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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRalph The Heir - Chapter 19. Polly's Answer
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Ralph The Heir - Chapter 19. Polly's Answer Post by :BenKeim Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :2637

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Ralph The Heir - Chapter 19. Polly's Answer

CHAPTER XIX. POLLY'S ANSWER

Moggs's bill became due before the 20th of September, and Ralph Newton received due notice,--as of course he had known that he would do,--that it had not been cashed at his banker's. How should it be cashed at his banker's, seeing that he had not had a shilling there for the last three months? Moggs himself, Moggs senior, came to Ralph, and made himself peculiarly disagreeable. He had never heard of such a thing on the part of a gentleman! Not to have his bill taken up! To have his paper dishonoured! Moggs spoke of it as though the heavens would fall; and he spoke of it, too, as though, even should the heavens not fall, the earth would be made a very tumultuous and unpleasant place for Mr. Newton, if Mr. Newton did not see at once that these two hundred and odd pounds were forthcoming. Moggs said so much that Ralph became very angry, turned him out of the room, and told him that he should have his dirty money on the morrow. On the morrow the dirty money was paid, Ralph having borrowed the amount from Mr. Neefit. Mr. Moggs was quite content. His object had been achieved, and, when the cash was paid, he was quite polite. But Ralph Newton was not happy as he made the payment. He had declared to himself, after writing that letter to his brother, that the thing was settled by the very declaration made by him therein. When he assured his brother that he would not sell his interest in the property, he did, in fact, resolve that he would make Polly Neefit his wife. And he did no more than follow up that resolution when he asked Neefit for a small additional advance. His due would not be given to the breeches-maker if it were not acknowledged that on this occasion he behaved very well. He had told Ralph to come to him when Moggs's "bit of stiff" came round. Moggs's "bit of stiff" did come round, and "the Captain" did as he had been desired to do. Neefit wrote out the cheque without saying a word about his daughter. "Do you just run across to Argyle Street, Captain," said the breeches-maker, "and get the stuff in notes." For Mr. Neefit's bankers held an establishment in Argyle Street. "There ain't no need, you know, to let on, Captain; is there?" said the breeches-maker. Ralph Newton, clearly seeing that there was no need to "let on," did as he was bid, and so the account was settled with Mr. Moggs. But now as to settling the account with Mr. Neefit? Neefit had his own idea of what was right between gentlemen. As the reader knows, he could upon an occasion make his own views very clearly intelligible. He was neither reticent nor particularly delicate. But there was something within him which made him give the cheque to Ralph without a word about Polly. That something, let it be what it might, was not lost upon Ralph.

Any further doubt on his part was quite out of the question. If his mind had not been made up before it must, at least, be made up now. He had twice borrowed Mr. Neefit's money, and on this latter occasion had taken it on the express understanding that he was to propose to Mr. Neefit's daughter. And then, in this way, and in this way only, he could throw over his uncle and save the property. As soon as he had paid the money to Moggs, he went to his room and dressed himself for the occasion. As he arranged his dress with some small signs of an intention to be externally smart, he told himself that it signified nothing at all, that the girl was only a breeches-maker's daughter, and that there was hardly a need that he should take a new pair of gloves for such an occasion as this. In that he was probably right. An old pair of gloves would have done just as well, though Polly did like young men to look smart.

He went out in a hansom of course. A man does not become economical because he is embarrassed. And as for embarrassment, he need not trouble himself with any further feelings on that score. When once he should be the promised husband of Polly Neefit, he would have no scruple about the breeches-maker's money. Why should he, when he did the thing with the very view of getting it? They couldn't expect him to be married till next spring at the earliest, and he would take another winter out of himself at the Moonbeam. As the sacrifice was to be made he might as well enjoy all that would come of the sacrifice. Then as he sat in the cab he took to thinking whether, after any fashion at all, he did love Polly Neefit. And from that he got to thinking,--not of poor Clary,--but of Mary Bonner. If his uncle could at once be translated to his fitting place among the immortals, oh,--what a life might be his! But his uncle was still mortal, and,--after all,--Polly Neefit was a very jolly girl.

When he got to the house he asked boldly for Miss Neefit. He had told himself that no repulse could be injurious to him. If Mrs. Neefit were to refuse him admission into the house, the breeches-maker would be obliged to own that he had done his best. But there was no repulse. In two minutes he found himself in the parlour, with Polly standing up to receive him. "Dear me, Mr. Newton; how odd! You might have come weeks running before you'd find me here and mother out. She's gone to fetch father home. She don't do it,--not once a month." Ralph assured her that he was quite contented as it was, and that he did not in the least regret the absence of Mrs. Neefit. "But she'll be ever so unhappy. She likes to see gentlemen when they call."

"And you dislike it?" asked Ralph.

"Indeed I don't then," said Polly.

And now in what way was he to do it? Would it be well to allude to her father's understanding with himself? In the ordinary way of love-making Ralph was quite as much at home as another. He had found no difficulty in saying a soft word to Clarissa Underwood, and in doing more than that. But with Polly the matter was different. There was an inappropriateness in his having to do the thing at all, which made it difficult to him,--unless he could preface what he did by an allusion to his agreement with her father. He could hardly ask Polly to be his wife without giving her some reason for the formation of so desperate a wish on his own part. "Polly," he said at last, "that was very awkward for us all,--that evening when Mr. Moggs was here."

"Indeed it was, Mr. Newton. Poor Mr. Moggs! He shouldn't have stayed;--but mother asked him."

"Has he been here since?"

"He was then, and he and I were walking together. There isn't a better fellow breathing than Ontario Moggs,--in his own way. But he's not company for you, Mr. Newton, of course."

Ralph quailed at this. To be told that his own boot-maker wasn't "company" for him,--and that by the young lady whom he intended to make his wife! "I don't think he is company for you either Polly," he said.

"Why not, Mr. Newton? He's as good as me. What's the difference between him and father?" He wondered whether, when she should be his own, he would be able to teach her to call Mr. Neefit her papa. "Mr. Newton, when you know me better, you'll know that I'm not one to give myself airs. I've known Mr. Moggs all my life, and he's equal to me, anyways,--only he's a deal better."

"I hope there's nothing more than friendship, Polly."

"What business have you to hope?"

Upon that theme he spoke, and told her in plain language that his reason for so hoping was that he trusted to be able to persuade her to become his own wife. Polly, when the word was spoken, blushed ruby red, and trembled a little. The thing had come to her, and, after all, she might be a real lady if she pleased. She blushed ruby red, and trembled, but she said not a word for a while. And then, having made his offer, he began to speak of love. In speaking of it, he was urgent enough, but his words had not that sort of suasiveness which they would have possessed had he been addressing himself to Clary Underwood. "Polly," he said, "I hope you can love me. I will love you very dearly, and do all that I can to make you happy. To me you shall be the first woman in the world. Do you think that you can love me, Polly?"

Polly was, perhaps, particular. She had not quite approved of the manner in which Ontario had disclosed his love, though there had been something of the eloquence of passion even in that;--and now she was hardly satisfied with Ralph Newton. She had formed to herself, perhaps, some idea of a soft, insinuating, coaxing whisper, something that should be half caress and half prayer, but something that should at least be very gentle and very loving. Ontario was loving, but he was not gentle. Ralph Newton was gentle, but then she doubted whether he was loving. "Will you say that it shall be so?" he asked, standing over her, and looking down upon her with his most bewitching smile.

Polly amidst her blushing and her trembling made up her mind that she would say nothing of the kind at this present moment. She would like to be a lady though she was not ashamed of being a tradesman's daughter;--but she would not buy the privilege of being a lady at too dear a price. The price would be very high indeed were she to give herself to a man who did not love her, and perhaps despised her. And then she was not quite sure that she could love this man herself, though she was possessed of a facility for liking nice young men. Ralph Newton was well enough in many ways. He was good looking, he could speak up for himself, he did not give himself airs,--and then, as she had been fully instructed by her father, he must ultimately inherit a large property. Were she to marry him her position would be absolutely that of one of the ladies of the land. But then she knew,--she could not but know,--that he sought her because he was in want of money for his present needs. To be made a lady of the land would be delightful; but to have a grand passion,--in regard to which Polly would not be satisfied unless there were as much love on one side as on the other,--would be more delightful. That latter was essentially necessary to her. The man must take an absolute pleasure in her company, or the whole thing would be a failure. So she blushed and trembled, and thought and was silent. "Dear Polly, do you mean that you cannot love me?" said Ralph.

"I don't know," said Polly.

"Will you try?" demanded Ralph.

"And I don't know that you can love me."

"Indeed, indeed, I can."

"Ah, yes;--you can say so, I don't doubt. There's a many of them as can say so, and yet it's not in 'em to do it. And there's men as don't know hardly how to say it, and yet it's in their hearts all the while." Polly must have been thinking of Ontario as she made this latter oracular observation.

"I don't know much about saying it; but I can do it, Polly."

"Oh, as for talking, you can talk. You've been brought up that way. You've had nothing else much to do."

She was very hard upon him, and so he felt it. "I think that's not fair, Polly. What can I say to you better than that I love you, and will be good to you?"

"Oh, good to me! People are always good to me. Why shouldn't they?"

"Nobody will be so good as I will be,--if you will take me. Tell me, Polly, do you not believe me when I say I love you?"

"No;--I don't."

"Why should I be false to you?"

"Ah;--well;--why? It's not for me to say why. Father's been putting you up to this. That's why."

"Your father could put me up to nothing of the kind if it were not that I really loved you."

"And there's another thing, Mr. Newton."

"What's that, Polly?"

"I'm not at all sure that I'm so very fond of you."

"That's unkind."

"Better be true than to rue," said Polly. "Why, Mr. Newton, we don't know anything about each other,--not as yet. I may be, oh, anything bad, for what you know. And for anything I know you may be idle, and extravagant, and a regular man flirt." Polly had a way of speaking the truth without much respect to persons. "And then, Mr. Newton, I'm not going to be given away by father just as he pleases. Father thinks this and that, and he means it all for the best. I love father dearly. But I don't mean to take any body as I don't feel I'd pretty nigh break my heart if I wasn't to have him. I ain't come to breaking my heart for you yet, Mr. Newton."

"I hope you never will break your heart."

"I don't suppose you understand, but that's how it is. Let it just stand by for a year or so, Mr. Newton, and see how it is then. Maybe we might get to know each other. Just now, marrying you would be like taking a husband out of a lottery." Ralph stood looking at her, passing his hand over his head, and not quite knowing how to carry on his suit. "I'll tell father what you was saying to me and what I said to you," continued Polly, who seemed quite to understand that Ralph had done his duty by his creditor in making the offer, and that justice to him demanded that this should be acknowledged by the whole family.

"And is that to be all, Polly?" asked Ralph in a melancholy voice.

"All at present, Mr. Newton."

Ralph, as he returned to London in his cab, felt more hurt by the girl's refusal of him than he would before have thought to be possible. He was almost disposed to resolve that he would at once renew the siege and carry it on as though there were no question of twenty thousand pounds, and of money borrowed from the breeches-maker. Polly had shown so much spirit in the interview, and had looked so well in showing it, had stood up such a perfect specimen of healthy, comely, honest womanhood, that he thought that he did love her. There was, however, one comfort clearly left to him. He had done his duty by old Neefit. The money due must of course be paid;--but he had in good faith done that which he had pledged himself to do in taking the money.

As to the surrender of the estate there were still left to him four days in which to think of it.

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