Our pages have lately been taken up almost exclusively with the troubles of Phineas Finn, and indeed have so far not unfairly represented the feelings and interest of people generally at the time. Not to have talked of Phineas Finn from the middle of May to the middle of July in that year would have exhibited great ignorance or a cynical disposition. But other things went on also. Moons waxed and waned; children were born; marriages were contracted; and the hopes and fears of the little world around did not come to an end because Phineas Finn was not to be hung. Among others who had interests of their own there was poor Adelaide Palliser, whom we last saw under the affliction of Mr Spooner’s love — but who before that had encountered the much deeper affliction of a quarrel with her own lover. She had desired him to free her — and he had gone. Indeed, as to his going at that moment there had been no alternative, as he considered himself to have been turned out of Lord Chiltern’s house. The red-headed lord, in the fierceness of his defence of Miss Palliser, had told the lover that under such and such circumstances he could not be allowed to remain at Harrington Hall. Lord Chiltern had said something about “his roof’. Now, when a host questions the propriety of a guest remaining under his roof, the guest is obliged to go. Gerard Maule had gone; and, having offended his sweetheart by a most impolite allusion to Boulogne, had been forced to go as a rejected lover. From that day to this he had done nothing — not because he was contented with the lot assigned to him, for every morning, as he lay on his bed, which he usually did till twelve, he swore to himself that nothing should separate him from Adelaide Palliser — but simply because to do nothing was customary with him. “What is a man to do?” he not unnaturally asked his friend Captain Boodle at the club. “Let her out on the grass for a couple of months”, said Captain Boodle, “and she’ll come up as clean as a whistle. When they get these humours there’s nothing like giving them a run.” Captain Boodle undoubtedly had the reputation of being very great in council on such matters; but it must not be supposed that Gerard Maule was contented to take his advice implicitly. He was unhappy, ill at ease, half conscious that he ought to do something, full of regrets — but very idle.
In the meantime Miss Palliser, who had the finer nature of the two, suffered grievously. The Spooner affair was but a small addition to her misfortune. She could get rid of Mr Spooner — of any number of Mr Spooners: but how should she get back to her the man she loved? When young ladies quarrel with their lovers it is always presumed, especially in books, that they do not wish to get them back. It is to be understood that the loss to them is as nothing. Miss Smith begs that Mr Jones may be assured that he is not to consider her at all. If he is pleased to separate, she will be at any rate quite as well pleased — probably a great deal better. No doubt she had loved him with all her heart, but that will make no difference to her, if he wishes — to be off. Upon the whole Miss Smith thinks that she would prefer such an arrangement, in spite of her heart. Adelaide Palliser had said something of the kind. As Gerard Maule had regarded her as a “trouble”, and had lamented that prospect of “Boulogne” which marriage had presented to his eyes, she had dismissed him with a few easily spoken words. She had assured him that no such troubles need weigh upon him. No doubt they had been engaged — but, as far as she was concerned, the remembrance of that need not embarrass him. And so she and Lord Chiltern between them had sent him away. But how was she to get him back again?
When she came to think it over, she acknowledged to herself that it would be all the world to her to have him back. To have him at all had been all the world to her. There had been nothing peculiarly heroic about him, nor had she ever regarded him as a hero. She had known his faults and weaknesses, and was probably aware that he was inferior to herself in character and intellect. But, nevertheless, she had loved him. To her he had been, though not heroic, sufficiently a man to win her heart. He was a gentleman, pleasant-mannered, pleasant to look at, pleasant to talk to, not educated in the high sense of the word, but never making himself ridiculous by ignorance. He was the very antipodes of a Spooner, and he was — or rather had been — her lover. She did not wish to change. She did not recognise the possibility of changing. Though she had told him that he might go if he pleased, to her his going would be the loss of everything. What would life be without a lover — without the prospect of marriage? And there could be no other lover. There could be no further prospect should he take her at her word.
Of all this Lord Chiltern understood nothing, but Lady Chiltern understood it all. To his thinking the young man had behaved so badly that it was incumbent on them all to send him away and so have done with him. If the young man wanted to quarrel with anyone, there was he to be quarrelled with. The thing was a trouble, and the sooner they got to the end of it the better. But Lady Chiltern understood more than that. She could not prevent the quarrel as it came — or was coming; but she knew that “the quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love’. At any rate, the woman always desires that it may be so, and endeavours to reconcile the parted ones. “You’ll see him in London,” Lady Chiltern had said to her friend.
“I do not want to see him,” said Adelaide proudly.
“But he’ll want to see you, and then — after a time — you’ll want to see him. I don’t believe in quarrels, you know.”
“It is better that we should part, Lady Chiltern, if marrying will cause him — dismay. I begin to feel that we are too poor to be married.”
“A great deal poorer people than you are married every day. Of course people can’t be equally rich. You’ll do very well if you’ll only be patient, and not refuse to speak to him when he comes to you.” This was said at Harrington after Lady Chiltern had returned from her first journey up to London. That visit had been very short, and Miss Palliser had been left alone at the hall. We already know how Mr Spooner took advantage of her solitude. After that, Miss Palliser was to accompany the Chilterns to London, and she was there with them when Phineas Finn was acquitted. By that time she had brought herself to acknowledge to her friend Lady Chiltern that it would perhaps be desirable that Mr Maule should return. If he did not do so, and that at once, there must come an end to her life in England. She must go away to Italy — altogether beyond the reach of Gerard Maule. In such case all the world would have collapsed for her, and she would become the martyr of a shipwreck. And yet the more that she confessed to herself that she loved the man so well that she could not part with him, the more angry she was with him for having told her that, when married, they must live at Boulogne.
The house in Portman Square had been practically given up by Lord Brentford to his son; but nevertheless the old Earl and Lady Laura had returned to it when they reached England from Dresden. It was, however, large, and now the two families — if the Earl and his daughter can be called a family — were lodging there together. The Earl troubled them but little, living mostly in his own rooms, and Lady Laura never went out with them. But there was something in the presence of the old man and the widow which prevented the house from being gay as it might have been. There were no parties in Portman Square. Now and then a few old friends dined there; but at the present moment Gerard Maule could not be admitted as an old friend. When Adelaide had been a fortnight in London she had not as yet seen Gerard Maule or heard a word from him. She had been to balls and concerts, to dinner parties and the play; but no one had as yet brought them together. She did know that he was in town. She was able to obtain so much information of him as that. But he never came to Portman Square, and had evidently concluded that the quarrel — was to be a quarrel.
Among other balls in London that July there had been one at the Duchess of Omnium’s. This had been given after the acquittal of Phineas Finn, though fixed before that great era. “Nothing on earth should have made me have it while he was in prison,” the Duchess had said. But Phineas was acquitted, and cakes and ale again became permissible. The ball had been given, and had been very grand. Phineas had been asked, but of course had not gone. Madame Goesler, who was a great heroine since her successful return from Prague, had shown herself there for a few minutes. Lady Chiltern had gone, and of course taken Adelaide. “We are first cousins,” the Duke said to Miss Palliser — for the Duke did steal a moment from his work in which to walk through his wife’s drawing-room. Adelaide smiled and nodded, and looked pleased as she gave her hand to her great relative. “I hope we shall see more of each other than we have done,” said the Duke. “We have all been sadly divided, haven’t we?” Then he said a word to his wife, expressing his opinion that Adelaide Palliser was a nice girl, and asking her to be civil to so near a relative.
The Duchess had heard all about Gerard Maule and the engagement. She always did hear all about everything. And on this evening she asked a question or two from Lady Chiltern. “Do you know”, she said, “I have an appointment tomorrow with your husband?”
“I did not know — but I won’t interfere to prevent it, now you are generous enough to tell me.”
“I wish you would, because I don’t know what to say to him. He is to come about that horrid wood, where the foxes won’t get themselves born and bred as foxes ought to do. How can I help it? I’d send down a whole Lying-in Hospital for the foxes if I thought that that would do any good.”
“Lord Chiltern thinks it’s the shooting.”
“But where is a person to shoot if he mayn’t shoot in his own woods? Not that the Duke cares about the shooting for himself. He could not hit a pheasant sitting on a haystack, and wouldn’t know one if he saw it. And he’d rather that there wasn’t such a thing as a pheasant in the world. He cares for nothing but farthings. But what is a man to do? Or, rather, what is a woman to do? — for he tells me that I must settle it.”
“Lord Chiltern says that Mr Fothergill has the foxes destroyed. I suppose Mr Fothergill may do as he pleases if the Duke gives him permission.”
“I hate Mr Fothergill, if that’ll do any good,” said the Duchess; “and we wish we could get rid of him altogether. But that, you know, is impossible. When one has an old man on one’s shoulders one never can get rid of him. He is my incubus; and then you see Trumpeton Wood is such a long way from us at Matching that I can’t say I want the shooting for myself. And I never go to Gatherum if I can help it. Suppose we made out that the Duke wanted to let the shooting?”
“Lord Chiltern would take it at once.”
“But the Duke wouldn’t really let it, you know. I’ll lay awake at night and think about it. And now tell me about Adelaide Palliser. Is she to be married?”
“I hope so — sooner or later.”
“There’s a quarrel or something — isn’t there? She’s the Duke’s first cousin, and we should be so sorry that things shouldn’t go pleasantly with her. And she’s a very good-looking girl, too. Would she like to come down to Matching?”
“She has some idea of going back to Italy.”
“And leaving her lover behind her! Oh, dear, that will be very bad. She’d much better come to Matching, and then I’d ask the man to come too. Mr Maud, isn’t he?”
“Ah, yes; Maule. If it’s the kind of thing that ought to be, I’d manage it in a week. If you get a young man down into a country house, and there has been anything at all between them, I don’t see how he is to escape. Isn’t there some trouble about money?”
“They wouldn’t be very rich, Duchess.”
“What a blessing for them! But then, perhaps, they’d be very poor.”
“They would be rather poor.”
“Which is not a blessing. Isn’t there some proverb about going safely in the middle? I’m sure it’s true about money, only perhaps you ought to be put a little beyond the middle. I don’t know why Plantagenet shouldn’t do something for her.”
As to this conversation Lady Chiltern said very little to Adelaide, but she did mention the proposed visit to Matching.
“The Duchess said nothing to me,” replied Adelaide, proudly.
“No; I don’t suppose she had time. And then she is so very odd; sometimes taking no notice of one, and at others so very loving.”
“I hate that.”
“But with her it is neither impudence nor affectation. She says exactly what she thinks at the time, and she is always as good as her word. There are worse women than the Duchess.”
“I am sure I wouldn’t like going to Matching,” said Adelaide.
Lady Chiltern was right in saying that the Duchess of Omnium was always as good as her word. On the next day, after that interview with Lord Chiltern about Mr Fothergill and the foxes — as to which no present further allusion need be made here — she went to work and did learn a good deal about Gerard Maule and Miss Palliser. Something she learned from Lord Chiltern — without any consciousness on his lordship’s part, something from Madame Goesler, and something from the Baldock people. Before she went to bed on the second night she knew all about the quarrel, and all about the money. “Plantagenet,” she said the next morning, “what are you going to do about the Duke’s legacy to Marie Goesler?”
“I can do nothing. She must take the things, of course.”
“Then the jewels must remain packed up. I suppose they’ll be sold at last for the legacy duty, and, when that’s paid, the balance will belong to her.”
“But what about the money?”
“Of course it belongs to her.”
“Couldn’t you give it to that girl who was here last night?”
“Give it to a girl!”
“Yes — to your cousin. She’s as poor as Job, and can’t get married because she hasn’t got any money. It’s quite true; and I must say that if the Duke had looked after his own relations instead of leaving money to people who don’t want it and won’t have it, it would have been much better. Why shouldn’t Adelaide Palliser have it?”
“How on earth should I give Adelaide Palliser what doesn’t belong to me? If you choose to make her a present, you can, but such a sum as that would, I should say, be out of the question.”
The Duchess had achieved quite as much as she had anticipated. She knew her husband well, and was aware that she couldn’t carry her point at once. To her mind it was “all nonsense” his saying that the money was not his. If Madame Goesler wouldn’t take it, it must be his; and nobody could make a woman take money if she did not choose. Adelaide Palliser was the Duke’s first cousin, and it was intolerable that the Duke’s first cousin should be unable to marry because she would have nothing to live upon. It became, at least, intolerable as soon as the Duchess had taken it into her head to like the first cousin. No doubt there were other first cousins as badly off, or perhaps worse, as to whom the Duchess would care nothing whether they were rich or poor — married or single; but then they were first cousins who had not had the advantage of interesting the Duchess.
“My dear,” said the Duchess to her friend, Madame Goesler, “you know all about those Maules?”
“What makes you ask?”
“But you do?”
“I know something about one of them,” said Madame Goesler. Now, as it happened, Mr Maule, senior, had on that very day asked Madame Goesler to share her lot with his, and the request had been — almost indignantly, refused. The general theory that the wooing of widows should be quick had, perhaps, misled Mr Maule. Perhaps he did not think that the wooing had been quick. He had visited Park Lane with the object of making his little proposition once before, and had then been stopped in his course by the consternation occasioned by the arrest of Phineas Finn. He had waited till Phineas had been acquitted, and had then resolved to try his luck. He had heard of the lady’s journey to Prague, and was acquainted of course with those rumours which too freely connected the name of our hero with that of the lady. But rumours are often false, and a lady may go to Prague on a gentleman’s behalf without intending to marry him. All the women in London were at present more or less in love with the man who had been accused of murder, and the fantasy of Madame Goesler might be only as the fantasy of others. And then, rumour also said that Phineas Finn intended to marry Lady Laura Kennedy. At any rate a man cannot have his head broken for asking a lady to marry him — unless he is very awkward in the doing of it. So Mr Maule made his little proposition.
“Mr Maule,” said Madame, smiling, “is not this rather sudden?” Mr Maule admitted that it was sudden, but still persisted. “I think, if you please, Mr Maule, we will say no more about it,” said the lady, with that wicked smile still on her face. Mr Maule declared that silence on the subject had become impossible to him. “Then, Mr Maule, I shall have to leave you to speak to the chairs and tables,” said Madame Goesler. No doubt she was used to the thing, and knew how to conduct herself well. He also had been refused before by ladies of wealth, but had never been treated with so little consideration. She had risen from her chair as though about to leave the room, but was slow in her movement, showing him that she thought it was well for him to leave it instead of her. Muttering some words, half of apology and half of self-assertion, he did leave the room; and now she told the Duchess that she knew something of one of the Maules.
“That is, the father?”
“Yes — the father.”
“He is one of your tribe, I know. We met him at your house just before the murder. I don’t much admire your taste, my dear, because he’s a hundred and fifty years old — and what there is of him comes chiefly from the tailor.”
“He’s as good as any other old man.”
“I dare say — and I hope Mr Finn will like his society. But he has got a son.”
“So he tells me.”
“Who is a charming young man.”
“He never told me that, Duchess.”
“I dare say not. Men of that sort are always jealous of their sons. But he has. Now I am going to tell you something and ask you to do something.”
“What was it the French Minister said. If it is simply difficult it is done. If it is impossible, it shall be done.”
“The easiest thing in the world. You saw Plantagenets first cousin the other night — Adelaide Palliser. She is engaged to marry young Mr Maule, and they neither of them have a shilling in the world. I want you to give them five-and-twenty thousand pounds.”
“Wouldn’t that be peculiar?”
“Not in the least.”
“At any rate it would be inconvenient.”
“No it wouldn’t, my dear. It would be the most convenient thing in the world. Of course I don’t mean out of your pocket. There’s the Duke’s legacy.”
“It isn’t mine, and never will be.”
“But Plantagenet says it never can be anybody else’s. If I can get him to agree, will you? Of course there will be ever so many papers to be signed; and the biggest of all robbers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will put his fingers into the pudding and pull out a plum, and the lawyers will take more plums. But that will be nothing to us. The pudding will be very nice for them let ever so many plums be taken. The lawyers and people will do it all, and then it will be her fortune — just as though her uncle had left it to her. As it is now, the money will never be of any use to anybody.” Madame Goesler said that if the Duke consented she also would consent. It was immaterial to her who had the money. If by signing any receipt she could facilitate the return of the money to anyone of the Duke’s family, she would willingly sign it. But Miss Palliser must be made to understand that the money did not come to her as a present from Madame Goesler.
“But it will be a present from Madame Goesler,” said the Duke.
“Plantagenet, if you go and upset everything by saying that, I shall think it most ill-natured. Bother about true! Somebody must have the money. There’s nothing illegal about it.” And the Duchess had her own way. Lawyers were consulted, and documents were prepared, and the whole thing was arranged. Only Adelaide Palliser knew nothing about it, nor did Gerard Maule; and the quarrels of lovers had not yet become the renewal of love. Then the Duchess wrote the two following notes:
MY DEAR ADELAIDE
We shall hope to see you at Matching on the 15th of August. The Duke, as head of the family, expects implicit obedience. You’ll meet fifteen young gentlemen from the Treasury and the Board of Trade, but they won’t incommode you, as they are kept at work all day. We hope Mr Finn will be with us, and there isn’t a lady in England who wouldn’t give her eyes to meet him. We shall stay ever so many weeks at Matching, so that you can do as you please as to the time of leaving us.
Yours affectionately, G . O .
“Tell Lord Chiltern that I have my hopes of making Trumpeton Wood too hot for Mr Fothergill — but I have to act with the greatest caution. In the meantime I am sending down dozens of young foxes, all labelled Trumpeton Wood, so that he shall know them.”
The other was a card rather than a note. The Duke and Duchess of Omnium presented their compliments to Mr Gerard Maule, and requested the honour of his company to dinner on — a certain day named. When Gerard Maule received this card at his club he was rather surprised, as he had never made the acquaintance either of the Duke or the Duchess. But the Duke was the first cousin of Adelaide Palliser, and of course he accepted the invitation.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55