Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope

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.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01