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The Way We Live Now

Madame Melmottes Ball
The next night but one after that of the gambling transaction at the Beargarden, a great
ball was given in Grosvenor Square. It was a ball on a scale so magnificent that it had
been talked about ever since Parliament met, now about a fortnight since. Some people
had expressed an opinion that such a ball as this was intended to be could not be given
successfully in February. Others declared that the money which was to be spent an
amount which would make this affair quite new in the annals of ball-giving would give
the thing such a character that it would certainly be successful. And much more than
money had been expended. Almost incredible efforts had been made to obtain the
cooperation of great people, and these efforts had at last been grandly successful. The
Duchess of Stevenage had come up from Castle Albury herself to be present at it and to
bring her daughters, though it has never been her Grace's wont to be in London at this
inclement season. No doubt the persuasion used with the Duchess had been very strong.
Her brother, Lord Alfred Grendall, was known to be in great difficulties, which so people
said had been considerably modified by opportune pecuniary assistance. And then it was
certain that one of the young Grendalls, Lord Alfred's second son, had been appointed to
some mercantile position, for which he received a salary which his most intimate friends
thought that he was hardly qualified to earn. It was certainly a fact that he went to
Abchurch Lane, in the City, four or five days a week, and that he did not occupy his time
in so unaccustomed a manner for nothing. Where the Duchess of Stevenage went all the
world would go. And it became known at the last moment, that is to say only the day
before the party, that a prince of the blood royal was to be there. How this had been
achieved nobody quite understood; but there were rumours that a certain lady's jewels
had been rescued from the pawnbroker's. Everything was done on the same scale. The
Prime Minister had indeed declined to allow his name to appear on the list; but one
Cabinet Minister and two or three under-secretaries had agreed to come because it was
felt that the giver of the ball might before long be the master of considerable
parliamentary interest. It was believed that he had an eye to politics, and it is always wise
to have great wealth on one's own side. There had at one time been much solicitude about
the ball. Many anxious thoughts had been given. When great attempts fail, the failure is
disastrous, and may be ruinous. But this ball had now been put beyond the chance of
failure.
The giver of the ball was Augustus Melmotte, Esq., the father of the girl whom Sir Felix
Carbury desired to marry, and the husband of the lady who was said to have been a
Bohemian Jewess. It was thus that the gentleman chose to have himself designated,
though within the last two years he had arrived in London from Paris, and had at first
been known as M. Melmotte. But he had declared of himself that he had been born in
England, and that he was an Englishman. He admitted that his wife was a foreigner an
admission that was necessary as she spoke very little English. Melmotte himself spoke
his 'native' language fluently, but with an accent which betrayed at least a long
expatriation. Miss Melmotte who a very short time since had been known as
Mademoiselle Marie spoke English well, but as a foreigner. In regard to her it was
acknowledged that she had been born out of England some said in New York; but
 
 
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