The Prime Minister
Part 14 out of 16
'Then I shall say nothing more about it. But there's a romance
there,--something quite touching.'
'You don't mean that she has---a lover?'
'And she lost her husband only the other day,--lost him in so
terrible a manner? If that is so certainly I do not wish to see
'Ah, that is because you don't know the story.'
'I don't wish to know it.'
'The man who wants to marry her knew her long before she had seen
Lopez, and had offered to her so many times. He is a fine
fellow, and you know him.'
'I had rather not hear any more about it,' said the Duke, walking
There was an end to the Duchess's scheme of getting Emily down to
Matching,--a scheme which could hardly have been successful even
had the Duke not objected to it. But yet the Duchess would not
abandon her project of befriending the widow. She had injured
Lopez. She had liked what she had seen of Mrs Lopez. And she
was now endeavouring to take Arthur Fletcher by the hand. She
called therefore at Manchester Square on the day before she
started for Matching, and left a card and a note. This was on
the 15th of August, when London was as empty as it ever is. The
streets at the West End were deserted. The houses were shut up.
The very sweepers of the crossings seemed to have gone out of
town. The public offices were manned by one or two unfortunates
each, who consoled themselves by reading novels at their desks.
Half the cab-drivers had gone apparently to the seaside,--or to
bed. The shops were still open, but all the respectable
shopkeepers were either in Switzerland or at their marine villas.
The travelling world had divided itself into Cookites and
Hookites:--those who escaped trouble under the auspices of Mr
Cook, and those who boldly combatted the extortions of foreign
innkeepers and the Anti-Anglican tendencies of foreign railway
officials 'on their own hooks.' The Duchess of Omnium was
nevertheless in town, and the Duke might still be seen going in
at the back entrance of the Treasury Chambers every day at eleven
o'clock. Mr Warburton thought it very hard, for he, too, could
shoot grouse; but he would have perished rather than have spoken
The Duchess did not ask to see Mrs Lopez, but left her card and a
note. She had not liked, she said, to leave town without
calling, though she would not seek to be admitted. She hoped
that Mrs Lopez was recovering her health, and trusted that on her
return to town she might be allowed to renew her acquaintance.
The note was very simple, and could not be taken as other than
friendly. If she had been simply Mrs Palliser, and her husband
had been a junior clerk in the Treasury, such a visit would have
been a courtesy; and it was not less so because it was made by
the Duchess of Omnium and by the wife of the Prime Minister. But
yet among all the poor widow's acquaintance she was the only one
who had ventured to call since Lopez had destroyed himself. Mrs
Roby had been told not to come. Lady Eustace had been sternly
rejected. Even old Mrs Fletcher when she had been up in town,
had, after a very solemn meeting with Mr Wharton, contented
herself with sending her love. It had come to pass that the idea
of being immured was growing to be natural to Emily herself. The
longer that it was continued the more did it seem to be
impossible to her that she should break from her seclusion. But
yet she was gratified by the note from the Duchess.
'She means to be civil, papa,'
'Oh yes,--but there are people whose civility I don't want.'
'Certainly. I did not want the civility of that horrid Lady
Eustace. But I can understand this. She thinks that she did
Ferdinand an injury.'
'When you begin, my dear,--and I hope it will be soon,--to get
back to the world, you will find it more comfortable, I think, to
find yourself among your own people.'
'I don't want to go back,' she said, sobbing bitterly.
'But I want you to go back. All who know you want you to go
back. Only don't begin at that end.'
'You don't suppose, papa, that I wish to go to the Duchess?'
'I wish you to go somewhere. It can't be good for you to remain
here. Indeed I shall think it wicked, or at any rate weak, if
you continue to seclude yourself.'
'Where shall I go,' she said imploringly.
'To Wharton. I certainly think you ought to go there first.'
'If you would go, papa, and leave me here,--just this once.
Next year I will go,--if they ask me.'
'When I may be dead, for aught any of us know.'
'Do not say that, papa. Of course anyone may die.'
'I certainly shall not go without you. You may take that as
certain. Is it likely that I should leave you alone in August
and September in this great gloomy house? If you stay, I shall
stay.' Now this meant a great deal than it had meant in former
years. Since Lopez had died Mr Wharton had not once dined at the
Eldon. He came home regularly at six o'clock, sat with his
daughter an hour before dinner, and then remained with her all
the evening. It seemed as though he were determined to force her
out of her solitude by her natural consideration for him. She
would implore him to go to his club and have his rubber, but he
would never give way. No;--he didn't care for the Eldon, and
disliked whist. So he said. Till at last he spoke more plainly.
'You are dull enough here all day, and I will not leave you in
the evenings.' There was a persistent tenderness in this which
she had not expected from the antecedents of his life. When,
therefore, he told her that he would not go into the country
without her, she felt herself almost constrained to yield.
And she would have yielded at once but for one fear. How could
she insure to herself that Arthur Fletcher should not be there?
Of course he would be at Longbarns, and how could she prevent his
coming over from Longbarns to Wharton? She could hardly bring
herself to ask the question of her father. But she felt an
insuperable objection to finding herself in Arthur's presence.
Of course she loved him. Of course in all the world he was the
dearest of all to her. Of course if she could wipe out the past
as with a wet towel, if she could put the crape of her mind as
well as from her limbs, she would become his wife with the
greatest joy. But the very feeling that she loved him was
disgraceful to her in her own thoughts. She had allowed his
caress while Lopez was still her husband,--the husband who had
ill-used her and betrayed her, who had sought to drag her down to
his own depth of baseness. But now she could not endure to think
that the other man should even touch her. It was forbidden to
her, she believed, by all the canons of womanhood eve to think of
love again. There ought to be nothing left for her but crape and
weepers. She had done it all by her own obstinacy, and she could
make no compensation either to her family, or the world, or to
her own feelings, but by drinking the cup of her misery down to
the very dregs. Even to think of joy would in her be a treason.
On that occasion she did not yield to her father, conquering him
as she had conquered him before the pleading of her looks rather
than her words.
But a day or two afterwards he came to her with arguments of a
very different kind. He at any rate must go to Wharton
immediately in reference to a letter of vital importance which he
had received from Sir Alured. The reader may perhaps remember
that Sir Alured's heir--the heir to the title and property--was
a nephew for whom he entertained no affection whatever. This
Wharton had been discarded by all the Whartons as a profligate
drunkard. Some years ago Sir Alured had endeavoured to reclaim
the man, and spent perhaps more money than had been justified in
doing in the endeavour, seeing that, as present occupier of the
property, he was bound to provide for his own daughters, and that
at his death every acre must go to this ne'er-do-well. The money
had been allowed to flow like water for a twelvemonth and had
done no good whatever. There had been no hope. The man was
strong and likely to live,--and after a while had married a
wife, some woman that he took from the very streets. This had
been his last known achievement, and from that moment not even
had his name been mentioned at Wharton. Now there came tidings
of his death. It was said that he had perished in some attempt
to cross some glaciers in Switzerland;--but by degrees it
appeared that the glacier itself had been less dangerous than the
brandy which he had swallowed whilst on his journey. At any rate
he was dead. As to that Sir Alured's letter was certain. And he
was equally certain that he had left no son.
These tidings were quite important to Mr Wharton as to Sir
Alured,--more important to Everett Wharton than to either of
them, as he would inherit all after the death of those two old
men. At this moment he was away yachting with a friend, and even
his address was unknown. Letter for him were to be sent to Oban,
and might, or might not, reach him in the course of a month. But
in a man of Sir Alured's feelings, this catastrophe produced a
great change. The heir to his title and property was one whom he
was bound to regard with affection and almost with reverence,--
if it were only possible for him to do so. With his late heir it
had been impossible. But Everett Wharton he had always liked.
Everett had not been quite all that his father and uncle had
wished. But his faults had been exactly those which could be
cured,--or would almost be virtues,--by the possession of a
title and property. Distaste for a profession and aptitude for
Parliament would become a young man who was heir not only to the
Wharton estates, but to half his father's money.
Sir Alured in his letter expressed a hope that Everett might be
informed instantly. He would have written himself had he known
Everett's address. But he did know that his elder cousin was in
town, and he besought his elder cousin to come at once,--quite
at once,--to Wharton. Emily, he said, would of course accompany
her father on such an occasion. Then there were long letters
from Mary Wharton, and even from Lady Wharton, to Emily. The
Whartons must have been very much moved when Lady Wharton could
be induced to write a long letter. The Whartons were very much
moved. They were in a state of enthusiasm at these news,
amounting almost to fury. It seemed as though they thought that
every tenant and labourer on the estate, and every tenant a
labourer's wife, would be in an abnormal condition and unfit for
the duties of life, till they should have seen Everett as heir to
the property. Lady Wharton went so far as to tell Emily which
bedroom was being prepared for Everett,--a bedroom very
different in honour from any by the occupation of which he had
yet been graced. And there were twenty points as to new wills
and new deeds as to which the present baronet wanted the
immediate advice of his cousin. There were a score of things
which could now be done which were before impossible. Trees
could be cut down, and buildings put up; and a little bit of land
sold, and a little bit of land bought;--the doing of all which
would give new life to Sir Alured. A life interest in an estate
is a much pleasanter thing when the heir is a friend who can be
walked about the property, than when he is an enemy who must be
kept at arm's length. All these delights could now be Sir
Alured's,--if the old heir would give him his counsel and the
young one his assistance.
This change of affairs occasioned some flutter also in Manchester
Square. It could not make much difference personally to old Mr
Wharton. He was, in fact, as old as the baronet, and did not pay
much regard to his own chance of succession. But the position
was one which would suit him admirably, and he was now on good
terms with his son. He had convinced himself that Lopez had done
all that he could to separate them, and therefore found himself
to be more bound to his son than ever. 'We must go at once,' he
said to his daughter, speaking as though he had forgotten her
misery for the moment.
'I suppose you and Everett ought to be there.'
'Heaven knows where Everett is. I ought to be there, and I
suppose that on such an occasion as this you will condescend to
go with me.'
'Condescend, papa;--what does that mean?'
'You know I cannot go alone. It is out of the question that I
should leave you here.'
'And at such a time the family ought to come together. Of course
they will take it very much amiss if you refuse. What will Lady
Wharton think if you refuse afer her writing such a letter as
that? It is my duty to tell you that you ought to go. You cannot
think that is right to throw over every friend that you have in
There was a great deal more said in which it almost seemed that
the father's tenderness had worn out. His words were much
rougher and more imperious than any that he had yet spoken since
his daughter had become a widow, but they were also more
efficacious, and therefore probably more salutary. After twenty-
four hours of this she found she was obliged to yield, and a
telegram was sent to Wharton,--by no means the first telegram
that had been sent since the news had arrived,--saying that
Emily would accompany her father. They were to occupy themselves
for two days further in preparations for their journey.
These preparations to Emily were so sad as almost to break her
heart. She had never as yet packed up her widow's weeds. She
had never as yet contemplated the necessity of coming down to
dinner in them before other eyes than those of her father and
brother. She had as yet made none of those struggles with which
widows seek to lessen the deformity of their costume. It was
incumbent on her now to get a ribbon or two less ghastly than
those weepers which had, for the last five months, hung about her
face and shoulders. And then how would she look if he were to be
there? It was not to be expected that the Whartons should
seclude themselves because of her grief. This very change in the
circumstances of the property would be sure, of itself, to bring
the Fletchers to Wharton,--and then how should she look at him,
how answer him, if he spoke to her tenderly? It is very hard for
a woman to tell a lie to a man when she loves him. She may speak
the words. She may be able to assure him that he is indifferent
to her. But when a woman really loves a man, as she loved this
man, there is a desire to touch him which quivers at her fingers'
ends, a longing to look at him which she cannot keep out of her
eyes, an inclination to be near him which affects every motion of
her body. She cannot refrain herself from excessive attention to
his words. She has a god to worship, and she cannot control her
admiration. Of all this Emily herself felt much,--but felt at
the same time that she would never pardon herself if she betrayed
her love by a gleam of her eye, by the tone of a word, or the
movement of a finger. What,--should she be known to love again
after such a mistake as hers, after such a catastrophe?
The evening before they started who should bustle into the house
but Everett himself. It was about six o'clock, and he was going
to leave London by the night mail. That he should be a little
given to bustle on such an occasion may perhaps be forgiven him.
He had heard the news down on the Scotch coast, and had flown up
to London, telegraphing as he did so backwards and forwards to
Wharton. Of course he felt that the destruction of his cousin
among the glaciers,--whether by brandy or ice he did not much
care,--had made him for the nonce one of the important people of
the world. The young man who would not so feel might be the
better philosopher, but one might doubt whether he would be the
better young man. He quite agreed with his father that it was
his sister's duty to go to Wharton, and he was now in a position
to speak with authority as to the duties of the members of his
family. He could not wait, even for one night, in order that he
might travel with them. Sir Alured was impatient. Sir Alured
wanted him in Hertfordshire. Sir Alured had said that on such an
occasion he, the heir, ought to be on the property with the
shortest possible delay. His father smiled;--but with an
approving smile. Everett therefore started by the night mail,
leaving his father and sister to follow him on the morrow.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S POLITICAL CREED.
The Duke, before he went to Matching, twice reminded Phineas Finn
that he was expected there in a day or two. 'The Duchess says
that your wife is coming to-morrow,' said the Duke on the day of
his departure. But Phineas could not go then. His services to
the country were required among the dockyards and ships, and he
postponed his visit till the end of September. Then he started
for Matching, having the double pleasure before him of meeting
his wife and his noble host and hostess. He found a small party
there, but not so small as the Duchess had once suggested to him.
'Your wife will be there, of course, Mr Finn. She is too good to
desert me in my troubles. And there will probably be Lady Rosina
De Courcy. Lady Rosina is to the Duke what your wife is to me.
I don't suppose there will be anybody else,--except, perhaps Mr
Warburton!' But Lady Rosina was not there. In place of Lady
Rosina there were the Duke and Duchess of St Bungay, with their
daughters, two or three Palliser offshoots, with their wives, and
Barrington Erle. There were, too, the Bishop of the diocese with
his wife, three or four others, coming and going, so that the
party never seemed to be too small. 'We asked Mr Rattler,' said
the Duchess in a whisper to Phineas, 'but he declined, with a
string of florid compliments. When Mr Rattler won't come to the
Prime Minister's house, you may depend that something is going to
happen. It is like pigs carrying straws in their mouths. Mr
Rattler is my pig.' Phineas only laughed and said that he did
not believe Rattler to be a better pig than anybody else.
It was soon apparent to Phineas that the Duke's manner to him was
entirely altered, so much so that he was compelled to acknowledge
to himself that he had not hitherto read the Duke's character
aright. Hitherto he had never found the Duke pleasant in
conversation. Looking back he could hardly remember that he had
in truth ever conversed with the Duke. The man had seemed to
shut himself up as soon as he had uttered certain words which the
circumstances of the moment had demanded. Whether it was
arrogance or shyness Phineas had not known. His wife had said
that the Duke was shy. Had he been arrogant the effect would
have been the same. He was unbending, hard, and lucid only when
he spoke on some detail of business, or on some point of policy.
But now he smiled, and, though hesitating a little at first, very
soon fell into the ways of a pleasant country host. 'You shoot,'
said the Duke. Phineas did shoot, but cared very little about
it. 'But you hunt.' Phineas was very fond of riding to hounds.
'I am beginning to think,' said the Duke, 'that I have made a
mistake in not caring for such things. When I was very young I
gave them up, because it appeared that other men devoted too much
time to them. One might as well not eat because men are
'Only that you would die if you did not eat.'
'Bread, I suppose, would keep me alive, but still one eats meat
without being a glutton. I very often regret the want of
amusements, and particularly of those which would throw me more
among my fellow-creatures. A man is alone when reading, alone
when writing, alone when thinking. Even sitting in Parliament he
is very much alone, though there be a crowd around him. Now a
man can hardly be thoroughly useful unless he knows his fellow-
men, and how is he to know them if he shuts himself up? If I had
to begin again I think I would cultivate the amusements of the
Not long after this the Duke asked him whether he was going to
join the shooting men on that morning. Phineas declared that his
hands were too full of business for any amusement before lunch.
'Then,' said the Duke, 'will you walk with me this afternoon?
There is nothing I really like so much as a walk. There are some
very pretty points where the river skirts the park. And I will
show you the spot on which Sir Guy de Palliser performed the feat
for which the king gave him this property. It was a grand time
when a man could get half-a-dozen parishes because he tickled the
'But suppose he didn't tickle the king's fancy?'
'Ah, then indeed, it might go otherwise with him. But I am glad
to say that Sir Guy was an accomplished courtier.'
The walk was taken, and the pretty bends of the river were seen;
but they were looked at without much earnestness, and Sir Guy's
great deed was not again mentioned. The conversation went away
to other matters. Of course it was not long before the Prime
Minister was deep in discussing the probabilities of the next
Session. It was soon apparent to Phineas that the Duke was no
longer desirous of resigning, though he spoke very freely of the
probable necessity there might be for him to do so. At the
present moment he was in his best humour. His feet were on his
own property. He could see the prosperity around him. The spot
was the one which he loved the best in the world. He liked his
present companion, who was one to whom he was entitled to speak
with freedom. But there was still present to him the sense of
some injury from which he could not free himself. Of course he
did not know that he had been haughty to Sir Orlando, to Sir
Timothy, and others. But he did know that he had intended to be
true, and he thought that they had been treacherous. Twelve
months ago there had been a goal before him which he might
attain, a winning-post which was still within his reach. There
was in store for him the tranquillity of retirement which he
would enjoy as soon as a sense of duty would permit him to seize
it. But now the prospect of that happiness had gradually
vanished from him. That retirement was no longer a winning-post
for him. The poison of place and power and dignity had got into
his blood. As he looked forward he feared rather than sighed for
retirement. 'You think it will go against us?' he said.
Phineas did think so. There was hardly a man high up in the
party who did not think so. When one branch of the Coalition has
gradually dropped off, the other branch will hardly flourish
long. And then the tints of a political Coalition are so neutral
and unalluring that men will only endure them when they feel that
no more pronounced colours are within their reach. 'After all,'
said Phineas, 'the innings has not been a bad one. It has been
of service to the country, and has lasted longer than most
'If it has been of service to the country, that is everything.
It should at least be everything. With the statesman to whom it
is not everything there must be something wrong.' The Duke, as
he said this, was preaching to himself. He was telling himself
that, though he saw the better way, he was allowing himself to
walk on that which was worse. For it was not only Phineas who
would see the change,--or the old Duke, or the Duchess. It was
apparent to the man himself, though he could not prevent it. 'I
sometimes think,' he said, 'that we whom chance has led to be
meddlers in the game of politics sometimes give ourselves hardly
time enough to think what we are about.'
'A man may have to work so hard,' said Phineas, 'that he has no
time for thinking.'
'Or more probably, may be so eager in party conflict that he will
hardly keep his mind cool enough for thought. It seems to me
that many men,--men whom you and I know,--embrace the
profession of politics not only without political convictions,
but without seeing that it is proper that they should entertain
them. Chance brings a young man under the guidance of this or
that elder man. He has come of a Whig family, as was my case,--
or from some old Tory stock; and loyalty keeps him true to the
interests which have first pushed him forward into the world.
There is no conviction there.'
'Yes;--the conviction that it is the man's duty to be a staunch
Liberal, but not the reason why. Or a man sees his opening on
this side or on that,--as is the case with the lawyers. Or he
has a body of men at his back ready to support him on this side
or that, as we see with commercial men. Or perhaps he has some
vague idea that aristocracy is pleasant, and he becomes a
Conservative,--or that democracy is prospering, and he becomes a
Liberal. You are a Liberal, Mr Finn.'
'Well;--after what you have said I will not boast of myself.
Experience, however, seems to show me that Liberalism is demanded
by the country.'
'So, perhaps, at certain epochs, may the Devil and all his works;
but you will hardly say that you will carry the Devil's colours,
because the country may like the Devil. It is not sufficient, I
think, to say that Liberalism is demanded. You should first know
what Liberalism means, and then assure yourself that the thing
itself is good. I dare say you have done so, but I see some who
never make the inquiry.'
'I will not claim to be better than my neighbours,--I mean my
'I understand; I understand,' said the Duke laughing. 'You
prefer some good Samaritan on the Opposition benches to Sir
Timothy and the Pharisees. It is hard to come wounded out of the
fight, and then to see him who would be your friend not only
walking by on the other side, but flinging a stone at you as he
goes. But I did not mean just now to allude to the details of
recent misfortunes, though there is no one to whom I could do so
more openly than to you. I was trying yesterday to explain to
myself why I have, all my life, sat on what is called the Liberal
side of the House to which I have belonged.'
'Did you succeed?'
'I began life with the misfortune of a ready-made political
creed. There was a seat in the House for me when I was twenty-
one. Nobody took the trouble to ask me my opinions. It was a
matter of course that I should be a Liberal. My uncle, whom
nothing could ever induce to enter politics himself, took it for
granted that I should run straight,--as he would have said. It
was a tradition of the family, and was a inseparable from it as
any of the titles which he had inherited. The property might be
sold or squandered,--but the political creed was fixed as
adamant. I don't know that I ever had a wish to rebel, but I
think that I took it at first very much as a matter of course.'
'A man seldom inquires very deeply at twenty-one.'
'And if he does it is ten to one but he comes to a wrong
conclusion. But since then I have satisfied myself that chance
put me into the right course. It has been, I dare say, the same
with you as with me. We both went into office early, and the
anxiety to do special duties well probably deterred us both from
thinking much of the great question. When a man has to be on the
alert to keep Ireland quiet, or to prevent peculation in the
dockyards, or to raise the revenue while he lowers the taxes, he
feels himself to be saved from the necessity of investigating
principles. In this way I sometimes think that ministers, or
they who have been ministers and who have to watch the ministers
from the Opposition benches, have less opportunity of becoming
real politicians than the new men who sit in Parliament with
empty hands and with time at their own disposal. But when a man
has been placed by circumstances as I am now, he does begin to
'And yet you have not empty hands.'
'They are not so full, perhaps, as you think. At any rate I
cannot content myself with a single branch of public service as I
used to in old days. Do not suppose that I claim to have made
any grand political invention, but I think that I have at least
labelled my own thoughts. I suppose what we all desire is to
improve the condition of the people by whom we are employed, and
to advance or country, or at any rate to save it from
'That of course.'
'So much is of course. I give credit to my opponents in
Parliament for that desire quite as readily as I do to my
colleagues or to myself. The idea that political virtue is all
on one side is both mischievous and absurd. We allow ourselves
to talk in that way because indignation, scorn, and sometimes, I
fear, vituperation, are the fuel with which the necessary heat of
debate is maintained.'
'There are some men who are very fond of poking the fire,' said
'Well; I won't name anyone at present,' said the Duke, 'but I
have seen gentlemen of your country very handy with the pokers.'
Phineas laughed, knowing that he had been considered by some to
have been a little violent when defending the Duke. 'But we put
all that aside when we really think, and can give the
Conservative credit for patriotism as readily as the Liberal.
The Conservative who has had any idea of the meaning of the name
which he carries, wishes, I suppose, to maintain the differences
and the distances which separate the highly placed from their
lower brethren. He thinks that God has divided the world as he
finds it divided, and that he may best do his duty by making the
inferior many happy and contented in his position, teaching him
that the place which he holds is his by God's ordinance.'
'And it is so.'
'Hardly in the sense that I mean. But that is the great
Conservative lesson. That lesson seems to me to be hardly
compatible with continual improvement in the condition of the
lower man. But with the Conservative all such improvement is to
be based on the idea of the maintenance of those distances. I as
a Duke am to be kept as far apart from the man who drives my
horses as was my ancestor from the man who drove his, or who rode
after him to the wars,--and that is to go on for ever. There is
much to be said for such a scheme. Let the lords be, all of
them, men with loving hearts, and clear intellect, and noble
instincts, and it is possible that they should use their powers
so beneficently as to spread happiness over the earth. It is one
of the millenniums which the mind of man can conceive, and seems
to be that which the Conservative mind does conceive.'
'But the other men who are not lords don't want that kind of
'If such happiness were attainable it might well be to constrain
men to accept it. But the lords of this world are fallible men;
and though as units they ought to be and perhaps are better than
those others who have fewer advantages, they are much more likely
as units to go astray in opinion than the bodies of men whom they
would seek to govern. We know that power does corrupt, and that
we cannot trust kings to have loving hearts, and clear
intellects, and noble instincts. Men as they come to think about
it and to look forward, and to look back, will not believe in
such a millennium as that.'
'Do they believe in any millennium?'
'I think they do after a fashion, and I think that I do myself.
That is my idea of Conservatism. The doctrine of Liberalism is,
of course, the reverse. The Liberal, if he have any fixed idea
at all, must, I think, have conceived the idea of lessening
distances,--of bringing the coachman and the duke nearer
together,--nearer and nearer, till a millennium shall be reached
'By equality?' asked Phineas, eagerly interrupting the Prime
Minister, and showing his dissent by the tone of his voice.
'I did not use the word, which is open to many objections. In
the first place the millennium, which I have perhaps rashly
named, is so distant that we need not even think of it as
possible. Men's intellects are at present so various that we
cannot even realize the idea of equality, and here in England we
have been taught to hate the word by the evil effects of those
absurd attempts which have been made elsewhere to proclaim it as
a fact accomplished by the scratch of a pen or the chisel of a
stone. We have been injured in that, because a good word
signifying a grand idea has been driven out of the vocabulary of
good men. Equality would be a heaven, if we could attain it.
How can we to whom so much has been given dare to think
otherwise? How can you look at the bowed back and bent legs and
abject face of the poor ploughman, who winter and summer has to
drag his rheumatic limbs to his work, while you go a-hunting or
sit in pride of place among the foremost few of the country, and
say that it is all that it ought to be? You are a Liberal
because you know that it is all not as it ought to be, and
because you would still march on to some nearer approach to
equality; though the thing itself is so great, so glorious, so
godlike,--nay, so absolutely divine,--that you have been
disgusted by the very promise of it, because its perfection is
unattainable. Men have asserted a mock equality till the very
idea of equality stinks in men's nostrils.'
The Duke in his enthusiasm had thrown off his hat, and was
sitting on a wooden seat which they had reached, looking up among
the clouds. His left hand was clenched, and from time to time
with his right he rubbed the thin hairs on his brow. He had
begun in a low voice, with a somewhat slipshod enunciation of his
words, but had gradually become clear, resonant, and even
eloquent. Phineas knew that there were stories told of certain
bursts of words which had come from him in former days in the
House of Commons. These had occasionally surprised men and
induced them to declare that Planty Pall,--as he was then often
called,--was a dark horse. But they had been few and far
between, and Phineas had never heard them. Now he gazed at his
companion in silence, wondering whether the speaker would go on
with his speech. But the face changed on a sudden, and the Duke
with an awkward motion snatched up his hat. 'I hope you ain't
cold?' he said.
'Not at all,' said Phineas.
'I came here because of that bend of the river. I am always very
fond of that bend. We don't go over the river. That is Mr
'The member for the county?'
'Yes; and a very good member, he is, though he doesn't support
us;--an old-school Tory, but a great friend of my uncle, who,
after all, had a good deal of Tory about him. I wonder whether
he is at home. I must remind the Duchess to ask him to dinner.
You know him, of course.'
'Only by seeing him in the House.'
'You'd like him very much. When he is in the country he always
wears knee breeches and gaiters, which I think is a very
'Troublesome, Duke, isn't it?'
'I never tried it, and I shouldn't dare now. Goodness me, it's
past five o'clock, and we've got two miles to get home. I
haven't looked at a letter, and Warburton will think that I've
thrown myself into the river because of Sir Timothy Beeswax.'
Then they started to go home at fast pace.
'I shan't forget, Duke,' said Phineas, 'your definition of
Conservatives and Liberals.'
'I don't think I ventured any definition;--only a few loose
ideas which have been troubling me lately. I say, Finn!'
'Don't you go and tell Ramsden and Drummond that I've been
preaching equality, or we shall have a pretty mess. I don't know
that it would serve me with my dear friend, the Duke.'
'I will be discretion itself.'
'Equality is a dream. But sometimes one likes to dream,--
especially as there is not danger that Matching will fly from me
in a dream. I doubt whether I could bear the test that has been
attempted in other countries.'
'That poor ploughman would hardly get his share, Duke.'
'No;--that's where it is. We can only do a little, and a little
to bring it nearer to us;--so little that it won't touch
Matching in our day. Here is her ladyship and the ponies. I
don't think her ladyship would like to lose her ponies by my
The two wives of the two men were in the pony carriage, and the
little Lady Glencora, the Duchess's eldest daughter, was sitting
between them. 'Mr Warburton has sent three messages to demand
your presence,' said the Duchess, 'and as I live by bread, I
believe that you and Mr Finn have been amusing yourselves!'
'We have been talking politics,' said the Duke.
'Of course. What other amusement was possible? But what
business have you to indulge in idle talk when Mr Warburton wants
you in the library? There has come a box,' she said, 'big enough
to contain the resignations of all the traitors of the party.'
This was strong language, and the Duke frowned;--but there was
no one there to hear it but Phineas Finn and his wife, and they,
at least, were trustworthy. The Duke suggested that he had
better get back to the house as soon as possible. There might be
something to be done requiring time before dinner. Mr Warburton
might, at any rate, want to smoke a tranquil cigar after his
day's work. The Duchess therefore left the carriage, as did Mrs
Finn, and the Duke undertook to drive the little girl back to the
house. 'He'll surely go against a tree,' said the Duchess. But,
--as a fact,--the Duke did take himself and the child home in
'And what do you think about it, Mr Finn?' said her Grace. 'I
suppose you and the Duke have been settling what is to be done?'
'We have certainly settled nothing.'
'Then you must have disagreed.'
'That we as certainly have not done. We have in truth not once
been out of cloud-land.'
'Ah;--then there is no hope. When once grown-up politicians get
into cloud-land it is because the realities of the world have no
longer any charm for them.'
The big box did not contain the resignations of any of the
objectionable members of the Coalition. Ministers do not often
resign in September,--nor would it be expedient that they should
do so. Lord Drummond and Sir Timothy Beeswax were safe, at any
rate till next February, and might live without any show either
of obedience or mutiny. The Duke remained in comparative quiet
at Matching. There was not very much to do, except to prepare
the work of the next Session. The great work of the coming year
was to be the assimilation, or something very near to
assimilation, of the county suffrages with those of the boroughs.
The measure was one which had now been promised by statesmen for
the last two years,--promised at first with that half promise
which would mean nothing, were it not that such promises always
lead to more defined assurances. The Duke of St Bungay, Lord
Drummond, and other Ministers had wished to stave it off. Mr
Monk was eager for its adoption, and was of course supported by
Phineas Finn. The Prime Minister had at first been inclined to
be led by the old Duke. There was no doubt to him but that the
measure was desirable and would come, but there might well be a
question as to the time which it should be made to come. The old
Duke knew that the measure would come,--but believing it to be
wholly undesirable, thought that he was doing good work in
postponing it from year to year. But Mr Monk had become urgent,
and the old Duke had admitted the necessity. There must surely
have been a shade of melancholy on that old man's mind as, year
after year, he assisted in pulling down institutions which he in
truth regarded as safeguards of the nation, but which he knew
that, as a Liberal, he was bound to assist in destroying! It
must have occurred to him, from time to time, that it would be
well for him to depart and be at peace before everything was
When he went from Matching Mr Monk took his place, and Phineas
Finn, who had gone up to London for a while, returned, and then
the three between them with assistance from Mr Warburton and
others, worked out the proposed scheme of the new county
franchise, with the new divisions and the new constituencies.
But it could hardly have been hearty work, as they all of them
felt that whatever might be their first proposition they would be
beat upon it in a House of Commons which thought that this
Aristides had been long enough at the Treasury.
MRS PARKER'S FATE.
Lopez had now been dead more than five months, and not a word had
been heard by his widow of Mrs Parker and her children. Her own
sorrows had been so great that she had hardly thought of those of
the poor woman who had come to her but a few days before her
husband's death, telling her of the ruin caused by her husband's
treachery. But late on the evening before her departure for
Hertfordshire,--very shortly after Everett left the house,--
there was a ring at the door, and a poorly-clad female asked to
see Mrs Lopez. The poorly-clad female was Sexty Parker's wife.
The servant, who did not remember her, would not leave her alone
in the hall, having an eye to the coats and umbrellas, but called
up one of the maids to carry the message. The poor woman
understood the insult and resented it in her heart. But Mrs
Lopez recognized the name in a moment, and went down to her in
the parlour, leaving Mr Wharton upstairs. Mrs Parker, smarting
from her present grievance, had bent her mind on complaining at
once of the treatment she had received from the servant, but the
sight of the widow's weeds quelled her. Emily had never been
much given to fine clothes, either as a girl or as a married
woman; but it had always been her husband's pleasure that she
should be well dressed,--though he had never carried his trouble
so far as to pay the bills; and Mrs Parker's remembrance of her
friend at Dovercourt had been that of a fine lady in bright
apparel. Now a black shade,--something almost like a dark
ghost,--glided into the room and Mrs Parker forgot her recent
injury. Emily came forward and offered her hand, and was the
first to speak. 'I have had a great sorrow since we met,' she
'Yes, indeed, Mrs Lopez. I don't think there is anything left in
the world now except sorrow.'
'I hope Mr Parker is well. Will you not sit down, Mrs Parker?'
'Thank you, ma'am. Indeed, then, he is not well at all. How
should he be well? Everything,--everything has been taken away
from him.' Poor Emily groaned as she heard this. 'I wouldn't
say a word against them as is gone, Mrs Lopez, if I could help
it. I know it is bad to bear when him who once loved you isn't
no more. And perhaps it is all the worse when things didn't go
well with him, and it was, maybe, his own fault. I wouldn't do
it, Mrs Lopez, if I could help it.'
'Let me hear what you have to say,' said Emily, determined to
suffer everything patiently.
'Well;--it is just this. He has left us that bare that there is
nothing left. And that, they say, isn't the worst of all,--
though what can be worse than doing that, how is a woman to
think? Parker was that soft, and he had that way with him of
talking, that he has talked me and mine out of the very linen on
'What do you mean by saying that that is not the worst?'
'They've come upon Sexty for a bill for four thousand and fifty,
--something to do with that stuff they call Bios,--and Sexty
says it isn't his name at all. But he's been in that state he
don't hardly know how to swear to anything. But he's sure he
didn't sign it. The bill was brought to him by Lopez and there
was words between them, and he wouldn't have nothing to do with
it. How is he to go to law? And it don't make much difference
neither, for they can't take much more from him than they have
already taken.' Emily as she heard all this sat shivering,
trying to repress her groans. 'Only,' continued Mrs Parker,
'they hadn't sold the furniture, and I was thinking they might
let me stay in the house, and try to do with letting lodgings,--
and now they're seizing everything along of this bill. Sexty is
like a mad man, swearing this and swearing that;--but what can
he do, Mrs Lopez? It's as like his hand as two peas; but he was
clever at everything was,--was--you know who I mean, ma'am.'
Then Emily covered her face with her hands and burst into violent
tears. She had not determined whether she did or did not believe
this last accusation made against her husband. She had had
hardly time to realize the criminality of the offence imputed.
But she did believe that the woman before her had been ruined by
her husband's speculations. 'It's very bad, ma'am; isn't it?'
said Mrs Parker, crying for company. 'It's bad all round. If
you had five children as hadn't bread you'd know how I feel.
I've got to go back by the 10.15 to-night, and when I've paid for
a third-class ticket I shan't have but twopence left in this
This utter depth of immediate poverty, this want of bread for the
morrow and the next day, Emily could relieve out of her own
pocket. And, thinking of this and remembering that her purse was
not with her at the moment, she started up with the idea of
getting it. But it occurred to her that that would not suffice;
that her duty required more of her than that. And yet, by her
own power, she could do no more. From month to month, almost
from week to week, since her husband's death, her father had been
called upon to satisfy claims for money which he would not
resist, lest by doing so he should add to her misery. She had
felt that she ought to bind herself to the strictest personal
economy because of the miserable losses to which she had
subjected him by her ill-starred marriage. 'What would you wish
me to do?' she said, resuming her seat.
'You are rich,' said Mrs Parker. Emily shook her head. 'They
say your papa is rich. I thought you would not like to see me in
want like this.'
'Indeed, indeed, it makes me very unhappy.'
'Wouldn't your papa do something? It wasn't Sexty's fault nigh
so much as it was his. I wouldn't say it to you if it wasn't for
starving. I wouldn't say it to you if it wasn't for the
children. I'd lie in the ditch and die if it was only for
myself, because,--because I know what your feelings is. But
what wouldn't you do, and what wouldn't you say, if you had five
children at home as hadn't a loaf of bread among 'em?' Hereupon
Emily got up and left the room, bidding her visitor wait for a
few minutes. Presently the offensive butler came in, who had
wronged Mrs Parker by watching his master's coats, and brought a
tray with meat and wine. Mr Wharton, said the altered man, hoped
that Mrs Parker would take a little refreshment, and he would be
down himself very soon. Mrs Parker, knowing that strength for
her journey home would be necessary to her, remembering that she
would have to walk all through the city to the Bishopgate Street
station, did take some refreshment, and permitted herself to
drink the glass of sherry that her late enemy had benignantly
poured out for her.
Emily had been with her father nearly half an hour before Mr
Wharton's heavy step was heard upon the stairs. And when he
reached the dining-room door he paused a moment before he
ventured to turn the lock. He had not told Emily what he would do,
and hardly as yet made up his own mind. As every fresh call was
made upon him, his hatred for the memory of the man who had
stepped in and disturbed his whole life, and turned all the
mellow satisfaction of his evening into storm and gloom, was of
course increased. The scoundrel's name was so odious to him that
he could hardly keep himself from shuddering visibly before his
daughter even when the servants called her by it. But yet he had
determined that he would devote himself to save her from further
suffering. It had been her fault, no doubt. But she was
expiating it in very sackcloth and ashes, and he would add
nothing to the burden on her back. He would pay, and pay, and
pay, merely remembering that what he paid must be deducted from
her share of his property. He had never intended to make what is
called an elder son of Everett, and now there was less necessity
than ever that he should do so, as Everett had become an elder
son in another direction. He could satisfy almost any demand
that might be made without material injury to himself. But these
demands, one after another, scalded him by their frequency, and
by the baseness of the man who had occasioned them. His daughter
had now repeated to him with sobbings and wailings the whole
story as it had been told to her by the woman downstairs.
'Papa,' she had said, 'I don't know how to tell you or how not.'
Then he had encouraged her, and had listened without saying a
word. He had endeavoured not even to shrink as the charge of
forgery was repeated to him by his own child,--the widow of the
guilty man. He endeavoured not to remember at the moment that
she had claimed this wretch as the chosen one of her maiden
heart, in opposition to all his wishes. It hardly occurred to
him to disbelieve the accusation. It was so probable! What was
there to hinder the man from forgery, if he could only make it
believed that his victim had signed the bill when intoxicated?
He heard it all;--kissed his daughter, and then went down to the
Mrs Parker, when she saw him, got up, and curtsied low, and then
sat down again. Old Wharton looked at her from under his bushy
eyebrows before he spoke, and then sat opposite her. 'Madam,' he
said, 'this is a very sad story that I have heard.' Mrs Parker
again rose, and again curtsied, and put her handkerchief to her
face. 'It is of no use talking any more about it here.'
'No, sir,' said Mrs Parker.
'I and my daughter leave town early to-morrow morning.'
'Indeed, sir. Mrs Lopez didn't tell me.'
'My clerk will be in London, at No.12, Stone Buildings, Lincoln's
Inn, till I come back. Do you think you can find the place? I
have written it there.'
'Yes, sir, I can find it,' said Mrs Parker, just raising herself
from her chair at every word he spoke.
'I have written his name, you see. Mr Crumpy.'
'If you will permit me, I will give you two sovereigns now.'
'Thank you, sir.'
'And if you can make it convenient to call on Mr Crumpy every
Thursday morning about twelve, he will pay you two sovereigns a
week till I come back to town. Then I will see about it.'
'God Almighty bless you, sir!'
'And as to the furniture, I will write to my attorney, Mr Walker.
You need not trouble yourself by going to him.'
'If necessary, he will send to you, and he will see what can be
done. Good night Mrs Parker.' Then he walked across the room
with two sovereigns which he dropped into her hand. Mrs Parker,
with many sobs, bade him farewell, and Mr Wharton stood in the
hall immoveable till the front door had been closed behind her.
'I have settled it,' he said to Emily. 'I'll tell you to-morrow,
or some day. Don't worry yourself now, but go to bed.' She
looked wistfully,--so sadly, up into his face, and then did as
he bade her.
But Mr Wharton could not go to bed without further trouble. It
was incumbent on him to write full particulars that very night
both to Mr Walker and to Mr Crumpy. And the odious letters in
the writing became very long;--odious because he had to confess
in them over and over again that his daughter, the very apple of
his eye, had been the wife of a scoundrel. To Mr Walker he had
to tell the whole story of the alleged forgery, and in doing so
could not abstain from the use of hard words. 'I don't suppose
that it can be proved, but there is every reason to believe that
it's true.' And again--'I believe the man to have been as vile
a scoundrel as ever was made by the love of money.' Even to Mr
Crumpy he could not be reticent. 'She is an object of pity,' he
said. 'Her husband was ruined by the infamous speculations of Mr
Lopez.' Then he betook himself to bed. Oh, how happy would he
be to pay the two thousand weekly pounds,--even to add to that
the amount of the forged bill, if by doing so he might be saved
from ever hearing again the name of Lopez.
The amount of the bill was ultimately lost by the bankers who had
advanced the money on it. As for Mrs Sexty Parker, from week to
week, and from month to month, and at last from year to year, she
and her children,--and probably her husband also,--were
supported by the weekly pension of two sovereigns which she
always received on Thursday mornings form the hands of Mr Crumpy
himself. In a little time the one excitement of her life was the
weekly journey to Mr Crumpy, whom she came to regard as a man
appointed by Providence to supply her with 40s on Thursday
morning. As to poor Sexty Parker,--it is to be feared that he
never again became a prosperous man.
'You will tell me what you did for that poor woman, papa,' said
Emily, leaning over her father in the train.
'I have settled it, my dear.'
'You said you'd tell me.'
'Crumpy will pay her two pounds a week till we know more about
it.' Emily pressed her father's hand, and that was an end. No
one ever did know any more about it, and Crumpy continued to pay
When Mr Wharton and his daughter reached Wharton Hall there were
at any rate no Fletchers there as yet. Emily, as she was driven
from the station to the house, had not dared to ask a question or
even to prompt her father to do so. He would probably have told
her that on such an occasion there was but little chance that she
would find any visitors, and none at all that she would find
Arthur Fletcher. But she was too confused and too ill at ease to
think of the probabilities, and to the last was in trepidation,
specially lest she should meet her lover. She found, however, at
Wharton Hall none but Whartons, and she found also to her great
relief that this change in the heir relieved her of much of the
attention which must otherwise have added to her troubles. At
the first glance her dress and demeanour struck them so forcibly
that they could not avoid showing their feeling. Of course they
had expected to see her in black,--had expected to see her in
widow's weeds. But, with her, her very face and limbs had so
adapted themselves to her crape, that she looked like a monument
of bereaved woe. Lady Wharton took the mourner up into her own
room, and there made her a little speech. 'We have all wept for
you,' she said, 'and grieve for you still. But excessive grief
is wicked, especially in the young. We will do our best to make
you happy, and hope we shall succeed. All this about dear
Everett ought to be a comfort to you.' Emily promised that she
would do her best, not, however, taking much immediate comfort
from the prospects of dear Everett. Lady Wharton certainly had
never in her life spoken of dear Everett while the wicked cousin
was alive. Then Mary Wharton also made her little speech. 'Dear
Emily, I will do all that I can. Pray try to believe me.' But
Everett was so much the hero of the hour, that there was not much
room for general attention to anyone else.
There was very much room for triumph in regard to Everett. It
had already been ascertained that the Wharton who was now dead
had had a child,--but that the child was a daughter. Oh,--what
salvation or destruction there may be to an English gentleman in
the sex of an infant! This poor baby was now little better than
a beggar brat, unless the relatives who were utterly disregardful
of its fate, should choose, in their charity, to make some small
allowance for its maintenance. Had it by chance been a boy
Everett Wharton would have been nobody; and the child, rescued
from the iniquities of his parents, would have been nursed in the
best bedroom of Wharton Hall, and cherished with the warmest
kisses, and would have been the centre of all the hopes of the
Whartons. But the Wharton lawyer by use of reckless telegrams
had certified himself that the infant was a girl, and Everett was
the hero of the day. He found himself to be possessed of a
thousand graces, even in his father's eyesight. It seemed to be
taken as a mark of his special good fortune that he had not clung
to any business. To have been a banker immersed in the making of
money, or even a lawyer attached to his circuit and his court,
would have lessened his fitness, or at any rate his readiness,
for the duties which he would have to perform. He would never be
a very rich man, but he would have command of ready money, and of
course he would go into Parliament.
In his new position as,--not quite head of the family, but head
expectant,--it seemed to him to be his duty to lecture his
sister. It might be well that someone should lecture her with
more severity than her father used. Undoubtedly she was
succumbing to the wretchedness of her position in a manner that
was repugnant to humanity generally. There is not power so
useful to a man as that capacity of recovering himself after a
fall, which belongs especially to those who possess a healthy
mind in a healthy body. It is not rare to see one,--generally a
woman,--whom sorrow gradually kills; and there are those among
us, who hardly perhaps envy, but certainly admire, a spirit so
delicate as to be snuffed out by a woe. But it is the weakness
of the heart rather than the strength of the feeling which has in
such cases most often produced the destruction. Some endurance
of fibre has been wanting, which power of endurance is a noble
attribute. Everett Wharton saw something of this, and being,
now, the heir apparent of the family, took his sister to task.
'Emily,' he said, 'you make us all unhappy when we look at you.'
'Do I?' she said. 'I am sorry for that;--but why should you
look at me?'
'Because you are one of us. Of course we cannot shake you off.
We would not if we could. We have all been very unhappy because,
--because of what has happened. But don't you think you ought to
make some sacrifice to us,--to our father, I mean, and to Sir
Alured and Lady Wharton? When you go on weeping, other people
have to weep too. I have an idea that people ought to be happy
if it be only for the sake of neighbours.'
'What am I to do, Everett?'
'Talk to people a little, and smile sometimes. Move about
quicker. Don't look when you come into a room as if you were
consecrating it to tears. And, if I may venture to say so, drop
something of the heaviness of the mourning.'
'Do you mean that I am a hypocrite?'
'No;--I mean nothing of the kind. You know I don't. But you
may exert yourself for the benefit of others without being untrue
to your own memories. I am sure you know what I mean. Make a
struggle and see if you cannot do something.'
She did make a struggle, and she did do something. No one, not
well versed in the mysteries of feminine dress, could say very
accurately what it was that she had done; but everyone felt that
something of the weight was reduced. At first, as her brother's
words came upon her ear, and as she felt the blows which they
inflicted on her, she accused him in her heart of cruelty. They
were very hard to hear. There was a moment in which she was
almost tempted to turn upon him and tell him that he knew nothing
of her sorrows. But she restrained herself, and when she was
alone she acknowledged to herself that he had spoken the truth.
No one has a right to go about the world as Niobe, damping all
joys with selfish tears. What did she not owe to her father, who
had warned her so often against the evil she had contemplated,
and had then, from the first moment after the fault was done,
forgiven her the doing of it? She had at any rate learned from
her misfortunes the infinite tenderness of his heart, which in
the days of the unalloyed prosperity he had never felt the
necessity of expressing to her. So she struggled and did do
something. She pressed Lady Wharton's hand, and kissed her
cousin Mary, and throwing herself in her father's arms when they
were alone, whispered to him that she would try. 'What you told
me, Everett, was quite right,' she said afterwards to her
'I didn't mean to be savage,' he answered with a smile.
'It was quite right, and I have thought of it, and I will do my
best. I will keep it to myself if I can. It is not quite,
perhaps, what you think it is, but I will keep it to myself.'
She fancied that they did not understand her, and perhaps she was
right. It was not only that he had died and left her a young
widow;--nor even that his end had been so harsh a tragedy and so
foul a disgrace! It was not only that her love had been
misbestowed,--not only that she had made so grievous an error in
the one great act of her life which she had chosen to perform on
her own judgement. Perhaps the most crushing memory of all was
that which told her that she, who had through all her youth been
regarded as a bright star in the family, had been the one person
to bring reproach upon the name of all these people who were so
good to her. How shall a person conscious of disgrace, with a
mind capable of feeling the crushing weight of personal disgrace,
move and look and speak as though the disgrace had been washed
away? But she made the struggle, and did not altogether fail.
As regarded Sir Alured, in spite of the poor widow's crape, he
was very happy at this time, and his joy did in some degree
communicate itself to the old barrister. Everett was taken
round to every tenant and introduced as the heir. Mr Wharton had
already declared his purpose of abdicating any possible
possession of the property. Should he outlive Sir Alured he must
be the baronet; but when that sad event should take place,
whether Mr Wharton should then be alive or no, Everett should at
once be the possessor of Wharton Hall. Sir Alured, under these
circumstances, discussed his own death with extreme satisfaction,
and insisted on having it discussed by the others. That he
should have gone and left everything at the mercy of the
spendthrift had been terrible to his old heart;--but now, the
man coming to the property would have 60,000 pounds with which to
support and foster Wharton, with which to mend, as it were, the
crevices, and stop the holes of the estate. He seemed to be
almost impatient for Everett's ownership, giving many hints as to
what should be done when he himself was gone. He must surely
have thought that he would return to Wharton a spirit, and take a
ghostly share in the prosperity of the farm. 'You will find John
Griffith a very good man,' said the baronet. John Griffith had
been a tenant on the estate for the last half-century, and was an
older man than his landlord; but the baronet spoke of all this as
though he himself were about to leave Wharton for ever in the
course of the next week. 'John Griffith has been a good man, and
if not always quite ready with his rent, has never been much
behind. You won't be hard on John Griffith?'
'I hope I mayn't have the opportunity, sir.'
'Well;--well;--well; that's as may be. But I don't quite know
what to say about young John. The farm has gone from father to
son, and there's never been any word of a lease.'
'Is there anything wrong about the young man?'
'He's a little given to poaching.'
'I've always got him off for his father's sake. They say he's
going to marry Sally Jones. That may take it out of him. I do
like the farms to go from father to son, Everett. It's the way
that everything should go. Of course there's no right.'
'Nothing of that kind, I suppose,' said Everett, who was in his
way a reformer, and had radical notions with which he would not
for worlds have disturbed the baronet at present.
'No;--nothing of that kind. God in his mercy forbid that a
landlord in England should ever be robbed after that fashion.'
Sir Alured, when he was uttering this prayer, was thinking of
what he had heard of in an Irish land bill, the details of which,
however, had been altogether incomprehensible to him. 'But I
have a feeling about it, Everett; and I hope you will share it.
It is good that things should go from father to son. I never
make a promise; but the tenants know what I think about it, and
then the father works on the son. Why should he work for a
stranger? Sally Jones is a very good young woman, and perhaps
John will do better.' There was not field or fence that he did
not show to his heir;--hardly a tree which he left without a
word. 'That bit of woodland coming in there,--they call it
Barnton Spinnies,--doesn't belong to the estate at all.'
'Doesn't it really?'
'And it comes right in between Lane's farm and Paddock's.
They've always let me have the shooting as a compliment. Not
that there's anything in it. It's only seven acres. But I like
'Who does it belong to?'
'It belongs to Benet.'
'What: Corpus Christi?'
'Yes, yes;--they've changed the name. It used to be Benet in my
days. Walker and the College would certainly sell, but you'd
have to pay for the land and the wood separately. I don't know
that you'd get much out of it; but it's unsightly;--on the
survey map, I mean.'
'We'll buy it by all means,' said Everett, who was already
jingling his 60,000 pounds in his pocket.
'I never had the money, but I think it should be bought.' And
Sir Alured rejoiced in the idea that when his ghost should look
at the survey map, that hiatus of Barnton Spinnies would not
trouble his spectral eyes.
In this way months ran on at Wharton. Our Whartons had come down
in the latter half of August, and at the beginning of September
Mr Wharton returned to London. Everett, of course, remained, as
he was still learning the lesson of which he was in truth
becoming a little weary; and at last Emily had also been
persuaded to stay in Hertfordshire. Her father promised to
return, not mentioning any precise time, but giving her to
understand that he would come before the winter. He went, and
probably found that his taste for the Eldon and for whist had
returned to him. In the middle of November old Mrs Fletcher
arrived. Emily was not aware of what was being done; but, in
truth, the Fletchers and Whartons combined were conspiring with a
view of bringing her back to her former self. Mrs Fletcher had
not yielded without some difficulty,--for it was a part of this
conspiracy that Arthur was to be allowed to marry the widow. But
John had prevailed. 'He'll do it anyway, mother,' he had said,
'whether you and I like it or not. And why on earth shouldn't he
do as he pleases?'
'Think what the man was, John!'
'It's more to the purpose to think what the woman is. Arthur has
made up his mind, and if I know him, he's not the man to be
talked out of it.' And so the old woman had given in, and had at
last consented to go forward as the advanced guard of Fletchers,
and lay siege to the affections of the woman whom she had once so
thoroughly discarded from her heart.
'My dear,' she said, when they first met, 'if there has been
anything wrong between you and me, let it be among the things
that are past. You always used to kiss me. Give me a kiss now.'
Of course Emily kissed her; and after that Mrs Fletcher patted
her and petted her, and gave her lozenges, which she declared in
private to be 'the sovereignest thing on earth' for debilitated
nerves. And then it came out by degrees that John Fletcher and
his wife and all the little Fletchers were coming to Wharton for
the Christmas weeks. Everett had gone, but was also to be back
for Christmas, and Mr Wharton's visit was also postponed. It was
absolutely necessary that Everett should be at Wharton for the
Christmas festivities, and expedient that Everett's father should
be there to see them. In this way Emily had no means of escape.
Her father wrote telling her of his plans, saying that he would
bring her back after Christmas. Everett's heirship had made these
Christmas festivities,--which were, however, to be confined to
the two families,--quite a necessity. In all this not a word
was said about Arthur, nor did she dare to ask whether he was
expected. The younger Mrs Fletcher, John's wife, opened her arms
to the widow in a manner that almost plainly said that she
regarded Emily as her future sister-in-law. John Fletcher talked
to her about Longbarns, and the children,--complete Fletcher
talk,--as though she were already one of them, never, however,
mentioning Arthur's name. The old lady got down a fresh supply
of the lozenges from London because those she had by her might
perhaps be a little stale. And then there was another sign which
after a while became plain to Emily. No one in either family
ever mentioned her name. It was not singular that none of them
should call her Mrs Lopez, as she was Emily to all of them. But
they never so described her even in speaking to the servants.
And the servants themselves, as far as possible, avoided that
odious word. The thing was to be buried, if not into oblivion,
yet in some speechless grave. And it seemed that her father was
joined in this attempt. When writing to her he usually made some
excuse for writing also to Everett, or, in Everett's absence, to
the baronet,--so that the letter for his daughter might be
enclosed and addressed simply to 'Emily'.
She understood it all, and though she was moved to continual
solitary tears by this ineffable tenderness, yet she rebelled
against them. They should never cheat her back into happiness by
such wiles as that! It was not fit that she should yield to
them. As a woman utterly disgraced it could not become her again
to laugh and be joyful, to give and take loving embraces, to sit
and smile, perhaps a happy mother, at another man's hearth. For
their love she was grateful. For his love she was more than
grateful. How constant must be his heart, how grand his nature,
how more than manly his strength of character, when he was thus
true to her through all the evil she had done! Love him! Yes;--
she would pray for him, worship him, fill the remainder of her
days with thinking of him, hoping for him, and making his
interests her own. Should he ever be married,--and she would
pray that he might,--his wife, if possible, should be her
friend, his children should be her darlings, and he should always
be her hero. But they should not, with all their schemes, cheat
her into disgracing him by marrying him.
At last her father came, and it was he who told her that Arthur
was expected on the day before Christmas. 'Why did you not tell
me before, papa, so that I might have asked you to take me away?'
'Because I thought, my dear, that it was better that you should
be constrained to meet him. You would not wish to live all your
life in terror of seeing Arthur Fletcher?'
'Not all my life.'
'Take the plunge and it will be over. They have all been very
good to you.'
'Too good, papa. I didn't want it.'
'They are your oldest friends. There isn't a young man in
England I think so highly of as John Fletcher. When I am gone,
where are you to look for friends?'
'I'm not ungrateful, papa.'
'You can't know them all, and yet keep yourself altogether
separate from Arthur. Think what it would be to me never to be
able to ask him to the house. He is the only one of the family
that lives in London, and now it seems that Everett will spend
most of his time down here. Of course it is better that you
should meet him and have done with it.' There was no answer to
be made to this, but still she was fixed in her resolution that
she would never meet him as her lover.
Then came the morning of the day on which he was to arrive, and
his coming was for the first time spoken openly of at breakfast.
'How is Arthur to be brought from the station,' asked old Mrs
'I'm going to take the dog-cart,' said Everett. 'Giles will go
for the luggage with the pony. He is bringing down a lot of
things;--a new saddle and gun for me.' It had all been arranged
for her, this question and answer, and Emily blushed as she felt
that it was so.
'We shall be glad to see Arthur,' said young Mrs Fletcher to her.
'Of course you will.'
'He has not been down here since the Session was over, and he has
got to be quite a speaking man now. I do so hope he'll become
something some day.'
'I am sure he will,' said Emily.
'Not a judge, however. I hate wigs. Perhaps he might be Lord
Chancellor in time.' Mrs Fletcher was not more ignorant than
some other ladies in being unaware of the Lord Chancellor's wig
and exact position.
At last he came. The 9am express for Hereford,--express, at
least, for the first two or three hours out of London,--brought
passengers for Wharton to the nearest station at 3pm, and the
distance was not above five miles. Before four o'clock Arthur
was standing before the drawing-room fire, with a cup of tea in
his hand, surrounded by Fletchers and Whartons, and being made
much of as the young family member of Parliament. But Emily was
not in the room. She had studied her Bradshaw, and learned the
hours of the trains, and was now in her bedroom. He had looked
around the moment he entered the room, but had not dared to ask
for her suddenly. He had said one word about her to Everett in
the cart, and that had been all. She was in the house, and he
must, at any rate, see her before dinner.
Emily, in order that she might not seem to escape abruptly, had
retired early to her solitude. But she, too, knew that the
meeting could not be long postponed. She sat thinking of it all,
and at last heard the wheels of the vehicle before the door. She
paused, listening with all her ears, that she might recognize his
voice, or possibly his footstep. She stood near the window,
behind the curtain, with her hand pressed to her heart. She heard
Everett's voice plainly as he gave some directions to the groom,
but from Arthur she heard nothing. Yet she was sure that he was
come. The very manner of the approach and her brother's word
made her certain that there had been no disappointment. She
stood thinking for a quarter of an hour, making up her mind how
best they might meet. Then suddenly, with slow but certain step,
she walked down into the drawing-room.
No one expected her then, or something perhaps might have been
done to encourage her coming. It had been thought that she must
meet him before dinner, and her absence till then was to be
excused. But now she opened the door, and with much dignity of
mien walked into the middle of the room. Arthur at that moment
was discussing the Duke's chance for the next session, and Sir
Alured was asking with rapture whether the Conservative party
would not come in. Arthur Fletcher heard the step, turned round,
and saw the woman he loved. He went at once to meet her, very
quickly, and put out both his hands. She gave him hers, of
course. There was no excuse for her refusal. He stood for an
instant pressing them, looking eagerly into her sad face, and
then he spoke. 'God bless you, Emily!' he said. 'God bless
you!' He had thought of no words, and at the moment nothing else
occurred to him to be said. The colour had covered all his face,
and his heart beat so strongly that he was hardly his own master.
She let him hold her two hands, perhaps for a minute, and then,
bursting into tears, tore herself from him, and, hurrying out of
the room, made her way again into her own chamber. 'It will be
better so,' said old Mrs Fletcher. 'It will be better so. Do
not let anyone follow her.'
On that day John Fletcher took her out to dinner, and Arthur did
not sit near her. In the evening he came to her as she was
working close to his mother, and seated himself on a low chair
close to her knees. 'We are all glad to see you; are we not,
'Yes, indeed,' said Mrs Fletcher. Then, after a while, the old
woman got up to make a rubber at whist with the two old men and
her elder son, leaving Arthur sitting at the widow's knees. She
would willingly have escaped, but it was impossible that she
'You need not be afraid of me,' he said, not whispering, but in a
voice which no one else could hear. 'Do not seem to avoid me,
and I will say nothing to trouble you. I think that you must
wish that we should be friends.'
'Come out, then, to-morrow, when we are walking. In that way we
shall get used to each other. You are troubled now, and I will
go.' Then he left her, and she felt herself to be bound to him
by infinite gratitude.
A week went on and she had become used to his company. A week
passed and he had spoken no word to her that a brother might not
have spoken. They had walked together when no one else had been
within hearing, and yet he had spared her. She had begun to
think that he would spare her altogether, and she was certainly
grateful. Might it not be that she had misunderstood him, and
had misunderstood the meaning of them all? Might it not be that
she had troubled herself with false anticipations? Surely it was
so; for how could it be that such a man should wish to make such
a woman his wife?
'Well, Arthur?' said his brother to him one day.
'I have nothing to say about it,' said Arthur.
'You haven't changed your mind?'
'Never! Upon my word, to me, in that dress, she is more
beautiful than ever.'
'I wish you would make her take it off.'
'I dare not ask her yet.'
'You know what they say about widows generally.'
'That is all very well when one talks about widows in general.
It is easy to chaff about women when one hasn't got any woman in
one's mind. But as it is now, having her here, loving her as I
do,--by Heaven! I cannot hurry her. I don't dare ask to speak
to her after that fashion. I shall do it in time, I suppose;--
but I must wait till the time comes.'
THE LADIES AT LONGBARNS DOUBT.
It came at last to be decided among them that when old Mr Wharton
returned to town,--and he had now been at Wharton longer than he
had ever been known to remain there before,--Emily should still
remain in Hertfordshire, and that at some period not then fixed
she should go for a month to Longbarns. There were various
reasons which induced her to consent to this change of plans. In
the first place she found herself to be infinitely more
comfortable in the country than in the town. She could go out
and move about and bestir herself, whereas in Manchester Square
she could only sit at home. Her father had assured her that he
thought that it would be better that she should be away from the
reminiscences of the house in town. And then when the first week
of February was past Arthur would be up in town, and she would be
far away from him at Longbarns, whereas in London she would be
close within his reach. Many little schemes were laid and
struggles made both by herself and the others before at last
their plans were settled. Mr Wharton was to return to London in
the middle of January. It was quite impossible that he could
remain longer away either from Stone Buildings or from the Eldon,
and then at the same time, or a day or two following, Mrs
Fletcher was to go back to Longbarns. John Fletcher and his wife
and children were already gone;--and Arthur also had been at
Longbarns. The two brothers and Everett had been backwards and
forwards. Emily was anxious to remain at Wharton at any rate
till Parliament should have met, so that she might not be at home
with Arthur in his own house. But matters would not arrange
themselves exactly as she wished. It was at last settled that
she should go to Longbarns with Mary Wharton under the charge of
John Fletcher in the first week in February. As arrangements
were already in progress for the purchase of Barnton Spinnies,
Sir Alured could not possibly leave his own house. Not to have
walked through the wood on the first day it became part of the
Wharton property would to him have been treason to the estate.
His experience ought to have told him that there was no chance of
a lawyer and a college dealing together with such rapidity; but
in the present state of things he could not bear to absent
himself. Orders had already been given for the cutting down of
certain trees which could not have been touched had the reprobate
lived, and it was indispensable that if a tree fell at Wharton he
should see the fall. It thus came to pass that there was a week
during which Emily would be forced to live under the roof of the
Fletchers together with Arthur Fletcher.
The week came and she was absolutely received by Arthur at the
door of Longbarns. She had not been at the house since it had
first been intimated to the Fletchers that she was disposed to
receive with favour the addresses of Ferdinand Lopez. As she
remembered this it seemed to her to be an age ago since that man
had induced her to believe that of all the men she had ever met
he was the nearest to a hero. She never spoke of him now, but of
course her thoughts of him were never ending,--as also of
herself in that she had allowed herself to be so deceived. She
would recall to her mind with bitter inward sobbings all those
lessons of iniquity which he had striven to teach her, and which
had first opened her eyes to his true character--how sedulously
he had endeavoured to persuade her that it was her duty to rob
her father on his behalf, how continually he had endeavoured to
make her think that appearance in the world was everything, and
that, being in truth poor adventurers, it behoved them to cheat
the world into thinking them rich and respectable. Every hint
that had been so given had been a wound to her, and those wounds
were all now remembered. Though since his death she had never
allowed a word to be spoken in her presence against him, she
could not but hate his memory. How glorious was that other man
in her eyes, as he stood there at the door welcoming her to
Longbarns, fair-haired, open-eyed, with bronzed brow and cheek,
and surly the honestest face that a loving woman ever loved to
gaze on. During the various lessons she had learned in her
married life, she had become gradually but surely aware that the
face of that other man had been dishonest. She had learned the
false meaning of every glance of his eyes, the subtlety of his
mouth, the counterfeit manoeuvres of his body,--the deceit even
of his dress. He had been all a lie from head to foot, and he
had thrown her love aside as useless when she also would not be a
liar. And here was this man,--spotless in her estimation,
compounded of all good qualities, which she could now see and
take at their proper value. She hated herself for the simplicity
with which she had been cheated by soft words and a false
demeanour into so great a sacrifice.
Life at Longbarns was very quiet during the days which she passed
there before she left them. She was frequently alone with him,
but he, if he still loved her, did not speak of his love. He
explained it all one day to his mother. 'If it is to be,' said
the old lady, 'I don't see the use of more delay. Of course the
marriage ought not to be till March twelvemonths. But if it is
understood that it is to be, she might alter her dress by
degrees,--and alter her manner of living. These things should
always be done by degrees. I think it had better be settled,
Arthur, if it is to be settled.'
'I am afraid, mother.'
'Dear me! I didn't think you were the man ever to be afraid of a
woman. What can she say to you?'
'Then you had better know at once. But I don't think she'll be
fool enough for that.'
'Perhaps you hardly understand her, mother.'
Mrs Fletcher shook her head with a look of considerable
annoyance. 'Perhaps not. But, to tell you the truth, I don't
like young women whom I can't understand. Young women shouldn't
be mysterious. I like people of whom I can give a pretty good
guess what they'll do. I'm sure I never could have guessed that
she would have married that man.'
'If you love me, mother, do not let that be mentioned between us
again. When I said that you did not understand her, I did not
mean that she was mysterious. I think that before he died, and
since his death, she learned of what sort that man was. I will
not say that she hates his memory, but she hates herself for what
she has done.'
'So she ought,' said Mrs Fletcher.
'She has not yet brought herself to think that her life should be
anything but one long period of mourning, not for him, but for
her own mistake. You may be quite sure that I am in earnest. It
is not because I doubt of myself that I put it off. But I fear
that if once she asserts to me her resolution to remain as she
is, she will feel herself bound to keep her word.'
'I suppose she is very much the same as other women, after all,
my dear,' said Mrs Fletcher, who was almost jealous of the
peculiar superiority of sentiment which her son seemed to
attribute to this woman.
'Circumstances, mother, make people different,' he replied.
'So you are going without having anything fixed,' his elder
brother said to him the day before he started.
'Yes, old fellow. It seems to be rather slack;--doesn't it?'
'I dare say you know best what you're about. But if you have set
your mind on it-'
'You may take your oath on that.'
'Then I don't see why one word shouldn't put it all right. There
never is any place so good for that kind of thing as a country
'I don't think that with her it will make much difference where
the house is, or what the circumstances.'
'She knows what you mean as well as I do.'
'I dare say she does, John. She must have a very bad idea of me
if she doesn't. But she may know what I mean and not mean the
same thing herself.'
'How are you to know if you don't ask her?'
'You may be sure that I shall ask her as soon as I can hope that
my doing so may give her more pleasure than pain. Remember, I
have had all this out with her father. I have determined that I
will wait till twelve months have passed since that wretched man
On that afternoon before dinner he was alone with her in the
library some minutes before they went up to dress for dinner. 'I
shall hardly see you to-morrow,' he said, 'as I must leave this
at half-past eight. I breakfast at eight. I don't suppose
anyone will be down except my mother.'
'I am generally as early as that. I will come down and see you
'I am so glad that you have been here, Emily.'
'So am I. Everybody has been so good to me.'
'It has been like old days,--almost.'
'It will never quite be like old days again, I think. But I have
been very glad to be here;--and at Wharton. I sometimes almost
wish that I were never going back to London again,--only for
'I like London myself.'
'You! Yes, of course you like London. You have everything in
life before you. You have things to do, and much to hope for.
It is all beginning for you, Arthur.'
'I am five years older than you are.'
'What does that matter? It seems to me that age does not go by
years. It is long since I have felt myself to be an old woman.
But you are quite young. Everybody is proud of you, and you
ought to be happy.'
'I don't know,' said he, 'it is hard to say what makes a person
happy.' He almost made up his mind to speak to her then; but he
had made up his mind before to put it off still for a little
time, and he would not allow himself to be changed on the spur of
the moment. He had thought of it much, and he had almost taught
himself to think that it would be better for herself that she
should not accept another man's love so soon. 'I shall come and
see you in town,' he said.
'You must come and see papa. It seems to me that Everett is to
be a great deal at Wharton. I had better go up to dress now, or
I shall be keeping them waiting.' He put his hand to her, and
wished her good-bye, excusing himself by saying that they should
not be alone together before he started.
She saw him go on the next morning,--and then she almost felt
herself to be abandoned, almost deserted. It was a fine crisp
winter day, dry and fresh, and clear, but with the frost still on
the ground. After breakfast she went out to walk by herself in
the long shrubbery paths which went round the house, and here she
remained for above an hour. She told herself that she was very
thankful to him for not having spoken to her on a subject so
unfit for her ears as love. She strengthened herself in her
determination never again to listen to a man willingly on that
subject. She had made herself quite unfit to have any dealings
of that nature. It was not that she could not love. Oh no! She
knew well enough that she did love,--love will all her heart. If
it were not that she were so torn to rags that she was not fit to be
worn again, she could now have thrown herself into his arms with
a whole heaven of joy before her. A woman, she told herself, had
no right to a second chance in life, after having made a
shipwreck of herself in the first. But the danger of being
seduced from her judgement by Arthur Fletcher was all over. He
had been near her for the last week and had not spoken a word.
He had been in the same house with her for the last ten days and
had been with her as a brother might be with his sister. It was
not only she who had seen the propriety of this. He also had
acknowledged it, and she was--grateful to him. As she
endeavoured in her solitude to express her gratitude in spoken
words the tears rolled down her cheeks. She was glad, she told
herself, very glad that it was so. How much trouble and pain to
both of them would thus be spared! And yet her tears were bitter
tears. It was better as it was;--and yet one word of love would
have been very sweet. She almost thought that she would have
liked to tell him that for his sake, for his dear sake, she would
refuse--that which now would never be offered to her. She was
quite clear as to the rectitude of her own judgement, clear as
ever. And yet her heart was heavy with disappointment.
It was the end of March before she left Hertfordshire for London,
having spent the greater part of the time at Longbarns. The
ladies at that place were moved by many doubts as to what would
be the end of all this. Mrs Fletcher the elder at last almost
taught herself to believe that there would be no marriage, and
having got back to that belief, was again opposed to the idea of
marriage. Anything and everything that Arthur wanted he ought to
have. The old lady felt no doubt as to that. When convinced
that he did not want to have the widow,--this woman whose life
had hitherto been so unfortunate,--she had for his sake taken
the woman again by the hand, and had assisted in making her one
of themselves. But how much better it would it be that Arthur
should think better of it! It was the maddest constancy,--this
clinging to the widow of such a man as Ferdinand Lopez! If there
were any doubt, then she would be prepared to do all she could to
prevent the marriage. Emily had been forgiven, and the pardon
bestowed must of course be continued. But she might be pardoned
without being made Mrs Arthur Fletcher. While Emily was still at
Longbarns the old lady almost talked over her daughter-in-law to
this way of thinking,--till John Fletcher put his foot upon it
altogether. 'I don't pretend to say what she may do,' he said.
'Oh, John,' said his mother, 'to hear a man like you talk like
that is absurd. She'd jump at him if he looked at her with half
'What she may do,' he continued saying, without appearing to
listen to his mother, 'I cannot say. But that he will ask her to
be his wife is as certain as I stand here.'
'HE THINKS THAT OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED.'
All the details of the new County Suffrage Bill were settled at
Matching during the recess between Mr Monk, Phineas Finn, and a
very experienced man from the Treasury, one Mr Prime, who was
supposed to know more about such things than any man living, and
was consequently called Constitution Charlie. He was an elderly
man, over sixty years of age, who remembered the Reform Bill, and
had been engaged in the doctoring of constituencies ever since.
The bill, if passed, would be mainly his bill, and yet the world
would never hear his name connected with it. Let us hope that
he was comfortable at Matching, and that he found his consolation
in the smiles of the Duchess. During this time the old Duke was
away, and even the Prime Minister was absent for some days. He
would fain have busied himself about the bill himself, but was
hardly allowed by his colleagues to have any hand in framing it.
The great points of the measure had of course been arranged in
the Cabinet,--where, however, Mr Monk's views had been adopted
almost without a change. It may not perhaps be too much to
assume that one or two members of the Cabinet did not quite
understand the full scope of every suggested clause. The effects
which causes will produce, the dangers which may be expected from
this or that change, the manner in which this or that proposition
will come out in the washing, do not strike even Cabinet
Ministers at a glance. A little study in a man's own cabinet,
after perhaps reading a few leading articles, and perhaps a
short conversation with an astute friend or two, will enable a
statesman to be strong at a given time for, or ever, if
necessary, against a measure, who has listened in silence, and
has perhaps given his personal assent, to the original
suggestion. I doubt whether Lord Drummond, when he sat silent in
the Cabinet, had realized those fears which weighed upon him so
strongly afterwards, or had then foreseen that the adoption of a
nearly similar franchise for the counties and boroughs must
inevitably lead to the American system of numerical
representation. But when time had been given him, and he and Sir
Timothy Beeswax had talked it all over, the mind of no man was
ever clearer than that of Lord Drummond.
The Prime Minister, with the diligence which belonged to him, had
mastered all the details of Mr Monk's bill before it was
discussed in the Cabinet, and yet he found that his assistance
was hardly needed in the absolute preparation. Had they allowed
him he would have done it all himself. But it was assumed that
he would not trouble himself with such work, and he perceived
that he was not wanted. Nothing of moment was settled without
reference to him. He required that everything should be
explained as it went on, down to the extension of every borough
boundary; but he knew that he was not doing it himself, and that
Mr Monk and Constitution Charlie had the prize between them.
Nor did he dare ask Mr Monk what would be the fate of the bill.
To devote all one's time and mind and industry to a measure which
one knows will fall to the ground must be sad. Work under such
circumstances must be very grievous. But such is often the fate
of statesmen. Whether Mr Monk laboured under such a conviction
the Prime Minister did not know, though he saw his friend and
colleague almost daily. In truth no one dared to tell him
exactly what he thought. Even the old Duke had become partially
reticent, and taken himself off to his own woods at Long Royston.
To Phineas Finn the Prime Minister would sometimes say a word,
but would say even that timidly. On any abstract question, such
as that which he had discussed when they had been walking
together, he could talk freely enough. But on the matter of the
day, those affairs which were of infinite importance to himself,
and on which one would suppose he would take delight in speaking
to a trusted colleague, he could not bring himself to be open.
'It must be a long bill, I suppose?'
'I'm afraid so, Duke. It will run, I fear, to over a hundred
'It will take the best part of the Session to get through it?'
'If we can have the second reading early in March, we hope to
send it up to you in the first week in June. That will give us
'Yes;--yes. I suppose so.' But he did not dare to ask Phineas
Finn whether he thought that the House of Commons would assent to
the second reading. It was known at this time that the Prime
Minister was painfully anxious to the fate of the Ministry. It
seemed to be but the other day that everybody connected with the
Government was living in fear lest he should resign. His threats
in that direction had always been made to his old friend the Duke
of St Bungay; but a great man cannot whisper his thoughts without
having them carried in the air. In all the clubs it had been
declared that that was the rock by which the Coalition would
probably be wrecked. The newspapers had repeated the story, and
the "People's Banner" had assured the world that if it were so
the Duke of Omnium would thus do for his country the only good
service which it was possible that he should render it. That was
the time when Sir Orlando was mutinous and when Lopez had
destroyed himself. But now no such threat came from the Duke,
and the "People's Banner" was already accusing him of clinging to
power with pertinacious and unconstitutional tenacity. Had not
Sir Orlando deserted him? Was it not well known that Lord
Drummond and Sir Timothy Beeswax were only restrained from doing
so by a mistaken loyalty?
Everybody came up to town, Mr Monk having his bill in his pocket,
and the Queen's speech was read, promising the County Suffrage
Bill. The address was voted with a very few words from either
side. The battle was not to be fought then. Indeed, the state
of things was so abnormal that there could hardly be said to be
any sides in the House. A stranger in the gallery, not knowing
the condition of affairs, would have thought that no minister had
for many years commanded so large a majority, as the crowd of
members was always on the Government side of the House; but the
opposition which Mr Monk expected would, he knew, come from those
who sat around him, behind him, and even at his very elbow.
About a week after Parliament met the bill was read for the first
time, and the second reading was appointed for an early day in
The Duke had suggested to Mr Monk the expedience of some further
delay, giving his reason the necessity of getting through certain
routine work, should the rejection of the bill create the
confusion of a resignation. No one who knew the Duke could ever
suspect him of giving a false reason. But it seemed that in this
the Prime Minister was allowing himself to be harassed by fears
of the future. Mr Monk thought that any delay would be injurious
and open to suspicion after what had been said and done, and was
urgent in his arguments. The Duke gave way, but he did so almost
sullenly, signifying his acquiescence with haughty silence. 'I
am sorry,' said Mr Monk, 'to differ from your Grace, but my
opinion in the matter is so strong that I do not dare to abstain
from expressing it.' The Duke bowed again and smiled. He had
intended that the smile should be acquiescent, but it had been as
cold as steel. He knew that he was misbehaving, but was not
sufficiently master of his own manner to be gracious. He told
himself on the spot,--though he was quite wrong in so telling
himself,--that he had now made an enemy also of Mr Monk, and
through Mr Monk of Phineas Finn. And now he felt that he had no
friend left in whom he could trust,--for the old Duke had become
cold and indifferent. The old Duke, he thought, was tired of his
work and anxious to rest. It was the old Duke who had brought
him into this hornet's nest; had fixed upon his back the unwilling
load; had compelled him to assume the place which now to lose
would be a disgrace,--and the old Duke was now deserting him!
He was sore all over, angry with everyone, ungracious even with
his private Secretary and his wife,--and especially miserable
because he was thoroughly aware of his own faults. And yet,
through it all, there was present to him a desire to fight on to
the very last. Let his colleagues do what they might, and say
what they might, he would remain Prime Minister of England as
long as he was supported by a majority in the House of Commons.
'I do not know any greater ship than this,' Phineas said to him
pleasantly one day, speaking of their new measure, 'towards that
millennium of which we were talking at Matching, if we can only
'Those moral speculations, Mr Finn,' he said, 'will hardly beat
the wear and tear of real life.' The words of the answer,
combined with the manner in which they were spoken, were stern
and almost uncivil. Phineas, at any rate, had done nothing to
offend him. The Duke paused, trying to find some expression by
which he might correct the injury he had done, but, not finding
any, passed on without further speech. Phineas shrugged his
shoulders and went his way, telling himself that he had received
one further injunction not to put his trust in princes.
'We shall be beaten certainly,' said Mr Monk to Phineas not long
'What makes you so sure?'
'I smell it in the air. I see it in men's faces.'
'And yet it's a moderate bill. They'll have to pass something
stronger before long if they throw it out now.'
'It's not the bill that they'll reject, but us. We have served
our turn, and we ought to go.'
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