Phineas Redux, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 3

Gerard Maule

“Why didn’t you tell me?” said Phineas that night after Lady Baldock was gone to bed. The two men had taken off their dress coats, and had put on smoking caps — Lord Chiltern, indeed, having clothed himself in a wonderful Chinese dressing-gown, and they were sitting round the fire in the smoking-room; but though they were thus employed and thus dressed the two younger ladies were still with them.

“How could I tell you everything in two minutes?” said Lady Chiltern.

“I’d have given a guinea to have heard her,” said Lord Chiltern, getting up and rubbing his hands as he walked about the room. “Can’t you fancy all that she’d say, and then her horror when she’d remember that Phineas was a Papist himself?”

“But what made Miss Boreham turn nun?”

“I fancy she found the penances lighter than they were at home,” said the lord. “They couldn’t well be heavier.”

“Dear old aunt!”

“Does she never go to see Sister Veronica?” asked Miss Palliser.

“She has been once,” said Lady Chiltern.

“And fumigated herself first so as to escape infection,” said the husband. “You should hear Gerard Maule imitate her when she talks about the filthy priest.”

“And who is Gerard Maule?” Then Lady Chiltern looked at her friend, and Phineas was almost sure that Gerard Maule was the man who was dying for Adelaide Palliser.

“He’s a great ally of mine,” said Lady Chiltern.

“He’s a young fellow who thinks he can ride to hounds,” said Lord Chiltern, “and who very often does succeed in riding over them.”

“That’s not fair, Lord Chiltern,” said Miss Palliser.

“Just my idea of it,” replied the Master. “I don’t think it’s at all fair. Because a man has plenty of horses, and nothing else to do, and rides twelve stone, and doesn’t care how he’s sworn at, he’s always to be over the scent, and spoil everyone’s sport. I don’t call it at all fair.”

“He’s a very nice fellow, and a great friend of Oswald’s. He is to be here tomorrow, and you’ll like him very much. Won’t he, Adelaide?”

“I don’t know Mr Finn’s tastes quite so well as you do, Violet. But Mr Maule is so harmless that no one can dislike him very much.”

“As for being harmless, I’m not so sure,” said Lady Chiltern. After that they all went to bed.

Phineas remained at Harrington Hall till the ninth, on which day he went to London so that he might be at Tankerville on the tenth. He rode Lord Chiltern’s horses, and took an interest in the hounds, and nursed the baby. “Now tell me what you think of Gerard Maule,” Lady Chiltern asked him, the day before he started.

“I presume that he is the young man that is dying for Miss Palliser.”

“You may answer my question, Mr Finn, without making any such suggestion.”

“Not discreetly. Of course if he is to be made happy, I am bound at the present moment to say all good things of him. At such a crisis it would be wicked to tinge Miss Palliser’s hopes with any hue less warm than rose colour.”

“Do you suppose that I tell everything that is said to me?”

“Not at all; but opinions do ooze out. I take him to be a good sort of a fellow; but why doesn’t he talk a bit more?”

“That’s just it.”

“And why does he pretend to do nothing? When he’s out he rides hard; but at other times there’s a ha-ha, lack a-daisical air about him which I hate. Why men assume it I never could understand. It can recommend them to nobody. A man can’t suppose that he’ll gain anything by pretending that he never reads, and never thinks, and never does anything, and never speaks, and doesn’t care what he has for dinner, and, upon the whole, would just as soon lie in bed all day as get up. It isn’t that he is really idle. He rides and eats, and does get up, and I daresay talks and thinks. It’s simply a poor affectation.”

“That’s your rose colour, is it?”

“You’ve promised secrecy, Lady Chiltern. I suppose he’s well off?”

“He is an eldest son. The property is not large, and I’m afraid there’s something wrong about it.”

“He has no profession?”

“None at all. He has an allowance of oe800 a year, which in some sort of fashion is independent of his father. He has nothing on earth to do. Adelaide’s whole fortune is four thousand pounds. If they were to marry what would become of them?”

“That wouldn’t be enough to live on?”

“It ought to be enough — as he must, I suppose, have the property some day — if only he had something to do. What sort of a life would he lead?”

“I suppose he couldn’t become a Master of Hounds?”

“That is ill-natured, Mr Finn.”

“I did not mean it so. I did not indeed. You must know that I did not.”

“Of course Oswald had nothing to do, and, of course, there was a time when I wished that he should take to Parliament. No one knew all that better than you did. But he was very different from Mr Maule.”

“Very different, indeed.”

“Oswald is a man full of energy, and with no touch of that affectation which you described. As it is, he does work hard. No man works harder. The learned people say that you should produce something, and I don’t suppose that he produces much. But somebody must keep hounds, and nobody could do it better than he does.”

“You don’t think that I mean to blame him?”

“I hope not.”

“Are he and his father on good terms now?”

“Oh, yes. His father wishes him to go to Saulsby, but he won’t do that. He hates Saulsby.”

Saulsby was the country seat of the Earl of Brentford, the name of the property which must some day belong to this Lord Chiltern, and Phineas, as he heard this, remembered former days in which he had ridden about Saulsby Woods, and had thought them to be anything but hateful. “Is Saulsby shut up?” he asked.

“Altogether, and so is the house in Portman Square. There never was anything more sad or desolate. You would find him altered, Mr Finn. He is quite an old man now. He was here in the spring, for a week or two — in England, that is; but he stayed at an hotel in London. He and Laura live at Dresden now, and a very sad time they must have.”

“Does she write?”

“Yes; and keeps up all her interest about politics. I have already told her that you are to stand for Tankerville. No one — no other human being in the world will be so interested for you as she is. If any friend ever felt an interest almost selfish for a friend’s welfare, she will feel such an interest for you. If you were to succeed it would give her a hope in life.” Phineas sat silent, drinking in the words that were said to him. Though they were true, or at least meant to be true, they were full of flattery. Why should this woman of whom they were speaking love him so dearly? She was nothing to him. She was highly born, greatly gifted, wealthy, and a married woman, whose character, as he well knew, was beyond the taint of suspicion, though she had been driven by the hard sullenness of her husband to refuse to live under his roof. Phineas Finn and Lady Laura Kennedy had not seen each other for two years, and when they had parted, though they had lived as friends, there had been no signs of still living friendship. True, indeed, she had written to him, but her letters had been short and cold, merely detailing certain circumstances of her outward life. Now he was told by this woman’s dearest friend that his welfare was closer to her heart than any other interest!

“I dare say you often think of her?” said Lady Chiltern.

“Indeed, I do.”

“What virtues she used to ascribe to you! What sins she forgave you! How hard she fought for you! Now, though she can fight no more, she does not think of it all the less.”

“Poor Lady Laura!”

“Poor Laura, indeed! When one sees such shipwreck it makes a woman doubt whether she ought to marry at all.”

“And yet he was a good man. She always said so.”

“Men are so seldom really good. They are so little sympathetic. What man thinks of changing himself so as to suit his wife? And yet men expect that women shall put on altogether new characters when they are married, and girls think that they can do so. Look at this Mr Maule, who is really over head and ears in love with Adelaide Palliser. She is full of hope and energy. He has none. And yet he has the effrontery to suppose that she will adapt herself to his way of living if he marries her.”

“Then they are to be married?”

“I suppose it will come to that. It always does if the man is in earnest. Girls will accept men simply because they think it ill-natured to return the compliment of an offer with a hearty ““No.’’{”

“I suppose she likes him?”

“Of course she does. A girl almost always likes a man who is in love with her — unless indeed she positively dislikes him. But why should she like him? He is good-looking, is a gentleman, and not a fool. Is that enough to make such a girl as Adelaide Palliser think a man divine?”

“Is nobody to be accepted who is not credited with divinity?”

“The man should be a demigod, at least in respect to some part of his character. I can find nothing even demi-divine about Mr Maule.”

“That’s because you are not in love with him, Lady Chiltern.”

Six or seven very pleasant days Phineas Finn spent at Harrington Hall, and then he started alone, and very lonely, for Tankerville. But he admitted to himself that the pleasure which he had received during his visit was quite sufficient to qualify him in running any risk in an attempt to return to the kind of life which he had formerly led. But if he should fail at Tankerville what would become of him then?

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