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The Prime Minister

by Anthony Trollope



Though his daughter's words to him had been very wild they did almost more to convince Mr Wharton that he should not give his money to his son-in-law than even the letters which had passed between them. To Emily herself he spoke very little as to what had occurred that evening. 'Papa,' she said, 'do not ask me anything more about it. I was very miserable, - because of the dinner.' Nor did he at that time ask her any questions, contenting himself with assuring her that, at any rate at present, and till after her baby should have been born, she must remain at Manchester Square. 'He won't hurt me,' said Mr Wharton, and than added with a smile, 'He won't want to have any more dinner parties while I am here.'

Nor did he make any complaint to Lopez as to what had been done, or even allude to the dinner. But when he had been back about a week he announced to his son-in-law his final determination as to money. 'I had better tell you, Lopez, what I mean to do, so that you may not be left in doubt. I shall not entrust any further sum of money into your hands on behalf of Emily.'

'You can do as you please, sir, - of course.'

'Just so. You have had what to me is a very considerable sum,-though I fear that it did not go for much in your large concern.'

'It was not very much, Mr Wharton.'

'I dare say not. Opinions on such a matter differ, you know. At any rate there will be no more. At present I wish Emily to live her, and you, of course, are welcome here also. If things are not going well with you, this will, at any rate, relieve you from immediate expense.

'Mine are more minute. The necessities of my life have caused me to think of these little things. When I am dead there will be provision for Emily made by my will; - the income going to trustees for her benefit, and the capital to her children after her death. I thought it only fair to you that this should be explained.'

'And you will do nothing for me?'

'Nothing; - if that is nothing. I should have thought that your present maintenance and the future support of your wife and children would have been regarded as something.'

'It is nothing; - nothing!'

'Then let it be nothing. Good morning.'

Two days after that Lopez recurred to the subject. 'You were very explicit with me the other day, sir.'

'I meant to be so.'

'And I will be equally so to you now. Both I and your daughter are absolutely ruined unless you reconsider your purpose.'

'If you mean money by reconsideration; - present money to be given to you, - I certainly shall not reconsider it. You may take my solemn assurance that I will give you nothing that can be of any service to you in trade.'

Then, sir, - I must tell you my purpose, and give you my assurance, which is equally solemn. Under those circumstances I must leave England, and try my fortune in Central America. There is an opening for me at Guatemala, though not a very hopeful one.'


'Yes; - friends of mine have a connection there. I have not broken it to Emily yet, but under these circumstances she will have to go.'

'You will not take her to Guatemala!'

'Not take my wife, sir? Indeed I shall. Do you suppose that I would go away and leave my wife a pensioner on your bounty? Do you think that she would wish to desert her husband? I don't think you know your daughter.'

'I wish you had never known her.'

'That is neither here not there, sir. If I cannot succeed in this country I must go elsewhere. As I have told you before 20,000 pounds at the present moment would enable me to surmount all my difficulties, and make me a very wealthy man. But unless I can command some such sum by Christmas everything here must be sacrificed.'

'Never in my life did I hear so base a proposition,' said Mr Wharton.

'Why is it base? I can only tell you the truth.'

'So be it. You will find that I have mean what I said.'

'So do I, Mr Wharton.'

'As to my daughter, she must, of course, do as she thinks fit.'

'She must do as I think fit, Mr Wharton.'

'I will not argue with you. Alas, alas, poor girl.'

'Poor girl indeed! She is likely to be a poor girl if she is treated in this way by her father. As I understand that you intend to use, or to try to use, authority over her, I shall take steps for removing her at once from your house.' And so the interview was ended.

Lopez had thought the matter over, and had determined to 'brazen it out', as he himself called it. Nothing further was, he thought, to be got by civility and obedience. Now he must use his power. His idea of going to Guatemala was not an invention of the moment, nor was it devoid of a certain basis of truth. Such a suggestion had been made to him some time since by Mr Mills Happerton. There were mines in Guatemala which wanted, or at some future date, might want, a resident director. The proposition had been made to Lopez before his marriage, and Mr Happerton probably had now forgotten all about it; - but the thing was of service now. He broke the matter very suddenly to his wife. 'Has your father been speaking to you of my plans?'

'Not lately; - not that I remember.'

'He could not speak of them without your remembering, I should think. Has he told you that I am going to Guatemala?'

'Guatemala! Where is Guatemala, Ferdinand?'

'You can answer my question though your geography is deficient.'

'He has said nothing about your going anywhere.'

'You will have to go, - as soon after Christmas as you may be fit.'

'But where is Guatemala; - and for how long, Ferdinand?'

'Guatemala is in Central America, and we shall probably settle there for the rest of our lives. I have got nothing to live on here.'

During the next two months this plan of seeking a distant home and a strange country was constantly spoken of in Manchester Square, and did receive corroboration from Mr Happerton himself. Lopez renewed his application and received a letter saying that the thing might probably be arranged if he were in earnest. 'I am quite earnest,' Lopez said as he showed the letter to Mr Wharton. 'I suppose Emily will be able to start two months after her confinement. They tell me babies do very well at sea.'

During this time, in spite of his threat, he continued to live with Mr Wharton in Manchester Square, and went every day into the city, - whether to make arrangements and receive instructions as to Guatemala, or to carry on his old business, neither Emily nor her father knew. He never at this time spoke about his affairs to either of them, but daily referred to her future expatriation as a thing that was certain. At last there came up the actual question, - whether she were to go or not. Her father told her that though she was doubtless bound by law to obey her husband, in such a matter as this she might defy the law. 'I do not think that he can actually force you on board the ship,' her father said.

'But if he tells me I must go?'

'Stay with me,' said the father. 'Stay here with your baby. I'll fight it out for you. I'll so manage that you shall have all the world on your side.'

Emily at the moment came to no decision, but on the following day she discussed the matter with Lopez himself. 'Of course you will go with me,' he said, when she asked the question.

'You mean that I must, whether I wish to go or not.'

'Certainly you must. Good G-! Where is a wife's place? Am I to go without my child, and without you, while you are enjoying all the comforts of your father's wealth at home? That is not my idea of life.'

'Ferdinand, I have been thinking about it very much. I must beg you to allow me to remain. I ask it of you as if I were asking my life.'

'Your father has put you up to this.'

'No; - not to this.'

'To what then.'

'My father thinks I should refuse to go.'

'He does, does he?'

'But I shall not refuse. I shall go if you insist upon it. There shall be no contest between us about that.'

'Well, I should hope not.'

'But I do implore you to spare me.'

'That is very selfish, Emily.'

'Yes,' - she said, 'yes, I cannot contradict that. But so is the man selfish who prays the judge to spare his life.'

'But you do not think of me. I must go.'

'I shall not make you happier, Ferdinand.'

'Do you think that it is a fine thing for a man to live in such a country as that all alone?'

'I think it would be better so than with a wife he does not-love.'

'Who says I do not love you?'

'Or with one who does - not - love him.' This she said very slowly, very softly, but looking up into his eyes as she said it.

'Do you tell me that to my face?'

'Yes; - what good can I do now by lying? You have not been to me as I thought you would be.'

'And, because you have built some castle in the air that has fallen to pieces, you tell your husband to his face that you do not love him, and that you prefer not to live with him. Is that your idea of duty?'

'Why have you been so cruel?'

'Cruel! What have I done? Tell me what cruelty. Have I beat you? Have you been starved? Have I not asked and implored your assistance, - only to be refused? The fact is that your father and you have found out that I am not a rich man, and you want to be rid of me. Is that true or false?'

'It is not true that I want to be rid of you because you are poor.'

'I do not mean to be rid of you. You will have to settle down and do your work as my wife in whatever place it may suit me to live. Your father is a rich man, but you shall not have the advantage of his wealth unless it comes to you, as it ought to come, through my hands. If your father would give me the fortune which ought to be yours there need be no going abroad. He cannot bear to part with his money, and therefore we must go. Now you know all about it.' She was then turning to leave him, when he asked her a direct question. 'Am I to understand that you intend to resist my right to take you with me?'

'If you bid me go, - I shall go.'

'It will be better, as you will save both trouble and expense.'

Of course she told her father what had taken place; but he could only shake his head, and groaning over his misery in his chambers. He had explained to her what he was willing to do on her behalf, but she declined his aid. He could not tell her that she was wrong. She was the man's wife, and out of that terrible destiny she could not now escape. The only question with him was whether it would not be best to buy the man, - give him a some of money to go, and to go alone. Could he have been quit of the man even for 20,000 pounds, he would willingly have paid the money. But the man would either not go, or would come back as soon as he got the money. His own life, as he passed it now, with this man in the house with him, was horrible to him. For Lopez, though he had more than once threatened that he would carry his wife to another home, had taken no steps towards getting that other house ready for her.

During all this time Mr Wharton had not seen his son. Everett had gone abroad just as his father returned to London from Brighton, and was still on the continent. He received his allowance punctually, and that was the only intercourse which took place between them. But Emily had written to him, not telling him much of her troubles, - only saying that she believed her husband would take her to Central America early in the spring, and begging him to come home before she went.

Just before Christmas her baby was born, but the poor child did not live a couple of days. She herself at the time was so worn with care, so thin and wan and wretched, that looking in the glass she hardly knew her own face. 'Ferdinand,' she said to him, 'I know he will not live. The Doctor says so.'

'Noting thrives that I have to do with,' he answered gloomily.

'Will you not look at him?'

'Well; yes. I have looked at him, have I not? I wish to God that where he is going I could go with him.'

'I wish I was; - I wish I was going,' said the poor mother. Then the father went out, and before he had returned to the house the child was dead. 'Oh, Ferdinand, speak one kind word to me now,' she said.

'What kind word can I speak when you have told me that you do not love me. Do you think that I can forget that because, because he has gone?'

'A woman's love may always be won back by kindness.'

'Psha! How am I to kiss and make pretty speeches with my mind harassed as it is now?' But he did touch her brow with his lips before he went away.

The infant was buried, and then there was not much show of mourning in the house. The poor mother would sit gloomily alone day after day, telling herself that it was perhaps better that she should have been robbed of her treasure than have gone forth with him into the wide, unknown, harsh world with such a father as she had given him. Then she would look at all the preparations she had made, - the happy work of her fingers when her thoughts of their future use were her sweetest consolation,-and weep till she would herself feel that there never could be an end to her tears.

The second week in January had come and yet nothing further had been settled as to the Guatemala project. Lopez talked about it as though it was certain, and even told his wife as they would move so soon it would not be now worth while for him to take other lodgings for her. But when she asked as to her own preparations, - the wardrobe necessary for the long voyage and her general outfit, - he told her that three weeks or a fortnight would be enough for all, and that he would give her sufficient notice. 'Upon my word he is very kind to honour my poor house as he does,' said Mr Wharton.

'Papa, we will go at once if you wish it,' said his daughter.

'Nay, Emily; do not turn upon me. I cannot but be sensible to the insult of his daily presence, but even that is better than losing you.'

Then there occurred a ludicrous incident, - or the combination of incidents, - which, in spite of their absurdity, drove Mr Wharton almost frantic. First there came to him the bill from Messrs Stewam and Sugarscraps for the dinner. At this time he kept nothing back from his daughter. 'Look at that!' he said. The bill was absolutely made out in his name.

'It is a mistake, papa.'

'Not at all. The dinner was given in my house, and I must pay for it. I would sooner do so than he should pay it, - even if he had the means.' So he paid Messrs Stewam and Sugarscraps 25 pounds 9s 6d., begging them as he did so never to send another dinner into his house, and observing that he was in the habit of entertaining his friends at less than three guineas a head. 'But Chateau Yquem and Cote d'Or!' said Mr Sugarscraps. 'Chateau fiddlesticks!' said Mr Wharton, walking out of the house with his receipt.

Then came the bill for the brougham, - for the brougham from the very day of their return to town after their wedding trip. This he showed to Lopez. Indeed the bill had been made out to Lopez and sent to Mr Wharton with an apologetic note. 'I didn't tell him to send it,' said Lopez.

'But will you pay it?'

'I certainly shall not ask you to pay it.' But Mr Wharton at last did pay it, and he also paid the rent of the rooms in the Belgrave Mansions, and between 30 pounds and 40 pounds for dresses which Emily had got at Lewes and Allenby's under her husband's orders in the first days of their married life in London.

'Oh, papa, I wish I had not gone there,' she said.

'My dear, anything that you may have had I do not grudge in the least. And even for him, if he would let you remain here, I would pay willingly. I would supply all he wants if he would only - go away.'

Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER 50 MR SLIDE'S REVENGE.

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