Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 14

Loughlinter

Phineas Finn reached Loughlinter together with Mr Ratler in a post-chaise from the neighbouring town. Mr Ratler, who had done this kind of thing very often before, travelled without impediments, but the new servant of our hero’s was stuck outside with the driver, and was in the way. “I never bring a man with me,” said Mr Ratler to his young friend. “The servants of the house like it much better, because they get fee’d; you are just as well waited on, and it don’t cost half as much.” Phineas blushed as he heard all this; but there was the impediment, not to be got rid of for the nonce, and Phineas made the best of his attendant. “It’s one of those points,” said he, “as to which a man never quite makes up his mind. If you bring a fellow, you wish you hadn’t brought him; and if you don’t, you wish you had.” “I’m a great deal more decided in my ways that that,” said Mr Ratler.

Loughlinter, as they approached it, seemed to Phineas to be a much finer place than Saulsby. And so it was, except that Loughlinter wanted that graceful beauty of age which Saulsby possessed. Loughlinter was all of cut stone, but the stones had been cut only yesterday. It stood on a gentle slope, with a greensward falling from the front entrance down to a mountain lake. And on the other side of the Lough there rose a mighty mountain to the skies, Ben Linter. At the foot of it, and all round to the left, there ran the woods of Linter, stretching for miles through crags and bogs and mountain lands. No better ground for deer than the side of Ben Linter was there in all those highlands. And the Linter, rushing down into the Lough through rocks which, in some places, almost met together above its waters, ran so near to the house that the pleasant noise of its cataracts could be heard from the hall door. Behind the house the expanse of drained park land seemed to be interminable; and then, again, came the mountains. There were Ben Linn and Ben Lody — and the whole territory belonging to Mr Kennedy. He was laird of Linn and laird of Linter, as his people used to say. And yet his father had walked into Glasgow as a little boy — no doubt with the normal half-crown in his breeches pocket.

“Magnificent — is it not?” said Phineas to the Treasury Secretary, as they were being driven up to the door.

“Very grand — but the young trees show the new man. A new man may buy a forest; but he can’t get park trees.”

Phineas, at the moment, was thinking how far all these things which he saw, the mountains stretching everywhere around him, the castle, the lake, the river, the wealth of it all, and, more than the wealth, the nobility of the beauty, might act as temptations to Lady Laura Standish. If a woman were asked to have the half of all this, would it be possible that she should prefer to take the half of his nothing? He thought it might be possible for a girl who would confess, or seem to confess, that love should be everything. But it could hardly be possible for a woman who looked at the world almost as a man looked at it — as an oyster to be opened with such weapon as she could find ready to her hand. Lady Laura professed to have a care for all the affairs of the world. She loved politics, and could talk of social science, and had broad ideas about religion, and was devoted to certain educational views. Such a woman would feel that wealth was necessary to her, and would be willing, for the sake of wealth, to put up with a husband without romance. Nay; might it not be that she would prefer a husband without romance? Thus Phineas was arguing to himself as he was driven up to the door of Loughlinter Castle, while Mr Ratler was eloquent on the beauty of old park trees. “After all, a Scotch forest is a very scrubby sort of thing,” said Mr Ratler.

There was nobody in the house — at least, they found nobody; and within half an hour Phineas was walking about the grounds by himself. Mr Ratler had declared himself to be delighted at having an opportunity of writing letters — and no doubt was writing them by the dozen, all dated from Loughlinter, and all detailing the facts that Mr Gresham, and Mr Monk, and Plantagenet Palliser, and Lord Brentford were in the same house with him. Phineas had no letters to write, and therefore rushed down across the broad lawn to the river, of which he heard the noisy tumbling waters. There was something in the air which immediately filled him with high spirits; and, in his desire to investigate the glories of the place, he forgot that he was going to dine with four Cabinet Ministers in a row. He soon reached the stream, and began to make his way up it through the ravine. There was waterfall over waterfall, and there were little bridges here and there which looked to be half natural and half artificial, and a path which required that you should climb, but which was yet a path, and all was so arranged that not a pleasant splashing rush of the waters was lost to the visitor. He went on and on, up the stream, till there was a sharp turn in the ravine, and then, looking upwards, he saw above his head a man and a woman standing together on one of the little half-made wooden bridges. His eyes were sharp, and he saw at a glance that the woman was Lady Laura Standish. He had not recognised the man, but he had very little doubt that it was Mr Kennedy. Of course it was Mr Kennedy, because he would prefer that it should be any other man under the sun. He would have turned back at once if he had thought that he could have done so without being observed; but he felt sure that, standing as they were, they must have observed him. He did not like to join them. He would not intrude himself. So he remained still, and began to throw stones into the river. But he had not thrown above a stone or two when he was called from above. He looked up, and then he perceived that the man who called him was his host. Of course it was Mr Kennedy. Thereupon he ceased to throw stones, and went up the path, and joined them upon the bridge. Mr Kennedy stepped forward, and bade him welcome to Loughlinter. His manner was less cold, and he seemed to have more words at command than was usual with him. “You have not been long,” he said, in finding out the most beautiful spot about the place.”

“Is it not lovely?” said Laura, We have not been here an hour yet, and Mr Kennedy insisted on bringing me here,”

“It is wonderfully beautiful,” said Phineas.

“It is this very spot where we now stand that made me build the house where it is,” said Mr Kennedy, “and I was only eighteen when I stood here and made up my mind. That is just twenty-five years ago.” “So he is forty-three, said Phineas to himself, thinking how glorious it was to be only twenty-five. “And within twelve months,” continued Mr Kennedy, “the foundations were being dug and the stone-cutters were at work.”

“What a good-natured man your father must have been,” said Lady Laura.

“He had nothing else to do with his money but to pour it over my head, as it were. I don’t think he had any other enjoyment of it himself. Will you go a little higher, Lady Laura? We shall get a fine view over to Ben Linn just now.” Lady Laura declared that she would go as much higher as he chose to take her, and Phineas was rather in doubt as to what it would become him to do. He would stay where he was, or go down, or make himself to vanish after any most acceptable fashion; but if he were to do so abruptly it would seem as though he were attributing something special to the companionship of the other two. Mr Kennedy saw his doubt, and asked him to join them. “You may as well come on, Mr Finn. We don’t dine till eight, and it is not much past six yet. The men of business are all writing letters, and the ladies who have been travelling are in bed, I believe.”

“Not all of them, Mr Kennedy,” said Lady Laura. Then they went on with their walk very pleasantly, and the lord of all that they surveyed took them from one point of vantage to another, till they both swore that of all spots upon the earth Loughlinter was surely the most lovely. “I do delight in it, I own,” said the lord. “When I come up here alone, and feel that in the midst of this little bit of a crowded island I have all this to myself — all this with which no other man’s wealth can interfere — I grow proud of my own, till I become thoroughly ashamed of myself. After all, I believe it is better to dwell in cities than in the country — better, at any rate, for a rich man.” Mr Kennedy had now spoken more words than Phineas had heard to fall from his lips during the whole time that they had been acquainted with each other.

“I believe so too,” said Laura, if one were obliged to choose between the two. For myself, I think that a little of both is good for man and woman.”

“There is no doubt about that,” said Phineas.

“No doubt as far as enjoyment goes,” said Mr Kennedy.

He took them up out of the ravine on to the side of the mountain, and then down by another path through the woods to the back of the house. As they went he relapsed into his usual silence, and the conversation was kept up between the other two. At a point not very far from the castle — just so far that one could see by the break of the ground where the castle stood, Kennedy left them. “Mr Finn will take you back in safety, I am sure,” said he, “and, as I am here, I’ll go up to the farm for a moment. If I don’t show myself now and again when I am here, they think I’m indifferent about the “bestials”.”

“Now, Mr Kennedy,” said Lady Laura, you are going to pretend to understand all about sheep and oxen.” Mr Kennedy, owning that it was so, went away to his farm, and Phineas with Lady Laura returned towards the house. “I think, upon the whole,” said Lady Laura, “that that is as good a man as I know.”

“I should think he is an idle one,” said Phineas.

“I doubt that. He is, perhaps, neither zealous nor active. But he is thoughtful and high-principled, and has a method and a purpose in the use which he makes of his money. And you see that he has poetry in his nature too, if you get him upon the right string. How fond he is of the scenery of this place!”

“Any man would be fond of that. I’m ashamed to say that it almost makes me envy him. I certainly never have wished to be Mr Robert Kennedy in London, but I should like to be the Laird of Loughlinter.”

““Laird of Linn and Laird of Linter — Here in summer, gone in winter.” There is some ballad about the old lairds; but that belongs to a time when Mr Kennedy had not been heard of, when some branch of the Mackenzies lived down at that wretched old tower which you see as you first come upon the lake. When old Mr Kennedy bought it there were hardly a hundred acres on the property under cultivation.”

“And it belonged to the Mackenzies.”

“Yes — to the Mackenzie of Linn, as he was called. It was Mr Kennedy, the old man, who was first called Loughlinter. That is Linn Castle, and they lived there for hundreds of years. But these Highlanders, with all that is said of their family pride, have forgotten the Mackenzies already, and are quite proud of their rich landlord.”

“That is unpoetical,” said Phineas.

“Yes — but then poetry is so usually false. I doubt whether Scotland would not have been as prosaic a country as any under the sun but for Walter Scott — and I have no doubt that Henry V owes the romance of his character altogether to Shakespeare.”

“I sometimes think you despise poetry,” said Phineas.

“When it is false I do. The difficulty is to know when it is false and when it is true. Tom Moore was always false.”

“Not so false as Byron,” said Phineas with energy.

“Much more so, my friend. But we will not discuss that now. Have you seen Mr Monk since you have been here?”

“I have seen no one. I came with Mr Ratler.”

“Why with Mr Ratler? You cannot find Mr Ratler a companion much to your taste.”

“Chance brought us together. But Mr Ratler is a man of sense, Lady Laura, and is not to be despised.”

“It always seems to me,” said Lady Laura, that nothing is to be gained in politics by sitting at the feet of the little Gamaliels.”

“But the great Gamaliels will not have a novice on their footstools.”

“Then sit at no man’s feet. Is it not astonishing that the price generally put upon any article by the world is that which the owner puts on it? — and that this is specially true of a man’s own self? If you herd with Ratler, men will take it for granted that you are a Ratlerite, and no more. If you consort with Greshams and Pallisers, you will equally be supposed to know your own place.”

“I never knew a Mentor,” said Phineas, so apt as you are to fill his Telemachus with pride.”

“It is because I do not think your fault lies that way. If it did, or if I thought so, my Telemachus, you may be sure that I should resign my position as Mentor. Here are Mr Kennedy and Lady Glencora and Mrs Gresham on the steps.” Then they went up through the Ionic columns on to the broad stone terrace before the door, and there they found a crowd of men and women. For the legislators and statesmen had written their letters, and the ladies had taken their necessary rest.

Phineas, as he was dressing, considered deeply all that Lady Laura had said to him — not so much with reference to the advice which she had given him, though that also was of importance, as to the fact that it had been given by her. She had first called herself his Mentor; but he had accepted the name and had addressed her as her Telemachus. And yet he believed himself to be older than she — if, indeed, there was any difference in their ages. And was it possible that a female Mentor should love her Telemachus — should love him as Phineas desired to be loved by Lady Laura? He would not say that it was impossible. Perhaps there had been mistakes between them — a mistake in his manner of addressing her, and another in hers of addressing him. Perhaps the old bachelor of forty-three was not thinking of a wife. Had this old bachelor of forty-three been really in love with Lady Laura, would he have allowed her to walk home alone with Phineas, leaving her with some flimsy pretext of having to look at his sheep? Phineas resolved that he must at any rate play out his game — whether he were to lose it or to win it; and in playing it he must, if possible, drop something of that Mentor and Telemachus style of conversation. As to the advice given him of herding with Greshams and Pallisers, instead of with Ratlers and Fitzgibbons — he must use that as circumstances might direct. To him, himself, as he thought of it all, it was sufficiently astonishing that even the Ratlers and Fitzgibbons should admit him among them as one of themselves. “When I think of my father and of the old house at Killaloe, and remember that hitherto I have done nothing myself, I cannot understand how it is that I should be at Loughlinter.” There was only one way of understanding it. If Lady Laura really loved him, the riddle might be read.

The rooms at Loughlinter were splendid, much larger and very much more richly furnished than those at Saulsby. But there was a certain stiffness in the movement of things, and perhaps in the manner of some of those present, which was not felt at Saulsby. Phineas at once missed the grace and prettiness and cheery audacity of Violet Effingham, and felt at the same time that Violet Effingham would be out of her element at Loughlinter. At Loughlinter they were met for business. It was at least a semi-political, or perhaps rather a semi-official gathering, and he became aware that he ought not to look simply for amusement. When he entered the drawing-room before dinner, Mr Monk and Mr Palliser, and Mr Kennedy and Mr Gresham, with sundry others, were standing in a wide group before the fireplace, and among them were Lady Glencora Palliser and Lady Laura and Mrs Bonteen. As he approached them it seemed as though a sort of opening was made for himself; but he could see, though others did not, that the movement came from Lady Laura.

“I believe, Mr Monk,” said Lady Glencora, that you and I are the only two in the whole party who really know what we would be at.”

“If I must be divided from so many of my friends,” said Mr Monk, “I am happy to go astray in the company of Lady Glencora Palliser.”

“And might I ask,” said Mr Gresham, with a peculiar smile for which he was famous, “what it is that you and Mr Monk are really at?”

“Making men and women all equal,” said Lady Glencora. “That I take to be the gist of our political theory.”

“Lady Glencora, I must cry off,” said Mr Monk.

“Yes — no doubt. If I were in the Cabinet myself I should not admit so much. There are reticences — of course. And there is an official discretion.”

“But you don’t mean to say, Lady Glencora, that you would really advocate equality?” said Mrs Bonteen.

“I do mean to say so, Mrs Bonteen. And I mean to go further, and to tell you that you are no Liberal at heart unless you do so likewise; unless that is the basis of your political aspirations.”

“Pray let me speak for myself, Lady Glencora.”

“By no means — not when you are criticising me and my politics. Do you not wish to make the lower orders comfortable?”

“Certainly,” said Mrs Bonteen.

“And educated, and happy and good?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“To make them as comfortable and as good as yourself?”

“Better if possible.”

“And I’m sure you wish to make yourself as good and as comfortable as anybody else — as those above you, if anybody is above you? You will admit that?”

“Yes — if I understand you.”

“Then you have admitted everything, and are an advocate for general equality, just as Mr Monk is, and as I am. There is no getting out of it — is there, Mr Kennedy?” Then dinner was announced, and Mr Kennedy walked off with the French Republican on his arm. As she went, she whispered into Mr Kennedy’s ear, “You will understand me. I am not saying that people are equal; but that the tendency of all law-making and of all governing should be to reduce the inequalities.” In answer to which Mr Kennedy said not a word. Lady Glencora’s politics were too fast and furious for his nature.

A week passed by at Loughlinter, at the end of which Phineas found himself on terms of friendly intercourse with all the political magnates assembled in the house, but especially with Mr Monk. He had determined that he would not follow Lady Laura’s advice as to his selection of companions, if in doing so he should be driven even to a seeming of intrusion. He made no attempt to sit at the feet of anybody, and would stand aloof when bigger men than himself were talking, and was content to be less — as indeed he was less — than Mr Bonteen or Mr Ratler. But at the end of a week he found that, without any effort on his part — almost in opposition to efforts on his part — he had fallen into an easy pleasant way with these men which was very delightful to him. He had killed a stag in company with Mr Palliser, and had stopped beneath a crag to discuss with him a question as to the duty on Irish malt. He had played chess with Mr Gresham, and had been told that gentleman’s opinion on the trial of Mr Jefferson Davis. Lord Brentford had — at last — called him Finn, and had proved to him that nothing was known in Ireland about sheep. But with Mr Monk he had had long discussions on abstract questions in politics — and before the week was over was almost disposed to call himself a disciple, or, at least, a follower of Mr Monk. Why not of Mr Monk as well as of any one else? Mr Monk was in the Cabinet, and of all the members of the Cabinet was the most advanced Liberal. “Lady Glencora was not so far wrong the other night,” Mr Monk said to him. “Equality is an ugly word and shouldn’t be used. It misleads, and frightens, and is a bugbear. And she, in using it, had not perhaps a clearly defined meaning for it in her own mind. But the wish of every honest man should be to assist in lifting up those below him, till they be something nearer his own level than he finds them.” To this Phineas assented — and by degrees he found himself assenting to a great many things that Mr Monk said to him.

Mr Monk was a thin, tall, gaunt man, who had devoted his whole life to politics, hitherto without any personal reward beyond that which came to him from the reputation of his name, and from the honour of a seat in Parliament. He was one of four or five brothers — and all besides him were in trade. They had prospered in trade, whereas he had prospered solely in politics; and men said that he was dependent altogether on what his relatives supplied for his support. He had now been in Parliament for more than twenty years, and had been known not only as a Radical but as a Democrat. Ten years since, when he had risen to fame, but not to repute, among the men who then governed England, nobody dreamed that Joshua Monk would ever be a paid servant of the Crown. He had inveighed against one minister after another as though they all deserved impeachment. He had advocated political doctrines which at that time seemed to be altogether at variance with any possibility of governing according to English rules of government. He had been regarded as a pestilent thorn in the sides of all ministers. But now he was a member of the Cabinet, and those whom he had terrified in the old days began to find that he was not so much unlike other men. There are but few horses which you cannot put into harness, and those of the highest spirit will generally do your work the best.

Phineas, who had his eyes about him, thought that he could perceive that Mr Palliser did not shoot a deer with Mr Ratler, and that Mr Gresham played no chess with Mr Bonteen. Bonteen, indeed, was a noisy pushing man whom nobody seemed to like, and Phineas wondered why he should be at Loughlinter, and why he should be in office. His friend Laurence Fitzgibbon had indeed once endeavoured to explain this. “A man who can vote hard, as I call it; and who will speak a few words now and then as they’re wanted, without any ambition that way, may always have his price. And if he has a pretty wife into the bargain, he ought to have a pleasant time of it.” Mr Ratler no doubt was a very useful man, who thoroughly knew his business; but yet, as it seemed to Phineas, no very great distinction was shown to Mr Ratler at Loughlinter. “If I got as high as that,” he said to himself, “I should think myself a miracle of luck. And yet nobody seems to think anything of Ratler. It is all nothing unless one can go to the very top.”

“I believe I did right to accept office,” Mr Monk said to him one day, as they sat together on a rock close by one of the little bridges over the Linter. “Indeed, unless a man does so when the bonds of the office tendered to him are made compatible with his own views, he declines to proceed on the open path towards the prosecution of those views. A man who is combating one ministry after another, and striving to imbue those ministers with his convictions, can hardly decline to become a minister himself when he finds that those convictions of his own are henceforth — or at least for some time to come — to be the ministerial convictions of the day. Do you follow me?”

“Very clearly,” said Phineas. You would have denied your own children had you refused.”

“Unless indeed a man were to feel that he was in some way unfitted for office work. I very nearly provided for myself an escape on that plea — but when I came to sift it, I thought that it would be false. But let me tell you that the delight of political life is altogether in opposition. Why, it is freedom against slavery, fire against clay, movement against stagnation! The very inaccuracy which is permitted to opposition is in itself a charm worth more than all the patronage and all the prestige of ministerial power. You’ll try them both, and then say if you do not agree with me. Give me the full swing of the benches below the gangway, where I needed to care for no one, and could always enjoy myself on my legs as long as I felt that I was true to those who sent me there! That is all over now. They have got me into harness, and my shoulders are sore. The oats, however, are of the best, and the hay is unexceptionable.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43