The Way We Live Now HTML version

The Longestaffes
Mr Adolphus Longestaffe, the squire of Caversham in Suffolk, and of Pickering Park in
Sussex, was closeted on a certain morning for the best part of an hour with Mr Melmotte
in Abchurch Lane, had there discussed all his private affairs, and was about to leave the
room with a very dissatisfied air. There are men and old men too, who ought to know the
world who think that if they can only find the proper Medea to boil the cauldron for them,
they can have their ruined fortunes so cooked that they shall come out of the pot fresh
and new and unembarrassed. These great conjurors are generally sought for in the City;
and in truth the cauldrons are kept boiling though the result of the process is seldom
absolute rejuvenescence. No greater Medea than Mr Melmotte had ever been potent in
money matters, and Mr Longestaffe had been taught to believe that if he could get the
necromancer even to look at his affairs everything would be made right for him. But the
necromancer had explained to the squire that property could not be created by the waving
of any wand or the boiling of any cauldron. He, Mr Melmotte, could put Mr Longestaffe
in the way of realising property without delay, of changing it from one shape into
another, or could find out the real market value of the property in question; but he could
create nothing. 'You have only a life interest, Mr Longestaffe.'
'No; only a life interest. That is customary with family estates in this country, Mr
'Just so. And therefore you can dispose of nothing else. Your son, of course, could join
you, and then you could sell either one estate or the other.'
'There is no question of selling Caversham, sir. Lady Pomona and I reside there.'
'Your son will not join you in selling the other place?'
'I have not directly asked him; but he never does do anything that I wish. I suppose you
would not take Pickering Park on a lease for my life.'
'I think not, Mr Longestaffe. My wife would not like the uncertainty.'
Then Mr Longestaffe took his leave with a feeling of outraged aristocratic pride. His own
lawyer would almost have done as much for him, and he need not have invited his own
lawyer as a guest to Caversham and certainly not his own lawyer's wife and daughter. He
had indeed succeeded in borrowing a few thousand pounds from the great man at a rate of
interest which the great man's head clerk was to arrange, and this had been effected
simply on the security of the lease of a house in town. There had been an ease in this, an
absence of that delay which generally took place between the expression of his desire for
money and the acquisition of it and this had gratified him. But he was already beginning
to think that he might pay too dearly for that gratification. At the present moment, too,
Mr Melmotte was odious to him for another reason. He had condescended to ask Mr
Melmotte to make him a director of the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway, and