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The Way We Live Now

Roger Carbury said well that it was very improbable that he and his cousin, the, widow,
should agree in their opinions as to the expedience of fortune-hunting by marriage. It was
impossible that they should ever understand each other. To Lady Carbury the prospect of
a union between her son and Miss Melmotte was one of unmixed joy and triumph. Could
it have been possible that Marie Melmotte should be rich and her father be a man doomed
to a deserved sentence in a penal settlement, there might perhaps be a doubt about it. The
wealth even in that case would certainly carry the day, against the disgrace, and Lady
Carbury would find reasons why poor Marie should not be punished for her father's sins
even while enjoying the money which those sins had produced. But how different were
the existing facts? Mr Melmotte was not at the galleys, but was entertaining duchesses in
Grosvenor Square. People said that Mr Melmotte had a reputation throughout Europe as a
gigantic swindler as one who in the dishonest and successful pursuit of wealth had
stopped at nothing. People said of him that he had framed and carried out long
premeditated and deeply-laid schemes for the ruin of those who had trusted him, that he
had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him, that he was fed
with the blood of widows and children but what was all this to Lady Carbury? If the
duchesses condoned it all, did it become her to be prudish? People also said that
Melmotte would yet get a fall that a man who had risen after such a fashion never could
long keep his head up. But he might keep his head up long enough to give Marie her
fortune. And then Felix wanted a fortune so badly was so exactly the young man who
ought to marry a fortune! To Lady Carbury there was no second way of looking at the
And to Roger Carbury also there was no second way of looking at it. That condonation of
antecedents which, in the hurry of the world, is often vouchsafed to success, that
growing, feeling which induces people to assert to themselves that; they are not bound to
go outside the general verdict, and that they may shake hands with whomsoever the
world shakes hands with, had never reached him. The old-fashioned idea that the
touching of pitch will defile still prevailed with him. He was a gentleman and would have
felt himself disgraced to enter the house of such a one as Augustus Melmotte. Not all the
duchesses in the peerage, or all the money in the city, could alter his notions or induce
him to modify his conduct. But he knew that it would be useless for him to explain this to
Lady Carbury. He trusted, however, that one of the family might be taught to appreciate
the difference between honour and dishonour. Henrietta Carbury had, he thought, a
higher turn of mind than her mother, and had as yet been kept free from soil. As for Felix
he had so grovelled in the gutters as to be dirt all over. Nothing short of the prolonged
sufferings of half a life could cleanse him.
He found Henrietta alone in the drawing-room. 'Have you seen Felix?' she said, as soon
as they had greeted each other.
'Yes. I caught him in the street.'