’The Lord Mayor didn’t come! He was frightened at the last moment;— took it into his head that his authority in the City was somehow compromised. But the wonder was that the dinner went on without him.’ Then Melmotte referred to the purport of his call there that day. He would have to draw large cheques for his private wants. ’You don’t give a dinner to an Emperor of China for nothing, you know.’ He had been in the habit of overdrawing on his private account,—making arrangements with the manager. But now, in the manager’s presence, he drew a regular cheque on his business account for a large sum, and then, as a sort of afterthought, paid in the L250 which he had received from Mr Broune on account of the money which Sir Felix had taken from Marie.
‘There don’t seem much the matter with him,’ said the manager, when Melmotte had left the room.
‘He brazens it out, don’t he?’ said the senior clerk. But the feeling of the room after full discussion inclined to the opinion that the rumours had been a political manoeuvre. Nevertheless, Mr Melmotte would not now have been allowed to overdraw at the present moment.
Mr Alf’s central committee-room was in Great George Street, and there the battle was kept alive all the day. It had been decided, as the reader has been told, that no direct advantage should be taken of that loud blast of accusation which had been heard throughout the town on the previous afternoon. There had not been sufficient time for inquiry as to the truth of that blast. If there were just ground for the things that had been said, Mr Melmotte would no doubt soon be in gaol, or would be—wanted. Many had thought that he would escape as soon as the dinner was over, and had been disappointed when they heard that he had been seen walking down towards his own committee-room on the following morning. Others had been told that at the last moment his name would be withdrawn,—and a question arose as to whether he had the legal power to withdraw his name after a certain hour on the day before the ballot. An effort was made to convince a portion of the electors that he had withdrawn, or would have withdrawn, or should have withdrawn. When Melmotte was at Covent Garden, a large throng of men went to Whitehall Place with the view of ascertaining the truth. He certainly had made no attempt at withdrawal. They who propagated this report certainly damaged Mr Alf’s cause. A second reaction set in, and there grew a feeling that Mr Melmotte was being ill-used. Those evil things had been said of him,—many at least so declared,— not from any true motive, but simply to secure Mr Alf’s return. Tidings of the speech in Covent Garden were spread about at the various polling places, and did good service to the so-called Conservative cause. Mr Alf’s friends, hearing all this, instigated him also to make a speech. Something should be said, if only that it might be reported in the newspapers, to show that they had behaved with generosity, instead of having injured their enemy by false attacks. Whatever Mr Alf might say, he might at any rate be sure of a favourable reporter.