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CHAPTER 26 THE END OF THE HONEYMOON.
Mrs Lopez had begged her father to address his reply to her at Florence, where, - as she explained to him, - they expected to find themselves within a fortnight from the date of her writing. They had reached the lake about the end of November, when the weather had still been fine, but they intended to pass the winter months of December and January within the warmth of the cities. That intervening fortnight was to her a period of painful anticipation. She feared to see her father's handwriting, feeling almost sure that he would be bitterly angry with her. During that time her husband frequently spoke to her about the letter,-about her own letter and her father's reply. It was necessary that she should learn her lesson, and she could only do so by having the subject of money made familiar to her ears. It was not part of his plan to tell her anything of the means by which he hoped to make himself a wealthy man. The less she knew of that the better. But the fact that her father absolutely owed to him a large amount of money as her fortune could not be made too clear to her. He was very desirous to do this in such a manner as not to make her think he was accusing her, - or that he would accuse her if the money was not forthcoming. But she must learn the fact, and must be imbued with the conviction that her husband would be the most ill-treated of men unless the money were forthcoming. 'I am a little nervous about it too,' said he, alluding to the expected letter; - 'not so much as to the money itself, though that is important; but as to his conduct. If he chooses simply to ignore us after our marriage, he will be behaving very badly.' She had no answer to make to this. She could not defend her father, because by doing so she would offend her husband. And yet her whole life-long trust in her father could not allow her to think it possible that he should behave ill to them.
On their arrival at Florence he went at once to the post-office, but there was at yet no letter. The fortnight, however, which had been named had only just run itself out. They went from day to day inspecting buildings, looking at pictures, making for themselves a taste in marble and bronze, visiting the lovely villages which cluster on the hills around the city, - doing precisely in this respect as do all young married couples who devote a part of their honeymoon to Florence; - but in all their little journeyings and in all their work of pleasure the inky devil sat not only behind him but behind her also. The heavy care of life was already beginning to work furrows on her face. She would already sit, knitting her brow, as she thought of coming troubles. Would not her father certainly refuse? And would not her husband then begin to be less loving and less gracious to herself?
Every day for a week he called at the post-office when he went out with her, and still the letter did not come. 'It can hardly be possible,' he said at last to her, 'that he should decline to answer his own daughter's letter.'
'Perhaps he is ill,' she replied.
'If there were anything of that kind Everett would tell us.'
'Perhaps he has gone back to Hertfordshire?'
'Of course his letter would go after him. I own it is very singular to me that he should not write. It looks as if he were determined to cast you off from him altogether because you have married against his wishes.'
'Not that, Ferdinand; - do not say that!'
'Well, we shall see.'
And on the next day they did see. He went to the post-office before breakfast, and on this day he returned with a letter in his hand. She was sitting waiting for him with a book in her lap, and saw the letter at once. 'Is it from papa?' she said. He nodded his head as he handed it to her. 'Open it and read it, Ferdinand. I have got to be so nervous about it, that I cannot do it. It seems to be so important.'
'Yes; - it is important,' he said with a grim smile, and then he opened the letter. She watched his face closely as he read it, and at first she could tell nothing from it. Then, in that moment, it first occurred to her that he had a wonderful command of his features. All this, however, lasted but half a minute. Then he chucked the letter, lightly, in among the tea-cups, and coming to her took her closely in her arms and almost hurt her by the violence of his repeated kisses.
'Has he written kindly?' she said, as soon as she could find her breath to speak.
'By George, he's a brick after all. I own I did not think it. My darling, how much I owe you for all the troubles I have given you.'
'Oh Ferdinand! If he has been good to you, I shall be so happy.'
'He has been awfully good. Ha, ha, ha!' And then he began walking about the room as he laughed in an unnatural way. 'Upon my word it is a pity we didn't say four thousand, or five. Think of his taking me just at my word. It's a great deal better than I expected; that's all that I can say. And at the present moment it is of the most importance to me.'
All this did not take above a minute or two, but during that minute or two she had been so bewildered by his manner as almost to fancy that the expressions of his delight had been ironical. He had been so unlike himself as she had known him that she almost doubted the reality of his joy. But when she took the letter and read it, she found that his joy was true enough. The letter was very short, and was as follows:
MY DEAR EMILY,
What you have said under your husband's instruction about money, I find upon consideration to be fair enough. I think he should have spoken to me before his marriage; but then again perhaps I ought to have spoken to him. As it is, I am willing to give him the sum he requires, and I will pay 3,000 pounds to his account, if he would tell me where he would require to have it lodged. Then I shall think I have done my duty by him. What I shall do with the remainder of any money that I may have, I do not think he is entitled to ask.
Everett is well again, and as idle as ever. Your aunt Roby is making a fool of herself at Harrowgate. I have heard nothing from Hertfordshire. Everything is quiet and lonely here.
Your affectionate father
As he had dined at the Eldon every day since his daughter had left him, and had played on an average a dozen rubbers of whist daily, he was not justified in complaining the loneliness of London.
The letter seemed to Emily herself to be very cold, and had not her husband rejoiced over it so warmly she would have considered it to be unsatisfactory. No doubt the 3,000 pounds would be given; but that, as far as she could understand her father's words, was to be the whole of her fortune. She had never known anything of her father's affairs or his intentions, but she had certainly supposed that her fortune would be very much more than this. She had learned in some indirect way that a large sum of money would have gone with her hand to Arthur Fletcher, could she have brought herself to marry that suitor favoured by her family. And now, having learned, as she had learned, that money was of vital importance to her husband, she was dismayed at what seemed to her to be parental parsimony. But he was overjoyed, - so much so that for a while he lost that restraint over himself which was habitual to him. He ate his breakfast in a state of exultation, and talked, - not alluding specially to this 3,000 pounds, - as though he had the command of almost unlimited means. He ordered a carriage and drove her out, and bought presents for her,-things as to which they had both before decided that they should not be bought because of the expense. 'Pray don't spend your money for me,' she said to him. 'It's nice to have you giving me things, but it would be nicer to me even than that to think that I could save you expense.'
But he was not in a mood to be denied. 'You don't understand,' he said. 'I don't want to be saved from little extravagances of this sort. Owing to circumstances, your father's money was at this moment of importance to me, - but he has answered to the whip and the money is there, and the trouble is over. We can enjoy ourselves now. Other troubles will spring up, no doubt, before long.'
She did not quite like being told that her father 'had answered to the whip', - but she was willing to believe that it was a phrase common among men to which it would be prudish to make objection. There was, also, something in her husband's elation which was distasteful to her. Could it be that reverses of fortune with reference to moderate sums of money, such as this which was now coming into his hands, would always affect him in the same way? Was it not almost unmanly, or at any rate was it not undignified? And yet she tried to make the best of it, and lent herself to his holiday mood as well as she was able. 'Shall I write and thank papa?' she said that evening.
'I have been thinking of that,' he said. 'You can write if you like, and of course you will. But I shall also write, and had better do so a post or two before you. As he has come round I suppose I ought to show myself civil. What he says about the rest of his money is of course absurd. I shall ask him nothing about it, but no doubt after a bit he will make permanent arrangements.' Everything in the business wounded her more or less. She now perceived that he regarded this 3,000 pounds only as the first instalment of what he might get, and that his joy was due simply to this temporary success. And then he called her father absurd to her face. For a moment she thought that she would defend her father; but she could not as yet bring herself to question her husband's words even on such a subject as that.
He did write to Mr Wharton, but in doing so he altogether laid aside that flighty manner which for a while had annoyed her. He thoroughly understood that the wording of the letter might be very important to him, and he took much trouble with it. It must be now the great work of his life to ingratiate himself with this old man, so that, at any rate at the old man's death, he might possess at least half of the old man's money. He must take care that there should be no division between his wife and her father of such a nature as to make the father think that his son ought to enjoy any special privilege of primogeniture or of male inheritance. And if it could be so managed that the daughter should before the old man's death, become his favourite child, that also would be well. He was therefore very careful about the letter, which was as follows:
MY DEAR MR WHARTON
I cannot let your letter to Emily pass without thanking you myself for the very liberal response made by you to what was of course a request from myself. Let me in the first place assure you that had you, before our marriage, made any inquiry about my money affairs, I would have told you everything with accuracy; but as you did not do so I thought that I should seem to intrude upon you, if I introduced the subject. It is too long for a letter, but whenever you may like to allude to it, you will find that I will be quite open with you.
I am engaged in business which often requires the use of considerable amount of capital. It has so happened that ever since we were married the immediate use of sum of money became essential to me to save me from sacrificing a cargo of guano, which will be of greatly increased value in three months' time, but which otherwise must have gone for what it would now fetch. Your kindness will see me through that difficulty.
Of course there is something precarious in such a business as mine, - but I am endeavouring to make it less so from day to day, and hope very shortly to bring into that humdrum groove which best befits a married man. Should I ask further assistance from you in doing this, perhaps you will not refuse it if I can succeed in making the matter clear to you. As it is I thank you sincerely for what you have done. I will ask you to pay the 3,000 pounds you have so kindly promised to my account at Messrs. Hunky and Sons, Lombard Street. They are not regular bankers, but I have an account there.
We are wandering about and enjoying ourselves mightily in the properly romantic manner. Emily sometimes seems to think that she would like to give up business, and London, and all subsidiary troubles, in order that she might settle herself for life under an Italian sky. But the idea does not generally remain with her very long. Already she is beginning to show symptoms of home sickness in regard to Manchester Square.
Yours always most faithfully,
To this letter Lopez received no reply; - nor did he expect one. Between Emily and her father a few letters passed, not very long; nor as regarded those from Mr Wharton, were they very interesting. In none of them, however, was there any mention of money. But early in January, Lopez received a more pressing,-we might almost say an agonising letter from his friend Parker. The gist of the letter was to make Lopez understand that Parker must at once sell certain interests in a coming cargo of guano,-at whatever sacrifice, - unless he could be certified as that money which must be paid in February, and which he, Parker, must pay, should Ferdinand Lopez be at that moment be unable to meet his bond. The answer sent to Parker shall be given to the reader.
MY DEAR OLD AWFULLY SILLY, AND ABSURDLY, IMPATIENT FRIEND FERDINAND LOPEZ You are always like a toad under a harrow, and that without the slightest cause. I have money lying at Hunky's more than double enough for those bills. Why can't you trust a man? If you won't trust me in saying so, you can go to Mills Happerton and ask him. But, remember, I shall be very much annoyed if you do so,- and that such an inquiry cannot but be injurious to me. If, however, you won't believe me, you can go and ask. At any rate, don't meddle with the guano. We should lose over 4,000 pounds each of us, if you were to do so. By George, a man should neither marry, nor leave London for a day, if he has to do with a fellow as nervous as you are. As it is I think I shall be back in a week or two before my time is properly up, lest you and one or two others should think that I have levanted altogether.
I have no hesitation in saying that more fortunes are lost in business by trembling cowardice than by any amount of imprudence or extravagance. My hair stands on end when you talk of parting with guano in December because there are bills which have to be met in February. Pluck up your heart, man, and look around, and see what is done by men with good courage.
These were the only communications between our married couple and their friends at home with which I need trouble my readers. Nor need I tell any further tales of their honeymoon. If the time was not one of complete and unalloyed joy to Emily, - and we must fear that it was not, - it is to be remembered that but very little complete and unalloyed joy is allowed to sojourners in that vale of tears, even though they have been but two months married. In the first week in February they appeared in the Belgrave mansion, and Emily Lopez took possession of her new home with a heart as full of love for her husband as it had been when she walked out of the church in Vere Street, though it may be that some of her sweetest illusions had already been dispelled.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER 27 THE DUKE'S MISERY.