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CHAPTER 24 THE MARRIAGE.
The engagement was made in October, and the marriage took place in the latter part of November. When Lopez pressed for an early day, - which he did very strongly, - Emily raised no difficulties in the way of his wishes. The father, foolishly enough, would at first have postponed it, and made himself so unpleasant to Lopez by his manner of doing this, that the bride was driven to take her lover's part. As the thing was to be done, what was to be gained by the delay? It could not be made a joy to him; nor, looking at the matter as he looked at it, could he make a joy even of her presence during the few intervening weeks. Lopez proposed to take his bride into Italy for the winter months, and to stay there at any rate through December and January, alleging that he must be back in town by the beginning of February; - and this was taken as a fair plea for hastening the marriage.
When the matter was settled, he went back to Gatherum Castle, as he had arranged to do with the Duchess and managed to interest her Grace in all his proceedings. She promised that she would call on his bride in town, and even went so far as to send her a costly wedding present. 'You are sure she has got money?' said the Duchess.
'I am not sure of anything,' said Lopez, - 'except this, that I do not mean to ask a single question about it. If he says nothing to me about money, I certainly shall say nothing to him. My feeling is this, Duchess, that I am not marrying Miss Wharton for her money. The money, if there be any, has had nothing to do with it. But of course it will be a pleasure added if it be there.' The Duchess complimented him, and told him that this was exactly as it should be.
But there was some delay as to the seat of Silverbridge. Mr Grey's departure for Persia had been postponed, - the Duchess thought only for a month or six weeks. The Duke, however, was of the opinion that Mr Grey should not vacate his seat till the day of his going was at any rate fixed. The Duke, moreover, had not made any promise of supporting his wife's favourite. 'Don't set your heart upon it too much, Mr Lopez,' the Duchess had said; 'but you may be sure I will not forget you.' Then it had been settled between them that the marriage should not be postponed, or the promised trip to Italy abandoned, because of the probable vacancy at Silverbridge. Should the vacancy occur during his absence, and should the Duke consent, he could return at once. All this occurred in the last week or two before his marriage.
There were various little incidents which did not tend to make the happiness of Emily Wharton complete. She wrote to her cousin Mary Wharton, and also to Lady Wharton; - and her father wrote to Sir Alured; but the folk at Wharton Hall did not give their adherence. Old Mrs Fletcher was still there, but John Fletcher had gone home to Longbarns. The obduracy of the Whartons might probably be owing to these two accidents. Mrs Fletcher declared aloud, as soon as the tidings reached her, that she never wished to see or hear anything more of Emily Wharton. 'She must be a girl,' said Mrs Fletcher, 'of an ingrained vulgar taste.' Sir Alured, whose letter from Mr Wharton had been very short, replied as shortly to his cousin. 'Dear Abel, - We all hope that Emily will be happy, though of course we regret the marriage.' The father, though he had not himself written triumphantly, or even hopefully, - as fathers are wont to write when their daughters are given away in marriage, - was wounded by the curtness and unkindness of the baronet's reply, and at the moment declared to himself that he would never go to Hertfordshire any more. But on the following day there came a worse blow than Sir Alured's single line. Emily, not in the least doubting but that her request would be received with the usual ready assent, had asked Mary Wharton to be one of the bridesmaids. It must be supposed that the answer to this was written, if not under the dictation, at any rate under the inspiration, of Mrs Fletcher. It was as follows:
Of course we all wish you to be very happy in your marriage; but equally of course we are all disappointed. We had taught ourselves to think you would have bound yourself closer with us down here, instead of separating yourself entirely from us.
Under all the circumstances mamma thinks it would not be wise for me to go up to London as one of your bridesmaids.
Your affectionate cousin
This letter made poor Emily very angry for a day or two. 'It is as unreasonable as it is ill-natured,' she said to her brother.
'What else could you expect from a stiff-necked, prejudiced set of provincial ignoramuses?'
'What Mary says is not true. She did not think I was going to bind myself closer with them, as she calls it. I have been quite open with her, and have always told her that I could not be Arthur Fletcher's wife.'
'Why on earth should you marry to please them?'
'Because they don't know Ferdinand and are determined to insult him. It is an insult never to mention even his name. And to refuse to come to my marriage! The world is wide and there is room for us and them; but it makes me unhappy, - very unhappy,-that I should have to break with them.' And then tears came into her eyes. It was intended, no doubt, to be a complete breach, for not a single wedding present was sent from Wharton Hall to the bride. But from Longbarns, - from John Fletcher himself,-there did come an elaborate coffee-pot, which, in spite of its inutility and ugliness, was very valuable to Emily.
But there was one other of her old Hertfordshire friends who received the tidings of her marriage without quarrelling with her. She herself had written to her old lover.
MY DEAR ARTHUR,
There has been so much true friendship and affection between us that I do not like that you should hear from anyone by myself the news that I am to be married to Mr Lopez. We are to be married on the 28th November, - this day month.
To this she received a very short reply.
I am as I always have been.
He sent her no present, nor did he say a word beyond this; but in her anger against the Hertfordshire people she never included Arthur Fletcher. She pored over the little note a score of times, and wept over it, and treasured it up among her most inmost treasures, and told herself that it was a thousand pities. She could talk, and did talk, to Ferdinand about the Whartons, and about old Mrs Fletcher, and described to him the arrogance and the stiffness and the ignorance of the Hertfordshire squirearchy generally; but she never spoke to him of Arthur Fletcher, - except in that one narrative of her past life, in which, girl-like, she told her lover of the one other lover who had loved her.
But these things of course gave a certain melancholy to the occasion which perhaps was increased by the season of the year,-by the November fogs, and by the emptiness and general sadness of the town. And added to this was the melancholy of old Mr Wharton himself. After he had given his consent to the marriage he admitted a certain amount of intimacy with his son-in-law, asking him to dinner, and discussing with him matters of general interest, - but never, in truth, opening his heart to him. Indeed, how can any man open his heart to one whom he dislikes? At best he can only pretend to open his heart, and even this Mr Wharton would not do. And very soon after the engagement Lopez left London and went to the Duke's place in the country. His objects in doing this and his aspirations in regard to a seat in Parliament were all made known to his future wife, - but he said not a word on the subject to her father; and she, acting under his instructions, was equally reticent. 'He will get to know me in time,' he said to her, 'and his manner will be softened towards me. But till that time shall come, I can hardly expect him to take a real interest in my welfare.'
When Lopez left London not a word had been said between him and his father-in-law as to money. Mr Wharton was content with such silence, not wishing to make any promise as to immediate income from himself, pretending to look at the matter as though he should say that, as his daughter had made herself her own bed, she must lie on it, such as it might be. And this silence certainly suited Ferdinand Lopez at the time. To tell the truth of him - though he was not absolutely penniless, he was altogether propertyless. He had been speculating in money without capital, and though he had now and again been successful, he had also now and again failed. He had contrived that his name should be mentioned here and there with the names of well-known wealthy commercial men, and had for the last twelve months made up a somewhat intimate alliance with that very sound commercial man Mr Mills Happerton. But his dealings with Mr Sextus Parker were in truth much more confidential than those with Mr Mills Happerton, and at the present moment poor Sexty Parker was alternately between triumph and despair as things this way or that.
It was not therefore surprising that Ferdinand Lopez should volunteer no statements to the old lawyer about money, and that he should make no inquiries. He was quite confident that Mr Wharton had the wealth which was supposed to belong to him, and was willing to trust his power of obtaining a fair portion of it as soon as he should in truth be Mr Wharton's son-in-law. Situated as he was, of course, he must run some risk. And then, too, he had spoken of himself with a grain of truth when he had told the Duchess that he was not marrying for money. Ferdinand Lopez was not an honest man or a good man. He was a selfseeking, intriguing adventurer, who did not know honesty from dishonesty when he saw them together. But he had at any rate this good about him, that he did love the girl whom he was about to marry. He was willing to cheat all the world, - so that he might succeed, and make a fortune, and become a big and rich man; but he did not wish to cheat her. It was his ambition to carry her up with him, and he thought how he might best teach her to assist him in doing so, - how he might win her to help him in his cheating, especially in regard to her own father. For to himself, to his own thinking, that which we call cheating was not dishonesty. To this thinking there was something bold, grand, picturesque, and almost beautiful in the battle which such a one as himself must wage with the world before he could make his way up in it. He would not pick a pocket or turn a false card, or, as he thought, forge a name. That which he did, and desired to do, took with the name of speculation. When he persuaded poor Sexty Parker to hazard his all, knowing well that he induced the unfortunate man to believe what was false, and to trust what was utterly untrustworthy, he did not himself think that he was going beyond the limits of fair enterprise. Now, in his marriage, he had in truth joined himself to real wealth. Could he only command at once that which he thought ought to be his wife's share of the lawyer's money, he did not doubt but that he could make a rapid fortune. It would not do for him to seem to be desirous of money a day before the time; - but, when the time should come, would not his wife help him in his great career? But before she could do so she must be made to understand something of the nature of his career, and of the need of such aid.
Of course there arose the question where they should live. But he was ready with an immediate answer to this question. He had been to look at a flat, - a set of rooms, - in the Belgrave Mansions, in Pimlico, or Belgravia you ought more probably to call it. He proposed to take them furnished till they could look about at their leisure and get a house that should suit them. Would she like a flat? She would have liked a cellar with him, and so she told him. Then they went to look at the flat, and old Mr Wharton condescended to go with them. Though his heart was not in the business, still he thought he was bound to look after his daughter's comfort. 'They are very handsome rooms,' said Mr Wharton, looking round upon the rather gorgeous furniture.
'Oh, Ferdinand, are they too grand?'
'Perhaps they are a little more than we quite want just at present,' he said. 'But I'll tell you sir, just how it happened. A man I know wanted to let them for one year, just as they are, and offered them to me for 450 pounds, - if I could pay the money in advance, at the moment. And so I paid it.'
'You have taken them then?' said Mr Wharton.
'Is it all settled?' said Emily, almost with disappointment.
'I have paid the money, and I have so far taken them. But it is by no means settled. You have only to say you don't like them, and you shall never be asked to put your foot in them again.'
'But I do like them,' she whispered to him.
'The truth is, sir, that there is no slightest difficulty in parting with them. So that when the chance came in my way I thought it best to secure the thing. It had all to be done, so to say, in an hour. My friend, - as far as he was a friend, for I don't know much about him, - wanted the money and wanted to be off. So here they are, and Emily can do as she likes.' Of course the rooms were regarded from that moment as the home for the next twelve months of Mr and Mrs Ferdinand Lopez.
And then they were married. The marriage was by no means a gay affair, the chief management of it falling into the hands of Mrs Dick Roby. Mrs Dick indeed provided not only the breakfast, - or saw rather that it was provided for, for of course Mr Wharton paid the bill, - but the four bridesmaids also, and all the company. They were married in the church in Vere Street, then went back to the house in Manchester Square, and within a couple of hours were on their road to Dover. Through it all not a word was said about money. At the last moment, - when he was free from fear as any questions about his own affairs, - Lopez had hoped that the old man would say something. 'You will find so many thousand pounds at your banker's,' - or, 'You may look to me for so many hundreds a year.' But there was not a word. The girl had come to him without the assurance of a single shilling. In his great endeavour to get her he had been successful. As he thought of this in the carriage, he pressed his arm close round her waist. If the worst were to come to the worst, he would fight the world for her. But if this old man should be stubborn, close-fisted, and absolutely resolved to bestow all his money upon his son because of the marriage, - ah! - how should he be able to bear such a wrong as that?
Half-a-dozen times during that journey to Dover, he resolved to think nothing further about it, at any rate for a fortnight; and yet, before he reached Dover, he had said a word to her. 'I wonder what your father means to do about money? He never told you?'
'Does it matter, dear?'
'Not in the least. But of course I have to talk about everything to you; - and it is odd.'
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER 25 THE BEGINNING OF THE HONEYMOON.