‘You’ll get into a mess if you do.’
’Then I must get into a mess. I shall certainly go. I will go at once. It is very disagreeable, but I cannot possibly refuse. It would be abominable.’ Then going back to the hall, he sent a message by the butler to Marie, saying that he would be with her in less than half an hour.
‘Don’t you go and make a fool of yourself,’ his father said to him when he was alone. ’This is just one of those times when a man may ruin himself by being softhearted.’ Nidderdale simply shook his head as he took his hat and gloves to go across to Bruton Street.
When the news of her husband’s death was in some very rough way conveyed to Madame Melmotte, it crushed her for the time altogether. Marie first heard that she no longer had a living parent as she stood by the poor woman’s bedside, and she was enabled, as much perhaps by the necessity incumbent upon her of attending to the wretched woman as by her own superior strength of character, to save herself from that prostration and collapse of power which a great and sudden blow is apt to produce. She stared at the woman who first conveyed to her tidings of the tragedy, and then for a moment seated herself at the bedside. But the violent sobbings and hysterical screams of Madame Melmotte soon brought her again to her feet, and from that moment she was not only active but efficacious. No;—she would not go down to the room; she could do no good by going thither. But they must send for a doctor. They should send for a doctor immediately. She was then told that a doctor and an inspector of police were already in the rooms below. The necessity of throwing whatever responsibility there might be on to other shoulders had been at once apparent to the servants, and they had sent out right and left, so that the house might be filled with persons fit to give directions in such an emergency. The officers from the police station were already there when the woman who now filled Didon’s place in the house communicated to Madame Melmotte the fact that she was a widow.
It was afterwards said by some of those who had seen her at the time, that Marie Melmotte had shown a hard heart on the occasion. But the condemnation was wrong. Her feeling for her father was certainly not that which we are accustomed to see among our daughters and sisters. He had never been to her the petted divinity of the household, whose slightest wish had been law, whose little comforts had become matters of serious care, whose frowns were horrid clouds, whose smiles were glorious sunshine, whose kisses were daily looked for, and if missed would be missed with mourning. How should it have been so with her? In all the intercourses of her family, since the first rough usage which she remembered, there had never been anything sweet or gracious. Though she had recognized a certain duty, as due from