In the meantime the hunting season was going on in the Brake country with chequered success. There had arisen the great Trumpeton Wood question, about which the sporting world was doomed to hear so much for the next twelve months — and Lord Chiltern was in an unhappy state of mind. Trumpeton Wood belonged to that old friend of ours, the Duke of Omnium, who had now almost fallen into second childhood. It was quite out of the question that the Duke should himself interfere in such a matter, or know anything about it; but Lord Chiltern, with headstrong resolution, had persisted in writing to the Duke himself. Foxes had always hitherto been preserved in Trumpeton Wood, and the earths had always been stopped on receipt of due notice by the keepers. During the cubbing season there had arisen quarrels. The keepers complained that no effort was made to kill the foxes. Lord Chiltern swore that the earths were not stopped. Then there came tidings of a terrible calamity. A dying fox, with a trap to its pad, was found in the outskirts of the Wood; and Lord Chiltern wrote to the Duke. He drew the Wood in regular course before any answer could be received — and three of his hounds picked up poison, and died beneath his eyes. He wrote to the Duke again — a cutting letter; and then came from the Duke’s man of business, Mr Fothergill, a very short reply, which Lord Chiltern regarded as an insult. Hitherto the affair had not got into the sporting papers, and was simply a matter of angry discussion at every meet in the neighbouring counties. Lord Chiltern was very full of wrath, and always looked as though he desired to avenge those poor hounds on the Duke and all belonging to him. To a Master of Hounds the poisoning of one of his pack is murder of the deepest dye. There probably never was a Master who in his heart of hearts would not think it right that a detected culprit should be hung for such an offence. And most Masters would go further than this, and declare that in the absence of such detection the owner of the covert in which the poison had been picked up should be held to be responsible. In this instance the condition of ownership was unfortunate. The Duke himself was old, feeble, and almost imbecile. He had never been eminent as a sportsman; but, in a not energetic manner, he had endeavoured to do his duty by the country. His heir, Plantagenet Palliser, was simply a statesman, who, as regarded himself, had never a day to spare for amusement; and who, in reference to sport, had unfortunate fantastic notions that pheasants and rabbits destroyed crops, and that foxes were injurious to old women’s poultry. He, however, was not the owner, and had refused to interfere. There had been family quarrels too, adverse to the sporting interests of the younger Palliser scions, so that the shooting of this wood had drifted into the hands of Mr Fothergill and his friends. Now, Lord Chiltern had settled it in his own mind that the hounds had been poisoned, if not in compliance with Mr Fothergill’s orders, at any rate in furtherance of his wishes, and, could he have had his way, he certainly would have sent Mr Fothergill to the gallows. Now, Miss Palliser, who was still staying at Lord Chiltern’s house, was niece to the old Duke, and first cousin to the heir. “They are nothing to me,” she said once, when Lord Chiltern had attempted to apologise for the abuse he was heaping on her relatives. “I haven’t seen the Duke since I was a little child, and I shouldn’t know my cousin were I to meet him.”
“So much the more gracious is your condition,” said Lady Chiltern — “at any rate in Oswald’s estimation.”
“I know them, and once spent a couple of days at Matching with them,” said Lord Chiltern. “The Duke is an old fool, who always gave himself greater airs than any other man in England — and as far as I can see, with less to excuse them. As for Planty Pall, he and I belong so essentially to different orders of things, that we can hardly be reckoned as being both men.”
“And which is the man, Lord Chiltern?”
“Whichever you please, my dear; only not both. Doggett was over there yesterday, and found three separate traps.”
“What did he do with the traps?” said Lady Chiltern.
“I wasn’t fool enough to ask him, but I don’t in the least doubt that he threw them into the water — or that he’d throw Palliser there too if he could get hold of him. As for taking the hounds to Trumpeton again, I wouldn’t do it if there were not another covert in the country.”
“Then leave it so, and have done with it,” said his wife. “I wouldn’t fret as you do for what another man did with his own property, for all the foxes in England.”
“That is because you understand nothing of hunting, my dear. A man’s property is his own in one sense, but isn’t his own in another. A man can’t do what he likes with his coverts.”
“He can cut them down.”
“But he can’t let another pack hunt them, and he can’t hunt them himself. If he’s in a hunting county he is bound to preserve foxes.”
“What binds him, Oswald? A man can’t be bound without a penalty.”
“I should think it penalty enough for everybody to hate me. What are you going to do about Phineas Finn?”
“I have asked him to come on the 1st and stay till Parliament meets.”
“And is that woman coming?”
“There are two or three women coming.”
“She with the German name, whom you made me dine with in Park Lane?”
“Madame Max Goesler is coming. She brings her own horses, and they will stand at Doggett’s.”
“They can’t stand here, for there is not a stall.”
“I am so sorry that my poor little fellow should incommode you,” said Miss Palliser.
“You’re a licensed offender — though, upon my honour, I don’t know whether I ought to give a feed of oats to anyone having a connection with Trumpeton Wood. And what is Phineas to ride?”
“He shall ride my horses,” said Lady Chiltern, whose present condition in life rendered hunting inopportune to her.
“Neither of them would carry him a mile. He wants about as good an animal as you can put him upon. I don’t know what I’m to do. It’s all very well for Laura to say that he must be mounted.”
“You wouldn’t refuse to give Mr Finn a mount!” said Lady Chiltern, almost with dismay.
“I’d give him my right hand to ride, only it wouldn’t carry him. I can’t make horses. Harry brought home that brown mare on Tuesday with an overreach that she won’t get over this season. What the deuce they do with their horses to knock them about so, I can’t understand. I’ve killed horses in my time, and ridden them to a stand-still, but I never bruised them and battered them about as these fellows do.”
“Then I’d better write to Mr Finn, and tell him,” said Lady Chiltern, very gravely.
“Oh, Phineas Finn!” said Lord Chiltern; “oh, Phineas Finn! what a pity it was that you and I didn’t see the matter out when we stood opposite to each other on the sands at Blankenberg!”
“Oswald,” said his wife, getting up, and putting her arm over his shoulder, “you know you would give your best horse to Mr Finn, as long as he chose to stay here, though you rode upon a donkey yourself.”
“I know that if I didn’t, you would,” said Lord Chiltern. And so the matter was settled.
At night, when they were alone together, there was further discussion as to the visitors who were coming to Harrington Hall. “Is Gerard Maule to come back?” asked the husband.
“I have asked him. He left his horses at Doggett’s, you know.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I certainly told you, Oswald. Do you object to his coming? You can’t really mean that you care about his riding?”
“It isn’t that. You must have some whipping post, and he’s as good as another. But he shilly-shallies about that girl. I hate all that stuff like poison.”
“All men are not so — abrupt shall I say? — as you were.”
“I had something to say, and I said it. When I had said it a dozen times, I got to have it believed. He doesn’t say it as though he meant to have it believed.”
“You were always in earnest, Oswald.”
“To the extent of the three minutes which you allowed yourself. It sufficed, however — did it not? You are glad you persevered?”
“What fools women are.”
“Never mind that. Say you are glad. I like you to tell me so. Let me be a fool if I will.”
“What made you so obstinate?”
“I don’t know. I never could tell. It wasn’t that I didn’t dote upon you, and think about you, and feel quite sure that there never could be any other one than you.”
“I’ve no doubt it was all right — only you very nearly made me shoot a fellow, and now I’ve got to find horses for him. I wonder whether he could ride Dandolo?”
“Don’t put him up on anything very hard.”
“Why not? His wife is dead, and he hasn’t got a child, nor yet an acre of property. I don’t know who is entitled to break his neck if he is not. And Dandolo is as good a horse as there is in the stable, if you can once get him to go. Mind, I have to start tomorrow at nine, for it’s all eighteen miles.” And so the Master of the Brake Hounds took himself to his repose.
Lady Laura Kennedy had written to Barrington Erle respecting her friend’s political interests, and to her sister-in-law, Lady Chiltern, as to his social comfort. She could not bear to think that he should be left alone in London till Parliament should meet, and had therefore appealed to Lady Chiltern as to the memory of many past events. The appeal had been unnecessary and superfluous. It cannot be said that Phineas and his affairs were matters of as close an interest to Lady Chiltern as to Lady Laura. If any woman loved her husband beyond all things Lord Chiltern’s wife did, and ever had done so. But there had been a tenderness in regard to the young Irish Member of Parliament, which Violet Effingham had in old days shared with Lady Laura, and which made her now think that all good things should be done for him. She believed him to be addicted to hunting, and therefore horses must be provided for him. He was a widower, and she remembered of old that he was fond of pretty women, and she knew that in coming days he might probably want money — and therefore she had asked Madame Max Goesler to spend a fortnight at Harrington Hall. Madame Max Goesler and Phineas Finn had been acquainted before, as Lady Chiltern was well aware. But perhaps Lady Chiltern, when she summoned Madame Max into the country, did not know how close the acquaintance had been.
Madame Max came a couple of days before Phineas, and was taken out hunting on the morning after her arrival. She was a lady who could ride to hounds — and who, indeed, could do nearly anything to which she set her mind. She was dark, thin, healthy, good-looking, clever, ambitious, rich, unsatisfied, perhaps unscrupulous — but not without a conscience. As has been told in a former portion of this chronicle, she could always seem to be happy with her companion of the day, and yet there was ever present a gnawing desire to do something more and something better than she had as yet achieved. Of course, as he took her to the meet, Lord Chiltern told her his grievance respecting Trumpeton Wood. “But, my dear Lord Chiltern, you must not abuse the Duke of Omnium to me.”
“Why not to you?”
“He and I are sworn friends.”
“He’s a hundred years old,”
“And why shouldn’t I have a friend a hundred years old? And as for Mr Palliser, he knows no more of your foxes than I know of his taxes. Why don’t you write to Lady Glencora? She understands everything.”
“Is she a friend of yours, too?”
“My particular friend. She and I, you know, look after the poor dear Duke between us.”
“I can understand why she should sacrifice herself.”
“But not why I do. I can’t explain it myself; but so it has come to pass, and I must not hear the Duke abused. May I write to Lady Glencora about it?”
“Certainly — if you please; but not as giving her any message from me. Her uncle’s property is mismanaged most damnably. If you choose to tell her that I say so you can. I’m not going to ask anything as a favour. I never do ask favours. But the Duke or Planty Palliser among them should do one of two things. They should either stand by the hunting, or they should let it alone — and they should say what they mean. I like to know my friends, and I like to know my enemies.”
“I am sure the Duke is not your enemy, Lord Chiltern.”
“These Pallisers have always been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. They are great aristocrats, and yet are always going in for the people. I’m told that Planty Pall calls fox-hunting barbarous. Why doesn’t he say so out loud, and stub up Trumpeton Wood and grow corn?”
“Perhaps he will when Trumpeton Wood belongs to him.”
“I should like that much better than poisoning hounds and trapping foxes.” When they got to the meet, conclaves of men might be seen gathered together here and there, and in each conclave they were telling something new or something old as to the iniquities perpetrated at Trumpeton Wood.
On that evening before dinner Madame Goesler was told by her hostess that Phineas Finn was expected on the following day. The communication was made quite as a matter of course; but Lady Chiltern had chosen a time in which the lights were shaded, and the room was dark. Adelaide Palliser was present, as was also a certain Lady Baldock — not that Lady Baldock who had abused all Papists to poor Phineas, but her son’s wife. They were drinking tea together over the fire, and the dim lights were removed from the circle. This, no doubt, was simply an accident; but the gloom served Madame Goesler during one moment of embarrassment. “An old friend of yours is coming here tomorrow,” said Lady Chiltern.
“An old friend of mine! Shall I call my friend he or she?”
“You remember Mr Finn?”
That was the moment in which Madame Goesler rejoiced that no strong glare of light fell upon her face. But she was a woman who would not long leave herself subject to any such embarrassment. “Surely,” she said, confining herself at first to the single word.
“He is coming here. He is a great friend of mine.”
“He always was a good friend of yours, Lady Chiltern.”
“And of yours, too, Madame Max. A sort of general friend, I think, was Mr Finn in the old days. I hope you will be glad to see him.”
“Oh, dear, yes.”
“I thought him very nice,” said Adelaide Palliser.
“I remember mamma saying, before she was mamma, you know,” said Lady Baldock, “that Mr Finn was very nice indeed, only he was a Papist, and only he had got no money, and only he would fall in love with everybody. Does he go on falling in love with people, Violet?”
“Never with married women, my dear. He has had a wife himself since that, Madame Goesler, and the poor thing died.”
“And now here he is beginning all over again,” said Lady Baldock.
“And as pleasant as ever,” said her cousin. “You know he has done all manner of things for our family. He picked Oswald up once after one of those terrible hunting accidents; and he saved Mr Kennedy when men were murdering him.”
“That was questionable kindness,” said Lady Baldock.
“And he sat for Lord Brentford’s borough,”
“How good of him!” said Miss Palliser.
“And he has done all manner of things,” said Lady Chiltern.
“Didn’t he once fight a duel?” asked Madame Goesler.
“That was the grandest thing of all,” said his friend, “for he didn’t shoot somebody whom perhaps he might have shot had he been as bloodthirsty as somebody else, And now he has come back to Parliament, and all that kind of thing, and he’s coming here to hunt. I hope you’ll be glad to see him, Madame Goesler.”
“I shall be very glad to see him,” said Madame Goesler, slowly; “I heard about his success at that town, and I knew that I should meet him somewhere.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01