Read CHAPTER XXIV. of Ralph the Heir , free online book, by Anthony Trollope, on ReadCentral.com.

“I find I must.”

Ralph the heir had, after all, gone to Margate.  Mr. Neefit had got such a hold upon him that he had no help for it.  He found himself forced to go to Margate.  When he was asked the second and third time, with all the energy of Mr. Neefit’s eloquence, he was unable to resist.  What reason could he give that he should not go to Margate, seeing that it was a thing quite understood that he was to endeavour to persuade Polly to be his wife.  Neefit came to him two mornings running, catching him each morning just as he was smoking his cigar after breakfast, and was very eloquent.  He already owed Mr. Neefit over five hundred pounds, and the debt on the first of these mornings was made up to one thousand pounds, a receipt being given for the shop debt on one side, and a bond for the whole money, with 5 per cent. interest, being taken in return for it.  “You’d better pay off what little things you owes, Captain,” said the generous breeches-maker, “and then, when the time comes, we’ll settle with the gent about the ’orses.”  Neefit played his game very well.  He said not a word about selling the horses, or as to any restriction on his young “Captain’s” amusements.  If you pull at your fish too hard you only break your line.  Neefit had a very fine fish on his hook, and he meant to land it.  Not a word was said about Margate on that occasion, till the little pecuniary transaction was completed.  Then the Captain was informed that the Neefit family would certainly spend the next week at that marine Paradise, and that Polly expected “the Captain’s” company.  “Them’s the places,” said Neefit, “where a girl grows soft as butter.”  This he said when the door-handle was in his hand, so that “the Captain” had no chance of answering him.  Then he came again the next morning, and returned to the subject as though “the Captain” had already consented.  There was a near approach to anger on one side and determined opposition on the other during this interview, but it ended in acquiescence on the Captain’s side.  Then Mr. Neefit was once more as gracious as possible.  The graciousness of such men in acknowledging their own inferiority is sometimes wonderful.  “You needn’t be seen about with me, you know,” said Mr. Neefit.  This was said after Ralph had positively declared that he would not go actually with the Neefits and occupy the same apartments.  “It would be altogether wrong, ­for Polly’s sake,” said Ralph, looking very wise and very moral.  To this view Neefit assented, not being quite sure how far “the Captain” might be correct in his ideas of morality.

“They’ve been and fixed young Newton for Polly,” said Mr. Waddle that morning, to his friend Herr Bawwah, when he was told to mark off Ralph’s account in the books as settled.  “Dashed if they ’aven’t,” the German grunted.  “Old Neverfit’s a-playing at ’igh game, ain’t he?” Such was the most undeserved nickname by which this excellent tradesman was known in his own establishment.  “I don’t see nodin about ’igh,” said the German.  “He ain’t got no money.  I call it low.”  Waddle endeavoured to explain the circumstances, but failed.  “De peoples should be de peoples, and de nobles should be de nobles,” said Herr Bawwah; ­a doctrine which was again unintelligible to Mr. Waddle.

Ralph having overcome an intense desire to throw over his engagement, to sell his horses, and to start for Jerusalem, did go down to Margate.  He put himself up at an hotel there, eat his dinner, lighted a cigar, and went down upon the sands.  It was growing dusk, and he thought that he should be alone, ­or, at least, uninterrupted in a crowd.  The crowd was there, and nobody in the place would know him, ­except the Neefits.  He had not been on the sands two minutes before he encountered Mr. Neefit and his daughter.  The breeches-maker talked loud, and was extremely happy.  Polly smiled, and was very pretty.  In two minutes Neefit saw, or pretended to see, a friend, and Ralph was left with his lady-love.  There never was so good-natured a father!  “You’ll bring her home to tea, Captain,” said the father, as he walked off.

On that occasion, Ralph abstained from all direct love-making, and Polly, when she found that it was to be so, made herself very pleasant.  “The idea of your being at Margate, Mr. Newton,” said Polly.

“Why not I, as well as another?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Brighton, or some of those French places, or any where all about the world, would be more likely for you, I should think.”

“Margate seems to be very jolly.”

“Oh, I like it.  But then we are not swells, you know.  Have you heard the news?  Ontario Moggs is going to stand to be ’member of Parliament’ for Percycross.”

“My rival!” That was the only word he uttered approaching to the subject of love.

“I don’t know anything about that, Mr. Newton.  But it’s true.”

“Why, Sir Thomas Underwood is going to stand.”

“I don’t know anything about anybody else, but Ontario Moggs is going to stand.  I do so hope he’ll get in.  They say he speaks quite beautiful.  Did you ever hear him?”

“I never heard him.”

“Ah, you may laugh.  But a bootmaker can make a speech sometimes as well as, ­as well as a peer of Parliament.  Father says that old Mr. Moggs has given him ever so much money to do it.  When a man is in Parliament, Mr. Newton, doesn’t that make him a gentleman?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“Nothing on earth can make a man a gentleman.  You don’t understand Latin, Polly?”

“No.  I hope that isn’t necessary for a young woman.”

“By no means.  But a poet is born, and can’t be made.”

“I’m not talking of poets.  Ontario Moggs is a poet.  But I know what you mean.  There’s something better even than to be a gentleman.”

“One may be an angel, ­as you are, Polly.”

“Oh, ­me; ­I’m not thinking of myself.  I’m thinking of Ontario Moggs, ­going into Parliament.  But then he is so clever!”

Ralph was not minded to be cut out by Moggs, junior, after coming all the way to Margate after his lady-love.  The thing was to be done, and he would do it.  But not to-night.  Then he took Polly home, and eat prawns with Mr. and Mrs. Neefit.  On the next day they all went out together in a boat.

The week was nearly over, and Ralph had renewed his suit more than once, when the breeches-maker proceeded to “put him through his facings.”  “She’s a-coming round, ain’t she, Captain?” said Mr. Neefit.  By this time Ralph hated the sight of Neefit so thoroughly, that he was hardly able to repress the feeling.  Indeed, he did not repress it.  Whether Neefit did not see it, or seeing it chose to ignore the matter, cannot be said.  He was, at any rate, as courteous as ever.  Mrs. Neefit, overcome partly by her husband’s authority, and partly induced to believe that as Ontario Moggs was going into Parliament he was no longer to be regarded as a possible husband, had yielded, and was most polite to the lover.  When he came in of an evening, she always gave him a double allowance of prawns, and hoped that the tea was to his liking.  But she said very little more than this, standing somewhat in awe of him.  Polly had been changeable, consenting to walk with him every day, but always staving the matter off when he asked her whether she thought that she yet knew him well enough to be his wife.  “Oh, not half well enough,” she would say.  “And then, perhaps, you know, I’m not over fond of the half that I do know.”  And so it was up to the last evening, when the father put him through his facings.  In respect of “the Captain’s” behaviour to Polly, the father had no just ground of complaint, for Ralph had done his best.  Indeed, Ralph was fond enough of Polly.  And it was hard for a man to be much with her without becoming fond of her.  “She’s a-coming round, ain’t she, Captain?” said Mr. Neefit.

“I can’t say that she is,” said Ralph, turning upon his heel near the end of the pier.

“You don’t stick to her fast enough, Captain.”

This was not to be borne.  “I’ll tell you what it is, Mr. Neefit,” said Ralph, “you’d better let me alone, or else I shall be off.”

“You’d only have to come back, Captain, you know,” said Neefit.  “Not as I want to interfere.  You’re on the square, I see that.  As long as you’re on the square, there ain’t nothing I won’t do.  I ain’t a-blaming you, ­only stick to her.”  “Damn it all!” said Ralph, turning round again in the other direction.  But there was Neefit still confronting him.  “Only stick to her, Captain, and we’ll pull through.  I’ll put her through her facings to-night.  She’s thinking of that orkard lout of a fellow just because he’s standing to be a Parl’ament gent.”  This did not improve matters, and Ralph absolutely ran away, ­ran away, and escaped to his hotel.  He would try again in the morning, would still make her his wife if she would have him!  And then swore a solemn oath that in such case he would never see his father-in-law again.

Polly was not at all averse to giving him opportunities.  They were together on the sands on the next morning, and he then asked her very seriously whether she did not think that there had been enough of this, that they might make up their minds to love each other, and be married as it were out of hand.  Her father and mother wished it, and what was there against it?  “You cannot doubt that I am in earnest now, Polly?” he said.

“I know you are in earnest well enough,” she answered.

“And you do not doubt that I love you?”

“I doubt very much whether you love father,” said Polly.  She spoke this so sharp and quickly that he had no reply ready.  “If you and I were to be married, where should we live?  I should want to have father and mother with me.  You’d mean that, I suppose?” The girl had read his thoughts, and he hadn’t a word to say for himself.  “The truth is, you despise father, Mr. Newton.”

“No, indeed.”

“Yes, you do.  I can see it.  And perhaps it’s all right that you should.  I’m not saying ­ Of course, he’s not like you and your people.  How should he be?  Only I’m thinking, like should marry like.”

“Polly, you’re fit for any position in which a man could place you.”

“No, I’m not.  I’m not fit for any place as father wouldn’t be fit for too.  I’d make a better hand at it than father, I dare say, ­because I’m younger.  But I won’t go anywhere where folk is to be ashamed of father.  I’d like to be a lady well enough; ­but it’d go against the very grain of my heart if I had a house and he wasn’t to be made welcome to the best of everything.”

“Polly, you’re an angel!”

“I’m a young woman who knows who’s been good to me.  He’s to give me pretty nigh everything.  You wouldn’t be taking me if it wasn’t for that.  And then, after all, I’m to turn my back on him because he ain’t like your people.  No; never; Mr. Newton!  You’re well enough, Mr. Newton; more than good enough for me, no doubt.  But I won’t do it.  I’d cut my heart out if I was turning my back upon father.”  She had spoken out with a vengeance, and Ralph didn’t know that there was any more to be said.  He couldn’t bring himself to assure her that Mr. Neefit would be a welcome guest in his house.  At this moment the breeches-maker was so personally distasteful to him that he had not force enough in him to tell a lie upon the matter.  They were now at the entrance of the pier, at which their ways would separate.  “Good-bye, Mr. Newton,” said she.  “There had better be an end of it; ­hadn’t there?” “Goodbye, Polly,” he said, pressing her hand as he left her.

Polly, walked up home with a quick step, with a tear in her eye, and with grave thoughts in her heart.  It would have been very nice.  She could have loved him, and she felt the attraction, and the softness, and the sweet-smelling delicateness of gentle associations.  It would have been very nice.  But she could not sever herself from her father.  She could understand that he must be distasteful to such a man as Ralph Newton.  She would not blame Ralph.  But the fact that it was so, shut for her the door of that Elysium.  She knew that she could not be happy were she to be taken to such a mode of life as would force her to accuse herself of ingratitude to her father.  And so Ralph went back to town without again seeing the breeches-maker.

The first thing he found in his lodgings was a note from his namesake.

   Dear sir, ­

I am up in town, and am very anxious to see you in respect of the arrangements which have been proposed respecting the property.  Will you fix a meeting as soon as you are back?

   Yours always,

   Ralph Newton.

   Charing Cross Hotel, 2 Oct., 186 .

Of course he would see his namesake.  Why not?  And why not take his uncle’s money, and pay off Neefit, and have done with it?  Neefit must be paid off, let the money come from where it would.  He called at the hotel, and not finding his cousin, left a note asking him to breakfast on the following morning; and then he spent the remainder of that day in renewed doubt.  He was so sick of Neefit, ­whose manner of eating shrimps had been a great offence added to other offences!  And yet one of his great sorrows was that he should lose Polly.  Polly in her way was perfect, and he felt almost sure, now, that Polly loved him.  Girls had no right to cling to their fathers after marriage.  There was Scripture warranty against it.  And yet the manner in which she had spoken of her father had greatly added to his admiration.

The two Ralphs breakfasted together, not having met each other since they were children, and having even then scarcely known each other.  Ralph the heir had been brought up a boy at the parsonage of Newton Peele, but the other Ralph had never been taken to Newton till after his grandfather’s death.  The late parson had died within twelve months of his father, ­a wretched year, during which the Squire and the parson had always squabbled, ­and then Ralph who was the heir had been transferred to the guardianship of Sir Thomas Underwood.  It was only during the holidays of that one year that the two Ralphs had been together.  The “Dear Sir” will probably be understood by the discerning reader.  The Squire’s son had never allowed himself to call even Gregory his cousin.  Ralph the heir in writing back had addressed him as “Dear Ralph.”  The Squire’s son thought that that was very well, but chose that any such term of familiarity should come first from him who was in truth a Newton.  He felt his condition, though he was accustomed to make so light of it to his father.

The two young men shook hands together cordially, and were soon at work upon their eggs and kidneys.  They immediately began about Gregory and the parsonage and the church, and the big house.  The heir to the property, though he had not been at Newton for fourteen years, remembered well its slopes, and lawns, and knolls, and little valleys.  He asked after this tree and that, of this old man and that old woman, of the game, and the river fishery, and the fox coverts, and the otters of which three or four were reputed to be left when he was there.  Otters it seems were gone, but the foxes were there in plenty.  “My father would be half mad if they drew the place blank,” said the Squire’s son.

“Does my uncle hunt much?”

“Every Monday and Saturday, and very often on the Wednesday.”

“And you?”

“I call myself a three-day man, but I often make a fourth.  Garth must be very far off if he don’t see me.  I don’t do much with any other pack.”

“Does my uncle ride?”

“Yes; he goes pretty well; ­he says he don’t.  If he gets well away I think he rides as hard as ever he did.  He don’t like a stern chace.”

“No more do I,” said Ralph the heir.  “But I’m often driven to make it.  What can a fellow do?  An old chap turns round and goes home, and doesn’t feel ashamed of himself; but we can’t do that.  That’s the time when one ruins his horses.”  Then he told all about the Moonbeam and the B. & B., and his own stud.  The morning was half gone, and not a word had been said about business.

The Squire’s son felt that it was so, and rushed at the subject all in a hurry.  “I told you what I have come up to town about.”

“Oh, yes; I understand.”

“I suppose I may speak plainly,” said the Squire’s son.

“Why not?” said Ralph the heir.

“Well; I don’t know.  Of course it’s best.  You wrote to Carey, you know.”

“Yes; I wrote the very moment I had made up my mind.”

“You had made up your mind, then?”

Ralph had certainly made up his mind when he wrote the letter of which they were speaking, but he was by no means sure but that his mind was not made up now in another direction.  Since he had become so closely intimate with Mr. Neefit, and since Polly had so clearly explained to him her ideas as to paternal duty, his mind had veered round many points.  “Yes,” said he.  “I had made up my mind.”

“I don’t suppose it can be of any use for you and me to be bargaining together,” said the other Ralph.

“Not in the least.”

“Of course it’s a great thing to be heir to Newton.  It’s a nice property, and all that.  Only my father thought ­”

“He thought that I wanted money,” said Ralph the heir.

“Just that.”

“So I do.  God knows I do.  I would tell you everything.  I would indeed.  As to screwing a hard bargain, I’m the last man in London who would do it.  I thought that your father might be willing to buy half the property.”

“He won’t do that.  You see the great thing is the house and park.  We should both want that; ­shouldn’t we?  Of course it must be yours; and I feel ­I don’t know how I feel in asking you whether you want to sell it.”

“You needn’t mind that, Ralph.”

“If you don’t think the sum the lawyers and those chaps fixed is enough, ­”

Then Ralph the heir, interrupting him, rose from his chair and spoke out.  “My uncle has never understood me, and never will.  He thinks hardly of me, and if he chooses to do so, I can’t help it.  He hasn’t seen me for fourteen years, and of course he is entitled to think what he pleases.  If he would have seen me the thing might have been easier.”

“Don’t let us go back to that, Ralph,” said the Squire’s son.

“I don’t want to go back to anything.  When it comes to a fellow’s parting with such prospects as mine, it does come very hard upon him.  Of course it’s my own fault.  I might have got along well enough; ­only I haven’t.  I am hard up for money, ­very hard up.  And yet, ­if you were in my place, you wouldn’t like to part with it.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Squire’s son, not knowing what to say.

“As to bargaining, and asking so much more, and all the rest of it, that’s out of the question.  Somebody fixed a price, and I suppose he knew what he was at.”

“That was a minimum price.”

“I understand.  It was all fair, I don’t doubt.  It didn’t seem a great deal; but your father might live for thirty years.”

“I hope he will,” said the Squire’s son.

“As for standing off for more money, I never dreamed of such a thing.  If your father thinks that, he has wronged me.  But I believe he always does wrong me.  And about the building, and the trees, and the leases, and the house, he might do just as he pleased for me.  I have never said a word, and never shall.  I must say I sometimes think he has been hard upon me.  In fourteen years he has never asked me to set my foot upon the estate, that I might see the place which must one day be mine.”

This was an accusation which the Squire’s son found it very difficult to answer.  It could not be answered without a reference to his own birth, and it was almost impossible that he should explain his father’s feelings on the subject.  “If this were settled, we should be glad that you would come,” he said.

“Yes,” said Ralph the heir; “yes, ­if I consented to give up everything that is mine by right.  Do you think that a fellow can bring himself to abandon all that so easily?  It’s like tearing a fellow’s heart out of him.  If I’ll do that, my uncle will let me come and see what it is that I have lost!  That which would induce him to welcome me would make it impossible that I should go there.  It may be that I shall sell it.  I suppose I shall.  But I will never look at it afterwards.”  As it came to this point, the tears were streaming down his cheeks, and the eyes of the other Ralph were not dry.

“I wish it could be made pleasant for us all,” said the Squire’s son.  The wish was well enough, but the expression of it was hardly needed, because it must be so general.

“But all this is rot and nonsense,” said Ralph the heir, brushing the tears away from his eyes, “and I am only making an ass of myself.  Your father wants to know whether I will sell the reversion to Newton Priory.  I will.  I find I must.  I don’t know whether I wouldn’t sooner cut my throat; but unless I cut my throat I must sell it.  I had a means of escape, but that has gone by.  When I wrote that letter there was a means of escape.  Now there’s none.”

“Ralph,” said the other.

“Well; speak on.  I’ve about said all I’ve got to say.  Only don’t think I want to ballyrag about the money.  That’s right enough, no doubt.  If there’s more to come, the people that have to look to it will say so.  I’m not going to be a Jew about it.”

“Ralph; I wouldn’t do anything in a hurry.  I won’t take your answer in a hurry like this.”

“It’s no good, my dear fellow, I must do it.  I must have L5,000 at once.”

“You can get that from an insurance office.”

“And then I should have nothing to live on.  I must do it.  I have no way out of it, ­except cutting my throat.”

The Squire’s son paused a moment, thinking.  “I was told by my father,” said he, “to offer you more money.”

“If it’s worth more the people will say so,” said Ralph the heir, impetuously; “I do not want to sell it for more than it’s worth.  Ask them to settle it immediately.  There are people I must pay money to at once.”

And so the Squire’s son had done the Squire’s errand.  When he reported his success to Mr. Carey, that gentleman asked him whether he had the heir’s consent in writing.  At this the successful buyer was almost disposed to be angry; but Mr. Carey softened him by an acknowledgment that he had done more than could have been expected.  “I’ll see his lawyer to-morrow,” said Mr. Carey, “and then, unless he changes his mind again, we’ll soon have it settled.”  After that the triumphant negotiator sent a telegram home to his father, “It is settled, and the purchase is made.”