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- OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 50/159 -


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.

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 A. WHARTON

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.


OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 50/159

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