‘I suppose girls do speak for themselves more than they did formerly.’
’A deal more, Mrs Hurtle; quite different. You hear them talk of spooning with this fellow, and spooning with that fellow,—and that before their very fathers and mothers! When I was young we used to do it, I suppose,—only not like that.’
‘You did it on the sly.’
’I think we got married quicker than they do, anyway. When the gentlemen had to take more trouble they thought more about it. But if you wouldn’t mind speaking to Ruby to-morrow, Mrs Hurtle, she’d listen to you when she wouldn’t mind a word I said to her. I don’t want her to go away from this, out into the Street, till she knows where she’s to go to, decent. As for going to her young man,—that’s just walking the streets.’
Mrs Hurtle promised that she would speak to Ruby, though when making the promise she could not but think of her unfitness for the task. She knew nothing of the country. She had not a single friend in it, but Paul Montague;—and she had run after him with as little discretion as Ruby Ruggles was showing in running after her lover. Who was she that she should take upon herself to give advice to any female?
She had not sent her letter to Paul, but she still kept it in her pocket-book. At some moments she thought that she would send it; and at others she told herself that she would never surrender this last hope till every stone had been turned. It might still be possible to shame him into a marriage. She had returned from Lowestoft on the Monday, and had made some trivial excuse to Mrs Pipkin in her mildest voice. The place had been windy, and too cold for her;—and she had not liked the hotel. Mrs Pipkin was very glad to see her back again.
Sir Felix, when he promised to meet Ruby at the Music Hall on the Tuesday, was under an engagement to start with Marie Melmotte for New York on the Thursday following, and to go down to Liverpool on the Wednesday. There was no reason, he thought, why he should not enjoy himself to the last, and he would say a parting word to poor little Ruby. The details of his journey were settled between him and Marie, with no inconsiderable assistance from Didon, in the garden of Grosvenor Square, on the previous Sunday,—where the lovers had again met during the hours of morning service. Sir Felix had been astonished at the completion of the preparations which had been made. ’Mind you go by the 5 p.m. train,’ Marie said. ’That will take you into Liverpool at 10:15. There’s an hotel at the railway station. Didon has got our tickets under the names of Madame and Mademoiselle Racine. We are to have one cabin between us. You must get yours to-morrow. She has found out that there is plenty of room.’
‘I’ll be all right.’
’Pray don’t miss the train that afternoon. Somebody would be sure to suspect something if we were seen together in the same train. We leave at 7 a.m. I shan’t go to bed all night, so as to be sure to be in time. Robert,—he’s the man,—will start a little earlier in the cab with my heavy box. What do you think is in it?’