Our readers must not forget the troubles of poor Emily Wharton amidst
the gorgeous festivities of the new Prime Minister. Throughout April
and May she did not see Ferdinand Lopez. It may be remembered that on
the night when the matter was discussed between her and her father,
she promised him that she would not do so without his
permission,—saying, however, at the same time very openly that her
happiness depended on such permission being given to her. For two or
three weeks not a word further was said between her and her father on
the subject, and he had endeavoured to banish the subject from his
mind,—feeling no doubt that if nothing further were ever said it
would be so much the better. But then his daughter referred to the
matter,—very plainly, with a simple question, and without disguise
of her own feeling, but still in a manner which he could not bring
himself to rebuke. "Aunt Harriet has asked me once or twice to go
there of an evening, when you have been out. I have declined because
I thought Mr. Lopez would be there. Must I tell her that I am not to
meet Mr. Lopez, papa?"
"If she has him there on purpose to throw him in your way, I shall
think very badly of her."
"But he has been in the habit of being there, papa. Of course if you
are decided about this, it is better that I should not see him."
"Did I not tell you that I was decided?"
"You said you would make some further inquiry and speak to me again."
Now Mr. Wharton had made inquiry, but had learned nothing to reassure
himself;—neither had he been able to learn any fact, putting his
finger on which he could point out to his daughter clearly that the
marriage would be unsuitable for her. Of the man's ability and
position, as certainly also of his manners, the world at large seemed
to speak well. He had been blackballed at two clubs, but apparently
without any defined reason. He lived as though he possessed a
handsome income, and yet was in no degree fast or flashy. He was
supposed to be an intimate friend of Mr. Mills Happerton, one of the
partners in the world-famous commercial house of Hunky and Sons,
which dealt in millions. Indeed there had been at one time a rumour
that he was going to be taken into the house of Hunky and Sons as a
junior partner. It was evident that many people had been favourably
impressed by his outward demeanour, by his mode of talk, and by his
way of living. But no one knew anything about him. With regard to his
material position Mr. Wharton could of course ask direct questions if
he pleased, and require evidence as to alleged property. But he felt
that by doing so he would abandon his right to object to the man as
being a Portuguese stranger, and he did not wish to have Ferdinand
Lopez as a son-in-law, even though he should be a partner in Hunky
and Sons, and able to maintain a gorgeous palace at South Kensington.
"I have made inquiry."
"I don't know anything about him. Nobody knows anything about him."
"Could you not ask himself anything you want to know? If I might see
him I would ask him."
"That would not do at all."
"It comes to this, papa, that I am to sever myself from a man to whom
I am attached, and whom you must admit that I have been allowed to
meet from day to day with no caution that his intimacy was unpleasant
to you, because he is called—Lopez."
"It isn't that at all. There are English people of that name; but he
isn't an Englishman."
"Of course, if you say so, papa, it must be so. I have told Aunt
Harriet that I consider myself to be prohibited from meeting Mr.
Lopez by what you have said; but I think, papa, you are a
little—cruel to me."
"Cruel to you!" said Mr. Wharton, almost bursting into tears.
"I am as ready to obey as a child;—but, not being a child, I think I
ought to have a reason." To this Mr. Wharton made no further
immediate answer, but pulled his hair, and shuffled his feet about,
and then escaped out of the room.
A few days afterwards his sister-in-law attacked him. "Are we to
understand, Mr. Wharton, that Emily is not to meet Mr. Lopez again?
It makes it very unpleasant, because he has been intimate at our
"I never said a word about her not meeting him. Of course I do not
wish that any meeting should be contrived between them."
"As it stands now it is prejudicial to her. Of course it cannot but
be observed, and it is so odd that a young lady should be forbidden
to meet a certain man. It looks so unpleasant for her,—as though she
had misbehaved herself."
"I have never thought so for a moment."
"Of course you have not. How could you have thought so, Mr. Wharton?"
"I say that I never did."
"What must he think when he knows,—as of course he does know,—that
she has been forbidden to meet him? It must make him fancy that he is
made very much of. All that is so very bad for a girl! Indeed it is,
Mr. Wharton." Of course there was absolute dishonesty in all this on
the part of Mrs. Roby. She was true enough to Emily's lover,—too
true to him; but she was false to Emily's father. If Emily would have
yielded to her she would have arranged meetings at her own house
between the lovers altogether in opposition to the father.
Nevertheless there was a show of reason about what she said which Mr.
Wharton was unable to overcome. And at the same time there was a
reality about his girl's sorrow which overcame him. He had never
hitherto consulted any one about anything in his family, having
always found his own information and intellect sufficient for his own
affairs. But now he felt grievously in want of some pillar,—some
female pillar,—on which he could lean. He did not know all Mrs.
Roby's iniquities; but still he felt that she was not the pillar of
which he was in need. There was no such pillar for his use, and he
was driven to acknowledge to himself that in this distressing
position he must be guided by his own strength, and his own lights.
He thought it all out as well as he could in his own chamber,
allowing his book or his brief to lie idle beside him for many a
half-hour. But he was much puzzled both as to the extent of his own
authority and the manner in which it should be used. He certainly had
not desired his daughter not to meet the man. He could understand
that unless some affront had been offered such an edict enforced as
to the conduct of a young lady would induce all her acquaintance to
suppose that she was either very much in love or else very prone to
misbehave herself. He feared, indeed, that she was very much in love,
but it would not be prudent to tell her secret to all the world.
Perhaps it would be better that she should meet him,—always with the
understanding that she was not to accept from him any peculiar
attention. If she would be obedient in one particular, she would
probably be so in the other;—and, indeed, he did not at all doubt
her obedience. She would obey, but would take care to show him that
she was made miserable by obeying. He began to foresee that he had a
bad time before him.
And then as he still sat idle, thinking of it all, his mind wandered
off to another view of the subject. Could he be happy, or even
comfortable, if she were unhappy? Of course he endeavoured to
convince himself that if he were bold, determined, and dictatorial
with her, it would only be in order that her future happiness might
be secured. A parent is often bound to disregard the immediate
comfort of a child. But then was he sure that he was right? He of
course had his own way of looking at life, but was it reasonable that
he should force his girl to look at things with his eyes? The man was
distasteful to him as being unlike his idea of an English gentleman,
and as being without those far-reaching fibres and roots by which he
thought that the solidity and stability of a human tree should be
assured. But the world was changing around him every day. Royalty was
marrying out of its degree. Peers' sons were looking only for money.
And, more than that, peers' daughters were bestowing themselves on
Jews and shopkeepers. Had he not better make the usual inquiry about
the man's means, and, if satisfied on that head, let the girl do as
she would? Added to all this there was growing on him a feeling that
ultimately youth would as usual triumph over age, and that he would
be beaten. If that were so, why worry himself, or why worry her?
On the day after Mrs. Roby's attack upon him he again saw that lady,
having on this occasion sent round to ask her to come to him. "I want
you to understand that I put no embargo on Emily as to meeting Mr.
Lopez. I can trust her fully. I do not wish her to encourage his
attentions, but I by no means wish her to avoid him."
"Am I to tell Emily what you say?"
"I will tell her myself. I think it better to say as much to you, as
you seemed to be embarrassed by the fear that they might happen to
see each other in your drawing-room."
"It was rather awkward;—wasn't it?"
"I have spoken now because you seemed to think so." His manner to her
was not very pleasant, but Mrs. Roby had known him for many years,
and did not care very much for his manner. She had an object to gain,
and could put up with a good deal for the sake of her object.
"Very well. Then I shall know how to act. But, Mr. Wharton, I must
say this, you know Emily has a will of her own, and you must not hold
me responsible for anything that may occur." As soon as he heard this
he almost resolved to withdraw the concession he had made;—but he
did not do so.
Very soon after this there came a special invitation from Mr. and
Mrs. Roby, asking the Whartons, father and daughter, to dine with
them round the corner. It was quite a special invitation, because it
came in the form of a card,—which was unusual between the two
families. But the dinner was too, in some degree, a special
dinner,—as Emily was enabled to explain to her father, the whole
speciality having been fully detailed to herself by her aunt. Mr.
Roby, whose belongings were not generally aristocratic, had one great
connexion with whom, after many years of quarrelling, he had lately
come into amity. This was his half-brother, considerably older than
himself, and was no other than that Mr. Roby who was now Secretary to
the Admiralty, and who in the last Conservative Government had been
one of the Secretaries to the Treasury. The oldest Mr. Roby of all,
now long since gathered to his fathers, had had two wives and two
sons. The elder son had not been left as well off as friends, or
perhaps as he himself, could have wished. But he had risen in the
world by his wits, had made his way into Parliament, and had become,
as all readers of these chronicles know, a staff of great strength to
his party. But he had always been a poor man. His periods of office
had been much shorter than those of his friend Rattler, and his other
sources of income had not been certain. His younger half-brother,
who, as far as the great world was concerned, had none of his elder
brother's advantages, had been endowed with some fortune from his
mother, and,—in an evil hour for both of them,—had lent the
politician money. As one consequence of this transaction, they had
not spoken to each other for years. On this quarrel Mrs. Roby was
always harping with her own husband,—not taking his part. Her Roby,
her Dick, had indeed the means of supporting her with a fair comfort,
but had, of his own, no power of introducing her to that sort of
society for which her soul craved. But Mr. Thomas Roby was a great
man,—though unfortunately poor,—and moved in high circles. Because
they had lent their money,—which no doubt was lost for ever,—why
should they also lose the advantages of such a connexion? Would it
not be wiser rather to take the debt as a basis whereon to found a
claim for special fraternal observation and kindred social
intercourse? Dick, who was fond of his money, would not for a long
time look at the matter in this light, but harassed his brother from
time to time by applications which were quite useless, and which by
the acerbity of their language altogether shut Mrs. Roby out from the
good things which might have accrued to her from so distinguished a
brother-in-law. But when it came to pass that Thomas Roby was
confirmed in office by the coalition which has been mentioned, Mrs.
Dick became very energetic. She went herself to the official hero and
told him how desirous she was of peace. Nothing more should be said
about the money,—at any rate for the present. Let brothers be
brothers. And so it came to pass that the Secretary to the Admiralty
with his wife were to dine in Berkeley Street, and that Mr. Wharton
was asked to meet them.
"I don't particularly want to meet Mr. Thomas Roby," the old
"They want you to come," said Emily, "because there has been some
family reconciliation. You usually do go once or twice a year."
"I suppose it may as well be done," said Mr. Wharton.
"I think, papa, that they mean to ask Mr. Lopez," said Emily
"I told you before that I don't want to have you banished from your
aunt's home by any man," said the father. So the matter was settled,
and the invitation was accepted. This was just at the end of May, at
which time people were beginning to say that the coalition was a
success, and some wise men to predict that at last fortuitous
parliamentary atoms had so come together by accidental connexion,
that a ministry had been formed which might endure for a dozen years.
Indeed there was no reason why there should be any end to a ministry
built on such a foundation. Of course this was very comfortable to
such men as Mr. Roby, so that the Admiralty Secretary when he entered
his sister-in-law's drawing-room was suffused with that rosy hue of
human bliss which a feeling of triumph bestows. "Yes," said he, in
answer to some would-be facetious remark from his brother, "I think
we have weathered that storm pretty well. It does seem rather odd, my
sitting cheek by jowl with Mr. Monk and gentlemen of that kidney; but
they don't bite. I've got one of our own set at the head of our own
office, and he leads the House. I think upon the whole we've got a
little the best of it." This was listened to by Mr. Wharton with
great disgust,—for Mr. Wharton was a Tory of the old school, who
hated compromises, and abhorred in his heart the class of politicians
to whom politics were a profession rather than a creed.
Mr. Roby senior, having escaped from the House, was of course the
last, and had indeed kept all the other guests waiting
half-an-hour,—as becomes a parliamentary magnate in the heat of the
Session. Mr. Wharton, who had been early, saw all the other guests
arrive, and among them Mr. Ferdinand Lopez. There was also Mr. Mills
Happerton,—partner in Hunky and Sons,—with his wife, respecting
whom Mr. Wharton at once concluded that he was there as being the
friend of Ferdinand Lopez. If so, how much influence must Ferdinand
Lopez have in that house! Nevertheless, Mr. Mills Happerton was in
his way a great man, and a credit to Mrs. Roby. And there were Sir
Damask and Lady Monogram, who were people moving quite in the first
circles. Sir Damask shot pigeons, and so did also Dick Roby,—whence
had perhaps arisen an intimacy. But Lady Monogram was not at all a
person to dine with Mrs. Dick Roby without other cause than this. But
a great official among one's acquaintance can do so much for one! It
was probable that Lady Monogram's presence was among the first fruits
of the happy family reconciliation that had taken place. Then there
was Mrs. Leslie, a pretty widow, rather poor, who was glad to receive
civilities from Mrs. Roby, and was Emily Wharton's pet aversion. Mrs.
Leslie had said impertinent things to her about Ferdinand Lopez, and
she had snubbed Mrs. Leslie. But Mrs. Leslie was serviceable to Mrs.
Roby, and had now been asked to her great dinner party.
But the two most illustrious guests have not yet been mentioned. Mrs.
Roby had secured a lord,—an absolute peer of Parliament! This was no
less a man than Lord Mongrober, whose father had been a great judge
in the early part of the century, and had been made a peer. The
Mongrober estates were not supposed to be large, nor was the
Mongrober influence at this time extensive. But this nobleman was
seen about a good deal in society when the dinners given were
supposed to be worth eating. He was a fat, silent, red-faced, elderly
gentleman, who said very little, and who when he did speak seemed
always to be in an ill-humour. He would now and then make ill-natured
remarks about his friends' wines, as suggesting '68 when a man would
boast of his '48 claret; and when costly dainties were supplied for
his use, would remark that such and such a dish was very well at some
other time of the year. So that ladies attentive to their tables and
hosts proud of their cellars would almost shake in their shoes before
Lord Mongrober. And it may also be said that Lord Mongrober never
gave any chance of retaliation by return dinners. There lived not the
man or woman who had dined with Lord Mongrober. But yet the Robys of
London were glad to entertain him; and the Mrs. Robys, when he was
coming, would urge their cooks to superhuman energies by the mention
of his name.
And there was Lady Eustace! Of Lady Eustace it was impossible to say
whether her beauty, her wit, her wealth, or the remarkable history of
her past life, most recommended her to such hosts and hostesses as
Mr. and Mrs. Roby. As her history may be already known to some, no
details of it shall be repeated here. At this moment she was free
from all marital persecution, and was very much run after by a
certain set in society. There were others again who declared that no
decent man or woman ought to meet her. On the score of lovers there
was really little or nothing to be said against her; but she had
implicated herself in an unfortunate second marriage, and then there
was that old story about the jewels! But there was no doubt about her
money and her good looks, and some considered her to be clever. These
completed the list of Mrs. Roby's great dinner party.
Mr. Wharton, who had arrived early, could not but take notice that
Lopez, who soon followed him into the room, had at once fallen into
conversation with Emily, as though there had never been any
difficulty in the matter. The father, standing on the rug and
pretending to answer the remarks made to him by Dick Roby, could see
that Emily said but little. The man, however, was so much at his ease
that there was no necessity for her to exert herself. Mr. Wharton
hated him for being at his ease. Had he appeared to have been
rebuffed by the circumstances of his position the prejudices of the
old man would have been lessened. By degrees the guests came. Lord
Mongrober stood also on the rug, dumb, with a look of intense
impatience for his food, hardly ever condescending to answer the
little attempts at conversation made by Mrs. Dick. Lady Eustace
gushed into the room, kissing Mrs. Dick and afterwards kissing her
great friend of the moment, Mrs. Leslie, who followed. She then
looked as though she meant to kiss Lord Mongrober, whom she playfully
and almost familiarly addressed. But Lord Mongrober only grunted.
Then came Sir Damask and Lady Monogram, and Dick at once began about
his pigeons. Sir Damask, who was the most good-natured man in the
world, interested himself at once and became energetic; but Lady
Monogram looked round the room carefully, and seeing Lady Eustace,
turned up her nose, nor did she care much for meeting Lord Mongrober.
If she had been taken in as to the Admiralty Robys, then would she
let the junior Robys know what she thought about it. Mills Happerton,
with his wife, caused the frown on Lady Monogram's brow to loosen
itself a little, for, so great was the wealth and power of the house
of Hunky and Sons, that Mr. Mills Happerton was no doubt a feature at
any dinner party. Then came the Admiralty Secretary with his wife,
and the order for dinner was given.