When the little conversation took place between Lady Monogram and Miss Longestaffe, as recorded in the last chapter, Mr Melmotte was in all his glory, and tickets for the entertainment were very precious. Gradually their value subsided. Lady Monogram had paid very dear for hers,—especially as the reception of Mr Brehgert must be considered. But high prices were then being paid. A lady offered to take Marie Melmotte into the country with her for a week; but this was before the elopement. Mr Cohenlupe was asked out to dinner to meet two peers and a countess. Lord Alfred received various presents. A young lady gave a lock of her hair to Lord Nidderdale, although it was known that he was to marry Marie Melmotte. And Miles Grendall got back an I.O.U. of considerable nominal value from Lord Grasslough, who was anxious to accommodate two country cousins who were in London. Gradually the prices fell;—not at first from any doubt in Melmotte, but through that customary reaction which may be expected on such occasions. But at eight or nine o’clock on the evening of the party the tickets were worth nothing. The rumour had then spread itself through the whole town from Pimlico to Marylebone. Men coming home from clubs had told their wives. Ladies who had been in the park had heard it. Even the hairdressers had it, and ladies’ maids had been instructed by the footmen and grooms who had been holding horses and seated on the coach-boxes. It had got into the air, and had floated round dining-rooms and over toilet-tables.
I doubt whether Sir Damask would have said a word about it to his wife as he was dressing for dinner, had he calculated what might be the result to himself. But he came home open-mouthed, and made no calculation. ‘Have you heard what’s up, Ju?’ he said, rushing half-dressed into his wife’s room.
‘What is up?’
‘Haven’t you been out?’
’I was shopping, and that kind of thing. I don’t want to take that girl into the Park. I’ve made a mistake in having her here, but I mean to be seen with her as little as I can.’
‘Be good-natured, Ju, whatever you are.’
‘Oh, bother! I know what I’m about. What is it you mean?’
‘They say Melmotte’s been found out.’
‘Found out!’ exclaimed Lady Monogram, stopping her maid in some arrangement which would not need to be continued in the event of her not going to the reception. ‘What do you mean by found out?’
’I don’t know exactly. There are a dozen stories told. It’s something about that place he bought of old Longestaffe.’
’Are the Longestaffes mixed up in it? I won’t have her here a day longer if there is anything against them.’
’Don’t be an ass, Ju. There’s nothing against him except that the poor old fellow hasn’t got a shilling of his money.’