Phineas Finn

The Irish Member


Anthony Trollope

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Table of Contents

  1. Phineas Finn proposes to stand for Loughshane
  2. Phineas Finn is elected for Loughshane
  3. Phineas Finn takes his seat
  4. Lady Laura Standish
  5. Mr and Mrs Low
  6. Lord Brentford”s dinner
  7. Mr and Mrs Bunce
  8. The news about Mr Mildmay and Sir Everard
  9. The new Government
  10. Violet Effingham
  11. Lord Chiltern
  12. Autumnal prospects
  13. Saulsby Wood
  14. Loughlinter
  15. Donald Bean”s pony
  16. Phineas Finn returns to Killaloe
  17. Phineas Finn returns to London
  18. Mr Turnbull
  19. Lord Chiltern rides his horse Bonebreaker
  20. The Debate on the Ballot
  21. “ Do be punctual ”
  22. Lady Baldock at home
  23. Sunday in Grosvenor Place
  24. The Willingford Bull
  25. Mr Turnbull”s carriage stops the way
  26. “ The first speech ”
  27. Phineas discussed
  28. The second reading is carried
  29. A Cabinet meeting
  30. Mr Kennedy”s luck
  31. Finn for Loughton
  32. Lady Laura Kennedy”s headache
  33. Mr Slide”s grievance
  34. Was he honest?
  35. Mr Monk upon reform
  36. Phineas Finn makes progress
  37. A rough encounter
  38. The duel
  39. Lady Laura is told
  40. Madame Max Goesler
  41. Lord Fawn
  42. Lady Baldock does not send a card to Phineas Finn
  43. Promotion
  44. Phineas and his friends
  45. Miss Effingham”s four lovers
  46. The Mousetrap
  47. Mr Mildmay”s bill
  48. “ The Duke ”
  49. The Duellists meet
  50. Again successful
  51. Troubles at Loughlinter
  52. The first Blow
  53. Showing how Phineas bore the blow
  54. Consolation
  55. Lord Chiltern at Saulsby
  56. What the people in Marylebone thought
  57. The top brick of the chimney
  58. Rara avis in terris
  59. The Earl”s wrath
  60. Madame Goesler”s politics
  61. Another duel
  62. The letter that was sent to Brighton
  63. Showing how the Duke stood his ground
  64. The Horns
  65. The Cabinet Minister at Killaloe
  66. Victrix
  67. Job”s comforters
  68. The joint attack
  69. The Temptress
  70. The Prime Minister”s house
  71. Comparing notes
  72. Madame Goesler”s generosity
  73. Amantium irae
  74. The beginning of the end
  75. P.P.C.
  76. Conclusion

Chapter 1

Phineas Finn proposes to stand for Loughshane

Dr Finn, of Killaloe, in county Clare, was as well known in those parts — the confines, that is, of the counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, and Galway — as was the bishop himself who lived in the same town, and was as much respected. Many said that the doctor was the richer man of the two, and the practice of his profession was extended over almost as wide a district. Indeed the bishop whom he was privileged to attend, although a Roman Catholic, always spoke of their dioceses being conterminate. It will therefore be understood that Dr Finn — Malachi Finn was his full name — had obtained a wide reputation as a country practitioner in the west of Ireland. And he was a man sufficiently well to do, though that boast made by his friends, that he was as warm a man as the bishop, had but little truth to support it. Bishops in Ireland, if they live at home, even in these days, are very warm men; and Dr Finn had not a penny in the world for which he had not worked hard. He had, moreover, a costly family, five daughters and one son, and, at the time of which we are speaking, no provision in the way of marriage or profession had been made for any of them. Of the one son, Phineas, the hero of the following pages, the mother and five sisters were very proud. The doctor was accustomed to say that his goose was as good as any other man’s goose, as far as he could see as yet; but that he should like some very strong evidence before he allowed himself to express an opinion that the young bird partook, in any degree, of the qualities of a swan. From which it may be gathered that Dr Finn was a man of commonsense.

Phineas had come to be a swan in the estimation of his mother and sisters by reason of certain early successes at college. His father, whose religion was not of that bitter kind in which we in England are apt to suppose that all the Irish Roman Catholics indulge, had sent his son to Trinity; and there were some in the neighbourhood of Killaloe — patients, probably, of Dr Duggin, of Castle Connell, a learned physician who had spent a fruitless life in endeavouring to make head against Dr Finn — who declared that old Finn would not be sorry if his son were to turn Protestant and go in for a fellowship. Mrs Finn was a Protestant, and the five Miss Finns were Protestants, and the doctor himself was very much given to dining out among his Protestant friends on a Friday. Our Phineas, however, did not turn Protestant up in Dublin, whatever his father’s secret wishes on that subject may have been. He did join a debating society, to success in which his religion was no bar; and he there achieved a sort of distinction which was both easy and pleasant, and which, making its way down to Killaloe, assisted in engendering those ideas as to swanhood of which maternal and sisterly minds are so sweetly susceptible. “I know half a dozen old windbags at the present moment,” said the doctor, “who were great fellows at debating clubs when they were boys.” “Phineas is not a boy any longer,” said Mrs Finn. “And windbags don’t get college scholarships,” said Matilda Finn, the second daughter. “But papa always snubs Phinny,” said Barbara, the youngest. “I’ll snub you, if you don’t take care,” said the doctor, taking Barbara tenderly by the ear — for his youngest daughter was the doctor’s pet.

The doctor certainly did not snub his son, for he allowed him to go over to London when he was twenty-two years of age, in order that he might read with an English barrister. It was the doctor’s wish that his son might be called to the Irish Bar, and the young man’s desire that he might go to the English Bar. The doctor so far gave way, under the influence of Phineas himself, and of all the young women of the family, as to pay the usual fee to a very competent and learned gentleman in the Middle Temple, and to allow his son one hundred and fifty pounds per annum for three years. Dr Finn, however, was still firm in his intention that his son should settle in Dublin, and take the Munster Circuit — believing that Phineas might come to want home influences and home connections, in spite of the swanhood which was attributed to him.

Phineas sat his terms for three years, and was duly called to the Bar; but no evidence came home as to the acquirement of any considerable amount of law lore, or even as to much law study, on the part of the young aspirant. The learned pundit at whose feet he had been sitting was not especially loud in praise of his pupil’s industry, though he did say a pleasant word or two as to his pupil’s intelligence. Phineas himself did not boast much of his own hard work when at home during the long vacation. No rumours of expected successes — of expected professional successes — reached the ears of any of the Finn family at Killaloe. But, nevertheless, there came tidings which maintained those high ideas in the maternal bosom of which mention has been made, and which were of sufficient strength to induce the doctor, in opposition to his own judgment, to consent to the continued residence of his son in London. Phineas belonged to an excellent club — the Reform Club — and went into very good society. He was hand in glove with the Hon. Laurence Fitzgibbon, the youngest son of Lord Claddagh. He was intimate with Barrington Erle, who had been private secretary — one of the private secretaries — to the great Whig Prime Minister who was lately in but was now out. He had dined three or four times with that great Whig nobleman, the Earl of Brentford. And he had been assured that if he stuck to the English Bar he would certainly do well. Though he might fail to succeed in court or in chambers, he would doubtless have given to him someone of those numerous appointments for which none but clever young barristers are supposed to be fitting candidates. The old doctor yielded for another year, although at the end of the second year he was called upon to pay a sum of three hundred pounds, which was then due by Phineas to creditors in London. When the doctor’s male friends in and about Killaloe heard that he had done so, they said that he was doting. Not one of the Miss Finns was as yet married; and, after all that had been said about the doctor’s wealth, it was supposed that there would not be above five hundred pounds a year among them all, were he to give up his profession. But the doctor, when he paid that three hundred pounds for his son, buckled to his work again, though he had for twelve months talked of giving up the midwifery. He buckled to again, to the great disgust of Dr Duggin, who at this time said very ill-natured things about young Phineas.

At the end of the three years Phineas was called to the Bar, and immediately received a letter from his father asking minutely as to his professional intentions. His father recommended him to settle in Dublin, and promised the one hundred and fifty pounds for three more years, on condition that this advice was followed. He did not absolutely say that the allowance would be stopped if the advice were not followed, but that was plainly to be implied. That letter came at the moment of a dissolution of Parliament. Lord de Terrier, the Conservative Prime Minister, who had now been in office for the almost unprecedentedly long period of fifteen months, had found that he could not face continued majorities against him in the House of Commons, and had dissolved the House. Rumour declared that he would have much preferred to resign, and betake himself once again to the easy glories of opposition; but his party had naturally been obdurate with him, and he had resolved to appeal to the country. When Phineas received his father’s letter, it had just been suggested to him at the Reform Club that he should stand for the Irish borough of Loughshane.

This proposition had taken Phineas Finn so much by surprise that when first made to him by Barrington Erle it took his breath away. What! he stand for Parliament, twenty-four years old, with no vestige of property belonging to him, without a penny in his purse, as completely dependent on his father as he was when he first went to school at eleven years of age! And for Loughshane, a little borough in the county Galway, for which a brother of that fine old Irish peer, the Earl of Tulla, had been sitting for the last twenty years — a fine, high-minded representative of the thorough-going Orange Protestant feeling of Ireland! And the Earl of Tulla, to whom almost all Loughshane belonged — or at any rate the land about Loughshane — was one of his father’s staunchest friends! Loughshane is in county Galway, but the Earl of Tulla usually lived at his seat in county Clare, not more than ten miles from Killaloe, and always confided his gouty feet, and the weak nerves of the old countess, and the stomachs of all his domestics, to the care of Dr Finn. How was it possible that Phineas should stand for Loughshane? From whence was the money to come for such a contest? It was a beautiful dream, a grand idea, lifting Phineas almost off the earth by its glory. When the proposition was first made to him in the smoking-room at the Reform Club by his friend Erle, he was aware that he blushed like a girl, and that he was unable at the moment to express himself plainly — so great was his astonishment and so great his gratification. But before ten minutes had passed by, while Barrington Erle was still sitting over his shoulder on the club sofa, and before the blushes had altogether vanished, he had seen the improbability of the scheme, and had explained to his friend that the thing could not be done. But to his increased astonishment, his friend made nothing of the difficulties. Loughshane, according to Barrington Erle, was so small a place, that the expense would be very little. There were altogether no more than 307 registered electors. The inhabitants were so far removed from the world, and were so ignorant of the world’s good things, that they knew nothing about bribery. The Hon. George Morris, who had sat for the last twenty years, was very unpopular. He had not been near the borough since the last election, he had hardly done more than show himself in Parliament, and had neither given a shilling in the town nor got a place under Government for a single son of Loughshane. “And he has quarrelled with his brother,” said Barrington Erle. “The devil he has! said Phineas. “I thought they always swore by each other.” “It’s at each other they swear now,” said Barrington; “George has asked the Earl for more money, and the Earl has cut up rusty”. Then the negotiator went on to explain that the expenses of the election would be defrayed out of a certain fund collected for such purposes, that Loughshane had been chosen as a cheap place, and that Phineas Finn had been chosen as a safe and promising young man. As for qualification, if any question were raised, that should be made all right. An Irish candidate was wanted, and a Roman Catholic. So much the Loughshaners would require on their own account when instigated to dismiss from their service that thorough-going Protestant, the Hon. George Morris. Then “the party,” — by which Barrington Erle probably meant the great man in whose service he himself had become a politician — required that the candidate should be a safe man, one who would support “the party,” — not a cantankerous, red-hot semi-Fenian, running about to meetings at the Rotunda, and suchlike, with views of his own about tenant-right and the Irish Church. “But I have views of my own,” said Phineas, blushing again. “Of course you have, my dear boy,” said Barrington, clapping him on the back. “I shouldn’t come to you unless you had views. But your views and ours are the same, and you’re just the lad for Galway. You mightn’t have such an opening again in your life, and of course you’ll stand for Loughshane.” Then the conversation was over, the private secretary went away to arrange some other little matter of the kind, and Phineas Finn was left alone to consider the proposition that had been made to him.

To become a member of the British Parliament! In all those hot contests at the two debating clubs to which he had belonged, this had been the ambition which had moved him. For, after all, to what purpose of their own had those empty debates ever tended? He and three or four others who had called themselves Liberals had been pitted against four or five who had called themselves Conservatives, and night after night they had discussed some ponderous subject without any idea that one would ever persuade another, or that their talking would ever conduce to any action or to any result. But each of these combatants had felt — without daring to announce a hope on the subject among themselves — that the present arena was only a trial-ground for some possible greater amphitheatre, for some future debating club in which debates would lead to action, and in which eloquence would have power, even though persuasion might be out of the question.

Phineas certainly had never dared to speak, even to himself, of such a hope. The labours of the Bar had to be encountered before the dawn of such a hope could come to him. And he had gradually learned to feel that his prospects at the Bar were not as yet very promising. As regarded professional work he had been idle, and how then could he have a hope?

And now this thing, which he regarded as being of all things in the world the most honourable, had come to him all at once, and was possibly within his reach! If he could believe Barrington Erle, he had only to lift up his hand, and he might be in Parliament within two months. And who was to be believed on such a subject if not Barrington Erle? This was Erle’s special business, and such a man would not have come to him on such a subject had he not been in earnest, and had he not himself believed in success. There was an opening ready, an opening to this great glory — if only it might be possible for him to fill it!

What would his father say? His father would of course oppose the plan. And if he opposed his father, his father would of course stop his income. And such an income as it was! Could it be that a man should sit in Parliament and live upon a hundred and fifty pounds a year? Since that payment of his debts he had become again embarrassed — to a slight amount. He owed a tailor a trifle, and a bootmaker a trifle — and something to the man who sold gloves and shirts; and yet he had done his best to keep out of debt with more than Irish pertinacity, living very closely, breakfasting upon tea and a roll, and dining frequently for a shilling at a luncheon-house up a court near Lincoln’s Inn. Where should he dine if the Loughshaners elected him to Parliament? And then he painted to himself a not untrue picture of the probable miseries of a man who begins life too high up on the ladder — who succeeds in mounting before he has learned how to hold on when he is aloft. For our Phineas Finn was a young man not without sense — not entirely a windbag. If he did this thing the probability was that he might become utterly a castaway, and go entirely to the dogs before he was thirty. He had heard of penniless men who had got into Parliament, and to whom had come such a fate. He was able to name to himself a man or two whose barks, carrying more sail than they could bear, had gone to pieces among early breakers in this way. But then, would it not be better to go to pieces early than never to carry any sail at all? And there was, at any rate, the chance of success. He was already a barrister, and there were so many things open to a barrister with a seat in Parliament! And as he knew of men who had been utterly ruined by such early mounting, so also did he know of others whose fortunes had been made by happy audacity when they were young. He almost thought that he could die happy if he had once taken his seat in Parliament — if he had received one letter with those grand initials written after his name on the address. Young men in battle are called upon to lead forlorn hopes. Three fall, perhaps, to one who gets through; but the one who gets through will have the Victoria Cross to carry for the rest of his life. This was his forlorn hope; and as he had been invited to undertake the work, he would not turn from the danger. On the following morning he again saw Barrington Erle by appointment, and then wrote the following letter to his father:

“ Reform Club, Feb., 186 —

“ MY DEAR FATHER,

“I am afraid that the purport of this letter will startle you, but I hope that when you have finished it you will think that I am right in my decision as to what I am going to do. You are no doubt aware that the dissolution of Parliament will take place at once, and that we shall be in all the turmoil of a general election by the middle of March. I have been invited to stand for Loughshane, and have consented. The proposition has been made to me by my friend Barrington Erle, Mr Mildmay’s private secretary, and has been made on behalf of the Political Committee of the Reform Club. I need hardly say that I should not have thought of such a thing with a less thorough promise of support than this gives me, nor should I think of it now had I not been assured that none of the expense of the election would fall upon me. Of course I could not have asked you to pay for it.

“But to such a proposition, so made, I have felt that it would be cowardly to give a refusal. I cannot but regard such a selection as a great honour. I own that I am fond of politics, and have taken great delight in their study” — (“Stupid young fool! his father said to himself as he read this) — “and it has been my dream for years past to have a seat in Parliament at some future time.” (“Dream! yes; I wonder whether he has ever dreamed what he is to live upon.”) “The chance has now come to me much earlier than I have looked for it, but I do not think that it should on that account be thrown away. Looking to my profession, I find that many things are open to a barrister with a seat in Parliament, and that the House need not interfere much with a man’s practice.” (“Not if he has got to the top of his tree,” said the doctor.)

“My chief doubt arose from the fact of your old friendship with Lord Tulla, whose brother has filled the seat for I don’t know how many years. But it seems that George Morris must go; or, at least, that he must be opposed by a Liberal candidate. If I do not stand, someone else will, and I should think that Lord Tulla will be too much of a man to make any personal quarrel on such a subject. If he is to lose the borough, why should not I have it as well as another?

“I can fancy, my dear father, all that you will say as to my imprudence, and I quite confess that I have not a word to answer. I have told myself more than once, since last night, that I shall probably ruin myself.” (“I wonder whether he has ever told himself that he will probably ruin me also,” said the doctor.) “But I am prepared to ruin myself in such a cause. I have no one dependent on me; and, as long as I do nothing to disgrace my name, I may dispose of myself as I please. If you decide on stopping my allowance, I shall have no feeling of anger against you. (“How very considerate!” said the doctor.) “And in that case I shall endeavour to support myself by my pen. I have already done a little for the magazines.

“Give my best love to my mother and sisters. If you will receive me during the time of the election, I shall see them soon. Perhaps it will be best for me to say that I have positively decided on making the attempt; that is to say, if the Club Committee is as good as its promise. I have weighed the matter all round, and I regard the prize as being so great, that I am prepared to run any risk to obtain it. Indeed, to me, with my views about politics, the running of such a risk is no more than a duty. I cannot keep my hand from the work now that the work has come in the way of my hand. I shall be most anxious to get a line from you in answer to this.

“Your most affectionate son,

“ PHINEAS FINN ”

I question whether Dr Finn, when he read this letter, did not feel more of pride than of anger — whether he was not rather gratified than displeased, in spite of all that his commonsense told him on the subject. His wife and daughters, when they heard the news, were clearly on the side of the young man. Mrs Finn immediately expressed an opinion that Parliament would be the making of her son, and that everybody would be sure to employ so distinguished a barrister. The girls declared that Phineas ought, at any rate, to have his chance, and almost asserted that it would be brutal in their father to stand in their brother’s way. It was in vain that the doctor tried to explain that going into Parliament could not help a young barrister, whatever it might do for one thoroughly established in his profession; that Phineas, if successful at Loughshane, would at once abandon all idea of earning any income — that the proposition, coming from so poor a man, was a monstrosity — that such an opposition to the Morris family, coming from a son of his, would be gross ingratitude to Lord Tulla. Mrs Finn and the girls talked him down, and the doctor himself was almost carried away by something like vanity in regard to his son’s future position.

Nevertheless he wrote a letter strongly advising Phineas to abandon the project. But he himself was aware that the letter which he wrote was not one from which any success could be expected. He advised his son, but did not command him. He made no threats as to stopping his income. He did not tell Phineas, in so many words, that he was proposing to make an ass of himself. He argued very prudently against the plan, and Phineas, when he received his father’s letter, of course felt that it was tantamount to a paternal permission to proceed with the matter. On the next day he got a letter from his mother full of affection, full of pride — not exactly telling him to stand for Loughshane by all means, for Mrs Finn was not the woman to run openly counter to her husband in any advice given by her to their son — but giving him every encouragement which motherly affection and motherly pride could bestow. “Of course you will come to us,” she said, “if you do make up your mind to be member for Loughshane. We shall all of us be so delighted to have you!” Phineas, who had fallen into a sea of doubt after writing to his father, and who had demanded a week from Barrington Erle to consider the matter, was elated to positive certainty by the joint effect of the two letters from home. He understood it all. His mother and sisters were altogether in favour of his audacity, and even his father was not disposed to quarrel with him on the subject.

“I shall take you at your word,” he said to Barrington Erle at the club that evening.

“What word?” said Erle, who had too many irons in the fire to be thinking always of Loughshane and Phineas Finn, — or who at any rate did not choose to let his anxiety on the subject be seen.

“About Loughshane.”

“All right, old fellow; we shall be sure to carry you through. The Irish writs will be out on the third of March, and the sooner you’re there the better.”

Chapter 2

Phineas Finn is elected for Loughshane

One great difficulty about the borough vanished in a very wonderful way at the first touch. Dr Finn, who was a man stout at heart, and by no means afraid of his great friends, drove himself over to Castlemorris to tell his news to the Earl, as soon as he got a second letter from his son declaring his intention of proceeding with the business, let the results be what they might. Lord Tulla was a passionate old man, and the doctor expected that there would be a quarrel — but he was prepared to face that. He was under no special debt of gratitude to the lord, having given as much as he had taken in the long intercourse which had existed between them — and he agreed with his son in thinking that if there was to be a Liberal candidate at Loughshane, no consideration of old pill-boxes and gallipots should deter his son Phineas from standing. Other considerations might very probably deter him, but not that. The Earl probably would be of a different opinion, and the doctor felt it to be incumbent on him to break the news to Lord Tulla.

“The devil he is!” said the Earl, when the doctor had told his story. “Then I’ll tell you what, Finn, I’ll support him.”

“You support him, Lord Tulla!”

“Yes — why shouldn’t I support him? I suppose it’s not so bad with me in the country that my support will rob him of his chance! I’ll tell you one thing for certain, I won’t support George Morris.”

“But, my lord — ”

“Well; go on.”

“I’ve never taken much part in politics myself, as you know; but my boy Phineas is on the other side.”

“I don’t care a — for sides. What has my party done for me? Look at my cousin, Dick Morris. There’s not a clergyman in Ireland stauncher to them than he has been, and now they’ve given the deanery of Kilfenora to a man that never had a father, though I condescended to ask for it for my cousin. Let them wait till I ask for anything again.” Dr Finn, who knew all about Dick Morris’s debts, and who had heard of his modes of preaching, was not surprised at the decision of the Conservative bestower of Irish Church patronage; but on this subject he said nothing. “And as for George,” continued the Earl, “I will never lift my hand again for him. His standing for Loughshane would be quite out of the question. My own tenants wouldn’t vote for him if I were to ask them myself. Peter Blake” — Mr Peter Blake was the lord’s agent — “told me only a week ago that it would be useless. The whole thing is gone, and for my part I wish they’d disfranchise the borough. I wish they’d disenfranchise the whole country, and send us a military governor. What’s the use of such members as we send? There isn’t one gentleman among ten of them. Your son is welcome for me. What support I can give him he shall have, but it isn’t much. I suppose he had better come and see me.”

The doctor promised that his son should ride over to Castlemorris, and then took his leave — not specially flattered, as he felt that were his son to be returned, the Earl would not regard him as the one gentleman among ten whom the county might send to leaven the remainder of its members — but aware that the greatest impediment in his son’s way was already removed. He certainly had not gone to Castlemorris with any idea of canvassing for his son, and yet he had canvassed for him most satisfactorily. When he got home he did not know how to speak of the matter otherwise than triumphantly to his wife and daughters. Though he desired to curse, his mouth would speak blessings. Before that evening was over the prospects of Phineas at Loughshane were spoken of with open enthusiasm before the doctor, and by the next day’s post a letter was written to him by Matilda, informing him that the Earl was prepared to receive him with open arms. “Papa has been over there and managed it all,” said Matilda.

“I’m told George Morris isn’t going to stand,” said Barrington Erle to Phineas the night before his departure.

“His brother won’t support him. His brother means to support me,” said Phineas.

“That can hardly be so.”

“But I tell you it is. My father has known the Earl these twenty years, and has managed it.”

“I say, Finn, you’re not going to play us a trick, are you?” said Mr Erle, with something like dismay in his voice.

“What sort of trick?”

“You’re not coming out on the other side?”

“Not if I know it,” said Phineas, proudly. Let me assure you I wouldn’t change my views in politics either for you or for the Earl, though each of you carried seats in your breeches pockets. If I go into Parliament, I shall go there as a sound Liberal — not to support a party, but to do the best I can for the country. I tell you so, and I shall tell the Earl the same.”

Barrington Erle turned away in disgust. Such language was to him simply disgusting. It fell upon his ears as false maudlin sentiment falls on the ears of the ordinary honest man of the world. Barrington Erle was a man ordinarily honest. He would not have been untrue to his mother’s brother, William Mildmay, the great Whig Minister of the day, for any earthly consideration. He was ready to work with wages or without wages. He was really zealous in the cause, not asking very much for himself. He had some undefined belief that it was much better for the country that Mr Mildmay should be in power than that Lord de Terrier should be there. He was convinced that Liberal politics were good for Englishmen, and that Liberal politics and the Mildmay party were one and the same thing. It would be unfair to Barrington Erle to deny to him some praise for patriotism. But he hated the very name of independence in Parliament, and when he was told of any man, that that man intended to look to measures and not to men, he regarded that man as being both unstable as water and dishonest as the wind. No good could possibly come from such a one, and much evil might and probably would come. Such a politician was a Greek to Barrington Erle, from whose hands he feared to accept even the gift of a vote. Parliamentary hermits were distasteful to him, and dwellers in political caves were regarded by him with aversion as being either knavish or impractical. With a good Conservative opponent he could shake hands almost as readily as with a good Whig ally; but the man who was neither flesh nor fowl was odious to him. According to his theory of parliamentary government, the House of Commons should be divided by a marked line, and every member should be required to stand on one side of it or on the other. “If not with me, at any rate be against me,” he would have said to every representative of the people in the name of the great leader whom he followed. He thought that debates were good, because of the people outside — because they served to create that public opinion which was hereafter to be used in creating some future House of Commons; but he did not think it possible that any vote should be given on a great question, either this way or that, as the result of a debate; and he was certainly assured in his own opinion that any such changing of votes would be dangerous, revolutionary, and almost unparliamentary. A member’s vote — except on some small crotchety open question thrown out for the amusement of crotchety members — was due to the leader of that member’s party. Such was Mr Erle’s idea of the English system of Parliament, and, lending semi-official assistance as he did frequently to the introduction of candidates into the House, he was naturally anxious that his candidates should be candidates after his own heart. When, therefore, Phineas Finn talked of measures and not men, Barrington Erle turned away in open disgust. But he remembered the youth and extreme rawness of the lad, and he remembered also the careers of other men.

Barrington Erle was forty, and experience had taught him something. After a few seconds, he brought himself to think mildly of the young man’s vanity — as of the vanity of a plunging colt who resents the liberty even of a touch. “By the end of the first session the thong will be cracked over his head, as he patiently assists in pulling the coach uphill, without producing from him even a flick of his tail,” said Barrington Erle to an old parliamentary friend.

“If he were to come out after all on the wrong side,” said the parliamentary friend.

Erle admitted that such a trick as that would be unpleasant, but he thought that old Lord Tulla was hardly equal to so clever a stratagem.

Phineas went to Ireland, and walked over the course at Loughshane. He called upon Lord Tulla, and heard that venerable nobleman talk a great deal of nonsense. To tell the truth of Phineas, I must confess that he wished to talk the nonsense himself; but the Earl would not hear him, and put him down very quickly. “We won’t discuss politics, if you please, Mr Finn; because, as I have already said, I am throwing aside all political considerations.” Phineas, therefore, was not allowed to express his views on the government of the country in the Earl’s sitting-room at Castlemorris. There was, however, a good time coming; and so, for the present, he allowed the Earl to ramble on about the sins of his brother George, and the want of all proper pedigree on the part of the new Dean of Kilfenora. The conference ended with an assurance on the part of Lord Tulla that if the Loughshaners chose to elect Mr Phineas Finn he would not be in the least offended. The electors did elect Mr Phineas Finn — perhaps for the reason given by one of the Dublin Conservative papers, which declared that it was all the fault of the Carlton Club in not sending a proper candidate. There was a great deal said about the matter, both in London and Dublin, and the blame was supposed to fall on the joint shoulders of George Morris and his elder brother. In the meantime, our hero, Phineas Finn, had been duly elected member of Parliament for the borough of Loughshane.

The Finn family could not restrain their triumphings at Killaloe, and I do not know that it would have been natural had they done so. A gosling from such a flock does become something of a real swan by getting into Parliament. The doctor had his misgivings — had great misgivings, fearful forebodings; but there was the young man elected, and he could not help it. He could not refuse his right hand to his son or withdraw his paternal assistance because that son had been specially honoured among the young men of his country. So he pulled out of his hoard what sufficed to pay off outstanding debts — they were not heavy — and undertook to allow Phineas two hundred and fifty pounds a year as long as the session should last.

There was a widow lady living at Killaloe who was named Mrs Flood Jones, and she had a daughter. She had a son also, born to inherit the property of the late Floscabel Flood Jones of Floodborough, as soon as that property should have disembarrassed itself; but with him, now serving with his regiment in India, we shall have no concern. Mrs Flood Jones was living modestly at Killaloe on her widow’s jointure — Floodborough having, to tell the truth, pretty nearly fallen into absolute ruin — and with her one daughter, Mary. Now on the evening before the return of Phineas Finn, Esq., M.P., to London, Mrs, and Miss Flood Jones drank tea at the doctor’s house.

“It won’t make a bit of change in him,” Barbara Finn said to her friend Mary, up in some bedroom privacy before the tea-drinking ceremonies had altogether commenced.

“Oh, it must,” said Mary.

“I tell you it won’t, my dear; he is so good and so true.”

“I know he is good, Barbara; and as for truth, there is no question about it, because he has never said a word to me that he might not say to any girl.”

“That’s nonsense, Mary.”

“He never has, then, as sure as the blessed Virgin watches over us — only you don’t believe she does.”

“Never mind about the Virgin now Mary.”

“But he never has. Your brother is nothing to me, Barbara.”

“Then I hope he will be before the evening is over. He was walking with you all yesterday and the day before.”

“Why shouldn’t he — and we that have known each other all our lives? But, Barbara, pray, pray never say a word of this to any one!”

“Is it I? Wouldn’t I cut out my tongue first?”

“I don’t know why I let you talk to me in this way. There has never been anything between me and Phineas — your brother I mean.”

“I know whom you mean very well.”

“And I feel quite sure that there never will be. Why should there? He’ll go out among great people and be a great man; and I’ve already found out that there’s a certain Lady Laura Standish whom he admires very much.”

“Lady Laura Fiddlestick!”

“A man in Parliament, you know, may look up to anybody,” said Miss Mary Flood Jones.

“I want Phin to look up to you, my dear.”

“That wouldn’t be looking up. Placed as he is now, that would be looking down; and he is so proud that he’ll never do that. But come down, dear, else they’ll wonder where we are.”

Mary Flood Jones was a little girl about twenty years of age, with the softest hair in the world, of a colour varying between brown and auburn — for sometimes you would swear it was the one and sometimes the other; and she was as pretty as ever she could be. She was one of those girls, so common in Ireland, whom men, with tastes that way given, feel inclined to take up and devour on the spur of the moment; and when she liked her lion, she had a look about her which seemed to ask to be devoured. There are girls so cold-looking — pretty girls, too, ladylike, discreet, and armed with all accomplishments — whom to attack seems to require the same sort of courage, and the same sort of preparation, as a journey in quest of the north-west passage, he thinks of a pedestal near the Athenaeum as the most appropriate and most honourable reward of such courage. But, again, there are other girls to abstain from attacking whom is, to a man of any warmth of temperament, quite impossible. They are like water when one is athirst, like plovers’ eggs in March, like cigars when one is out in the autumn. No one ever dreams of denying himself when such temptation comes in the way. It often happens, however, that in spite of appearances, the water will not come from the well, nor the egg from its shell, nor will the cigar allow itself to be lit. A girl of such appearance, so charming, was Mary Flood Jones of Killaloe, and our hero Phineas was not allowed to thirst in vain for a drop from the cool spring.

When the girls went down into the drawing-room Mary was careful to go to a part of the room quite remote from Phineas, so as to seat herself between Mrs Finn and Dr Finn’s young partner, Mr Elias Bodkin, from Ballinasloe. But Mrs Finn and the Miss Finns and all Killaloe knew that Mary had no love for Mr Bodkin, and when Mr Bodkin handed her the hot cake she hardly so much as smiled at him. But in two minutes Phineas was behind her chair, and then she smiled; and in five minutes more she had got herself so twisted round that she was sitting in a corner with Phineas and his sister Barbara; and in two more minutes Barbara had returned to Mr Elias Bodkin, so that Phineas and Mary were uninterrupted. They manage these things very quickly and very cleverly in Killaloe.

“I shall be off tomorrow morning by the early train,” said Phineas.

“So soon — and when will you have to begin — in Parliament, I mean?”

“I shall have to take my seat on Friday. I’m going back just in time.”

“But when shall we hear of your saying something?”

“Never, probably. Not one in ten who go into Parliament ever do say anything.”

“But you will; won’t you? I hope you will. I do so hope you will distinguish yourself — because of your sister, and for the sake of the town, you know.”

“And is that all, Mary?”

“Isn’t that enough?”

“You don’t care a bit about myself, then?”

“You know that I do. Haven’t we been friends ever since we were children? Of course it will be a great pride to me that a person whom I have known so intimately should come to be talked about as a great man.”

“I shall never be talked about as a great man.”

“You’re a great man to me already, being in Parliament. Only think — I never saw a member of Parliament in my life before.”

“You’ve seen the bishop scores of times.”

“Is he in Parliament? Ah, but not like you. He couldn’t come to be a Cabinet Minister, and one never reads anything about him in the newspapers. I shall expect to see your name very often, and I shall always look for it. “Mr Phineas Finn paired off with Mr Mildmay.” What is the meaning of pairing off?”

“I’ll explain it all to you when I come back, after learning my lesson.”

“Mind you do come back. But I don’t suppose you ever will. You will be going somewhere to see Lady Laura Standish when you are not wanted in Parliament.”

“Lady Laura Standish! And why shouldn’t you? a course, with your prospects, you should go as much as possible among people of that sort. Is Lady Laura very pretty?”

“She’s about six feet high.”

“Nonsense. I don’t believe that.”

“She would look as though she were, standing by you.”

“Because I am so insignificant and small.”

“Because your figure is perfect, and because she is straggling. She is as unlike you as possible in everything. She has thick lumpy red hair, while yours is all silk and softness. She has large hands and feet, and — ”

“Why, Phineas, you are making her out to be an ogress, and yet I know that you admire her.”

“So I do, because she possesses such an appearance of power. And after all, in spite of the lumpy hair, and in spite of large hands and straggling figure, she is handsome. One can’t tell what it is. One can see that she is quite contented with herself, and intends to make others contented with her. And so she does.”

“I see you are in love with her, Phineas,”

“No; not in love — not with her at least. Of all men in the world, I suppose that I am the last that has a right to be in love. I daresay I shall marry some day.”

“I’m sure I hope you will.”

“But not till I’m forty or perhaps fifty years old. If I was not fool enough to have what men call a high ambition I might venture to be in love now.”

“I’m sure I’m very glad that you’ve got a high ambition. It is what every man ought to have; and I’ve no doubt that we shall hear of your marriage soon — very soon. And then — if she can help you in your ambition, we — shall — all — be so — glad.”

Phineas did not say a word further then. Perhaps some commotion among the party broke up the little private conversation in the corner. And he was not alone with Mary again till there came a moment for him to put her cloak over her shoulders in the back parlour, while Mrs Flood Jones was finishing some important narrative to his mother. It was Barbara, I think, who stood in some doorway, and prevented people from passing, and so gave him the opportunity which he abused.

“Mary,” said he, taking her in his arms, without a single word of love-making beyond what the reader has heard — “one kiss before we part.”

“No, Phineas, no!” But the kiss had been taken and given before she had even answered him. “Oh, Phineas, you shouldn’t!”

“I should. Why shouldn’t I? And, Mary, I will have one morsel of your hair.”

“You shall not; indeed you shall not!” But the scissors were at hand, and the ringlet was cut and in his pocket before she was ready with her resistance. There was nothing further — not a word more, and Mary went away with her veil down, under her mother’s wing, weeping sweet silent tears which no one saw.

“You do love her; don’t you, Phineas?” asked Barbara.

“Bother! Do you go to bed, and don’t trouble yourself about such trifles. But mind you’re up, old girl, to see me off in the morning.”

Everybody was up to see him off in the morning, to give him coffee and good advice, and kisses, and to throw all manner of old shoes after him as he started on his great expedition to Parliament. His father gave him an extra twenty-pound note, and begged him for God’s sake to be careful about his money. His mother told him always to have an orange in his pocket when he intended to speak longer than usual. And Barbara in a last whisper begged him never to forget dear Mary Flood Jones.

Chapter 3

Phineas Finn takes his seat

Phineas had many serious, almost solemn thoughts on his journey towards London. I am sorry I must assure my female readers that very few of them had reference to Mary Flood Jones. He had, however, very carefully packed up the tress, and could bring that out for proper acts of erotic worship at seasons in which his mind might be less engaged with affairs of state than it was at present. Would he make a failure of this great matter which he had taken in hand? He could not but tell himself that the chances were twenty to one against him. Now that he looked nearer at it all, the difficulties loomed larger than ever, and the rewards seemed to be less, more difficult of approach, and more evanescent. How many members were there who could never get a hearing! How many who only spoke to fail! How many, who spoke well, who could speak to no effect as far as their own worldly prospects were concerned! He had already known many members of Parliament to whom no outward respect or sign of honour was ever given by any one; and it seemed to him, as he thought over it, that Irish members of Parliament were generally treated with more indifference than any others. There were O’B— and O’C— and O’D — for whom no one cared a straw, who could hardly get men to dine with them at the club, and yet they were genuine members of Parliament. Why should he ever be better than O’B — or O’C — or O’D—? And in what way should he begin to be better? He had an idea of the fashion after which it would be his duty to strive that he might excel those gentlemen. He did not give any of them credit for much earnestness in their country’s behalf, and he was minded to be very earnest. He would go to his work honestly and conscientiously, determined to do his duty as best he might, let the results to himself be what they would. This was a noble resolution, and might have been pleasant to him — had he not remembered that smile of derision which had come over his friend Erle’s face when he declared his intention of doing his duty to his country as a Liberal, and not of supporting a party. O’B— and O’C— and O’D— were keen enough to support their party, only they were sometimes a little astray at knowing which was their party for the nonce. He knew that Erle and such men would despise him if he did not fall into the regular groove — and if the Barrington Erles despised him, what would then be left for him?

His moody thoughts were somewhat dissipated when he found one Laurence Fitzgibbon — the Honourable Laurence Fitzgibbon — a special friend of his own, and a very clever fellow, on board the boat as it steamed out of Kingston harbour. Laurence Fitzgibbon had also just been over about his election, and had been returned as a matter of course for his father’s county. Laurence Fitzgibbon had sat in the House for the last fifteen years, and was yet wellnigh as young a man as any in it. And he was a man altogether different from the O’B— s, O’C— s, and O’D— s. Laurence Fitzgibbon could always get the ear of the House if he chose to speak, and his friends declared that he might have been high up in office long since if he would have taken the trouble to work. He was a welcome guest at the houses of the very best people, and was a friend of whom any one might be proud. It had for two years been a feather in the cap of Phineas that he knew Laurence Fitzgibbon. And yet people said that Laurence Fitzgibbon had nothing of his own, and men wondered how he lived. He was the youngest son of Lord Claddagh, an Irish peer with a large family, who could do nothing for Laurence, his favourite child, beyond finding him a seat in Parliament.

“Well, Finn, my boy,” said Laurence, shaking hands with the young member on board the steamer, “so you’ve made it all right at Loughshane.” Then Phineas was beginning to tell all the story, the wonderful story, of George Morris and the Earl of Tulla — how the men of Loughshane had elected him without opposition; how he had been supported by Conservatives as well as Liberals — how unanimous Loughshane had been in electing him, Phineas Finn, as its representative. But Mr Fitzgibbon seemed to care very little about all this, and went so far as to declare that those things were accidents which fell out sometimes one way and sometimes another, and were altogether independent of any merit or demerit on the part of the candidate himself. And it was marvellous and almost painful to Phineas that his friend Fitzgibbon should accept the fact of his membership with so little of congratulation — with absolutely no blowing of trumpets whatever. Had he been elected a member of the municipal corporation of Loughshane, instead of its representative in the British Parliament, Laurence Fitzgibbon could not have made less fuss about it, Phineas was disappointed, but he took the cue from his friend too quickly to show his disappointment. And when, half an hour after their meeting, Fitzgibbon had to be reminded that his companion was not in the House during the last session, Phineas was able to make the remark as though he thought as little about the House as did the old-accustomed member himself.

“As far as I can see as yet,” said Fitzgibbon, we are sure to have seventeen.”

“Seventeen?” said Phineas, not quite understanding the meaning of the number quoted.

“A majority of seventeen. There are four Irish counties and three Scotch which haven’t returned as yet; but we know pretty well what they’ll do. There’s a doubt about Tipperary, of course; but whichever gets in of the seven who are standing, it will be a vote on our side. Now the Government can’t live against that. The uphill strain is too much for them.”

“According to my idea, nothing can justify them in trying to live against a majority.”

“That’s gammon. When the thing is so equal, anything is fair. But you see they don’t like it. Of course there are some among them as hungry as we are; and Dubby would give his toes and fingers to remain in.” Dubby was the ordinary name by which, among friends and foes, Mr Daubeny was known: Mr Daubeny, who at that time was the leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons. “But most of them,” continued Mr Fitzgibbon, “prefer the other game, and if you don’t care about money, upon my word it’s the pleasanter game of the two.”

“But the country gets nothing done by a Tory Government.”

“As to that, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. I never knew a government yet that wanted to do anything. Give a government a real strong majority, as the Tories used to have half a century since, and as a matter of course it will do nothing. Why should it? Doing things, as you call it, is only bidding for power — for patronage and pay.”

“And is the country to have no service done?”

“The country gets quite as much service as it pays for — and perhaps a little more. The clerks in the offices work for the country. And the Ministers work too, if they’ve got anything to manage. There is plenty of work done — but of work in Parliament, the less the better, according to my ideas. It’s very little that ever is done, and that little is generally too much.”

“But the people — ”

“Come down and have a glass of brandy and water, and leave the people alone for the present. The people can take care of themselves a great deal better than we can take care of them.” Mr Fitzgibbon’s doctrine as to the commonwealth was very different from that of Barrington Erle, and was still less to the taste of the new member. Barrington Erle considered that his leader, Mr Mildmay, should be entrusted to make all necessary changes in the laws, and that an obedient House of Commons should implicitly obey that leader in authorising all changes proposed by him — but, according to Barrington Erle, such changes should be numerous and of great importance, and would, if duly passed into law at his lord’s behest, gradually produce such a Whig Utopia in England as has never yet been seen on the face of the earth. Now, according to Mr Fitzgibbon, the present Utopia would be good enough — if only he himself might be once more put into possession of a certain semi-political place about ‘the Court, from which he had heretofore drawn £1,000 per annum, without any work, much to his comfort. He made no secret of his ambition, and was chagrined simply at the prospect of having to return to his electors before he could enjoy those good things which he expected to receive from the undoubted majority of seventeen, which had been, or would be, achieved.

“I hate all change as a rule,” said Fitzgibbon; but, upon my word, we ought to alter that. When a fellow has got a crumb of comfort, after waiting for it years and years, and perhaps spending thousands in elections, he has to go back and try his hand again at the last moment, merely in obedience to some antiquated prejudice. Look at poor Jack Bond — the best friend I ever had in the world. He was wrecked upon that rock for ever. He spent every shilling he had in contesting Romford three times running — and three times running he got in. Then they made him Vice-Comptroller of the Granaries, and I’m shot if he didn’t get spilt at Romford on standing for his re-election!”

“And what became of him?”

“God knows. I think I heard that he married an old woman and settled down somewhere. I know he never came up again. Now, I call that a confounded shame. I suppose I’m safe down in Mayo, but there’s no knowing what may happen in these days.”

As they parted at Euston Square, Phineas asked his friend some little nervous question as to the best mode of making a first entrance into the House. Would Laurence Fitzgibbon see him through the difficulties of the oath-taking? But Laurence Fitzgibbon made very little of the difficulty. “Oh — you just come down, and there’ll be a rush of fellows, and you’ll know everybody. You’ll have to hang about for an hour or so, and then you’ll get pushed through. There isn’t time for much ceremony after a general election.”

Phineas reached London early in the morning, and went home to bed for an hour or so. The House was to meet on that very day, and he intended to begin his parliamentary duties at once if he should find it possible to get someone to accompany him. He felt that he should lack courage to go down to Westminster Hall alone, and explain to the policeman and door-keepers that he was the man who had just been elected member for Loughshane. So about noon he went into the Reform Club, and there he found a great crowd of men, among whom there was a plentiful sprinkling of members. Erle saw him in a moment, and came to him with congratulations.

“So you’re all right, Finn,” said he.

“Yes; I’m all right — I didn’t have much doubt about it when I went over.”

“I never heard of a fellow with such a run of luck,” said Erle. “It’s just one of those flukes that occur once in a dozen elections. Any one on earth might have got in without spending a shilling.”

Phineas didn’t at all like this. “I don’t think any one could have got in,” said he, “without knowing Lord Tulla.

“Lord Tulla was nowhere, my dear boy, and could have nothing to say to it. But never mind that. You meet me in the lobby at two. There’ll be a lot of us there, and we’ll go in together. Have you seen Fitzgibbon?” Then Barrington Erle went off to other business, and Finn was congratulated by other men. But it seemed to him that the congratulations of his friends were not hearty. He spoke to some men, of whom he thought that he knew they would have given their eyes to be in Parliament — and yet they spoke of his success as being a very ordinary thing. “Well, my boy, I hope you like it,” said one middle-aged gentleman whom he had known ever since he came up to London, “The difference is between working for nothing and working for money. You’ll have to work for nothing now.”

“That’s about it, I suppose,” said Phineas.

“They say the House is a comfortable club,” said the middle-aged friend, “but I confess that I shouldn’t like being rung away from my dinner myself.”

At two punctually Phineas was in the lobby at Westminster, and then he found himself taken into the House with a crowd of other men. The old and young, and they who were neither old nor young, were mingled together, and there seemed to be very little respect of persons. On three or four occasions there was some cheering when a popular man or a great leader came in; but the work of the day left but little clear impression on the mind of the young member. He was confused, half elated, half disappointed, and had not his wits about him. He found himself constantly regretting that he was there; and as constantly telling himself that he, hardly yet twenty-five, without a shilling of his own, had achieved an entrance into that assembly which by the consent of all men is the greatest in the world, and which many of the rich magnates of the country had in vain spent heaps of treasure in their endeavours to open to their own footsteps. He tried hard to realise what he had gained, but the dust and the noise and the crowds and the want of something august to the eye were almost too strong for him. He managed, however, to take the oath early among those who took it, and heard the Queen’s speech read and the Address moved and seconded. He was seated very uncomfortably, high up on a back seat, between two men whom he did not know; and he found the speeches to be very long. He had been in the habit of seeing such speeches reported in about a column, and he thought that these speeches must take at least four columns each. He sat out the debate on the Address till the House was adjourned, and then he went away to dine at his club. He did go into the dining-room of the House, but there was a crowd there, and he found himself alone — and to tell the truth, he was afraid to order his dinner.

The nearest approach to a triumph which he had in London came to him from the glory which his election reflected upon his landlady. She was a kindly good motherly soul, whose husband was a journeyman law-stationer, and who kept a very decent house in Great Marlborough Street. Here Phineas had lodged since he had been in London, and was a great favourite. “God bless my soul, Mr Phineas,” said she, “only think of your being a member of Parliament!”

“Yes, I’m a member of Parliament, Mrs Bunce.”

“And you’ll go on with the rooms the same as ever? Well, I never thought to have a member of Parliament in ’em.”

Mrs Bunce really had realised the magnitude of the step which her lodger had taken, and Phineas was grateful to her.

Chapter 4

Lady Laura Standish

Phineas, in describing Lady Laura Standish to Mary Flood Jones at Killaloe, had not painted her in very glowing colours. Nevertheless he admired Lady Laura very much, and she was worthy of admiration. It was probably the greatest pride of our hero’s life that Lady Laura Standish was his friend, and that she had instigated him to undertake the risk of parliamentary life. Lady Laura was intimate also with Barrington Erle, who was, in some distant degree, her cousin; and Phineas was not without a suspicion that his selection for Loughshane, from out of all the young liberal candidates, may have been in some degree owing to Lady Laura’s influence with Barrington Erle. He was not unwilling that it should be so; for though, as he had repeatedly told himself, he was by no means in love with Lady Laura — who was, as he imagined, somewhat older than himself — nevertheless, he would feel gratified at accepting anything from her hands, and he felt a keen desire for some increase to those ties of friendship which bound them together. No — he was not in love with Lady Laura Standish. He had not the remotest idea of asking her to be his wife. So he told himself, both before he went over for his election, and after his return. When he had found himself in a corner with poor little Mary Flood Jones, he had kissed her as a matter of course; but he did not think that he could, in any circumstances, be tempted to kiss Lady Laura. He supposed that he was in love with his darling little Mary — after a fashion. Of course, it could never come to anything, because of the circumstances of his life, which were so imperious to him. He was not in love with Lady Laura, and yet he hoped that his intimacy with her might come to much. He had more than once asked himself how he would feel when somebody else came to be really in love with Lady Laura — for she was by no means a woman to lack lovers — when someone else should be in love with her, and be received by her as a lover; but this question he had never been able to answer. There were many questions about himself which he usually answered by telling himself that it was his fate to walk over volcanoes. “Of course, I shall be blown into atoms some fine day,” he would say; “but after all, that is better than being slowly boiled down into pulp.”

The House had met on a Friday, again on the Saturday morning, and the debate on the Address had been adjourned till the Monday. On the Sunday, Phineas determined that he would see Lady Laura. She professed to be always at home on Sunday, and from three to four in the afternoon her drawing-room would probably be half full of people. There would, at any rate, be comers and goers, who would prevent anything like real conversation between himself and her. But for a few minutes before that he might probably find her alone, and he was most anxious to see whether her reception of him, as a member of Parliament, would be in any degree warmer than that of his other friends. Hitherto he had found no such warmth since he came to London, excepting that which had glowed in the bosom of Mrs Bunce.

Lady Laura Standish was the daughter of the Earl of Brentford, and was the only remaining lady of the Earl’s family. The Countess had been long dead; and Lady Emily, the younger daughter, who had been the great beauty of her day, was now the wife of a Russian nobleman whom she had persisted in preferring to any of her English suitors, and lived at St Petersburg. There was an aunt, old Lady Laura, who came up to town about the middle of May; but she was always in the country except for some six weeks in the season. There was a certain Lord Chiltern, the Earl’s son and heir, who did indeed live at the family town house in Portman Square; but Lord Chiltern was a man of whom Lady Laura’s set did not often speak, and Phineas, frequently as he had been at the house, had never seen Lord Chiltern there. He was a young nobleman of whom various accounts were given by various people; but I fear that the account most readily accepted in London attributed to him a great intimacy with the affairs at Newmarket, and a partiality for convivial pleasures. Respecting Lord Chiltern Phineas had never as yet exchanged a word with Lady Laura. With her father he was acquainted, as he had dined perhaps half a dozen times at the house. The point in Lord Brentford’s character which had more than any other struck our hero, was the unlimited confidence which he seemed to place in his daughter. Lady Laura seemed to have perfect power of doing what she pleased. She was much more mistress of herself than if she had been the wife instead of the daughter of the Earl of Brentford — and she seemed to be quite as much mistress of the house.

Phineas had declared at Killaloe that Lady Laura was six feet high, that she had red hair, that her figure was straggling, and that her hands and feet were large. She was in fact about five feet seven in height, and she carried her height well. There was something of nobility in her gait, and she seemed thus to be taller than her inches. Her hair was in truth red — of a deep thorough redness. Her brother’s hair was the same; and so had been that of her father, before it had become sandy with age. Her sister’s had been of a soft auburn hue, and hers had been said to be the prettiest head of hair in Europe at the time of her marriage. But in these days we have got to like red hair, and Lady Laura’s was not supposed to stand in the way of her being considered a beauty. Her face was very fair, though it lacked that softness which we all love in women. Her eyes, which were large and bright, and very clear, never seemed to quail, never rose and sunk or showed themselves to be afraid of their own power. Indeed, Lady Laura Standish had nothing of fear about her. Her nose was perfectly cut, but was rather large, having the slightest possible tendency to be aquiline. Her mouth also was large, but was full of expression, and her teeth were perfect. Her complexion was very bright, but in spite of its brightness she never blushed. The shades of her complexion were set and steady. Those who knew her said that her heart was so fully under command that nothing could stir her blood to any sudden motion. As to that accusation of straggling which had been made against her, it had sprung from ill-natured observation of her modes of sitting. She never straggled when she stood or walked; but she would lean forward when sitting, as a man does, and would use her arms in talking, and would put her hand over her face, and pass her fingers through her hair — after the fashion of men rather than of women — and she seemed to despise that soft quiescence of her sex in which are generally found so many charms. Her hands and feet were large — as was her whole frame. Such was Lady Laura Standish; and Phineas Finn had been untrue to himself and to his own appreciation of the lady when he had described her in disparaging terms to Mary Flood Jones. But, though he had spoken of Lady Laura in disparaging terms, he had so spoken of her as to make Miss Flood Jones quite understand that he thought a great deal about Lady Laura.

And now, early on the Sunday, he made his way to Portman Square in order that he might learn whether there might be any sympathy for him there. Hitherto he had found none. Everything had been terribly dry and hard, and he had gathered as yet none of the fruit which he had expected that his good fortune would bear for him. It is true that he had not as yet gone among any friends, except those of his club, and men who were in the House along with him — and at the club it might be that there were some who envied him his good fortune, and others who thought nothing of it because it had been theirs for years. Now he would try a friend who, he hoped, could sympathise; and therefore he called in Portman Square at about half past two on the Sunday morning. Yes — Lady Laura was in the drawing-room. The hall porter admitted as much, but evidently seemed to think that he had been disturbed from his dinner before his time. Phineas did not care a straw for the hall porter. If Lady Laura were not kind to him, he would never trouble that hall porter again. He was especially sore at this moment because a valued friend, the barrister with whom he had been reading for the last three years, had spent the best part of an hour that Sunday morning in proving to him that he had as good as ruined himself. “When I first heard it, of course I thought you had inherited a fortune,” said Mr Low. “I have inherited nothing,” Phineas replied — “not a penny; and I never shall.” Then Mr Low had opened his eyes very wide, and shaken his head very sadly, and had whistled.

“I am so glad you have come, Mr Finn,” said Lady Laura, meeting Phineas halfway across the large room.

“Thanks,” said he, as he took her hand.

“I thought that perhaps you would manage to see me before any one else was here.”

“Well — to tell the truth, I have wished it; though I can hardly tell why.”

“I can tell you why, Mr Finn. But never mind — come and sit down. I am so very glad that you have been successful — so very glad. You know I told you that I should never think much of you if you did not at least try it.”

“And therefore I did try.”

“And have succeeded. Faint heart, you know, never did any good. I think it is a man’s duty to make his way into the House — that is, if he ever means to be anybody. Of course it is not every man who can get there by the time that he is five-and-twenty.”

“Every friend that I have in the world says that I have ruined myself.”

“No — I don’t say so,” said Lady Laura.

“And you are worth all the others put together. It is such a comfort to have someone to say a cheery word to one.”

“You shall hear nothing but cheery words here. Papa shall say cheery words to you that shall be better than mine, because they shall be weighted with the wisdom of age. I have heard him say twenty times that the earlier a man goes into the House the better. There is much to learn.”

“But your father was thinking of men of fortune.”

“Not at all — of younger brothers, and barristers, and of men who have their way to make, as you have. Let me see — can you dine here on Wednesday? There will be no party, of course, but papa will want to shake hands with you; and you legislators of the Lower House are more easily reached on Wednesdays than on any other day.”

“I shall be delighted,” said Phineas, feeling, however, that he did not expect much sympathy from Lord Brentford.

“Mr Kennedy dines here — you know Mr Kennedy, of Loughlinter; and we will ask your friend Mr Fitzgibbon. There will be nobody else. As for catching Barrington Erle, that is out of the question at such a time as this.”

“But going back to my being ruined — “ said Phineas, after a pause.

“Don’t think of anything so disagreeable.”

“You must not suppose that I am afraid of it. I was going to say that there are worse things than ruin — or, at any rate, than the chance of ruin. Supposing that I have to emigrate and skin sheep, what does it matter? I myself, being unencumbered, have myself as my own property to do what I like with. With Nelson it was Westminster Abbey or a peerage. With me it is parliamentary success or sheep-skinning.”

“There shall be no sheep-skinning, Mr Finn, I will guarantee you.”

“Then I shall be safe.”

At that moment the door of the room was opened, and a man entered with quick steps, came a few yards in, and then retreated, slamming the door after him. He was a man with thick short red hair, and an abundance of very red beard. And his face was red — and as it seemed to Phineas, his very eyes. There was something in the countenance of the man which struck him almost with dread — something approaching to ferocity.

There was a pause a moment after the door was closed, and then Lady Laura spoke. “It was my brother Chiltern. I do not think that you have ever met him.”

Chapter 5

Mr and Mrs Low

That terrible apparition of the red Lord Chiltern had disturbed Phineas in the moment of his happiness as he sat listening to the kind flatteries of Lady Laura; and though Lord Chiltern had vanished as quickly as he had appeared, there had come no return of his joy. Lady Laura had said some word about her brother, and Phineas had replied that he had never chanced to see Lord Chiltern. Then there had been an awkward silence, and almost immediately other persons had come in. After greeting one or two old acquaintances, among whom an elder sister of Laurence Fitzgibbon was one, he took his leave and escaped out into the square. “Miss Fitzgibbon is going to dine with us on Wednesday,” said Lady Laura. “She says she won’t answer for her brother, but she will bring him if she can.”

“And you’re a member of Parliament now too, they tell me,” said Miss Fitzgibbon, holding up her hands. “I think everybody will be in Parliament before long. I wish I knew some man who wasn’t, that I might think of changing my condition.”

But Phineas cared very little what Miss Fitzgibbon said to him. Everybody knew Aspasia Fitzgibbon, and all who knew her were accustomed to put up with the violence of her jokes and the bitterness of her remarks. She was an old maid, over forty, very plain, who, having reconciled herself to the fact that she was an old maid, chose to take advantage of such poor privileges as the position gave her. Within the last few years a considerable fortune had fallen into her hands, some twenty-five thousand pounds, which had come to her unexpectedly — a wonderful windfall. And now she was the only one of her family who had money at command. She lived in a small house by herself, in one of the smallest streets of Mayfair, and walked about sturdily by herself, and spoke her mind about everything. She was greatly devoted to her brother Laurence — so devoted that there was nothing she would not do for him, short of lending him money.

But Phineas when he found himself out in the square thought nothing of Aspasia Fitzgibbon. He had gone to Lady Laura Standish for sympathy, and she had given it to him in full measure. She understood him and his aspirations if no one else did so on the face of the earth. She rejoiced in his triumph, and was not too hard to tell him that she looked forward to his success. And in what delightful language she had done so! “Faint heart never won fair lady.” It was thus, or almost thus, that she had encouraged him. He knew well that she had in truth meant nothing more than her words had seemed to signify. He did not for a moment attribute to her aught else. But might not he get another lesson from them? He had often told himself that he was not in love with Laura Standish — but why should he not now tell himself that he was in love with her? Of course there would be difficulty. But was it not the business of his life to overcome difficulties? Had he not already overcome one difficulty almost as great; and why should he be afraid of this other? Faint heart never won fair lady! And this fair lady — for at this moment he was ready to swear that she was very fair — was already half won. She could not have taken him by the hand so warmly, and looked into his face so keenly, had she not felt for him something stronger than common friendship.

He had turned down Baker Street from the square, and was now walking towards the Regent’s Park. He would go and see the beasts in the Zoological Gardens; and make up his mind as to his future mode of life in that delightful Sunday solitude. There was very much as to which it was necessary that he should make up his mind. If he resolved that he would ask Lady Laura Standish to be his wife, when should he ask her, and in what manner might he propose to her that they should live? It would hardly suit him to postpone his courtship indefinitely, knowing, as he did know, that he would be one among many suitors. He could not expect her to wait for him if he did not declare himself. And yet he could hardly ask her to come and share with him the allowance made to him by his father! Whether she had much fortune of her own, or little, or none at all, he did not in the least know. He did know that the Earl had been distressed by his son’s extravagance, and that there had been some money difficulties arising from this source.

But his great desire would be to support his own wife by his own labour. At present he was hardly in a fair way to do that, unless he could get paid for his parliamentary work. Those fortunate gentlemen who form “The Government” are so paid. Yes — there was the Treasury Bench open to him, and he must resolve that he would seat himself there. He would make Lady Laura understand this, and then he would ask his question. It was true that at present his political opponents had possession of the Treasury Bench — but all governments are mortal, and Conservative governments in this country are especially prone to die. It was true that he could not hold even a Treasury lordship with a poor thousand a year for his salary without having to face the electors of Loughshane again before he entered upon the enjoyment of his place — but if he could only do something to give a grace to his name, to show that he was a rising man, the electors of Loughshane, who had once been so easy with him, would surely not be cruel to him when he showed himself a second time among them. Lord Tulla was his friend, and he had those points of law in his favour which possession bestows. And then he remembered that Lady Laura was related to almost everybody who was anybody among the high Whigs. She was, he knew, second cousin to Mr Mildmay, who for years had been the leader of the Whigs, and was third cousin to Barrington Erle. The late President of the Council, the Duke of St Bungay, and Lord Brentford had married sisters, and the St Bungay people, and the Mildmay people, and the Brentford people had all some sort of connection with the Palliser people, of whom the heir and coming chief, Plantagenet Palliser, would certainly be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the next Government. Simply as an introduction into official life nothing could be more conducive to chances of success than a matrimonial alliance with Lady Laura. Not that he would have thought of such a thing on that account! No — he thought of it because he loved her; honestly because he loved her. He swore to that half a dozen times, for his own satisfaction. But, loving her as he did, and resolving that in spite of all difficulties she should become his wife, there could be no reason why he should not — on her account as well as on his own — take advantage of any circumstances that there might be in his favour.

As he wandered among the unsavoury beasts, elbowed on every side by the Sunday visitors to the garden, he made up his mind that he would first let Lady Laura understand what were his intentions with regard to his future career, and then he would ask her to join her lot to his. At every turn the chances would of course be very much against him — ten to one against him, perhaps, on every point; but it was his lot in life to have to face such odds. Twelve months since it had been much more than ten to one against his getting into Parliament; and yet he was there. He expected to be blown into fragments — to sheep-skinning in Australia, or packing preserved meats on the plains of Paraguay; but when the blowing into atoms should come, he was resolved that courage to bear the ruin should not be wanting. Then he quoted a line or two of a Latin poet, and felt himself to be comfortable.

“So, here you are again, Mr Finn,” said a voice in his ear.

“Yes, Miss Fitzgibbon; here I am again.”

“I fancied you members of Parliament had something else to do besides looking at wild beasts. I thought you always spent Sunday in arranging how you might most effectually badger each other on Monday.”

“We got through all that early this morning, Miss Fitzgibbon, while you were saying your prayers.”

“Here is Mr Kennedy too — you know him I daresay. He also is a member; but then he can afford to be idle.” But it so happened that Phineas did not know Mr Kennedy, and consequently there was some slight form of introduction.

“I believe I am to meet you at dinner on Wednesday,” — said Phineas — “at Lord Brentford’s.”

“And me too,” said Miss Fitzgibbon.

“Which will be the greatest possible addition to our pleasure,” said Phineas.

Mr Kennedy, who seemed to be afflicted with some difficulty in speaking, and whose bow to our hero had hardly done more than produce the slightest possible motion to the top of his hat, hereupon muttered something which was taken to mean an assent to the proposition as to Wednesday’s dinner. Then he stood perfectly still, with his two hands fixed on the top of his umbrella, and gazed at the great monkeys’ cage. But it was clear that he was not looking at any special monkey, for his eyes never wandered.

“Did you ever see such a contrast in your life?” said Miss Fitzgibbon to Phineas — hardly in a whisper.

“Between what?” said Phineas.

“Between Mr Kennedy and a monkey. The monkey has so much to say for himself, and is so delightfully wicked! I don’t suppose that Mr Kennedy ever did anything wrong in his life.”

Mr Kennedy was a man who had very little temptation to do anything wrong. He was possessed of over a million and a half of money, which he was mistaken enough to suppose he had made himself; whereas it may be doubted whether he had ever earned a penny. His father and his uncle had created a business in Glasgow, and that business now belonged to him. But his father and his uncle, who had toiled through their long lives, had left behind them servants who understood the work, and the business now went on prospering almost by its own momentum. The Mr Kennedy of the present day, the sole owner of the business, though he did occasionally go to Glasgow, certainly did nothing towards maintaining it. He had a magnificent place in Perthshire, called Loughlinter, and he sat for a Scotch group of boroughs, and he had a house in London, and a stud of horses in Leicestershire, which he rarely visited, and was unmarried. He never spoke much to any one, although he was constantly in society. He rarely did anything, although he had the means of doing everything. He had very seldom been on his legs in the House of Commons, though he had sat there for ten years. He was seen about everywhere, sometimes with one acquaintance and sometimes with another — but it may be doubted whether he had any friend. It may be doubted whether he had ever talked enough to any man to make that man his friend. Laurence Fitzgibbon tried him for one season, and after a month or two asked for a loan of a few hundred pounds. “I never lend money to any one under any circumstances,” said Mr Kennedy, and it was the longest speech which had ever fallen from his mouth in the hearing of Laurence Fitzgibbon. But though he would not lend money, he gave a great deal — and he would give it for almost every object. “Mr Robert Kennedy, M.P., Loughlinter, £105,” appeared on almost every charitable list that was advertised. No one ever spoke to him as to this expenditure, nor did he ever speak to any one. Circulars came to him and the cheques were returned. The duty was a very easy one to him, and he performed it willingly. Had any amount of inquiry been necessary, it is possible that the labour would have been too much for him. Such was Mr Robert Kennedy, as to whom Phineas had heard that he had during the last winter entertained Lord Brentford and Lady Laura, with very many other people of note, at his place in Perthshire.

“I very much prefer the monkey,” said Phineas to Miss Fitzgibbon.

“I thought you would,” said she. Like to like, you know. You have both of you the same aptitude for climbing. But the monkeys never fall, they tell me.”

Phineas, knowing that he could gain nothing by sparring with Miss Fitzgibbon, raised his hat and took his leave. Going out of a narrow gate he found himself again brought into contact with Mr Kennedy. “What a crowd there is here,” he said, finding himself bound to say something. Mr Kennedy, who was behind him, answered him not a word. Then Phineas made up his mind that Mr Kennedy was insolent with the insolence of riches, and that he would hate Mr Kennedy.

He was engaged to dine on this Sunday with Mr Low, the barrister, with whom he had been reading for the last three years. Mr Low had taken a strong liking to Phineas, as had also Mrs Low, and the tutor had more than once told his pupil that success in his profession was certainly open to him if he would only stick to his work. Mr Low was himself an ambitious man, looking forward to entering Parliament at some future time, when the exigencies of his life of labour might enable him to do so; but he was prudent, given to close calculation, and resolved to make the ground sure beneath his feet in every step that he took forward. When he first heard that Finn intended to stand for Loughshane he was stricken with dismay, and strongly dissuaded him. “The electors may probably reject him. That’s his only chance now,” Mr Low had said to his wife, when he found that Phineas was, as he thought, foolhardy. But the electors of Loughshane had not rejected Mr Low’s pupil, and Mr Low was now called upon to advise what Phineas should do in his present circumstances. There is nothing to prevent the work of a Chancery barrister being done by a member of Parliament. Indeed, the most successful barristers are members of Parliament. But Phineas Finn was beginning at the wrong end, and Mr Low knew that no good would come of it.

“Only think of your being in Parliament, Mr Finn,” said Mrs Low.

“It is wonderful, isn’t it?” said Phineas.

“It took us so much by surprise!” said Mrs Low. As a rule one never hears of a barrister going into Parliament till after he’s forty.”

“And I’m only twenty-five. I do feel that I’ve disgraced myself. I do, indeed, Mrs Low.”

“No — you’ve not disgraced yourself, Mr Finn. The only question is, whether it’s prudent. I hope it will all turn out for the best, most heartily.” Mrs Low was a very matter-of-fact lady, four or five years older than her husband, who had had a little money of her own, and was possessed of every virtue under the sun. Nevertheless she did not quite like the idea of her husband’s pupil having got into Parliament. If her husband and Phineas Finn were dining anywhere together, Phineas, who had come to them quite a boy, would walk out of the room before her husband. This could hardly be right! Nevertheless she helped Phineas to the nicest bit of fish she could find, and had he been ill, would dive nursed him with the greatest care.

After dinner, when Mrs Low had gone upstairs, there came the great discussion between the tutor and the pupil, for the sake of which this little dinner had been given. When Phineas had last been with Mr Low — on the occasion of his showing himself at his tutor’s chambers after his return from Ireland — he had not made up his mind so thoroughly on certain points as he had done since he had seen Lady Laura. The discussion could hardly be of any avail now — but it could not be avoided.

“Well, Phineas, and what do you mean to do?” said Mr Low. Everybody who knew our hero, or nearly everybody, called him by his Christian name. There are men who seem to be so treated by general consent in all societies. Even Mrs Low, who was very prosaic, and unlikely to be familiar in her mode of address, had fallen into the way of doing it before the election. But she had dropped it, when the Phineas whom she used to know became a member of Parliament.

“That’s the question — isn’t it?” said Phineas.

“Of course you’ll stick to your work?”

“What — to the Bar?”

“Yes — to the Bar.”

“I am not thinking of giving it up permanently.”

“Giving it up,” said Mr Low, raising his hands in surprise. “If you give it up, how do you intend to live? Men are not paid for being members of Parliament.”

“Not exactly. But, as I said before, I am not thinking of giving it up — permanently.”

“You mustn’t give it up at all — not for a day; that is, if you ever mean to do any good.”

“There I think that perhaps you may be wrong, Low!”

“How can I be wrong? Did a period of idleness ever help a man in any profession? And is it not acknowledged by all who know anything about it, that continuous labour is more necessary in our profession than in any other?”

“I do not mean to be idle.”

“What is it you do mean, Phineas?”

“Why simply this. Here I am in Parliament. We must take that as a fact.”

“I don’t doubt the fact.”

“And if it be a misfortune, we must make the best of it. Even you wouldn’t advise me to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds at once.”

“I would — tomorrow. My dear fellow, though I do not like to give you pain, if you come to me I can only tell you what I think. My advice to you is to give it up tomorrow. Men would laugh at you for a few weeks, but that is better than being ruined for life.”

“I can’t do that,” said Phineas, sadly.

“Very well — then let us go on,” said Mr Low. If you won’t give up your seat, the next best thing will be to take care that it shall interfere as little as possible with your work. I suppose you must sit upon some Committees.”

“My idea is this — that I will give up one year to learning the practices of the House.”

“And do nothing?”

“Nothing but that. Why, the thing is a study in itself. As for learning it in a year, that is out of the question. But I am convinced that if a man intends to be a useful member of Parliament, he should make a study of it.”

“And how do you mean to live in the meantime?” Mr Low, who was an energetic man, had assumed almost an angry tone of voice. Phineas for awhile sat silent — not that he felt himself to be without words for a reply, but that he was thinking in what fewest words he might best convey his ideas. “You have a very modest allowance from your father, on which you have never been able to keep yourself free from debt,” continued Mr Low.

“He has increased it.”

“And will it satisfy you to live here, in what will turn out to be parliamentary club idleness, on the savings of his industrious life? I think you will find yourself unhappy if you do that. Phineas, my dear fellow, as far as I have as yet been able to see the world, men don’t begin either very good or very bad. They have generally good aspirations with infirm purposes — or, as we may say, strong bodies with weak legs to carry them. Then, because their legs are weak, they drift into idleness and ruin. During all this drifting they are wretched, and when they have thoroughly drifted they are still wretched. The agony of their old disappointment still clings to them. In nine cases out of ten it is someone small unfortunate event that puts a man astray at first. He sees some woman and loses himself with her — or he is taken to a racecourse and unluckily wins money — or some devil in the shape of a friend lures him to tobacco and brandy. Your temptation has come in the shape of this accursed seat in Parliament.” Mr Low had never said a soft word in his life to any woman but the wife of his bosom, had never seen a racehorse, always confined himself to two glasses of port after dinner, and looked upon smoking as the darkest of all the vices.

“You have made up your mind, then, that I mean to be idle?”

“I have made up my mind that your time will be wholly unprofitable — if you do as you say you intend to do.”

“But you do not know my plan; just listen to me.” Then Mr Low did listen, and Phineas explained his plan — saying, of course, nothing of his love for Lady Laura, but giving Mr Low to understand that he intended to assist in turning out the existing Government and to mount up to some seat — a humble seat at first — on the Treasury bench, by the help of his exalted friends and by the use of his own gifts of eloquence. Mr Low heard him without a word. “Of course,” said Phineas, after the first year my time will not be fully employed, unless I succeed. And if I fail totally — for, of course, I may fail altogether — ”

“It is possible,” said Mr Low.

“If you are resolved to turn yourself against me, I must not say another word,” said Phineas, with anger.

“Turn myself against you! I would turn myself any way so that I might save you from the sort of life which you are preparing for yourself. I see nothing in it that can satisfy any manly heart. Even if you are successful, what are you to become? You will be the creature of some minister, not his colleague. You are to make your way up the ladder by pretending to agree whenever agreement is demanded from you, and by voting whether you agree or do not. And what is to be your reward? Some few precarious hundreds a year, lasting just so long as a party may remain in power and you can retain a seat in Parliament! It is at the best slavery and degradation, — even if you are lucky enough to achieve the slavery.”

“You yourself hope to go into Parliament and join a ministry some day,” said Phineas.

Mr Low was not quick to answer, but he did answer at last. “That is true, though I have never told you so. Indeed, it is hardly true to say that I hope it. I have my dreams, and sometimes dare to tell myself that they may possibly become waking facts. But if ever I sit on a Treasury bench I shall sit there by special invitation, having been summoned to take a high place because of my professional success. It is but a dream after all, and I would not have you repeat what I have said to anyone. I had no intention to talk about myself.”

“I am sure that you will succeed,” said Phineas.

“Yes — I shall succeed. I am succeeding. I live upon what I earn, like a gentleman, and can already afford to be indifferent to work that I dislike. After all, the other part of it — that of which I dream — is but an unnecessary adjunct; the gilding on the gingerbread. I am inclined to think that the cake is more wholesome without it.”

Phineas did not go upstairs into Mrs Low’s drawing-room on that evening, nor did he stay very late with Mr Low. He had heard enough of counsel to make him very unhappy — to shake from him much of the audacity which he had acquired for himself during his morning’s walk — and to make him almost doubt whether, after all, the Chiltern Hundreds would not be for him the safest escape from his difficulties. But in that case he must never venture to see Lady Laura Standish again.

Chapter 6

Lord Brentford”s dinner

No — in such case as that — should he resolve upon taking the advice of his old friend Mr Low, Phineas Finn must make up his mind never to see Lady Laura Standish again! And he was in love with Lady Laura Standish — and, for aught he knew, Lady Laura Standish might be in love with him. As he walked home from Mr Low’s house in Bedford Square, he was by no means a triumphant man. There had been much more said between him and Mr Low than could be laid before the reader in the last chapter. Mr Low had urged him again and again, and had prevailed so far that Phineas, before he left the house, had promised to consider that suicidal expedient of the Chiltern Hundreds. What a by-word he would become if he were to give up Parliament, having sat there for about a week. But such immediate giving up was one of the necessities of Mr Low’s programme. According to Mr Low’s teaching, a single year passed amidst the miasma of the House of Commons would be altogether fatal to any chance of professional success. And Mr Low had at any rate succeeded in making Phineas believe that he was right in this lesson. There was his profession, as to which Mr Low assured him that success was within his reach; and there was Parliament on the other side, as to which he knew that the chances were all against him, in spite of his advantage of a seat. That he could not combine the two, beginning with Parliament, he did believe. Which should it be? That was the question which he tried to decide as he walked home from Bedford Square to Great Marlborough Street. He could not answer the question satisfactorily, and went to bed an unhappy man.

He must at any rate go to Lord Brentford’s dinner on Wednesday, and, to enable him to join in the conversation there, must attend the debates on Monday and Tuesday. The reader may perhaps be best made to understand how terrible was our hero’s state of doubt by being told that for awhile he thought of absenting himself from these debates, as being likely to weaken his purpose of withdrawing altogether from the House. It is not very often that so strong a fury rages between party and party at the commencement of the session that a division is taken upon the Address. It is customary for the leader of the opposition on such occasions to express his opinion in the most courteous language, that his right honourable friend, sitting opposite to him on the Treasury bench, has been, is, and will be wrong in everything that he thinks, says, or does in public life; but that, as anything like factious opposition is never adopted on that side of the House, the Address to the Queen, in answer to that most fatuous speech which has been put into Her Majesty’s gracious mouth, shall be allowed to pass unquestioned. Then the leader of the House thanks his adversary for his consideration, explains to all men how happy the country ought to be that the Government has not fallen into the disgracefully incapable hands of his right honourable friend opposite; and after that the Address is carried amidst universal serenity. But such was not the order of the day on the present occasion. Mr Mildmay, the veteran leader of the liberal side of the House, had moved an amendment to the Address, and had urged upon the House, in very strong language, the expediency of showing, at the very commencement of the session, that the country had returned to Parliament a strong majority determined not to put up with Conservative inactivity. “I conceive it to be my duty,” Mr Mildmay had said, “at once to assume that the country is unwilling that the right honourable gentlemen opposite should keep their seats on the bench upon which they sit, and in the performance of that duty I am called upon to divide the House upon the Address to Her Majesty.” And if Mr Mildmay used strong language, the reader may be sure that Mr Mildmay’s followers used language much stronger. And Mr Daubeny, who was the present leader of the House, and representative there of the Ministry — Lord de Terrier, the Premier, sitting in the House of Lords — was not the man to allow these amenities to pass by without adequate replies. He and his friends were very strong in sarcasm, if they failed in argument, and lacked nothing for words, though it might perhaps be proved that they were short in numbers. It was considered that the speech in which Mr Daubeny reviewed the long political life of Mr Mildmay, and showed that Mr Mildmay had been at one time a bugbear, and then a nightmare, and latterly simply a fungus, was one of the severest attacks, if not the most severe, that had been heard in that House since the Reform Bill. Mr Mildmay, the while, was sitting with his hat low down over his eyes, and many men said that he did not like it. But this speech was not made till after that dinner at Lord Brentford’s, of which a short account must be given.

Had it not been for the overwhelming interest of the doings in Parliament at the commencement of the session, Phineas might have perhaps abstained from attending, in spite of the charm of novelty. For, in truth, Mr Low’s words had moved him much. But if it was to be his fate to be a member of Parliament only for ten days, surely it would be well that he should take advantage of the time to hear such a debate as this. It would be a thing to talk of to his children in twenty years’ time, or to his grandchildren in fifty — and it would be essentially necessary that he should be able to talk of it to Lady Laura Standish. He did, therefore, sit in the House till one on the Monday night, and till two on the Tuesday night, and heard the debate adjourned till the Thursday. On the Thursday Mr Daubeny was to make his great speech, and then the division would come.

When Phineas entered Lady Laura’s drawing-room on the Wednesday before dinner, he found the other guests all assembled. Why men should have been earlier in keeping their dinner engagements on that day than on any other he did not understand; but it was the fact, probably, that the great anxiety of the time made those who were at all concerned in the matter very keen to hear and to be heard. During these days everybody was in a hurry — everybody was eager; and there was a common feeling that not a minute was to be lost. There were three ladies in the room — Lady Laura, Miss Fitzgibbon, and Mrs Bonteen. The latter was the wife of a gentleman who had been a junior Lord of the Admiralty in the late Government, and who lived in the expectation of filling, perhaps, some higher office in the Government which, as he hoped, was soon to be called into existence. There were five gentlemen besides Phineas Finn himself — Mr Bonteen, Mr Kennedy, Mr Fitzgibbon, Barrington Erle, who had been caught in spite of all that Lady Laura had said as to the difficulty of such an operation, and Lord Brentford. Phineas was quick to observe that every male guest was in Parliament, and to tell himself that he would not have been there unless he also had had a seat.

“We are all here now,” said the Earl, ringing the bell.

“I hope I’ve not kept you waiting,” said Phineas.

“Not at all,” said Lady Laura. I do not know why we are in such a hurry. And how many do you say it will be, Mr Finn?”

“Seventeen, I suppose,” said Phineas.

“More likely twenty-two,” said Mr Bonteen. There is Colcleugh so ill they can’t possibly bring him up, and young Rochester is at Vienna, and Gunning is sulking about something, and Moody has lost his eldest son. By George! they pressed him to come up, although Frank Moody won’t be buried till Friday.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Lord Brentford.

“You ask some of the Carlton fellows, and they’ll own it.”

“If I’d lost every relation I had in the world,” said Fitzgibbon, “I’d vote on such a question as this. Staying away won’t bring poor Frank Moody back to life.”

“But there’s a decency in these matters, is there not, Mr Fitzgibbon?” said Lady Laura.

“I thought they had thrown all that kind of thing overboard long ago,” said Miss Fitzgibbon. “It would be better that they should have no veil, than squabble about the thickness of it.”

Then dinner was announced. The Earl walked off with Miss Fitzgibbon, Barrington Erle took Mrs Bonteen, and Mr Fitzgibbon took Lady Laura.

“I’ll bet four pounds to two it’s over nineteen,” said Mr Bonteen, as he passed through the drawing-room door. The remark seemed to have been addressed to Mr Kennedy, and Phineas therefore made no reply.

“I daresay it will,” said Kennedy, but I never bet.”

“But you vote — sometimes, I hope,” said Bonteen.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Kennedy.

“I think he is the most odious man that ever I set my eyes on,” said Phineas to himself as he followed Mr Kennedy into the dining-room. He had observed that Mr Kennedy had been standing very near to Lady Laura in the drawing-room, and that Lady Laura had said a few words to him. He was more determined than ever that he would hate Mr Kennedy, and would probably have been moody and unhappy throughout the whole dinner had not Lady Laura called him to a chair at her left hand. It was very generous of her; and the more so, as Mr Kennedy had, in a half-hesitating manner, prepared to seat himself in that very place. As it was, Phineas and Mr Kennedy were neighbours, but Phineas had the place of honour.

“I suppose you will not speak during the debate?” said Lady Laura.

“Who? I? Certainly not. In the first place, I could not get a hearing, and, in the next place, I should not think of commencing on such an occasion. I do not know that I shall ever speak at all.”

“Indeed you will. You are just the sort of man who will succeed with the House. What I doubt is, whether you will do as well in office.”

“I wish I might have the chance.”

“Of course you can have the chance if you try for it. Beginning so early, and being on the right side — and, if you will allow me to say so, among the right set — there can be no doubt that you may take office if you will. But I am not sure that you will be tractable. You cannot begin, you know, by being Prime Minister.”

“I have seen enough to realise that already,” said Phineas.

“If you will only keep that little fact steadily before your eyes, there is nothing you may not reach in official life. But Pitt was Prime Minister at four-and-twenty, and that precedent has ruined half our young politicians.”

“It has not affected me, Lady Laura.”

“As far as I can see, there is no great difficulty in government. A man must learn to have words at command when he is on his legs in the House of Commons, in the same way as he would if he were talking to his own servants. He must keep his temper; and he must be very patient. As far as I have seen Cabinet Ministers, they are not more clever than other people.”

“I think there are generally one or two men of ability in the Cabinet.”

“Yes, of fair ability. Mr Mildmay is a good specimen. There is not, and never was, anything brilliant in him. He is not eloquent, nor, as far as I am aware, did he ever create anything. But he has always been a steady, honest, persevering man, and circumstances have made politics come easy to him.”

“Think of the momentous questions which he has been called upon to decide,” said Phineas.

“Every question so handled by him has been decided rightly according to his own party, and wrongly according to the Party opposite. A political leader is so sure of support and so sure of attack, that it is hardly necessary for him to be even anxious to be right. For the country’s sake, he should have officials under him who know the routine of business.”

“You think very badly then of politics as a profession.”

“No; I think of them very highly. It must be better to deal with the repeal of laws than the defending of criminals. But all this is papa’s wisdom, not mine. Papa has never been in the Cabinet yet, and therefore of course he is a little caustic.”

“I think he was quite right,” said Barrington Erle stoutly. He spoke so stoutly that everybody at the table listened to him.

“I don’t exactly see the necessity for such internecine war just at present,” said Lord Brentford.

“I must say I do,” said the other. Lord de Terrier took office knowing that he was in a minority. We had a fair majority of nearly thirty when he came in.”

“Then how very soft you must have been to go out,” said Miss Fitzgibbon.

“Not in the least soft,” continued Barrington Erle. We could not command our men, and were bound to go out. For aught we knew, some score of them might have chosen to support Lord de Terrier, and then we should have owned ourselves beaten for the time.”

“You were beaten — hollow,” said Miss Fitzgibbon.

“Then why did Lord de Terrier dissolve?”

“A Prime Minister is quite right to dissolve in such a position,” said Lord Brentford. “He must do so for the Queen’s sake. It is his only chance.”

“Just so. It is, as you say, his only chance, and it is his right. His very possession of power will give him near a score of votes, and if he thinks that he has a chance, let him try it. We maintain that he had no chance, and that he must have known that he had none — that if he could not get on with the late House, he certainly could not get on with a new House. We let him have his own way as far as we could in February. We had failed last summer, and if he could get along he was welcome. But he could not get along.”

“I must say I think he was right to dissolve,” said Lady Laura.

“And we are right to force the consequences upon him as quickly as we can. He practically lost nine seats by his dissolution. Look at Loughshane.”

“Yes; look at Loughshane,” said Miss Fitzgibbon. The country at any rate has gained something there.”

“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, Mr Finn,” said the Earl.

“What on earth is to become of poor George?” said Mr Fitzgibbon. “I wonder whether anyone knows where he is. George wasn’t a bad sort of fellow.”

“Roby used to think that he was a very bad fellow,” said Mr Bonteen. “Roby used to swear that it was hopeless trying to catch him.” It may be as well to explain that Mr Roby was a Conservative gentleman of great fame who had for years acted as Whip under Mr Daubeny, and who now filled the high office of Patronage Secretary to the Treasury. “I believe in my heart,” continued Mr Bonteen, “that Roby is rejoiced that poor George Morris should be out in the cold.”

“If seats were halveable, he should share mine, for the sake of auld lang syne,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon.

“But not tomorrow night,” said Barrington Erle; the division tomorrow will be a thing not to be joked with. Upon my word I think they’re right about old Moody. All private considerations should give way. And as for Gunning, I’d have him up or I’d know the reason why.”

“And shall we have no defaulters, Barrington?” asked Lady Laura.

“I’m not going to boast, but I don’t know of one for whom we need blush. Sir Everard Powell is so bad with gout that he can’t even bear anyone to look at him, but Ratler says that he’ll bring him up.” Mr Ratler was in those days the Whip on the liberal side of the House.

“Unfortunate wretch!” said Miss Fitzgibbon.

“The worst of it is that he screams in his paroxysms,” said Mr Bonteen.

“And you mean to say that you’ll take him into the lobby,” said Lady Laura.

“Undoubtedly,” said Barrington Erle. Why not? He has no business with a seat if he can’t vote. But Sir Everard is a good man, and he’ll be there if laudanum and bath-chair make it possible.”

The same kind of conversation went on during the whole of dinner, and became, if anything, more animated when the three ladies had left the room. Mr Kennedy made but one remark, and then he observed that as far as he could see a majority of nineteen would be as serviceable as a majority of twenty. This he said in a very mild voice, and in a tone that was intended to be expressive of doubt; but in spite of his humility Barrington Erle flew at him almost savagely — as though a liberal member of the House of Commons was disgraced by so mean a spirit; and Phineas found himself despising the man for his want of zeal.

“If we are to beat them, let us beat them well,” said Phineas.

“Let there be no doubt about it,” said Barrington Erle.

“I should like to see every man with a seat polled,” said Bonteen.

“Poor Sir Everard!” said Lord Brentford. It will kill him, no doubt, but I suppose the seat is safe.”

“Oh, yes; Llanwrwsth is quite safe,” said Barrington, in his eagerness omitting to catch Lord Brentford’s grim joke.

Phineas went up into the drawing-room for a few minutes after dinner, and was eagerly desirous of saying a few more words — he knew not what words — to Lady Laura. Mr Kennedy and Mr Bonteen had left the dining-room first, and Phineas again found Mr Kennedy standing close to Lady Laura’s shoulder. Could it be possible that there was anything in it? Mr Kennedy was an unmarried man, with an immense fortune, a magnificent place, a seat in Parliament, and was not perhaps above forty years of age. There could be no reason why he should not ask Lady Laura to be his wife — except, indeed, that he did not seem to have sufficient words at command to ask anybody for anything. But could it be that such a woman as Lady Laura could accept such a man as Mr Kennedy because of his wealth, and because of his fine place — a man who had not a word to throw to a dog, who did not seem to be possessed of an idea, who hardly looked like a gentleman — so Phineas told himself. But in truth Mr Kennedy, though he was a plain, unattractive man, with nothing in his personal appearance to call for remark, was not unlike a gentleman in his usual demeanour. Phineas himself, it may be here said, was six feet high, and very handsome, with bright blue eyes, and brown wavy hair, and light silken beard. Mrs Low had told her husband more than once that he was much too handsome to do any good. Mr Low, however, had replied that young Finn had never shown himself to be conscious of his own personal advantages. “He’ll learn it soon enough,” said Mrs Low. “Some woman will tell him, and then he’ll be spoilt.” I do not think that Phineas depended much as yet on his own good looks, but he felt that Mr Kennedy ought to be despised by such a one as Lady Laura Standish, because his looks were not good. And she must despise him! It could not be that a woman so full of life should be willing to put up with a man who absolutely seemed to have no life within him. And yet why was he there, and why was he allowed to hang about just over her shoulders? Phineas Finn began to feel himself to be an injured man.

But Lady Laura had the power of dispelling instantly this sense of injury. She had done it effectually in the dining-room by calling him to the seat by her side, to the express exclusion of the millionaire, and she did it again now by walking away from Mr Kennedy to the spot on which Phineas had placed himself somewhat sulkily.

“Of course you’ll be at the club on Friday morning after the division,” she said.

“No doubt.”

“When you leave it, come and tell me what are your impressions, and what you think of Mr Daubeny’s speech. There’ll be nothing done in the House before four, and you’ll be able to run up to me.”

“Certainly I will.”

“I have asked Mr Kennedy to come, and Mr Fitzgibbon. I am so anxious about it, that I want to hear what different people say. You know, perhaps, that papa is to be in the Cabinet if there’s a change.”

“Is he indeed?”

“Oh yes — and you’ll come up?”

“Of course I will. Do you expect to hear much of an opinion from Mr Kennedy?”

“Yes, I do. You don’t quite know Mr Kennedy yet. And you must remember that he will say more to me than he will to you. He’s not quick, you know, as you are, and he has no enthusiasm on any subject — but he has opinions, and sound opinions too.” Phineas felt that Lady Laura was in a slight degree scolding him for the disrespectful manner in which he had spoken of Mr Kennedy; and he felt also that he had committed himself — that he had shown himself to be sore, and that she had seen and understood his soreness.

“The truth is I do not know him,” said he, trying to correct his blunder.

“No — not as yet. But I hope that you may some day, as he is one of those men who are both useful and estimable.”

“I do not know that I can use him,” said Phineas; but if you wish it, I will endeavour to esteem him.”

“I wish you to do both — but that will all come in due time. I think it probable that in the early autumn there will be a great gathering of the real Whig Liberals at Loughlinter — of those, I mean, who have their heart in it, and are at the same time gentlemen. If it is so, I should be sorry that you should not be there. You need not mention it, but Mr Kennedy has just said a word about it to papa, and a word from him always means so much! Well — goodnight; and mind you come up on Friday. You are going to the club, now, of course, I envy you men your clubs more than I do the House — though I feel that a woman’s life is only half a life, as she cannot have a seat in Parliament.”

Then Phineas went away, and walked down to Pall Mall with Laurence Fitzgibbon. He would have preferred to take his walk alone, but he could not get rid of his affectionate countryman. He wanted to think over what had taken place during the evening; and, indeed, he did so in spite of his friend”s conversation. Lady Laura, when she first saw him after his return to London, had told him how anxious her father was to congratulate him on his seat, but the Earl had not spoken a word to him on the subject. The Earl had been courteous, as hosts customarily are, but had been in no way specially kind to him. And then Mr Kennedy! As to going to Loughlinter, he would not do such a thing — not though the success of the liberal party were to depend on it. He declared to himself that there were some things which a man could not do. But although he was not altogether satisfied with what had occurred in Portman Square, he felt as he walked down arm-in-arm with Fitzgibbon that Mr Low and Mr Low’s counsels must be scattered to the winds. He had thrown the die in consenting to stand for Loughshane, and must stand the hazard of the cast.

“Bedad, Phin, my boy, I don’t think you’re listening to me at all,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon.

“I’m listening to every word you say,” said Phineas.

“And if I have to go down to the ould country again this session, you’ll go with me?”

“If I can I will.”

“That’s my boy! And it’s I that hope you’ll have the chance. What’s the good of turning these fellows out if one isn’t to get something for one’s trouble?”

Chapter 7

Mr and Mrs Bunce

It was three o’clock on the Thursday night before Mr Daubeny’s speech was finished. I do not think that there was any truth in the allegation made at the time, that he continued on his legs an hour longer than the necessities of his speech required, in order that five or six very ancient Whigs might be wearied out and shrink to their beds. Let a Whig have been ever so ancient and ever so weary, he would not have been allowed to depart from Westminster Hall that night. Sir Everard Powell was there in his bath-chair at twelve, with a doctor on one side of him and a friend on the other, in some purlieu of the House, and did his duty like a fine old Briton as he was. That speech of Mr Daubeny’s will never be forgotten by anyone who heard it. Its studied bitterness had perhaps never been equalled, and yet not a word was uttered for the saying of which he could be accused of going beyond the limits of parliamentary antagonism. It is true that personalities could not have been closer, that accusations of political dishonesty and of almost worse than political cowardice and falsehood could not have been clearer, that no words in the language could have attributed meaner motives or more unscrupulous conduct. But, nevertheless, Mr Daubeny in all that he said was parliamentary, and showed himself to be a gladiator thoroughly well trained for the arena in which he had descended to the combat. His arrows were poisoned, and his lance was barbed, and his shot was heated red — because such things are allowed. He did not poison his enemies’ wells or use Greek fire, because those things are not allowed. He knew exactly the rules of the combat. Mr Mildmay sat and heard him without once raising his hat from his brow, or speaking a word to his neighbour. Men on both sides of the House said that Mr Mildmay suffered terribly; but as Mr Mildmay uttered no word of complaint to anyone, and was quite ready to take Mr Daubeny by the hand the next time they met in company, I do not know that anyone was able to form a true idea of Mr Mildmay’s feelings. Mr Mildmay was an impassive man who rarely spoke of his own feelings, and no doubt sat with his hat low down over his eyes in order that no man might judge of them on that occasion by the impression on his features. “If he could have left off half an hour earlier it would have been perfect as an attack,” said Barrington Erle in criticising Mr Daubeny’s speech, “but he allowed himself to sink into comparative weakness, and the glory of it was over before the end.” — Then came the division. The Liberals had 333 votes to 314 for the Conservatives, and therefore counted a majority of 19. It was said that so large a number of members had never before voted at any division.

“I own I’m disappointed,” said Barrington Erle to Mr Ratler.

“I thought there would be twenty,” said Mr Ratler. I never went beyond that. I knew they would have old Moody up, but I thought Gunning would have been too hard for them.”

“They say they’ve promised them both peerages.”

“Yes — if they remain in. But they know they’re going out.”

“They must go, with such a majority against them,” said Barrington Erle.

“Of course they must,” said Mr Ratler. Lord de Terrier wants nothing better, but it is rather hard upon poor Daubeny. I never saw such an unfortunate old Tantalus.”

“He gets a good drop of real water now and again, and I don’t pity him in the least. He’s clever of course, and has made his own way, but I’ve always a feeling that he has no business where he is. I suppose we shall know all about it at Brooks’s by one o’clock tomorrow.”

Phineas, though it had been past five before he went to bed — for there had been much triumphant talking to be done among liberal members after the division — was up at his breakfast at Mrs Bunce’s lodgings by nine. There was a matter which he was called upon to settle immediately in which Mrs Bunce herself was much interested, and respecting which he had promised to give an answer on this very morning. A set of very dingy chambers up two pairs of stairs at No. 9, Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, to which Mr Low had recommended him to transfer himself and all his belongings, were waiting his occupation, should he resolve upon occupying them. If he intended to commence operations as a barrister, it would be necessary that he should have chambers and a clerk; and before he had left Mr Low’s house on Sunday evening he had almost given that gentleman authority to secure for him these rooms at No. 9. “Whether you remain in Parliament or no, you must make a beginning,” Mr Low had said; “and how are you even to pretend to begin if you don’t have chambers?” Mr Low hoped that he might be able to wean Phineas away from his Parliament bauble — that he might induce the young barrister to give up his madness, if not this session or the next, at any rate before a third year had commenced. Mr Low was a persistent man, liking very much when he did like, and loving very strongly when he did love. He would have many a tug for Phineas Finn before he would allow that false Westminster Satan to carry off the prey as altogether his own. If he could only get Phineas into the dingy chambers he might do much!

But Phineas had now become so imbued with the atmosphere of politics, had been so breathed upon by Lady Laura and Barrington Erle, that he could no longer endure the thought of any other life than that of a life spent among the lobbies. A desire to help to beat the Conservatives had fastened on his very soul, and almost made Mr Low odious in his eyes. He was afraid of Mr Low, and for the nonce would not go to him any more — but he must see the porter at Lincoln’s Inn, he must write a line to Mr Low, and he must tell Mrs Bunce that for the present he would still keep on her rooms. His letter to Mr Low was as follows:

“ Great Marlborough Street, May, 186 —

“ MY DEAR LOW,

“I have made up my mind against taking the chambers, and am now off to the Inn to say that I shall not want them. Of course, I know what you will think of me, and it is very grievous to me to have to bear the hard judgment of a man whose opinion I value so highly; but, in the teeth of your terribly strong arguments, I think that there is something to be said on my side of the question. This seat in Parliament has come in my way by chance, and I think it would be pusillanimous in me to reject it, feeling, as I do, that a seat in Parliament confers very great honour. I am, too, very fond of politics, and regard legislation as the finest profession going. Had I any one dependent on me, I probably might not be justified in following the bent of my inclination. But I am all alone in the world, and therefore have a right to make the attempt. If, after a trial of one or two sessions, I should fail in that which I am attempting, it will not even then be too late to go back to the better way. I can assure you that at any rate it is not my intention to be idle.

“I know very well how you will fret and fume over what I say, and how utterly I shall fail in bringing you round to my way of thinking; but as I must write to tell you of my decision, I cannot refrain from defending myself to the best of my ability.

“Yours always faithfully,

“ PHINEAS FINN ”

Mr Low received this letter at his chambers, and when he had read it, he simply pressed his lips closely together, placed the sheet of paper back in its envelope, and put it into a drawer at his left hand. Having done this, he went on with what work he had before him, as though his friend’s decision were a matter of no consequence to him. As far as he was concerned the thing was done, and there should be an end of it. So he told himself; but nevertheless his mind was full of it all day; and, though he wrote not a word of answer to Phineas, he made a reply within his own mind to every one of the arguments used in the letter. “Great honour! How can there be honour in what comes, as he says, by chance? He hasn’t sense enough to understand that the honour comes from the mode of winning it, and from the mode of wearing it; and that the very fact of his being member for Loughshane at this instant simply proves that Loughshane should have had no privilege to return a member! No one dependent on him! Are not his father and his mother and his sisters dependent on him as long as he must eat their bread till he can earn bread of his own? He will never earn bread of his own. He will always be eating bread that others have earned.” In this way, before the day was over, Mr Low became very angry, and swore to himself that he would have nothing more to say to Phineas Finn. But yet he found himself creating plans for encountering and conquering the parliamentary fiend who was at present so cruelly potent with his pupil. It was not till the third evening that he told his wife that Finn had made up his mind not to take chambers. “Then I would have nothing more to say to him,” said Mrs Low, savagely. “For the present I can have nothing more to say to him.” “But neither now nor ever, said Mrs Low, with great asis; “he has been false to you.” No, said Mr Low, who was a man thoroughly and thoughtfully just at all points; “he has not been false to me. He has always meant what he has said, when he was saying it. But he is weak and blind, and flies like a moth to the candle; one pities the poor moth, and would save him a stump of his wing if it be possible.”

Phineas, when he had written his letter to Mr Low, started off for Lincoln’s Inn, making his way through the well-known dreary streets of Soho, and through St Giles’s, to Long Acre. He knew every corner well, for he had walked the same road almost daily for the last three years. He had conceived a liking for the route, which he might easily have changed without much addition to the distance, by passing through Oxford Street and Holborn; but there was an air of business on which he prided himself in going by the most direct passage, and he declared to himself very often that things dreary and dingy to the eye might be good in themselves. Lincoln’s Inn itself is dingy, and the Law Courts therein are perhaps the meanest in which Equity ever disclosed herself. Mr Low’s three rooms in the Old Square, each of them brown with the binding of law books and with the dust collected on law papers, and with furniture that had been brown always, and had become browner with years, were perhaps as unattractive to the eye of a young pupil as any rooms which were ever entered. And the study of the Chancery law itself is not an alluring pursuit till the mind has come to have some insight into the beauty of its ultimate object. Phineas, during his three years’ course of reasoning on these things, had taught himself to believe that things ugly on the outside might be very beautiful within; and had therefore come to prefer crossing Poland Street and Soho Square, and so continuing his travels by the Seven Dials and Long Acre. His morning walk was of a piece with his morning studies, and he took pleasure in the gloom of both. But now the taste of his palate had been already changed by the glare of the lamps in and about palatial Westminster, and he found that St Giles’s was disagreeable. The ways about Pall Mall and across the Park to Parliament Street, or to the Treasury, were much pleasanter, and the new offices in Downing Street; already half built, absorbed all that interest which he had hitherto been able to take in the suggested but uncommenced erection of new Law Courts in the neighbourhood of Lincoln’s Inn. As he made his way to the porter’s lodge under the great gateway of Lincoln’s Inn, he told himself that he was glad that he had escaped, at any rate for a while, from a life so dull and dreary. If he could only sit in chambers at the Treasury instead of chambers in that old court, how much pleasanter it would be! After all, as regarded that question of income, it might well be that the Treasury chambers should be the more remunerative, and the more quickly remunerative, of the two. And, as he thought, Lady Laura might be compatible with the Treasury chambers and Parliament, but could not possibly be made compatible with Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn.

But nevertheless there came upon him a feeling of sorrow when the old man at the lodge seemed to be rather glad than otherwise that he did not want the chambers. “Then Mr Green can have them,” said the porter; “that’ll be good news for Mr Green. I don’t know what the gen’lemen ‘ll do for chambers if things goes on as they’re going.” Mr Green was welcome to the chambers as far as Phineas was concerned; but Phineas felt nevertheless a certain amount of regret that he should have been compelled to abandon a thing which was regarded both by the porter and by Mr Green as being so desirable. He had however written his letter to Mr Low, and made his promise to Barrington Erle, and was bound to Lady Laura Standish; and he walked out through the old gateway into Chancery Lane, resolving that he would not even visit Lincoln’s Inn again for a year. There were certain books — law books — which he would read at such intervals of leisure as politics might give him; but within the precincts of the Inns of Court he would not again put his foot for twelve months, let learned pundits of the law — such for instance as Mr and Mrs Low — say what they might.

He had told Mrs Bunce, before he left his home after breakfast, that he should for the present remain under her roof. She had been much gratified, not simply because lodgings in Great Marlborough Street are less readily let than chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, but also because it was a great honour to her to have a member of Parliament in her house. Members of Parliament are not so common about Oxford Street as they are in the neighbourhood of Pall Mall and St James’s Square. But Mr Bunce, when he came home to his dinner, did not join as heartily as he should have done in his wife’s rejoicing. Mr Bunce was in the employment of certain copying law-stationers in Carey Street, and had a strong belief in the law as a profession — but he had none whatever in the House of Commons. “And he’s given up going into chambers?” said Mr Bunce to his wife.

“Given it up altogether for the present,” said Mrs Bunce.

“And he don’t mean to have no clerk?” said Mr Bunce.

“Not unless it is for his Parliament work.”

“There ain’t no clerks wanted for that, and what’s worse, there ain’t no fees to pay ’em. I’ll tell you what it is, Jane — if you don’t look sharp there won’t be nothing to pay you before long.”

“And he in Parliament, Jacob!”

“There ain’t no salary for being in Parliament. There are scores of them Parliament gents ain’t got so much as’ll pay their dinners for ’em. And then if anybody does trust ’em, there’s no getting at ’em to make ’em pay as there is at other folk.”

“I don’t know that our Mr Phineas will ever be like that, Jacob.”

“That’s gammon, Jane. That’s the way as women gets themselves took in always. Our Mr Phineas! Why should our Mr Phineas be better than anybody else?”

“He’s always acted handsome, Jacob.”

“There was one time he could not pay his lodgings for wellnigh nine months, till his governor come down with the money. I don’t know whether that was handsome. It knocked me about terrible, I know.”

“He always meant honest, Jacob.”

“I don’t know that I care much for a man’s meaning when he runs short of money. How is he going to see his way, with his seat in Parliament, and this giving up of his profession? He owes us near a quarter now.”

“He paid me two months this morning, Jacob; so he don’t owe a farthing.”

“Very well — so much the better for us. I shall just have a few words with Mr Low, and see what he says to it. For myself I don’t think half so much of Parliament folk as some do. They’re for promising everything before they’s elected; but not one in twenty of ’em is as good as his word when he gets there.”

Mr Bunce was a copying journeyman, who spent ten hours a day in Carey Street with a pen between his fingers; and after that he would often spend two or three hours of the night with a pen between his fingers in Marlborough Street. He was a thoroughly hard-working man, doing pretty well in the world, for he had a good house over his head, and always could find raiment and bread for his wife and eight children; but, nevertheless, he was an unhappy man because he suffered from political grievances, or, I should more correctly say, that his grievances were semi-political and semi-social. He had no vote, not being himself the tenant of the house in Great Marlborough Street. The tenant was a tailor who occupied the shop, whereas Bunce occupied the whole of the remainder of the premises. He was a lodger, and lodgers were not as yet trusted with the franchise. And he had ideas, which he himself admitted to be very raw, as to the injustice of the manner in which he was paid for his work. So much a folio, without reference to the way in which his work was done, without regard to the success of his work, with no questions asked of himself, was, as he thought, no proper way of remunerating a man for his labours. He had long since joined a Trade Union, and for two years past had paid a subscription of a shilling a week towards its funds. He longed to be doing some battle against his superiors, and to be putting himself in opposition to his employers — not that he objected personally to Messrs Foolscap, Margin, and Vellum, who always made much of him as a useful man — but because some such antagonism would be manly, and the fighting of some battle would be the right thing to do. “If Labour don’t mean to go to the wall himself,” Bunce would say to his wife, “Labour must look alive, and put somebody else there.”

Mrs Bunce was a comfortable motherly woman, who loved her husband but hated politics. As he had an aversion to his superiors in the world because they were superiors, so had she a liking for them for the same reason. She despised people poorer than herself, and thought it a fair subject for boasting that her children always had meat for dinner. If it was ever so small a morsel, she took care that they had it, in order that the boast might be maintained. The world had once or twice been almost too much for her — when, for instance, her husband had been ill; and again, to tell the truth, for the last three months of that long period in which Phineas had omitted to pay his bills; but she had kept a fine brave heart during those troubles, and could honestly swear that the children always had a bit of meat, though she herself had been occasionally without it for days together. At such times she would be more than ordinarily meek to Mr Margin, and especially courteous to the old lady who lodged in her first-floor drawing-room — for Phineas lived up two pairs of stairs — and she would excuse such servility by declaring that there was no knowing how soon she might want assistance. But her husband, in such emergencies, would become furious and quarrelsome, and would declare that Labour was going to the wall, and that something very strong must be done at once. That shilling which Bunce paid weekly to the Union she regarded as being absolutely thrown away — as much so as though he cast it weekly into the Thames. And she had told him so, over and over again, making heart-piercing allusions to the eight children and to the bit of meat. He would always endeavour to explain to her that there was no other way under the sun for keeping Labour from being sent to the wall — but he would do so hopelessly and altogether ineffectually, and she had come to regard him as a lunatic to the extent of that one weekly shilling.

She had a woman’s instinctive partiality for comeliness in a man, and was very fond of Phineas Finn because he was handsome. And now she was very proud of him because he was a member of Parliament. She had heard — from her husband, who had told her the fact with much disgust — that the sons of Dukes and Earls go into Parliament, and she liked to think that the fine young man to whom she talked more or less every day should sit with the sons of Dukes and Earls. When Phineas had really brought distress upon her by owing her some thirty or forty pounds, she could never bring herself to be angry with him — because he was handsome and because he dined out with Lords. And she had triumphed greatly over her husband, who had desired to be severe upon his aristocratic debtor, when the money had all been paid in a lump.

“I don’t know that he’s any great catch,” Bunce had said, when the prospect of their lodger’s departure had been debated between them.

“Jacob,” said his wife, I don’t think you feel it when you’ve got people respectable about you.”

“The only respectable man I know,” said Jacob, is the man as earns his bread; and Mr Finn, as I take it, is a long way from that yet.”

Phineas returned to his lodgings before he went down to his club, and again told Mrs Bunce that he had altogether made up his mind about the chambers. “If you’ll keep me I shall stay here for the first session I daresay.”

“Of course we shall be only too proud, Mr Finn; and though it mayn’t perhaps be quite the place for a member of Parliament — ”

“But I think it is quite the place.”

“It’s very good of you to say so, Mr Finn, and we’ll do our very best to make you comfortable. Respectable we are, I may say; and though Bunce is a bit rough sometimes — ”

“Never to me, Mrs Bunce.”

“But he is rough — and silly, too, with his radical nonsense, paying a shilling a week to a nasty Union just for nothing. Still he means well, and there ain’t a man who works harder for his wife and children — that I will say of him. And if he do talk politics — ”

“But I like a man to talk politics, Mrs Bunce.”

“For a gentleman in Parliament of course it’s proper; but I never could see what good it could do to a law-stationer; and when he talks of Labour going to the wall, I always ask him whether he didn’t get his wages regular last Saturday. But, Lord love you, Mr Finn, when a man as is a journeyman has took up politics and joined a Trade Union, he ain’t no better than a milestone for his wife to take and talk to him.”

After that Phineas went down to the Reform Club, and made one of those who were buzzing there in little crowds and uttering their prophecies as to future events. Lord de Terrier was to go out. That was certain. Whether Mr Mildmay was to come in was uncertain. That he would go to Windsor tomorrow morning was not to be doubted; but it was thought very probable that he might plead his age, and decline to undertake the responsibility of forming a Ministry.

“And what then?” said Phineas to his friend Fitzgibbon.

“Why, then there will be a choice out of three. There is the Duke, who is the most incompetent man in England; there is Monk, who is the most unfit; and there is Gresham, who is the most unpopular. I can’t conceive it possible to find a worse Prime Minister than either of the three — but the country affords no other.”

“And which would Mildmay name?”

“All of them — one after the other, so as to make the embarrassment the greater.” That was Mr Fitzgibbon’s description of the crisis; but then it was understood that Mr Fitzgibbon was given to romancing.

Chapter 8

The news about Mr Mildmay and Sir Everard

Fitzgibbon and Phineas started together from Pall Mall for Portman Square — as both of them had promised to call on Lady Laura — but Fitzgibbon turned in at Brooks’s as they walked up St James’s Square, and Phineas went on by himself in a cab. “You should belong here,” said Fitzgibbon as his friend entered the cab, and Phineas immediately began to feel that he would have done nothing till he could get into Brooks’s. It might be very well to begin by talking Politics at the Reform Club. Such talking had procured for him his seat at Loughshane. But that was done now, and something more than talking was wanted for any further progress. Nothing, as he told himself, of political import was managed at the Reform Club. No influence from thence was ever brought to bear upon the adjustment of places under the Government, or upon the arrangement of cabinets. It might be very well to count votes at the Reform Club; but after the votes had been counted — had been counted successfully — Brooks’s was the place, as Phineas believed, to learn at the earliest moment what would be the exact result of the success. He must get into Brooks’s, if it might be possible for him. Fitzgibbon was not exactly the man to propose him. Perhaps the Earl of Brentford would do it.

Lady Laura was at home, and with her was sitting — Mr Kennedy. Phineas had intended to be triumphant as he entered Lady Laura’s room. He was there with the express purpose of triumphing in the success of their great party, and of singing a pleasant paean in conjunction with Lady Laura. But his trumpet was put out of tune at once when he saw Mr Kennedy. He said hardly a word as he gave his hand to Lady Laura — and then afterwards to Mr Kennedy, who chose to greet him with this show of cordiality.

“I hope you are satisfied, Mr Finn,” said Lady Laura, laughing.

“Oh yes.”

“And is that all? I thought to have found your joy quite irrepressible.”

“A bottle of soda-water, though it is a very lively thing when opened, won’t maintain its vivacity beyond a certain period, Lady Laura.”

“And you have had your gas let off already?”

“Well — yes; at any rate, the sputtering part of it. Nineteen is very well, but the question is whether we might not have had twenty-one.”

“Mr Kennedy has just been saying that not a single available vote has been missed on our side. He has just come from Brooks’s, and that seems to be what they say there.”

So Mr Kennedy also was a member of Brooks’s! At the Reform Club there certainly had been an idea that the number might have been swelled to twenty-one; but then, as Phineas began to understand, nothing was correctly known at the Reform Club. For an accurate appreciation of the Political balance of the day, you must go to Brooks’s.

“Mr Kennedy must of course be right,” said Phineas. I don’t belong to Brooks’s myself. But I was only joking, Lady Laura. There is, I suppose, no doubt that Lord de Terrier is out, and that is everything.”

“He has probably tendered his resignation,” said Mr Kennedy.

“That is the same thing,” said Phineas, roughly.

“Not exactly,” said Lady Laura. Should there be any difficulty about Mr Mildmay, he might, at the Queen’s request, make another attempt.”

“With a majority of nineteen against him!” said Phineas. “Surely Mr Mildmay is not the only man in the country. There is the Duke, and there is Mr Gresham — and there is Mr Monk.” Phineas had at his tongue’s end all the lesson that he had been able to learn at the Reform Club.

“I should hardly think the Duke would venture,” said Mr Kennedy.

“Nothing venture, nothing have,” said Phineas. It is all very well to say that the Duke is incompetent, but I do not know that anything very wonderful is required in the way of genius. The Duke has held his own in both Houses successfully, and he is both honest and popular. I quite agree that a Prime Minister at the present day should be commonly honest, and more than commonly popular.”

“So you are all for the Duke, are you?” said Lady Laura, again smiling as she spoke to him.

“Certainly — if we are deserted by Mr Mildmay. Don’t you think so?”

“I don’t find it quite so easy to make up my mind as you do. I am inclined to think that Mr Mildmay will form a government; and as long as there is that prospect, I need hardly commit myself to an opinion as to his probable successor.” Then the objectionable Mr Kennedy took his leave, and Phineas was left alone with Lady Laura.

“It is glorious — is it not?” he began, as soon as he found the field to be open for himself and his own manoeuvering. But he was very young, and had not as yet learned the manner in which he might best advance his cause with such a woman as Lady Laura Standish. He was telling her too clearly that he could have no gratification in talking with her unless he could be allowed to have her all to himself. That might be very well if Lady Laura were in love with him, but would hardly be the way to reduce her to that condition.

“Mr Finn,” said she, smiling as she spoke, I am sure that you did not mean it, but you were uncourteous to my friend Mr Kennedy.”

“Who? I? Was I? Upon my word, I didn’t intend to be uncourteous.”

“If I had thought you had intended it, of course I could not tell you of it. And now I take the liberty — for it is a liberty — ”

“Oh no.”

“Because I feel so anxious that you should do nothing to mar your chances as a rising man.”

“You are only too kind to me — always.”

“I know how clever you are, and how excellent are all your instincts; but I see that you are a little impetuous. I wonder whether you will be angry if I take upon myself the task of mentor.”

“Nothing you could say would make me angry — though you might make me very unhappy.”

“I will not do that if I can help it. A mentor ought to be very old, you know, and I am infinitely older than you are.”

“I should have thought it was the reverse — indeed, I may say that I know that it is,” said Phineas.

“I am not talking of years. Years have very little to do with the comparative ages of men and women. A woman at forty is quite old, whereas a man at forty is young.” Phineas, remembering that he had put down Mr Kennedy’s age as forty in his own mind, frowned when he heard this, and walked about the room in displeasure. “And therefore,” continued Lady Laura, “I talk to you as though I were a kind of grandmother.”

“You shall be my great-grandmother if you will only be kind enough to me to say what you really think.”

“You must not then be so impetuous, and you must be a little more careful to be civil to persons to whom you may not take any particular fancy. Now Mr Kennedy is a man who may be very useful to you.”

“I do not want Mr Kennedy to be of use to me.”

“That is what I call being impetuous — being young — being a boy. Why should not Mr Kennedy be of use to you as well as any one else? You do not mean to conquer the world all by yourself.”

“No — but there is something mean to me in the expressed idea that I should make use of any man — and more especially of a man whom I don’t like.”

“And why do you not like him, Mr Finn?”

“Because he is one of my Dr Fells.”

“You don’t like him simply because he does not talk much. That may be a good reason why you should not make of him an intimate companion — because you like talkative people; but it should be no ground for dislike.”

Phineas paused for a moment before he answered her, thinking whether or not it would be well to ask her some question which might produce from her a truth which he would not like to hear. Then he did ask it. “And do you like him?” he said.

She too paused, but only for a second. “Yes — I think I may say that I do like him.”

“No more than that?”

“Certainly no more than that — but that I think is a great deal.”

“I wonder what you would say if any one asked you whether you liked me,” said Phineas, looking away from her through the window.

“Just the same — but without the doubt, if the person who questioned me had any right to ask the question. There are not above one or two who could have such a right.”

“And I was wrong, of course, to ask it about Mr Kennedy,” said Phineas, looking out into the Square.

“I did not say so.”

“But I see you think it.”

“You see nothing of the kind. I was quite willing to be asked the question by you, and quite willing to answer it. Mr Kennedy is a man of great wealth.”

“What can that have to do with it?”

“Wait a moment, you impetuous Irish boy, and hear me out.” Phineas liked being called an impetuous Irish boy, and came close to her, sitting where he could look up into her face; and there came a smile upon his own, and he was very handsome. “I say that he is a man of great wealth,” continued Lady Laura; “and as wealth gives influence, he is of great use — politically — to the party to which he belongs.”

“Oh, politically!”

“Am I to suppose you care nothing for politics? To such men, to men who think as you think, who are to sit on the same benches with yourself, and go into the same lobby, and be seen at the same club, it is your duty to be civil both for your own sake and for that of the cause. It is for the hermits of society to indulge in personal dislikings — for men who have never been active and never mean to be active. I had been telling Mr Kennedy how much I thought of you — as a good Liberal.”

“And I came in and spoilt it all.”

“Yes, you did. You knocked down my little house, and I must build it all up again.”

“Don’t trouble yourself, Lady Laura.”

“I shall. It will be a great deal of trouble — a great deal, indeed; but I shall take it. I mean you to be very intimate with Mr Kennedy, and to shoot his grouse, and to stalk his deer, and to help to keep him in progress as a liberal member of Parliament. I am quite prepared to admit, as a friend, that he would go back without some such help.”

“Oh — I understand.”

“I do not believe that you do understand at all, but I must endeavour to make you do so by degrees. If you are to be my political pupil, you must at any rate be obedient. The next time you meet Mr Kennedy, ask him his opinion instead of telling him your own. He has been in Parliament twelve years, and he was a good deal older than you when he began.” At this moment a side door was opened, and the red-haired, red-bearded man whom Phineas had seen before entered the room. He hesitated a moment, as though he were going to retreat again, and then began to pull about the books and toys which lay on one of the distant tables, as though he were in quest of some article. And he would have retreated had not Lady Laura called to him.

“Oswald,” she said, let me introduce you to Mr Finn. Mr Finn, I do not think you have ever met my brother, Lord Chiltern.” Then the two young men bowed, and each of them muttered something. “Do not be in a hurry, Oswald. You have nothing special to take you away. Here is Mr Finn come to tell us who are all the possible new Prime Ministers. He is uncivil enough not to have named papa.”

“My father is out of the question,” said Lord Chiltern.

“Of course he is,” said Lady Laura, but I may be allowed my little joke.”

“I suppose he will at any rate be in the Cabinet,” said Phineas.

“I know nothing whatever about politics,” said Lord Chiltern.

“I wish you did,” said his sister — with all my heart.”

“I never did — and I never shall, for all your wishing. It’s the meanest trade going I think, and I’m sure it’s the most dishonest. They talk of legs on the turf, and of course there are legs; but what are they to the legs in the House? I don’t know whether you are in Parliament, Mr Finn.”

“Yes, I am; but do not mind me.”

“I beg your pardon. Of course there are honest men there, and no doubt you are one of them.”

“He is indifferent honest — as yet,” said Lady Laura.

“I was speaking of men who go into Parliament to look after Government places,” said Lord Chiltern.

“That is just what I’m doing,” said Phineas. Why should not a man serve the Crown? He has to work very hard for what he earns.”

“I don’t believe that the most of them work at all. However, I beg your pardon. I didn’t mean you in particular.”

“Mr Finn is such a thorough politician that he will never forgive you,” said Lady Laura.

“Yes, I will,” said Phineas, and I’ll convert him some day. If he does come into the House, Lady Laura, I suppose he’ll come on the right side?”

“I’ll never go into the House, as you call it,” said Lord Chiltern. “But, I’ll tell you what; I shall be very happy if you’ll dine with me tomorrow at Moroni’s. They give you a capital little dinner at Moroni’s, and they’ve the best Chateau Yquem in London.”

“Do,” said Lady Laura, in a whisper. Oblige me.

Phineas was engaged to dine with one of the Vice-Chancellors on the day named. He had never before dined at the house of this great law luminary, whose acquaintance he had made through Mr Low, and he had thought a great deal of the occasion. Mrs Freemantle had sent him the invitation nearly a fortnight ago, and he understood there was to be an elaborate dinner party. He did not know it for a fact, but he was in hopes of meeting the expiring Lord Chancellor. He considered it to be his duty never to throw away such a chance. He would in all respects have preferred Mr Freemantle’s dinner in Eaton Place, dull and heavy though it might probably be, to the chance of Lord Chiltern’s companions at Moroni’s. Whatever might be the faults of our hero, he was not given to what is generally called dissipation by the world at large — by which the world means self-indulgence. He cared not a brass farthing for Moroni’s Chateau Yquem, nor for the wondrously studied repast which he would doubtless find prepared for him at that celebrated establishment in St James’s Street — not a farthing as compared with the chance of meeting so great a man as Lord Moles. And Lord Chiltern’s friends might probably be just the men whom he would not desire to know. But Lady Laura’s request overrode everything with him. She had asked him to oblige her, and of course he would do so. Had he been going to dine with the incoming Prime Minister, he would have put off his engagement at her request. He was not quick enough to make an answer without hesitation; but after a moment’s pause he said he should be most happy to dine with Lord Chiltern at Moroni’s.

“That’s right; 7.30 sharp — only I can tell you you won’t meet any other members.” Then the servant announced more visitors, and Lord Chiltern escaped out of the room before he was seen by the new comers. These were Mrs Bonteen and Laurence Fitzgibbon, and then Mr Bonteen — and after them Mr Ratler, the Whip, who was in a violent hurry, and did not stay there a moment, and then Barrington Erle and young Lord James Fitz-Howard, the youngest son of the Duke of St Bungay. In twenty or thirty minutes there was a gathering of liberal political notabilities in Lady Laura’s drawing-room. There were two great pieces of news by which they were all enthralled. Mr Mildmay would not be Prime Minister, and Sir Everard Powell was — dead. Of course nothing quite positive could be known about Mr Mildmay. He was to be with the Queen at Windsor on the morrow at eleven o’clock, and it was improbable that he would tell his mind to any one before he told it to Her Majesty. But there was no doubt that he had engaged “the Duke,” — so he was called by Lord James — to go down to Windsor with him, that he might be in readiness if wanted. “I have learned that at home,” said Lord James, who had just heard the news from his sister, who had heard it from the Duchess. Lord James was delighted with the importance given to him by his father’s coming journey. From this, and from other equally well-known circumstances, it was surmised that Mr Mildmay would decline the task proposed to him. This, nevertheless, was only a surmise — whereas the fact with reference to Sir Everard was fully substantiated. The gout had flown to his stomach, and he was dead. “By — yes; as dead as a herring,” said Mr Ratler, who at that moment, however, was not within hearing of either of the ladies present. And then he rubbed his hands, and looked as though he were delighted. And he was delighted — not because his old friend Sir Everard was dead, but by the excitement of the tragedy. “Having done so good a deed in his last moments,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon, “we may take it for granted that he will go straight to heaven.” “I hope there will be no crowner’s quest, Ratler,” said Mr Bonteen; “if there is I don’t know how you’ll get out of it.” “I don’t see anything in it so horrible, said Mr Ratler. “If a fellow dies leading his regiment we don’t think anything of it. Sir Everard’s vote was of more service to his country than anything that a colonel or a captain can do.” But nevertheless I think that Mr Ratler was somewhat in dread of future newspaper paragraphs, should it be found necessary to summon a coroner’s inquisition to sit upon poor Sir Everard.

While this was going on Lady Laura took Phineas apart for a moment. “I am so much obliged to you; I am indeed,” she said.

“What nonsense!”

“Never mind whether it’s nonsense or not — but I am. I can’t explain it all now, but I do so want you to know my brother. You may be of the greatest service to him — of the very greatest. He is not half so bad as people say he is. In many ways he is very good — very good. And he is very clever.”

“At any rate I will think and believe no ill of him.”

“Just so — do not believe evil of him — not more evil than you see. I am so anxious — so very anxious to try to put him on his legs, and I find it so difficult to get any connecting link with him. Papa will not speak with him — because of money.”

“But he is friends with you.”

“Yes; I think he loves me. I saw how distasteful it was to you to go to him — and probably you were engaged?”

“One can always get off those sort of things if there is an object.”

“Yes — just so. And the object was to oblige me — was it not?”

“Of course it was. But I must go now. We are to hear Daubeny’s statement at four, and I would not miss it for worlds.”

“I wonder whether you would go abroad with my brother in the autumn? But I have no right to think of such a thing — have I? At any rate I will not think of it yet. Goodbye — I shall see you perhaps on Sunday if you are in town.”

Phineas walked down to Westminster with his mind very full of Lady Laura and Lord Chiltern. What did she mean by her affectionate manner to himself, and what did she mean by the continual praises which she lavished upon Mr Kennedy? Of whom was she thinking most, of Mr Kennedy, or of him? She had called herself his mentor. Was the description of her feelings towards himself, as conveyed in that name, of a kind to be gratifying to him? No — he thought not. But then might it not be within his power to change the nature of those feelings? She was not in love with him at present. He could not make any boast to himself on that head. But it might be within his power to compel her to love him. The female mentor might be softened. That she could not love Mr Kennedy, he thought that he was quite sure. There was nothing like love in her manner to Mr Kennedy. As to Lord Chiltern, Phineas would do whatever might be in his power. All that he really knew of Lord Chiltern was that he had gambled and that he had drunk.

Chapter 9

The new Government

In the House of Lords that night, and in the House of Commons, the outgoing Ministers made their explanations. As our business at the present moment is with the Commons, we will confine ourselves to their chamber, and will do so the more willingly because the upshot of what was said in the two places was the same. The outgoing ministers were very grave, very self-laudatory, and very courteous. In regard to courtesy it may be declared that no stranger to the ways of the place could have understood how such soft words could be spoken by Mr Daubeny, beaten, so quickly after the very sharp words which he had uttered when he only expected to be beaten. He announced to his fellow-commoners that his right honourable friend and colleague Lord de Terrier had thought it right to retire from the Treasury. Lord de Terrier, in constitutional obedience to the vote of the Lower House, had resigned, and the Queen had been graciously pleased to accept Lord de Terrier’s resignation, Mr Daubeny could only inform the House that Her Majesty had signified her pleasure that Mr Mildmay should wait upon her tomorrow at eleven o’clock. Mr Mildmay — so Mr Daubeny understood — would be with Her Majesty tomorrow at that hour. Lord de Terrier had found it to be his duty to recommend Her Majesty to send for Mr Mildmay. Such was the real import of Mr Daubeny’s speech. That further portion of it in which he explained with blandest, most beneficent, honey-flowing words that his party would have done everything that the country could require of any party, had the House allowed it to remain on the Treasury benches for a month or two — and explained also that his party would never recriminate, would never return evil for evil, would in no wise copy the factious opposition of their adversaries; that his party would now, as it ever had done, carry itself with the meekness of the dove, and the wisdom of the serpent — all this, I say, was so generally felt by gentlemen on both sides of the House to be “leather and prunella”, that very little attention was paid to it. The great point was that Lord de Terrier had resigned, and that Mr Mildmay had been summoned to Windsor.

The Queen had sent for Mr Mildmay in compliance with advice given to her by Lord de Terrier. And yet Lord de Terrier and his first lieutenant had used all the most practised efforts of their eloquence for the last three days in endeavouring to make their countrymen believe that no more unfitting Minister than Mr Mildmay ever attempted to hold the reins of office! Nothing had been too bad for them to say of Mr Mildmay — and yet, in the very first moment in which they found themselves unable to carry on the Government themselves, they advised the Queen to send for that most incompetent and baneful statesman! We who are conversant with our own methods of politics, see nothing odd in this, because we are used to it; but surely in the eyes of strangers our practice must be very singular. There is nothing like it in any other country — nothing as yet. Nowhere else is there the same good humoured, affectionate, prize-fighting ferocity in politics. The leaders of our two great parties are to each other exactly as are the two champions of the ring who knock each other about for the belt and for five hundred pounds a side once in every two years. How they fly at each other, striking as though each blow should carry death if it were but possible! And yet there is no one whom the Birmingham Bantam respects so highly as he does Bill Burns the Brighton Bully, or with whom he has so much delight in discussing the merits of a pot of half-and-half. And so it was with Mr Daubeny and Mr Mildmay. In private life Mr Daubeny almost adulated his elder rival — and Mr Mildmay never omitted an opportunity of taking Mr Daubeny warmly by the hand. It is not so in the United States. There the same political enmity exists, but the political enmity produces private hatred. The leaders of parties there really mean what they say when they abuse each other, and are in earnest when they talk as though they were about to tear each other limb from limb. I doubt whether Mr Daubeny would have injured a hair of Mr Mildmay’s venerable head, even for an assurance of six continued months in office.

When Mr Daubeny had completed his statement, Mr Mildmay simply told the House that he had received and would obey Her Majesty’s commands. The House would of course understand that he by no means meant to aver that the Queen would even commission him to form a Ministry. But if he took no such command from Her Majesty it would become his duty to recommend Her Majesty to impose the task upon some other person. Then everything was said that had to be said, and members returned to their clubs. A certain damp was thrown over the joy of some excitable Liberals by tidings which reached the House during Mr Daubeny’s speech. Sir Everard Powell was no more dead than was Mr Daubeny himself. Now it is very unpleasant to find that your news is untrue, when you have been at great pains to disseminate it. “Oh, but he is dead,” said Mr Ratler. “Lady Powell assured me half an hour ago,” said Mr Ratler’s opponent, “that he was at that moment a great deal better than he had been for the last three months. The journey down to the House did him a world of good.” “Then we’ll have him down for every division,” said Mr Ratler.

The political portion of London was in a ferment for the next five days. On the Sunday morning it was known that Mr Mildmay had declined to put himself at the head of a liberal Government. He and the Duke of St Bungay, and Mr Plantagenet Palliser, had been in conference so often, and so long, that it may almost be said they lived together in conference. Then Mr Gresham had been with Mr Mildmay — and Mr Monk also. At the clubs it was said by many that Mr Monk had been with Mr Mildmay; but it was also said very vehemently by others that no such interview had taken place, Mr Monk was a Radical, much admired by the people, sitting in Parliament for that most Radical of all constituencies, the Pottery Hamlets, who had never as yet been in power. It was the great question of the day whether Mr Mildmay would or would not ask Mr Monk to join him; and it was said by those who habitually think at every period of change that the time has now come in which the difficulties to forming a government will at last be found to be insuperable, that Mr Mildmay could not succeed either with Mr Monk or without him. There were at the present moment two sections of these gentlemen — the section which declared that Mr Mildmay had sent for Mr Monk, and the section which declared that he had not. But there were others, who perhaps knew better what they were saying, by whom it was asserted that the whole difficulty lay with Mr Gresham. Mr Gresham was willing to serve with Mr Mildmay — with certain stipulations as to the special seat in the Cabinet which he himself was to occupy, and as to the introduction of certain friends of his own; but — so said these gentlemen who were supposed really to understand the matter — Mr Gresham was not willing to serve with the Duke and with Mr Palliser. Now, everybody who knew anything knew that the Duke and Mr Palliser were indispensable to Mr Mildmay. And a liberal Government, with Mr Gresham in the opposition, could not live half through a session! All Sunday and Monday these things were discussed; and on the Monday Lord de Terrier absolutely stated to the Upper House that he had received Her Majesty’s commands to form another government, Mr Daubeny, in half a dozen most modest words — in words hardly audible, and most unlike himself — made his statement in the Lower House to the same effect. Then Mr Ratler, and Mr Bonteen, and Mr Barrington Erle, and Mr Laurence Fitzgibbon aroused themselves and swore that such things could not be. Should the prey which they had won for themselves, the spoil of their bows and arrows, be snatched from out of their very mouths by treachery? Lord de Terrier and Mr Daubeny could not venture even to make another attempt unless they did so in combination with Mr Gresham. Such a combination, said Mr Barrington Erle, would be disgraceful to both parties, but would prove Mr Gresham to be as false as Satan himself. Early on the Tuesday morning, when it was known that Mr Gresham had been at Lord de Terrier’s house, Barrington Erle was free to confess that he had always been afraid of Mr Gresham. “I have felt for years,” said he, “that if anybody could break up the party it would be Mr Gresham.”

On that Tuesday morning Mr Gresham certainly was with Lord de Terrier, but nothing came of it. Mr Gresham was either not enough like Satan for the occasion, or else he was too closely like him. Lord de Terrier did not bid high enough, or else Mr Gresham did not like biddings from that quarter. Nothing then came from this attempt, and on the Tuesday afternoon the Queen again sent for Mr Mildmay. On the Wednesday morning the gentlemen who thought that the insuperable difficulties had at length arrived, began to wear their longest faces, and to be triumphant with melancholy forebodings. Now at last there was a deadlock. Nobody could form a government. It was asserted that Mr Mildmay had fallen at her Majesty’s feet dissolved in tears, and had implored to be relieved from further responsibility. It was well known to many at the clubs that the Queen had on that morning telegraphed to Germany for advice. There were men so gloomy as to declare that the Queen must throw herself into the arms of Mr Monk, unless Mr Mildmay would consent to rise from his knees and once more buckle on his ancient armour. “Even that would be better than Gresham,” said Barrington Erle, in his anger. “I’ll tell you what it is,” said Ratler, “we shall have Gresham and Monk together, and you and I shall have to do their biddings.” Mr Barrington Erle’s reply to that suggestion I may not dare to insert in these pages.

On the Wednesday night, however, it was known that everything had been arranged, and before the Houses met on the Thursday every place had been bestowed, either in reality or in imagination. The Times, in its second edition on the Thursday, gave a list of the Cabinet, in which four places out of fourteen were rightly filled. On the Friday it named ten places aright, and indicated the law officers, with only one mistake in reference to Ireland; and on the Saturday it gave a list of the Under Secretaries of State, and Secretaries and Vice-Presidents generally, with wonderful correctness as to the individuals, though the offices were a little jumbled. The Government was at last formed in a manner which everybody had seen to be the only possible way in which a government could be formed. Nobody was surprised, and the week’s work was regarded as though the regular routine of government making had simply been followed. Mr Mildmay was Prime Minister; Mr Gresham was at the Foreign Office; Mr Monk was at the Board of Trade; the Duke was President of the Council; the Earl of Brentford was Privy Seal; and Mr Palliser was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Barrington Erle made a step up in the world, and went to the Admiralty as Secretary; Mr Bonteen was sent again to the Admiralty; and Laurence Fitzgibbon became a junior Lord of the Treasury. Mr Ratler was, of course, installed as Patronage Secretary to the same Board. Mr Ratler was perhaps the only man in the party as to whose destination there could not possibly be a doubt. Mr Ratler had really qualified himself for a position in such a way as to make all men feel that he would, as a matter of course, be called upon to fill it. I do not know whether as much could be said on behalf of any other man in the new Government.

During all this excitement, and through all these movements, Phineas Finn felt himself to be left more and more out in the cold. He had not been such a fool as to suppose that any office would be offered to him. He had never hinted at such a thing to his one dearly intimate friend, Lady Laura. He had not hitherto opened his mouth in Parliament. Indeed, when the new Government was formed he had not been sitting for above a fortnight. Of course nothing could be done for him as yet. But, nevertheless, he felt himself to be out in the cold. The very men who had discussed with him the question of the division — who had discussed it with him because his vote was then as good as that of any other member — did not care to talk to him about the distribution of places. He, at any rate, could not be one of them. He, at any rate, could not be a rival. He could neither mar nor assist. He could not be either a successful or a disappointed sympathiser — because he could not himself be a candidate. The affair which perhaps disgusted him more than anything else was the offer of an office — not in the Cabinet, indeed, but one supposed to confer high dignity — to Mr Kennedy. Mr Kennedy refused the offer, and this somewhat lessened Finn’s disgust, but the offer itself made him unhappy.

“I suppose it was made simply because of his money,” he said to Fitzgibbon.

“I don’t believe that,” said Fitzgibbon. People seem to think that he has got a head on his shoulders, though he has got no tongue in it. I wonder at his refusing it because of the Right Honourable.”

“I am so glad that Mr Kennedy refused,” said Lady Laura to him.

“And why? He would have been the Right Hon. Robert Kennedy for ever and ever.” Phineas when he said this did not as yet know exactly how it would have come to pass that such honour — the honour of the enduring prefix to his name — would have come in the way of Mr Kennedy had Mr Kennedy accepted the office in question; but he was very quick to learn all these things, and, in the meantime, he rarely made any mistake about them.

“What would that have been to him — with his wealth?” said Lady Laura. “He has a position of his own and need not care for such things. There are men who should not attempt what is called independence in Parliament. By doing so they simply decline to make themselves useful. But there are a few whose special walk in life it is to be independent, and, as it were, unmoved by parties.”

“Great Akinetoses! You know Orion,” said Phineas.

“Mr Kennedy is not an Akinetos,” said Lady Laura.

“He holds a very proud position,” said Phineas, ironically.

“A very proud position indeed,” said Lady Laura, in sober earnest.

The dinner at Moroni’s had been eaten, and Phineas had given an account of the entertainment to Lord Chiltern’s sister. There had been only two other guests, and both of them had been men on the turf. “I was the first there,” said Phineas, and he surprised me ever so much by telling me that you had spoken to him of me before.”

“Yes; I did so. I wish him to know you. I want him to know some men who think of something besides horses. He is very well educated, you know, and would certainly have taken honours if he had not quarrelled with the people at Christ Church.”

“Did he take a degree?”

“No — they sent him down. It is best always to have the truth among friends. Of course you will hear it some day. They expelled him because he was drunk.” Then Lady Laura burst out into tears, and Phineas sat near her, and consoled her, and swore that if in any way he could befriend her brother he would do so.

Mr Fitzgibbon at this time claimed a promise which he said that Phineas had made to him — that Phineas would go over with him to Mayo to assist at his re-election. And Phineas did go. The whole affair occupied but a week, and was chiefly memorable as being the means of cementing the friendship which existed between the two Irish members.

“A thousand a year!” said Laurence Fitzgibbon, speaking of the salary of his office. “It isn’t much; is it? And every fellow to whom I owe a shilling will be down upon me. If I had studied my own comfort, I should have done the same as Kennedy.”

Chapter 10

Violet Effingham

It was now the middle of May, and a month had elapsed since the terrible difficulty about the Queen’s Government had been solved. A month had elapsed, and things had shaken themselves into their places with more of ease and apparent fitness than men had given them credit for possessing. Mr Mildmay, Mr Gresham, and Mr Monk were the best friends in the world, swearing by each other in their own house, and supported in the other by as gallant a phalanx of Whig peers as ever were got together to fight against the instincts of their own order in compliance with the instincts of those below them. Lady Laura’s father was in the Cabinet, to Lady Laura’s infinite delight. It was her ambition to be brought as near to political action as was possible for a woman without surrendering any of the privileges of feminine inaction. That women should even wish to have votes at parliamentary elections was to her abominable, and the cause of the Rights of Women generally was odious to her; but, nevertheless, for herself, she delighted in hoping that she too might be useful — in thinking that she too was perhaps, in some degree, politically powerful; and she had received considerable increase to such hopes when her father accepted the Privy Seal. The Earl himself was not an ambitious man, and, but for his daughter, would have severed himself altogether from political life before this time. He was an unhappy man — being an obstinate man, and having in his obstinacy quarrelled with his only son. In his unhappiness he would have kept himself alone, living in the country, brooding over his wretchedness, were it not for his daughter. On her behalf, and in obedience to her requirements, he came yearly up to London, and, perhaps in compliance with her persuasion, had taken some part in the debates of the House of Lords. It is easy for a peer to be a statesman, if the trouble of the life be not too much for him. Lord Brentford was now a statesman, if a seat in the Cabinet be proof of statesmanship.

At this time, in May, there was staying with Lady Laura in Portman Square a very dear friend of hers, by name Violet Effingham. Violet Effingham was an orphan, an heiress, and a beauty; with a terrible aunt, one Lady Baldock, who was supposed to be the dragon who had Violet, as a captive maiden, in charge. But as Miss Effingham was of age, and was mistress of her own fortune, Lady Baldock was, in truth, not omnipotent as a dragon should be. The dragon, at any rate, was not now staying in Portman Square, and the captivity of the maiden was therefore not severe at the present moment. Violet Effingham was very pretty, but could hardly be said to be beautiful. She was small, with light crispy hair, which seemed to be ever on the flutter round her brows, and which yet was never a hair astray. She had sweet, soft grey eyes, which never looked at you long, hardly for a moment — but which yet, in that half moment, nearly killed you by the power of their sweetness. Her cheek was the softest thing in nature, and the colour of it, when its colour was fixed enough to be told, was a shade of pink so faint and creamy that you would hardly dare to call it by its name. Her mouth was perfect, not small enough to give that expression of silliness which is so common, but almost divine, with the temptation of its full, rich, ruby lips. Her teeth, which she but seldom showed, were very even and very white, and there rested on her chin the dearest dimple that ever acted as a loadstar to men’s eyes. The fault of her face, if it had a fault, was in her nose — which was a little too sharp, and perhaps too small. A woman who wanted to depreciate Violet Effingham had once called her a pug-nosed puppet; but I, as her chronicler, deny that she was pug-nosed — and all the world who knew her soon came to understand that she was no puppet. In figure she was small, but not so small as she looked to be. Her feet and hands were delicately fine, and there was a softness about her whole person, an apparent compressibility, which seemed to indicate that she might go into very small compass. Into what compass and how compressed, there were very many men who held very different opinions. Violet Effingham was certainly no puppet. She was great at dancing — as perhaps might be a puppet — but she was great also at archery, great at skating — and great, too, at hunting. With reference to that last accomplishment, she and Lady Baldock had had more than one terrible tussle, not always with advantage to the dragon. “My dear aunt,” she had said once during the last winter, “I am going to the meet with George,” — George was her cousin, Lord Baldock, and was the dragon’s son — “and there, let there be an end of it.” “And you will promise me that you will not go further,” said the dragon. “I will promise nothing today to any man or to any woman,” said Violet. What was to be said to a young lady who spoke in this way, and who had become of age only a fortnight since? She rode that day the famous run from Bagnall’s Gorse to Foulsham Common, and was in at the death. Violet Effingham was now sitting in conference with her friend Lady Laura, and they were discussing matters of high import — of very high import, indeed — to the interests of both of them. “I do not ask you to accept him,” said Lady Laura.

“That is lucky,” said the other, as he has never asked me.”

“He has done much the same. You know that he loves you.”

“I know — or fancy that I know — that so many men love me! But, after all, what sort of love is it? It is just as when you and I, when we see something nice in a shop, call it a dear duck of a thing, and tell somebody to go and buy it, let the price be ever so extravagant. I know my own position, Laura. I’m a dear duck of a thing.”

“You are a very dear thing to Oswald.”

“But you, Laura, will some day inspire a grand passion — or I daresay have already, for you are a great deal too close to tell — and then there will be cutting of throats, and a mighty hubbub, and a real tragedy. I shall never go beyond genteel comedy — unless I run away with somebody beneath me, or do something awfully improper.”

“Don’t do that, dear.”

“I should like to, because of my aunt. I should indeed. If it were possible, without compromising myself, I should like her to be told some morning that I had gone off with the curate.”

“How can you be so wicked, Violet!”

“It would serve her right, and her countenance would be so awfully comic. Mind, if it is ever to come off I must be there to see it. I know what she would say as well as possible. She would turn to poor Gussy. “Augusta,” she would say, ‘I always expected it. I always did.’ Then I should come out and curtsey to her, and say so prettily, ‘Dear aunt, it was only our little joke.’ That’s my line. But for you — you, if you planned it, would go off tomorrow with Lucifer himself if you liked him.”

“But failing Lucifer, I shall probably be very humdrum.”

“You don’t mean that there is anything settled, Laura?”

“There is nothing settled — or any beginning of anything that ever can be settled. But I am not talking about myself. He has told me that if you will accept him, he will do anything that you and I may ask him.”

“Yes — he will promise.”

“Did you ever know him to break his word?”

“I know nothing about him, my dear. How should I?”

“Do not pretend to be ignorant and meek, Violet. You do know him — much better than most girls know the men they marry. You have known him, more or less intimately, all your life.”

“But am I bound to marry him because of that accident?”

“No; you are not bound to marry him — unless you love him.”

“I do not love him,” said Violet, with slow, atic words, and a little forward motion of her face, as though she were specially eager to convince her friend that she was quite in earnest in what she said.

“I fancy, Violet, that you are nearer to loving him than any other man.”

“I am not at all near to loving any man. I doubt whether I ever shall be. It does not seem to me to be possible to myself to be what girls call in love. I can like a man, I do like, perhaps, half a dozen. I like them so much that if I go to a house or to a party it is quite a matter of importance to me whether this man or that will or will not be there. And then I suppose I flirt with them. At least Augusta tells me that my aunt says that I do. But as for caring about any one of them in the way of loving him — wanting to marry him, and have him all to myself, and that sort of thing — I don’t know what it means.”

“But you intend to be married some day,” said Lady Laura.

“Certainly I do. And I don’t intend to wait very much longer. I am heartily tired of Lady Baldock, and though I can generally escape among my friends, that is not sufficient. I am beginning to think that it would be pleasant to have a house of my own. A girl becomes such a Bohemian when she is always going about, and doesn’t quite know where any of her things are.”

Then there was a silence between them for a few minutes. Violet Effingham was doubled up in a corner of a sofa, with her feet tucked under her, and her face reclining upon one of her shoulders. And as she talked she was playing with a little toy which was constructed to take various shapes as it was flung this way or that. A bystander looking at her would have thought that the toy was much more to her than the conversation. Lady Laura was sitting upright, in a common chair, at a table not far from her companion, and was manifestly devoting herself altogether to the subject that was being discussed between them. She had taken no lounging, easy attitude, she had found no employment for her fingers, and she looked steadily at Violet as she talked — whereas Violet was looking only at the little manikin which she tossed. And now Laura got up and came to the sofa, and sat close to her friend. Violet, though she somewhat moved one foot, so as to seem to make room for the other, still went on with her play.

“If you do marry, Violet, you must choose some one man out of the lot.”

“That’s quite true, my dear, I certainly can’t marry them all.”

“And how do you mean to make the choice?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I shall toss up.”

“I wish you would be in earnest with me.”

“Well — I will be in earnest. I shall take the first that comes after I have quite made up my mind. You’ll think it very horrible, but that is really what I shall do. After all, a husband is very much like a house or a horse. You don’t take your house because it’s the best house in the world, but because just then you want a house. You go and see a house, and if it’s very nasty you don’t take it. But if you think it will suit pretty well, and if you are tired of looking about for houses, you do take it. That’s the way one buys one’s horses — and one’s husbands.”

“And you have not made up your mind yet?”

“Not quite. Lady Baldock was a little more decent than usual just before I left Baddingham. When I told her that I meant to have a pair of ponies, she merely threw up her hands and grunted. She didn’t gnash her teeth, and curse and swear, and declare to me that I was a child of perdition.”

“What do you mean by cursing and swearing?”

“She told me once that if I bought a certain little dog, it would lead to my being everlastingly — you know what. She isn’t so squeamish as I am, and said it out.”

“What did you do?”

“I bought the little dog, and it bit my aunt’s heel. I was very sorry then, and gave the creature to Mary Rivers. He was such a beauty! I hope the perdition has gone with him, for I don’t like Mary Rivers at all. I had to give the poor beasty to somebody, and Mary Rivers happened to be there. I told her that Puck was connected with Apollyon, but she didn’t mind that. Puck was worth twenty guineas, and I daresay she has sold him.”

“Oswald may have an equal chance then among the other favourites?” said Lady Laura, after another pause.

“There are no favourites, and I will not say that any man may have a chance. Why do you press me about your brother in this way?”

“Because I am so anxious. Because it would save him, Because you are the only woman for whom he has ever cared, and because he loves you with all his heart; and because his father would be reconciled to him tomorrow if he heard that you and he were engaged.”

“Laura, my dear — ”

“Well.”

“You won’t be angry if I speak out?”

“Certainly not. After what I have said, you have a right to speak out.”

“It seems to me that all your reasons are reasons why he should marry me — not reasons why I should marry him.”

“Is not his love for you a reason?”

“No,” said Violet, pausing — and speaking the word in the lowest possible whisper. “If he did not love me, that, if known to me, should be a reason why I should not marry him. Ten men may love me — I don’t say that any man does — ”

“He does.”

“But I can’t marry all the ten. And as for that business of saving him — ”

“You know what I mean!”

“I don’t know that I have any special mission for saving young men. I sometimes think that I shall have quite enough to do to save myself. It is strange what a propensity I feel for the wrong side of the post.

“I feel the strongest assurance that you will always keep on the right side.”

“Thank you, my dear. I mean to try, but I’m quite sure that the jockey who takes me in hand ought to be very steady himself. Now, Lord Chiltern — ”

“Well — out with it. What have you to say?”

“He does not bear the best reputation in this world as a steady man. Is he altogether the sort of man that mammas of the best kind are seeking for their daughters? I like a roué myself — and a prig who sits all night in the House, and talks about nothing but church rates and suffrage, is to me intolerable. I prefer men who are improper, and all that sort of thing. If I were a man myself I should go in for everything I ought to leave alone. I know I should. But you see — I’m not a man, and I must take care of myself. The wrong side of a post for a woman is so very much the wrong side. I like a fast man, but I know that I must not dare to marry the sort of man that I like.”

“To be one of us, then — the very first among us — would that be the wrong side?”

“You mean that to be Lady Chiltern in the present tense, and Lady Brentford in the future, would be promotion for Violet Effingham in the past?”

“How hard you are, Violet!”

“Fancy — that it should come to this — that you should call me hard, Laura. I should like to be your sister. I should like well enough to be your father’s daughter. I should like well enough to be Chiltern’s friend. I am his friend. Nothing that any one has ever said of him has estranged me from him. I have fought for him till I have been black in the face. Yes, I have — with my aunt. But I am afraid to be his wife. The risk would be so great. Suppose that I did not save him, but that he brought me to shipwreck instead?”

“That could not be!”

“Could it not? I think it might be so very well. When I was a child they used to be always telling me to mind myself. It seems to me that a child and a man need not mind themselves. Let them do what they may, they can be set right again. Let them fall as they will, you can put them on their feet. But a woman has to mind herself — and very hard work it is when she has a dragon of her own driving her ever the wrong way.”

“I want to take you from the dragon.”

“Yes — and to hand me over to a griffin.”

“The truth is, Violet, that you do not know Oswald. He is not a griffin.”

“I did not mean to he uncomplimentary. Take any of the dangerous wild beasts you please. I merely intend to point out that he is a dangerous wild beast. I daresay he is noble-minded, and I will call him a lion if you like it better. But even with a lion there is risk.”

“Of course there will be risk. There is risk with every man — unless you will be contented with the prig you described. Of course there would be risk with my brother. He has been a gambler.”

“They say he is one still.”

“He has given it up in part, and would entirely at your instance.”

“And they say other things of him, Laura.”

“It is true. He has had paroxysms of evil life which have well-nigh ruined him.”

“And these paroxysms are so dangerous! Is he not in debt?”

“He is — but not deeply. Every shilling that he owes would be paid — every shilling. Mind, I know all his circumstances, and I give you my word that every shilling should be paid. He has never lied — and he has told me everything. His father could not leave an acre away from him if he would, and would not if he could.”

“I did not ask as fearing that. I spoke only of a dangerous habit. A paroxysm of spending money is apt to make one so uncomfortable. And then — ”

“Well.”

“I don’t know why I should make a catalogue of your brother’s weaknesses.”

“You mean to say that he drinks too much?”

“I do not say so. People say so. The dragon says so. And as I always find her sayings to be untrue, I suppose this is like the rest of them.”

“It is untrue if it be said of him as a habit.”

“It is another paroxysm, just now and then.”

“Do not laugh at me, Violet, when I am taking his part, or I shall be offended.”

“But you see, if I am to be his wife, it is — rather important.”

“Still you need not ridicule me.”

“Dear Laura, you know I do not ridicule you. You know I love you for what you are doing. Would not I do the same, and fight for him down to my nails if I had a brother?”

“And therefore I want you to be Oswald’s wife — because I know that you would fight for him. It is not true that he is a — drunkard. Look at his hand, which is as steady as yours. Look at his eye. Is there a sign of it? He has been drunk, once or twice, perhaps — and has done fearful things.”

“It might be that he would do fearful things to me.”

“You never knew a man with a softer heart or with a finer spirit. I believe as I sit here that if he were married tomorrow, his vices would fall from him like old clothes.”

“You will admit, Laura, that there will be some risk for the wife.”

“Of course there will be a risk. Is there not always a risk?”

“The men in the city would call this double-dangerous, I think,” said Violet. Then the door was opened, and the man of whom they were speaking entered the room.

Chapter 11

Lord Chiltern

The reader has been told that Lord Chiltern was a red man, and that peculiarity of his personal appearance was certainly the first to strike a stranger. It imparted a certain look of ferocity to him, which was apt to make men afraid of him at first sight. Women are not actuated in the same way, and are accustomed to look deeper into men at the first sight than other men will trouble themselves to do. His beard was red, and was clipped, so as to have none of the softness of waving hair. The hair on his head also was kept short, and was very red — and the colour of his face was red. Nevertheless he was a handsome man, with well-cut features, not tall, but very strongly built, and with a certain curl in the corner of his eyelids which gave to him a look of resolution — which perhaps he did not possess. He was known to be a clever man, and when very young had had the reputation of being a scholar. When he was three-and-twenty grey-haired votaries of the turf declared that he would make his fortune on the race-course — so clear-headed was he as to odds, so excellent a judge of a horse’s performances, and so gifted with a memory of events. When he was five-and-twenty he had lost every shilling of a fortune of his own, had squeezed from his father more than his father ever chose to name in speaking of his affairs to anyone, and was known to be in debt. But he had sacrificed himself on one or two memorable occasions in conformity with turf laws of honour, and men said of him, either that he was very honest or very chivalric — in accordance with the special views on the subject of the man who was speaking. It was reported now that he no longer owned horses on the turf — but this was doubted by some who could name the animals which they said that he owned, and which he ran in the name of Mr Macnab — said some; of Mr Pardoe — said others; of Mr Chickerwick — said a third set of informants. The fact was that Lord Chiltern at this moment had no interest of his own in any horse upon the turf.

But all the world knew that he drank. He had taken by the throat a proctor’s bull-dog when he had been drunk at Oxford, had nearly strangled the man, and had been expelled. He had fallen through his violence into some terrible misfortune at Paris, had been brought before a public judge, and his name and his infamy had been made notorious in every newspaper in the two capitals. After that he had fought a ruffian at Newmarket, and had really killed him with his fists. In reference to this latter affray it had been proved that the attack had been made on him, that he had not been to blame, and that he had not been drunk. After a prolonged investigation he had come forth from that affair without disgrace. He would have done so, at least, if he had not been heretofore disgraced. But we all know how the man well spoken of may steal a horse, while he who is of evil repute may not look over a hedge. It was asserted widely by many who were supposed to know all about everything that Lord Chiltern was in a fit of delirium tremens when he killed the ruffian at Newmarket. The worst of that latter affair was that it produced the total estrangement which now existed between Lord Brentford and his son, Lord Brentford would not believe that his son was in that matter more sinned against than sinning. “Such things do not happen to other men’s sons,” he said, when Lady Laura pleaded for her brother. Lady Laura could not induce her father to see his son, but so far prevailed that no sentence of banishment was pronounced against Lord Chiltern. There was nothing to prevent the son sitting at his father’s table if he so pleased. He never did so please — but nevertheless he continued to live in the house in Portman Square; and when he met the Earl, in the hall, perhaps, or on the staircase, would simply bow to him. Then the Earl would bow again, and shuffle on — and look very wretched, as no doubt he was. A grown-up son must be the greatest comfort a man can have — if he be his father’s best friend; but otherwise he can hardly be a comfort. As it was in this house, the son was a constant thorn in his father’s side.

“What does he do when we leave London?” Lord Brentford once said to his daughter.

“He stays here, papa.”

“But he hunts still?”

“Yes, he hunts — and he has a room somewhere at an inn — down in Northamptonshire. But he is mostly in London. They have trains on purpose.”

“What a life for my son!” said the Earl. What a life! Of course no decent person will let him into his house.” Lady Laura did not know what to say to this, for in truth Lord Chiltern was not fond of staying at the houses of persons whom the Earl would have called decent.

General Effingham, the father of Violet, and Lord Brentford had been the closest and dearest of friends. They had been young men in the same regiment, and through life each had confided in the other. When the General’s only son, then a youth of seventeen, was killed in one of our grand New Zealand wars, the bereaved father and the Earl had been together for a month in their sorrow. At that time Lord Chiltern’s career had still been open to hope — and the one man had contrasted his lot with the other. General Effingham lived long enough to hear the Earl declare that his lot was the happier of the two. Now the General was dead, and Violet, the daughter of a second wife, was all that was left of the Effinghams. This second wife had been a Miss Plummer, a lady from the city with much money, whose sister had married Lord Baldock. Violet in this way had fallen to the care of the Baldock people, and not into the hands of her father’s friends. But, as the reader will have surmised, she had ideas of her own of emancipating herself from Baldock thraldom.

Twice before that last terrible affair at Newmarket, before the quarrel between the father and the son had been complete, Lord Brentford had said a word to his daughter — merely a word — of his son in connection with Miss Effingham.

“If he thinks of it I shall be glad to see him on the subject. You may tell him so.” That had been the first word. He had just then resolved that the affair in Paris should be regarded as condoned — as among the things to be forgotten. “She is too good for him; but if he asks her let him tell her everything.” That had been the second word, and had been spoken immediately subsequent to a payment of twelve thousand pounds made by the Earl towards the settlement of certain Doncaster accounts. Lady Laura in negotiating for the money had been very eloquent in describing some honest — or shall we say chivalric — sacrifice which had brought her brother into this special difficulty. Since that the Earl had declined to interest himself in his son’s matrimonial affairs; and when Lady Laura had once again mentioned the matter, declaring her belief that it would be the means of saving her brother Oswald, the Earl had desired her to be silent. “Would you wish to destroy the poor child?” he had said. Nevertheless Lady Laura felt sure that if she were to go to her father with a positive statement that Oswald and Violet were engaged, he would relent and would accept Violet as his daughter. As for the payment of Lord Chiltern’s present debts — she had a little scheme of her own about that.

Miss Effingham, who had been already two days in Portman Square, had not as yet seen Lord Chiltern. She knew that he lived in the house, that is, that he slept there, and probably ate his breakfast in some apartment of his own; but she knew also that the habits of the house would not by any means make it necessary that they should meet. Laura and her brother probably saw each other daily — but they never went into society together, and did not know the same sets of people. When she had announced to Lady Baldock her intention of spending the first fortnight of her London season with her friend Lady Laura, Lady Baldock had as a matter of course — “jumped upon her,” as Miss Effingham would herself call it.

“You are going to the house of the worst reprobate in all England,” said Lady Baldock.

“What — dear old Lord Brentford, whom papa loved so well!”

“I mean Lord Chiltern, who, only last year — murdered a man!”

“That is not true, aunt.”

“There is worse than that — much worse. He is always — tipsy, and always gambling, and always — But it is quite unfit that I should speak a word more to you about such a man as Lord Chiltern. His name ought never to be mentioned.”

“Then why did you mention it, aunt?”

Lady Baldock’s process of jumping upon her niece — in which I think the aunt had generally the worst of the exercise — went on for some time, but Violet of course carried her point.

“If she marries him there will be an end of everything,” said Lady Baldock to her daughter Augusta.

“She has more sense than that, mamma,” said Augusta.

“I don’t think she has any sense at all,” said Lady Baldock — “not in the least. I do wish my poor sister had lived — I do indeed.”

Lord Chiltern was now in the room with Violet — immediately upon that conversation between Violet and his sister as to the expediency of Violet becoming his wife. Indeed his entrance had interrupted the conversation before it was over. “I am so glad to see you, Miss Effingham,” he said. “I came in thinking that I might find you.”

“Here I am, as large as life,” she said, getting up from her corner on the sofa and giving him her hand. “Laura and I have been discussing the affairs of the nation for the last two days, and have nearly brought our discussion to an end.” She could not help looking, first at his eye and then at his hand, not as wanting evidence to the truth of the statement which his sister had made, but because the idea of a drunkard’s eye and a drunkard’s hand had been brought before her mind. Lord Chiltern’s hand was like the hand of any other man, but there was something in his eye that almost frightened her. It looked as though he would not hesitate to wring his wife’s neck round, if ever he should be brought to threaten to do so. And then his eye, like the rest of him, was red. No — she did not think that she could ever bring herself to marry him. Why take a venture that was double-dangerous, when there were so many ventures open to her, apparently with very little of danger attached to them? “If it should ever be said that I loved him, I would do it all the same,” she said to herself.

“If I did not come and see you here, I suppose that I should never see you,” said he, seating himself. “I do not often go to parties, and when I do you are not likely to be there.”

“We might make our little arrangements for meeting,” said she, laughing, “My aunt, Lady Baldock, is going to have an evening next week.”

“The servants would be ordered to put me out of the house.”

“Oh no. You can tell her that I invited you.”

“I don’t think that Oswald and Lady Baldock are great friends,” said Lady Laura.

“Or he might come and take you and me to the Zoo on Sunday. That’s the proper sort of thing for a brother and a friend to do.”

“I hate that place in the Regent’s Park,” said Lord Chiltern.

“When were you there last?” demanded Miss Effingham.

“When I came home once from Eton. But I won’t go again till I can come home from Eton again.” Then he altered his tone as he continued to speak. “People would look at me as if I were the wildest beast in the whole collection.”

“Then,” said Violet, if you won’t go to Lady Baldock’s or to the Zoo, we must confine ourselves to Laura’s drawing-room — unless, indeed, you like to take me to the top of the Monument.”

“I’ll take you to the top of the Monument with pleasure.”

“What do you say, Laura?”

“I say that you are a foolish girl,” said Lady Laura, “and that I will have nothing to do with such a scheme.”

“Then there is nothing for it but that you should come here; and as you live in the house, and as I am sure to be here every morning, and as you have no possible occupation for your time, and as we have nothing particular to do with ours — I daresay I shan’t see you again before I go to my aunt’s in Berkeley Square.”

“Very likely not,” he said.

“And why not, Oswald?” asked his sister.

He passed his hand over his face before he answered her. “Because she and I run in different grooves now, and are not such meet playfellows as we used to be once. Do you remember my taking you away right through Saulsby Wood once on the old pony, and not bringing you back till tea-time, and Miss Blink going and telling my father?”

“Do I remember it? I think it was the happiest day in my life. His pockets were crammed full of gingerbread and Everton toffee, and we had three bottles of lemonade slung on to the pony’s saddlebows. I thought it was a pity that we should ever come back.”

“It was a pity,” said Lord Chiltern.

“But, nevertheless, substantially necessary,” said Lady Laura.

“Failing our power of reproducing the toffee, I suppose it was,” said Violet.

“You were not Miss Effingham then,” said Lord Chiltern.

“No — not as yet. These disagreeable realities of life grow upon one; do they not? You took off my shoes and dried them for me at a woodman’s cottage. I am obliged to put up with my maid’s doing those things now. And Miss Blink the mild is changed for Lady Baldock the martinet. And if I rode about with you in a wood all day I should be sent to Coventry instead of to bed. And so you see everything is changed as well as my name.”

“Everything is not changed,” said Lord Chiltern, getting up from his seat. “I am not changed — at least not in this, that as I loved you better than any being in the world — better even than Laura there — so do I love you now infinitely the best of all. Do not look so surprised at me. You knew it before as well as you do now — and Laura knows it. There is no secret to be kept in the matter among us three.”

“But, Lord Chiltern — “ said Miss Effingham, rising also to her feet, and then pausing, not knowing how to answer him. There had been a suddenness in his mode of addressing her which had, so to say, almost taken away her breath; and then to be told by a man of his love before his sister was in itself, to her, a matter so surprising, that none of those words came at her command which will come, as though by instinct, to young ladies on such occasions.

“You have known it always,” said he, as though he were angry with her.

“Lord Chiltern,” she replied, you must excuse me if I say that you are, at the least, very abrupt. I did not think when I was going back so joyfully to our childish days that you would turn the tables on me in this way.”

“He has said nothing that ought to make you angry,” said Lady Laura.

“Only because he has driven me to say that which will make me appear to be uncivil to himself. Lord Chiltern, I do not love you with that love of which you are speaking now. As an old friend I have always regarded you, and I hope that I may always do so.” Then she got up and left the room.

“Why were you so sudden with her — so abrupt — so loud?” said his sister, coming up to him and taking him by the arm almost in anger.

“It would make no difference,” said he. She does not care for me.”

“It makes all the difference in the world,” said Lady Laura, “Such a woman as Violet cannot be had after that fashion. You must begin again.”

“I have begun and ended,” he said.

“That is nonsense. Of course you will persist. It was madness to speak in that way today. You may be sure of this, however, that there is no one she likes better than you. You must remember that you have done much to make any girl afraid of you.”

“I do remember it.”

“Do something now to make her fear you no longer. Speak to her softly. Tell her of the sort of life which you would live with her. Tell her that all is changed. As she comes to love you, she will believe you when she would believe no one else on that matter.”

“Am I to tell her a lie?” said Lord Chiltern, looking his sister full in the face. Then he turned upon his heel and left her.

Chapter 12

Autumnal prospects

The session went on very calmly after the opening battle which ousted Lord de Terrier and sent Mr Mildmay back to the Treasury — so calmly that Phineas Finn was unconsciously disappointed, as lacking that excitement of contest to which he had been introduced in the first days of his parliamentary career. From time to time certain waspish attacks were made by Mr Daubeny, now on this Secretary of State and now on that; but they were felt by both parties to mean nothing; and as no great measure was brought forward, nothing which would serve by the magnitude of its interests to divide the liberal side of the House into fractions, Mr Mildmay’s Cabinet was allowed to hold its own in comparative peace and quiet. It was now July — the middle of July — and the member for Loughshane had not yet addressed the House. How often had he meditated doing so; how he had composed his speeches walking round the Park on his way down to the House; how he got his subjects up — only to find on hearing them discussed that he really knew little or nothing about them; how he had his arguments and almost his very words taken out of his mouth by some other member; and lastly, how he had actually been deterred from getting upon his legs by a certain tremor of blood round his heart when the moment for rising had come — of all this he never said a word to any man. Since that last journey to county Mayo, Laurence Fitzgibbon had been his most intimate friend, but he said nothing of all this even to Laurence Fitzgibbon. To his other friend, Lady Laura Standish, he did explain something of his feelings, not absolutely describing to her the extent of hindrance to which his modesty had subjected him, but letting her know that he had his qualms as well as his aspirations. But as Lady Laura always recommended patience, and more than once expressed her opinion that a young member would be better to sit in silence at least for one session, he was not driven to the mortification of feeling that he was incurring her contempt by his bashfulness. As regarded the men among whom he lived, I think he was almost annoyed at finding that no one seemed to expect that he should speak. Barrington Erle, when he had first talked of sending Phineas down to Loughshane, had predicted for him all manner of parliamentary successes, and had expressed the warmest admiration of the manner in which Phineas had discussed this or that subject at the Union. “We have not above one or two men in the House who can do that kind of thing,” Barrington Erle had once said. But now no allusions whatever were made to his powers of speech, and Phineas in his modest moments began to be more amazed than ever that he should find himself seated in that chamber.

To the forms and technicalities of parliamentary business he did give close attention, and was unremitting in his attendance. On one or two occasions he ventured to ask a question of the Speaker, and as the words of experience fell into his ears, he would tell himself that he was going through his education — that he was learning to be a working member, and perhaps to be a statesman. But his regrets with reference to Mr Low and the dingy chambers in Old Square were very frequent; and had it been possible for him to undo all that he had done, he would often have abandoned to someone else the honour of representing the electors of Loughshane.

But he was supported in all his difficulties by the kindness of his friend, Lady Laura Standish. He was often in the house in Portman Square, and was always received with cordiality, and, as he thought, almost with affection. She would sit and talk to him, sometimes saying a word about her brother and sometimes about her father, as though there were more between them than the casual intimacy of London acquaintance. And in Portman Square he had been introduced to Miss Effingham, and had found Miss Effingham to be — very nice. Miss Effingham had quite taken to him, and he had danced with her at two or three parties, talking always, as he did so, about Lady Laura Standish.

“I declare, Laura, I think your friend Mr Finn is in love with you,” said Violet to Lady Laura one night.

“I don’t think that. He is fond of me, and so am I of him. He is so honest, and so naive without being awkward! And then he is undoubtedly clever.”

“And so uncommonly handsome,” said Violet.

“I don’t know that that makes much difference,” said Lady Laura.

“I think it does if a man looks like a gentleman as well.”

“Mr Finn certainly looks like a gentleman,” said Lady Laura.

“And no doubt is one,” said Violet, I wonder whether he has got any money.”

“Not a penny, I should say.”

“How does such a man manage to live? There are so many men like that, and they are always mysteries to me. I suppose he’ll have to marry an heiress.”

“Whoever gets him will not have a bad husband,” said Lady Laura Standish.

Phineas during the summer had very often met Mr Kennedy. They sat on the same side of the House, they belonged to the same club, they dined together more than once in Portman Square, and on one occasion Phineas had accepted an invitation to dinner sent to him by Mr Kennedy himself. “A slower affair I never saw in my life,” he said afterwards to Laurence Fitzgibbon. “Though there were two or three men there who talk everywhere else, they could not talk at his table.” “He gave you good wine, I should say, said Fitzgibbon, “and let me tell you that that covers a multitude of sins.” In spite, however, of all these opportunities for intimacy, now, nearly at the end of the session, Phineas had hardly spoken a dozen words to Mr Kennedy, and really knew nothing whatsoever of the man, as one friend — or even as one acquaintance knows another. Lady Laura had desired him to be on good terms with Mr Kennedy, and for that reason he had dined with him. Nevertheless he disliked Mr Kennedy, and felt quite sure that Mr Kennedy disliked him. He was therefore rather surprised when he received the following note:

“ Albany, — 3, July 17, 186 —

“ MY DEAR MR FINN,

“I shall have some friends at Loughlinter next month, and should be very glad if you will join us. I will name the 16th August. I don’t know whether you shoot, but there are grouse and deer.

“Yours truly,

ROBERT KENNEDY ”

What was he to do? He had already begun to feel rather uncomfortable at the prospect of being separated from all his new friends as soon as the session should be over. Laurence Fitzgibbon had asked him to make another visit to county Mayo, but that he had declined. Lady Laura had said something to him about going abroad with her brother, and since that there had sprung up a sort of intimacy between him and Lord Chiltern; but nothing had been fixed about this foreign trip, and there were pecuniary objections to it which put it almost out of his power. The Christmas holidays he would of course pass with his family at Killaloe, but he hardly liked the idea of hurrying off to Killaloe immediately the session should be over. Everybody around him seemed to be looking forward to pleasant leisure doings in the country. Men talked about grouse, and of the ladies at the houses to which they were going and of the people whom they were to meet. Lady Laura had said nothing of her own movements for the early autumn, and no invitation had come to him to go to the Earl’s country house. He had already felt that everyone would depart and that he would be left — and this had made him uncomfortable. What was he to do with the invitation from Mr Kennedy? He disliked the man, and had told himself half a dozen times that he despised him. Of course he must refuse it. Even for the sake of the scenery, and the grouse, and the pleasant party, and the feeling that going to Loughlinter in August would be the proper sort of thing to do, he must refuse it! But it occurred to him at last that he would call in Portman Square before he wrote his note.

“Of course you will go,” said Lady Laura, in her most decided tone.

“And why?”

“In the first place it is civil in him to ask you, and why should you be uncivil in return?”

“There is nothing uncivil in not accepting a man’s invitation,” said Phineas.

“We are going,” said Lady Laura, and I can only say that I shall be disappointed if you do not go too. Both Mr Gresham and Mr Monk will be there, and I believe they have never stayed together in the same house before. I have no doubt there are a dozen men on your side of the House who would give their eyes to be there. Of course you will go.”

Of course he did go. The note accepting Mr Kennedy’s invitation was written at the Reform Club within a quarter of an hour of his leaving Portman Square. He was very careful in writing to be not more familiar or more civil than Mr Kennedy had been to himself, and then he signed himself “Yours truly, Phineas Finn.” But another proposition was made to him, and a most charming proposition, during the few minutes that he remained in Portman Square. “I am so glad,” said Lady Laura, “because I can now ask you to run down to us at Saulsby for a couple of days on your way to Loughlinter. Till this was fixed I couldn’t ask you to come all the way to Saulsby for two days; and there won’t be room for more between our leaving London and starting to Loughlinter.” Phineas swore that he would have gone if it had been but for one hour, and if Saulsby had been twice the distance. “Very well; come on the 13th and go on the 15th. You must go on the 15th, unless you choose to stay with the housekeeper. And remember, Mr Finn, we have got no grouse at Saulsby.” Phineas declared that he did not care a straw for grouse.

There was another little occurrence which happened before Phineas left London, and which was not altogether so charming as his prospects at Saulsby and Loughlinter. Early in August, when the session was still incomplete, he dined with Laurence Fitzgibbon at the Reform Club. Laurence had specially invited him to do so, and made very much of him on the occasion. “By George, my dear fellow,” Laurence said to him that morning, “nothing has happened to me this session that has given me so much pleasure as your being in the House. Of course there are fellows with whom one is very intimate and of whom one is very fond — and all that sort of thing. But most of these Englishmen on our side are such cold fellows; or else they are like Ratler and Barrington Erle, thinking of nothing but politics. And then as to our own men, there are so many of them one can hardly trust! That’s the truth of it. Your being in the House has been such a comfort to me!” Phineas, who really liked his friend Laurence, expressed himself very warmly in answer to this, and became affectionate, and made sundry protestations of friendship which were perfectly sincere. Their sincerity was tested after dinner, when Fitzgibbon, as they two were seated on a sofa in the corner of the smoking-room, asked Phineas to put his name to the back of a bill for two hundred and fifty pounds at six months’ date.

“But, my dear Laurence,” said Phineas, two hundred and fifty pounds is a sum of money utterly beyond my reach,”

“Exactly, my dear boy, and that’s why I’ve come to you, D’ye think I’d have asked anybody who by any impossibility might have been made to pay anything for me?”

“But what’s the use of it then?”

“All the use in the world. It’s for me to judge of the use, you know. Why, d’ye think I’d ask it if it wasn’t any use? I’ll make it of use, my boy. And take my word, you’ll never hear about it again. It’s just a forestalling of my salary; that’s all. I wouldn’t do it till I saw that we were at least safe for six months to come.” Then Phineas Finn with many misgivings, with much inward hatred of himself for his own weakness, did put his name on the back of the bill which Laurence Fitzgibbon had prepared for his signature.

Chapter 13

Saulsby Wood

“So you won’t come to Moydrum again?” said Laurence Fitzgibbon to his friend.

“Not this autumn, Laurence. Your father would think that I want to live there.”

“Bedad, it’s my father would be glad to see you — and the oftener the better.”

“The fact is, my time is filled up.”

“You’re not going to be one of the party at Loughlinter?”

“I believe I am. Kennedy asked me, and people seem to think that everybody is to do what he bids them.”

“I should think so too. I wish he had asked me. I should have thought it as good as a promise of an under-secretaryship. All the Cabinet are to be there, I don’t suppose he ever had an Irishman in his house before. When do you start?”

“Well — on the 12th or 13th. I believe I shall go to Saulsby on my way.”

“The devil you will. Upon my word, Phineas, my boy, you’re the luckiest fellow I know. This is your first year, and you’re asked to the two most difficult houses in England. You have only to look out for an heiress now. There is little Vi Effingham — she is sure to be at Saulsby. Goodbye, old fellow. Don’t you be in the least unhappy about the bill. I’ll see to making that all right.”

Phineas was rather unhappy about the bill; but there was so much that was pleasant in his cup at the present moment, that he resolved, as far as possible, to ignore the bitter of that one ingredient. He was a little in the dark as to two or three matters respecting these coming visits. He would have liked to have taken a servant with him; but he had no servant, and felt ashamed to hire one for the occasion. And then he was in trouble about a gun, and the paraphernalia of shooting. He was not a bad shot at snipe in the bogs of county Clare, but he had never even seen a gun used in England. However, he bought himself a gun — with other paraphernalia, and took a license for himself, and then groaned over the expense to which he found that his journey would subject him. And at last he hired a servant for the occasion. He was intensely ashamed of himself when he had done so, hating himself, and telling himself that he was going to the devil headlong. And why had he done it? Not that Lady Laura would like him the better, or that she would care whether he had a servant or not. She probably would know nothing of his servant. But the people about her would know, and he was foolishly anxious that the people about her should think that he was worthy of her.

Then he called on Mr Low before he started. “I did not like to leave London without seeing you,” he said; “but I know you will have nothing pleasant to say to me.”

“I shall say nothing unpleasant certainly. I see your name in the divisions, and I feel a sort of envy myself.”

“Any fool could go into a lobby,” said Phineas.

“To tell you the truth, I have been gratified to see that you have had the patience to abstain from speaking till you had looked about you. It was more than I expected from your hot Irish blood. Going to meet Mr Gresham and Mr Monk — are you? Well, I hope you may meet them in the Cabinet some day. Mind you come and see me when Parliament meets in February.”

Mrs Bunce was delighted when she found that Phineas had hired a servant; but Mr Bunce predicted nothing but evil from so vain an expense. “Don’t tell me; where is it to come from? He ain’t no richer because he’s in Parliament. There ain’t no wages. M.P. and M.T.,” — whereby Mr Bunce, I fear, meant empty — “are pretty much alike when a man hasn’t a fortune at his back.” “But he’s going to stay with all the lords in the Cabinet,” said Mrs Bunce, to whom Phineas, in his pride, had confided perhaps more than was necessary. “Cabinet, indeed,” said Bunce; “if he’d stick to chambers, and let alone cabinets, he’d do a deal better. Given up his rooms, has he — till February? He don’t expect we’re going to keep them empty for him!”

Phineas found that the house was full at Saulsby, although the sojourn of the visitors would necessarily be so short. There were three or four there on their way on to Loughlinter, like himself — Mr Bonteen and Mr Ratler, with Mr Palliser, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his wife — and there was Violet Effingham, who, however, was not going to Loughlinter. “No, indeed,” she said to our hero, who on the first evening had the pleasure of taking her in to dinner, “unfortunately I haven’t a seat in Parliament, and therefore I am not asked.”

“Lady Laura is going.”

“Yes — but Lady Laura has a Cabinet Minister in her keeping. I’ve only one comfort — you’ll be awfully dull.”

“I daresay it would be very much nicer to stay here,” said Phineas.

“If you want to know my real mind,” said Violet, I would give one of my little fingers to go. There will be four Cabinet Ministers in the house, and four un-Cabinet Ministers, and half a dozen other members of Parliament, and there will be Lady Glencora Palliser, who is the best fun in the world; and, in point of fact, it’s the thing of the year. But I am not asked. You see I belong to the Baldock faction, and we don’t sit on your side of the House, Mr Kennedy thinks that I should tell secrets.”

Why on earth had Mr Kennedy invited him, Phineas Finn, to meet four Cabinet Ministers and Lady Glencora Palliser? He could only have done so at the instance of Lady Laura Standish. It was delightful for Phineas to think that Lady Laura cared for him so deeply; but it was not equally delightful when he remembered how very close must be the alliance between Mr Kennedy and Lady Laura, when she was thus powerful with him.

At Saulsby Phineas did not see much of his hostess. When they were making their plans for the one entire day of this visit, she said a soft word of apology to him. “I am so busy with all these people, that I hardly know what I am doing. But we shall be able to find a quiet minute or two at Loughlinter — unless, indeed, you intend to be on the mountains all day. I suppose you have brought a gun like everybody else?”

“Yes — I have brought a gun, I do shoot; but I am not an inveterate sportsman.”

On that one day there was a great riding party made up, and Phineas found himself mounted, after luncheon, with some dozen other equestrians. Among them were Miss Effingham and Lady Glencora, Mr Ratler and the Earl of Brentford himself. Lady Glencora, whose husband was, as has been said, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who was still a young woman, and a very pretty woman, had taken lately very strongly to politics, which she discussed among men and women of both parties with something more than ordinary audacity. “What a nice, happy, lazy time you’ve had of it since you’ve been in,” said she to the Earl.

“I hope we have been more happy than lazy,” said the Earl.

“But you’ve done nothing. Mr Palliser has twenty schemes of reform, all mature; but among you you’ve not let him bring in one of them. The Duke and Mr Mildmay and you will break his heart among you.”

“Poor Mr Palliser!”

“The truth is, if you don’t take care he and Mr Monk and Mr Gresham will arise and shake themselves, and turn you all out.”

“We must look to ourselves, Lady Glencora.”

“Indeed, yes — or you will be known to all posterity as the fainéant government.”

“Let me tell you, Lady Glencora, that a fainéant government is not the worst government that England can have, It has been the great fault of our politicians that they have all wanted to do something.”

“Mr Mildmay is at any rate innocent of that charge,” said Lady Glencora.

They were now riding through a vast wood, and Phineas found himself delightfully established by the side of Violet Effingham. “Mr Ratler has been explaining to me that he must have nineteen next session. Now, if I were you, Mr Finn, I would decline to be counted up in that way as one of Mr Ratler’s sheep.”

“But what am I to do?”

“Do something on your own hook. You men in Parliament are so much like sheep! If one jumps at a gap, all go after him — and then you are penned into lobbies, and then you are fed, and then you are fleeced. I wish I were in Parliament. I’d get up in the middle and make such a speech. You all seem to me to be so much afraid of one another that you don’t quite dare to speak out. Do you see that cottage there?”

“What a pretty cottage it is!”

“Yes — is it not? Twelve years ago I took off my shoes and stockings and had them dried in that cottage, and when I got back to the house I was put to bed for having been out all day in the wood.”

“Were you wandering about alone?”

“No, I wasn’t alone. Oswald Standish was with me. We were children then. Do you know him?”

“Lord Chiltern — yes, I know him. He and I have been rather friends this year.”

“He is very good — is he not?”

“Good — in what way?”

“Honest and generous!”

“I know no man whom I believe to be more so.”

“And he is clever?” asked Miss Effingham.

“Very clever. That is, he talks very well if you will let him talk after his own fashion. You would always fancy that he was going to eat you — but that is his way.”

“And you like him?”

“Very much.”

“I am so glad to hear you say so.”

“Is he a favourite of yours, Miss Effingham?”

“Not now — not particularly. I hardly ever see him. But his sister is the best friend I have, and I used to like him so much when he was a boy! I have not seen that cottage since that day, and I remember it as though it were yesterday. Lord Chiltern is quite changed, is he not?”

“Changed — in what way?”

“They used to say that he was — unsteady you know.”

“I think he is changed. But Chiltern is at heart a Bohemian. It is impossible not to see that at once. He hates the decencies of life.”

“I suppose he does,” said Violet. He ought to marry. If he were married, that would all be cured — don’t you think so?”

“I cannot fancy him with a wife,” said Phineas. There is a savagery about him which would make him an uncomfortable companion for a woman.”

“But he would love his wife?”

“Yes, as he does his horses. And he would treat her well — as he does his horses. But he expects every horse he has to do anything that any horse can do; and he would expect the same of his wife.”

Phineas had no idea how deep an injury he might be doing his friend by this description, nor did it once occur to him that his companion was thinking of herself as the possible wife of this Red Indian. Miss Effingham rode on in silence for some distance, and then she said but one word more about Lord Chiltern. “He was so good to me in that cottage.”

On the following day the party at Saulsby was broken up, and there was a regular pilgrimage towards Loughlinter. Phineas resolved upon sleeping a night at Edinburgh on his way, and he found himself joined in the bands of close companionship with Mr Ratler for the occasion. The evening was by no means thrown away, for he learned much of his trade from Mr Ratler. And Mr Ratler was heard to declare afterwards at Loughlinter that Mr Finn was a pleasant young man.

It soon came to be admitted by all who knew Phineas Finn that he had a peculiar power of making himself agreeable which no one knew how to analyse or define. “I think it is because he listens so well,” said one man. “But the women would not like him for that,” said another. “He has studied when to listen and when to talk,” said a third, The truth, however, was, that Phineas Finn had made no study in the matter at all. It was simply his nature to be pleasant.

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.”

Chapter 15

Donald Bean”s pony

Phineas liked being told that the pleasures of opposition and the pleasures of office were both open to him, and he liked also to be the chosen receptacle of Mr Monk’s confidence. He had come to understand that he was expected to remain ten days at Loughlinter, and that then there was to be a general movement. Since the first day he had seen but little of Mr Kennedy, but he had found himself very frequently with Lady Laura. And then had come up the question of his projected trip to Paris with Lord Chiltern. He had received a letter from Lord Chiltern.

“ DEAR FINN,

“Are you going to Paris with me?

“Yours,

Ccdq;

There had been not a word beyond this, and before he answered it he made up his mind to tell Lady Laura the truth, He could not go to Paris because he had no money.

“I’ve just got that from your brother,” said he.

“How like Oswald. He writes to me perhaps three times in the year, and his letters are just the same. You will go I hope?”

“Well — no.”

“I am sorry for that.”

“I wonder whether I may tell you the real reason, Lady Laura.”

“Nay — I cannot answer that; but unless it be some political secret between you and Mr Monk, I should think you might.”

“I cannot afford to go to Paris this autumn. It seems to be a shocking admission to make — though I don’t know why it should be.”

“Nor I— but Mr Finn, I like you all the better for making it. I am very sorry, for Oswald’s sake. It’s so hard to find any companion for him whom he would like and whom we — that is I— should think altogether — you know what I mean, Mr Finn.”

“Your wish that I should go with him is a great compliment, and I thoroughly wish that I could do it. As it is, I must go to Killaloe and retrieve my finances. I daresay, Lady Laura, you can hardly conceive how very poor a man I am.” There was a melancholy tone about his voice as he said this, which made her think for the moment whether or no he had been right in going into Parliament, and whether she had been right in instigating him to do so. But it was too late to recur to that question now.

“You must climb into office early, and forego those pleasures of opposition which are so dear to Mr Monk,” she said, smiling. “After all, money is an accident which does not count nearly so high as do some other things. You and Mr Kennedy have the same enjoyment of everything around you here.”

“Yes; while it lasts.”

“And Lady Glencora and I stand pretty much on the same footing, in spite of all her wealth — except that she is a married woman. I do not know what she is worth — something not to be counted; and I am worth — just what papa chooses to give me. A ten-pound note at the present moment I should look upon as great riches.” This was the first time she had ever spoken to him of her own position as regards money; but he had heard, or thought that he had heard, that she had been left a fortune altogether independent of her father.

The last of the ten days had now come, and Phineas was discontented and almost unhappy. The more he saw of Lady Laura the more he feared that it was impossible that she should become his wife. And yet from day to day his intimacy with her became more close. He had never made love to her, nor could he discover that it was possible for him to do so. She seemed to be a woman for whom all the ordinary stages of love-making were quite unsuitable. Of course he could declare his love and ask her to be his wife on any occasion on which he might find himself to be alone with her. And on this morning he had made up his mind that he would do so before the day was over. It might be possible that she would never speak to him again — that all the pleasures and ambitious hopes to which she had introduced him might be over as soon as that rash word should have been spoken! But, nevertheless, he would speak it.

On this day there was to be a grouse-shooting party, and the shooters were to be out early. It had been talked of for some day or two past, and Phineas knew that he could not escape it. There had been some rivalry between him and Mr Bonteen, and there was to be a sort of match as to which of the two would kill most birds before lunch. But there had also been some half promise on Lady Laura’s part that she would walk with him up the Linter and come down upon the lake, taking an opposite direction from that by which they had returned with Mr Kennedy.

“But you will be shooting all day,” she said, when he proposed it to her as they were starting for the moor. The waggonet that was to take them was at the door, and she was there to see them start. Her father was one of the shooting party, and Mr Kennedy was another.

“I will undertake to be back in time, if you will not think it too hot. I shall not see you again till we meet in town next year.”

“Then I certainly will go with you — that is to say, if you are here. But you cannot return without the rest of the party, as you are going so far.”

“I’ll get back somehow,” said Phineas, who was resolved that a few miles more or less of mountain should not detain him from the prosecution of a task so vitally important to him. “If we start at five that will be early enough.”

“Quite early enough,” said Lady Laura.

Phineas went off to the mountains, and shot his grouse, and won his match, and ate his luncheon. Mr Bonteen, however, was not beaten by much, and was in consequence somewhat ill-humoured.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Mr Bonteen, I’ll back myself for the rest of the day for a ten-pound note.”

Now there had been no money staked on the match at all — but it had been simply a trial of skill, as to which would kill the most birds in a given time. And the proposition for that trial had come from Mr Bonteen himself. “I should not think of shooting for money,” said Phineas.

“And why not? A bet is the only way to decide these things.”

“Partly because I’m sure I shouldn’t hit a bird,” said Phineas, “and partly because I haven’t got any money to lose.”

“I hate bets,” said Mr Kennedy to him afterwards. I was annoyed when Bonteen offered the wager. I felt sure, however, you would not accept it.”

“I suppose such bets are very common,”

“I don’t think men ought to propose them unless they are quite sure of their company. Maybe I’m wrong, and I often feel that I am strait-laced about such things. It is so odd to me that men cannot amuse themselves without pitting themselves against each other. When a man tells me that he can shoot better than I, I tell him that my keeper can shoot better than he.”

“All the same, it’s a good thing to excel,” said Phineas.

“I’m not so sure of that,” said Mr Kennedy. A man who can kill more salmon than anybody else, can rarely do anything else. Are you going on with your match?”

“No; I’m going to make my way to Loughlinter.”

“Not alone?”

“Yes, alone.”

“It’s over nine miles. You can’t walk it.”

Phineas looked at his watch, and found that it was now two o’clock. It was a broiling day in August, and the way back to Loughlinter, for six or seven out of the nine miles, would be along a high road. “I must do it all the same,” said he, preparing for a start. “I have an engagement with Lady Laura Standish; and as this is the last day that I shall see her, I certainly do not mean to break it.”

“An engagement with Lady Laura,” said Mr Kennedy. Why did you not tell me, that I might have a pony ready? But come along. Donald Bean has a pony. He’s not much bigger than a dog, but he’ll carry you to Loughlinter.”

“I can walk it, Mr Kennedy.”

“Yes; and think of the state in which you’d reach Loughlinter! Come along with me.”

“But I can’t take you off the mountain,” said Phineas.

“Then you must allow me to take you off.”

So Mr Kennedy led the way down to Donald Bean’s cottage, and before three o’clock Phineas found himself mounted on a shaggy steed, which, in sober truth, was not much bigger than a large dog. “If Mr Kennedy is really my rival,” said Phineas to himself, as he trotted along, “I almost think that I am doing an unhandsome thing in taking the pony.”

At five o’clock he was under the portico before the front door, and there he found Lady Laura waiting for him — waiting for him, or at least ready for him. She had on her hat and gloves and light shawl, and her parasol was in her hand. He thought that he had never seen her look so young, so pretty, and so fit to receive a lover’s vows. But at the same moment it occurred to him that she was Lady Laura Standish, the daughter of an Earl, the descendant of a line of Earls — and that he was the son of a simple country doctor in Ireland. Was it fitting that he should ask such a woman to be his wife? But then Mr Kennedy was the son of a man who had walked into Glasgow with half-a-crown in his pocket. Mr Kennedy’s grandfather had been — Phineas thought that he had heard that Mr Kennedy’s grandfather had been a Scotch drover; whereas his own grandfather had been a little squire near Ennistimon, in county Clare, and his own first cousin once removed still held the paternal acres at Finn Grove. His family was supposed to be descended from kings in that part of Ireland. It certainly did not become him to fear Lady Laura on the score of rank, if it was to be allowed to Mr Kennedy to proceed without fear on that head. As to wealth, Lady Laura had already told him that her fortune was no greater than his. Her statement to himself on that head made him feel that he should not hesitate on the score of money. They neither had any, and he was willing to work for both. If she feared the risk, let her say so.

It was thus that he argued with himself; but yet he knew — knew as well as the reader will know — that he was going to do that which he had no right to do. It might be very well for him to wait — presuming him to be successful in his love — for the opening of that oyster with his political sword, that oyster on which he proposed that they should both live; but such waiting could not well be to the taste of Lady Laura Standish. It could hardly be pleasant to her to look forward to his being made a junior lord or an assistant secretary before she could establish herself in her home. So he told himself. And yet he told himself at the same time that it was incumbent on him to persevere.

“I did not expect you in the least,” said Lady Laura.

“And yet I spoke very positively.”

“But there are things as to which a man may be very positive, and yet may be allowed to fail. In the first place, how on earth did you get home?”

“Mr Kennedy got me a pony — Donald Bean’s pony.”

“You told him, then?”

“Yes; I told him why I was coming, and that I must be here. Then he took the trouble to come all the way off the mountain to persuade Donald to lend me his pony. I must acknowledge that Mr Kennedy has conquered me at last.”

“I am so glad of that,” said Lady Laura. I knew he would — unless it were your own fault.”

They went up the path by the brook, from bridge to bridge, till they found themselves out upon the open mountain at the top. Phineas had resolved that he would not speak out his mind till he found himself on that spot; that then he would ask her to sit down, and that while she was so seated he would tell her everything. At the present moment he had on his head a Scotch cap with a grouse’s feather in it, and he was dressed in a velvet shooting-jacket and dark knickerbockers; and was certainly, in this costume, as handsome a man as any woman would wish to see. And there was, too, a look of breeding about him which had come to him, no doubt, from the royal Finns of old, which ever served him in great stead. He was, indeed, only Phineas Finn, and was known by the world to be no more; but he looked as though he might have been anybody — a royal Finn himself. And then he had that special grace of appearing to be altogether unconscious of his own personal advantages. And I think that in truth he was barely conscious of them; that he depended on them very little, if at all; that there was nothing of personal vanity in his composition. He had never indulged in any hope that Lady Laura would accept him because he was a handsome man.

“After all that climbing,” he said, will you not sit down for a moment?” As he spoke to her she looked at him and told herself that he was as handsome as a god. “Do sit down for one moment,” he said. “I have something that I desire to say to you, and to say it here.”

“I will,” she said; but I also have something to tell you, and will say it while I am yet standing. Yesterday I accepted an offer of marriage from Mr Kennedy.”

“Then I am too late,” said Phineas, and putting his hands into the pockets of his coat, he turned his back upon her, and walked away across the mountain.

What a fool he had been to let her know his secret when her knowledge of it could be of no service to him — when her knowledge of it could only make him appear foolish in her eyes! But for his life he could not have kept his secret to himself. Nor now could he bring himself to utter a word of even decent civility. But he went on walking as though he could thus leave her there, and never see her again. What an ass he had been in supposing that she cared for him! What a fool to imagine that his poverty could stand a chance against the wealth of Loughlinter! But why had she lured him on? How he wished that he were now grinding, hard at work in Mr Low’s chambers, or sitting at home at Killaloe with the hand of that pretty little Irish girl within his own!

Presently he heard a voice behind him — calling him gently. Then he turned and found that she was very near him. He himself had then been standing still for some moments, and she had followed him. “Mr Finn,” she said.

“Well — yes: what is it?” And turning round he made an attempt to smile.

“Will you not wish me joy, or say a word of congratulation? Had I not thought much of your friendship, I should not have been so quick to tell you of my destiny. No one else has been told, except papa.”

“Of course I hope you will be happy. Of course I do. No wonder he lent me the pony!”

“You must forget all that.”

“Forget what?”

“Well — nothing. You need forget nothing,” said Lady Laura, “for nothing has been said that need be regretted. Only wish me joy, and all will be pleasant.”

“Lady Laura, I do wish you joy, with all my heart — but that will not make all things pleasant. I came up here to ask you to be my wife.”

“No — no, no; do not say it.”

“But I have said it, and will say it again. I, poor, penniless, plain simple fool that I am, have been ass enough to love you, Lady Laura Standish; and I brought you up here today to ask you to share with me — my nothingness. And this I have done on soil that is to be all your own. Tell me that you regard me as a conceited fool — as a bewildered idiot.”

“I wish to regard you as a dear friend — both of my own and of my husband,” said she, offering him her hand.

“Should I have had a chance, I wonder, if I had spoken a week since?”

“How can I answer such a question, Mr Finn? Or, rather, I will answer it fully. It is not a week since we told each other, you to me and I to you, that we were both poor — both without other means than those which come to us from our fathers. You will make your way — will make it surely; but how at present could you marry any woman unless she had money of her own? For me — like so many other girls, it was necessary that I should stay at home or marry someone rich enough to dispense with fortune in a wife. The man whom in all the world I think the best has asked me to share everything with him — and I have thought it wise to accept his offer.”

“And I was fool enough to think that you loved me,” said Phineas. To this she made no immediate answer. “Yes, I was, I feel that I owe it you to tell you what a fool I have been. I did. I thought you loved me. At least I thought that perhaps you loved me. It was like a child wanting the moon — was it not?”

“And why should I not have loved you?” she said slowly, laying her hand gently upon his arm.

“Why not? Because Loughlinter — ”

“Stop, Mr Finn; stop. Do not say to me any unkind word that I have not deserved, and that would make a breach between us. I have accepted the owner of Loughlinter as my husband, because I verily believe that I shall thus do my duty in that sphere of life to which it has pleased God to call me. I have always liked him, and I will love him. For you — may I trust myself to speak openly to you?”

“You may trust me as against all others, except us two ourselves.”

“For you, then, I will say also that I have always liked you since I knew you; that I have loved you as a friend — and could have loved you otherwise had not circumstances showed me so plainly that it would be unwise.”

“Oh, Lady Laura!”

“Listen a moment. And pray remember that what I say to you now must never be repeated to any ears. No one knows it but my father, my brother, and Mr Kennedy. Early in the spring I paid my brother’s debts. His affection to me is more than a return for what I have done for him. But when I did this — when I made up my mind to do it, I made up my mind also that I could not allow myself the same freedom of choice which would otherwise have belonged to me. Will that be sufficient, Mr Finn?”

“How can I answer you, Lady Laura? Sufficient! And you are not angry with me for what I have said?”

“No, I am not angry. But it is understood, of course, that nothing of this shall ever be repeated — even among ourselves. Is that a bargain?”

“Oh, yes. I shall never speak of it again.”

“And now you will wish me joy?”

“I have wished you joy, Lady Laura. And I will do so again. May you have every blessing which the world can give you. You cannot expect me to be very jovial for a while myself; but there will be nobody to see my melancholy moods. I shall be hiding myself away in Ireland. When is the marriage to be?”

“Nothing has been said of that. I shall be guided by him — but there must, of course, be delay. There will be settlements and I know not what. It may probably be in the spring — or perhaps the summer. I shall do just what my betters tell me to do.”

Phineas had now seated himself on the exact stone on which he had wished her to sit when he proposed to tell his own story, and was looking forth upon the lake. It seemed to him that everything had been changed for him while he had been up there upon the mountain, and that the change had been marvellous in its nature. When he had been coming up, there had been apparently two alternatives before him: the glory of successful love — which, indeed, had seemed to him to be a most improbable result of the coming interview — and the despair and utter banishment attendant on disdainful rejection. But his position was far removed from either of these alternatives, She had almost told him that she would have loved him had she not been poor — that she was beginning to love him and had quenched her love, because it had become impossible to her to marry a poor man. In such circumstances he could not be angry with her — he could not quarrel with her; he could not do other than swear to himself that he would be her friend. And yet he loved her better than ever — and she was the promised wife of his rival! Why had not Donald Bean’s pony broken his neck?

“Shall we go down now?” she said.

“Oh, yes.”

“You will not go on by the lake?”

“What is the use? It is all the same now. You will want to be back to receive him in from shooting.”

“Not that, I think. He is above those little cares. But it will be as well we should go the nearest way, as we have spent so much of our time here. I shall tell Mr Kennedy that I have told you — if you do not mind.”

“Tell him what you please,” said Phineas.

“But I won’t have it taken in that way, Mr Finn. Your brusque want of courtesy to me I have forgiven, but I shall expect you to make up for it by the alacrity of your congratulations to him. I will not have you uncourteous to Mr Kennedy.”

“If I have been uncourteous I beg your pardon.”

“You need not do that. We are old friends, and may take the liberty of speaking plainly to each other — but you will owe it to Mr Kennedy to be gracious. Think of the pony.”

They walked back to the house together, and as they went down the path very little was said. Just as they were about to come out upon the open lawn, while they were still under cover of the rocks and shrubs, Phineas stopped his companion by standing before her, and then he made his farewell speech to her.

“I must say goodbye to you. I shall be away early in the morning.”

“Goodbye, and God bless you,” said Lady Laura.

“Give me your hand,” said he. And she gave him her hand. “I don’t suppose you know what it is to love dearly.”

“I hope I do.”

“But to be in love! I believe you do not. And to miss your love! I think — I am bound to think that you have never been so tormented. It is very sore — but I will do my best, like a man, to get over it.”

“Do, my friend, do. So small a trouble will never weigh heavily on shoulders such as yours.”

“It will weigh very heavily, but I will struggle hard that it may not crush me. I have loved you so dearly! As we are parting give me one kiss, that I may think of it and treasure it in my memory!” What murmuring words she spoke to express her refusal of such a request, I will not quote; but the kiss had been taken before the denial was completed, and then they walked on in silence together — and in peace, towards the house.

On the next morning six or seven men were going away, and there was an early breakfast. There were none of the ladies there, but Mr Kennedy, the host, was among his friends. A large drag with four horses was there to take the travellers and their luggage to the station, and there was naturally a good deal of noise at the front door as the preparations for the departure were made. In the middle of them Mr Kennedy took our hero aside. “Laura has told me,” said Mr Kennedy, “that she has acquainted you with my good fortune.”

“And I congratulate you most heartily,” said Phineas, grasping the other’s hand. “You are indeed a lucky fellow.”

“I feel myself to be so,” said Mr Kennedy. Such a wife was all that was wanting to me, and such a wife is very hard to find. Will you remember, Finn, that Loughlinter will never be so full but what there will be a room for you, or so empty but what you will be made welcome? I say this on Lady Laura’s part and on my own.”

Phineas, as he was being carried away to the railway station, could not keep himself from speculating as to how much Kennedy knew of what had taken place during the walk up the Linter. Of one small circumstance that had occurred, he felt quite sure that Mr Kennedy knew nothing.

Chapter 16

Phineas Finn returns to Killaloe

Phineas Finn’s first session of Parliament was over — his first session with all its adventures. When he got back to Mrs Bunce’s house — for Mrs Bunce received him for a night in spite of her husband’s advice to the contrary — I am afraid he almost felt that Mrs Bunce and her rooms were beneath him. Of course he was very unhappy — as wretched as a man can be; there were moments in which he thought that it would hardly become him to live unless he could do something to prevent the marriage of Lady Laura and Mr Kennedy. But, nevertheless, he had his consolations. These were reflections which had in them much of melancholy satisfaction. He had not been despised by the woman to whom he had told his love. She had not shown him that she thought him to be unworthy of her. She had not regarded his love as an offence. Indeed, she had almost told him that prudence alone had forbidden her to return his passion. And he had kissed her, and had afterwards parted from her as a dear friend. I do not know why there should have been a flavour of exquisite joy in the midst of his agony as he thought of this — but it was so. He would never kiss her again. All future delights of that kind would belong to Mr Kennedy, and he had no real idea of interfering with that gentleman in the fruition of his privileges. But still there was the kiss — an eternal fact. And then, in all respects except that of his love, his visit to Loughlinter had been pre-eminently successful, Mr Monk had become his friend, and had encouraged him to speak during the next session — setting before him various models, and prescribing for him a course of reading. Lord Brentford had become intimate with him. He was on pleasant terms with Mr Palliser and Mr Gresham. And as for Mr Kennedy — he and Mr Kennedy were almost bosom friends. It seemed to him that he had quite surpassed the Ratlers, Fitzgibbons, and Bonteens in that politico-social success which goes so far towards downright political success, and which in itself is so pleasant. He had surpassed these men in spite of their offices and their acquired positions, and could not but think that even Mr Low, if he knew it all, would confess that he had been right.

As to his bosom friendship with Mr Kennedy, that of course troubled him. Ought he not to be driving a poniard into Mr Kennedy’s heart? The conventions of life forbade that; and therefore the bosom friendship was to be excused. If not an enemy to the death, then there could be no reason why he should not be a bosom friend.

He went over to Ireland, staying but one night with Mrs Bunce, and came down upon them at Killaloe like a god out of the heavens. Even his father was well-nigh overwhelmed by admiration, and his mother and sisters thought themselves only fit to minister to his pleasures. He had learned, if he had learned nothing else, to look as though he were master of the circumstances around him, and was entirely free from internal embarrassment. When his father spoke to him about his legal studies, he did not exactly laugh at his father’s ignorance, but he recapitulated to his father so much of Mr Monk’s wisdom at second hand — showing plainly that it was his business to study the arts of speech and the technicalities of the House, and not to study law — that his father had nothing further to say. He had become a man of such dimensions that an ordinary father could hardly dare to inquire into his proceedings; and as for an ordinary mother — such as Mrs Finn certainly was — she could do no more than look after her son’s linen with awe.

Mary Flood Jones — the reader I hope will not quite have forgotten Mary Flood Jones — was in a great tremor when first she met the hero of Loughshane after returning from the honours of his first session. She had been somewhat disappointed because the newspapers had not been full of the speeches he had made in Parliament. And indeed the ladies of the Finn household had all been ill at ease on this head. They could not imagine why Phineas had restrained himself with so much philosophy. But Miss Flood Jones in discussing the matter with the Miss Finns had never expressed the slightest doubt of his capacity or his judgment. And when tidings came — the tidings came in a letter from Phineas to his father — that he did not intend to speak that session, because speeches from a young member on his first session were thought to be inexpedient, Miss Flood Jones and the Miss Finns were quite willing to accept the wisdom of this decision, much as they might regret the effect of it. Mary, when she met her hero, hardly dared to look him in the face, but she remembered accurately all the circumstances of her last interview with him. Could it be that he wore that ringlet near his heart? Mary had received from Barbara Finn certain hairs supposed to have come from the head of Phineas, and these she always wore near her own. And moreover, since she had seen Phineas she had refused an offer of marriage from Mr Elias Bodkin — had refused it almost ignominiously — and when doing so had told herself that she would never be false to Phineas Finn.

“We think it so good of you to come to see us again,” she said.

“Good to come home to my own people?”

“Of course you might be staying with plenty of grandees if you liked it.”

“No, indeed, Mary. It did happen by accident that I had to go to the house of a man whom perhaps you would call a grandee, and to meet grandees there. But it was only for a few days, and I am very glad to be taken in again here, I can assure you.”

“You know how very glad we all are to have you.”

“Are you glad to see me, Mary?”

“Very glad. Why should I not be glad, and Barbara the dearest friend I have in the world? Of course she talks about you — and that makes me think of you.”

“If you knew, Mary, how often I think about you.” Then Mary, who was very happy at hearing such words, and who was walking in to dinner with him at the moment, could not refrain herself from pressing his arm with her little fingers. She knew that Phineas in his position could not marry at once; but she would wait for him — oh, for ever, if he would only ask her. He of course was a wicked traitor to tell her that he was wont to think of her. But Jove smiles at lovers’ perjuries — and it is well that he should do so, as such perjuries can hardly be avoided altogether in the difficult circumstances of a successful gentleman’s life. Phineas was a traitor, of course, but he was almost forced to be a traitor, by the simple fact that Lady Laura Standish was in London, and Mary Flood Jones in Killaloe.

He remained for nearly five months at Killaloe, and I doubt whether his time was altogether well spent. Some of the books recommended to him by Mr Monk he probably did read, and was often to be found encompassed by blue books. I fear that there was a grain of pretence about his blue books and parliamentary papers, and that in these days he was, in a gentle way, something of an impostor. “You must not be angry with me for not going to you,” he said once to Mary’s mother when he had declined an invitation to drink tea; “but the fact is that my time is not my own.” “Pray don’t make any apologies. We are quite aware that we have very little to offer,” said Mrs Flood Jones, who was not altogether happy about Mary, and who perhaps knew more about members of Parliament and blue books than Phineas Finn had supposed. “Mary, you are a fool to think of that man,” the mother said to her daughter the next morning. “I don’t think of him, mamma; not particularly.” “He is no better than anybody else that I can see, and he is beginning to give himself airs,” said Mrs Flood Jones. Mary made no answer; but she went up into her room and swore before a figure of the Virgin that she would be true to Phineas for ever and ever, in spite of her mother, in spite of all the world — in spite, should it be necessary, even of himself.

About Christmas time there came a discussion between Phineas and his father about money. “I hope you find you get on pretty well,” said the doctor, who thought that he had been liberal.

“It’s a tight fit,” said Phineas — who was less afraid of his father than he had been when he last discussed these things.

“I had hoped it would have been ample,” said the doctor.

“Don’t think for a moment, sir, that I am complaining,” said Phineas, “I know it is much more than I have a right to expect.”

The doctor began to make an inquiry within his own breast as to whether his son had a right to expect anything — whether the time had not come in which his son should be earning his own bread. “I suppose,” he said, after a pause, “there is no chance of your doing anything at the bar now?”

“Not immediately. It is almost impossible to combine the two studies together.” Mr Low himself was aware of that, “But you are not to suppose that I have given the profession up.”

“I hope not — after all the money it has cost us.”

“By no means, sir. And all that I am doing now will, I trust, be of assistance to me when I shall come back to work at the law. Of course it is on the cards that I may go into office — and if so, public business will become my profession.”

“And be turned out with the Ministry!”

“Yes; that is true, sir. I must run my chance. If the worst comes to the worst, I hope I might be able to secure some permanent place. I should think that I can hardly fail to do so. But I trust I may never be driven to want it. I thought, however, that we had settled all this before.” Then Phineas assumed a look of injured innocence, as though his father was driving him too hard.

“And in the mean time your money has been enough?” said the doctor, after a pause.

“I had intended to ask you to advance me a hundred pounds,” said Phineas. “There were expenses to which I was driven on first entering Parliament.”

“A hundred pounds.”

“If it be inconvenient, sir, I can do without it.” He had not as yet paid for his gun, or for that velvet coat in which he had been shooting, or, most probably, for the knickerbockers. He knew he wanted the hundred pounds badly; but he felt ashamed of himself in asking for it. If he were once in office — though the office were but a sorry junior lordship — he would repay his father instantly.

“You shall have it, of course,” said the doctor; but do not let the necessity for asking for more hundreds come oftener than you can help.” Phineas said that he would not, and then there was no further discourse about money. It need hardly be said that he told his father nothing of that bill which he had endorsed for Laurence Fitzgibbon.

At last came the time which called him again to London and the glories of London life — to lobbies, and the clubs, and the gossip of men in office, and the chance of promotion for himself; to the glare of the gas-lamps, the mock anger of rival debaters, and the prospect of the Speaker’s wig. During the idleness of the recess he had resolved at any rate upon this — that a month of the session should not have passed by before he had been seen upon his legs in the House — had been seen and heard. And many a time as he had wandered alone, with his gun, across the bogs which lie on the other side of the Shannon from Killaloe, he had practised the sort of address which he would make to the House. He would be short — always short; and he would eschew all action and gesticulation; Mr Monk had been very urgent in his instructions to him on that head; but he would be especially careful that no words should escape him which had not in them some purpose. He might be wrong in his purpose, but purpose there should be. He had been twitted more than once at Killaloe with his silence — for it had been conceived by his fellow-townsmen that he had been sent to Parliament on the special ground of his eloquence. They should twit him no more on his next return. He would speak and would carry the House with him if a human effort might prevail.

So he packed up his things, and started again for London in the beginning of February. “Goodbye, Mary,” he said with his sweetest smile. But on this occasion there was no kiss, and no culling of locks. “I know he cannot help it,” said Mary to herself. “ It is his position. But whether it be for good or evil, I will be true to him.”

“I am afraid you are unhappy,” Babara Finn said to her on the next morning.

“No; I am not unhappy — not at all. I have a deal to make me happy and proud. I don’t mean to be a bit unhappy.” Then she turned away and cried heartily, and Barbara Finn cried with her for company.

Chapter 17

Phineas Finn returns to London

Phineas had received two letters during his recess at Killaloe from two women who admired him much, which, as they were both short, shall be submitted to the reader. The first was as follows:

“ Saulsby, October 20, 186 —

“ MY DEAR MR FINN,

“I write a line to tell you that our marriage is to be hurried on as quickly as possible. Mr Kennedy does not like to be absent from Parliament; nor will he be content to postpone the ceremony till the session be over. The day fixed is the 3rd of December, and we then go at once to Rome, and intend to be back in London by the opening of Parliament.

“Yours most sincerely,

“LAURA STANDISH

“Our London address will be No. 52, Grosvenor Place.”

To this he wrote an answer as short, expressing his ardent wishes that those winter hymeneals might produce nothing but happiness, and saying that he would not be in town many days before he knocked at the door of No. 52, Grosvenor Place.

And the second letter was as follows:

“ Great Marlborough Street, December, 186 —

“ DEAR AND HONOURED SIR,

“Bunce is getting ever so anxious about the rooms, and says as how he has a young Equity draftsman and wife and baby as would take the whole house, and all because Miss Pouncefoot said a word about her port wine, which any lady of her age might say in her tantrums, and mean nothing after all. Me and Miss Pouncefoot’s knowed each other for seven years, and what’s a word or two as isn’t meant after that? But, honoured sir, it’s not about that as I write to trouble you, but to ask if I may say for certain that you’ll take the rooms again in February. It’s easy to let them for the month after Christmas, because of the pantomimes. Only say at once, because Bunce is nagging me day after day. I don’t want nobody’s wife and baby to have to do for, and ‘d sooner have a Parliament gent like yourself than any one else.

“Yours umbly and respectful,

“ JANE BUNCE ”

To this he replied that he would certainly come back to the rooms in Great Marlborough Street, should he be lucky enough to find them vacant, and he expressed his willingness to take them on and from the 1st of February. And on the 3rd of February he found himself in the old quarters, Mrs Bunce having contrived, with much conjugal adroitness, both to keep Miss Pouncefoot and to stave off the Equity draftsman’s wife and baby. Bunce, however, received Phineas very coldly, and told his wife the same evening that as far as he could see their lodger would never turn up to be a trump in the matter of the ballot: “If he means well, why did he go and stay with them lords down in Scotland? I knows all about it. I knows a man when I sees him. Mr Low, who’s looking out to be a Tory judge some of these days, is a deal better — because he knows what he’s after.”

Immediately on his return to town, Phineas found himself summoned to a political meeting at Mr Mildmay’s house in St James’s Square. “We’re going to begin in earnest this time,” Barrington Erle said to him at the club.

“I am glad of that,” said Phineas.

“I suppose you heard all about it down at Loughlinter?”

Now, in truth, Phineas had heard very little of any settled plan down at Loughlinter. He had played a game of chess with Mr Gresham, and had shot a stag with Mr Palliser, and had discussed sheep with Lord Brentford, but had hardly heard a word about politics from any one of those influential gentlemen. From Mr Monk he had heard much of a coming Reform Bill; but his communications with Mr Monk had rather been private discussions — in which he had learned Mr Monk’s own views on certain points — than revelations on the intention of the party to which Mr Monk belonged. “I heard of nothing settled,” said Phineas; “but I suppose we are to have a Reform Bill.”

“That is a matter of course.”

“And I suppose we are not to touch the question of ballot.”

“That’s the difficulty,” said Barrington Erle. But of course we shan’t touch it as long as Mr Mildmay is in the Cabinet. He will never consent to the ballot as First Minister of the Crown.”

“Nor would Gresham, or Palliser,” said Phineas, who did not choose to bring forward his greatest gun at first.

“I don’t know about Gresham. It is impossible to say what Gresham might bring himself to do. Gresham is a man who may go any lengths before he has done. Planty Pall,” — for such was the name by which Mr Plantagenet Palliser was ordinarily known among his friends — “would of course go with Mr Mildmay and the Duke.”

“And Monk is opposed to the ballot,” said Phineas.

“Ah, that’s the question. No doubt he has assented to the proposition of a measure without the ballot; but if there should come a row, and men like Turnbull demand it, and the London mob kick up a shindy, I don’t know how far Monk would be steady.”

“Whatever he says, he’ll stick to.”

“He is your leader, then?” asked Barrington.

“I don’t know that I have a leader. Mr Mildmay leads our side; and if anybody leads me, he does. But I have great faith in Mr Monk.”

“There’s one who would go for the ballot tomorrow, if it were brought forward stoutly,” said Barrington Erle to Mr Ratler a few minutes afterwards, pointing to Phineas as he spoke.

“I don’t think much of that young man,” said Ratler.

Mr Bonteen and Mr Ratler had put their heads together during that last evening at Loughlinter, and had agreed that they did not think much of Phineas Finn. Why did Mr Kennedy go down off the mountain to get him a pony? And why did Mr Gresham play chess with him? Mr Ratler and Mr Bonteen may have been right in making up their minds to think but little of Phineas Finn, but Barrington Erle had been quite wrong when he had said that Phineas would “go for the ballot” tomorrow. Phineas had made up his mind very strongly that he would always oppose the ballot. That he would hold the same opinion throughout his life, no one should pretend to say; but in his present mood, and under the tuition which he had received from Mr Monk, he was prepared to demonstrate, out of the House and in it, that the ballot was, as a political measure, unmanly, ineffective, and enervating. Enervating had been a great word with Mr Monk, and Phineas had clung to it with admiration.

The meeting took place at Mr Mildmay’s on the third day of the session. Phineas had of course heard of such meetings before, but had never attended one. Indeed, there had been no such gathering when Mr Mildmay’s party came into power early in the last session. Mr Mildmay and his men had then made their effort in turning out their opponents, and had been well pleased to rest awhile upon their oars. Now, however, they must go again to work, and therefore the liberal party was collected at Mr Mildmay’s house, in order that the liberal party might be told what it was that Mr Mildmay and his Cabinet intended to do.

Phineas Finn was quite in the dark as to what would be the nature of the performance on this occasion, and entertained some idea that every gentleman present would be called upon to express individually his assent or dissent in regard to the measure proposed. He walked to St James’s Square with Laurence Fitzgibbon; but even with Fitzgibbon was ashamed to show his ignorance by asking questions. “After all,” said Fitzgibbon, “this kind of thing means nothing. I know as well as possible, and so do you, what Mr Mildmay will say — and then Gresham will say a few words; and then Turnbull will make a murmur, and then we shall all assent — to anything or to nothing — and then it will be over.” Still Phineas did not understand whether the assent required would or would not be an individual personal assent. When the affair was over he found that he was disappointed, and that he might almost as well have stayed away from the meeting — except that he had attended at Mr Mildmay’s bidding, and had given a silent adhesion to Mr Mildmay’s plan of reform for that session. Laurence Fitzgibbon had been very nearly correct in his description of what would occur. Mr Mildmay made a long speech. Mr Turnbull; the great Radical of the day — he man who was supposed to represent what many called the Manchester school of politics — asked half a dozen questions. In answer to these Mr Gresham made a short speech. Then Mr Mildmay made another speech, and then all was over. The gist of the whole thing was, that there should be a Reform Bill — very generous in its enlargement of the franchise — but no ballot. Mr Turnbull expressed his doubt whether this would be satisfactory to the country; but even Mr Turnbull was soft in his tone and complaisant in his manner. As there was no reporter present — that plan of turning private meetings at gentlemen’s houses into public assemblies not having been as yet adopted — there could be no need for energy or violence. They went to Mr Mildmay’s house to hear Mr Mildmay’s plan — and they heard it.

Two days after this Phineas was to dine with Mr Monk. Mr Monk had asked him in the lobby of the House. “I don’t give dinner parties,” he said, “but I should like you to come and meet Mr Turnbull.” Phineas accepted the invitation as a matter of course. There were many who said that Mr Turnbull was the greatest man in the nation, and that the nation could be saved only by a direct obedience to Mr Turnbull’s instructions. Others said that Mr Turnbull was a demagogue and at heart a rebel; that he was un-English, false and very dangerous. Phineas was rather inclined to believe the latter statement; and as danger and dangerous men are always more attractive than safety and safe men, he was glad to have an opportunity of meeting Mr Turnbull at dinner.

In the meantime he went to call on Lady Laura, whom he had not seen since the last evening which he spent in her company at Loughlinter — whom, when he was last speaking to her, he had kissed close beneath the falls of the Linter. He found her at home, and with her was her husband. “Here is a Darby and Joan meeting, is it not?” she said, getting up to welcome him. He had seen Mr Kennedy before, and had been standing close to him during the meeting at Mr Mildmay’s.

“I am very glad to find you both together.”

“But Robert is going away this instant,” said Lady Laura. “Has he told you of our adventures at Rome?”

“Not a word.”

“Then I must tell you — but not now. The dear old Pope was so civil to us. I came to think it quite a pity that he should be in trouble.”

“I must be off,” said the husband, getting up. But I shall meet you at dinner, I believe.”

“Do you dine at Mr Monk’s?”

“Yes, and am asked expressly to hear Turnbull make a convert of you. There are only to be us four. Au revoir.” Then Mr Kennedy went, and Phineas found himself alone with Lady Laura. He hardly knew how to address her, and remained silent. He had not prepared himself for the interview as he ought to have done, and felt himself to be awkward. She evidently expected him to speak, and for a few seconds sat waiting for what he might say.

At last she found that it was incumbent on her to begin. “Were you surprised at our suddenness when you got my note?”

“A little. You had spoken of waiting.”

“I had never imagined that he would have been impetuous. And he seems to think that even the business of getting himself married would not justify him staying away from Parliament. He is a rigid martinet in all matters of duty.”

“I did not wonder that he should be in a hurry, but that you should submit.”

“I told you that I should do just what the wise people told me. I asked papa, and he said that it would be better. So the lawyers were driven out of their minds, and the milliners out of their bodies, and the thing was done.”

“Who was there at the marriage?”

“Oswald was not there. That I know is what you mean to ask, Papa said that he might come if he pleased. Oswald stipulated that he should be received as a son. Then my father spoke the hardest word that ever fell from his mouth.”

“What did he say?”

“I will not repeat it — not altogether. But he said that Oswald was not entitled to a son’s treatment. He was very sore about my money, because Robert was so generous as to his settlement. So the breach between them is as wide as ever.”

“And where is Chiltern now?” said Phineas.

“Down in Northamptonshire, staying at some inn from whence he hunts. He tells me that he is quite alone — that he never dines out, never has any one to dine with him, that he hunts five or six days a week — and reads at night.”

“That is not a bad sort of life.”

“Not if the reading is any good. But I cannot bear that he should be so solitary. And if he breaks down in it, then his companions will not be fit for him. Do you ever hunt?”

“Oh yes — at home in county Clare. All Irishmen hunt.”

“I wish you would go down to him and see him. He would be delighted to have you.”

Phineas thought over the proposition before he answered it, and then made the reply that he had made once before. “I would do so, Lady Laura — but that I have no money for hunting in England.”

“Alas, alas!” said she, smiling. How that hits one on every side!”

“I might manage it — for a couple of days — in March.”

“Do not do what you think you ought not to do,” said Lady Laura.

“No; certainly. But I should like it, and if I can I will.”

“He could mount you, I have no doubt. He has no other expense now, and keeps a stable full of horses. I think he has seven or eight. And now tell me, Mr Finn; when are you going to charm the House? Or is it your first intention to strike terror?”

He blushed — he knew that he blushed as he answered. “Oh, I suppose I shall make some sort of attempt before long. I can’t bear the idea of being a bore.”

“I think you ought to speak, Mr Finn.”

“I do not know about that, but I certainly mean to try. There will be lots of opportunities about the new Reform Bill. Of course you know that Mr Mildmay is going to bring it in at once. You hear all that from Mr Kennedy.”

“And papa has told me, I still see papa almost every day. You must call upon him. Mind you do.” Phineas said that he certainly would. “Papa is very lonely now, and I sometimes feel that I have been almost cruel in deserting him. And I think that he has a horror of the house — especially later in the year — always fancying that he will meet Oswald. I am so unhappy about it all, Mr Finn.”

“Why doesn’t your brother marry?” said Phineas, knowing nothing as yet of Lord Chiltern and Violet Effingham. “If he were to marry well, that would bring your father round.”

“Yes — it would.”

“And why should he not?”

Lady Laura paused before she answered; and then she told the whole story. “He is violently in love, and the girl he loves has refused him twice.”

“Is it with Miss Effingham?” asked Phineas, guessing the truth at once, and remembering what Miss Effingham had said to him when riding in the wood.

“Yes — with Violet Effingham; my father’s pet, his favourite, whom he loves next to myself — almost as well as myself; whom he would really welcome as a daughter. He would gladly make her mistress of his house, and of Saulsby, Everything would then go smoothly.”

“But she does not like Lord Chiltern?”

“I believe she loves him in her heart; but she is afraid of him. As she says herself, a girl is bound to be so careful of herself. With all her seeming frolic, Violet Effingham is very wise.”

Phineas, though not conscious of anything akin to jealousy, was annoyed at the revelation made to him. Since he had heard that Lord Chiltern was in love with Miss Effingham, he did not like Lord Chiltern quite as well as he had done before. He himself had simply admired Miss Effingham, and had taken pleasure in her society; but, though this had been all, he did not like to hear of another man wanting to marry her, and he was almost angry with Lady Laura for saying that she believed Miss Effingham loved her brother. If Miss Effingham had twice refused Lord Chiltern, that ought to have been sufficient. It was not that Phineas was in love with Miss Effingham himself. As he was still violently in love with Lady Laura, any other love was of course impossible; but, nevertheless, there was something offensive to him in the story as it had been told. “If it be wisdom on her part,” said he, answering Lady Laura’s last words, “you cannot find fault with her for her decision.”

“I find no fault — but I think my brother would make her happy.”

Lady Laura, when she was left alone, at once reverted to the tone in which Phineas Finn had answered her remarks about Miss Effingham. Phineas was very ill able to conceal his thoughts, and wore his heart almost upon his sleeve. “Can it be possible that he cares for her himself?” That was the nature of Lady Laura’s first question to herself upon the matter. And in asking herself that question, she thought nothing of the disparity in rank or fortune between Phineas Finn and Violet Effingham. Nor did it occur to her as at all improbable that Violet might accept the love of him who had so lately been her own lover. But the idea grated against her wishes on two sides. She was most anxious that Violet should ultimately become her brother’s wife — and she could not be pleased that Phineas should be able to love any woman.

I must beg my readers not to be carried away by those last words into any erroneous conclusion. They must not suppose that Lady Laura Kennedy, the lately married bride, indulged a guilty passion for the young man who had loved her. Though she had probably thought often of Phineas Finn since her marriage, her thoughts had never been of a nature to disturb her rest. It had never occurred to her even to think that she regarded him with any feeling that was an offence to her husband. She would have hated herself had any such idea presented itself to her mind. She prided herself on being a pure high-principled woman, who had kept so strong a guard upon herself as to be nearly free from the dangers of those rocks upon which other women made shipwreck of their happiness. She took pride in this, and would then blame herself for her own pride. But though she so blamed herself, it never occurred to her to think that to her there might be danger of such shipwreck. She had put away from herself the idea of love when she had first perceived that Phineas had regarded her with more than friendship, and had accepted Mr Kennedy’s offer with an assured conviction that by doing so she was acting best for her own happiness and for that of all those concerned. She had felt the romance of the position to be sweet when Phineas had stood with her at the top of the falls of the Linter, and had told her of the hopes which he had dared to indulge. And when at the bottom of the falls he had presumed to take her in his arms, she had forgiven him without difficulty to herself, telling herself that that would be the alpha and the omega of the romance of her life. She had not felt herself bound to tell Mr Kennedy of what had occurred — but she had felt that he could hardly have been angry even had he been told. And she had often thought of her lover since, and of his love — telling herself that she too had once had a lover, never regarding her husband in that light; but her thoughts had not frightened her as guilty thoughts will do. There had come a romance which had been pleasant, and it was gone. It had been soon banished — but it had left to her a sweet flavour, of which she loved to taste the sweetness though she knew that it was gone. And the man should be her friend, but especially her husband’s friend. It should be her care to see that his life was successful — and especially her husband’s care. It was a great delight to her to know that her husband liked the man. And the man would marry, and the man’s wife should be her friend. All this had been very pure and very pleasant. Now an idea had flitted across her brain that the man was in love with someone else — and she did not like it!

But she did not therefore become afraid of herself, or in the least realise at once the danger of her own position. Her immediate glance at the matter did not go beyond the falseness of men. If it were so, as she suspected — if Phineas had in truth transferred his affections to Violet Effingham, of how little value was the love of such a man! It did not occur to her at this moment that she also had transferred hers to Robert Kennedy, or that, if not, she had done worse. But she did remember that in the autumn this young Phoebus among men had turned his back upon her out upon the mountain that he might hide from her the agony of his heart when he learned that she was to be the wife of another man; and that now, before the winter was over, he could not hide from her the fact that his heart was elsewhere! And then she speculated, and counted up facts, and satisfied herself that Phineas could not even have seen Violet Effingham since they two had stood together upon the mountain. How false are men! — how false and how weak of heart!

“Chiltern and Violet Effingham!” said Phineas to himself, as he walked away from Grosvenor Place. “Is it fair that she should be sacrificed because she is rich, and because she is so winning and so fascinating that Lord Brentford would receive even his son for the sake of receiving also such a daughter-in-law?” Phineas also liked Lord Chiltern; had seen or fancied that he had seen fine things in him; had looked forward to his regeneration, hoping, perhaps, that he might have some hand in the good work. But he did not recognise the propriety of sacrificing Violet Effingham even for work so good as this, If Miss Effingham had refused Lord Chiltern twice, surely that ought to be sufficient. It did not occur to him that the love of such a girl as Violet would be a great treasure — to himself. As regarded himself, he was still in love — hopelessly in love, with Lady Laura Kennedy!

Chapter 18

Mr Turnbull

It was a Wednesday evening and there was no House — and at seven o’clock Phineas was at Mr Monk’s hall door. He was the first of the guests, and he found Mr Monk alone in the dining-room. “I am doing butler,” said Mr Monk, who had a brace of decanters in his hands, which he proceeded to put down in the neighbourhood of the fire. “But I have finished, and now we will go upstairs to receive the two great men properly.”

“I beg your pardon for coming too early,” said Finn.

“Not a minute too early. Seven is seven, and it is I who am too late. But, Lord bless you, you don’t think I’m ashamed of being found in the act of decanting my own wine! I remember Lord Palmerston saying before some committee about salaries, five or six years ago now, I daresay, that it wouldn’t do for an English Minister to have his hall door opened by a maidservant. Now, I’m an English Minister, and I’ve got nobody but a maidservant to open my hall door, and I’m obliged to look after my own wine. I wonder whether it’s improper? I shouldn’t like to be the means of injuring the British Constitution.”

“Perhaps if you resign soon, and if nobody follows your example, grave evil results may be avoided.”

“I sincerely hope so, for I do love the British Constitution; and I love also the respect in which members of the English Cabinet are held. Now Turnbull, who will be here in a moment, hates it all; but he is a rich man, and has more powdered footmen hanging about his house than ever Lord Palmerston had himself.”

“He is still in business.”

“Oh yes — and makes his thirty thousand a year. Here he is. How are you, Turnbull? We were talking about my maidservant. I hope she opened the door for you properly.”

“Certainly — as far as I perceived,” said Mr Turnbull, who was better at a speech than a joke. “A very respectable young woman I should say.”

“There is not one more so in all London,” said Mr Monk; “but Finn seems to think that I ought to have a man in livery.”

“It is a matter of perfect indifference to me,” said Mr Turnbull. “I am one of those who never think of such things.”

“Nor I either,” said Mr Monk. Then the laird of Loughlinter was announced, and they all went down to dinner.

Mr Turnbull was a good-looking robust man about sixty, with long grey hair and a red complexion, with hard eyes, a well-cut nose, and full lips. He was nearly six feet high, stood quite upright, and always wore a black swallow-tail coat, black trousers, and a black silk waistcoat. In the House, at least, he was always so dressed, and at dinner tables. What difference there might be in his costume when at home at Staleybridge few of those who saw him in London had the means of knowing. There was nothing in his face to indicate special talent. No one looking at him would take him to be a fool; but there was none of the fire of genius in his eye, nor was there in the lines of his mouth any of that play of thought or fancy which is generally to be found in the faces of men and women who have made themselves great. Mr Turnbull had certainly made himself great, and could hardly have done so without force of intellect. He was one of the most popular, if not the most popular politician in the country. Poor men believed in him, thinking that he was their most honest public friend; and men who were not poor believed in his power, thinking that his counsels must surely prevail. He had obtained the ear of the House and the favour of the reporters, and opened his voice at no public dinner, on no public platform, without a conviction that the words spoken by him would be read by thousands. The first necessity for good speaking is a large audience; and of this advantage Mr Turnbull had made himself sure. And yet it could hardly be said that he was a great orator. He was gifted with a powerful voice, with strong, and I may, perhaps, call them broad convictions, with perfect self-reliance, with almost unlimited powers of endurance, with hot ambition, with no keen scruples, and with a moral skin of great thickness. Nothing said against him pained him, no attacks wounded him, no raillery touched him in the least. There was not a sore spot about him, and probably his first thoughts on waking every morning told him that he, at least, was totus teres atque rotundus. He was, of course, a thorough Radical — and so was Mr Monk. But Mr Monk’s first waking thoughts were probably exactly the reverse of those of his friend. Mr Monk was a much hotter man in debate than Mr Turnbull — but Mr Monk was ever doubting of himself, and never doubted of himself so much as when he had been most violent, and also most effective, in debate. When Mr Monk jeered at himself for being a Cabinet Minister and keeping no attendant grander than a parlour-maid, there was a substratum of self-doubt under the joke.

Mr Turnbull was certainly a great Radical, and as such enjoyed a great reputation. I do not think that high office in the State had ever been offered to him; but things had been said which justified him, or seemed to himself to justify him, in declaring that in no possible circumstances would he serve the Crown. “I serve the people,” he had said, “and much as I respect the servants of the Crown, I think that my own office is the higher.” He had been greatly called to task for this speech; and Mr Mildmay, the present Premier, had asked him whether he did not recognise the so-called servants of the Crown as the most hard-worked and truest servants of the people. The House and the press had supported Mr Mildmay, but to all that Mr Turnbull was quite indifferent; and when an assertion made by him before three or four thousand persons at Manchester, to the effect that he — he specially — was the friend and servant of the people, was received with acclamation, he felt quite satisfied that he had gained his point. Progressive reform in the franchise, of which manhood suffrage should be the acknowledged and not far distant end, equal electoral districts, ballot, tenant right for England as well as Ireland, reduction of the standing army till there should be no standing army to reduce, utter disregard of all political movements in Europe, an almost idolatrous admiration for all political movements in America, free trade in everything except malt, and an absolute extinction of a State Church — these were among the principal articles in Mr Turnbull’s political catalogue. And I think that when once he had learned the art of arranging his words as he stood upon his legs, and had so mastered his voice as to have obtained the ear of the House, the work of his life was not difficult. Having nothing to construct, he could always deal with generalities. Being free from responsibility, he was not called upon either to study details or to master even great facts. It was his business to inveigh against existing evils, and perhaps there is no easier business when once the privilege of an audience has been attained. It was his work to cut down forest-trees, and he had nothing to do with the subsequent cultivation of the land. Mr Monk had once told Phineas Finn how great were the charms of that inaccuracy which was permitted to the opposition. Mr Turnbull no doubt enjoyed these charms to the full, though he would sooner have put a padlock on his mouth for a month than have owned as much. Upon the whole, Mr Turnbull was no doubt right in resolving that he would not take office, though some reticence on that subject might have been more becoming to him.

The conversation at dinner, though it was altogether on political subjects, had in it nothing of special interest as long as the girl was there to change the plates; but when she was gone, and the door was closed, it gradually opened out, and there came on to be a pleasant sparring match between the two great Radicals — the Radical who had joined himself to the governing powers, and the Radical who stood aloof. Mr Kennedy barely said a word now and then, and Phineas was almost as silent as Mr Kennedy. He had come there to hear some such discussion, and was quite willing to listen while guns of such great calibre were being fired off for his amusement.

“I think Mr Mildmay is making a great step forward,” said Mr Turnbull.

“I think he is,” said Mr Monk.

“I did not believe that he would ever live to go so far. It will hardly suffice even for this year; but still coming from him, it is a great deal. It only shows how far a man may be made to go, if only the proper force be applied. After all, it matters very little who are the Ministers.”

“That is what I have always declared,” said Mr Monk.

“Very little indeed. We don’t mind whether it be Lord de Terrier, or Mr Mildmay, or Mr Gresham, or you yourself, if you choose to get yourself made First Lord of the Treasury.”

“I have no such ambition, Turnbull.”

“I should have thought you had. If I went in for that kind of thing myself, I should like to go to the top of the ladder. I should feel that if I could do any good at all by becoming a Minister, I could only do it by becoming first Minister.”

“You wouldn’t doubt your own fitness for such a position?”

“I doubt my fitness for the position of any Minister,” said Mr Turnbull.

“You mean that on other grounds,” said Mr Kennedy.

“I mean it on every ground,” said Mr Turnbull, rising on his legs and standing with his back to the fire. “Of course I am not fit to have diplomatic intercourse with men who would come to me simply with the desire of deceiving me. Of course I am unfit to deal with members of Parliament who would flock around me because they wanted places. Of course I am unfit to answer every man’s question so as to give no information to any one.”

“Could you not answer them so as to give information?” said Mr Kennedy.

But Mr Turnbull was so intent on his speech that it may be doubted whether he heard this interruption. He took no notice of it as he went on. “Of course I am unfit to maintain the proprieties of a seeming confidence between a Crown all-powerless and a people all-powerful. No man recognises his own unfitness for such work more clearly than I do, Mr Monk. But if I took in hand such work at all, I should like to be the leader, and not the led. Tell us fairly, now, what are your convictions worth in Mr Mildmay’s Cabinet?”

“That is a question which a man may hardly answer himself,” said Mr Monk.

“It is a question which a man should at least answer for himself before he consents to sit there,” said Mr Turnbull, in a tone of voice which was almost angry.

“And what reason have you for supposing that I have omitted that duty?” said Mr Monk.

“Simply this — that I cannot reconcile your known opinions with the practices of your colleagues.”

“I will not tell you what my convictions may be worth in Mr Mildmay’s Cabinet. I will not take upon myself to say that they are worth the chair on which I sit when I am there. But I will tell you what my aspirations were when I consented to fill that chair, and you shall judge of their worth. I thought that they might possibly leaven the batch of bread which we have to bake — giving to the whole batch more of the flavour of reform than it would have possessed had I absented myself. I thought that when I was asked to join Mr Mildmay and Mr Gresham, the very fact of that request indicated liberal progress, and that if I refused the request I should be declining to assist in good work.”

“You could have supported them, if anything were proposed worthy of support,” said Mr Turnbull.

“Yes; but I could not have been so effective in taking care that some measure be proposed worthy of support as I may possibly be now. I thought a good deal about it, and I believe that my decision was right.”

“I am sure you were right,” said Mr Kennedy.

“There can be no juster object of ambition than a seat in the Cabinet,” said Phineas.

“Sir, I must dispute that,” said Mr Turnbull, turning round upon our hero. “I regard the position of our high Ministers as most respectable.”

“Thank you for so much,” said Mr Monk. But the orator went on again, regardless of the interruption:

“The position of gentlemen in inferior offices — of gentlemen who attend rather to the nods and winks of their superiors in Downing Street than to the interest of their constituents — I do not regard as being highly respectable.”

“A man cannot begin at the top,” said Phineas.

“Our friend Mr Monk has begun at what you are pleased to call the top,” said Mr Turnbull. “But I will not profess to think that even he has raised himself by going into office. To be an independent representative of a really popular commercial constituency is, in my estimation, the highest object of an Englishman’s ambition.”

“But why commercial, Mr Turnbull?” said Mr Kennedy.

“Because the commercial constituencies really do elect their own members in accordance with their own judgments, whereas the counties and the small towns are coerced either by individuals or by a combination of aristocratic influences.”

“And yet,” said Mr Kennedy, there are not half a dozen Conservatives returned by all the counties in Scotland.”

“Scotland is very much to be honoured,” said Mr Turnbull.

Mr Kennedy was the first to take his departure, and Mr Turnbull followed him very quickly. Phineas got up to go at the same time, but stayed at his host’s request, and sat for a while smoking a cigar.

“Turnbull is a wonderful man,” said Mr Monk.

“Does he not domineer too much?”

“His fault is not arrogance, so much as ignorance that there is, or should be, a difference between public and private life. In the House of Commons a man in Mr Turnbull’s position must speak with dictatorial assurance. He is always addressing, not the House only, but the country at large, and the country will not believe in him unless he believe in himself. But he forgets that he is not always addressing the country at large. I wonder what sort of a time Mrs Turnbull and the little Turnbulls have of it?”

Phineas, as he went home, made up his mind that Mrs Turnbull and the little Turnbulls must probably have a bad time of it.

Chapter 19

Lord Chiltern rides his horse Bonebreaker

It was known that whatever might be the details of Mr Mildmay’s bill, the ballot would not form a part of it; and as there was a strong party in the House of Commons, and a very numerous party out of it, who were desirous that voting by ballot should be made a part of the electoral law, it was decided that an independent motion should be brought on in anticipation of Mr Mildmay’s bill. The arrangement was probably one of Mr Mildmay’s own making; so that he might be hampered by no opposition on that subject by his own followers if — as he did not doubt — the motion should be lost. It was expected that the debate would not last over one night, and Phineas resolved that he would make his maiden speech on this occasion. He had very strong opinions as to the inefficacy of the ballot for any good purposes, and thought that he might be able to strike out from his convictions some sparks of that fire which used to be so plentiful with him at the old debating clubs. But even at breakfast that morning his heart began to beat quickly at the idea of having to stand on his legs before so critical an audience.

He knew that it would be well that he should if possible get the subject off his mind during the day, and therefore went out among the people who certainly would not talk to him about the ballot. He sat for nearly an hour in the morning with Mr Low, and did not even tell Mr Low that it was his intention to speak on that day. Then he made one or two other calls, and at about three went up to Portman Square to look for Lord Chiltern. It was now nearly the end of February, and Phineas had often seen Lady Laura. He had not seen her brother, but had learned from his sister that he had been driven up to London by the frost. He was told by the porter at Lord Brentford’s that Lord Chiltern was in the house, and as he was passing through the hall he met Lord Brentford himself. He was thus driven to speak, and felt himself called upon to explain why he was there. “I am come to see Lord Chiltern,” he said.

“Is Lord Chiltern in the house?” said the Earl, turning to the servant.

“Yes, my lord; his lordship arrived last night.”

“You will find him upstairs, I suppose,” said the Earl. “For myself I know nothing of him.” He spoke in an angry tone, as though he resented the fact that any one should come to his house to call upon his son; and turned his back quickly upon Phineas. But he thought better of it before he reached the front door, and turned again. “By the bye,” said he, what majority shall we have tonight, Finn?”

“Pretty nearly as many as you please to name, my lord,” said Phineas.

“Well — yes; I suppose we are tolerably safe. You ought to speak upon it.”

“Perhaps I may,” said Phineas, feeling that he blushed as he spoke.

“Do,” said the Earl. Do. If you see Lord Chiltern will you tell him from me that I should be glad to see him before he leaves London. I shall be at home till noon tomorrow.” Phineas, much astonished at the commission given to him, of course said that he would do as he was desired, and then passed on to Lord Chiltern’s apartments.

He found his friend standing in the middle of the room, without coat and waistcoat, with a pair of dumb-bells in his hands. “When there’s no hunting I’m driven to this kind of thing,” said Lord Chiltern.

“I suppose it’s good exercise,” said Phineas.

“And it gives me something to do. When I’m in London I feel like a gipsy in church, till the time comes for prowling out at night. I’ve no occupation for my days whatever, and no place to which I can take myself. I can’t stand in a club window as some men do, and I should disgrace any decent club if I did stand there. I belong to the Travellers, but I doubt whether the porter would let me go in.”

“I think you pique yourself on being more of an outer Bohemian than you are,” said Phineas.

“I pique myself on this, that whether Bohemian or not, I will go nowhere that I am not wanted. Though — for the matter of that, I suppose I’m not wanted here.” Then Phineas gave him the message from his father. “He wishes to see me tomorrow morning?” continued Lord Chiltern. “Let him send me word what it is he has to say to me. I do not choose to be insulted by him, though he is my father.”

“I would certainly go, if I were you.”

“I doubt it very much, if all the circumstances were the same. Let him tell me what he wants.”

“Of course I cannot ask him, Chiltern.”

“I know what he wants very well. Laura has been interfering and doing no good. You know Violet Effingham?”

“Yes; I know her,” said Phineas, much surprised.

“They want her to marry me.”

“And you do not wish to marry her?”

“I did not say that. But do you think that such a girl as Miss Effingham would marry such a man as I am? She would be much more likely to take you. By George, she would! Do you know that she has three thousand a year of her own?”

“I know that she has money.”

“That’s about the tune of it. I would take her without a shilling tomorrow, if she would have me — because I like her. She is the only girl I ever did like. But what is the use of my liking her? They have painted me so black among them, especially my father, that no decent girl would think of marrying me.”

“Your father can’t be angry with you if you do your best to comply with his wishes.”

“I don’t care a straw whether he be angry or not. He allows me eight hundred a year, and he knows that if he stopped it I should go to the Jews the next day. I could not help myself. He can’t leave an acre away from me, and yet he won’t join me in raising money for the sake of paying Laura her fortune.”

“Lady Laura can hardly want money now.”

“That detestable prig whom she has chosen to marry, and whom I hate with all my heart, is richer than ever Croesus was; but nevertheless Laura ought to have her own money. She shall have it some day.”

“I would see Lord Brentford, if I were you.”

“I will think about it. Now tell me about coming down to Willingford. Laura says you will come some day in March. I can mount you for a couple of days and should be delighted to have you. My horses all pull like the mischief, and rush like devils, and want a deal of riding; but an Irishman likes that.”

“I do not dislike it particularly.”

“I like it. I prefer to have something to do on horseback. When a man tells me that a horse is an armchair, I always tell him to put the brute into his bedroom. Mind you come. The house I stay at is called the Willingford Bull, and it’s just four miles from Peterborough.” Phineas swore that he would go down and ride the pulling horses, and then took his leave, earnestly advising Lord Chiltern, as he went, to keep the appointment proposed by his father.

When the morning came, at half past eleven, the son, who had been standing for half an hour with his back to the fire in the large gloomy dining-room, suddenly rang the bell. “Tell the Earl,” he said to the servant, “that I am here and will go to him if he wishes it.” The servant came back, and said that the Earl was waiting. Then Lord Chiltern strode after the man into his father’s room.

“Oswald,” said the father, I have sent for you because I think it may be as well to speak to you on some business. Will you sit down?” Lord Chiltern sat down, but did not answer a word. “I feel very unhappy about your sister’s fortune,” said the Earl.

“So do I— very unhappy. We can raise the money between us, and pay her tomorrow, if you please it.”

“It was in opposition to my advice that she paid your debts.”

“And in opposition to mine too.”

“I told her that I would not pay them, and were I to give her back tomorrow, as you say, the money that she has so used, I should be stultifying myself. But I will do so on one condition. I will join with you in raising the money for your sister, on one condition.”

“What is that?”

“Laura tells me — indeed she has told me often — that you are attached to Violet Effingham.”

“But Violet Effingham, my lord, is unhappily not attached to me.”

“I do not know how that may be. Of course I cannot say. I have never taken the liberty of interrogating her upon the subject.”

“Even you, my lord, could hardly have done that.”

“What do you mean by that? I say that I never have,” said the Earl, angrily.

“I simply mean that even you could hardly have asked Miss Effingham such a question. I have asked her, and she has refused me.”

“But girls often do that, and yet accept afterwards the men whom they have refused. Laura tells me that she believes that Violet would consent if you pressed your suit.”

“Laura knows nothing about it, my lord.”

“There you are probably wrong. Laura and Violet are very close friends, and have no doubt discussed this matter between them. At any rate, it may be as well that you should hear what I have to say. Of course I shall not interfere myself. There is no ground on which I can do so with propriety.”

“None whatever,” said Lord Chiltern.

The Earl became very angry, and nearly broke down in his anger. He paused for a moment, feeling disposed to tell his son to go and never to see him again. But he gulped down his wrath, and went on with his speech. “My meaning, sir, is this — that I have so great faith in Violet Effingham, that I would receive her acceptance of your hand as the only proof which would be convincing to me of amendment in your mode of life. If she were to do so, I would join with you in raising money to pay your sister, would make some further sacrifice with reference to an income for you and your wife, and — would make you both welcome to Saulsby — if you chose to come.” The Earl’s voice hesitated much and became almost tremulous as he made the last proposition. And his eyes had fallen away from his son’s gaze, and he had bent a little over the table, and was moved. But he recovered himself at once, and added, with all proper dignity, “If you have anything to say I shall be glad to hear it.”

“All your offers would be nothing, my lord, if I did not like the girl.”

“I should not ask you to marry a girl if you did not like her, as you call it.”

“But as to Miss Effingham, it happens that our wishes jump together. I have asked her, and she has refused me. I don’t even know where to find her to ask her again. If I went to Lady Baldock’s house the servants would not let me in.”

“And whose fault is that?”

“Yours partly, my lord. You have told everybody that I am the devil, and now all the old women believe it.”

“I never told anybody so.”

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will go down to Lady Baldock’s today. I suppose she is at Baddingham. And if I can get speech of Miss Effingham — ”

“Miss Effingham is not at Baddingham. Miss Effingham is staying with your sister in Grosvenor Place. I saw her yesterday.”

“She is in London?”

“I tell you that I saw her yesterday.”

“Very well, my lord. Then I will do the best I can. Laura will tell you of the result.”

The father would have given the son some advice as to the mode in which he should put forward his claim upon Violet’s hand, but the son would not wait to hear it. Choosing to presume that the conference was over, he went back to the room in which he had kept his dumb-bells; and for a minute or two went to work at his favourite exercise. But he soon put the dumb-bells down, and began to prepare himself for his work. If this thing was to be done, it might as well be done at once. He looked out of his window, and saw that the streets were in a mess of slush. White snow was becoming black mud, as it will do in London; and the violence of frost was giving way to the horrors of thaw. All would be soft and comparatively pleasant in Northamptonshire on the following morning, and if everything went right he would breakfast at the Willingford Bull. He would go down by the hunting train, and be at the inn by ten. The meet was only six miles distant, and all would be pleasant. He would do this whatever might be the result of his work today — but in the meantime he would go and do his work. He had a cab called, and within half an hour of the time at which he had left his father, he was at the door of his sister’s house in Grosvenor Place. The servants told him that the ladies were at lunch. “I can’t eat lunch,” he said. “Tell them that I am in the drawing-room.”

“He has come to see you,” said Lady Laura, as soon as the servant had left the room.

“I hope not,” said Violet.

“Do not say that.”

“But I do say it. I hope he has not come to see me — that is, not to see me specially. Of course I cannot pretend not to know what you mean.”

“He may think it civil to call if he has heard that you are in town,” said Lady Laura, after a pause.

“If it be only that, I will be civil in return — as sweet as May to him. If it be really only that, and if I were sure of it, I should be really glad to see him.” Then they finished their lunch, and Lady Laura got up and led the way to the drawing-room.

“I hope you remember,” said she, gravely, that you might be a saviour to him.”

“I do not believe in girls being saviours to men. It is the man who should be the saviour to the girl. If I marry at all, I have the right to expect that protection shall be given to me — not that I shall have to give it.”

“Violet, you are determined to misrepresent what I mean.”

Lord Chiltern was walking about the room, and did not sit down when they entered. The ordinary greetings took place, and Miss Effingham made some remark about the frost. “But it seems to be going,” she said, “and I suppose that you will soon be at work again?”

“Yes — I shall hunt tomorrow,” said Lord Chiltern.

“And the next day, and the next, and the next,” said Violet, “till about the middle of April — and then your period of misery will begin!”

“Exactly,” said Lord Chiltern. I have nothing but hunting that I can call an occupation.”

“Why don’t you make one?” said his sister.

“I mean to do so, if it be possible. Laura, would you mind leaving me and Miss Effingham alone for a few minutes?”

Lady Laura got up, and so also did Miss Effingham. “For what purpose?” said the latter. “It cannot be for any good purpose.”

“At any rate I wish it, and I will not harm you.” Lady Laura was now going, but paused before she reached the door. “Laura, will you do as I ask you?” said the brother. Then Lady Laura went.

“It was not that I feared you would harm me, Lord Chiltern,” said Violet.

“No — I know it was not. But what I say is always said awkwardly. An hour ago I did not know that you were in town, but when I was told the news I came at once. My father told me.”

“I am so glad that you see your father.”

“I have not spoken to him for months before, and probably may not speak to him for months again. But there is one point, Violet, on which he and I agree.”

“I hope there will soon be many.”

“It is possible — but I fear not probable. Look here, Violet,” — and he looked at her with all his eyes, till it seemed to her that he was all eyes, so great was the intensity of his gaze — “I should scorn myself were I to permit myself to come before you with a plea for your favour founded on my father’s whims. My father is unreasonable, and has been very unjust to me. He has ever believed evil of me, and has believed it often when all the world knew that he was wrong. I care little for being reconciled to a father who has been so cruel to me.”

“He loves me dearly, and is my friend. I would rather that you should not speak against him to me.”

“You will understand, at least, that I am asking nothing from you because he wishes it, Laura probably has told you that you may make things straight by becoming my wife.”

“She has — certainly, Lord Chiltern.”

“It is an argument that she should never have used. It is an argument to which you should not listen for a moment. Make things straight indeed! Who can tell? There would be very little made straight by such a marriage, if it were not that I loved you. Violet, that is my plea, and my only one. I love you so well that I do believe that if you took me I should return to the old ways, and become as other men are, and be in time as respectable, as stupid — and perhaps as ill-natured as old Lady Baldock herself.”

“My poor aunt!”

“You know she says worse things of me than that. Now, dearest, you have heard all that I have to say to you.” As he spoke he came close to her, and put out his hand — but she did not touch it. “I have no other argument to use — not a word more to say. As I came here in the cab I was turning it over in my mind that I might find what best I should say. But, after all, there is nothing more to be said than that.”

“The words make no difference,” she replied.

“Not unless they be so uttered as to force a belief. I do love you. I know no other reason but that why you should be my wife. I have no other excuse to offer for coming to you again. You are the one thing in the world that to me has any charm. Can you be surprised that I should be persistent in asking for it?” He was looking at her still with the same gaze, and there seemed to be a power in his eye from which she could not escape. He was still standing with his right hand out, as though expecting, or at least hoping, that her hand might be put into his.

“How am I to answer you?” she said.

“With your love, if you can give it to me. Do you remember how you swore once that you would love me for ever and always?”

“You should not remind me of that. I was a child then — a naughty child,” she added, smiling; “and was put to bed for what I did on that day.”

“Be a child still.”

“Ah, if we but could!”

“And have you no other answer to make me?”

“Of course I must answer you. You are entitled to an answer. Lord Chiltern, I am sorry that I cannot give you the love for which you ask.”

“Never?”

“Never.”

“Is it myself personally, or what you have heard of me, that is so hateful to you?”

“Nothing is hateful to me. I have never spoken of hate. I shall always feel the strongest regard for my old friend and playfellow. But there are many things which a woman is bound to consider before she allows herself so to love a man that she can consent to become his wife.”

“Allow herself! Then it is a matter entirely of calculation.”

“I suppose there should be some thought in it, Lord Chiltern.”

There was now a pause, and the man’s hand was at last allowed to drop, as there came no response to the proffered grasp. He walked once or twice across the room before he spoke again, and then he stopped himself closely opposite to her.

“I shall never try again,” he said.

“It will be better so,” she replied.

“There is something to me unmanly in a man’s persecuting a girl. Just tell Laura, will you, that it is all over; and she may as well tell my father. Goodbye.”

She then tendered her hand to him, but he did not take it — probably did not see it, and at once left the room and the house.

“And yet I believe you love him,” Lady Laura said to her friend in her anger, when they discussed the matter immediately on Lord Chiltern’s departure.

“You have no right to say that, Laura.”

“I have a right to my belief, and I do believe it. I think you love him, and that you lack the courage to risk yourself in trying to save him.”

“Is a woman bound to marry a man if she love him?”

“Yes, she is,” replied Lady Laura impetuously, without thinking of what she was saying; “that is, if she be convinced that she also is loved.”

“Whatever be the man’s character — whatever be the circumstances? Must she do so, whatever friends may say to the contrary? Is there to be no prudence in marriage?”

“There may be a great deal too much prudence,” said Lady Laura.

“That is true. There is certainly too much prudence if a woman marries prudently, but without love.” Violet intended by this no attack upon her friend — had not had present in her mind at the moment any idea of Lady Laura’s special prudence in marrying Mr Kennedy; but Lady Laura felt it keenly, and knew at once that an arrow had been shot which had wounded her.

“We shall get nothing,” she said, by descending to personalities with each other.”

“I meant none, Laura.”

“I suppose it is always hard,” said Lady Laura, for any one person to judge altogether of the mind of another. If I have said anything severe of your refusal of my brother, I retract it. I only wish that it could have been otherwise.”

Lord Chiltern, when he left his sister’s house, walked through the slush and dirt to a haunt of his in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, and there he remained through the whole afternoon and evening. A certain Captain Clutterbuck joined him, and dined with him. He told nothing to Captain Clutterbuck of his sorrow, but Captain Clutterbuck could see that he was unhappy.

“Let’s have another bottle of “cham,”” said Captain Clutterbuck, when their dinner was nearly over. ““Cham” is the only thing to screw one up when one is down a peg.”

“You can have what you like,” said Lord Chiltern; but I shall have some brandy and water.”

“The worst of brandy and water is, that one gets tired of it before the night is over,” said Captain Clutterbuck.

Nevertheless, Lord Chiltern did go down to Peterborough the next day by the hunting train, and rode his horse Bonebreaker so well in that famous run from Sutton springs to Gidding that after the run young Piles — of the house of Piles, Sarsnet, and Gingham — offered him three hundred pounds for the animal.

“He isn’t worth above fifty,” said Lord Chiltern.

“But I’ll give you the three hundred,” said Piles.

“You couldn’t ride him if you’d got him,” said Lord Chiltern.

“Oh, couldn’t I!” said Piles. But Mr Piles did not continue the conversation, contenting himself with telling his friend Grogram that that red devil Chiltern was as drunk as a lord.

Chapter 20

The Debate on the Ballot

Phineas took his seat in the House with a consciousness of much inward trepidation of heart on that night of the ballot debate. After leaving Lord Chiltern he went down to his club and dined alone. Three or four men came and spoke to him; but he could not talk to them at his ease, nor did he quite know what they were saying to him. He was going to do something which he longed to achieve, but the very idea of which, now that it was so near to him, was a terror to him. To be in the House and not to speak would, to his thinking, be a disgraceful failure. Indeed, he could not continue to keep his seat unless he spoke. He had been put there that he might speak. He would speak. Of course he would speak. Had he not already been conspicuous almost as a boy orator? And yet, at this moment he did not know whether he was eating mutton or beef, or who was standing opposite to him and talking to him, so much was he in dread of the ordeal which he had prepared for himself. As he went down to the House after dinner, he almost made up his mind that it would be a good thing to leave London by one of the night mail trains. He felt himself to be stiff and stilted as he walked, and that his clothes were uneasy to him. When he turned into Westminster Hall he regretted more keenly than ever he had done that he had seceded from the keeping of Mr Low. He could, he thought, have spoken very well in court, and would there have learned that self-confidence which now failed him so terribly. It was, however, too late to think of that. He could only go in and take his seat.

He went in and took his seat, and the chamber seemed to him to be mysteriously large, as though benches were crowded over benches, and galleries over galleries. He had been long enough in the House to have lost the original awe inspired by the Speaker and the clerks of the House, by the row of Ministers, and by the unequalled importance of the place. On ordinary occasions he could saunter in and out, and whisper at his ease to a neighbour. But on this occasion he went direct to the bench on which he ordinarily sat, and began at once to rehearse to himself his speech. He had in truth been doing this all day, in spite of the effort that he had made to rid himself of all memory of the occasion. He had been collecting the heads of his speech while Mr Low had been talking to him, and refreshing his quotations in the presence of Lord Chiltern and the dumb-bells. He had taxed his memory and his intellect with various tasks, which, as he feared, would not adjust themselves one with another. He had learned the headings of his speech — so that one heading might follow the other, and nothing be forgotten. And he had learned verbatim the words which he intended to utter under each heading — with a hope that if any one compact part should be destroyed or injured in its compactness by treachery of memory, or by the course of the debate, each other compact part might be there in its entirety, ready for use — or at least so many of the compact parts as treachery of memory and the accidents of the debate might leave to him; so that his speech might be like a vessel, watertight in its various compartments, that would float by the buoyancy of its stern and bow, even though the hold should be waterlogged. But this use of his composed words, even though he should be able to carry it through, would not complete his work — for it would be his duty to answer in some sort those who had gone before him, and in order to do this he must be able to insert, without any prearrangement of words or ideas, little intercalatory parts between those compact masses of argument with which he had been occupying himself for many laborious hours. As he looked round upon the House and perceived that everything was dim before him, that all his original awe of the House had returned, and with it a present quaking fear that made him feel the pulsations of his own heart, he became painfully aware that the task he had prepared for himself was too great. He should, on this the occasion of his rising to his maiden legs, have either prepared for himself a short general speech, which could indeed have done little for his credit in the House, but which might have served to carry off the novelty of the thing, and have introduced him to the sound of his own voice within those walls — or he should have trusted to what his wit and spirit would produce for him on the spur of the moment, and not have burdened himself with a huge exercise of memory. During the presentation of a few petitions he tried to repeat to himself the first of his compact parts — a compact part on which, as it might certainly be brought into use let the debate have gone as it might, he had expended great care. He had flattered himself that there was something of real strength in his words as he repeated them to himself in the comfortable seclusion of his own room, and he had made them so ready to his tongue that he thought it to be impossible that he should forget even an intonation. Now he found that he could not remember the first phrases without unloosing and looking at a small roll of paper which he held furtively in his hand. What was the good of looking at it? He would forget it again in the next moment. He had intended to satisfy the most eager of his friends, and to astound his opponents. As it was, no one would be satisfied — and none astounded but they who had trusted in him.

The debate began, and if the leisure afforded by a long and tedious speech could have served him, he might have had leisure enough. He tried at first to follow all that this advocate for the ballot might say, hoping thence to acquire the impetus of strong interest; but he soon wearied of the work, and began to long that the speech might be ended, although the period of his own martyrdom would thereby be brought nearer to him. At half past seven so many members had deserted their seats, that Phineas began to think that he might be saved all further pains by a “count out.” He reckoned the members present and found that they were below the mystic forty — first by two, then by four, by five, by seven, and at one time by eleven. It was not for him to ask the Speaker to count the House, but he wondered that no-one else should do so. And yet, as the idea of this termination to the night’s work came upon him, and as he thought of his lost labour, he almost took courage again — almost dreaded rather than wished for the interference of some malicious member. But there was no malicious member then present, or else it was known that Lords of the Treasury and Lords of the Admiralty would flock in during the Speaker’s ponderous counting — and thus the slow length of the ballot-lover’s verbosity was permitted to evolve itself without interruption. At eight o’clock he had completed his catalogue of illustrations, and immediately Mr Monk rose from the Treasury bench to explain the grounds on which the Government must decline to support the motion before the House.

Phineas was aware that Mr Monk intended to speak, and was aware also that his speech would be very short. “My idea is”, he had said to Phineas, “that every man possessed of the franchise should dare to have and to express a political opinion of his own; that otherwise the franchise is not worth having; and that men will learn that when all so dare, no evil can come from such daring. As the ballot would make any courage of that kind unnecessary, I dislike the ballot. I shall confine myself to that, and leave the illustration to younger debaters.” Phineas also had been informed that Mr Turnbull would reply to Mr Monk, with the purpose of crushing Mr Monk into dust, and Phineas had prepared his speech with something of an intention of subsequently crushing Mr Turnbull. He knew, however, that he could not command his opportunity. There was the chapter of accidents to which he must accommodate himself; but such had been his programme for the evening.

Mr Monk made his speech — and though he was short, he was very fiery and energetic. Quick as lightning words of wrath and scorn flew from him, in which he painted the cowardice, the meanness, the falsehood of the ballot. “The ballot box”, he said, was the grave of all true political opinion.” Though he spoke hardly for ten minutes, he seemed to say more than enough, ten times enough, to slaughter the argument of the former speaker. At every hot word is it fell Phineas was driven to regret that a paragraph of his own was taken away from him, and that his choicest morsels of standing ground were being cut from under his feet. When Mr Monk sat down, Phineas felt that Mr Monk had said all that he, Phineas Finn, had intended to say.

Then Mr Turnbull rose slowly from the bench below the gangway. With a speaker so frequent and so famous as Mr Turnbull no hurry is necessary. He is sure to have his opportunity. The Speaker’s eye is ever travelling to the accustomed spots. Mr Turnbull rose slowly and began his oration very mildly. “There was nothing”, he said, “that he admired so much as the poetic imagery and the high-flown sentiment of his right honourable friend the member for West Bromwich,” — Mr Monk sat for West Bromwich — “unless it were the stubborn facts and unanswered arguments of his honourable friend who had brought forward this motion.” Then Mr Turnbull proceeded after his fashion to crush Mr Monk. He was very prosaic, very clear both in voice and language, very harsh, and very unscrupulous. He and Mr Monk had been joined together in politics for over twenty years — but one would have thought, from Mr Turnbull’s words, that they had been the bitterest of enemies. Mr Monk was taunted with his office, taunted with his desertion of the liberal party, taunted with his ambition — and taunted with his lack of ambition. “I once thought,” said Mr Turnbull — nay, not long ago I thought, that he and I would have fought this battle for the people, shoulder to shoulder, and knee to knee — but he has preferred that the knee next to his own shall wear a garter, and that the shoulder which supports him shall be decked with a blue ribbon — as shoulders, I presume, are decked in those closet conferences which are called Cabinets.”

Just after this, while Mr Turnbull was still going on with a variety of illustrations drawn from the United States, Barrington Erle stepped across the benches up to the place where Phineas was sitting, and whispered a few words into his ear. “Bonteen is prepared to answer Turnbull, and wishes to do it. I told him that I thought you should have the opportunity, if you wish it.” Phineas was not ready with a reply to Erle at the spur of the moment. “Somebody told me,” continued Erle, “that you had said that you would like to speak tonight.”

“So I did,” said Phineas.

“Shall I tell Bonteen that you will do it?”

The chamber seemed to swim round before our hero’s eyes. Mr Turnbull was still going on with his clear, loud, unpleasant voice, but there was no knowing how long he might go on. Upon Phineas, if he should now consent, might devolve the duty, within ten minutes, within three minutes, of rising there before a full House to defend his great friend, Mr Monk, from a gross personal attack. Was it fit that such a novice as he should undertake such a work as that? Were he to do so, all that speech which he had prepared, with its various self-floating parts, must go for nothing. The task was exactly that which, of all tasks, he would best like to have accomplished, and to have accomplished well. But if he should fail! And he felt that he would fail. For such work a man should have all his senses about him — his full courage, perfect confidence, something almost approaching to contempt for listening opponents, and nothing of fear in regard to listening friends. He should be as a cock in his own farmyard, master of all the circumstances around him. But Phineas Finn had not even as yet heard the sound of his own voice in that room. At this moment, so confused was he, that he did not know where sat Mr Mildmay, and where Mr Daubeny. All was confused, and there arose as it were a sound of waters in his ears, and a feeling as of a great hell around him. “I had rather wait,” he said at last. Bonteen had better reply.” Barrington Erle looked into his face, and then stepping back across the benches, told Mr Bonteen that the opportunity was his.

Mr Turnbull continued speaking quite long enough to give poor Phineas time for repentance; but repentance was of no use. He had decided against himself, and his decision could not be reversed. He would have left the House, only it seemed to him that had he done so every one would look at him. He drew his hat down over his eyes, and remained in his place, hating Mr Bonteen, hating Barrington Erle, hating Mr Turnbull — but hating no one so much as he hated himself. He had disgraced himself for ever, and could never recover the occasion which he had lost.

Mr Bonteen’s speech was in no way remarkable. Mr Monk, he said, had done the State good service by adding his wisdom and patriotism to the Cabinet. The sort of argument which Mr Bonteen used to prove that a man who has gained credit as a legislator should in process of time become a member of the executive, is trite and common, and was not used by Mr Bonteen with any special force. Mr Bonteen was glib of tongue, and possessed that familiarity with the place which poor Phineas had lacked so sorely. There was one moment, however, which was terrible to Phineas. As soon as Mr Bonteen had shown the purpose for which he was on his legs, Mr Monk looked round at Phineas, as though in reproach. He had expected that this work should fall into the hands of one who would perform it with more warmth of heart than could be expected from Mr Bonteen. When Mr Bonteen ceased, two or three other short speeches were made and members fired off their little guns. Phineas having lost so great an opportunity, would not now consent to accept one that should be comparatively valueless. Then there came a division. The motion was lost by a large majority — by any number you might choose to name, as Phineas had said to Lord Brentford; but in that there was no triumph to the poor wretch who had failed through fear, and who was now a coward in his own esteem.

He left the House alone, carefully avoiding all speech with any one. As he came out he had seen Laurence Fitzgibbon in the lobby, but he had gone on without pausing a moment, so that he might avoid his friend. And when he was out in Palace Yard, where was he to go next? He looked at his watch, and found that it was just ten. He did not dare to go to his club, and it was impossible for him to go home and to bed. He was very miserable, and nothing would comfort him but sympathy. Was there any one who would listen to his abuse of himself, and would then answer him with kindly apologies for his own weakness? Mrs Bunce would do it if she knew how, but sympathy from Mrs Bunce would hardly avail. There was but one person in the world to whom he could tell his own humiliation with any hope of comfort, and that person was Lady Laura Kennedy. Sympathy from any man would have been distasteful to him. He had thought for a moment of flinging himself at Mr Monk’s feet and telling all his weakness — but he could not have endured pity even from Mr Monk. It was not to be endured from any man.

He thought that Lady Laura Kennedy would be at home, and probably alone. He knew, at any rate, that he might be allowed to knock at her door, even at that hour. He had left Mr Kennedy in the House, and there he would probably remain for the next hour. There was no man more constant than Mr Kennedy in seeing the work of the day — or of the night — to its end. So Phineas walked up Victoria Street, and from thence into Grosvenor Place, and knocked at Lady Laura’s door. “Yes; Lady Laura was at home; and alone.” He was shown up into the drawing-room, and there he found Lady Laura waiting for her husband.

“So the great debate is over,” she said, with as much of irony as she knew how to throw into the epithet.

“Yes; it is over.”

“And what have they done — those leviathans of the people?”

Then Phineas told her what was the majority.

“Is there anything the matter with you, Mr Finn?” she said, looking at him suddenly. “Are you not well?”

“Yes; I am very well.”

“Will you not sit down? There is something wrong, I know. What is it?”

“I have simply been the greatest idiot, the greatest coward, the most awkward ass that ever lived!”

“What do you mean?”

“I do not know why I should come to tell you of it at this hour at night, but I have come that I might tell you. Probably because there is no one else in the whole world who would not laugh at me.”

“At any rate, I shall not laugh at you,” said Lady Laura.

“But you will despise me.”

“That I am sure I shall not do.”

“You cannot help it. I despise myself. For years I have placed before myself the ambition of speaking in the House of Commons — for years I have been thinking whether there would ever come to me an opportunity of making myself heard in that assembly, which I consider to be the first in the world. Today the opportunity has been offered to me — and, though the motion was nothing, the opportunity was great. The subject was one on which I was thoroughly prepared. The manner in which I was summoned was most flattering to me. I was especially called on to perform a task which was most congenial to my feelings — and I declined because I was afraid.”

“You had thought too much about it, my friend,” said Lady Laura.

“Too much or too little, what does it matter?” replied Phineas, in despair. “There is the fact. I could not do it. Do you remember the story of Conachar in the “Fair Maid of Perth;” — how his heart refused to give him blood enough to fight? He had been suckled with the milk of a timid creature, and, though he could die, there was none of the strength of manhood in him. It is about the same thing with me, I take it.”

“I do not think you are at all like Conachar,” said Lady Laura.

“I am equally disgraced, and I must perish after the same fashion. I shall apply for the Chiltern Hundreds in a day or two.”

“You will do nothing of the kind,” said Lady Laura, getting up from her chair and coming towards him. “You shall not leave this room till you have promised me that you will do nothing of the kind. I do not know as yet what has occurred tonight; but I do know that that modesty which has kept you silent is more often a grace than a disgrace.”

This was the kind of sympathy which he wanted. She drew her chair nearer to him, and then he explained to her as accurately as he could what had taken place in the House on this evening — how he had prepared his speech, how he had felt that his preparation was vain, how he perceived from the course of the debate that if he spoke at all his speech must be very different from what he had first intended; how he had declined to take upon himself a task which seemed to require so close a knowledge of the ways of the House and of the temper of the men, as the defence of such a man as Mr Monk. In accusing himself he, unconsciously, excused himself, and his excuse, in Lady Laura’s ears, was more valid than his accusation.

“And you would give it all up for that?” she said.

“Yes; I think I ought.”

“I have very little doubt but that you were right in allowing Mr Bonteen to undertake such a task. I should simply explain to Mr Monk that you felt too keen an interest in his welfare to stand up as an untried member in his defence. It is not, I think, the work for a man who is not at home in the House. I am sure Mr Monk will feel this, and I am quite certain that Mr Kennedy will think that you have been right.”

“I do not care what Mr Kennedy may think.”

“Why do you say that, Mr Finn? That is not courteous.”

“Simply because I care so much what Mr Kennedy’s wife may think. Your opinion is all in all to me — only that I know you are too kind to me.”

“He would not be too kind to you. He is never too kind to any one. He is justice itself.”

Phineas, as he heard the tones of her voice, could not but feel that there was in Lady Laura’s words something of an accusation against her husband.

“I hate justice,” said Phineas. I know that justice would condemn me. But love and friendship know nothing of justice. The value of love is that it overlooks faults, and forgives even crimes.”

“I, at any rate,” said Lady Laura, will forgive the crime of your silence in the House. My strong belief in your success will not be in the least affected by what you tell me of your failure tonight. You must await another opportunity; and, if possible, you should be less anxious as to your own performance. There is Violet.” As Lady Laura spoke the last words, there was a sound of a carriage stopping in the street, and the front door was immediately opened. “She is staying here, but has been dining with her uncle, Admiral Effingham.” Then Violet Effingham entered the room, rolled up in pretty white furs, and silk cloaks, and lace shawls. “Here is Mr Finn, come to tell us of the debate about the ballot.”

“I don’t care two-pence about the ballot,” said Violet, as she put out her hand to Phineas. “Are we going to have a new iron fleet built? That’s the question.”

“Sir Simeon has come out strong tonight,” said Lady Laura.

“There is no political question of any importance except the question of the iron fleet,” said Violet. “I am quite sure of that, and so, if Mr Finn can tell me nothing about the iron fleet, I’ll go to bed.”

“Mr Kennedy will tell you everything when he comes home,” said Phineas.

“Oh, Mr Kennedy! Mr Kennedy never tells one anything. I doubt whether Mr Kennedy thinks that any woman knows the meaning of the British Constitution.”

“Do you know what it means, Violet?” asked Lady Laura.

“To be sure I do. It is liberty to growl about the iron fleet, or the ballot, or the taxes, or the peers, or the bishops — or anything else, except the House of Commons. That’s the British Constitution. Goodnight, Mr Finn.”

“What a beautiful creature she is!” said Phineas.

“Yes, indeed,” said Lady Laura.

“And full of wit and grace and pleasantness. I do not wonder at your brother’s choice.”

It will be remembered that this was said on the day before Lord Chiltern had made his offer for the third time.

“Poor Oswald! he does not know as yet that she is in town.”

After that Phineas went, not wishing to await the return of Mr Kennedy. He had felt that Violet Effingham had come into the room just in time to remedy a great difficulty. He did not wish to speak of his love to a married woman — to the wife of the man who called him friend — to a woman who he felt sure would have rebuked him. But he could hardly have restrained himself had not Miss Effingham been there.

But as he went home he thought more of Miss Effingham than he did of Lady Laura; and I think that the voice of Miss Effingham had done almost as much towards comforting him as had the kindness of the other.

At any rate, he had been comforted.

Chapter 21

“ Do be punctual ”

On the very morning after his failure in the House of Commons, when Phineas was reading in the Telegraph — he took the Telegraph not from choice but for economy — the words of that debate which he had heard and in which he should have taken a part, a most unwelcome visit was paid to him. It was near eleven, and the breakfast things were still on the table. He was at this time on a Committee of the House with reference to the use of potted peas in the army and navy, at which he had sat once — at a preliminary meeting — and in reference to which he had already resolved that as he had failed so frightfully in debate, he would certainly do his duty to the utmost in the more easy but infinitely more tedious work of the Committee Room. The Committee met at twelve, and he intended to walk down to the Reform Club, and then to the House. He had just completed his reading of the debate and of the leaders in the Telegraph on the subject. He had told himself how little the writer of the article knew about Mr Turnbull, how little about Mr Monk, and how little about the people — such being his own ideas as to the qualifications of the writer of that leading article — and was about to start. But Mrs Bunce arrested him by telling him that there was a man below who wanted to see him.

“What sort of a man, Mrs Bunce?”

“He ain’t a gentleman, sir.”

“Did he give his name?”

“He did not, sir; but I know it’s about money. I know the ways of them so well. I’ve seen this one’s face before somewhere.”

“You had better show him up,” said Phineas. He knew well the business on which the man was come. The man wanted money for that bill which Laurence Fitzgibbon had sent afloat, and which Phineas had endorsed. Phineas had never as yet fallen so deeply into troubles of money as to make it necessary that he need refuse himself to any callers on that score, and he did not choose to do so now. Nevertheless he most heartily wished that he had left his lodgings for the club before the man had come. This was not the first he had heard of the bill being overdue and unpaid. The bill had been brought to him noted a month since, and then he had simply told the youth who brought it that he would see Mr Fitzgibbon and have the matter settled. He had spoken to his friend Laurence, and Laurence had simply assured him that all should be made right in two days — or, at furthest, by the end of a week. Since that time he had observed that his friend had been somewhat shy of speaking to him when no others were with them. Phineas would not have alluded to the bill had he and Laurence been alone together; but he had been quick enough to guess from his friend’s manner that the matter was not settled. Now, no doubt, serious trouble was about to commence.

The visitor was a little man with grey hair and a white cravat, some sixty years of age, dressed in black, with a very decent hat — which, on entering the room, he at once put down on the nearest chair — with reference to whom, any judge on the subject would have concurred at first sight in the decision pronounced by Mrs Bunce, though none but a judge very well used to sift the causes of his own conclusions could have given the reasons for that early decision. “He ain’t a gentleman,” Mrs Bunce had said. And the man certainly was not a gentleman. The old man in the white cravat was very neatly dressed, and carried himself without any of that humility which betrays one class of uncertified aspirants to gentility, or of that assumed arrogance which is at once fatal to another class. But, nevertheless, Mrs Bunce had seen at a glance that he was not a gentleman — had seen, moreover, that such a man could have come only upon one mission. She was right there too. This visitor had come about money.

“About this bill, Mr Finn,” said the visitor, proceeding to take out of his breast coat-pocket a rather large leathern case, as he advanced up towards the fire. “My name is Clarkson, Mr Finn. If I may venture so far, I’ll take a chair.”

“Certainly, Mr Clarkson,” said Phineas, getting up and pointing to a seat.

“Thankye, Mr Finn, thankye. We shall be more comfortable doing business sitting, shan’t we?” Whereupon the horrid little man drew himself close in to the fire, and spreading out his leathern case upon his knees, began to turn over one suspicious bit of paper after another, as though he were uncertain in what part of his portfolio lay this identical bit which he was seeking. He seemed to be quite at home, and to feel that there was no ground whatever for hurry in such comfortable quarters. Phineas hated him at once — with a hatred altogether unconnected with the difficulty which his friend Fitzgibbon had brought upon him.

“Here it is,” said Mr Clarkson at last. Oh, dear me, dear me! the third of November, and here we are in March! I didn’t think it was so bad as this — I didn’t indeed. This is very bad — very bad! And for Parliament gents, too, who should be more punctual than anybody, because of the privilege. Shouldn’t they now, Mr Finn?”

“All men should be punctual, I suppose,” said Phineas.

“Of course they should; of course they should. I always say to my gents, “Be punctual, and I’ll do anything for you.” But, perhaps, Mr Finn, you can hand me a cheque for this amount, and then you and I will begin square.”

“Indeed I cannot, Mr Clarkson.”

“Not hand me a cheque for it!”

“Upon my word, no.”

“That’s very bad; — very bad indeed. Then I suppose I must take the half, and renew for the remainder, though I don’t like it — I don’t indeed.”

“I can pay no part of that bill, Mr Clarkson.”

“Pay no part of it!” and Mr Clarkson, in order that he might the better express his surprise, arrested his hand in the very act of poking his host’s fire.

“If you’ll allow me, I’ll manage the fire,” said Phineas, putting out his hand for the poker.

But Mr Clarkson was fond of poking fires, and would not surrender the poker. “Pay no part of it!” he said again, holding the poker away from Phineas in his left hand. “Don’t say that, Mr Finn. Pray don’t say that. Don’t drive me to be severe. I don’t like to be severe with my gents. I’ll do anything, Mr Finn, if you’ll only be punctual.”

“The fact is, Mr Clarkson, I have never had one penny of consideration for that bill, and — ”

“Oh, Mr Finn! oh, Mr Finn!” and then Mr Clarkson had his will of the fire.

“I never had one penny of consideration for that bill,” continued Phineas. “Of course, I don’t deny my responsibility.”

“No, Mr Finn; you can’t deny that. Here it is — Phineas Finn — and everybody knows you, because you’re a Parliament gent.”

“I don’t deny it. But I had no reason to suppose that I should be called upon for the money when I accommodated my friend, Mr Fitzgibbon, and I have not got it. That is the long and the short of it. I must see him and take care that arrangements are made.”

“Arrangements!”

“Yes, arrangements for settling the bill.”

“He hasn’t got the money, Mr Finn. You know that as well as I do.”

“I know nothing about it, Mr Clarkson.”

“Oh yes, Mr Finn; you know; you know.”

“I tell you I know nothing about it,” said Phineas, waxing angry.

“As to Mr Fitzgibbon, he’s the pleasantest gent that ever lived. Isn’t he now? I’ve know’d him these ten years. I don’t suppose that for ten years I’ve been without his name in my pocket. But, bless you, Mr Finn, there’s an end to everything. I shouldn’t have looked at this bit of paper if it hadn’t been for your signature. Of course not. You’re just beginning, and it’s natural you should want a little help. You’ll find me always ready, if you’ll only be punctual.”

“I tell you again, sir, that I never had a shilling out of that for myself, and do not want any such help.” Here Mr Clarkson smiled sweetly. “I gave my name to my friend simply to oblige him.”

“I like you Irish gents because you do hang together so close,” said Mr Clarkson.

“Simply to oblige him,” continued Phineas. As I said before, I know that I am responsible; but, as I said before also, I have not the means of taking up that bill. I will see Mr Fitzgibbon, and let you know what we propose to do.” Then Phineas got up from his seat and took his hat. It was full time that he should go down to his Committee. But Mr Clarkson did not get up from his seat. “I’m afraid I must ask you to leave me now, Mr Clarkson, as I have business down at the House.”

“Business at the House never presses, Mr Finn,” said Mr Clarkson. “That’s the best of Parliament. I’ve known Parliament gents this thirty years and more. Would you believe it — I’ve had a Prime Minister’s name in that portfolio; that I have; and a Lord Chancellor’s; that I have — and an Archbishop’s too. I know what Parliament is, Mr Finn. Come, come; don’t put me off with Parliament.”

There he sat before the fire with his pouch open before him, and Phineas had no power of moving him. Could Phineas have paid him the money which was manifestly due to him on the bill, the man would of course have gone; but failing in that, Phineas could not turn him out. There was a black cloud on the young member’s brow, and great anger at his heart — against Fitzgibbon rather than against the man who was sitting there before him. “Sir,” he said, it is really imperative that I should go. I am pledged to an appointment at the House at twelve, and it wants now only a quarter. I regret that your interview with me should be so unsatisfactory, but I can only promise you that I will see Mr Fitzgibbon.”

“And when shall I call again, Mr Finn?”

“Perhaps I had better write to you,” said Phineas.

“Oh dear, no,” said Mr Clarkson. I should much prefer to look in. Looking in is always best. We can get to understand one another in that way. Let me see. I daresay you’re not particular. Suppose I say Sunday morning.”

“Really, I could not see you on Sunday morning, Mr Clarkson.”

“Parliament gents ain’t generally particular — ‘specially not among the Catholics,” pleaded Mr Clarkson.

“I am always engaged on Sundays,” said Phineas.

“Suppose we say Monday — or Tuesday. Tuesday morning at eleven. And do be punctual, Mr Finn. At Tuesday morning I’ll come, and then no doubt I shall find you ready.” Whereupon Mr Clarkson slowly put up his bills within his portfolio, and then, before Phineas knew where he was, had warmly shaken that poor dismayed member of Parliament by the hand. “Only do be punctual, Mr Finn,” he said, as he made his way down the stairs.

It was now twelve, and Phineas rushed off to a cab. He was in such a fervour of rage and misery that he could hardly think of his position, or what he had better do, till he got into the Committee Room; and when there he could think of nothing else. He intended to go deeply into the question of potted peas, holding an equal balance between the assailed Government offices on the one hand, and the advocates of the potted peas on the other. The potters of the peas, who wanted to sell their article to the Crown, declared that an extensive — perhaps we may say, an unlimited — use of the article would save the whole army and navy from the scourges of scurvy, dyspepsia, and rheumatism, would be the best safeguard against typhus and other fevers, and would be an invaluable aid in all other maladies to which soldiers and sailors are peculiarly subject. The peas in question were grown on a large scale in Holstein, and their growth had been fostered with the special object of doing good to the British army and navy. The peas were so cheap that there would be a great saving in money — and it really had seemed to many that the officials of the Horse Guards and the Admiralty had been actuated by some fiendish desire to deprive their men of salutary fresh vegetables, simply because they were of foreign growth. But the officials of the War Office and the Admiralty declared that the potted peas in question were hardly fit for swine. The motion for the Committee had been made by a gentleman of the opposition, and Phineas had been put upon it as an independent member. He had resolved to give it all his mind, and, as far as he was concerned, to reach a just decision, in which there should be no favour shown to the Government side. New brooms are proverbial for thorough work, and in this Committee work Phineas was as yet a new broom. But, unfortunately, on this day his mind was so harassed that he could hardly understand what was going on. It did not, perhaps, much signify, as the witnesses examined were altogether agricultural. They only proved the production of peas in Holstein — a fact as to which Phineas had no doubt. The proof was naturally slow, as the evidence was given in German, and had to be translated into English. And the work of the day was much impeded by a certain member who unfortunately spoke German, who seemed to be fond of speaking German before his brethren of the Committee, and who was curious as to agriculture in Holstein generally. The chairman did not understand German, and there was a difficulty in checking this gentleman, and in making him understand that his questions were not relevant to the issue.

Phineas could not keep his mind during the whole afternoon from the subject of his misfortune. What should he do if this horrid man came to him once or twice a week? He certainly did owe the man the money. He must admit that to himself. The man no doubt was a dishonest knave who had discounted the bill probably at fifty per cent; but, nevertheless, Phineas had made himself legally responsible for the amount. The privilege of the House prohibited him from arrest. He thought of that very often, but the thought only made him the more unhappy. Would it not be said, and might it not be said truly, that he had incurred this responsibility — a responsibility which he was altogether unequal to answer — because he was so protected? He did feel that a certain consciousness of his privilege had been present to him when he had put his name across the paper, and there had been dishonesty in that very consciousness. And of what service would his privilege be to him, if this man could harass every hour of his life? The man was to be with him again in a day or two, and when the appointment had been proposed, he, Phineas, had not dared to negative it. And how was he to escape? As for paying the bill, that with him was altogether impossible. The man had told him — and he had believed the man — that payment by Fitzgibbon was out of the question. And yet Fitzgibbon was the son of a peer, whereas he was only the son of a country doctor! Of course Fitzgibbon must make some effort — some great effort — and have the thing settled. Alas, alas! He knew enough of the world already to feel that the hope was vain.

He went down from the Committee room into the House, and he dined at the House, and remained there until eight or nine at night; but Fitzgibbon did not come. He then went to the Reform Club, but he was not there. Both at the club and in the House many men spoke to him about the debate of the previous night, expressing surprise that he had not spoken — making him more and more wretched. He saw Mr Monk, but Mr Monk was walking arm in arm with his colleague, Mr Palliser, and Phineas could do no more than just speak to them. He thought that Mr Monk’s nod of recognition was very cold. That might be fancy, but it certainly was a fact that Mr Monk only nodded to him. He would tell Mr Monk the truth, and then, if Mr Monk chose to quarrel with him, he at any rate would take no step to renew their friendship.

From the Reform Club he went to the Shakspeare, a smaller club to which Fitzgibbon belonged — and of which Phineas much wished to become a member — and to which he knew that his friend resorted when he wished to enjoy himself thoroughly, and to be at ease in his inn. Men at the Shakspeare could do as they pleased. There were no politics there, no fashion, no stiffness, and no rules — so men said; but that was hardly true. Everybody called everybody by his Christian name, and members smoked all over the house. They who did not belong to the Shakspeare thought it an Elysium upon earth; and they who did, believed it to be among Pandemoniums the most pleasant. Phineas called at the Shakspeare, and was told by the porter that Mr Fitzgibbon was upstairs. He was shown into the strangers’ room, and in five minutes his friend came down to him.

“I want you to come down to the Reform with me,” said Phineas.

“By jingo, my dear fellow, I’m in the middle of a rubber of whist.”

“There has been a man with me about that bill.”

“What — Clarkson?”

“Yes, Clarkson,” said Phineas.

“Don’t mind him,” said Fitzgibbon.

“That’s nonsense. How am I to help minding him? I must mind him. He is coming to me again on Tuesday morning.”

“Don’t see him.”

“How can I help seeing him?”

“Make them say you’re not at home.”

“He has made an appointment. He has told me that he’ll never leave me alone. He’ll be the death of me if this is not settled.”

“It shall be settled, my dear fellow. I’ll see about it. I’ll see about it and write you a line. You must excuse me now, because those fellows are waiting. I’ll have it all arranged.”

Again as Phineas went home he thoroughly wished that he had not seceded from Mr Low.

Chapter 22

Lady Baldock at home

About the middle of March Lady Baldock came up from Baddingham to London, coerced into doing so, as Violet Effingham declared, in thorough opposition to all her own tastes, by the known wishes of her friends and relatives. Her friends and relatives, so Miss Effingham insinuated, were unanimous in wishing that Lady Baldock should remain at Baddingham Park, and therefore — that wish having been indiscreetly expressed — she had put herself to great inconvenience, and had come to London in March. “Gustavus will go mad,” said Violet to Lady Laura. The Gustavus in question was the Lord Baldock of the present generation, Miss Effingham’s Lady Baldock being the peer’s mother. “Why does not Lord Baldock take a house himself?” asked Lady Laura. “Don’t you know, my dear, Violet answered, “how much we Baddingham people think of money? We don’t like being vexed and driven mad, but even that is better than keeping up two households.” As regarded Violet, the injury arising from Lady Baldock’s early migration was very great, for she was thus compelled to move from Grosvenor Place to Lady Baldock’s house in Berkeley Square. “As you are so fond of being in London, Augusta and I have made up our minds to come up before Easter,” Lady Baldock had written to her.

“I shall go to her now”, Violet had said to her friend, “because I have not quite made up my mind as to what I will do for the future.”

“Marry Oswald, and be your own mistress.”

“I mean to be my own mistress without marrying Oswald, though I don’t see my way quite clearly as yet. I think I shall set up a little house of my own, and let the world say what it pleases. I suppose they couldn’t make me out to be a lunatic.”

“I shouldn’t wonder if they were to try,” said Lady Laura.

“They could not prevent me in any other way. But I am in the dark as yet, and so I shall be obedient and go to my aunt.”

Miss Effingham went to Berkeley Square, and Phineas Finn was introduced to Lady Baldock. He had been often in Grosvenor Place, and had seen Violet frequently. Mr Kennedy gave periodical dinners — once a week — to which everybody went who could get an invitation; and Phineas had been a guest more than once. Indeed, in spite of his miseries he had taken to dining out a good deal, and was popular as an eater of dinners. He could talk when wanted, and did not talk too much, was pleasant in manners and appearance, and had already achieved a certain recognised position in London life. Of those who knew him intimately, not one in twenty were aware from whence he came, what was his parentage, or what his means of living. He was a member of Parliament, a friend of Mr Kennedy’s, was intimate with Mr Monk, though an Irishman did not as a rule herd with other Irishmen, and was the right sort of person to have at your house. Some people said he was a cousin of Lord Brentford’s, and others declared that he was Lord Chiltern’s earliest friend. There he was, however, with a position gained, and even Lady Baldock asked him to her house.

Lady Baldock had evenings. People went to her house, and stood about the room and on the stairs, talked to each other for half an hour, and went away. In these March days there was no crowding, but still there were always enough of people there to show that Lady Baldock was successful. Why people should have gone to Lady Baldock’s I cannot explain — but there are houses to which people go without any reason. Phineas received a little card asking him to go, and he always went.

“I think you like my friend, Mr Finn,” Lady Laura said to Miss Effingham, after the first of these evenings.

“Yes, I do. I like him decidedly.”

“So do I. I should hardly have thought that you would have taken a fancy to him.”

“I hardly know what you call taking a fancy,” said Violet. “I am not quite sure I like to be told that I have taken a fancy for a young man.”

“I mean no offence, my dear.”

“Of course you don’t. But, to speak truth, I think I have rather taken a fancy to him. There is just enough of him, but not too much. I don’t mean materially — in regard to his inches; but as to his mental belongings. I hate a stupid man who can’t talk to me, and I hate a clever man who talks me down. I don’t like a man who is too lazy to make any effort to shine; but I particularly dislike the man who is always striving for effect. I abominate a humble man, but yet I love to perceive that a man acknowledges the superiority of my sex, and youth, and all that kind of thing.”

“You want to be flattered without plain flattery.”

“Of course I do. A man who would tell me that I am pretty, unless he is over seventy, ought to be kicked out of the room. But a man who can’t show me that he thinks me so without saying a word about it, is a lout. Now in all those matters, your friend, Mr Finn, seems to know what he is about. In other words, he makes himself pleasant, and, therefore, one is glad to see him.”

“I suppose you do not mean to fall in love with him?”

“Not that I know of, my dear. But when I do, I’ll be sure to give you notice.”

I fear that there was more of earnestness in Lady Laura’s last question than Miss Effingham had supposed. She had declared to herself over and over again that she had never been in love with Phineas Finn. She had acknowledged to herself, before Mr Kennedy had asked her hand in marriage, that there had been danger — that she could have learned to love the man if such love would not have been ruinous to her — that the romance of such a passion would have been pleasant to her. She had gone farther than this, and had said to herself that she would have given way to that romance, and would have been ready to accept such love if offered to her, had she not put it out of her own power to marry a poor man by her generosity to her brother. Then she had thrust the thing aside, and had clearly understood — she thought that she had clearly understood — that life for her must be a matter of business. Was it not the case with nine out of every ten among mankind, with nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand, that life must be a matter of business and not of romance? Of course she could not marry Mr Finn, knowing, as she did, that neither of them had a shilling. Of all men in the world she esteemed Mr Kennedy the most, and when these thoughts were passing through her mind, she was well aware that he would ask her to be his wife. Had she not resolved that she would accept the offer, she would not have gone to Loughlinter. Having put aside all romance as unfitted to her life, she could, she thought, do her duty as Mr Kennedy’s wife. She would teach herself to love him. Nay — she had taught herself to love him. She was at any rate so sure of her own heart that she would never give her husband cause to rue the confidence he placed in her. And yet there was something sore within her when she thought that Phineas Finn was fond of Violet Effingham.

It was Lady Baldock’s second evening, and Phineas came to the house at about eleven o’clock. At this time he had encountered a second and a third interview with Mr Clarkson, and had already failed in obtaining any word of comfort from Laurence Fitzgibbon about the bill. It was clear enough now that Laurence felt that they were both made safe by their privilege, and that Mr Clarkson should be treated as you treat the organ-grinders. They are a nuisance and must be endured. But the nuisance is not so great but what you can live in comfort — if only you are not too sore as to the annoyance. “My dear fellow,” Laurence had said to him, I have had Clarkson almost living in my rooms. He used to drink nearly a pint of sherry a day for me. All I looked to was that I didn’t live there at the same time. If you wish it, I’ll send in the sherry.” This was very bad, and Phineas tried to quarrel with his friend; but he found that it was difficult to quarrel with Laurence Fitzgibbon.

But though on this side Phineas was very miserable, on another side he had obtained great comfort. Mr Monk and he were better friends than ever. “As to what Turnbull says about me in the House,” Mr Monk had said, laughing; “he and I understand each other perfectly. I should like to see you on your legs, but it is just as well, perhaps, that you have deferred it. We shall have the real question on immediately after Easter, and then you’ll have plenty of opportunities.” Phineas had explained how he had attempted, how he had failed, and how he had suffered — and Mr Monk had been generous in his sympathy. “I know all about it,” said he, “and have gone through it all myself. The more respect you feel for the House, the more satisfaction you will have in addressing it when you have mastered this difficulty.”

The first person who spoke to Phineas at Lady Baldock’s was Miss Fitzgibbon, Laurence’s sister. Aspasia Fitzgibbon was a warm woman as regarded money, and as she was moreover a most discreet spinster, she was made welcome by Lady Baldock, in spite of the well-known iniquities of her male relatives. “Mr Finn,” said she, “how d’ye do? I want to say a word to ye. Just come here into the corner.” Phineas, not knowing how to escape, did retreat into the corner with Miss Fitzgibbon. “Tell me now, Mr Finn — have ye been lending money to Larrence?”

“No; I have lent him no money,” said Phineas, much astonished by the question.

“Don’t. That’s my advice to ye. Don’t. On any other matter Larrence is the best creature in the world — but he’s bad to lend money to. You ain’t in any hobble with him, then?”

“Well — nothing to speak of. What makes you ask?”

“Then you are in a hobble? Dear, dear! I never saw such a man as Larrence — never. Goodbye. I wouldn’t do it again, if I were you — that’s all.” Then Miss Fitzgibbon came out of the corner and made her way downstairs.

Phineas immediately afterwards came across Miss Effingham. “I did not know”, said she, “that you and the divine Aspasia were such close allies.”

“We are the dearest friends in the world, but she has taken my breath away now.”

“May a body be told how she has done that?” Violet asked.

“Well, no; I’m afraid not, even though the body be Miss Effingham. It was a profound secret — really a secret concerning a third person, and she began about it just as though she were speaking about the weather!”

“How charming! I do so like her. You haven’t heard, have you, that Mr Ratler proposed to her the other day?”

“No!”

“But he did — at least, so she tells everybody. She said she’d take him if he would promise to get her brother’s salary doubled.”

“Did she tell you?”

“No; not me. And of course I don’t believe a word of it. I suppose Barrington Erle made up the story. Are you going out of town next week, Mr Finn?” The week next to this was Easter Week. “I heard you were going into Northamptonshire.”

“From Lady Laura?”

“Yes — from Lady Laura.”

“I intend to spend three days with Lord Chiltern at Willingford. It is an old promise. I am going to ride his horses — that is, if I am able to ride them.”

“Take care what you are about, Mr Finn — they say his horses are so dangerous!”

“I’m rather good at falling, I flatter myself.”

“I know that Lord Chiltern rides anything he can sit, so long as it is some animal that nobody else will ride. It was always so with him. He is so odd; is he not?”

Phineas knew, of course, that Lord Chiltern had more than once asked Violet Effingham to be his wife — and he believed that she, from her intimacy with Lady Laura, must know that he knew it. He had also heard Lady Laura express a very strong wish that, in spite of these refusals, Violet might even yet become her brother’s wife. And Phineas also knew that Violet Effingham was becoming, in his own estimation, the most charming woman of his acquaintance. How was he to talk to her about Lord Chiltern?

“He is odd,” said Phineas; but he is an excellent fellow — whom his father altogether misunderstands.”

“Exactly — just so; I am so glad to hear you say that — you who have never had the misfortune to have anything to do with a bad set. Why don’t you tell Lord Brentford? Lord Brentford would listen to you.”

“To me?”

“Yes — of course he would — for you are just the link that is wanting. You are Chiltern’s intimate friend, and you are also the friend of big-wigs and Cabinet Ministers.”

“Lord Brentford would put me down at once if I spoke to him on such a subject.”

“I am sure he would not. You are too big to be put down, and no man can really dislike to hear his son well spoken of by those who are well spoken of themselves. Won’t you try, Mr Finn?” Phineas said that he would think of it — that he would try if any fit opportunity could be found. “Of course you know how intimate I have been with the Standishes,” said Violet; “that Laura is to me a sister, and that Oswald used to be almost a brother.”

“Why do not you speak to Lord Brentford — you who are his favourite?”

“There are reasons, Mr Finn. Besides, how can any girl come forward and say that she knows the disposition of any man? You can live with Lord Chiltern, and see what he is made of, and know his thoughts, and learn what is good in him, and also what is bad. After all, how is any girl really to know anything of a man’s life?”

“If I can do anything, Miss Effingham, I will,” said Phineas.

“And then we shall all of us be so grateful to you,” said Violet, with her sweetest smile.

Phineas, retreating from this conversation, stood for a while alone, thinking of it. Had she spoken thus of Lord Chiltern because she did love him or because she did not? And the sweet commendations which had fallen from her lips upon him — him, Phineas Finn — were they compatible with anything like a growing partiality for himself, or were they incompatible with any such feeling? Had he most reason to be comforted or to be discomfited by what had taken place? It seemed hardly possible to his imagination that Violet Effingham should love such a nobody as he. And yet he had had fair evidence that one standing as high in the world as Violet Effingham would fain have loved him could she have followed the dictates of her heart. He had trembled when he had first resolved to declare his passion to Lady Laura — fearing that she would scorn him as being presumptuous. But there had been no cause for such fear as that. He had declared his love, and she had not thought him to be presumptuous. That now was ages ago — eight months since; and Lady Laura had become a married woman. Since he had become so warmly alive to the charms of Violet Effingham he had determined, with stern propriety, that a passion for a married woman was disgraceful. Such love was in itself a sin, even though it was accompanied by the severest forbearance and the most rigid propriety of conduct. No — Lady Laura had done wisely to check the growing feeling of partiality which she had admitted; and now that she was married, he would be as wise as she. It was clear to him that, as regarded his own heart, the way was open to him for a new enterprise. But what if he were to fail again, and be told by Violet, when he declared his love, that she had just engaged herself to Lord Chiltern!

“What were you and Violet talking about so eagerly?” said Lady Laura to him, with a smile that, in its approach to laughter, almost betrayed its mistress.

“We were talking about your brother.”

“You are going to him, are you not?”

“Yes; I leave London on Sunday night — but only for a day or two.”

“Has he any chance there, do you think?”

“What, with Miss Effingham?”

“Yes — with Violet. Sometimes I think she loves him.”

“How can I say? In such a matter you can judge better than I can do. One woman with reference to another can draw the line between love and friendship. She certainly likes Chiltern.”

“Oh, I believe she loves him. I do indeed. But she fears him. She does not quite understand how much there is of tenderness with that assumed ferocity. And Oswald is so strange, so unwise, so impolitic, that though he loves her better than all the world beside, he will not sacrifice even a turn of a word to win her. When he asks her to marry him, he almost flies at her throat, as an angry debtor who applies for instant payment. Tell him, Mr Finn, never to give it over — and teach him that he should be soft with her. Tell him, also, that in her heart she likes him. One woman, as you say, knows another woman; and I am certain he would win her if he would only be gentle with her.” Then, again, before they parted, Lady Laura told him that this marriage was the dearest wish of her heart, and that there would be no end to her gratitude if Phineas could do anything to promote it. All which again made our hero unhappy.

Chapter 23

Sunday in Grosvenor Place

Mr Kennedy, though he was a most scrupulously attentive member of Parliament, was a man very punctual to hours and rules in his own house — and liked that his wife should be as punctual as himself. Lady Laura, who in marrying him had firmly resolved that she would do her duty to him in all ways, even though the ways might sometimes be painful — and had been perhaps more punctilious in this respect than she might have been had she loved him heartily — was not perhaps quite so fond of accurate regularity as her husband; and thus, by this time, certain habits of his had become rather bonds than habits to her. He always had prayers at nine, and breakfasted at a quarter past nine, let the hours on the night before have been as late as they might before the time for rest had come. After breakfast he would open his letters in his study, but he liked her to be with him, and desired to discuss with her every application he got from a constituent. He had his private secretary in a room apart, but he thought that everything should be filtered to his private secretary through his wife. He was very anxious that she herself should superintend the accounts of their own private expenditure, and had taken some trouble to teach her an excellent mode of book-keeping. He had recommended to her a certain course of reading — which was pleasant enough; ladies like to receive such recommendations; but Mr Kennedy, having drawn out the course, seemed to expect that his wife should read the books he had named, and, worse still, that she should read them in the time he had allocated for the work. This, I think, was tyranny. Then the Sundays became very wearisome to Lady Laura. Going to church twice, she had learnt, would be a part of her duty; and though in her father’s household attendance at church had never been very strict, she had made up her mind to this cheerfully. But Mr Kennedy expected also that he and she should always dine together on Sundays, that there should be no guests, and that there should be no evening company. After all, the demand was not very severe, but yet she found that it operated injuriously upon her comfort. The Sundays were very wearisome to her, and made her feel that her lord and master was — her lord and master. She made an effort or two to escape, but the efforts were all in vain. He never spoke a cross word to her. He never gave a stern command. But yet he had his way. “I won’t say that reading a novel on a Sunday is a sin,” he said; “but we must at any rate admit that it is a matter on which men disagree, that many of the best of men are against such occupation on Sunday, and that to abstain is to be on the safe side.” So the novels were put away, and Sunday afternoon with the long evening became rather a stumbling-block to Lady Laura.

Those two hours, moreover, with her husband in the morning became very wearisome to her. At first she had declared that it would be her greatest ambition to help her husband in his work, and she had read all the letters from the MacNabs and MacFies, asking to be made gaugers and landing-waiters; with an assumed interest. But the work palled upon her very quickly. Her quick intellect discovered soon that there was nothing in it which she really did. It was all form and verbiage, and pretence at business. Her husband went through it all with the utmost patience, reading every word, giving orders as to every detail, and conscientiously doing that which he conceived he had undertaken to do. But Lady Laura wanted to meddle with high politics, to discuss reform bills, to assist in putting up Mr This and putting down my Lord That. Why should she waste her time in doing that which the lad in the next room, who was called a private secretary, could do as well?

Still she would obey. Let the task be as hard as it might, she would obey. If he counselled her to do this or that, she would follow his counsel — because she owed him so much. If she had accepted the half of all his wealth without loving him, she owed him the more on that account. But she knew — she could not but know — that her intellect was brighter than his; and might it not be possible for her to lead him? Then she made efforts to lead her husband, and found that he was as stiff-necked as an ox. Mr Kennedy was not, perhaps, a clever man; but he was a man who knew his own way, and who intended to keep it.

“I have got a headache, Robert,” she said to him one Sunday after luncheon. “I think I will not go to church this afternoon.”

“It is not serious, I hope.”

“Oh dear no. Don’t you know how one feels sometimes that one has got a head? And when that is the case one’s armchair is the best place.”

“I am not sure of that,” said Mr Kennedy.

“If I went to church I should not attend,” said Lady Laura.

“The fresh air would do you more good than anything else, and we could walk across the park.”

“Thank you — I won’t go out again today.” This she said with something almost of crossness in her manner, and Mr Kennedy went to the afternoon service by himself.

Lady Laura when she was left alone began to think of her position. She was not more than four or five months married, and she was becoming very tired of her life. Was it not also true that she was becoming tired of her husband? She had twice told Phineas Finn that of all men in the world she esteemed Mr Kennedy the most. She did not esteem him less now. She knew no point or particle in which he did not do his duty with accuracy. But no person can live happily with another — not even with a brother or a sister or a friend — simply upon esteem. All the virtues in the calendar, though they exist on each side, will not make a man and woman happy together, unless there be sympathy. Lady Laura was beginning to find out that there was a lack of sympathy between herself and her husband.

She thought of this till she was tired of thinking of it, and then, wishing to divert her mind, she took up the book that was lying nearest to her hand. It was a volume of a new novel which she had been reading on the previous day, and now, without much thought about it, she went on with her reading. There came to her, no doubt, some dim, half-formed idea that, as she was freed from going to church by the plea of a headache, she was also absolved by the same plea from other Sunday hindrances. A child, when it is ill, has buttered toast and a picture-book instead of bread and milk and lessons. In this way, Lady Laura conceived herself to be entitled to her novel.

While she was reading it, there came a knock at the door, and Barrington Erle was shown upstairs. Mr Kennedy had given no orders against Sunday visitors, but had simply said that Sunday visiting was not to his taste. Barrington, however, was Lady Laura’s cousin, and people must be very strict if they can’t see their cousins on Sunday. Lady Laura soon lost her headache altogether in the animation of discussing the chances of the new Reform Bill with the Prime Minister’s private secretary; and had left her chair, and was standing by the table with the novel in her hand, protesting this and denying that, expressing infinite confidence in Mr Monk, and violently denouncing Mr Turnbull, when her husband returned from church and came up into the drawing-room. Lady Laura had forgotten her headache altogether, and had in her composition none of that thoughtfulness of hypocrisy which would have taught her to moderate her political feeling at her husband’s return.

“I do declare”, she said, that if Mr Turnbull opposes the Government measure now, because he can’t have his own way in everything, I will never again put my trust in any man who calls himself a popular leader.”

“You never should,” said Barrington Erle.

“That’s all very well for you, Barrington, who are an aristocratic Whig of the old official school, and who call yourself a Liberal simply because Fox was a Liberal a hundred years ago. My heart’s in it.”

“Heart should never have anything to do with politics; should it?” said Erle, turning round to Mr Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy did not wish to discuss the matter on a Sunday, nor yet did he wish to say before Barrington Erle that he thought it wrong to do so. And he was desirous of treating his wife in some way as though she were an invalid — that she thereby might be, as it were, punished; but he did not wish to do this in such a way that Barrington should be aware of the punishment.

“Laura had better not disturb herself about it now,” he said.

“How is a person to help being disturbed?” said Lady Laura, laughing.

“Well, well; we won’t mind all that now,” said Mr Kennedy, turning away. Then he took up the novel which Lady Laura had just laid down from her hand, and, having looked at it, carried it aside, and placed it on a book shelf which was remote from them. Lady Laura watched him as he did this, and the whole course of her husband’s thoughts on the subject was open to her at once. She regretted the novel, and she regretted also the political discussion. Soon afterwards Barrington Erle went away, and the husband and wife were alone together.

“I am glad that your head is so much better,” said he. He did not intend to be severe, but he spoke with a gravity of manner which almost amounted to severity.

“Yes; it is,” she said, Barrington’s coming in cheered me up.”

“I am sorry that you should have wanted cheering.”

“Don’t you know what I mean, Robert?”

“No; I do not think that I do, exactly.”

“I suppose your head is stronger. You do not get that feeling of dazed, helpless imbecility of brain, which hardly amounts to headache, but which yet — is almost as bad.”

“Imbecility of brain may be worse than headache, but I don’t think it can produce it.”

“Well, well — I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Headache comes, I think, always from the stomach, even when produced by nervous affections. But imbecility of the brain — ”

“Oh, Robert, I am so sorry that I used the word.”

“I see that it did not prevent your reading,” he said, after a pause.

“Not such reading as that. I was up to nothing better.”

Then there was another pause.

“I won’t deny that it may be a prejudice,” he said, “but I confess that the use of novels in my own house on Sundays is a pain to me. My mother’s ideas on the subject are very strict, and I cannot think that it is bad for a son to hang on to the teaching of his mother.” This he said in the most serious tone which he could command.

“I don’t know why I took it up,” said Lady Laura. “Simply, I believe, because it was there. I will avoid doing so for the future.”

“Do, my dear,” said the husband. I shall be obliged and grateful if you will remember what I have said.” Then he left her, and she sat alone, first in the dusk and then in the dark, for two hours, doing nothing. Was this to be the life which she had procured for herself by marrying Mr Kennedy of Loughlinter? If it was harsh and unendurable in London, what would it be in the country?

Chapter 24

The Willingford Bull

Phineas left London by a night mail train on Easter Sunday, and found himself at the Willingford Bull — about half an hour after midnight. Lord Chiltern was up and waiting for him, and supper was on the table. The Willingford Bull was an English inn of the old stamp, which had now, in these latter years of railway travelling, ceased to have a road business — for there were no travellers on the road, and but little posting — but had acquired a new trade as a dépôt for hunters and hunting men. The landlord let out horses and kept hunting stables, and the house was generally filled from the beginning of November till the middle of April. Then it became a desert in the summer, and no guests were seen there, till the pink coats flocked down again into the shires.

“How many days do you mean to give us?” said Lord Chiltern, as he helped his friend to a devilled leg of turkey.

“I must go back on Wednesday,” said Phineas.

“That means Wednesday night. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ve the Cottesmore tomorrow. We’ll get into Tailby’s country on Tuesday, and Fitzwilliam will be only twelve miles off on Wednesday. We shall be rather short of horses.”

“Pray don’t let me put you out. I can hire something here, I suppose?”

“You won’t put me out at all. There’ll be three between us each day, and we’ll run our luck. The horses have gone on to Empingham for tomorrow. Tailby is rather a way off — at Somerby; but we’ll manage it. If the worst comes to the worst, we can get back to Stamford by rail. On Wednesday we shall have everything very comfortable. They’re out beyond Stilton and will draw home our way. I’ve planned it all out. I’ve a trap with a fast stepper, and if we start tomorrow at half past nine, we shall be in plenty of time. You shall ride Meg Merrilies, and if she don’t carry you, you may shoot her.”

“Is she one of the pulling ones?”

“She is heavy in hand if you are heavy at her, but leave her mouth alone and she’ll go like flowing water. You’d better not ride more in a crowd than you can help. Now what’ll you drink?”

They sat up half the night smoking and talking, and Phineas learned more about Lord Chiltern then than ever he had learned before. There was brandy and water before them, but neither of them drank. Lord Chiltern, indeed, had a pint of beer by his side from which he sipped occasionally. “I’ve taken to beer,” he said, as being the best drink going. When a man hunts six days a week he can afford to drink beer. I’m on an allowance — three pints a day. That’s not too much.”

“And you drink nothing else?”

“Nothing when I’m alone — except a little cherry-brandy when I’m out. I never cared for drink — never in my life. I do like excitement, and have been less careful than I ought to have been as to what it has come from. I could give up drink tomorrow, without a struggle — if it were worth my while to make up my mind to do it. And it’s the same with gambling. I never do gamble now, because I’ve got no money; but I own I like it better than anything in the world. While you are at it, there is life in it.”

“You should take to politics, Chiltern.”

“And I would have done so, but my father would not help me. Never mind, we will not talk about him. How does Laura get on with her husband?”

“Very happily, I should say.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Lord Chiltern. Her temper is too much like mine to allow her to be happy with such a log of wood as Robert Kennedy. It is such men as he who drive me out of the pale of decent life. If that is decency, I’d sooner be indecent. You mark my words. They’ll come to grief. She’ll never be able to stand it.”

“I should think she had her own way in everything,” said Phineas.

“No, no. Though he’s a prig, he’s a man; and she will not find it easy to drive him.”

“But she may bend him.”

“Not an inch — that is if I understand his character. I suppose you see a good deal of them?”

“Yes — pretty well. I’m not there so often as I used to be in the Square.”

“You get sick of it, I suppose. I should. Do you see my father often?”

“Only occasionally. He is always very civil when I do see him.”

“He is the very pink of civility when he pleases, but the most unjust man I ever met.”

“I should not have thought that.”

“Yes, he is,” said the Earl’s son, and all from lack of judgment to discern the truth. He makes up his mind to a thing on insufficient proof, and then nothing will turn him. He thinks well of you — would probably believe your word on any indifferent subject without thought of a doubt; but if you were to tell him that I didn’t get drunk every night of my life and spend most of my time in thrashing policemen, he would not believe you. He would smile incredulously and make you a little bow. I can see him do it.”

“You are too hard on him, Chiltern.”

“He has been too hard on me, I know. Is Violet Effingham still in Grosvenor Place?”

“No; she’s with Lady Baldock.”

“That old grandmother of evil has come to town — has she? Poor Violet! When we were young together we used to have such fun about that old woman.”

“The old woman is an ally of mine now,” said Phineas.

“You make allies everywhere. You know Violet Effingham of course?”

“Oh yes. I know her.”

“Don’t you think her very charming?” said Lord Chiltern.

“Exceedingly charming.”

“I have asked that girl to marry me three times, and I shall never ask her again. There is a point beyond which a man shouldn’t go. There are many reasons why it would be a good marriage. In the first place, her money would be serviceable. Then it would heal matters in our family, for my father is as prejudiced in her favour as he is against me. And I love her dearly. I’ve loved her all my life — since I used to buy cakes for her. But I shall never ask her again.”

“I would if I were you,” said Phineas — hardly knowing what it might be best for him to say.

“No; I never will. But I’ll tell you what. I shall get into some desperate scrape about her. Of course she’ll marry, and that soon. Then I shall make a fool of myself. When I hear that she is engaged I shall go and quarrel with the man, and kick him — or get kicked. All the world will turn against me, and I shall be called a wild beast.”

“A dog in the manger is what you should be called.”

“Exactly — but how is a man to help it? If you loved a girl, could you see another man take her?” Phineas remembered of course that he had lately come through this ordeal. “It is as though he were to come and put his hand upon me, and wanted my own heart out of me. Though I have no property in her at all, no right to her — though she never gave me a word of encouragement, it is as though she were the most private thing in the world to me. I should be half mad, and in my madness I could not master the idea that I was being robbed. I should resent it as a personal interference.”

“I suppose it will come to that if you give her up yourself,” said Phineas.

“It is no question of giving up. Of course I cannot make her marry me. Light another cigar, old fellow.”

Phineas, as he lit the other cigar, remembered that he owed a certain duty in this matter to Lady Laura. She had commissioned him to persuade her brother that his suit with Violet Effingham would not be hopeless, if he could only restrain himself in his mode of conducting it. Phineas was disposed to do his duty, although he felt it to be very hard that he should be called upon to be eloquent against his own interest. He had been thinking for the last quarter of an hour how he must bear himself if it might turn out that he should be the man whom Lord Chiltern was resolved to kick. He looked at his friend and host, and became aware that a kicking-match with such a one would not be pleasant pastime. Nevertheless, he would be happy enough to be subject to Lord Chiltern’s wrath for such a reason. He would do his duty by Lord Chiltern; and then, when that had been adequately done, he would, if occasion served, fight a battle for himself.

“You are too sudden with her, Chiltern,” he said, after a pause.

“What do you mean by too sudden?” said Lord Chiltern, almost angrily.

“You frighten her by being so impetuous. You rush at her as though you wanted to conquer her by a single blow.”

“So I do.”

“You should be more gentle with her. You should give her time to find out whether she likes you or not.”

“She has known me all her life, and has found that out long ago. Not but what you are right. I know you are right. If I were you, and had your skill in pleasing, I should drop soft words into her ear till I had caught her. But I have no gifts in that way. I am as awkward as a pig at what is called flirting. And I have an accursed pride which stands in my own light. If she were in this house this moment, and if I knew she were to be had for asking, I don’t think I could bring myself to ask again. But we’ll go to bed. It’s half past two, and we must be off at half past nine, if we’re to be at Exton Park gates at eleven.”

Phineas, as he went upstairs, assured himself that he had done his duty. If there ever should come to be anything between him and Violet Effingham, Lord Chiltern might quarrel with him — might probably attempt that kicking encounter to which allusion had been made — but nobody could justly say that he had not behaved honourably to his friend.

On the next morning there was a bustle and a scurry, as there always is on such occasions, and the two men got off about ten minutes after time. But Lord Chiltern drove hard, and they reached the meet before the master had moved off. They had a fair day’s sport with the Cottesmore; and Phineas, though he found that Meg Merrilies did require a good deal of riding, went through his day’s work with credit. He had been riding since he was a child, as is the custom with all boys in Munster, and had an Irishman’s natural aptitude for jumping. When they got back to the Willingford Bull he felt pleased with the day and rather proud of himself. “It wasn’t fast, you know,” said Chiltern, “and I don’t call that a stiff country. Besides, Meg is very handy when you’ve got her out of the crowd. You shall ride Bonebreaker tomorrow at Somerby, and you’ll find that better fun.”

“Bonebreaker? Haven’t I heard you say he rushes like mischief?”

“Well, he does rush. But, by George! you want a horse to rush in that country. When you have to go right through four or five feet of stiff green wood, like a bullet through a target, you want a little force, or you’re apt to be left up a tree.”

“And what do you ride?”

“A brute I never put my leg on yet. He was sent down to Wilcox here, out of Lincolnshire, because they couldn’t get anybody to ride him there. They say he goes with his head up in the air, and won’t look at a fence that isn’t as high as his breast. But I think he’ll do here. I never saw a better made beast, or one with more power. Do you look at his shoulders, He’s to be had for seventy pounds, and these are the sort of horses I like to buy.”

Again they dined alone, and Lord Chiltern explained to Phineas that he rarely associated with the men of either of the hunts in which he rode. “There is a set of fellows down here who are poison to me, and there is another set, and I am poison to them. Everybody is very civil, as you see, but I have no associates. And gradually I am getting to have a reputation as though I were the devil himself. I think I shall come out next year dressed entirely in black.”

“Are you not wrong to give way to that kind of thing?”

“What the deuce am I to do? I can’t make civil little speeches. When once a man gets a reputation as an ogre, it is the most difficult thing in the world to drop it. I could have a score of men here every day if I liked it — my title would do that for me — but they would be men I should loathe, and I should be sure to tell them so, even though I did not mean it. Bonebreaker, and the new horse, and another, went on at twelve today. You must expect hard work tomorrow, as I daresay we shan’t be home before eight.”

The next day’s meet was in Leicestershire, not far from Melton, and they started early. Phineas, to tell the truth of him, was rather afraid of Bonebreaker, and looked forward to the probability of an accident. He had neither wife nor child, and nobody had a better right to risk his neck. “We’ll put a gag on ’im,” said the groom, “and you’ll ride ’im in a ring — so that you may well-nigh break his jaw; but he is a rum un, sir.” “I’ll do my best,” said Phineas. “He’ll take all that, said the groom. “Just let him have his own way at everything,” said Lord Chiltern, as they moved away from the meet to Pickwell Gorse; “and if you’ll only sit on his back, he’ll carry you through as safe as a church.” Phineas could not help thinking that the counsels of the master and of the groom were very different. “My idea is,” continued Lord Chiltern, “that in hunting you should always avoid a crowd. I don’t think a horse is worth riding that will go in a crowd. It’s just like yachting — you should have plenty of sea-room. If you’re to pull your horse up at every fence till somebody else is over, I think you’d better come out on a donkey.” And so they went away to Pickwell Gorse.

There were over two hundred men out, and Phineas began to think that it might not be so easy to get out of the crowd. A crowd in a fast run no doubt quickly becomes small by degrees and beautifully less; but it is very difficult, especially for a stranger, to free himself from the rush at the first start. Lord Chiltern’s horse plunged about so violently, as they stood on a little hillside looking down upon the cover, that he was obliged to take him to a distance, and Phineas followed him. “If he breaks down wind,” said Lord Chiltern, “we can’t be better than we are here. If he goes up wind, he must turn before long, and we shall be all right.” As he spoke an old hound opened true and sharp — an old hound whom all the pack believed — and in a moment there was no doubt that the fox had been found. “There are not above eight or nine acres in it,” said Lord Chiltern, “and he can’t hang long. Did you ever see such an uneasy brute as this in your life? But I feel certain he’ll go well when he gets away.”

Phineas was too much occupied with his own horse to think much of that on which Lord Chiltern was mounted. Bonebreaker, the very moment that he heard the old hound’s note, stretched out his head, and put his mouth upon the bit, and began to tremble in every muscle. “He’s a great deal more anxious for it than you and I are,” said Lord Chiltern. “I see they’ve given you that gag. But don’t you ride him on it till he wants it. Give him lots of room, and he’ll go in the snaffle.” All which caution made Phineas think that any insurance office would charge very dear on his life at the present moment.

The fox took two rings of the gorse, and then he went — up wind. “It’s not a vixen, I’ll swear,” said Lord Chiltern. “A vixen in cub never went away like that yet. Now then, Finn, my boy, keep to the right.” And Lord Chiltern, with the horse out of Lincolnshire, went away across the brow of the hill, leaving the hounds to the left, and selected, as his point of exit into the next field, a stiff rail, which, had there been an accident, must have put a very wide margin of ground between the rider and his horse. “Go hard at your fences, and then you’ll fall clear,” he had said to Phineas. I don’t think, however, that he would have ridden at the rail as he did, but that there was no help for him. “The brute began in his own way, and carried on after in the same fashion all through,” he said afterwards. Phineas took the fence a little lower down, and what it was at which he rode he never knew. Bonebreaker sailed over it, whatever it was, and he soon found himself by his friend’s side.

The ruck of the men were lower down than our two heroes, and there were others far away to the left, and others, again, who had been at the end of the gorse, and were now behind. Our friends were not near the hounds, not within two fields of them, but the hounds were below them, and therefore could be seen. “Don’t be in a hurry, and they’ll be round upon us,” Lord Chiltern said. “How the deuce is one to help being in a hurry?” said Phineas, who was doing his very best to ride Bonebreaker with the snaffle, but had already began to feel that Bonebreaker cared nothing for that weak instrument. “By George, I should like to change with you,” said Lord Chiltern. The Lincolnshire horse was going along with his head very low, boring as he galloped, but throwing his neck up at his fences, just when he ought to have kept himself steady. After this, though Phineas kept near Lord Chiltern throughout the run, they were not again near enough to exchange words; and, indeed, they had but little breath for such purpose.

Lord Chiltern rode still a little in advance, and Phineas, knowing his friend’s partiality for solitude when taking his fences, kept a little to his left. He began to find that Bonebreaker knew pretty well what he was about. As for not using the gag rein, that was impossible. When a horse puts out what strength he has against a man’s arm, a man must put out what strength he has against the horse’s mouth. But Bonebreaker was cunning, and had had a gag rein on before. He contracted his lip here, and bent out his jaw there, till he had settled it to his mind, and then went away after his own fashion. He seemed to have a passion for smashing through big, high-grown ox-fences, and by degrees his rider came to feel that if there was nothing worse coming, the fun was not bad.

The fox ran up wind for a couple of miles or so, as Lord Chiltern had prophesied, and then turned — not to the right, as would best have served him and Phineas, but to the left — so that they were forced to make their way through the ruck of horses before they could place themselves again. Phineas found himself crossing a road, in and out of it, before he knew where he was, and for a while he lost sight of Lord Chiltern. But in truth he was leading now, whereas Lord Chiltern had led before. The two horses having been together all the morning, and on the previous day, were willing enough to remain in company, if they were allowed to do so. They both crossed the road, not very far from each other, going in and out amidst a crowd of horses, and before long were again placed well, now having the hunt on their right, whereas hitherto it had been on their left. They went over large pasture fields, and Phineas began to think that as long as Bonebreaker would be able to go through the thick grown-up hedges, all would be right. Now and again he came to a cut fence, a fence that had been cut and laid, and these were not so pleasant. Force was not sufficient for them, and they admitted of a mistake. But the horse, though he would rush at them unpleasantly, took them when they came without touching them. It might be all right yet — unless the beast should tire with him; and then, Phineas thought, a misfortune might probably occur. He remembered, as he flew over one such impediment, that he rode a stone heavier than his friend. At the end of forty-five minutes Bonebreaker also might become aware of the fact.

The hounds were running well in sight to their right, and Phineas began to feel some of that pride which a man indulges when he becomes aware that he has taken his place comfortably, has left the squad behind, and is going well. There were men nearer the hounds than he was, but he was near enough even for ambition. There had already been enough of the run to make him sure that it would be a “good thing”, and enough to make him aware also that probably it might be too good. When a run is over, men are very apt to regret the termination, who a minute or two before were anxiously longing that the hounds might pull down their game. To finish well is everything in hunting. To have led for over an hour is nothing, let the pace and country have been what they might, if you fall away during the last half mile. Therefore it is that those behind hope that the fox may make this or that cover, while the forward men long to see him turned over in every field. To ride to hounds is very glorious; but to have ridden to hounds is more glorious still. They had now crossed another road, and a larger one, and had got into a somewhat closer country. The fields were not so big, and the fences were not so high. Phineas got a moment to look about him, and saw Lord Chiltern riding without his cap. He was very red in the face, and his eyes seemed to glare, and he was tugging at his horse with all his might. But the animal seemed still to go with perfect command of strength, and Phineas had too much work on his own hands to think of offering Quixotic assistance to any one else. He saw someone, a farmer, as he thought, speak to Lord Chiltern as they rode close together; but Chiltern only shook his head and pulled at his horse.

There were brooks in those parts. The river Eye forms itself thereabouts, or some of its tributaries do so; and these tributaries, though small as rivers, are considerable to men on one side who are called by the exigencies of the occasion to place themselves quickly on the other. Phineas knew nothing of these brooks; but Bonebreaker had gone gallantly over two, and now that there came a third in the way, it was to be hoped that he might go gallantly over that also. Phineas, at any rate, had no power to decide otherwise. As long as the brute would go straight with him he could sit him; but he had long given up the idea of having a will of his own. Indeed, till he was within twenty yards of the brook, he did not see that it was larger than the others. He looked around, and there was Chiltern close to him, still fighting with his horse — but the farmer had turned away. He thought that Chiltern nodded to him, as much as to tell him to go on. On he went at any rate. The brook, when he came to it, seemed to be a huge black hole, yawning beneath him. The banks were quite steep, and just where he was to take off there was an ugly stump. It was too late to think of anything. He stuck his knees against his saddle — and in a moment was on the other side. The brute, who had taken off a yard before the stump, knowing well the danger of striking it with his foot, came down with a grunt, and did, I think, begin to feel the weight of that extra stone. Phineas, as soon as he was safe, looked back, and there was Lord Chiltern’s horse in the very act of his spring — higher up the rivulet, where it was even broader. At that distance Phineas could see that Lord Chiltern was wild with rage against the beast. But whether he wished to take the leap or wished to avoid it, there was no choice left to him. The animal rushed at the brook, and in a moment the horse and horseman were lost to sight. It was well then that that extra stone should tell, as it enabled Phineas to arrest his horse and to come back to his friend.

The Lincolnshire horse had chested the further bank, and of course had fallen back into the stream. When Phineas got down he found that Lord Chiltern was wedged in between the horse and the bank, which was better, at any rate, than being under the horse in the water. “All right, old fellow,” he said, with a smile, when he saw Phineas. “You go on; it’s too good to lose.” But he was very pale, and seemed to be quite helpless where he lay. The horse did not move — and never did move again. He had smashed his shoulder to pieces against a stump on the bank, and was afterwards shot on that very spot.

When Phineas got down he found that there was but little water where the horse lay. The depth of the stream had been on the side from which they had taken off, and the thick black mud lay within a foot of the surface, close to the bank against which Lord Chiltern was propped. “That’s the worst one I ever was on,” said Lord Chiltern; “but I think he’s gruelled now.”

“Are you hurt?”

“Well — I fancy there is something amiss. I can’t move my arms; and I catch my breath. My legs are all right if I could get away from this accursed brute.”

“I told you so,” said the farmer, coming and looking down upon them from the bank. “I told you so, but you wouldn’t be said,” Then he too got down, and between them both they extricated Lord Chiltern from his position, and got him on to the bank.

“That un’s a dead un,” said the farmer, pointing to the horse.

“So much the better,” said his lordship. Give us a drop of sherry, Finn.”

He had broken his collar-bone and three of his ribs. They got a farmer’s trap from Wissindine and took him into Oakham. When there, he insisted on being taken on through Stamford to the Willingford Bull before he would have his bones set — picking up, however, a surgeon at Stamford. Phineas remained with him for a couple of days, losing his run with the Fitzwilliams and a day at the potted peas, and became very fond of his patient as he sat by his bedside.

“That was a good run, though, wasn’t it?” said Lord Chiltern as Phineas took his leave. “And, by George, Phineas, you rode Bonebreaker so well, that you shall have him as often as you’ll come down. I don’t know how it is, but you Irish fellows always ride.”

Chapter 25

Mr Turnbull”s carriage stops the way

When Phineas got back to London, a day after his time, he found that there was already a great political commotion in the metropolis. He had known that on Easter Monday and Tuesday there was to be a gathering of the people in favour of the ballot, and that on Wednesday there was to be a procession with a petition which Mr Turnbull was to receive from the hands of the people on Primrose Hill. It had been at first intended that Mr Turnbull should receive the petition at the door of Westminster Hall on the Thursday; but he had been requested by the Home Secretary to put aside this intention, and he had complied with the request made to him. Mr Mildmay was to move the second reading of his Reform Bill on that day, the preliminary steps having been taken without any special notice; but the bill of course included no clause in favour of the ballot; and this petition was the consequence of that omission. Mr Turnbull had predicted evil consequences, both in the House and out of it, and was now doing the best in his power to bring about the verification of his own prophecies. Phineas, who reached his lodgings late on the Thursday, found that the town had been in a state of ferment for three days, that on the Wednesday forty or fifty thousand persons had been collected at Primrose Hill, and that the police had been forced to interfere — and that worse was expected on the Friday. Though Mr Turnbull had yielded to the Government as to receiving the petition, the crowd was resolved that they would see the petition carried into the House. It was argued that the Government would have done better to have refrained from interfering as to the previously intended arrangement. It would have been easier to deal with a procession than with a mob of men gathered together without any semblance of form. Mr Mildmay had been asked to postpone the second reading of his bill; but the request had come from his opponents, and he would not yield to it. He said that it would be a bad expedient to close Parliament from fear of the people, Phineas found at the Reform Club on the Thursday evening that members of the House of Commons were requested to enter on the Friday by the door usually used by the peers, and to make their way thence to their own House. He found that his landlord, Mr Bunce, had been out with the people during the entire three days — and Mrs Bunce, with a flood of tears, begged Phineas to interfere as to the Friday. “He’s that headstrong that he’ll be took if anybody’s took; and they say that all Westminster is to be lined with soldiers.” Phineas on the Friday morning did have some conversation with his landlord; but his first work on reaching London was to see Lord Chiltern’s friends, and tell them of the accident.

The potted peas Committee sat on the Thursday, and he ought to have been there. His absence, however, was unavoidable, as he could not have left his friend’s bedside so soon after the accident. On the Wednesday he had written to Lady Laura, and on the Thursday evening he went first to Portman Square and then to Grosvenor Place.

“Of course he will kill himself some day,” said the Earl — with a tear, however, in each eye.

“I hope not, my lord. He is a magnificent horseman; but accidents of course will happen.”

“How many of his bones are there not broken, I wonder?” said the father. “It is useless to talk, of course. You think he is not in danger?”

“Certainly not.”

“I should fear that he would be so liable to inflammation.”

“The doctor says that there is none. He has been taking an enormous deal of exercise,” said Phineas, “and drinking no wine. All that is in his favour.”

“What does he drink, then?” asked the Earl.

“Nothing. I rather think, my lord, you are mistaken a little about his habits. I don’t fancy he ever drinks unless he is provoked to do it.”

“Provoked! Could anything provoke you to make a brute of yourself? But I am glad that he is in no danger. If you hear of him, let me know how he goes on.”

Lady Laura was of course full of concern. “I wanted to go down to him”, she said, “but Mr Kennedy thought that there was no occasion.”

“Nor is there any — I mean in regard to danger. He is very solitary there.”

“You must go to him again. Mr Kennedy will not let me go unless I can say that there is danger. He seems to think that because Oswald has had accidents before, it is nothing. Of course I cannot leave London without his leave.”

“Your brother makes very little of it, you know.”

“Ah — he would make little of anything. But if I were ill he would be in London by the first train.”

“Kennedy would let you go if you asked him.”

“But he advises me not to go. He says my duty does not require it, unless Oswald be in danger. Don’t you know, Mr Finn, how hard it is for a wife not to take advice when it is so given?” This she said, within six months of her marriage, to the man who had been her husband’s rival!

Phineas asked her whether Violet had heard the news, and learned that she was still ignorant of it. “I got your letter only this morning, and I have not seen her,” said Lady Laura. “Indeed, I am so angry with her that I hardly wish to see her.” Thursday was Lady Baldock’s night, and Phineas went from Grosvenor Place to Berkeley Square. There he saw Violet, and found that she had heard of the accident.

“I am so glad to see you, Mr Finn,” she said. Do tell me — is it much?”

“Much in inconvenience, certainly; but not much in danger.”

“I think Laura was so unkind not to send me word! I only heard it just now. Did you see it?”

“I was close to him, and helped him up. The horse jumped into a river with him, and crushed him up against the bank.”

“How lucky that you should be there! Had you jumped the river?”

“Yes — almost unintentionally, for my horse was rushing so that I could not hold him. Chiltern was riding a brute that no one should have ridden. No one will again.”

“Did he destroy himself?”

“He had to be killed afterwards. He broke his shoulder.”

“How very lucky that you should have been near him — and, again, how lucky that you should not have been hurt yourself!”

“It was not likely that we should both come to grief at the same fence.”

“But it might have been you. And you think there is no danger?”

“None whatever — if I may believe the doctor. His hunting is done for this year, and he will be very desolate. I shall go down again to him in a few days, and try to bring him up to town.”

“Do — do. If he is laid up in his father’s house, his father must see him.” Phineas had not looked at the matter in that light; but he thought that Miss Effingham might probably be right.

Early on the next morning he saw Mr Bunce, and used all his eloquence to keep that respectable member of society at home — but in vain. “What good do you expect to do, Mr Bunce?” he said, with perhaps some little tone of authority in his voice.

“To carry my point,” said Bunce.

“And what is your point?”

“My present point is the ballot, as a part of the Government measure.”

“And you expect to carry that by going out into the streets with all the roughs of London, and putting yourself in direct opposition to the authority of the magistrates? Do you really believe that the ballot will become the law of the land any sooner because you incur this danger and inconvenience?”

“Look here, Mr Finn; I don’t believe the sea will become any fuller because the Piddle runs into it out of the Dorsetshire fields; but I do believe that the waters from all the countries is what makes the ocean. I shall help; and it’s my duty to help.”

“It’s your duty as a respectable citizen, with a wife and family, to stay at home.”

“If everybody with a wife and family was to say so, there’d be none there but roughs, and then where should we be? What would the Government people say to us then? If every man with a wife and family was to show hisself in the streets tonight, we should have the ballot before Parliament breaks up, and if none of ’em don’t do it, we shall never have the ballot. Ain’t that so?” Phineas, who intended to be honest, was not prepared to dispute the assertion on the spur of the moment. “If that’s so,” said Bunce, triumphantly, a man’s duty’s clear enough. He ought to go, though he’d two wives and families.” And he went.

The petition was to be presented at six o’clock, but the crowd, who collected to see it carried into Westminster Hall, began to form itself by noon. It was said afterwards that many of the houses in the neighbourhood of Palace Yard and the Bridge were filled with soldiers; but if so, the men did not show themselves. In the course of the evening three or four companies of the Guards in St James’s Park did show themselves, and had some rough work to do, for many of the people took themselves away from Westminster by that route. The police, who were very numerous in Palace Yard, had a hard time of it all the afternoon, and it was said afterwards that it would have been much better to have allowed the petition to have been brought up by the procession on Wednesday. A procession, let it be who it will that proceeds, has in it, of its own nature, something of order. But now there was no order. The petition, which was said to fill fifteen cabs — though the absolute sheets of signatures were carried into the House by four men — was being dragged about half the day, and it certainly would have been impossible for a member to have made his way into the House through Westminster Hall between the hours of four and six. To effect an entrance at all they were obliged to go round at the back of the Abbey, as all the spaces round St Margaret’s Church and Canning’s monument were filled with the crowd. Parliament Street was quite impassable at five o’clock, and there was no traffic across the bridge from that hour till after eight. As the evening went on, the mob extended itself to Downing Street and the front of the Treasury Chambers, and before the night was over all the hoardings round the new Government offices had been pulled down. The windows also of certain obnoxious members of Parliament were broken, when those obnoxious members lived within reach. One gentleman who unfortunately held a house in Richmond Terrace, and who was said to have said that the ballot was the resort of cowards, fared very badly — for his windows were not only broken, but his furniture and mirrors were destroyed by the stones that were thrown. Mr Mildmay, I say, was much blamed. But after all, it may be a doubt whether the procession on Wednesday might not have ended worse. Mr Turnbull was heard to say afterwards that the number of people collected would have been much greater.

Mr Mildmay moved the second reading of his bill, and made his speech. He made his speech with the knowledge that the Houses of Parliament were surrounded by a mob, and I think that the fact added to its efficacy. It certainly gave him an appropriate opportunity for a display which was not difficult. His voice faltered on two or three occasions, and faltered through real feeling; but this sort of feeling, though it be real, is at the command of orators on certain occasions, and does them yeoman’s service. Mr Mildmay was an old man, nearly worn out in the service of his country, who was known to have been true and honest, and to have loved his country well — though there were of course they who declared that his hand had been too weak for power, and that his services had been naught — and on this evening his virtues were remembered. Once when his voice failed him the whole House got up and cheered. The nature of a Whig Prime Minister’s speech on such an occasion will be understood by most of my readers without further indication. The bill itself had been read before, and it was understood that no objection would be made to the extent of the changes provided in it by the liberal side of the House. The opposition coming from liberal members was to be confined to the subject of the ballot. And even as yet it was not known whether Mr Turnbull and his followers would vote against the second reading, or whether they would take what was given, and declare their intention of obtaining the remainder on a separate motion. The opposition of a large party of Conservatives was a matter of certainty; but to this party Mr Mildmay did not conceive himself bound to offer so large an amount of argument as he would have given had there been at the moment no crowd in Palace Yard. And he probably felt that that crowd would assist him with his old Tory enemies. When, in the last words of his speech, he declared that under no circumstances would he disfigure the close of his political career by voting for the ballot — not though the people, on whose behalf he had been fighting battles all his life, should be there in any number to coerce him — there came another round of applause from the opposition benches, and Mr Daubeny began to fear that some young horses in his team might get loose from their traces. With great dignity Mr Daubeny had kept aloof from Mr Turnbull and from Mr Turnbull’s tactics; but he was not the less alive to the fact that Mr Turnbull, with his mob and his big petition, might be of considerable assistance to him in this present duel between himself and Mr Mildmay. I think Mr Daubeny was in the habit of looking at these contests as duels between himself and the leader on the other side of the House — in which assistance from any quarter might be accepted if offered.

Mr Mildmay’s speech did not occupy much over an hour, and at half past seven Mr Turnbull got up to reply. It was presumed that he would do so, and not a member left his place, though that time of the day is an interesting time, and though Mr Turnbull was accustomed to be long. There soon came to be but little ground for doubting what would be the nature of Mr Turnbull’s vote on the second reading. “How may I dare,” said he, “to accept so small a measure of reform as this with such a message from the country as is now conveyed to me through the presence of fifty thousand of my countrymen, who are at this moment demanding their measure of reform just beyond the frail walls of this chamber? The right honourable gentleman has told us that he will never be intimidated by a concourse of people. I do not know that there was any need that he should speak of intimidation. No one has accused the right honourable gentleman of political cowardice. But, as he has so said, I will follow in his footsteps. Neither will I be intimidated by the large majority which this House presented the other night against the wishes of the people. I will support no great measure of reform which does not include the ballot among its clauses.” And so Mr Turnbull threw down the gauntlet.

Mr Turnbull spoke for two hours, and then the debate was adjourned till the Monday. The adjournment was moved by an independent member, who, as was known, would support the Government, and at once received Mr Turnbull’s assent. There was no great hurry with the bill, and it was felt that it would be well to let the ferment subside. Enough had been done for glory when Mr Mildmay moved the second reading, and quite enough in the way of debate — with such an audience almost within hearing — when Mr Turnbull’s speech had been made. Then the House emptied itself at once. The elderly, cautious members made their exit through the peers’ door. The younger men got out into the crowd through Westminster Hall, and were pushed about among the roughs for an hour or so. Phineas, who made his way through the hall with Laurence Fitzgibbon, found Mr Turnbull’s carriage waiting at the entrance with a dozen policemen round it.

“I hope he won’t get home to dinner before midnight,” said Phineas.

“He understands all about it,” said Laurence. He had a good meal at three, before he left home, and you’d find sandwiches and sherry in plenty if you were to search his carriage. He knows how to remedy the costs of mob popularity.”

At that time poor Bunce was being hustled about in the crowd in the vicinity of Mr Turnbull’s carriage. Phineas and Fitzgibbon made their way out, and by degrees worked a passage for themselves into Parliament Street. Mr Turnbull had been somewhat behind them in coming down the hall, and had not been without a sense of enjoyment in the ovation which was being given to him. There can be no doubt that he was wrong in what he was doing. That affair of the carriage was altogether wrong, and did Mr Turnbull much harm for many a day afterwards. When he got outside the door, where were the twelve policemen guarding his carriage, a great number of his admirers endeavoured to shake hands with him. Among them was the devoted Bunce. But the policemen seemed to think that Mr Turnbull was to be guarded, even from the affection of his friends, and were as careful that he should be ushered into his carriage untouched, as though he had been the favourite object of political aversion for the moment. Mr Turnbull himself, when he began to perceive that men were crowding close upon the gates, and to hear the noise, and to feel, as it were, the breath of the mob, stepped on quickly into his carriage. He said a word or two in a loud voice. “Thank you, my friends. I trust you may obtain all your just demands.” But he did not pause to speak. Indeed, he could hardly have done so, as the policemen were manifestly in a hurry. The carriage was got away at a snail’s pace — but there remained in the spot where the carriage had stood the makings of a very pretty street row.

Bunce had striven hard to shake hands with his hero — Bunce and some other reformers as ardent and as decent as himself. The police were very determinate that there should be no such interruption to their programme for getting Mr Turnbull off the scene. Mr Bunce, who had his own ideas as to his right to shake hands with any gentleman at Westminster Hall who might choose to shake hands with him, became uneasy under the impediments that were placed in his way, and expressed himself warmly as to his civil rights. Now a London policeman in a political row is, I believe, the most forbearing of men. So long as he meets with no special political opposition, ordinary ill-usage does not even put him out of temper. He is paid for rough work among roughs, and takes his rubs gallantly. But he feels himself to be an instrument for the moment of despotic power as opposed to civil rights, and he won’t stand what he calls “jaw.” Trip up a policeman in such a scramble, and he will take it in good spirit; but mention the words “Habeas Corpus,” and he’ll lock you up if he can. As a rule, his instincts are right; for the man who talks about “Habeas Corpus” in a political crowd will generally do more harm than can be effected by the tripping up of any constable. But these instincts may be the means of individual injustice. I think they were so when Mr Bunce was arrested and kept a fast prisoner. His wife had shown her knowledge of his character when she declared that he’d be “took” if anyone was “took.”

Bunce was taken into custody with some three or four others like himself — decent men, who meant no harm, but who thought that as men they were bound to show their political opinions, perhaps at the expense of a little martyrdom — and was carried into a temporary stronghold, which had been provided for the necessities of the police, under the clock-tower.

“Keep me, at your peril!” said Bunce, indignantly.

“We means it,” said the sergeant who had him in custody.

“I’ve done no ha’porth to break the law,” said Bunce.

“You was breaking the law when you was upsetting my men, as I saw you,” said the sergeant.

“I’ve upset nobody,” said Bunce.

“Very well,” rejoined the sergeant; you can say it all before the magistrate, tomorrow.”

“And am I to be locked up all night?” said Bunce.

“I’m afraid you will,” replied the sergeant.

Bunce, who was not by nature a very talkative man, said no more; but he swore in his heart that there should be vengeance. Between eleven and twelve he was taken to the regular police station, and from thence he was enabled to send word to his wife.

“Bunce has been taken,” said she, with something of the tragic queen, and something also of the injured wife in the tone of her voice, as soon as Phineas let himself in with the latchkey between twelve and one. And then, mingled with, and at last dominant over, those severer tones, came the voice of the loving woman whose beloved one was in trouble. “I knew how it’d be, Mr Finn. Didn’t I? And what must we do? I don’t suppose he’d had a bit to eat from the moment he went out — and as for a drop of beer, he never thinks of it, except what I puts down for him at his meals. Them nasty police always take the best, That’s why I was so afeard.”

Phineas said all that he could to comfort her, and promised to go to the police office early in the morning and look after Bunce. No serious evil would, he thought, probably come of it; but still Bunce had been wrong to go.

“But you might have been took yourself,” argued Mrs Bunce, “just as well as he.” Then Phineas explained that he had gone forth in the execution of a public duty. “You might have been took, all the same,” said Mrs Bunce, “for I’m sure Bunce didn’t do nothing amiss.”

Chapter 26

“ The first speech ”

On the following morning, which was Saturday, Phineas was early at the police office at Westminster looking after the interests of his landlord; but there had been a considerable number of men taken up during the row, and our friend could hardly procure that attention for Mr Bunce’s case to which he thought the decency of his client and his own position as a member of Parliament were entitled. The men who had been taken up were taken in batches before the magistrates; but as the soldiers in the park had been maltreated, and a considerable injury had been done in the neighbourhood of Downing Street, there was a good deal of strong feeling against the mob, and the magistrates were disposed to be severe. If decent men chose to go out among such companions, and thereby get into trouble, decent men must take the consequences. During the Saturday and Sunday a very strong feeling grew up against Mr Turnbull. The story of the carriage was told, and he was declared to be a turbulent demagogue, only desirous of getting popularity. And together with this feeling there arose a general verdict of “Serve them right” against all who had come into contact with the police in the great Turnbull row; and thus it came to pass that Mr Bunce had not been liberated up to the Monday morning. On the Sunday Mrs Bunce was in hysterics, and declared her conviction that Mr Bunce would be imprisoned for life. Poor Phineas had an unquiet time with her on the morning of that day. In every ecstasy of her grief she threw herself into his arms, either metaphorically or materially, according to the excess of her agony at the moment, and expressed repeatedly an assured conviction that all her children would die of starvation, and that she herself would be picked up under the arches of one of the bridges. Phineas, who was soft-hearted, did what he could to comfort her, and allowed himself to be worked up to strong parliamentary anger against the magistrates and police. “When they think that they have public opinion on their side, there is nothing in the way or arbitrary excess which is too great for them.” This he said to Barrington Erle, who angered him and increased the warmth of his feeling by declaring that a little close confinement would be good for the Bunces of the day. “If we don’t keep the mob down, the mob will keep us down,” said the Whig private secretary. Phineas had no opportunity of answering this, but declared to himself that Barrington Erle was no more a Liberal at heart than was Mr Daubeny. “He was born on that side of the question, and has been receiving Whig wages all his life. That is the history of his politics!”

On the Sunday afternoon Phineas went to Lord Brentford’s in Portman Square, intending to say a word or two about Lord Chiltern, and meaning also to induce, if possible, the Cabinet Minister to take part with him against the magistrates — having a hope also, in which he was not disappointed, that he might find Lady Laura Kennedy with her father. He had come to understand that Lady Laura was not to be visited at her own house on Sundays. So much indeed she had told him in so many words. But he had come to understand also, without any plain telling, that she rebelled in heart against this Sabbath tyranny — and that she would escape from it when escape was possible. She had now come to talk to her father about her brother, and had brought Violet Effingham with her. They had walked together across the park after church, and intended to walk back again. Mr Kennedy did not like to have any carriage out on a Sunday, and to this arrangement his wife made no objection.

Phineas had received a letter from the Stamford surgeon, and was able to report favourably of Lord Chiltern. “The man says that he had better not be moved for a month,” said Phineas. “But that means nothing. They always say that.”

“Will it not be best for him to remain where he is?” said the Earl.

“He has not a soul to speak to,” said Phineas.

“I wish I were with him,” said his sister.

“That is, of course, out of the question,” said the Earl. “They know him at that inn, and it really seems to me best that he should stay there. I do not think he would be so much at his ease here.”

“It must be dreadful for a man to be confined to his room without a creature near him, except the servants,” said Violet. The Earl frowned, but said nothing further. They all perceived that as soon as he had learned that there was no real danger as to his son’s life, he was determined that this accident should not work him up to any show of tenderness, “I do so hope he will come up to London,” continued Violet, who was not afraid of the Earl, and was determined not to be put down.

“You don’t know what you are talking about, my dear,” said Lord Brentford.

After this Phineas found it very difficult to extract any sympathy from the Earl on behalf of the men who had been locked up. He was moody and cross, and could not be induced to talk on the great subject of the day. Violet Effingham declared that she did not care how many Bunces were locked up; nor for how long — adding, however, a wish that Mr Turnbull himself had been among the number of the prisoners. Lady Laura was somewhat softer than this, and consented to express pity in the case of Mr Bunce himself; but Phineas perceived that the pity was awarded to him and not to the sufferer. The feeling against Mr Turnbull was at the present moment so strong among all the upper classes, that Mr Bunce and his brethren might have been kept in durance for a week without commiseration from them.

“It is very hard certainly on a man like Mr Bunce,” said Lady Laura.

“Why did not Mr Bunce stay at home and mind his business?” said the Earl.

Phineas spent the remainder of that day alone, and came to a resolution that on the coming occasion he certainly would speak in the House. The debate would be resumed on the Monday, and he would rise to his legs on the very first moment that it became possible for him to do so. And he would do nothing towards preparing a speech — nothing whatever. On this occasion he would trust entirely to such words as might come to him at the moment — ay, and to such thoughts. He had before burdened his memory with preparations, and the very weight of the burden had been too much for his mind. He had feared to trust himself to speak, because he had felt that he was not capable of performing the double labour of saying his lesson by heart, and of facing the House for the first time. There should be nothing now for him to remember. His thoughts were full of his subject. He would support Mr Mildmay’s bill with all his eloquence, but he would implore Mr Mildmay, and the Home Secretary, and the Government generally, to abstain from animosity against the populace of London, because they desired one special boon which Mr Mildmay did not think that it was his duty to give them. He hoped that ideas and words would come to him. Ideas and words had been free enough with him in the old days of the Dublin debating society. If they failed him now, he must give the thing up, and go back to Mr Low.

On the Monday morning Phineas was for two hours at the police court in Westminster, and at about one on that day Mr Bunce was liberated. When he was brought up before the magistrate, Mr Bunce spoke his mind very freely as to the usage he had received, and declared his intention of bringing an action against the sergeant who had detained him. The magistrate, of course, took the part of the police, and declared that, from the evidence of two men who were examined, Bunce had certainly used such violence in the crowd as had justified his arrest.

“I used no violence,” said Bunce.

“According to your own showing, you endeavoured to make your way up to Mr Turnbull’s carriage,” said the magistrate.

“I was close to the carriage before the police even saw me,” said Bunce.

“But you tried to force your way round to the door.”

“I used no force till a man had me by the collar to push me back; and I wasn’t violent, not then. I told him I was doing what I had a right to do — and it was that as made him hang on to me.”

“You were not doing what you had a right to do. You were assisting to create a riot,” said the magistrate, with that indignation which a London magistrate should always know how to affect.

Phineas, however, was allowed to give evidence as to his landlord’s character, and then Bunce was liberated. But before he went he again swore that that should not be the last of it, and he told the magistrate that he had been ill-used. When liberated, he was joined by a dozen sympathising friends, who escorted him home, and among them were one or two literary gentlemen, employed on those excellent penny papers, the People’s Banner and the Ballot-box. It was their intention that Mr Bunce’s case should not be allowed to sleep. One of these gentlemen made a distinct offer to Phineas Finn of unbounded popularity during life and of immortality afterwards, if he, as a member of Parliament, would take up Bunce’s case with vigour. Phineas, not quite understanding the nature of the offer, and not as yet knowing the profession of the gentleman, gave some general reply.

“You come out strong, Mr Finn, and we’ll see that you are properly reported. I’m on the Banner, sir, and I’ll answer for that.”

Phineas, who had been somewhat eager in expressing his sympathy with Bunce, and had not given very close attention to the gentleman who was addressing him, was still in the dark. The nature of the Banner, which the gentleman was on, did not at once come home to him.

“Something ought to be done, certainly,” said Phineas.

“We shall take it up strong,” said the gentleman, and we shall be happy to have you among us. You’ll find, Mr Finn, that in public life there’s nothing like having a horgan to back you. What is the most you can do in the ‘Ouse? Nothing, if you’re not reported. You’re speaking to the country — ain’t you? And you can’t do that without a horgan, Mr Finn. You come among us on the Banner, Mr Finn. You can’t do better.”

Then Phineas understood the nature of the offer made to him. As they parted, the literary gentleman gave our hero his card. “Mr Quintus Slide.” So much was printed. Then, on the corner of the card was written, “Banner Office, 137, Fetter Lane.” Mr Quintus Slide was a young man, under thirty, not remarkable for clean linen, and who always talked of the “‘Ouse.” But he was a well-known and not undistinguished member of a powerful class of men. He had been a reporter, and as such knew the “‘Ouse” well, and was a writer for the press. And, though he talked of “‘Ouses” and “horgans”, he wrote good English with great rapidity, and was possessed of that special sort of political fervour which shows itself in a man’s work rather than in his conduct. It was Mr Slide’s taste to be an advanced reformer, and in all his operations on behalf of the People’s Banner he was a reformer very much advanced. No man could do an article on the people’s indefeasible rights with more pronounced vigour than Mr Slide. But it had never occurred to him as yet that he ought to care for anything else than the fight — than the advantage of having a good subject on which to write slashing articles. Mr Slide was an energetic but not a thoughtful man; but in his thoughts on politics, as far as they went with him, he regarded the wrongs of the people as being of infinitely greater value than their rights. It was not that he was insincere in all that he was daily saying — but simply that he never thought about it. Very early in life he had fallen among “people’s friends,” and an opening on the liberal press had come in his way. To be a “people’s friend” suited the turn of his ambition, and he was a “people’s friend.” It was his business to abuse Government, and to express on all occasions an opinion that as a matter of course the ruling powers were the “people’s enemies.” Had the ruling powers ceased to be the “people’s enemies,” Mr Slide’s ground would have been taken from under his feet. But such a catastrophe was out of the question. That excellent old arrangement that had gone on since demagogues were first invented was in full vigour. There were the ruling powers and there were the people — devils on one side and angels on the other — and as long as a people’s friend had a pen in his hand all was right.

Phineas, when he left the indignant Bunce to go among his friends, walked to the House thinking a good deal of what Mr Slide had said to him. The potted peas Committee was again on, and he had intended to be in the committee room by twelve punctually: but he had been unable to leave Mr Bunce in the lurch, and it was now past one. Indeed, he had, from one unfortunate circumstance after another, failed hitherto in giving to the potted peas that resolute attention which the subject demanded. On the present occasion his mind was full of Mr Quintus Slide and the People’s Banner. After all, was there not something in Mr Slide’s proposition? He, Phineas, had come into Parliament as it were under the wing of a Government pack, and his friendships, which had been very successful, had been made with Ministers, and with the friends of Ministers. He had made up his mind to be Whig Ministerial, and to look for his profession in that line. He had been specially fortified in this resolution by his dislike to the ballot — which dislike had been the result of Mr Monk’s teaching. Had Mr Turnbull become his friend instead, it may well be that he would have liked the ballot. On such subjects men must think long, and be sure that they have thought in earnest, before they are justified in saying that their opinions are the results of their own thoughts. But now he began to reflect how far this ministerial profession would suit him. Would it be much to be a Lord of the Treasury, subject to the dominion of Mr Ratler? Such lordship and such subjection would be the result of success. He told himself that he was at heart a true Liberal. Would it not be better for him to abandon the idea of office trammels, and go among them on the People’s Banner? A glow of enthusiasm came over him as he thought of it. But what would Violet Effingham say to the People’s Banner and Mr Quintus Slide? And he would have liked the Banner better had not Mr Slide talked about the ‘Ouse.

From the committee room, in which, alas! he took no active part in reference to the potted peas, he went down to the House, and was present when the debate was resumed. Not unnaturally, one speaker after another made some allusion to the row in the streets, and the work which had fallen to the lot of the magistrates. Mr Turnbull had declared that he would vote against the second reading of Mr Mildmay’s bill, and had explained that he would do so because he could consent to no Reform Bill which did not include the ballot as one of its measures. The debate fashioned itself after this speech of Mr Turnbull’s, and turned again very much upon the ballot — although it had been thought that the late debate had settled that question. One or two of Mr Turnbull’s followers declared that they also would vote against the bill — of course, as not going far enough; and one or two gentlemen from the Conservative benches extended a spoken welcome to these new colleagues. Then Mr Palliser got up and addressed the House for an hour, struggling hard to bring back the real subject, and to make the House understand that the ballot, whether good or bad, had been knocked on the head, and that members had no right at the present moment to consider anything but the expediency or inexpediency of so much Reform as Mr Mildmay presented to them in the present bill.

Phineas was determined to speak, and to speak on this evening if he could catch the Speaker’s eye. Again the scene before him was going round before him; again things became dim, and again he felt his blood beating hard at his heart. But things were not so bad with him as they had been before, because he had nothing to remember. He hardly knew, indeed, what he intended to say. He had an idea that he was desirous of joining in earnest support of the measure, with a vehement protest against the injustice which had been done to the people in general, and to Mr Bunce in particular. He had firmly resolved that no fear of losing favour with the Government should induce him to hold his tongue as to the Buncean cruelties. Sooner than do so he would certainly “go among them” at the Banner office.

He started up, wildly, when Mr Palliser had completed his speech; but the Speaker’s eye, not unnaturally, had travelled to the other side of the House, and there was a Tory of the old school upon his legs — Mr Western, the member for East Barsetshire, one of the gallant few who dared to vote against Sir Robert Peel’s bill for repealing the Corn Laws in 1846, Mr Western spoke with a slow, ponderous, unimpressive, but very audible voice, for some twenty minutes, disdaining to make reference to Mr Turnbull and his politics, but pleading against any Reform, with all the old arguments. Phineas did not hear a word that he said — did not attempt to hear. He was keen in his resolution to make another attempt at the Speaker’s eye, and at the present moment was thinking of that, and of that only. He did not even give himself a moment’s reflection as to what his own speech should be. He would dash at it and take his chance, resolved that at least he would not fail in courage. Twice he was on his legs before Mr Western had finished his slow harangue, and twice he was compelled to reseat himself — thinking that he had subjected himself to ridicule. At last the member for East Barset sat down, and Phineas was conscious that he had lost a moment or two in presenting himself again to the Speaker.

He held his ground, however, though he saw that he had various rivals for the right of speech. He held his ground, and was instantly aware that he had gained his point. There was a slight pause, and as some other urgent member did not reseat himself, Phineas heard the president of that august assembly call upon himself to address the House. The thing was now to be done. There he was with the House of Commons at his feet — a crowded House, bound to be his auditors as long as he should think fit to address them, and reporters by tens and twenties in the gallery ready and eager to let the country know what the young member for Loughshane would say in this his maiden speech.

Phineas Finn had sundry gifts, a powerful and pleasant voice, which he had learned to modulate, a handsome presence, and a certain natural mixture of modesty and self-reliance, which would certainly protect him from the faults of arrogance and pomposity, and which, perhaps, might carry him through the perils of his new position. And he had also the great advantage of friends in the House who were anxious that he should do well. But he had not that gift of slow blood which on the former occasion would have enabled him to remember his prepared speech, and which would now have placed all his own resources within his own reach. He began with the expression of an opinion that every true reformer ought to accept Mr Mildmay’s bill, even if it were accepted only as an instalment — but before he had got through these sentences, he became painfully conscious that he was repeating his own words.

He was cheered almost from the outset, and yet he knew as he went on that he was failing. He had certain arguments at his fingers’ ends — points with which he was, in truth, so familiar that he need hardly have troubled himself to arrange them for special use — and he forgot even these. He found that he was going on with one platitude after another as to the benefit of reform, in a manner that would have shamed him six or seven years ago at a debating club. He pressed on, fearing that words would fail him altogether if he paused — but he did in truth speak very much too fast, knocking his words together so that no reporter could properly catch them. But he had nothing to say for the bill except what hundreds had said before, and hundreds would say again. Still he was cheered, and still he went on; and as he became more and more conscious of his failure there grew upon him the idea — the dangerous hope, that he might still save himself from ignominy by the eloquence of his invective against the police.

He tried it, and succeeded thoroughly in making the House understand that he was very angry — but he succeeded in nothing else. He could not catch the words to express the thoughts of his mind. He could not explain his idea that the people out of the House had as much right to express their opinion in favour of the ballot as members in the House had to express theirs against it; and that animosity had been shown to the people by the authorities because they had so expressed their opinion. Then he attempted to tell the story of Mr Bunce in a light and airy way, failed, and sat down in the middle of it. Again he was cheered by all around him — cheered as a new member is usually cheered — and in the midst of the cheer would have blown out his brains had there been a pistol there ready for such an operation.

That hour with him was very bad. He did not know how to get up and go away, or how to keep his place. For some time he sat with his hat off, forgetful of his privilege of wearing it, and then put it on hurriedly, as though the fact of his not wearing it must have been observed by everybody. At last, at about two, the debate was adjourned, and then as he was slowly leaving the House, thinking how he might creep away without companionship, Mr Monk took him by the arm.

“Are you going to walk?” said Mr Monk.

“Yes”, said Phineas; I shall walk.

“Then we may go together as far as Pall Mall. Come along.” Phineas had no means of escape, and left the House hanging on Mr Monk’s arm, without a word. Nor did Mr Monk speak till they were out in Palace Yard. “It was not much amiss,” said Mr Monk; “but you’ll do better than that yet.”

“Mr Monk,” said Phineas, I have made an ass of myself so thoroughly, that there will at any rate be this good result, that I shall never make an ass of myself again after the same fashion.”

“Ah! — I thought you had some such feeling as that, and therefore I was determined to speak to you. You may be sure, Finn, that I do not care to flatter you, and I think you ought to know that, as far as I am able, I will tell you the truth, Your speech, which was certainly nothing great, was about on a par with other maiden speeches in the House of Commons. You have done yourself neither good nor harm, Nor was it desirable that you should. My advice to you now is, never to avoid speaking on any subject that interests you, but never to speak for above three minutes till you find yourself as much at home on your legs as you are when sitting. But do not suppose that you have made an ass of yourself — that is, in any special degree. Now, goodnight.”

Chapter 27

Phineas discussed

Lady Laura Kennedy heard two accounts of her friend’s speech — and both from men who had been present. Her husband was in his place, in accordance with his constant practice, and Lord Brentford had been seated, perhaps unfortunately, in the peers’ gallery.

“And you think it was a failure?” Lady Laura said to her husband.

“It certainly was not a success. There was nothing particular about it. There was a good deal of it you could hardly hear.”

After that she got the morning newspapers, and turned with great interest to the report. Phineas Finn had been, as it were, adopted by her as her own political offspring — or at any rate as her political godchild. She had made promises on his behalf to various personages of high political standing — to her father, to Mr Monk, to the Duke of St Bungay, and even to Mr Mildmay himself. She had thoroughly intended that Phineas Finn should be a political success from the first; and since her marriage, she had, I think, been more intent upon it than before. Perhaps there was a feeling on her part that having wronged him in one way, she would repay him in another. She had become so eager for his success — for a while scorning to conceal her feeling — that her husband had unconsciously begun to entertain a dislike to her eagerness. We know how quickly women arrive at an understanding of the feelings of those with whom they live; and now, on that very occasion, Lady Laura perceived that her husband did not take in good part her anxiety on behalf of her friend. She saw that it was so as she turned over the newspaper looking for the report of the speech. It was given in six lines, and at the end of it there was an intimation — expressed in the shape of advice — that the young orator had better speak more slowly if he wished to be efficacious either with the House or with the country.

“He seems to have been cheered a good deal,” said Lady Laura.

“All members are cheered at their first speech,” said Mr Kennedy.

“I’ve no doubt he’ll do well yet,” said Lady Laura.

“Very likely,” said Mr Kennedy. Then he turned to his newspaper, and did not take his eyes off it as long as his wife remained with him.

Later in the day Lady Laura saw her father, and Miss Effingham was with her at the time, Lord Brentford said something which indicated that he had heard the debate on the previous evening, and Lady Laura instantly began to ask him about Phineas.

“The less said the better,” was the Earl’s reply.

“Do you mean that it was so bad as that?” asked Lady Laura.

“It was not very bad at first — though indeed nobody could say it was very good. But he got himself into a mess about the police and the magistrates before he had done, and nothing but the kindly feeling always shown to a first effort saved him from being coughed down.” Lady Laura had not a word more to say about Phineas to her father; but, womanlike, she resolved that she would not abandon him. How many first failures in the world had been the precursors of ultimate success! “Mildmay will lose his bill,” said the Earl, sorrowfully. “There does not seem to be a doubt about that.”

“And what will you all do?” asked Lady Laura.

“We must go to the country, I suppose,” said the Earl.

“What’s the use? You can’t have a more liberal House than you have now,” said Lady Laura.

“We may have one less liberal — or rather less radical — with fewer men to support Mr Turnbull. I do not see what else we can do. They say that there are no less than twenty-seven men on our side of the House who will either vote with Turnbull against us, or will decline to vote at all.”

“Every one of them ought to lose his seat,” said Lady Laura.

“But what can we do? How is the Queen’s Government to be carried on?” We all know the sad earnestness which impressed itself on the Earl’s brow as he asked these momentous questions. “I don’t suppose that Mr Turnbull can form a Ministry.”

“With Mr Daubeny as whipper-in, perhaps he might,” said Lady Laura.

“And will Mr Finn lose his seat?” asked Violet Effingham.

“Most probably,” said the Earl. He only got it by an accident.”

“You must find him a seat somewhere in England,” said Violet.

“That might be difficult,” said the Earl, who then left the room.

The two women remained together for some quarter of an hour before they spoke again. Then Lady Laura said something about her brother. “If there be a dissolution, I hope Oswald will stand for Loughton.” Loughton was a borough close to Saulsby, in which, as regarded its political interests, Lord Brentford was supposed to have considerable influence. To this Violet said nothing. “It is quite time,” continued Lady Laura, “that old Mr Standish should give way. He has had the seat for twenty-five years, and has never done anything, and he seldom goes to the House now.”

“He is not your uncle, is he?”

“No; he is papa’s cousin; but he is ever so much older than papa — nearly eighty, I believe.”

“Would not that be just the place for Mr Finn?” said Violet.

Then Lady Laura became very serious. “Oswald would of course have a better right to it than anybody else.”

“But would Lord Chiltern go into Parliament? I have heard him declare that he would not.”

“If we could get papa to ask him, I think he would change his mind,” said Lady Laura.

There was again silence for a few moments, after which Violet returned to the original subject of their conversation.

“It would be a thousand pities that Mr Finn should be turned out into the cold. Don’t you think so?”

“I, for one, should be very sorry.”

“So should I— and the more so from what Lord Brentford says about his not speaking well last night. I don’t think that it is very much of an accomplishment for a gentleman to speak well. Mr Turnbull, I suppose, speaks well; and they say that that horrid man, Mr Bonteen, can talk by the hour together. I don’t think that it shows a man to be clever at all. But I believe Mr Finn would do it, if he set his mind to it, and I shall think it a great shame if they turn him out.”

“It would depend very much, I suppose, on Lord Tulla.”

“I don’t know anything about Lord Tulla”, said Violet; “but I’m quite sure that he might have Loughton, if we manage it properly. Of course Lord Chiltern should have it if he wants it, but I don’t think he will stand in Mr Finn’s way.”

“I’m afraid it’s out of the question,” said Lady Laura, gravely. “Papa thinks so much about the borough.” The reader will remember that both Lord Brentford and his daughter were thorough reformers! The use of a little borough of his own, however, is a convenience to a great peer.

“Those difficult things have always to be talked of for a long while, and then they become easy,” said Violet. “I believe if you were to propose to Mr Kennedy to give all his property to the Church Missionaries and emigrate to New Zealand, he’d begin to consider it seriously after a time.”

“I shall not try, at any rate.”

“Because you don’t want to go to New Zealand — but you might try about Loughton for poor Mr Finn.”

“Violet,” said Lady Laura, after a moment’s pause — and she spoke sharply; “Violet, I believe you are in love with Mr Finn.”

“That’s just like you, Laura.”

“I never made such an accusation against you before, or against anybody else that I can remember. But I do begin to believe that you are in love with Mr Finn.”

“Why shouldn’t I be in love with him, if I like?”

“I say nothing about that — only he has not got a penny.”

“But I have, my dear.”

“And I doubt whether you have any reason for supposing that he is in love with you.”

“That would be my affair, my dear.”

“Then you are in love with him?”

“That is my affair also.”

Lady Laura shrugged her shoulders. “Of course it is; and if you tell me to hold my tongue, of course I will do so. If you ask me whether I think it a good match, of course I must say I do not.”

“I don’t tell you to hold your tongue, and I don’t ask you what you think about the match. You are quite welcome to talk as much about me as you please — but as to Mr Phineas Finn, you have no business to think anything.”

“I shouldn’t talk to anybody but yourself.”

“I am growing to be quite indifferent as to what people say. Lady Baldock asked me the other day whether I was going to throw myself away on Mr Laurence Fitzgibbon.”

“No!”

“Indeed she did.”

“And what did you answer?”

“I told her that it was not quite settled; but that as I had only spoken to him once during the last two years, and then for not more than half a minute, and as I wasn’t sure whether I knew him by sight, and as I had reason to suppose he didn’t know my name, there might, perhaps, be a delay of a week or two before the thing came off. Then she flounced out of the room.”

“But what made her ask about Mr Fitzgibbon?”

“Somebody had been hoaxing her. I am beginning to think that Augusta does it for her private amusement. If so, I shall think more highly of my dear cousin than I have hitherto done. But, Laura, as you have made a similar accusation against me, and as I cannot get out of it with you as I do with my aunt, I must ask you to hear my protestation. I am not in love with Mr Phineas Finn. Heaven help me — as far as I can tell, I am not in love with anyone, and never shall be.” Lady Laura looked pleased. “Do you know, continued Violet, “that I think I could be in love with Mr Phineas Finn, if I could be in love with anybody?” Then Lady Laura looked displeased. “In the first place, he is a gentleman,” continued Violet. “Then he is a man of spirit. And then he has not too much spirit — not that kind of spirit which makes some men think that they are the finest things going. His manners are perfect — not Chesterfieldian, and yet never offensive. He never browbeats anyone, and never toadies anyone. He knows how to live easily with men of all ranks, without any appearance of claiming a special status for himself. If he were made Archbishop of Canterbury tomorrow, I believe he would settle down into the place of the first subject in the land without arrogance, and without false shame.”

“You are his eulogist with a vengeance.”

“I am his eulogist; but I am not in love with him. If he were to ask me to be his wife tomorrow, I should be distressed, and should refuse him. If he were to marry my dearest friend in the world, I should tell him to kiss me and be my brother. As to Mr Phineas Finn — those are my sentiments.”

“What you say is very odd.”

“Why odd?”

“Simply because mine are the same.”

“Are they the same? I once thought, Laura, that you did love him — that you meant to be his wife.”

Lady Laura sat for a while without making any reply to this. She sat with her elbow on the table and with her face leaning on her hand — thinking how far it would tend to her comfort if she spoke in true confidence. Violet during the time never took her eyes from her friend’s face, but remained silent as though waiting for an answer. She had been very explicit as to her feelings. Would Laura Kennedy be equally explicit? She was too clever to forget that such plainness of speech would be, must be more difficult to Lady Laura than to herself. Lady Laura was a married woman; but she felt that her friend would have been wrong to search for secrets, unless she were ready to tell her own. It was probably some such feeling which made Lady Laura speak at last.

“So I did, nearly — “ said Lady Laura; very nearly. You told me just now that you had money, and could therefore do as you pleased. I had no money, and could not do as I pleased.”

“And you told me also that I had no reason for thinking that he cared for me.”

“Did I? Well — I suppose you have no reason. He did care for me. He did love me.”

“He told you so?”

“Yes — he told me so.”

“And how did you answer him?”

“I had that very morning become engaged to Mr Kennedy. That was my answer.”

“And what did he say when you told him?”

“I do not know. I cannot remember. But he behaved very well.”

“And now — if he were to love me, you would grudge me his love?”

“Not for that reason — not if I know myself. On no! I would not be so selfish as that.”

“For what reason then?”

“Because I look upon it as written in heaven that you are to be Oswald’s wife.”

“Heaven’s writings then are false,” said Violet, getting up and walking away.

In the meantime Phineas was very wretched at home. When he reached his lodgings after leaving the House — after his short conversation with Mr Monk — he tried to comfort himself with what that gentleman had said to him. For a while, while he was walking, there had been some comfort in Mr Monk’s words. Mr Monk had much experience, and doubtless knew what he was saying — and there might yet be hope. But all this hope faded away when Phineas was in his own rooms. There came upon him, as he looked round them, an idea that he had no business to be in Parliament, that he was an impostor, that he was going about the world under false pretences, and that he would never set himself aright, even unto himself, till he had gone through some terrible act of humiliation. He had been a cheat even to Mr Quintus Slide of the Banner, in accepting an invitation to come among them. He had been a cheat to Lady Laura, in that he had induced her to think that he was fit to live with her. He was a cheat to Violet Effingham, in assuming that he was capable of making himself agreeable to her. He was a cheat to Lord Chiltern when riding his horses, and pretending to be a proper associate for a man of fortune. Why — what was his income? What his birth? What his proper position? And now he had got the reward which all cheats deserve. Then he went to bed, and as he lay there, he thought of Mary Flood Jones. Had he plighted his troth to Mary, and then worked like a slave under Mr Low’s auspices — he would not have been a cheat.

It seemed to him that he had hardly been asleep when the girl came into his room in the morning. “Sir,” said she, there’s that gentleman there.”

“What gentleman?”

“The old gentleman.”

Then Phineas knew that Mr Clarkson was in his sitting-room, and that he would not leave it till he had seen the owner of the room. Nay — Phineas was pretty sure that Mr Clarkson would come into the bedroom, if he were kept long waiting. “Damn the old gentleman,” said Phineas in his wrath — and the maidservant heard him say so.

In about twenty minutes he went out into the sitting-room, with his slippers on and in his dressing-gown. Suffering under the circumstances of such an emergency, how is any man to go through the work of dressing and washing with proper exactness? As to the prayers which he said on that morning, I think that no question should be asked. He came out with a black cloud on his brow, and with his mind half made up to kick Mr Clarkson out of the room. Mr Clarkson, when he saw him, moved his chin round within his white cravat, as was a custom with him, and put his thumb and forefinger on his lips, and then shook his head.

“Very bad, Mr Finn; very bad indeed; very bad ain’t it?”

“You coming here in this way at all times in the day is very bad,” said Phineas.

“And where would you have me go? Would you like to see me down in the lobby of the House?”

“To tell you the truth, Mr Clarkson, I don’t want to see you anywhere.”

“Ah; yes; I daresay! And that’s what you call honest, being a Parliament gent! You had my money, and then you tell me you don’t want to see me any more!”

“I have not had your money,” said Phineas.

“But let me tell you,” continued Mr Clarkson, that I want to see you — and shall go on seeing you till the money is paid.”

“I’ve not had any of your money,” said Phineas.

Mr Clarkson again twitched his chin about on the top of his cravat and smiled. “Mr Finn,” said he, showing the bill, is that your name?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then I want my money.”

“I have no money to give you.”

“Do be punctual now. Why ain’t you punctual? I’d do anything for you if you were punctual. I would indeed.” Mr Clarkson, as he said this, sat down in the chair which had been placed for our hero’s breakfast, and cutting a slice off the loaf, began to butter it with great composure.

“Mr Clarkson,” said Phineas, I cannot ask you to breakfast here. I am engaged.”

“I’ll just take a bit of bread and butter all the same,” said Clarkson. “Where do you get your butter? Now I could tell you a woman who’d give it you cheaper and a deal better than this. This is all lard. Shall I send her to you?”

“No,” said Phineas. There was no tea ready, and therefore Mr Clarkson emptied the milk into a cup and drank it. “After this,” said Phineas, “I must beg, Mr Clarkson, that you will never come to my room any more. I shall not be at home to you.”

“The lobby of the House is the same thing to me,” said Mr Clarkson. “They know me there well. I wish you’d be punctual, and then we’d be the best of friends.” After that Mr Clarkson, having finished his bread and butter, took his leave.

Chapter 28

The second reading is carried

The debate on the bill was prolonged during the whole of that week. Lord Brentford, who loved his seat in the Cabinet and the glory of being a Minister, better even than he loved his borough, had taken a gloomy estimate when he spoke of twenty-seven defaulters, and of the bill as certainly lost. Men who were better able than he to make estimates — the Bonteens and Fitzgibbons on each side of the House, and above all, the Ratlers and Robys, produced lists from day to day which varied now by three names in one direction, then by two in another, and which fluctuated at last by units only. They all concurred in declaring that it would be a very near division. A great effort was made to close the debate on the Friday, but it failed, and the full tide of speech was carried on till the following Monday. On that morning Phineas heard Mr Ratler declare at the club that, as far as his judgment went, the division at that moment was a fair subject for a bet. “There are two men doubtful in the House,” said Ratler, “and if one votes on one side and one on the other, or if neither votes at all, it will be a tie.” Mr Roby, however, the whip on the other side, was quite sure that one at least of these gentlemen would go into his lobby, and that the other would not go into Mr Ratler’s lobby. I am inclined to think that the town was generally inclined to put more confidence in the accuracy of Mr Roby than in that of Mr Ratler; and among betting men there certainly was a point given by those who backed the Conservatives. The odds, however, were lost, for on the division the numbers in the two lobbies were equal, and the Speaker gave his casting vote in favour of the Government. The bill was read a second time, and was lost, as a matter of course, in reference to any subsequent action. Mr Roby declared that even Mr Mildmay could not go on with nothing but the Speaker’s vote to support him. Mr Mildmay had no doubt felt that he could not go on with his bill from the moment in which Mr Turnbull had declared his opposition; but he could not with propriety withdraw it in deference to Mr Turnbull’s opinion.

During the week Phineas had had his hands sufficiently full. Twice he had gone to the potted peas inquiry; but he had been at the office of the People’s Banner more often than that. Bunce had been very resolute in his determination to bring an action against the police for false imprisonment, even though he spent every shilling of his savings in doing so. And when his wife, in the presence of Phineas, begged that bygones might be bygones, reminding him that spilt milk could not be recovered, he called her a mean-spirited woman. Then Mrs Bunce wept a flood of tears, and told her favourite lodger that for her all comfort in this world was over. “Drat the reformers, I say. And I wish there was no Parliament; so I do. What’s the use of all the voting, when it means nothing but dry bread and cross words?” Phineas by no means encouraged his landlord in his litigious spirit, advising him rather to keep his money in his pocket, and leave the fighting of the battle to the columns of the Banner — which would fight it, at any rate, with economy. But Bunce, though he delighted in the Banner, and showed an unfortunate readiness to sit at the feet of Mr Quintus Slide, would have his action at law — in which resolution Mr Slide did, I fear, encourage him behind the back of his better friend, Phineas Finn.

Phineas went with Bunce to Mr Low’s chambers — for Mr Low had in some way become acquainted with the law-stationer’s journeyman — and there some very good advice was given. “Have you asked yourself what is your object, Mr Bunce?” said Mr Low. Mr Bunce declared he had asked himself that question, and had answered it. His object was redress. “In the shape of compensation to yourself,” suggested Mr Low. No; Mr Bunce would not admit that he personally required any compensation. The redress wanted was punishment to the man. “Is it for vengeance?” asked Mr Low. No; it was not for vengeance, Mr Bunce declared. “It ought not to be,” continued Mr Low; “because, though you think that the man exceeded in his duty, you must feel that he was doing so through no personal ill-will to yourself.”

“What I want is, to have the fellows kept in their proper places,” said Mr Bunce.

“Exactly — and therefore these things, when they occur, are mentioned in the press and in Parliament — and the attention of a Secretary of State is called to them. Thank God, we don’t have very much of that kind of thing in England.”

“Maybe we shall have more if we don’t look to it,” said Bunce stoutly.

“We always are looking to it,” said Mr Low — “looking to it very carefully. But I don’t think anything is to be done in that way by indictment against a single man, whose conduct has been already approved by the magistrates. If you want notoriety, Mr Bunce, and don’t mind what you pay for it; or have got anybody else to pay for it; then indeed — ”

“There ain’t nobody to pay for it,” said Bunce, waxing angry.

“Then I certainly should not pay for it myself if I were you,” said Mr Low.

But Bunce was not to be counselled out of his intention. When he was out in the square with Phineas he expressed great anger against Mr Low. “He don’t know what patriotism means,” said the law scrivener. “And then he talks to me about notoriety! It has always been the same way with ’em. If a man shows a spark of public feeling, it’s all ambition. I don’t want no notoriety. I wants to earn my bread peaceable, and to be let alone when I’m about my own business. I pays rates for the police to look after rogues, not to haul folks about and lock ’em up for days and nights, who is doing what they has a legal right to do.” After that, Bunce went to his attorney, to the great detriment of the business at the stationer’s shop, and Phineas visited the office of the People’s Banner. There he wrote a leading article about Bunce’s case, for which he was in due time to be paid a guinea. After all, the People’s Banner might do more for him in this way than ever would be done by Parliament. Mr Slide, however, and another gentleman at the Banner office, much older than Mr Slide, who announced himself as the actual editor, were anxious that Phineas should rid himself of his heterodox political resolutions about the ballot. It was not that they cared much about his own opinions; and when Phineas attempted to argue with the editor on the merits of the ballot, the editor put him down very shortly. “We go in for it, Mr Finn,” he said. If Mr Finn would go in for it too, the editor seemed to think that Mr Finn might make himself very useful at the Banner Office. Phineas stoutly maintained that this was impossible — and was therefore driven to confine his articles in the service of the people to those open subjects on which his opinions agreed with those of the People’s Banner. This was his second article, and the editor seemed to think that, backward as he was about the ballot, he was too useful an aid to be thrown aside. A member of Parliament is not now all that he was once, but still there is a prestige in the letters affixed to his name which makes him loom larger in the eyes of the world than other men. Get into Parliament, if it be but for the borough of Loughshane, and the People’s Banners all round will be glad of your assistance, as will also companies limited and unlimited to a very marvellous extent. Phineas wrote his article and promised to look in again, and so they went on. Mr Quintus Slide continued to assure him that a “horgan” was indispensable to him, and Phineas began to accommodate his ears to the sound which had at first been so disagreeable. He found that his acquaintance, Mr Slide, had ideas of his own as to getting into the ‘Ouse at some future time. “I always look upon the ‘Ouse as my oyster, and ’ere ‘s my sword,” said Mr Slide, brandishing an old quill pen. “And I feel that if once there I could get along. I do indeed. What is it a man wants? It’s only pluck — that he shouldn’t funk because a ‘undred other men are looking at him.” Then Phineas asked him whether he had any idea of a constituency, to which Mr Slide replied that he had no absolutely formed intention. Many boroughs, however, would doubtless be set free from aristocratic influence by the redistribution of seats which must take place, as Mr Slide declared, at any rate in the next session. Then he named the borough of Loughton; and Phineas Finn, thinking of Saulsby, thinking of the Earl, thinking of Lady Laura, and thinking of Violet, walked away disgusted. Would it not be better that the quiet town, clustering close round the walls of Saulsby, should remain as it was, than that it should be polluted by the presence of Mr Quintus Slide?

On the last day of the debate, at a few moments before four o’clock, Phineas encountered another terrible misfortune. He had been at the potted peas since twelve, and had on this occasion targed two or three commissariat officers very tightly with questions respecting cabbages and potatoes, and had asked whether the officers on board a certain ship did not always eat preserved asparagus while the men had not even a bean. I fear that he had been put up to this business by Mr Quintus Slide, and that he made himself nasty. There was, however, so much nastiness of the kind going, that his little effort made no great difference. The conservative members of the Committee, on whose side of the House the inquiry had originated, did not scruple to lay all manner of charges to officers whom, were they themselves in Power, they would be bound to support and would support with all their energies. About a quarter before four the members of the Committee had dismissed their last witness for the day, being desirous of not losing their chance of seats on so important an occasion, and hurried down into the lobby — so that they might enter the House before prayers. Phineas here was buttonholed by Barrington Erle, who said something to him as to the approaching division. They were standing in front of the door of the House, almost in the middle of the lobby, with a crowd of members around them — on a spot which, as frequenters know, is hallowed ground, and must not be trodden by strangers. He was in the act of answering Erle, when he was touched on the arm, and on turning round, saw Mr Clarkson. “About that little bill, Mr Finn,” said the horrible man, turning his chin round over his white cravat. “They always tell me at your lodgings that you ain’t at home.” By this time a policeman was explaining to Mr Clarkson with gentle violence that he must not stand there — that he must go aside into one of the corners. “I know all that,” said Mr Clarkson, retreating. “Of course I do. But what is a man to do when a gent won’t see him at home?” Mr Clarkson stood aside in his corner quietly, giving the policeman no occasion for further action against him; but in retreating he spoke loud, and there was a lull of voices around, and twenty members at least had heard what had been said. Phineas Finn no doubt had his privilege, but Mr Clarkson was determined that the privilege should avail him as little as possible.

It was very hard. The real offender, the Lord of the Treasury, the peer’s son, with a thousand a year paid by the country was not treated with this cruel persecution. Phineas had in truth never taken a farthing from any one but his father; and though doubtless he owed something at this moment, he had no creditor of his own that was even angry with him. As the world goes he was a clear man — but for this debt of his friend Fitzgibbon. He left Barrington Erle in the lobby, and hurried into the House, blushing up to the eyes. He looked for Fitzgibbon in his place, but the Lord of the Treasury was not as yet there. Doubtless he would be there for the division, and Phineas resolved that he would speak a bit of his mind before he let his friend out of his sight.

There were some great speeches made on that evening. Mr Gresham delivered an oration of which men said that it would be known in England as long as there were any words remaining of English eloquence. In it he taunted Mr Turnbull with being a recreant to the people, of whom he called himself so often the champion. But Mr Turnbull was not in the least moved. Mr Gresham knew well enough that Mr Turnbull was not to be moved by any words — but the words were not the less telling to the House and to the country. Men, who heard it, said that Mr Gresham forgot himself in that speech, forgot his party, forgot his strategy, forgot his long-drawn schemes — even his love of applause, and thought only of his cause. Mr Daubeny replied to him with equal genius, and with equal skill — if not with equal heart. Mr Gresham had asked for the approbation of all present and of all future reformers. Mr Daubeny denied him both — the one because he would not succeed, and the other because he would not have deserved success. Then Mr Mildmay made his reply, getting up at about three o’clock, and uttered a prayer — a futile prayer — that this his last work on behalf of his countrymen might be successful. His bill was read a second time, as I have said before, in obedience to the casting vote of the Speaker — but a majority such as that was tantamount to a defeat.

There was, of course, on that night no declaration as to what ministers would do. Without a meeting of the Cabinet, and without some further consideration, though each might know that the bill would be withdrawn, they could not say in what way they would act. But late as was the hour, there were many words on the subject before members were in their beds. Mr Turnbull and Mr Monk left the House together, and perhaps no two gentlemen in it had in former sessions been more in the habit of walking home arm-in-arm and discussing what each had heard and what each had said in that assembly. Latterly these two men had gone strangely asunder in their paths — very strangely for men who had for years walked so closely together. And this separation had been marked by violent words spoken against each other — by violent words, at least, spoken against him in office by the one who had never contaminated his hands by the Queen’s shilling. And yet, on such an occasion as this, they were able to walk away from the House arm-in-arm, and did not fly at each other’s throat by the way.

“Singular enough, is it not,” said Mr Turnbull, that the thing should have been so close?”

“Very odd,” said Mr Monk; but men have said that it would be so all the week.”

“Gresham was very fine,” said Mr Turnbull.

“Very fine, indeed. I never have heard anything like it before.”

“Daubeny was very powerful too,” said Mr Turnbull.

“Yes — no doubt. The occasion was great, and he answered to the spur. But Gresham’s was the speech of the debate.”

“Well — yes; perhaps it was,” said Mr Turnbull, who was thinking of his own flight the other night, and who among his special friends had been much praised for what he had then done. But of course he made no allusion to his own doings — or to those of Mr Monk. In this way they conversed for some twenty minutes, till they parted; but neither of them interrogated the other as to what either might be called upon to do in consequence of the division which had just been effected. They might still be intimate friends, but the days of confidence between them were passed.

Phineas had seen Laurence Fitzgibbon enter the House — which he did quite late in the night, so as to be in time for the division. No doubt he had dined in the House, and had been all the evening in the library — or in the smoking-room. When Mr Mildmay was on his legs making his reply, Fitzgibbon had sauntered in, not choosing to wait till he might be rung up by the bell at the last moment. Phineas was near him as they passed by the tellers, near him in the lobby, and near him again as they all passed back into the House. But at the last moment he thought that he would miss his prey. In the crowd as they left the House he failed to get his hand upon his friend’s shoulder. But he hurried down the members’ passage, and just at the gate leading out into Westminster Hall he overtook Fitzgibbon walking arm-in-arm with Barrington Erle.

“Laurence,” he said, taking hold of his countryman’s arm with a decided grasp, “I want to speak to you for a moment, if you please.”

“Speak away,” said Laurence. Then Phineas, looking up into his face, knew very well that he had been — what the world calls, dining.

Phineas remembered at the moment that Barrington Erle had been close to him when the odious money-lender had touched his arm and made his inquiry about that “little bill.” He much wished to make Erle understand that the debt was not his own — that he was not in the hands of usurers in reference to his own concerns. But there was a feeling within him that he still — even still — owed something to his friendship to Fitzgibbon. “Just give me your arm, and come on with me for a minute,” said Phineas. “Erle will excuse us.”

“Oh, blazes!” said Laurence, what is it you’re after? I ain’t good at private conferences at three in the morning. We’re all out, and isn’t that enough for ye?”

“I have been dreadfully annoyed tonight,” said Phineas, “and I wished to speak to you about it.”

“Bedad, Finn, my boy, and there are a good many of us are annoyed — eh, Barrington?”

Phineas perceived clearly that though Fitzgibbon had been dining, there was as much of cunning in all this as of wine, and he was determined not to submit to such unlimited ill-usage. “My annoyance comes from your friend, Mr Clarkson, who had the impudence to address me in the lobby of the House.”

“And serve you right, too, Finn, my boy. Why the devil did you sport your oak to him? He has told me all about it, There ain’t such a patient little fellow as Clarkson anywhere, if you’ll only let him have his own way. He’ll look in, as he calls it, three times a week for a whole season, and do nothing further. Of course he don’t like to be looked out.”

“Is that the gentleman with whom the police interfered in the lobby?” Erle inquired.

“A confounded bill discounter to whom our friend here has introduced me — for his own purposes,” said Phineas.

“A very gentleman-like fellow,” said Laurence. “Barrington knows him, I daresay. Look here, Finn, my boy, take my advice. Ask him to breakfast, and let him understand that the house will always be open to him.” After this Laurence Fitzgibbon and Barrington Erle got into a cab together, and were driven away.

Chapter 29

A Cabinet meeting

And now will the Muses assist me while I sing an altogether new song? On the Tuesday the Cabinet met at the First Lord’s official residence in Downing Street, and I will attempt to describe what, according to the bewildered brain of a poor fictionist, was said or might have been said, what was done or might have been done, on so august an occasion.

The poor fictionist very frequently finds himself to have been wrong in his description of things in general, and is told so, roughly by the critics, and tenderly by the friends of his bosom. He is moved to tell of things of which he omits to learn the nature before he tells of them — as should be done by a strictly honest fictionist. He catches salmon in October; or shoots his partridges in March. His dahlias bloom in June, and his birds sing in the autumn. He opens the opera-houses before Easter, and makes Parliament sit on a Wednesday evening. And then those terrible meshes of the Law! How is a fictionist, in these excited days, to create the needed biting interest without legal difficulties; and how again is he to steer his little bark clear of so many rocks — when the rocks and the shoals have been purposely arranged to make the taking of a pilot on board a necessity? As to those law meshes, a benevolent pilot will, indeed, now and again give a poor fictionist a helping hand — not used, however, generally, with much discretion. But from whom is any assistance to come in the august matter of a Cabinet assembly? There can be no such assistance. No man can tell aught but they who will tell nothing. But then, again, there is this safety, that let the story be ever so mistold — let the fiction be ever so far removed from the truth, no critic short of a Cabinet Minister himself can convict the narrator of error.

It was a large dingy room, covered with a Turkey carpet, and containing a dark polished mahogany dinner-table, on very heavy carved legs, which an old messenger was preparing at two o’clock in the day for the use of her Majesty’s Ministers. The table would have been large enough for fourteen guests, and along the side further from the fire, there were placed some six heavy chairs, good comfortable chairs, stuffed at the back as well as the seat — but on the side nearer to the fire the chairs were placed irregularly; and there were four armchairs — two on one side and two on the other. There were four windows to the room, which looked on to St James’s Park, and the curtains of the windows were dark and heavy — as became the gravity of the purposes to which that chamber was appropriated. In old days it had been the dining-room of one Prime Minister after another. To Pitt it had been the abode of his own familiar prandial Penates, and Lord Liverpool had been dull there among his dull friends for long year after year. The Ministers of the present day find it more convenient to live in private homes, and, indeed, not unfrequently carry their Cabinets with them. But, under Mr Mildmay’s rule, the meetings were generally held in the old room at the official residence. Thrice did the aged messenger move each armchair, now a little this way and now a little that, and then look at them as though something of the tendency of the coming meeting might depend on the comfort of its leading members. If Mr Mildmay should find himself to be quite comfortable, so that he could hear what was said without a struggle to his ear, and see his colleagues’ faces clearly, and feel the fire without burning his shins, it might be possible that he would not insist upon resigning. If this were so, how important was the work now confided to the hands of that aged messenger! When his anxious eyes had glanced round the room some half a dozen times, when he had touched each curtain, laid his hand upon every chair, and dusted certain papers which lay upon a side-table — and which had been lying there for two years, and at which no one ever looked or would look — he gently crept away and ensconced himself in an easy chair not far from the door of the chamber. For it might be necessary to stop the attempt of a rash intruder on those secret counsels.

Very shortly there was heard the ring of various voices in the passages — the voices of men speaking pleasantly, the voices of men with whom it seemed, from their tone, that things were doing well in the world. And then a cluster of four or five gentlemen entered the room. At first sight they seemed to be as ordinary gentlemen as you shall meet anywhere about Pall Mall on an afternoon. There was nothing about their outward appearance of the august wiggery of statecraft, nothing of the ponderous dignity of ministerial position. That little man in the square-cut coat — we may almost call it a shooting-coat — swinging an umbrella and wearing no gloves, is no less a person than the Lord Chancellor — Lord Weazeling — who made a hundred thousand pounds as Attorney-General, and is supposed to be the best lawyer of his age. He is fifty, but he looks to be hardly over forty, and one might take him to be, from his appearance — perhaps a clerk in the War Office, well-to-do, and popular among his brother-clerks. Immediately with him is Sir Harry Coldfoot, also a lawyer by profession, though he has never practised. He has been in the House for nearly thirty years, and is now at the Home Office. He is a stout, healthy, grey-haired gentleman, who certainly does not wear the cares of office on his face. Perhaps, however, no minister gets more bullied than he by the press, and men say that he will be very willing to give up to some political enemy the control of the police, and the onerous duty of judging in all criminal appeals. Behind these come our friend Mr Monk, young Lord Cantrip from the colonies next door, than whom no smarter young peer now does honour to our hereditary legislature, and Sir Marmaduke Morecombe, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Why Sir Marmaduke has always been placed in Mr Mildmay’s Cabinets nobody ever knew. As Chancellor of the Duchy he has nothing to do — and were there anything, he would not do it. He rarely speaks in the House, and then does not speak well. He is a handsome man, or would be but for an assumption of grandeur in the carriage of his eyes, giving to his face a character of pomposity which he himself well deserves. He was in the Guards when young, and has been in Parliament since he ceased to be young. It must be supposed that Mr Mildmay has found something in him, for he has been included in three successive liberal Cabinets. He has probably the virtue of being true to Mr Mildmay, and of being duly submissive to one whom he recognises as his superior.

Within two minutes afterwards the Duke followed, with Plantagenet Palliser. The Duke, as all the world knows, was the Duke of St Bungay, the very front and head of the aristocratic old Whigs of the country — a man who has been thrice spoken of as Prime Minister, and who really might have filled the office had he not known himself to be unfit for it. The Duke has been consulted as to the making of Cabinets for the last five-and-thirty years, and is even now not an old man in appearance — a fussy, popular, clever, conscientious man, whose digestion has been too good to make politics a burden to him, but who has thought seriously about his country, and is one who will be sure to leave memoirs behind him. He was born in the semi-purple of ministerial influences, and men say of him that he is honester than his uncle, who was Canning’s friend, but not so great a man as his grandfather, with whom Fox once quarrelled, and whom Burke loved. Plantagenet Palliser, himself the heir to a dukedom, was the young Chancellor of the Exchequer, of whom some statesmen thought much as the rising star of the age. If industry, rectitude of purpose, and a certain clearness of intellect may prevail, Planty Pall, as he is familiarly called, may become a great Minister.

Then came Viscount Thrift by himself — the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the whole weight of a new iron-clad fleet upon his shoulders. He has undertaken the Herculean task of cleansing the dockyards — and with it the lesser work of keeping afloat a navy that may be esteemed by his countrymen to be the best in the world. And he thinks that he will do both, if only Mr Mildmay will not resign — an industrious, honest, self-denying nobleman, who works without ceasing from morn to night, and who hopes to rise in time to high things — to the translating of Homer, perhaps, and the wearing of the Garter.

Close behind him there was a ruck of Ministers, with the much-honoured grey-haired old Premier in the midst of them. There was Mr Gresham, the Foreign Minister, said to be the greatest orator in Europe, on whose shoulders it was thought that the mantle of Mr Mildmay would fall — to be worn, however, quite otherwise than Mr Mildmay had worn it. For Mr Gresham is a man with no feelings for the past, void of historical association, hardly with memories — living altogether for the future which he is anxious to fashion anew out of the vigour of his own brain. Whereas, with Mr Mildmay, even his love of reform is an inherited passion for an old-world Liberalism. And there was with them Mr Legge Wilson, the brother of a peer, Secretary at War, a great scholar and a polished gentleman, very proud of his position as a Cabinet Minister, but conscious that he has hardly earned it by political work. And Lord Plinlimmon is with them, the Comptroller of India — of all working lords the most jaunty, the most pleasant, and the most popular, very good at taking chairs at dinners, and making becoming speeches at the shortest notice, a man apparently very free and open in his ways of life — but cautious enough in truth as to every step, knowing well how hard it is to climb and how easy to fall. Mr Mildmay entered the room leaning on Lord Plinlimmon’s arm, and when he made his way up among the armchairs upon the rug before the fire, the others clustered around him with cheering looks and kindly questions. Then came the Privy Seal, our old friend Lord Brentford, last — and I would say least, but that the words of no councillor could go for less in such an assemblage than will those of Sir Marmaduke Morecombe, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr Mildmay was soon seated in one of the armchairs, while Lord Plinlimmon leaned against the table close at his elbow. Mr Gresham stood upright at the corner of the chimney-piece furthest from Mr Mildmay, and Mr Palliser at that nearest to him. The Duke took the armchair close at Mr Mildmay’s left hand. Lord Plinlimmon was, as I have said, leaning against the table, but the Lord Chancellor, who was next to him, sat upon it. Viscount Thrift and Mr Monk occupied chairs on the further side of the table, near to Mr Mildmay’s end, and Mr Legge Wilson placed himself at the head of the table, thus joining them as it were into a body. The Home Secretary stood before the Lord Chancellor screening him from the fire, and the Chancellor of the Duchy, after waiting for a few minutes as though in doubt, took one of the vacant armchairs. The young lord from the Colonies stood a little behind the shoulders of his great friend from the Foreign Office; and the Privy Seal, after moving about for a while uneasily, took a chair behind the Chancellor of the Duchy. One armchair was thus left vacant, but there was no other comer.

“It is not so bad as I thought it would be,” said the Duke, speaking aloud, but nevertheless addressing himself specially to his chief.

“It was bad enough,” said Mr Mildmay, laughing.

“Bad enough indeed,” said Sir Marmaduke Morecombe, without any laughter.

“And such a good bill lost,” said Lord Plinlimmon. The worst of these failures is, that the same identical bill can never be brought in again.”

“So that if the lost bill was best, the bill that will not be lost can only be second best,” said the Lord Chancellor.

“I certainly did think that after the debate before Easter we should not have come to shipwreck about the ballot,” said Mr Mildmay.

“It was brewing for us all along,” said Mr Gresham, who then with a gesture of his hand and a pressure of his lips withheld words which he was nearly uttering, and which would not, probably, have been complimentary to Mr Turnbull. As it was, he turned half round and said something to Lord Cantrip which was not audible to any one else in the room. It was worthy of note, however, that Mr Turnbull’s name was not once mentioned aloud at that meeting.

“I am afraid it was brewing all along,” said Sir Marmaduke Morecombe gravely.

“Well, gentlemen, we must take it as we get it,” said Mr Mildmay, still smiling. “And now we must consider what we shall do at once.” Then he paused as though expecting that counsel would come to him first from one colleague and then from another. But no such counsel came, and probably Mr Mildmay did not in the least expect that it would come.

“We cannot stay where we are, of course,” said the Duke. The Duke was privileged to say as much as that. But though every man in the room knew that it must be so, no one but the Duke would have said it, before Mr Mildmay had spoken plainly himself.

“No,” said Mr Mildmay; I suppose that we can hardly stay where we are. Probably none of us wish it, gentlemen.” Then he looked round upon his colleagues, and there came a sort of an assent, though there were no spoken words. The sound from Sir Marmaduke Morecombe was louder than that from the others — but yet from him it was no more than an attesting grunt. “We have two things to consider,” continued Mr Mildmay — and though he spoke in a very low voice, every word was heard by all present — “two things chiefly, that is; the work of the country and the Queen’s comfort. I propose to see Her Majesty this afternoon at five — that is, in something less than two hours’ time, and I hope to be able to tell the House by seven what has taken place between Her Majesty and me. My friend, His Grace, will do as much in the House of Lords. If you agree with me, gentlemen, I will explain to the Queen that it is not for the welfare of the country that we should retain our places, and I will place your resignations and my own in Her Majesty’s hands.”

“You will advise Her Majesty to send for Lord de Terrier,” said Mr Gresham.

“Certainly — there will be no other course open to me.”

“Or to her,” said Mr Gresham. To this remark from the rising Minister of the day, no word of reply was made; but of those present in the room three or four of the most experienced servants of the Crown felt that Mr Gresham had been imprudent. The Duke, who had ever been afraid of Mr Gresham, told Mr Palliser afterwards that such an observation should not have been made; and Sir Harry Coldfoot pondered upon it uneasily, and Sir Marmaduke Morecombe asked Mr Mildmay what he thought about it. “Times change so much, and with the times the feelings of men,” said Mr Mildmay. But I doubt whether Sir Marmaduke quite understood him.

There was silence in the room for a moment or two after Mr Gresham had spoken, and then Mr Mildmay again addressed his friends. “Of course it may be possible that my Lord de Terrier may foresee difficulties, or may find difficulties which will oblige him, either at once, or after an attempt has been made, to decline the task which her Majesty will probably commit to him. All of us, no doubt, know that the arrangement of a government is not the most easy task in the world; and that it is not made the more easy by an absence of a majority in the House of Commons.”

“He would dissolve, I presume,” said the Duke.

“I should say so,” continued Mr Mildmay. But it may not improbably come to pass that her Majesty will feel herself obliged to send again for some one or two of us, that we may tender to her Majesty the advice which we owe to her — for me, for instance, or for my friend the Duke. In such a matter she would be much guided probably by what Lord de Terrier might have suggested to her. Should this be so, and should I be consulted, my present feeling is that we should resume our offices so that the necessary business of the session should be completed, and that we should then dissolve Parliament, and thus ascertain the opinion of the country. In such case, however, we should of course meet again.”

“I quite think that the course proposed by Mr Mildmay will be the best,” said the Duke, who had no doubt already discussed the matter with his friend the Prime Minister in private. No one else said a word either of argument or disagreement, and the Cabinet Council was broken up. The old messenger, who had been asleep in his chair, stood up and bowed as the Ministers walked by him, and then went in and rearranged the chairs.

“He has as much idea of giving up as you or I have,” said Lord Cantrip to his friend Mr Gresham, as they walked arm-in-arm together from the Treasury Chambers across St James’s Park towards the clubs.

“I am not sure that he is not right,” said Mr Gresham.

“Do you mean for himself or for the country?” asked Lord Cantrip.

“For his future fame. They who have abdicated and have clung to their abdication have always lost by it. Cincinnatus was brought back again, and Charles V is felt to have been foolish. The peaches of retired ministers of which we hear so often have generally been cultivated in a constrained seclusion — or at least the world so believes.” They were talking probably of Mr Mildmay, as to whom some of his colleagues had thought it probable, knowing that he would now resign, that he would have to-day declared his intention of laying aside for ever the cares of office.

Mr Monk walked home alone, and as he went there was something of a feeling of disappointment at heart, which made him ask himself whether Mr Turnbull might not have been right in rebuking him for joining the Government. But this, I think, was in no way due to Mr Mildmay’s resignation but rather to a conviction on Mr Monk’s part that that he had contributed but little to his country’s welfare by sitting in Mr Mildmay’s Cabinet.

Chapter 30

Mr Kennedy”s luck

After the holding of that Cabinet Council of which the author has dared to attempt a slight sketch in the last chapter, there were various visits made to the Queen, first by Mr Mildmay, and then by Lord de Terrier, afterwards by Mr Mildmay and the Duke together, and then again by Lord de Terrier; and there were various explanations made to Parliament in each House, and rivals were very courteous to each other, promising assistance — and at the end of it the old men held their seats. The only change made was effected by the retirement of Sir Marmaduke Morecombe, who was raised to the peerage, and by the selection of — Mr Kennedy to fill his place in the Cabinet. Mr Kennedy during the late debate had made one of those speeches, few and far between, by which he had created for himself a Parliamentary reputation; but, nevertheless, all men expressed their great surprise, and no one could quite understand why Mr Kennedy had been made a Cabinet Minister.

“It is impossible to say whether he is pleased or not,” said Lady Laura, speaking of him to Phineas. “I am pleased, of course.”

“His ambition must be gratified,” said Phineas.

“It would be, if he had any,” said Lady Laura.

“I do not believe in a man lacking ambition.”

“It is hard to say. There are men who by no means wear their hearts upon their sleeves, and my husband is one of them. He told me that it would be unbecoming in him to refuse, and that was all he said to me about it.”

The old men held their seats, but they did so as it were only upon further trial. Mr Mildmay took the course which he had indicated to his colleagues at the Cabinet meeting. Before all the explanations and journeyings were completed, April was over, and the much-needed Whitsuntide holidays were coming on. But little of the routine work of the session had been done; and, as Mr Mildmay told the House more than once, the country would suffer were the Queen to dissolve Parliament at this period of the year. The old Ministers would go on with the business of the country, Lord de Terrier with his followers having declined to take affairs into their hands; and at the close of the session, which should be made as short as possible, writs should be issued for new elections. This was Mr Mildmay’s programme, and it was one of which no one dared to complain very loudly.

Mr Turnbull, indeed, did speak a word of caution. He told Mr Mildmay that he had lost his bill, good in other respects, because he had refused to introduce the ballot into his measure. Let him promise to be wiser for the future, and to obey the manifested wishes of the country, and then all would be well with him. In answer to this, Mr Mildmay declared that to the best of his power of reading the country, his countrymen had manifested no such wish; and that if they did so, if by the fresh election it should be shown that the ballot was in truth desired, he would at once leave the execution of their wishes to abler and younger hands. Mr Turnbull expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the Minister’s answers, and said that the coming election would show whether he or Mr Mildmay were right.

Many men, and among them some of his colleagues, thought that Mr Mildmay had been imprudent. “No man ought ever to pledge himself to anything,” said Sir Harry Coldfoot to the Duke — “that is, to anything unnecessary.” The Duke, who was very true to Mr Mildmay, made no reply to this, but even he thought that his old friend had been betrayed into a promise too rapidly. But the pledge was given, and some people already began to make much of it. There appeared leader after leader in the People’s Banner urging the constituencies to take advantage of the Prime Minister’s words, and to show clearly at the hustings that they desired the ballot. “You had better come over to us, Mr Finn; you had indeed,” said Mr Slide. “Now’s the time to do it, and show yourself a people’s friend. You’ll have to do it sooner or later — whether or no. Come to us and we’ll be your horgan.”

But in those days Phineas was something less in love with Mr Quintus Slide than he had been at the time of the great debate, for he was becoming more and more closely connected with people who in their ways of living and modes of expression were very unlike Mr Slide. This advice was given to him about the end of May, and at that time Lord Chiltern was living with him in the lodgings in Great Marlborough Street. Miss Pouncefoot had temporarily vacated her rooms on the first floor, and the Lord with the broken bones had condescended to occupy them. “I don’t know that I like having a Lord,” Bunce had said to his wife. “It’ll soon come to you not liking anybody decent anywhere,” Mrs Bunce had replied; “but I shan’t ask any questions about it. When you’re wasting so much time and money at your dirty law proceedings, it’s well that somebody should earn something at home.”

There had been many discussions about the bringing of Lord Chiltern up to London, in all of which Phineas had been concerned. Lord Brentford had thought that his son had better remain down at the Willingford Bull; and although he said that the rooms were at his son’s disposal should Lord Chiltern choose to come to London, still he said it in such a way that Phineas, who went down to Willingford, could not tell his friend that he would be made welcome in Portman Square. “I think I shall leave those diggings altogether,” Lord Chiltern said to him. “My father annoys me by everything he says and does, and I annoy him by saying and doing nothing.” Then there came an invitation to him from Lady Laura and Mr Kennedy. Would he come to Grosvenor Place? Lady Laura pressed this very much, though in truth Mr Kennedy had hardly done more than give a cold assent. But Lord Chiltern would not hear of it. “There is some reason for my going to my father’s house,” said he, “though he and I are not the best friends in the world; but there can be no reason for my going to the house of a man I dislike so much as I do Robert Kennedy.” The matter was settled in the manner told above. Miss Pouncefoot’s rooms were prepared for him at Mr Bunce’s house, and Phineas Finn went down to Willingford and brought him up. “I’ve sold Bonebreaker”, he said, “to a young fellow whose neck will certainly be the sacrifice if he attempts to ride him. I’d have given him to you, Phineas, only you wouldn’t have known what to do with him.”

Lord Chiltern when he came up to London was still in bandages, though, as the surgeon said, his bones seemed to have been made to be broken and set again; and his bandages of course were a sufficient excuse for his visiting the house neither of his father nor his brother-in-law. But Lady Laura went to him frequently, and thus became acquainted with our hero’s home and with Mrs Bunce. And there were messages taken from Violet to the man in bandages, some of which lost nothing in the carrying. Once Lady Laura tried to make Violet think that it would be right, or rather not wrong, that they two should go together to Lord Chiltern’s rooms.

“And would you have me tell my aunt, or would you have me not tell her?” Violet asked.

“I would have you do just as you pleased,” Lady Laura answered.

“So I shall,” Violet replied, but I will do nothing that I should be ashamed to tell any one. Your brother professes to be in love with me.”

“He is in love with you,” said Lady Laura. Even you do not pretend to doubt his faith.”

“Very well. In those circumstances a girl should not go to a man’s rooms unless she means to consider herself as engaged to him, even with his sister — not though he had broken every bone in his skin. I know what I may do, Laura, and I know what I mayn’t; and I won’t be led either by you or by my aunt.”

“May I give him your love?”

“No — because you’ll give it in a wrong spirit. He knows well enough that I wish him well — but you may tell him that from me, if you please. He has from me all those wishes which one friend owes to another.”

But there were other messages sent from Violet through Phineas Finn which she worded with more show of affection — perhaps as much for the discomfort of Phineas as for the consolation of Lord Chiltern. “Tell him to take care of himself,” said Violet, and bid him not to have any more of those wild brutes that are not fit for any Christian to ride. Tell him that I say so. It’s a great thing to be brave; but what’s the use of being foolhardy?”

The session was to be closed at the end of June, to the great dismay of London tradesmen and of young ladies who had not been entirely successful in the early season. But before the old Parliament was closed, and the writs for the new election were despatched, there occurred an incident which was of very much importance to Phineas Finn. Near the end of June, when the remaining days of the session were numbered by three or four, he had been dining at Lord Brentford’s house in Portman Square in company with Mr Kennedy. But Lady Laura had not been there. At this time he saw Lord Brentford not unfrequently, and there was always a word said about Lord Chiltern. The father would ask how the son occupied himself, and Phineas would hope — though hitherto he had hoped in vain — that he would induce the Earl to come and see Lord Chiltern. Lord Brentford could never be brought to that; but it was sufficiently evident that he would have done so, had he not been afraid to descend so far from the altitude of his paternal wrath. On this evening, at about eleven, Mr Kennedy and Phineas left the house together, and walked from the Square through Orchard Street into Oxford Street. Here their ways parted, but Phineas crossed the road with Mr Kennedy, as he was making some reply to a second invitation to Loughlinter. Phineas, considering what had been said before on the subject, thought that the invitation came late, and that it was not warmly worded. He had, therefore, declined it, and was in the act of declining it, when he crossed the road with Mr Kennedy. In walking down Orchard Street from the Square he had seen two men standing in the shadow a few yards up a mews or small alley that was there, but had thought nothing of them. It was just that period of the year when there is hardly any of the darkness of night; but at this moment there were symptoms of coming rain, and heavy drops began to fall; and there were big clouds coming and going before the young moon. Mr Kennedy had said that he would get a cab, but he had seen none as he crossed Oxford Street, and had put up his umbrella as he made his way towards Park Street. Phineas as he left him distinctly perceived the same two figures on the other side of Oxford Street, and then turning into the shadow of a butcher’s porch, he saw them cross the street in the wake of Mr Kennedy. It was now raining in earnest, and the few passengers who were out were scudding away quickly, this way and that.

It hardly occurred to Phineas to think that any danger was imminent to Mr Kennedy from the men, but it did occur to him that he might as well take some notice of the matter. Phineas knew that Mr Kennedy would make his way down Park Street, that being his usual route from Portman Square towards his own home, and knew also that he himself could again come across Mr Kennedy’s track by going down North Audley Street to the corner of Grosvenor Square, and thence by Brook Street into Park Street. Without much thought, therefore, he went out of his own course down to the corner of the Square, hurrying his steps till he was running, and then ran along Brook Street, thinking as he went of some special word that he might say to Mr Kennedy as an excuse, should he again come across his late companion. He reached the corner of Park Street before that gentleman could have been there unless he also had run; but just in time to see him as he was coming on — and also to see in the dark glimmering of the slight uncertain moonlight that the two men were behind him. He retreated a step backwards in the corner, resolving that when Mr Kennedy came up, they two would go on together; for now it was clear that Mr Kennedy was followed. But Mr Kennedy did not reach the corner. When he was within two doors of it, one of the men had followed him up quickly, and had thrown something round his throat from behind him. Phineas understood well now that his friend was in the act of being garrotted, and that his instant assistance was needed. He rushed forward, and as the second ruffian had been close upon the footsteps of the first, there was almost instantaneously a concourse of the four men. But there was no fight. The man who had already nearly succeeded in putting Mr Kennedy on to his back, made no attempt to seize his prey when he found that so unwelcome an addition had joined the party, but instantly turned to fly. His companion was turning also, but Phineas was too quick for him, and having seized on to his collar, held to him with all his power. “Dash it all,” said the man, didn’t yer see as how I was a-hurrying up to help the gen’leman myself?” Phineas, however, hadn’t seen this, and held on gallantly, and in a couple of minutes the first ruffian was back again upon the spot in the custody of a policeman. “You’ve done it uncommon neat, sir,” said the policeman, complimenting Phineas upon his performance. “If the gen’leman ain’t none the worst for it, it’ll have been a very pretty evening’s amusement.” Mr Kennedy was now leaning against the railings, and hitherto had been unable to declare whether he was really injured or not, and it was not till a second policeman came up that the hero of the night was at liberty to attend closely to his friend.

Mr Kennedy, when he was able to speak, declared that for a minute or two he had thought that his neck had been broken; and he was not quite convinced till he found himself in his own house, that nothing more serious had really happened to him than certain bruises round his throat. The policeman was for a while anxious that at any rate Phineas should go with him to the police office; but at last consented to take the addresses of the two gentlemen. When he found that Mr Kennedy was a member of Parliament, and that he was designated as Right Honourable, his respect for the garrotter became more great, and he began to feel that the night was indeed a night of great importance. He expressed unbounded admiration at Mr Finn’s success in his own line, and made repeated promises that the men should be forthcoming on the morrow. Could a cab be got? Of course a cab could be got. A cab was got, and within a quarter of an hour of the making of the attack, the two members of Parliament were on their way to Grosvenor Place.

There was hardly a word spoken in the cab, for Mr Kennedy was in pain. When, however, they reached the door in Grosvenor Place, Phineas wanted to go, and leave his friend with the servants, but this the Cabinet Minister would not allow, “Of course you must see my wife,” he said. So they went upstairs into the drawing-room, and then upon the stairs, by the lights of the house, Phineas could perceive that his companion’s face was bruised and black with dirt, and that his cravat was gone.

“I have been garrotted,” said the Cabinet Minister to his wife.

“What?”

“Simply that — or should have been, if he had not been there. How he came there, God only knows.”

The wife’s anxiety, and then her gratitude, need hardly be described — nor the astonishment of the husband, which by no means decreased on reflection, at the opportune re-appearance in the nick of time of the man whom three minutes before the attack he had left in the act of going in the opposite direction.

“I had seen the men, and thought it best to run round by the corner of Grosvenor Square,” said Phineas.

“May God bless you,” said Lady Laura.

“Amen,” said the Cabinet Minister.

“I think he was born to be my friend,” said Lady Laura.

The Cabinet Minister said nothing more that night. He was never given to much talking, and the little accident which had just occurred to him did not tend to make words easy to him. But he pressed our hero’s hand, and Lady Laura said that of course Phineas would come to them on the morrow. Phineas remarked that his first business must be to go to the police office, but he promised that he would come down to Grosvenor Place immediately afterwards. Then Lady Laura also pressed his hand, and looked — she looked, I think, as though she thought that Phineas would only have done right had he repeated the offence which he had committed under the waterfall of Loughlinter.

“Garrotted!” said Lord Chiltern, when Phineas told him the story before they went to bed that night. He had been smoking, sipping brandy and water, and waiting for Finn’s return. “Robert Kennedy garrotted!”

“The fellow was in the act of doing it.”

“And you stopped him?”

“Yes — I got there just in time. Wasn’t it lucky?”

“You ought to be garrotted yourself. I should have lent the man a hand had I been there.”

“How can you say anything so horrible? But you are drinking too much, old fellow, and I shall lock the bottle up.”

“If there were no one in London drank more than I do, the wine merchants would have a bad time of it. And so the new Cabinet Minister has been garrotted in the street. Of course I’m sorry for poor Laura’s sake.”

“Luckily he’s not much the worse for it — only a little bruised.”

“I wonder whether it’s on the cards he should be improved by it — worse, except in the way of being strangled, he could not be. However, as he’s my brother-in-law, I’m obliged to you for rescuing him. Come, I’ll go to bed. I must say, if he was to be garrotted I should like to have been there to see it.” That was the manner in which Lord Chiltern received the tidings of the terrible accident which had occurred to his near relative.

Chapter 31

Finn for Loughton

By three o’clock in the day after the little accident which was told in the last chapter, all the world knew that Mr Kennedy, the new Cabinet Minister, had been garrotted, or half garrotted, and that that child of fortune, Phineas Finn, had dropped upon the scene out of heaven at the exact moment of time, had taken the two garrotters prisoners, and saved the Cabinet Minister’s neck and valuables — if not his life. “Bedad,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon, when he came to hear this, “that fellow’ll marry an heiress, and be Secretary for Oireland yet.” A good deal was said about it to Phineas at the clubs, but a word or two that was said to him by Violet Effingham was worth all the rest. “Why, what a Paladin you are! But you succour men in distress instead of maidens.” “That’s my bad luck, said Phineas. The other will come no doubt in time,” Violet replied; “and then you’ll get your reward.” He knew that such words from a girl mean nothing — especially from such a girl as Violet Effingham; but nevertheless they were very pleasant to him.

“Of course you will come to us at Loughlinter when Parliament is up?” Lady Laura said the same day.

“I don’t know really. You see I must go over to Ireland about my re-election.”

“What has that to do with it? You are only making out excuses. We go down on the first of July, and the English elections won’t begin till the middle of the month. It will be August before the men of Loughshane are ready for you.”

“To tell you the truth, Lady Laura,” said Phineas, I doubt whether the men of Loughshane — or rather the man of Loughshane, will have anything more to say to me.”

“What man do you mean?”

“Lord Tulla. He was in a passion with his brother before, and I got the advantage of it. Since that he has paid his brother’s debts for the fifteenth time, and of course is ready to fight any battle for the forgiven prodigal. Things are not as they were, and my father tells me that he thinks I shall be beaten.”

“That is bad news.”

“It is what I have a right to expect.”

Every word of information that had come to Phineas about Loughshane since Mr Mildmay had decided upon a dissolution, had gone towards making him feel at first that there was a great doubt as to his re-election, and at last that there was almost a certainty against him. And as these tidings reached him they made him very unhappy. Since he had been in Parliament he had very frequently regretted that he had left the shades of the Inns of Court for the glare of Westminster; and he had more than once made up his mind that he would desert the glare and return to the shade. But now, when the moment came in which such desertion seemed to be compulsory on him, when there would be no longer a choice, the seat in Parliament was dearer to him than ever. If he had gone of his own free will — so he told himself — there would have been something of nobility in such going. Mr Low would have respected him, and even Mrs Low might have taken him back to the friendship of her severe bosom. But he would go back now as a cur with his tail between his legs — kicked out, as it were, from Parliament. Returning to Lincoln’s Inn soiled with failure, having accomplished nothing, having broken down on the only occasion on which he had dared to show himself on his legs, not having opened a single useful book during the two years in which he had sat in Parliament, burdened with Laurence Fitzgibbon’s debt, and not quite free from debt of his own, how could he start himself in any way by which he might even hope to win success? He must, he told himself, give up all thought of practising in London and betake himself to Dublin. He could not dare to face his friends in London as a young briefless barrister.

On this evening, the evening subsequent to that on which Mr Kennedy had been attacked, the House was sitting in Committee of Ways and Means, and there came on a discussion as to a certain vote for the army. It had been known that there would be such discussion; and Mr Monk having heard from Phineas a word or two now and again about the potted peas, had recommended him to be ready with a few remarks if he wished to support the Government in the matter of that vote. Phineas did so wish, having learned quite enough in the committee room upstairs to make him believe that a large importation of the potted peas from Holstein would not be for the advantage of the army or navy — or for that of the country at large. Mr Monk had made his suggestion without the slightest allusion to the former failure — just as though Phineas were a practised speaker accustomed to be on his legs three or four times a week. “If I find a chance, I will,” said Phineas, taking the advice just as it was given.

Soon after prayers, a word was said in the House as to the ill-fortune which had befallen the new Cabinet Minister. Mr Daubeny had asked Mr Mildmay whether violent hands had not been laid in the dead of night on the sacred throat — the throat that should have been sacred — of the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and had expressed regret that the Ministry — which was, he feared, in other respects somewhat infirm — should now have been further weakened by this injury to that new bulwark with which it had endeavoured to support itself. The Prime Minister, answering his old rival in the same strain, said that the calamity might have been very severe, both to the country and to the Cabinet; but that fortunately for the community at large, a gallant young member of that House — and he was proud to say a supporter of the Government — had appeared upon the spot at the nick of time — “As a god out of a machine,” said Mr Daubeny, interrupting him — “By no means as a god out of a machine,” continued Mr Mildmay, “but as a real help in a very real trouble, and succeeded not only in saving my right honourable friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy, but in arresting the two malefactors who attempted to rob him in the street.” Then there was a cry of “name’; and Mr Mildmay of course named the member for Loughshane. It so happened that Phineas was not in the House, but he heard it all when he came down to attend the Committee of Ways and Means.

Then came on the discussion about provisions in the army, the subject being mooted by one of Mr Turnbull’s close allies. The gentleman on the other side of the House who had moved for the Potted Peas Committee was silent on the occasion, having felt that the result of that committee had not been exactly what he had expected. The evidence respecting such of the Holstein potted peas as had been used in this country was not very favourable to them. But, nevertheless, the rebound from that committee — the very fact that such a committee had been made to sit — gave ground for a hostile attack. To attack is so easy, when a complete refutation barely suffices to save the Minister attacked — does not suffice to save him from future dim memories of something having been wrong — and brings down no disgrace whatsoever on the promoter of the false charge. The promoter of the false charge simply expresses his gratification at finding that he had been misled by erroneous information. It is not customary for him to express gratification at the fact, that out of all the mud which he has thrown, some will probably stick! Phineas, when the time came, did get on his legs, and spoke perhaps two or three dozen words. The doing so seemed to come to him quite naturally. He had thought very little about it beforehand — having resolved not to think of it. And indeed the occasion was one of no great importance. The Speaker was not in the chair, and the House was thin, and he intended to make no speech — merely to say something which he had to say. Till he had finished he hardly remembered that he was doing that, in attempting to do which he had before failed so egregiously. It was not till he sat down that he began to ask himself whether the scene was swimming before his eyes as it had done on former occasions; as it had done even when he had so much as thought of making a speech. Now he was astonished at the easiness of the thing, and as he left the House told himself that he had overcome the difficulty just when the victory could be of no avail to him. Had he been more eager, more constant in his purpose, he might at any rate have shown the world that he was fit for the place which he had presumed to take before he was cast out of it.

On the next morning he received a letter from his father. Dr Finn had seen Lord Tulla, having been sent for to relieve his lordship in a fit of the gout, and had been informed by the Earl that he meant to fight the borough to the last man — had he said to the last shilling he would have spoken with perhaps more accuracy. “You see, doctor, your son has had it for two years, as you may say for nothing, and I think he ought to give way. He can’t expect that he’s to go on there as though it were his own.” And then his lordship, upon whom this touch of the gout had come somewhat sharply, expressed himself with considerable animation. The old doctor behaved with much spirit. “I told the Earl,” he said, that I could not undertake to say what you might do; but that as you had come forward at first with my sanction, I could not withdraw it now. He asked me if I should support you with money; I said that I should to a moderate extent. “By G — ” said the Earl, “a moderate extent will go a very little way, I can tell you.” Since that he has had Duggin with him; so, I suppose, I shall not see him any more. You can do as you please now; but, from what I hear, I fear you will have no chance.” Then with much bitterness of spirit Phineas resolved that he would not interfere with Lord Tulla at Loughshane. He would go at once to the Reform Club and explain his reasons to Barrington Erle and others there who would be interested.

But he first went to Grosvenor Place. Here he was shown up into Mr Kennedy’s room. Mr Kennedy was up and seated in an armchair by an open window looking over into the Queen’s garden; but he was in his dressing-gown, and was to be regarded as an invalid. And indeed as he could not turn his neck, or thought that he could not do so, he was not very fit to go out about his work. Let us hope that the affairs of the Duchy of Lancaster did not suffer materially by his absence. We may take it for granted that with a man so sedulous as to all his duties there was no arrear of work when the accident took place. He put out his hand to Phineas, and said some word in a whisper — some word or two among which Phineas caught the sound of “potted peas,” — and then continued to look out of the window. There are men who are utterly prostrated by any bodily ailment, and it seemed that Mr Kennedy was one of them. Phineas, who was full of his own bad news, had intended to tell his sad story at once. But he perceived that the neck of the Chancellor of the Duchy was too stiff to allow of his taking any interest in external matters, and so he refrained. “What does the doctor say about it?” said Phineas, perceiving that just for the present there could be only one possible subject for remark. Mr Kennedy was beginning to describe in a long whisper what the doctor did think about it, when Lady Laura came into the room.

Of course they began at first to talk about Mr Kennedy. It would not have been kind to him not to have done so. And Lady Laura made much of the injury, as it behoves a wife to do in such circumstances for the sake both of the sufferer and of the hero. She declared her conviction that had Phineas been a moment later her husband’s neck would have been irredeemably broken.

“I don’t think they ever do kill the people,” said Phineas. “At any rate they don’t mean to do so.”

“I thought they did,” said Lady Laura.

“I fancy not,” said Phineas, eager in the cause of truth.

“I think this man was very clumsy,” whispered Mr Kennedy.

“Perhaps he was a beginner,” said Phineas, and that may make a difference. If so, I’m afraid we have interfered with his education.”

Then, by degrees, the conversation got away to other things, and Lady Laura asked him after Loughshane. “I’ve made up my mind to give it up,” said he, smiling as he spoke.

“I was afraid there was but a bad chance,” said Lady Laura, smiling also.

“My father has behaved so well!” said Phineas. He has written to say he’ll find the money, if I determine to contest the borough. I mean to write to him by tonight’s post to decline the offer. I have no right to spend the money, and I shouldn’t succeed if I did spend it. Of course it makes me a little down in the mouth.” And then he smiled again.

“I’ve got a plan of my own,” said Lady Laura.

“What plan?”

“Or rather it isn’t mine, but papa’s. Old Mr Standish is going to give up Loughton, and papa wants you to come and try your luck there.”

“Lady Laura!”

“It isn’t quite a certainty, you know, but I suppose it’s as near a certainty as anything left.” And this came from a strong Radical Reformer!

“Lady Laura, I couldn’t accept such a favour from your father.” Then Mr Kennedy nodded his head very slightly and whispered, “Yes, yes.” I couldn’t think of it, said Phineas Finn. “I have no right to such a favour.”

“That is a matter entirely for papa’s consideration,” said Lady Laura, with an affectation of solemnity in her voice. “I think it has always been felt that any politician may accept such an offer as that when it is made to him, but that no politician should ask for it. My father feels that he has to do the best he can with his influence in the borough, and therefore he comes to you.”

“It isn’t that,” said Phineas, somewhat rudely.

“Of course private feelings have their weight,” said Lady Laura. “It is not probable that papa would have gone to a perfect stranger. And perhaps, Mr Finn, I may own that Mr Kennedy and I would both be very sorry that you should not be in the House, and that that feeling on our part has had some weight with my father.”

“Of course you’ll stand?” whispered Mr Kennedy, still looking straight out of the window, as though the slightest attempt to turn his neck would be fraught with danger to himself and the Duchy.

“Papa has desired me to ask you to call upon him,” said Lady Laura. “I don’t suppose there is very much to be said, as each of you know so well the other’s way of thinking. But you had better see him today or tomorrow.”

Of course Phineas was persuaded before he left Mr Kennedy’s room. Indeed, when he came to think of it, there appeared to him to be no valid reason why he should not sit for Loughton. The favour was of a kind that had prevailed from time out of mind in England, between the most respectable of the great land magnates, and young rising liberal politicians. Burke, Fox, and Canning had all been placed in Parliament by similar influence. Of course he, Phineas Finn, desired earnestly — longed in his very heart of hearts — to extinguish all such Parliamentary influence, to root out for ever the last vestige of close borough nominations; but while the thing remained it was better that the thing should contribute to the liberal than to the conservative strength of the House — and if to the liberal, how was this to be achieved but by the acceptance of such influence by some liberal candidate? And if it were right that it should be accepted by any liberal candidate — then, why not by him? The logic of this argument seemed to him to be perfect. He felt something like a sting of reproach as he told himself that in truth this great offer was made to him, not on account of the excellence of his politics, but because he had been instrumental in saving Lord Brentford’s son-in-law from the violence of garrotters. But he crushed these qualms of conscience as being over-scrupulous, and, as he told himself, not practical. You must take the world as you find it, with a struggle to be something more honest than those around you. Phineas, as he preached to himself this sermon, declared to himself that they who attempted more than this flew too high in the clouds to be of service to men and women upon earth.

As he did not see Lord Brentford that day he postponed writing to his father for twenty-four hours. On the following morning he found the Earl at home in Portman Square, having first discussed the matter fully with Lord Chiltern. “Do not scruple about me,” said Lord Chiltern; “you are quite welcome to the borough for me.”

“But if I did not stand, would you do so? There are so many reasons which ought to induce you to accept a seat in Parliament!”

“Whether that be true or not, Phineas, I shall not accept my father’s interest at Loughton, unless it be offered to me in a way in which it never will be offered. You know me well enough to be sure that I shall not change my mind. Nor will he. And, therefore, you may go down to Loughton with a pure conscience as far as I am concerned.”

Phineas had his interview with the Earl, and in ten minutes everything was settled. On his way to Portman Square there had come across his mind the idea of a grand effort of friendship. What if he could persuade the father so to conduct himself towards his son, that the son should consent to be a member for the borough? And he did say a word or two to this effect, setting forth that Lord Chiltern would condescend to become a legislator, if only his father would condescend to acknowledge his son’s fitness for such work without any comments on the son’s past life. But the Earl simply waived the subject away with his hand. He could be as obstinate as his son. Lady Laura had been the Mercury between them on this subject, and Lady Laura had failed. He would not now consent to employ another Mercury. Very little — hardly a word indeed — was said between the Earl and Phineas about politics. Phineas was to be the Saulsby candidate at Loughton for the next election, and was to come to Saulsby with the Kennedys from Loughlinter — either with the Kennedys or somewhat in advance of them. “I do not say that there will be no opposition,” said the Earl, “but I expect none. He was very courteous — nay, he was kind, feeling doubtless that his family owed a great debt of gratitude to the young man with whom he was conversing; but, nevertheless, there was not absent on his part a touch of that high condescension which, perhaps, might be thought to become the Earl, the Cabinet Minister, and the great borough patron. Phineas, who was sensitive, felt this and winced. He had never quite liked Lord Brentford, and could not bring himself to do so now in spite of the kindness which the Earl was showing him.

But he was very happy when he sat down to write to his father from the club. His father had told him that the money should be forthcoming for the election at Loughshane, if he resolved to stand, but that the chance of success would be very slight — indeed that, in his opinion, there would be no chance of success. Nevertheless, his father had evidently believed, when writing, that Phineas would not abandon his seat without a useless and expensive contest. He now thanked his father with many expressions of gratitude — declared his conviction that his father was right about Lord Tulla, and then, in the most modest language that he could use, went on to say that he had found another borough open to him in England. He was going to stand for Loughton, with the assistance of Lord Brentford, and thought that the election would probably not cost him above a couple of hundred pounds at the outside. Then he wrote a very pretty note to Lord Tulla, thanking him for his former kindness, and telling the Irish Earl that it was not his intention to interfere with the borough of Loughshane at the next election.

A few days after this Phineas was very much surprised at a visit that was made to him at his lodgings. Mr Clarkson, after that scene in the lobby of the House, called again in Great Marlborough Street — and was admitted. “You had better let him sit in your armchair for half am hour or so,” Fitzgibbon had said; and Phineas almost believed that it would be better. The man was a terrible nuisance to him, and he was beginning to think that he had better undertake to pay the debt by degrees. It was, he knew, quite on the cards that Mr Clarkson should have him arrested while at Saulsby. Since that scene in the lobby Mr Clarkson had been with him twice, and there had been a preliminary conversation as to real payment. Mr Clarkson wanted a hundred pounds down, and another bill for two hundred and twenty at three months’ date. “Think of my time and trouble in coming here,” Mr Clarkson had urged when Phineas had objected to these terms. “Think of my time and trouble, and do be punctual, Mr Finn.” Phineas had offered him ten pounds a quarter, the payments to be marked on the back of the bill, a tender which Mr Clarkson had not seemed to regard as strong evidence of punctuality. He had not been angry, but had simply expressed his intention of calling again — giving Phineas to understand that business would probably take him to the west of Ireland in the autumn. If only business might not take him down either to Loughlinter or to Saulsby! But the strange visitor who came to Phineas in the midst of these troubles put an end to them all.

The strange visitor was Miss Aspasia Fitzgibbon. “You’ll be very much surprised at my coming to your chambers, no doubt,” she said, as she sat down in the chair which Phineas placed for her. Phineas could only say that he was very proud to be so highly honoured, and that he hoped she was well, “Pretty well, I thank you. I have just come about a little business, Mr Finn, and I hope you’ll excuse me.”

“I’m quite sure that there is no need for excuses,” said Phineas.

“Laurence, when he hears about it, will say that I’ve been an impertinent old fool; but I never care what Laurence says, either this way or that. I’ve been to that Mr Clarkson, Mr Finn, and I’ve paid him the money.”

“No!” said Phineas.

“But I have, Mr Finn. I happened to hear what occurred that night at the door of the House of Commons.”

“Who told you, Miss Fitzgibbon?”

“Never mind who told me. I heard it. I knew before that you had been foolish enough to help Laurence about money, and so I put two and two together. It isn’t the first time I have had to do with Mr Clarkson. So I sent to him, and I’ve bought the bill. There it is.” And Miss Fitzgibbon produced the document which bore the name of Phineas Finn across the front of it.

“And did you pay him two hundred and fifty pounds for it?”

“Not quite. I had a very hard tussle, and got it at last for two hundred and twenty pounds.”

“And did you do it yourself?”

“All myself. If I had employed a lawyer I should have had to pay two hundred and forty pounds and five pounds for costs.

“And now, Mr Finn, I hope you won’t have any more money engagements with my brother Laurence.” Phineas said that he thought he might promise that he would have no more. “Because, if you do, I shan’t interfere. If Laurence began to find that he could get money out of me in that way, there would be no end to it. Mr Clarkson would very soon be spending his spare time in my drawing-room. Goodbye, Mr Finn. If Laurence says anything, just tell him that he’d better come to me.” Then Phineas was left looking at the bill. It was certainly a great relief to him — that he should be thus secured from the domiciliary visits of Mr Clarkson; a great relief to him to be assured that Mr Clarkson would not find him out down at Loughton; but nevertheless, he had to suffer a pang of shame as he felt that Miss Fitzgibbon had become acquainted with his poverty and had found herself obliged to satisfy his pecuniary liabilities.

Chapter 32

Lady Laura Kennedy”s headache

Phineas went down to Loughlinter early in July, taking Loughton in his way. He stayed there one night at the inn, and was introduced to sundry influential inhabitants of the borough by Mr Grating, the ironmonger, who was known by those who knew Loughton to be a very strong supporter of the Earl’s interest. Mr Grating and about half a dozen others of the tradesmen of the town came to the inn, and met Phineas in the parlour. He told them he was a good sound Liberal and a supporter of Mr Mildmay’s Government, of which their neighbour the Earl was so conspicuous an ornament. This was almost all that was said about the Earl out loud; but each individual man of Loughton then present took an opportunity during the meeting of whispering into Mr Finn’s ear a word or two to show that he also was admitted to the secret councils of the borough — that he too could see the inside of the arrangement. “Of course we must support the Earl,” one said. “Never mind what you hear about a Tory candidate, Mr Finn,” whispered a second; “the Earl can do what he pleases here.” And it seemed to Phineas that it was thought by them all to be rather a fine thing to be thus held in the hand by an English nobleman. Phineas could not but reflect much upon this as he lay in his bed at the Loughton inn. The great political question on which the political world was engrossed up in London was the enfranchisement of Englishmen — of Englishmen down to the rank of artisans and labourers — and yet when he found himself in contact with individual Englishmen, with men even very much above the artisan and the labourer, he found that they rather liked being bound hand and foot, and being kept as tools in the political pocket of a rich man. Every one of those Loughton tradesmen was proud of his own personal subjection to the Earl!

From Loughton he went to Loughlinter, having promised to be back in the borough for the election. Mr Grating would propose him, and he was to be seconded by Mr Shortribs, the butcher and grazier. Mention had been made of a Conservative candidate, and Mr Shortribs had seemed to think that a good stand-up fight upon English principles, with a clear understanding, of course, that victory should prevail on the liberal side, would be a good thing for the borough. But the Earl’s man of business saw Phineas on the morning of his departure, and told him not to regard Mr Shortribs. “They’d all like it,” said the man of business; “and I daresay they’ll have enough of it when this Reform Bill is passed; but at present no one will be fool enough to come and spend his money here. We have them all in hand too well for that, Mr Finn!”

He found the great house at Loughlinter nearly empty, Mr Kennedy’s mother was there, and Lord Brentford was there, and Lord Brentford’s private secretary, and Mr Kennedy’s private secretary. At present that was the entire party. Lady Baldock was expected there, with her daughter and Violet Effingham; but, as well as Phineas could learn, they would not be at Loughlinter until after he had left it. There had come up lately a rumour that there would be an autumn session — that the Houses would sit through October and a part of November, in order that Mr Mildmay might try the feeling of the new Parliament. If this were to be so, Phineas had resolved that, in the event of his election at Loughton, he would not return to Ireland till after this autumn session should be over. He gave an account to the Earl, in the presence of the Earl’s son-in-law, of what had taken place at Loughton, and the Earl expressed himself as satisfied. It was manifestly a great satisfaction to Lord Brentford that he should still have a borough in his pocket, and the more so because there were so very few noblemen left who had such property belonging to them. He was very careful in his speech, never saying in so many words that the privilege of returning a member was his own; but his meaning was not the less clear.

Those were dreary days at Loughlinter. There was fishing — if Phineas chose to fish; and he was told that he could shoot a deer if he was minded to go out alone. But it seemed as though it were the intention of the host that his guests should spend their time profitably. Mr Kennedy himself was shut up with books and papers all the morning, and always took up a book after dinner. The Earl also would read a little — and then would sleep a good deal. Old Mrs Kennedy slept also, and Lady Laura looked as though she would like to sleep if it were not that her husband’s eye was upon her. As it was, she administered tea, Mr Kennedy not liking the practice of having it handed round by a servant when none were there but members of the family circle, and she read novels. Phineas got hold of a stiff bit of reading for himself, and tried to utilise his time. He took Alison in hand, and worked his way gallantly through a couple of volumes. But even he, more than once or twice, found himself on the very verge of slumber. Then he would wake up and try to think about things. Why was he, Phineas Finn, an Irishman from Killaloe, living in that great house of Loughlinter as though he were one of the family, striving to kill the hours, and feeling that he was in some way subject to the dominion of his host? Would it not be better for him to get up and go away? In his heart of hearts he did not like Mr Kennedy, though he believed him to be a good man. And of what service to him was it to like Lady Laura, now that Lady Laura was a possession in the hands of Mr Kennedy? Then he would tell himself that he owed his position in the world entirely to Lady Laura, and that he was ungrateful to feel himself ever dull in her society. And, moreover, there was something to be done in the world beyond making love and being merry. Mr Kennedy could occupy himself with a blue book for hours together without wincing. So Phineas went to work again with his Alison, and read away till he nodded.

In those days he often wandered up and down the Linter and across the moor to the Linn, and so down to the lake. He would take a book with him, and would seat himself down on spots which he loved, and would pretend to read — but I do not think that he got much advantage from his book. He was thinking of his life, and trying to calculate whether the wonderful success which he had achieved would ever be of permanent value to him. Would he be nearer to earning his bread when he should be member for Loughton than he had been when he was member for Loughshane? Or was there before him any slightest probability that he would ever earn his bread? And then he thought of Violet Effingham, and was angry with himself for remembering at that moment that Violet Effingham was the mistress of a large fortune.

Once before when he was sitting beside the Linter he had made up his mind to declare his passion to Lady Laura — and he had done so on the very spot. Now, within a twelvemonth of that time, he made up his mind on the same spot to declare his passion to Miss Effingham, and he thought his best mode of carrying his suit would be to secure the assistance of Lady Laura. Lady Laura, no doubt, had been very anxious that her brother should marry Violet; but Lord Chiltern, as Phineas knew, had asked for Violet’s hand twice in vain; and, moreover, Chiltern himself had declared to Phineas that he would never ask for it again. Lady Laura, who was always reasonable, would surely perceive that there was no hope of success for her brother. That Chiltern would quarrel with him — would quarrel with him to the knife — he did not doubt; but he felt that no fear of such a quarrel as that should deter him. He loved Violet Effingham, and he must indeed be pusillanimous if, loving her as he did, he was deterred from expressing his love from any fear of a suitor whom she did not favour. He would not willingly be untrue to his friendship for Lady Laura’s brother. Had there been a chance for Lord Chiltern he would have abstained from putting himself forward. But what was the use of his abstaining, when by doing so he could in no wise benefit his friend — when the result of his doing so would be that some interloper would come in and carry off the prize? He would explain all this to Lady Laura, and, if the prize would be kind to him, he would disregard the anger of Lord Chiltern, even though it might be anger to the knife.

As he was thinking of all this Lady Laura stood before him where he was sitting at the top of the falls. At this moment he remembered well all the circumstances of the scene when he had been there with her at his last visit to Loughlinter. How things had changed since then! Then he had loved Lady Laura with all his heart, and he had now already brought himself to regard her as a discreet matron whom to love would be almost as unreasonable as though he were to entertain a passion for the Lord Chancellor. The reader will understand how thorough had been the cure effected by Lady Laura’s marriage and the interval of a few months, when the swain was already prepared to make this lady the depositary of his confidence in another matter of love. “You are often here, I suppose?” said Lady Laura, looking down upon him as he sat upon the rock.

“Well — yes; not very often; I come here sometimes because the view down upon the lake is so fine.”

“It is the prettiest spot about the place. I hardly ever get here now. Indeed this is only the second time that I have been up since we have been at home, and then I came to bring papa here.” There was a little wooden seat near to the rock upon which Phineas had been lying, and upon this Lady Laura sat down. Phineas, with his eyes turned upon the lake, was considering how he might introduce the subject of his love for Violet Effingham; but he did not find the matter very easy. He had just resolved to begin by saying that Violet would certainly never accept Lord Chiltern, when Lady Laura spoke a word or two which stopped him altogether. “How well I remember,” she said, “the day when you and I were here last autumn!”

“So do I. You told me then that you were going to marry Mr Kennedy. How much has happened since then!”

“Much indeed! Enough for a whole lifetime. And yet how slow the time has gone!”

“I do not think it has been slow with me,” said Phineas.

“No; You have been active. You have had your hands full of work. I am beginning to think that it is a great curse to have been born a woman.”

“And yet I have heard you say that a woman may do as much as a man.”

“That was before I had learned my lesson properly. I know better than that now. Oh dear! I have no doubt it is all for the best as it is, but I have a kind of wish that I might be allowed to go out and milk the cows.”

“And may you not milk the cows if you wish it, Lady Laura?”

“By no means — not only not milk them, but hardly look at them. At any rate, I must not talk about them.” Phineas of course understood that she was complaining of her husband, and hardly knew how to reply to her. He had been sharp enough to perceive already that Mr Kennedy was an autocrat in his own house, and he knew Lady Laura well enough to be sure that such masterdom would be very irksome to her. But he had not imagined that she would complain to him. “It was so different at Saulsby,” Lady Laura continued. “Everything there seemed to be my own.”

“And everything here is your own.”

“Yes — according to the prayer book. And everything in truth is my own — as all the dainties at the banquet belonged to Sancho the Governor.”

“You mean,” said he — and then he hesitated; you mean that Mr Kennedy stands over you, guarding you for your own welfare, as the doctor stood over Sancho and guarded him?”

There was a pause before she answered — a long pause, during which he was looking away over the lake, and thinking how he might introduce the subject of his love. But long as was the pause, he had not begun when Lady Laura was again speaking. “The truth is, my friend,” she said, “that I have made a mistake.

“A mistake?”

“Yes, Phineas, a mistake. I have blundered as fools blunder, thinking that I was clever enough to pick my footsteps aright without asking counsel from any one. I have blundered and stumbled and fallen, and now I am so bruised that I am not able to stand upon my feet.” The word that struck him most in all this was his own Christian name. She had never called him Phineas before. He was aware that the circle of his acquaintance had fallen into a way of miscalling him by his Christian name, as one observes to be done now and again in reference to some special young man. Most of the men whom he called his friends called him Phineas. Even the Earl had done so more than once on occasions in which the greatness of his position had dropped for a moment out of his mind. Mrs Low had called him Phineas when she regarded him as her husband’s most cherished pupil; and Mrs Bunce had called him Mr Phineas. He had always been Phineas to everybody at Killaloe. But still he was quite sure that Lady Laura had never so called him before. Nor would she have done so now in her husband’s presence. He was sure of that also.

“You mean that you are unhappy?” he said, still looking away from her towards the lake.

“Yes, I do mean that. Though I do not know why I should come and tell you so — except that I am still blundering and stumbling, and have fallen into a way of hurting myself at every step.”

“You can tell no one who is more anxious for your happiness,” said Phineas.

“That is a very pretty speech, but what would you do for my happiness? Indeed, what is it possible that you should do? I mean it as no rebuke when I say that my happiness or unhappiness is a matter as to which you will soon become perfectly indifferent.”

“Why should you say so, Lady Laura?”

“Because it is natural that it should be so. You and Mr Kennedy might have been friends. Not that you will be, because you are unlike each other in all your ways. But it might have been so.”

“And are not you and I to be friends?” he asked.

“No. In a very few months you will not think of telling me what are your desires or what your sorrows — and as for me, it will be out of the question that I should tell mine to you. How can you be my friend?”

“If you were not quite sure of my friendship, Lady Laura, you would not speak to me as you are speaking now.” Still he did not look at her, but lay with his face supported on his hands, and his eyes turned away upon the lake. But she, where she was sitting, could see him, and was aided by her sight in making comparisons in her mind between the two men who had been her lovers — between him whom she had taken and him whom she had left. There was something in the hard, dry, unsympathising, unchanging virtues of her husband which almost revolted her. He had not a fault, but she had tried him at every point and had been able to strike no spark of fire from him. Even by disobeying she could produce no heat — only an access of firmness. How would it have been with her had she thrown all ideas of fortune to the winds, and linked her lot to that of the young Phoebus who was lying at her feet? If she had ever loved any one she had loved him. And she had not thrown away her love for money. So she swore to herself over and over again, trying to console herself in her cold unhappiness. She had married a rich man in order that she might be able to do something in the world — and now that she was this rich man’s wife she found that she could do nothing. The rich man thought it to be quite enough for her to sit at home and look after his welfare. In the meantime young Phoebus — her Phoebus as he had been once — was thinking altogether of someone else.

“Phineas,” she said, slowly, I have in you such perfect confidence that I will tell you the truth — as one man may tell it to another. I wish you would go from here.”

“What, at once?”

“Not today, or tomorrow. Stay here now till the election; but do not return. He will ask you to come, and press you hard, and will be hurt — for, strange to say, with all his coldness, he really likes you. He has a pleasure in seeing you here. But he must not have that pleasure at the expense of trouble to me.”

“And why is it a trouble to you?” he asked. Men are such fools — so awkward, so unready, with their wits ever behind the occasion by a dozen seconds or so! As soon as the words were uttered, he knew that they should not have been spoken.

“Because I am a fool,” she said. Why else? Is not that enough for you?”

“Laura — “ he said.

“No — no; I will have none of that. I am a fool, but not such a fool as to suppose that any cure is to be found there.”

“Only say what I can do for you, though it be with my entire life, and I will do it.”

“You can do nothing — except to keep away from me.”

“Are you earnest in telling me that?” Now at last he had turned himself round and was looking at her, and as he looked he saw the hat of a man appearing up the path, and immediately afterwards the face. It was the hat and face of the laird of Loughlinter. “Here is Mr Kennedy,” said Phineas, in a tone of voice not devoid of dismay and trouble.

“So I perceive,” said Lady Laura. But there was no dismay or trouble in the tone of her voice.

In the countenance of Mr Kennedy, as he approached closer, there was not much to be read — only, perhaps, some slight addition of gloom, or rather, perhaps, of that frigid propriety of moral demeanour for which he had always been conspicuous, which had grown upon him at his marriage, and which had been greatly increased by the double action of being made a Cabinet Minister and being garrotted. “I am glad that your headache is better,” he said to his wife, who had risen from her seat to meet him. Phineas also had risen, and was now looking somewhat sheepish where he stood.

“I came out because it was worse,” she said. It irritated me so that I could not stand the house any longer.”

“I will send to Callender for Dr Macnuthrie.”

“Pray do nothing of the kind, Robert. I do not want Dr Macnuthrie at all.”

“Where there is illness, medical advice is always expedient.”

“I am not ill. A headache is not illness.”

“I had thought it was,” said Mr Kennedy, very drily.

“At any rate, I would rather not have Dr Macnuthrie.”

“I am sure it cannot do you any good to climb up here in the heat of the sun. Had you been here long, Finn?”

“All the morning — here, or hereabouts. I clambered up from the lake and had a book in my pocket.”

“And you happened to come across him by accident?” Mr Kennedy asked. There was something so simple in the question that its very simplicity proved that there was no suspicion.

“Yes — by chance,” said Lady Laura. But every one at Loughlinter always comes up here. If any one ever were missing whom I wanted to find, this is where I should look.”

“I am going on towards Linter forest to meet Blane,” said Mr Kennedy. Blane was the gamekeeper. “If you don’t mind the trouble, Finn, I wish you’d take Lady Laura down to the house. Do not let her stay out in the heat. I will take care that somebody goes over to Callender for Dr Macnuthrie.” Then Mr Kennedy went on, and Phineas was left with the charge of taking Lady Laura back to the house. When Mr Kennedy’s hat had first appeared coming up the walk, Phineas had been ready to proclaim himself prepared for any devotion in the service of Lady Laura. Indeed, he had begun to reply with criminal tenderness to the indiscreet avowal which Lady Laura had made to him. But he felt now, after what had just occurred in the husband”s presence, that any show of tenderness — of criminal tenderness — was impossible. The absence of all suspicion on the part of Mr Kennedy had made Phineas feel that he was bound by all social laws to refrain from such tenderness. Lady Laura began to descend the path before him without a word — and went on, and on, as though she would have reached the house without speaking, had he not addressed her. “Does your head still pain you?” he asked.

“Of course it does.”

“I suppose he is right in saying that you should not be out in the heat.”

“I do not know. It is not worth while to think about that. He sends me in, and so of course I must go. And he tells you to take me, and so of course you must take me.”

“Would you wish that I should let you go alone?”

“Yes, I would. Only he will be sure to find it out; and you must not tell him that you left me at my request.”

“Do you think that I am afraid of him?” said Phineas.

“Yes — I think you are. I know that I am, and that papa is; and that his mother hardly dares to call her soul her own. I do not know why you should escape.”

“Mr Kennedy is nothing to me.”

“He is something to me, and so I suppose I had better go on. And now I shall have that horrid man from the little town pawing me and covering everything with snuff, and bidding me take Scotch physic — which seems to increase in quantity and nastiness as doses in England decrease. And he will stand over me to see that I take it.”

“What — the doctor from Callender?”

“No — but Mr Kennedy will. If he advised me to have a hole in my glove mended, he would ask me before he went to bed whether it was done. He never forgot anything in his life, and was never unmindful of anything. That I think will do, Mr Finn. You have brought me out from the trees, and that may be taken as bringing me home. We shall hardly get scolded if we part here. Remember what I told you up above. And remember also that it is in your power to do nothing else for me. Goodbye.” So he turned away towards the lake, and let Lady Laura go across the wide lawn to the house by herself.

He had failed altogether in his intention of telling his friend of his love for Violet, and had come to perceive that he could not for the present carry out that intention. After what had passed it would be impossible for him to go to Lady Laura with a passionate tale of his longing for Violet Effingham. If he were even to speak to her of love at all, it must be quite of another love than that. But he never would speak to her of love; nor — as he felt quite sure — would she allow him to do so. But what astounded him most as he thought of the interview which had just passed, was the fact that the Lady Laura whom he had known — whom he had thought he had known — should have become so subject to such a man as Mr Kennedy, a man whom he had despised as being weak, irresolute, and without a purpose! For the day or two that he remained at Loughlinter, he watched the family closely, and became aware that Lady Laura had been right when she declared that her father was afraid of Mr Kennedy.

“I shall follow you almost immediately,” said the Earl confidentially to Phineas, when the candidate for the borough took his departure from Loughlinter. “I don’t like to be there just when the election is going on, but I’ll be at Saulsby to receive you the day afterwards.”

Phineas took his leave from Mr Kennedy, with a warm expression of friendship on the part of his host, and from Lady Laura with a mere touch of the hand. He tried to say a word; but she was sullen, or, if not, she put on some mood like to sullenness, and said never a word to him.

On the day after the departure of Phineas Finn for Loughton Lady Laura Kennedy still had a headache. She had complained of a headache ever since she had been at Loughlinter, and Dr Macnuthrie had been over more than once. “I wonder what it is that ails you,” said her husband, standing over her in her own sitting-room upstairs. It was a pretty room, looking away to the mountains, with just a glimpse of the lake to be caught from the window, and it had been prepared for her with all the skill and taste of an accomplished upholsterer. She had selected the room for herself soon after her engagement, and had thanked her future husband with her sweetest smile for giving her the choice. She had thanked him and told him that she always meant to be happy — so happy in that room! He was a man not much given to romance, but he thought of this promise as he stood over her and asked after her health. As far as he could see she had never been even comfortable since she had been at Loughlinter. A shadow of the truth came across his mind. Perhaps his wife was bored. If so, what was to be the future of his life and of hers? He went up to London every year, and to Parliament, as a duty; and then, during some period of the recess, would have his house full of guests — as another duty. But his happiness was to consist in such hours as these which seemed to inflict upon his wife the penalty of a continual headache. A shadow of the truth came upon him. What if his wife did not like living quietly at home as the mistress of her husband’s house? What if a headache was always to be the result of a simple performance of domestic duties?

More than a shadow of truth had come upon Lady Laura herself. The dark cloud created by the entire truth was upon her, making everything black and wretched around her. She had asked herself a question or two, and had discovered that she had no love for her husband, that the kind of life which he intended to exact from her was insupportable to her, and that she had blundered and fallen in her entrance upon life. She perceived that her father had already become weary of Mr Kennedy, and that, lonely and sad as he would be at Saulsby by himself, it was his intention to repudiate the idea of making a home at Loughlinter. Yes — she would be deserted by everyone, except of course by her husband; and then — Then she would throw herself on some early morning into the lake, for life would be insupportable.

“I wonder what it is that ails you,” said Mr Kennedy.

“Nothing serious. One can’t always help having a headache, you know.”

“I don’t think you take enough exercise, Laura. I would propose that you should walk four miles every day after breakfast. I will always be ready to accompany you. I have spoken to Dr Macnuthrie — ”

“I hate Dr Macnuthrie.”

“Why should you hate Dr Macnuthrie, Laura?”

“How can I tell why? I do. That is quite reason enough why you should not send for him to me.”

“You are unreasonable, Laura. One chooses a doctor on account of his reputation in his profession, and that of Dr Macnuthrie stands high.”

“I do not want any doctor.”

“But if you are ill, my dear — ”

“I am not ill.”

“But you said you had a headache. You have said so for the last ten days.”

“Having a headache is not being ill. I only wish you would not talk of it, and then perhaps I should get rid of it.”

“I cannot believe that. Headache in nine cases out of ten comes from the stomach.” Though he said this — saying it because it was the commonplace common-sense sort of thing to say, still at the very moment there was the shadow of the truth before his eyes. What if this headache meant simple dislike to him, and to his modes of life?

“It is nothing of that sort,” said Lady Laura, impatient at having her ailment inquired into with so much accuracy.

“Then what is it? You cannot think that I can be happy to hear you complaining of headache every day — making it an excuse for absolute idleness.”

“What is it that you want me to do?” she said, jumping up from her seat. “Set me a task, and if I don’t go mad over it, I’ll get through it. There are the account books. Give them to me. I don’t suppose I can see the figures, but I’ll try to see them.”

“Laura, this is unkind of you — and ungrateful.”

“Of course — it is everything that is bad. What a pity that you did not find it out last year! Oh dear, oh dear! what am I to do?” Then she threw herself down upon the sofa, and put both her hands up to her temples.

“I will send for Dr Macnuthrie at once,” said Mr Kennedy, walking towards the door very slowly, and speaking is slowly as he walked.

“No — do no such thing,” she said, springing to her feet again and intercepting him before he reached the door. “If he comes I will not see him. I give you my word that I will not speak to him if he comes. You do not understand,” she said; “you do not understand at all.”

“What is it that I ought to understand?” he asked.

“That a woman does not like to be bothered.”

He made no reply at once, but stood there twisting the handle of the door, and collecting his thoughts. “Yes,” said he at last; “I am beginning to find that out — and to find out also what it is that bothers a woman, as you call it. I can see now what it is that makes your head ache. It is not the stomach. You are quite right there. It is the prospect of a quiet decent life, to which would be attached the performance of certain homely duties. Dr Macnuthrie is a learned man, but I doubt whether he can do anything for such a malady.”

“You are quite right, Robert; he can do nothing.”

“It is a malady you must cure for yourself, Laura — and which is to be cured by perseverance. If you can bring yourself to try — ”

“But I cannot bring myself to try at all,” she said.

“Do you mean to tell me, Laura, that you will make no effort to do your duty as my wife?”

“I mean to tell you that I will not try to cure a headache by doing sums. That is all that I mean to say at this moment. If you will leave me for a while, so that I may lie down, perhaps I shall be able to come to dinner.” He still hesitated, standing with the door in his hand. “But if you go on scolding me,” she continued, “what I shall do is to go to bed directly you go away.” He hesitated for a moment longer, and then left the room without another word.

Chapter 33

Mr Slide”s grievance

Our hero was elected member for Loughton without any trouble to him or, as far as he could see, to anyone else. He made one speech from a small raised booth that was called a platform, and that was all that he was called upon to do. Mr Grating made a speech in proposing him, and Mr Shortribs another in seconding him; and these were all the speeches that were required. The thing seemed to be so very easy that he was afterwards almost offended when he was told that the bill for so insignificant a piece of work came to £247 13s. 9d. He had seen no occasion for spending even the odd forty-seven pounds. But then he was member for Loughton; and as he passed the evening alone at the inn, having dined in company with Messrs. Grating, Shortribs, and sundry other influential electors, he began to reflect that, after all, it was not so very great a thing to be a member of Parliament. It almost seemed that that which had come to him so easily could not be of much value.

On the following day he went to the castle, and was there when the Earl arrived. They two were alone together, and the Earl was very kind to him. “So you had no opponent after all,” said the great man of Loughton, with a slight smile.

“Not the ghost of another candidate.”

“I did not think there would be. They have tried it once or twice and have always failed. There are only one or two in the place who like to go one way just because their neighbours go the other. But, in truth, there is no conservative feeling in the place!”

Phineas, although he was at the present moment the member for Loughton himself, could not but enjoy the joke of this. Could there be any liberal feeling in such a place, or, indeed, any political feeling whatsoever? Would not Messrs. Grating and Shortribs have done just the same had it happened that Lord Brentford had been a Tory peer? “They all seemed to be very obliging,” said Phineas, in answer to the Earl.

“Yes, they are, There isn’t a house in the town, you know, let for longer than seven years, and most of them merely from year to year. And, do you know, I haven’t a farmer on the property with a lease — not one; and they don’t want leases. They know they’re safe. But I do like the people round me to be of the same way of thinking as myself about politics.”

On the second day after dinner — the last evening of Finn’s visit to Saulsby — the Earl fell suddenly into a confidential conversation about his daughter and his son, and about Violet Effingham. So sudden, indeed, and so confidential was the conversation, that Phineas was almost silenced for a while. A word or two had been said about Loughlinter, of the beauty of the place and of the vastness of the property. “I am almost afraid,” said Lord Brentford, “that Laura is not happy there.”

“I hope she is,” said Phineas.

“He is so hard and dry, and what I call exacting. That is just the word for it. Now Laura has never been used to that. With me she always had her own way in everything, and I always found her fit to have it. I do not understand why her husband should treat her differently.”

“Perhaps it is the temper of the man.”

“Temper, yes; but what a bad prospect is that for her! And she, too, has a temper, and so he will find if he tries her too far. I cannot stand Loughlinter. I told Laura so fairly. It is one of those houses in which a man cannot call his hours his own. I told Laura that I could not undertake to remain there for above a day or two.”

“It is very sad,” said Phineas.

“Yes, indeed; it is sad for her, poor girl; and very sad for me too. I have no one else but Laura — literally no one; and now I am divided from her! It seems that she has been taken as much away from me as though her husband lived in China. I have lost them both now!”

“I hope not, my lord.”

“I say I have. As to Chiltern, I can perceive that he becomes more and more indifferent to me every day. He thinks of me only as a man in his way who must die some day and may die soon.”

“You wrong him, Lord Brentford.”

“I do not wrong him at all. Why has he answered every offer I have made him with so much insolence as to make it impossible for me to put myself into further communion with him?”

“He thinks that you have wronged him.”

“Yes — because I have been unable to shut my eyes to his mode of living. I was to go on paying his debts, and taking no other notice whatsoever of his conduct!”

“I do not think he is in debt now.”

“Because his sister the other day spent every shilling of her fortune in paying them. She gave him £4,000! Do you think she would have married Kennedy but for that? I don’t. I could not prevent her. I had said that I would not cripple my remaining years of life by raising the money, and I could not go back from my word.”

“You and Chiltern might raise the money between you.”

“It would do no good now. She has married Mr Kennedy, and the money is nothing to her or to him. Chiltern might have put things right by marrying Miss Effingham if he pleased.”

“I think he did his best there.”

“No — he did his worst. He asked her to be his wife as a man asks for a railway ticket or a pair of gloves, which he buys with a price; and because she would not jump into his mouth he gave it up. I don’t believe he even really wanted to marry her. I suppose he has some disreputable connection to prevent it.”

“Nothing of the kind. He would marry her tomorrow if he could. My belief is that Miss Effingham is sincere in refusing him.”

“I don’t doubt her sincerity.”

“And that she will never change.”

“Ah, well; I don’t agree with you, and I daresay I know them both better than you do. But everything goes against me. I had set my heart upon it, and therefore of course I shall be disappointed. What is he going to do this autumn?”

“He is yachting now.”

“And who are with him?”

“I think the boat belongs to Captain Colepepper.”

“The greatest blackguard in all England! A man who shoots pigeons and rides steeplechases! And the worst of Chiltern is this, that even if he didn’t like the man, and if he were tired of this sort of life, he would go on just the same because he thinks it a fine thing not to give way.” This was so true that Phineas did not dare to contradict the statement, and therefore said nothing. “I had some faint hope,” continued the Earl, “while Laura could always watch him; because, in his way, he was fond of his sister. But that is all over now. She will have enough to do to watch herself!”

Phineas had felt that the Earl had put him down rather sharply when he had said that Violet would never accept Lord Chiltern, and he was therefore not a little surprised when Lord Brentford spoke again of Miss Effingham the following morning, holding in his hand a letter which he had just received from her. “They are to be at Loughlinter on the tenth,” he said, “and she purposes to come here for a couple of nights on her way.”

“Lady Baldock and all?”

“Well, yes; Lady Baldock and all. I am not very fond of Lady Baldock, but I will put up with her for a couple of days for the sake of having Violet. She is more like a child of my own now than anybody else. I shall not see her all the autumn afterwards. I cannot stand Loughlinter.”

“It will be better when the house is full.”

“You will be there, I suppose?”

“Well, no; I think not,” said Phineas.

“You have had enough of it, have you?” Phineas made no reply to this, but smiled slightly. “By Jove, I don’t wonder at it,” said the Earl. Phineas, who would have given all he had in the world to be staying in the same country house with Violet Effingham, could not explain how it had come to pass that he was obliged to absent himself. “I suppose you were asked?” said the Earl.

“Oh, yes, I was asked. Nothing can be kinder than they are.”

“Kennedy told me that you were coming as a matter of course.”

“I explained to him after that,” said Phineas, that I should not return. I shall go over to Ireland. I have a deal of hard reading to do, and I call get through it there without interruption.”

He went up from Saulsby to London on that day, and found himself quite alone in Mrs Bunce’s lodgings. I mean not only that he was alone at his lodgings, but he was alone at his club, and alone in the streets. July was not quite over, and yet all the birds of passage had migrated. Mr Mildmay, by his short session, had half ruined the London tradesmen, and had changed the summer mode of life of all those who account themselves to be anybody. Phineas, as he sat alone in his room, felt himself to be nobody. He had told the Earl that he was going to Ireland, and to Ireland he must go — because he had nothing else to do. He had been asked indeed to join one or two parties in their autumn plans. Mr Monk had wanted him to go to the Pyrenees, and Lord Chiltern had suggested that he should join the yacht — but neither plan suited him. It would have suited him to be it Loughlinter with Violet Effingham, but Loughlinter was a barred house to him. His old friend, Lady Laura, had told him not to come thither, explaining, with sufficient clearness, her reasons for excluding him from the number of her husband’s guests. As he thought of it the past scenes of his life became very marvellous to him. Twelve months since he would have given all the world for a word of love from Lady Laura, and had barely dared to hope that such a word, at some future day, might possibly be spoken. Now such a word had in truth been spoken, and it had come to be simply a trouble to him. She had owned to him — for, in truth, such had been the meaning of her warning to him — that, though she had married another man, she had loved and did love him. But in thinking of this he took no pride in it. It was not till he had thought of it long that he began to ask himself whether he might not be justified in gathering from what happened some hope that Violet also might learn to love him. He had thought so little of himself as to have been afraid at first to press his suit with Lady Laura. Might he not venture to think more of himself, having learned how far he had succeeded?

But how was he to get at Violet Effingham? From the moment at which he had left Saulsby he had been angry with himself for not having asked Lord Brentford to allow him to remain there till after the Baldock party should have gone on to Loughlinter. The Earl, who was very lonely in his house, would have consented at once. Phineas, indeed, was driven to confess to himself that success with Violet would at once have put an end to all his friendship with Lord Brentford — as also to all his friendship with Lord Chiltern. He would, in such case, be bound in honour to vacate his seat and give back Loughton to his offended patron. But he would have given up much more than his seat for Violet Effingham! At present, however, he had no means of getting at her to ask her the question. He could hardly go to Loughlinter in opposition to the wishes of Lady Laura.

A little adventure happened to him in London which somewhat relieved the dullness of the days of the first week in August. He remained in London till the middle of August, half resolving to rush down to Saulsby when Violet Effingham should be there — endeavouring to find some excuse for such a proceeding, but racking his brains in vain — and then there came about his little adventure. The adventure was commenced by the receipt of the following letter:

Banner of the People Office, 3rd August, 186 —

MY DEAR FINN,

I must say I think you have treated me badly, and without that sort of brotherly fairness which we on the public press expect from one another. However, perhaps we can come to an understanding, and if so, things may yet go smoothly. Give me a turn and I am not at all adverse to give you one. Will you come to me here, or shall I call upon you?

Yours always,

Q.S.

Phineas was not only surprised, but disgusted also, at the receipt of this letter. He could not imagine what was the deed by which he had offended Mr Slide. He thought over all the circumstances of his short connection with the People’s Banner, but could remember nothing which might have created offence. But his disgust was greater than his surprise. He thought that he had done nothing and said nothing to justify Quintus Slide in calling him “dear Finn.” He, who had Lady Laura’s secret in his keeping; he who hoped to be the possessor of Violet Effingham’s affections — he to be called “dear Finn” by such a one as Quintus Slide! He soon made up his mind that he would not answer the note, but would go at once to the People’s Banner office at the hour at which Quintus Slide was always there. He certainly would not write to “dear Slide;” and, until he had heard something more of this cause of offence, he would not make an enemy for ever by calling the man “dear Sir.” He went to the office of the People’s Banner, and found Mr Slide ensconced in a little glass cupboard, writing an article for the next day’s copy.

“I suppose you’re very busy,” said Phineas, inserting himself with some difficulty on to a little stool in the corner of the cupboard.

“Not so particular but what I’m glad to see you. You shoot, don’t you?”

“Shoot!” said Phineas. It could not be possible that Mr Slide was intending, after this abrupt fashion, to propose a duel with pistols.

“Grouse and pheasants, and them sort of things?” asked Mr Slide.

“Oh, ah; I understand. Yes, I shoot sometimes.”

“Is it the 12th or 20th for grouse in Scotland?”

“The 12th,” said Phineas. What makes you ask that just now?”

“I’m doing a letter about it — advising men not to shoot too many of the young birds, and showing that they’ll have none next year if they do. I had a fellow here just now who knew all about it, and he put down a lot; but I forgot to make him tell me the day of beginning. What’s a good place to date from?”

Phineas suggested Callender or Stirling.

“Stirling’s too much of a town, isn’t it? Callender sounds better for game, I think.”

So the letter which was to save the young grouse was dated from Callender; and Mr Quintus Slide having written the word, threw down his pen, came off his stool, and rushed at once at his subject.

“Well, now, Finn,” he said, don’t you know that you’ve treated me badly about Loughton?”

“Treated you badly about Loughton!” Phineas, as he repeated the words, was quite in the dark as to Mr Slide’s meaning. Did Mr Slide intend to convey a reproach because Phineas had not personally sent some tidings of the election to the People’s Banner?

“Very badly,” said Mr Slide, with his arms akimbo — “very badly indeed! Men on the press together do expect that they’re to be stuck by, and not thrown over. Damn it, I say; what’s the good of a brotherhood if it ain’t to be brotherhood?”

“Upon my word, I don’t know what you mean,” said Phineas.

“Didn’t I tell you that I had Loughton in my heye?” said Quintus.

“Oh — h!”

“It’s very well to say ho, and look guilty, but didn’t I tell you?”

“I never heard such nonsense in my life.”

“Nonsense?”

“How on earth could you have stood for Loughton? What interest would you have there? You could not even have found an elector to propose you.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Finn. I think you have thrown me over most shabby, but I won’t stand about that. You shall have Loughton this session if you’ll promise to make way for me after the next election. If you’ll agree to that, we’ll have a special leader to say how well Lord What’s-his-name has done with the borough; and we’ll be your horgan through the whole session.”

“I never heard such nonsense in my life. In the first place, Loughton is safe to be in the schedule of reduced boroughs. It will be thrown into the county, or joined with a group.”

“I’ll stand the chance of that. Will you agree?”

“Agree! No! It’s the most absurd proposal that was ever made. You might as well ask me whether I would agree that you should go to heaven. Go to heaven if you can, I should say. I have not the slightest objection. But it’s nothing to me.”

“Very well,” said Quintus Slide. Very well! Now we understand each other, and that’s all that I desire. I think that I can show you what it is to come among gentlemen of the press, and then to throw them over. Good morning.”

Phineas, quite satisfied at the result of the interview as regarded himself, and by no means sorry that there should have arisen a cause of separation between Mr Quintus Slide and his “dear Finn,” shook off a little dust from his foot as he left the office of the People’s Banner. and resolved that in future he would attempt to make no connection in that direction. As he returned home he told himself that a member of Parliament should be altogether independent of the press. On the second morning after his meeting with his late friend, he saw the result of his independence. There was a startling article, a tremendous article, showing the pressing necessity of immediate reform, and proving the necessity by an illustration of the borough-mongering rottenness of the present system. When such a patron as Lord Brentford — himself a Cabinet Minister with a sinecure — could by his mere word put into the House such a stick as Phineas Finn — a man who had struggled to stand on his legs before the Speaker, but had wanted both the courage and the capacity, nothing further could surely be wanted to prove that the Reform Bill of 1832 required to be supplemented by some more energetic measure.

Phineas laughed as he read the article, and declared to himself that the joke was a good joke. But, nevertheless, he suffered. Mr Quintus Slide, when he was really anxious to use his thong earnestly, could generally raise a wale.

Chapter 34

Was he honest?

On the 10th of August, Phineas Finn did return to Loughton. He went down by the mail train on the night of the 10th, having telegraphed to the inn for a bed, and was up eating his breakfast in that hospitable house at nine o’clock. The landlord and landlady with all their staff were at a loss to imagine what had brought down their member again so quickly to his borough; but the reader, who will remember that Lady Baldock with her daughter and Violet Effingham were to pass the 11th of the month at Saulsby, may perhaps be able to make a guess on the subject.

Phineas had been thinking of making this sudden visit to Loughton ever since he had been up in town, but he could suggest to himself no reason to be given to Lord Brentford for his sudden reappearance. The Earl had been very kind to him, but he had said nothing which could justify his young friend in running in and out of Saulsby Castle at pleasure, without invitation and without notice. Phineas was so well aware of this himself that often as he had half resolved during the last ten days to return to Saulsby, so often had he determined that he could not do so. He could think of no excuse. Then the heavens favoured him, and he received a letter from Lord Chiltern, in which there was a message for Lord Brentford. “If you see my father, tell him that I am ready at any moment to do what is necessary for raising the money for Laura.” Taking this as his excuse he returned to Loughton.

As chance arranged it, he met the Earl standing on the great steps before his own castle doors. “What, Finn; is this you? I thought you were in Ireland.”

“Not yet, my lord, as you see.” Then he opened his budget at once, and blushed at his own hypocrisy as he went on with his story. He had, he said, felt the message from Chiltern to be so all-important that he could not bring himself to go over to Ireland without delivering it. He urged upon the Earl that he might learn from this how anxious Lord Chiltern was to effect a reconciliation. When it occurred to him, he said, that there might be a hope of doing anything towards such an object, he could not go to Ireland leaving the good work behind him. In love and war all things are fair. So he declared to himself; but as he did so he felt that his story was so weak that it would hardly gain for him an admittance into the Castle. In this he was completely wrong. The Earl, swallowing the bait, put his arm through that of the intruder, and, walking with him through the paths of the shrubbery, at length confessed that he would be glad to be reconciled to his son if it were possible. “Let him come here, and she shall be here also,” said the Earl, speaking of Violet. To this Phineas could say nothing out loud, but he told himself that all should be fair between them. He would take no dishonest advantage of Lord Chiltern. He would give Lord Chiltern the whole message as it was given to him by Lord Brentford. But should it so turn out that he himself got an opportunity of saying to Violet all that he had come to say, and should it also turn out — an event which he acknowledged to himself to be most unlikely — that Violet did not reject him, then how could he write his letter to Lord Chiltern? So he resolved that the letter should be written before he saw Violet. But how could he write such a letter and instantly afterwards do that which would be false to the spirit of a letter so written? Could he bid Lord Chiltern come home to woo Violet Effingham, and instantly go forth to woo her for himself? He found that he could not do so — unless he told the whole truth to Lord Chiltern. In no other way could he carry out his project and satisfy his own idea of what was honest.

The Earl bade him send to the hotel for his things. “The Baldock people are all here, you know, but they go very early tomorrow.” Then Phineas declared that he also must return to London very early on the morrow — but in the meantime he would go to the inn and fetch his things. The Earl thanked him again and again for his generous kindness; and Phineas, blushing as he received the thanks, went back and wrote his letter to Lord Chiltern. It was an elaborate letter, written, as regards the first and larger portion of it, with words intended to bring the prodigal son back to the father’s home. And everything was said about Miss Effingham that could or should have been said. Then, on the last page, he told his own story. “Now,” he said, I must speak of myself:— and he went on to explain to his friend, in the plainest language that he could use, his own position. “I have loved her,” he said, “for six months, and I am here with the express intention of asking her to take me. The chances are ten to one that she refuses me. I do not deprecate your anger — if you choose to be angry. But I am endeavouring to treat you well, and I ask you to do the same by me. I must convey to you your father’s message, and after doing so I cannot address myself to Miss Effingham without telling you. I should feel myself to be false were I to do so. In the event — the probable, nay, almost certain event of my being refused — I shall trust you to keep my secret. Do not quarrel with me if you can help it — but if you must I will be ready.” Then he posted the letter and went up to the Castle.

He had only the one day for his action, and he knew that Violet was watched by Lady Baldock as by a dragon. He was told that the Earl was out with the young ladies, and was shown to his room. On going to the drawing-room he found Lady Baldock, with whom he had been, to a certain degree, a favourite, and was soon deeply engaged in a conversation as to the practicability of shutting up all the breweries and distilleries by Act of Parliament. But lunch relieved him, and brought the young ladies in at two. Miss Effingham seemed to be really glad to see him, and even Miss Boreham, Lady Baldock’s daughter, was very gracious to him. For the Earl had been speaking well of his young member, and Phineas had in a way grown into the good graces of sober and discreet people. After lunch they were to ride — the Earl, that is, and Violet. Lady Baldock and her daughter were to have the carriage. “I can mount you, Finn, if you would like it,” said the Earl. “Of course he’ll like it,” said Violet; do you suppose Mr Finn will object to ride with me in Saulsby Woods? It won’t be the first time, will it?” “Violet, said Lady Baldock, “you have the most singular way of talking.” I suppose I have,” said Violet; “but I don’t think I can change it now. Mr Finn knows me too well to mind it much.”

It was past five before they were on horseback, and up to that time Phineas had not found himself alone with Violet Effingham for a moment. They had sat together after lunch in the dining-room for nearly an hour, and had sauntered into the hall and knocked about the billiard balls, and then stood together at the open doors of a conservatory. But Lady Baldock or Miss Boreham had always been there. Nothing could be more pleasant than Miss Effingham’s words, or more familiar than her manner to Phineas. She had expressed strong delight at his success in getting a seat in Parliament, and had talked to him about the Kennedys as though they had created some special bond of union between her and Phineas which ought to make them intimate. But, for all that, she could not be got to separate herself from Lady Baldock — and when she was told that if she meant to ride she must go and dress herself, she went at once.

But he thought that he might have a chance on horseback; and after they had been out about half an hour, chance did favour him. For awhile he rode behind with the carriage, calculating that by his so doing the Earl would be put off his guard, and would be disposed after awhile to change places with him. And so it fell out. At a certain fall of ground in the park, where the road turned round and crossed a bridge over the little river, the carriage came up with the first two horses, and Lady Baldock spoke a word to the Earl. Then Violet pulled up, allowing the vehicle to pass the bridge first, and in this way she and Phineas were brought together — and in this way they rode on. But he was aware that he must greatly increase the distance between them and the others of their party before he could dare to plead his suit, and even were that done he felt that he would not know how to plead it on horseback.

They had gone on some half mile in this way when they reached a spot on which a green ride led away from the main road through the trees to the left. “You remember this place, do you not?” said Violet. Phineas declared that he remembered it well. “I must go round by the woodman’s cottage. You won’t mind coming?” Phineas said that he would not mind, and trotted on to tell them in the carriage.

“Where is she going?” asked Lady Baldock; and then, when Phineas explained, she begged the Earl to go back to Violet. The Earl, feeling the absurdity of this, declared that Violet knew her way very well herself, and thus Phineas got his opportunity.

They rode on almost without speaking for nearly a mile, cantering through the trees, and then they took another turn to the right, and came upon the cottage. They rode to the door, and spoke a word or two to the woman there, and then passed on. “I always come here when I am at Saulsby,” said Violet, “that I may teach myself to think kindly of Lord Chiltern,”

“I understand it all,” said Phineas.

“He used to be so nice — and is so still, I believe, only that he has taught himself to be so rough. Will he ever change, do you think?”

Phineas knew that in this emergency it was his especial duty to be honest. “I think he would be changed altogether if we could bring him here — so that he should live among his friends.”

“Do you think he would? We must put our heads together, and do it. Don’t you think that it is to be done?”

Phineas replied that he thought it was to be done. “I’ll tell you the truth at once, Miss Effingham,” he said. “You can do it by a single word.”

“Yes — yes;” she said; but I do not mean that — without that. It is absurd, you know, that a father should make such a condition as that.” Phineas said that he thought it was absurd; and then they rode on again, cantering through the wood. He had been bold to speak to her about Lord Chiltern as he had done, and she had answered just as he would have wished to be answered. But how could he press his suit for himself while she was cantering by his side?

Presently they came to rough ground over which they were forced to walk, and he was close by her side. “Mr Finn,” she said, “I wonder whether I may ask a question?”

“Any question,” he replied.

“Is there any quarrel between you and Lady Laura?”

“None.”

“Or between you and him?”

“No — none. We are greater allies than ever.”

“Then why are you not going to be at Loughlinter? She has written to me expressly saying you would not be there.”

He paused a moment before he replied. “It did not suit,” he said at last.

“It is a secret then?”

“Yes — it is a secret. You are not angry with me?”

“Angry; no.”

“It is not a secret of my own, or I should not keep it from you.”

“Perhaps I can guess it,” she said. But I will not try. I will not even think of it.”

“The cause, whatever it be, has been full of sorrow to me. I would have given my left hand to have been at Loughlinter this autumn.”

“Are you so fond of it?”

“I should have been staying there with you,” he said. He paused, and for a moment there was no word spoken by either of them; but he could perceive that the hand in which she held her whip was playing with her horse’s mane with a nervous movement. “When I found how it must be, and that I must miss you, I rushed down here that I might see you for a moment. And now I am here I do not dare to speak to you of myself.” They were now beyond the rocks, and Violet, without speaking a word, again put her horse into a trot. He was by her side in a moment, but he could not see her face. “Have you not a word to say to me?” he asked.

“No — no — no;” she replied, not a word when you speak to me like that. There is the carriage. Come — we will join them.” Then she cantered on, and he followed her till they reached the Earl and Lady Baldock and Miss Boreham. “I have done my devotions now,” said Miss Effingham, “and am ready to return to ordinary life.”

Phineas could not find another moment in which to speak to her. Though he spent the evening with her, and stood over her as she sang at the Earl’s request, and pressed her hand as she went to bed, and was up to see her start in the morning, he could not draw from her either a word or a look.

Chapter 35

Mr Monk upon reform

Phineas Finn went to Ireland immediately after his return from Saulsby, having said nothing further to Violet Effingham, and having heard nothing further from her than what is recorded in the last chapter. He felt very keenly that his position was unsatisfactory, and brooded over it all the autumn and early winter; but he could form no plan for improving it. A dozen times he thought of writing to Miss Effingham, and asking for an explicit answer. He could not, however, bring himself to write the letter, thinking that written expressions of love are always weak and vapid — and deterred also by a conviction that Violet, if driven to reply in writing, would undoubtedly reply by a refusal. Fifty times he rode again in his imagination his ride in Saulsby Wood, and he told himself as often that the siren’s answer to him — her no, no, no — had been, of all possible answers, the most indefinite and provoking. The tone of her voice as she galloped away from him, the bearing of her countenance when he rejoined her, her manner to him when he saw her start from the Castle in the morning, all forbade him to believe that his words to her had been taken as an offence. She had replied to him with a direct negative, simply with the word “no;” but she had so said it that there had hardly been any sting in the no; and he had known at the moment that whatever might be the result of his suit, he need not regard Violet Effingham as his enemy.

But the doubt made his sojourn in Ireland very wearisome to him. And there were other matters which tended also to his discomfort, though he was not left even at this period of his life without a continuation of success which seemed to be very wonderful. And, first, I will say a word of his discomfort. He heard not a line from Lord Chiltern in answer to the letter which he had written to his lordship. From Lady Laura he did hear frequently. Lady Laura wrote to him exactly as though she had never warned him away from Loughlinter, and as though there had been no occasion for such warning. She sent him letters filled chiefly with politics, saying something also of the guests at Loughlinter, something of the game, and just a word or two here and there of her husband. The letters were very good letters, and he preserved them carefully. It was manifest to him that they were intended to be good letters, and, as such, to be preserved. In one of these, which he received about the end of November, she told him that her brother was again in his old haunt, at the Willingford Bull, and that he had sent to Portman Square for all property of his own that had been left there. But there was no word in that letter of Violet Effingham; and though Lady Laura did speak more than once of Violet, she always did so as though Violet were simply a joint acquaintance of herself and her correspondent. There was no allusion to the existence of any special regard on his part for Miss Effingham. He had thought that Violet might probably tell her friend what had occurred at Saulsby — but if she did so, Lady Laura was happy in her powers of reticence. Our hero was disturbed also when he reached home by finding that Mrs Flood Jones and Miss Flood Jones had retired from Killaloe for the winter. I do not know whether he might not have been more disturbed by the presence of the young lady, for he would have found himself constrained to exhibit towards her some tenderness of manner; and any such tenderness of manner would, in his existing circumstances, have been dangerous. But he was made to understand that Mary Flood Jones had been taken away from Killaloe because it was thought that he had ill-treated the lady, and the accusation made him unhappy. In the middle of the heat of the last session he had received a letter from his sister, in which some pushing question had been asked as to his then existing feeling about poor Mary. This he had answered petulantly. Nothing more had been written to him about Miss Jones, and nothing was said to him when he reached home. He could not, however, but ask after Mary, and when he did ask, the accusation was made again in that quietly severe manner with which, perhaps, most of us have been made acquainted at some period of our lives. “I think, Phineas,” said his sister, “we had better say nothing about dear Mary. She is not here at present, and probably you may not see her while you remain with us.” “What’s all that about?” Phineas had demanded — understanding the whole matter thoroughly. Then his sister had demurely refused to say a word further on the subject, and not a word further was said about Miss Mary Flood Jones. They were at Floodborough, living, he did not doubt, in a very desolate way — and quite willing, he did not doubt also, to abandon their desolation if he would go over there in the manner that would become him after what had passed on one or two occasions between him and the young lady. But how was he to do this with such work on his hands as he had undertaken? Now that he was in Ireland, he thought that he did love dear Mary very dearly. He felt that he had two identities — that he was, as it were, two separate persons — and that he could, without any real faithlessness, be very much in love with Violet Effingham in his position of man of fashion and member of Parliament in England, and also warmly attached to dear little Mary Flood Jones as an Irishman of Killaloe. He was aware, however, that there was a prejudice against such fullness of heart, and, therefore, resolved sternly that it was his duty to be constant to Miss Effingham. How was it possible that he should marry dear Mary — he, with such extensive jobs of work on his hands! It was not possible. He must abandon all thought of making dear Mary his own. No doubt they had been right to remove her. But, still, as he took his solitary walks along the Shannon, and up on the hills that overhung the lake above the town, he felt somewhat ashamed of himself, and dreamed of giving up Parliament, of leaving Violet to some noble suitor — to Lord Chiltern, if she would take him — and of going to Floodborough with an honest proposal that he should be allowed to press Mary to his heart. Miss Effingham would probably reject him at last; whereas Mary, dear Mary, would come to his heart without a scruple of doubt. Dear Mary! In these days of dreaming, he told himself that, after all, dear Mary was his real love. But, of course, such days were days of dreaming only. He had letters in his pocket from Lady Laura Kennedy which made it impossible for him to think in earnest of giving up Parliament.

And then there came a wonderful piece of luck in his way. There lived, or had lived, in the town of Galway a very eccentric old lady, one Miss Marian Persse, who was the aunt of Mrs Finn, the mother of our hero. With this lady Dr Finn had quarrelled persistently ever since his marriage, because the lady had expressed her wish to interfere in the management of his family — offering to purchase such right by favourable arrangements in reference to her will. This the doctor had resented, and there had been quarrels. Miss Persse was not a very rich old lady, but she thought a good deal of her own money. And now she died, leaving £3,000 to her nephew Phineas Finn. Another sum of about equal amount she bequeathed to a Roman Catholic seminary; and thus was her worldly wealth divided. “She couldn’t have done better with it,” said the old doctor; “and as far as we are concerned, the windfall is the more pleasant as being wholly unexpected. In these days the doctor was undoubtedly gratified by his son’s success in life, and never said much about the law. Phineas in truth did do some work during the autumn, reading blue books, reading law books, reading perhaps a novel or two at the same time — but shutting himself up very carefully as he studied, so that his sisters were made to understand that for a certain four hours in the day not a sound was to be allowed to disturb him.

On the receipt of his legacy he at once offered to repay his father all money that had been advanced him over and above his original allowance; but this the doctor refused to take. “It comes to the same thing, Phineas,” he said. “What you have of your share now you can’t have hereafter. As regards my present income, it has only made me work a little longer than I had intended; and I believe that the later in life a man works, the more likely he is to live.” Phineas, therefore, when he returned to London, had his £3,000 in his pocket. He owed some £500; and the remainder he would, of course, invest.

There had been some talk of an autumnal session, but Mr Mildmay’s decision had at last been against it. Who cannot understand that such would be the decision of any Minister to whom was left the slightest fraction of free will in the matter? Why should any Minister court the danger of unnecessary attack, submit himself to unnecessary work, and incur the odium of summoning all his friends from their rest? In the midst of the doubts as to the new and old Ministry, when the political needle was vacillating so tremulously on its pivot, pointing now to one set of men as the coming Government and then to another, vague suggestions as to an autumn session might be useful. And they were thrown out in all good faith. Mr Mildmay, when he spoke on the subject to the Duke, was earnest in thinking that the question of Reform should not be postponed even for six months. “Don’t pledge yourself,” said the Duke — and Mr Mildmay did not pledge himself. Afterwards, when Mr Mildmay found that he was once more assuredly Prime Minister, he changed his mind, and felt himself to be under a fresh obligation to the Duke. Lord de Terrier had altogether failed, and the country might very well wait till February. The country did wait till February, somewhat to the disappointment of Phineas Finn, who had become tired of blue books at Killaloe. The difference between his English life and his life at home was so great, that it was hardly possible that he should not become weary of the latter. He did become weary of it, but strove gallantly to hide his weariness from his father and mother.

At this time the world was talking much about Reform, though Mr Mildmay had become placidly patient. The feeling was growing, and Mr Turnbull, with his friends, was doing all he could to make it grow fast. There was a certain amount of excitement on the subject; but the excitement had grown downwards, from the leaders to the people — from the self-instituted leaders of popular politics down, by means of the press, to the ranks of working men, instead of growing upwards, from the dissatisfaction of the masses, till it expressed itself by this mouthpiece and that, chosen by the people themselves. There was no strong throb through the country, making men feel that safety was to be had by Reform, and could not be had without Reform. But there was an understanding that the press and the orators were too strong to be ignored, and that some new measure of Reform must be conceded to them. The sooner the concession was made, the less it might be necessary to concede. And all men of all parties were agreed on this point. That Reform was in itself odious to many of those who spoke of it freely, who offered themselves willingly to be its promoters, was acknowledged. It was not only odious to Lord de Terrier and to most of those who worked with him, but was equally so to many of Mr Mildmay’s most constant supporters. The Duke had no wish for Reform. Indeed it is hard to suppose that such a Duke can wish for any change in a state of things that must seem to him to be so salutary. Workmen were getting full wages. Farmers were paying their rent. Capitalists by the dozen were creating capitalists by the hundreds. Nothing was wrong in the country, but the over-dominant spirit of speculative commerce — and there was nothing in Reform to check that. Why should the Duke want Reform? As for such men as Lord Brentford, Sir Harry Coldfoot, Lord Plinlimmon, and Mr Legge Wilson, it was known to all men that they advocated Reform as we all of us advocate doctors. Some amount of doctoring is necessary for us. We may hardly hope to avoid it. But let us have as little of the doctor as possible. Mr Turnbull, and the cheap press, and the rising spirit of the loudest among the people, made it manifest that something must be conceded. Let us be generous in our concession. That was now the doctrine of many — perhaps of most of the leading politicians of the day. Let us be generous. Let us at any rate seem to be generous. Let us give with an open hand — but still with a hand which, though open, shall not bestow too much. The coach must be allowed to run down the hill. Indeed, unless the coach goes on running no journey will be made. But let us have the drag on both the hind wheels. And we must remember that coaches running down hill without drags are apt to come to serious misfortune.

But there were men, even in the Cabinet, who had other ideas of public service than that of dragging the wheels of the coach. Mr Gresham was in earnest. Plantagenet Palliser was in earnest. That exceedingly intelligent young nobleman Lord Cantrip was in earnest. Mr Mildmay threw, perhaps, as much of earnestness into the matter as was compatible with his age and his full appreciation of the manner in which the present cry for Reform had been aroused. He was thoroughly honest, thoroughly patriotic, and thoroughly ambitious that he should be written of hereafter as one who to the end of a long life had worked sedulously for the welfare of the people — but he disbelieved in Mr Turnbull, and in the bottom of his heart indulged an aristocratic contempt for the penny press. And there was no man in England more in earnest, more truly desirous of Reform, than Mr Monk. It was his great political idea that political advantages should be extended to the people, whether the people clamoured for them or did not clamour for them — even whether they desired them or did not desire them. “You do not ask a child whether he would like to learn his lesson,” he would say. “At any rate, you do not wait till he cries for his book.” When, therefore, men said to him that there was no earnestness in the cry for Reform, that the cry was a false cry, got up for factious purposes by interested persons, he would reply that the thing to be done should not be done in obedience to any cry, but because it was demanded by justice, and was a debt due to the people.

Our hero in the autumn had written to Mr Monk on the politics of the moment, and the following had been Mr Monk’s reply:

“ Longroyston, October 12, 186 —

“ MY DEAR FINN,

“I am staying here with the Duke and Duchess of St Bungay. The house is very full, and Mr Mildmay was here last week; but as I don’t shoot, and can’t play billiards, and have no taste for charades, I am becoming tired of the gaieties, and shall leave them tomorrow. Of course you know that we are not to have the autumn session. I think that Mr Mildmay is right. Could we have been sure of passing our measure, it would have been very well; but we could not have been sure, and failure with our bill in a session convened for the express purpose of passing it would have injured the cause greatly. We could hardly have gone on with it again in the spring. Indeed, we must have resigned. And though I may truly say that I would as lief have a good measure from Lord de Terrier as from Mr Mildmay, and that I am indifferent to my own present personal position, still I think that we should endeavour to keep our seats as long as we honestly believe ourselves to be more capable of passing a good measure than are our opponents.

“I am astonished by the difference of opinion which exists about Reform — not only as to the difference in the extent and exact tendency of the measure that is needed — but that there should be such a divergence of ideas as to the grand thing to be done and the grand reason for doing it. We are all agreed that we want Reform in order that the House of Commons may be returned by a larger proportion of the people than is at present employed upon that work, and that each member when returned should represent a somewhat more equal section of the whole constituencies of the country than our members generally do at present. All men confess that a £50 county franchise must be too high, and that a borough with less than two hundred registered voters must be wrong. But it seems to me that but few among us perceive, or at any rate acknowledge, the real reasons for changing these things and reforming what is wrong without delay. One great authority told us the other day that the sole object of legislation on this subject should be to get together the best possible 658 members of Parliament. That to me would be a most repulsive idea if it were not that by its very vagueness it becomes inoperative. Who shall say what is best; or what characteristic constitutes excellence in a member of Parliament? If the gentleman means excellence in general wisdom, or in statecraft, or in skill in talking, or in private character, or even excellence in patriotism, then I say that he is utterly wrong, and has never touched with his intellect the true theory of representation. One only excellence may be acknowledged, and that is the excellence of likeness. As a portrait should be like the person portrayed, so should a representative House be like the people whom it represents. Nor in arranging a franchise does it seem to me that we have a right to regard any other view. If a country be unfit for representative government — and it may be that there are still peoples unable to use properly that greatest of all blessings — the question as to what state policy may be best for them is a different question. But if we do have representation, let the representative assembly be like the people, whatever else may be its virtues — and whatever else its vices.

“Another great authority has told us that our House of Commons should be the mirror of the people. I say, not its mirror, but its miniature. And let the artist be careful to put in every line of the expression of that ever-moving face. To do this is a great work, and the artist must know his trade well. In America the work has been done with so coarse a hand that nothing is shown in the picture but the broad, plain, unspeaking outline of the face. As you look from the represented to the representation you cannot but acknowledge the likeness — but there is in that portrait more of the body than of the mind. The true portrait should represent more than the body. With us, hitherto, there have been snatches of the countenance of the nation which have been inimitable — a turn of the eye here and a curl of the lip there, which have seemed to denote a power almost divine. There have been marvels on the canvas so beautiful that one approaches the work of remodelling it with awe. But not only is the picture imperfect — a thing of snatches — but with years it becomes less and still less like its original.

“The necessity for remodelling it is imperative, and we shall be cowards if we decline the work. But let us be specially careful to retain as much as possible of those lines which we all acknowledge to be so faithfully representative of our nation. To give to a bare numerical majority of the people that power which the numerical majority has in the United States, would not be to achieve representation. The nation as it now exists would not be known by such a portrait — but neither can it now be known by that which exists. It seems to me that they who are adverse to change, looking back with an unmeasured respect on what our old Parliaments have done for us, ignore the majestic growth of the English people, and forget the present in their worship of the past. They think that we must be what we were — at any rate, what we were thirty years since. They have not, perhaps, gone into the houses of artisans, or, if there, they have not looked into the breasts of the men. With population vice has increased, and these politicians, with ears but no eyes, hear of drunkenness and sin and ignorance. And then they declare to themselves that this wicked, half-barbarous, idle people should be controlled and not represented. A wicked, half-barbarous, idle-people may be controlled — but not a people thoughtful, educated, and industrious. We must look to it that we do not endeavour to carry our control beyond the wickedness and the barbarity, and that we be ready to submit to control from thoughtfulness and industry.

“I hope we shall find you helping at the good work early in the spring.

“Yours, always faithfully,

“ JOSHUA MONK

Phineas was up in London before the end of January, but did not find there many of those whom he wished to see. Mr Low was there, and to him he showed Mr Monk’s letter, thinking that it must be convincing even to Mr Low. This he did in Mrs Low’s drawing-room, knowing that Mrs Low would also condescend to discuss politics on an occasion. He had dined with them, and they had been glad to see him, and Mrs Low had been less severe than hitherto against the great sin of her husband’s late pupil. She had condescended to congratulate him on becoming member for an English borough instead of an Irish one, and had asked him questions about Saulsby Castle. But, nevertheless, Mr Monk’s letter was not received with that respectful admiration which Phineas thought that it deserved. Phineas, foolishly, had read it out loud, so that the attack came upon him simultaneously from the husband and from the wife.

“It is just the usual claptrap,” said Mr Low, only put into language somewhat more grandiloquent than usual.”

“Claptrap!” said Phineas.

“It’s what I call downright Radical nonsense,” said Mrs Low, nodding her head energetically. “Portrait indeed! Why should we want to have a portrait of ignorance and ugliness? What we all want is to have things quiet and orderly.”

“Then you’d better have a paternal government at once,” said Phineas.

“Just so,” said Mr Low — only that what you call a paternal government is not always quiet and orderly. National order I take to be submission to the law. I should not think it quiet and orderly if I were sent to Cayenne without being brought before a jury.”

“But such a man as you would not be sent to Cayenne,” said Phineas.

“My next-door neighbour might be — which would be almost as bad. Let him be sent to Cayenne if he deserves it, but let a jury say that he has deserved it. My idea of government is this — that we want to be governed by law and not by caprice, and that we must have a legislature to make our laws. If I thought that Parliament as at present established made the laws badly, I would desire a change; but I doubt whether we shall have them better from any change in Parliament which Reform will give us.”

“Of course not,” said Mrs Low. But we shall have a lot of beggars put on horseback, and we all know where they ride to.”

Then Phineas became aware that it is not easy to convince any man or any woman on a point of politics — not even though he who argues may have an eloquent letter from a philosophical Cabinet Minister in his pocket to assist him.

Chapter 36

Phineas Finn makes progress

February was far advanced and the new Reform Bill had already been brought forward, before Lady Laura Kennedy came up to town. Phineas had of course seen Mr Kennedy and had heard from him tidings of his wife. She was at Saulsby with Lady Baldock and Miss Boreham and Violet Effingham, but was to be in London soon. Mr Kennedy, as it appeared, did not quite know when he was to expect his wife; and Phineas thought that he could perceive from the tone of the husband’s voice that something was amiss. He could not however ask any questions excepting such as referred to the expected arrival. Was Miss Effingham to come to London with Lady Laura? Mr Kennedy believed that Miss Effingham would be up before Easter, but he did not know whether she would come with his wife. “Women”, he said, are so fond of mystery that one can never quite know what they intend to do.” He corrected himself at once however, perceiving that he had seemed to say something against his wife, and explained that his general accusation against the sex was not intended to apply to Lady Laura. This, however, he did so awkwardly as to strengthen the feeling with Phineas that something assuredly was wrong. “Miss Effingham”, said Mr Kennedy, “never seems to know her own mind.” “I suppose she is like other beautiful girls who are petted on all sides,” said Phineas. “As for her beauty, I don’t think much of it,” said Mr Kennedy; “and as for petting, I do not understand it in reference to grown persons. Children may be petted, and dogs — though that too is bad; but what you call petting for grown persons is I think frivolous and almost indecent.” Phineas could not help thinking of Lord Chiltern’s opinion that it would have been wise to have left Mr Kennedy in the hands of the garrotters.

The debate on the second reading of the bill was to be commenced on the 1st of March, and two days before that Lady Laura arrived in Grosvenor Place. Phineas got a note from her in three words to say that she was at home and would see him if he called on Sunday afternoon. The Sunday to which she alluded was the last day of February. Phineas was now more certain than ever that something was wrong. Had there been nothing wrong between Lady Laura and her husband, she would not have rebelled against him by asking visitors to the house on a Sunday. He had nothing to do with that, however, and of course he did as he was desired. He called on the Sunday, and found Mrs Bonteen sitting with Lady Laura. “I am just in time for the debate,” said Lady Laura, when the first greeting was over.

“You don’t mean to say that you intend to sit it out,” said Mrs Bonteen.

“Every word of it — unless I lose my seat. What else is there to be done at present?”

“But the place they give us is so unpleasant,“said Mrs Bonteen.

“There are worse places even than the Ladies’ Gallery,” said Lady Laura. “And perhaps it is as well to make oneself used to inconveniences of all kinds. You will speak, Mr Finn?”

“I intend to do so.”

“Of course you will. The great speeches will be Mr Gresham’s, Mr Daubeny’s, and Mr Monk’s.”

“Mr Palliser intends to be very strong,” said Mrs Bonteen.

“A man cannot be strong or not as he likes it,” said Lady Laura. “Mr Palliser I believe to be a most useful man, but he never can become an orator. He is of the same class as Mr Kennedy — only of course higher in the class.”

“We all look for a great speech from Mr Kennedy,” said Mrs Bonteen.

“I have not the slightest idea whether he will open his lips,” said Lady Laura. Immediately after that Mrs Bonteen took her leave. “I hate that woman like poison,” continued Lady Laura. “She is always playing a game, and it is such a small game that she plays! And she contributes so little to society. She is not witty nor well-informed — not even sufficiently ignorant or ridiculous to be a laughing-stock. One gets nothing from her, and yet she has made her footing good in the world.”

“I thought she was a friend of yours.”

“You did not think so! You could not have thought so! How can you bring such an accusation against me, knowing me as you do? But never mind Mrs Bonteen now. On what day shall you speak?”

“On Tuesday if I can.”

“I suppose you can arrange it?”

“I shall endeavour to do so, as far as any arrangement can go.”

“We shall carry the second reading,” said Lady Laura.

“Yes,” said Phineas; I think we shall; but by the votes of men who are determined so to pull the bill to pieces in committee, that its own parents will not know it. I doubt whether Mr Mildmay will have the temper to stand it.”

“They tell me that Mr Mildmay will abandon the custody of the bill to Mr Gresham after his first speech.”

“I don’t know that Mr Gresham’s temper is more enduring than Mr Mildmay’s,” said Phineas.

“Well — we shall see. My own impression is that nothing would save the country so effectually at the present moment as the removal of Mr Turnbull to a higher and a better sphere.”

“Let us say the House of Lords,” said Phineas.

“God forbid!” said Lady Laura.

Phineas sat there for half an hour and then got up to go, having spoken no word on any other subject than that of politics. He longed to ask after Violet. He longed to make some inquiry respecting Lord Chiltern. And, to tell the truth, he felt painfully curious to hear Lady Laura say something about her own self. He could not but remember what had been said between them up over the waterfall, and how he had been warned not to return to Loughlinter. And then again, did Lady Laura know anything of what had passed between him and Violet? “Where is your brother?” he said, as he rose from his chair.

“Oswald is in London. He was here not an hour before you came in.”

“Where is he staying?”

“At Moroni’s. He goes down on Tuesday, I think. He is to see his father tomorrow morning.”

“By agreement?”

“Yes — by agreement. There is a new trouble — about money that they think to be due to me. But I cannot tell you all now. There have been some words between Mr Kennedy and papa. But I won’t talk about it. You would find Oswald at Moroni’s at any hour before eleven tomorrow.”

“Did he say anything about me?” asked Phineas.

“We mentioned your name certainly.”

“I do not ask from vanity, but I want to know whether he is angry with me.”

“Angry with you! Not in the least. I’ll tell you just what he said. He said he should not wish to live even with you, but that he would sooner try it with you than with any man he ever knew.”

“He had got a letter from me?”

“He did not say so — but he did not say he had not.”

“I will see him tomorrow if I can.” And then Phineas prepared to go.

“One word, Mr Finn,” said Lady Laura, hardly looking him in the face and yet making an effort to do so. “I wish you to forget what I said to you at Loughlinter.”

“It shall be as though it were forgotten,” said Phineas.

“Let it be absolutely forgotten. In such a case a man is bound to do all that a woman asks him, and no man has a truer spirit of chivalry than yourself. That is all. Look in when you can. I will not ask you to dine here as yet, because we are so frightfully dull. Do your best on Tuesday, and then let us see you on Wednesday. Goodbye.”

Phineas as he walked across the park towards his club made up his mind that he would forget the scene by the waterfall. He had never quite known what it had meant, and he would wipe it away from his mind altogether. He acknowledged to himself that chivalry did demand of him that he should never allow himself to think of Lady Laura’s rash words to him. That she was not happy with her husband was very clear to him — but that was altogether another affair. She might be unhappy with her husband without indulging any guilty love. He had never thought it possible that she could be happy living with such a husband as Mr Kennedy. All that, however, was now past remedy, and she must simply endure the mode of life which she had prepared for herself. There were other men and women in London tied together for better and worse, in reference to whose union their friends knew that there would be no better — that it must be all worse. Lady Laura must bear it, as it was borne by many another married woman.

On the Monday morning Phineas called at Moroni’s Hotel at ten o’clock, but in spite of Lady Laura’s assurance to the contrary, he found that Lord Chiltern was out. He had felt some palpitation at the heart as he made his inquiry, knowing well the fiery nature of the man he expected to see. It might be that there would be some actual personal conflict between him and this half-mad lord before he got back again into the street. What Lady Laura had said about her brother did not in the estimation of Phineas make this at all the less probable. The half-mad lord was so singular in his ways that it might well be that he should speak handsomely of a rival behind his back and yet take him by the throat as soon as they were together, face to face. And yet, as Phineas thought, it was necessary that he should see the half-mad lord. He had written a letter to which he had received no reply, and he considered it to be incumbent on him to ask whether it had been received and whether any answer to it was intended to be given. He went therefore to Lord Chiltern at once — as I have said, with some feeling at his heart that there might be violence, at any rate of words, before he should find himself again in the street. But Lord Chiltern was not there. All that the porter knew was that Lord Chiltern intended to leave the house on the following morning. Then Phineas wrote a note and left it with the porter.

“ DEAR CHILTERN,

“I particularly want to see you with reference to a letter I wrote to you last summer. I must be in the House today from four till the debate is over. I will be at the Reform Club from two till half past three, and will come if you will send for me, or I will meet you anywhere at any hour tomorrow morning.

“Yours, always,

P.F.”

No message came to him at the Reform Club, and he was in his seat in the House by four o’clock. During the debate a note was brought to him, which ran as follows:

“I have got your letter this moment. Of course we must meet. I hunt on Tuesday, and go down by the early train; but I will come to town on Wednesday. We shall require to be private, and I will therefore be at your rooms at one o’clock on that day. — C.”

Phineas at once perceived that the note was a hostile note, written in an angry spirit — written to one whom the writer did not at the moment acknowledge to be his friend. This was certainly the case, whatever Lord Chiltern may have said to his sister as to his friendship for Phineas. Phineas crushed the note into his pocket, and of course determined that he would be in his rooms at the hour named.

The debate was opened by a speech from Mr Mildmay, in which that gentleman at great length and with much perspicuity explained his notion of that measure of Parliamentary Reform which he thought to be necessary. He was listened to with the greatest attention to the close — and perhaps, at the end of his speech, with more attention than usual, as there had gone abroad a rumour that the Prime Minister intended to declare that this would be the last effort of his life in that course. But, if he ever intended to utter such a pledge, his heart misgave him when the time came for uttering it. He merely said that as the management of the bill in committee would be an affair of much labour, and probably spread over many nights, he would be assisted in his work by his colleagues, and especially by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was then understood that Mr Gresham would take the lead should the bill go into committee — but it was understood also that no resignation of leadership had been made by Mr Mildmay.

The measure now proposed to the House was very much the same as that which had been brought forward in the last session. The existing theory of British representation was not to be changed, but the actual practice was to be brought nearer to the ideal theory. The ideas of manhood suffrage, and of electoral districts, were to be as far as ever removed from the bulwarks of the British Constitution. There were to be counties with agricultural constituencies, purposely arranged to be purely agricultural, whenever the nature of the counties would admit of its being so. No artificer at Reform, let him be Conservative or Liberal, can make Middlesex or Lancashire agricultural; but Wiltshire and Suffolk were to be preserved inviolable to the plough — and the apples of Devonshire were still to have their sway. Every town in the three kingdoms with a certain population was to have two members. But here there was much room for cavil — as all men knew would be the case. Who shall say what is a town, or where shall be its limits? Bits of counties might be borrowed, so as to lessen the Conservatism of the county without endangering the Liberalism of the borough. And then there were the boroughs with one member — and then the groups of little boroughs. In the discussion of any such arrangement how easy is the picking of holes; how impossible the fabrication of a garment that shall be impervious to such picking! Then again there was that great question of the ballot. On that there was to be no mistake. Mr Mildmay again pledged himself to disappear from the Treasury bench should any motion, clause, or resolution be carried by that House in favour of the ballot. He spoke for three hours, and then left the carcass of his bill to be fought for by the opposing armies.

No reader of these pages will desire that the speeches in the debate should be even indicated. It soon became known that the Conservatives would not divide the House against the second reading of the bill. They declared, however, very plainly their intention of so altering the clauses of the bill in committee — or at least of attempting so to do — as to make the bill their bill, rather than the bill of their opponents. To this Mr Palliser replied that as long as nothing vital was touched, the Government would only be too happy to oblige their friends opposite. If anything vital were touched, the Government could only fall back upon their friends on that side. And in this way men were very civil to each other. But Mr Turnbull, who opened the debate on the Tuesday, thundered out an assurance to gods and men that he would divide the House on the second reading of the bill itself. He did not doubt but that there were many good men and true to go with him into the lobby, but into the lobby he would go if he had no more than a single friend to support him. And he warned the Sovereign, and he warned the House, and he warned the people of England, that the measure of Reform now proposed by a so-called liberal Minister was a measure prepared in concert with the ancient enemies of the people. He was very loud, very angry, and quite successful in hallooing down sundry attempts which were made to interrupt him. “I find”, he said, that there are many members here who do not know me yet — young members, probably, who are green from the waste lands and roadsides of private life. They will know me soon, and then, may be, there will be less of this foolish noise, less of this elongation of unnecessary necks. Our Rome must be aroused to a sense of its danger by other voices than these.” He was called to order, but it was ruled that he had not been out of order — and he was very triumphant. Mr Monk answered him, and it was declared afterwards that Mr Monk’s speech was one of the finest pieces of oratory that had ever been uttered in that House. He made one remark personal to Mr Turnbull. “I quite agreed with the right honourable gentleman in the chair,” he said, “when he declared that the honourable member was not out of order just now. We all of us agree with him always on such points. The rules of our House have been laid down with the utmost latitude, so that the course of our debates may not be frivolously or too easily interrupted. But a member may be so in order as to incur the displeasure of the House, and to merit the reproaches of his countrymen.” This little duel gave great life to the debate; but it was said that those two great Reformers, Mr Turnbull and Mr Monk, could never again meet as friends.

In the course of the debate on Tuesday, Phineas got upon his legs. The reader, I trust, will remember that hitherto he had failed altogether as a speaker. On one occasion he had lacked even the spirit to use and deliver an oration which he had prepared. On a second occasion he had broken down — woefully, and past all redemption, as said those who were not his friends — unfortunately, but not past redemption, as said those who were his true friends. After that once again he had arisen and said a few words which had called for no remark, and had been spoken as though he were in the habit of addressing the House daily. It may be doubted whether there were half a dozen men now present who recognised the fact that this man, who was so well known to so many of them, was now about to make another attempt at a first speech. Phineas himself diligently attempted to forget that such was the case. He had prepared for himself a few headings of what he intended to say, and on one or two points had arranged his words. His hope was that even though he should forget the words, he might still be able to cling to the thread of his discourse. When he found himself again upon his legs amidst those crowded seats, for a few moments there came upon him that old sensation of awe. Again things grew dim before his eyes, and again he hardly knew at which end of that long chamber the Speaker was sitting. But there arose within him a sudden courage, as soon as the sound of his own voice in that room had made itself intimate to his ear; and after the first few sentences, all fear, all awe, was gone from him. When he read his speech in the report afterwards, he found that he had strayed very wide of his intended course, but he had strayed without tumbling into ditches, or falling into sunken pits. He had spoken much from Mr Monk’s letter, but had had the grace to acknowledge whence had come his inspiration. He hardly knew, however, whether he had failed again or not, till Barrington Erle came up to him as they were leaving the House, with his old easy pressing manner. “So you have got into form at last,” he said. “I always thought that it would come. I never for a moment believed but that it would come sooner or later.” Phineas Finn answered not a word; but he went home and lay awake all night triumphant. The verdict of Barrington Erle sufficed to assure him that he had succeeded.

Chapter 37

A rough encounter

Phineas, when he woke, had two matters to occupy his mind — his success of the previous night, and his coming interview with Lord Chiltern. He stayed at home the whole morning, knowing that nothing could be done before the hour Lord Chiltern had named for his visit. He read every word of the debate, studiously postponing the perusal of his own speech till he should come to it in due order. And then he wrote to his father, commencing his letter as though his writing had no reference to the affairs of the previous night. But he soon found himself compelled to break into some mention of it. “I send you a Times”, he said, “in order that you may see that I have had my finger in the pie. I have hitherto abstained from putting myself forward in the House, partly through a base fear for which I despise myself, and partly through a feeling of prudence that a man of my age should not be in a hurry to gather laurels. This is literally true. There has been the fear, and there has been the prudence. My wonder is, that I have not incurred more contempt from others because I have been a coward. People have been so kind to me that I must suppose them to have judged me more leniently than I have judged myself.” Then, as he was putting up the paper, he looked again at his own speech, and of course read every word of it once more. As he did so it occurred to him that the reporters had been more than courteous to him. The man who had followed him had been, he thought, at any rate as long-winded as himself; but to this orator less than half a column had been granted. To him had been granted ten lines in big type, and after that a whole column and a half. Let Lord Chiltern come and do his worst!

When it wanted but twenty minutes to one, and he was beginning to think in what way he had better answer the half-mad lord, should the lord in his wrath be very mad, there came to him a note by the hand of some messenger. He knew at once that it was from Lady Laura, and opened it in hot haste. It was as follows:

DEAR MR FINN,

We are all talking about your speech. My father was in the gallery and heard it — and said that he had to thank me for sending you to Loughton. That made me very happy. Mr Kennedy declares that you were eloquent, but too short. That coming from him is praise indeed, I have seen Barrington, who takes pride to himself that you are his political child. Violet says that it is the only speech she ever read. I was there, and was delighted. I was sure that it was in you to do it.

Yours,

L.K.

“I suppose we shall see you after the House is up, but I write this as I shall barely have an opportunity of speaking to you then. I shall be in Portman Square, not at home, from six till seven.”

The moment in which Phineas refolded this note and put it into his breast coat-pocket was, I think, the happiest of his life. Then, before he had withdrawn his hand from his breast, he remembered that what was now about to take place between him and Lord Chiltern would probably be the means of separating him altogether from Lady Laura and her family. Nay, might it not render it necessary that he should abandon the seat in Parliament which had been conferred upon him by the personal kindness of Lord Brentford? Let that be as it might. One thing was clear to him. He would not abandon Violet Effingham till he should be desired to do so in the plainest language by Violet Effingham herself. Looking at his watch he saw that it was one o’clock, and at that moment Lord Chiltern was announced.

Phineas went forward immediately with his hand out to meet his visitor. “Chiltern,” he said, I am very glad to see you.” But Lord Chiltern did not take his hand. Passing on to the table, with his hat still on his head, and with a dark scowl upon his brow, the young lord stood for a few moments perfectly silent. Then he chucked a letter across the table to the spot at which Phineas was standing. Phineas, taking up the letter, perceived that it was that which he, in his great attempt to be honest, had written from the inn at Loughton. “It is my own letter to you,” he said.

“Yes; it is your letter to me. I received it oddly enough together with your own note at Moroni’s — on Monday morning. It has been round the world, I suppose, and reached me only then. You must withdraw it.”

“Withdraw it?”

“Yes, sir, withdraw it. As far as I can learn, without asking any question which would have committed myself for the young lady, you have not acted upon it. You have not yet done what you there threaten to do. In that you have been very wise, and there can be no difficulty in your withdrawing the letter.”

“I certainly shall not withdraw it, Lord Chiltern.”

“Do you remember — what — I once — told you — about myself and Miss Effingham?” This question he asked very slowly, pausing between the words, and looking full into the face of his rival, towards whom he had gradually come nearer. And his countenance, as he did so, was by no means pleasant. The redness of his complexion had become more ruddy than usual; he still wore his hat as though with studied insolence; his right hand was clenched; and there was that look of angry purpose in his eye which no man likes to see in the eye of an antagonist. Phineas was afraid of no violence, personal to himself; but he was afraid of — of what I may, perhaps, best call “a row”. To be tumbling over the chairs and tables with his late friend and present enemy in Mrs Bunce’s room would be most unpleasant to him. If there were to be blows he, too, must strike — and he was very averse to strike Lady Laura’s brother, Lord Brentford’s son, Violet Effingham’s friend. If need be, however, he would strike.

“I suppose I remember what you mean,” said Phineas. I think you declared that you would quarrel with any man who might presume to address Miss Effingham. Is it that to which you allude?”

“It is that,” said Lord Chiltern.

“I remember what you said very well. If nothing else was to deter me from asking Miss Effingham to be my wife, you will hardly think that that ought to have any weight. The threat had no weight.”

“It was not spoken as a threat, sir, and that you know as well as I do. It was said from a friend to a friend — as I thought then. But it is not the less true. I wonder what you can think of faith and truth and honesty of purpose when you took advantage of my absence — you, whom I had told a thousand times that I loved her better than my own soul! You stand before the world as a rising man, and I stand before the world as a man — damned. You have been chosen by my father to sit for our family borough, while I am an outcast from his house. You have Cabinet Ministers for your friends, while I have hardly a decent associate left to me in the world. But I can say of myself that I have never done anything unworthy of a gentleman, while this thing that you are doing is unworthy of the lowest man.”

“I have done nothing unworthy,” said Phineas. I wrote to you instantly when I had resolved — though it was painful to me to have to tell such a secret to anyone.”

“You wrote! Yes; when I was miles distant; weeks, months away. But I did not come here to ballyrag like an old woman. I got your letter only on Monday, and know nothing of what has occurred. Is Miss Effingham to be — your wife?” Lord Chiltern had now come quite close to Phineas, and Phineas felt that that clenched fist might be in his face in half a moment. Miss Effingham of course was not engaged to him, but it seemed to him that if he were now so to declare, such declaration would appear to have been drawn from him by fear. “I ask you,” said Lord Chiltern, “in what position you now stand towards Miss Effingham. If you are not a coward you will tell me.”

“Whether I tell you or not, you know that I am not a coward,” said Phineas.

“I shall have to try,” said Lord Chiltern. But if you please I will ask you for an answer to my question.”

Phineas paused for a moment, thinking what honesty of purpose and a high spirit would, when combined together, demand of him, and together with these requirements he felt that he was bound to join some feeling of duty towards Miss Effingham. Lord Chiltern was standing there, fiery red, with his hand still clenched, and his hat still on, waiting for his answer. “Let me have your question again”, said Phineas, “and I will answer it if I find that I can do so without loss of self-respect.”

“I ask you in what position you stand towards Miss Effingham. Mind, I do not doubt at all, but I choose to have a reply from yourself.”

“You will remember, of course, that I can only answer to the best of my belief.”

“Answer to the best of your belief.”

“I think she regards me as an intimate friend.”

“Had you said as an indifferent acquaintance, you would, I think, have been nearer the mark. But we will let that be. I presume I may understand that you have given up any idea of changing that position?”

“You may understand nothing of the kind, Lord Chiltern.”

“Why — what hope have you?”

“That is another thing. I shall not speak of that — at any rate not to you.”

“Then, sir — “ and now Lord Chiltern advanced another step and raised his hand as though he were about to put it with some form of violence on the person of his rival.

“Stop, Chiltern,” said Phineas, stepping back, so that there was some article of furniture between him and his adversary. “I do not choose that there should be a riot here.”

“What do you call a riot, sir? I believe that after all you are a poltroon. What I require of you is that you shall meet me. Will you do that?”

“You mean — to fight?”

“Yes — to fight; to fight; to fight. For what other purpose do you suppose that I can wish to meet you?” Phineas felt at the moment that the fighting of a duel would be destructive to all his political hopes. Few Englishmen fight duels in these days. They who do so are always reckoned to be fools. And a duel between him and Lord Brentford’s son must, as he thought, separate him from Violet, from Lady Laura, from Lord Brentford, and from his borough. But yet how could he refuse? “What have you to think of, sir, when such an offer as that is made to you?” said the fiery-red lord.

“I have to think whether I have courage enough to refuse to make myself an ass.”

“You say that you do not wish to have a riot. That is your way to escape what you call — a riot.”

“You want to bully me, Chiltern.”

“No, sir — I simply want this, that you should leave me where you found me, and not interfere with that which you have long known I claim as my own.”

“But it is not your own.”

“Then you can only fight me.”

“You had better send some friend to me, and I will name someone, whom he shall meet.”

“Of course I will do that if I have your promise to meet me. We can be in Belgium in an hour or two, and back again in a few more hours — that is, any one of us who may chance to be alive.”

“I will select a friend, and will tell him everything, and will then do as he bids me.”

“Yes — some old steady-going buffer. Mr Kennedy, perhaps.”

“It will certainly not be Mr Kennedy. I shall probably ask Laurence Fitzgibbon to manage for me in such an affair.”

“Perhaps you will see him at once, then, so that Colepepper may arrange with him this afternoon. And let me assure you, Mr Finn, that there will be a meeting between us after some fashion, let the ideas of your friend Mr Fitzgibbon be what they may.” Then Lord Chiltern purposed to go, but turned again as he was going. “And remember this,” he said, “my complaint is that you have been false to me — damnably false; not that you have fallen in love with this young lady or with that.” Then the fiery-red lord opened the door for himself and took his departure.

Phineas, as soon as he was alone, walked down to the House, at which there was an early sitting. As he went there was one great question which he had to settle with himself — Was there any justice in the charge made against him that he had been false to his friend? When he had thought over the matter at Saulsby, after rushing down there that he might throw himself at Violet’s feet, he had assured himself that such a letter as that which he resolved to write to Lord Chiltern, would be even chivalrous in its absolute honesty. He would tell his purpose to Lord Chiltern the moment that his purpose was formed — and would afterwards speak of Lord Chiltern behind his back as one dear friend should speak of another. Had Miss Effingham shown the slightest intention of accepting Lord Chiltern’s offer, he would have acknowledged to himself that the circumstances of his position made it impossible that he should, with honour, become his friend’s rival. But was he to be debarred for ever from getting that which he wanted because Lord Chiltern wanted it also — knowing, as he did so well, that Lord Chiltern could not get the thing which he wanted? All this had been quite sufficient for him at Saulsby. But now the charge against him that he had been false to his friend rang in his ears and made him unhappy. It certainly was true that Lord Chiltern had not given up his hopes, and that he had spoken probably more openly to Phineas respecting them than he had done to any other human being. If it was true that he had been false, then he must comply with any requisition which Lord Chiltern might make — short of voluntarily giving up the lady. He must fight if he were asked to do so, even though fighting were his ruin.

When again in the House yesterday’s scene came back upon him, and more than one man came to him congratulating him. Mr Monk took his hand and spoke a word to him. The old Premier nodded to him. Mr Gresham greeted him; and Plantagenet Palliser openly told him that he had made a good speech. How sweet would all this have been had there not been ever at this heart the remembrance of this terrible difficulty — the consciousness that he was about to be forced into an absurdity which would put an end to all this sweetness! Why was the world in England so severe against duelling? After all, as he regarded the matter now, a duel might be the best way, nay, the only way out of a difficulty. If he might only be allowed to go out with Lord Chiltern the whole thing might be arranged. If he were not shot he might carry on his suit with Miss Effingham unfettered by any impediment on that side. And if he were shot, what matter was that to any one but himself? Why should the world be so thin-skinned — so foolishly chary of human life?

Laurence Fitzgibbon did not come to the House, and Phineas looked for him at both the clubs which he frequented — leaving a note at each as he did not find him. He also left a note for him at his lodgings in Duke Street. “I must see you this evening. I shall dine at the Reform Club — pray come there.” After that, Phineas went up to Portman Square, in accordance with the instructions received from Lady Laura.

There he saw Violet Effingham, meeting her for the first time since he had parted from her on the great steps at Saulsby. Of course he spoke to her, and of course she was gracious to him. But her graciousness was only a smile and his speech was only a word. There were many in the room, but not enough to make privacy possible — as it becomes possible at a crowded evening meeting. Lord Brentford was there, and the Bonteens, and Barrington Erle, and Lady Glencora Palliser, and Lord Cantrip with his young wife. It was manifestly a meeting of Liberals, semi-social and semi-political — so arranged that ladies might feel that some interest in politics was allowed to them, and perhaps some influence also. Afterwards Mr Palliser himself came in. Phineas, however, was most struck by finding that Laurence Fitzgibbon was there, and that Mr kennedy was not. In regard to Mr Kennedy, he was quite sure that had such a meeting taken place before Lady Laura’s marriage, Mr Kennedy would have been present. “I must speak to you as we go away,” said Phineas, whispering a word into Fitzgibbon’s ear. “I have been leaving notes for you all about the town.” “Not a duel, I hope,” said Fitzgibbon.

How pleasant it was — that meeting; or would have been had there not been that nightmare on his breast! They all talked as though there were perfect accord between them and perfect confidence. There were there great men — Cabinet Ministers, and beautiful women — the wives and daughters of some of England’s highest nobles. And Phineas Finn, throwing back, now and again, a thought to Killaloe, found himself among them as one of themselves. How could any Mr Low say that he was wrong?

On a sofa near to him, so that he could almost touch her foot with his, was sitting Violet Effingham, and as he leaned over from his chair discussing some point in Mr Mildmay’s bill with that most inveterate politician, Lady Glencora, Violet looked into his face and smiled. Oh heavens! If Lord Chiltern and he might only toss up as to which of them should go to Patagonia and remain there for the next ten years, and which should have Violet Effingham for a wife in London!

“Come along, Phineas, if you mean to come,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon. Phineas was of course bound to go, though Lady Glencora was still talking Radicalism, and Violet Effingham was still smiling ineffably.

Chapter 38

The duel

“I knew it was a duel — bedad I did,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon, standing at the corner of Orchard Street and Oxford Street, when Phineas had half told his story. “I was sure of it from the tone of your voice, my boy. We mustn’t let it come off that’s all — not if we can help it.” Then Phineas was allowed to proceed and finish his story. “I don’t see any way out of it; I don’t, indeed,” said Laurence. By this time Phineas had come to think that the duel was in very truth the best way out of the difficulty. It was a bad way out, but then it was a way — and he could not see any other. “As for ill-treating him, that’s nonsense,” said Laurence. “What are the girls to do, if one fellow mayn’t come on as soon as another fellow is down? But then, you see, a fellow never knows when he’s down himself, and therefore he thinks that he’s ill-used. I’ll tell you what now. I shouldn’t wonder if we couldn’t do it on the sly — unless one of you is stupid enough to hit the other in an awkward place. If you are certain of your hand now, the right shoulder is the best spot.” Phineas felt very certain that he would not hit Lord Chiltern in an awkward place, although he was by no means sure of his hand. Let come what might, he would not aim at his adversary. But of this he had thought it proper to say nothing to Laurence Fitzgibbon.

And the duel did come off on the sly. The meeting in the drawing-room in Portman Square, of which mention was made in the last chapter, took place on a Wednesday afternoon. On the Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday following, the great debate on Mr Mildmay’s bill was continued, and at three on the Tuesday night the House divided. There was a majority in favour of the Ministers, not large enough to permit them to claim a triumph for their party, or even an ovation for themselves; but still sufficient to enable them to send their bill into committee. Mr Daubeny and Mr Turnbull had again joined their forces together in opposition to the ministerial measure. On the Thursday Phineas had shown himself in the House, but during the remainder of this interesting period he was absent from his place, nor was he seen at the clubs, nor did any man know of his whereabouts. I think that Lady Laura Kennedy was the first to miss him with any real sense of his absence. She would now go to Portman Square on the afternoon of every Sunday — at which time her husband was attending the second service of his church — and there she would receive those whom she called her father’s guests. But as her father was never there on the Sundays, and as these gatherings had been created by herself, the reader will probably think that she was obeying her husband’s behests in regard to the Sabbath after a very indifferent fashion. The reader may be quite sure, however, that Mr Kennedy knew well what was being done in Portman Square. Whatever might be Lady Laura’s faults, she did not commit the fault of disobeying her husband in secret. There were, probably, a few words on the subject; but we need not go very closely into that matter at the present moment.

On the Sunday which afforded some rest in the middle of the great Reform debate Lady Laura asked for Mr Finn, and no one could answer her question. And then it was remembered that Laurence Fitzgibbon was also absent. Barrington Erle knew nothing of Phineas — had heard nothing; but was able to say that Fitzgibbon had been with Mr Ratler, the patronage secretary and liberal whip, early on Thursday, expressing his intention of absenting himself for two days. Mr Ratler had been wroth, bidding him remain at his duty, and pointing out to him the great importance of the moment. Then Barrington Erle quoted Laurence Fitzgibbon’s reply. “My boy,” said Laurence to poor Ratler, “the path of duty leads but to the grave. All the same; I’ll be in at the death, Ratler, my boy, as sure as the sun’s in heaven.” Not ten minutes after the telling of this little story, Fitzgibbon entered the room in Portman Square, and Lady Laura at once asked him after Phineas. “Bedad, Lady Laura, I have been out of town myself for two days, and I know nothing.”

“Mr Finn has not been with you, then?”

“With me! No — not with me. I had a job of business of my own which took me over to Paris. And has Phinny fled too? Poor Ratler! I shouldn’t wonder if it isn’t an asylum he’s in before the session is over.”

Laurence Fitzgibbon certainly possessed the rare accomplishment of telling a lie with a good grace. Had any man called him a liar he would have considered himself to be not only insulted, but injured also. He believed himself to be a man of truth. There were, however, in his estimation certain subjects on which a man might depart as wide as the poles are asunder from truth without subjecting himself to any ignominy for falsehood. In dealing with a tradesman as to his debts, or with a rival as to a lady, or with any man or woman in defence of a lady’s character, or in any such matter as that of a duel, Laurence believed that a gentleman was bound to lie, and that he would be no gentleman if he hesitated to do so. Not the slightest prick of conscience disturbed him when he told Lady Laura that he had been in Paris, and that he knew nothing of Phineas Finn. But, in truth, during the last day or two he had been in Flanders, and not in Paris, and had stood as second with his friend Phineas on the sands at Blankenberg, a little fishing town some twelve miles distant from Bruges, and had left his friend since that at an hotel at Ostend — with a wound just under the shoulder, from which a bullet had been extracted.

The manner of the meeting had been in this wise. Captain Colepepper and Laurence Fitzgibbon had held their meeting, and at this meeting Laurence had taken certain standing-ground on behalf of his friend, and in obedience to his friend’s positive instruction — which was this, that his friend could not abandon his right of addressing the young lady, should he hereafter ever think fit to do so. Let that be granted, and Laurence would do anything. But then that could not be granted, and Laurence could only shrug his shoulders. Nor would Laurence admit that his friend had been false. “The question lies in a nutshell,” said Laurence, with that sweet Connaught brogue which always came to him when he desired to be effective — “here it is. One gentleman tells another that he’s sweet upon a young lady, but that the young lady has refused him, and always will refuse him, for ever and ever. That’s the truth anyhow. Is the second gentleman bound by that not to address the young lady? I say he is not bound. It’d be a d — d hard tratement, Captain Colepepper, if a man’s mouth and all the ardent affections of his heart were to be stopped in that manner! By Jases, I don’t know who’d like to be the friend of any man if that’s to be the way of it.”

Captain Colepepper was not very good at an argument. “I think they’d better see each other,” said Colepepper, pulling his thick grey moustache.

“If you choose to have it so, so be it. But I think it the hardest thing in the world — I do indeed.” Then they put their heads together in the most friendly way, and declared that the affair should, if possible, be kept private.

On the Thursday night Lord Chiltern and Captain Colepepper went over by Calais and Lille to Bruges. Laurence Fitzgibbon, with his friend Dr O’Shaughnessy, crossed by the direct boat from Dover to Ostend. Phineas went to Ostend by Dover and Calais, but he took the day route on Friday. It had all been arranged among them, so that there might be no suspicion as to the job in hand. Even O’Shaughnessy and Laurence Fitzgibbon had left London by separate trains. They met on the sands at Blankenberg about nine o’clock on the Saturday morning, having reached that village in different vehicles from Ostend and Bruges, and had met quite unobserved amidst the sand-heaps. But one shot had been exchanged, and Phineas had been wounded in the right shoulder. He had proposed to exchange another shot with his left hand, declaring his capability of shooting quite as well with the left as with the right; but to this both Colepepper and Fitzgibbon had objected. Lord Chiltern had offered to shake hands with his late friend in a true spirit of friendship, if only his late friend would say that he did not intend to prosecute his suit with the young lady. In all these disputes the young lady’s name was never mentioned. Phineas indeed had not once named Violet to Fitzgibbon, speaking of her always as the lady in question; and though Laurence correctly surmised the identity of the young lady, he never hinted that he had even guessed her name. I doubt whether Lord Chiltern had been so wary when alone with Captain Colepepper; but then Lord Chiltern was, when he spoke at all, a very plain-spoken man. Of course his lordship’s late friend Phineas would give no such pledge, and therefore Lord Chiltern moved off the ground and back to Blankenberg and Bruges, and into Brussels, in still living enmity with our hero. Laurence and the doctor took Phineas back to Ostend, and though the bullet was then in his shoulder, Phineas made his way through Blankenberg after such a fashion that no one there knew what had occurred. Not a living soul, except the five concerned, was at that time aware that a duel had been fought among the sand-hills.

Laurence Fitzgibbon made his way to Dover by the Saturday night’s boat, and was able to show himself in Portman Square on the Sunday. “Know anything about Phinny Finn?” he said afterwards to Barrington Erle, in answer to an inquiry from that anxious gentleman. “Not a word! I think you’d better send the towncrier round after him.” Barrington, however, did not feel quite so well assured of Fitzgibbon’s truth as Lady Laura had done.

Dr O’Shaughnessy remained during the Sunday and Monday at Ostend with his patient, and the people at the inn only knew that Mr Finn had sprained his shoulder badly; and on the Tuesday they came back to London again, via Calais and Dover. No bone had been broken, and Phineas, though his shoulder was very painful, bore the journey well. O’Shaughnessy had received a telegram on the Monday, telling him that the division would certainly take place on the Tuesday — and on the Tuesday, at about ten in the evening, Phineas went down to the House. “By — you’re here,” said Ratler, taking hold of him with an affection that was too warm. “Yes; I’m here,” said Phineas, wincing in agony; “but be a little careful, there’s a good fellow. I’ve been down in Kent and put my arm out.”

“Put your arm out, have you?” said Ratler, observing the sling for the first time. “I’m sorry for that. But you’ll stop and vote?”

“Yes — I’ll stop and vote. I’ve come up for the purpose, But I hope it won’t be very late.”

“There are both Daubeny and Gresham to speak yet, and at least three others. I don’t suppose it will be much before three. But you’re all right now. You can go down and smoke if you like!” In this way Phineas Finn spoke in the debate, and heard the end of it, voting for his party, and fought his duel with Lord Chiltern in the middle of it.

He did go and sit on a well-cushioned bench in the smoking-room, and then was interrogated by many of his friends as to his mysterious absence. He had, he said, been down in Kent, and had had an accident with his arm, by which he had been confined. When this questioner and that perceived that there was some little mystery in the matter, the questioners did not push their questions, but simply entertained their own surmises. One indiscreet questioner, however, did trouble Phineas sorely, declaring that there must have been some affair in which a woman had had a part, and asking after the young lady of Kent. This indiscreet questioner was Laurence Fitzgibbon, who, as Phineas thought, carried his spirit of intrigue a little too far. Phineas stayed and voted, and then he went painfully home to his lodgings.

How singular would it be if this affair of the duel should pass away, and no one be a bit the wiser but those four men who had been with him on the sands at Blankenberg! Again he wondered at his own luck. He had told himself that a duel with Lord Chiltern must create a quarrel between him and Lord Chiltern’s relations, and also between him and Violet Effingham; that it must banish him from his comfortable seat for Loughton, and ruin him in regard to his political prospects. And now he had fought his duel, and was back in town — and the thing seemed to have been a thing of nothing. He had not as yet seen Lady Laura or Violet, but he had no doubt but they both were as much in the dark as other people. The day might arrive, he thought, on which it would be pleasant for him to tell Violet Effingham what had occurred, but that day had not come as yet. Whither Lord Chiltern had gone, or what Lord Chiltern intended to do, he had not any idea; but he imagined that he should soon hear something of her brother from Lady Laura. That Lord Chiltern should say a word to Lady Laura of what had occurred — or to any other person in the world — he did not in the least suspect. There could be no man more likely to be reticent in such matters than Lord Chiltern — or more sure to be guided by an almost exaggerated sense of what honour required of him. Nor did he doubt the discretion of his friend Fitzgibbon — if only his friend might not damage the secret by being too discreet. Of the silence of the doctor and the captain he was by no means equally sure; but even though they should gossip, the gossiping would take so long a time in oozing out and becoming recognised information, as to have lost much of its power for injuring him. Were Lady Laura to hear at this moment that he had been over to Belgium, and had fought a duel with Lord Chiltern respecting Violet, she would probably feel herself obliged to quarrel with him; but no such obligation would rest on her, if in the course of six or nine months she should gradually have become aware that such an encounter had taken place.

Lord Chiltern, during their interview at the rooms in Great Marlborough Street, had said a word to him about the seat in Parliament — had expressed some opinion that as he, Phineas Finn, was interfering with the views of the Standish family in regard to Miss Effingham, he ought not to keep the Standish seat, which had been conferred upon him in ignorance of any such intended interference. Phineas, as he thought of this, could not remember Lord Chiltern’s words, but there was present to him an idea that such had been their purport. Was he bound, in circumstances as they now existed, to give up Loughton? He made up his mind that he was not so bound unless Lord Chiltern should demand from him that he should do so; but, nevertheless, he was uneasy in his position. It was quite true that the seat now was his for this session by all parliamentary law, even though the electors themselves might wish to be rid of him, and that Lord Brentford could not even open his mouth upon the matter in a tone more loud than that of a whisper. But Phineas, feeling that he had consented to accept the favour of a corrupt seat from Lord Brentford, felt also that he was bound to give up the spoil if it were demanded from him. If it were demanded from him, either by the father or the son, it should be given up at once.

On the following morning he found a leading article in the People’s Banner devoted solely to himself. “During the late debate,” — so ran a passage in the leading article — “Mr Finn, Lord Brentford’s Irish nominee for his pocket-borough at Loughton, did at last manage to stand on his legs and open his mouth. If we are not mistaken, this is Mr Finn’s third session in Parliament, and hitherto he has been unable to articulate three sentences, though he has on more than one occasion made the attempt. For what special merit this young man has been selected for aristocratic patronage we do not know — but that there must be some merit recognisable by aristocratic eyes, we surmise. Three years ago he was a raw young Irishman, living in London as Irishmen only know how to live, earning nothing, and apparently without means; and then suddenly he bursts out as a member of Parliament and as the friend of Cabinet Ministers. The possession of one good gift must be acceded to the honourable member for Loughton — he is a handsome young man, and looks to be as strong as a coal-porter. Can it be that his promotion has sprung from this? Be this as it may, we should like to know where he has been during his late mysterious absence from Parliament, and in what way he came by the wound in his arm. Even handsome young members of Parliament, fêted by titled ladies and their rich lords, are amenable to the laws — to the laws of this country, and to the laws of any other which it may suit them to visit for a while!”

“Infamous scoundrel!” said Phineas to himself, as he read this. “Vile, low, disreputable blackguard!” It was clear enough, however, that Quintus Slide had found out something of his secret. If so, his only hope would rest on the fact that his friends were not likely to see the columns of the People’s Banner.

Chapter 39

Lady Laura is told

By the time that Mr Mildmay’s great bill was going into committee Phineas was able to move about London in comfort — with his arm, however, still in a sling. There had been nothing more about him and his wound in the People’s Banner, and he was beginning to hope that that nuisance would also be allowed to die away. He had seen Lady Laura — having dined in Grosvenor Place, where he had been petted to his heart’s content. His dinner had been cut up for him, and his wound had been treated with the tenderest sympathy. And, singular to say, no questions were asked. He had been to Kent and had come by an accident. No more than that was told, and his dear sympathising friends were content to receive so much information, and to ask for no more. But he had not as yet seen Violet Effingham, and he was beginning to think that this romance about Violet might as well be brought to a close. He had not, however, as yet been able to go into crowded rooms, and unless he went out to large parties he could not be sure that he would meet Miss Effingham.

At last he resolved that he would tell Lady Laura the whole truth — not the truth about the duel, but the truth about Violet Effingham, and ask for her assistance. When making this resolution, I think that he must have forgotten much that he had learned of his friend’s character; and by making it, I think that he showed also that he had not learned as much as his opportunities might have taught him. He knew Lady Laura’s obstinacy of purpose, he knew her devotion to her brother, and he knew also how desirous she had been that her brother should win Violet Effingham for himself. This knowledge should, I think, have sufficed to show him how improbable it was that Lady Laura should assist him in his enterprise. But beyond all this was the fact — a fact as to the consequences of which Phineas himself was entirely blind, beautifully ignorant — that Lady Laura had once condescended to love himself. Nay — she had gone farther than this, and had ventured to tell him, even after her marriage, that the remembrance of some feeling that had once dwelt in her heart in regard to him was still a danger to her. She had warned him from Loughlinter, and then had received him in London — and now he selected her as his confidante in this love affair! Had he not been beautifully ignorant and most modestly blind, he would surely have placed his confidence elsewhere.

It was not that Lady Laura Kennedy ever confessed to herself the existence of a vicious passion. She had, indeed, learned to tell herself that she could not love her husband; and once, in the excitement of such silent announcements to herself, she had asked herself whether her heart was quite a blank, and had answered herself by desiring Phineas Finn to absent himself from Loughlinter. During all the subsequent winter she had scourged herself inwardly for her own imprudence, her quite unnecessary folly in so doing. What! could not she, Laura Standish, who from her earliest years of girlish womanhood had resolved that she would use the world as men use it, and not as women do — could not she have felt the slight shock of a passing tenderness for a handsome youth without allowing the feeling to be a rock before her big enough and sharp enough for the destruction of her entire barque? Could not she command, if not her heart, at any rate her mind, so that she might safely assure herself that, whether this man or any man was here or there, her course would be unaltered? What though Phineas Finn had been in the same house with her throughout all the winter, could not she have so lived with him on terms of friendship, that every deed and word and look of her friendship might have been open to her husband — or open to all the world? She could have done so. She told herself that that was not — need not have been her great calamity. Whether she could endure the dull, monotonous control of her slow but imperious lord — or whether she must not rather tell him that it was not to be endured — that was her trouble. So she told herself, and again admitted Phineas to her intimacy in London. But, nevertheless, Phineas, had he not been beautifully ignorant and most blind to his own achievements, would not have expected from Lady Laura Kennedy assistance with Miss Violet Effingham.

Phineas knew when to find Lady Laura alone, and he came upon her one day at the favourable hour. The two first clauses of the bill had been passed after twenty fights and endless divisions. Two points had been settled, as to which, however, Mr Gresham had been driven to give way so far and to yield so much, that men declared that such a bill as the Government could consent to call its own could never be passed by that Parliament in that session. Immediately on his entrance into her room Lady Laura began about the third clause. Would the House let Mr Gresham have his way about the —? Phineas stopped her at once. “My dear friend,” he said, I have come to you in a private trouble, and I want you to drop politics for half an hour. I have come to you for help.”

“A private trouble, Mr Finn! Is it serious?”

“It is very serious — but it is no trouble of the kind of which you are thinking. But it is serious enough to take up every thought.”

“Can I help you?”

“Indeed you can. Whether you will or no is a different thing.”

“I would help you in anything in my power, Mr Finn. Do you not know it?”

“You have been very kind to me!”

“And so would Mr Kennedy.”

“Mr Kennedy cannot help me here.”

“What is it, Mr Finn?”

“I suppose I may as well tell you at once — in plain language, I do not know how to put my story into words that shall fit it. I love Violet Effingham. Will you help me to win her to be my wife?”

“You love Violet Effingham!” said Lady Laura. And as she spoke the look of her countenance towards him was so changed that he became at once aware that from her no assistance might be expected. His eyes were not opened in any degree to the second reason above given for Lady Laura’s opposition to his wishes, but he instantly perceived that she would still cling to that destination of Violet’s hand which had for years past been the favourite scheme of her life. “Have you not always known, Mr Finn, what have been our hopes for Violet?”

Phineas, though he had perceived his mistake, felt that he must go on with his cause. Lady Laura must know his wishes sooner or later, and it was as well that she should learn them in this way as in any other. “Yes — but I have known also, from your brother’s own lips — and indeed from yours also, Lady Laura — that Chiltern has been three times refused by Miss Effingham.”

“What does that matter? Do men never ask more than three times?”

“And must I be debarred for ever while he prosecutes a hopeless suit?”

“Yes — you of all men.”

“Why so, Lady Laura?”

“Because in this matter you have been his chosen friend — and mine. We have told you everything, trusting to you. We have believed in your honour. We have thought that with you, at any rate, we were safe.” These words were very bitter to Phineas, and yet when he had written his letter at Loughton, he had intended to be so perfectly honest, chivalrously honest! Now Lady Laura spoke to him and looked at him as though he had been most basely false — most untrue to that noble friendship which had been lavished upon him by all her family. He felt that he would become the prey of her most injurious thoughts unless he could fully explain his ideas, and he felt, also, that the circumstances did not admit of his explaining them. He could not take up the argument on Violet’s side, and show how unfair it would be to her that she should be debarred from the homage due to her by any man who really loved her, because Lord Chiltern chose to think that he still had a claim — or at any rate a chance. And Phineas knew well of himself — or thought that he knew well — that he would not have interfered had there been any chance for Lord Chiltern. Lord Chiltern had himself told him more than once that there was no such chance. How was he to explain all this to Lady Laura? “Mr Finn,” said Lady Laura, I can hardly believe this of you, even when you tell it me yourself.”

“Listen to me, Lady Laura, for a moment.”

“Certainly, I will listen. But that you should come to me for assistance! I cannot understand it. Men sometimes become harder than stones.”

“I do not think that I am hard.” Poor blind fool! He was still thinking only of Violet, and of the accusation made against him that he was untrue to his friendship for Lord Chiltern. Of that other accusation which could not be expressed in open words he understood nothing — nothing at all as yet.

“Hard and false — capable of receiving no impression beyond the outside husk of the heart.”

“Oh, Lady Laura, do not say that. If you could only know how true I am in my affection for you all.”

“And how do you show it? — by coming in between Oswald and the only means that are open to us of reconciling him to his father — means that have been explained to you exactly as though you had been one of ourselves. Oswald has treated you as a brother in the matter, telling you everything, and this is the way you would repay him for his confidence!”

“Can I help it, that I have learnt to love this girl?”

“Yes, sir — you can help it. What if she had been Oswald’s wife — would you have loved her then? Do you speak of loving a woman as if it were an affair of fate, over which you have no control? I doubt whether your passions are so strong as that. You had better put aside your love for Miss Effingham. I feel assured that it will never hurt you.” Then some remembrance of what had passed between him and Lady Laura Standish near the falls of the Linter, when he first visited Scotland, came across his mind. “Believe me,” she said with a smile, “this little wound in your heart will soon be cured.”

He stood silent before her, looking away from her, thinking over it all. He certainly had believed himself to be violently in love with Lady Laura, and yet when he had just now entered her drawing-room, he had almost forgotten that there had been such a passage in his life. And he had believed that she had forgotten it — even though she had counselled him not to come to Loughlinter within the last nine months! He had been a boy then, and had not known himself — but now he was a man, and was proud of the intensity of his love. There came upon him some passing throb of pain from his shoulder, reminding him of the duel, and he was proud also of that. He had been willing to risk everything — life, prospects, and position — sooner than abandon the slight hope which was his of possessing Violet Effingham. And now he was told that this wound in his heart would soon be cured, and was told so by a woman to whom he had once sung a song of another passion. It is very hard to answer a woman in such circumstances, because her womanhood gives her so strong a ground of vantage! Lady Laura might venture to throw in his teeth the fickleness of his heart, but he could not in reply tell her that to change a love was better than to marry without love — that to be capable of such a change showed no such inferiority of nature as did the capacity for such a marriage. She could hit him with her argument; but he could only remember his, and think how violent might be the blow he could inflict — if it were not that she were a woman, and therefore guarded. “You will not help me then?” he said, when they had both been silent for a while.

“Help you? How should I help you?”

“I wanted no other help than this — that I might have had an opportunity of meeting Violet here, and of getting from her some answer.”

“Has the question then never been asked already?” said Lady Laura. To this Phineas made no immediate reply. There was no reason why he should show his whole hand to an adversary.

“Why do you not go to Lady Baldock’s house?” continued Lady Laura. “You are admitted there. You know Lady Baldock. Go and ask her to stand your friend with her niece. See what she will say to you. As far as I understand these matters, that is the fair, honourable, open way in which gentlemen are wont to make their overtures.”

“I would make mine to none but to herself,” said Phineas.

“Then why have you made it to me, sir?” demanded Lady Laura.

“I have come to you as I would to my sister.”

“Your sister? Psha! I am not your sister, Mr Finn. Nor, were I so, should I fail to remember that I have a dearer brother to whom my faith is pledged. Look here. Within the last three weeks Oswald has sacrificed everything to his father, because he was determined that Mr Kennedy should have the money which he thought was due to my husband. He has enabled my father to do what he will with Saulsby. Papa will never hurt him — I know that. Hard as papa is with him, he will never hurt Oswald’s future position. Papa is too proud to do that. Violet has heard what Oswald has done; and now that he has nothing of his own to offer her for the future but his bare title, now that he has given papa power to do what he will with the property, I believe that she would accept him instantly. That is her disposition.”

Phineas again paused a moment before he replied. “Let him try,” he said.

“He is away — in Brussels.”

“Send to him, and bid him return. I will be patient, Lady Laura. Let him come and try, and I will bide my time. I confess that I have no right to interfere with him if there be a chance for him. If there is no chance, my right is as good as that of any other.”

There was something in this which made Lady Laura feel that she could not maintain her hostility against this man on behalf of her brother — and yet she could not force herself to be other than hostile to him. Her heart was sore, and it was he that had made it sore. She had lectured herself, schooling herself with mental sackcloth and ashes, rebuking herself with heaviest censures from day to day, because she had found herself to be in danger of regarding this man with a perilous love; and she had been constant in this work of penance till she had been able to assure herself that the sackcloth and ashes had done their work, and that the danger was past. “I like him still and love him well,” she had said to herself with something almost of triumph, “but I have ceased to think of him as one who might have been my lover.” And yet she was now sick and sore, almost beside herself with the agony of the wound, because this man whom she had been able to throw aside from her heart had also been able so to throw her aside. And she felt herself constrained to rebuke him with what bitterest words she might use. She had felt it easy to do this at first, on her brother’s score. She had accused him of treachery to his friendship — both as to Oswald and as to herself. On that she could say cutting words without subjecting herself to suspicion even from herself. But now this power was taken away from her, and still she wished to wound him. She desired to taunt him with his old fickleness, and yet to subject herself to no imputation. “Your right!” she said. What gives you any right in the matter?”

“Simply the right of a fair field, and no favour.”

“And yet you come to me for favour — to me, because I am her friend. You cannot win her yourself, and think I may help you! I do not believe in your love for her. There! If there were no other reason, and I could help you, I would not, because I think your heart is a sham heart. She is pretty, and has money — ”

“Lady Laura!”

“She is pretty, and has money, and is the fashion. I do not wonder that you should wish to have her. But, Mr Finn, I believe that Oswald really loves her — and that you do not. His nature is deeper than yours.”

He understood it all now as he listened to the tone of her voice, and looked into the lines of her face. There was written there plainly enough that spretae injuria formae of which she herself was conscious, but only conscious. Even his eyes, blind as he had been, were opened — and he knew that he had been a fool.

“I am sorry that I came to you,” he said.

“It would have been better that you should not have done so,” she replied.

“And yet perhaps it is well that there should be no misunderstanding between us.”

“Of course I must tell my brother.”

He paused but for a moment, and then he answered her with a sharp voice, “He has been told.”

“And who told him?”

“I did. I wrote to him the moment that I knew my own mind. I owed it to him to do so. But my letter missed him, and he only learned it the other day.”

“Have you seen him since?”

“Yes — I have seen him.”

“And what did he say? How did he take it? Did he bear it from you quietly?”

“No, indeed — and Phineas smiled as he spoke.

“Tell me, Mr Finn; what happened? What is to be done?”

“Nothing is to be done. Everything has been done. I may as well tell you all. I am sure that for the sake of me, as well as of your brother, you will keep our secret. He required that I should either give up my suit, or that I should — fight him. As I could not comply with the one request, I found myself bound to comply with the other.”

“And there has been a duel?”

“Yes — there has been a duel. We went over to Belgium, and it was soon settled. He wounded me here in the arm.”

“Suppose you had killed him, Mr Finn?”

“That, Lady Laura, would have been a misfortune so terrible that I was bound to prevent it.” Then he paused again, regretting what he had said. “You have surprised me, Lady Laura, into an answer that I should not have made. I may be sure — may I not — that my words will not go beyond yourself?”

“Yes — you may be sure of that.” This she said plaintively, with a tone of voice and demeanour of body altogether different from that which she lately bore. Neither of them knew what was taking place between them; but she was, in truth, gradually submitting herself again to this man’s influence. Though she rebuked him at every turn for what he said, for what he had done, for what he proposed to do, still she could not teach herself to despise him, or even to cease to love him for any part of it. She knew it all now — except that word or two which had passed between Violet and Phineas in the rides of Saulsby Park. But she suspected something even of that, feeling sure that the only matter on which Phineas would say nothing would be that of his own success — if success there had been.

“And so you and Oswald have quarrelled, and there has been a duel. That is why you were away?”

“That is why I was away.”

“How wrong of you — how very wrong — Had he been — killed, how could you have looked us in the face again?”

“I could not have looked you in the face again.”

“But that is over now. And were you friends afterwards?”

“No — we did not part as friends. Having gone there to fight with him — most unwillingly — I could not afterwards promise him that I would give up Miss Effingham. You say she will accept him now. Let him come and try.” She had nothing further to say — no other argument to use. There was the soreness at her heat still present to her, making her wretched, instigating her to hurt him if she knew how to do so, in spite of her regard for him. But she felt that she was weak and powerless. She had shot her arrows at him — all but one — and if she used that, its poisoned point would wound herself far more surely than it would touch him. “The duel was very silly,” he said. “You will not speak of it.

“No; certainly not.”

“I am glad at least that I have told you everything.”

“I do not know why you should be glad. I cannot help you.”

“And you will say nothing to Violet?”

“Everything that I can say in Oswald’s favour. I will say nothing of the duel; but beyond that you have no right to demand my secrecy with her. Yes; you had better go, Mr Finn, for I am hardly well. And remember this — If you can forget this little episode about Miss Effingham, so will I forget it also; and so will Oswald. I can promise for him.” Then she smiled and gave him her hand, and he went.

She rose from her chair as he left the room, and waited till she heard the sound of the great door closing behind him before she again sat down. Then, when he was gone — when she was sure that he was no longer there with her in the same house — she laid her head down upon the arm of the sofa, and burst into a flood of tears. She was no longer angry with Phineas. There was no further longing in her heart for revenge. She did not now desire to injure him, though she had done so as long as he was with her. Nay — she resolved instantly, almost instinctively, that Lord Brentford must know nothing of all this, lest the political prospects of the young member for Loughton should be injured. To have rebuked him, to rebuke him again and again, would be only fair — would at least be womanly; but she would protect him from all material injury as far as her power of protection might avail. And why was she weeping now so bitterly? Of course she asked herself, as she rubbed away the tears with her hands — Why should she weep? She was not weak enough to tell herself that she was weeping for any injury that had been done to Oswald. She got up suddenly from the sofa, and pushed away her hair from her face, and pushed away the tears from her cheeks, and then clenched her fists as she held them out at full length from her body, and stood, looking up with her eyes fixed upon the wall. “Ass!” she exclaimed. Fool! Idiot! That I should not be able to crush it into nothing and have done with it! Why should he not have her? After all, he is better than Oswald. Oh — is that you?” The door of the room had been opened while she was standing thus, and her husband had entered.

“Yes — it is I. Is anything wrong?”

“Very much is wrong.”

“What is it, Laura?”

“You cannot help me.”

“If you are in trouble you should tell me what it is, and leave it to me to try to help you.”

“Nonsense!” she said, shaking her head.

“Laura, that is uncourteous — not to say undutiful also.”

“I suppose it was — both. I beg your pardon, but I could not help it.”

“Laura, you should help such words to me.”

“There are moments, Robert, when even a married woman must be herself rather than her husband’s wife. It is so, though you cannot understand it.”

“I certainly do not understand it.”

“You cannot make a woman subject to you as a dog is so. You may have all the outside and as much of the inside as you can master. With a dog you may be sure of both.”

“I suppose this means that you have secrets in which I am not to share.”

“I have troubles about my father and my brother which you cannot share. My brother is a ruined man.”

“Who ruined him?”

“I will not talk about it any more. I will not speak to you of him or of papa. I only want you to understand that there is a subject which must be secret to myself, and on which I may be allowed to shed tears — if I am so weak. I will not trouble you on a matter in which I have not your sympathy.” Then she left him, standing in the middle of the room, depressed by what had occurred — but not thinking of it as of a trouble which would do more than make him uncomfortable for that day.

Chapter 40

Madame Max Goesler

Day after day, and clause after clause, the bill was fought in committee, and few men fought with more constancy on the side of the Ministers than did the member for Loughton. Troubled though he was by his quarrel with Lord Chiltern, by his love for Violet Effingham, by the silence of his friend Lady Laura — for since he had told her of the duel she had become silent to him, never writing to him, and hardly speaking to him when she met him in society — nevertheless Phineas was not so troubled but what he could work at his vocation. Now, when he would find himself upon his legs in the House, he would wonder at the hesitation which had lately troubled him so sorely. He would sit sometimes and speculate upon that dimness of eye, upon that tendency of things to go round, upon that obtrusive palpitation of heart, which had afflicted him so seriously for so long a time. The House now was no more to him than any other chamber, and the members no more than other men. He guarded himself from orations, speaking always very shortly — because he believed that policy and good judgment required that he should be short. But words were very easy to him, and he would feel as though he could talk for ever. And there quickly came to him a reputation for practical usefulness. He was a man with strong opinions, who could yet be submissive. And no man seemed to know how his reputation had come. He had made one good speech after two or three failures. All who knew him, his whole party, had been aware of his failure; and his one good speech had been regarded by many as no very wonderful effort. But he was a man who was pleasant to other men — not combative, not self-asserting beyond the point at which self-assertion ceases to be a necessity of manliness. Nature had been very good to him, making him comely inside and out — and with this comeliness he had crept into popularity.

The secret of the duel was, I think, at this time, known to a great many men and women. So Phineas perceived; but it was not, he thought, known either to Lord Brentford or to Violet Effingham. And in this he was right. No rumour of it had yet reached the ears of either of these persons — and rumour, though she flies so fast and so far, is often slow in reaching those ears which would be most interested in her tidings. Some dim report of the duel reached even Mr Kennedy, and he asked his wife. “Who told you?” said she, sharply.

“Bonteen told me that it was certainly so.”

“Mr Bonteen always knows more than anybody else about everything except his own business.”

“Then it is not true?”

Lady Laura paused — and then she lied. “Of course it is not true. I should be very sorry to ask either of them, but to me it seems to be the most improbable thing in life.” Then Mr Kennedy believed that there had been no duel. In his wife’s word he put absolute faith, and he thought that she would certainly know anything that her brother had done. As he was a man given to but little discourse, he asked no further questions about the duel either in the House or at the Clubs.

At first, Phineas had been greatly dismayed when men had asked him questions tending to elicit from him some explanation of the mystery — but by degrees he became used to it, and as the tidings which had got abroad did not seem to injure him, and as the questionings were not pushed very closely, he became indifferent. There came out another article in the People’s Banner in which Lord C— n and Mr P— s F— n were spoken of as glaring examples of that aristocratic snobility — that was the expressive word coined, evidently with great delight, for the occasion — which the rotten state of London society in high quarters now produced. Here was a young lord, infamously notorious, quarrelling with one of his boon companions, whom he had appointed to a private seat in the House of Commons, fighting duels, breaking the laws, scandalising the public — and all this was done without punishment to the guilty! There were old stories afloat — so said the article — of what in a former century had been done by Lord Mohuns and Mr Bests; but now, in 186 — &c. &c. &c. And so the article went on. Any reader may fill in without difficulty the concluding indignation and virtuous appeal for reform in social morals as well as Parliament. But Phineas had so far progressed that he had almost come to like this kind of thing.

Certainly I think that the duel did him no harm in society. Otherwise he would hardly have been asked to a semi-political dinner at Lady Glencora Palliser’s, even though he might have been invited to make one of the five hundred guests who were crowded into her saloons and staircases after the dinner was over. To have been one of the five hundred was nothing; but to be one of the sixteen was a great deal — was indeed so much that Phineas, not understanding as yet the advantage of his own comeliness, was at a loss to conceive why so pleasant an honour was conferred upon him. There was no man among the eight men at the dinner-party not in Parliament — and the only other except Phineas not attached to the Government was Mr Palliser’s great friend, John Grey, the member for Silverbridge. There were four Cabinet Ministers in the room — the Duke, Lord Cantrip, Mr Gresham, and the owner of the mansion. There was also Barrington Erle and young Lord Fawn, an Under-Secretary of State. But the wit and grace of the ladies present lent more of character to the party than even the position of the men. Lady Glencora Palliser herself was a host. There was no woman then in London better able to talk to a dozen people on a dozen subjects; and then, moreover, she was still in the flush of her beauty and the bloom of her youth. Lady Laura was there — by what means divided from her husband Phineas could not imagine; but Lady Glencora was good at such divisions. Lady Cantrip had been allowed to come with her lord — but, as was well understood, Lord Cantrip was not so manifestly a husband as was Mr Kennedy. There are men who cannot guard themselves from the assertion of marital rights at most inappropriate moments. Now Lord Cantrip lived with his wife most happily; yet you should pass hours with him and her together, and hardly know that they knew each other. One of the Duke’s daughters was there — but not the Duchess, who was known to be heavy — and there was the beauteous Marchioness of Hartletop. Violet Effingham was in the room also — giving Phineas a blow at the heart as he saw her smile. Might it be that he could speak a word to her on this occasion? Mr Grey had also brought his wife — and then there was Madame Max Goesler. Phineas found that it was his fortune to take down to dinner — not Violet Effingham, but Madame Max Goesler. And, when he was placed at dinner, on the other side of him there sat Lady Hartletop, who addressed the few words which she spoke exclusively to Mr Palliser. There had been in former days matters difficult of arrangement between those two; but I think that those old passages had now been forgotten by them both. Phineas was, therefore, driven to depend exclusively on Madame Max Goesler for conversation, and he found that he was not called upon to cast his seed into barren ground.

Up to that moment he had never heard of Madame Max Goesler. Lady Glencora, in introducing them, had pronounced the lady’s name so clearly that he had caught it with accuracy, but he could not surmise whence she had come, or why she was there. She was a woman probably something over thirty years of age. She had thick black hair, which she wore in curls — unlike anybody else in the world — in curls which hung down low beneath her face, covering, and perhaps intended to cover, a certain thinness in her cheeks which would otherwise have taken something from the charm of her countenance. Her eyes were large, of a dark blue colour, and very bright — and she used them in a manner which is as yet hardly common with Englishwomen. She seemed to intend that you should know that she employed them to conquer you, looking as a knight may have looked in olden days who entered a chamber with his sword drawn from the scabbard and in his hand. Her forehead was broad and somewhat low. Her nose was not classically beautiful, being broader at the nostrils than beauty required, and, moreover, not perfectly straight in its line. Her lips were thin. Her teeth, which she endeavoured to show as little as possible, were perfect in form and colour. They who criticised her severely said, however, that they were too large. Her chin was well formed, and divided by a dimple which gave to her face a softness of grace which would otherwise have been much missed. But perhaps her great beauty was in the brilliant clearness of her dark complexion. You might almost fancy that you could see into it so as to read the different lines beneath the skin. She was somewhat tall, though by no means tall to a fault, and was so thin as to be almost meagre in her proportions. She always wore her dress close up to her neck, and never showed the bareness of her arms. Though she was the only woman so clad now present in the room, this singularity did not specially strike one, because in other respects her apparel was so rich and quaint as to make inattention to it impossible. The observer who did not observe very closely would perceive that Madame Max Goesler’s dress was unlike the dress of other women, but seeing that it was unlike in make, unlike in colour, and unlike in material, the ordinary observer would not see also that it was unlike in form for any other purpose than that of maintaining its general peculiarity of character. In colour she was abundant, and yet the fabric of her garment was always black. My pen may not dare to describe the traceries of yellow and ruby silk which went in and out through the black lace, across her bosom, and round her neck, and over her shoulders, and along her arms, and down to the very ground at her feet, robbing the black stuff of all its sombre solemnity, and producing a brightness in which there was nothing gaudy. She wore no vestige of crinoline, and hardly anything that could be called a train. And the lace sleeves of her dress, with their bright traceries of silk, were fitted close to her arms; and round her neck she wore the smallest possible collar of lace, above which there was a short chain of Roman gold with a ruby pendant. And she had rubies in her ears, and a ruby brooch, and rubies in the bracelets on her arms. Such, as regarded the outward woman, was Madame Max Goesler; and Phineas, as he took his place by her side, thought that fortune for the nonce had done well with him — only that he should have liked it so much better could he have been seated next to Violet Effingham!

I have said that in the matter of conversation his morsel of seed was not thrown into barren ground I do not know that he can truly be said to have produced even a morsel. The subjects were all mooted by the lady, and so great was her fertility in discoursing that all conversational grasses seemed to grow with her spontaneously. “Mr Finn,” she said, “what would I not give to be a member of the British Parliament at such a moment as this!”

“Why at such a moment as this particularly?”

“Because there is something to be done, which, let me tell you, senator though you are, is not always the case with you.”

“My experience is short, but it sometimes seems to me that there is too much to be done.”

“Too much of nothingness, Mr Firm. Is not that the case? But now there is a real fight in the lists. The one great drawback to the life of women is that they cannot act in politics.”

“And which side would you take?”

“What, here in England?” said Madame Max Goesler — from which expression, and from one or two others of a similar nature, Phineas was led into a doubt whether the lady were a countrywoman of his or not. “Indeed, it is hard to say. Politically I should want to out-Turnbull Mr Turnbull, to vote for everything that could be voted for — ballot, manhood suffrage, womanhood suffrage, unlimited right of striking, tenant right, education of everybody, annual parliaments, and the abolition of at least the bench of bishops.”

“That is a strong programme,” said Phineas.

“It is strong, Mr Finn, but that’s what I should like. I think, however, that I should be tempted to feel a dastard security in the conviction that I might advocate my views without any danger of seeing them carried out. For, to tell you the truth, I don’t at all want to put down ladies and gentlemen.”

“You think that they would go with the bench of bishops?”

“I don’t want anything to go — that is, as far as real life is concerned. There’s that dear good Bishop of Abingdon is the best friend I have in the world — and as for the Bishop of Dorchester, I’d walk from here to there to hear him preach. And I’d sooner hem aprons for them all myself than that they should want those pretty decorations. But then, Mr Finn, there is such a difference between life and theory — is there not?”

“And it is so comfortable to have theories that one is not bound to carry out,” said Phineas.

“Isn’t it? Mr Palliser, do you live up to your political theories?” At this moment Mr Palliser was sitting perfectly silent between Lady Hartletop and the Duke’s daughter, and he gave a little spring in his chair as this sudden address was made to him. “Your House of Commons theories, I mean, Mr Palliser. Mr Finn is saying that it is very well to have far-advanced ideas — it does not matter how far advanced — because one is never called upon to act upon them practically.”

“That is a dangerous doctrine, I think,” said Mr Palliser.

“But pleasant — so at least Mr Finn says.”

“It is at least very common,” said Phineas, not caring to protect himself by a contradiction.

“For myself,” said Mr Palliser gravely, I think I may say that I always am really anxious to carry into practice all those doctrines of policy which I advocate in theory.”

During this conversation Lady Hartletop sat as though no word of it reached her ears. She did not understand Madame Max Goesler, and by no means loved her. Mr Palliser, when he had made his little speech, turned to the Duke’s daughter and asked some question about the conservatories at Longroyston.

“I have called forth a word of wisdom,” said Madame Max Goesler, almost in a whisper.

“Yes,” said Phineas, and taught a Cabinet Minister to believe that I am a most unsound politician. You may have ruined my prospects for life, Madame Max Goesler.”

“Let me hope not. As far as I can understand the way of things in your Government, the aspirants to office succeed chiefly by making themselves uncommonly unpleasant to those who are in power. If a man can hit hard enough he is sure to be taken into the elysium of the Treasury bench — not that he may hit others, but that he may cease to hit those who are there, I don’t think men are chosen because they are useful.”

“You are very severe upon us all.”

“Indeed, as far as I can see, one man is as useful as another. But to put aside joking — they tell me that you are sure to become a minister.”

Phineas felt that he blushed. Could it be that people said of him behind his back that he was a man likely to rise high in political position? “Your informants are very kind,” he replied awkwardly, “but I do not know who they are. I shall never get up in the way you describe — that is, by abusing the men I support.”

After that Madame Max Goesler turned round to Mr Grey, who was sitting on the other side of her, and Phineas was left for a moment in silence. He tried to say a word to Lady Hartletop, but Lady Hartletop only bowed her head gracefully in recognition of the truth of the statement he made. So he applied himself for a while to his dinner.

“What do you think of Miss Effingham?” said Madame Max Goesler, again addressing him suddenly.

“What do I think about her?”

“You know her, I suppose.”

“Oh yes, I know her. She is closely connected with the Kennedys, who are friends of mine.”

“So I have heard. They tell me that scores of men are raving about her. Are you one of them?”

“Oh yes — I don’t mind being one of sundry scores. There is nothing particular in owning to that.”

“But you admire her?”

“Of course I do,” said Phineas.

“Ah, I see you are joking. I do amazingly. They say women never do admire women, but I most sincerely do admire Miss Effingham.”

“Is she a friend of yours?”

“Oh no — I must not dare to say so much as that. I was with her last winter for a week at Matching, and of course I meet her about at people’s houses. She seems to me to be the most independent girl I ever knew in my life. I do believe that nothing would make her marry a man unless she loved him and honoured him, and I think it is so very seldom that you can say that of a girl.”

“I believe so also,” said Phineas. Then he paused a moment before he continued to speak. “I cannot say that I know Miss Effingham very intimately, but from what I have seen of her, I should think it very probable that she may not marry at all.”

“Very probably,” said Madame Max Goesler, who then again turned away to Mr Grey.

Ten minutes after this, when the moment was just at hand in which the ladies were to retreat, Madame Max Goesler again addressed Phineas, looking very full into his face as she did so. “I wonder whether the time will ever come, Mr Finn, in which you will give me an account of that day’s journey to Blankenberg?”

“To Blankenberg!”

“Yes — to Blankenberg. I am not asking for it now. But I shall look for it some day.” Then Lady Glencora rose from her seat, and Madame Max Goesler went out with the others.

Chapter 41

Lord Fawn

What had Madame Max Goesler to do with his journey to Blankenberg? thought Phineas, as he sat for a while in silence between Mr Palliser and Mr Grey; and why should she, who was a perfect stranger to him, have dared to ask him such a question? But as the conversation round the table, after the ladies had gone, soon drifted into politics and became general, Phineas, for a while, forgot Madame Max Goesler and the Blankenberg journey, and listened to the eager words of Cabinet Ministers, now and again uttering a word of his own, and showing that he, too, was as eager as others. But the session in Mr Palliser’s dining-room was not long, and Phineas soon found himself making his way amidst a throng of coming guests into the rooms above. His object was to meet Violet Effingham, but, failing that, he would not be unwilling to say a few more words to Madame Max Goesler.

He first encountered Lady Laura, to whom he had not spoken as yet, and, finding himself standing close to her for a while, he asked her after his late neighbour. “Do tell me one thing, Lady Laura — who is Madame Max Goesler, and why have I never met her before?”

“That will be two things, Mr Finn; but I will answer both questions as well as I can. You have not met her before, because she was in Germany last spring and summer, and in the year before that you were not about so much as you have been since. Still you must have seen her, I think. She is the widow of an Austrian banker, and has lived the greater part of her life at Vienna. She is very rich, and has a small house in Park Lane, where she receives people so exclusively that it has come to be thought an honour to be invited by Madame Max Goesler. Her enemies say that her father was a German Jew, living in England, in the employment of the Viennese bankers, and they say also that she has been married a second time to an Austrian Count, to whom she allows ever so much a year to stay away from her. But of all this, nobody, I fancy, knows anything. What they do know is that Madame Max Goesler spends seven or eight thousand a year, and that she will give no man an opportunity of even asking her to marry him. People used to be shy of her, but she goes almost everywhere now.”

“She has not been at Portman Square?”

“Oh no; but then Lady Glencora is so much more advanced than we are! After all, we are but humdrum people, as the world goes now.”

Then Phineas began to roam about the rooms, striving to find an opportunity of engrossing five minutes of Miss Effingham’s attention. During the time that Lady Laura was giving him the history of Madame Max Goesler his eyes had wandered round, and he had perceived that Violet was standing in the further corner of a large lobby on to which the stairs opened — so situated, indeed, that she could hardly escape, because of the increasing crowd, but on that very account almost impossible to be reached. He could see, also, that she was talking to Lord Fawn, an unmarried peer of something over thirty years of age, with an unrivalled pair of whiskers, a small estate, and a rising political reputation. Lord Fawn had been talking to Violet through the whole dinner, and Phineas was beginning to think that he should like to make another journey to Blankenberg, with the object of meeting his lordship on the sands.

When Lady Laura had done speaking, his eyes were turned through a large open doorway towards the spot on which his idol was standing. “It is of no use, my friend,” she said, touching his arm. “I wish I could make you know that it is of no use, because then I think you would be happier.” To this Phineas made no answer, but went and roamed about the rooms. Why should it be of no use? Would Violet Effingham marry any man merely because he was a lord?

Some half-hour after this he had succeeded in making his way up to the place in which Violet was still standing, with Lord Fawn beside her. “I have been making such a struggle to get to you,” he said.

“And now you are here, you will have to stay, for it is impossible to get out,” she answered. “Lord Fawn has made the attempt half a dozen times, but has failed grievously.”

“I have been quite contented,” said Lord Fawn — “more than contented.”

Phineas felt that he ought to give some special reason to Miss Effingham to account for his efforts to reach her, but yet he had nothing special to say. Had Lord Fawn not been there, he would immediately have told her that he was waiting for an answer to the question he had asked her in Saulsby Park, but he could hardly do this in presence of the noble Under-Secretary of State. She received him with her pleasant genial smile, looking exactly as she had looked when he had parted from her on the morning after their ride. She did not show any sign of anger, or even of indifference, at his approach. But still it was almost necessary that he should account for his search of her. “I have so longed to hear from you how you got on at Loughlinter,” he said.

“Yes — yes; and I will tell you something of it some day, perhaps. Why do you not come to Lady Baldock’s?”

“I did not even know that Lady Baldock was in town.”

“You ought to have known. Of course she is in town. Where did you suppose I was living? Lord Fawn was there yesterday, and can tell you that my aunt is quite blooming.”

“Lady Baldock is blooming,” said Lord Fawn; certainly blooming — that is, if evergreens may be said to bloom.

“Evergreens do bloom, as well as spring plants, Lord Fawn. You come and see her, Mr Finn — only you must bring a little money with you for the Female Protestant Unmarried Women’s Emigration Society. That is my aunt’s present hobby, as Lord Fawn knows to his cost.”

“I wish I may never spend half-a-sovereign worse.”.

“But it is a perilous affair for me, as my aunt wants me to go out as a sort of leading Protestant unmarried female emigrant pioneer myself.”

“You don’t mean that,” said Lord Fawn, with much anxiety.

“Of course you’ll go,” said Phineas. I should, if I were you.”

“I am in doubt,” said Violet.

“It is such a grand prospect,” said he. Such an opening in life. So much excitement, you know; and such a useful career.”

“As if there were not plenty of opening here for Miss Effingham,” said Lord Fawn, “and plenty of excitement.

“Do you think there is?” said Violet. You are much more civil than Mr Finn, I must say.” Then Phineas began to hope that he need not be afraid of Lord Fawn. “What a happy man you were at dinner!” continued Violet, addressing herself to Phineas.

“I thought Lord Fawn was the happy man.”

“You had Madame Max Goesler all to yourself for nearly two hours, and I suppose there was not a creature in the room who did not envy you. I don’t doubt that ever so much interest was made with Lady Glencora as to taking Madame Max down to dinner. Lord Fawn, I know, intrigued.”

“Miss Effingham, really I must — contradict you.”

“And Barrington Erle begged for it as a particular favour. The Duke, with a sigh, owned that it was impossible, because of his cumbrous rank; and Mr Gresham, when it was offered to him, declared that he was fatigued with the business of the House, and not up to the occasion. How much did she say to you; and what did she talk about?”

“The ballot chiefly — that, and manhood suffrage.”

“Ah! she said something more than that, I am sure. Madame Max Goesler never lets any man go without entrancing him. If you have anything near your heart, Mr Finn, Madame Max Goesler touched it, I am sure.” Now Phineas had two things near his heart — political promotion and Violet Effingham — and Madame Max Goesler had managed to touch them both. She had asked him respecting his journey to Blankenberg, and had touched him very nearly in reference to Miss Effingham. “You know Madame Max Goesler, of course?” said Violet to Lord Fawn.

“Oh yes, I know the lady — that is, as well as other people do. No one, I take it, knows much of her; and it seems to me that the world is becoming tired of her. A mystery is good for nothing if it remains always a mystery.”

“And it is good for nothing at all when it is found out,” said Violet.

“And therefore it is that Madame Max Goesler is a bore,” said Lord Fawn.

“You did not find her a bore?” said Violet. Then Phineas, choosing to oppose Lord Fawn as well as he could on that matter, as on every other, declared that he had found Madame Max Goesler most delightful. “And beautiful — is she not?” said Violet.

“Beautiful!” exclaimed Lord Fawn.

“I think her very beautiful,” said Phineas.

“So do I,” said Violet. And she is a dear ally of mine. We were a week together last winter, and swore an undying friendship. She told me ever so much about Mr Goesler.”

“But she told you nothing of her second husband?” said Lord Fawn.

“Now that you have run into scandal, I shall have done,” said Violet.

Half an hour after this, when Phineas was preparing to fight his way out of the house, he was again close to Madame Max Goesler. He had not found a single moment in which to ask Violet for an answer to his old question, and was retiring from the field discomfited, but not dispirited. Lord Fawn, he thought, was not a serious obstacle in his way. Lady Laura had told him that there was no hope for him; but then Lady Laura’s mind on that subject was, he thought, prejudiced. Violet Effingham certainly knew what were his wishes, and knowing them, smiled on him and was gracious to him. Would she do so if his pretensions were thoroughly objectionable to her?

“I saw that you were successful this evening,” said Madame Max Goesler to him.

“I was not aware of any success.”

“I call it great success to be able to make your way where you will through such a crowd as there is here. You seem to me to be so stout a cavalier that I shall ask you to find my servant, and bid him get my carriage. Will you mind?” Phineas, of course, declared that he would be delighted. “He is a German, and not in livery. But if somebody will call out, he will hear. He is very sharp, and much more attentive than your English footmen. An Englishman hardly ever makes a good servant.”

“Is that a compliment to us Britons?”

“No, certainly not. If a man is a servant, he should be clever enough to be a good one.” Phineas had now given the order for the carriage, and, having returned, was standing with Madame Max Goesler in the cloakroom. “After all, we are surely the most awkward people in the world,” she said. “You know Lord Fawn, who was talking to Miss Effingham just now. You should have heard him trying to pay me a compliment before dinner. It was like a donkey walking a minuet, and yet they say he is a clever man and can make speeches.” Could it be possible that Madame Max Goesler’s ears were so sharp that she had heard the things which Lord Fawn had said of her?

“He is a well-informed man,” said Phineas.

“For a lord, you mean,” said Madame Max Goesler. But he is an oaf, is he not? And yet they say he is to marry that girl.”

“I do not think he will,” said Phineas, stoutly.

“I hope not, with all my heart; and I hope that somebody else may — unless somebody else should change his mind. Thank you; I am so much obliged to you. Mind you come and call on me — 193, Park Lane. I dare say you know the little cottage.” Then he put Madame Max Goesler into her carriage, and walked away to his club.

Chapter 42

Lady Baldock does not send a card to Phineas Finn

Lady Baldock’s house in Berkeley Square was very stately — a large house with five front windows in a row, and a big door, and a huge square hall, and a fat porter in a round-topped chair — but it was dingy and dull, and could not have been painted for the last ten years, or furnished for the last twenty. Nevertheless, Lady Baldock had “evenings,” and people went to them — though not such a crowd of people as would go to the evenings of Lady Glencora. Now Mr Phineas Finn had not been asked to the evenings of Lady Baldock for the present season, and the reason was after this wise.

“Yes, Mr Finn,” Lady Baldock had said to her daughter, who, early in the spring, was preparing the cards. “You may send one to Mr Finn, certainly.”

“I don’t know that he is very nice,” said Augusta Boreham, whose eyes at Saulsby had been sharper perhaps than her mother’s, and who had her suspicions.

But Lady Baldock did not like interference from her daughter. “Mr Finn, certainly,” she continued. They tell me that he is a very rising young man, and he sits for Lord Brentford’s borough. Of course he is a Radical, but we cannot help that. All the rising young men are Radicals now. I thought him very civil at Saulsby.”

“But, mamma — ”

“Well!”

“Don’t you think that he is a little free with Violet?”

“What on earth do you mean, Augusta?”

“Have you not fancied that he is — fond of her?”

“Good gracious, no!”

“I think he is. And I have sometimes fancied that she is fond of him, too.”

“I don’t believe a word of it, Augusta — not a word. I should have seen it if it was so. I am very sharp in seeing such things. They never escape me. Even Violet would not be such a fool as that. Send him a card, and if he comes I shall soon see.” Miss Boreham quite understood her mother, though she could never master her — and the card was prepared. Miss Boreham could never master her mother by her own efforts; but it was, I think, by a little intrigue on her part that Lady Baldock was mastered, and, indeed, altogether cowed, in reference to our hero, and that this victory was gained on that very afternoon in time to prevent the sending of the card.

When the mother and daughter were at tea, before dinner, Lord Baldock came into the room, and, after having been patted and petted and praised by his mother, he took up all the cards out of a china bowl and ran his eyes over them. “Lord Fawn!” he said, “the greatest ass in all London! Lady Hartletop! you know she won’t come.”

“I don’t see why she shouldn’t come,” said Lady Baldock — “a mere country clergyman’s daughter!”

“Julius Caesar Conway — a great friend of mine, and therefore he always blackballs my other friends at the club. Lord Chiltern; I thought you were at daggers drawn with Chiltern.”

“They say he is going to be reconciled to his father, Gustavus, and I do it for Lord Brentford’s sake. And he won’t come, so it does not signify. And I do believe that Violet has really refused him.”

“You are quite right about his not coming,” said Lord Baldock, continuing to read the cards; “Chiltern certainly won’t come. Count Sparrowsky — I wonder what you know about Sparrowsky that you should ask him here.”

“He is asked about, Gustavus; he is indeed,” pleaded Lady Baldock.

“I believe that Sparrowsky is a penniless adventurer. Mr Monk; well, he is a Cabinet Minister. Sir Gregory Greeswing; you mix your people nicely at any rate. Sir Gregory Greeswing is the most old-fashioned Tory in England.”

“Of course we are not political, Gustavus.”

“Phineas Finn. They come alternately — one and one.”

“Mr Finn is asked everywhere, Gustavus.”

“I don’t doubt it. They say he is a very good sort of fellow. They say also that Violet has found that out as well as other people.”

“What do you mean, Gustavus?”

“I mean that everybody is saying that this Phineas Finn is going to set himself up in the world by marrying your niece. He is quite right to try it on, if he has a chance.”

“I don’t think he would be right at all,” said Lady Baldock, with much energy. “I think he would be wrong — shamefully wrong. They say he is the son of an Irish doctor, and that he hasn’t a shilling in the world.”

“That is just why he would be right. What is such a man to do, but to marry money? He’s a deuced good-looking fellow, too, and will be sure to do it.”

“He should work for his money in the city, then, or somewhere there. But I don’t believe it, Gustavus; I don’t, indeed.”

“Very well. I only tell you what I hear. The fact is that he and Chiltern have already quarrelled about her. If I were to tell you that they have been over to Holland together and fought a duel about her, you wouldn’t believe that.”

“Fought a duel about Violet! People don’t fight duels now, and I should not believe it.”

“Very well. Then send your card to Mr Finn.” And, so saying, Lord Baldock left the room.

Lady Baldock sat in silence for some time toasting her toes at the fire, and Augusta Boreham sat by, waiting for orders. She felt pretty nearly sure that new orders would be given if she did not herself interfere. “You had better put by that card for the present, my dear,” said Lady Baldock at last. “I will make inquiries. I don’t believe a word of what Gustavus has said. I don’t think that even Violet is such a fool as that. But if rash and ill-natured people have spoken of it, it may be as well to be careful.”

“It is always well to be careful — is it not, mamma?”

“Not but what I think it very improper that these things should be said about a young woman; and as for the story of the duel, I don’t believe a word of it. It is absurd. I dare say that Gustavus invented it at the moment, just to amuse himself.”

The card of course was not sent, and Lady Baldock at any rate put so much faith in her son’s story as to make her feel it to be her duty to interrogate her niece on the subject. Lady Baldock at this period of her life was certainly not free from fear of Violet Effingham. In the numerous encounters which took place between them, the aunt seldom gained that amount of victory which would have completely satisfied her spirit. She longed to be dominant over her niece as she was dominant over her daughter; and when she found that she missed such supremacy, she longed to tell Violet to depart from out her borders, and be no longer niece of hers. But had she ever done so, Violet would have gone at the instant, and then terrible things would have followed. There is a satisfaction in turning out of doors a nephew or niece who is pecuniarily dependent, but when the youthful relative is richly endowed, the satisfaction is much diminished. It is the duty of a guardian, no doubt, to look after the ward; but if this cannot be done, the ward’s money should at least be held with as close a fist as possible. But Lady Baldock, though she knew that she would be sorely wounded, poked about on her old body with the sharp lances of disobedience, and struck with the cruel swords of satire, if she took upon herself to scold or even to question Violet, nevertheless would not abandon the pleasure of lecturing and teaching. “It is my duty,” she would say to herself, “and though it be taken in a bad spirit, I will always perform my duty.” So she performed her duty, and asked Violet Effingham some few questions respecting Phineas Finn. “My dear,” she said, do you remember meeting a Mr Finn at Saulsby?”

“A Mr Finn, aunt! Why, he is a particular friend of mine. Of course I do, and he was at Saulsby. I have met him there more than once. Don’t you remember that we were riding about together?”

“I remember that he was there, certainly; but I did not know that he was a special — friend.”

“Most especial, aunt. A 1, I may say — among young men, I mean.”

Lady Baldock was certainly the most indiscreet of old women in such a matter as this, and Violet the most provoking of young ladies. Lady Baldock, believing that there was something to fear — as, indeed, there was, much to fear — should have been content to destroy the card, and to keep the young lady away from the young gentleman, if such keeping away was possible to her. But Miss Effingham was certainly very wrong to speak of any young man as being A 1. Fond as I am of Miss Effingham, I cannot justify her, and must acknowledge that she used the most offensive phrase she could find, on purpose to annoy her aunt.

“Violet,” said Lady Baldock, bridling up, I never heard such a word before from the lips of a young lady.”

“Not as A 1? I thought it simply meant very good.”

“A 1 is a nobleman,” said Lady Baldock.

“No, aunt — A 1 is a ship — a ship that is very good,” said Violet.

“And do you mean to say that Mr Finn is — is — is — very good?”

“Yes, indeed. You ask Lord Brentford, and Mr Kennedy. You know he saved poor Mr Kennedy from being throttled in the streets.”

“That has nothing to do with it. A policeman might have done that.”

“Then he would have been A 1 of policemen — though A 1 does not mean a policeman.”

“He would have done his duty, and so perhaps did Mr Finn.”

“Of course he did, aunt. It couldn’t have been his duty to stand by and see Mr Kennedy throttled. And he nearly killed one of the men, and took the other prisoner with his own hands. And he made a beautiful speech the other day. I read every word of it. I am so glad he’s a Liberal. I do like young men to be Liberals.” Now Lord Baldock was a Tory, as had been all the Lord Baldocks — since the first who had been bought over from the Whigs in the time of George III at the cost of a barony.

“You have nothing to do with politics, Violet.”

“Why shouldn’t I have something to do with politics, aunt?”

“And I must tell you that your name is being very unpleasantly mentioned in connection with that of this young man because of your indiscretion.”

“What indiscretion?” Violet, as she made her demand for a more direct accusation, stood quite upright before her aunt, looking the old woman full in the face — almost with her arms akimbo.

“Calling him A 1, Violet.”

“People have been talking about me and Mr Finn, because I just now, at this very moment, called him A 1 to you! If you want to scold me about anything, aunt, do find out something less ridiculous than that.”

“It was most improper language — and if you used it to me, I am sure you would to others.”

“To what others?”

“To Mr Finn — and those sort of people.”

“Call Mr Finn A 1 to his face! Well — upon my honour I don’t know why I should not. Lord Chiltern says he rides beautifully, and if we were talking about riding I might do so.”

“You have no business to talk to Lord Chiltern about Mr Finn at all.”

“Have I not? I thought that perhaps the one sin might palliate the other. You know, aunt, no young lady, let her be ever so ill-disposed, can marry two objectionable young men — at the same time.”

“I said nothing about your marrying Mr Finn.”

“Then, aunt, what did you mean?”

“I meant that you should not allow yourself to be talked of with an adventurer, a young man without a shilling, a person who has come from nobody knows where in the bogs of Ireland.”

“But you used to ask him here.”

“Yes — as long as he knew his place. But I shall not do so again. And I must beg you to be circumspect.”

“My dear aunt, we may as well understand each other. I will not be circumspect as you call it. And if Mr Finn asked me to marry him tomorrow, and if I liked him well enough, I would take him — even though he had been dug right out of a bog. Not only because I liked him — mind! If I were unfortunate enough to like a man who was nothing, I would refuse him in spite of my liking — because he was nothing. But this young man is not nothing. Mr Finn is a fine fellow, and if there were no other reason to prevent my marrying him than his being the son of a doctor, and coming out of the bogs, that would not do so. Now I have made a clean breast to you as regards Mr Finn; and if you do not like what I’ve said, aunt, you must acknowledge that you have brought it on yourself.”

Lady Baldock was left for a time speechless. But no card was sent to Phineas Finn.

Chapter 43

Promotion

Phineas got no card from Lady Baldock, but one morning he received a note from Lord Brentford which was of more importance to him than any card could have been. At this time, bit by bit, the Reform Bill of the day had nearly made its way through the committee, but had been so mutilated as to be almost impossible of recognition by its progenitors. And there was still a clause or two as to the rearrangement of seats, respecting which it was known that there would be a combat — probably combats — carried on after the internecine fashion. There was a certain clipping of counties to be done, as to which it was said that Mr Daubeny had declared that he would not yield till he was made to do so by the brute force of majorities — and there was another clause for the drafting of certain superfluous members from little boroughs, and bestowing them on populous towns at which they were much wanted, respecting which Mr Turnbull had proclaimed that the clause as it now stood was a fainéant clause, capable of doing, and intended to do, no good in the proper direction; a clause put into the bill to gull ignorant folk who had not eyes enough to recognise the fact that it was fainéant; a make-believe clause — so said Mr Turnbull — to be detested on that account by every true reformer worse than the old Philistine bonds and Tory figments of representation, as to which there was at least no hypocritical pretence of popular fitness, Mr Turnbull had been very loud and very angry — had talked much of demonstrations among the people, and had almost threatened the House. The House in its present mood did not fear any demonstrations — but it did fear that Mr Turnbull might help Mr Daubeny, and that Mr Daubeny might help Mr Turnbull. It was now May — the middle of May — and ministers, who had been at work on their Reform Bill ever since the beginning of the session, were becoming weary of it. And then, should these odious clauses escape the threatened Turnbull — Daubeny alliance — then there was the House of Lords! “ What a pity we can’t pass our bills at the Treasury, and have done with them!” said Laurence Fitzgibbon. “Yes, indeed,” replied Mr Ratler. “For myself, I was never so tired of a session in my life. I wouldn’t go through it again to be made — no, not to be made Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

Lord Brentford’s note to Phineas Finn was as follows:

“ House of Lords, 16th May, 186 —

“ MY DEAR MR FINN,”

“You are no doubt aware that Lord Bosanquet’s death has taken Mr Mottram into the Upper House, and that as he was Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and as the Under-Secretary must be in the Lower House, the vacancy must be filled up.” [The heart of Phineas Finn at this moment was almost in his mouth. Not only to be selected for political employment, but to be selected at once for an office so singularly desirable! Under Secretaries, he fancied, were paid two thousand a year. What would Mr Low say now? But his great triumph soon received a check.] “Mr Mildmay has spoken to me on the subject,” continued the letter, “and informs me that he has offered the place at the colonies to his old supporter, Mr Laurence Fitzgibbon.” Laurence Fitzgibbon! “I am inclined to think that he could not have done better, as Mr Fitzgibbon has shown great zeal for his party. This will vacate the Irish seat at the Treasury Board, and I am commissioned by Mr Mildmay to offer it to you. Perhaps you will do me the pleasure of calling on me tomorrow between the hours of eleven and twelve.

“Yours very sincerely,

“ BRENTFORD ”

Phineas was himself surprised to find that his first feeling on reading this letter was one of dissatisfaction. Here were his golden hopes about to be realised — hopes as to the realisation of which he had been quite despondent twelve months ago — and yet he was uncomfortable because he was to be postponed to Laurence Fitzgibbon. Had the new Under-Secretary been a man whom he had not known, whom he had not learned to look down upon as inferior to himself, he would not have minded it — would have been full of joy at the promotion proposed for himself. But Laurence Fitzgibbon was such a poor creature, that the idea of filling a place from which Laurence had risen was distasteful to him. “It seems to be all a matter of favour and convenience,” he said to himself, “without any reference to the service.” His triumph would have been so complete had Mr Mildmay allowed him to go into the higher place at one leap. Other men who had made themselves useful had done so. In the first hour after receiving Lord Brentford’s letter, the idea of becoming a Lord of the Treasury was almost displeasing to him. He had an idea that junior lordships of the Treasury were generally bestowed on young members whom it was convenient to secure, but who were not good at doing anything. There was a moment in which he thought that he would refuse to be made a junior lord.

But during the night cooler reflections told him that he had been very wrong. He had taken up politics with the express desire of getting his foot upon a rung of the ladder of promotion, and now, in his third session, he was about to be successful. Even as a junior lord he would have a thousand a year; and how long might he have sat in chambers, and have wandered about Lincoln’s Inn, and have loitered in the courts striving to look as though he had business, before he would have earned a thousand a year! Even as a junior lord he could make himself useful, and when once he should be known to be a good working man, promotion would come to him. No ladder can be mounted without labour; but this ladder was now open above his head, and he already had his foot upon it.

At half past eleven he was with Lord Brentford, who received him with the blandest smile and a pressure of the hand which was quite cordial. “My dear Finn,” he said, this gives me the most sincere pleasure — the greatest pleasure in the world. Our connection together at Loughton of course makes it doubly agreeable to me.”

“I cannot be too grateful to you, Lord Brentford.”

“No, no; no, no. It is all your own doing. When Mr Mildmay asked me whether I did not think you the most promising of the young members on our side in your House, I certainly did say that I quite concurred. But I should be taking too much on myself, I should be acting dishonestly, if I were to allow you to imagine that it was my proposition. Had he asked me to recommend, I should have named you; that I say frankly. But he did not. He did not. Mr Mildmay named you himself. “Do you think,” he said, “;that your friend Finn would join us at the Treasury?” I told him that I did think so. “And do you not think,” said he, “that it would be a useful appointment?” Then I ventured to say that I had no doubt whatever on that point — that I knew you well enough to feel confident that you would lend a strength to the Liberal Government. Then there were a few words said about your seat, and I was commissioned to write to you. That was all.”

Phineas was grateful, but not too grateful, and bore himself very well in the interview. He explained to Lord Brentford that of course it was his object to serve the country — and to be paid for his services — and that he considered himself to be very fortunate to be selected so early in his career for parliamentary place. He would endeavour to do his duty, and could safely say of himself that he did not wish to eat the bread of idleness. As he made this assertion, he thought of Laurence Fitzgibbon. Laurence Fitzgibbon had eaten the bread of idleness, and yet he was promoted. But Phineas said nothing to Lord Brentford about his idle friend. When he had made his little speech he asked a question about the borough.

“I have already ventured to write a letter to my agent at Loughton, telling him that you have accepted office, and that you will be shortly there again. He will see Shortribs and arrange it. But if I were you I should write to Shortribs and to Grating — after I had seen Mr Mildmay. Of course you will not mention my name.” And the Earl looked very grave as he uttered this caution.

“Of course I will not,” said Phineas.

“I do not think you’ll find any difficulty about the seat,” said the peer. “There never has been any difficulty at Loughton yet. I must say that for them. And if we can scrape through with Clause 72 we shall be all right — shall we not?” This was the clause as to which so violent an opposition was expected from Mr Turnbull — a clause as to which Phineas himself had felt that he would hardly know how to support the Government, in the event of the committee being pressed to a division upon it. Could he, an ardent reformer, a reformer at heart — could he say that such a borough as Loughton should be spared — that the arrangement by which Shortribs and Grating had sent him to Parliament, in obedience to Lord Brentford’s orders, was in due accord with the theory of a representative legislature? In what respect had Gatton and Old Sarum been worse than Loughton? Was he not himself false to his principle in sitting for such a borough as Loughton? He had spoken to Mr Monk, and Mr Monk had told him that Rome was not built in a day — and had told him also that good things were most valued and were more valuable when they came by instalments. But then Mr Monk himself enjoyed the satisfaction of sitting for a popular constituency. He was not personally pricked in the conscience by his own parliamentary position. Now, however — now that Phineas had consented to join the Government, any such considerations as these must be laid aside. He could no longer be a free agent, or even a free thinker. He had been quite aware of this, and had taught himself to understand that members of Parliament in the direct service of the Government were absolved from the necessity of free-thinking. Individual free-thinking was incompatible with the position of a member of the Government, and unless such abnegation were practised, no government would be possible. It was of course a man’s duty to bind himself together with no other men but those with whom, on matters of general policy, he could agree heartily — but having found that he could so agree, he knew that it would be his duty as a subaltern to vote as he was directed. It would trouble his conscience less to sit for Loughton and vote for an objectionable clause as a member of the Government, than it would have done to give such a vote as an independent member. In so resolving, he thought that he was simply acting in accordance with the acknowledged rules of parliamentary government. And therefore, when Lord Brentford spoke of Clause 72, he could answer pleasantly, “I think we shall carry it; and, you see, in getting it through committee, if we can carry it by one, that is as good as a hundred. That’s the comfort of close fighting in committee. In the open House we are almost as much beaten by a narrow majority as by a vote against us.”

“Just so; just so,” said Lord Brentford, delighted to see that his young pupil — as he regarded him — understood so well the system of parliamentary management. “By the bye, Finn, have you seen Chiltern lately?”

“Not quite lately,” said Phineas, blushing up to his eyes.

“Or heard from him?”

“No — nor heard from him. When last I heard of him he was in Brussels.”

“Ah — yes; he is somewhere on the Rhine now. I thought that as you were so intimate, perhaps you corresponded with him. Have you heard that we have arranged about Lady Laura’s money?”

“I have heard. Lady Laura has told me.”

“I wish he would return,” said Lord Brentford sadly — almost solemnly, “As that great difficulty is over, I would receive him willingly, and make my house pleasant to him, if I can do so. I am most anxious that he should settle, and marry. Could you not write to him?” Phineas, not daring to tell Lord Brentford that he had quarrelled with Lord Chiltern — feeling that if he did so everything would go wrong — said that he would write to Lord Chiltern.

As he went away he felt that he was bound to get an answer from Violet Effingham. If it should be necessary, he was willing to break with Lord Brentford on that matter — even though such breaking should lose him his borough and his place — but not on any other matter.

Chapter 44

Phineas and his friends

Our hero’s friends were, I think, almost more elated by our hero’s promotion than was our hero himself. He never told himself that it was a great thing to be a junior lord of the Treasury, though he acknowledged to himself that to have made a successful beginning was a very great thing. But his friends were loud in their congratulations — or condolements as the case might be.

He had his interview with Mr Mildmay, and, after that, one of his first steps was to inform Mrs Bunce that he must change his lodgings. “The truth is, Mrs Bunce, not that I want anything better; but that a better position will be advantageous to me, and that I can afford to pay for it.” Mrs Bunce acknowledged the truth of the argument, with her apron up to her eyes. “I’ve got to be so fond of looking after you, Mr Finn! I have indeed,” said Mrs Bunce. “It is not just what you pays like, because another party will pay as much. But we’ve got so used to you, Mr Finn — haven’t we?” Mrs Bunce was probably not aware herself that the comeliness of her lodger had pleased her feminine eye, and touched her feminine heart, Had anybody said that Mrs Bunce was in love with Phineas, the scandal would have been monstrous. And yet it was so — after a fashion. And Bunce knew it — after his fashion. “Don’t be such an old fool,” he said, “crying after him because he’s six foot high.” “I ain’t crying after him because he’s six foot high,” whined the poor woman — “but one does like old faces better than new, and a gentleman about one’s place is pleasant.” “Gentleman be d — d, said Bunce. But his anger was excited, not by his wife’s love for Phineas, but by the use of an objectionable word.

Bunce himself had been on very friendly terms with Phineas, and they two had had many discussions on matters of politics, Bunce taking up the cudgels always for Mr Turnbull, and generally slipping away gradually into some account of his own martyrdom. For he had been a martyr, having failed in obtaining any redress against the policeman who had imprisoned him so wrongfully. The People’s Banner had fought for him manfully, and therefore there was a little disagreement between him and Phineas on the subject of that great organ of public opinion. And as Mr Bunce thought that his lodger was very wrong to sit for Lord Brentford’s borough, subjects were sometimes touched which were a little galling to Phineas.

Touching this promotion, Bunce had nothing but condolement to offer to the new junior lord. “Oh yes,” said he, in answer to an argument from Phineas, “I suppose there must be lords, as you call ’em; though for the matter of that I can’t see as they is of any mortal use.”

“Wouldn’t you have the Government carried on?”

“Government! Well; I suppose there must be government. But the less of it the better. I’m not against government — nor yet against laws, Mr Finn; though the less of them, too, the better. But what does these lords do in the Government? Lords indeed! I’ll tell you what they do, Mr Finn. They wotes; that’s what they do! They wotes hard; black or white, white or black. Ain’t that true? When you’re a “lord,” will you be able to wote against Mr Mildmay to save your very soul?”

“If it comes to be a question of soul-saving, Mr Bunce, I shan’t save my place at the expense of my conscience.”

“Not if you knows it, you mean. But the worst of it is that a man gets so thick into the mud that he don’t know whether he’s dirty or clean. You’ll have to wote as you’re told, and of course you’ll think it’s right enough. Ain’t you been among Parliament gents long enough to know that that’s the way it goes?”

“You think no honest man can be a member of the Government?”

“I don’t say that, but I think honesty’s a deal easier away from ’em. The fact is, Mr Finn, it’s all wrong with us yet, and will be till we get it nigher to the great American model. If a poor man gets into Parliament — you’ll excuse me, Mr Finn, but I calls you a poor man.”

“Certainly — as a member of Parliament I am a very poor man.”

“Just so — and therefore what do you do? You goes and lays yourself out for government! I’m not saying as how you’re anyways wrong. A man has to live. You has winning ways, and a good physognomy of your own, and are as big as a life-guardsman.” Phineas as he heard this doubtful praise laughed and blushed. “Very well; you makes your way with the big wigs, lords and earls and them like, and you gets returned for a rotten borough — you’ll excuse me, but that’s about it, ain’t it? — and then you goes in for government! A man may have a mission to govern, such as Washington and Cromwell and the like o’ them. But when I hears of Mr Fitzgibbon a-governing, why then I says — d — n it all.”

“There must be good and bad you know.”

“We’ve got to change a deal yet, Mr Finn, and we’ll do it. When a young man as has liberal feelings gets into Parliament, he shouldn’t be snapped up and brought into the governing business just because he’s poor and wants a salary. They don’t do it that way in the States; and they won’t do it that way here long. It’s the system as I hates, and not you, Mr Finn. Well, goodbye, sir. I hope you’ll like the governing business, and find it suits your health.”

These condolements from Mr Bunce were not pleasant, but they set him thinking. He felt assured that Bunce and Quintus Slide and Mr Turnbull were wrong. Bunce was ignorant. Quintus Slide was dishonest. Turnbull was greedy of popularity. For himself, he thought that as a young man he was fairly well informed. He knew that he meant to be true in his vocation. And he was quite sure that the object nearest to his heart in politics was not self-aggrandisement, but the welfare of the people in general. And yet he could not but agree with Bunce that there was something wrong. When such men as Laurence Fitzgibbon were called upon to act as governors, was it not to be expected that the ignorant but still intelligent Bunces of the population should — “d — n it all’?

On the evening of that day he went up to Mrs Low’s, very sure that he should receive some encouragement from her and from her husband. She had been angry with him because he had put himself into a position in which money must be spent and none could be made. The Lows, especially Mrs Low, had refused to believe that any success was within his reach. Now that he had succeeded, now that he was in receipt of a salary on which he could live and save money, he would be sure of sympathy from his old friends the Lows!

But Mrs Low was as severe upon him as Mr Bunce had been, and even from Mr Low he could extract no real comfort. “Of course I congratulate you,” said Mr Low coldly.

“And you, Mrs Low?”

“Well, you know, Mr Finn, I think you have begun at the wrong end. I thought so before, and I think so still. I suppose I ought not to say so to a Lord of the Treasury, but if you ask me, what can I do?”

“Speak the truth out, of course.”

“Exactly. That’s what I must do. Well, the truth is, Mr Finn, that I do not think it is a very good opening for a young man to be made what they call a Lord of the Treasury — unless he has got a private fortune, you know, to support that kind of life.”

“You see, Phineas, a ministry is such an uncertain thing,” said Mr Low.

“Of course it’s uncertain — but as I did go into the House, it’s something to have succeeded.”

“If you call that success,” said Mrs Low.

“You did intend to go on with your profession,” said Mr Low. He could not tell them that he had changed his mind, and that he meant to marry Violet Effingham, who would much prefer a parliamentary life for her husband to that of a working barrister. “I suppose that is all given up now,” continued Mr Low.

“Just for the present,” said Phineas.

“Yes — and for ever I fear,” said Mrs Low. You’ll never go back to real work after frittering away your time as a Lord of the Treasury. What sort of work must it be when just anybody can do it that it suits them to lay hold of? But of course a thousand a year is something, though a man may have it for only six months.”

It came out in the course of the evening that Mr Low was going to stand for the borough vacated by Mr Mottram, at which it was considered that the Conservatives might possibly prevail. “You see, after all, Phineas,” said Mr Low, “that I am following your steps.”

“Ah; you are going into the House in the course of your profession.”

“Just so,” said Mrs Low.

“And are taking the first step towards being a Tory Attorney-General.”

“That’s as may be,” said Mr Low. But it’s the kind of thing a man does after twenty years of hard work. For myself, I really don’t care much whether I succeed or fail. I should like to live to be a Vice-Chancellor. I don’t mind saying as much as that to you. But I’m not at all sure that Parliament is the best way to the Equity Bench.”

“But it is a grand thing to get into Parliament when you do it by means of your profession,” said Mrs Low.

Soon after that Phineas took his departure from the house, feeling sore and unhappy. But on the next morning he was received in Grosvenor Place with an amount of triumph which went far to compensate him. Lady Laura had written to him to call there, and on his arrival he found both Violet Effingham and Madame Max Goesler with his friend. When Phineas entered the room his first feeling was one of intense joy at seeing that Violet Effingham was present there. Then there was one of surprise that Madame Max Goesler should make one of the little party. Lady Laura had told him at Mr Palliser’s dinner-party that they, in Portman Square, had not as yet advanced far enough to receive Madame Max Goesler — and yet here was the lady in Mr Kennedy’s drawing-room. Now Phineas would have thought it more likely that he should find her in Portman Square than in Grosvenor Place. The truth was that Madame Goesler had been brought by Miss Effingham — with the consent, indeed, of Lady Laura, but with a consent given with much of hesitation. “What are you afraid of?” Violet had asked. “I am afraid of nothing,” Lady Laura had answered; but one has to choose one’s acquaintance in accordance with rules which one doesn’t lay down very strictly.” “She is a clever woman,” said Violet, “and everybody likes her; but if you think Mr Kennedy would object, of course you are right.” Then Lady Laura had consented, telling herself that it was not necessary that she should ask her husband’s approval as to every new acquaintance she might form. At the same time Violet had been told that Phineas would be there, and so the party had been made up.

““See the conquering hero comes,”” said Violet in her cheeriest voice.

“I am so glad that Mr Finn has been made a lord of something,” said Madame Max Goesler. “I had the pleasure of a long political discussion with him the other night, and I quite approve of him.”

“We are so much gratified, Mr Finn,” said Lady Laura. “Mr. Kennedy says that it is the best appointment they could have made, and papa is quite proud about it.”

“You are Lord Brentford’s member; are you not?” asked Madame Max Goesler. This was a question which Phineas did not quite like, and which he was obliged to excuse by remembering that the questioner had lived so long out of England as to be probably ignorant of the myths, and theories, and system, and working of the British Constitution. Violet Effingham, little as she knew of politics, would never have asked a question so imprudent.

But the question was turned off, and Phineas, with an easy grace, submitted himself to be petted, and congratulated, and purred over, and almost caressed by the three ladies. Their good-natured enthusiasm was at any rate better than the satire of Bunce, or the wisdom of Mrs Low. Lady Laura had no misgivings as to Phineas being fit for governing, and Violet Effingham said nothing as to the short-lived tenure of ministers. Madame Max Goesler, though she had asked an indiscreet question, thoroughly appreciated the advantage of Government pay, and the prestige of Government power. “You are a lord now,” she said, speaking, as was customary with her, with the slightest possible foreign accent, “and you will be a president soon, and then perhaps a secretary. The order of promotion seems odd, but I am told it is very pleasant.”

“It is pleasant to succeed, of course,” said Phineas, “let the success be ever so little.”

“We knew you would succeed,” said Lady Laura. We were quite sure of it. Were we not, Violet?”

“You always said so, my dear. For myself I do not venture to have an opinion on such matters. Will you always have to go to that big building in the corner, Mr Finn, and stay there from ten till four? Won’t that be a bore?”

“We have a half-holiday on Saturday, you know,” said Phineas.

“And do the Lords of the Treasury have to take care of the money?” asked Madame Max Goesler.

“Only their own; and they generally fail in doing that,” said Phineas.

He sat there for a considerable time, wondering whether Mr Kennedy would come in, and wondering also as to what Mr Kennedy would say to Madame Max Goesler when he did come in. He knew that it was useless for him to expect any opportunity, then or there, of being alone for a moment with Violet Effingham. His only chance in that direction would be in some crowded room, at some ball at which he might ask her to dance with him; but it seemed that fate was very unkind to him, and that no such chance came in his way. Mr Kennedy did not appear, and Madame Max Goesler with Violet went away, leaving Phineas still sitting with Lady Laura. Each of them said a kind word to him as they went. “I don’t know whether I may dare to expect that a Lord of the Treasury will come and see me?” said Madame Max Goesler. Then Phineas made a second promise that he would call in Park Lane. Violet blushed as she remembered that she could not ask him to call at Lady Baldock’s. “Goodbye, Mr Finn,” she said, giving him her hand. “I’m so very glad that they have chosen you; and I do hope that, as Madame Max says, they’ll make you a secretary and a president, and everything else very quickly — till it will come to your turn to be making other people.” “He is very nice, said Madame Goesler to Violet as she took her place in the carriage. “He bears being petted and spoilt without being either awkward or conceited.” “On the whole, he is rather nice, said Violet; “only he has not got a shilling in the world, and has to make himself before he will be anybody.” “He must marry money, of course,” said Madame Max Goesler.

“I hope you are contented?” said Lady Laura, rising from her chair and coming opposite to him as soon as they were alone.

“Of course I am contented.”

“I was not — when I first heard of it. Why did they promote that empty-headed countryman of yours to a place for which he was quite unfit? I was not contented. But then I am more ambitious for you than you are for yourself.” He sat without answering her for awhile, and she stood waiting for his reply. “Have you nothing to say to me?” she asked.

“I do not know what to say. When I think of it all, I am lost in amazement. You tell me that you are not contented — that you are ambitious for me. Why is it that you should feel any interest in the matter?”

“Is it not reasonable that we should be interested for our friends?”

“But when you and I last parted here in this room you were hardly my friend.”

“Was I not? You wrong me there — very deeply.”

“I told you what was my ambition, and you resented it,” said Phineas.

“I think I said that I could not help you, and I think I said also that I thought you would fail. I do not know that I showed much resentment. You see, I told her that you were here, that she might come and meet you. You know that I wished my brother should succeed. I wished it before I ever knew you. You cannot expect that I should change my wishes.”

“But if he cannot succeed,” pleaded Phineas.

“Who is to say that? Has a woman never been won by devotion and perseverance? Besides, how can I wish to see you go on with a suit which must sever you from my father, and injure your political prospects — perhaps fatally injure them? It seems to me now that my father is almost the only man in London who has not heard of this duel.”

“Of course he will hear of it. I have half made up my mind to tell him myself.”

“Do not do that, Mr Finn. There can be no reason for it. But I did not ask you to come here today to talk to you about Oswald or Violet. I have given you my advice about that, and I can do no more.”

“Lady Laura, I cannot take it. It is out of my power to take it.”

“Very well. The matter shall be what you members of Parliament call an open question between us. When papa asked you to accept this place at the Treasury, did it ever occur to you to refuse it?”

“It did — for half an hour or so.”

“I hoped you would — and yet I knew that I was wrong. I thought that you should count yourself to be worth more than that, and that you should, as it were, assert yourself. But then it is so difficult to draw the line between proper self-assertion and proper self-denial — to know how high to go up the table, and how low to go down. I do not doubt that you have been right — only make them understand that you are not as other junior lords — that you have been willing to be a junior lord, or anything else for a purpose; but that the purpose is something higher than that of fetching and carrying in Parliament for Mr Mildmay and Mr Palliser.”

“I hope in time to get beyond fetching and carrying,” said Phineas.

“Of course you will; and knowing that, I am glad that you are in office. I suppose there will be no difficulty about Loughton.”

Then Phineas laughed. “I hear,” said he, that Mr Quintus Slide, of the People’s Banner, has already gone down to canvass the electors.”

“Mr Quintus Slide! To canvass the electors of Loughton!” and Lady Laura drew herself up and spoke of this unseemly intrusion on her father’s borough, as though the vulgar man who had been named had forced his way into the very drawing-room in Portman Square. At that moment Mr Kennedy came in. “Do you hear what Mr Finn tells me?” she said. “He has heard that Mr Quintus Slide has gone down to Loughton to stand against him.”

“And why not?” said Mr Kennedy.

“My dear!” ejaculated Lady Laura.

“Mr Quintus Slide will no doubt lose his time and his money — but he will gain the prestige of having stood for a borough, which will be something for him on the staff of the People’s Banner,” said Mr Kennedy.

“He will get that horrid man Vellum to propose him,” said Lady Laura.

“Very likely,” said Mr Kennedy. And the less any of us say about it the better. Finn, my dear fellow, I congratulate you heartily. Nothing for a long time has given me greater pleasure than hearing of your appointment. It is equally honourable to yourself and to Mr Mildmay. It is a great step to have gained so early.”

Phineas, as he thanked his friend, could not help asking himself what his friend had done to be made a Cabinet Minister. Little as he, Phineas, himself had done in the House in his two sessions and a half, Mr Kennedy had hardly done more in his fifteen or twenty. But then Mr Kennedy was possessed of almost miraculous wealth, and owned half a county, whereas he, Phineas, owned almost nothing at all. Of course no Prime Minister would offer a junior lordship at the Treasury to a man with £30,000 a year. Soon after this Phineas took his leave. “I think he will do well,” said Mr Kennedy to his wife.

“I am sure he will do well,” replied Lady Laura, almost scornfully.

“He is not quite such a black swan with me as he is with you; but still I think he will succeed, if he takes care of himself. It is astonishing how that absurd story of his duel with Chiltern has got about.”

“It is impossible to prevent people talking,” said Lady Laura.

“I suppose there was some quarrel, though neither of them will tell you. They say it was about Miss Effingham. I should hardly think that Finn could have any hopes in that direction.”

“Why should he not have hopes?”

“Because he has neither position, nor money, nor birth,” said Mr Kennedy.

“He is a gentleman,” said Lady Laura; and I think he has position. I do not see why he should not ask any girl to marry him.”

“There is no understanding you, Laura,” said Mr Kennedy, angrily. “I thought you had quite other hopes about Miss Effingham.”

“So I have; but that has nothing to do with it. You spoke of Mr Finn as though he would be guilty of some crime were he to ask Violet Effingham to be his wife. In that I disagree with you. Mr Finn is — ”

“You will make me sick of the name of Mr Finn.”

“I am sorry that I offend you by my gratitude to a man who saved your life.” Mr Kennedy shook his head. He knew that the argument used against him was false, but he did not know how to show that he knew that it was false. “Perhaps I had better not mention his name any more,” continued Lady Laura.

“Nonsense!”

“I quite agree with you that it is nonsense, Robert.”

“All I mean to say is, that if you go on as you do, you will turn his head and spoil him. Do you think I do not know what is going on among you?”

“And what is going on among us — as you call it?”

“You are taking this young man up and putting him on a pedestal and worshipping him, just because he is well-looking, and rather clever and decently behaved. It’s always the way with women who have nothing to do, and who cannot be made to understand that they should have duties. They cannot live without some kind of idolatry.”

“Have I neglected my duty to you, Robert?”

“Yes — you know you have — in going to those receptions at your father’s house on Sundays.”

“What has that to do with Mr Finn?”

“Psha!”

“I begin to think I had better tell Mr Finn not to come here any more, since his presence is disagreeable to you. All the world knows how great is the service he did you, and it will seem to be very ridiculous. People will say all manner of things; but anything will be better than that you should go on as you have done — accusing your wife of idolatry towards — a young man, because — he is — well-looking.”

“I never said anything of the kind.”

“You did, Robert.”

“I did not. I did not speak more of you than of a lot of others.”

“You accused me personally, saying that because of my idolatry I had neglected my duty; but really you made such a jumble of it all, with papa’s visitors, and Sunday afternoons, that I cannot follow what was in your mind.”

Then Mr Kennedy stood for awhile, collecting his thoughts, so that he might unravel the jumble, if that were possible to him; but finding that it was not possible, he left the room, and closed the door behind him.

Then Lady Laura was left alone to consider the nature of the accusation which her husband had brought against her; or the nature rather of the accusation which she had chosen to assert that her husband had implied. For in her heart she knew that he had made no such accusation, and had intended to make none such. The idolatry of which he had spoken was the idolatry which a woman might show to her cat, her dog, her picture, her china, her furniture, her carriage and horses, or her pet maidservant. Such was the idolatry of which Mr Kennedy had spoken — but was there no other worship in her heart, worse, more pernicious than that, in reference to this young man?

She had schooled herself about him very severely, and had come to various resolutions. She had found out and confessed to herself that she did not, and could not, love her husband. She had found out and confessed to herself that she did love, and could not help loving, Phineas Finn. Then she had resolved to banish him from her presence, and had gone the length of telling him so. After that she had perceived that she had been wrong, and had determined to meet him as she met other men — and to conquer her love. Then, when this could not be done, when something almost like idolatry grew upon her, she determined that it should be the idolatry of friendship, that she would not sin even in thought, that there should be nothing in her heart of which she need be ashamed — but that the one great object and purport of her life should be the promotion of this friend’s welfare. She had just begun to love after this fashion, had taught herself to believe that she might combine something of the pleasure of idolatry towards her friend with a full complement of duty towards her husband, when Phineas came to her with his tale of love for Violet Effingham. The lesson which she got then was a very rough one — so hard that at first she could not bear it. Her anger at his love for her brother’s wished-for bride was lost in her dismay that Phineas should love anyone after having once loved her. But by sheer force of mind she had conquered that dismay, that feeling of desolation at her heart, and had almost taught herself to hope that Phineas might succeed with Violet. He wished it — and why should he not have what he wished — he, whom she so fondly idolised? It was not his fault that he and she were not man and wife. She had chosen to arrange it otherwise, and was she not bound to assist him now in the present object of his reasonable wishes? She had got over in her heart that difficulty about her brother, but she could not quite conquer the other difficulty. She could not bring herself to plead his cause with Violet. She had not brought herself as yet to do it.

And now she was accused of idolatry for Phineas by her husband — she with “a lot of others,” in which lot Violet was of course included. Would it not be better that they two should be brought together? Would not her friend’s husband still be her friend? Would she not then forget to love him? Would she not then be safer than she was now?

As she sat alone struggling with her difficulties, she had not as yet forgotten to love him — nor was she as yet safe.

Chapter 45

Miss Effingham”s four lovers

One morning early in June Lady Laura called at Lady Baldock’s house and asked for Miss Effingham. The servant was showing her into the large drawing-room, when she again asked specially for Miss Effingham. “I think Miss Effingham is there,” said the man, opening the door. Miss Effingham was not there. Lady Baldock was sitting all alone, and Lady Laura perceived that she had been caught in the net which she specially wished to avoid. Now Lady Baldock had not actually or openly quarrelled with Lady Laura Kennedy or with Lord Brentford, but she had conceived a strong idea that her niece Violet was countenanced in all improprieties by the Standish family generally, and that therefore the Standish family was to be regarded as a family of enemies. There was doubtless in her mind considerable confusion on the subject, for she did not know whether Lord Chiltern or Mr Finn was the suitor whom she most feared — and she was aware, after a sort of muddled fashion, that the claims of these two wicked young men were antagonistic to each other. But they were both regarded by her as emanations from the same source of iniquity, and, therefore, without going deeply into the machinations of Lady Laura — without resolving whether Lady Laura was injuring her by pressing her brother as a suitor upon Miss Effingham, or by pressing a rival of her brother — still she became aware that it was her duty to turn a cold shoulder on those two houses in Portman Square and Grosvenor Place. But her difficulties in doing this were very great, and it may be said that Lady Baldock was placed in an unjust and cruel position. Before the end of May she had proposed to leave London, and to take her daughter and Violet down to Baddingham — or to Brighton, if they preferred it, or to Switzerland. “Brighton in June!” Violet had exclaimed. “Would not a month among the glaciers be delightful!” Miss Boreham had said. “Don’t let me keep you in town, aunt,” Violet replied; “but I do not think I shall go till other people go. I can have a room at Laura Kennedy’s house.” Then Lady Baldock, whose position was hard and cruel, resolved that she would stay in town. Here she had in her hands a ward over whom she had no positive power, and yet in respect to whom her duty was imperative! Her duty was imperative, and Lady Baldock was not the woman to neglect her duty — and yet she knew that the doing of her duty would all be in vain. Violet would marry a shoeblack out of the streets if she were so minded. It was of no use that the poor lady had provided herself with two strings, two most excellent strings, to her bow — two strings either one of which should have contented Miss Effingham. There was Lord Fawn, a young peer, not very rich indeed — but still with means sufficient for a wife, a rising man, and in every way respectable, although a Whig. And there was Mr Appledom, one of the richest commoners in England, a fine Conservative too, with a seat in the House, and everything appropriate. He was fifty, but looked hardly more than thirty-five, and was — so at least Lady Baldock frequently asserted — violently in love with Violet Effingham. Why had not the law, or the executors, or the Lord Chancellor, or some power levied for the protection of the proprieties, made Violet absolutely subject to her guardian till she should be made subject to a husband?

“Yes, I think she is at home,” said Lady Baldock, in answer to Lady Laura’s inquiry for Violet. “At least, I hardly know. She seldom tells me what she means to do — and sometimes she will walk out quite alone!” A most imprudent old woman was Lady Baldock, always opening her hand to her adversaries, unable to control herself in the scolding of people, either before their faces or behind their backs, even at moments in which such scolding was most injurious to her own cause. “However, we will see,” she continued. Then the bell was rung, and in a few minutes Violet was in the room. In a few minutes more they were upstairs together in Violet’s own room, in spite of the openly-displayed wrath of Lady Baldock. “I almost wish she had never been born,” said Lady Baldock to her daughter. “Oh, mamma, don’t say that.” I certainly do wish that I had never seen her.” “Indeed she has been a grievous trouble to you, mamma,” said Miss Boreham, sympathetically.

“Brighton! What nonsense!” said Lady Laura.

“Of course it’s nonsense. Fancy going to Brighton! And then they have proposed Switzerland. If you could only hear Augusta talking in rapture of a month among the glaciers! And I feel so ungrateful. I believe they would spend three months with me at any horrible place that I could suggest — at Hong Kong if I were to ask it — so intent are they on taking me away from metropolitan danger.”

“But you will not go?”

“No! — I won’t go. I know I am very naughty; but I can’t help feeling that I cannot be good without being a fool at the same time. I must either fight my aunt, or give way to her. If I were to yield, what a life I should have — and I should despise myself after all.”

“And what is the special danger to be feared now?”

“I don’t know — you, I fancy. I told her that if she went, I should go to you. I knew that would make her stay.”

“I wish you would come to me,” said Lady Laura.

“I shouldn’t think of it really — not for any length of time.”

“Why not?”

“Because I should be in Mr Kennedy’s way.”

“You wouldn’t be in his way in the least. If you would only be down punctually for morning prayers, and go to church with him on Sunday afternoon, he would be delighted to have you.”

“What did he say about Madame Max coming?”

“Not a word. I don’t think he quite knew who she was then. I fancy he has inquired since, by something he said yesterday.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing that matters — only a word. I haven’t come here to talk about Madame Max Goesler — nor yet about Mr Kennedy.”

“Whom have you come to talk about?” asked Violet, laughing a little, with something of increased colour in her cheeks, though she could not be said to blush.

“A lover of course,” said Lady Laura.

“I wish you would leave me alone with my lovers. You are as bad or worse than my aunt. She, at any rate, varies her prescription. She has become sick of poor Lord Fawn because he’s a Whig.”

“And who is her favourite now?”

“Old Mr Appledom — who is really a most unexceptionable old party, and whom I like of all things. I really think I could consent to be Mrs Appledom, to get rid of my troubles — if he did not dye his whiskers and have his coats padded.”

“He’d give up those little things if you asked him.”

“I shouldn’t have the heart to do it. Besides, this isn’t his time of the year for making proposals. His love fever, which is of a very low kind, and intermits annually, never comes on till the autumn. It is a rural malady, against which he is proof while among his clubs!”

“Well, Violet — I am like your aunt.”

“Like Lady Baldock?”

“In one respect. I, too, will vary my prescription.”

“What do you mean, Laura?”

“Just this — that if you like to marry Phineas Finn, I will say that you are right.”

“Heaven and earth! And why am I to marry Phineas Finn?”

“Only for two reasons; because he loves you, and because — ”

“No — I deny it. I do not.”

“I had come to fancy that you did.”

“Keep your fancy more under control then. But upon my word I can’t understand this. He was your great friend.”

“What has that to do with it?” demanded Lady Laura.

“And you have thrown over your brother, Laura?”

“You have thrown him over. Is he to go on for ever asking and being refused?”

“I do not know why he should not,” said Violet, seeing how very little trouble it gives him. Half an hour once in six months does it all for him, allowing him time for coming and going in a cab.”

“Violet, I do not understand you. Have you refused Oswald so often because he does not pass hours on his knees before you?”

“No, indeed! His nature would be altered very much for the worse before he could do that.”

“Why do you throw it in his teeth then that he does not give you more of his time?”

“Why have you come to tell me to marry Mr Phineas Finn? That is what I want to know. Mr Phineas Finn, as far as I am aware, has not a shilling in the world — except a month’s salary now due to him from the Government. Mr Phineas Finn I believe to be the son of a country doctor in Ireland — with about seven sisters. Mr Phineas Finn is a Roman Catholic. Mr Phineas Finn is — or was a short time ago — in love with another lady; and Mr Phineas Finn is not so much in love at this moment but what he is able to entrust his cause to an ambassador. None short of a royal suitor should ever do that with success.”

“Has he never pleaded his cause to you himself?”

“My dear, I never tell gentlemen’s secrets. It seems that if he has, his success was so trifling that he has thought he had better trust someone else for the future.”

“He has not trusted me. He has not given me any commission.”

“Then why have you come?”

“Because — I hardly know how to tell his story. There have been things about Oswald which made it almost necessary that Mr Finn should explain himself to me.”

“I know it all — about their fighting. Foolish young men! I am not a bit obliged to either of them — not a bit. Only fancy, if my aunt knew it, what a life she would lead me! Gustavus knows all about it, and I feel that I am living at his mercy. Why were they so wrong-headed?”

“I cannot answer that — though I know them well enough to be sure that Chiltern was the one in fault.”

“It is so odd that you should have thrown your brother over.”

“I have not thrown my brother over. Will you accept Oswald if he asks you again?”

“No,” almost shouted Violet.

“Then I hope that Mr Finn may succeed. I want him to succeed in everything. There — you may know it all. He is my Phoebus Apollo.”

“That is flattering to me — looking at the position in which you desire to place your Phoebus at the present moment.”

“Come, Violet, I am true to you, and let me have a little truth from you. This man loves you, and I think is worthy of you. He does not love me, but he is my friend. As his friend, and believing in his worth, I wish for his success beyond almost anything else in the world. Listen to me, Violet. I don’t believe in those reasons which you gave me just now for not becoming this man’s wife.”

“Nor do I.”

“I know you do not. Look at me. I, who have less of real heart than you, I who thought that I could trust myself to satisfy my mind and my ambition without caring for my heart, I have married for what you call position. My husband is very rich, and a Cabinet Minister, and will probably be a peer. And he was willing to marry me at a time when I had not a shilling of my own.”

“He was very generous.”

“He has asked for it since,” said Lady Laura. But never mind. I have not come to talk about myself — otherwise than to bid you not do what I have done. All that you have said about this man’s want of money and of family is nothing.”

“Nothing at all,” said Violet. Mere words — fit only for such people as my aunt.”

“Well then?”

“Well?”

“If you love him —!”

“Ah! but if I do not? You are very close in inquiring into my secrets. Tell me, Laura — was not this young Crichton once a lover of your own?”

“Psha! And do you think I cannot keep a gentleman’s secret as well as you?”

“What is the good of any secret, Laura, when we have been already so open? He tried his ‘prentice hand on you; and then he came to me. Let us watch him, and see who’ll be the third. I too like him well enough to hope that he’ll land himself safely at last.”

Chapter 46

The Mousetrap

Phineas had certainly no desire to make love by an ambassador — at second hand. He had given no commission to Lady Laura, and was, as the reader is aware, quite ignorant of what was being done and said on his behalf. He had asked no more from Lady Laura than an opportunity of speaking for himself, and that he had asked almost with a conviction that by so asking he would turn his friend into an enemy. He had read but little of the workings of Lady Laura’s heart towards himself, and had no idea of the assistance she was anxious to give him. She had never told him that she was willing to sacrifice her brother on his behalf, and, of course, had not told him that she was willing also to sacrifice herself. Nor, when she wrote to him one June morning and told him that Violet would be found in Portman Square, alone, that afternoon — naming an hour, and explaining that Miss Effingham would be there to meet herself and her father, but that at such an hour she would be certainly alone — did he even then know how much she was prepared to do for him. The short note was signed “L.,” and then there came a long postscript. “Ask for me,” she said in a postscript. “I shall be there later, and I have told them to bid you wait. I can give you no hope of success, but if you choose to try — you can do so. If you do not come, I shall know that you have changed your mind. I shall not think the worse of you, and your secret will be safe with me. I do that which you have asked me to do — simply because you have asked it. Burn this at once — because I ask it.” Phineas destroyed the note, tearing it into atoms, the moment that he had read it and re-read it. Of course he would go to Portman Square at the hour named. Of course he would take his chance. He was not buoyed up by much of hope — but even though there were no hope, he would take his chance.

When Lord Brentford had first told Phineas of his promotion, he had also asked the new Lord of the Treasury to make a certain communication on his behalf to his son. This Phineas had found himself obliged to promise to do — and he had done it. The letter had been difficult enough to write — but he had written it. After having made the promise, he had found himself bound to keep it.

“Dear Lord Chiltern,” he had commenced, I will not think that there was anything in our late encounter to prevent my so addressing you. I now write at the instance of your father, who has heard nothing of our little affair.” Then he explained at length Lord Brentford’s wishes as he understood them. “Pray come home,” he said, finishing his letter. “Touching V. E., I feel that I am bound to tell you that I still mean to try my fortune, but that I have no ground for hoping that my fortune will be good. Since the day on the sands, I have never met her but in society. I know you will be glad to hear that my wound was nothing; and I think you will be glad to hear that I have got my foot on to the ladder of promotion. — Yours always,

“ PHINEAS FINN ”

Now he had to try his fortune — that fortune of which he had told Lord Chiltern that he had no reason for hoping that it would be good. He went direct from his office at the Treasury to Portman Square, resolving that he would take no trouble as to his dress, simply washing his hands and brushing his hair as though he were going down to the House, and he knocked at the Earl’s door exactly at the hour named by Lady Laura.

“Miss Effingham,” he said, I am so glad to find you alone.”

“Yes,” she said, laughing. I am alone — a poor unprotected female. But I fear nothing. I have strong reason for believing that Lord Brentford is somewhere about. And Pomfret the butler, who has known me since I was a baby, is a host in himself.”

“With such allies you can have nothing to fear,” he replied, attempting to carry on her little jest.

“Nor even without them, Mr Finn. We unprotected females in these days are so self-reliant that our natural protectors fall off from us, finding themselves to be no longer wanted. Now with you — what can I fear?”

“Nothing — as I hope.”

“There used to be a time, and that not so long ago either, when young gentlemen and ladies were thought to be very dangerous to each other if they were left alone. But propriety is less rampant now, and upon the whole virtue and morals, with discretion and all that kind of thing, have been the gainers. Don’t you think so?”

“I am sure of it.”

“All the same, but I don’t like to be caught in a trap, Mr Finn.”

“In a trap?”

“Yes — in a trap. Is there no trap here? If you will say so, I will acknowledge myself to be a dolt, and will beg your pardon.”

“I hardly know what you call a trap.”

“You were told that I was here?”

He paused a moment before he replied. “Yes, I was told.”

“I call that a trap.”

“Am I to blame?”

“I don’t say that you set it — but you use it.”

“Miss Effingham, of course I have used it. You must know — I think you must know that I have that to say to you which has made me long for such an opportunity as this.”

“And therefore you have called in the assistance of your friend.”

“It is true.”

“In such matters you should never talk to anyone, Mr Finn. If you cannot fight your own battle, no one can fight it for you.”

“Miss Effingham, do you remember our ride at Saulsby?”

“Very well — as if it were yesterday.”

“And do you remember that I asked you a question which you have never answered?”

“I did answer it — as well as I knew how, so that I might tell you a truth without hurting you.”

“It was necessary — is necessary that I should be hurt sorely, or made perfectly happy, Violet Effingham, I have come to you to ask you to be my wife — to tell you that I love you, and to ask for your love in return. Whatever may be my fate, the question must be asked, and an answer must be given. I have not hoped that you should tell me that you loved me — ”

“For what then have you hoped?”

“For not much, indeed — but if for anything, then for some chance that you might tell me so hereafter.”

“If I loved you, I would tell you so now — instantly. I give you my word of that.”

“Can you never love me?”

“What is a woman to answer to such a question? No — I believe never. I do not think I shall ever wish you to be my husband. You ask me to be plain, and I must be plain.”

“Is it because —?” He paused, hardly knowing what the question was which he proposed to himself to ask.

“It is for no because — for no cause except that simple one which should make any girl refuse any man whom she did not love. Mr Finn, I could say pleasant things to you on any other subject than this — because I like you.”

“I know that I have nothing to justify my suit.”

“You have everything to justify it — at least I am bound to presume that you have. If you love me — you are justified.”

“You know that I love you.”

“I am sorry that it should ever have been so — very sorry. I can only hope that I have not been in fault.”

“Will you try to love me?”

“No — why should I try? If any trying were necessary, I would try rather not to love you. Why should I try to do that which would displease everybody belonging to me? For yourself, I admit your right to address me — and tell you frankly that such a marriage would not please those whom I am bound to try to please.”

He paused a moment before he spoke further. “I shall wait,” he said, “and come again.”

“What am I to say to that? Do not tease me, so that I be driven to treat you with lack of courtesy. Lady Laura is so much attached to you, and Mr Kennedy, and Lord Brentford — and indeed I may say, I myself also, that I trust there may be nothing to mar our good fellowship. Come Mr Finn — say that you will take an answer, and I will give you my hand.”

“Give it me,” said he. She gave him her hand, and he put it up to his lips and pressed it. “I will wait and come again,” he said. “I will assuredly come again.” Then he turned from her and went out of the house. At the corner of the square he saw Lady Laura’s carriage, but did not stop to speak to her. And she also saw him.

“So you have had a visitor here,” said Lady Laura to Violet.

“Yes — I have been caught in the trap.”

“Poor mouse! And has the cat made a meal of you?”

“I fancy he has, after his fashion. There be cats that eat their mice without playing — and cats that play with their mice, and then eat them; and cats again which only play with their mice, and don’t care to eat them. Mr Finn is a cat of the latter kind, and has had his afternoon’s diversion.”

“You wrong him there.”

“I think not, Laura. I do not mean to say that he would not have liked me to accept him. But, if I can see inside his bosom, such a little job as that he has now done will be looked back upon as one of the past pleasures of his life — not as a pain.”

Chapter 47

Mr Mildmay”s bill

It will be necessary that we should go back in our story for a very short period in order that the reader may be told that Phineas Finn was duly re-elected at Loughton after his appointment at the Treasury Board. There was some little trouble at Loughton, and something more of expense than he had before encountered. Mr Quintus Slide absolutely came down, and was proposed by Mr Vellum for the borough. Mr Vellum being a gentleman learned in the law, and hostile to the interests of the noble owner of Saulsby, was able to raise a little trouble against our hero. Mr Slide was proposed by Mr Vellum, and seconded by Mr Vellum’s clerk — though, as it afterwards appeared, Mr Vellum’s clerk was not in truth an elector — and went to the poll like a man. He received three votes, and at twelve o’clock withdrew. This in itself could hardly have afforded compensation for the expense which Mr Slide or his backers must have encountered — but he had an opportunity of making a speech, every word of which was reported in the People’s Banner; and if the speech was made in the language given in the report, Mr Slide was really possessed of some oratorical power. Most of those who read the speech in the columns of the People’s Banner were probably not aware how favourable an opportunity of retouching his sentences in type had been given to Mr Slide by the fact of his connection with the newspaper. The speech had been very severe upon our hero; and though the speaker had been so hooted and pelted at Loughton as to have been altogether inaudible — so maltreated that in point of fact he had not been able to speak above a tenth part of his speech at all — nevertheless the speech did give Phineas a certain amount of pain. Why Phineas should have read it who can tell? But who is there that abstains from reading that which is printed in abuse of himself?

In the speech as it was printed Mr Slide declared that he had no thought of being returned for the borough. He knew too well how the borough was managed, what slaves the electors were — how they groaned under a tyranny from which hitherto they had been unable to release themselves. Of course the Earl’s nominee, his lackey, as the honourable gentleman might be called, would be returned. The Earl could order them to return whichever of his lackueys he pleased. — There is something peculiarly pleasing to the democratic ear in the word lackuey! Anyone serving a big man, whatever the service may be, is the big man’s lackuey in the People’s Banner. — The speech throughout was very bitter. Mr Phineas Finn, who had previously served in Parliament as the lackuey of an Irish earl, and had been turned off by him, had now fallen into the service of the English earl, and was the lackuey chosen for the present occasion. But he, Quintus Slide, who boasted himself to be a man of the people — he could tell them that the days of their thraldom were coming to an end, and that their enfranchisement was near at hand. That friend of the people, Mr Turnbull, had a clause in his breeches pocket which he would either force down the unwilling throat of Mr Mildmay, or else drive the imbecile Premier from office by carrying it in his teeth. Loughton, as Loughton, must be destroyed, but it should be born again in a better birth as a part of a real electoral district, sending a real member, chosen by a real constituency, to a real Parliament. In those days — and they would come soon — Mr Quintus Slide rather thought that Mr Phineas Finn would be found “nowhere,” and he rather thought also that when he showed himself again, as he certainly should do, in the midst of that democratic electoral district as the popular candidate for the honour of representing it in Parliament, that democratic electoral district would accord to him a reception very different from that which he was now receiving from the Earl’s lackueys in the parliamentary village of Loughton. A prettier bit of fiction than these sentences as composing a part of any speech delivered, or proposed to be delivered, at Loughton, Phineas thought he had never seen. And when he read at the close of the speech that though the Earl’s hired bullies did their worst, the remarks of Mr Slide were received by the people with reiterated cheering, he threw himself back in his chair at the Treasury and roared. The poor fellow had been three minutes on his legs, had received three rotten eggs, and one dead dog, and had retired. But not the half of the speech as printed in the People’s Banner has been quoted. The sins of Phineas, who in spite of his inability to open his mouth in public had been made a Treasury hack by the aristocratic influence — “by aristocratic influence not confined to the male sex,” — were described at great length, and in such language that Phineas for a while was fool enough to think that it would be his duty to belabour Mr Slide with a horsewhip. This notion, however, did not endure long with him, and when Mr Monk told him that things of that kind came as a matter of course, he was comforted.

But he found it much more difficult to obtain comfort when he weighed the arguments brought forward against the abominations of such a borough as that for which he sat, and reflected that if Mr Turnbull brought forward his clause, he, Phineas Finn, would be bound to vote against the clause, knowing the clause to be right, because he was a servant of the Government. The arguments, even though they appeared in the People’s Banner, were true arguments; and he had on one occasion admitted their truth to his friend Lady Laura — in the presence of that great Cabinet Minister, her husband. “What business has such a man as that down there? Is there a single creature who wants him?” Lady Laura had said. “I don’t suppose anybody does want Mr Quintus Slide,” Phineas had replied; “but I am disposed to think the electors should choose the man they do want, and that at present they have no choice left to them.” “They are quite satisfied,” said Lady Laura, angrily. “Then, Lady Laura, continued Phineas, “that alone should be sufficient to prove that their privilege of returning a member to Parliament is too much for them. We can’t defend it.” “It is defended by tradition, said Mr Kennedy. “And by its great utility,” said Lady Laura, bowing to the young member who was present, and forgetting that very useless old gentleman, her cousin, who had sat for the borough for many years. “In this country it doesn’t do to go too fast,” said Mr Kennedy. “And then the mixture of vulgarity, falsehood, and pretence!” said Lady Laura, shuddering as her mind recurred to the fact that Mr Quintus Slide had contaminated Loughton by his presence. “I am told that they hardly let him leave the place alive.”

Whatever Mr Kennedy and Lady Laura might think about Loughton and the general question of small boroughs, it was found by the Government, to their great cost, that Mr Turnbull’s clause was a reality. After two months of hard work, all questions of franchise had been settled, rating and renting, new and newfangled, fancy franchises and those which no one fancied, franchises for boroughs and franchises for counties, franchises single, dual, three-cornered, and four-sided — by various clauses to which the Committee of the whole House had agreed after some score of divisions — the matter of the franchise had been settled. No doubt there was the House of Lords, and there might yet be shipwreck. But it was generally believed that the Lords would hardly look at the bill — that they would not even venture on an amendment. The Lords would only be too happy to let the matter be settled by the Commons themselves. But then, after the franchise, came redistribution. How sick of the subject were all members of the Government, no-one could tell who did not see their weary faces. The whole House was sick, having been whipped into various lobbies, night after night, during the heat of the summer, for weeks past. Redistribution! Why should there be any redistribution? They had got, or would get, a beautiful franchise. Could they not see what that would do for them? Why redistribute anything? But, alas, it was too late to go back to so blessed an idea as that! Redistribution they must have. But there should be as little redistribution as possible. Men were sick of it all, and would not be exigeant. Something should be done for overgrown counties — something for new towns which had prospered in brick and mortar. It would be easy to crush up a peccant borough or two — a borough that had been discovered in its sin. And a few boroughs now blessed with two members might consent to be blessed only with one. Fifteen small clauses might settle the redistribution — in spite of Mr Turnbull — if only Mr Daubeny would be good-natured.

Neither the weather, which was very hot, nor the tedium of the session, which had been very great, nor the anxiety of Ministers, which was very pressing, had any effect in impairing the energy of Mr Turnbull. He was as instant, as oratorical, as hostile, as indignant about redistribution as he had been about the franchise. He had been sure then, and he was sure now, that Ministers desired to burke the question, to deceive the people, to produce a bill that should be no bill. He brought out his clause — and made Loughton his instance. “Would the honourable gentleman who sat lowest on the Treasury bench — who at this moment was in sweet confidential intercourse with the right honourable gentleman now President of the Board of Trade, who had once been a friend of the people — would the young Lord of the Treasury get up in his place and tell them that no peer of Parliament had at present a voice in sending a member to their House of Commons — that no peer would have a voice if this bill, as proposed by the Government, were passed in its present useless, ineffectual, conservative, and most dishonest form?”

Phineas, who replied to this, and who told Mr Turnbull that he himself could not answer for any peers — but that he thought it probable that most peers would, by their opinions, somewhat influence the opinions of some electors — was thought to have got out of his difficulty very well. But there was the clause of Mr Turnbull to be dealt with — a clause directly disfranchising seven single-winged boroughs, of which Loughton was of course one — a clause to which the Government must either submit or object. Submission would be certain defeat in one way, and objection would be as certain defeat in another — if the gentlemen on the other side were not disposed to assist the ministers. It was said that the Cabinet was divided. Mr Gresham and Mr Monk were for letting the seven boroughs go. Mr Mildmay could not bring himself to obey Mr Turnbull, and Mr Palliser supported him. When Mr Mildmay was told that Mr Daubeny would certainly go into the same lobby with Mr Turnbull respecting the seven boroughs, he was reported to have said that in that case Mr Daubeny must be prepared with a Government. Mr Daubeny made a beautiful speech about the seven boroughs — the seven sins, and seven stars, and seven churches, and seven lamps. He would make no party question of this. Gentlemen who usually acted with him would vote as their own sense of right or wrong directed them — from which expression of a special sanction it was considered that these gentlemen were not accustomed to exercise the privilege now accorded to them. But in regarding the question as one of right and wrong, and in looking at what he believed to be both the wish of the country and its interests, he, Mr Daubeny — he, himself, being simply a humble member of that House — must support the clause of the honourable gentleman. Almost all those to whom had been surrendered the privilege of using their own judgment for that occasion only, used it discreetly — as their chief had used it himself — and Mr Turnbull carried his clause by a majority of fifteen. It was then 3 a.m., and Mr Gresham, rising after the division, said that his right honourable friend the First Lord of the Treasury was too tired to return to the House, and had requested him to state that the Government would declare their purpose at 6 p.m. on the following evening.

Phineas, though he had made his little speech in answer to Mr Turnbull with good humoured flippancy, had recorded his vote in favour of the seven boroughs with a sore heart. Much as he disliked Mr Turnbull, he knew that Mr Turnbull was right in this. He had spoken to Mr Monk on the subject, as it were asking Mr Monk’s permission to throw up his office, and vote against Mr Mildmay. But Mr Monk was angry with him, telling him that his conscience was of that restless, uneasy sort which is neither useful nor manly. “We all know,” said Mr Monk, “and none better than Mr Mildmay, that we cannot justify such a borough as Loughton by the theory of our parliamentary representation — any more than we can justify the fact that Huntingdonshire should return as many members as the East Riding. There must be compromises, and you should trust to others who have studied the matter more thoroughly than you, to say how far the compromise should go at the present moment.”

“It is the influence of the peer, not the paucity of the electors,” said Phineas.

“And has no peer any influence in a county? Would you disfranchise Westmoreland? Believe me, Finn, if you want to be useful, you must submit yourself in such matters to those with whom you act.”

Phineas had no answer to make, but he was not happy in his mind. And he was the less happy, perhaps, because he was very sure that Mr Mildmay would be beaten. Mr Low in these days harassed him sorely. Mr Low was very keen against such boroughs as Loughton, declaring that Mr Daubeny was quite right to join his standard to that of Mr Turnbull on such an issue. Mr Low was the reformer now, and Phineas found himself obliged to fight a losing battle on behalf of an acknowledged abuse. He never went near Bunce; but, unfortunately for him, Bunce caught him once in the street and showed him no mercy. “Slide was a little ‘eavy on you in the Banner the other day — eh, Mr Finn? — too ‘eavy, as I told him.”

“Mr Slide can be just as heavy as he pleases, Bunce.”

“That’s in course. The press is free, thank God — as yet. But it wasn’t any good rattling away at the Earl’s little borough when it’s sure to go. Of course it’ll go, Mr Finn.”

“I think it will.”

“The whole seven on ’em. The ’ouse couldn’t but do it. They tell me it’s all Mr Mildmay’s own work, sticking out for keeping on ’em. He’s very old, and so we’ll forgive him. But he must go, Mr Finn.”

“We shall know all about that soon, Bunce.”

“If you don’t get another seat, Mr Finn, I suppose we shall see you back at the Inn. I hope we may. It’s better than being member for Loughton, Mr Finn — you may be sure of that.” And then Mr Bunce passed on.

Mr Turnbull carried his clause, and Loughton was doomed. Loughton and the other six deadly sins were anathematised, exorcised, and finally got rid of out of the world by the voices of the gentlemen who had been proclaiming the beauty of such pleasant vices all their lives, and who in their hearts hated all changes that tended towards popular representation. But not the less was Mr Mildmay beaten; and, in accordance with the promise made by his first lieutenant immediately after the vote was taken, the Prime Minister came forward on the next evening and made his statement. He had already put his resignation into the hands of Her Majesty, and Her Majesty had graciously accepted it. He was very old, and felt that the time had come in which it behoved him to retire into that leisure which he thought he had, perhaps, earned. He had hoped to carry this bill as the last act of his political life; but he was too old, too stiff, as he said, in his prejudices, to bend further than he had bent already, and he must leave the completion of the matter in other hands. Her Majesty had sent for Mr Gresham, and Mr Gresham had already seen Her Majesty. Mr Gresham and his other colleagues, though they dissented from the clause which had been carried by the united efforts of gentlemen opposite to him, and of gentlemen below him on his own side of the House, were younger men than he, and would, for the country’s sake — and for the sake of Her Majesty — endeavour to carry the bill through. There would then, of course, be a dissolution, and the future Government would, no doubt, depend on the choice of the country, From all which it was understood that Mr Gresham was to go on with the bill to a conclusion, whatever might be the divisions carried against him, and that a new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs must be chosen. Phineas understood, also, that he had lost his seat at Loughton. For the borough of Loughton there would never again be an election. “If I had been Mr Mildmay, I would have thrown the bill up altogether,” Lord Brentford said afterwards; “but of course it was not for me to interfere.”

The session was protracted for two months after that — beyond the time at which grouse should have been shot — and by the 23rd of August became the law of the land. “I shall never get over it,” said Mr Ratler to Mr Finn, seated one terribly hot evening on a bench behind the Cabinet Ministers — “never. I don’t suppose such a session for work was ever known before. Think what it is to have to keep men together in August, with the thermometer at 81 degrees, and the river stinking like — like the very mischief.” Mr Ratler, however, did not die.

On the last day of the session Laurence Fitzgibbon resigned. Rumours reached the ears of Phineas as to the cause of this, but no certain cause was told him. It was said that Lord Cantrip had insisted upon it, Laurence having by mischance been called upon for some official statement during an unfortunate period of absence. There was, however, a mystery about it — but the mystery was not half so wonderful as the triumph to Phineas, when Mr Gresham offered him the place.

“But I shall have no seat,” said Phineas.

“We shall none of us have seats tomorrow,” said Mr Gresham.

“But I shall be at a loss to find a place to stand for.”

“The election will not come on till November, and you must look about you. Both Mr Monk and Lord Brentford seem to think you will be in the House.”

And so the bill was carried, and the session was ended.

Chapter 48

“ The Duke ”

By the middle of September there was assembled a large party at Matching Priory, a country mansion belonging to Mr Plantagenet Palliser. The men had certainly been chosen in reference to their political feelings and position — for there was not a guest in the house who had voted for Mr Turnbull’s clause, or the wife or daughter, or sister of anyone who had so voted. Indeed, in these days politics ran so high that among politicians all social gatherings were brought together with some reference to the state of parties. Phineas was invited, and when he arrived at Matching he found that half the Cabinet was there. Mr Kennedy was not there, nor was Lady Laura. Mr Monk was there, and the Duke — with the Duchess, and Mr Gresham, and Lord Thrift; Mrs Max Goesler was there also, and Mrs Bonteen — Mr Bonteen being detained somewhere out of the way; and Violet Effingham was expected in two days, and Lord Chiltern at the end of the week. Lady Glencora took an opportunity of imparting this latter information to Phineas very soon after his arrival; and Phineas, as he watched her eye and her mouth while she spoke, was quite sure that Lady Glencora knew the story of the duel. “I shall be delighted to see him again,” said Phineas. “That is all right,” said Lady Glencora. There were also there Mr and Mrs Grey, who were great friends of the Pallisers — and on the very day on which Phineas reached Matching, at half an hour before the time for dressing, the Duke of Omnium arrived. Now, Mr Palliser was the Duke’s nephew and heir — and the Duke of Omnium was a very great person indeed. I hardly know why it should have been so, but the Duke of Omnium was certainly a greater man in public estimation than the other duke then present — the Duke of St Bungay. The Duke of St Bungay was a useful man, and had been so all his life, sitting in Cabinets and serving his country, constant as any peer in the House of Lords, always ready to take on his own shoulders any troublesome work required of him, than whom Mr Mildmay, and Mr Mildmay’s predecessor at the head of the liberal party, had had no more devoted adherent. But the Duke of Omnium had never yet done a day’s work on behalf of his country. They both wore the Garter, the Duke of St Bungay having earned it by service, the Duke of Omnium having been decorated with the blue ribbon — because he was Duke of Omnium. The one was a moral, good man, a good husband, a good father, and a good friend. The other — did not bear quite so high a reputation. But men and women thought but little of the Duke of St Bungay, while the other duke was regarded with an almost reverential awe. I think the secret lay in the simple fact that the Duke of Omnium had not been common in the eyes of the people. He had contrived to envelope himself in something of the ancient mystery of wealth and rank. Within three minutes of the Duke’s arrival Mrs Bonteen, with an air of great importance, whispered a word to Phineas. “He has come. He arrived exactly at seven!”

“Who has come?” Phineas asked.

“The Duke of Omnium!” she said, almost reprimanding him by her tone of voice for his indifference. “There has been a great doubt whether or no he would show himself at last. Lady Glencora told me that he never will pledge himself. I am so glad he has come.”

“I don’t think I ever saw him,” said Phineas.

“Oh, I have seen him — a magnificent-looking man! I think it is so very nice of Lady Glencora getting him to meet us. It is very rarely that he will join in a great party, but they say Lady Glencora can do anything with him since the heir was born. I suppose you have heard all about that.”

“No,” said Phineas; I have heard nothing of the heir, but I know that there are three or four babies.”

“There was no heir, you know, for a year and a half, and they were all au désespoir; and the Duke was very nearly quarrelling with his nephew; and Mr Palliser — you know it had very nearly come to a separation.”

“I don’t know anything at all about it,” said Phineas, who was not very fond of the lady who was giving him the information.

“It is so, I can assure you; but since the boy was born Lady Glencora can do anything with the Duke. She made him go to Ascot last spring, and he presented her with the favourite for one of the races on the very morning the horse ran. They say he gave three thousand pounds for him.”

“And did Lady Glencora win?”

“No — the horse lost; and Mr Palliser has never known what to do with him since. But it was very pretty of the Duke — was it not?”

Phineas, though he had intended to show to Mrs Bonteen how little he thought about the Duke of Omnium — how small was his respect for a great peer who took no part in politics — could not protect himself from a certain feeling of anxiety as to the aspect and gait and words of the man of whom people thought so much, of whom he had heard so often, and of whom he had seen so little. He told himself that the Duke of Omnium should be no more to him than any other man, but yet the Duke of Omnium was more to him than other men. When he came down into the drawing-room he was angry with himself, and stood apart — and was then angry with himself again because he stood apart. Why should he make a difference in his own bearing because there was such a man in the company? And yet he could not avoid it. When he entered the room the Duke was standing in a large bow-window, and two or three ladies and two or three men were standing round him. Phineas would not go near the group, telling himself that he would not approach a man so grand as was the Duke of Omnium. He saw Madame Max Goesler among the party, and after a while he saw her retreat. As she retreated, Phineas knew that some words from Madame Max Goesler had not been received with the graciousness which she had expected. There was the prettiest smile in the world on the lady’s face, and she took a corner on a sofa with an air of perfect satisfaction. But yet Phineas knew that she had received a wound.

“I called twice on you in London,” said Phineas, coming up close to her, “but was not fortunate enough to find you!”

“Yes — but you came so late in the season as to make it impossible that there should be any arrangements for our meeting. What can any woman do when a gentleman calls on her in August?”

“I came in July.”

“Yes, you did; on the 31st. I keep the most accurate record of all such things, Mr Finn. But let us hope that we may have better luck next year. In the meantime, we can only enjoy the good things that are going.”

“Socially, or politically, Madame Goesler?”

“Oh, socially. How can I mean anything else when the Duke of Omnium is here? I feel so much taller at being in the same house with him. Do not you? But you are a spoilt child of fortune, and perhaps you have met him before.”

“I think I once saw the back of a hat in the park, and somebody told me that the Duke’s head was inside it.”

“And you have never seen him but that once?”

“Never but that once — till now.”

“And do not you feel elated?”

“Of course I do. For what do you take me, Madame Goesler?”

“I do — immensely. I believe him to be a fool, and I never heard of his doing a kind act to anybody in my life.”

“Not when he gave the racehorse to Lady Glencora?”

“I wonder whether that was true. Did you ever hear of such an absurdity? As I was saying, I don’t think he ever did anything for anybody — but then, you know, to be Duke of Omnium! It isn’t necessary — is it — that a Duke of Omnium should do anything except be Duke of Omnium?”

At this moment Lady Glencora came up to Phineas, and took him across to the Duke. The Duke had expressed a desire to be introduced to him. Phineas, half-pleased and half-disgusted, had no alternative, and followed Lady Glencora. The Duke shook hands with him, and made a little bow, and said something about the garrotters, which Phineas, in his confusion, did not quite understand. He tried to reply as he would have replied to anybody else, but the weight of the Duke’s majesty was too much for him, and he bungled. The Duke made another little bow, and in a moment was speaking a word of condescension to some other favoured individual. Phineas retreated altogether disgusted — hating the Duke, but hating himself worse; but he would not retreat in the direction of Madame Max Goesler. It might suit that lady to take an instant little revenge for her discomfiture, but it did not suit him to do so. The question with him would be, whether in some future part of his career it might not be his duty to assist in putting down Dukes of Omnium.

At dinner Phineas sat between Mrs Bonteen and the Duchess of St Bungay, and did not find himself very happy. At the other end of the table the Duke — the great Duke, was seated at Lady Glencora’s right hand, and on his other side Fortune had placed Madame Max Goesler. The greatest interest which Phineas had during the dinner was in watching the operations — the triumphantly successful operations of that lady. Before dinner she had been wounded by the Duke. The Duke had not condescended to accord the honour of his little bow of graciousness to some little flattering morsel of wit which the lady had uttered on his behoof. She had said a sharp word or two in her momentary anger to Phineas; but when Fortune was so good to her in that matter of her place at dinner, she was not fool enough to throw away her chance. Throughout the soup and fish she was very quiet. She said a word or two after her first glass of champagne. The Duke refused two dishes, one after another, and then she glided into conversation. By the time that he had his roast mutton before him she was in full play, and as she eat her peach, the Duke was bending over her with his most gracious smile.

“Didn’t you think the session was very long, Mr Finn?” said the Duchess to Phineas.

“Very long indeed, Duchess,” said Phineas, with his attention still fixed on Madame Max Goesler.

“The Duke found it very troublesome.”

“I daresay he did,” said Phineas. That duke and that duchess were no more than any other man and any other man’s wife. The session had not been longer to the Duke of St Bungay than to all the public servants. Phineas had the greatest possible respect for the Duke of St Bungay, but he could not take much interest in the wailings of the Duchess on her husband’s behalf.

“And things do seem to be so very uncomfortable now,” said the Duchess — thinking partly of the resignation of Mr Mildmay, and partly of the fact that her own old peculiar maid who had lived with her for thirty years had retired into private life.

“Not so very bad, Duchess, I hope,” said Phineas, observing that at this moment Madame Max Goesler’s eyes were brilliant with triumph. Then there came upon him a sudden ambition — that he would like to “cut out” the Duke of Omnium in the estimation of Madame Max Goesler. The brightness of Madame Max Goesler’s eyes had not been thrown away upon our hero.

Violet Effingham came at the appointed time, and, to the surprise of Phineas, was brought to Matching by Lord Brentford. Phineas at first thought that it was intended that the Earl and his son should meet and make up their quarrel at Mr Palliser’s house. But Lord Brentford stayed only one night, and Phineas on the next morning heard the whole history of his coming and going from Violet. “I have almost been on my knees to him to stay,” she said. “Indeed, I did go on my knees — actually on my knees.”

“And what did he say?”

“He put his arm round me and kissed me, and — and — I cannot tell you all that he said. But it ended in this — that if Chiltern can be made to go to Saulsby, fatted calves without stint will be killed. I shall do all I can to make him go; and so must you, Mr Finn. Of course that silly affair in foreign parts is not to make any difference between you two.”

Phineas smiled, and said he would do his best, and looked up into her face, and was just able to talk to her as though things were going comfortably with him. But his heart was very cold. As Violet had spoken to him about Lord Chiltern there had come upon him, for the first time — for the first time since he had known that Lord Chiltern had been refused — an idea, a doubt, whether even yet Violet might not become Lord Chiltern’s wife. His heart was very sad, but he struggled on — declaring that it was incumbent on them both to bring together the father and son.

“I am so glad to hear you say so, Mr Finn,” said Violet. “I really do believe that you can do more towards it than anyone else. Lord Chiltern would think nothing of my advice — would hardly speak to me on such a subject. But he respects you as well as likes you, and not the less because of what has occurred.”

How was it that Violet should know aught of the respect or liking felt by this rejected suitor for that other suitor — who had also been rejected? And how was it that she was thus able to talk of one of them to the other, as though neither of them had ever come forward with such a suit? Phineas felt his position to be so strange as to be almost burdensome. He had told Violet, when she had refused him, very plainly, that he should come again to her, and ask once more for the great gift which he coveted. But he could not ask again now. In the first place, there was that in her manner which made him sure that were he to do so, he would ask in vain; and then he felt that she was placing a special confidence in him, against which he would commit a sin were he to use her present intimacy with him for the purposes of making love. They two were to put their shoulders together to help Lord Chiltern, and while doing so he could not continue a suit which would be felt by both of them to be hostile to Lord Chiltern. There might be opportunity for a chance word, and if so the chance word should be spoken; but he could not make a deliberate attack, such as he had made in Portman Square. Violet also probably understood that she had not now been caught in a mousetrap.

The Duke was to spend four days at Matching, and on the third day — the day before Lord Chiltern was expected — he was to be seen riding with Madame Max Goesler by his side. Madame Max Goesler was known as a perfect horsewoman — one indeed who was rather fond of going a little fast on horseback, and who rode well to hounds. But the Duke seldom moved out of a walk, and on this occasion Madame Max was as steady in her seat and almost as slow as the mounted ghost in Don Juan. But it was said by some there, especially by Mrs Bonteen, that the conversation between them was not slow. And on the next morning the Duke and Madame Max Goesler were together again before luncheon, standing on a terrace at the back of the house, looking down on a party who were playing croquet on the lawn.

“Do you never play?” said the Duke.

“Oh yes — one does everything a little.”

“I am sure you would play well. Why do you not play now?”

“No — I shall not play now.”

“I should like to see you with your mallet.”

“I am sorry Your Grace cannot be gratified. I have played croquet till I am tired of it, and have come to think it is only fit for boys and girls. The great thing is to give them opportunities for flirting, and it does that.”

“And do you never flirt, Madame Goesler?”

“Never at croquet, Duke.”

“And what with you is the choicest time?”

“That depends on so many things — and so much on the chosen person. What do you recommend?”

“Ah — I am so ignorant. I can recommend nothing.”

“What do you say to a mountain-top at dawn on a summer day?” asked Madame Max Goesler.

“You make me shiver,” said the Duke.

“Or a boat on a lake on a summer evening, or a good lead after hounds with nobody else within three fields, or the bottom of a salt-mine, or the deck of an ocean steamer, or a military hospital in time of war, or a railway journey from Paris to Marseilles?”

“Madame Max Goesler, you have the most uncomfortable ideas.”

“I have no doubt your Grace has tried each of them — successfully. But perhaps, after all, a comfortable chair over a good fire, in a pretty room, beats everything.”

“I think it does — certainly,” said the Duke. Then he whispered something at which Madame Max Goesler blushed and smiled, and immediately after that she followed those who had already gone in to lunch.

Mrs Bonteen had been hovering round the spot on the terrace on which the Duke and Madame Max Goesler had been standing, looking on with envious eyes, meditating some attack, some interruption, some excuse for an interpolation, but her courage had failed her and she had not dared to approach. The Duke had known nothing of the hovering propinquity of Mrs Bonteen, but Madame Goesler had seen and had understood it all.

“Dear Mrs Bonteen,” she said afterwards, why did you not come and join us? The Duke was so pleasant.”

“Two is company, and three is none,” said Mrs Bonteen, who in her anger was hardly able to choose her words quite as well as she might have done had she been more cool.

“Our friend Madame Max has made quite a new conquest,” said Mrs Bonteen to Lady Glencora.

“I am so pleased,” said Lady Glencora, with apparently unaffected delight. “It is such a great thing to get anybody to amuse my uncle. You see everybody cannot talk to him, and he will not talk to everybody.”

“He talked enough to her in all conscience,” said Mrs Bonteen, who was now more angry than ever.

Chapter 49

The Duellists meet

Lord Chiltern arrived, and Phineas was a little nervous as to their meeting. He came back from shooting on the day in question, and was told by the servant that Lord Chiltern was in the house. Phineas went into the billiard-room in his knickerbockers, thinking probably that he might be there, and then into the drawing-room, and at last into the library — but Lord Chiltern was not to be found. At last he came across Violet.

“Have you seen him?” he asked.

“Yes — he was with me half an hour since, walking round the gardens.”

“And how is he? Come — tell me something about him.”

“I never knew him to be more pleasant. He would give no promise about Saulsby, but he did not say that he would not go.”

“Does he know that I am here?”

“Yes — I told him so. I told him how much pleasure I should have in seeing you two together — as friends.”

“And what did he say?”

“He laughed, and said you were the best fellow in the world. You see I am obliged to be explicit.”

“But why did he laugh?” Phineas asked.

“He did not tell me, but I suppose it was because he was thinking of a little trip he once took to Belgium, and he perceived that I knew all about it.”

“I wonder who told you. But never mind. I do not mean to ask any questions. As I do not like that our first meeting should be before all the people in the drawing-room, I will go to him in his own room.”

“Do, do — that will be so nice of you.”

Phineas sent his card up by a servant, and in a few minutes was standing with his hand on the lock of Lord Chiltern’s door. The last time he had seen this man, they had met with pistols in their hands to shoot at each other, and Lord Chiltern had in truth done his very best to shoot his opponent. The cause of quarrel was the same between them as ever. Phineas had not given up Violet, and had no intention of giving her up. And he had received no intimation whatever from his rival that there was to be a truce between them. Phineas had indeed written in friendship to Lord Chiltern, but he had received no answer — and nothing of certainty was to be gathered from the report which Violet had just made. It might well be that Lord Chiltern would turn upon him now in his wrath, and that there would be some scene which in a strange house would be obviously objectionable. Nevertheless he had resolved that even that would be better than a chance encounter among strangers in a drawing-room. So the door was opened and the two men met.

“Well, old fellow,” said Lord Chiltern, laughing. Then all doubt was over, and in a moment Phineas was shaking his former — and present friend, warmly by the hand. “So we’ve come to be an Under-Secretary have we? — and all that kind of thing.”

“I had to get into harness — when the harness offered itself,” said Phineas.

“I suppose so. It’s a deuce of a bore, isn’t it?”

“I always liked work, you know.”

“I thought you liked hunting better. You used to ride as if you did. There’s Bonebreaker back again in the stable for you. That poor fool who bought him could do nothing with him, and I let him have his money back.”

“I don’t see why you should have done that.”

“Because I was the biggest fool of the two. Do you remember when that brute got me down under the bank in the river? That was about the nearest touch I ever had. Lord bless me — how he did squeeze me! So here you are — staying with the Pallisers — one of a Government party I suppose. But what are you going to do for a seat, my friend?”

“Don’t talk about that yet, Chiltern.”

“A sore subject — isn’t it? I think they have been quite right, you know, to put Loughton into the melting-pot — though I’m sorry enough for your sake.”

“Quite right,” said Phineas.

“And yet you voted against it, old chap? But, come; I’m not going to be down upon you. So my father has been here?”

“Yes — he was here for a day or two.”

“Violet has just been telling me. You and he are as good friends as ever?”

“I trust we are.”

“He never heard of that little affair?” And Lord Chiltern nodded his head, intending to indicate the direction of Blankenberg.

“I do not think he has yet.”

“So Violet tells me. Of course you know that she has heard all about it.”

“I have reason to suppose as much.”

“And so does Laura.”

“I told her myself,” said Phineas.

“The deuce you did! But I daresay it was for the best. It’s a pity you had not proclaimed it at Charing Cross, and then nobody would have believed a word about it. Of course my father will hear it some day.”

“You are going to Saulsby, I hope, Chiltern?”

“That question is easier asked than answered. It is quite true that the great difficulty has been got over. Laura has had her money. And if my father will only acknowledge that he has wronged me throughout, from beginning to end, I will go to Saulsby tomorrow — and would cut you out at Loughton the next day, only that Loughton is not Loughton any longer.”

“You cannot expect your father to do that.”

“No — and therefore there is a difficulty. So you’ve had that awfully ponderous Duke here. How did you get on with him?”

“Admirably. He condescended to do something which he called shaking hands with me.”

“He is the greatest old dust out,” said Lord Chiltern, disrespectfully. “Did he take any notice of Violet?”

“Not that I observed.”

“He ought not to be allowed into the same room with her.” After that there was a short pause, and Phineas felt some hesitation in speaking of Miss Effingham to Lord Chiltern. “And how do you get on with her?” asked Lord Chiltern. Here was a question for a man to answer. The question was so hard to be answered, that Phineas did not at first make any attempt to answer it. “You know exactly the ground that I stand on,” continued Lord Chiltern. “She has refused me three times. Have you been more fortunate?”

Lord Chiltern, as he asked his question, looked full into Finn’s face in a manner that was irresistible. His look was not one of anger nor even of pride. It was not, indeed, without a strong dash of fun. But such as it was it showed Phineas that Lord Chiltern intended to have an answer. “No,” said he at last, I have not been more fortunate.”

“Perhaps you have changed your mind,” said his host.

“No — I have not changed my mind,” said Phineas, quickly.

“How stands it then? Come — let us be honest to each other. I told you down at Willingford that I would quarrel with any man who attempted to cut me out with Violet Effingham. You made up your mind that you would do so, and therefore I quarrelled with you. But we can’t always be fighting duels.”

“I hope we may not have to fight another.”

“No — it would be absurd,” said Lord Chiltern. I rather think that what we did was absurd. But upon my life I did not see any other way out of it. However, that is over. How is it to be now?”

“What am I to say in answer to that?” asked Phineas.

“Just the truth. You have asked her, I suppose?”

“Yes — I have asked her.”

“And she has refused you?”

“Yes — she has refused me.”

“And you mean to ask her again?”

“I shall — if I ever think that there is a chance. Indeed, Chiltern, I believe I shall whether I think that I have any chance or not.”

“Then we start fairly, Finn. I certainly shall do so. I believe I once told you that I never would — but that was long before I suspected that you would enter for the same plate. What a man says on such a matter when he is down in the mouth goes for nothing. Now we understand each other, and you had better go and dress. The bell rang nearly half an hour ago, and my fellow is hanging about outside the door.”

The interview had in one respect been very pleasant to Phineas, and in another it had been very bitter. It was pleasant to him to know that he and Lord Chiltern were again friends. It was a delight to him to feel that this half-savage but high-spirited young nobleman, who had been so anxious to fight with him and to shoot him, was nevertheless ready to own that he had behaved well. Lord Chiltern had in fact acknowledged that though he had been anxious to blow out our hero’s brains, he was aware all the time that our hero was a good sort of fellow. Phineas understood this, and felt that it was pleasant. But with this understanding, and accompanying this pleasure, there was a conviction in his heart that the distance between Lord Chiltern and Violet would daily grow to be less and still less — and that Lord Chiltern could afford to be generous. If Miss Effingham could teach herself to be fond of Lord Chiltern, what had he, Phineas Finn, to offer in opposition to the claims of such a suitor?

That evening Lord Chiltern took Miss Effingham out to dinner. Phineas told himself that this was of course so arranged by Lady Glencora, with the express view of serving the Saulsby interest. It was almost nothing to him at the moment that Madame Max Goesler was entrusted to him. He had his ambition respecting Madame Max Goesler; but that for the time was in abeyance. He could hardly keep his eyes off Miss Effingham. And yet, as he well knew, his observation of her must be quite useless. He knew beforehand, with absolute accuracy, the manner in which she would treat her lover. She would be kind, genial, friendly, confidential, nay, affectionate; and yet her manner would mean nothing — would give no clue to her future decision either for or against Lord Chiltern. It was, as Phineas thought, a peculiarity with Violet Effingham that she could treat her rejected lovers as dear familiar friends immediately after her rejection of them.

“Mr Finn,” said Madame Max Goesler, your eyes and ears are tell-tales of your passion.”

“I hope not,” said Phineas, as I certainly do not wish that anyone should guess how strong is my regard for you.”

“That is prettily turned — very prettily turned; and shows more readiness of wit than I gave you credit for under your present suffering. But of course we all know where your heart is. Men do not undertake perilous journeys to Belgium for nothing.”

“That unfortunate journey to Belgium! But, dear Madame Max, really nobody knows why I went.”

“You met Lord Chiltern there?”

“Oh yes — I met Lord Chiltern there.”

“And there was a duel?”

“Madame Max — you must not ask me to criminate myself!”

“Of course there was, and of course it was about Miss Effingham, and of course the lady thinks herself bound to refuse both the gentlemen who were so very wicked, and of course — ”

“Well — what follows?”

“Ah! — if you have not wit enough to see, I do not think it can be my duty to tell you. But I wished to caution you as a friend that your eyes and ears should be more under your command.”

“You will go to Saulsby?” Violet said to Lord Chiltern.

“I cannot possibly tell as yet,” said he, frowning.

“Then I can tell you that you ought to go. I do not care a bit for your frowns. What does the fifth commandment say?”

“If you have no better arguments than the commandments, Violet — ”

“There can be none better. Do you mean to say that the commandments are nothing to you?”

“I mean to say that I shan’t go to Saulsby because I am told in the twentieth chapter of Exodus to honour my father and mother — and that I shouldn’t believe anybody who told me that he did anything because of the commandments.”

“Oh, Lord Chiltern!”

“Peopled are so prejudiced and so used to humbug that for the most part they do not in the least know their own motives for what they do. I will go to Saulsby tomorrow — for a reward.”

“For what reward?” said Violet, blushing.

“For the only one in the world that could tempt me to do anything.”

“You should go for the sake of duty. I should not even care to see you go, much as I long for it, if that feeling did not take you there.”

It was arranged that Phineas and Lord Chiltern were to leave Matching together. Phineas was to remain at his office all October, and in November the general election was to take place. What he had hitherto heard about a future seat was most vague, but he was to meet Ratler and Barrington Erle in London, and it had been understood that Barrington Erle, who was now at Saulsby, was to make some inquiry as to that group of boroughs of which Loughton at this moment formed one. But as Loughton was the smallest of four boroughs, and as one of the four had for many years had a representative of its own, Phineas feared that no success would be found there. In his present agony he began to think that there might be a strong plea made for a few private seats in the House of Commons, and that the propriety of throwing Loughton into the melting-pot was, after all, open to question. He and Lord Chiltern were to return to London together, and Lord Chiltern, according to his present scheme, was to proceed at once to Willingford to look after the cub-hunting. Nothing that either Violet or Phineas could say to him would induce him to promise to go to Saulsby. When Phineas pressed it, he was told by Lord Chiltern that he was a fool for his pains — by which Phineas understood perfectly well that when Lord Chiltern did go to Saulsby, he, Phineas, was to take that as strong evidence that everything was over for him as regarded Violet Effingham. When Violet expressed her eagerness that the visit should be made, she was stopped with an assurance that she could have it done at once if she pleased. Let him only be enabled to carry with him the tidings of his betrothal, and he would start for his father’s house without an hour’s delay. But this authority Violet would not give him. When he answered her after this fashion she could only tell him that he was ungenerous. “At any rate I am not false,” he replied on one occasion. “What I say is the truth.”

There was a very tender parting between Phineas and Madame Max Goesler. She had learned from him pretty nearly all his history, and certainly knew more of the reality of his affairs than any of those in London who had been his most staunch friends. “Of course you’ll get a seat,” she said as he took his leave of her. “If I understand it at all, they never throw over an ally so useful as you are.”

“But the intention is that in this matter nobody shall any longer have the power of throwing over, or of not throwing over, anybody.”

“That is all very well, my friend; but cakes will still be hot in the mouth, even though Mr Daubeny turn purist, with Mr Turnbull to help him. If you want any assistance in finding a seat you will not go to the People’s Banner — even yet.”

“Certainly not to the People’s Banner.”

“I don’t quite understand what the franchise is,” continued Madame Max Goesler.

“Household in boroughs,” said Phineas with some energy.

“Very well — household in boroughs. I daresay that is very fine and very liberal, though I don’t comprehend it in the least. And you want a borough. Very well. You won’t go to the households. I don’t think you will — not at first, that is.”

“Where shall I go then?”

“Oh — to some great patron of a borough — or to a club — or perhaps to some great firm. The households will know nothing about it till they are told. Is not that it?”

“The truth is, Madame Max, I do not know where I shall go. I am like a child lost in a wood. And you may understand this — if you do not see me in Park Lane before the end of January, I shall have perished in the wood.”

“Then I will come and find you — with a troop of householders: You will come. You will be there. I do not believe in death coming without signs. You are full of life.” As she spoke, she had hold of his hand, and there was nobody near them. They were in a little book-room inside the library at Matching, and the door, though not latched, was nearly closed. Phineas had flattered himself that Madame Goesler had retreated there in order that this farewell might be spoken without interruption. “And, Mr Finn — I wonder whether I may say one thing,” she continued.

“You may say anything to me,” he replied.

“No — not in this country, in this England. There are things one may not say here — that are tabooed by a sort of consent — and that without any reason.” She paused again, and Phineas was at a loss to think what was the subject on which she was about to speak. Could she mean —? No; she could not mean to give him any outward plain-spoken sign that she was attached to him. It was the peculiar merit of this man that he was not vain, though much was done to him to fill him with vanity; and as the idea crossed his brain, he hated himself because it had been there.

“To me you may say anything, Madame Goesler,” he said — “here in England, as plainly as though we were in Vienna.”

“But I cannot say it in English,” she said. Then in French, blushing and laughing as she spoke — almost stammering in spite of her usual self-confidence — she told him that accident had made her rich, full of money. Money was a drug with her. Money she knew was wanted, even for householders. Would he not understand her, and come to her, and learn from her how faithful a woman could be?

He still was holding her by the hand, and he now raised it to his lips and kissed it. “The offer from you,” he said, is as high-minded, as generous, and as honourable as its acceptance by me would be mean-spirited, vile, and ignoble. But whether I fail or whether I succeed, you shall see me before the winter is over.”

Chapter 50

Again successful

Phineas also said a word of farewell to Violet before he left Matching, but there was nothing peculiar in her little speech to him, or in his to her. “Of course we shall see each other in London. Don’t talk of not being in the House. Of course you will be in the House.” Then Phineas had shaken his head and smiled. Where was he to find a requisite number of householders prepared to return him? But as he went up to London he told himself that the air of the House of Commons was now the very breath of his nostrils. Life to him without it would be no life. To have come within the reach of the good things of political life, to have made his mark so as to have almost ensured future success, to have been the petted young official aspirant of the day — and then to sink down into the miserable platitudes of private life, to undergo daily attendance in law-courts without a brief, to listen to men who had come to be much below him in estimation and social intercourse, to sit in a wretched chamber up three pairs of stairs at Lincoln’s Inn, whereas he was now at this moment provided with a gorgeous apartment looking out into the Park from the Colonial Office in Downing Street, to be attended by a mongrel between a clerk and an errand boy at 17s. 6d. a week instead of by a private secretary who was the son of an earl’s sister, and was petted by countesses’ daughters innumerable — all this would surely break his heart. He could have done it, so he told himself, and could have taken glory in doing it, had not these other things come in his way. But the other things had come. He had run the risk, and had thrown the dice. And how when the game was so nearly won, must it be that everything should be lost at last?

He knew that nothing was to be gained by melancholy looks at his club, or by show of wretchedness at his office. London was very empty; but the approaching elections still kept some there who otherwise would have been looking after the first flush of pheasants. Barrington Erle was there, and was not long in asking Phineas what were his views.

“Ah — that is so hard to say. Ratler told me that he would be looking about.”

“Ratler is very well in the House,” said Barrington, “but he is of no use for anything beyond it. I suppose you were not brought up at the London University?”

“Oh no,” said Phineas, remembering the glories of Trinity.

“Because there would have been an opening. What do you say to Stratford — the new Essex borough?”

“Broadbury the brewer is there already!”

“Yes — and ready to spend any money you like to name. Let me see. Loughton is grouped with Smotherem, and Walker is a deal too strong at Smotherem to hear of any other claim. I don’t think we could dare to propose it. There are the Chelsea hamlets, but it will take a wack of money.”

“I have not got a wack of money,” said Phineas, laughing.

“That’s the devil of it. I think, if I were you, I should hark back upon some place in Ireland. Couldn’t you get Laurence to give you up his seat?”

“What! Fitzgibbon?”

“Yes. He has not a ghost of a chance of getting into office again. Nothing on earth would induce him to look at a paper during all those weeks he was at the Colonial Office; and when Cantrip spoke to him, all he said was, “Ah, bother!” Cantrip did not like it, I can tell you.”

“But that wouldn’t make him give up his seat.”

“Of course you’d have to arrange it.” By which Phineas understood Barrington Erle to mean that he, Phineas, was in some way to give to Laurence Fitzgibbon some adequate compensation for the surrender of his position as a county member.

“I’m afraid that’s out of the question,” said Phineas. “If he were to go, I should not get it.”

“Would you have a chance at Loughshane?”

“I was thinking of trying it,” said Phineas.

“Of course you know that Morris is very ill.” This Mr Morris was the brother of Lord Tulla, and was the sitting member of Loughshane. “Upon my word I think I should try that. I don’t see where we’re to put our hands on a seat in England. I don’t indeed.” Phineas, as he listened to this, could not help thinking that Barrington Erle, though he had certainly expressed a great deal of solicitude, was not as true a friend as he used to be. Perhaps he, Phineas, had risen too fast, and Barrington Erle was beginning to think that he might as well be out of the way.

He wrote to his father, asking after the borough, and asking after the health of Mr Morris. And in his letter he told his own story very plainly — almost pathetically. He perhaps had been wrong to make the attempt which he had made. He began to believe that he had been wrong. But at any rate he had made it so far successfully, and failure now would be doubly bitter. He thought that the party to which he belonged must now remain in office. It would hardly be possible that a new election would produce a House of Commons favourable to a conservative ministry. And with a liberal ministry he, Phineas, would be sure of his place, and sure of an official income — if only he could find a seat. It was all very true, and was almost pathetic. The old doctor, who was inclined to be proud of his son, was not unwilling to make a sacrifice. Mrs Finn declared before her daughters that if there was a seat in all Ireland, Phineas ought to have it. And Mary Flood Jones stood by listening, and wondering what Phineas would do if he lost his seat. Would he come back and live in County Clare, and be like any other girl’s lover? Poor Mary had come to lose her ambition, and to think that girls whose lovers stayed at home were the happiest. Nevertheless, she would have walked all the way to Lord Tulla’s house and back again, might that have availed to get the seat for Phineas. Then there came an express over from Castlemorris. The doctor was wanted at once to see Mr Morris. Mr Morris was very bad with gout in his stomach. According to the messenger it was supposed that Mr Morris was dying. Before Dr Finn had had an opportunity of answering his son’s letter, Mr Morris, the late member for Loughshane, had been gathered to his fathers.

Dr Finn understood enough of elections for Parliament, and of the nature of boroughs, to be aware that a candidate’s chance of success is very much improved by being early in the field; and he was aware, also, that the death of Mr Morris would probably create various aspirants for the honour of representing Loughshane. But he could hardly address the Earl on the subject while the dead body of the late member was lying in the house at Castlemorris. The bill which had passed in the late session for reforming the constitution of the House of Commons had not touched Ireland, a future measure having been promised to the Irish for their comfort; and Loughshane therefore was, as to Lord Tulla’s influence, the same as it had ever been. He had not there the plenary power which the other lord had held in his hands in regard to Loughton — but still the Castlemorris interest would go a long way. It might be possible to stand against it, but it would be much more desirable that the candidate should have it at his back. Dr Finn was fully alive to this as he sat opposite to the old lord, saying now a word about the old lord’s gout in his legs and arms, and then about the gout in the stomach, which had carried away to another world the lamented late member for the borough.

“Poor Jack!” said Lord Tulla, piteously. If I’d known it, I needn’t have paid over two thousand pounds for him last year — need I, doctor?”

“No, indeed,” said Dr Finn, feeling that his patient might perhaps approach the subject of the borough himself.

“He never would live by any rule, you know,” said the desolate brother.

“Very hard to guide — was he not, my lord?”

“The very devil. Now, you see, I do do what I’m told pretty well — don’t I, doctor?”

“Sometimes.”

“By George, I do nearly always. I don’t know what you mean by sometimes. I’ve been drinking brandy and water till I’m sick of it, to oblige you, and you tell me about — sometimes. You doctors expect a man to be a slave. Haven’t I kept it out of my stomach?”

“Thank God, yes.”

“It’s all very well thanking God, but I should have gone as poor Jack has gone, if I hadn’t been the most careful man in the world. He was drinking champagne ten days ago — would do it, you know.” Lord Tulla could talk about himself and his own ailments by the hour together, and Dr Finn, who had thought that his noble patient was approaching the subject of the borough, was beginning again to feel that the double interest of the gout that was present, and the gout that had passed away, would be too absorbing. He, however, could say but little to direct the conversation.

“Mr Morris, you see, lived more in London than you do, and was subject to temptation.”

“I don’t know what you call temptation. Haven’t I the temptation of a bottle of wine under my nose every day of my life?”

“No doubt you have.”

“And I don’t drink it. I hardly ever take above a glass or two of brown sherry. By George! when I think of it, I wonder at my own courage. I do, indeed.”

“But a man in London, my lord — ”

“Why the deuce would he go to London? By the bye, what am I to do about the borough now?”

“Let my son stand for it, if you will, my lord.”

“They’ve clean swept away Brentford’s seat at Loughton, haven’t they? Ha, ha, ha! What a nice game for him — to have been forced to help to do it himself! There’s nobody on earth I pity so much as a radical peer who is obliged to work like a nigger with a spade to shovel away the ground from under his own feet. As for me, I don’t care who sits for Loughshane. I did care for poor Jack while he was alive. I don’t think I shall interfere any longer. I am glad it lasted Jack’s time.” Lord Tulla had probably already forgotten that he himself had thrown Jack over for the last session but one.

“Phineas, my lord,” began the father, is now Under-Secretary of State.”

“Oh, I’ve no doubt he’s a very fine fellow — but you see, he’s an out-and-out Radical.”

“No, my lord.”

“Then how can he serve with such men as Mr Gresham and Mr Monk? They’ve turned out poor old Mildmay among them, because he’s not fast enough for them. Don’t tell me.”

“My anxiety, of course, is for my boy’s prospects. He seems to have done so well in Parliament.”

“Why don’t he stand for Marylebone or Finsbury?”

“The money, you know, my lord!”

“I shan’t interfere here, doctor. If he comes, and the people then choose to return him, I shall say nothing. They may do just as they please. They tell me Lambert St George, of Mockrath, is going to stand. If he does, it’s the d — piece of impudence I ever heard of. He’s a tenant of my own, though he has a lease for ever; and his father never owned an acre of land in the county till his uncle died.” Then the doctor knew that, with a little management, the lord’s interest might be secured for his son.

Phineas came over and stood for the borough against Mr Lambert St George, and the contest was sharp enough. The gentry of the neighbourhood could not understand why such a man as Lord Tulla should admit a liberal candidate to succeed his brother. No one canvassed for the young Under-Secretary with more persistent zeal than did his father, who, when Phineas first spoke of going into Parliament, had produced so many good arguments against that perilous step. Lord Tulla’s agent stood aloof — desolate with grief at the death of the late member. At such a moment of family affliction, Lord Tulla, he declared, could not think of such a matter as the borough. But it was known that Lord Tulla was dreadfully jealous of Mr Lambert St George, whose property in that part of the county was now nearly equal to his own, and who saw much more company at Mockrath than was ever entertained at Castlemorris. A word from Lord Tulla — so said the Conservatives of the county — would have put Mr St George into the seat; but that word was not spoken, and the Conservatives of the neighbourhood swore that Lord Tulla was a renegade. The contest was very sharp, but our hero was returned by a majority of seventeen votes.

Again successful! As he thought of it he remembered stories of great generals who were said to have chained Fortune to the wheels of their chariots, but it seemed to him that the goddess had never served any general with such staunch obedience as she had displayed in his cause. Had not everything gone well with him — so well, as almost to justify him in expecting that even yet Violet Effingham would become his wife? Dear, dearest Violet! If he could only achieve that, no general, who ever led an army across the Alps, would be his equal either in success or in the reward of success. Then he questioned himself as to what he would say to Miss Flood Jones on that very night. He was to meet dear little Mary Flood Jones that evening at a neighbour’s house. His sister Barbara had so told him in a tone of voice which he quite understood to imply a caution. “I shall be so glad to see her,” Phineas had replied.

“If there ever was an angel on earth, it is Mary,” said Barbara Finn.

“I know that she is as good as gold,” said Phineas.

“Gold!” replied Barbara — gold indeed! She is more precious than refined gold. But, Phineas, perhaps you had better not single her out for any special attention. She has thought it wisest to meet you.”

“Of course,” said Phineas. Why not?

“That is all, Phineas. I have nothing more to say. Men of course are different from girls.”

“That’s true, Barbara, at any rate.”

“Don’t laugh at me, Phineas, when I am thinking of nothing but of you and your interests, and when I am making all manner of excuses for you because I know what must be the distractions of the world in which you live.” Barbara made more than one attempt to renew the conversation before the evening came, but Phineas thought that he had had enough of it. He did not like being told that excuses were made for him. After all, what had he done? He had once kissed Mary Flood Jones behind the door.

“I am so glad to see you, Mary,” he said, coming and taking a chair by her side. He had been specially warned not to single Mary out for his attention, and yet there was the chair left vacant as though it were expected that he would fall into it.

“Thank you. We did not happen to meet last year, did we — Mr Finn?”

“Do not call me Mr Finn, Mary.”

“You are such a great man now!”

“Not at all a great man. If you only knew what little men we under-strappers are in London you would hardly speak to me.

“But you are something — of State now — are you not?”

“Well — yes. That’s the name they give me. It simply means that if any member wants to badger someone in the House about the Colonies, I am the man to be badgered. But if there is any credit to be had, I am not the man who is to have it.”

“But it is a great thing to be in Parliament and in the Government too.”

“It is a great thing for me, Mary, to have a salary, though it may only be for a year or two. However, I will not deny that it is pleasant to have been successful.”

“It has been very pleasant to us, Phineas. Mamma has been so much rejoiced.”

“I am so sorry not to see her. She is at Floodborough, I suppose.”

“Oh, yes — she is at home. She does not like coming out at night in winter. I have been staying here you know for two days, but I go home tomorrow.”

“I will ride over and call on your mother.” Then there was a pause in the conversation for a moment. “Does it not seem odd, Mary, that we should see so little of each other?”

“You are so much away, of course.”

“Yes — that is the reason. But still it seems almost unnatural. I often wonder when the time will come that I shall be quietly at home again. I have to be back in my office in London this day week, and yet I have not had a single hour to myself since I have been at Killaloe. But I will certainly ride over and see your mother. You will be at home on Wednesday I suppose.”

“Yes — I shall be at home.”

Upon that he got up and went away, but again in the evening he found himself near her. Perhaps there is no position more perilous to a man’s honesty than that in which Phineas now found himself — that, namely, of knowing himself to be quite loved by a girl whom he almost loves himself. Of course he loved Violet Effingham; and they who talk best of love protest that no man or woman can be in love with two persons at once. Phineas was not in love with Mary Flood Jones; but he would have liked to take her in his arms and kiss her — he would have liked to gratify her by swearing that she was dearer to him than all the world; he would have liked to have an episode — and did, at the moment, think that it might be possible to have one life in London and another life altogether different at Killaloe. “Dear Mary,” he said as he pressed her hand that night, “things will get themselves settled at last, I suppose.” He was behaving very ill to her, but he did not mean to behave ill.

He rode over to Floodborough, and saw Mrs Flood Jones. Mrs Flood Jones, however, received him very coldly; and Mary did not appear. Mary had communicated to her mother her resolutions as to her future life. “The fact is, mamma, I love him. I cannot help it. If he ever chooses to come for me, here I am. If he does not, I will bear it as well as I can. It may be very mean of me, but it’s true.”

Chapter 51

Troubles at Loughlinter

There was a dull house at Loughlinter during the greater part of this autumn. A few men went down for the grouse shooting late in the season; but they stayed but a short time, and when they went Lady Laura was left alone with her husband. Mr Kennedy had explained to his wife, more than once, that though he understood the duties of hospitality and enjoyed the performance of them, he had not married with the intention of living in a whirlwind. He was disposed to think that the whirlwind had hitherto been too predominant, and had said so very plainly with a good deal of marital authority. This autumn and winter were to be devoted to the cultivation of proper relations between him and his wife. “Does that mean Darby and Joan?” his wife had asked him, when the proposition was made to her. “It means mutual regard and esteem,” replied Mr Kennedy in his most solemn tone, “and I trust that such mutual regard and esteem between us may yet be possible.” When Lady Laura showed him a letter from her brother, received some weeks after this conversation, in which Lord Chiltern expressed his intention of coming to Loughlinter for Christmas, he returned the note to his wife without a word. He suspected that she had made the arrangement without asking him, and was angry; but he would not tell her that her brother would not be welcome at his house. “It is not my doing,” she said, when she saw the frown on his brow.

“I said nothing about anybody’s doing,” he replied.

“I will write to Oswald and bid him not come, if you wish it. Of course you can understand why he is coming.”

“Not to see me, I am sure,” said Mr Kennedy.

“Nor me,” replied Lady Laura. He is coming because my friend Violet Effingham will be here.”

“Miss Effingham! Why was I not told of this? I knew nothing of Miss Effingham’s coming.”

“Robert, it was settled in your own presence last July.”

“I deny it.”

Then Lady Laura rose up, very haughty in her gait and with something of fire in her eye, and silently left the room. Mr Kennedy, when he found himself alone, was very unhappy. Looking back in his mind to the summer weeks in London, he remembered that his wife had told Violet that she was to spend her Christmas at Loughlinter, that he himself had given a muttered assent; and that Violet — as far as he could remember — had made no reply. It had been one of those things which are so often mentioned, but not settled. He felt that he had been strictly right in denying that it had been “settled” in his presence — but yet he felt that he had been wrong in contradicting his wife so peremptorily. He was a just man, and he would apologise for his fault; but he was an austere man, and would take back the value of his apology in additional austerity. He did not see his wife for some hours after the conversation which has been narrated, but when he did meet her his mind was still full of the subject. “Laura”, he said, I am sorry that I contradicted you.”

“I am quite used to it, Robert.”

“No — you are not used to it.” She smiled and bowed her head. “You wrong me by saying that you are used to it.” Then he paused a moment, but she said not a word — only smiled and bowed her head again. “I remember,” he continued, that something was said in my presence to Miss Effingham about her coming here at Christmas. It was so slight, however, that it had passed out of my memory till recalled by an effort. I beg your pardon.”

“That is unnecessary, Robert.”

“It is, dear.”

“And do you wish that I should put her off — or put Oswald off — or both? My brother never yet has seen me in your house.”

“And whose fault has that been?”

“I have said nothing about anybody’s fault, Robert. I merely mentioned a fact. Will you let me know whether I shall bid him stay away?” “He is welcome to come — only I do not like assignations for love-making.”

“Assignations!”

“Clandestine meetings. Lady Baldock would not wish it.”

“Lady Baldock! Do you think that Violet would exercise any secrecy in the matter — or that she will not tell Lady Baldock that Oswald will be here — as soon as she knows it herself?”

“That has nothing to do with it.”

“Surely, Robert, it must have much to do with it. And why should not these two young people meet? The acknowledged wish of all the family is that they should marry each other. And in this matter, at any rate, my brother has behaved extremely well.” Mr Kennedy said nothing further at the time, and it became an understanding that Violet Effingham was to be a month at Loughlinter, staying from the 20th of December to the 20th of January, and that Lord Chiltern was to come there for Christmas — which with him would probably mean three days.

Before Christmas came, however, there were various other sources of uneasiness at Loughlinter. There had been, as a matter of course, great anxiety as to the elections. With Lady Laura this anxiety had been very strong, and even Mr Kennedy had been warmed with some amount of fire as the announcements reached him of the successes and of the failures. The English returns came first — and then the Scotch, which were quite as interesting to Mr Kennedy as the English. His own seat was quite safe — was not contested; but some neighbouring seats were sources of great solicitude. Then, when this was over, there were the tidings from Ireland to be received; and respecting one special borough in Ireland, Lady Laura evinced more solicitude than her husband approved. There was much danger for the domestic bliss of the house of Loughlinter, when things came to such a pass, and such words were spoken, as the election at Loughshane produced.

“He is in,” said Lady Laura, opening a telegram.

“Who is in?” said Mr Kennedy, with that frown on his brow to which his wife was now well accustomed. Though he asked the question, he knew very well who was the hero to whom the telegram referred.

“Our friend Phineas Finn,” said Lady Laura, speaking still with an excited voice — with a voice that was intended to display excitement. If there was to be a battle on this matter, there should be a battle. She would display all her anxiety for her young friend, and fling it in her husband’s face if he chose to take it as an injury. What — should she endure reproach from her husband because she regarded the interests of the man who had saved his life, of the man respecting whom she had suffered so many heart-struggles, and as to whom she had at last come to the conclusion that he should ever be regarded as a second brother, loved equally with the elder brother? She had done her duty by her husband — so at least she had assured herself — and should he dare to reproach her on this subject, she would be ready for the battle. And now the battle came. “I am glad of this,” she said, with all the eagerness she could throw into her voice. “I am, indeed — and so ought you to be.” The husband’s brow grew blacker and blacker, but still he said nothing. He had long been too proud to be jealous, and was now too proud to express his jealousy — if only he could keep the expression back. But his wife would not leave the subject. “I am so thankful for this,” she said, pressing the telegram between her hands. “I was so afraid he would fail!”

“You overdo your anxiety on such a subject,” at last he said, speaking very slowly.

“What do you mean, Robert? How can I be over-anxious? If it concerned any other dear friend that I have in the world, it would not be an affair of life and death. To him it is almost so, I would have walked from here to London to get him his election.” And as she spoke she held up the clenched fist of her left hand, and shook it, while she still held the telegram in her right hand.

“Laura, I must tell you that it is improper that you should speak of any man in those terms — of any man that is a stranger to your blood.”

“A stranger to my blood! What has that to do with it? This man is my friend, is your friend — saved your life, has been my brother’s best friend, is loved by my father — and is loved by me, very dearly. Tell me what you mean by improper!”

“I will not have you love any man — very dearly.”

“Robert!”

“I tell you that I will have no such expressions from you. They are unseemly, and are used only to provoke me.”

“Am I to understand that I am insulted by an accusation? If so, let me beg at once that I may be allowed to go to Saulsby. I would rather accept your apology and retractation there than here.”

“You will not go to Saulsby, and there has been no accusation, and there will be no apology. If you please there will be no more mention of Mr Finn’s name between us, for the present. If you will take my advice you will cease to think of him extravagantly — and I must desire you to hold no further direct communication with him.”

“I have held no communication with him,” said Lady Laura, advancing a step towards him. But Mr Kennedy simply pointed to the telegram in her hand, and left the room. Now in respect to this telegram there had been an unfortunate mistake. I am not prepared to say that there was any reason why Phineas himself should not have sent the news of his success to Lady Laura; but he had not done so. The piece of paper which she still held crushed in her hand was in itself very innocent. “Hurrah for the Loughshanes. Finny has done the trick.” Such were the words written on the slip, and they had been sent to Lady Laura by her young cousin, the clerk in the office who acted as private secretary to the Under-Secretary of State. Lady Laura resolved that her husband should never see those innocent but rather undignified words. The occasion had become one of importance, and such words were unworthy of it. Besides, she would not condescend to defend herself by bringing forward a telegram as evidence in her favour. So she burned the morsel of paper.

Lady Laura and Mr Kennedy did not meet again till late that evening. She was ill, she said, and would not come down to dinner. After dinner she wrote him a note. “Dear Robert, I think you must regret what you said to me. If so, pray let me have a line from you to that effect. Yours affectionately, L.” When the servant handed it to him, and he had read it, he smiled and thanked the girl who had brought it, and said he would see her mistress just now. Anything would be better than that the servants should know that there was a quarrel. But every servant in the house had known all about it for the last three hours. When the door was closed and he was alone, he sat fingering the note, thinking deeply how he should answer it, or whether he would answer it at all. No; he would not answer it — not in writing. He would give his wife no written record of his humiliation. He had not acted wrongly. He had said nothing more than now, upon mature consideration, he thought that the circumstances demanded. But yet he felt that he must in some sort withdraw the accusation which he had made. If he did not withdraw it, there was no knowing what his wife might do. About ten in the evening he went up to her and made his little speech. “My dear, I have come to answer your note.”

“I thought you would have written to me a line.”

“I have come instead, Laura. Now, if you will listen to me for one moment, I think everything will be made smooth.”

“Of course I will listen,” said Lady Laura, knowing very well that her husband’s moment would be rather tedious, and resolving that she also would have her moment afterwards.

“I think you will acknowledge that if there be a difference of opinion between you and me as to any question of social intercourse, it will be better that you should consent to adopt my opinion.”

“You have the law on your side.”

“I am not speaking of the law.”

“Well — go on, Robert. I will not interrupt you if I can help it.”

“I am not speaking of the law, I am speaking simply of convenience, and of that which you must feel to be right. If I wish that your intercourse with any person should be of such or such a nature it must be best that you should comply with my wishes.” He paused for her assent, but she neither assented nor dissented. “As far as I can understand the position of a man and wife in this country, there is no other way in which life can be made harmonious.”

“Life will not run in harmonies.”

“I expect that ours shall be made to do so, Laura. I need hardly say to you that I intend to accuse you of no impropriety of feeling in reference to this young man.”

“No, Robert; you need hardly say that. Indeed, to speak my own mind, I think that you need hardly have alluded to it. I might go further, and say that such an allusion is in itself an insult — an insult now repeated after hours of deliberation — an insult which I will not endure to have repeated again. If you say another word in any way suggesting the possibility of improper relations between me and Mr Finn, either as to deeds or thoughts, as God is above me, I will write to both my father and my brother, and desire them to take me from your house. If you wish me to remain here, you had better be careful!” As she was making this speech, her temper seemed to rise, and to become hot, and then hotter, till it glowed with a red heat. She had been cool till the word insult, used by herself, had conveyed back to her a strong impression of her own wrong — or perhaps I should rather say a strong feeling of the necessity of becoming indignant. She was standing as she spoke, and the fire flashed from her eyes, and he quailed before her. The threat which she had held out to him was very dreadful to him. He was a man terribly in fear of the world’s good opinion, who lacked the courage to go through a great and harassing trial in order that something better might come afterwards. His married life had been unhappy. His wife had not submitted either to his will or to his ways. He had that great desire to enjoy his full rights, so strong in the minds of weak, ambitious men, and he had told himself that a wife’s obedience was one of those rights which he could not abandon without injury to his self-esteem. He had thought about the matter, slowly, as was his wont, and had resolved that he would assert himself. He had asserted himself, and his wife told him to his face that she would go away and leave him. He could detain her legally, but he could not do even that without the fact of such forcible detention being known to all the world. How was he to answer her now at this moment, so that she might not write to her father, and so that his self-assertion might still be maintained?

“Passion, Laura, can never be right.”

“Would you have a woman submit to insult without passion? I at any rate am not such a woman.” Then there was a pause for a moment. “If you have nothing else to say to me, you had better leave me. I am far from well, and my head is throbbing.”

He came up and took her hand, but she snatched it away from him. “Laura,” he said, do not let us quarrel.

“I certainly shall quarrel if such insinuations are repeated.”

“I made no insinuation.”

“Do not repeat them. That is all.”

He was cowed and left her, having first attempted to get out of the difficulty of his position by making much of her alleged illness, and by offering to send for Dr Macnuthrie. She positively refused to see Dr Macnuthrie, and at last succeeded in inducing him to quit the room.

This had occurred about the end of November, and on the 20th of December Violet Effingham reached Loughlinter. Life in Mr Kennedy’s house had gone quietly during the intervening three weeks, but not very pleasantly. The name of Phineas Finn had not been mentioned. Lady Laura had triumphed; but she had no desire to acerbate her husband by any unpalatable allusion to her victory. And he was quite willing to let the subject die away, if only it would die. On some other matters he continued to assert himself, taking his wife to church twice every Sunday, using longer family prayers than she approved, reading an additional sermon himself every Sunday evening, calling upon her for weekly attention to elaborate household accounts, asking for her personal assistance in much local visiting, initiating her into his favourite methods of family life in the country, till sometimes she almost longed to talk again about Phineas Finn, so that there might be a rupture, and she might escape. But her husband asserted himself within bounds, and she submitted, longing for the coming of Violet Effingham. She could not write to her father and beg to be taken away, because her husband would read a sermon to her on Sunday evening.

To Violet, very shortly after her arrival, she told her whole story. “This is terrible,” said Violet. This makes me feel that I never will be married.”

“And yet what can a woman become if she remain single? The curse is to be a woman at all.”

“I have always felt so proud of the privileges of my sex,” said Violet.

“I never have found them,” said the other; never. I have tried to make the best of its weaknesses, and this is what I have come to! I suppose I ought to have loved some man.”

“And did you never love any man?”

“No — I think I never did — not as people mean when they speak of love. I have felt that I would consent to be cut in little pieces for my brother — because of my regard for him.”

“Ah, that is nothing.”

“And I have felt something of the same thing for another — a longing for his welfare, a delight to hear him praised, a charm in his presence — so strong a feeling for his interest, that were he to go to wrack and ruin, I too, should, after a fashion, be wracked and ruined. But it has not been love either.”

“Do I know whom you mean? May I name him? It is Phineas Finn.”

“Of course it is Phineas Finn.”

“Did he ever ask you — to love him?”

“I feared he would do so, and therefore accepted Mr Kennedy’s offer almost at the first word.”

“I do not quite understand your reasoning, Laura.”

“I understand it. I could have refused him nothing in my power to give him, but I did not wish to be his wife.”

“And he never asked you?”

Lady Laura paused a moment, thinking what reply she should make — and then she told a fib. “No; he never asked me.” But Violet did not believe the fib. Violet was quite sure that Phineas had asked Lady Laura Standish to be his wife, “As far as I can see,” said Violet, “Madame Max Goesler is his present passion.”

“I do not believe it in the least,” said Lady Laura, firing up.

“It does not much matter,” said Violet.

“It would matter very much. You know, you — you; you know whom he loves. And I do believe that sooner or later you will be his wife.”

“Never.”

“Yes, you will. Had you not loved him you would never have condescended to accuse him about that woman.”

“I have not accused him. Why should he not marry Madame Max Goesler? It would be just the thing for him. She is very rich.”

“Never. You will be his wife.”

“Laura, you are the most capricious of women. You have two dear friends, and you insist that I shall marry them both. Which shall I take first?”

“Oswald will be here in a day or two, and you can take him if you like it. No doubt he will ask you. But I do not think you will.”

“No; I do not think I shall. I shall knock under to Mr Mill; and go in for women’s rights, and look forward to stand for some female borough. Matrimony never seemed to me to be very charming, and upon my word it does not become more alluring by what I find at Loughlinter.”

It was thus that Violet and Lady Laura discussed these matters together, but Violet had never showed to her friend the cards in her hand, as Lady Laura had shown those which she held. Lady Laura had in fact told almost everything that there was to tell — had spoken either plainly with true words, or equally plainly with words that were not true. Violet Effingham had almost come to love Phineas Finn — but she never told her friend that it was so. At one time she had almost made up her mind to give herself and all her wealth to this adventurer. He was a better man, she thought, than Lord Chiltern; and she had come to persuade herself that it was almost imperative on her to take the one or the other. Though she could talk about remaining unmarried, she knew that that was practically impossible. All those around her — those of the Baldock as well as those of the Brentford faction — would make such a life impossible to her. Besides, in such a case what could she do? It was all very well to talk of disregarding the world and of setting up a house for herself — but she was quite aware that that project could not be used further than for the purpose of scaring her amiable aunt. And if not that — then could she content herself to look forward to a joint life with Lady Baldock and Augusta Boreham? She might, of course, oblige her aunt by taking Lord Fawn, or oblige her aunt equally by taking Mr Appledom; but she was strongly of opinion that either Lord Chiltern or Phineas would be preferable to these. Thinking over it always she had come to feel that it must be either Lord Chiltern or Phineas; but she had never whispered her thought to man or woman. On her journey to Loughlinter, where she then knew that she was to meet Lord Chiltern, she endeavoured to persuade herself that it should be Phineas. But Lady Laura had marred it all by that ill-told fib. There had been a moment before in which Violet had felt that Phineas had sacrificed something of that truth of love for which she gave him credit to the glances of Madame Goesler’s eyes; but she had rebuked herself for the idea, accusing herself not only of a little jealousy, but of foolish vanity. Was he, whom she had rejected, not to speak to another woman? Then came the blow from Lady Laura, and Violet knew that it was a blow. This gallant lover, this young Crichton, this unassuming but ardent lover, had simply taken up with her as soon as he had failed with her friend. Lady Laura had been most enthusiastic in her expressions of friendship. Such platonic regards might be all very well. It was for Mr Kennedy to look to that. But; for herself, she felt that such expressions were hardly compatible with her ideas of having her lover all to herself. And then she again remembered Madame Goesler’s bright blue eyes.

Lord Chiltern came on Christmas Eve, and was received with open arms by his sister, and with that painful, irritating affection which such a girl as Violet can show to such a man as Lord Chiltern, when she will not give him that other affection for which his heart is panting. The two men were civil to each other — but very cold. They called each other Kennedy and Chiltern, but even that was not done without an effort. On the Christmas morning Mr Kennedy asked his brother-in-law to go to church. “It’s a kind of thing I never do,” said Lord Chiltern. Mr Kennedy gave a little start, and looked a look of horror. Lady Laura showed that she was unhappy. Violet Effingham turned away her face, and smiled.

As they walked across the park Violet took Lord Chiltern’s part. “He only means that he does not go to church on Christmas Day.”

“I don’t know what he means,” said Mr Kennedy.

“We need not speak of it,” said Lady Laura.

“Certainly not,” said Mr Kennedy.

“I have been to church with him on Sundays myself,” said Violet, perhaps not reflecting that the practices of early years had little to do with the young man’s life at present.

Christmas Day and the next day passed without any sign from Lord Chiltern, and on the day after that he was to go away. But he was not to leave till one or two in the afternoon. Not a word had been said between the two women, since he had been in the house, on the subject of which both of them were thinking. Very much had been said of the expediency of his going to Saulsby, but on this matter he had declined to make any promise. Sitting in Lady Laura’s room, in the presence of both of them, he had refused to do so. “I am bad to drive,” he said, turning to Violet, “and you had better not try to drive me.”

“Why should not you be driven as well as another?” she answered, laughing.

Chapter 52

The first Blow

Lord Chiltern, though he had passed two entire days in the house with Violet without renewing his suit, had come to Loughlinter for the express purpose of doing so, and had his plans perfectly fixed in his own mind. After breakfast on that last morning he was upstairs with his sister in her own room, and immediately made his request to her. “Laura,” he said, go down like a good girl, and make Violet come up here.” She stood a moment looking at him and smiled. “And, mind,” he continued, you are not to come back yourself. I must have Violet alone.”

“But suppose Violet will not come? Young ladies do not generally wait upon young men on such occasions.”

“No — but I rank her so high among young women, that I think she will have common sense enough to teach her that, after what has passed between us, I have a right to ask for an interview, and that it may be more conveniently had here than in the wilderness of the house below.”

Whatever may have been the arguments used by her friend, Violet did come. She reached the door all alone, and opened it bravely. She had promised herself, as she came along the passages, that she would not pause with her hand on the lock for a moment. She had first gone to her own room, and as she left it she had looked into the glass with a hurried glance, and had then rested for a moment — thinking that something should be done, that her hair might be smoothed, or a ribbon set straight, or the chain arranged under her brooch. A girl would wish to look well before her lover, even when she means to refuse him. But her pause was but for an instant, and then she went on, having touched nothing. She shook her head and pressed her hands together, and went on quick and opened the door — almost with a little start. “Violet, this is very good of you,” said Lord Chiltern, standing with his back to the fire, and not moving from the spot.

“Laura has told me that you thought I would do as much as this for you, and therefore I have done it.”

“Thanks, dearest. It is the old story, Violet, and I am so bad at words!”

“I must have been bad at words too, as I have not been able to make you understand.”

“I think I have understood. You are always clear-spoken, and I, though I cannot talk, am not muddle-pated. I have understood. But while you are single there must be yet hope — unless, indeed, you will tell me that you have already given yourself to another man.”

“I have not done that.”

“Then how can I not hope? Violet, I would if I could tell you all my feelings plainly. Once, twice, thrice, I have said to myself that I would think of you no more. I have tried to persuade myself that I am better single than married.”

“But I am not the only woman.”

“To me you are — absolutely, as though there were none other on the face of God’s earth. I live much alone; but you are always with me. Should you marry any other man, it will be the same with me still. If you refuse me now I shall go away — and live wildly.”

“Oswald, what do you mean?”

“I mean that I will go to some distant part of the world, where I may be killed or live a life of adventure. But I shall do so simply in despair. It will not be that I do not know how much better and greater should be the life at home of a man in my position.”

“Then do not talk of going.”

“I cannot stay. You will acknowledge, Violet, that I have never lied to you. I am thinking of you day and night. The more indifferent you show yourself to me, the more I love you, Violet, try to love me.” He came up to her, and took her by both her hands, and tears were in his eyes. “Say you will try to love me.”

“It is not that,” said Violet, looking away, but still leaving her hands with him.

“It is not what, dear?”

“What you call — trying.”

“It is that you do not wish to try?”

“Oswald, you are so violent, so headstrong. I am afraid of you — as is everybody. Why have you not written to your father, as we have asked you?”

“I will write to him instantly, now, before I leave the room, and you shall dictate the letter to him. By heavens, you shall!” He had dropped her hands when she called him violent; but now he took them again, and still she permitted it. “I have postponed it only till I had spoken to you once again.”

“No, Lord Chiltern, I will not dictate to you.”

“But will you love me?” She paused and looked down, having even now not withdrawn her hands from him. But I do not think he knew how much he had gained. “You used to love me — a little,” he said.

“Indeed — indeed, I did.”

“And now? Is it all changed now?”

“No,” she said, retreating from him.

“How is it, then? Violet, speak to me honestly. Will you be my wife?” She did not answer him, and he stood for a moment looking at her. Then he rushed at her, and, seizing her in his arms, kissed her all over — her forehead, her lips, her cheeks, then both her hands, and then her lips again. “By G — she is my own!” he said. Then he went back to the rug before the fire, and stood there with his back turned to her. Violet, when she found herself thus deserted, retreated to a sofa, and sat herself down. She had no negative to produce now in answer to the violent assertion which he had pronounced as to his own success. It was true. She had doubted, and doubted — and still doubted. But now she must doubt no longer. Of one thing she was quite sure. She could love him. As things had now gone, she would make him quite happy with assurances on that subject. As to that other question — that fearful question, whether or not she could trust him — on that matter she had better at present say nothing, and think as little, perhaps, as might be. She had taken the jump, and therefore why should she not be gracious to him? But how was she to be gracious to a lover who stood there with his back turned to her?

After the interval of a minute or two he remembered himself, and turned round. Seeing her seated, he approached her, and went down on both knees close at her feet. Then he took her hands again, for the third time, and looked up into her eyes.

“Oswald, you on your knees!” she said.

“I would not bend to a princess”, he said, to ask for half her throne; but I will kneel here all day, if you will let me, in thanks for the gift of your love. I never kneeled to beg for it.”

“This is the man who cannot make speeches.”

“I think I could talk now by the hour, with you for a listener.”

“Oh, but I must talk too.”

“What will you say to me?”

“Nothing while you are kneeling. It is not natural that you should kneel. You are like Samson with his locks shorn, or Hercules with a distaff.”

“Is that better?” he said, as he got up and put his arm round her waist.

“You are in earnest?” she asked.

“In earnest. I hardly thought that that would be doubted. Do you not believe me?”

“I do believe you. And you will be good?”

“Ah — I do not know that.”

“Try, and I will love you so dearly. Nay, I do love you dearly. I do. I do.”

“Say it again.”

“I will say it fifty times — till your ears are weary with it’ — and she did say it to him, after her own fashion, fifty times.

“This is a great change,” he said, getting up after a while and walking about the room.

“But a change for the better — is it not, Oswald?”

“So much for the better that I hardly know myself in my new joy. But, Violet, we’ll have no delay — will we? No shilly-shallying. What is the use of waiting now that it’s settled?”

“None in the least, Lord Chiltern. Let us say — this day twelvemonth.”

“You are laughing at me, Violet.”

“Remember, sir, that the first thing you have to do is to write to your father.”

He instantly went to the writing-table and took up paper and pen. “Come along,” he said. You are to dictate it. But this she refused to do, telling him that he must write his letter to his father out of his own head, and out of his own heart. “I cannot write it,” he said, throwing down the pen. “My blood is in such a tumult that I cannot steady my hand.”

“You must not be so tumultuous, Oswald, or I shall have to live in a whirlwind.”

“Oh, I shall shake down. I shall become as steady as an old stager. I’ll go as quiet in harness by and by as though I had been broken to it a four-year-old. I wonder whether Laura could not write this letter.”

“I think you should write it yourself, Oswald.”

“If you bid me I will.”

“Bid you indeed! As if it was for me to bid you. Do you not know that in these new troubles you are undertaking you will have to bid me in everything, and that I shall be bound to do your bidding? Does it not seem to be dreadful? My wonder is that any girl can ever accept any man.”

“But you have accepted me now.”

“Yes, indeed.”

“And you repent?”

“No, indeed, and I will try to do your biddings — but you must not be rough to me, and outrageous, and fierce — will you, Oswald?”

“I will not at any rate be like Kennedy is with poor Laura.”

“No — that is not your nature.”

“I will do my best, dearest. And you may at any rate be sure of this, that I will love you always. So much good of myself, if it be good, I can say.”

“It is very good,” she answered; the best of all good words. And now I must go. And as you are leaving Loughlinter I will say goodbye. When am I to have the honour and felicity of beholding your lordship again?”

“Say a nice word to me before I am off, Violet.”

“I— love — you — better — than all the world beside; and I mean — to be your wife — some day. Are not those twenty nice words?”

He would not prolong his stay at Loughlinter, though he was asked to do so both by Violet and his sister, and though, as he confessed himself, he had no special business elsewhere. “It is no use mincing the matter. I don’t like Kennedy, and I don’t like being in his house,” he said to Violet. And then he promised that there should be a party got up at Saulsby before the winter was over. His plan was to stop that night at Carlisle, and write to his father from thence. “Your blood, perhaps, won’t be so tumultuous at Carlisle,” said Violet. He shook his head and went on with his plans. He would then go on to London and down to Willingford, and there wait for his father’s answer. “There is no reason why I should lose more of the hunting than necessary.” “Pray don’t lose a day for me,” said Violet. As soon as he heard from his father, he would do his father’s bidding. “You will go to Saulsby,” said Violet; “you can hunt at Saulsby, you know.”

“I will go to Jericho if he asks me, only you will have to go with me.” “I thought we were to go to — Belgium, said Violet.

“And so that is settled at last,” said Violet to Laura that night.

“I hope you do not regret it.”

“On the contrary, I am as happy as the moments are long.”

“My fine girl!”

“I am happy because I love him. I have always loved him. You have known that.”

“Indeed, no.”

“But I have, after my fashion. I am not tumultuous, as he calls himself. Since he began to make eyes at me when he was nineteen — ”

“Fancy Oswald making eyes!”

“Oh, he did, and mouths too. But from the beginning, when I was a child, I have known that he was dangerous, and I have thought that he would pass on and forget me after a while. And I could have lived without him. Nay, there have been moments when I thought I could learn to love someone else.”

“Poor Phineas, for instance.”

“We will mention no names. Mr Appledom, perhaps, more likely. He has been my most constant lover, and then he would be so safe! Your brother, Laura, is dangerous. He is like the bad ice in the parks where they stick up the poles. He has had a pole stuck upon him ever since he was a boy.”

“Yes — give a dog a bad name and hang him.”

“Remember that I do not love him a bit the less on that account — perhaps the better. A sense of danger does not make me unhappy, though the threatened evil may be fatal. I have entered myself for my forlorn hope, and I mean to stick to it. Now I must go and write to his worship. Only think — I never wrote a love-letter yet!”

Nothing more shall be said about Miss Effingham’s first love-letter, which was, no doubt, creditable to her head and heart; but there were two other letters sent by the same post from Loughlinter which shall be submitted to the reader, as they will assist the telling of the story. One was from Lady Laura Kennedy to her friend Phineas Finn, and the other from Violet to her aunt, Lady Baldock. No letter was written to Lord Brentford, as it was thought desirable that he should receive the first intimation of what had been done from his son.

Respecting the letter to Phineas, which shall be first given, Lady Laura thought it right to say a word to her husband. He had been of course told of the engagement, and had replied that he could have wished that the arrangement could have been made elsewhere than at his house, knowing as he did that Lady Baldock would not approve of it. To this Lady Laura had made no reply, and Mr Kennedy had condescended to congratulate the bride-elect. When Lady Laura’s letter to Phineas was completed she took care to put it into the letter-box in the presence of her husband. “I have written to Mr Finn,” she said, to tell him of this marriage.”

“Why was it necessary that he should be told?”

“I think it was due to him — from certain circumstances.”

“I wonder whether there was any truth in what everybody was saying about their fighting a duel?” asked Mr Kennedy. His wife made no answer, and then he continued — “You told me of your own knowledge that it was untrue.”

“Not of my own knowledge, Robert.”

“Yes — of your own knowledge.” Then Mr Kennedy walked away, and was certain that his wife had deceived him about the duel. There had been a duel, and she had known it; and yet she had told him that the report was a ridiculous fabrication. He never forgot anything. He remembered at this moment the words of the falsehood, and the look of her face as she told it. He had believed her implicitly, but he would never believe her again. He was one of those men who, in spite of their experience of the world, of their experience of their own lives, imagine that lips that have once lied can never tell the truth.

Lady Laura’s letter to Phineas was as follows:

“ Loughlinter, December 28th, 186 —

“ MY DEAR FRIEND,

“Violet Effingham is here, and Oswald has just left us. It is possible that you may see him as he passes through London. But, at any rate, I think it best to let you know immediately that she has accepted him — at last. If there be any pang in this to you, be sure that I will grieve for you. You will not wish me to say that I regret that which was the dearest wish of my heart before I knew you. Lately, indeed, I have been torn in two ways. You will understand what I mean, and I believe I need say nothing more — except this, that it shall be among my prayers that you may obtain all things that may tend to make you happy, honourable, and of high esteem.

“Your most sincere friend

odq; LAURA KENNEDY ”

Even though her husband should read the letter, there was nothing in that of which she need be ashamed. But he did not read the letter. He simply speculated as to its contents, and inquired within himself whether it would not be for the welfare of the world in general, and for the welfare of himself in particular, that husbands should demand to read their wives’ letters.

And this was Violet’s letter to her aunt:

“ MY DEAR AUNT,

“The thing has come at last, and all your troubles will be soon over — for I do believe that all your troubles have come from your unfortunate niece. At last I am going to be married, and thus take myself off your hands. Lord Chiltern has just been here, and I have accepted him. I am afraid you hardly think so well of Lord Chiltern as I do; but then, perhaps, you have not known him so long. You do know, however, that there has been some difference between him and his father. I think I may take upon myself to say that now, upon his engagement, this will be settled. I have the inexpressible pleasure of feeling sure that Lord Brentford will welcome me as his daughter-in-law. Tell the news to Augusta with my best love. I will write to her in a day or two. I hope my cousin Gustavus will condescend to give me away. Of course there is nothing fixed about time — but I should say, perhaps, in nine years.

“Your affectionate niece,

“ VIOLET EFFINGHAM

“Loughlinter, Friday.”

“What does she mean about nine years?” said Lady Baldock in her wrath.

“She is joking,” said the mild Augusta.

“I believe she would — joke, if I were going to be buried,” said Lady Baldock.

Chapter 53

Showing how Phineas bore the blow

When Phineas received Lady Laura Kennedy’s letter, he was sitting in his gorgeous apartment in the Colonial Office. It was gorgeous in comparison with the very dingy room at Mr Low’s to which he had been accustomed in his early days — and somewhat gorgeous also as compared with the lodgings he had so long inhabited in Mr Bunce’s house. The room was large and square, and looked out from three windows on to St James’s Park. There were in it two very comfortable armchairs and a comfortable sofa. And the office table at which he sat was of old mahogany, shining brightly, and seemed to be fitted up with every possible appliance for official comfort. This stood near one of the windows, so that he could sit and look down upon the park. And there was a large round table covered with books and newspapers. And the walls of the room were bright with maps of all the colonies. And there was one very interesting map — but not very bright — showing the American colonies, as they used to be. And there was a little inner closet in which he could brush his hair and wash his hands; and in the room adjoining there sat — or ought to have sat, for he was often absent, vexing the mind of Phineas — the Earl’s nephew, his private secretary. And it was all very gorgeous. Often as he looked round upon it, thinking of his old bedroom at Killaloe, of his little garrets at Trinity, of the dingy chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, he would tell himself that it was very gorgeous. He would wonder that anything so grand had fallen to his lot.

The letter from Scotland was brought to him in the afternoon, having reached London by some day-mail from Glasgow, He was sitting at his desk with a heap of papers before him referring to a contemplated railway from Halifax, in Nova Scotia, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It had become his business to get up the subject, and then discuss with his principal, Lord Cantrip, the expediency of advising the Government to lend a company five million of money, in order that this railway might be made. It was a big subject, and the contemplation of it gratified him. It required that he should look forward to great events, and exercise the wisdom of a statesman. What was the chance of these colonies being swallowed up by those other regions — once colonies — of which the map that hung in the corner told so eloquent a tale? And if so, would the five million ever be repaid? And if not swallowed up, were the colonies worth so great an adventure of national money? Could they repay it? Would they do so? Should they be made to do so? Mr Low, who was now a Q.C. and in Parliament, would not have greater subjects than this before him, even if he should come to be Solicitor General. Lord Cantrip had specially asked him to get up this matter — and he was getting it up sedulously. Once in nine years the harbour of Halifax was blocked up by ice. He had just jotted down the fact, which was material, when Lady Laura’s letter was brought to him. He read it, and putting it down by his side very gently, went back to his maps as though the thing would not so trouble his mind as to disturb his work. He absolutely wrote, automatically, certain words of a note about the harbour, after he had received the information. A horse will gallop for some scores of yards, after his back has been broken, before he knows of his great ruin — and so it was with Phineas Finn. His back was broken, but, nevertheless, he galloped, for a yard or two. “Closed in 1860 — 61 for thirteen days.” Then he began to be aware that his back was broken, and that the writing of any more notes about the ice in Halifax harbour was for the present out of the question. “I think it best to let you know immediately that she has accepted him.” These were the words which he read the oftenest. Then it was all over! The game was played out, and all his victories were as nothing to him. He sat for an hour in his gorgeous room thinking of it, and various were the answers which he gave during the time to various messages — but he would see nobody. As for the colonies, he did not care if they revolted tomorrow. He would have parted with every colony belonging to Great Britain to have gotten the hand of Violet Effingham for himself, Now — now at this moment, he told himself with oaths that he had never loved anyone but Violet Effingham.

There had been so much to make such a marriage desirable! I should wrong my hero deeply were I to say that the weight of his sorrow was occasioned by the fact that he had lost an heiress. He would never have thought of looking for Violet Effingham had he not first learned to love her. But as the idea opened itself out to him, everything had seemed to be so suitable. Had Miss Effingham become his wife, the mouths of the Lows and of the Bunces would have been stopped altogether. Mr Monk would have come to his house as his familiar guest, and he would have been connected with half a score of peers. A seat in Parliament would be simply his proper place, and even Under-Secretaryships of State might soon come to be below him. He was playing a great game, but hitherto he had played it with so much success — with such wonderful luck! that it had seemed to him that all things were within his reach. Nothing more had been wanting to him than Violet’s hand for his own comfort, and Violet’s fortune to support his position; and these, too, had almost seemed to be within his grasp. His goddess had indeed refused him — but not with disdain. Even Lady Laura had talked of his marriage as not improbable. All the world, almost, had heard of the duel; and all the world had smiled, and seemed to think that in the real fight Phineas Finn would be the victor — that the lucky pistol was in his hands. It had never occurred to anyone to suppose — as far as he could see — that he was presuming at all, or pushing himself out of his own sphere, in asking Violet Effingham to be his wife. No — he would trust his luck, would persevere, and would succeed. Such had been his resolution on that very morning — and now there had come this letter to dash him to the ground.

There were moments in which he declared to himself that he would not believe the letter — not that there was any moment in which there was in his mind the slightest spark of real hope. But he would tell himself that he would still persevere. Violet might have been driven to accept that violent man by violent influence — or it might be that she had not in truth accepted him, that Chiltern had simply so asserted. Or, even if it were so, did women never change their minds? The manly thing would be to persevere to the end. Had he not before been successful, when success seemed to be as far from him? But he could buoy himself up with no real hope. Even when these ideas were present to his mind, he knew — he knew well — at those very moments, that his back was broken.

Someone had come in and lighted the candles and drawn down the blinds while he was sitting there, and now, as he looked at his watch, he found that it was past five o’clock. He was engaged to dine with Madame Max Goesler at eight, and in his agony he half-resolved that he would send an excuse. Madame Max would be full of wrath, as she was very particular about her little dinner-parties — but, what did he care now about the wrath of Madame Max Goesler? And yet only this morning he had been congratulating himself, among his other successes, upon her favour, and had laughed inwardly at his own falseness — his falseness to Violet Effingham — as he did so. He had said something to himself jocosely about lovers’ perjuries, the remembrance of which was now very bitter to him. He took up a sheet of notepaper and scrawled an excuse to Madame Goesler. News from the country, he said, made it impossible that he should go out tonight. But he did not send the note. At about half past five he opened the door of his private secretary’s room and found the young man fast asleep, with a cigar in his mouth. “Halloa, Charles,” he said.

“All right!” Charles Standish was a first cousin of Lady Laura’s, and, having been in the office before Phineas had joined it, and being a great favourite with his cousin, had of course become the Under-Secretary’s private secretary. “I’m all here,” said Charles Standish, getting up and shaking himself.

“I am going. Just tie up those papers — exactly as they are. I shall be here early tomorrow, but I shan’t want you before twelve. Good night, Charles.”

“Ta, ta,” said his private secretary, who was very fond of his master, but not very respectful — unless upon express occasions.

Then Phineas went out and walked across the park; but as he went he became quite aware that his back was broken. It was not the less broken because he sang to himself little songs to prove to himself that it was whole and sound. It was broken, and it seemed to him now that he never could become an Atlas again, to bear the weight of the world upon his shoulders. What did anything signify? All that he had done had been part of a game which he had been playing throughout, and now he had been beaten in his game. He absolutely ignored his old passion for Lady Laura as though it had never been, and regarded himself as a model of constancy — as a man who had loved, not wisely perhaps, but much too well — and who must now therefore suffer a living death. He hated Parliament. He hated the Colonial Office. He hated his friend Mr Monk; and he especially hated Madame Max Goesler. As to Lord Chiltern — he believed that Lord Chiltern had obtained his object by violence. He would see to that! Yes — let the consequences be what they might, he would see to that!

He went up by the Duke of York’s column, and as he passed the Athenaeum he saw his chief, Lord Cantrip, standing under the portico talking to a bishop. He would have gone on unnoticed, had it been possible; but Lord Cantrip came down to him at once. “I have put your name down here,” said his lordship.

“What’s the use?” said Phineas, who was profoundly indifferent at this moment to all the clubs in London.

“It can’t do any harm, you know. You’ll come up in time. And if you should get into the ministry, they’ll let you in at once.”

“Ministry!” ejaculated Phineas. But Lord Cantrip took the tone of voice as simply suggestive of humility, and suspected nothing of that profound indifference to all ministers and ministerial honours which Phineas had intended to express. “By the bye,” said Lord Cantrip, putting his arm through that of the Under-Secretary, “I wanted to speak to you about the guarantees. We shall be in the devil’s own mess, you know — “And so the Secretary of State went on about the Rocky Mountain Railroad, and Phineas strove hard to bear his burden with his broken back. He was obliged to say something about the guarantees, and the railway, and the frozen harbour — and something especially about the difficulties which would be found, not in the measures themselves, but in the natural pugnacity of the Opposition. In the fabrication of garments for the national wear, the great thing is to produce garments that shall, as far as possible, defy hole-picking. It may be, and sometimes is, the case, that garments so fabricated will be good also for wear. Lord Cantrip, at the present moment, was very anxious and very ingenious in the stopping of holes; and he thought that perhaps his Under-Secretary was too much prone to the indulgence of large philanthropical views without sufficient thought of the hole-pickers. But on this occasion, by the time that he reached Brooks’s, he had been enabled to convince his Under-Secretary, and though he had always thought well of his Under-Secretary, he thought better of him now than ever he had done. Phineas during the whole time had been meditating what he could do to Lord Chiltern when they two should meet. Could he take him by the throat and smite him? “I happen to know that Broderick is working as hard at the matter as we are,” said Lord Cantrip, stopping opposite to the club. “He moved for papers, you know, at the end of last session.” Now Mr Broderick was a gentleman in the House looking for promotion in a Conservative Government, and of course would oppose any measure that could be brought forward by the Cantrip-Finn Colonial Administration. Then Lord Cantrip slipped into the club, and Phineas went on alone.

A spark of his old ambition with reference to Brooks’s was the first thing to make him forget his misery for a moment. He had asked Lord Brentford to put his name down, and was not sure whether it had been done. The threat of Mr Broderick’s opposition had been of no use towards the strengthening of his broken back, but the sight of Lord Cantrip hurrying in at the coveted door did do something. “A man can’t cut his throat or blow his brains out,” he said to himself; “after all, he must go on and do his work. For hearts will break, yet brokenly live on.” Thereupon he went home, and after sitting for an hour over his own fire, and looking wistfully at a little treasure which he had — a treasure obtained by some slight fraud at Saulsby, and which he now chucked into the fire, and then instantly again pulled out of it, soiled but unscorched — he dressed himself for dinner, and went out to Madame Max Goesler’s. Upon the whole, he was glad that he had not sent the note of excuse. A man must live, even though his heart be broken, and living he must dine.

Madame Max Goesler was fond of giving little dinners at this period of the year, before London was crowded, and when her guests might probably not be called away by subsequent social arrangements. Her number seldom exceeded six or eight, and she always spoke of these entertainments as being of the humblest kind. She sent out no big cards. She preferred to catch her people as though by chance, when that was possible. “Dear Mr Jones. Mr Smith is coming to tell me about some sherry on Tuesday. Will you come and tell me too? I daresay you know as much about it.” And then there was a studious absence of parade. The dishes were not very numerous. The bill of fare was simply written out once, for the mistress, and so circulated round the table. Not a word about the things to be eaten or the things to be drunk was ever spoken at the table — or at least no such word was ever spoken by Madame Goesler. But, nevertheless, they who knew anything about dinners were aware that Madame Goesler gave very good dinners indeed, Phineas Finn was beginning to flatter himself that he knew something about dinners, and had been heard to assert that the soups at the cottage in Park Lane were not to be beaten in London. But he cared for no soup today, as he slowly made his way up Madame Goesler’s staircase.

There had been one difficulty in the way of Madame Goesler’s dinner-parties which had required some patience and great ingenuity in its management. She must either have ladies, or she must not have them. There was a great allurement in the latter alternative; but she knew well that if she gave way to it, all prospect of general society would for her be closed — and for ever. This had been in the early days of her widowhood in Park Lane. She cared but little for women’s society; but she knew well that the society of gentlemen without women would not be that which she desired. She knew also that she might as effectually crush herself and all her aspirations by bringing to her house indifferent women — women lacking something either in character, or in position, or in talent — as by having none it all. Thus there had been a great difficulty, and sometimes she had thought that the thing could not be done at all. “These English are so stiff, so hard, so heavy!” And yet she would not have cared to succeed elsewhere than among the English. By degrees, however, the thing was done. Her prudence equalled her wit, and even suspicious people had come to acknowledge that they could not put their fingers on anything wrong. When Lady Glencora Palliser had once dined at the cottage in Park Lane, Madame Max Goesler had told herself that henceforth she did not care what the suspicious people said. Since that the Duke of Omnium had almost promised that he would come. If she could only entertain the Duke of Omnium she would have done everything.

But there was no Duke of Omnium there tonight. At this time the Duke of Omnium was, of course, not in London. But Lord Fawn was there; and our old friend Laurence Fitzgibbon, who had — resigned his place at the Colonial Office; and there were Mr and Mrs Bonteen. They, with our hero, made up the party. No one doubted for a moment to what source Mr Bonteen owed his dinner. Mrs Bonteen was good-looking, could talk, was sufficiently proper, and all that kind of thing — and did as well as any other woman at this time of year to keep Madame Max Goesler in countenance. There was never any sitting after dinner at the cottage; or, I should rather say, there was never any sitting after Madame Goesler went; so that the two ladies could not weary each other by being alone together. Mrs Bonteen understood quite well that she was not required there to talk to her hostess, and was as willing as any woman to make herself agreeable to the gentlemen she might meet at Madame Goesler’s table. And thus Mr and Mrs Bonteen not unfrequently dined in Park Lane.

“Now we have only to wait for that horrible man, Mr Fitzgibbon,” said Madame Max Goesler, as she welcomed Phineas. “He is always late.”

“What a blow for me!” said Phineas.

“No — you are always in good time. But there is a limit beyond which good time ends, and being shamefully late at once begins. But here he is.” And then, as Laurence Fitzgibbon entered the room, Madame Goesler rang the bell for dinner.

Phineas found himself placed between his hostess and Mr Bonteen, and Lord Fawn was on the other side of Madame Goesler. They were hardly seated at the table before some one stated it as a fact that Lord Brentford and his son were reconciled. Now Phineas knew, or thought that he knew, that this could not as yet be the case; and indeed such was not the case, though the father had already received the son’s letter. But Phineas did not choose to say anything at present about Lord Chiltern.

“How odd it is,” said Madame Goesler; how often you English fathers quarrel with your sons!”

“How often we English sons quarrel with our fathers rather,” said Lord Fawn, who was known for the respect he had always paid to the fifth commandment.

“It all comes from entail and primogeniture, and old-fashioned English prejudices of that kind,” said Madame Goesler. “Lord Chiltern is a friend of yours, Mr Finn, I think.”

“They are both friends of mine,” said Phineas.

“Ah, yes; but you — you — you and Lord Chiltern once did something odd together. There was a little mystery, was there not?”

“It is very little of a mystery now,” said Fitzgibbon.

“It was about a lady — was it not?” said Mrs Bonteen, affecting to whisper to her neighbour.

“I am not at liberty to say anything on the subject,” said Fitzgibbon; “but I have no doubt Phineas will tell you.”

“I don’t believe this about Lord Brentford,” said Mr Bonteen. “I happen to know that Chiltern was down at Loughlinter three days ago, and that he passed through London yesterday on his way to the place where he hunts. The Earl is at Saulsby, He would have gone to Saulsby if it were true.”

“It all depends upon whether Miss Effingham will accept him,” said Mrs Bonteen, looking over at Phineas as she spoke.

As there were two of Violet Effingham’s suitors at table, the subject was becoming disagreeably personal; and the more so, as every one of the party knew or surmised something of the facts of the case. The cause of the duel at Blankenberg had become almost as public as the duel, and Lord Fawn’s courtship had not been altogether hidden from the public eye. He on the present occasion might probably be able to carry himself better than Phineas, even presuming him to be equally eager in his love — for he knew nothing of the fatal truth. But he was unable to hear Mrs Bonteen’s statement with indifference, and showed his concern in the matter by his reply. “Any lady will be much to be pitied,” he said, “who does that. Chiltern is the last man in the world to whom I would wish to trust the happiness of a woman for whom I cared.”

“Chiltern is a very good fellow,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon.

“Just a little wild,” said Mrs Bonteen.

“And never had a shilling in his pocket in his life,” said her husband.

“I regard him as simply a madman,” said Lord Fawn.

“I do so wish I knew him,” said Madame Max Goesler. I am fond of madmen, and men who haven’t shillings, and who are a little wild. Could you not bring him here, Mr Finn?”

Phineas did not know what to say, or how to open his mouth without showing his deep concern. “I shall be happy to ask him if you wish it,” he replied, as though the question had been put to him in earnest; “but I do not see so much of Lord Chiltern as I used to do.”

“You do not believe that Violet Effingham will accept him?” asked Mrs Bonteen.

He paused a moment before he spoke, and then made his answer in a deep solemn voice — with a seriousness which he was unable to repress. “She has accepted him,” he said.

“Do you mean that you know it?” said Madame Goesler.

“Yes — I mean that I know it.”

Had anybody told him beforehand that he would openly make this declaration at Madame Goesler’s table, he would have said that of all things it was the most impossible. He would have declared that nothing would have induced him to speak of Violet Effingham in his existing frame of mind, and that he would have had his tongue cut out before he spoke of her as the promised bride of his rival. And now he had declared the whole truth of his own wretchedness and discomfiture. He was well aware that all of them there knew why he had fought the duel at Blankenberg — all, that is, except perhaps Lord Fawn. And he felt as he made the statement as to Lord Chiltern that he blushed up to his forehead, and that his voice was strange, and that he was telling the tale of his own disgrace. But when the direct question had been asked him he had been unable to refrain from answering it directly. He had thought of turning it off with some jest or affectation of drollery, but had failed. At the moment he had been unable not to speak the truth.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” said Lord Fawn — who also forgot himself.

“I do believe it, if Mr Finn says so,” said Mrs Bonteen, who rather liked the confusion she had caused.

“But who could have told you, Finn?” asked Mr Bonteen.

“His sister, Lady Laura, told me so,” said Phineas.

“Then it must be true,” said Madame Goesler.

“It is quite impossible,” said Lord Fawn. I think I may say that I know that it is impossible. If it were so, it would be a most shameful arrangement. Every shilling she has in the world would be swallowed up.” Now, Lord Fawn in making his proposals had been magnanimous in his offers as to settlements and pecuniary provisions generally.

For some minutes after that Phineas did not speak another word, and the conversation generally was not so brisk and bright as it was expected to be at Madame Goesler’s. Madame Max Goesler herself thoroughly understood our hero’s position, and felt for him. She would have encouraged no questionings about Violet Effingham had she thought that they would have led to such a result, and now she exerted herself to turn the minds of her guests to other subjects. At last she succeeded; and after a while, too, Phineas himself was able to talk. He drank two or three glasses of wine, and dashed away into politics, taking the earliest opportunity in his power of contradicting Lord Fawn very plainly on one or two matters. Laurence Fitzgibbon was of course of opinion that the ministry could not stay in long. Since he had left the Government the ministers had made wonderful mistakes, and he spoke of them quite as an enemy might speak, “And yet, Fitz,” said Mr Bonteen, “you used to be so staunch a supporter.”

“I have seen the error of my way, I can assure you,” said Laurence.

“I always observe,” said Madame Max Goesler, that when any of you gentlemen resign — which you usually do on some very trivial matter — the resigning gentleman becomes of all foes the bitterest. Somebody goes on very well with his friends, agreeing most cordially about everything, till he finds that his public virtue cannot swallow some little detail, and then he resigns. Or someone, perhaps, on the other side has attacked him, and in the mêlée he is hurt, and so he resigns. But when he has resigned, and made his parting speech full of love and gratitude, I know well after that where to look for the bitterest hostility to his late friends. Yes, I am beginning to understand the way in which politics are done in England.”

All this was rather severe upon Laurence Fitzgibbon; but he was a man of the world, and bore it better than Phineas had borne his defeat.

The dinner, taken altogether, was not a success, and so Madame Goesler understood. Lord Fawn, after he had been contradicted by Phineas, hardly opened his mouth. Phineas himself talked rather too much and rather too loudly; and Mrs Bonteen, who was well enough inclined to flatter Lord Fawn, contradicted him. “I made a mistake,” said Madame Goesler afterwards, “in having four members of Parliament who all of them were or had been in office. I never will have two men in office together again.” This she said to Mrs Bonteen. “My dear Madame Max,” said Mrs Bonteen, “your resolution ought to be that you will never again have two claimants for the same young lady.”

In the drawing-room upstairs Madame Goesler managed to be alone for three minutes with Phineas Finn. “And it is as you say, my friend?” she asked. Her voice was plaintive and soft, and there was a look of real sympathy in her eyes. Phineas almost felt that if they two had been quite alone he could have told her everything, and have wept at her feet.

“Yes,” he said, it is so.

“I never doubted it when you had declared it. May I venture to say that I wish it had been otherwise?”

“It is too late now, Madame Goesler. A man of course is a fool to show that he has any feelings in such a matter. The fact is, I heard it just before I came here, and had made up my mind to send you an excuse. I wish I had now.”

“Do not say that, Mr Finn.”

“I have made such an ass of myself.”

“In my estimation you have done yourself honour. But if I may venture to give you counsel, do not speak of this affair again as though you had been personally concerned in it. In the world nowadays the only thing disgraceful is to admit a failure.”

“And I have failed.”

“But you need not admit it, Mr Finn. I know I ought not to say as much to you.”

“I, rather, am deeply indebted to you. I will go now, Madame Goesler, as I do not wish to leave the house with Lord Fawn.”

“But you will come and see me soon.” Then Phineas promised that he would come soon; and felt as he made the promise that he would have an opportunity of talking over his love with his new friend at any rate without fresh shame as to his failure.

Laurence Fitzgibbon went away with Phineas, and Mr Bonteen, having sent his wife away by herself, walked off towards the clubs with Lord Fawn. He was very anxious to have a few words with Lord Fawn. Lord Fawn had evidently been annoyed by Phineas, and Mr Bonteen did not at all love the young Under-Secretary. “That fellow has become the most consummate puppy I ever met,” said he, as he linked himself on to the lord. “Monk, and one or two others among them, have contrived to spoil him altogether.”

“I don’t believe a word of what he said about Lord Chiltern,” said Lord Fawn.

“About his marriage with Miss Effingham?”

“It would be such an abominable shame to sacrifice the girl,” said Lord Fawn. “Only think of it. Everything is gone. The man is a drunkard, and I don’t believe he is any more reconciled to his father than you are. Lady Laura Kennedy must have had some object in saying so.”

“Perhaps an invention of Finn’s altogether,” said Mr Bonteen. “Those Irish fellows are just the men for that kind of thing.”

“A man, you know, so violent that nobody can hold him,” said Lord Fawn, thinking of Chiltern.

“And so absurdly conceited,” said Mr Bonteen, thinking of Phineas.

“A man who has never done anything, with all his advantages in the world — and never will.”

“He won’t hold his place long,” said Mr Bonteen.

“Whom do you mean?”

“Phineas Finn.”

“Oh, Mr Finn. I was talking of Lord Chiltern. I believe Finn to be a very good sort of a fellow, and he is undoubtedly clever. They say Cantrip likes him amazingly. He’ll do very well. But I don’t believe a word of this about Lord Chiltern.” Then Mr Bonteen felt himself to be snubbed, and soon afterwards left Lord Fawn alone.

Chapter 54

Consolation

On the day following Madame Goesler’s dinner-party, Phineas, though he was early at his office, was not able to do much work, still feeling that as regarded the realities of the world, his back was broken. He might no doubt go on learning, and, after a time, might be able to exert himself in a perhaps useful, but altogether uninteresting kind of way, doing his work simply because it was there to be done — as the carter or the tailor does his — and from the same cause, knowing that a man must have bread to live. But as for ambition, and the idea of doing good, and the love of work for work’s sake — as for the elastic springs of delicious and beneficent labour — all that was over for him. He would have worked from day till night, and from night till day, and from month till month throughout the year to have secured for Violet Effingham the assurance that her husband’s position was worthy of her own. But now he had no motive for such work as this. As long as he took the public pay, he would earn it; and that was all.

On the next day things were a little better with him. He received a note in the morning from Lord Cantrip saying that they two were to see the Prime Minister that evening, in order that the whole question of the railway to the Rocky Mountains might be understood, and Phineas was driven to his work. Before the time of the meeting came he had once more lost his own identity in great ideas of colonial welfare, and had planned and peopled a mighty region on the Red River, which should have no sympathy with American democracy. When he waited upon Mr Gresham in the afternoon he said nothing about the mighty region; indeed, he left it to Lord Cantrip to explain most of the proposed arrangements — speaking only a word or two here and there as occasion required. But he was aware that he had so far recovered as to be able to save himself from losing ground during the interview.

“He’s about the first Irishman we’ve had that has been worth his salt,” said Mr Gresham to his colleague afterwards.

“That other Irishman was a terrible fellow,” said Lord Cantrip, shaking his head.

On the fourth day after his sorrow had befallen him, Phineas went again to the cottage in Park Lane. And in order that he might not be balked in his search for sympathy he wrote a line to Madame Goesler to ask if she would be at home. “I will be at home from five to six — and alone — M. M. G.” That was the answer from Marie Max Goesler, and Phineas was of course at the cottage a few minutes after five. It is not, I think, surprising that a man when he wants sympathy in such a calamity as that which had now befallen Phineas Finn, should seek it from a woman. Women sympathise most effectually with men, as men do with women. But it is, perhaps, a little odd that a man when he wants consolation because his heart has been broken, always likes to receive it from a pretty woman. One would be disposed to think that at such a moment he would be profoundly indifferent to such a matter, that no delight could come to him from female beauty, and that all he would want would be the softness of a simply sympathetic soul. But he generally wants a soft hand as well, and an eye that can be bright behind the mutual tear, and lips that shall be young and fresh as they express their concern for his sorrow. All these things were added to Phineas when he went to Madame Goesler in his grief.

“I am so glad to see you,” said Madame Max.

“You are very good-natured to let me come.”

“No — but it is so good of you to trust me. But I was sure you would come after what took place the other night. I saw that you were pained, and I was so sorry for it.”

“I made such a fool of myself.”

“Not at all. And I thought that you were right to tell them when the question had been asked. If the thing was not to be kept a secret, it was better to speak it out. You will get over it quicker in that way than in any other. I have never seen the young lord, myself.”

“Oh, there is nothing amiss about him. As to what Lord Fawn said, the half of it is simply exaggeration, and the other half is misunderstood.”

“In this country it is so much to be a lord,” said Madame Goesler.

Phineas thought a moment of that matter before he replied. All the Standish family had been very good to him, and Violet Effingham had been very good. It was not the fault of any of them that he was now wretched and back-broken. He had meditated much on this, and had resolved that he would not even think evil of them. “I do not in my heart believe that that has had anything to do with it,” he said.

“But it has, my friend — always. I do not know your Violet Effingham.”

“She is not mine.”

“Well — I do not know this Violet that is not yours. I have met her, and did not specially admire her. But then the tastes of men and women about beauty are never the same. But I know she is one that always lives with lords and countesses. A girl who always lived with countesses feels it to be hard to settle down as a plain Mistress.”

“She has had plenty of choice among all sorts of men. It was not the title. She would not have accepted Chiltern unless she had — .