The Duke's Children
Part 12 out of 14
had the slightest reason for thinking that your daughter was
estranged from me, I would not persecute either you or her. But if
it be true that she is as devoted to me as I am to her, can I be
wrong in pleading my case? Is it not evident to you that she is
made of such stuff that she will not be controlled in her choice,--
even by your will?
'I have had an accident in the hunting-field and an now writing
from Lord Chiltern's house, where I am confined to bed. But I
think you will understand me when I say that even in this helpless
condition I feel myself constrained to do something. Of course I
ask for nothing from you on my own behalf,--but on her behalf may I
not add my prayers to hers?
'I have the honour to be,
'Your Grace's faithful Servant,
This coming alone would perhaps have had no effect. The Duke had
desired the young man not to address him again; and the young man
had disobeyed him. No mere courtesy would now have constrained him
to send any reply further to this letter. But coming as it did
while his heart was still throbbing with the effects of Mrs Finn's
words, it was allowed to have a certain force. The argument was a
true argument. His girl was devoted to the man who sought her
hand. Mrs Finn had told him that sooner or later he must yield,--
unless he was prepared to see his child wither and fade at his
side. He had once thought that he would be prepared even for that.
He had endeavoured to strengthen his own will by arguing with
himself that when he saw a duty plainly before him, he should
cleave to that let the results be what they might. But that
picture of her face withered and wan after twenty years of
sorrowing had had its effect upon his heart. He even made excuses
within his own breast in the young man's favour. He was in
Parliament now, and what may not be done for a young man in
Parliament? Altogether the young man appeared to him in a
different light from that through which he had viewed the
presumptuous, arrogant young suitor who had come to him, now
nearly a year since, in Carlton Terrace.
He went to breakfast with Tregear's letter in his pocket, and was
then gracious to Mrs Finn, and tender to his daughter. 'When do
you go, papa?' Mary asked.
'I shall take the 11.45 train. I have ordered the carriage at a
quarter before eleven.'
'May I go to the train, papa?'
'Certainly; I shall be delighted.'
'Papa!' Mary said as soon as she found herself seated beside her
father in the carriage.
'Oh, papa!' and she threw herself on to his breast. He put his arm
round her and kissed her,--as he would have had so much delight in
doing, as he would have done so often before, had there not been
this ground of discord. She was very sweet to him. It had never
seemed to him that she had disgraced herself by loving Tregear--but
that a great misfortune had fallen upon her. Silverbridge when he
had gone into a racing partnership with Tifto, and Gerald when he
had played for money which he did not possess, had--degraded
themselves in his estimation. He would not have used such a word;
but it was his feeling. They were less noble, less pure than they
might have been, had they kept themselves free from such stain. But
this girl,--whether she should live and fade by his side, or
whether she should give her hand to some fitting noble suitor,--or
even though she might at last become the wife of this man who
loved her, would always have been pure. It was sweet to him to
have something to caress. Now in the solitude of his life, as
years were coming on him, he felt how necessary it was that he
should have someone who would love him. Since his wife had left
him he had been debarred from these caresses, by the necessity of
showing his antagonism to her dearest wishes. It had been his duty
to be stern. In all his words to his daughter he had been governed
by a conviction that he never ought to allow the duty of
separating her from her lover to be absent from his mind. He was
not prepared to acknowledge that that duty had ceased;--but yet
there had crept over him a feeling that as he was half conquered,
why should he not seek some recompense in his daughter's love.
'Papa,' she said, 'you do not hate me?'
'Hate you, my darling!'
'Because I am disobedient. Oh, papa, I cannot help it. He should
not have come. He should not have been let to come.' He had not a
word to say to her. He could not as yet bring himself to tell
her,--that it should be as she desired. Much less could he now
argue with her as to the impossibility of such a marriage as he
had done on former occasions when the matter had been discussed.
He could only press his arm tightly round her waist, and be
silent. 'It cannot be altered now, papa. Look at me. Tell me that
you love me.'
'Have you doubted my love?'
'No, papa,--but I would do anything to make you happy; anything
that I could do. Papa, you do not want me to marry Lord
'I would not have you marry any man without loving him.'
'I never can love anybody else. That is what I wanted you to know,
To this he made no reply, nor was there anything else said upon
the subject before the carriage drove up to the railway station.
'Do not get out, dear,' he said, seeing that her eyes had been
filled with tears. 'It is not worth while. God bless you my child!
You will be up in London I hope in a fortnight, and we must try
to make the house a little less dull for you.'
And so he encountered the third attack.
Lady Mary, as she was driven home, recovered her spirits
wonderfully. Not a word had fallen from her father which she could
use hereafter as a refuge from her embarrassments. He had made her
no promise. He had assented to nothing. But there had been
something in his manner, in his gait, in his eye, in the pressure
of his arm, which made her feel that her troubles would soon be at
'I do love you so much,' she said to Mrs Finn late on that
'I am glad of that, dear.'
'I shall always love you,--because you have been on my side all
'No, Mary;--that is not so.'
'I know it is so. Of course you have to be wise because you are
older. And papa would not have you here with me if you were not
wise. But I know you are on my side,--and papa knows it too. And
someone else shall know it some day.'
'He is Such a Beast'
Lord Silverbridge remained in the Brake country till a few days
before the meeting of Parliament, and had he been left to himself
he would have had another week in the country and might probably
have overstayed the opening day; but he had not been left to
himself. In the last week in January an important despatch reached
his hands, from no less important person than Sir Timothy Beeswax,
suggesting to him that he should undertake the duty of seconding
the address in the House of Commons. When the proposition first
reached him it made his hair stand on end. He had never yet risen
to his feet in the House. He had spoken at those election meetings
in Cornwall, and had found it easy enough. After the first or
second time he had thought it good fun. But he knew that standing
up in the House of Commons would be different from that. Then
there would be the dress! 'I should so hate to fig myself out and
look like a guy,' he said to Tregear, to whom of course he
confided the offer that was made to him. Tregear was very anxious
that he should accept it. 'A man should never refuse anything of
that kind which comes his way,' Tregear said.
'It is only because I am the governor's son,' Silverbridge
'Partly so perhaps. But if it be altogether so, what of that? Take
the goods the gods provide you. Of course all these things which
our ambition covets are easier to Duke's sons than to others. But
not on that account should a Duke's son refuse them. A man when he
sees a rung vacant on the ladder should always put his foot
'I'll tell you what,' said Silverbridge. 'If I thought this was
all fair sailing I'd do it. I should feel certain that I should
come a cropper, but still I'd try it. As you say, a fellow should
try. But it's all meant as a blow at the governor. Old Beeswax
thinks that if he can get me up to swear that he and his crew are
real first-chop hands, that will hit the governor hard. It's as
much as saying to the governor,--"This chap belongs to me, not to
you." That's a thing I won't go in for.' Then Tregear counselled
him to write to his father for advice, and at the same time ask
Sir Timothy to allow him a day or two for consideration. This
counsel he took. His letter reached his father two days before he
left Matching. In answer to it there came first a telegram begging
Silverbridge to be in London on the Monday, and then a letter, in
which the Duke expressed himself as being anxious to see his son
before giving a final answer to the question. Thus it was that
Silverbridge had been taken away from his hunting.
Isabel Boncassen, however, was now in London, and from her it was
possible that he might find consolation. He had written to her
soon after reaching Harrington, telling her that he had had it all
out with the governor. 'There is a good deal that I can only tell
you when I see you,' he said. Then he assured her with many
lover's protestations that he was and always would be till death
altogether her own most loving S. To this he had received an
answer by return of post. She would be delighted to see him up in
town,--as would her father and mother. They had now got a
comfortable house in Brook Street. And then she signed herself his
sincere friend, Isabel. Silverbridge thought that it was cold, and
remembered certain scraps of another feminine handwriting in which
more passion was expressed. Perhaps this was the way with American
young ladies when they were in love.
'Yes,' said the Duke, 'I am glad that you have come up at once, as
Sir Timothy should have his answer without further delay.'
'But what shall I say?'
The Duke, though he had already considered the matter very
seriously, nevertheless took a few minutes to consider it again.
'The offer,' said he, 'must be acknowledged as very flattering.'
'But the circumstances are not usual.'
'It cannot often be the case that a minister should ask the son of
his keenest political opponent to render him such a service. But,
however, we will put that aside.'
'Not quite, sir.'
'For the present we will put that on one side. Not looking at the
party which you may be called upon to support, having for the
moment no regard to this or that line in politics, there is no
opening to the real duties of parliamentary life which I would
sooner see accorded to you than this.'
'But if I were to break down?' Talking to his father he could not
quite venture to ask what might happen if he were to 'come a
'None but the brave deserve the fair,' said the Duke slapping his
hands upon the table. 'Why, if "We fail, we fail! But screw your
courage to the sticking place, And we'll not fail." What high
point would ever be reached if caution such as that were allowed
to prevail? What young men have done before cannot you do? I
have no doubt of your capacity. None.'
'Haven't you, sir,' said Silverbridge, considerably gratified,--and
'None in the least. But, perhaps, some of your diligence.'
'I could learn it by heart, sir,--if you mean that.'
'But I don't mean that; or rather I mean much more than that. You
have first to realise in your mind the thing to be said, and then
the words in which you should say it, before you come to learning
'Some of them I suppose would tell me what to say.'
'No doubt with your inexperience it would be unfit that you should
be left entirely to yourself. But I would wish you to know,--
perhaps I should say to feel, that the sentiments expressed by you
'I should have to praise Sir Timothy.'
'Not that necessarily. But you would have to advocate that course
in Parliament which Sir Timothy and his friends have taken and
propose to take.'
'But I hate him like poison.'
'There need be no personal feeling in the matter. I remember that
when I moved the address in your house Mr Mildmay was Prime
Minister,--a man for whom my regard and esteem was unbounded,--who
had been in political matters the preceptor of my youth, whom as a
patriotic statesman I almost worshipped, whom I now remember as a
man whose departure from the arena of politics left the country
very destitute. No one has sprung up since like him,--or hardly
second to him. But in speaking on so large a subject as the policy
of a party, I thought it beneath me to eulogise a man. The same
policy reversed may keep you silent respecting Sir Timothy.'
'I needn't of course say what I think about him.'
'I suppose you do agree with Sir Timothy as to his general policy?
On no other condition can you undertake such a duty.'
'Of course I have voted with him.'
'So I have observed,--not so regularly perhaps as Mr Roby would
have desired.' Mr Roby was the Conservative whip.
'And I suppose the people at Silverbridge expect me to support
'I hardly know how that may be. They used to be contented with
more poor services. No doubt they feel they have changed for the
'You shouldn't say that, sir.'
'I am bound to suppose that they think so, because when the matter
was left in their own hands they at once elected a Conservative.
You need not fear that you will offend them by seconding the
address. They will probably feel proud to see their young member
brought forward on such an occasion; as I shall be proud to see my
'You would if it were on the other side, sir.'
'Yes, Silverbridge, yes; I should be very proud if it were on the
other side. But there is a useful old adage which bids us not cry
for spilt milk. You have a right to your opinions, though perhaps
I may think that in adopting what I must call new opinions you
were a little precipitate. We cannot act together in politics. But
not on the less on that account do I wish to see you take an
active and useful part on that side to which you have attached
yourself.' As he said this he rose from his seat and spoke with
emphasis, as though he were addressing some imaginary Speaker or a
house of legislators around. 'I shall be proud to hear you second
the address. If you do it as gracefully and fitly as I am sure you
may if you will give yourself the trouble, I shall hear you do it
with infinite satisfaction, even though I shall feel at the same
time anxious to answer all your arguments and to disprove your
assertions. I should be listening no doubt to my opponent;--but I
should be proud to feel that I was listening to my son. My advice
to you is to do as Sir Timothy has asked you.'
'He is such a beast, sir,' said Silverbridge.
'Pray do not speak in that way on matters so serious.'
'I do not think you understand it, sir.'
'Perhaps not. Can you enlighten me?'
'I believe he has done this only to annoy you.' The Duke, who had
again seated himself, and was leaning back in his chair, raised
himself up, placed his hands on the table before him, and looked
his son hard in the face. The idea which Silverbridge had just
expressed had certainly occurred to himself. He remembered well
all the circumstances of the time when he and Sir Timothy Beeswax
had been members of the same government,--and he remembered how
animosities had grown, and how treacherous he had thought the man.
From the moment in which he had read the minister's letter to the
young member, he had felt that the offer had too probably come
from a desire to make the political separation between himself and
his son complete. But he had thought that in counselling his son
he was bound to ignore such a feeling; and it certainly had not
occurred to him that Silverbridge would have been astute enough to
perceive the same thing.
'What makes you fancy that?' said the Duke, striving to conceal by
his manner, but not altogether successful in concealing, the
gratification he certainly felt.
'Well, sir, I am not sure that I can explain it. Of course it is
putting you in a different boat from me.'
'You have already chosen your boat.'
'Perhaps he thinks I may get out again. I dislike the skipper so
much, that I am not sure that I shall not.'
'Oh, Silverbridge,--that is such a fault! So much is included in
that which is unstatesmanlike, unpatriotic, almost dishonest! Do
you mean to say that you would be this or that in politics
according to your personal liking for an individual?'
'When you don't trust the leader, you can't believe very firmly in
the followers,' said Silverbridge doggedly. 'I won't say, sir,
what I may do. Though I daresay that what I think is not of much
account, I do think a good deal about it.'
'I am glad of that.'
'And as I think it not at all improbable that I may go back again,
if you don't mind it, I will refuse.' Of course after that the
Duke had no further arguments to use in favour of Sir Timothy's
Silverbridge had now a week on his hands which he felt he might
devote to the lady of his love. It was a comfort to him that he
need having nothing to do with the address. To have to go, day
after day, to the Treasury in order that he might learn his
lesson, would have been disagreeable to him. He did not quite know
how the lesson would have been communicated, but fancied it would
have come from 'Old Roby', whom he did not love much better than
Sir Timothy. Then the speech must have been composed, and
afterwards submitted to someone,--probably to old Roby again, by
whom no doubt it would be cut and slashed, and made quite a
different speech than he had intended. If he had not praised Sir
Timothy himself, Roby,--or whatever other tutor might have been
assigned to him,--would have put the praise in. And then how many
hours it would have taken to learn 'the horrid thing' by heart. He
proudly felt that he had not been prompted by idleness to decline
the task; but not the less was he glad to have shuffled the burden
from off his shoulders.
Early the next morning he was in Brook Street, having sent a note
to say he would call, and having named the hour. And yet when he
knocked at the door, he was told with the utmost indifference by a
London footman, that Miss Boncassen was not at home,--also that Mrs
Boncassen was not at home,--also that Mr Boncassen was not at home.
When he asked at what hour Miss Boncassen was expected home, the
man answered him, just as though he had been anyone else, that he
knew nothing about it. He turned away in disgust, and had himself
driven to the Beargarden. In his misery he had recourse to game-
pie and a pint of champagne for his lunch. 'Halloa, old fellow,
what is this I hear about you?' said Nidderdale, coming in, and
sitting opposite to him.
'I don't know what you have heard.'
'You are going to second the address. What made them pick you out
from the lot of us?'
'It is just what I am not going to do.'
'I saw it all in the papers.'
'I daresay;--and yet it isn't true. I shouldn't wonder if they ask
At this moment a waiter handed a large official letter to Lord
Nidderdable, saying that the messenger who had brought it was
waiting for an answer in the hall. The letter bore the important
signature of T. Beeswax on the corner of the envelope, and so
disturbed Lord Nidderdale that he called at once for a glass of
soda-and-brandy. When opened it was found to be very nearly a
counterpart of that which Silverbridge had received down in the
country. There was, however, added a little prayer that Lord
Nidderdale would at once come down to the Treasury Chambers.
'They must be very hard up,' said Lord Nidderdale. 'But I shall do
it. Cantrip is always at me to do something, and you see if I
don't butter them up properly.' Then having fortified himself
with game-pie and a glass of brown sherry he went away at once to
the Treasury Chambers.
Silverbridge felt himself a little better after his lunch,--better
still when he had smoked a couple of cigarettes walking about the
empty smoking-room. And as he walked he collected his thoughts.
She could hardly have meant to slight him. No doubt her letter
down to him at Harrington had been very cold. No doubt he had been
ill-treated in being sent away so unceremoniously from the door.
But yet she could hardly intend that everything between them
should be over. Even an American girl could not be so unreasonable
as that. He remembered the passionate way in which she had assured
him of her love. All that could not have been forgotten! He had
done nothing by which he could have forfeited her esteem. She had
desired him to tell the whole affair to her father, and he had
done so. Mr Boncassen might perhaps have objected. It might be that
this American was so prejudiced against the English aristocrats as
to desire no commerce with them. There were not many Englishmen
who would not have welcomed him as a son-in-law, but Americans
might be different. Still,--still Isabel would hardly have shown
her obedience to her father in this way. She was too independent
to obey her father in a matter concerning her own heart. And if he
had not been the possessor of her heart at that last interview,
then she must have been false indeed! So he got once more into
his hansom and had himself taken back to Brook Street.
Mrs Boncassen was in the drawing-room alone.
'I am so sorry,' said the lady, 'but Mr Boncassen has, I think,
just gone out.'
'Indeed! and where is Isabel?'
'Isabel is downstairs,--that is if she hasn't gone out too. She did
talk of going with her father to the Museum. She is getting quite
bookish. She has got a ticket, and goes there, and has all the
things brought to her just like the other learned folk.'
'I am anxious to see her, Mrs Boncassen.'
'My! If she has gone out it will be a pity. She was only saying
yesterday she wouldn't wonder if you shouldn't turn up.'
'Of course I've turned up, Mrs Boncassen. I was here an hour ago.'
'Was it you who called and asked all them questions? My! We
couldn't make out who it was. The man said it was a flurried
young gentleman who wouldn't leave a card,--but who wanted to see
Mr Boncassen most special.'
'It was Isabel I wanted to see. Didn't I leave a card? No; I don't
think I did. I felt so--almost at home, that I didn't think of a
'That's very kind of you, Lord Silverbridge.'
'I hope you are going to be my friend, Mrs Boncassen.'
'I am sure I don't know, Lord Silverbridge. Isabel is most used to
having her own way I guess. I think when hearts are joined almost
nothing ought to stand between them. But Mr Boncassen does have
doubts. He don't wish Isabel should force herself anywhere. But
here she is, and now she can speak for herself.' Whereupon not
only did Isabel enter the room, but at the same time Mrs Boncassen
most discreetly left it. It must be confessed that American
mothers are not afraid of their daughters.
Silverbridge, when the door was closed, stood looking at the girl
for a moment and thought that she was more lovely than ever. She
was dressed for walking. She still had on her fur jacket, but had
taken off her hat. 'I was in the parlour downstairs,' she said,
'when you came in, with papa; and we were going out together; but
when I heard who was here, I made him go alone. Was I not good?'
He had not thought of a word to say, or a thing to do;--but he felt
as he looked at her that the only thing in the world worth living
for, was to have her for his own. For a moment he was half-
abashed. Then in the next she was close in his arms with his lips
pressed to hers. He had been so sudden that she had been unable,
at any rate thought that she had been unable to repress him. 'Lord
Silverbridge,' she said, 'I told you I would not have it. You have
'Yes; Isabel! Isabel is offended with you. Why did you do it?'
Why did he do it? It seemed to him to be the most unnecessary
question. 'I want you to know how I love you.'
'Will that tell me? That only tells me how little you think of
'Then it tells you a falsehood;--for I am thinking of you always.
And I always think of you as being the best and dearest and
sweetest thing in the world. And now I think you dearer and
sweeter than ever.' Upon this she tried to frown; but her frown
at once broke out into a smile. 'When I wrote to say that I was
coming why did you not stay at home for me this morning?'
'I got no letter, Lord Silverbridge.'
'Why didn't you get it?'
'That I cannot say, Lord Silverbridge.'
'Isabel, if you are so formal, you will kill me.'
'Lord Silverbridge, if you are so forward, you will offend me.'
Then it turned out that no letter from him had reached the house;
and as the letter had been addressed to Bruton Street instead of
Brook Street, the failure on the part of the post-office was not
Whether or no she was offended or he killed remained with her the
whole afternoon. 'Of course I love you,' she said. 'Do you suppose
I should be here with you if I did not, or that you could have
remained in the house after what you did just now? I am not given
to run into rhapsodies quite so much as you are,--and being a woman
perhaps it is as well that I don't. But I think I can be quite as
true to you as you are to me.'
'I am so much obliged to you for that,' he said, grasping at her
'But I am sure that rhapsodies won't do any good. Now I'll tell
you my mind.'
'You know mine,' said Silverbridge.
'I will take it for granted that I do. Your mind is to marry me
will ye nil ye, as the people say.' He answered this by merely
nodding his head and getting a little nearer to her. 'That is all
very well in its way, and I am not going to say but what I am
gratified.' Then he did grasp her hand. 'If it pleases you to
hear me say so, Lord Silverbridge--'
'Then I shall call you Plantagenet;--only it sounds so horribly
historical. Why are you not Thomas or Abraham? But if it will
please you to hear me say so, I am ready to acknowledge that
nothing in all my life ever came near to the delight I have in
your love.' Hereupon he almost succeeded in getting his arm round
her waist. But she was strong, and seized his hand and held it.
'And I speak no rhapsodies. I tell you a truth which I want you to
know and to keep to your heart,--so that you may be always, always
'I will never doubt it.'
'But that marrying will ye nill ye, will not suit me. There is so
much wanted for happiness in life.'
'I will do all that I can.'
'Yes. Even though it be hazardous, I am willing to trust you. If
you were as other men are, if you could do as you please as lower
men may do, I would leave father and mother and my own country,--
that I might be your wife. I would do that because I love you. But
what will my life be here, if they who are your friends turn their
backs upon me? What will your life be, if, through all that, you
continued to love me?'
'That will all come right.'
'And what will your life be, or mine,' she said, going on with her
own thoughts without seeming to have heard his last words, 'if in
such a condition as that you did not continue to love me?'
'I should always love you.'
'It might be very hard:--and if once felt to be hard, then
impossible. You have not looked at it as I have done. Why should
you? Even with a wife that was a trouble to you--'
His arm was now round her waist, but she continued speaking as
though she were not aware of the embrace. 'Yes, a trouble! I
shall not be always just what I am now. Now I can be bright and
pretty and hold my own with others because I am so. But are you
sure,--I am not,--that I am such stuff as an English lady should be
made of? If in ten years' time you found that others did not
think so,--that, worse again, you did not think so yourself, would
you be true to me then?'
'I will always be true to you.'
She gently extricated herself, as though she had done so that she
might better turn round and look into his face. 'Oh, my own one,
who can say of himself that it would be so? How could it be so,
when you would have all the world against you? You would be still
what you are,--with a clog round your leg while at home. In
Parliament, among your friends, at your clubs, you would be just
what you are. You would be that Lord Silverbridge who had all the
good things at his disposal,--except that he had been unfortunate
in his marriage! But what should I be?' Though she paused he
could not answer her,--not yet. There was a solemnity in her speech
which made it necessary that he should hear her to the end. 'I,
too, have my friends in my own country. It is not disgrace to me
there that my grandfather worked on the quays. No one holds her
head higher than I do, or is more sure of being able to hold it. I
have there that assurance of esteem and honour which you have
here. I would lose it all to do you a good. But I will not lose it
all to do you an injury.'
'I don't know about injuries,' he said, getting up and walking
about the room. 'But I am sure of this. You will have to be my
'If your father will take me by the hand and say that I shall be
his daughter, I will risk the rest. Even then it might not be
wise; but we love each other too well not run some peril. Do you
think I want anything better than to preside in your home, to
soften you cares, to welcome your joys, to be mother perhaps of
your children, and to know that you are proud that I should be so?
No, my darling. I can see a Paradise;--only, only, I may not be
fit to enter it. I must use some judgement better that my own,
sounder, dear, than yours. Tell the Duke what I say;--tell him that
with what language a son may use to his father. And remember that
all you ask for yourself you will ask doubly for me.'
'I will ask him so that he cannot refuse me.'
'If you do I shall be contented. And now go. I have said ever so
much, and I am tired.'
'Isabel! Oh, my love.'
'Yes; Isabel;--your love! I am that at any rate for the present,--
and proud to be so as a queen. Well, if it must be, this once,--as
I have been so hard to you.' Then she gave him her cheek to kiss,
but of course he took much more than she gave.
When he got into the street it was dark, and there was sill
standing the faithful cab. But he felt that at the present moment
it would be impossible to sit still, and he dismissed the
equipage. He walked rapidly along Brook Street into Park Lane, and
from thence to the park, hardly knowing whither he went in the
enthusiasm of the moment. He walked back to the Marble Arch, and
thence round by the drive to the Guard House and the bridge over
the Serpentine, by the Knightsbridge Barracks to Hyde Park Corner.
Though he should give up everything and go and live in her own
country with her, he would marry her. His politics, his hunting,
this address to the Queen, his horses, his guns, his father's
wealth, and his own rank,--what were they all to Isabel Boncassen?
In meeting her he had net the one human being in all the world
who could really be anything to him either in friendship or in
love. When she had told him what she would do for him to make his
home happy, it had seemed to him that all other delights must fade
away from him for ever. How odious were Tifto and his racehorses,
how unmeaning the noise of his club, how terrible the tedium of
those parliamentary benches! He could not tell his love as she
had told hers! He acknowledged to himself that his words could
not be as her words,--nor his intellect as hers. But his heart
could be as true. She had spoken to him of his name, his rank, and
all his outside world around him. He would make her understand at
last that there were nothing to him in comparison with her. When
he had got round to Hyde Park Corner, he felt that he was almost
compelled to go back again to Brook Street. In no other place
could there be anything to interest him;--nowhere else could there
be light, or warmth, or joy! But what would she think of him? To
go back hot, and soiled with mud, in order that he might say one
more adieu,--that possibly he might ravish one more kiss,--would
hardly be manly. He must postpone all that for the morrow. On the
morrow of course he would be there.
But his word was before him! That prayer had to be made to his
father, or rather some wonderful effort of eloquence must be made
by which his father might be convinced that this girl was so
infinitely superior to anything of feminine creation that had ever
hitherto been seen or heard of, that all ideas as to birth,
country, rank, or name ought in this instance to count for
nothing. He did believe himself that he had found such a pearl,
that no question of seeing need be taken into consideration. If
the Duke would not see it the fault would be in the Duke's eyes,
or perhaps in his own words,--but certainly not in the pearl.
Then he compared her to poor Lady Mabel, and in doing so did
arrive at something near the truth in his inward delineation of
the two characters. Lady Mabel with all her grace, with all her
beauty, with all her talent, was a creature of efforts, or, as it
might be called, a manufactured article. She strove to be
graceful, to be lovely, to be agreeable and clever. Isabel was all
this and infinitely more without any struggle. When he was most
fond of Mabel, most anxious to make her his wife, there had always
been present to him a feeling that she was old. Though he knew her
age to a day,--and knew her to be younger than himself, yet she was
old. Something had gone of her native bloom, something had been
scratched and chipped from the first fair surface, and this had
been repaired by varnish and veneering. Though he had loved her he
had never been altogether satisfied with her. But Isabel was as
young as Hebe. He knew nothing of her actual years, but he did
know that to have seemed younger, or to have seemed older,--to have
seemed in any way different from what she was,--would have been to
be less perfect.
On a Sunday morning,--while Lord Silverbridge was alone in a
certain apartment in the house at Carlton Terrace which was called
his own sitting-room, the name was brought to him of a gentleman
who was anxious to see him. He had seen his father and had used
all the eloquence of which he was master,--but not quite with the
effect which he had desired. His father had been very kind to him,
but he, too, had been eloquent;--and had, as is often the case with
orators, been apparently more moved by his own words than by those
of his adversary. If he had not absolutely declared himself as
irrevocably hostile to Miss Boncassen he had not said a word that
might be supposed to give a token of assent.
Silverbridge, therefore, was moody, contemplative, and desirous of
solitude. Nothing that the Duke had said had shaken him. He was
still sure of his pearl, and quite determined that he would wear
it. Various thoughts were running through his brain. What if he
were to abdicate the title and become a republican? He was
inclined to think that he could not abdicate, but he was quite
sure that no one could prevent him from going to America and
calling himself Mr Palliser. That his father would forgive him and
accept his daughter-in-law brought to him, were he in the first
place to marry without sanction, he felt quite sure. What was
there that his father would not forgive? But then Isabel would
not assent to this. He was turning all this in his head and ever
and anon trying to relieve his mind by 'Clarissa', which he was
reading in conformity with his father's advice, when the
gentleman's card was put into his hand. 'Whatever does he want
here?' he said to himself; and then ordered that the gentleman
might be shown up. The gentleman in question was our old friend
Dolly Longstaff. Dolly Longstaff and Silverbridge had been
intimate as young men are. But they were not friends, nor, as far
as Silverbridge knew, had Dolly ever set foot in that house
before. 'Well, Dolly,' said he, 'what's the matter now?'
'I suppose you are surprised to see me?'
'I didn't think that you were ever up so early.' It was at this
time almost noon.
'Oh, come now, that's nonsense. I can get up as early as anybody
else. I have changed all that for the last four months. I was at
breakfast this morning very soon after ten.'
'What a miracle! Is there anything I can do for you?'
'Well yes,--there is. Of course you are surprised to see me?'
'You never were here before; and therefore it is odd.'
'It is odd. I felt that myself. And when I tell you what I have
come about you will think it more odd. I know I can trust you with
'That depends, Dolly.'
'What I mean is, I know you are good-natured. There are ever so
many fellows that are one's most intimate friends that would say
anything on earth they could that was ill-natured.'
'I hope they are not my friends.'
'Oh yes they are. Think of Glasslough, or Popplecourt, or Hindes!
If they knew anything about you that you didn't want to have
known,--about a young lady or anything of that kind,--don't you
think they'd tell everybody?'
'A man can't tell anything he doesn't know.'
'That's true. I had thought of that myself. But then there's a
particular reason for my telling you this. It is about a young
lady! You won't tell; will you?'
'No, I won't. But I can't see why on earth you should come to me.
You are ever so many years older than I am.'
'I had thought of that too. But you are just the person I must
tell. I want you to help me.'
These last words were said almost in a whisper, and Dolly as he
said them had drawn nearer to his friend. Silverbridge remained in
suspense, saying nothing by way of encouragement. Dolly, either in
love with his own mystery or doubtful of his own purpose, sat
still, looking eagerly at his companion. 'What the mischief is
it?' asked Silverbridge impatiently.
'I have quite made up my own mind.'
'That's a good thing at any rate.'
'I am not what you would have called a marrying sort of man.'
'I should have said,--no. But I suppose most men do marry sooner or
'That's just what I said to myself. It has to be done, you know.
There are three different properties coming to me. At least one
has come already.'
'You're a lucky fellow.'
'I've made up my mind; and when I say a thing I mean to do it.'
'But what can I do?'
'That's just what I'm coming to. If a man does marry I think he
ought to be attached to her.' To this, a broad proposition,
Silverbridge was ready to accede. But, regarding Dolly, a middle-
aged sort of fellow, one of those men who marry because it is
convenient to have a house kept for them, he simply nodded his
head. 'I am awfully attached to her,' Dolly went on to say.
'That's all right.'
'Of course there are fellows who marry girls for their money. I've
known men who had married their grandmothers.'
'That kind of thing. When a woman is old it does not much matter
who she is. But my one! She's not old!'
'Well;--I don't know about that. But I'm not after her money. Pray
understand that. It's because I'm downright fond of her. She's an
'A what!' said Silverbridge, startled.
'You know her. That's the reason I've come to you. It's Miss
Boncassen.' A dark frown came across the young man's face. That
all this should be said to him was disgusting. That an owl like
that should dare to talk of loving Miss Boncassen was offensive to
'It's because you know her that I've come to you. She thinks that
you're after her.' Dolly as he said this lifted himself quickly
up in his seat, and nodded his head mysteriously as he looked into
his companion's face. It was as much as though he should say, 'I
see you are surprised, but so it is.' Then he went on. 'She does,
pert poppet!' This was almost too much for Silverbridge; but
still he contained himself. 'She won't look at me because she has
got it into her head that perhaps some day she may become Duchess
of Omnium! That of course is out of the question.'
'Upon my word all this seems to me to be so very--very,--distasteful
that I think you had better say nothing more about it.'
'It is distasteful,' said Dolly; 'but in truth I am so downright,--
what you may call enamoured--'
'Don't talk such stuff as that here,' said Silverbridge, jumping
up. 'I won't have it.'
'But I am. There is nothing I wouldn't do to get her. Of course
it's a good match for her. I've got three separate properties; and
when the governor goes off I shall have a clear fifteen thousand a
'Of course that's nothing to you, but it is a very tidy income for
a commoner. And how is she to do better?'
'I don't know how she could do much worse,' said Silverbridge in a
transport of rage. Then he pulled his moustache in vexation, angry
with himself that he should have allowed himself to say even a
word on so preposterous a supposition. Isabel Boncassen and Dolly
Longstaff! It was Titania and Bottom over again. It was
absolutely necessary that he should get rid of this intruder, and
he began to be afraid that he could not do this without using
language which would have been uncivil. 'Upon my word,' he said,
'I think you had better not talk about it any more. The young lady
is one for whom I have a very great respect.'
'I mean to marry her,' said Dolly, thinking to vindicate himself.
'You might as well think of marrying one of the stars.'
'One of the stars!'
'Or a royal princess.'
'Well! Perhaps that is your opinion, but I can't say that I agree
with you. I don't see why she shouldn't take me. I can give her a
position which you may call A1 out of the Peerage. I can bring her
into society. I can make an English lady of her.'
'You can't make anything of her,--except to insult her,--and me too
by talking of her.'
'I don't quite understand this,' said the unfortunate lover
getting up from his seat. 'Very likely she won't have me. Perhaps
she has told you so.'
'She never mentioned your name to me in her life. I don't suppose
she remembers your existence.'
'But I say that there can be no insult in such a one as me asking
such a one as her to be my wife. To say that she doesn't remember
my existence is absurd.'
'Why should I be troubled with all this?'
'Because I think you are making a fool of her, and because I am
honest. That's why,' said Dolly with much energy. There was
something in this which partly reconciled Silverbridge to his
despised rival. There was a touch of truth about the man, though
he was so utterly mistaken in his ideas. 'I want you to give over
in order that I may try again. I don't think you ought to keep a
girl from her promotion, merely for the fun of a flirtation.
Perhaps you're fond of her;--but you won't marry her. I am fond of
her, and I shall.'
After a minute's pause, Silverbridge resolved that he would be
magnanimous. 'Miss Boncassen is going to be my wife,' he said.
'Yes;--my wife. And now I think you will see that nothing further
can be said about this matter.'
'Duchess of Omnium!'
'She will be Lady Silverbridge.'
'Oh; of course she'll be that first. Then I've got nothing further
to say. I'm not going to enter myself to run against you. Only I
shouldn't have believed it if anybody else had told me.'
'Such is my good fortune.'
'Oh ah,--yes; of course. That is one way of looking at it. Well,
Silverbridge. I'll tell you what I shall do; I shall hook it.'
'No; not you.'
'Yes, I shall. I daresay you won't believe me, but I've got such a
feeling about me here'--as he said this he laid his hand upon his
heart,--'that if I stayed I should go for hard drinking. I shall
take the great Asiatic tour. I know a fellow that wants to go, but
he hasn't got any money. I daresay I shall be off before the end
of next month. You don't know any fellow that would buy a half-a-
dozen hunters; do you?' Silverbridge shook his head. 'Good-bye,'
said Dolly, in a melancholy tone. 'I am sure I am very much
obliged to you for telling me. If I'd known you'd meant it, I
shouldn't have meddled, of course. Duchess of Omnium!'
'Look here, Dolly, I have told you what I should have not have
told anyone, but I wanted to screen the young lady's name.'
'It was so kind of you.'
'Do not repeat it. It is a kind of thing that ladies are
particular about. They choose their own time of letting everybody
know.' Then Dolly promised to be as mute as a fish, and took his
Silverbridge had felt, towards the interview, that he had been
arrogant to the unfortunate man,--particular in saying that the
young lady would not remember the existence of such a suitor,--and
had also recognised a certain honesty in the man's purpose, which
had not been less honest because it was so absurd. Actuated by the
consciousness of this, he had swallowed his anger, and had told
the whole truth. Nevertheless things had been said which were
horrible to him. This buffoon of a man had called his Isabel a-
pert poppet! How was he to get over the remembrance of such an
offence? And then the wretch had declared that he was--enamoured!
There was sacrilege in the term when applied by such a man to
Isabel Boncassen. He had thought of days to come, when everything
would be settled, when he might sit close to her, and call her
pretty names,--when he might in sweet familiarity tell that she was
a little Yankee and a fierce republican, and 'chaff' her about the
stars and stripes; and then, as he pictured the scene to himself
in his imagination, she would lean upon him and would give him
back his chaff, and would call him an aristocrat and would laugh
at his titles. As he thought of all this he would be proud with
the feeling that such privileges would be his own. And now this
wretched man had called her a pert poppet!
There was a sanctity about her,--a divinity which made it almost a
profanity to have talked about her at all to such a one as Dolly
Longstaff. She was his Holy of Holies, at which vulgar eyes should
not even be allowed to gaze. It had been a most unfortunate
interview. But this was clear, that, as he had announced his
engagement to such a one as Dolly Longstaff, the matter now would
admit of no delay. He would explain to his father that as tidings
of the engagement had got abroad, honour to the young lady would
compel him to come forward openly as her suitor at once. If this
argument might serve him, then perhaps this intrusion would not
have been altogether a misfortune.
'Love May be a Great Misfortune'
Silverbridge when he reached Brook Street that day was surprised
to find that a large party was going to lunch there. Isabel had
asked him to come, and he had thought her the dearest girl in the
world for doing so. but now his gratitude for that favour was
considerably abated. He did not care just now for the honour of
eating his lunch in the presence of Mr Gotobed, the American
minister, whom he found there already in the drawing-room with Mrs
Gotobed, nor with Ezekiel Sevenkings, the great American poet from
the far West, who sat silent and stared at him in an unpleasant
way. When Sir Timothy Beeswax was announced, with Lady Beeswax,
and her daughter, his gratification certainly was not increased.
And the last comer,--who did to arrive till they were all seated at
the table,--almost made him start from his chair and take his
departure suddenly. That last comer was no other than Mr Adolphus
Longstaff. As it happened he was seated next to Dolly, with Lady
Beeswax on the other side of him. Whereas his Holy of Holies was
on the other side of Dolly! The arrangement made seemed to have
been monstrous. He had endeavoured to get next to Isabel; but she
had so manoeuvred that there should be a vacant seat between them.
He had not much regarded this because a vacant chair may be pushed
on one side. But before he had made all his calculations Dolly
Longstaff was sitting there! He almost thought that Dolly winked
at him in triumph,--that very Dolly, who an hour ago had promised
to take himself upon his Asiatic travels!
Sir Timothy and the minister kept up the conversation very much
between them, Sir Timothy flattering everything that was American,
and the minister finding fault with very many things which were
English. Now and then Mr Boncassen would put in a word to soften
the severe honesty of his countryman, or to correct the
euphemistic falsehoods of Sir Timothy. The poet seemed always to
be biding his time. Dolly ventured to whisper a word to his
neighbour. It was but to say that the frost had broken up. But
Silverbridge heard it and looked daggers at everyone. Then Lady
Beeswax expressed to him a hope that he was going to do great
things in Parliament this session. 'I don't mean to go near the
place,' he said, not at all conveying any purpose to which he had
really come, but driven by the stress of the moment to say
something that should express his general hatred of everybody. Mr
Lupton was there, on the other side of Isabel, and was soon
engaged with her in a pleasant familiar conversation. Then
Silverbridge remembered that he had always thought Lupton to be a
most conceited prig. Nobody gave himself so many airs, or was so
careful as to the dyeing of his whiskers. It was astonishing that
Isabel should allow herself to be amused by such an antiquated
coxcomb. When they had finished eating they moved about and
changed their places. Mr Boncassen being rather anxious to stop
the flood of American eloquence which came from his friend Mr
Gotobed. British viands had become subject to his criticism, and
Mr Gotobed had declared to Mr Lupton that he didn't believe that
London could produce a dish of squash tomatoes. He was quite sure
you couldn't have sweet corn. Then there had been a moving of
seats in which the minister was shuffled off to Lady Beeswax, and
the poet found himself by the side of Isabel. 'Do you not regret
our mountains and our prairies?' said the poet; 'our great waters
and our green savannahs?' 'I think more perhaps of Fifth Avenue,'
said Miss Boncassen. Silverbridge, who at this moment was being
interrogated by Sir Timothy, heard every word of it.
'I was so sorry, Lord Silverbridge,' said Sir Timothy, 'that you
could not accede to our little request.'
'I did not quite see my way,' said Silverbridge, with his eye upon
'So I understood, but I hope that things will make themselves
clearer to you shortly. There is nothing that I desire so much as
the support of young men such as yourself,--the very cream, I may
say, of the whole country. It is to the young conservative
thoughtfulness and the truly British spirit of our springing
aristocracy that I look for that reaction which I am sure will at
last carry us safely over the rocks and shoals of communistic
'I shouldn't wonder if it did,' said Silverbridge. They didn't
think that he was going to remain down there talking politics to
an old humbug like Sir Timothy when the sun and moon, and all the
stars had gone up into the drawing-room! For at that moment
Isabel was making her way to the door.
But Sir Timothy had buttonholed him. 'Of course it is late now to
say anything further about that address. We have arranged that.
Not quite as I would have wished, for I had set my heart upon
initiating you into the rapturous pleasure of parliamentary
debate. But I hope that a good time is coming. And pray remember
this, Lord Silverbridge;--there is no member sitting on our side of
the House, and I need hardly say on the other, whom I would go
farther to oblige than your father's son.'
'I'm sure that's very kind,' said Silverbridge, absolutely using a
little force as he disengaged himself. Then at once he followed
the ladies upstairs passing the poet on the stairs. 'You have
hardly spoken to me,' he whispered to Isabel. He knew that to
whisper to her now, with the eyes of so many upon him, with the
ears of many open, was an absurdity; but he could not refrain
'There are so many to be,--entertained, as people say! I don't
think I ought to have to entertain you,' she answered, laughing.
No one heard her but Silverbridge, yet she did not seem to
whisper. She left him, however, at once, and was soon engaged in
conversation with Sir Timothy.
A convivial lunch I hold to be altogether bad, but the worst of
its many evils is that vacillating mind which does not know when
to take its owner off. Silverbridge was on this occasion
determined not to take himself off at all. As it was only lunch
the people must go, and then he would be left with Isabel. But the
vacillation of the others was distressing to him. Mr Lupton went,
and poor Dolly got away apparently without a word. But the
Beeswaxes and the Gotobeds would not go, and the poet sat staring
immovably. In the meantime Silverbridge endeavoured to make the
time pass lightly by talking to Mrs Boncassen. He had been so
determined to accept Isabel with all her adjuncts that he had come
almost to like Mrs Boncassen, and would certainly have taken her
part violently had anyone spoke ill of her in his presence.
Then suddenly he found that the room was almost empty. The
Beeswaxes and the Gotobeds were gone, and at last the poet
himself, with a final glare of admiration at Isabel, had taken his
departure. When Silverbridge looked round, Isabel was also gone.
Then to Mrs Boncassen had left the room suddenly. At the same
instant Mr Boncassen entered by another door, and the two men were
alone together. 'My dear Lord Silverbridge,' said the father, 'I
want to have a few words with you.' Of course there was nothing
for him but to submit. 'You remember what you said to me down at
'Oh yes; I remember that.'
'You did me the great honour of expressing a wish to make my child
'I was asking for a very great favour.'
'That also;--for there is no greater favour I could do to any man
than to give him my daughter. Nevertheless, you were doing me a
great honour,--and you did it, as you do everything, with an honest
grace that went far to win my heart. I am not at all surprised,
sir, that you should have won hers.' The young man as he heard
this could only blush and look foolish. 'If I know my girl,
neither your money nor your title would go for anything.'
'I think much more of her love, Mr Boncassen, than I do of
anything else in the world.'
'But love, my Lord, may be a great misfortune.' As he said this
the tone of his voice was altered, and there was a melancholy
solemnity not only in his words but in his countenance. 'I take it
that young people when they love rarely think of more than the
present moment. If they did so the bloom would be gone from their
romance. But others have to do this for them. If Isabel had come
to me saying that she loved a poor man, there would not have been
much to disquiet me. A poor man may earn bread for himself and his
wife, and if he failed I could have found them bread. Nor had she
loved somewhat below her degree, should I have opposed her. So
long as her husband had been an educated man, there might have
been no future punishment to fear.'
'I don't think she could have done that,' said Silverbridge.
'At any rate she has not done so. But how am I to look upon this
that she has done?'
'I'll do my best for her, Mr Boncassen.'
'I believe you would. But even your love can't make her an
English-woman. You can make her a Duchess.'
'Not that, sir.'
'But you can't give her a parentage fit for a Duchess;--not fit at
least in the opinion of those with whom you will pass your life,
with whom,--or perhaps without whom,--she will be destined to pass
her life, if she becomes your wife! Unfortunately it does not
suffice that you should think it fit. Though you loved each other
as well as any man and woman that ever were brought into each
other's arms by the beneficence of God, you cannot make her
happy,--unless you can ensure her the respect of those around her.'
'All the world will respect her.'
'Her conduct;--yes. I think the world, your world, would learn to
do that. I do not think it could help itself. But that would not
suffice. I may respect the man who cleans my boots, but he would
be a wretched man if he were thrown on me for society. I would not
give him my society. Will your Duchesses and Countesses give her
'Certainly they will.'
'I do not ask for it as thinking it to be of more value than that
of others; but were she to become your wife she would be so
abnormally placed as to require it for her comfort. She would have
become a lady of high rank,--not because she loves rank, but
because she loves you.'
'Yes, yes, yes,' said Silverbridge, hardly himself knowing why
'But having removed herself into that position, being as she would
be, a Countess, or a Duchess, or what not, how could she be happy
if he were excluded from the community of Countesses and
'They are not all like that,' said Silverbridge.
'I will not say that they are, but I do not know. Having Anglican
tendencies I have been wont to contradict my countrymen when they
have told me of the narrow exclusiveness of your nobles. Having
found your nobles and your commoners all alike in their courtesy,--
which is a cold word; in their hospitable friendships,--I would now
not only contradict, but would laugh to scorn any such charge,'--so
far he spoke somewhat loudly, and then dropped his voice as he
concluded,--'were it anything less than the happiness of my child
that is in question.'
'What am I to say, sir? I only know this; I am not going to lose
'You are a fine fellow. I was going to say that I wished you were
an American, so that Isabel need not lose you. But, my boy, I have
told you that I do not know how it might be. Of all whom you know,
who could best tell me the truth on such a subject? Who is there,
whose age will have given him experience, whose rank will have
made him familiar with this matter, who from friendship to you
would be least likely to decide against your wishes, who from his
own native honesty would be most likely to tell the truth?'
'You mean my father,' said Silverbridge.
'I do mean your father. Happily he has taken no dislike to the
girl herself. I have seen enough of him to feel that he is devoted
to his own children.'
'Indeed he is.'
'A just and liberal man;--one whom I should say not carried away by
prejudices! Well,--my girl and I have just put our heads together,
and we have come to a conclusion. If the Duke of Omnium will tell
us that she would be safe as your wife,--safe from the contempt of
those around her,--you shall have her. And I shall rejoice to give
her to you,--not because you are Lord Silverbridge, not because of
your rank and wealth; but because you are--that individual human
being whom I now hold by the hand.'
'What am I to Say, Sir?'
When Silverbridge left Mr Boncassen's house he was resolved to go
to his father without an hour's delay, and represent to the Duke
exactly how the case stood. He would be urgent, piteous,
submissive, and eloquent. In any other matter he would promise to
make whatever arrangements his father might desire. He would make
his father understand that all his happiness depended on this
marriage. When once married he would settle down, even at Gatherum
Castle if the Duke should wish it. He would not think of
racehorses, he would desert the Beargarden, he would learn blue-
books by heart, and only do as much shooting and hunting as would
become a young nobleman in his position. All this he would say as
eagerly and as pleasantly as it might be said. But he would add to
all this an assurance of his unchangeable intention. It was his
purpose to marry Isabel Boncassen. If he could do this with his
father's good will,--so best. But at any rate he would marry her!
The world at this time was altogether busy with political rumours;
and it was supposed that Sir Timothy Beeswax would do something
very clever. It was supposed also that he would sever himself from
some of his present companions. On that point everybody was
agreed,--and on that point only everybody was right. Lord Drummond,
who was the titular Prime Minister, and Sir Timothy, had, during a
considerable part of the last session, and through the whole
vacation, so belarded each other with praise in their public
expressions that it was quite manifest that they had quarrelled.
When any body of statesmen make public asseverations by one or
various voices, that there is no discord among them, not a
dissentient voice on any subject, people are apt to suppose that
they cannot hang together much longer. It is the man who has not
peace at home declares abroad that his wife is an angel. He who
lives on comfortable terms with the partner of his troubles can
afford to acknowledge the ordinary rubs of life. Old Mr Mildmay,
who was Prime Minister for so many years, and whom his party
worshipped, used to say that he had never found a gentleman who
had quite agreed with him all round; but Sir Timothy has always
been in exact accord with all his colleagues,--till he has left
them, or they him. Never had there been such concord as of late,--
and men, clubs, and newspapers now protested that as a natural
consequence there would soon be a break-up.
But not on that account would it perhaps be necessary that Sir
Timothy should resign,--or not necessary that his resignation
should be permanent. The Conservative majority had dwindled,--but
still there was a majority. It certainly was the case that Lord
Drummond could not get on without Sir Timothy. But might it not be
possible that Sir Timothy should get on without Lord Drummond? If
so he must begin his action in that direction by resigning. He
would have to place his resignation, no doubt with infinite
regret, in the hands of Lord Drummond. But if such a step were to
be taken now, just as Parliament was about to assemble, what would
become of the Queen's speech, of the address, and of the noble
peers and noble and other commoners who were to propose and second
it in the two Houses of Parliament? There were those who said
that such a trick played at the last moment would be very shabby.
But then again there were those who foresaw that the shabbiness
would be made to rest anywhere than on the shoulders of Sir
Timothy. If it should turn out that he had striven manfully to
make things run smoothly,--that the Premier's incompetence, or the
Chancellor's obstinacy, or this or that Secretary's peculiarity of
temper had done it all;--might not Sir Timothy then be able to
emerge from the confused flood, and swim along pleasantly with his
head higher than ever above the waters?
In these great matters parliamentary management goes for so much!
If a man be really clever and handy at his trade, if he can work
hard and knows what he is about, if he can give and take and be
not thin-skinned or sore-boned, if he can ask pardon for a
peccadillo and seem to be sorry with a good grace, if above all
things he be able to surround himself with the prestige of
success, then so much will be forgiven him! Great gifts of
eloquence are hardly wanted, or a deep-seated patriotism which is
capable of strong indignation. A party has to be managed, and he
who can manage it best, will probably be its best leader. The
subordinate task of legislation and of executive government may
well fall into the inferior hands of less astute practitioners. It
was admitted on both sides that there was no man like Sir Timothy
for managing the House or coercing a party, and there was
therefore a general feeling that it would be a pity that Sir
Timothy should be squeezed out. He knew all the little secrets of
the business;--could arrange let the cause be what it might, to get
a full House for himself and his friends, and empty benches for
his opponents,--could foresee a thousand little things to which
even a Walpole would have been blind, which a Pitt would not have
condescended to regard, but with which his familiarity made him a
very comfortable leader of the House of Commons. There were
various ideas prevalent as to the politics of the coming session;
but the prevailing idea was in favour of Sir Timothy.
The Duke was at Longroyston, the seat of his old political ally
the Duke of St Bungay, and had been absent from Sunday the sixth
till the morning of Friday the eleventh, on which day Parliament
was to meet. On that morning at about noon a letter came to the
son saying that his father had returned and would be glad to see
him. Silverbridge was going to the House on that day and was not
without his own political anxieties. If Lord Drummond remained in,
he thought that he must for the present stand by the party which
he had adopted. If, however, Sir Timothy should become Prime
Minister there would be a loophole for escape. There were some
three or four besides himself who detested Sir Timothy, and in
such case he might perhaps have company in his desertions. All
this was on his mind; but through all this he was aware that there
was a matter of much deeper moment which required his energies.
When his father's message was brought to him he told himself at
once that now was the time for eloquence.
'Well, Silverbridge,' said the Duke, 'how are matters going on
with you?' There seemed to be something in his father's manner
more than ordinarily jocund and good-humoured.
'With me, sir?'
'I don't mean to ask any party secrets. If you and Sir Timothy
understand each other, of course you will be discreet.'
'I can't be discreet, sir, because I don't know anything about
'When I heard,' said the Duke smiling, 'of your being in close
conference with Sir Timothy--'
'Yes, you. Mr Boncassen told me that you and he were so deeply
taken up with each other at his house that nobody could get a word
with either of you.'
'Have you seen Mr Boncassen?' asked the son, whose attention was
immediately diverted from his father's political badinage.
'Yes;--I have seen him. I happened to meet him where I was dining
last Sunday, and he walked home with me. He was so intent upon
what he was saying that I fear he allowed me to take him out of
'What was he talking about,' said Silverbridge. All his
preparations, all his eloquence, all his method, now seemed to
have departed from him.
'He was talking about you,' said the Duke.
'He had told me that he wanted to see you. What did he say, sir?'
'I suppose you can guess what he said. He wished to know what I
thought of the offer you have made to his daughter.' The great
subject had come up so easily, so readily, that he was almost
aghast when he found himself in the middle of it. And yet he must
speak of the matter, and that at once.
'I hope you raised no objection, sir,' he said.
'The objection came mainly from him; and I am bound to say that
every word that fell from him was spoken with wisdom.'
'But still he asked you to consent.'
'By no means. He told me his opinion,--and then he asked me a
'I am sure he did not say that we ought not to be married.'
'He did say that he thought you ought not to be married if--'
'If what, sir?'
'If there were probability that his daughter would not be well
received as your wife. Then he asked me what would be my reception
of her.' Silverbridge looked up into his father's face with
beseeching imploring eyes as though everything now depended on the
few next words that he might utter. 'I shall think it an unwise
marriage,' said the Duke. Silverbridge when he heard this at once
knew that he had gained his cause. His father had spoken of the
marriage as a thing that was to happen. A joyous light dawned in
his eyes, and the look of pain went from his brow, all which the
Duke was not slow to perceive. 'I shall think it an unwise
marriage,' he continued, repeating his words; 'but I was bound to
tell him that were Miss Boncassen to become your wife she would
also become my daughter.'
'I told him why the marriage would be distasteful to me. Whether I
may be wrong or right I think it to be for the good of our
country, for the good of our order, for the good of our individual
families, that we should support each other by marriage. It is not
as though we were a narrow class, already too closely bound
together by family alliances. The room for choice might be wide
enough for you without going across the Atlantic to look for her
who is to be the mother of your children. To this Mr Boncassen
replied that he was to look solely to his daughter's happiness. He
meant me to understand that he cared nothing for my feelings. Why
should he? That which to me is deep wisdom is to him an empty
prejudice. He asked me then how others would receive her.'
'I am sure everybody would like her,' said Silverbridge.
'I like her. I like her very much.'
'I am so glad.'
'But still all this is a sorrow to me. When however he put that
question to me about the world around her,--as to those among whom
her lot would be cast, I could not say I thought she would be
'Oh no!' The idea of rejecting Isabel.
'She has a brightness and a grace all her own,' continued the
Duke, 'which will ensure her acceptance in all societies.'
'Yes, yes;--it is just that, sir.'
'You will be a nine days' wonder,--the foolish thing young nobleman
who chose to marry an American.'
'I think it will be just other way up, sir--among the men.'
'But her place will I think be secure to her. That is what I told
'It is all right with him, then,--now?'
'If you call it all right. You will understand of course that you
are acting in opposition to my advice,--and my wishes.'
'What am I to say, sir?' exclaimed Silverbridge, almost in
despair. 'When I love the girl better than my life, and when you
tell me that she can be mine if I choose to take her; when I have
asked her to be my wife, and have got her to say that she likes
me, when her father has given way, and all the rest of it, would
it be possible that I should say now that I will give her up?'
'My opinion is to go for nothing,--in anything?' The Duke as he
said this knew that he was expressing aloud a feeling which should
have been restrained within his own bosom. It was natural that
there should have been such plaints. The same suffering must be
encountered in regard to Tregear and his daughter. In every way he
had been thwarted. In every direction he was driven to yield. And
yet now he had to undergo rebuke from his own son, because one of
the inward plaints would force itself from his lips! Of course
this girl was to be taken among the Pallisers and treated with an
idolatrous love,--as perfect as though 'all the blood of all the
Howards' were running in her veins. What further inch of ground
was there for a fight? And if the fight were over, why should he
rob his boy of one sparkle from the joy of his triumph?
Silverbridge was now standing before him abashed by that plaint,
inwardly sustained no doubt by the conviction of his great
success, but subdued by his father's wailing. 'However,--perhaps we
had better let that pass,' said the Duke, with a long sigh. Then
Silverbridge took his father's hand, and looked up in his face. 'I
most sincerely hope that she may make you a good and loving wife,'
said the Duke, 'and that she may do her duty by you in that not
easy sphere of life to which she will be called.'
'I am quite sure she will,' said Silverbridge, whose ideas as to
Isabel's duties were confined at present to a feeling that she
would now have to give him kisses without stint.
'What I have seen of her personally recommends her to me,' said
the Duke. 'Some girls are fools--'
'That's quite true, sir.'
'Who think that the world is to be nothing but dancing, and going
'Many have been doing it for many years,' said Silverbridge, 'that
they can't understand that there should be an end of it.'
'A wife ought to feel the great responsibility of her position. I
hope she will.'
'And the sooner she begins the better,' said Silverbridge stoutly.
'And now,' said the Duke, looking at his watch, 'we might as well
have lunch and go down to the House. I will walk with you if you
please. It will be about time for each of us.' Then the son was
forced to go down and see a somewhat faded ceremony of seeing
Parliament opened by three Lords sitting in commission before the
throne. Whereas but for such stress as his father had laid upon
him, he would have disregarded his parliamentary duties and have
rushed at once up to Brook Street. As it was he was so handed over
from one political pundit to another, was so buttonholed by Sir
Timothy, so chaffed as to the address by Phineas Finn, and at last
so occupied with the whole matter that he was compelled to sit in
his place till he had heard Nidderdale make his speech. This the
young Scotch Lord did so well, and received so much praise for the
doing of it, and looked so well in his uniform, that Silverbridge
almost regretted the opportunity that he had lost. At seven the
sitting was over, the speeches, though full of interest, having
been shorter than usual. They had been full of interest, but
nobody understood in the least what was going to happen. 'I don't
know anything about the Prime Minister,' said Mr Lupton as he left
the House with our hero and another not very staunch supporter of
the Government, 'but I'll back Sir Timothy to be the Leader of the
House on the last day of the session, against all comers. I don't
think it much matters who is Prime Minister nowadays.'
At half-past seven Silverbridge was at the door at Brook Street.
Yes; Miss Boncassen was at home. The servant thought that she was
upstairs dressing. Then Silverbridge made his way without further
invitation into the drawing-room. There he remained alone for ten
minutes. At last the door opened, and Mrs Boncassen entered.
'Dear! Lord Silverbridge, who ever dreamed of seeing you? I
thought all you Parliament gentlemen were going through your
ceremonies. Isabel had a ticket and went down, and saw your
'Where is Isabel?'
'Gone! Where on earth has she gone to?' asked Silverbridge, as
though fearing lest she had been already carried off to the other
side of the Atlantic. Then Mrs Boncassen explained. Within the
last three minutes Mrs Montacute Jones had called and carried
Isabel off to the play. Mrs Jones was up in town for a week and
this had been a very old engagement. 'I hope you did not want her
particularly,' said Mrs Boncassen.
'But I did,--not particularly,' said Lord Silverbridge. The door
was opened and Mr Boncassen entered the room. 'I beg your pardon
for coming at such a time,' said the lover, 'but I did so want to
'I rather thinks she wants to see you,' said the father.
'I shall go to the theatre after her.'
'That might be awkward,--particularly as I doubt whether anybody
knows what theatre they are gone to. Can I receive a message for
her, my lord?' This was certainly not what Lord Silverbridge had
intended. 'You know, perhaps, that I have seen the Duke?'
'Oh yes;--I have seen him. Everything is settled.'
'That is the only message she will want to hear when she comes
home. She is a happy girl and I am proud to think that I should
live to call such a grand young Briton as you my son-in-law.'
Then the American took the young man's two hands and shook them
cordially, while Mrs Boncassen bursting into tears insisted on
'Indeed she is a happy girl,' said she; 'but I hope Isabel won't
be carried away too high and mighty.'
Three days after this it was arranged that Isabel should be taken
to Carlton Terrace to be accepted there into the full good graces
of her future father-in-law, and to go through the pleasant
ceremony of seeing the house which it was her destiny to be
mistress. What can be more interesting to a girl than this first
visit to her future home? And now Isabel Boncassen was to make
her first visit to the house In Carlton Terrace, which the Duke
had already declared his purpose of surrendering to the young
couple. She was going among very grand things,--so grand that those
whose affairs in life are less magnificent may think that her mind
should have soared altogether above the chairs and tables, and
reposed itself among diamonds, gold and silver ornaments, rich
necklaces, the old masters, and alabaster statuary. But Dukes and
Duchesses must sit upon chairs,--or at any rate on sofas,--as well
as their poorer brethren, and probably have the same regard for
their comfort. Isabel was not above her future furniture, or the
rooms that were to be her rooms, or the stairs which she would
have to tread, or the pillow on which her head must rest. She had
never yet seen the outside of the house in which she was to live,
and was now prepared to make her visit with as much enthusiasm as
though her future abode was to be prepared for her in a small
house in a small street beyond Islington.
But the Duke was no doubt more than the house, the father-in-law
more than the tables. Isabel, in the ordinary way of society, he
had known almost with intimacy. She, the while, had been well
aware that if all things could possibly be made to run smoothly
with her, this lordly host, who was so pleasantly courteous to
her, would become her father-in-law. But she had known also that,
in his courtesy, had been altogether unaware of any such intention
on her part, and that she would now present herself to him in an
aspect very different from that in which she had hitherto been
regarded. She was well aware that the Duke had not wished to take
her into the family,--would not himself have chosen her for his
son's wife. She had seen enough to make her sure that he had even
chosen another bride for his heir. She had been too clever not to
perceive that Lady Mabel Grex had been not only selected,--but
almost accepted as though the thing had been certain. She had
learned nearly the whole truth from Silverbridge, who was not good
at keeping a secret from one to whom his heart was open. That
story had been read by her with exactness. 'I cannot lose you
now,' she had said to him, leaning on his arm;--'I cannot afford to
lose you now. But I fear that someone else is losing you.' To
this he answered nothing, but simply pressed her closer to his
side. 'Someone else,' she continued, 'who perhaps may have reason
to think that you have injured her.' 'No,' he said boldly; 'no;
there is no such person.' For he had never ceased to assure
himself that in all that matter with Mabel Grex he had been guilty
of no treachery. There had been a moment, indeed, in which she
might have taken him; but she had chosen to let it pass from her.
All of which, or nearly all of which,--Isabel now saw, and had seen
also that the Duke had been a consenting party to that other
arrangement. She had reason therefore to doubt the manner of her
But she had been accepted. She had made such acceptance by him a
stipulation in her acceptance of her son. She was sure of the
ground on which she trod and was determined to carry herself, if
not with pride, yet with dignity. There might be difficulties
before her, but it should not be her fault if she were not as good
as a Countess, and,--when time would have it so,--as good a Duchess
The visit was not quite in the fashion in which Silverbridge
himself had wished. His idea had been to call for Isabel in his
cab and take her down to Carlton Terrace. 'Mother must go with
me,' she had said. Then he looked blank,--as he could look when he
was disappointed, as he had looked when she would not talk to him
at the lunch, when she told him that it was not her business to
entertain him. 'Don't be selfish,' she added, laughing. 'Do you
think that mother will not want to have seen the house that I am
to live in?'
'She shall come afterwards as often as she likes.'
'What,--paying me morning visits from New York! She must come now,
if you please. Love me, love my mother.'
'I am awfully fond of her,' said Silverbridge, who felt that he
really had behaved well to the old lady.
'So am I,--and therefore she shall go to see the house now. You are
as good as gold,--and do everything just as I tell you. But a good
time is coming, when I shall have to do everything that you tell
me.' Then it was arranged that Mrs and Miss Boncassen were to be
taken down to the house in their own carriage, and were to be
received at the door by Lord Silverbridge.
Another arrangement had also been made. Isabel was to be taken to
the Duke immediately upon her arrival, and to be left for a while
with him, so that he might express himself as might find fit to do
to this newly-adopted child. It was a matter to him of such
importance that nothing remaining to him in his life could equal
it. It was not simply that she was to be the wife of his son,--
though that in itself was a consideration very sacred. Had it been
Gerald who was bringing to him a bride, the occasion would have
had less of awe. But this girl, this American girl, was to be the
mother and grandmother of future Dukes of Omnium,--the ancestress,
it was to be hoped, of all future Dukes of Omnium! By what she
might be, by what she might have in her of mental fibre, of high
or low quality, of true or untrue womanliness, were to be
fashioned those who in days to come might be amongst the strongest
and most faithful bulwarks of the constitution. An England without
a Duke of Omnium,--or at any rate without any Duke,--what would it
be? And yet he knew that with bad Dukes his country would be in
worse stress than though she had none at all. An aristocracy;--yes;
but an aristocracy that shall be of the very best! He believed
himself thoroughly in this order; but if this order or many of his
order, should become as was now Lord Grex, then, he thought, that
his order not only must go to the wall, but that, in the cause of
humanity, it had better do so. With all this daily, hourly,
always in his mind, this matter in the choice of a wife for his
heir was to him of solemn importance.
When they arrived Silverbridge was there and led them first of all
into the dining-room. 'My!' said Mrs Boncassen, as she looked
around her. 'I thought that our Fifth Avenue parlous whipped up
everything in the way of city houses.'
'What a nice little room for Darby and Joan to sit down to eat a
mutton-chop in,' said Isabel.
'It's a beastly great barrack,' said Silverbridge;--'but the best
of it is that we never use it. We'll have a cosy little place for
Darby and Joan;--you'll see. Now come to the governor. I've got to
leave you with him.'
'Oh me! I am in such a fright.'
'He can't eat you,' said Mrs Boncassen.
'And he won't even bite,' said Silverbridge.
'I should not mind that because I could bite again. But if he
looks as though he thought I shouldn't do, I shall drop.'
'My belief is that he's almost as much in love with you as I am,'
said Silverbridge, as he took her to the door of the Duke's room.
'Here we are, sir.'
'My dear,' said the Duke, rising up and coming to her, 'I am very
glad to see you. It is good of you to come to me.' Then he took
her in both his hands and kissed her forehead and her lips. She,
as she put her face up to him, stood quite still in his embrace,
but her eyes were bright with pleasure.
'Shall I leave her?' said Silverbridge.
'For a few minutes.'
'Don't keep her too long, for I want to take her all over the
'A few minutes,--and then I will bring her up to the drawing-room.'
Upon this the door was closed, and Isabel was alone with her new
father. 'And so, my dear, you are to be my child.'
'If you will have me.'
'Come here and sit down by me. Your father has already told you
that;--has he not?
'He has told me that you had consented.'
'And Silverbridge has said as much?'
'I would sooner hear it from you than from either of them.'
'Then hear it from me. You shall be my child. And if you will love
me you shall be very dear to me. You shall be my own child,--as
dear to me as my own. I must either love his wife very dearly, or
else I must be an unhappy man. And she most love me dearly, or I
must be unhappy.'
'I will love you,' she said, pressing his hand.
'And now let me say some few words to you, only let there be no
bitterness in them to your young heart. When I say that I take you
to my own heart, you may be sure that I do so thoroughly. You
shall be as dear to me and as near as though you had been all
'There shall be no difference made. My boy's wife shall be my
daughter in very deed. But I had not wished it to be so.'
'I knew that,--but could I have given up?'
'He at any rate could not give up. There were little prejudices;--
you can understand that.'
'We who wear black coats could not bring ourselves readily to put
on scarlet garments; nor should we sit comfortably with our legs
crossed like Turks.'
'I am your scarlet coat and our cross-legged Turk,' she said, with
feigned self-reproach in her voice, but with a sparkle of mirth in
'But when I have once got into my scarlet coat I can be very proud
of it, and when I am once seated in my divan I shall find it of
all postures the easiest. Do you understand me?'
'I think so.'
'Not a shade of any prejudice shall be left to darken my mind.
There shall be no feeling but that you are in truth his chosen
wife. After all neither can country, nor race, nor rank, nor
wealth, make a good woman. Education can do much. But nature must
have done much also.'
'Do not expect too much of me.'
'I will so expect that all shall be taken for the best. You know,
I think, that I have liked you since I first saw you.'
'I know that you have always been good to me.'
'I have liked you from the first. That you are lovely perhaps is
no merit, though, to speak the truth, I am well pleased that
Silverbridge should have found so much beauty.'
'That is all a matter of taste, I suppose,' she said, laughing.
'But there is much a young woman may do for herself, which I think
you have done. A silly girl, though she be a second Helen, would
hardly have satisfied me.'
'Or perhaps him,' said Isabel.
'Or him; and it is in that feeling that I find my chief
satisfaction,--that he should have the sense to have liked such a
one as you better than others. Now I have said it. As not being
one of us I did at first object to his choice. As being what you
are yourself, I am altogether reconciled to it. Do not keep him
'I do not think he likes being kept waiting for anything.'
'I dare say not. I dare say not. And how there is one thing else.'
Then the Duke unlocked a little drawer that was close to his
hand, and taking out a ring put it on her finger. It was a bar of
diamonds, perhaps a dozen or them, fixed in a little circlet of
gold. 'This must never leave you,' he said.
'It never shall,--having come from you.'
'It was the first present that I gave to my wife, and it is the
first that I shall give to you. You may imagine how sacred it is
to me. On no other hand could it be worn without something which
to me would be akin to sacrilege. Now I must not keep you longer
or Silverbridge will be storming about the house. He of course
will tell me when it is to be; but do not you keep him long
waiting.' Then he kissed her and led her up into the drawing-
room. When he had spoken a word of greeting to Mrs Boncassen, he
left them to their own devices.
After that they spent the best part of an hour in going over the
house; but even that was done in a manner unsatisfactory to
Silverbridge. Wherever Isabel went, there Mrs Boncassen went also.
There might have been some fun in showing even the back kitchens
to his bride-elect by herself;--but there was one in wandering
about those vast underground regions with a stout old lady who was
really interested with the cooking apparatus and the washhouses.
The bedrooms one after another became tedious to him when Mrs
Boncassen would make communications respecting each of them to her
daughter. 'That is Gerald's room,' said Silverbridge. 'You have
never seen Gerald. He is such a brick.' Mrs Boncassen was charmed
with the whips and sticks and boxing-gloves in Gerald's room, and
expressed an opinion that young men in the States mostly carried
their knickknacks about with them to the Universities. When she
was told that he had another collection of 'knickknacks' at
Matching, and another at Oxford, she thought that he was a very
extravagant young man. Isabel who had heard all about the gambling
in Scotland, looked round her lover and smiled.
'Well, my dear,' said Mrs Boncassen, as they took their leave, 'it
is a very grand house, and I hope with all my heart you may have
your health there and be happy. But I don't know that you'll be
any happier because it's so big.'
'Wait till you see Gatherum,' said Silverbridge. 'That, I own,
does make me unhappy. It has been calculated that three months at
Gatherum Castle would drive a philosopher mad.'
In all this there had been a certain amount of disappointment for
Silverbridge; but on that evening, before dinner in Brook Street,
he received compensation. As the day was one somewhat peculiar in
its nature he decided that it should be kept together as a
holiday, and he did not therefore go down to the House. And not
going to the House of course he spent the time with the
Boncassens. 'You know you ought to go,' Isabel said to him when
the found themselves alone together in the back drawing-room.
'Of course I ought.'
'Then go. Do you think I would keep a Briton from his duties?'
'Not though the constitution should fall in ruins. Do you suppose
that a man wants no rest after inspecting all the pots and pans in
that establishment? A woman, I believe, could go on doing that
kind of thing all day long.'
'You should remember at least that the--woman was interesting
herself about your pots and pans.'
'And now, Bella, tell me what the governor said to you.' Then she
showed him the ring. 'Did he give you that?' She nodded her head
in assent. 'I did not think he would ever part with that.'
'It was your mother's.'
'She wore it always. I almost think that I never saw her hand
without it. He would not have given you that unless he had meant
to be very good to you.'
'He was very good to me, Silverbridge, I have a great deal to do,
to learn to be your wife.'
'I'll teach you.'
'Yes; you will teach me. But will you teach me right? There is
something almost awful in your father's serious dignity and solemn
appreciation of the responsibilities of his position. Will you
ever come to that?'
'I shall never be a great man as he is.'
'It seem to me that life to him is a load;--which he does not
object to carry, but which he knows must be carried with a great
'I suppose it ought to be so with everyone.'
'Yes,' she said, 'but the higher you put your foot on the ladder
the more constant should be your thought that your stepping
requires care. I fear that I am climbing too high.'
'You can't come down now, young woman.'
'I have to go on now,--and do the best I can. I will try to do my
best. I will try to do my best. I told him so, and now I tell you
so. I will try to do my best.'
'Perhaps after all I am only a "pert poppet",' she said half an
hour afterwards, for Silverbridge had told her of the terrible
mistake made by poor Dolly Longstaff.
'Brute!' he exclaimed.
'Not at all. And when we are settled down in the real Darby-and-
Joan way I shall hope to see Mr Longstaff very often. I daresay he
won't call me a pert poppet, and I shall not remind him of the
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