Read CHAPTER XLV. of Ralph the Heir , free online book, by Anthony Trollope, on

Never give A thing up.”

Mr. Neefit’s conduct during this period of disappointment was not exactly what it should to have been, either in the bosom of his family or among his dependents in Conduit Street.  Herr Bawwah, over a pot of beer in the public-house opposite, suggested to Mr. Waddle that “the governor might be ­,” in a manner that affected Mr. Waddle greatly.  It was an eloquent and energetic expression of opinion, ­almost an expression of a settled purpose as coming from the German as it did come; and Waddle was bound to admit that cause had been given.  “Fritz,” said Waddle pathetically, “don’t think about it.  You can’t better the wages.”  Herr Bawwah looked up from his pot of beer and muttered a German oath.  He had been told that he was beastly, skulking, pig-headed, obstinate, drunken, with some other perhaps stronger epithets which may be omitted, ­and he had been told that he was a German.  In that had lain the venom.  There was the word that rankled.  He had another pot of beer, and though it was then only twelve o’clock on a Monday morning Herr Bawwah swore that he was going to make a day of it, and that old Neefit might cut out the stuff for himself if he pleased.  As they were now at the end of March, which is not a busy time of the year in Mr. Neefit’s trade, the great artist’s defalcation was of less immediate importance; but, as Waddle knew, the German was given both to beer and obstinacy when aroused to wrath; and what would become of the firm should the obstinacy continue?

“Where’s that pig-headed German brute?” asked Mr. Neefit, when Mr. Waddle returned to the establishment.  Mr. Waddle made no reply; and when Neefit repeated the question with a free use of the epithets previously omitted by us, Waddle still was dumb, leaning over his ledger as though in that there were matters so great as to absorb his powers of hearing.  “The two of you may go and be ­ together!” said Mr. Neefit.  If any order requiring immediate obedience were contained in this, Mr. Waddle disobeyed that order.  He still bent himself over the ledger, and was dumb.  Waddle had been trusted with his master’s private view in the matter of the Newton marriage, and felt that on this account he owed a debt of forbearance to the unhappy father.

The breeches-maker was in truth very unhappy.  He had accused his German assistant of obstinacy, but the German could hardly have been more obstinate than his master.  Mr. Neefit had set his heart upon making his daughter Mrs. Newton, and had persisted in declaring that the marriage should be made to take place.  The young man had once given him a promise, and should be compelled to keep the promise so given.  And in these days Mr. Neefit seemed to have lost that discretion for which his friends had once given him credit.  On the occasion of his visit to the Moonbeam early in the hunting season he had spoken out very freely among the sportsmen there assembled; and from that time all reticence respecting his daughter seemed to have been abandoned.  He had paid the debts of this young man, who was now lord of wide domains, when the young man hadn’t “a red copper in his pocket,” ­so did Mr. Neefit explain the matter to his friends, ­and he didn’t intend that the young man should be off his bargain.  “No; ­he wasn’t going to put up with that; ­not if he knew it.”  All this he declared freely to his general acquaintance.  He was very eloquent on the subject in a personal interview which he had with Mr. Moggs senior, in consequence of a visit made to Hendon by Mr. Moggs junior, during which he feared that Polly had shown some tendency towards yielding to the young politician.  Mr. Moggs senior might take this for granted; ­that if Moggs junior made himself master of Polly, it would be of Polly pure and simple, of Polly without a shilling of dowry.  “He’ll have to take her in her smock.”  That was the phrase in which Mr. Neefit was pleased to express his resolution.  To all of which Mr. Moggs senior answered never a word.  It was on returning from Mr. Moggs’s establishment in Bond Street to his own in Conduit Street that Mr. Neefit made himself so very unpleasant to the unfortunate German.  When Ontario put on his best clothes, and took himself out to Hendon on the previous Sunday, he did not probably calculate that, as one consequence of that visit, the Herr Bawwah would pass a whole week of intoxication in the little back parlour of the public-house near St. George’s Church.

It may be imagined how very unpleasant all this must have been to Miss Neefit herself.  Poor Polly indeed suffered many things; but she bore them with an admirable and a persistent courage.  Indeed, she possessed a courage which greatly mitigated her sufferings.  Let her father be as indiscreet as he might, he could not greatly lower her, as long as she herself was prudent.  It was thus that Polly argued with herself.  She knew her own value, and was not afraid that she should ever lack a lover when she wanted to find a husband.  Of course it was not a nice thing to be thrown at a man’s head, as her father was constantly throwing her at the head of young Newton; but such a man as she would give herself to at last would understand all that.  Ontario Moggs, could she ever bring herself to accept Ontario, would not be less devoted to her because of her father’s ill-arranged ambition.  Polly could be obstinate too, but with her obstinacy there was combined a fund of feminine strength which, as we think, quite justified the devotion of Ontario Moggs.

Amidst all these troubles Mrs. Neefit also had a bad time of it; so bad a time that she was extremely anxious that Ontario should at once carry off the prize; ­Ontario, or the gasfitter, or almost anybody.  Neefit was taking to drink in the midst of all this confusion, and was making himself uncommonly unpleasant in the bosom of his family.  On the Sunday, ­the Sunday before the Monday on which the Herr decided that his wisest course of action would be to abstain from work and make a beast of himself, in order that he might spite his master, ­Mr. Neefit had dined at one o’clock, and had insisted on his gin-and-water and pipe immediately after his dinner.  Now Mr. Neefit, when he took too much, did not fall into the extreme sins which disgraced his foreman.  He simply became very cross till he fell asleep, very heavy while sleeping, and more cross than ever when again awake.  While he was asleep on this Sunday afternoon Ontario Moggs came down to Hendon dressed in his Sunday best.  Mrs. Neefit whispered a word to him before he was left alone with Polly.  “You be round with her, and run your chance about the money.”  “Mrs. Neefit,” said Ontario, laying his hand upon his heart, “all the bullion in the Bank of England don’t make a feather’s weight in the balance.”  “You never was mercenary, Mr. Ontario,” said the lady.  “My sweetheart is to me more than a coined hemisphere,” said Ontario.  The expression may have been absurd, but the feeling was there.

Polly was not at all coy of her presence, ­was not so, though she had been specially ordered by her father not to have anything to say to that long-legged, ugly fool.  “Handsome is as handsome does,” Polly had answered.  Whereupon Mr. Neefit had shown his teeth and growled; ­but Polly, though she loved her father, and after a fashion respected him, was not afraid of him; and now, when her mother left her alone with Ontario, she was free enough of her conversation.  “Oh, Polly,” he said, after a while, “you know why I’m here.”

“Yes; I know,” said Polly.

“I don’t think you do care for that young gentleman.”

“I’m not going to break my heart about him, Mr. Moggs.”

“I’d try to be the death of him, if you did.”

“That would be a right down tragedy, because then you’d be hung, ­and so there’d be an end of us all.  I don’t think I’d do that, Mr. Moggs.”

“Polly, I sometimes feel as though I didn’t know what to do.”

“Tell me the whole story of how you went on down at Percycross.  I was so anxious you should get in.”

“Were you now?”

“Right down sick at heart about it; ­that I was.  Don’t you think we should all be proud to know a member of Parliament?”

“Oh; if that’s all ­”

“I shouldn’t think anything of Mr. Newton for being in Parliament.  Whether he was in Parliament or out would be all the same.  Of course he’s a friend, and we like him very well; but his being in Parliament would be nothing.  But if you were there !”

“I don’t know what’s the difference,” said Moggs despondently.

“Because you’re one of us.”

“Yes; I am,” said Moggs, rising to his legs and preparing himself for an oration on the rights of labour.  “I thank my God that I am no aristocrat.”  Then there came upon him a feeling that this was not a time convenient for political fervour.  “But, I’ll tell you something, Polly,” he said, interrupting himself.

“Well; ­tell me something, Mr. Moggs.”

“I’d sooner have a kiss from you than be Prime Minister.”

“Kisses mean so much, Mr. Moggs,” said Polly.

“I mean them to mean much,” said Ontario Moggs.  Whereupon Polly, declining further converse on that delicate subject, and certainly not intending to grant the request made on the occasion, changed the subject.

“But you will get in still; ­won’t you, Mr. Moggs?  They tell me that those other gentlemen ain’t to be members any longer, because what they did was unfair.  Oughtn’t that to make you member?”

“I think it ought, if the law was right; ­but it doesn’t.”

“Doesn’t it now?  But you’ll try again; ­won’t you?  Never give a thing up, Mr. Moggs, if you want it really.”  As the words left her lips she understood their meaning, ­the meaning in which he must necessarily take them, ­and she blushed up to her forehead.  Then she laughed as she strove to recall the encouragement she had given him.  “You know what I mean, Mr. Moggs.  I don’t mean any silly nonsense about being in love.”

“If that is silly, I am the silliest man in London.”

“I think you are sometimes; ­so I tell you fairly.”

In the meantime Mr. Neefit had woke from his slumbers.  He was in his old arm-chair in the little back room, where they had dined, while Polly with her lover was in the front parlour.  Mrs. Neefit was seated opposite to Mr. Neefit, with an open Bible in her lap, which had been as potent for sleep with her as had been the gin-and-water with her husband.  Neefit suddenly jumped up and growled.  “Where’s Polly?” he demanded.

“She’s in the parlour, I suppose,” said Mrs. Neefit doubtingly.

“And who is with her?”

“Nobody as hadn’t ought to be,” said Mrs. Neefit.

“Who’s there, I say?” But without waiting for an answer, he stalked into the front room.  “It’s no use in life your coming here,” he said, addressing himself at once to Ontario; “not the least.  She ain’t for you.  She’s for somebody else.  Why can’t one word be as good as a thousand?” Moggs stood silent, looking sheepish and confounded.  It was not that he was afraid of the father; but that he feared to offend the daughter should he address the father roughly.  “If she goes against me she’ll have to walk out of the house with just what she’s got on her back.”

“I should be quite contented,” said Ontario.

“But I shouldn’t; ­so you may just cut it.  Anybody who wants her without my leave must take her in her smock.”

“Oh, father!” screamed Polly.

“That’s what I mean, ­so let’s have done with it.  What business have you coming to another man’s house when you’re not welcome?  When I want you I’ll send for you; and till I do you have my leave to stay away.”

“Good-bye, Polly,” said Ontario, offering the girl his hand.

“Good-bye, Mr. Moggs,” said Polly; “and mind you get into Parliament.  You stick to it, and you’ll do it.”

When she repeated this salutary advice, it must have been that she intended to apply to the double event.  Moggs at any rate took it in that light.  “I shall,” said he, as he opened the door and walked triumphantly out of the house.

“Father,” said Polly, as soon as they were alone, “you’ve behaved very bad to that young man.”

“You be blowed,” said Mr. Neefit.

“You have, then.  You’ll go on till you get me that talked about that I shall be ashamed to show myself.  What’s the good of me trying to behave, if you keep going on like that?”

“Why didn’t you take that chap when he came after you down to Margate?”

“Because I didn’t choose.  I don’t care enough for him; and it’s all no use of you going on.  I wouldn’t have him if he came twenty times.  I’ve made up my mind, so I tell you.”

“You’re a very grand young woman.”

“I’m grand enough to have a will of my own about that.  I’m not going to be made to marry any man, I know.”

“And you mean to take that long-legged shoemaker’s apprentice.”

“He’s not a shoemaker’s apprentice any more than I’m a breeches-maker’s apprentice.”  Polly was now quite in earnest, and in no mood for picking her words.  “He is a bootmaker by his trade; and I’ve never said anything about taking him.”

“You’ve given him a promise.”

“No; I’ve not.”

“And you’d better not, unless you want to walk out of this house with nothing but the rags on your back.  Ain’t I doing it all for you?  Ain’t I been sweating my life out these thirty years to make you a lady?” This was hard upon Polly, as she was not yet one-and-twenty.

“I don’t want to be a lady; no more than I am just by myself, like.  If I can’t be a lady without being made one, I won’t be a lady at all.”

“You be blowed.”

“There are different kinds of ladies, father.  I want to be such a one as neither you nor mother shall ever have cause to say I didn’t behave myself.”

“You’d talk the figures off a milestone,” said Mr. Neefit, as he returned to his arm-chair, to his gin-and-water, to his growlings, and before long to his slumbers.  Throughout the whole evening he was very unpleasant in the bosom of his family, ­which consisted on this occasion of his wife only, as Polly took the opportunity of going out to drink tea with a young lady friend.  Neefit, when he heard this, suggested that Ontario was drinking tea at the same house, and would have pursued his daughter but for mingled protestations and menaces which his wife used for preventing such a violation of parental authority.  “Moggs don’t know from Adam where she is; and you never knowed her do anything of that kind.  And you’ll go about with your mad schemes and jealousies till you about ruin the poor girl; that’s what you will.  I won’t have it.  If you go, I’ll go too, and I’ll shame you.  No; you shan’t have your hat.  Of course she’ll be off some day, if you make the place that wretched that she can’t live in it.  I know I would, ­with the fust man as’d ask me.”  By these objurgations, by a pertinacious refusal as to his hat, and a little yielding in the matter of gin-and-water, Mr. Neefit was at length persuaded to remain at home.

On the following morning he said nothing before he left home, but as soon as he had opened his letters and spoken a few sharp things to the two men in Conduit Street, he went off to Mr. Moggs senior.  Of the interview between Mr. Neefit and Mr. Moggs senior sufficient has already been told.  Then it was, after his return to his own shop, that he so behaved as to drive the German artist into downright mutiny and unlimited beer.  Through the whole afternoon he snarled at Waddle; but Waddle sat silent, bending over the ledger.  One question Waddle did answer.

“Where’s that pig-headed German gone?” asked Mr. Neefit for the tenth time.

“I believe he’s cutting his throat about this time,” said Mr. Waddle.

“He may wait till I come and sew it up,” said the breeches-maker.

All this time Mr. Neefit was very unhappy.  He knew, as well as did Mr. Waddle or Polly, that he was misbehaving himself.  He was by no means deficient in ideas of duty to his wife, to his daughter, and to his dependents.  Polly was the apple of his eye; his one jewel; ­in his estimation the best girl that ever lived.  He admired her in all her moods, even though she would sometimes oppose his wishes with invincible obstinacy.  He knew in his heart that were she to marry Ontario Moggs he would forgive her on the day of her marriage.  He could not keep himself from forgiving her though she were to marry a chimney-sweep.  But, as he thought, a great wrong was being done him.  He could not bring himself to believe that Polly would not marry the young Squire, if the young Squire would only be true to his undertaking; and then he could not endure that the young Squire should escape from him, after having been, as it were, saved from ruin by his money, without paying for the accommodation in some shape.  He had some inkling of an idea that in punishing Ralph by making public the whole transaction, he would be injuring his daughter as much as he injured Ralph.  But the inkling did not sufficiently establish itself in his mind to cause him to desist.  Ralph Newton ought to be made to repeat his offer before all the world; even though he should only repeat it to be again refused.  The whole of that evening he sat brooding over it, so that he might come to some great resolution.