‘It was so,’ said Brehgert
’No doubt;’—and Mr Longestaffe assumed a great deal of dignity.
’Yes; it was so. I had promised your daughter when she was good enough to listen to the proposition which I made to her, that I would maintain a second house when we should be married.’
‘It was impossible,’ said Mr Longestaffe,—meaning to assert that such hymeneals were altogether unnatural and out of the question.
’It would have been quite possible as things were when that proposition was made. But looking forward to the loss which I afterwards anticipated from the affairs of our deceased friend, I found it to be prudent to relinquish my intention for the present, and I thought myself bound to inform Miss Longestaffe.’
‘There were other reasons,’ muttered Mr Longestaffe, in a suppressed voice, almost in a whisper,—in a whisper which was intended to convey a sense of present horror and a desire for future reticence.
’There may have been; but in the last letter which Miss Longestaffe did me the honour to write to me,—a letter with which I have not the slightest right to find any fault,—she seemed to me to confine herself almost exclusively to that reason.’
’Why mention this now, Mr Brehgert; why mention this now? The subject is painful.’
’Just because it is not painful to me, Mr Longestaffe; and because I wish that all they who have heard of the matter should know that it is not painful. I think that throughout I behaved like a gentleman.’ Mr Longestaffe, in an agony, first shook his head twice, and then bowed it three times, leaving the Jew to take what answer he could from so dubious an oracle. ‘I am sure.’ continued Brehgert, ’that I behaved like an honest man; and I didn’t quite like that the matter should be passed over as if I was in any way ashamed of myself.’
‘Perhaps on so delicate a subject the less said the soonest mended.’
‘I’ve nothing more to say, and I’ve nothing at all to mend.’ Finishing the conversation with this little speech Brehgert arose to take his leave, making some promise at the time that he would use all the expedition in his power to complete the arrangement of the Melmotte affairs.
As soon as he was gone Mr Longestaffe opened the door and walked about the room and blew out long puffs of breath, as though to cleanse himself from the impurities of his late contact. He told himself that he could not touch pitch and not be defiled! How vulgar had the man been, how indelicate, how regardless of all feeling, how little grateful for the honour which Mr Longestaffe had conferred upon him by asking him to dinner! Yes;—yes! A horrid Jew! Were not all Jews necessarily an abomination? Yet Mr Longestaffe was aware that in the present crisis of his fortunes he could not afford to quarrel with Mr Brehgert.