he has borrowed?"
He ought to if he has it.
And there were papers there;
signed by other men."
"You looked at them."
"I saw as much as that.
It is not that I am curious,
but one does feel about one's own son.
I think he has bought another horse.
A groom came here and said something about it to the servants."
"If you could only induce him to stop the gambling!
Of course it is very bad whether he wins or loses,
--though I am sure that Felix would do nothing unfair.
Nobody ever said that of him.
If he has won money,
it would be a great comfort if he would let me have some of it,
to tell the truth,
I hardly know how to turn.
I am sure nobody can say that I spend it on myself."
Then Roger again repeated his advice.
There could be no use in attempting to keep up the present kind of life in Welbeck Street.
Welbeck Street might be very well without a penniless spendthrift such as Sir Felix,
but must be ruinous under the present conditions.
If Lady Carbury felt,
as no doubt she did feel,
bound to afford a home to her ruined son in spite of all his wickedness and folly,
that home should be found far away from London.
If he chose to remain in London,
let him do so on his own resources.
The young man should make up his mind to do something for himself.
A career might possibly be opened for him in India.
"If he be a man he would sooner break stones than live on you,"
he would see his cousin to-morrow and speak to him;
--that is if he could possibly find him.
"Young men who gamble all night,
and hunt all day are not easily found."
But he would come at twelve as Felix generally breakfasted at that hour.
Then he gave an assurance to Lady Carbury which to her was not the least comfortable part of the interview.
In the event of her son not giving her the money which she at once required he,
would lend her a hundred pounds till her half year's income should be due.
After that his voice changed altogether,
as he asked a question on another subject,
"Can I see Henrietta to-morrow?"
She is at home now,
"I will wait till to-morrow,
--when I call to see Felix.
I should like her to know that I am coming.
Paul Montague was in town the other day.
He was here,
"Was that all you saw of him?"
"He was at the Melmottes' ball.
Felix got a card for him;
--and we were there.
Has he gone down to Carbury?"
--not to Carbury.
I think he had some business about his partners at Liverpool.
There is another case of a young man without anything to do.
Not that Paul is at all like Sir Felix."
This he was induced to say by the spirit of honesty which was always strong within him.
"Don't be too hard upon poor Felix,"
said Lady Carbury.
as he took his leave,
thought that it would be impossible to be too hard upon Sir Felix Carbury.
The next morning Lady Carbury was in her son's bedroom before he was up,
and with incredible weakness told him that his cousin Roger was coming to lecture him.
"What the Devil's the use of it?"
said Felix from beneath the bedclothes.
"If you speak to me in that way,
I must leave the room."
"But what is the use of his coming to me?
I know what he has got to say just as if it were said.
It's all very well preaching sermons to good people,
but nothing ever was got by preaching to people who ain't good."
"Why shouldn't you be good?"
"I shall do very well,
if that fellow will leave me alone.
I can play my hand better than he can play it for me.
If you'll go now I'll get up."
She had intended to ask him for some of the money which she believed he still possessed,
but her courage failed her.
If she asked for his money,
and took it,
she would in some fashion recognise and tacitly approve his gambling.
It was not yet eleven,
and it was early for him to leave his bed;
but he had resolved that he would get out of the house before that horrible bore should be upon him with his sermon.
To do this he must be energetic.
He was actually eating his breakfast at half-past eleven,
and had already contrived in his mind how he would turn the wrong way as soon as he got into the street,
--towards Marylebone Road,
by which route Roger would certainly not come.
He left the house at ten minutes before twelve,
cunningly turned away,
dodging round by the first corner,
--and just as he had turned it encountered his cousin.
anxious in regard to his errand,
with time at his command,
had come before the hour appointed and had strolled about,
thinking not of Felix but of Felix's sister.
The baronet felt that he had been caught,
but by no means abandoned all hope of escape.
"I was going to your mother's house on purpose to see you,"
"Were you indeed?
I am so sorry.
I have an engagement out here with a fellow which I must keep.
I could meet you at any other time,
"You can come back for ten minutes,"
taking him by the arm.
--not conveniently at this moment."
"You must manage it.
I am here at your mother's request,
and can't afford to remain in town day after day looking for you.
I go down to Carbury this afternoon.
Your friend can wait.
His firmness was too much for Felix,
who lacked the courage to shake his cousin off violently,
and to go his way.
But as he returned he fortified himself with the remembrance of all the money in his pocket,
--for he still had his winnings,
--remembered too certain sweet words which had passed between him and Marie Melmotte since the ball,
and resolved that he would not be "sat upon" by Roger Carbury.
The time was coming,
--he might almost say that the time had come,
--in which he might defy Roger Carbury.
he dreaded the words which were now to be spoken to him with a craven fear.
"Your mother tells me,"
"that you still keep hunters."
"I don't know what she calls hunters.
I have one that I didn't part with when the others went."
"You have only one horse?"
--if you want to be exact,
I have a hack as well as the horse I ride."
"And another up here in town?"
"Who told you that?
At least there is one staying at some stables which has been sent for me to look at."
"Who pays for all these horses?"
"At any rate I shall not ask you to pay for them."
--you would be afraid to do that.
But you have no scruple in asking your mother,
though you should force her to come to me or to other friends for assistance.
You have squandered every shilling of your own,
and now you are ruining her."
"That isn't true.
I have money of my own."
"Where did you get it?"
"This is all very well,
but I don't know that you have any right to ask me these questions.
I have money.
If I buy a horse I can pay for it.
If I keep one or two I can pay for them.
Of course I owe a lot of money,
but other people owe me money too.
I'm all right,
and you needn't frighten yourself."
"Then why do you beg her last shilling from your mother,
and when you have money not pay it back to her?"
"She can have the twenty pounds,
if you mean that."
"I mean that,
and a good deal more than that.
I suppose you have been gambling."
"I don't know that I am bound to answer your questions,
and I won't do it.
If you have nothing else to say,
I'll go about my own business."
"I have something else to say,
and I mean to say it."
Felix had walked towards the door,
but Roger was before him,
and now leaned his back against it.
"I am not going to be kept here against my will,"
"You have to listen to me,
so you may as well sit still.
Do you wish to be looked upon as a blackguard by all the world?"
"That is what it will be.
You have spent every shilling of your own,
--and because your mother is affectionate and weak,
you are now spending all that she has,
and are bringing her and your sister to beggary."
"I don't ask them to pay anything for me."
"Not when you borrow her money?"
"There is the £20.
Take it and give it her,"
counting the notes out of the pocket-book.
"When I asked her for it,
I did not think she would make such a row about such a trifle."
Roger took up the notes and thrust them into his pocket.
have you done?"
"There's the £20."]
Do you purpose that your mother should keep you and clothe you for the rest of your life?"
"I hope to be able to keep her before long,
and to do it much better than it has ever been done before.
The truth is,
you know nothing about it.
If you'll leave me to myself,
you'll find that I shall do very well."
"I don't know any young man who ever did worse,
or one who had less moral conception of what is right and wrong."
That's your idea.
I differ from you.
People can't all think alike,
if you please,
Roger felt that he hadn't half said what he had to say,
but he hardly knew how to get it said.
And of what use could it be to talk to a young man who was altogether callous and without feeling?
The remedy for the evil ought to be found in the mother's conduct rather than the son's.
were she not foolishly weak,
would make up her mind to divide herself utterly from her son,
at any rate for a while,
and to leave him to suffer utter penury.
That would bring him round.
And then when the agony of want had tamed him,
he would be content to take bread and meat from her hand and would be humble.
At present he had money in his pocket,
and would eat and drink of the best,
and be free from inconvenience for the moment.
While this prosperity remained it would be impossible to touch him.
"You will ruin your sister,
and break your mother's heart,"
firing a last harmless shot after the young reprobate.
When Lady Carbury came into the room,
which she did as soon as the front door was closed behind her son,
she seemed to think that a great success had been achieved because the £20 had been recovered.
"I knew he would give it me back,
if he had it,"
"Why did he not bring it to you of his own accord?"
"I suppose he did not like to talk about it.
Has he said that he got it by --playing?"
--he did not speak a word of truth while he was here.
You may take it for granted that he did get it by gambling.
How else should he have it?
And you may take it for granted also that he will lose all that he has got.
He talked in the wildest way,
--saying that he would soon have a home for you and Hetta."
"Had he any meaning?"
And it is quite on the cards that it should be so.
You have heard of Miss Melmotte."
"I have heard of the great French swindler who has come over here,
and who is buying his way into society."
"Everybody visits them now,
"More shame for everybody.
Who knows anything about him,
--except that he left Paris with the reputation of a specially prosperous rogue?
But what of him?"
"Some people think that Felix will marry his only child.
Felix is handsome;
What young man is there nearly so handsome?
They say she'll have half a million of money."
"That's his game;
"Don't you think he is right?"
I think he's wrong.
But we shall hardly agree with each other about that.
Can I see Henrietta for a few minutes?"
Roger Carbury said well that it was very improbable that he and his cousin,
should agree in their opinions as to the expedience of fortune-hunting by marriage.
It was impossible that they should ever understand each other.
To Lady Carbury the prospect of a union between her son and Miss Melmotte was one of unmixed joy and triumph.
Could it have been possible that Marie Melmotte should be rich and her father be a man doomed to a deserved sentence in a penal settlement,
there might perhaps be a doubt about it.
The wealth even in that case would certainly carry the day against the disgrace,
and Lady Carbury would find reasons why "poor Marie" should not be punished for her father's sins,
even while enjoying the money which those sins had produced.
But how different were the existing facts?
Mr. Melmotte was not at the galleys,
but was entertaining duchesses in Grosvenor Square.
People said that Mr. Melmotte had a reputation throughout Europe as a gigantic swindler,
--as one who in the dishonest and successful pursuit of wealth had stopped at nothing.
People said of him that he had framed and carried out long premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruin of those who had trusted him,
that he had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him,
that he was fed with the blood of widows and children;
--but what was all this to Lady Carbury?
If the duchesses condoned it all,
did it become her to be prudish?
People also said that Melmotte would yet get a fall,
--that a man who had risen after such a fashion never could long keep his head up.
But he might keep his head up long enough to give Marie her fortune.
And then Felix wanted a fortune so badly;
--was so exactly the young man who ought to marry a fortune!
To Lady Carbury there was no second way of looking at the matter.
And to Roger Carbury also there was no second way of looking at it.
That condonation of antecedents which,
in the hurry of the world,
is often vouchsafed to success,
that growing feeling which induces people to assert to themselves that they are not bound to go outside the general verdict,
and that they may shake hands with whomsoever the world shakes hands with,
had never reached him.
The old-fashioned idea that the touching of pitch will defile still prevailed with him.
He was a gentleman;
--and would have felt himself disgraced to enter the house of such a one as Augustus Melmotte.
Not all the duchesses in the peerage,
or all the money in the city,
could alter his notions or induce him to modify his conduct.
But he knew that it would be useless for him to explain this to Lady Carbury.
that one of the family might be taught to appreciate the difference between honour and dishonour.
Henrietta Carbury had,
a higher turn of mind than her mother,
and had as yet been kept free from soil.
As for Felix,
--he had so grovelled in the gutters as to be dirt all over.
Nothing short of the prolonged sufferings of half a life could cleanse him.
He found Henrietta alone in the drawing-room.
"Have you seen Felix?"
as soon as they had greeted each other.
I caught him in the street."
"We are so unhappy about him."
"I cannot say but that you have reason.
that your mother indulges him foolishly."
She worships the very ground he treads on."
"Even a mother should not throw her worship away like that.
The fact is that your brother will ruin you both if this goes on."
"What can mamma do?"
and then refuse to pay a shilling on his behalf."
"What would Felix do in the country?"
"If he did nothing,
how much better would that be than what he does in town?
You would not like him to become a professional gambler."
you do not mean that he does that!"
"It seems cruel to say such things to you,
--but in a matter of such importance one is bound to speak the truth.
I have no influence over your mother;
but you may have some.
She asks my advice,
but has not the slightest idea of listening to it.
I don't blame her for that;
but I am anxious for the sake of --,
for the sake of the family."
"I am sure you are."
"Especially for your sake.
You will never throw him over."
"You would not ask me to throw him over."
"But he may drag you into the mud.
For his sake you have already been taken into the house of that man Melmotte."
"I do not think that I shall be injured by anything of that kind,"
drawing herself up.
"Pardon me if I seem to interfere."
--it is no interference from you."
"Pardon me then if I am rough.
To me it seems that an injury is done to you if you are made to go to the house of such a one as this man.
Why does your mother seek his society?
Not because she likes him;
not because she has any sympathy with him or his family;
--but simply because there is a rich daughter."
"Everybody goes there,
--that is the excuse which everybody makes.
Is that sufficient reason for you to go to a man's house?
Is there not another place to which we are told that a great many are going,
simply because the road has become thronged and fashionable?
Have you no feeling that you ought to choose your friends for certain reasons of your own?
I admit there is one reason here.
They have a great deal of money,
and it is thought possible that he may get some of it by falsely swearing to a girl that he loves her.
After what you have heard,
are the Melmottes people with whom you would wish to be connected?"
"I don't know."
I know very well.
They are absolutely disgraceful.
A social connection with the first crossing-sweeper would be less objectionable."
He spoke with a degree of energy of which he was himself altogether unaware.
He knit his brows,
and his eyes flashed,
and his nostrils were extended.
Of course she thought of his own offer to herself.
Of course her mind at once conceived,
--not that the Melmotte connection could ever really affect him,
for she felt sure that she would never accept his offer,
--but that he might think that he would be so affected.
Of course she resented the feeling which she thus attributed to him.
he was much too simple-minded for any such complex idea.
"has already descended so far that I cannot pretend to be anxious as to what houses he may frequent.
But I should be sorry to think that you should often be seen at Mr. Melmotte's."
that mamma will take care that I am not taken where I ought not to be taken."
"I wish you to have some opinion of your own as to what is proper for you."
"I hope I have.
I am sorry you should think that I have not."
"I am old-fashioned,
"And we belong to a newer and worse sort of world.
I dare say it is so.
You have been always very kind,
but I almost doubt whether you can change us now.
I have sometimes thought that you and mamma were hardly fit for each other."
"I have thought that you and I were,
--or possibly might be fit for each other."
--as for me,
I shall always take mamma's side.
If mamma chooses to go to the Melmottes I shall certainly go with her.
If that is contamination,
I suppose I must be contaminated.
I don't see why I'm to consider myself better than any one else."
"I have always thought that you were better than any one else."
"That was before I went to the Melmottes.
I am sure you have altered your opinion now.
you have told me so.
I am afraid,
you must go your way,
and we must go ours."
He looked into her face as she spoke,
and gradually began to perceive the working of her mind.
He was so true himself that he did not understand that there should be with her even that violet-coloured tinge of prevarication which women assume as an additional charm.
Could she really have thought that he was attending to his own possible future interests when he warned her as to the making of new acquaintances?
putting out his hand and making a slight vain effort to get hold of hers,
"I have only one wish in the world;
and that is,
to travel the same road with you.
I do not say that you ought to wish it too;
but you ought to know that I am sincere.
When I spoke of the Melmottes,
did you believe that I was thinking of myself?"
--how should I?"
"I was speaking to you then as to a cousin who might regard me as an elder brother.
No contact with legions of Melmottes could make you other to me than the woman on whom my heart has settled.
Even were you in truth disgraced,
--could disgrace touch one so pure as you,
--it would be the same.
I love you so well that I have already taken you for better or for worse.
I cannot change.
My nature is too stubborn for such changes.
Have you a word to say to comfort me?"
She turned away her head,
but did not answer him at once.
"Do you understand how much I am in need of comfort?"
"You can do very well without comfort from me."
I shall live,
but I shall not do very well.
As it is,
I am not doing at all well.
I am becoming sour and moody,
and ill at ease with my friends.
I would have you believe me,
at any rate,
when I say I love you."
"I suppose you mean something."
"I mean a great deal,
I mean all that a man can mean.
That is it.
You hardly understand that I am serious to the extent of ecstatic joy on the one side,
and utter indifference to the world on the other.
I shall never give it up till I learn that you are to be married to some one else."
"What can I say,
"That you will love me."
"But if I don't?"
"Say that you will try."
I will not say that.
Love should come without a struggle.
I don't know how one person is to try to love another in that way.
I like you very much;
but being married is such a terrible thing."
"It would not be terrible to me,
--when you found that I was too young for your tastes."
"I shall persevere,
Will you assure me of this,
--that if you promise your hand to another man,
you will let me know at once?"
"I suppose I may promise that,"
after pausing for a moment.
"There is no one as yet?"
"There is no one.
you have no right to question me.
I don't think it generous.
I allow you to say things that nobody else could say because you are a cousin and because mamma trusts you so much.
No one but mamma has a right to ask me whether I care for any one."
"Are you angry with me?"
"If I have offended you it is because I love you so dearly."
"I am not offended,
but I don't like to be questioned by a gentleman.
I don't think any girl would like it.
I am not to tell everybody all that happens."
"Perhaps when you reflect how much of my happiness depends upon it you will forgive me.
She put out her hand to him and allowed it to remain in his for a moment.
"When I walk about the old shrubberies at Carbury where we used to be together,
I am always asking myself what chance there is of your walking there as the mistress."
"There is no chance."
prepared to hear you say so.
and may God bless you."
The man had no poetry about him.
He did not even care for romance.
All the outside belongings of love which are so pleasant to many men and which to many women afford the one sweetness in life which they really relish,
were nothing to him.
There are both men and women to whom even the delays and disappointments of love are charming,
even when they exist to the detriment of hope.
It is sweet to such persons to be melancholy,
sweet to pine,
sweet to feel that they are now wretched after a romantic fashion as have been those heroes and heroines of whose sufferings they have read in poetry.
But there was nothing of this with Roger Carbury.
as he believed,
found the woman that he really wanted,
who was worthy of his love,
having fixed his heart upon her,
he longed for her with an amazing longing.
He had spoken the simple truth when he declared that life had become indifferent to him without her.
No man in England could be less likely to throw himself off the Monument or to blow out his brains.
But he felt numbed in all the joints of his mind by this sorrow.
He could not make one thing bear upon another,
so as to console himself after any fashion.
There was but one thing for him;
--to persevere till he got her,
or till he had finally lost her.
And should the latter be his fate,
as he began to fear that it would be,
he would live,
but live only,
like a crippled man.
He felt almost sure in his heart of hearts that the girl loved that other,
That she had never owned to such love he was quite sure.
The man himself and Henrietta also had both assured him on this point,
and he was a man easily satisfied by words and prone to believe.
But he knew that Paul Montague was attached to her,
and that it was Paul's intention to cling to his love.
Sorrowfully looking forward through the vista of future years,
he thought he saw that Henrietta would become Paul's wife.
Were it so,
what should he do?
Annihilate himself as far as all personal happiness in the world was concerned,
and look solely to their happiness,
and their joys?
Be as it were a beneficent old fairy to them,
though the agony of his own disappointment should never depart from him?
Should he do this,
and be blessed by them,
--or should he let Paul Montague know what deep resentment such ingratitude could produce?
When had a father been kinder to a son,
or a brother to a brother,
than he had been to Paul?
His home had been the young man's home,
and his purse the young man's purse.
What right could the young man have to come upon him just as he was perfecting his bliss and rob him of all that he had in the world?
He was conscious all the while that there was a something wrong in his argument,
--that Paul when he commenced to love the girl knew nothing of his friend's love,
--that the girl,
though Paul had never come in the way,
might probably have been as obdurate as she was now to his entreaties.
He knew all this because his mind was clear.
But yet the injustice,
--at any rate,
the misery was so great,
that to forgive it and to reward it would be weak,
Roger Carbury did not quite believe in the forgiveness of injuries.
If you pardon all the evil done to you,
you encourage others to do you evil!
If you give your cloak to him who steals your coat,
how long will it be before your shirt and trousers will go also?
Roger Carbury returned that afternoon to Suffolk,
and as he thought of it all throughout the journey,
he resolved that he would never forgive Paul Montague if Paul Montague should become his cousin's husband.
THE GREAT RAILWAY TO VERA CRUZ.
"You have been a guest in his house.
the thing's about as good as done."
These words were spoken with a fine,
nasal twang by a brilliantly-dressed American gentleman in one of the smartest private rooms of the great railway hotel at Liverpool,
and they were addressed to a young Englishman who was sitting opposite to him.
Between them there was a table covered with maps,
and printed programmes.
The American was smoking a very large cigar,
which he kept constantly turning in his mouth,
and half of which was inside his teeth.
The Englishman had a short pipe.
Mr. Hamilton K. Fisker,
of the firm of Fisker,
was the American,
and the Englishman was our friend Paul,
the junior member of that firm.
"But I didn't even speak to him,"
"In commercial affairs that matters nothing.
It quite justifies you in introducing me.
We are not going to ask your friend to do us a favour.
We don't want to borrow money."
"I thought you did."
"If he'll go in for the thing he'd be one of us,
and there would be no borrowing then.
He'll join us if he's as clever as they say,
because he'll see his way to making a couple of million of dollars out of it.
If he'd take the trouble to run over and show himself in San Francisco,
he'd make double that.
The moneyed men would go in with him at once,
because they know that he understands the game and has got the pluck.
A man who has done what he has by financing in Europe,
there's no limit to what he might do with us.
We're a bigger people than any of you and have more room.
We go after bigger things,
and don't stand shilly-shally on the brink as you do.
But Melmotte pretty nigh beats the best among us.
Anyway he should come and try his luck,
and he couldn't have a bigger thing or a safer thing than this.
He'd see it immediately if I could talk to him for half an hour."
said Paul mysteriously,
"as we are partners,
I think I ought to let you know that many people speak very badly of Mr. Melmotte's honesty."
Mr. Fisker smiled gently,
turned his cigar twice round in his mouth,
and then closed one eye.
"There is always a want of charity,"
"when a man is successful."
The scheme in question was the grand proposal for a South Central Pacific and Mexican railway,
which was to run from the Salt Lake City,
thus branching off from the San Francisco and Chicago line,
--and pass down through the fertile lands of New Mexico and Arizona,
into the territory of the Mexican Republic,
run by the city of Mexico,
and come out on the gulf at the port of Vera Cruz.
Mr. Fisker admitted at once that it was a great undertaking,
acknowledged that the distance might be perhaps something over 2,000 miles,
acknowledged that no computation had or perhaps could be made as to the probable cost of the railway;
but seemed to think that questions such as these were beside the mark and childish.
if he would go into the matter at all,
would ask no such questions.
But we must go back a little.
Paul Montague had received a telegram from his partner,
Hamilton K. Fisker,
sent on shore at Queenstown from one of the New York liners,
requesting him to meet Fisker at Liverpool immediately.
With this request he had felt himself bound to comply.
Personally he had disliked Fisker,
--and perhaps not the less so because when in California he had never found himself able to resist the man's good humour,
and cleverness combined.
He had found himself talked into agreeing with any project which Mr. Fisker might have in hand.
It was altogether against the grain with him,
and yet by his own consent,
that the flour-mill had been opened at Fiskerville.
He trembled for his money and never wished to see Fisker again;
when Fisker came to England,
he was proud to remember that Fisker was his partner,
and he obeyed the order and went down to Liverpool.
If the flour-mill had frightened him,
what must the present project have done!
Fisker explained that he had come with two objects,
--first to ask the consent of the English partner to the proposed change in their business,
and secondly to obtain the co-operation of English capitalists.
The proposed change in the business meant simply the entire sale of the establishment at Fiskerville,
and the absorption of the whole capital in the work of getting up the railway.
"If you could realise all the money it wouldn't make a mile of the railway,"
Mr. Fisker laughed at him.
The object of Fisker,
and Montague was not to make a railway to Vera Cruz,
but to float a company.
Paul thought that Mr. Fisker seemed to be indifferent whether the railway should ever be constructed or not.
It was clearly his idea that fortunes were to be made out of the concern before a spadeful of earth had been moved.
If brilliantly printed programmes might avail anything,
with gorgeous maps,
and beautiful little pictures of trains running into tunnels beneath snowy mountains and coming out of them on the margin of sunlit lakes,
Mr. Fisker had certainly done much.
when he saw all these pretty things,
could not keep his mind from thinking whence had come the money to pay for them.
Mr. Fisker had declared that he had come over to obtain his partner's consent,
but it seemed to that partner that a great deal had been done without any consent.
And Paul's fears on this hand were not allayed by finding that on all these beautiful papers he himself was described as one of the agents and general managers of the company.
Each document was signed Fisker,
References on all matters were to be made to Fisker,
--and in one of the documents it was stated that a member of the firm had proceeded to London with the view of attending to British interests in the matter.
Fisker had seemed to think that his young partner would express unbounded satisfaction at the greatness which was thus falling upon him.
A certain feeling of importance,
not altogether unpleasant,
but at the same time there was another conviction forced upon Montague's mind,
not altogether pleasant,
that his money was being made to disappear without any consent given by him,
and that it behoved him to be cautious lest such consent should be extracted from him unawares.
"What has become of the mill?"
"We have put an agent into it."
"Is not that dangerous?
What check have you on him?"
"He pays us a fixed sum,
when there is such a thing as this on hand a trumpery mill like that is not worth speaking of."
"You haven't sold it?"
But we've arranged a price for a sale."
"You haven't taken the money for it?"
We've raised money on it,
You see you weren't there,
and so the two resident partners acted for the firm.
But Mr. Montague,
you'd better go with us.
You had indeed."
"And about my own income?"
"That's a flea-bite.
When we've got a little ahead with this it won't matter,
whether you spend twenty thousand or forty thousand dollars a year.
We've got the concession from the United States Government through the territories,
and we're in correspondence with the President of the Mexican Republic.
I've no doubt we've an office open already in Mexico and another at Vera Cruz."
"Where's the money to come from?"
"Money to come from,
Where do you suppose the money comes from in all these undertakings?
If we can float the shares,
the money'll come in quick enough.
We hold three million dollars of the stock ourselves."
"Six hundred thousand pounds!"
"We take them at par,
--and as we sell we shall pay for them.
But of course we shall only sell at a premium.
If we can run them up even to 110,
there would be three hundred thousand dollars.
But we'll do better than that.
I must try and see Melmotte at once.
You had better write a letter now."
"I don't know the man."
Look here --I'll write it,
and you can sign it."
Whereupon Mr. Fisker did write the following letter: --
--I have the pleasure of informing you that my partner,
of San Francisco,
--is now in London with the view of allowing British capitalists to assist in carrying out perhaps the greatest work of the age,
the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway,
which is to give direct communication between San Francisco and the Gulf of Mexico.
He is very anxious to see you upon his arrival,
as he is aware that your co-operation would be desirable.
We feel assured that with your matured judgment in such matters you would see at once the magnificence of the enterprise.
If you will name a day and an hour,
Mr. Fisker will call upon you.
I have to thank you and Madame Melmotte for a very pleasant evening spent at your house last week.
Mr. Fisker proposes returning to New York.
I shall remain here,
superintending the British interests which may be involved.
I have the honour to be,
Most faithfully yours,
-- -- -- --.
"But I have never said that I would superintend the interests,"
"You can say so now.
It binds you to nothing.
You regular John Bull Englishmen are so full of scruples that you lose as much of life as should serve to make an additional fortune."
After some further conversation Paul Montague recopied the letter and signed it.
He did it with doubt,
--almost with dismay.
But he told himself that he could do no good by refusing.
If this wretched American,
with his hat on one side and rings on his fingers,
had so far got the upper hand of Paul's uncle as to have been allowed to do what he liked with the funds of the partnership,
Paul could not stop it.
On the following morning they went up to London together,
and in the course of the afternoon Mr. Fisker presented himself in Abchurch Lane.
The letter written at Liverpool,
but dated from the Langham Hotel,
had been posted at the Euston Square Railway Station at the moment of Fisker's arrival.
Fisker sent in his card,
and was asked to wait.
In the course of twenty minutes he was ushered into the great man's presence by no less a person than Miles Grendall.
It has been already said that Mr. Melmotte was a big man with large whiskers,
and with an expression of mental power on a harsh vulgar face.
He was certainly a man to repel you by his presence unless attracted to him by some internal consideration.
He was magnificent in his expenditure,
powerful in his doings,
successful in his business,
and the world around him therefore was not repelled.
on the other hand,
was a shining little man,
--perhaps about forty years of age,
with a well-twisted moustache,
greasy brown hair,
which was becoming bald at the top,
good-looking if his features were analysed,
but insignificant in appearance.
He was gorgeously dressed,
with a silk waistcoat and chains,
and he carried a little stick.
One would at first be inclined to say that Fisker was not much of a man;
but after a little conversation most men would own that there was something in Fisker.
He was troubled by no shyness,
by no scruples,
and by no fears.
His mind was not capacious,
but such as it was it was his own,
and he knew how to use it.
Abchurch Lane is not a grand site for the offices of a merchant prince.
at a small corner house,
there was a small brass plate on a swing door,
bearing the words "Melmotte & Co."
Of whom the Co.
was composed no one knew.
In one sense Mr. Melmotte might be said to be in company with all the commercial world,
for there was no business to which he would refuse his co-operation on certain terms.
But he had never burthened himself with a partner in the usual sense of the term.
Here Fisker found three or four clerks seated at desks,
and was desired to walk up-stairs.
The steps were narrow and crooked,
and the rooms were small and irregular.
Here he stayed for a while in a small dark apartment in which "The Daily Telegraph" was left for the amusement of its occupant till Miles Grendall announced to him that Mr. Melmotte would see him.
The millionaire looked at him for a moment or two,
just condescending to touch with his fingers the hand which Fisker had projected.
"I don't seem to remember,"
"the gentleman who has done me the honour of writing to me about you."
"I dare say not,
When I'm at home in San Francisco,
I make acquaintance with a great many gents whom I don't remember afterwards.
My partner I think told me that he went to your house with his friend,
Sir Felix Carbury."
"I know a young man called Sir Felix Carbury."
I could have got any amount of introductions to you if I had thought this would not have sufficed."
Mr. Melmotte bowed.
"Our account here in London is kept with the City and West End Joint Stock.
But I have only just arrived,
and as my chief object in coming to London is to see you,
and as I met my partner,
I took a note from him and came on straight."
"And what can I do for you,
Then Mr. Fisker began his account of the Great South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway,
and exhibited considerable skill by telling it all in comparatively few words.
And yet he was gorgeous and florid.
In two minutes he had displayed his programme,
and his pictures before Mr. Melmotte's eyes,
taking care that Mr. Melmotte should see how often the names of Fisker,
reappeared upon them.
As Mr. Melmotte read the documents,
Fisker from time to time put in a word.
But the words had no reference at all to the future profits of the railway,
or to the benefit which such means of communication would confer upon the world at large;
but applied solely to the appetite for such stock as theirs,
which might certainly be produced in the speculating world by a proper manipulation of the affairs.
[Illustration: Then Mr. Fisker began his account.]
"You seem to think you couldn't get it taken up in your own country,"
"There's not a doubt about getting it all taken up there.
are quick enough at the game;
but you don't want me to teach you,
that nothing encourages this kind of thing like competition.
When they hear at St. Louis and Chicago that the thing is alive in London,
they'll be alive there.
And it's the same here,
When they know that the stock is running like wildfire in America,
they'll make it run here too."
"How far have you got?"
"What we've gone to work upon is a concession for making the line from the United States Congress.
We're to have the land for nothing,
and a grant of one thousand acres round every station,
the stations to be twenty-five miles apart."
"And the land is to be made over to you,
"When we have made the line up to the station."
Fisker understood perfectly that Mr. Melmotte did not ask the question in reference to any value that he might attach to the possession of such lands,
but to the attractiveness of such a prospectus in the eyes of the outside world of speculators.
"And what do you want me to do,
"I want to have your name there,"
And he placed his finger down on a spot on which it was indicated that there was,
or was to be,
a chairman of an English Board of Directors,
but with a space for the name,
"Who are to be your directors here,
"We should ask you to choose them,
Mr. Paul Montague should be one,
and perhaps his friend Sir Felix Carbury might be another.
We could get probably one of the Directors of the City and West End.
But we would leave it all to you,
--as also the amount of stock you would like to take yourself.
If you gave yourself to it,
heart and soul,
it would be the finest thing that there has been out for a long time.
There would be such a mass of stock!"
"You have to back that with a certain amount of paid-up capital?"
"We take care,
in the West not to cripple commerce too closely by old-fashioned bandages.
Look at what we've done already,
by having our limbs pretty free.
Look at our line,
right across the continent,
from San Francisco to New York.
Look at --"
"Never mind that,
People wanted to go from New York to San Francisco,
and I don't know that they do want to go to Vera Cruz.
But I will look at it,
and you shall hear from me."
The interview was over,
and Mr. Fisker was contented with it.
Had Mr. Melmotte not intended at least to think of it he would not have given ten minutes to the subject.
what was wanted from Mr. Melmotte was little more than his name,
for the use of which Mr. Fisker proposed that he should receive from the speculative public two or three hundred thousand pounds.
At the end of a fortnight from the date of Mr. Fisker's arrival in London,
the company was fully launched in England,
with a body of London directors,
of whom Mr. Melmotte was the chairman.
Among the directors were Lord Alfred Grendall,
Sir Felix Carbury,
Member of Parliament for Staines,
a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion,
who was also in Parliament,
and Mr. Paul Montague.
It may be thought that the directory was not strong,
and that but little help could be given to any commercial enterprise by the assistance of Lord Alfred or Sir Felix;
--but it was felt that Mr. Melmotte was himself so great a tower of strength that the fortune of the company,
--as a company,
CHAPTER X. Mr. FISKER'S SUCCESS.
Mr. Fisker was fully satisfied with the progress he had made,
but he never quite succeeded in reconciling Paul Montague to the whole transaction.
Mr. Melmotte was indeed so great a reality,
such a fact in the commercial world of London,
that it was no longer possible for such a one as Montague to refuse to believe in the scheme.
Melmotte had the telegraph at his command,
and had been able to make as close inquiries as though San Francisco and Salt Lake City had been suburbs of London.
He was chairman of the British branch of the Company,
and had had shares allocated to him,
--or as he said to the house,
--to the extent of two millions of dollars.
But still there was a feeling of doubt,
and a consciousness that Melmotte,
though a tower of strength,
was thought by many to have been built upon the sands.
Paul had now of course given his full authority to the work,
much in opposition to the advice of his old friend Roger Carbury,
--and had come up to live in town,
that he might personally attend to the affairs of the great railway.
There was an office just behind the Exchange,
with two or three clerks and a secretary,
the latter position being held by Miles Grendall,
who had a conscience in the matter and was keenly alive to the fact that he was not only a director but was also one of the firm of Fisker,
and Montague which was responsible for the whole affair,
was grievously anxious to be really at work,
and would attend most inopportunely at the Company's offices.
who still lingered in London,
did his best to put a stop to this folly,
and on more than one occasion somewhat snubbed his partner.
"My dear fellow,
what's the use of your flurrying yourself?
In a thing of this kind,
when it has once been set agoing,
there is nothing else to do.
You may have to work your fingers off before you can make it move,
and then fail.
But all that has been done for you.
If you go there on the Thursdays that's quite as much as you need do.
You don't suppose that such a man as Melmotte would put up with any real interference."
Paul endeavoured to assert himself,
declaring that as one of the managers he meant to take a part in the management;
--that his fortune,
such as it was,
had been embarked in the matter,
and was as important to him as was Mr. Melmotte's fortune to Mr. Melmotte.
But Fisker got the better of him and put him down.
what fortune had either of us?
a few beggarly thousands of dollars not worth talking of,
and barely sufficient to enable a man to look at an enterprise.
And now where are you?
--there's more to be got out of the smashing up of such an affair as this,
if it should smash up,
than could be made by years of hard work out of such fortunes as yours and mine in the regular way of trade."
Paul Montague certainly did not love Mr. Fisker personally,
nor did he relish his commercial doctrines;
but he allowed himself to be carried away by them.
"When and how was I to have helped myself?"
he wrote to Roger Carbury.
"The money had been raised and spent before this man came here at all.
It's all very well to say that he had no right to do it;
but he had done it.
I couldn't even have gone to law with him without going over to California,
and then I should have got no redress."
Through it all he disliked Fisker,
and yet Fisker had one great merit which certainly recommended itself warmly to Montague's appreciation.
Though he denied the propriety of Paul's interference in the business,
he quite acknowledged Paul's right to a share in the existing dash of prosperity.
As to the real facts of the money affairs of the firm he would tell Paul nothing.
But he was well provided with money himself,
and took care that his partner should be in the same position.
He paid him all the arrears of his stipulated income up to the present moment,
and put him nominally into possession of a large number of shares in the railway,
an understanding that he was not to sell them till they had reached ten per cent.
and that in any sale transacted he was to touch no other money than the amount of profit which would thus accrue.
What Melmotte was to be allowed to do with his shares,
he never heard.
As far as Montague could understand,
Melmotte was in truth to be powerful over everything.
All this made the young man unhappy,
He was living in London and had money at command,
but he never could rid himself of the fear that the whole affair might tumble to pieces beneath his feet and that he might be stigmatised as one among a gang of swindlers.
We all know how,
in such circumstances,
by far the greater proportion of a man's life will be given up to the enjoyments that are offered to him and the lesser proportion to the cares,
Had this young director been describing to his intimate friend the condition in which he found himself,
he would have declared himself to be distracted by doubts,
and fears till his life was a burden to him.
And yet they who were living with him at this time found him to be a very pleasant fellow,
fond of amusement,
and disposed to make the most of all the good things which came in his way.
Under the auspices of Sir Felix Carbury he had become a member of the Beargarden,
at which best of all possible clubs the mode of entrance was as irregular as its other proceedings.
When any young man desired to come in who was thought to be unfit for its style of living,
it was shown to him that it would take three years before his name could be brought up at the usual rate of vacancies;
but in regard to desirable companions the committee had a power of putting them at the top of the list of candidates and bringing them in at once.
Paul Montague had suddenly become credited with considerable commercial wealth and greater commercial influence.
He sat at the same Board with Melmotte and Melmotte's men;
and was on this account elected at the Beargarden without any of that harassing delay to which other less fortunate candidates are subjected.
--let it be said with regret,
for Paul Montague was at heart honest and well-conditioned,
--he took to living a good deal at the Beargarden.
A man must dine somewhere,
and everybody knows that a man dines cheaper at his club than elsewhere.
It was thus he reasoned with himself.
But Paul's dinners at the Beargarden were not cheap.
He saw a good deal of his brother directors,
Sir Felix Carbury and Lord Nidderdale,
entertained Lord Alfred more than once at the club,
and had twice dined with his great chairman amidst all the magnificence of merchant-princely hospitality in Grosvenor Square.
It had indeed been suggested to him by Mr. Fisker that he also ought to enter himself for the great Marie Melmotte plate.
Lord Nidderdale had again declared his intention of running,
owing to considerable pressure put upon him by certain interested tradesmen,
and with this intention had become one of the directors of the Mexican Railway Company.
At the time,
of which we are now writing,
Sir Felix was the favourite for the race among fashionable circles generally.
The middle of April had come,
and Fisker was still in London.
When millions of dollars are at stake,
--belonging perhaps to widows and orphans,
as Fisker remarked,
--a man was forced to set his own convenience on one side.
But this devotion was not left without reward,
for Mr. Fisker had "a good time" in London.
He also was made free of the Beargarden,
as an honorary member,
and he also spent a good deal of money.
But there is this comfort in great affairs,
that whatever you spend on yourself can be no more than a trifle.
Champagne and ginger-beer are all the same when you stand to win or lose thousands,
--with this only difference,
that champagne may have deteriorating results which the more innocent beverage will not produce.
The feeling that the greatness of these operations relieved them from the necessity of looking to small expenses operated in the champagne direction,
both on Fisker and Montague,
and the result was deleterious.
was a more lively place than Carbury Manor,
but Montague found that he could not wake up on these London mornings with thoughts as satisfactory as those which attended his pillow at the old Manor House.
the 19th of April,
Fisker was to leave London on his return to New York,
and on the 18th a farewell dinner was to be given to him at the club.
Mr. Melmotte was asked to meet him,
and on such an occasion all the resources of the club were to be brought forth.
Lord Alfred Grendall was also to be a guest,
and Mr. Cohenlupe,
who went about a good deal with Melmotte.
and Miles Grendall were members of the club,
and gave the dinner.
No expense was spared.
Herr Vossner purveyed the viands and wines,
--and paid for them.
Lord Nidderdale took the chair,
with Fisker on his right hand,
and Melmotte on his left,
for a fast-going young lord,
was supposed to have done the thing well.
There were only two toasts drunk,
to the healths of Mr. Melmotte and Mr. Fisker,
and two speeches were of course made by them.
Mr. Melmotte may have been held to have clearly proved the genuineness of that English birth which he claimed by the awkwardness and incapacity which he showed on the occasion.
He stood with his hands on the table and with his face turned to his plate blurted out his assurance that the floating of this railway company would be one of the greatest and most successful commercial operations ever conducted on either side of the Atlantic.
It was a great thing,
--a very great thing;
--he had no hesitation in saying that it was one of the greatest things out.
He didn't believe a greater thing had ever come out.
He was happy to give his humble assistance to the furtherance of so great a thing,
--and so on.
not varying much one from the other,
he jerked out like so many separate interjections,
endeavouring to look his friends in the face at each,
and then turning his countenance back to his plate as though seeking for inspiration for the next attempt.
He was not eloquent;
but the gentlemen who heard him remembered that he was the great Augustus Melmotte,
that he might probably make them all rich men,
and they cheered him to the echo.
Lord Alfred had reconciled himself to be called by his Christian name,
since he had been put in the way of raising two or three hundred pounds on the security of shares which were to be allotted to him,
but of which in the flesh he had as yet seen nothing.
Wonderful are the ways of trade!
If one can only get the tip of one's little finger into the right pie,
what noble morsels,
what rich esculents,
will stick to it as it is extracted!
When Melmotte sat down Fisker made his speech,
and it was fluent,
Without giving it word for word,
which would be tedious,
I could not adequately set before the reader's eye the speaker's pleasing picture of world-wide commercial love and harmony which was to be produced by a railway from Salt Lake City to Vera Cruz,
nor explain the extent of gratitude from the world at large which might be claimed by,
and would finally be accorded to,
the great firms of Melmotte & Co.
and Montague of San Francisco.
Mr. Fisker's arms were waved gracefully about.
His head was turned now this way and now that,
but never towards his plate.
It was very well done.
But there was more faith in one ponderous word from Mr. Melmotte's mouth than in all the American's oratory.
There was not one of them then present who had not after some fashion been given to understand that his fortune was to be made,
not by the construction of the railway,
but by the floating of the railway shares.
They had all whispered to each other their convictions on this head.
Even Montague did not beguile himself into an idea that he was really a director in a company to be employed in the making and working of a railway.
People out of doors were to be advertised into buying shares,
and they who were so to say indoors were to have the privilege of manufacturing the shares thus to be sold.
That was to be their work,
and they all knew it.
as there were eight of them collected together,
they talked of humanity at large and of the coming harmony of nations.
After the first cigar,
and Lord Alfred went with him.
Lord Alfred would have liked to remain,
being a man who enjoyed tobacco and soda and brandy,
--but momentous days had come upon him,
and he thought it well to cling to his Melmotte.
Mr. Samuel Cohenlupe also went,
not having taken a very distinguished part in the entertainment.
Then the young men were left alone,
and it was soon proposed that they should adjourn to the cardroom.
It had been rather hoped that Fisker would go with the elders.
who did not understand much about the races of mankind,
had his doubts whether the American gentleman might not be a "Heathen Chinee,"
such as he had read of in poetry.
But Mr. Fisker liked to have his amusement as well as did the others,
and went up resolutely into the cardroom.
Here they were joined by Lord Grasslough,
and were very quickly at work,
having chosen loo as their game.
Mr. Fisker made an allusion to poker as a desirable pastime,
but Lord Nidderdale,
remembering his poetry,
shook his head.
"let's have some game that Christians play."
Mr. Fisker declared himself ready for any game,
--irrespective of religious prejudices.
It must be explained that the gambling at the Beargarden had gone on with very little interruption,
and that on the whole Sir Felix Carbury kept his luck.
There had of course been vicissitudes,
but his star had been in the ascendant.
For some nights together this had been so continual that Mr. Miles Grendall had suggested to his friend Lord Grasslough that there must be foul play.
who had not many good gifts,
and repudiated the idea.
"We'll keep an eye on him,"
Miles Grendall had said.
"You may do as you like,
but I'm not going to watch any one,"
Grasslough had replied.
Miles had watched,
and had watched in vain,
and it may as well be said at once that Sir Felix,
with all his faults,
was not as yet a blackleg.
Both of them now owed Sir Felix a considerable sum of money,
as did also Dolly Longestaffe,
who was not present on this occasion.
Latterly very little ready money had passed hands,
--very little in proportion to the sums which had been written down on paper,
--though Sir Felix was still so well in funds as to feel himself justified in repudiating any caution that his mother might give him.
When I.O.U.'s have for some time passed freely in such a company as that now assembled the sudden introduction of a stranger is very disagreeable,
particularly when that stranger intends to start for San Francisco on the following morning.
If it could be arranged that the stranger should certainly lose,
no doubt then he would be regarded as a godsend.
Such strangers have ready money in their pockets,
a portion of which would be felt to descend like a soft shower in a time of drought.
When these dealings in unsecured paper have been going on for a considerable time real bank notes come to have a loveliness which they never possessed before.
But should the stranger win,
then there may arise complications incapable of any comfortable solution.
In such a state of things some Herr Vossner must be called in,
whose terms are apt to be ruinous.
On this occasion things did not arrange themselves comfortably.
From the very commencement Fisker won,
and quite a budget of little papers fell into his possession,
many of which were passed to him from the hands of Sir Felix,
a "G" intended to stand for Grasslough,
or an "N" for Nidderdale,
or a wonderful hieroglyphic which was known at the Beargarden to mean D. L -- --,
or Dolly Longestaffe,
the fabricator of which was not present on the occasion.
Then there was the M. G.
of Miles Grendall,
which was a species of paper peculiarly plentiful and very unattractive on these commercial occasions.
Paul Montague hitherto had never given an I.O.U.
at the Beargarden,
--nor of late had our friend Sir Felix.
On the present occasion Montague won,
though not heavily.
Sir Felix lost continually,
and was almost the only loser.
But Mr. Fisker won nearly all that was lost.
He was to start for Liverpool by train at 8.30 A.M.,
and at 6 a.m. he counted up his bits of paper and found himself the winner of about £600.
"I think that most of them came from you,
--handing the bundle across the table.
"I dare say they did,
but they are all good against these other fellows."
with most perfect good humour,
extracted one from the mass which indicated Dolly Longestaffe's indebtedness to the amount of £50.
"and I'll change that of course."
Then out of his pocket-book he extracted other minute documents bearing that M. G.
which was so little esteemed among them,
--and so made up the sum.
"You seem to have £150 from Grasslough,
£145 from Nidderdale,
and £322 10-s.- from Grendall,"
said the baronet.
Then Sir Felix got up as though he had paid his score.
with smiling good humour,
arranged the little bits of paper before him and looked round upon the company.
"This won't do,
"Mr. Fisker must have his money before he leaves.
You've got it,
"Of course he has,"
"As it happens I have not,"
said Sir Felix;
--"but what if I had?"
"Mr. Fisker starts for New York immediately,"
said Lord Nidderdale.
"I suppose we can muster £600 among us.
Ring the bell for Vossner.
I think Carbury ought to pay the money as he lost it,
and we didn't expect to have our I.O.U.'s brought up in this way."
said Sir Felix,
"I have already said that I have not got the money about me.
Why should I have it more than you,
especially as I knew I had I.O.U.'s more than sufficient to meet anything I could lose when I sat down?"
"Mr. Fisker must have his money at any rate,"
said Lord Nidderdale,
ringing the bell again.
"It doesn't matter one straw,
said the American.
"Let it be sent to me to Frisco,
in a bill,
And so he got up to take his hat,
greatly to the delight of Miles Grendall.
But the two young lords would not agree to this.
"If you must go this very minute I'll meet you at the train with the money,"
Fisker begged that no such trouble should be taken.
Of course he would wait ten minutes if they wished.
But the affair was one of no consequence.
Wasn't the post running every day?
Then Herr Vossner came from his bed,
suddenly arrayed in a dressing-gown,
and there was a conference in a corner between him,
the two lords,
and Mr. Grendall.
In a very few minutes Herr Vossner wrote a cheque for the amount due by the lords,
but he was afraid that he had not money at his banker's sufficient for the greater claim.
It was well understood that Herr Vossner would not advance money to Mr. Grendall unless others would pledge themselves for the amount.
"I suppose I'd better send you a bill over to America,"
said Miles Grendall,
who had taken no part in the matter as long as he was in the same boat with the lords.
will tell you the address."
Then bustling off,
taking an affectionate adieu of Paul,
shaking hands with them all round,
and looking as though he cared nothing for the money,
he took his leave.
"One cheer for the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway,"
he said as he went out of the room.
Not one there had liked Fisker.
His manners were not as their manners;
his waistcoat not as their waistcoats.
He smoked his cigar after a fashion different from theirs,
and spat upon the carpet.
He said "my lord" too often,
and grated their prejudices equally whether he treated them with familiarity or deference.
But he had behaved well about the money,
and they felt that they were behaving badly.
Sir Felix was the immediate offender,
as he should have understood that he was not entitled to pay a stranger with documents which,
by tacit contract,
were held to be good among themselves.
But there was no use now in going back to that.
Something must be done.
"Vossner must get the money,"
"Let's have him up again."
"I don't think it's my fault,"
"Of course no one thought he was to be called upon in this sort of way."
"Why shouldn't you be called upon?"
"You acknowledge that you owe the money."
"I think Carbury ought to have paid it,"
said the baronet,
"your attempts at thinking are never worth much.
Why was I to suppose that a stranger would be playing among us?
Had you a lot of ready money with you to pay if you had lost it?
I don't always walk about with six hundred pounds in my pocket;
--nor do you!"
"It's no good jawing,"
"let's get the money."
Then Montague offered to undertake the debt himself,
saying that there were money transactions between him and his partner.
But this could not be allowed.
He had only lately come among them,
had as yet had no dealing in I.O.U.'s,
and was the last man in the company who ought to be made responsible for the impecuniosity of Miles Grendall.
the impecunious one,
--the one whose impecuniosity extended to the absolute want of credit,
stroking his heavy moustache.
There was a second conference between Herr Vossner and the two lords in another room,
which ended in the preparation of a document by which Miles Grendall undertook to pay to Herr Vossner £450 at the end of three months,
and this was endorsed by the two lords,
by Sir Felix,
and by Paul Montague;
and in return for this the German produced £322 10-s.- in notes and gold.
This had taken some considerable time.
Then a cup of tea was prepared and swallowed;
after which Nidderdale,
started off to meet Fisker at the railway station.
"It'll only be a trifle over £100 each,"
in the cab.
"Won't Mr. Grendall pay it?"
How the devil should he?"
"Then he shouldn't play."
'd be hard on him,
If you went to his uncle the duke,
I suppose you could get it.
Or Buntingford might put it right for you.
Perhaps he might win,
and then he'd make it square.
He'd be fair enough if he had it.
They found Fisker wonderfully brilliant with bright rugs,
and greatcoats with silk linings.
"We've brought you the tin,"
accosting him on the platform.
"Upon my word,
I'm sorry you have taken so much trouble about such a trifle."
"A man should always have his money when he wins."
"We don't think anything about such little matters at Frisco,
"You're fine fellows at Frisco,
I dare say.
Here we pay up,
--when we can.
Sometimes we can't,
and then it is not pleasant."
Fresh adieus were made between the two partners,
and between the American and the lord;
--and then Fisker was taken off on his way towards Frisco.
"He's not half a bad fellow,
but he's not a bit like an Englishman,"
said Lord Nidderdale,
as he walked out of the station.
LADY CARBURY AT HOME.
During the last six weeks Lady Carbury had lived a life of very mixed depression and elevation.
Her great work had come out,
--the "Criminal Queens,"
--and had been very widely reviewed.
In this matter it had been by no means all pleasure,
in as much as many very hard words had been said of her.
In spite of the dear friendship between herself and Mr. Alf,
one of Mr. Alf's most sharp-nailed subordinates had been set upon her book,
and had pulled it to pieces with almost rabid malignity.
One would have thought that so slight a thing could hardly have been worthy of such protracted attention.
Error after error was laid bare with merciless prolixity.
No doubt the writer of the article must have had all history at his finger-ends,
as in pointing out the various mistakes made he always spoke of the historical facts which had been misquoted,
as being familiar in all their bearings to every schoolboy of twelve years old.
The writer of the criticism never suggested the idea that he himself,
having been fully provided with books of reference,
and having learned the art of finding in them what he wanted at a moment's notice,
as he went on with his work,
checked off the blunders without any more permanent knowledge of his own than a housekeeper has of coals when she counts so many sacks into the coal-cellar.
He spoke of the parentage of one wicked ancient lady,
and the dates of the frailties of another,
with an assurance intended to show that an exact knowledge of all these details abided with him always.
He must have been a man of vast and varied erudition,
and his name was Jones.
The world knew him not,
but his erudition was always there at the command of Mr. Alf,
--and his cruelty.
The greatness of Mr. Alf consisted in this,
that he always had a Mr. Jones or two ready to do his work for him.
It was a great business,
this of Mr. Alf's,
for he had his Jones also for philology,
as well as for history,
and one special Jones,
extraordinarily accurate and very well posted up in his references,
entirely devoted to the Elizabethan drama.
There is the review intended to sell a book,
--which comes out immediately after the appearance of the book,
or sometimes before it;
the review which gives reputation,
but does not affect the sale,
and which comes a little later;
the review which snuffs a book out quietly;
the review which is to raise or lower the author a single peg,
or two pegs,
as the case may be;
the review which is suddenly to make an author,
and the review which is to crush him.
An exuberant Jones has been known before now to declare aloud that he would crush a man,
and a self-confident Jones has been known to declare that he has accomplished the deed.
Of all reviews,
the crushing review is the most popular,
as being the most readable.
When the rumour goes abroad that some notable man has been actually crushed,
--been positively driven over by an entire Juggernaut's car of criticism till his literary body be a mere amorphous mass,
--then a real success has been achieved,
and the Alf of the day has done a great thing;
but even the crushing of a poor Lady Carbury,
if it be absolute,
Such a review will not make all the world call for the "Evening Pulpit,"
but it will cause those who do take the paper to be satisfied with their bargain.
Whenever the circulation of such a paper begins to slacken,
the proprietors should,
as a matter of course,
admonish their Alf to add a little power to the crushing department.
Lady Carbury had been crushed by the "Evening Pulpit."
We may fancy that it was easy work,
and that Mr. Alf's historical Mr. Jones was not forced to fatigue himself by the handling of many books of reference.
The errors did lie a little near the surface;
and the whole scheme of the work,
with its pandering to bad tastes by pretended revelations of frequently fabulous crime,
was reprobated in Mr. Jones's very best manner.
But the poor authoress,
though utterly crushed,
and reduced to little more than literary pulp for an hour or two,
was not destroyed.
On the following morning she went to her publishers,
and was closeted for half an hour with the senior partner,
"I've got it all in black and white,"
full of the wrong which had been done her,
"and can prove him to be wrong.
It was in 1522 that the man first came to Paris,
and he couldn't have been her lover before that.
I got it all out of the
I'll write to Mr. Alf myself,
--a letter to be published,
"Pray don't do anything of the kind,
"I can prove that I'm right."
"And they can prove that you're wrong."
"I've got all the facts,
--and the figures."
Mr. Leadham did not care a straw for facts or figures,
--had no opinion of his own whether the lady or the reviewer were right;
but he knew very well that the "Evening Pulpit" would surely get the better of any mere author in such a contention.
"Never fight the newspapers,
Who ever yet got any satisfaction by that kind of thing?
It's their business,
and you are not used to it."
"And Mr. Alf is my particular friend!
It does seem so hard,"
said Lady Carbury,
wiping hot tears from her cheeks.
"It won't do us the least harm,
"It'll stop the sale?"
A book of that sort couldn't hope to go on very long,
'Breakfast Table' gave it an excellent lift,
and came just at the right time.
I rather like the notice in the
said Lady Carbury,
still suffering in every fibre of her self-love from the soreness produced by those Juggernaut's car-wheels.
"Anything is better than indifference,
A great many people remember simply that the book has been noticed,
but carry away nothing as to the purport of the review.
It's a very good advertisement."
"But to be told that I have got to learn the ABC of history,
--after working as I have worked!"
"That's a mere form of speech,
"You think the book has done pretty well?"
--just about what we hoped,
"There'll be something coming to me,
Mr. Leadham sent for a ledger,
and turned over a few pages and ran up a few figures,
and then scratched his head.
There would be something,
but Lady Carbury was not to imagine that it could be very much.
It did not often happen that a great deal could be made by a first book.
when she left the publisher's shop,
did carry a cheque with her.
She was smartly dressed and looked very well,
and had smiled on Mr. Leadham.
was no more than man,
and had written --a small cheque.
Mr. Alf certainly had behaved badly to her;
but both Mr. Broune of the "Breakfast Table,"
and Mr. Booker of the "Literary Chronicle,"
had been true to her interests.
Lady Carbury had,
as she promised,
"done" Mr. Booker's "New Tale of a Tub" in the "Breakfast Table."
she had been allowed,
as a reward for looking into Mr. Broune's eyes,
and laying her soft hand on Mr. Broune's sleeve,
and suggesting to Mr. Broune that no one understood her so well as he did,
to bedaub Mr. Booker's very thoughtful book in a very thoughtless fashion,
--and to be paid for her work.
What had been said about his work in the "Breakfast Table" had been very distasteful to poor Mr. Booker.
It grieved his inner contemplative intelligence that such rubbish should be thrown upon him;
but in his outside experience of life he knew that even the rubbish was valuable,
and that he must pay for it in the manner to which he had unfortunately become accustomed.
So Mr. Booker himself wrote the article on the "Criminal Queens" in the "Literary Chronicle,"
knowing that what he wrote would also be rubbish.
"Power of delineating character."
"Excellent choice of subject."
"Considerable intimacy with the historical details of various periods."
"The literary world would be sure to hear of Lady Carbury again."
The composition of the review,
together with the reading of the book,
consumed altogether perhaps an hour of Mr. Booker's time.
He made no attempt to cut the pages,
but here and there read those that were open.
He had done this kind of thing so often,
that he knew well what he was about.
He could have reviewed such a book when he was three parts asleep.
When the work was done he threw down his pen and uttered a deep sigh.
He felt it to be hard upon him that he should be compelled,
by the exigencies of his position,
to descend so low in literature;
but it did not occur to him to reflect that in fact he was not compelled,
and that he was quite at liberty to break stones,
or to starve honestly,
if no other honest mode of carrying on his career was open to him.
"If I didn't,
somebody else would,"
he said to himself.
But the review in the "Morning Breakfast Table" was the making of Lady Carbury's book,
as far as it ever was made.
Mr. Broune saw the lady after the receipt of the letter given in the first chapter of this Tale,
and was induced to make valuable promises which had been fully performed.
Two whole columns had been devoted to the work,
and the world had been assured that no more delightful mixture of amusement and instruction had ever been concocted than Lady Carbury's "Criminal Queens."
It was the very book that had been wanted for years.
It was a work of infinite research and brilliant imagination combined.
There had been no hesitation in the laying on of the paint.
At that last meeting Lady Carbury had been very soft,
and very winning;
Mr. Broune had given the order with good will,
and it had been obeyed in the same feeling.
though the crushing had been very real,
there had also been some elation;
and as a net result,
Lady Carbury was disposed to think that her literary career might yet be a success.
Mr. Leadham's cheque had been for a small amount,
but it might probably lead the way to something better.
People at any rate were talking about her,
and her Tuesday evenings at home were generally full.
But her literary life,
and her literary successes,
her flirtations with Mr. Broune,
her business with Mr. Booker,
and her crushing by Mr. Alf's Mr. Jones,
were after all but adjuncts to that real inner life of hers of which the absorbing interest was her son.
And with regard to him too she was partly depressed,
and partly elated,
allowing her hopes however to dominate her fears.
There was very much to frighten her.
Even the moderate reform in the young man's expenses which had been effected under dire necessity had been of late abandoned.
Though he never told her anything,
she became aware that during the last month of the hunting season he had hunted nearly every day.
that he had a horse up in town.
She never saw him but once in the day,
when she visited him in his bed about noon,
and was aware that he was always at his club throughout the night.
She knew that he was gambling,
and she hated gambling as being of all pastimes the most dangerous.
But she knew that he had ready money for his immediate purposes,
and that two or three tradesmen who were gifted with a peculiar power of annoying their debtors,
had ceased to trouble her in Welbeck Street.
For the present,
she consoled herself by reflecting that his gambling was successful.
But her elation sprung from a higher source than this.
From all that she could hear,
she thought it likely that Felix would carry off the great prize;
--should he do that,
--what a blessed son would he have been to her!
How constantly in her triumph would she be able to forget all his vices,
his late hours,
and his cruel treatment of herself!
As she thought of it the bliss seemed to be too great for the possibility of realisation.
She was taught to understand that £10,000 a year,
to begin with,
would be the least of it;
and that the ultimate wealth might probably be such as to make Sir Felix Carbury the richest commoner in England.
In her very heart of hearts she worshipped wealth,
but desired it for him rather than for herself.
Then her mind ran away to baronies and earldoms,
and she was lost in the coming glories of the boy whose faults had already nearly engulfed her in his own ruin.
And she had another ground for elation,
which comforted her much,
though elation from such a cause was altogether absurd.
She had discovered that her son had become a Director of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway Company.
She must have known,
--she certainly did know,
such as he was,
could not lend assistance by his work to any company or commercial enterprise in the world.
She was aware that there was some reason for such a choice hidden from the world,
and which comprised and conveyed a falsehood.
A ruined baronet of five-and-twenty,
every hour of whose life since he had been left to go alone had been loaded with vice and folly,
--whose egregious misconduct warranted his friends in regarding him as one incapable of knowing what principle is,
--of what service could he be,
that he should be made a Director?
But Lady Carbury,
though she knew that he could be of no service,
was not at all shocked.
She was now able to speak up a little for her boy,
and did not forget to send the news by post to Roger Carbury.
And her son sat at the same Board with Mr. Melmotte!
What an indication was this of coming triumphs!
Fisker had started,
as the reader will perhaps remember,
on the morning of Saturday,
leaving Sir Felix at the Club at about seven in the morning.
All that day his mother was unable to see him.
She found him asleep in his room at noon and again at two;
and when she sought him again he had flown.
But on the Sunday she caught him.
"you'll stay at home on Tuesday evening."
Hitherto she had never succeeded in inducing him to grace her evening parties by his presence.
"All your people are coming!
it is such an awful bore."
"Madame Melmotte and her daughter will be here."
"One looks such a fool carrying on that kind of thing in one's own house.
Everybody sees that it has been contrived.
And it is such a pokey,
stuffy little place!"
Then Lady Carbury spoke out her mind.
I think you must be a fool.
I have given over ever expecting that you would do anything to please me.
I sacrifice everything for you and I do not even hope for a return.
But when I am doing everything to advance your own interests,
when I am working night and day to rescue you from ruin,
I think you might at any rate help a little,
--not for me of course,
but for yourself."
"I don't know what you mean by working day and night.
I don't want you to work day and night."
"There is hardly a young man in London that is not thinking of this girl,
and you have chances that none of them have.
I am told they are going out of town at Whitsuntide,
and that she's to meet Lord Nidderdale down in the country."
"She can't endure Nidderdale.
She says so herself."
"She will do as she is told,
--unless she can be made to be downright in love with some one like yourself.
Why not ask her at once on Tuesday?"
"If I'm to do it at all I must do it after my own fashion.
I'm not going to be driven."
"Of course if you will not take the trouble to be here to see her when she comes to your own house,
you cannot expect her to think that you really love her."
what a bother there is about loving!
--I'll look in.
What time do the animals come to feed?"
"There will be no feeding.
you are so heartless and so cruel that I sometimes think I will make up my mind to let you go your own way and never to speak to you again.
My friends will be here about ten;
--I should say from ten till twelve.
I think you should be here to receive her,
not later than ten."
"If I can get my dinner out of my throat by that time,
I will come."
When the Tuesday came,
the over-driven young man did contrive to get his dinner eaten,
and his glass of brandy sipped,
and his cigar smoked,
and perhaps his game of billiards played,
so as to present himself in his mother's drawing-room not long after half-past ten.
Madame Melmotte and her daughter were already there,
--and many others,
of whom the majority were devoted to literature.
Among them Mr. Alf was in the room,
and was at this very moment discussing Lady Carbury's book with Mr. Booker.
He had been quite graciously received,
as though he had not authorised the crushing.
Lady Carbury had given him her hand with that energy of affection with which she was wont to welcome her literary friends,
and had simply thrown one glance of appeal into his eyes as she looked into his face,
--as though asking him how he had found it in his heart to be so cruel to one so tender,
so innocent as herself.
"I cannot stand this kind of thing,"
said Mr. Alf,
to Mr. Booker.
"There's a regular system of touting got abroad,
and I mean to trample it down."
"If you're strong enough,"
said Mr. Booker.
I think I am.
I'm strong enough,
at any rate,
to show that I'm not afraid to lead the way.
I've the greatest possible regard for our friend here;
--but her book is a bad book,
a thoroughly rotten book,
an unblushing compilation from half-a-dozen works of established reputation,
in pilfering from which she has almost always managed to misapprehend her facts,
and to muddle her dates.
Then she writes to me and asks me to do the best I can for her.
I have done the best I could."
Mr. Alf knew very well what Mr. Booker had done,
and Mr. Booker was aware of the extent of Mr. Alf's knowledge.
"What you say is all very right,"
said Mr. Booker;
"only you want a different kind of world to live in."
--and therefore we must make it different.
I wonder how our friend Broune felt when he saw that his critic had declared that the
'Criminal Queens' was the greatest historical work of modern days."
"I didn't see the notice.
There isn't much in the book,
as far as I have looked at it.
I should have said that violent censure or violent praise would be equally thrown away upon it.
One doesn't want to break a butterfly on the wheel;
--especially a friendly butterfly."
"As to the friendship,
it should be kept separate.
That's my idea,"
said Mr. Alf,
"I'll never forget what you've done for me,
said Lady Carbury,
holding Mr. Broune's hand for a moment,
as she whispered to him.
"Nothing more than my duty,"
"I hope you'll learn to know that a woman can really be grateful,"
Then she let go his hand and moved away to some other guest.
There was a dash of true sincerity in what she had said.
Of enduring gratitude it may be doubtful whether she was capable: but at this moment she did feel that Mr. Broune had done much for her,
and that she would willingly make him some return of friendship.
Of any feeling of another sort,
of any turn at the moment towards flirtation,
of any idea of encouragement to a gentleman who had once acted as though he were her lover,
she was absolutely innocent.
She had forgotten that little absurd episode in their joint lives.
She was at any rate too much in earnest at the present moment to think about it.
But it was otherwise with Mr. Broune.
He could not quite make up his mind whether the lady was or was not in love with him,
if she were,
it was incumbent on him to indulge her;
--and if so,
in what manner.
Then as he looked after her,
he told himself that she was certainly very beautiful,
that her figure was distinguished,
that her income was certain,
and her rank considerable.
Mr. Broune knew of himself that he was not a marrying man.
He had made up his mind that marriage would not suit his business,
and he smiled to himself as he reflected how impossible it was that such a one as Lady Carbury should turn him from his resolution.
"I am so glad that you have come to-night,
Lady Carbury said to the high-minded editor of the "Evening Pulpit."
"Am I not always glad to come,
"You are very good.
But I feared,
"That you might perhaps have felt that I should be unwilling to welcome you after,
after the compliments of last Thursday."
"I never allow the two things to join themselves together.
I don't write all these things myself."
What a bitter creature you would be if you did."
"To tell the truth,
I never write any of them.
Of course we endeavour to get people whose judgments we can trust,
as in this case,
it should unfortunately happen that the judgment of our critic should be hostile to the literary pretensions of a personal friend of my own,
I can only lament the accident,
and trust that my friend may have spirit enough to divide me as an individual from that Mr. Alf who has the misfortune to edit a newspaper."
"It is because you have so trusted me that I am obliged to you,"
said Lady Carbury with her sweetest smile.
She did not believe a word that Mr. Alf had said to her.
and thought rightly,
that Mr. Alf's Mr. Jones had taken direct orders from his editor,
as to his treatment of the "Criminal Queens."
But she remembered that she intended to write another book,
and that she might perhaps conquer even Mr. Alf by spirit and courage under her present infliction.
It was Lady Carbury's duty on the occasion to say pretty things to everybody.
And she did her duty.
But in the midst of it all she was ever thinking of her son and Marie Melmotte,
and she did at last venture to separate the girl from her mother.
Marie herself was not unwilling to be talked to by Sir Felix.
He had never bullied her,
had never seemed to scorn her;
and then he was so beautiful!
bewildered among various suitors,
utterly confused by the life to which she was introduced,
troubled by fitful attacks of admonition from her father,
who would again,
leave her unnoticed for a week at a time;
with no trust in her pseudo-mother --for poor Marie had in truth been born before her father had been a married man,
and had never known what was her own mother's fate,
--with no enjoyment in her present life,
had come solely to this conclusion,
that it would be well for her to be taken away somewhere by somebody.
Many a varied phase of life had already come in her way.
She could just remember the dirty street in the German portion of New York in which she had been born and had lived for the first four years of her life,
and could remember too the poor,
hardly-treated woman who had been her mother.
She could remember being at sea,
and her sickness,
--but could not quite remember whether that woman had been with her.
Then she had run about the streets of Hamburgh,
and had sometimes been very hungry,
sometimes in rags,
--and she had a dim memory of some trouble into which her father had fallen,
and that he was away from her for a time.
She had up to the present splendid moment her own convictions about that absence,
but she had never mentioned them to a human being.
Then her father had married her present mother in Francfort.
That she could remember distinctly,
as also the rooms in which she was then taken to live,
and the fact that she was told that from henceforth she was to be a Jewess.
But there had soon come another change.
They went from Francfort to Paris,
and there they were all Christians.
From that time they had lived in various apartments in the French capital,
but had always lived well.
Sometimes there had been a carriage,
sometimes there had been none.
And then there came a time in which she was grown woman enough to understand that her father was being much talked about.
Her father to her had always been alternately capricious and indifferent rather than cross or cruel,
but just at this period he was cruel both to her and to his wife.
And Madame Melmotte would weep at times and declare that they were all ruined.
at a moment,
they burst out into sudden splendour at Paris.
There was an hotel,
with carriages and horses almost unnumbered;
--and then there came to their rooms a crowd of dark,
who were entertained sumptuously;
but there were few women.
At this time Marie was hardly nineteen,
and young enough in manner and appearance to be taken for seventeen.
Suddenly again she was told that she was to be taken to London,
and the migration had been effected with magnificence.
She was first taken to Brighton,
where the half of an hotel had been hired,
and had then been brought to Grosvenor Square,
and at once thrown into the matrimonial market.
No part of her life had been more disagreeable to her,
than the first months in which she had been trafficked for by the Nidderdales and Grassloughs.
She had been too frightened,
too much of a coward to object to anything proposed to her,
but still had been conscious of a desire to have some hand in her own future destiny.
Luckily for her,
the first attempts at trafficking with the Nidderdales and Grassloughs had come to nothing;
and at length she was picking up a little courage,
and was beginning to feel that it might be possible to prevent a disposition of herself which did not suit her own tastes.
She was also beginning to think that there might be a disposition of herself which would suit her own tastes.
Felix Carbury was standing leaning against a wall,
and she was seated on a chair close to him.
"I love you better than anyone in the world,"
speaking plainly enough for her to hear,
perhaps indifferent as to the hearing of others.
pray do not talk like that."
"You knew that before.
Now I want you to say whether you will be my wife."
"How can I answer that myself?
Papa settles everything."
"May I go to papa?"
"You may if you like,"
she replied in a very low whisper.
It was thus that the greatest heiress of the day,
the greatest heiress of any day if people spoke truly,
gave herself away to a man without a penny.