The Prime Minister, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 25

The Beginning of the Honeymoon.

On the morning of his marriage, before he went to the altar, Lopez made one or two resolutions as to his future conduct. The first was that he would give himself a fortnight from his marriage day in which he would not even think of money. He had made certain arrangements, in the course of which he had caused Sextus Parker to stare with surprise and to sweat with dismay, but which nevertheless were successfully concluded. Bills were drawn to run over to February, and ready money to a moderate extent was forthcoming, and fiscal tranquillity was insured for a certain short period. The confidence which Sextus Parker had once felt in his friend’s own resources was somewhat on the decline, but he still believed in his friend’s skill and genius, and, after due inquiry, he believed entirely in his friend’s father-inlaw. Sextus Parker still thought that things would come round. Ferdinand — he always now called his friend by his Christian name — Ferdinand was beautifully, seraphically confident. And Sexty, who had been in a manner magnetized by Ferdinand, was confident too — at certain periods of the day. He was very confident when he had had his two or three glasses of sherry at luncheon, and he was often delightfully confident with his cigar and brandy-and-water at night. But there were periods in the morning in which he would shake with fear and sweat with dismay.

But Lopez himself, having with his friend’s assistance, arranged his affairs comfortably for a month or two, had, as a first resolution, promised himself a fortnight’s freedom from all carking cares. His second resolution had been that at the end of the fortnight he would commence his operations on Mr Wharton. Up to the last moment he had hoped — had almost expected — that a sum of money would have been paid to him. Even a couple of thousand pounds for the time would have been of great use to him; — but no tender of any kind had been made. Not a word had been said. Things could not of course go on in that way. He was not going to play the coward with his father-inlaw. Then he bethought himself how he would act if his father-inlaw were sternly to refuse to do anything for him, and he assured himself that in such circumstances he would make himself very disagreeable to his father-inlaw. And then his third resolution had reference to his wife. She must be instructed in his ways. She must learn to look at the world in his eyes. She must be taught the great importance of money — not in a gripping, hard-fisted, prosaic spirit; but that she might participate in that feeling of his own which had in it so much that was grand, so much that was delightful, so much that was picturesque. He would never ask her to be parsimonious — never even to be economical. He would take a glory in seeing her well dressed and well attended, with her own carriage, and her own jewels. But she must learn that the enjoyment of these things must be built upon a conviction that the most important pursuit in the world was the acquiring of money. And she must be made to understand, first of all, that she had a right to at any rate a half of her father’s fortune. He had perceived that she had much influence with her father, and she must be taught to use this influence unscrupulously on her husband’s behalf.

We have already seen that under the pressure of his thoughts he did break his resolution within an hour or two of his marriage. It is easy for a man to say that he will banish care, so that he may enjoy to the full the delights of the moment. But this is a power which none but a savage possesses — or perhaps an Irishman. We have learned the lesson from the divines, the philosophers, and the poets. Post equitem sedes atra cura. Thus was Ferdinand Lopez mounted high on his horse — for he had triumphed greatly in his marriage, and really felt that the world could give him no delight so great as to have her beside him, and her as his own. But the inky devil sat close upon his shoulders. Where would he be at the end of three months if Mr Wharton would do nothing for him — and if a certain venture in guano, to which he had tempted Sexty Parker, should not turn out the right way? He believed in the guano and he believed in Mr Wharton, but it is a terrible thing to have one’s whole position in the world hanging upon either an unwilling father-inlaw or a probable rise in the value of manure. And then how would he reconcile himself to her if both father-inlaw and guano should go against him, and how should he endure her misery?

The inky devil had forced him to ask the question even before they had reached Dover. ‘Does it matter,’ she had asked. Then for the time he had repudiated his solicitude, and had declared that no question of money was of much consequence to him — thereby making his future task with her so much the more difficult. After that he said nothing to her on the subject on that their wedding day — but he could not prevent himself from thinking of it. Had he gone to the depth of ruin without a wife, what would it have mattered? For years past he had been at the same kind of work — but while he was unmarried there had been a charm in the very danger. And as a single man he had succeeded, being sometimes utterly impecunious, but still with the capacity of living. Now he had laden himself with a burden of which the very intensity of his love immensely increased the weight. As for not thinking of it, that was impossible. Of course she must help him. Of course she must be taught how imperative it was that she should help him at once. ‘Is there anything troubles you,’ she asked, as she sat leaning against him after their dinner in the hotel at Dover.

‘What should trouble me on such a day as this?’

‘If there is anything, tell it me. I do not mean to say now, at this moment — unless you wish it. Whatever may be your troubles, it shall be my present happiness, as it is my first duty, to lessen them, if I can.’

The promise was very well. It all went in the right direction. It showed him that she was at any rate prepared to take a part in the joint work of their life. But, nevertheless, she should be spared for the moment. ‘When there is trouble, you shall be told everything,’ he said, pressing his lips to her brow; ‘but there is nothing that need trouble you yet.’ He smiled as he said this, but there was something in the tone of his voice which told her that there would be trouble.

When he was in Paris he received a letter from Parker, to whom he had been obliged to entrust a running address, but from whom he had enforced a promise that there should be no letter-writing unless under very pressing circumstances. The circumstances had not been pressing. The letter contained only one paragraph of any importance, and that was due to what Lopez tried to regard as fidgety cowardice on the part of his ally. ‘Please to bear in mind that I can’t and won’t arrange for the bills for 1,500 pounds due on 3rd of February.’ That was the paragraph. Who had asked him to arrange for these bills? And yet Lopez was well aware that he intended poor Sexty should ‘arrange’ for them in the event of his failure to make arrangements with Mr Wharton.

At last he was quite unable to let the fortnight pass by without beginning the lessons which his wife had to learn. As for the first intention as to driving his cares out of his own mind for that time, he had long since abandoned even the attempt. It was necessary to him that a reasonable sum of money should be extracted from the father-inlaw, at any rate before the end of January, and a week or even a day might be of importance. They had hurried on southwards from Paris, and before the end of the first week had passed over the Simplon, and were at a pleasant inn on the shores of the Como. Everything in their travels had been as yet delightful to Emily. This man, of whom she knew in truth so little, had certain good gifts — gifts of intellect, gifts of temper, gifts of voice and manner and outward appearance — which had hitherto satisfied her. A husband who is also an eager lover must be delightful to a young bride. And hitherto no lover could have been more tender than Lopez. Every word and every act, every look and every touch, had been loving. Had she known the world better she might have felt, perhaps, that something was expected where so much was given. Perhaps a rougher manner, with some little touch of marital self-assertion, might be a safer commencement of married life — safer to the wife as coming from her husband. Arthur Fletcher by this time would have asked her to bring him his slippers, taking infinite pride in having his little behests obeyed by so sweet a servitor. That also would have been pleasant to her had her heart in the first instance followed his image; but now also the idolatry of Ferdinand Lopez had been very pleasant.

But the moment for the first lesson had come. ‘Your father has not written to you since you started?’ he said.

‘Not a line. He has not known our address. He is never very good at letter-writing. I did write to him from Paris, and I scribbled a few words to Everett yesterday.’

‘It is very odd that he should never have written to me.’

‘Did you expect him to write?’

‘To tell you the truth, I rather did. Not that I should have dreamed of his corresponding with me had he spoken to me on a certain subject. But as, on that subject, he never opened his mouth to me, I almost thought he would write.’

‘Do you mean about money?’ she asked in a very low voice.

‘Well; — yes; I do mean about money. Things hitherto have gone so very strangely between us. Sit down, dear, till we have a real domestic talk.’

‘Tell me everything,’ she said as she nestled herself close to his side.

‘You know how it was at first between him and me. He objected to me violently — I mean openly, to my face. But he based his objection solely on my nationality — nationality and blood. As to my condition in the world, fortune, or income, he never asked a word. That was strange.’

‘I suppose he thought he knew.’

‘He could not have thought he knew, dearest. But it was not for me to force the subject upon him. You can see that.’

‘I am sure whatever you did was right, Ferdinand.’

‘He is indisputably a rich man — one who might be supposed to be able and willing to give an only daughter a considerable fortune. Now I certainly had never thought of marrying for money.’ Here she rubbed her face upon his arm. ‘I felt that it was not for me to speak of money. If he chose to be reticent, I could be so equally. Had he asked me, I should have told him that I had no fortune, but was making a large though precarious income. It would then be for him to declare what he intended to do. That would, I think, have been preferable. As it is we are all in doubt. In my position a knowledge of what your father intends to do would be most valuable to me.’

‘Should you not ask him?’

‘I believe there has always been a perfect confidence between you and him?’

‘Certainly — as to all our ways of living. But he never said a word to me about money in his life.’

‘And yet, my darling, money is most important.’

‘Of course it is. I know that, Ferdinand.’

‘Would you mind asking?’ She did not answer him at once, but sat thinking. And he also paused before he went on with his lesson. But, in order that the lesson should be efficacious, it would be so well that he should tell her as much as he could even at this first lecture. ‘To tell you the truth, this is quite essential to me at present — very much more than I had thought it would be when we fixed the day for our marriage.’ Her mind within her recoiled at this, though she was very careful that he should not feel any such motion in her body. ‘My business is precarious.’

‘What is your business, Ferdinand?’ Poor girl! That she should have been allowed to marry a man, and than have to ask him such a question!

‘It is generally commercial. I buy and sell on speculation. The world, which is shy of new words, has not yet given it a name. I am a good deal at present in the South American trade.’ She listened, but received no glimmering of an idea from his words. ‘When we were engaged everything was as bright as roses with me.’

‘Why did you not tell me this before — so that we might have been more prudent?’

‘Such prudence would have been horrid to me. But the fact is that I should not now have spoken to you at all, but that since we left England I have had letters from a sort of partner of mine. In our business things will go astray sometimes. It would be of great service to me if I could learn what are your father’s intentions.’

‘You want him to give you some money at once.’

‘It would not be unusual, dear — when there is money to be given. But I want you specially to ask him what he himself would propose to do. He knows already that I have taken a home for you and paid for it, and he knows — But it does not signify going into that.’

‘Tell me everything.’

‘He is aware that there are many expenses. Of course if he were a poor man there would not be a word about it. I can with absolute truth declare that had he been penniless, it would have made no difference to my suit to you. But it would possibly have made some difference as to our after plans. He is a thorough man of the world, and he must know all that. I am sure he must feel that something is due to you — and to me as your husband. But he is odd-tempered, and, as I have not spoken to him, he chooses to be silent to me. Now, my darling, you and I cannot afford to wait and see who can be silent the longest.’

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘To write to him.’

‘And ask him for money?’

‘Not exactly in that way. I think you should say that we should be glad to know what he intends to do, also saying that a certain sum of money would at present be of use to me.’

‘Would it not be better from you? I only ask, Ferdinand. I never have even spoken to him about money, and of course he would know that you have dictated what I said.’

‘No doubt he would. It is natural that I should do so. I hope the time may come when I may write quite freely to your father myself, but hitherto has hardly been courteous to me. I would rather that you should write — if you do not mind it. Write your own letter, and show it me. If there is anything too much or anything too little I will tell you.’

And so the first lesson was taught. The poor young wife did not at all like the lesson. Even within her own bosom she found no fault with her husband. But she began to understand that the life before her was not to be a life of roses. The first word spoken to her in the train, before it reached Dover, had explained something of this to her. She had felt at once that there would be trouble about money. And now, though she did not at all understand what might be the nature of those troubles, though she had derived no information whatever from her husband’s hints about the South American trade, though she was ignorant as ever of his affairs, yet she felt that the troubles would come soon. But never for a moment did it seem to her that he had been unjust in bringing her into troubled waters. They had loved each other, and therefore, whatever might be the troubles, it was right that they should marry each other. There was not a spark of anger against her in her bosom; — but she was unhappy.

He demanded from her the writing of the letter almost immediately after the conversation which has been given above, and of course the letter was written — written and recopied, for the paragraph about money was, of course, at last of his wording. And she could not make the remainder of the letter pleasant. The feeling that she was making a demand for money on her father ran through it all. But the reader need only see the passage in which Ferdinand Lopez made his demand — through her hand.

‘Ferdinand has been speaking to me about my fortune.’ It had gone much against the grain with her to write these words, ‘my fortune’. ‘But I have no fortune,’ she said. He insisted however, explaining to her that she was entitled to use these words by her father’s undoubted wealth. And so, with an aching heart, she wrote them. ‘Ferdinand has been speaking to me about my fortune. Of course, I told him I knew nothing, and that as he had never spoken to me about money before our marriage, I had never asked about it. He says that it would be of great service to him to know what are your intentions, and also that he hopes that you may find it convenient to allow him to draw upon you for some portion of it at present. He says that 3,000 pounds would be of great use to him in his business.’ That was the paragraph, and the work of writing it was so distasteful to her that she could hardly bring herself to form the letters. It seemed as though she were seizing the advantage of the first moment of freedom to take a violent liberty with her father.

‘It is altogether his own fault, my pet,’ he said to her. ‘I have the greatest respect in the world for your father, but he has allowed himself to fall into the habit of keeping all his affairs secret from his children; and, of course, as they go into the world, this secrecy must in some degree be invaded. There is precisely the same going on between him and Everett; only Everett is a great deal rougher to him than you are likely to be. He never will let Everett know whether he is to regard himself as a rich man or a poor man.’

‘He gives him an allowance.’

‘Because he cannot help himself. To you he does not do even as much as that, because he can help himself. I have chosen to leave it to him and he has done nothing. But this is not quite fair, and he must be told so. I don’t think he could be told in more dutiful language.’

Emily did not like the idea of telling her father anything which he might not like to hear; but her husband’s behests were to her in these, her early married, days, quite imperative.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43