The Prime Minister
Part 15 out of 16
'The House is tired of the Duke?'
'The Duke is so good a man that I hardly like to admit even that,
--but I fear it is so. He is fretful and he makes enemies.'
'I sometimes think that he is ill.'
'He is ill at ease and sick at heart. He cannot hide his
chagrin, and then is double wretched because he has betrayed it.
I do not know that I ever respected, and, at the same time, pitied a
man more thoroughly.'
'He snubbed me awfully yesterday,' said Phineas.
'He cannot help himself. He snubs me at every word that he
speaks; yet I believe that is most anxious to be civil to me.
His ministry has been of great service to the country. For
myself, I shall never regret having joined it. But I think that
to him it has been a continual sorrow.'
The system on which the Duchess had commenced her career as wife
of the Prime Minister had now been completely abandoned. In the
first place, she had herself become so weary of it that she had
been unable to continue the exertion. She had, too, become in
some degree ashamed of her failures. The names of Major Pountney
and Mr Lopez were not now pleasant to her ears, nor did she look
back with satisfaction on the courtesies she had lavished on Sir
Orlando or the smiles she had given to Sir Timothy Beeswax.
'I've known a good many vulgar people in my time,' she said one
day to Mrs Finn, 'but none ever so vulgar as our ministerial
supporters. You don't remember Mr Bott, my dear. He was before
your time;--one of the arithmetical men, a great friend of
Plantagenet's. He was very bad, but there have come up worse
since him. Sometimes, I think, I like a little vulgarity for a
change; but, upon my honour, when we get rid of all this it will
be a pleasure to go back to ladies and gentlemen.' This the
Duchess said in extreme bitterness.
'It seems to me that you have pretty well got rid of "all this"
'But I haven't got anybody else in their place. I have almost
made up my mind not to ask anyone into the house for the next
twelve months. I used to think that nothing would ever knock me
up, but now I feel that I'm almost done for. I hardly dare open
my mouth to Plantagenet. The Duke of St Bungay has cut me. Mr
Monk looks as ominous as an owl; and your husband hasn't a word
to say left. Barrington Erle hides his face and passes by when
he sees me. Mr Rattler did try to comfort me the other day by
saying that everything was at sixes and sevens, and I really took
it almost as a compliment to be spoken to. Don't you think
Plantagenet is ill?'
'He is careworn.'
'A man may be worn by care till there comes to be nothing left of
him. But he never speaks of giving up now. The old Bishop of St
Austell talks of resigning, and he has already made up his mind
who is to have the see. He used to consult the Duke about all
these things, but I don't think he ever consults anyone now. He
never forgave the Duke about Lord Earlybird. Certainly, if a man
wants to quarrel with all his friends, and to double the hatred
of all his enemies, he had better become Prime Minister.'
'Are you really sorry that such was his fate, Lady Glen?'
'Ah,--I sometimes ask myself that question, but I never get an
answer. I should have thought him a poltroon if he had declined.
It is to be the greatest man in the greatest country in the
world. Do ever so little and the men who write history must
write about you. And no man ever tried to be nobler than he till
'Make no exception. If he be careworn and ill and weary, his
manners cannot be the same as they were, but his purity is the
same as ever.'
'I don't know that it would remain so. I believe in him, Marie,
more than in any man,--but I believe in none thoroughly. There
is a devil creeps in upon them when their hands are strengthened.
I do not know what I would have wished. Whenever I do wish, I
always wish wrong. Ah, me; when I think of all those people I
had down at Gatherum,--of the trouble I took, and of the
glorious anticipations in which I revelled, I do feel ashamed of
myself. Do you remember when I was determined that that wretch
should be member for Silverbridge?'
'You haven't seen her since, Duchess?'
'No; but I mean to see her. I couldn't make her first husband
member, and therefore the man who is member is to be her second
husband. But I'm almost sick of schemes. Oh dear, I wish I knew
something that was really pleasant to do. I have never really
enjoyed anything since I was in love, and I only liked that
because it was wicked.'
The Duchess was wrong in saying that the Duke of St Bungay had
cut them. The old man still remembered the kiss and still
remembered the pledge. But he had found it very difficult to
maintain his old relations with his friend. It was his opinion
that the Coalition had done all that was wanted from it, and that
now had come the time when they might retire gracefully. It is,
no doubt, hard for a Prime Minister to find an excuse for going.
But if the Duke of Omnium would have been content to acknowledge
that he was not the man to alter the County Suffrage, an excuse
might have been found that would have been injurious to no one.
Mr Monk and Mr Gresham might have joined, and the present Prime
Minister might have resigned, explaining that he had done all
that he had been appointed to accomplish. He had, however,
yielded at once to Mr Monk, and now it was to be feared that the
House of Commons would not accept the bill from his hands. In
such a state of things,--especially after that disagreement
about Lord Earlybird,--it was difficult for the old Duke to
tender his advice. He was at every Cabinet Council; he always
came when his presence was required; he was invariably good-
humoured;--but it seemed to him that his work was done. He
could hardly volunteer to tell his chief and his colleague that
he would certainly be beaten in the House of Commons, and that
therefore there was little more now to be done than to arrange
the circumstances of their retirement. Nevertheless, as the
period of the second reading of the bill came on, he resolved
that he would discuss the matter with his friend. He owed it to
himself to do so, and he owed it to the man whom he had certainly
placed in his present position. On himself politics had imposed
a burden very much lighter than that which they had inflicted on
his more energetic and much less practical colleague. Through
his long life he had either been in office, or in such a position
that men were sure that he would soon return to it. He had taken
it, when it had come, willingly, and had always left without a
regret. As a man cuts in and out at a whist table, and enjoys
the game and the rest from the game, so had the Duke of St Bungay
been well pleased in either position. He was patriotic; but his
patriotism did not disturb his digestion. He had been ambitious,
--but moderately ambitious, and his ambition had been gratified.
It never occurred to him to be unhappy because he or his party
were beaten on a measure. When President of the Council, he
would do his duty and enjoy London life. When in opposition, he
could linger in Italy till May and devote his leisure to his
trees and his bullocks. He was always esteemed, always self-
satisfied, and always Duke of St Bungay. But with our Duke it
was very different. Patriotism with him was a fever, and the
public service an exacting mistress. As long as this had been
all he had still been happy. Not trusting in himself, he had never
aspired to great power. But now, now at last, ambition had laid
hold of him,--and the feeling, not perhaps uncommon with such
men, that personal dishonour attached to personal failure. What
would his future life be if he had so carried himself in his
great office as to have shown himself to be unfit to resume it?
Hitherto any office had sufficed him in which he might be useful;
--but now he must either be Prime Minister, or a silent, obscure,
and humbled man!
I will be with you to-morrow morning at 11am, if you can
give me half-an-hour.
The Prime Minister received this note one afternoon, a day or two
before that appointed for the second reading, and meeting his
friend within an hour in the House of Lords, confirmed the
appointment. 'Shall I not rather come to you?' he said. But the
old Duke, who lived in St James's Square, declared that Carlton
Terrace would be on his way to Downing Street, and so the matter
was settled. Exactly at eleven the two Ministers met. 'I don't
like troubling you,' said the old man, 'when I know that you have
so much to think of.'
'On the contrary, I have but little to think of,--and my
thoughts must be very much engaged, indeed, when they shall be
too full to admit of seeing you.'
'Of course we are all anxious about this bill.' The Prime
Minister smiled. Anxious! Yes, indeed. His anxiety was of such
a nature that it kept him awake all night, and never for a moment
left his mind free by day. 'And of course we must be prepared as
to what shall be done either in the event of success or failure.'
'You might as well read that,' said the other. 'It only reached
me this morning, or I should have told you of it.' The letter
was a communication from the Solicitor-General containing his
resignation. He had now studied the County Suffrage Bill closely,
and regretted to say that he could not give it conscientious
support. It was a matter of sincerest sorrow to him that his
relations so pleasant should be broken, but he must resign his
place, unless, indeed, the clauses as to redistribution could be
withdrawn. Of course he did not say this as expecting any such
concession would be made to his opinion, but merely as indicating
the matter on which his objection was so strong as to over-rule
all other considerations. All this he explained at great length.
'The pleasantness of the relations must have all been on one
side,' said the veteran. 'He ought to have gone a long time
'And Lord Drummond has already as good as said that unless we
will abandon the same clauses, he must oppose the bill in the
'And resign, of course.'
'He meant that, I presume. Lord Ramsden has not spoken to me.'
'The clauses will not stick in his throat. Nor ought they. If
the lawyers have their own way about the law they should be
'The question is, whether in these circumstances we should
postpone the second reading?' asked the Prime Minister.
'Certainly not,' said the other Duke. 'As to the Solicitor-
General you will have no difficulty. Sir Timothy was only placed
there as a concession to his party. Drummond will no doubt
continue to hold his office till we see what is done in the Lower
House. If the second reading be lost there,--why, then his
lordship can go with the rest of us.'
'Rattler says we shall have a majority. He and Roby are quite
agreed about it. Between them they must know,' said the Prime
Minister, unintentionally pleading for himself.
'They ought to know, if any men do;--but the crisis is
exceptional. I suppose you think that if the second reading is
lost we should resign?'
'Or, after that, if the bill is much mutilated in Committee? I
don't know that I shall personally break my own heart about the
bill. The existing difference in the suffrages is rather in
accordance with my prejudices. But the country desires the
measure, and I suppose we cannot consent to any material
alteration as these men suggest.' As he spoke he laid his hand
on Sir Timothy's letter.
'Mr Monk would not hear of it,' said the Prime Minister.
'Of course not. And you and I in this measure must stick to Mr
Monk. My great, indeed my only strong desire in the matter, is
to act in unison with you.'
'You are always good and true, Duke.'
'For my own part, I shall not in the least regret to find in all
this an opportunity for resigning. We have done our work, and
if, as I believe, a majority of the House would again support
either Gresham or Monk as the head of the entire Liberal party, I
think that that arrangement would be for the welfare of the
'Why should it make any difference to you? Why should you not
return to the Council?'
'I should not do so;--certainly not at once, probably never.
But you,--who are in the very prime of your life--'
The Prime Minister did not smile now. He knit his brows and a
dark shadow came across his face. 'I don't think I could do
that,' he said. 'Caesar would hardly have led a legion under
'It has been done, greatly to the service of the country, and
without the slightest loss of honour or character in him who did
'We need hardly talk of that, Duke. You think then that we shall
fail;--fail, I mean in the House of Commons. I do not know that
failure in our House should be regarded as fatal.'
'In three cases we should fail. The loss of any material clause
in Committee would be as bad as the loss of the bill.'
'And then, in spite of Messrs Rattler and Roby,--who have been
wrong before and may be wrong now,--we may lose the second
'And the third chance against us?'
'You would not probably try to carry on the bill with a very
'Not with three or four.'
'Nor, I think, with six or seven. It would be useless. My own
belief is that we shall never carry the bill into Committee.'
'I have always known you to be right, Duke.'
'I think that the general opinion has set in that direction, and
general opinion is generally right. Having come to that
conclusion I thought it best to tell you, in order that we might
have our house in order.' The Duke of Omnium, with all his
haughtiness and all his reserve, was the simplest man in the
world and the least apt to pretend to be that which he was not,
sighed deeply when he heard this. 'For my own part,' continued
the elder, 'I feel no regret that it should be so.'
'It is the first large measure that we have tried to carry.'
'We did not come in to carry large measures, my friend. Look
back and see how many large measures Pitt carried;--but he took
the country safely through its most dangerous crisis.'
'What have we done?'
'Carried on the Queen's Government prosperously for three years.
Is that nothing for a minister to do? I have never been a friend
of great measures, knowing that when they come fast, one after
another, more is broken in the rattle than is repaired by the
reform. We have done what Parliament and the country expected us
to do, and to my poor judgement we have done it well.'
'I do not feel such self-satisfaction, Duke. Well;--we must see
it out, and if it is as you anticipate, I shall be ready. Of
course I have prepared myself for it. And if, of late, my mind
has been less turned to retirement than it used to be, it has
been because I have become wedded to this measure, and have
wished it that it should be carried under our auspices.' Then
the old Duke took his leave, and the Prime Minister was left
alone to consider the announcement that had been made to him.
He had said that he had prepared himself, but, in so saying, he
had hardly known himself. Hitherto, though he had been troubled
by many doubts, he had still hoped. The report made to him by Mr
Rattler, backed as it had been by Mr Roby's assurances, had
almost sufficed to give him confidence. But Mr Rattler and Mr
Roby combined were as nothing to the Duke of St Bungay. The
Prime Minister knew now,--that his days were numbered. The
resignation of that lingering old bishop was not completed, and
the person whom he believed would not have the see. He had
meditated the making of a peer or two, having hitherto been
cautious in that respect, but he would do nothing of the kind if
called upon by the House of Commons to resign with an uncompleted
measure. But his thoughts soon ran away from the present to the
future. What was now to become of himself? How should he live
his future life;--he who as yet had not passed his forty-seventh
year? He regretted much having made that apparently pretentious
speech about Caesar, though he knew his old friend well enough to
be sure that it would never be used against him. Who was he that
he should class himself among the big ones of the world? A man
may indeed measure small things by great, but the measurer should
be careful to declare his own littleness when he illustrates his
position by that of the topping ones of the earth. But the thing
said had been true. Let the Pompey be who he might, he, the
little Caesar of the day, could never now command another legion.
He had once told Phineas Finn that he regretted that he had
abstained from the ordinary amusements of English gentlemen. But
he had abstained from their ordinary occupations,--except so far
as politics is one of them. He cared nothing for oxen or for
furrows. In regard to his own land he hardly knew whether the
farms were large or small. He had been a scholar, and after a
certain fitful fashion he had maintained his scholarship, but the
literature to which he had been really attached had been that of
blue books and newspapers. What was he to do with himself when
called upon to resign? And he understood,--or thought that he
understood,--his position too well to expect that after a while,
with the usual interval, he might return to power. He had been
Prime Minister, not as the leading politician on either side, not
as the king of the party, but,--so he told himself,--as a stop-
gap. There could be nothing for him now till the insipidity of
life should gradually fade away into the grave.
After a while he got up and went off to his wife's apartment, the
room in which she used to prepare her triumphs and where now she
contemplated her disappointments. 'I have had the Duke with me,'
'I do not know that he could have done any good by coming
'And what does his Grace say?'
'He thinks our days are numbered.'
'Psha!--is that all? I could have told him that ever so long
ago. It was hardly necessary that he should disturb himself at
last to come and tell us such well-ventilated news. There isn't
a porter at one of the clubs who doesn't know it.'
'Then there will be the less surprise,--and to those who are
concerned perhaps the less mortification.'
'Did he tell you who was to succeed you?' asked the Duchess.
'He ought to have done that, as I am sure he knows. Everybody
knows except you, Plantagenet.'
'If you know, you can tell me.'
'Of course I can. It is Mr Monk.'
'With all my heart, Glencora. Mr Monk is a very good man.'
'I wonder whether he'll do anything for us. Think how destitute
we shall be! What if I were to ask him for a place! Would he
not give it us?'
'Will it make you unhappy, Cora?'
'Yes;--the change altogether.'
She looked him in the face for a moment before she answered, with
a peculiar smile in her eyes to which he was well used,--a smile
half ludicrous, half pathetic,--having in it also a dash of
sarcasm. 'I can dare to tell the truth,' she said, 'which you
can't. I can be honest and straightforward. Yes, it will make
me unhappy. And you?'
'Do you think that I cannot be honest too,--at any rate to you?
It does fret me. I do not like to think that I shall be without
'Yes;--Othello's occupation will be gone,--for a while, for a
while.' Then she came up to him and put both her hands on his
breast. 'But yet, Othello, I shall not be unhappy.'
'Where will be your contentment?'
'In you. It was making you ill. Rough people whom the
tenderness of your nature could not well endure, trod upon you,
and worried you with their teeth and wounded you everywhere. I
could have turned at them again with my teeth, and given them
worry for worry;--but you could not. Now you will be saved from
them, and so I shall not be discontented.' All this she said
looking up into his face, still with that smile which was half
pathetic and half ludicrous.
'Then I shall be contented too,' he said as he kissed her.
ONLY THE DUKE OF OMNIUM.
The night of the debate arrived, but before the debate was
commenced, Sir Timothy Beeswax got up to make a personal
explanation. He thought it right to state to the House how it
came to pass that he found himself bound to leave the Ministry at
so important a crisis in its existence. Then an observation was
made by an honourable member of the Government,--presumably in a
whisper, but still loud enough to catch the sharp ears of Sir
Timothy, who now sat just below the gangway. It was said
afterwards that the gentleman who made the observation,--an
Irish gentleman named Fitzgibbon, conspicuous rather for his
loyalty to his party than his steadiness,--had purposely taken
the place in which he then sat, that Sir Timothy might hear his
whisper. The whisper suggested that falling houses were often
left by certain animals. It was certainly a very loud whisper,--
but, if gentlemen are to be allowed to whisper at all, it is
almost impossible to restrain the volume of the voice. To
restrain Mr Fitzgibbon had always been found difficult. Sir
Timothy, who did not lack pluck, turned at once upon his
assailant, and declared that words had been used with reference
to himself which the honourable member did not dare to get upon
his legs and repeat. Larry Fitzgibbon, as the gentleman was
called, looked him full in the face, but did not move his hat
from his head or stir a limb. It was a pleasant little episode
in the evening's work, and afforded satisfaction to the House
generally. The details of the measure, as soon as they were made
known to him, appeared to him, he said, to be fraught with the
gravest and most pernicious consequences. He was sure that
members of her Majesty's Government, who were hurrying on this
measure with what he thought was an indecent haste,--ministers
are always either indecent in haste or treacherous in their
delay,--had not considered what they were doing, or, if they had
considered, were blind as to the results. He then attempted to
discuss the details of the measure, but was called to order. A
personal explanation could not be allowed to give an opportunity
of anticipating the debate. He contrived, however, before he sat
down, to say some very heavy things against his late chief, and
especially to congratulate the Duke on the services of the
honourable gentleman, the member for Mayo,--meaning thereby Mr
It would have perhaps been well for everybody if the measure
could have been withdrawn and the Ministry could have resigned
without the debate,--as everybody was convinced what would be
the end of it. Let the second reading go as it might, the bill
could not be carried. There are measures which require the
hopeful heartiness of a new Ministry, and the thoroughgoing
energy of a young Parliament,--and this was one of them. The
House was as fully agreed that this change was necessary, as it
ever agreed on any subject,--but still the thing could not be
done. Even Mr Monk, who was the most earnest of men, felt the
general slackness of all around him. The commotion and
excitement which would be caused by a change of Ministry might
restore its proper tone to the House, but at its present
condition it was unfit for its work. Nevertheless Mr Monk made
his speech, and put all his arguments into lucid order. He knew
it was for nothing, but nevertheless it must be done. For hour
after hour he went on,--for it was necessary to give every
detail of his contemplated proposition. He went through it as
sedulously as though he had expected to succeed, and sat down
about nine o'clock in the evening. Then Sir Orlando moved the
adjournment of the House till the morrow, giving as his reason
for doing so, the expedience of considering the details he had
heard. To this no opposition was made, and the House was
On the following day the clubs were all alive with rumours as to
the coming debate. It was known that a strong party had been
formed under the auspices of Sir Orlando, and that with him Sir
Timothy and other politicians were in close council. It was of
course necessary that they should impart to many the secrets of
their conclave, so that it was known early in the afternoon that
it was the intention of the Opposition not to discuss the bill,
but to move that it be read again that day six months. The
Ministry had hardly expected this, as the bill was undoubtedly
popular both in the House and the country; and if the Opposition
should be beaten in such a course, that defeat would tend greatly
to strengthen the hands of the Government. But if the foe should
succeed in carrying a positive veto on the second reading, it
would under all the circumstances be tantamount to a want of
confidence. 'I'm afraid they know almost more than we do as to
the feeling of members,' said Mr Roby to Mr Rattler.
'There isn't a man in the House whose feeling in the matter I
don't know,' said Rattler, 'but I'm not quite so sure of their
principles. On our own side, in our old party, there are a score
of men who detest the Duke, though they would fain be true to
the Government. They have voted with him through thick and thin,
and he has not spoken a word to them since he became Prime
Minister. What are you to do with such a man? How are you to
act with him?'
'Lupton wrote to him the other day about something,' answered the
other, 'I forget what, and he got a note back from Warburton as
cold as ice,--an absolute slap in the face. Fancy treating a
man like Lupton in that way,--one of the most popular men in the
House, related to half the peerage, and a man who thinks so much
of himself! I shouldn't wonder if he were to vote against us;--
I shouldn't indeed.'
'It has all been the old Duke's doing,' said Rattler, 'and no
doubt it was intended for the best; but the thing has been a
failure from the beginning to the end. I knew it would be so. I
don't think there has been a single man who has understood what a
Ministerial Coalition really means except you and I. From the
very beginning all your men were averse to it in spirit.'
'Look how they were treated!' said Mr Roby. 'Was it likely that
they should be very staunch when Mr Monk became Leader of the
There was a Cabinet Council that day which lasted but a few
minutes, and it may be easily presumed that the Ministers decided
that they would all resign at once if Sir Orlando should carry
his amendment. It is not unlikely that they were agreed to do the
same if he should carry it,--leaving probably the Prime Minister
to judge what narrow majority would constitute nearness. On this
occasion the gentlemen assembled were jocose in their manner, and
apparently well satisfied,--as though they saw before them an
end to all their troubles. The Spartan boy did not even make a
grimace when the wolf bit him beneath his frock, and these were
all Spartan boys. Even the Prime Minister, who had fortified
himself for the occasion, and who never wept in any company but
that of his wife and his old friend, was pleasant in his manner
and almost affable. 'We shan't make the step towards the
millennium just at present,' he said to Phineas Finn as they left
the room together,--referring to words which Phineas had spoken
on a former occasion, and which then had not been very well
'But we shall have made a step towards the step,' said Phineas,
'and getting to a millennium even that is something.'
'I suppose we are all too anxious,' said the Duke, 'to see some
green effects come from our own little doings. Good day. We
shall know all about it tolerably early. Monk seems to think
that it will be an attack on the Ministry and not on the bill,
and that it will be best to get a vote with as little delay as
'I'll bet an even five-pound note,' said Mr Lupton at the
Carlton, 'that the present Ministry is out to-morrow, and another
that no one names five members of the next Cabinet.'
'You can help to win your first bet,' said Mr Beauchamp, a very
old member, who, like many other Conservatives, had supported the
'I shall not do that,' said Lupton, 'though I think I ought. I
won't vote against the man in his misfortunes, though, upon my
soul, I don't love him very dearly. I shall vote neither way,
but I hope that Sir Orlando may succeed.'
'If he do, who is to come in?' said the other. 'I suppose you
don't want to serve under Sir Orlando?'
'Nor certainly under the Duke of Omnium. We shall not want a
Prime Minister as long as there are as good fish in the sea as
have been caught out of it.'
There had lately been formed a new Liberal club, established on a
broader basis than the Progress, and perhaps with a greater
amount of aristocratic support. This had come up since the Duke
had been Prime Minister. Certain busy men had never been quite
contented with the existing state of things, and had thought that
the Liberal party, with such assistance as the club could give
it, would be strong enough to rule alone. That the great Liberal
party should be impeded in its work and its triumph by such men
as Sir Orlando Drought and Sir Timothy Beeswax was odious to the
club. All the Pallisers had, from time immemorial, run straight
as Liberals, and therefore the club had been unwilling to oppose
the Duke personally, though he was the head of the Coalition.
And certain members of the Government, Phineas Finn, for
instance, Barrington Erle, and Mr Rattler were on the committee
of the club. But the club, as a club, was not averse to a
discontinuance of the present state of things. Mr Gresham might
again become Prime Minister, if he would condescend so far, or
Mr Monk. It might be possible that the great Liberal triumph
contemplated by the club might not be achieved by the present
House;--but the present House must go shortly, and then, with
that assistance from a well-organized club, which had lately been
so terribly wanting,--the lack of which had made the Coalition
necessary,--no doubt the British constituencies would do their
duty, and a Liberal Prime Minister, pure and simple, might reign,
--almost for ever. With this great future before it, the club
was very lukewarm in its support of the present bill. 'I shall
go down and vote for them of course,' said Mr O'Mahony, 'just for
the look of the thing.' In saying this Mr O'Mahony expressed the
feeling of the club, and the feeling of the Liberal party
generally. There was something due to the Duke, but not enough
to make it incumbent on his friends to maintain his position as
It was a great day for Sir Orlando. At half-past four the House
was full,--not from any desire to hear Sir Orlando's arguments
against the bill, but because it was felt that a good deal of
personal interest would be attached to the debate. If one were
asked in these days what gift should a Prime Minister ask first
from the fairies, one would name the power of attracting personal
friends. Eloquence, if it be too easy, may become almost a
curse. Patriotism is suspected, and sometimes sinks to pedantry.
A Jove-born intellect is hardly wanted, and clashes with the
inferiorities. Industry is exacting. Honesty is unpractical.
Truth is easily offended. Dignity will not bend. But the man
who can be all things to all men, who has ever a kind word to
speak, a pleasant joke to crack, who can forgive all sins, who is
ever prepared for friend or foe, but never very bitter to the
latter, who forgets not man's names, and is always ready with
little words,--he is the man who will be supported at a crisis
such as this that was now in the course of passing. It is for
him that men will struggle, and talk, and, if needs be, fight, as
though the very existence of the country depended on his
political security. The present man would receive no such
defence, but still the violent deposition of a Prime Minister is
always a memorable occasion.
Sir Orlando made his speech, and, as had been anticipated, it had
very little to do with the bill, and was almost exclusively an
attack upon his late chief. He thought, he said, that this was
an occasion on which they had better come to a direct issue with
as little delay as possible. If he rightly read the feeling of
the House, no bill of this magnitude coming from the present
Ministry would be likely to be passed in an efficient condition.
The Duke had frittered away his support in that House, and as a
Minister had lost that confidence which a majority of the House
had once been willing to place in him. We need not follow Sir
Orlando through his speech. He alluded to his own services, and
declared that he was obliged to withdraw them because the Duke
would not trust him with the management of his own office. He
had reason to believe that other gentlemen who had attached
themselves to the Duke's Ministry had found themselves equally
crippled by this passion for autocratic rule. Hereupon a loud
chorus of disapprobation came from the Treasury bench, which was
fully answered by opposing noises from the other side of the
House. Sir Orlando declared that he need only point to the fact
that the Ministry had been already shivered by the secession of
various gentlemen. 'Only two,' said a voice. Sir Orlando was
turning round to contradict the voice when he was greeted by
another. 'And those the weakest,' said another voice, which was
indubitably that of Larry Fitzgibbon. 'I will not speak of
myself,' said Sir Orlando pompously, 'but I am authorized to tell
the House that the noble lord who is now the Secretary of State
for the Colonies only holds his office till this crisis is
After that there was some sparring of a very bitter kind between
Sir Timothy and Phineas Finn, till at last it seemed that the
debate was to degenerate into a war of man against man. Phineas
and Erle, and Laurance Fitzgibbon allowed themselves to be lashed
into anger, and, as far as words went, had the best of it. But
of what use could it be? Every man there had come into the House
prepared to vote for or against the Duke of Omnium,--or
resolved, like Mr Lupton, not to vote at all, and it was hardly
on the cards that a single vote should be turned this way or that
by any violence of speaking. 'Let it pass,' said Mr Monk in a
whisper to Phineas. 'The fire is not worth the fuel.'
'I know the Duke's faults,' said Phineas, 'but these men know
nothing of his virtues, and when I hear them abuse him, I cannot
Early in the night,--before twelve o'clock,--the House divided,
and even at that moment of the division no one quite knew how it
would go. There would be many who would of course vote against
the amendment as being simply desirous of recording their opinion
in favour of the bill generally. And there were some who thought
that Sir Orlando and his followers had been too forward, and too
confident of their own standing in the House, in trying so
violent a mode of opposition. It would have been better, these
men thought, to have insured success by a gradual and persistent
opposition to the bill itself. But they hardly knew how
thoroughly men may be alienated by silence and a cold demeanour.
Sir Orlando on the division was beaten, but was beaten only by
nine. 'He can't go on with this bill,' said Rattler in one of
the lobbies of the House. 'I defy him. The House wouldn't stand
it, you know.' 'No minister,' said Roby, 'could carry a measure
like that with a majority of nine on a vote of confidence!' The
House was of course adjourned, and Mr Monk went at once to
'I wish it had only been three or four,' said the Duke, laughing.
'Because there would have been less doubt.'
'Is there any at present?'
'Less possibility for doubt, I should say. You would not wish me
to make the attempt with such a majority?'
'I could not do it, Duke.'
'I quite agree with you. But there will be those who will say
that the attempt might be made,--who will accuse me of being
faint-hearted because we do not make it.'
'They will be men who understand nothing of the temper of the
'Very likely. But still, I wish the majority had only been two
or three. There is little more to be said, I suppose.'
'Very little, your Grace.'
'We had better meet to-morrow at two, and if possible, I will see
her Majesty in the afternoon. Good night, Mr Monk.'
'Good night, Duke.'
'My reign is ended. You are a good deal and older man than I, and
yet probably yours has yet to begin.' Mr Monk smiled and shook
his head as he left the room, not trusting himself to discuss so
large a subject at so late an hour of the night.
Without waiting a moment after his colleague's departure, the
Prime Minister,--for he was still Prime Minister,--went into
his wife's room, knowing that she was waiting up till she should
hear the result of the division, and there he found Mrs Finn with
her. 'Is it over?' asked the Duchess.
'Yes;--there has been a division. Mr Monk has just been with
'We have beaten them, of course, as we always do,' said the Duke,
attempting to be pleasant. 'You didn't suppose there was
anything to fear? Your husband has always bid you keep up your
courage;--has he not, Mrs Finn?'
'My husband has lost his senses, I think,' she said. 'He has
taken to such storming and raving about his political enemies
that I hardly dare to open my mouth.'
'Tell what has been done, Plantagenet,' ejaculated the Duchess.
'Don't you be so unreasonable as Mrs Finn, Cora. The House has
voted against Sir Orlando's amendment by a majority of nine.'
'And I shall cease to be Prime Minister to-morrow.'
'You don't mean to say that it's settled?'
'Quite settled. The play has been played, and the curtain has
fallen, and the lights are being put out, and the poor weary
actors may go home to bed.'
'But on such an amendment surely any majority would have done.'
'No, my dear. I will not name a number, but nine certainly would
'And it is all over?'
'My Ministry is over, if you mean that.'
'Then everything is over for me. I shall settle down in the
country and build cottages, and mix draughts. You, Marie, will
still be going up the tree. If Mr Finn manages well he may come
to be Prime Minister some day.
'He has hardly such ambition, Lady Glen,'
'The ambition will come fast enough;--will it not, Plantagenet?
Let him once begin to dream of it as possible, and the desire
will soon be strong enough. How should you feel if it were so?'
'It is quite impossible,' said Mrs Finn, gravely.
'I don't see why anything is impossible. Sir Orlando will be
Prime Minister now, and Sir Timothy Beeswax Lord Chancellor.
After that anybody may hope to be anything. Well;--I suppose we
may go to bed. Is your carriage here, my dear?'
'I hope so.'
'Ring the bell, Plantagenet, for somebody to see her down. Come
to lunch to-morrow because I shall have so many groans to utter.
What beast, what brutes, what ungrateful wretches men are!--
worse than women when they get together in numbers enough to be
bold. Why have they deserted you? What have we not done for
them. Think of all the new bedroom furniture we sent to Gatherum
merely to keep the party together. There were thousands of yards
of linen, and it has all been of no use. Don't you feel like
'Not in the least, my dear. No one will take anything away from
me that I own.'
'For me, I'm almost as much divorced as Catherine, and have had
my head cut off as completely as Anne Bullen and the rest of
them. Go away, Marie, because I am going to have a cry by
The Duke himself on that night put Mrs Finn into her carriage;
and as he walked with her downstairs he asked her whether she
believed the Duchess was in earnest in her sorrow. 'She so mixes
up her mirth and woe together,' said the Duke, 'that I myself
sometimes can hardly understand her.'
'I think she does regret it, Duke.'
'She told me the other day that she would be contented.'
'A few weeks will make her so. As for your Grace, I hope I may
'Oh yes;--I think so. We none of us like to be beaten when we
have taken a thing in hand. There is always a little
disappointment at first. But, upon the whole, it is better as it
is. I hope it will not make your husband unhappy.'
'Not for his own sake. He will go again into the middle of the
scramble and fight on one side or the other. For my own part I
think opposition is the pleasantest. Good-night, Duke. I am so
sorry that I should have troubled you.'
Then he went alone to his own room, and sat there without moving
for a couple of hours. Surely it was a great thing to have been
Prime Minister of England for three years,--a prize of which
nothing could now rob him. He ought not to be unhappy; and yet
he knew himself to be wretched and disappointed. It had never
occurred to him to be proud of being a duke, or to think of his
wealth otherwise than a chance incident of his life, advantageous
indeed, but by no means a source of honour. And he had been
aware that he had owned his first seat in Parliament to his
birth, and probably also his first introduction to official life.
An heir to a dukedom, if he will only work, may almost with
certainty find himself received into one or other regiment in
Downing Street. It had not in his early days been with him as it
had with his friends Mr Monk and Phineas Finn, who had worked
their way from the very ranks. But even a duke cannot become
Prime Minister by favour. Surely he had done something of which
he might be proud. And so he tried to console himself.
But to have done something was nothing to him,--nothing to his
personal happiness,--unless there was also something left for
him to do. How should it be with him now,--now for the future?
Would men ever listen to him again, or allow him again to work in
their behoof, as he used to do in his happy days in the House of
Commons? He feared that it was all over for him, and that for
the rest of his days he must simply be the Duke of Omnium.
'I AM DISGRACED AND SHAMED.'
Soon after the commencement of the Session Arthur Fletcher became
a constant visitor in Manchester Square, dining with the old
barrister almost constantly on Sundays, and not unfrequently on
other days when the House and his general engagements would
permit it. Between him and Emily's father there was no secret
and no misunderstanding. Mr Wharton quite understood that the
young member of Parliament was earnestly purposed to marry his
daughter, and Fletcher was sure of all the assistance and support
which Mr Wharton could give him. The name of Lopez was very
rarely used between them. It had been tacitly agreed that there
was no need that it should be mentioned. The man had come like a
destroying angel between them and their fondest hopes. Neither
could ever be what he would have been had the man never appeared
to destroy their happiness. But the man had gone away, not
without a tragedy that was appalling;--and each thought that, as
regarded him, he and the person in whom they were interested
could be taught to seem to forget him. 'It is not love,' said
the father, 'but a feeling of shame.' Arthur Fletcher shook his
head, not quite agreeing with this. It was not that he feared
that she loved the memory of her late husband. Such love was, he
thought, impossible. But there was, he believed, something more
than the feeling which her father described as shame. There was
pride also;--a determination in her own bosom not to confess the
fault she had made in giving herself to him whom she must now
think to have been so much the least worthy of her two suitors.
'Her fortune will not be what I once promised you,' said the old
'I do not remember that I ever asked you as to her fortune,'
'Certainly not. If you had I would not have told you. But as I
named a sum, it is right that I should explain to you that that
man succeeded in lessening it by six or seven thousand pounds.'
'If that were all!'
'And I have promised Sir Alured that Everett, as his heir, should
have the use of a considerable portion of his share without
waiting for my death. It is odd that the one of my children from
whom I certainly expected the greater trouble should have fallen
so entirely on his feet; and that the other--; well, let us hope
for the best. Everett seems to have taken up with Wharton as
though it belonged to him already. And Emily--! Well, my dear
boy, let us hope that it may come right yet. You are not
drinking your wine. Yes,--pass the bottle. I'll have another
before I go upstairs.'
In this way the time went by till Emily returned to town. The
Ministry had just then resigned, but I think that 'this great
reactionary success,' as it was called by the writer in the
"People's Banner", affected one member of the Lower House much
less than the return to London of Mrs Lopez. Arthur Fletcher had
determined that he would renew his suit as soon as a year should
have expired since the tragedy which had made his love a widow;--
and that year had now passed away. He had known the day well,--
as had she, when she passed the morning weeping in her own room
at Wharton. Now he questioned himself whether a year would
suffice,--whether both in mercy to her and with a view of
realizing his own hopes he should give her some longer time for
recovery. But he had told himself that it should be done at the
end of a year, and as he had allowed no one to talk him out of
his word, so neither could he be untrue to it himself. But it
became to him a deep matter of business, a question of great
difficulty, how he should arrange the necessary interview,--
whether he should plead his case with her at their first meeting,
or whether he had better allow her to become accustomed to his
presence in the house. His mother had attempted to ridicule him,
because he was, as she said, afraid of a woman. He well
remembered that he had never been afraid of Emily Wharton when
they had been quite young,--little more than a boy and girl
together. Then he had told her of his love over and over again,
and had found almost a comfortable luxury in urging her to say a
word, which she had never indeed said, but which probably in
those days he still hoped she would say. And occasionally he had
feigned to be angry with her, and had tempted her on to little
quarrels with a boyish idea that a quick reconciliation would
perhaps throw her into his arms. But now it seemed to him that
an age had passed since those days. His love had certainly not
faded. There had never been a moment when that had been on the
wing. But now the azure plumage of his love had become grey as
the wings of a dove, and the gorgeousness of his dreams had
sobered into hopes and fears which were a constant burden to his
heart. There was time enough, still time enough for happiness if
she would yield;--and time enough for the dull pressure of
unsatisfied aspirations should she persist in her refusal.
At last he saw her, almost by accident, and that meeting
certainly was not fit for the purpose of his suit. He called at
Stone Buildings the day after her arrival, and found her at her
father's chambers. She had come there keeping some appointment
with him, and certainly had not expected to meet her lover. He
was confused and hardly able to say a word to account for his
presence, but she greeted him with almost sisterly affection,
saying some word of Longbarns and his family, telling him how
Everett, to Alured's great delight, had been sworn in as a
magistrate for the County, and how at the last hunt meeting John
Fletcher had been asked to take the County hounds because Lord
Weobly at seventy-five had declared himself to be unable any
longer to ride as a master of hounds ought to ride. All these
things Arthur had of course heard, such news being too important
to be kept long from him; but on none of these subjects had he
much to say. He stuttered and stammered, and quickly went away;
--not, however, before he had promised to come to dine as usual
on the next Sunday, and not without observing that the
anniversary of that fatal day of release had done something to
lighten the sombre load of mourning which the widow had hitherto
Yes;--he would dine there on the Sunday, but how would it be
with him then? Mr Wharton never went out of the house on a
Sunday evening, and could hardly be expected to leave his own
drawing-room for the sake of giving a lover an opportunity. No;
--he must wait till that evening should have passed, and then
make the occasion for himself as best he might. The Sunday came
and the dinner was eaten, and after dinner there was a single
bottle of port and the single bottle of claret. 'How do you
think she is looking?' asked the father. 'She was as pale as
death before we got her down into the country.'
'Upon my word, sir,' said he, 'I've hardly looked at her. It is
not a matter of looks now, as it used to be. It has got beyond
that. It is not that I am indifferent to seeing a pretty face,
or that I have no longer an opinion of my own about a woman's
figure. But there grows up, I think, a longing which almost
kills that consideration.'
'To me she is as beautiful as ever,' said the father proudly.
Fletcher did manage, when in the drawing-room to talk for a while
about John and the hounds, and then went away, having resolved
that he would come again on the very next day. Surely she would
not give an order that he should be denied admittance. She had
been too calm, too even, to confident of herself for that. Yes;
--he would come and tell her plainly what he had to say. He
would tell it with all the solemnity of which he was capable,
with a few words, and those the strongest of which he could use.
Should she refuse him;--as he almost knew that she would at
first,--then he would tell her of her father and of the wishes
of all their joint friends. 'Nothing,' he would say to her,
'nothing but personal dislike can justify you in refusing to heal
many wounds.' As he fixed on these words he failed to remember
how little probable it is that a lover should ever be able to use
the phrases which he arranges.
On the Monday he came, and asked for Mrs Lopez, slurring over the
word as best he could. The butler said his mistress was at home.
Since the death of the man he had so thoroughly despised, the old
servant had never called her Mrs Lopez. Arthur was shown
upstairs, and found the lady he sought,--but he found Mrs Roby
also. It may be remembered that Mrs Roby, after the tragedy, had
been refused admittance into Mr Wharton's house. Since that
there had been some correspondence, and a feeling had prevailed
that the woman was not to be quarrelled with forever. 'I did not
do it, papa, because of her,' Emily said with some scorn, and
that scorn had procured Mrs Roby's pardon. She was now making a
morning call, and suiting her conversation to the black dress of
her niece. Arthur was horrified at seeing her. Mrs Roby had
always been to him odious, not only as a personal enemy but as a
vulgar woman. He, at any rate, attributed on her a great part of
the evil that had been done, feeling sure that had there been no
house round the corner, Emily Wharton would never have become Mrs
Lopez. As it was he was forced to shake hands with her, and
forced to listen to the funereal tone in which Mrs Roby asked him
if he did not think that Mrs Lopez looked much improved since her
sojourn in Hertfordshire. He shrank at the sound, and then, in
order that it might not be repeated, took occasion to show that
he was allowed to call his early playmate by her Christian name.
Mrs Roby, thinking that she ought to check him, remarked that Mrs
Lopez's return was a great thing for Mr Wharton. Thereupon
Arthur Fletcher seized his hat off the ground, wished them both
good-bye, and hurried out of the room. 'What a very odd manner
he has taken up since he became a Member of Parliament,' said Mrs
Emily was silent for a moment, and then with an effort,--with
intense pain,--she said a word or two which she thought had
better be at once spoken. 'He went because he does not like to
hear that name.'
'And papa does not like it. Don't say a word about it, aunt;
pray don't,--but call me Emily.'
'Are you going to be ashamed of your name?'
'Never mind, aunt. If you think it wrong, you must stay away;--
but I will not have papa wounded.'
'Oh;--if Mr Wharton wishes it;--of course.' That evening Mrs
Roby told Dick Roby, her husband, what an old fool Mr Wharton
The next day quite early, Fletcher was again at the house and was
again admitted upstairs. The butler, no doubt, knew well enough
why he came, and also knew that the purport of his coming had at
any rate the sanction of Mr Wharton. The room was empty when he
was shown into it, but she came to him very soon. 'I went away
yesterday rather abruptly,' he said. 'I hope you did not think
'Your aunt was here, and I had something I wished to say but
could not say it very well before her.'
'I knew that she had driven you away. You and Aunt Harriet were
never great friends.'
'Never;--but I will forgive her everything. I will forgive all
the injuries that have been done me if you will now do as I ask
Of course she knew what it was he was about to ask. When he had
left her at Longbarns without saying a word of his love, without
giving her a hint whereby she might allow herself to think that
he intended to renew his suit, then she had wept because it was
so. Though her resolution had been quite firm as to the duty
which was incumbent on her of remaining in her desolate condition
of almost nameless widowhood, yet she had been unable to refrain
from bitter tears because he also had seemed to see that such was
her duty. But now again, knowing that the request was coming,
feeling once more confident of the constancy of his love, she was
urgent with herself as to that heavy duty. She would be womanly,
dead to all shame, almost inhuman, were she to allow herself
again to indulge in love after all the havoc she had made. She
had been little more than a bride when that husband, for whom she
had often been forced to blush, had been driven by the weight of
his misfortunes and disgraces to destroy himself! By the
marriage she had made she had overwhelmed her whole family with
dishonour. She had done it with a persistency of perverse self-
will which she herself could not now look back on without wonder
and horror. She, too, should have died as well as he;--only
that death had not been within the compass of her powers as of
his. How the could she forget it all, and wipe it away from her
mind, as she would figures from a slate with a wet towel? How
could it be fit that she should again be a bride with such a
spectre of a husband haunting her memory? She had known that the
request was to be made when he took his sudden departure. She
had known it well, when just now the servant told her that Mr
Fletcher was in the drawing-room below. But she was quite
certain of the answer she must make. 'I should be sorry you
should ask me anything I cannot do,' she said in a very low
'I will ask you nothing for which I have not your father's
'The time has gone by, Arthur, in which I might well have been
guided by my father. There comes a time when personal feelings
must be stronger than a father's authority. Papa cannot see me
with my own eyes, he cannot understand what I feel. It is simply
this,--that he would have me to be other than I am. But I am
what I have made myself.'
'You have not heard me as yet. You will hear me?'
'I have loved you ever since I was a boy.' He paused as though
he expected that she would make some answer to this; but of
course there was nothing she could say. 'I have been true to you
since we were together almost as children.'
'It is your nature to be true.'
'In this matter, at any rate. I shall never change. I never for
a moment had a doubt about my love. There never has been anyone
else whom I have ventured to compare with you. Then came that
great trouble. Emily, you must let me speak freely this once, as
so much, to me at least, depends on it.'
'Say what you will, Arthur. Do not wound me more than you can
'God knows how willingly I would heal every wound without a word
if it could be done. I don't know whether you ever thought what
I suffered when he came among us and robbed me,--well, I will
not say robbed me of your love, because it was not mine--but
took away with him that which I had been trying to win.'
'I did not think a man would feel like that.'
'Why shouldn't a man feel as well as a woman? I had set my heart
on having you for my wife. Can any desire be nearer to a man
than that? Then he came. Well, dearest, surely I may say that
he was not worthy of you.'
'We were neither of us worthy,' she said.
'I need not tell you that we all grieved. It seemed to us down
in Hertfordshire as though a black cloud had come upon us. We
could not speak of you, nor yet could we be altogether silent.'
'Of course you condemned me,--as an outcast.'
'Did I write to you as though you were an outcast? Did I treat
you when I saw you as an outcast? When I come to you to-day, is
that proof that I think you to be an outcast? I have never
deceived you, Emily.'
'Then you will believe me when I say that through it all not one
word of reproach or contumely has ever passed my lips in regard
to you. That you should have given yourself to one whom I could
think worthy of you, was, of course, a great sorrow. Had he been
a prince of men it would have of course been a sorrow to me. How
it went with you during your married life I will not ask.'
'I was unhappy. I would tell you everything if I could. I was
'Then came--the end.' She was now weeping with her face buried
in her handkerchief. 'I would spare you if I knew how, but there
are some things which must be said.'
'No;--no. I will bear it all--from you.'
'Well! His success had not lessened my love. Though then I
could have no hope,--though you were utterly removed from me,--
all that could not change me. There it was,--as though my arm
or my leg had been taken from me. It was bad to live without an
arm or a leg, but there was no help. I went on with my life and
tried not to look like a whipped cur;--though John from time to
time would tell me that I failed. But now;--now that is again
all changed,--what would you have me do now? It may be that
after all my limb may be restored to me, that I may be again as
other men are, whole, and sound, and happy;--so happy! When it
may possibly be within my reach am I not to look for my
happiness?' He paused, but she wept on without speaking a word.
'There are those who will say that I should wait till all these
signs of woe have been laid aside. But why should I wait? There
has come a great blot on your life, and is it not well that it
should be covered as quickly as possible?'
'It can never be covered.'
'You mean that it can never be forgotten. No doubt there are
passages in our life which we cannot forget, though we bury them
in the deepest silence. All this can never be driven out of your
memory,--nor from mine. But it need not therefore blacken our
lives. In such a condition we should not be ruled by what the
'Not at all. I care nothing for what the world thinks. I am
below all that. It is what I think of myself,--of myself.'
'Will you think of no one else? Are any of your thoughts for me,
--or for your father?'
'Oh yes;--for my father.'
'I need hardly tell you what he wishes. You must know how you
can best give him back the comfort he has lost.'
'But, Arthur, even for him I cannot do everything.'
'There is one question to be asked,' he said, rising from her
feet and standing before her;--'but one; and what you do should
depend entirely on the answer which you may be able truly make to
This he said so solemnly that he startled her.
'What question, Arthur?'
'Do you love me?' To this question at the moment she could make
no reply. 'Of course I know that you did not love me when you
'Love is not all of one kind.'
'You know what love I mean. You did not love me then. You could not
have loved me,--though, perhaps, I thought I had deserved your
love. But love will change and memory will some times bring back
old fancies when the world has been stern and hard. When we were
very young I think you loved me. Do you remember seven years ago
at Longbarns, when they parted us and sent me away, because,--
because we were so young? They did not tell us then, but I think
you knew. I know that I knew, and went nigh to swear that I
would drown myself. You loved me then, Emily.'
'I was a child then.'
'Now you are not a child. Do you love me now,--to-day? If so,
give me your hand, and the past be buried in silence. All this
has come and gone, and has nearly made us old. But there is life
before us yet, and if you are to me as I am to you it is better
that our lives should be lived together.' Then he stood before
her with his hand stretched out.
'I cannot do it,' she said.
'I cannot be other than the wretched thing I have made myself.'
'But do you love me?'
'I cannot analyse my heart. Love you;--yes! I have always
loved you. Everything about you is dear to me. I can triumph in
your triumphs, rejoice at your joy, weep at your sorrows, be ever
anxious that all good things may come to you;--but, Arthur, I
cannot be your wife.'
'Not though it would make us all happy,--Fletchers and Whartons
'Do you think I have not thought it over? Do you think that I
have forgotten your first letter? Knowing your heart, as I do
know it, do you imagine that I have spent a day, an hour, for
months past, without asking myself what answer I should make to
you if the sweet constancy of your nature should bring you again
to me? I have trembled when I have heard your voice. My heart
has beat at the sound of your footsteps as though it would burst!
Do you think I have never told myself what I had thrown away.
But it is gone, and it is not now within my reach.'
'It is, it is,' he said, throwing himself on his knees, and
twining his arms around her.
'No;--no;--no;--never. I am disgraced and shamed. I have
lain among the pots till I am foul and blackened. Take your arms
away. They shall not be defiled,' she said as she sprang to her
feet. 'You shall not have the thing that he has left.'
'Emily;--it is the only thing in all the world that I crave.'
'Be a man and conquer your love,--as I will. Get it under your
feet and press it to death. Tell yourself that it is shameful
and must be abandoned. That you, Arthur Fletcher, should marry
the widow of that man,--the woman that he had thrust so far into
the mire that she can never again be clean;--you, the chosen
one, the bright star among us all;--you, whose wife should be
the fairest, the purest, the tenderest of us all, a flower that
has yet been hardly breathed on. While I--Arthur,' she said, 'I
know my duty better than that. I will not seek an escape from my
punishment in that way,--nor will I allow you to destroy
yourself. You have my word as a woman that it shall not be so.
Now I do not mind your knowing whether I love you or no.' He
stood silent before her, not able for the moment to go on with
his prayer. 'And now,' she said, 'God bless you, and give you
some fair and happy wife. And, Arthur, do not come again to me.
If you will let it be so, I shall have delight in seeing you;--
but not if you come as you have come now. And, Arthur, spare me
with papa. Do not let him think that it is all my fault that I
cannot do the thing that he wishes.' Then she left the room
before he could say another word to her.
But it was all her fault. No;--in that direction he could not
spare her. It must be told to her father, though he doubted his
own power of describing all that had been said. 'Do not come
again to me,' she had said. At the moment he had been left
speechless; but if there was one thing fixed in his mind, it was
the determination to come again. He was sure now, not only of
love that might have sufficed,--but of hot, passionate love.
She had told him that her heart had beat at his footsteps, and
that she had trembled as she listened to his voice,--and yet she
had expected that he would not come again! But there was a
violence of decision about the woman which made him dread that he
might still come in vain. She was so warped from herself by the
conviction of her great mistake, so prone to take shame to
herself for her own error, so keenly alive to the degradation to
which she had been submitted, that it might yet be impossible to
teach her that, though her husband had been vile and she
mistaken, yet she had not been soiled by his baseness.
He went at once to the old barrister's chambers and told him the
result of the meeting. 'She is still a fool,' said the father,
not understanding at second-hand the depths of his daughter's
'No, sir,--not that. She felt herself degraded by his
degradation. If it be possible we must save her from that.'
'She did degrade herself.'
'Not as she means it. She is not degraded in my eyes.'
'Why should she not take the only means in her power of rescuing
herself and rescuing us all from the evil that she did? She owes
it you, me, and to her brother.'
'I would hardly wish her to come to me in payment of such a
'There is no room left,' said Mr Wharton angrily, 'for soft
sentimentality. Well;--she must take her bed as she makes it.
It is very hard on me, I know. Considering what she used to be,
it is marvellous to me that she should have so little idea left
of doing her duty to others.'
Arthur Fletcher found that the barrister was at the moment too
angry to hear reason, or to be made to understand anything of the
feelings of mixed love and admiration with which he was animated
at the moment. He was obliged therefore to content himself with
assuring the father that he did not intend to give up the pursuit
of his daughter.
THE GREAT WHARTON ALLIANCE.
When Mr Wharton got home on that day he said not a word to Emily
as to Arthur Fletcher. He had resolved to take various courses;
--first to tell her roundly that she was neglecting her duty to
herself and to her family, and that he would no longer take her
part and be her good friend unless she would consent to marry the
man whom she had confessed that she loved. But as he thought of
this he became aware,--first that he could not carry out such a
threat, and then that he would lack even the firmness to make it.
There was something in her face, something even in her dress,
something in her whole manner to himself, which softened him and
reduced him to vassalage directly he saw her. Then he determined
to throw himself on her compassion and to implore her to put an
end to all this misery by making herself happy. But as he drew
near home he found himself unable to do even this. How is a
father to beseech his widowed daughter to give herself away in
a second marriage? And therefore when he entered the house and
found her waiting for him he said nothing. At first she looked
at him wistfully,--anxious to learn by his face whether her
lover had been with him. But when he spoke not a word, simply
kissing her in his usual quiet way, she became cheerful in a
manner and communicative. 'Papa,' she said, 'I have had a letter
'Well, my dear.'
'Just a nice chatty letter,--full of Everett, of course.'
'Everett is a great man now.'
'I am sure that you are very glad that he is what he is. Will
you see Mary's letter?' Mr Wharton was not specially given to
reading young ladies' correspondence, and did not know why this
particular letter should be offered to him. 'You don't suspect
anything at Wharton, do you?' she asked.
'Suspect anything! No; I don't suspect anything.' But now,
having had his curiosity aroused, he took the letter which was
offered to him and read it. The letter was as follows:
We all hope that you had a pleasant journey up to London,
and that Mr Wharton is quite well. Your brother Everett
came over to Longbarns the day after you started and
drove me back to Wharton in the dog-cart. It was such a
pleasant journey, though, now I remember, it rained all
the way. But Everett has always so much to say that I
didn't mind the rain. I think it will end in John taking
the hounds. He says he won't because he does not wish to
be the slave of the whole county;--but he says it in
that sort of way that we all think he means to do it.
Everett tells him that he ought, because he is the only
hunting man on this side of the county who can afford to
do without feeling it much; and of course what Everett
says will go a long way with him. Sarah,--(Sarah was
John Fletcher's wife),--is rather against it. But if he
makes up his mind she'll be sure to turn round. Of
course it makes us all very anxious at present to know
how it is to end, for the Master of the Hounds always is
the leading man in our part of the world. Papa went to
the bench at Ross yesterday and took Everett with him.
It was the first time that Everett had sat there. He
says I am to tell his father he has not hung anybody as
They have already begun to cut down, or what they call
stubb up, Barnton Spinnies. Everett said that it is no
good keeping it as a wood, and papa agreed. So it is to
go into the home farm, and Griffiths is to pay rent for
it. I don't like having it cut down, as the boys always
used to get nuts there, but Everett says it won't do to
keep woods for little boys to get nuts.
Mary Stocking has been very ill since you went, and I'm
afraid she won't last long. When they get to be so very
bad with rheumatism I almost think it's wrong to pray for
them, because they are in so much pain. We thought at
one time that mamma's ointment had done her good, but when
we came to inquire we found that she had swallowed it.
Wasn't it dreadful? But it didn't seem to do her any
harm. Everett says that it wouldn't make any difference
which she did.
Papa is beginning to be afraid that Everett is a Radical.
But I'm sure he's not. He says he is as good a
Conservative as there is in all Hertfordshire, only that
he likes to know what is to be conserved. Papa said
after dinner yesterday that everything English should be
maintained. Everett said that according to that we
should have kept the Star Chamber. 'Of course I would,'
said papa. Then they went at it hammer and tongs.
Everett had the best of it. At any rate he talked the
longest. But I do hope he is not a Radical. No country
gentleman ought to be a Radical. Ought he, dear?
Mrs Fletcher says you are to get the lozenges at Squire's
in Oxford Street, and be sure to ask for the Vade mecum
lozenges. She is all in a flutter about those hounds.
She says she hopes John will do nothing of the kind
because of the expense; but we all know that she would
like him to have them. The subscription is not very
good, only 1,500 pounds, and it would cost him ever so
much a year. But everybody says he is very rich and that
he ought to do it. If you see Arthur give him our love.
Of course a member of Parliament is too busy to write
letters. But I don't think Arthur was ever good at
writing. Everett says that men never ought to write
letters. Give my love to Mr Wharton.
I am, dearest Emily,
Your most affectionate Cousin,
'Everett is a fool,' said Mr Wharton as soon as he had read the
'Why is he a fool, papa?'
'Because he will quarrel with Sir Alured about politics before he
knows where he is. What business has a young fellow like that to
have an opinion either one side or the other, before his
'But Everett always has strong opinions.'
'It didn't matter as long as he only talked nonsense at a club in
London, but how he'll break that old man's heart.'
'But, papa, don't you see anything else?'
'I see that John Fletcher is going to make an ass of himself and
spend a thousand a year in keeping a pack of hounds for other
people to ride after.'
'I think I see something else besides that.'
'What do you see?'
'Would it annoy you if Everett was to become engaged to Mary?'
Then Mr Wharton whistled. 'To be sure she does put his name into
every line of the letter. No; it wouldn't annoy me. I don't see
why he shouldn't marry his second cousin if he likes. Only if he
is engaged to her, I think it odd that he shouldn't write and
'I'm sure she is not engaged to him as yet. She wouldn't write
all in that way if she were engaged. Everybody would be told at
once, and Sir Alured would never be able to keep it a secret.
Why should there be a secret? But I'm sure that she is very fond
of him. Mary would never write about any man in that way unless
she were beginning to be attached to him.'
About ten days after this there came two letters from Wharton
Hall to Manchester Square, the shortest of which shall be given
first. It ran as follows:
MY DEAR FATHER,
I have proposed to my cousin Mary, and she has accepted
me. Everybody here seems to like the idea. I hope it
will not displease you. Of course you and Emily will
come down. I will tell you when the day is fixed.
Your affectionate Son,
This the old man read as he sat at breakfast with his daughter
opposite to him, while Emily was reading a very much longer
letter from the same house. 'So it's going to be just as you
guessed,' he said.
'I was quite sure of it, papa. Is that from Everett? Is he very
'Upon my word, I can't say whether he's happy or not. If he had
got a new horse he would have written at much greater length
about it. It seems, however, to be quite fixed.'
'Oh yes. This is from Mary. She is happy at any rate. I
suppose men never say so much about these things as women.'
'May I see Mary's letter?'
'I don't think it would be quite fair, papa. It's only a girl's
rhapsody about the man she loves,--very nice and womanly, but
not intended for anyone but me. It does not seem that they mean
to wait very long.'
'Why should they wait? Is any day fixed?'
'Mary says that Everett talks about the middle of May. Of course
you will go down.'
'We must both go.'
'You will at any rate. Don't promise for me just at present. It
must make Sir Alured very happy. It is almost the same as
finding himself at last with a son of his own. I suppose they
will live at Wharton altogether now,--unless Everett gets into
But the reader may see the young lady's letter, though her future
father-in-law was not permitted to do so, and will perceive that
there was a paragraph at the close of it which perhaps was more
conducive to Emily's secrecy than her feelings as to the sacred
obligations of female correspondence.
I wonder whether you will be much surprised at the news I
have to tell you. You cannot be more so that I am at
having to write it. It has all been so very sudden that
I almost feel ashamed of myself. Everett has proposed to
me, and I have accepted him. There;--now you know it
all. Though you never can know how very dearly I love
him and how thoroughly I admire him, I do think that he
is everything that a man ought to be, and that I am the
most fortunate young woman in the world. Only isn't it
odd that I should always have to live my life in the same
house, and never change my name,--just like a man, or an
old maid? But I don't mind that because I do love him so
dearly and because he is so good. He has written to Mr
Wharton. I know. I was sitting by him and his letter
didn't take him a minute. But he says that long letters
about such things only give trouble. I hope you won't
think my letter troublesome. He is not sitting by me
now, but has gone over to Longbarns to help settle about
the hounds. John is going to have them after all. I
wish it hadn't happened just at this time because all the
gentlemen do think so much about it. Of course Everett
is one of the committee.
Papa and mamma are both very, very glad of it. Of course
it is nice for them, as it will keep Everett and me here.
If I had married anybody else,--though I am sure I never
should,--she would have been very lonely. And of course
papa likes to think that Everett is already one of us. I
hope they will never quarrel about politics, but as
Everett says, the world does change as it goes on, and
young men and old men never will think quite the same
about things. Everett told papa the other day that if he
could be put back a century he would be a Radical. Then
there were ever so many words. But Everett always
laughs, and at last papa comes round.
I can't tell you, my dear, what a fuss we are in already
about it all. Everett wants our marriage early in May,
so that we may have two months in Switzerland before
London is what he calls turned loose. And papa says that
there is no use in delaying, because he gets older every
day. Of course that is true of everybody. So that we
are all in flutter about getting things. Mamma did talk
of going up to town, but I believe they have things quite
as good at Hereford. Sarah, when she was married, had
all her things from London, but they say that there has
been a great change since that. I am sure I think that
you may get anything you want at Muddocks and Cramble's.
But mamma says I am to have my veil from Howell and
Of course you and Mr Wharton will come. I shan't think
it any marriage without. Papa and mama talk of it as
quite of course. You know how fond papa is of the
bishop. I think he will marry us. I own I should like
to be married by a bishop. It would make it so sweet and
so solemn. Mr Higgenbottom could of course assist;--but
he is such an odd old man, with his snuff and his
spectacles always tumbling off, that I shouldn't like to
have no one else. I have often thought that if it were
only for marrying people we ought to have a nicer rector at
Almost all the tenants have been to wish me joy. They
are very fond of Everett already, and now they feel that
there will never be any very great change. I do think it
is the very best thing that could be done, even if it
were not that I am so thoroughly in love with him. I
didn't think I should ever be able to own that I was in
love with a man; but now I feel quite proud of it. I
don't mind telling you because he is your brother, and I
think that you will be glad of it.
He talks very often about you. Of course you know what
it is that we all wish. I love Arthur Fletcher almost as
much as if he were my brother. He is my sister's
brother-in-law, and if he could become my husband's
brother-in-law too, I should be so happy. Of course we
all know that he wishes it. Write immediately to wish me
joy. Perhaps you could go to Howell and James's about
the veil. And promise to come to us in May. Sarah says
the veil should cost about thirty pounds.
Dearest, dearest Emily,
I shall soon be your most affectionate sister,
Emily's answer was full of warm, affectionate congratulations.
She had much to say in favour of Everett. She promised to use
all her little skill at Howell and James's. She expressed a hope
that the overtures to be made in regard to the bishop might be
successful. And she made kind remarks even as to Muddocks and
Crumble. But she would not promise that she herself would be at
Wharton on the happy day. 'Dear Mary,' she said, 'remember what
I have suffered, and that I cannot be quite as other people are.
I could not stand at your marriage in black clothes,--nor should
I have the courage even if I had the will to dress myself in
others.' None of the Whartons had come to her wedding. There
was no feeling of anger now left as to that. She was quite aware
that they had done right to stay away. But the very fact that it
had been right that they should stay away would make it wrong
that the widow of Ferdinand Lopez should now assist at the
marriage of one Wharton to another. This was all that a marriage
ought to be, whereas that had been--all that a marriage ought
not to be. In answer to the paragraph about Arthur Fletcher
Emily Lopez had not a word to say.
Soon after this, early in April, Everett came up to town. Though
his bride might be content to get her bridal clothes in Hereford,
none but a London tailor could decorate him properly for such an
occasion. During these last weeks Arthur Fletcher had not been
seen at Manchester Square; nor had his name been mentioned there
by Mr Wharton. Of anything that may have passed between them
Emily was altogether ignorant. She observed, or thought that she
observed, that her father was more silent with her,--perhaps
less tender than he had been since the day on which her husband
had perished. His manner of life was the same. He almost always
dined at home in order that she might not be alone, and made no
complaint as to her conduct. But she could see that he was
unhappy, and she knew the cause of his grief. 'I think, papa,'
she said one day, 'that it would be better that I should go
away.' This was on the day before Everett's arrival,--of which,
however, he had given no notice.
'Go away! Where would you go to?'
'It does not matter. I do not make you happy.'
'What do you mean? Who says that I am not happy? Why do you
talk like that?'
'Do not be angry with me. Nobody says so. I can see it well
enough. I know how good you are to me, but I am making your life
wretched. I am a wet blanket to you, and yet I cannot help
myself. If I could go somewhere, where I could be of use.'
'I don't know what you mean. This is your proper home.'
'No;--it is not my home. I ought to have forfeited it. I ought
to go where I could work and be of some use in the world.'
'You might use it if you chose, my dear. Your proper career is
before you if you would condescend to accept it. It is not for
me to persuade you, but I can see and feel the truth. Till you
can bring yourself to do that, your days will be blighted,--and
so will mine. You have made one great mistake in life. Stop a
moment. I do not speak often, but I wish you to listen to me now.
Such mistakes do generally produce misery and ruin in all who are
concerned. With you it chances that it may be otherwise. You
can put your foot again upon the firm ground and recover
everything. Of course there must be a struggle. One person has
to struggle with circumstances, another with his foes, and a
third with his own feelings. I can understand that there should
be a struggle with you; but it ought to be made. You ought to be
brave enough and strong enough to conquer your regrets, and to
begin again. In no other way can you do anything for me or for
yourself. To talk of going away is childish nonsense. Whither
would you go? I shall not urge you any more, but I would not
have you talk to me in that way.' Then he got up and left the
room and the house and went down to his club,--in order that she
might think of what he had said in solitude.
And she did think of it;--but still continually with an
assurance to herself that her father did not understand her
feelings. The career of which he spoke was no doubt open to her,
but she could not regard it as that which it was proper that she
should fulfil, as he did. When she told her lover that she had
lain among the pots till she was black and defiled, she expressed
in the strongest language that which was her real conviction. He
did not think her to have been defiled,--or at any rate thought
that she might again bear the wings of a dove; but she felt it,
and therefore knew herself to be unfit. The next morning, when
he came into the parlour where she was already sitting, she
looked up at him almost reproachfully. Did he think that a woman
was a piece of furniture which you could mend, and re-varnish,
and fit out with new ornaments, and then send out for use,
second-hand indeed, but for all purposes good as new?
Then, while she was in this frame of mind, Everett came in upon
her unawares, and with his almost boisterous happiness succeeded
for a while in changing the current of her thoughts. He was of
course now uppermost in his own thoughts. The last few months
had made so much of him that he might be excused for being unable
to sink himself in the presence of others. He was the heir to
the baronetcy,--and to the double fortunes of the two old men.
And he was going to be married in a manner as everyone told him
to increase the glory and stability of the family. 'It's all
nonsense about your not coming down,' he said. She smiled and
shook her head. 'I can only tell you that it will give the
greatest offence to everyone. If you knew how much they talk
about you down there I don't think you would like to hurt them.'
'Of course I would not like to hurt them.'
'And considering that you have no other brother--'
'I think more about it, perhaps, than you do. I think you owe it
me to come down. You will never probably have another chance of
being present at your brother's marriage.' This he said in a
tone that was almost lachrymose.
'A wedding, Everett, should be merry.'
'I don't know about that. It is a very serious sort of thing, to
my way of thinking. When Mary got your letter it nearly broke
her heart. I think I have a right to expect it, and if you don't
come I shall feel myself injured. I don't see what is the use of
having a family if the members of it do not stick together. What
would you think if I were to desert you?'
'Desert you, Everett!'
Well, yes;--it is something of the kind. I have made my
request, and you can comply with it or not as you please.'
'I will go,' she said very slowly. Then she left him and went to
her own room to think in what description of garments she could
appear at a wedding with the least violence to the condition of
'I have got her to say she'll come,' he said to his father that
evening. 'If you leave her to me, I'll bring her round.'
Soon after that,--within a day or two,--there came out a
paragraph in one of the fashionable newspapers of the day, saying
that an alliance had been arranged between the heir to the
Wharton title and property and the daughter of the present
baronet. I think that this had probably originated in the club
gossip. I trust it did not spring directly from the activity or
ambition of Everett himself.
WHO WILL IT BE?
For the first day or two after the resignation of the Ministry
the Duchess appeared to take no further notice of the matter. An
ungrateful world had repudiated her husband, and he had foolishly
assisted and given way to the repudiation. All her grand
aspirations were at an end. All her triumphs were over. And
worse than that, there was present to her a conviction that she
had never really triumphed. There never had come the happy
moment in which she had felt herself to be dominant over other
women. She had toiled, struggled, she had battled and
occasionally submitted; and yet there was present to her a
feeling that she had stood higher in public estimation as Lady
Glencora Palliser,--whose position had been all her own and had
not depended on her husband,--than now she had done as the
Duchess of Omnium, and wife of the Prime Minister of England.
She had meant to be something, she knew not what, greater than
had been the wives of other Prime Ministers and other Dukes, and
now she felt that in her failure she had been almost ridiculous.
And the failure, she thought, had been his,--or hers,--rather
than that of circumstances. If he had been less scrupulous and
more persistent it might have been different,--of if she had
been more discreet. Sometimes she felt hew own failing so
violently as to acquit him almost entirely. At other times she
was almost beside herself with anger because all her losses
seemed to have arisen from want of stubbornness on his part.
When he had told her that he and his followers had determined to
resign because they had beaten their foes by only a majority of
nine, she took it into her head that he was in fault. Why should
he go while his supporters were more numerous than his opponents?
It was useless to bid him think it over again. Though she was
far from understanding all the circumstances of the game, she did
know that he could not remain after having arranged with his
colleagues that he would go. So she became cross and sullen, and
while he was going to Windsor and back and setting his house in
order, and preparing the way for his successor,--whoever that
successor might be,--she was moody and silent, dreaming over
some impossible condition of things in accordance with which he
might have remained Prime Minister--almost for ever.
On the Sunday after the fatal division,--the division which the
Duchess would not allow to have been fatal,--she came across him
somewhere in the house. She had hardly spoken to him since he
had come into her room that night and told her that all was over.
She had said that she was unwell and had kept out of sight, and
he had been here and there, between Windsor and the Treasury
Chambers, and had been glad to escape from her ill-humour. But
she could not endure any longer the annoyance of having to get
all her news from Mrs Finn,--second hand, or third hand, and now
found herself driven to capitulate. 'Well,' she said, 'how is it
all going to be? I suppose you do not know or you would have
'There is very little to tell.'
'Mr Monk is to be Prime Minister?' she asked.
'I did not say so. But it is not impossible.'
'Has the Queen sent for him?'
'Not as yet. Her Majesty has seen both Mr Gresham and Mr Daubney
as well as myself. It does not seem a very easy thing to make a
Ministry at present.'
'Why should not you go back?'
'I do not think that is on the cards.'
'Why not? Ever so many men have done it, after going out,--and
why not you? I remember Mr Mildmay doing it twice. It is always
the thing, when the man who has been sent for makes a mess of it,
for the old minister to have another chance.'
'But what if the old minister will not take the chance?'
'Then it is the old minister's fault. Why shouldn't you take the
chance as well as another? It isn't many days ago since you were
quite anxious to remain in. I thought you were going to break
your heart because people even talked of your going.'
'I was going to break my heart, as you call it,' he said,
smiling, 'not because people talked of my ceasing to be minister,
but because the feeling of the House of Commons justified people
in so saying. I hope you see the difference.'
'No, I don't. And there is no difference. The people we are
talking about are the members,--and they have supported you.
You could go on if you chose. I'm sure Mr Monk wouldn't leave
'It is just what Mr Monk would do, and ought to do. No one is
less likely than Mr Monk to behave badly in such an emergency.
The more I see of Mr Monk, the higher I think of him.'
'He has his own game to play as well as others.'
'I think he has no game to play but that of his country. It is
no use our discussing it, Cora.'
'Of course I understand nothing, because I'm a woman.'
'You understand a great deal,--but not quite all. You may at
any rate understand this,--that our troubles are at an end. You
were saying the other day that the labours of being a Prime
Minister's wife had been almost too many for you.'
'I never said so. As long as you didn't give way no labour was
too much for me. I would have done anything,--slaved morning
and night,--so that we might have succeeded. I hate being beat.
I'd sooner be cut to pieces.'
'There's no help for it now, Cora. The Lord Mayor, you know, is
only Lord Mayor for one year, and must then go back to private
'But men have been Prime Ministers for ten years at a time. If
you have made up your mind, I suppose we may as well give up. I
shall think it your own fault.' He still smiled. 'I shall,' she
'I can only speak as I feel.'
'I don't think you would speak as you do if you knew how much
your words hurt me. In such a matter as this I should not be
justified in allowing your opinions to have weight with me. But
your sympathy would be so much to me!'
'When I thought I was making you ill, I wished you might be
'My illness would be nothing, but my honour is everything. I,
too, have something to bear as well as you, and if you cannot
approve of what I do, at any rate be silent.'
'Yes;--I can be silent.' Then he slowly left her. As he went
she was almost tempted to yield, and to throw herself into his
arms, and to promise that she would be soft to him, and to say
that she was sure that all that he did was for the best. But she
could not bring herself as yet to be good-humoured. If he had
only been a little stronger, a little thicker-skinned, made of
clay a little coarser, a little other than he was, it might have
been so different!
Early on that Sunday afternoon she had herself driven to Mrs
Finn's house in Park Lane, instead of waiting for her friend.
Latterly she had but seldom done this, finding that her presence
at home was much wanted. She had been filled with, perhaps,
foolish ideas of the necessity of doing something,--of adding
something to the strength of her husband's position,--and had
certainly been diligent in her work. But now she might run about
like any other woman. 'This is an honour, Duchess,' said Mrs
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