What should he do next? This sum of money of which Marie wrote so easily was probably large. It would not have been worth the while of such a man as Mr Melmotte to make a trifling provision of this nature. It could hardly be less than L50,000,—might probably be very much more. But this was certain to him,—that if he and Marie were to claim this money as man and wife, there could then be no hope of further liberality. It was not probable that such a man as Mr Melmotte would forgive even an only child such an offence as that. Even if it were obtained, L50,000 would not be very much. And Melmotte might probably have means, even if the robbery were duly perpetrated, of making the possession of the money very uncomfortable. These were deep waters into which Sir Felix was preparing to plunge; and he did not feel himself to be altogether comfortable, although he liked the deep waters.
On the following Saturday there appeared in Mr Alf’s paper, the ‘Evening Pulpit,’ a very remarkable article on the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway. It was an article that attracted a great deal of attention and was therefore remarkable, but it was in nothing more remarkable than in this,—that it left on the mind of its reader no impression of any decided opinion about the railway. The Editor would at any future time be able to refer to his article with equal pride whether the railway should become a great cosmopolitan fact, or whether it should collapse amidst the foul struggles of a horde of swindlers. In utrumque paratus, the article was mysterious, suggestive, amusing, well-informed,—that in the ‘Evening Pulpit’ was a matter of course,—and, above all things, ironical. Next to its omniscience its irony was the strongest weapon belonging to the ‘Evening Pulpit.’ There was a little praise given, no doubt in irony, to the duchesses who served Mr Melmotte. There was a little praise, given of course in irony, to Mr Melmotte’s Board of English Directors. There was a good deal of praise, but still alloyed by a dash of irony, bestowed on the idea of civilizing Mexico by joining it to California. Praise was bestowed upon England for taking up the matter, but accompanied by some ironical touches at her incapacity to believe thoroughly in any enterprise not originated by herself. Then there was something said of the universality of Mr Melmotte’s commercial genius, but whether said in a spirit prophetic of ultimate failure and disgrace, or of heavenborn success and unequalled commercial splendour, no one could tell.