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The Way We Live Now

In Grosvenor Square
Marie Melmotte was hardly satisfied with the note which she received from Didon early
on the Monday morning. With a volubility of French eloquence, Didon declared that she
would be turned out of the house if either Monsieur or Madame were to know what she
was doing. Marie told her that Madame would certainly never dismiss her. 'Well, perhaps
not Madame,' said Didon, who knew too much about Madame to be dismissed; 'but
Monsieur!' Marie declared that by no possibility could Monsieur know anything about it.
In that house nobody ever told anything to Monsieur. He was regarded as the general
enemy, against whom the whole household was always making ambushes, always firing
guns from behind rocks and trees. It is not a pleasant condition for a master of a house;
but in this house the master at any rate knew how he was placed. It never occurred to him
to trust any one. Of course his daughter might run away. But who would run away with
her without money? And there could be no money except from him. He knew himself and
his own strength. He was not the man to forgive a girl, and then bestow his wealth on the
Lothario who had injured him. His daughter was valuable to him because she might make
him the father-in-law of a Marquis or an Earl; but the higher that he rose without such
assistance, the less need had he of his daughter's aid. Lord Alfred was certainly very
useful to him. Lord Alfred had whispered into his ear that by certain conduct and by
certain uses of his money, he himself might be made a baronet. 'But if they should say
that I'm not an Englishman?' suggested Melmotte. Lord Alfred had explained that it was
not necessary that he should have been born in England, or even that he should have an
English name. No questions would be asked. Let him first get into Parliament, and then
spend a little money on the proper side by which Lord Alfred meant the Conservative
side and be munificent in his entertainments, and the baronetcy would be almost a matter
of course. Indeed, there was no knowing what honours might not be achieved in the
present days by money scattered with a liberal hand. In these conversations, Melmotte
would speak of his money and power of making money as though they were unlimited
and Lord Alfred believed him.
Marie was dissatisfied with her letter not because it described her father as 'cutting up
rough.' To her who had known her father all her life that was a matter of course. But there
was no word of love in the note. An impassioned correspondence carried on through
Didon would be delightful to her. She was quite capable of loving, and she did love the
young man. She had, no doubt, consented to accept the addresses of others whom she did
not love but this she had done at the moment almost of her first introduction to the
marvellous world in which she was now living. As days went on she ceased to be a child,
and her courage grew within her. She became conscious of an identity of her own, which
feeling was produced in great part by the contempt which accompanied her increasing
familiarity with grand people and grand names and grand things. She was no longer
afraid of saying No to the Nidderdales on account of any awe of them personally. It
might be that she should acknowledge herself to be obliged to obey her father, though she
was drifting away even from the sense of that obligation. Had her mind been as it was
now when Lord Nidderdale first came to her, she might indeed have loved him, who, as a
man, was infinitely better than Sir Felix, and who, had be thought it to be necessary,