The Prime Minister, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 53

Mr Hartlepod.

When the time came at which Lopez should have left Manchester Square he was still there. Mr Wharton, in discussing the matter with his daughter — when wishing to persuade her that she might remain in his house even in opposition to her husband — had not told her that he had actually desired Lopez to leave it. He had then felt sure that the man would go and take his wife with him, but he did not even yet know the obduracy and cleverness and the impregnability of his son-inlaw. When the time came, when he saw his daughter in the morning after the notice had been given, he could not bring himself even then to say to her that he had issued an order for his banishment. Days went by and Lopez was still there, and the old barrister had no further word on the subject. The two men never met; — or met simply in the hall or passages. Wharton himself studiously avoided such meetings, thus denying himself the commonest uses of his own house. At last Emily told him that her husband had fixed the day for her departure. The next Indian mail-packet by which they would leave England would start from Southampton on the 2nd of April, and she was to be ready to go on that day. ‘How is it to be till then?’ the father asked in a low, uncertain voice.

‘I suppose I may remain with you.’

‘And your husband?’

‘He will be here, too — I suppose.’

‘Such a misery — such a destruction of everything no man ever heard of before!’ said Mr Wharton. To this she made no reply, but continued working at some necessary preparation for her final departure. ‘Emily,’ he said. ‘I will make any sacrifice to prevent it. What can be done? Short of injuring Everett’s interests, I will do anything.’

‘I do not know,’ she said.

‘You must understand something of his affairs.’

‘Nothing whatever. He has told me nothing of them. In earlier days — soon after our marriage — he bade me get money from you.’

‘When you wrote to me for money from Italy?’

‘And after that. I have refused to do anything — to say a word. I told him that it must be between you and him. What else could I say? And now he tells me nothing.’

‘I cannot think that he wants you to go with him.’ Then there was again a pause. ‘Is it because he loves you?’

‘Not that, papa.’

‘Why then should he burden himself with a companion? His money, whatever he has, would go further without such impediment.’

‘Perhaps he thinks, papa, that while I am with him he has a hold upon you.’

‘He shall have a stronger hold by leaving you. What is he to gain? If I could only know his price.’

‘Ask him, papa.’

‘I do not know how I am to speak to him again.’

Then again there was a pause. ‘Papa,’ she said after a while, ‘I have done it myself. Let me go. You will still have Everett. And it may be that after a time I shall come back to you. He will not kill me, and it may be that I shall not die.’

‘By God!’ said Mr Wharton, rising from his chair suddenly, ‘if there was money to be made by it, I believe he would murder you without a scruple.’ Thus it was that within eighteen months of her marriage the father spoke to his daughter of her husband.

‘What am I to take with me?’ she said to her husband a few days later.

‘You had better ask your father.’

‘Why should I ask him, Ferdinand? How should he know?’

‘And how should I?’

‘I should have thought you would interest yourself about it.’

‘Upon my word I have enough to interest me just at present, without thinking of your finery. I suppose you mean what clothes you should have?’

‘I was not thinking of myself only.’

‘You need think of nothing else. Ask him what he pleases to allow you to spend, and then I will tell you what to get.’

‘I will never ask him for anything, Ferdinand.’

‘Then you may go without anything. You might as well do it at once, for you will have to do it sooner or later. Or, if you please, go to his tradesmen and say nothing to him about it. They will give you credit. You see how it is, my dear. He has cheated me in a most rascally manner. He has allowed me to marry his daughter, and because I did not make a bargain with him as another man would have done, he denies me the fortune I had a right to expect with you. You know that the Israelites despoiled the Egyptians, and it was taken as merit on their part. Your father is a Egyptian to me, and I will despoil him. You can tell him that I say so if you please.’

And so the days went on till the first week of February had passed, and Parliament had met. Both Lopez and his wife were still living in Manchester Square. Not another word had been said as to that notice to quit, nor an allusion made to it. It was supposed to be a settled thing that Lopez was to start with his wife for Guatemala in the first week of April. Mr Wharton had himself felt that difficulty as to his daughter’s outfit, and had told her that she might get whatever it pleased her on his credit. ‘For yourself, my dear.’

‘Papa, I will get nothing till he bids me.’

‘But you can’t go across the world without anything. What are you to do in such a place as that unless you have the things you want?’

‘What do poor people do who have to go? What should I do if you had cast me off because of my disobedience?’

‘But I have not cast you off.’

‘Tell him that you will give him so much, and then, if he bids me, I will spend it.’

‘Let it be so. I will tell him.’

Upon that Mr Wharton did speak to his son-inlaw; — coming upon him suddenly one morning in the dining-room. ‘Emily will want an outfit if she is to go to this place.’

‘Like other people she wants many things that she cannot get.’

‘I will tell my tradesmen to furnish her with what she wants, up to — well — suppose I say 200 pounds. I have spoken to her and she wants your sanction.’

‘My sanction for spending money? She can have that very quickly.’

‘You can tell her so; — or I will do so.’

Upon that Mr Wharton was going, but Lopez stopped him. It was now essential that the money for the shares in the San Juan mine should be paid up, and his father-inlaw’s pocket was still the source from which the enterprising son-inlaw had hoped to procure it. Lopez had fully made up his mind to demand it, and thought that the time had now come. And he was resolved that he would not ask it as a favour on bended knee. He was beginning to feel his own power, and trusted that he might prevail by other means than begging. ‘Mr Wharton,’ he said, ‘you and I have not been very good friends lately.’

‘No, indeed.’

‘There was a time — a very short time — during which I thought that we might hit it off together, and I did my best. You do not, I fancy, like men of my class.’

‘Well; — well! You had better go on if there be anything to say.’

‘I have much to say, and I will go on. You are a rich man, and I am your son-inlaw.’ Mr Wharton put his left hand up to his forehead, brushing the few hairs back from his head, but he said nothing. ‘Had I received from you during the last most vital year that assistance which I think I had a right to expect, I also might have been a rich man now. It is no good going back to that.’ Then he paused, but still Mr Wharton said nothing. ‘Now you know what has come to me and to your daughter. We are to be expatriated.’

‘Is that my fault?’

‘I think it is, but I mean to say nothing further of that. This Company which is sending me out, and which probably will be the most thriving thing of the kind which has come up within these twenty years, is to pay me a salary of 1,000 pounds a year as resident manager of San Juan.’

‘So I understand.’

‘The salary alone would be a beggarly thing. Guatemala, I take it, is not the cheapest country in the world in which a man can live. But I am to go out there as the owner of fifty shares on which 100 pounds each must be paid up, and I am entitled to draw another 1,000 pounds a year as dividend on the profit of those shares.’

‘That will be twenty per cent.’

‘Exactly.’

‘And will double you salary.’

‘Just so. But there is one little ceremony to be perfected before I can be allowed to enter upon so halcyon a state of existence. The 100 pounds a share must be paid up.’ Mr Wharton simply stared at him. ‘I must have the 5,000 pounds to invest in the undertaking before I can start.’

‘Well!’

‘Now I have not got 5,000 pounds myself, nor any part of it. You do not wish, I suppose, to see either me or your daughter starve. And as for me, I hardly flatter myself when I say that you are very anxious to be rid of me, 5,000 pounds is not very much for me to ask of you, as I regard it.’

‘Such consummate impudence I never met in my life before!’

‘Nor perhaps so much unprevaricating downright truth. At any rate such is the condition of my affairs. If I am to go the money must be paid this week. I have, perhaps foolishly, put off mentioning the matter till I was sure that I could not raise the sum elsewhere. Though I feel my claim on you to be good, Mr Wharton, it is not pleasant to me to make it.’

‘You are asking me for 5,000 pounds down!’

‘Certainly I am.’

‘What security am I to have?’

‘Security?’

‘Yes; — that if I pay it I shall not be troubled again by the meanest scoundrel that it has ever been my misfortune to meet. How am I to know that you will not come back tomorrow? How am I to know that you will go at all? Do you think it will be probable that I will give you 5,000 pounds on your own simple word?’

‘Then the scoundrel will stay in England — and will generally find it convenient to live in Manchester Square.’

‘I’ll be d-d if he does. Look here, sire. Between you and me there can be a bargain, and nothing but a bargain. I will pay the 5,000 pounds — on certain conditions.’

‘I didn’t doubt at all that you would pay it.’

‘I will go with you to the office of this Company, and will pay for the shares if I can receive assurance there that the matter is as you say, and that the shares will not be placed in your power before you have reached Guatemala.’

‘You can come today, sire, and receive all that assurance.’

‘And I must have a written undertaking from you — a document which my daughter can show if it be necessary — that you will never claim her society again or trouble her with any application.’

‘You mistake me, Mr Wharton. My wife goes with me to Guatemala.’

‘Then I will not pay one penny. Why should I? What is your presence or absence to me except as it concerns her? Do you think that I care for your threats of remaining here. The police will set that right.’

‘Wherever I go, my wife goes.’

‘We’ll see to that too. If you want the money, you must leave her. Good morning.’

Mr Wharton as he went to his chambers thought the matter over. He was certainly willing to risk the 5,000 pounds demanded if he could rid himself and his daughter of this terrible incubus, even if it were only for a time. If Lopez would but once go to Guatemala, leaving his wife behind him, it would be comparatively easy to keep them apart should he ever return. The difficulty now was not in him, but in her. The man’s conduct had been so outrageous, so barefaced, so cruel, that the lawyer did not doubt but that he could turn her husband out of his house, and keep the wife, even now, were it not that she was determined to obey the man whom she, in opposition to all her friends, had taken as her master. ‘I have done it myself, and I will bear it,’ was all the answer she would make when her father strove to persuade her to separate herself from her husband. ‘You have got Everett,’ she would say. ‘When a girl is married she is divided from her family; — and I am divided.’ But she would willingly stay if Lopez would bid her stay. It now seemed that he could not go without the 5,000 pounds; and, when the pressure came upon him, surely he would go and leave his wife.

In the course of that day Mr Wharton went to the offices of the San Juan mine and asked to see the Director. He was shown up into a half-furnished room, two storeys high, in Coleman Street, where he found two clerks sitting upon stools; — and when he asked for the Director was shown into the back room in which sat the Secretary. The Secretary was a dark, plump little man with a greasy face, who had the gift of assuming an air of great importance as he twisted his chair round to face visitors who came to inquire about the San Juan Mining Company. His name was Hartlepod; and if the San Juan mine ‘turned out trumps’, as he intended that it should, Mr Hartlepod meant to be a great man in the city. To Mr Hartlepod Mr Wharton with considerable embarrassment, explained as much of the joint history of himself and Lopez as he found to be absolutely necessary. ‘He has only left the office about half an hour,’ said Mr Hartlepod.

‘Of course you understand he is my son-inlaw.’

‘He has mentioned your name to us, Mr Wharton, before now.’

‘And he is going to Guatemala?’

‘Oh yes; — he’s going out. Has he not told you as much himself?’

‘Certainly, sir. And he has told me that he is desirous of buying certain shares in the Company before he starts.’

‘Probably, Mr Wharton.’

‘Indeed, I believe he cannot go unless he buys them.’

‘That may be so, Mr Wharton. No doubt he has told you all that himself.’

‘The fact is, Mr Hartlepod, I am willing, under certain stipulations, to advance him the money.’ Mr Hartlepod bowed. ‘I need not trouble you with my private affairs between myself and my son-inlaw.’ Again the Secretary bowed. ‘But it seems to be for his interest that he should go.’

‘A very great opening indeed, Mr Wharton. I don’t see how a man is to have a better opening. A fine salary! His expenses are paid! One of the very best things that has come up for many years! And as for the capital he is to embark in the affair, he is as safe to get twenty per cent in it — as safe — as safe as the Bank of England.’

‘He’ll have the shares?’

‘Oh yes; — the scrip will be handed to him at once.’

‘And — and —’

‘If you mean about the mine, Mr Wharton, you may take my word that it’s all real. It’s not one of those sham things that melt away like snow and leave the shareholders nowhere. There’s the prospectus, Mr Wharton. Perhaps you have not seen that before. Take it away and cast your eyes over it at your leisure.’ Mr Wharton put the somewhat lengthy pamphlet into his pocket. ‘Look at the list of Directors. We’ve three members of Parliament, a baronet, and one or two City names that are as good — as good as the Bank of England. If that prospectus won’t make a man confident I don’t know what will. Why, Mr Wharton, you don’t think that your son-inlaw would get those fifty shares at par unless he was going out as our general manager. You’ll see if you look. About a quarter of a million paid up. But it’s all in a box as one may say. It’s among ourselves. The shares ain’t in the market. Of course it’s not for me to say what should be done between you and your son-inlaw. Lopez is a friend of mine, and a man I esteem, and all that. Nevertheless I shouldn’t think of advising you to do this or that — or not to do it. But when you talk of safety, Mr Wharton — why, Mr Wharton, I don’t scruple to tell you as a man who knows what these things are, that this is an opportunity that doesn’t come a man’s way perhaps twice in his life.’

Mr Wharton found he had nothing more to say, and went back to Lincoln’s Inn. He knew very well that Mr Hartlepod’s assurances were not worth much. Mr Hartlepod himself and his belongings, the clerks in his office, the look of the rooms, and the very nature of the praises which he had sung, all them inspired anything but confidence. Mr Wharton was a man of the world; and, though he knew nothing of City ways, was quite aware that no man in his senses would lay out 5,000 pounds on the mere word of Mr Hartlepod. But still he was inclined to make the payment. If only he could secure the absence of Lopez — and if could be sure that Lopez would in truth go to Guatemala, and also if he could induce the man to go without his wife, he would risk the money. The money would, of course, be thrown away — but he would throw it away. Lopez no doubt declared that he would not go without his wife, even though the money were paid for him. But the money was an alluring sum! As the pressure upon the man became greater, Mr Wharton thought he would probably consent to leave his wife behind him.

In his emergency the barrister went to his attorney and told him everything. The two lawyers were closeted together for an hour, and Mr Wharton’s last words to his old friend were as follows:— ‘I will risk the money, Walker, or rather I will consent absolutely to throw it away — as it will be thrown away — if it can be managed that he shall in truth go to this place without his wife.’

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