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

Mr. Moggs walks towards Edgeware.

The judge’s decision in Percycross as to the late election was no sooner known than fresh overtures were made to Ontario Moggs by the Young Men’s Association.  A letter of triumph was addressed to him at the Cheshire Cheese, in which he was informed that Intimidation and Corruption had been trodden under foot in the infamous person of Mr. Griffenbottom, and that Purity and the Rights of Labour were still the watchwords of that wholesome party in the borough which was determined to send Mr. Moggs to Parliament.  Did not Mr. Moggs think it best that he should come down at once to the borough and look after his interests?  Now Mr. Moggs junior, when he received this letter, had left the borough no more than three or four days since, having been summoned there as a witness during the trial of the petition; ­and such continued attendance to the political interests of a small and otherwise uninteresting town, without the advantage of a seat in Parliament, was felt by Mr. Moggs senior to be a nuisance.  The expense in all these matters fell of course upon the shoulders of the father.  “I don’t believe in them humbugs no longer,” said Mr. Moggs senior.  Moggs junior, who had felt the enthusiasm of the young men of Percycross, and who had more to get and less to lose than his father, did believe.  Although he had been so lately at Percycross, he went down again, and again made speeches to the young men at the Mechanics’ Institute.  Nothing could be more triumphant than his speeches, nothing more pleasant than his popularity; but he could not fail to become aware, after a further sojourn of three days at Percycross, of two things.  The first was this, ­that if the borough were spared there would be a compromise between the leading men on the two sides, and Mr. Westmacott would be returned together with a young Griffenbottom.  The second conviction forced upon him was that the borough would not be spared.  There was no comfort for him at Percycross, ­other than what arose from a pure political conscience.  On the very morning on which he left, he besought his friends, the young men, ­though they were about to be punished, degraded, and disfranchised for the sins of their elders, though it might never be allowed to them again to stir themselves for the political welfare of their own borough, ­still to remember that Purity and the Rights of Labour were the two great wants of the world, and that no man could make an effort, however humble, in a good cause without doing something towards bringing nearer to him that millennium of political virtue which was so much wanted, and which would certainly come sooner or later.  He was cheered to the echo, and almost carried down to the station on the shoulders of a chairman, or president, and a secretary; but he left Percycross with the conviction that that borough would never confer upon him the coveted honour of a seat in Parliament.

All this had happened early in March, previous to that Sunday on which Mr. Neefit behaved so rudely to him at the cottage.  “I think as perhaps you’d better stick to business now a bit,” said old Moggs.  At that moment Ontario was sitting up at a high desk behind the ledger which he hated, and was sticking to business as well as he knew how to stick to it.  “No more Cheshire Cheeses, if you please, young man,” said the father.  This was felt by the son to be unfair, cruel, and even corrupt.  While the election was going on, as long as there was a hope of success at Percycross, Moggs senior had connived at the Cheshire Cheese, had said little or nothing about business, had even consented on one occasion to hear his son make a speech advocating the propriety of combination among workmen.  “It ain’t my way of thinking,” Moggs senior had said; “but then, perhaps, I’m old.”  To have had a member of the firm in Parliament would have been glorious even to old Moggs, though he hardly knew in what the glory would have consisted.  But as soon as he found that his hopes were vain, that the Cheshire Cheese had been no stepping-stone to such honour, and that his money had been spent for nothing, his mind reverted to its old form.  Strikes became to him the work of the devil, and unions were once more the bane of trade.

“I suppose,” said Ontario, looking up from his ledger, “if I work for my bread by day, I may do as I please with my evenings.  At any rate I shall,” he continued to say after pausing awhile.  “It’s best we should understand each other, father.”  Moggs senior growled.  At a word his son would have been off from him, rushing about the country, striving to earn a crust as a political lecturer.  Moggs knew his son well, and in truth loved him dearly.  There was, too, a Miss Moggs at home, who would give her father no peace if Ontario were turned adrift.  There is nothing in the world so cruel as the way in which sons use the natural affections of their fathers, obtaining from these very feelings a power of rebelling against authority!  “You must go to the devil if you please, I suppose,” said Moggs senior.

“I don’t know why you say that.  What do I do devilish?”

“Them Unions is devilish.”

“I think they’re Godlike,” said Moggs junior.  After that they were silent for a while, during which Moggs senior was cutting his nails with a shoemaker’s knife by the fading light of the evening, and Moggs junior was summing up an account against a favoured aristocrat, who seemed to have worn a great many boots, but who was noticeable to Ontario, chiefly from the fact that he represented in Parliament the division of the county in which Percycross was situated.  “I thought you was going to make it all straight by marrying that girl,” said Moggs senior.

Here was a subject on which the father and the son were in unison; ­and as to which the romantic heart of Miss Moggs, at home at Shepherd’s Bush, always glowed with enthusiasm.  That her brother was in love, was to her, of whom in truth it must be owned that she was very plain, the charm of her life.  She was fond of poetry, and would read to her brother aloud the story of Juan and Haidee, and the melancholy condition of the lady who was loved by the veiled prophet.  She sympathised with the false Queen’s passion for Launcelot, and, being herself in truth an ugly old maid very far removed from things romantic, delighted in the affairs of the heart when they did not run smooth.  “O Ontario,” she would say, “be true to her; ­if it’s for twenty years.”  “So I will; ­but I’d like to begin the twenty years by making her Mrs. Moggs,” said Ontario.  Now Mr. Moggs senior knew to a penny what money old Neefit could give his daughter, and placed not the slightest trust in that threat about the smock in which she stood upright.  Polly would certainly get the better of her father as Ontario always got the better of him.  Ontario made no immediate reply to his father, but he found himself getting all wrong among the boots and shoes which had been supplied to that aristocratic young member of Parliament.  “You don’t mean as it’s all off?” asked Moggs senior.

“No; it isn’t all off.”

“Then why don’t you go in at it?”

“Why don’t I go in at it?” said Ontario, closing the book in hopeless confusion of mind and figures.  “I’d give every pair of boots in this place, I’d give all the business, to get a kind word from her.”

“Isn’t she kind?”

“Kind; ­yes, she’s kind enough in a way.  She’s everything just what she ought to be.  That’s what she is.  Don’t you go on about it, father.  I’m as much in earnest as you can be.  I shan’t give it up till she calls somebody else her husband; and then, ­; why then I shall just cut it, and go off to uncle in Canada.  I’ve got my mind made up about all that.”  And so he left the shop, somewhat uncourteously perhaps.  But he had worked his way back into his father’s good graces by his determination to stick to Neefit’s girl.  A young man ought to be allowed to attend trades’ unions, or any other meetings, if he will marry a girl with twenty thousand pounds.  That evening Ontario Moggs went to the Cheshire Cheese, and was greater than ever.

It has been already told how, on a Sunday subsequent to this, he managed to have himself almost closeted with Polly, and how he was working himself into her good graces, when he was disturbed by Mr. Neefit and turned out of the house.  Polly’s heart had been yielding during the whole of that interview.  There had come upon her once a dream that it would be a fine thing to be the lady of Newton; ­and the chance had been hers.  But when she set herself to work to weigh it all, and to find out what it was that young Newton really wanted, ­and what he ought to want, she shook off from herself that dream before it had done her any injury.  She meant to be married certainly.  As to that she had no doubt.  But then Ontario Moggs was such a long-legged, awkward, ugly, shambling fellow, and Moggs as a name was certainly not euphonious.  The gasfitter was handsome, and was called Yallolegs, which perhaps was better than Moggs.  He had proposed to her more than once; but the gasfitter’s face meant nothing, and the gasfitter himself hadn’t much meaning in him.  As to outside appearance, young Newton’s was just what he ought to be, ­but that was a dream which she had shaken off.  Onty Moggs had some meaning in him, and was a man.  If there was one thing, too, under the sun of which Polly was quite sure, it was this, ­that Onty Moggs did really love her.  She knew that in the heart, and mind, and eyes of Onty Moggs she possessed a divinity which made the ground she stood upon holy ground for him.  Now that is a conviction very pleasant to a young woman.

Ontario was very near his victory on that Sunday.  When he told her that he would compass the death of Ralph Newton if Ralph Newton was to cause her to break her heart, she believed that he would do it, and she felt obliged to him, ­although she laughed at him.  When he declared to her that he didn’t know what to do because of his love, she was near to telling him what he might do.  When he told her that he would sooner have a kiss from her than be Prime Minister, she believed him, and almost longed to make him happy.  Then she had tripped, giving him encouragement which she did not intend, ­and had retreated, telling him that he was silly.  But as she said so she made up her mind that he should be perplexed not much longer.  After all, in spite of his ugliness, and awkwardness, and long legs, this was to be her man.  She recognised the fact, and was happy.  It is so much for a girl to be sure that she is really loved!  And there was no word which fell from Ontario’s mouth which Polly did not believe.  Ralph Newton’s speeches were very pretty, but they conveyed no more than his intention to be civil.  Ontario’s speeches really brought home to her all that the words could mean.  When he told her father that he was quite contented to take her just as she was, without a shilling, she knew that he would do so with the utmost joy.  Then it was that she resolved that he should have her, and that for the future all doubtings, all flirtations, all coyness, should be over.  She had been won, and she lowered her flag.  “You stick to it, and you’ll do it,” she said; ­and this time she meant it.  “I shall,” said Ontario; ­and he walked all the way back to London, with his head among the clouds, disregarding Percycross utterly, forgetful of all the boots and aristocrats’ accounts, regardless almost of the Cheshire Cheese, not even meditating a new speech in defence of the Rights of Labour.  He believed that on that day he had gained the great victory.  If so, life before him was one vista of triumph.  That he himself was what the world calls romantic, he had no idea, ­but he had lived now for months on the conviction that the only chance of personal happiness to himself was to come from the smiles and kindness and love of a certain human being whom he had chosen to beatify.  To him Polly Neefit was divine, and round him also there would be a halo of divinity if this goddess would consent to say that she would become his wife.

It was impossible that many days should be allowed to pass before he made an effort to learn from her own lips, positively, the meaning of those last words which she had spoken to him.  But there was a difficulty.  Neefit had warned him from the house, and he felt unwilling to knock at the door of a man in that man’s absence, who, if present, would have refused to him the privilege of admittance.  That Mrs. Neefit would see him, and afford him opportunity of pleading his cause with Polly, he did not doubt; ­but some idea that a man’s house, being his castle, should not be invaded in the owner’s absence, restrained him.  That the man’s daughter might be the dearer and the choicer, and the more sacred castle of the two, was true enough; but then Polly was a castle which, as Moggs thought, ought to belong to him rather than to her father.  And so he resolved to waylay Polly.

His weekdays, from nine in the morning till seven in the evening, were at this time due to Booby and Moggs, and he was at present paying that debt religiously, under a conviction that his various absences at Percycross had been hard upon his father.  For there was, in truth, no Booby.  Moggs senior, and Moggs junior, constituted the whole firm; ­in which, indeed, up to this moment Moggs junior had no recognised share, ­and if one was absent, the other must be present.  But Sunday was his own, and Polly Neefit always went to church.  Nevertheless, on the first Sunday he failed.  He failed, though he saw her, walking with two other ladies, and though, to the best of his judgment, she also saw him.  On the second Sunday he was at Hendon from ten till three, hanging about in the lanes, sitting on gates, whiling away the time with a treatise on political economy which he had brought down in his pocket, thinking of Polly while he strove to confine his thoughts to the great subject of man’s productive industry.  Is there any law of Nature, ­law of God, rather, ­by which a man has a right to enough of food, enough of raiment, enough of shelter, and enough of recreation, if only he will work?  But Polly’s cheeks, and Polly’s lips, the eager fire of Polly’s eye as she would speak, and all the elastic beauty of Polly’s gait as she would walk, drove the great question from his mind.  Was he ever destined to hold Polly in his arms, ­close, close to his breast?  If not, then the laws of Nature and the laws of God, let them be what they might, would not have been sufficient to protect him from the cruellest wrong of all.

It was as she went to afternoon church that he hoped to intercept her.  Morning church with many is a bond.  Afternoon church is a virtue of supererogation, ­practised often because there is nothing else to do.  It would be out of the question that he should induce her to give up the morning service; but if he could only come upon her in the afternoon, a little out of sight of others, just as she would turn down a lane with which he was acquainted, near to a stile leading across the fields towards Edgeware, it might be possible that he should prevail.  As the hour came near, he put the useless volume into his pocket, and stationed himself on the spot which he had selected.  Almost at the first moment in which he had ventured to hope for her presence, Polly turned into the lane.  It was six months after this occurrence that she confessed to him that she had thought it just possible that he might be there.  “Of course you would be there, ­you old goose; as if Jemima hadn’t told me that you’d been about all day.  But I never should have come, if I hadn’t quite made up my mind.”  Then Ontario administered to her one of those bear’s hugs which were wont to make Polly declare that he was an ogre.  It was thus that Polly made her confession after the six months, as they were sitting very close to each other on some remote point of the cliffs down on the Kentish coast.  At that time the castle had been altogether transferred out of the keeping of Mr. Neefit.

But Polly’s conduct on this occasion was not at all of a nature to make it supposed that Jemima’s eyes had been so sharp.  “What, Mr. Moggs!” she said.  “Dear me, what a place to find you in!  Are you coming to church?”

“I want you just to take a turn with me for a few minutes, Polly.”

“But I’m going to church.”

“You can go to church afterwards; ­that is, if you like.  I can’t come to the house now, and I have got something that I must say to you.”

“Something that you must say to me!” And then Polly followed him over the stile.

They had walked the length of nearly two fields before Ontario had commenced to tell the tale which of necessity must be told; but Polly, though she must have known that her chances of getting back to church were becoming more and more remote, waited without impatience.  “I want to know,” he said, at last, “whether you can ever learn to love me.”

“What’s the use, Mr. Moggs?”

“It will be all the use in the world to me.”

“Oh, no it won’t.  It can’t signify so very much to anybody.”

“Nothing, I sometimes think, can ever be of any use to me but that.”

“As for learning to love a man, ­I suppose I could love a man without any learning if I liked him.”

“But you don’t like me, Polly?”

“I never said I didn’t like you.  Father and mother always used to like you.”

“But you, Polly?”

“Oh, I like you well enough.  Don’t, Mr. Moggs.”

“But do you love me?” Then there was a pause, as they stood leaning upon a gateway.  “Come, Polly; tell a fellow.  Do you love me?”

“I don’t know.”  Then there was another pause; but he was in a seventh heaven, with his arm round her waist.  “I suppose I do; a little,” whispered Polly.

“But better than anybody else?”

“You don’t think I mean to have two lovers; ­do you?”

“And I am to be your lover?”

“There’s father, you know.  I’m not going to be anybody’s wife because he tells me; but I wouldn’t like to vex him, if we could help it.”

“But you’ll never belong to any one else?”

“Never,” said she solemnly.

“Then I’ve said what I’ve got to say, and I’m the happiest man in all the world, and you may go to church now if you like.”  But his arm was still tight round her waist.

“It’s too late,” said Polly, in a melancholy tone, ­“and it’s all your doing.”

The walk was prolonged not quite to Edgeware; but so far that Mr. Neefit was called upon to remark that the parson was preaching a very long sermon.  Mrs. Neefit, who perhaps had also had communication with Jemima, remarked that it was not to be expected, but that Polly should take a ramble with some of her friends.  “Why can’t she ramble where I want her to ramble?” said Mr. Neefit.

Many things were settled during that walk.  Within five minutes of the time in which she had declared that it was too late for her to go to church, she had brought herself to talk to him with all the delightful confidence of a completed engagement.  She made him understand at once that there was no longer any doubt.  “A girl must have time to know,” she said, when he half-reproached her with the delay.  A girl wasn’t like a man, she said, who could just make up his mind at once, ­a girl had to wait and see.  But she was quite sure of this, ­that having once said the word she would never go back from it.  She didn’t quite know when she had first begun to love him, but she thought it was when she heard that he had made up his mind to stand for Percycross.  It seemed to her to be such a fine thing, ­his going to Percycross.  “Then,” said Ontario, gallantly, “Percycross has done ten times more for me than it would have done, had it simply made me a member of Parliament.”  Once, twice, and oftener he was made happier than he could have been had fortune made him a Prime Minister.  For Polly, now that she had given her heart and promised her hand, would not coy her lips to the man she had chosen.

Many things were settled between them.  Polly told her lover all her trouble about Ralph Newton, and it was now that she received that advice from her “very particular friend, Mr. Moggs,” which she followed in writing to her late suitor.  The letter was to be written and posted that afternoon, and then shown to her father.  We know already that in making the copy for her father she omitted one clause, ­having resolved that she would tell her mother of her engagement, and that her mother should communicate it to her father.  As for naming any day for their marriage, “That was out of the question,” she said.  She did not wish to delay it; but all that she could do was to swear to her father that she would never marry anybody else.  “And he’ll believe me too,” said Polly.  As for eloping, she would not hear of it.  “Just that he might have an excuse to give his money to somebody else,” she said.

“I don’t care for his money,” protested Moggs.

“That’s all very well; but money’s a good thing in its way.  I hate a man who’d sell himself; he’s a mean fellow; ­or a girl either.  Money should never be first.  But as for pitching it away just because you’re in a hurry, I don’t believe in that at all.  I’m not going to be an old woman yet, and you may wait a few months very well.”  She walked with him direct up to the gate leading up to their own house, ­so that all the world might see her, if all the world pleased; and then she bade him good-bye.  “Some day before very long, no doubt,” she said when, as he left her, he asked as to their next meeting.

And so Polly had engaged herself.  I do not know that the matter seemed to her to be of so much importance as it does to many girls.  It was a piece of business which had to be done some day, as she had well known for years past; and now that it was done, she was quite contented with the doing of it.  But there was not much of that ecstasy in her bosom which was at the present moment sending Ontario Moggs bounding up to town, talking, as he went, to himself, ­to the amazement of passers by, and assuring himself that he had triumphed like an Alexander or a Cæsar.  She made some steady resolves to do her duty by him, and told herself again and again that nothing should ever move her now that she had decided.  As for beauty in a man; ­what did it signify?  He was honest.  As for awkwardness; ­what did it matter?  He was clever.  And in regard to being a gentleman; she rather thought that she liked him better because he wasn’t exactly what some people call a gentleman.  Whatever sort of a home he would give her to live in, nobody would despise her in it because she was not grand enough for her place.  She was by no means sure that a good deal of misery of that kind might not have fallen to her lot had she become the mistress of Newton Priory.  “When the beggar woman became a queen, how the servants must have snubbed her,” said Polly to herself.

That evening she showed her letter to her father.  “You haven’t sent it, you minx?” said he.

“Yes, father.  It’s in the iron box.”

“What business had you to write to a young man?”

“Come, father.  I had a business.”

“I believe you want to break my heart,” said old Neefit.

That evening her mother asked her what she had been doing that afternoon.  “I just took a walk with Ontario Moggs,” said Polly.

“Well?”

“And I’ve just engaged myself straight off, and you had better tell father.  I mean to keep to it, mother, let anybody say anything.  I wouldn’t go back from my promise if they were to drag me.  So father may as well know at once.”