The Prime Minister
Part 13 out of 16
Then there came a letter, or rather two letters from Mary
Wharton;--one to Mr Wharton and the other to Emily. To tell the
truth as to these letters, they contained the combined wisdom and
tenderness of Wharton Hall and Longbarns. As soon as the fate of
Lopez had been ascertained and thoroughly discussed in
Hertfordshire, there went forth an edict that Emily had suffered
punishment sufficient and was to be forgiven. Old Mrs Fletcher
did not come to this at once,--having some deep-seated feeling
which she did not dare to express even to her son, though she
muttered it to her daughter-in-law, that Arthur would be
disgraced for ever if he were to marry the widow of such a man as
Ferdinand Lopez. But when this question of receiving Emily back
into family favour was mooted in the Longbarns Parliament no one
alluded to the possibility of such a marriage. There was the
fact that she whom they all had loved had been freed by a great
tragedy from the husband whom they all had condemned,--and also
the knowledge that the poor victim had suffered greatly during
the period of her married life. Mrs Fletcher had frowned, and
shaken her head, and made a little speech about the duties of
women, and the necessarily fatal consequences when those duties
are neglected. There were present there, with the old lady, John
Fletcher and his wife, Sir Alured and Lady Wharton, and Mary
Wharton. Arthur was not in the county, nor could the discussion
have been held in his presence. 'I can only say,' said John,
getting up and looking away from his mother, 'that she shall
always find a home at Longbarns when she chooses to come here,
and I hope Sir Alured will say the same as to Wharton Hall.'
After all, John Fletcher was king in these parts, and Mrs
Fletcher, with many noddings and some sobbing, had to give way to
King John. The end of all this was that Mary Wharton wrote her
letters. In that to Mr Wharton she asked whether it would not be
better that her cousin should change the scene and come at once
into the country. Let her come and stay a month at Wharton, then
go onto Longbarns. She might be sure that there would be no
company at either house. In June the Fletchers would go to town
for a week, and then Emily might return to Wharton Hall. It was
a long letter, and Mary gave many reasons why the poor sufferer
would be better in the country than in town. The letter to Emily
herself was shorter, but full of affection. 'Do, do do come.
You know how we all love you. Let it be as it used to be. You
always liked the country. I will devote myself to try and
comfort you.' But Emily could not as yet submit to receive
devotion even from her cousin Mary. Through it all, and under it
all,--though she would ever defend her husband because he was
dead,--she knew that she had disgraced the Whartons and brought
a load of sorrow upon the Fletchers, and she was too proud to be
forgiven so quickly.
Then she received another tender of affection from a quarter
whence she certainly did not expect it. The Duchess of Omnium
wrote to her. The Duchess, though she had lately been
considerably restrained by the condition of the Duke's mind, and
by the effects of her own political and social mistakes, still
from time to time made renewed efforts to keep together the
Coalition by giving dinners, balls, and garden parties, and by
binding to herself the gratitude and worship of young
parliamentary aspirants. In carrying out her plans, she had
lately showered her courtesies upon Arthur Fletcher, who had been
made welcome even by the Duke as the sitting member for
Silverbridge. With Arthur she had of course discussed the
conduct of Lopez as to the election bills, and had been very loud
in condemning him. And from Arthur also she had heard something
of the sorrows of Emily Lopez. Arthur had been very desirous
that the Duchess, who had received them both at her house, should
distinguish between the husband and the wife. Then had come the
tragedy, to which the notoriety of the man's conduct of course
gave additional interest. It was believed that Lopez had
destroyed himself because of the disgrace which had fallen upon
him from the Silverbridge affair. And for much of that
Silverbridge affair the Duchess herself was responsible. She
waited till a couple of months had gone by, and then, in the
beginning of May, sent to the widow what was intended to be, and
indeed was, a very kind note. The Duchess had heard the sad
story with the greatest grief. She hoped that Mrs Lopez would
permit her to avail herself of a short acquaintance to express
her sincere sympathy. She would not venture to call as yet, but
hoped that before long she might be allowed to come to Manchester
This note touched the poor woman to whom it was written, not
because she herself was solicitous to be acquainted with the
Duchess of Omnium, but because the application seemed to her to
contain something like an acquittal, or at any rate a pardon, of
her husband. His sin in that measure of the Silverbridge
election,--a sin which her father had been loud in denouncing
before the wretch had destroyed himself,--had been specially
against the Duke of Omnium. And now the Duchess came forward to
say that it should be forgiven and forgotten. When she showed
the letter to her father, and asked him what she should say in
answer to it, he only shook his head. 'It is meant for kindness,
'Yes;--I think it is. There are people who have no right to be
kind to me. If a man stopped me in the street and offered me a
half-a-crown it might be kindness,--but I don't want the man's
'I don't think it is the same, papa. There is a reason here.'
'Perhaps so, my dear, but I do not see the reason.'
She became very red, but even to him she would not explain her
ideas. 'I think I shall answer it.'
'Certainly answer it. Your compliments to the Duchess and thank
her for her kind inquiries.'
'But she says she will come here.'
'I should not notice that.'
'Very well, papa. If you think so, of course I will not.
Perhaps it would be an inconvenience, if she were really to
come.' On the next day she did write a note, not quite so cold
as that which her father proposed, but still saying nothing as to
the offered visit. She felt, she said, very grateful for the
Duchess's kind remembrance of her. The Duchess would perhaps
understand that at present her sorrow overwhelmed her.
And there was one other tender of kindness which was more
surprising than even that from the Duchess. The reader may
perhaps remember that Ferdinand Lopez and Lady Eustace had not
parted when they last saw each other on the pleasantest terms.
He had been very affectionate; but when he had proposed to devote
his whole life to her and to carry her off to Guatemala she had
simply told him that he was--a fool. Then he had escaped from
her house and had never again seen Lizzie Eustace. She had not
thought very much about it. Had he returned to her the next day
with some more tempting proposition for making money she would
have listened to him,--and had he begged her pardon for what had
taken place on the former day she would have merely laughed. She
was not more offended than she would have been had he asked her
for half her fortune instead of her person and her honour. But,
as it was, he had escaped and had never again shown himself in
the little street near May Fair. Then she had the tidings of his
death, first seeing the account in a very sensational article
from the pen of Mr Quintus Slide himself. She was immediately
filled with an intense interest which was infinitely increased by
the fact that the man had but a few days before declared himself
to be her lover. It was bringing her almost as near the event as
though she had seen it! She was, perhaps, entitled to think that
she had caused it! Nay;--in one sense she had caused it, for he
certainly would not have destroyed himself had she consented to
go with him to Guatemala or elsewhere. And she knew his wife.
An uninteresting, dowdy creature she had called her. But,
nevertheless, they had been in company together more than once.
So she presented her compliments, and expressed her sorrow, and
hoped that she might be allowed to call. There had been no one
for whom she had felt more sincere respect and esteem than for
her late friend Mr Ferdinand Lopez. To this note there was an
answer written by Mr Wharton himself.
My daughter is too ill to see even her own friends.
I am, Madam,
Your obedient servant
After this, life went on in a very quiet way at Manchester Square
for many weeks. Gradually Mrs Lopez recovered her capability of
attending to the duties of life. Gradually she became again able
to interest herself in her brother's pursuits and in her father's
comforts, and the house returned to its old form as it had been
before these terrible two years, in which the happiness of the
Wharton and Fletcher families had been marred, and scotched, and
almost destroyed for ever by the interference of Ferdinand Lopez.
But Mrs Lopez never for a moment forgot that she had done the
mischief,--and that the black enduring cloud had been created
solely by her own perversity and self-will. Though she would
still defend her late husband if any attack were made upon his
memory, not the less did she feel that hers had been the fault,
though the punishment had come upon them all.
PHINEAS FINN HAS A BOOK TO READ.
The sensation created by the man's death was by no means confined
to Manchester Square, but was very general in the metropolis,
and, indeed, throughout the country. As the catastrophe became
the subject of general conversation, may people learned that the
Silverbridge affair had not, in truth, had much to do with it.
The man had killed himself, as many other men have done before
him, because he had run through his money and had no chance left
of redeeming himself. But to the world at large, the disgrace
brought upon him by the explanation given in Parliament was the
apparent cause of his self-immolation, and there were not wanting
those who felt and expressed a sympathy for a man who could feel
so acutely the affect of his own wrong-doing. No doubt he had
done wrong in asking the Duke for the money. But the request,
though wrong, might almost be justified. There could be no
doubt, these apologists said, that he had been ill-treated
between the Duke and Duchess. No doubt Phineas Finn, who was now
described by some opponents as the Duke's creature, had been able
to make out a story in the Duke's favour. But all the world knew
what was the worth and what was the truth of ministerial
explanations! The Coalition was very strong; and even the
question in the House, which should have been hostile, had been
asked in a friendly spirit. In this way there came to be a
party who spoke and wrote of Ferdinand Lopez as though he had
been a martyr.
Of course Mr Quintus Slide was in the front rank of these
accusers. He may be said to have led the army which made this
matter a pretext for a special attack on the Ministry. Mr Slide
was especially hostile to the Prime Minister, but he was not less
hotly the enemy of Phineas Finn. Against Phineas Finn he had old
grudges, which, however, age had never cooled. He could,
therefore, write with a most powerful pen when discussing the
death of the unfortunate man, the late candidate for
Silverbridge, crushing his two foes in the single grasp of his
journalistic fist. Phineas had certainly said some hard things
against Lopez, though he had not mentioned the man's name. He
had congratulated the House that it had not been contaminated by
the presence of so base a creature, and he had said that he would
not pause to stigmatize the meanness of the application for money
which Lopez had made. Had Lopez continued to live and to endure
the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', no one would have
ventured to say that these words would have inflicted too severe
a punishment. But death wipes out many faults, and a self-
inflicted death caused by remorse, will, in the minds of many,
wash a blackamoor almost white. Thus it came to pass that some
heavy weapons were hurled at Phineas Finn, but none so heavy as
those hurled by Quintus Slide. Should not this Irish knight, who
was so ready with his lance in the defence of the Prime Minister,
asked Mr Slide, have remembered past events of his own rather
peculiar life? Had not he, too, been poor, and driven in his
poverty to rather questionable straits? Had he not been abject
in his petition for office,--and in what degree were such
petitions less disgraceful than a request for money which had
been hopelessly expended on an impossible object, attempted at
the instance of the great Croesus who, when asked to pay it, had
at once acknowledged the necessity of doing so? Could not Mr
Finn remember that he himself had stood in danger of his life
before a British jury, and that, though he had been, no doubt
properly, acquitted of the crime imputed to him, circumstances
had come out against him during the trial which, if not as
criminal, were at any rate almost as disgraceful? Could he not
have had some mercy on a broken political adventurer who, in his
aspirations for public life, had shown none of that greed by
which Mr Phineas Finn had been characterized in all the relations
of life. As for the Prime Minister, 'We,' as Mr Quintus Slide
always described himself,--'We do not wish to add to the agony
which the fate of Mr Lopez must have brought upon him. He has
hounded that poor man to his death in revenge for the trifling
sum of money which he was called upon to pay for him. It may be
that the first blame lay not with the Prime Minister himself, but
with the Prime Minister's wife. With that we have nothing to do.
The whole thing lies in a nutshell. The bare mention of the name
of her Grace the Duchess in Parliament would have saved the Duke,
at any rate as effectually as he had been saved by his man-of-
all-work, Phineas Finn, and would have saved him without driving
poor Ferdinand Lopez to insanity. But rather than do this he
allowed his servant to make statements about mysterious agents,
which we are justified in stigmatizing as untrue, and to throw
the whole blame where but the least of the blame was due. We all
know the result. It was found in those gory shreds and tatters
of a poor human being with which the Tenway Railway Station was
Of course such an article had considerable effect. It was
apparent at once that there was ample room for an action of libel
against the newspaper on the part of Phineas Finn if not on that
of the Duke. But it was equally apparent that Mr Quintus Slide
must have been very well aware of this when he wrote the article.
Such an action, even if successful, may bring with it to the man
punished more of good than evil. Any pecuniary penalty might be
more than recouped by the largeness of advertisement which such
an action would produce. Mr Slide no doubt calculated that he
would carry with him a great body of public feeling by the mere
fact that he had attacked a Prime Minister and a Duke. If he
could only get all the publicans in London to take his paper
because of his patriotic and bold conduct, the fortune of the
paper would be made. There is no better trade than that of
martyrdom, if the would-be martyr knows how far he may
judiciously go, and in what direction. All this Mr Quintus Slide
was supposed to have considered very well.
And Mr Phineas Finn knew that his enemy had also considered the
nature of the matters which he would have been able to drag into
court if there should be a trial. Allusions, very strong
allusions, had been made to former periods of Mr Finn's life.
And though there was but little, if anything, in the past
circumstances of which he was ashamed,--but little, if anything,
which he thought would subject him personally to the odium of
good men, could they be made accurately known in all their
details,--it would, he was well aware, be impossible that such
accuracy should be achieved. And the story if told inaccurately
would not suit him. And then, there was a reason against any
public proceeding much stronger even than this. Whether the
telling of the story would or would not suit him, it certainly
would not suit others. As has been before remarked, there are
former chronicles respecting Phineas Finn, and in them may be
found adequate cause for this conviction on his part. To no
outsider was this history known better than to Mr Quintus Slide,
and therefore Mr Quintus Slide could dare almost to defy the law.
But not the less on this account were there many who told Phineas
that he ought to bring the action. Among these none were more
eager than his old friend Lord Chiltern, the Master of the Brake
hounds, a man who really loved Phineas, who also loved the
abstract idea of justice, and who could not endure the thought
that a miscreant should go unpunished. Hunting was over for the
season in the Brake country, and Lord Chiltern rushed up to
London, having this object among others of a very pressing nature
on his mind. His saddler had to be seen,--and threatened,--on
a certain matter touching the horses' backs. A draught of hounds
were being sent down to a friend in Scotland. And there was a
Committee of Masters to sit on the moot question concerning a
neutral covert in the XXX country, of which Committed he was one.
But the desire to punish Slide was almost as strong in his
indignant mind as those other matters referring more especially
to the profession of his life. 'Phineas,' he said, 'you are
bound to do it. If you will allow a fellow like that to say such
things of you, by heaven, any man may say anything of anybody.'
Now Phineas could hardly explain to Lord Chiltern his objection
to the proposed action. A lady was closely concerned, and that
lady was Lord Chiltern's sister. 'I certainly shall not,' said
'Just because he wishes me to do it. I should be falling into
the little pit he has dug for me.'
'He couldn't hurt you. What have you to be afraid of? Ruat
'There are certain angels, Chiltern, living up in that heaven
which you wish me to pull about our ears, as to whom, if all
their heart and all their wishes and all their doings could be
known, nothing but praise could be spoken; but who would still be
dragged with soiled wings through the dirt if this man were
empowered to bring witness after witness into court. My wife
would be named. For aught I know your wife.'
'By G-, he'd find himself wrong there.'
'Leave a chimney-sweep alone when you see him, Chiltern. Should
he run against you, then remember that it is one of the necessary
penalties of clean linen that it is apt to be soiled.'
'I'm d-d if I'd let him off.'
'Yes you would, old fellow. When you come to see clearly what
you would gain and what you would lose, you would not meddle with
His wife was at first inclined to think an action should be
taken, but she was more easily convinced than Lord Chiltern. 'I
had not thought,' she said, 'of poor Lady Laura. But is it not
horrible that a man should be able to go on like that, and that
there should be no punishment?' in answer to this he only
shrugged his shoulders.
But the greatest pressure came upon him from another source. He
did not in truth suffer much himself from what was said in the
"People's Banner". He had become used to the "People's Banner",
and had found out that in no relation of life was he less
pleasantly situated because of the maledictions heaped upon him
in the columns of that newspaper. His position in public life
did not seem to be weakened by them. His personal friends did
not fall off because of them. Those who loved him did not love
him less. It had not been so with him always, but now, at last,
he was hardened against Mr Quintus Slide. But the poor Duke was
by no means equally strong. This attack upon him, this
denunciation of his cruelty, this assurance that he had caused
the death of Ferdinand Lopez, was very grievous to him. It was
not that he really felt himself to be guilty of the man's blood,
but that anyone should say he was guilty. It was of no use to
point out to him that other newspapers had sufficiently
vindicated his conduct in that respect, that it was already
publicly known that Lopez had received payment for those election
expenses from Mr Wharton before the application had been made to
him, and that therefore the man's dishonesty was patent to all
the world. It was equally futile to explain to him that the
man's last act had been in no degree caused by what had been said
in Parliament, but had been the result of continued failures in
life and the final absolute ruin. He fretted and fumed and was
very wretched,--and at last expressed his opinion that legal
steps should be taken to punish the "People's Banner". Now it
had already been acknowledged, on the dictum of no less a man
than Sir Gregory Grogram, the Attorney-General, that the action
for libel, if taken at all, must be taken, not on the part of the
Prime Minister, but on that of Phineas Finn. Sir Timothy Beeswax
had indeed doubted, but it had come to be understood by all the
members of the Coalition that Sir Timothy Beeswax always did
doubt whatever was said by Sir Gregory Grogram. 'The Duke thinks
that something should be done,' said Mr Warburton, the Duke's
private Secretary, to Phineas Finn.
'Not by me, I hope,' said Phineas Finn.
'Nobody else can do it. That is to say it must be done in your
name. Of course it would be a Government matter, as far as the
expense goes, and all that.'
'I am sorry the Duke should think so.'
'I don't see that it could hurt you.'
'I am sorry the Duke should think so,' repeated Phineas,--
'because nothing can be done in my name. I have made up my mind
about it. I think the Duke is wrong in wishing it, and I believe
that were any action taken, we should only be playing into the
hands of that wretched fellow, Quintus Slide. I have long been
conversant with Mr Quintus Slide, and have quite made up my mind
that I will never play upon his pipe. And you may tell the Duke
that there are other reasons. The man referred to my past life,
and in seeking to justify those remarks he would be enabled to
drag before the public circumstances and stories, and perhaps
persons, in a manner that I personally should disregard, but
which, for the sake of others, I am bound to prevent it. You
will explain all this to the Duke?'
'I am afraid you will find the Duke very urgent.'
'I must express my great sorrow that I cannot oblige the Duke. I
trust I need hardly say that the Duke has no colleague more
devoted to his interest than I am. Were he to wish me to change
my office, or to abandon it, or to undertake any political duty
within the compass of my small powers, he would find me ready to
obey his behest. But in this matter others are concerned, and I
cannot make my judgement subordinate to his.' The private
Secretary looked very serious, and simply said that he would do
his best to explain these objections to his Grace.
That the Duke would take his refusal in bad part Phineas felt
nearly certain. He had been a little surprised at the coldness
of the Minister's manner to him after the statement he had made
in the House, and had mentioned the matter to his wife. 'You
hardly know him,' she had said, 'as well as I do.'
'Certainly not. You ought to know him very intimately, and I
have had but little personal friendship with him. But it was a
moment in which the man might, for the moment, been cordial.'
'It was not a moment for his cordiality. The Duchess says that
if you want to get a really genial smile from him you must talk
to him about cork soles. I know exactly what she means. He
loves to be simple, but he does not know how to show people that
he likes it. Lady Rosina found him out by accident.'
'Don't suppose that I am in the least aggrieved,' he had said.
And now he spoke again to his wife in the same spirit.
'Warburton clearly thinks he will be offended, and Warburton, I
suppose, knows his mind.'
'I don't see why he should. I have been reading it longer, and I
still find it very difficult. Lady Glen has been at work for the
last fifteen years, and sometimes owns that there are passages
she has not mastered yet. I fancy Mr Warburton is afraid of him,
and is a little given to fancy that everybody should bow down to
him. Now if there is anything certain about the Duke it is this,
--that he doesn't want anyone to bow down to him. He hates all
'I don't think he loves those who oppose him.'
'It is not the opposition he hates, but the cause in the man's
mind which may produce it. When Sir Orlando opposed him, and he
thought that Sir Orlando's opposition was founded on jealousy,
then he despised Sir Orlando. But had he believed in Sir
Orlando's belief in the new ships, he would have been capable of
pressing Sir Orlando to his bosom, although he might have been
forced to oppose Sir Orlando's ships in the Cabinet.'
'He is a Sir Bayard to you,' said Phineas, laughing.
'Rather a Don Quixote, whom I take to have been the better man of
the two. I'll tell you what he is, Phineas, and how he is better
than all the real knights of whom I have read in story. He is a
man altogether without guile, and entirely devoted to his
country. Do not quarrel with him, if you can help it.'
Phineas had not the slightest desire to quarrel with his chief,
but he did think it to be not improbable that his chief would
quarrel with him. It was notorious to him as a member of the
Cabinet,--as a colleague living with other colleagues by whom
the Prime Minister was coddled, and especially as the husband of
his wife, who lived almost continually with the Prime Minister's
wife,--that the Duke was cut to the quick by the accusation that
he had hounded Ferdinand Lopez to his death. The Prime Minister
had defended himself in the House against the first change by
means of Phineas Finn, and now required Phineas to defend him
from the second charge in another way. This he was obliged to
refuse to do. And then the Minister's private Secretary looked
very grave, and left him with the impression that the Duke would
be much annoyed, if not offended. And already there had grown up
an idea that the Duke would have on the list of his colleagues
none who were personally disagreeable to himself. Though he was
by no means a strong Minister in regard to political measures, or
the proper dominion of his party, still men were afraid of him.
It was not that he would call upon them to resign, but that, if
aggrieved, he would resign himself. Sir Orlando Drought had
rebelled and had tried a fall with the Prime Minister,--and had
greatly failed. Phineas determined that if frowned upon he would
resign, but that he certainly would bring no action for libel
against the "People's Banner".
A week passed after he had seen Warburton before he by chance
found himself alone with the Prime Minister. This occurred at
the house in Carlton Gardens, at which he was a frequent visitor,
--and could hardly have ceased to be so without being noticed, as
his wife spent half her time there. It was evident to him then
that the occasion was sought for by the Duke. 'Mr Finn,' said
the Duke, 'I wanted to have a word with you.'
'Certainly,' said Phineas, arresting his steps.
'Warburton spoke to you about that--that newspaper.'
'Yes, Duke. He seemed to think that there should be an action
'I thought so too. It was very bad, you know.'
'Yes;--it was bad. I have known the "People's Banner" for some
time, and it is always bad.'
'No doubt;--no doubt. It is bad, very bad. Is it not sad that
there should be such dishonesty, and that nothing can be done to
stop it? Warburton says that you won't hear of an action in your
'There are reasons, Duke.'
'No doubt;--no doubt. Well;--there's an end of it. I own I
think the man should be punished. I am not often vindictive, but
I think that he should be punished. However, I suppose it cannot
'I don't see the way.'
'So be it. So be it. It must be entirely for you to judge. Are
you not longing to get into the country, Mr Finn?'
'Hardly yet,' said Phineas, surprised. 'It's only June, and we
have two months more of it. What is the use of longing yet?'
'Two months more!' said the Duke. 'Two months certainly. But
even two months will come to an end. We go down to Matching
quietly,--very quietly,--when the time does come. You must
promise me that you'll come with us. Eh? I make a point of it
Phineas did promise, and thought that he had succeeded in
mastering one of the difficult passages in that book.
THE DUCHESS AND HER FRIEND.
But the Duke, though he was by far too magnanimous to be angry
with Phineas Finn because Phineas would not fall into his views
respecting the proposed action, was not the less tormented and
goaded by what the newspaper said. The assertion that he had
hounded Ferdinand Lopez to death, that by his defence of himself
he had brought the man's blood on his head, was made and repeated
till those round him did not dare to mention the name of Lopez in
his hearing. Even his wife was restrained and became fearful,
and in her heart of hearts began almost to wish for that
retirement to which he occasionally alluded as a distant Elysium
which he should never be allowed to reach. He was beginning to
have the worn look of an old man. His scanty hair was turning
grey, and his long thin cheeks longer and thinner. Of what he
did when sitting alone in his chamber, either at home or at the
Treasury Chamber, she knew less and less from day to day, and she
began to think that much of the sorrow arose from the fact that
among them they would allow him to do nothing. There was no
special subject now which stirred him to eagerness and brought
upon herself explanations which were tedious and unintelligible
to her, but evidently delightful to him. There were no quints or
semi-tenths now, no aspirations for decimal perfection, no
delightfully fatiguing hours spent in the manipulation of the
multiplication table. And she could not but observe that the old
Duke now spoke to her much less frequently of her husband's
political position than had been his habit. He still came
frequently to the house, but did not often see her. And when he
did see her he seemed to avoid all allusion either to the
political successes or the political reverses of the Coalition.
And even her other special allies seemed to labour under unusual
restraint with her. Barrington Erle seldom told her any news.
Mr Rattler never had a word for her. Warburton, who had ever
been discreet, became almost petrified by discretion. And even
Phineas Finn had grown to be solemn, silent and uncommunicative.
'Have you heard who is the new Prime Minister?' she said to Mrs
Finn one day.
'Has there been a change?'
'I suppose so. Everything has become so quiet that I cannot
imagine that Plantagenet is still in office. Do you know what
anybody is doing?'
'The world is going on very smoothly, I take it.'
'I hate smoothness. It always means treachery and danger. I
feel sure that there will be a great blow up before long. I
smell it in the air. Don't you tremble for your husband?'
'Why should I? He likes being in office because it gives him
something to do; but he would never be an idle man. As long as
he has a seat in Parliament, I shall be contented.'
'To have been Prime Minister is something after all, and they
can't rob him of that,' said the Duchess recurring again to her
own husband. 'I half fancy sometimes that the charm of the thing
is growing up on him.'
'Upon the Duke?'
'Yes. He is always talking of the delight he will have in giving
it up. He is always Cincinnatus, going back to his peaches
and his ploughs. But I fear he is beginning to feel that the
salt would be gone out of his life if he ceased to be the first
man in the kingdom. He has never said so, but there is a
nervousness about him when I suggest to him the name of this or
that man as his successor which alarms me. And I think he is
becoming a tyrant with his own men. He spoke the other day of
Lord Drummond almost as though he meant to have him whipped. It
isn't what one expected from him,--is it?'
'The weight of the load on his mind makes him irritable.'
'Either that, or having no load. If he had really much to do he
wouldn't surely have time to think so much of that poor wretch
who destroyed himself. Such sensitiveness is simply a disease.
One can never punish any fault in the world if the sinner can
revenge himself upon us by rushing into eternity. Sometimes I
see him shiver and shudder, and then I know he is thinking of
'I can understand all that, Lady Glen.'
'It isn't as it should be, though you can understand it. I'll
bet you a guinea that Sir Timothy Beeswax has to go out before
the beginning of the next Session.'
'I've no objection. But why Sir Timothy?'
'He mentioned Lopez's name the other day before Plantagenet. I
heard him. Plantagenet pulled that long face of his, looking as
though he meant to impose silence on the whole world for the next
six weeks. But Sir Timothy is brass itself, a sounding cymbal of
brass that nothing can silence. He went on to declare with that
loud voice of his that the death of Lopez was a good riddance to
bad rubbish. Plantagenet turned away and left the room and shut
himself up. He didn't declare to himself that he would dismiss
Sir Timothy, because that's not the way of his mind. But you'll
see that Sir Timothy will have to go.'
'That, at any rate, will be a good riddance of bad rubbish' said
Mrs Finn, who did not love Sir Timothy Beeswax.
Soon after that the Duchess made up her mind that she would
interrogate the Duke of St Bungay as to the present state of
affairs. It was then the end of June, and nearly one of those
long and tedious months had gone by of which the Duke spoke so
feelingly when he asked Phineas Finn to come down to Matching.
Hope had been expressed in more than one quarter that this would
be a short Session. Such hopes are more common in June than in
July, and, though rarely verified, serve to keep up the drooping
spirits of languid senators. 'I suppose we shall be early out of
town, Duke,' she said one day.
'I think so. I don't see what there is to keep us. It often
happens that ministers are a great deal better in the country
than in London, and I fancy it will be so this year.'
'You never think of the poor girls who haven't got their husbands
'They should make better use of their time. Besides, they can
get their husbands in the country.'
'It's quite true that they never get to the end of their labours.
They are not like you members of Parliament who can shut up your
portfolios and go and shoot grouse. They have to keep at their
work spring and summer, autumn and winter,--year after year!
How they must hate the men they persecute!'
'I don't think we can put off going for their sake.'
'Men are always selfish, I know. What do you think of
Plantagenet lately?' The question was put very abruptly, without
a moment's notice, and there was no avoiding it.
'Think of him!'
'Yes;--what do you think of his condition;--of his happiness,
his health, his capacity of endurance? Will he be able to go on
much longer? Now, my dear Duke, don't stare at me like that.
You know, and I know, that you haven't spoken a word to me for
the last two months. And you know, I know, how many things there
are of which we are both thinking in common. You haven't
quarrelled with Plantagenet?'
'Quarrelled with him! Good heavens no.'
'Of course I know you still call him your noble colleague, and
your noble friend, and make one of the same team with him and all
that. But it used to be so much more than that.'
'It is still much more than that;--much more.'
'It was you who made him Prime Minister.'
'No, no, no;--and again no. He made himself Prime Minister by
obtaining the confidence of the House of Commons. There is no
other possible way in which a man can become Prime Minister in
'If I were not very serious at this moment, Duke, I should make
an allusion to the--Marines.' No other human being could have
said this to the Duke of St Bungay, except the young woman whom
he had petted all his life as Lady Glencora. 'But I am very
serious,' she continued, 'and I may say I am not very happy. Of
course the big wigs of a party have to settle among themselves
who shall be their leader, and when this party was formed they
settled, at your advice, that Plantagenet should be the man.'
'My dear Lady Glencora, I cannot allow that to pass without
'Do not suppose that I am finding fault, or even that I am
ungrateful. No one rejoiced as I rejoiced. No one still feels
so much pride in it as I feel. I would have given ten years of
my life to keep him so. It is like it was to be king, when men
struggled among themselves who should be king. Whatever he may
be, I am ambitious. I love to think that other men should look
at him as being above them, and that something of this should
come down upon me as his wife. I do not know whether it was not
the happiest moment of my life when he told me that the Queen had
sent for him.'
'It was not so with him.'
'No, Duke,--no! He and I are very different. He only wants to
be useful. At any rate, that was all he did want.'
'He is still the same.'
'A man cannot always be carrying a huge load up a hill without
having his back bent.'
'I don't know that the load need be so heavy, Duchess.'
'Ah, but what is the load? It is not going to the Treasury
Chambers at eleven or twelve in the morning and sitting four or
five times a week in the House of Lords till seven or eight
o'clock. He was never ill when he would remain in the House of
Commons till two in the morning, and not have a decent dinner
above twice in the week. The load I speak of isn't work.'
'What is it then?' said the Duke, who in truth understood it all
nearly as well as the Duchess herself.
'It is hard to explain, but it is very heavy.'
'Responsibility, my dear, will always be very heavy.'
'But it is hardly that;--certainly not that alone. It is the
feeling that so many people blame him for so many things, and the
doubt in his own mind whether he may not deserve it. And then he
becomes fretful, and conscious that such fretfulness is beneath
him, and injurious to his honour. He condemns men in his mind,
and condemns himself for condescending to condemn them. He
spends one quarter of an hour thinking that as he is Prime
Minister he will be Prime Minister down to his fingers' ends, and
the next in resolving that he never ought to have been Prime
Minister at all.' Here something like a frown passed across the
old man's brow, which was, however, no indication of anger.
'Dear Duke,' she said, 'you must not be angry with me. Who is
there to whom I can speak but you?'
'Angry, my dear! No, indeed!'
'Because you looked as though you would scold me.' At this he
smiled. 'And of course all this tells upon his health.'
'Do you think he is ill?'
'He never says so. There is no special illness. But he is thin
and wan and careworn. He does not eat and he does not sleep. Of
course I watch him.'
'Does his doctor see him?'
'Never. When I asked him once to say a word to Sir James Thorax,
--for he was getting hoarse, you know,--he only shook his head
and turned on his heels. When he was in the other House, and
speaking every night, he would see Thorax constantly, and do just
what he was told. He used to like opening his mouth and having
Sir James look down it. But now he won't let anyone touch him.'
'What would you have me do, Lady Glen?'
'I don't know.'
'Do you think that he is so far out of his health that he ought
to give it up?'
'I don't say that. I don't dare say that. I don't dare to
recommend anything. No consideration of health would tell with
him at all. If he were to die to-morrow as the penalty of doing
something useful to-night, he wouldn't think twice about it. If
you wanted to make him stay where he is, the way to do it to tell
him that his health was failing him. I don't know that he does
want to give it up now.'
'The autumn months will do everything for him;--only let him be
'You are coming to Matching, Duke?'
'I suppose so;--if you ask me,--for a week or two.'
'You must come. I am quite nervous if you desert us. I think he
becomes estranged every day from all the others. I know you
won't do a mischief by repeating what I say.'
'I hope not.'
'He seems to me to turn his nose up at everybody. He used to
like Mr Monk; but he envies Mr Monk, because Mr Monk is
Chancellor of the Exchequer. I asked him whether we shouldn't
have Lord Drummond at Matching and he told me angrily that I
might ask the whole Government if I liked.'
'Drummond contradicted him the other day.'
'I knew there was something. He has got to be like a bear with a
sore head, Duke. You should have seen his face the other day,
when Mr Rattler made some suggestion to him about the proper way
of dividing farms.'
'I don't think he ever liked Rattler.'
'What of that? Don't I have to smile upon men whom I hate like
poison;--and women too, which is worse? Do you think that I
love old Lady Ramsden, or Mrs MacPherson? He used to be so fond
of Lord Cantrip.'
'I think he likes Lord Cantrip,' said the Duke.
'He asked his lordship to do something and Lord Cantrip
'I know all about that,' said the Duke.
'And now he looks gloomy at Lord Cantrip. His friends won't
stand that kind of thing, you know, for ever.'
'He is always courteous to Finn,' said the Duke.
'Yes;--just now he is on good terms with Mr Finn. He would never
be harsh to Mr Finn, because he knows that Mrs Finn is the one
really intimate female friend whom I have in the world. After
all, Duke, besides Plantagenet and the children, there are only
two persons in the world whom I really love. There are only you
and she. She will never desert me,--and you must not desert me
either.' Then he put his hand behind her waist, and stooped over
and kissed her brow, and swore to her that he would never desert
But what was he to do? He knew, without being told by the
Duchess, that his colleague and chief was becoming, from day to
day, more difficult to manage. He had been right enough in
laying it down as a general rule that Prime Ministers are
selected for that position by the general confidence of the House
of Commons;--but he was aware at the same time that it had
hardly been so in the present instance. There had come to be a
deadlock in affairs, during which neither of the two old and
recognised leaders of parties could command a sufficient
following for the carrying on of a government. With unusual
patience these two gentlemen had now for the greater part of
three Sessions sat by, offering but little opposition to the
Coalition, but of course biding their time. They, too, called
themselves,--perhaps thought themselves,--Cincinnatuses. But
their ploughs and peaches did not suffice to them, and they
longed again to be in every mouth, and to have, if to their
deeds, then even their omissions blazoned in every paragraph.
The palate accustomed to Cayenne pepper can hardly be gratified
by simple salt. When that deadlock had come, politicians who
were really anxious for the country had been forced to look about
for a Premier,--and in the search the old Duke had been the
foremost. The Duchess had hardly said more than the truth when
she declared that her husband's promotion had been effected by
their old friend. But it is sometimes easier to make than
unmake. Perhaps the time had now in truth come, in which it
would be better for the country that the usual state of things
should again exist. Perhaps,--nay, the Duke now thought that he
saw that it was so,--Mr Gresham might again have a Liberal
majority at his back if the Duke of Omnium could find some
graceful mode of retiring. But who was to tell all this to the
Duke of Omnium? There was only one man in all England to whom
such a task was possible, and that was the old Duke himself,--
who during the last two years had been constantly with his friend
not to retire! How often since he had taken office had the
conscientious and timid Minister begged of his friend permission
to abandon his high office! But that permission had always been
refused, and now, for the last three months, the request had not
been repeated. The Duchess was probably right in saying that her
husband 'didn't want to give it up now.'
But he, the Duke of St Bungay, had brought his friend into the
trouble, and it was certainly his duty to extricate him from it.
The admonition might come in the rude shape of repeated
minorities in the House of Commons. Hitherto the number of votes
at the command of the Ministry had not been very much impaired.
A few always fell off as time goes on. Aristides becomes too
just, and the mind of man is greedy of novelty. Sir Orlando
also, had taken with him a few, and it may be that two or three
had told themselves that there could not be all that smoke raised
by the "People's Banner", without some fire below it. But there
was a good working majority,--very much at Mr Monk's command,--
and Mr Monk was moved by none of that feeling of rebellion which
had urged Sir Orlando on to his destruction. It was difficult to
find a cause for resignation. And yet the Duke of St Bungay, who
had watched the House of Commons closely for nearly half a
century, was aware that the Coalition which he had created had
done its work, and was almost convinced that it would not be
permitted to remain very much longer in power. He had seen some
symptoms of impatience in Mr Daubney, and Mr Gresham had snorted
once and twice, as though eager for battle.
THE NEW K.G.
Early in June had died the Marquess of Mount Fidgett. In all
England there was no older family than that of the Fichy
Fidgetts, whose baronial castle of Fichy Fellows is still kept
up, the glory of archaeologists and the charm of tourists. Some
people declare it to be the most perfect castle residence in the
country. It is admitted to have been completed in the time of
Edward VI, and is thought to have commenced in the days of Edward
I. It has always belonged to the Fichy Fidgett family, who with
a persistence that is becoming rarer every day, has clung to every
acre that it ever owned, and has added acre to acre in every age.
The consequence has been that the existing Marquis of Mount
Fidgett has always been possessed of great territorial influence,
and has been flattered, cajoled, and revered by one Prime
Minister after another. Now the late Marquis had been, as was
the custom with the Fichy Fidgetts, a man of pleasure. If the
truth be spoken openly, it should be admitted that he had been a
man of sin. The duty of keeping together the family property he
had performed with a perfect zeal. It had always been
acknowledged on behalf of the existing Marquis, that in whatever
manner he might spend his money, however base might be the
gullies into which his wealth descended, he never spent more that
he had to spend. Perhaps there was but little praise in this, as
he could hardly have got beyond his enormous income unless he had
thrown it away on race-courses and roulette tables. But it had
long been remarked of the Mount Fidgett marquises that they were
too wise to gamble. The family had not been an honour to the
country, but had nevertheless been honoured by the country. The
man who had just died had perhaps been as selfish and sensual a
brute as had ever disgraced humanity;--but nevertheless he had
been a Knight of the Garter. He had been possessed of
considerable parliamentary interest, and the Prime Minister of
the day had not dared not to make him a Knight of the Garter.
All the Marquises of Mount Fidgett had for many years past been
Knights of the Garter. On the last occasion a good deal had been
said about it. A feeling had even then begun to prevail that the
highest personal offer in the gift of the Crown should not be
bestowed upon a man whose whole life was a disgrace, and who did
indeed seem to deserve every punishment which a human or divine
wrath could inflict. He had a large family, but they were
illegitimate. Wives generally he liked, but of his own wife he
very soon broke the heart. Of all the companies with which he
consorted he was the admitted king, but his subjects could do no
man any honour. The Castle of Fichy Fellows was visited by the
world at large, but no man or woman with a character to lose went
into any house really inhabited by the Marquis. And yet he had
become a Knight of the Garter, and was therefore, presumably, one
of those noble Englishmen to whom the majesty of the day was
willing to confide the honour, and glory, and safety of the
Crown. There were many who disliked this. That a base reprobate
should become a Marquis and a peer of Parliament was in
accordance with the constitution of the country. Marquises and
peers are not as a rule reprobates, and the misfortune was one
which could not be avoided. He might have ill-used his own wife
and other wives' husbands without special remark had he not been
made a Knight of the Garter. The Minister of the day, however,
had known the value of the man's support, and being thick-
skinned, had lived through the reproaches uttered without much
damage to himself. Now the wicked Marquis was dead, and it was
the privilege and the duty of the Duke of Omnium to select
There was a good deal said about it at the time. There was a
rumour,--no doubt a false rumour,--that the Crown insisted in
this instance on dictating a choice to the Duke of Omnium. But
even were it so, the Duke could not have been very much
aggrieved, as the choice dictated was supposed to be that
himself. The late Duke had been a Knight, and when he had died,
it was thought that his successor would succeed to the ribbon.
The new Duke had been at the time in the Cabinet, and had
remained there, but had accepted an office inferior in rank to
that which he had formerly filled. The whole history of these
things has been written, and may be read by the curious. The
Duchess, newly a duchess then and very keen in reference to her
husband's rank, had instigated him to demand the ribbon as his
right. This he had not only declined to do, but had gone out of
the way to say that he thought it should be bestowed elsewhere.
It had been bestowed elsewhere, and there had been a very general
feeling that he had been passed over because his easy temperament
in such matters had been seen and utilized. Now, whether the
Crown interfered or not,--a matter on which no one short of a
writer of newspaper articles dares to make suggestion till time
shall have made mellow the doings of sovereigns and their
ministers,--the suggestion was made. The Duke of St Bungay
ventured to say to his friend that no other selection was
'Recommend her Majesty to give it to myself?' said the Prime
'You will find it to be her Majesty's wish. It has been very
common. Sir Robert Walpole had it.'
'I am not Sir Robert Walpole.' The Duke named other examples of
Prime Ministers who had been gartered by themselves. But our
Prime Minister declared it to be out of the question. No honour
of that description should be conferred upon him as long as he
held his present position. The old Duke was much in earnest, and
there was a great deal said on the subject,--but at last it
became clear, not only to him, but to the members of the Cabinet
generally, and then to the outside world, that the Prime Minister
would not consent to accept the vacant honour.
For nearly a month after this the question subsided. A Minister
is not bound to bestow a Garter the day after it becomes vacant.
There are other Knights to guard the throne, and one may be
spared for a short interval. But during the interval many eyes
were turned towards the stall in St George's Chapel. A good
thing should be given away like a clap of thunder if envy,
hatred, and malice are to be avoided. A broad blue ribbon across
the chest is of all decorations the most becoming, or, at any
rate, the most desired. And there was, I fear, an impression on
the minds of some men that the Duke in such matters was weak and
might be persuaded. Then there came to him an application in the
form of a letter from the new Marquis of Mount Fidgett,--a man
whom he had never seen, and of whom he had never heard. The new
Marquis had hitherto resided in Italy, and men only knew of him
that he was odious to his uncle. But he had inherited all the
Fichy Fidgett estates, and was now possessed of immense wealth
and great honour. He ventured, he said, to represent to the
Prime Minister that for generations past the Marquises of Mount
Fidgett had been honoured by the Garter. His political status in
the country was exactly that enjoyed by his late uncle, but he
intended that his political career should be very different. He
was quite prepared to support the Coalition. 'What is he that he
should expect to be made a Knight of the Garter?' said our Duke
to the old Duke.
'He is the Marquis of Mount Fidgett, and next to yourself,
perhaps, the richest peer in Great Britain.'
'Have riches anything to do with it?'
'Something certainly. You would not want to name a pauper peer.'
'Yes;--if he was a man whose career had been highly honourable
to the country. Such a man, of course, could not be a pauper,
but I do not think his want of wealth should stand in the way of
his being honoured by the Garter.'
'Wealth and rank and territorial influence have been generally
thought to have something to do with it.'
'And character nothing!'
'My dear Duke, I have not said so.'
'Something very much like it, my friend, if you advocate the
claim of the Marquis of Mount Fidgett. Did you approve of the
selection of the late Marquis?'
'I was in the Cabinet at the time, and will therefore say nothing
against it. But I have never heard anything against this man's
'Nor in favour of it. To my thinking he has as much claim, and
no more, as that man who just opened the door. He was never seen
in the Lower House.'
'Surely that cannot signify.'
'You think, then, that he should have it?'
'You know what I think,' said the elder statesman thoughtfully.
'In my opinion there is no doubt that you would at least consult
the honour of the country by allowing her Majesty to bestow this
act of grace upon a subject who has deserved so well from her
Majesty as yourself.'
'It is quite impossible.'
'It seems to me,' said the Duke, not appearing to notice the
refusal of his friend, 'that in this peculiar position you should
allow yourself to be persuaded to lay aside your own feeling. No
man of high character is desirous of securing to himself
decorations which he may bestow upon others.'
'But here the decoration bestowed upon the chief whom we all
follow, would confer a wider honour upon many than it could do if
given to anyone else.'
'The same may be said of any Prime Minister.'
'Not so. A commoner, without high permanent rank or large
fortune, is not lowered in the world's esteem by not being of the
Order. You will permit me to say--that a Duke of Omnium has not
reached the position which he ought to enjoy unless he is a
Knight of the Garter.' It must be borne in mind that the old
Duke, who used this argument, had himself worn the ribbon for the
last thirty years. 'But if--'
'But if you are,--I must call it obstinate.'
'I am obstinate in that respect.'
'Then,' said the Duke of St Bungay, 'I should recommend her
Majesty to give it to the Marquis.'
'Never,' said the Prime Minister, with very unaccustomed energy.
'I will never sanction the payment of such a price for services
which should never be bought or sold.'
'It would give no offence.'
'That is not enough, my friend. Here is a man of whom I only know
that he has bought a great many marble statues. He has done
nothing for his country, and nothing for his sovereign.'
'If you are determined to look at what you call desert alone, I
would name Lord Drummond.' The Prime Minister frowned and looked
unhappy. It was quite true that Lord Drummond had contradicted
him, and that he had felt the injury grievously. 'Lord Drummond
has been very true to us.'
'Yes;--true to us! What is that?'
'He is in every respect a man of character, and well looked upon
in the country. There would be some enmity and a good deal of
envy--which might be avoided by either of the other courses I
have proposed; but those courses you will not take. I take it
for granted that you are anxious to secure the support of those
who generally act with Lord Drummond.'
'I don't know that I am.' The old Duke shrugged his shoulders.
'What I mean is, that I do not think that we ought to pay an
increased price for their support. His lordship is very well as
the Head of an Office; but he is not nearly so great a man as my
friend Lord Cantrip.'
'Cantrip would not join us. There is no evil in politics so
great as that of seeming to buy the men who will not come without
buying. These rewards are fairly given for political support.'
'I had not, in truth, thought of Lord Cantrip.'
'He does not expect it any more than my butler.'
'I only named him as having a claim stronger than any that Lord
Drummond can put forward. I have a man in my mind to whom I
think such an honour is fairly due. What do you say to Lord
Earlybird?' The old Duke opened his mouth and lifted up his
hands in unaffected surprise.
The Earl of Earlybird was an old man of a very peculiar
character. He had never opened his mouth in the House of Lords,
and had never sat in the House of Commons. The political world
knew him not at all. He had a house in town, but very rarely
lived there. Early Park, in the parish of B Bird, had been his
residence since he first came to the title forty years ago, and
had been the scene of all his labours. He was a nobleman
possessed of a moderate fortune, and, as men said of him, of a
moderate intellect. He had married early in life and was blessed
with a large family. But he had certainly not been an idle man.
For nearly half a century he had devoted himself to the
improvement of the labouring classes, especially in reference to
their abodes and education, and gradually without any desire on
his own part, worked himself up into public notice. He was not
an eloquent man, but he would take the chair at meeting after
meeting, and sit with admirable patience for long hours to hear
the eloquence of others. He was a man very simple in his tastes,
and had brought up his family to follow his habits. He had
therefore been able to do munificent things with moderate means,
and in the long course of years had failed in hiding his
munificence from the public. Lord Earlybird, till after middle
life, had not been much considered, but gradually there had grown
up a feeling that there were not very many better men in the
country. He was a fat, bald-headed old man, who was always
pulling his spectacles on and off, nearly blind, very awkward,
and altogether indifferent to appearance. Probably he had no
more idea of the Garter in his own mind than he had of a
Cardinal's hat. But he had grown into fame, and had not escaped
the notice of the Prime Minister.
'Do you know anything against Lord Earlybird?' asked the Prime
'Certainly nothing against him, Duke.'
'Not anything in his favour?'
'I know him very well,--I think I may say intimately. There
isn't a better man breathing.'
'A honour to the peerage?' said the Prime Minister.
'An honour to humanity rather,' said the other, 'as being of all
men the least selfish and most philanthropical.'
'What more can be said for a man?'
'But according to my view he is not the sort of person whom one
would wish to see made a Knight of the Garter. If he had the
ribbon he would never wear it.'
'The honour surely does not consist in its outward sign. I am
entitled to wear some kind of coronet, but I do not walk about
with it on my head. He is a man of great heart and of many
virtues. Surely the country, and her Majesty on behalf of the
country, should delight to honour such a man.'
'I really doubt whether you look at the matter in the right
light,' said the ancient statesman, who was in truth frightened
at what was being proposed. 'You must not be angry with me if I
'My friend, I do not think that it is within your power to make
'Well then,--I will get for a moment to listen to my view on the
matter. There are certain great prizes in the gift of the Crown
and of the Ministers of the Crown,--the greatest of which are
now traditionally at the disposal of the Prime Minister. These
are always given to party friends. I may perhaps agree with you
that party support should not be looked to alone. Let us
acknowledge that character and services should be taken into
account. But the very theory of our Government will be overset
by a reversal of the rule which I have attempted to describe.
You will offend all your own friends, and only incur the ridicule
of your opponents. It is no doubt desirable that the high seats
of the country should be filled by men of both parties. I would
not wish to see every Lord Lieutenant of a county a Whig.' In
his enthusiasm the old Duke went back to his old phraseology.
'But I know that my opponents when their turn comes will appoint
their friends to the Lieutenancies and that the balance will be
maintained. If you or I appoint their friends, they won't
appoint ours. Lord Earlybird's proxy has been in the hands of
the Conservative Leader of the House of Lords ever since he
succeeded his father.' Then the old man paused, but his friend
waited to listen whether the lecture were finished before he
spoke, and the Duke of St Bungay continued. 'And, moreover,
though Lord Earlybird is a very good man,--so much so that many
of us may well envy him,--he is not just the man fitted for this
destination. A Knight of the Garter should be a man prone to
show himself, a public man, one whose work in the country has
brought him face to face with his fellows. There is an aptness,
a propriety, a fitness in these things which one can understand
perhaps better than explain.'
'Those fitnesses and aptnesses change, I think, from day to day.
There was a time when a knight should be a fighting man.'
'That has gone by.'
'And the aptness and fitness in accordance with which the
sovereign of the day was induced to grace with the Garter such a
man as the late Marquis of Mount Fidgett have, I hope, gone by.
You will admit that?'
'There is no such man proposed.'
'And other fitnesses and aptnesses will go by, till the time will
come when the man to be selected as Lieutenant of a county will
be the man whose selection will be most beneficial to the county,
and Knights of the Garter will be chosen for their real virtues.'
'I think you are Quixotic. A Prime Minister is of all men bound
to follow the traditions of his country, or, when he leaves them,
to leave them with very gradual steps.'
'And if he break that law and throw over all that thraldom;--
'He will lose the confidence which has made him what he is.'
'It is well that I know the penalty. It is hardly heavy enough
to enforce strict obedience. As for the matter in dispute, it
had better stand over for a few days.' When the Prime Minister
said this the old Duke knew very well that he intended to have
his own way.
And so it was. A week passed by, and then the younger Duke wrote
to the elder Duke saying that he had given to the matter all the
consideration in his power, and that he had at last resolved to
recommend her Majesty to bestow the ribbon on Lord Earlybird. He
would not, however, take any step for a few days so that his
friend might have an opportunity of making further remonstrance
if he pleased. No further remonstrance was made, and Lord
Earlybird, much to his own amazement, was nominated to the vacant
The appointment was one certainly not popular with any of the
Prime Minister's friends. With some, such as Lord Drummond, it
indicated a determination on the part of the Duke to declare his
freedom from all those bonds which had hitherto been binding on
the Heads of Government. Had the Duke selected himself,
certainly no offence would have been given. Had the Marquis of
Mount Fidgett been the happy man, excuses would have been made.
But it was unpardonable to Lord Drummond that he should have been
passed over and that the Garter should have been given to Lord
Earlybird. To the poor old Duke the offence was of a different
nature. He had intended to use a very strong word when he told
his friend that his proposed conduct would be Quixotic. The Duke
of Omnium would surely know that the Duke of St Bungay could not
support a Quixotic Prime Minister. And yet the younger Duke, the
Telemachus of the last two years,--after hearing that word,--
had rebelled against his Mentor, and had obstinately adhered to
his Quixotism! The greed of power had fallen upon the man,--so
said the dear old Duke to himself,--and the man's fall was
certain. Alas, alas; had he been allowed to go before the poison
had entered his veins, how much less would have been his
THERE MUST BE TIME.
At the end of the third week in July, when the Session was still
sitting, and when no day had been absolutely as yet fixed for the
escape of members, Mr Wharton received a letter from his friend
Arthur Fletcher which certainly surprised him very much, and
which left him for a day or two unable to decide what answer
ought to be given. It will be remembered that Ferdinand Lopez
destroyed himself in March, now three months since. The act had
been more than a nine days' wonder, having been kept in the
memory of many men by the sedulous efforts of Quintus Slide, and
by the fact that the name of so great a man as the Prime Minister
was concerned in the matter. But gradually the feeling about
Ferdinand Lopez had died away, and his fate, though it had
outlived the nominal nine days, had sunk into general oblivion
before the end of the ninth week. The Prime Minister had not
forgotten the man, nor had Quintus Slide. The name was still
common in the columns of the "People's Banner", and was ever
mentioned without being read by the unfortunate Duke. But others
had ceased to talk about Ferdinand Lopez.
To the mind, however, of Arthur Fletcher the fact of the man's
death was always present. A dreadful incubus had come upon his
life, blighting all his prospects, obscuring all his sun by a
great cloud, covering up all his hopes, and changing for him all
his outlook into the world. It was not only that Emily Wharton
should not have become his wife, but that the woman whom he loved
with so perfect a love, should have been sacrificed to so vile a
creature as this man. He never blamed her,--but looked upon his
fate as Fate. Then on a sudden he heard that the incubus was
removed. The man who had made him and her wretched had by a
sudden stroke been taken away and annihilated. There was nothing
between him and her,--but a memory. He could certainly forgive,
if she could forget.
Of course he had felt at the first moment that time must pass by.
He had become certain that her mad love for the man had perished.
He had been made sure that she had repented her own deed in
sackcloth and ashes. It had been acknowledged to him by her
father that she had been anxious to be separated from her husband
if her husband would consent to such a separation. And then,
remembering as he did his last interview with her, having in his
mind as he had every circumstance of that caress which he had
given her,--down to the very quiver of the fingers he had
pressed,--he could not but flatter himself that at last he had
touched her heart. But there must be time! The conventions of
the world operate on all hearts, especially on the female heart,
and teach that new vows, too quickly given, are disgraceful. The
world has seemed to decide that a widow should take two years
before she can bestow herself on a second man without a touch of
scandal. But the two years is to include everything, the
courtship of the second as well as the burial of the first,--and
not only the courtship, but the preparation of the dresses and
the wedding itself. And then this case was different from all
the others. Of course there must be time, but surely not here a
full period of two years! Why should the life of two young
persons be so wasted, if it were the case that they loved each
other! There was horror here, remorse, pity, perhaps pardon; but
there was no love,--none of that love which is always for a
little time increased in its fervour by the loss of the loved
object; none of that passionate devotion which must at first make
the very idea of another man's love intolerable. There had been
a great escape,--an escape which could not but be inwardly
acknowledged, however little prone the tongue might be to confess
it. Of course there must be time,--but how much time? He
argued it in his mind daily, and at each daily argument the time
considered by him to be appropriate was shortened. Three months
had passed and he had not yet seen her. He had resolved that he
would not even attempt to see her till her father would consent.
But surely a period had passed sufficient to justify him in
applying for that permission. And then he bethought himself that
it would be best in applying for that permission to tell
everything to Mr Wharton. He well knew that he would be telling
no secret. Mr Wharton knew the state of his feelings as well as
he knew it himself. If ever there was a case in which time might
be abridged, this was one; and therefore he wrote his letter,--
24th July, 187-
MY DEAR MR WHARTON,
It is a matter of great regret to me that we should see
so little of each other,--especially of regret that I
should never see Emily.
I may as well rush into the matter at once. Of course
this letter will not be shown to her, and therefore I may
write as I would speak if I were with you. The wretched
man whom she married is gone, and my love for her is the
same as it was before she had ever seen him, and as it
has always been from that day to this. I could not
address you or even think of her as yet, did I not know
that that marriage had been unfortunate. But it has not
altered her to me in the heart. It has been a dreadful
trouble to us all--to her, to you, to me, and to all
connected with us. But it is over, and I think that it
should be looked back upon as a black chasm which we have
bridged and got over, and to which we never cast back our
I have no right to think that, though she might some day
love another man, she would therefore, love me, but I
think that I have a right to try, and I know that I
should have your good-will. It is a question of time,
but if I let time go by, someone else may slip in. Who
can tell? I would not be thought to press indecently,
but I do feel that here the ordinary rules which govern
men and women are not to be followed. He made her
unhappy almost from the first day. She had made a
mistake which you and she and all acknowledged. She has
been punished, and so have I,--very severely I can
assure you. Wouldn't it be a good thing to bring all
this to an end as soon as possible,--if it can be
brought to an end in the way I want?
Pray tell me what you think. I would propose that you
should ask her to see me, and then say just as much as
you please. Of course I should not press her at first.
You might ask me to dinner, and all that kind of thing,
and so she would get used to me. It is not as though we
had not been very, very old friends. But I know you will
do the best. I have put off writing to you till I
sometimes think that I shall go mad over it if I sit
still any longer.
Your affectionate friend,
When Mr Wharton got this letter he was very much puzzled. Could
he have had his wish, he too would have left the chasm behind him
as proposed by his young friend, and have never cast an eye back
upon the frightful abyss. He would willingly have allowed the
whole Lopez incident to be passed over as an episode in their
lives, which, if it could not be forgotten, should at any rate
never be mentioned. They had all been severely punished, as
Fletcher had said, and if the matter could end there he would be
well content to bear on his own shoulders all that remained of
the punishment, and to let everything begin again. But he knew
very well it could not be so with her. Even yet it was
impossible to induce Emily to think of her husband without
regret. It had been only too manifest during the last year of
their married life that she had felt horror rather than love
towards him. When there had been a question of his leaving her
behind, should he go to Central America, she had always expressed
herself more than willing to comply with such an arrangement.
She would go with him should he order her to do so, but would
infinitely sooner remain in England. And then too, she had
spoken of him while alive with disdain and disgust, and had
submitted to hear her father describe him as infamous. Her life
had been one long misery, under which she had seemed gradually to
be perishing. Now she was relieved, and her health was re-
established. A certain amount of unjoyous cheerfulness was
returning to her. It was impossible to doubt that she must have
known that a great burden had fallen from her back. And yet she
would never allow his name to be mentioned without giving some
outward sign of affection for his memory. If he was bad, so were
others bad. There were many worse than he. Such were the
excuses she made for her late husband. Old Mr Wharton, who
really thought that in all his experience he had never known
anyone worse than his son-in-law, would sometimes become testy,
and at last resolved that he would altogether hold his tongue.
But he could hardly hold his tongue now.
He, no doubt, had already formed his hopes in regard to Arthur
Fletcher. He had trusted that the man whom he had taught himself
some years since to regard as his wished-for son-in-law, might be
constant and strong enough in his love to forget all that was
past, and to be still willing to redeem his daughter from misery.
But as days had crept on since the scene as the Tenway Junction,
he had become aware that time must do much before such relief
would be accepted. It was, however, still possible that the
presence of the man might do something. Hitherto, since the deed
had been done, no stranger had dined in Manchester Square. She
herself had seen no visitor. She had hardly left the house
except to go to church, and then had been enveloped in the
deepest crape. Once or twice she had allowed herself to be
driven out in a carriage, and, when she had done so, her father
had always accompanied her. No widow, since the seclusion of
widows was first ordained, has been more strict in maintaining
the restraints of widowhood, as enjoined. How then could he bid
her receive a new lover,--or how suggest to her that a lover was
possible? And yet he did not like to answer Arthur Fletcher
without naming some period for the present mourning,--some time
at which he might at least show himself in Manchester Square.
'I have had a letter from Arthur Fletcher,' he said to his
daughter a day or two after he had received it. He was sitting
after dinner, and Everett was also in the room.
'Is he in Hertfordshire?' she asked.
'No;--he is up in town, attending to the House of Commons, I
suppose. He had something to say to me, and as we are not in the
way of meeting he wrote. He wants to come and see you.'
'Not yet, papa.'
'He talked of coming and dining here.'
'Oh yes, pray let him come.'
'You would not mind that?'
'I would dine early and be out of the way. I should be do glad
if you would have somebody sometimes. I shouldn't think then
that I was such a--such a restraint on you.'
But this was not what Mr Wharton desired. 'I shouldn't like
that, my dear. Of course he would know that you were in the
'Upon my word, I think you might meet an old friend like that,'
She looked at her brother, and then at her father, and burst into
tears. 'Of course you shall not be pressed if it would be
irksome to you,' said her father.
'It is the first plunge that hurts,' said Everett. 'If you could
once bring yourself to do it, you would find afterwards that you
were more comfortable.'
'Papa,' she said slowly. 'I know what it means. His goodness I
shall always remember. You may tell him I say so. But I cannot
meet him yet.' Then they pressed her no further. Of course she
had understood. Her father could not even ask her to say a word
which might give comfort to Arthur as to some long distant time.
He went down to the House of Commons the next day, and saw his
young friend there. Then they walked up and down Westminster
Hall for nearly an hour, talking over the matter with the most
absolute freedom. 'It cannot be for the benefit of anyone,' said
Arthur Fletcher, 'that she should immolate herself like an Indian
widow,--and for the sake of such a man as that! Of course I
have no right to dictate to you,--hardly, perhaps, to give an
'Yes, yes, yes.'
'It does seem to me, then, that you ought to force her out of
that kind of thing. Why should she not go down to
'In time, Arthur,--in time.'
'But people's lives are running away.'
'My dear fellow, if you were to see her you would know how vain
it would be to try to hurry her. There must be time.'
THE END OF THE SESSION.
The Duke of St Bungay had been very much disappointed. He had
contradicted with a repetition of noes the assertion of the
Duchess that he had been the Warwick who had placed the Prime
Minister's crown on the head of the Duke of Omnium, but no doubt
he felt in his heart that he had done so much towards it that his
advice respecting the vacant Garter, when given so much weight,
should have been followed. He was an old man, and had known the
secrets of Cabinet Councils when his younger friend was a little
boy. He had given advice to Lord John, and had been one of the
first to congratulate Sir Robert Peel when that statesman became
a free-trader. He had sat in conclave with THE Duke, and had
listened to the bold Liberalism of old Earl Grey, both in the
Lower and the Upper House. He had been always great in council,
never giving his advice unasked, nor throwing his pearls before
swine, and cautious at all times to avoid excesses on this side
or that. He had never allowed himself a hobby horse of his own
to ride, had never been ambitious, had never sought to be the
ostensible leader of men. But he did now think that when, with
all his experience, he spoke very much in earnest, some attention
should be paid to what he said. When he had described a certain
line of conduct as Quixotic he had been very much in earnest. He
did not usually indulge in strong language, and Quixotic, when
applied to the conduct of the Prime Minister, was, to his ideas,
very strong. The thing described as Quixotic had now been done,
and the Duke of St Bungay was a disappointed man.
For an hour or two he thought that he must gently secede from all
private counsels with the Prime Minister. To resign, or to put
impediments in the way of his own chief, did not belong to his
character. That line of strategy had come into fashion since he
had learnt his political rudiments, and was very odious to him.
But in all party compacts there must be inner parties, peculiar
bonds, and confidence stricter, stronger and also sweeter than
those which bind together the twenty or thirty gentlemen who form
a Government. From those closer ties which had hitherto bound
him to the Duke of Omnium he thought, for a while, that he must
divorce himself. Surely on such a subject as the nomination of a
Knight of the Garter his advice might have been taken,--if only
because it had come from him! And so he kept himself apart for a
day or two, and even in the House of Lords ceased to whisper
kindly, cheerful words into the ears of his next neighbour.
But various remembrances crowded in upon him by degrees,
compelling him to moderate and at last to abandon his purpose.
Among these the first was the memory of the kiss he had given to
the Duchess. The woman had told him that she loved him, that he
was one of the very few whom she did love,--and the word had
gone straight into his old heart. She had bade him not to desert
her; and he had not only given her his promise, but he had
converted that promise into a sacred pledge by a kiss. He had
known well why she had exacted the promise. The turmoil in her
husband's mind, the agony which he sometimes endured when people
spoke ill of him, the aversion which he had at first genuinely
felt to an office for which he hardly thought himself fit, and
now the gradual love of power created by the exercise of power,
had all been seen by her, and had created that solicitude which
had induced her to ask for the promise. The old Duke had known
them both well, but had hardly as yet given the Duchess credit
for so true devotion to her husband. It now seemed to him that,
though she had failed to love the man, she had given her entire
heart to the Prime Minister. He sympathized with her altogether,
and, at any rate, could not go back from his promise.
And then he remembered, too, that if this man did anything amiss
in the high office which he had been made to fill, who had
induced him to fill it was responsible. What right had he, the
Duke of St Bungay, to be angry because his friend was not all-
wise at all points? Let the Droughts and the Drummonds and the
Beeswaxes quarrel among themselves or with their colleagues. He
belonged to a different school, in the teachings of which there
was less perhaps of excitement and more of long-suffering;--but
surely, also, more of nobility. He was, at any rate, too old to
change, and he would therefore be true to his friend through evil
and through good. Having thought all this out he again whispered
some cheery word to the Prime Minister, as they sat listening to
the denunciations of Lord Fawn, a Liberal lord, much used to
business, but who had not been received into the Coalition. The
first whisper and the second whisper the Prime Minister received
very coldly. He had fully appreciated the discontinuance of
whispers, and was aware of the cause. He had made a selection on
his own unassisted judgment in opposition to his old friend's
advice, and this was the result. Let it be so! All his friends
were turning away from him and he would have to stand alone. If
so, he would stand alone till the pendulum of the House of
Commons had told him that it was time for him to retire. But
gradually the determined good-humour of the old man prevailed.
'He has a wonderful gift of saying nothing with second-rate
dignity,' whispered the repentant friend, speaking of Lord Fawn.
'A very honest man,' said the Prime Minister in return.
'A sort of bastard honesty,--by precept out of stupidity. There
is no real conviction in it, begotten by thought.' This little
bit of criticism, harsh as it was, had the effect, and the Prime
Minister became less miserable than he had been.
But Lord Drummond forgave nothing. He still held his office, but
more than once he was seen in private conference with both Sir
Orlando and Mr Boffin. He did not attempt to conceal his anger.
Lord Earlybird! An old woman! One whom no other man in England
would have thought of making a Knight of the Garter! It was not,
he said, personal disappointment in himself. There were half-a-
dozen peers whom he would have willingly have seen so graced
without the slightest chagrin. But this must have been done
simply to show the Duke's power, and to let the world understand
that he owed nothing and would pay nothing to his supporters. It
was almost a disgrace, said Lord Drummond, to belong to a
Government the Head of which could so commit himself! The
Session was nearly at an end, and Lord Drummond thought that no
step could be conveniently taken now. But it was quite clear to
him that this state of things could not be continued. It was
observed that Lord Drummond and the Prime Minister never spoke to
each other in the House, and that the Secretary of State for
Colonies,--that being the office which he held,--never rose in
his place after Lord Earlybird's nomination, unless to say a word
or two as to his own peculiar duties. It was very soon known to
all the world that there was war to the knife between Lord
Drummond and the Prime Minister.
And, strange to say, there seemed to be some feeling of general
discontent on this very trifling subject. When Aristides had
been much too just the oyster-shells became numerous. It was
said that the Duke had been guilty of pretentious love of virtue
in taking Lord Earlybird out of his own path of life and forcing
him to write K.G. after his name. There came out an article, of
course in the "People's Banner", headed, "Our Prime Minister's
Good Works", in which poor Lord Earlybird was ridiculed in a very
unbecoming manner, and in which it was asserted that the thing
was done as a counterpoise to the iniquity displayed in 'hounding
Ferdinand Lopez to his death'. Whenever Ferdinand Lopez was
mentioned he had always been hounded. And then the article went
on to declare that either the Prime Minister had quarrelled with
all his colleagues, or else that all his colleagues had
quarrelled with the Prime Minister. Mr Slide did not care which
it might be, but, whichever it might be, the poor country had to
suffer when such a state of things was permitted. It was
notorious that neither the Duke of St Bungay nor Lord Drummond
would now even speak to their own chief, so thoroughly were they
disgusted with his conduct. Indeed it seemed that the only ally
the Prime Minister had in his own Cabinet was the Irish
adventurer, Mr Phineas Finn. Lord Earlybird never read a word
of all this, and was altogether undisturbed as he sat in his
chair in Exeter Hall,--or just at this time of the year more
frequently in the provinces. But the Duke of Omnium read it all.
After what had passed he did not dare show it to his brother
Duke. He did not dare to tell his friend that it was said in the
newspapers that they did not speak to each other. But every word
from Mr Slide's pen settled on his own memory, and added to his
torments. It came to be a fixed idea in the Duke's mind that Mr
Slide was a gadfly sent to the earth for the express purpose of
And as a matter of course the Prime Minister in his own mind
blamed himself for what he had done. It is the chief torment of
a person constituted as he was that strong as may be the
determination to do a thing, fixed as may be the conviction that
the thing ought to be done, no sooner has it been perfected than
the objections of others, which before had been inefficacious
become suddenly endowed with truth and force. He did not like
being told by Mr Slide that he ought not to have set his cabinet
against him, but when he had in fact done so, then he believed
what Mr Slide told him. As soon almost as the irrecoverable
letter had been winged on its way to Lord Earlybird, he saw the
absurdity of sending it. Who was he that he should venture to
set aside all the traditions of office? A Pitt or a Peel or a
Palmerston might have done so, because they had been abnormally
strong. They had been Prime Ministers by the work of their own
hands, holding their powers against the whole world. But he,--
he told himself daily he was only there by sufferance, because at
the moment no one else could be found to take it. In such a
condition should he have not have been bound by the traditions of
office, bound by the advice of one so experienced and so true as
the Duke of St Bungay? And for whom had he broken through these
traditions and thrown away this advice? For a man who had no
power whatever to help him or any other Minister of the Crown;--
for one whose every pursuit in life was at variance with the
acquisition of such honours as that now thrust upon him! He
could see his own obstinacy, and could even hate the pretentious
love of virtue which he himself had displayed.
'Have you seen Lord Earlybird with his ribbon?' his wife said to
'I do not know Lord Earlybird by sight,' he replied angrily.
'Nor anyone else either. But he would have come down and shown
it himself to you, if he had a spark of gratitude in his
composition. As far as I can learn you have sacrificed the
Ministry for his sake.'
'I did my duty as best I knew how to do it,' said the Duke,
almost with ferocity, 'and it little becomes you to taunt me with
'I am driven,' he said, 'almost beyond myself, and it kills me
when you take part against me.'
'Take part against you! Surely there was very little in what I
said.' And yet, as she spoke, she repented bitterly that she had
at the moment allowed herself to relapse into the sort of
badinage which had been usual with her before she had understood
the extent of his sufferings. 'If I trouble you by what I say, I
will certainly hold my tongue.'
'Don't repeat to me what that man says in the newspaper.'
'You shouldn't regard the man, Plantagenet. You shouldn't allow
the paper to come into your hands.'
'Am I to be afraid of seeing what men say of me? Never! But you
need not repeat it, at any rate if it be false.' She had not
seen the article in question or she certainly would not have
repeated the accusation it contained. 'I have quarrelled with no
colleague. If such a one as Lord Drummond chooses to think
himself injured, am I to stoop to him? Nothing strikes me so
much in all this as the ill-nature of the world at large. When
they used to bait a bear tied to a stake, everyone around would
cheer the dogs and help torment the helpless animal. It is much
the same now, only they have a man instead of a bear for their
'I will never help the dogs again,' she said, coming up to him
and clinging him within the embrace of his arm.
He knew that he had been Quixotic, and he would sit in his chair
repeating the word to himself aloud, till he himself began to
fear that he would do it in company. But the thing had been done
and could not be undone. He had had the bestowal of one Garter,
and he had given it to Lord Earlybird! It was,--he told
himself, but not correctly,--the only thing he had done on his
own undivided responsibility since he had been Prime Minister.
The last days of July had passed, and it had been at last decided
that the Session should close on the 11th August. Now the 11th
of August was thought to be a great deal too near the 12th to
allow of such an arrangement being considered satisfactory. A
great many members were angry at the arrangement. It had been
said all through June and into July that it was to be an early
Session, and yet things had been so mismanaged that when the end
came everything could not be finished without keeping members of
Parliament in town on the 11th August! In the memory of the
present legislators there had never been anything so awkward.
The fault, if there was a fault, was attributable to Mr Monk. In
all probability the delay was unavoidable. A minister cannot
control long-winded gentlemen, and when gentlemen are very long-
winded there must be delay. No doubt a strong minister can
exercise some control, and it is certain that long-winded
gentlemen find an unusual scope for their breath when the
reigning dynasty is weak. In that way Mr Monk and the Duke may
have been responsible, but they were blamed as though they, for
their own special amusement, detained gentlemen in town. Indeed
the gentlemen were not detained. They grumbled and growled and
then fled,--but their grumblings and growlings were heard even
after their departure.
'Well;--what do you think of it all?' the Duke said one day to
Mr Monk at the Treasury, affecting an air of cheery good-humour.
'I think,' said Mr Monk, 'that the country is very prosperous. I
don't know that I ever remember trade to have been more evenly
'Ah, yes. That's very well for the country, and ought, I
suppose, to satisfy me.'
'It satisfies me,' said Mr Monk.
'And me, in a way. But if you were walking about in a very tight
pair of boots, in agony with your feet, would you be able just
then to relish the news that agricultural wages in that parish
had gone up sixpence a week?'
'I'd take my boots off, and then try,' said Mr Monk.
'That's just what I'm thinking of doing. If I had my boots off
all that prosperity would be so pleasant to me! But, you see,
you can't take your boots off in company. And it may be that you
have a walk before you, and that no boots will be worse for your
feet than tight ones.'
'We'll have our boots off soon, Duke,' said Mr Monk, speaking of
'And when shall we be quit of them altogether? Joking apart,
they have to be worn if the country requires it.'
'And it may be that you and I think upon the whole they may be
worn with advantage. What does the country say to that?'
'The country never says the reverse. We have not had a majority
against us this Session on any Government question.'
'But we have had narrowing majorities. What will the House do as
to the Lords' amendments on the Bankruptcy Bill? There was a
bill that had gone down from the House of Commons, but had not
originated with the Government. It had, however, been fostered
by ministers of the House of Lords, and had been sent back with
certain amendments for which the Lord Chancellor had made himself
responsible. It was therefore now almost a Government measure.
The manipulation of this measure had been one of the causes of
the prolonged sitting of the Houses.'
'Grogram says they will take the amendments.'
'And if they don't?'
'Why then,' said Mr Monk, 'the Lords must take our rejection.'
'And we shall have been beaten,' said the Duke.
'And simply because the House desires to beat us. I am told Sir
Timothy Beeswax intends to speak and vote against the
'What,--Sir Timothy on one side, and Sir Gregory on the other?'
'So Lord Ramsden tells me,' said the Duke. 'If it be so, what
are we to do?'
'Certainly not go out in August,' said Mr Monk.
When the time came for the consideration of the Lords' amendments
in the House of Commons,--and it did not come till the 8th of
August,--the matter was exactly as the Duke had said. Sir
Gregory Grogram, with a deal of earnestness, supported the Lords'
amendments,--as he was in honour bound to do. The amendment had
come from his chief, the Lord Chancellor, and had indeed been
discussed with Sir Gregory before it had been proposed. He was
very much in earnest;--but it was evident from Sir Gregory's
earnestness that he expected a violent opposition. Immediately
after him rose Sir Timothy. Now Sir Timothy was a pretentious
man, who assumed to be not only an advocate but a lawyer. And he
assumed also to be a political magnate. He went into the matter
at great length. He began by saying that it was not a party
question. The bill, which he had had the honour of supporting
before it went from their own House, had been a private bill. As
such it had received a general support from the Government. It
had been materially altered in the other House under the auspices
of his noble friend on the woolsack, but from those alterations
he was obliged to dissent. Then he said some very heavy things
against the Lord Chancellor, and increased in acerbity as he
described what he called the altered mind of his honourable and
learned friend the Attorney-General. He then made some very
uncomplimentary allusions to the Prime Minister, whom he accused
of being more than ordinarily reserved with his subordinates.
The speech was manifestly arranged and delivered with the express
view of damaging the Coalition, of which at the time he himself
made a part. Men observed that things were very much altered
when such a course as that was taken in the House of Commons.
But that course was taken on this occasion by Sir Timothy
Beeswax, and was so far taken with success that the Lords'
amendments were rejected and the Government was beaten in a thin
House, by a large majority--composed partly of its own men.
'What am I to do?' asked the Prime Minister of the old Duke.
The old Duke's answer was exactly the same as that given by Mr
Monk. 'We cannot resign in August.' And then he went on. 'We
must wait and see how things go at the beginning of next Session.
The chief question is whether Sir Timothy should not be asked to
Then the Session was at an end, and they who had been staunch to
last got out of town as quick as the trains could carry them.
MRS LOPEZ PREPARES TO MOVE.
The Duchess of Omnium was not the most discreet woman in the
world. That was admitted by her best friends, and was the great
sin alleged against her by her worst enemies. In her desire to
say sharp things, she would say the sharp thing in the wrong
place, and in her wish to be good-natured she was apt to run into
offences. Just as she was about to leave town, which did not
take place for some days after Parliament had risen, she made an
indiscreet proposition to her husband. 'Should you mind asking
Mrs Lopez down to Matching? We shall only be a small party.'
Now the very name of Lopez was terrible to the Duke's ears.
Anything which recalled the wretch and that wretched tragedy to
the Duke's mind gave him a stab. The Duchess ought to have felt
that any communication between her husband and even the man's
widow was to be avoided rather than sought. 'Quite out of the
question!' said the Duke, drawing himself up.
'Why out of the question?'
'There are a thousand reasons I could not have it.'
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