The Prime Minister
Part 16 out of 16
'Don't be sarcastic, Marie. We have nothing further to do with
the bestowal of honours. Why didn't he make everybody a peer or
a baronet while he was about it? Lord Finn! I don't see why he
shouldn't have been Lord Finn. I'm sure he deserved it for the
way in which he attacked Sir Timothy Beeswax.'
'I don't think he'd like it.'
'They all say so, but I suppose they do like it, or they wouldn't
make it. And I'd have made Locock a knight;--Sir James Locock.
He's have made a more knightly knight that Sir Timothy. When a
man has power he ought to use it. It makes people respect him.
Mr Daubney made a duke, and people think more of that than
anything he did. Is Mr Finn going to join the new Ministry?'
'If you can tell me, Duchess, who is to be the next minister, I
can give a guess.'
'Then he certainly will.'
'Or Mr Daubney.'
'Then he certainly won't.'
'Or Mr Gresham.'
'That I could not answer.'
'Or the Duke of Omnium.'
'That would depend on his Grace. If the Duke came back, Mr
Finn's services would be at his disposal, whether in or out of
'Very prettily said, my dear. I never look round this room
without thinking of the first time I came here. Do you remember,
when I found the old man sitting there?' The old man alluded to
was the late Duke.
'I am not likely to forget it, Duchess.'
'How I hated you when I saw you! What a fright I thought you
were! I pictured you to myself as a sort of ogre, willing to eat
up everybody for the gratification of your own vanity.'
'I was very vain, but there was a little pride with it.'
'And now it has come to pass that I can't very well live without
you. How he did love you!'
'His Grace was very good to me.'
'It would have done no great harm, after all, if he had made you
Duchess of Omnium.'
'Very great harm to me, Lady Glen. As it is I got a friend that
I love dearly, and a husband that I love dearly too. In the
other case I should have made neither. Perhaps I may say that,
in that other case my life would not have been brightened by the
affection of the present Duchess.'
'One can't tell how it would have gone, but I well remember the
state I was in then.' The door opened and Phineas Finn entered
the room. 'What, Mr Finn, are you at home? I thought everybody
was crowding down at the clubs, to know who is to be what. We
are settled. We are quiet. We have nothing to do to disturb
ourselves. But you ought to be in all the flutter of renewed
'I am waiting my destiny in calm seclusion. I hope the Duke is
'As well as can be expected. He doesn't walk about his room with
a poniard in his hand,--ready for himself or Sir Orlando; nor is
he sitting crowned like Bacchus, drinking the health of the new
Ministry with Lord Drummond and Sir Timothy. He is probably
sipping a cup of coffee over a blue-book in dignified retirement.
You should go and see him.'
'I should be unwilling to trouble him when he is so much
'That is just what has done him all the harm in the world.
Everybody presumes that he has so much to think of that nobody
goes near him. Then he is left to boody over everything by
himself till he becomes a sort of political hermit, or
ministerial Lama, whom human eyes are not to look upon. It
doesn't matter now; does it?' Visitor after visitor came in, and
the Duchess chatted to them all, leaving the impression on
everybody that heard her that she at least was not sorry to be
relieved from the troubles attending her husband's late position.
She sat there over an hour, and as she was taking her leave, she
had a few words to whisper to Mrs Finn. 'When this is all over,'
she said. 'I mean to call on that Mrs Lopez.'
'I thought you did go there.'
'That was soon after the poor man had killed himself,--when she
was going away. Of course I only left a card. But I shall see
her now if I can. We want to get her out of her melancholy if
possible. I have a sort of feeling, you know, that among us we
made the train run over him.'
'I don't think that.'
'He got so horribly abused for what he did at Silverbridge; and I
really don't see why he wasn't to have his money. It was I that
made him spend it.'
'He was, I fancy, a thoroughly bad man.'
'But a wife doesn't always want to be made a widow even if her
husband be bad. I think I owe her something, and I would pay my
debt if I knew how. I shall go and see her, and if she will
marry this other man we'll take her by the hand. Good-bye, dear.
You'd better come to me early to-morrow, as I suppose we shall
know something by eleven o'clock.'
In the course of that evening the Duke of St Bungay came to
Carlton Terrace, and was closeted for some time with the late
Prime Minister. He had been engaged during that and the last two
previous days in lending his aid to various political manoeuvres
and ministerial attempts, from which our Duke had kept himself
altogether aloof. He did not go to Windsor, but as each
successive competitor journeyed thither and returned, someone
sent for the old Duke or went to seek his council. He was the
Nestor of the occasion, and strove heartily to compose all
quarrels, and so to arrange matters that a wholesome, moderately
Liberal Ministry might be again installed for the good of the
country and the comfort of all true Whigs. In such moments he
almost ascended to the grand heights of patriotism, being always
indifferent as to himself. Now he came to his late chief with a
new project. Mr Gresham would attempt to form a Ministry if the
Duke of Omnium would join him.
'It is impossible!' said the younger politician, folding his
hands together and throwing himself back in the chair.
'Listen to me before you answer me with such certainty. There
are three or four gentlemen who, after the work of the last three
years, bearing in mind the manner in which our defeat has just
been accomplished, feel themselves disinclined to join Mr Gresham
unless you will do so also. I may specially name Mr Monk and Mr
Finn. I might perhaps add myself, were it not that I had hoped
that in any event I might at length regard myself as exempt from
further service. The old horse should be left to graze out his
last days, ne peccet ad extremum ridendus. But you can't
consider yourself absolved on that score.'
'There are other reasons.'
'But the Queen's service should count before everything. Gresham
and Cantrip with their own friends can hardly make a Ministry as
things are now unless Mr Monk will join them. I do not think
that any other Chancellor of the Exchequer is at present
'I will beseech Mr Monk not to let any feeling as to me stand in
his way. Why should it?'
'It is not only what you may think and he may think,--but what
others will think and say. The Coalition will have done all that
ought to have been expected from it if our party in it can now
join Mr Gresham.'
'By all means. But I could give them no strength. They may be
sure at any rate of what little I can do for them out of office.'
'Mr Gresham made his acceptance of office,--well, I will not say
strictly conditional on your joining him. That would hardly be
correct. But he has expressed himself quite willing to make the
attempt with your aid, and doubtful whether he can succeed
without it. He suggests that you should join him as President of
'If I were wanted at all I should take Privy Seal.'
'Certainly not, my friend. If there were any question of my
return we could reverse the offices. But I think I may say that
my mind is fixed. If you wish it I will see Mr Monk and do all
that I can to get him to go with you. But, for myself,--I feel
that it would be useless.'
At last, at the Duke's pressing request, he agreed to take
twenty-four hours before he gave his final answer to the
THE DUCHESS IN MANCHESTER SQUARE.
The Duke said not a word to his wife as to this new proposition,
and when she asked him what tidings their old friend had brought
as to the state of affairs, he almost told a fib in his anxiety
to escape from her persecution. 'He is in some doubt what he
means to do himself,' said the Duke. The Duchess asked many
questions, but got no satisfactory reply to any of them. Nor did
Mrs Finn learn anything from her husband, whom, however, she did
not interrogate very closely. She would be contented to know
when the proper time might come for ladies to be informed. The
Duke, however, was determined to take his twenty-four hours all
alone,--or at any rate not to be driven to his decision by
In the meantime the Duchess went to Manchester Square intent on
performing certain good offices on behalf of the poor widow. It
may be doubted whether she had clearly made up her mind what it
was that she could do, though she was clear that some debt was
due by her to Mrs Lopez. And she knew too in what direction
assistance might be serviceable, if only in this case it could be
given. She had heard that the present member for Silverbridge
had been the lady's lover before Mr Lopez had come upon the
scene, and with those feminine wiles of which she was a perfect
mistress she had extracted from him a confession that his mind
was unaltered. She liked Arthur Fletcher,--as indeed she had
for a time liked Ferdinand Lopez,--and felt that her conscience
would be easier if she could assist in this good work. She built
castles in the air as to the presence of the bride and bridegroom at
Matching, thinking how she might thus repair the evil she had
done. But her heart misgave her a little as she drew near to the
house, and remembered how very slight was her acquaintance and
how extremely delicate the mission on which she had come. But
she was not the woman to turn back when she had once put her foot
to any work; and she was driven up to the door in Manchester
Square without any expressed hesitation on her own part. 'Yes;--
his mistress was at home,' said the butler, still shrinking at
the sound of the name which he heard. The Duchess was then shown
upstairs, and was left alone for some minutes in the drawing-
room. It was a large handsome apartment hung round with valuable
pictures, and having signs of considerable wealth. Since she had
first invited Lopez to stand for Silverbridge she had heard much
about him, and had wondered how he had gained possession of such
a girl as Emily Wharton. And now, as she looked about her, her
wonder was increased. She knew enough of such people as the
Whartons and the Fletchers to be aware that as a class they are
more impregnable, more closely guarded by their feelings and
prejudices against strangers than any other. None keep their
daughters to themselves with greater care, or are less willing to
see their rules of life changed or abolished. And yet this man,
half foreigner, half Jew,--and as it now appeared, whole pauper,
had stepped in and carried off a prize of which such a one as
Arthur Fletcher was contending! The Duchess had never seen Emily
but once,--so as to observe her well,--and had then thought her
to be a very handsome woman. It had been at the garden party at
Richmond, and Lopez had then insisted that his wife should be
well dressed. It would perhaps have been impossible in the whole
of that assembly to find a more beautiful woman than Mrs Lopez
then was,--or one who carried herself with a finer air. Now
when she entered the room in her deep mourning it would have been
difficult to recognize her. Her face was much thinner, her eyes
apparently larger, and her colour faded. And there had come a
settled seriousness on her face which seemed to rob her of her
youth. Arthur Fletcher had declared that as he saw her now she
was more beautiful than ever. But Arthur Fletcher, in looking at
her, saw more then her mere features. To his eyes there was a
tenderness added by her sorrow which had its own attraction for
him. And he was so well versed in every line of her countenance,
that he could see there the old loveliness behind the sorrow; the
loveliness which would come forth again, as bright as ever, if
the sorrow could be removed. But the Duchess, though she
remembered the woman's beauty as she might that of any other
lady, now saw nothing but a thing of woe wrapped in customary
widow's weeds. 'I hope,' she said, 'I am not intruding in coming
to you; but I have been anxious to renew our acquaintance for
reasons which I am sure you will understand.'
Emily at the moment hardly knew how to address her august
visitor. Though her father had lived all his life in what is
called good society, he had not consorted much with dukes and
duchesses. She herself had indeed on one occasion been for an
hour or two the guest of this grand lady, but on that occasion
she had hardly been called upon to talk to her. Now she doubted
how to name the Duchess, and with some show of hesitation decided
at last upon not naming her at all. 'It is very good of you to
come,' she said in a faltering voice.
'I told you that I would when I wrote, you know. That is many
months ago, but I have not forgotten it. You have been in the
country since that, I think?'
'Yes. In Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire is our county.'
'I know all about it,' said the Duchess, smiling. She generally
did contrive to learn 'all about' people whom she chose to take
by the hand. 'We have a Hertfordshire gentleman sitting for,--I
must not say our borough of Silverbridge.' She was anxious to
make some allusion to Arthur Fletcher, but it was difficult to
travel on that Silverbridge ground, as Lopez had been her chosen
candidate when she still wished to claim the borough as an
appanage of the Palliser family. Emily, however, kept her
countenance and did not show by any sign that her thoughts were
running in that direction. 'And though we don't presume to
regard Mr Fletcher,' continued the Duchess, 'as in any way
connected with our local interests, he has always supported the
Duke, and I hope has become a friend of ours. I think he is a
neighbour of yours in that county.'
'Oh yes. My cousin is married to his brother.'
'I knew there was something of that kind. He told me that there
was some close alliance.' The Duchess as she looked at the woman
to whom she wanted to be kind did not as yet dare to express a
wish that there might be at some no very distant time a closer
alliance. She had come there intending to do so; and had still
some hope that she might do it before the interview was over.
But at any rate she would not do it yet. 'Have I not heard,' she
said, 'something of another marriage?'
'My brother is going to marry his cousin, Sir Alured Wharton's
'Ah;--I though it had been one of the Fletchers. It was our
member who told me, and spoke as if they were all his very dear
'They are our very dear friends,--very.' Poor Emily still
didn't know whether to call her Duchess, my Lady, or Grace,--and
yet she felt the need of calling her by some special name.
'Exactly. I supposed it was so. They tell me Mr Fletcher will
become quite a favourite of the House. At this present moment
nobody knows on which side anybody is going to sit to-morrow. It
may be that Mr Fletcher will become the dire enemy of all the
'I hope not.'
'Of course I'm speaking of political enemies. Political enemies
are often the best friends in the world; and I can assure you
from my own experience that political friends are often the
bitterest enemies. I never hated any people so much as some of
our supporters.' The Duchess made a grimace, and Emily could not
refrain from smiling. 'Yes, indeed. There's an old saying that
misfortune makes strange bedfellows, but political friendship
makes stranger alliances than misfortune. Perhaps you have never
heard of Sir Timothy Beeswax.'
'Well;--don't. But, as I was saying, there is no knowing who
may support whom now. If I were asked who would be Prime
Minister to-morrow, I should take half-dozen names and shake them
in a bag.'
'Is it not settled then?'
'Settled! No, indeed. Nothing is settled.' At that moment
indeed everything was settled, though the Duchess did not know
it. 'And so we none of us can tell how Mr Fletcher may stand
with us when things are arranged. I suppose he calls himself a
'All the Whartons are, I suppose, Conservatives,--and all the
'Very nearly. Papa calls himself a Tory.'
'A very much better name to my thinking. We are all Whigs, of
course. A Palliser who is not a Whig would be held to have
disgraced himself for ever. Are not politics odd? A few years
ago I only barely knew what the word meant, and that not
correctly. I have been so eager about it, that there hardly
seems to be anything else worth living for. I suppose it's
wrong, but a state of pugnacity seems to me the greatest bliss
which we can reach here on earth.'
'I shouldn't like to be always fighting.'
'That's because you haven't known Sir Timothy Beeswax and two or
three other gentlemen whom I could name. The day will come, I
dare say, when you will care for politics.'
Emily was about to answer, hardly knowing what to say, when the
door was opened and Mrs Roby came into the room. The lady was
not announced and Emily had heard no knock at the door. She was
forced to go through some ceremony of introduction. 'This is my
aunt, Mrs Roby,' she said, 'Aunt Harriet, the Duchess of Omnium.'
Mrs Roby was beside herself,--not all with joy. That feeling
would come afterwards when she would boast to her friends of her
new acquaintance. At present there was the embarrassment of not
quite knowing how to behave herself. The Duchess bowed from her
seat, and smiled sweetly,--as she had learned to smile since her
husband had become Prime Minister. Mrs Roby curtsied, and then
remembered that in these days only housemaids ought to curtsey.
'Anything to our Mr Roby?' said the Duchess, continuing her
smile,--'ours as was till yesterday at least.' This she said in
an absurd wail of mock sorrow.
'My brother-in-law, your Grace,' said Mrs Roby delighted.
'Oh indeed. And what does Mr Roby think about it, I wonder? But
I dare say you have found, Mrs Roby, that when a crisis comes,--
a real crisis,--the ladies are told nothing. I have.'
'I don't think, your Grace, that Mr Roby ever divulges political
'Doesn't he indeed! What a dull man your brother-in-law must be
to live with,--that is as politician! Good-bye, Mrs Lopez. You
must come and see me and let me come to you again. I hope, you
know,--I hope the time may come when things may once more be
bright with you.' These last words she murmured almost in a
whisper, as she held the hand of the woman she wished to
befriend. Then she bowed to Mrs Roby, and left the room.
'What was it she said to you?' asked Mrs Roby.
'Nothing in particular, Aunt Harriet.'
'She seems to be very friendly. What made her come?'
'She wrote to me some time ago to say she would call.'
'I cannot tell you. I don't know. Don't ask me aunt, about
things that are passed. You cannot do it without wounding me.'
'I don't want to wound you, Emily, but I really think it is
nonsense. She is a very nice woman;--though I don't think she
ought to have said that Mr Roby is dull. Did Mr Wharton know
that she was coming?'
'He knew that she said she would come,' replied Emily very
sternly, so that Mrs Roby found herself compelled to pass on to
some other subject. Mrs Roby had heard the wish expressed that
something 'once more might be bright', and when she got home told
her husband that she was sure that Emily Lopez was going to marry
Arthur Fletcher. 'And why the d--shouldn't she?' said Dick. 'And
that poor man destroying himself not more than twelve months ago!
I couldn't do it,' said Mrs Roby. 'I don't mean to give you the
chance,' said Dick.
The Duchess when she went away suffered under a sense of failure.
She had intended to bring about some sort of crisis of female
tenderness in which she might have rushed into future hopes and
joyous anticipations, and with the freedom which will come from
ebullitions of feeling, have told the widow that the peculiar
circumstances of her position would not only justify her in
marrying this other man but absolutely called upon her to do it.
Unfortunately she had failed in her attempt to bring the
interview to a condition in which this would have been possible,
and while she was still making the attempt that odious aunt had
come in. 'I have been on my mission,' she said to Mrs Finn
'Have you done any good?'
'I don't think I've done any harm. Women, you know, are so very
different. There are some who would delight to have an
opportunity of opening their hearts to a Duchess, and who might
almost be talked into anything in an ecstasy.'
'Hardly women of the best sort, Lady Glen.'
'Not of the best sort. But then one doesn't come across the very
best, very often. But that kind of thing does have an effect,
and as I only wanted to do good, I wish she had been one of the
sort for the occasion.'
'Oh dear, no. You don't suppose I attacked her with a husband at
the first. Indeed, I didn't attack her at all. She didn't give
me an opportunity. Such a Niobe you never saw.'
'Was she weeping?'
'Not actual tears, but her gown, and her cap, and her strings
were weeping. Her voice wept, and her hair, and her nose, and
her mouth. Don't you know that look of subdued mourning? And yet
they say that that man is dying for love. How beautiful it is to
see that there is such a thing as constancy left in the world.'
When she got home she found that her husband had just returned
from the old Duke's house, where he had met Mr Monk, Mr Gresham,
and Lord Cantrip. 'It's all settled at last,' he said
THE NEW MINISTRY.
When the ex-Prime Minister was left by himself after the departure
of his old friend his first feeling had been one of regret that he
had been weak enough to doubt at all. He had long since made up
his mind that after all that had passed he could not return to
office as a subordinate. That feeling as to the impropriety of
Caesar descending to serve under others which he had been foolish
enough to express, had been strong with him from the very
commencement of his Ministry. When first asked to take the place
which he had filled the reason strong against it had been the
conviction that it would probably exclude him from political work
during the latter half of his life. The man who has written Q.C.
after his name, must abandon his practice behind the bar. As he
then was, although he had already driven by the unhappy
circumstance of his peerage from the House of Commons which he
loved so well, there was still open to him many fields of
political work. But if he should once consent to stand on the
top rung of the ladder, he could not, he thought, take a lower
place without degradation. Till he should have been placed quite
at the top no shifting his place from this higher to that lower
office would injure him in his own estimation. The exigencies of
the service and not defeat would produce such changes as that.
But he could not go down from being Prime Minister and serve
under some other chief without acknowledging himself to have been
unfit for the place he had filled. Of all that he had quite
assured himself. And yet he allowed the old Duke to talk him
into a doubt!
As he sat considering the question he acknowledged that there
might have been room for doubt, though in the present emergency
there certainly was none. He could imagine circumstances in
which the experience of an individual in some special branch of
his country's service might be of paramount importance to the
country as to make it incumbent on a man to sacrifice all
personal feeling. But it was not so with him. There was nothing
now which he could do, which another might not do as well. That
blessed task of introducing decimals into all commercial
relations of British life, which had once kept him aloft in the
air, floating as upon eagle's wings, had been denied him. If
ever done it must be done from the House of Commons, and the
people of the country had become deaf to the charms of the great
reform. Othello's occupation was, in truth, altogether gone, and
there was no reason by which he could justify to himself the step
down in the world which the old Duke had proposed to him.
Early on the following morning he left Carlton Terrace on foot
and walked to Mr Monk's house, which was close to St James's
Street. Here at eleven o'clock he found his late Chancellor of
the Exchequer in that state of tedious agitation in which a man
is kept who does not yet know whether he is or is not to be one
of the actors in the play just about to be performed. The Duke
had never before been in Mr Monk's very humble abode, and now
caused some surprise. Mr Monk knew that he might probably be
sent for, but had not expected any of the ex-Prime Ministers of
the day would come to him. People had said that not improbably
he himself might be the man,--but he himself had indulged in no
such dream. Office had had no great charms for him;--and if
there was one man of the late Government who could lay it down
without personal regret, it was Mr Monk. 'I wish you to come
with me to the Duke's house in St James's Square,' said the late
Prime Minister. 'I think we shall find him at home.'
'Certainly I will come at this moment.' There was not a word
spoken till the two men were in the street together. 'Of course
I am a little anxious,' said Mr Monk. 'Have you anything to tell
me before we get there?'
'You of course must return to office, Mr Monk.'
'With your Grace--I certainly will do so.'
'And without, if there be the need. They who are wanted should
be forthcoming. But perhaps you will let me postpone what I have
to say till we see the Duke. What a charming morning;--is it
not? How sweet it would be down in the country.' March had gone
out like a lamb, and even in London in the early April days were
sweet--to be followed, no doubt, by the usual nipping inclemency
of May. 'I never can get over the feeling,' said the Duke, 'that
Parliament should sit for the winter months, instead of in
summer. If we met on the first of October, how glorious it would
be to get away for the early spring!'
'Nothing less strong than grouse could break up Parliament,' said
Mr Monk; 'and then what would the pheasants and foxes say?'
'It is giving almost too much for our amusements. I used to
think that I should like to move for a return to the number of
hunting and shooting gentlemen in both Houses. I believe it
would be a small minority.'
'But their sons shoot, and their daughters hunt, and all their
hangers-on would be against it.'
'Custom is against us, Mr Monk; that is it. Here we are. I hope
my friend will not be out, looking up young Lords of the
Treasury.' The Duke of St Bungay was not in search of cadets for
the Government, but he was at this very moment closeted with Mr
Gresham, and Mr Gresham's especial friend Lord Cantrip. He had
been at this work so long and so constantly that his very
servants had their ministerial-crisis manners and felt and
enjoyed the importance of the occasion. The two newcomers were
soon allowed to enter the august conclave, and the five great
senators greeted each other cordially. 'I hope we have not come
inopportunely,' said the Duke of Omnium. Mr Gresham assured him
almost with hilarity that nothing could be less inopportune;--
and then the Duke was sure that Mr Gresham was to be the new
Prime Minister, whoever might join him or whoever might refuse to
do so. 'I told my friend here,' continued our Duke, laying his
hand upon the old man's arm, 'that I would give him his answer to
a proposition he made with me within twenty-four hours. But I
find that I can do so without that delay.'
'I trust your Grace's answer may be favourable to us,' said Mr
Gresham,--who indeed did not doubt much that it would be so,
seeing that Mr Monk had accompanied him.
'I do not think it would be unfavourable, though I cannot do as
my friend has proposed.'
'Any practicable arrangement--' began Mr Gresham, with a frown,
however, on his brow.
'The most practicable arrangement, I am sure, will be for you to
form your Government, without hampering yourself with a beaten
'Not beaten,' said Lord Cantrip.
'Certainly not,' said the other Duke.
'It is because of your success that I ask your services,' said Mr
'I have none to give,--none that I cannot better bestow out of
office than in. I must ask you, gentlemen, to believe that I am
quite fixed. Coming here with my friend Mr Monk, I did not state
my purpose to him; but I begged him to accompany me, fearing lest
in my absence he should feel it incumbent on himself to sail in
the same boat as his late colleague.'
'I should prefer to do so,' said Mr Monk.
'Of course it is not for me to say what may be Mr Gresham's
ideas, but as my friend here suggested to me that, were I to
return to office, Mr Monk would do so also, I cannot be wrong in
surmising that his services are desired.' Mr Gresham bowed
assent. 'I shall therefore take the liberty of telling Mr Monk
that I think he is bound to give his aid in the present
emergency. Were I as happily placed as he is in being the
possessor of a seat in the House of Commons, I too should hope
that I might do something.'
The four gentlemen, with eager pressure, begged the Duke to
reconsider his decision. He could take this office and do
nothing in it,--there being, as we know, offices the holders are
not called upon for work,--or he could take that place which
required him to labour like a galley slave. Would he be Privy
Seal? Would he undertake the India Board? But the Duke of
Omnium was at last resolute. Of this administration he would not
at any rate be a member. Whether Caesar might or might not at
some future time condescend to command a legion he could not do
so when the purple had been but that moment stripped from his
shoulders. He soon afterwards left the house with a repeated
request to Mr Monk that he should not follow his late chief's
'I regret it greatly,' said Mr Gresham when he was gone.
'There is no man,' said Lord Cantrip, 'whom all who know him more
'He has been worried,' said the old Duke, 'and must take time to
recover himself. He has but one fault,--he is a little too
conscientious, a little too scrupulous.' Mr Monk, of course, did
join them, making one or two stipulations as he did so. He
required that his friend Phineas Finn should be included in the
Government. Mr Gresham yielded, though poor Phineas was not
among the most favoured friends of that statesman. And so the
Government was formed, and the crisis was again over, and the
lists which the newspapers had been publishing for the last three
days were republished in an amended and nearly correct condition.
The triumph of the "People's Banner", as to the omission of the
Duke, was of course complete. The editor had no hesitation in
declaring that he, by his own sagacity and persistency, had made
certain the exclusion of that very unfit and very pressing
candidate for office.
The list was filled up after the usual fashion. For a while the
dilettanti politicians of the clubs, and the strong-minded women
who take an interest in such things, and the writers in
newspapers, had almost doubted whether in the emergency which had
been supposed to be so peculiar, any Government could be formed.
There had been,--so they had said,--peculiarities so peculiar
that it might be that the much-dreaded deadlock had come at last.
A Coalition had been possible, and, though antagonistic to
British feelings generally, had carried on the Government. But
what might succeed the Coalition, nobody had known. The Radicals
and Liberals together would be too strong for Mr Daubney and Sir
Orlando. Mr Gresham had no longer a party of his own at his
back, and a second Coalition would be generally spurned. In this
way there had been much political excitement, and a fair amount
of consequent enjoyment. But after a few days the old men had
rattled into their old places,--or, generally, old men into new
places. And it was understood that Mr Gresham would again be
supported by a majority.
As we grow old it is a matter of interest to watch how the
natural gaps are filled in the two ranks of parliamentary workmen
by whom the Government is carried on, either in the one interest
or the other. Of course there must be gaps. Some men become too
old,--though that is rarely the case. A Peel may perish, or
even a Palmerston must die. Some men, though, long supported by
interest, family connection, or the loyalty of colleagues, are
weighed down at last by their own incapacity and sink into
peerages. Now and again a man cannot bear the bondage of office,
and flies into rebellion and independence which would have been
more respectable had it not been the result of discontent. Then
the gaps must be filled. Whether on this side or on that, the
candidates are first looked for among the sons of Earls and
Dukes,--and not unnaturally, as the sons of Earls and Dukes may
be educated for such work almost from their infancy. A few rise
by the slow process of acknowledged fitness,--men who probably
at first have not thought of offices, but are chosen because they
are wanted, and those whose careers are grudged them, not by
their opponents or rivals, but by the Browns and Joneses of the
world who cannot bear to see a Smith or a Walker become something
so different to themselves. These men have a great weight to
carry, and cannot always shake off the burden of their origin and
live among begotten statesman as though they too had been born to
the manner. But perhaps the most wonderful ministerial
phenomenon,--though now almost too common to be called a
phenomenon,--is he who rises high in power and place by having
made himself thoroughly detested and also--alas for
parliamentary cowardice!--thoroughly feared. Given sufficient
audacity, a thick skin, and power to bear for a few years the
evil looks and cold shoulders of his comrades, and that is the
man most sure to make his way to some high seat. But the skin
must be thicker than that of any animal known, and the audacity
must be complete. To the man who will once shrink at the idea of
being looked at askance for treachery, or hated for his ill
condition, the career is impossible. But let him be obdurate,
and the bid will come. 'Not because I want him, do I ask for
him,' says some groaning chief of party,--to himself, and also
sufficiently aloud for others' ears,--'but because he stings me
and goads me, and will drive me to madness as a foe.' Then the
pachydermous one enters into the other's heaven, probably with
the resolution already formed of ousting that unhappy angel. And
so it was in the present instance. When Mr Gresham's completed
list was published to the world, the world was astonished to find
that Sir Timothy Beeswax was to be Mr Gresham's Attorney-General.
Sir Gregory Grogram became Lord Chancellor, and the Liberal chief
was content to borrow his senior law adviser from the
Conservative side of the late Coalition. It could not be that Mr
Gresham was very fond of Sir Timothy;--but Sir Timothy in the
late debates had shown himself to be a man of whom a minister
might well be afraid.
Immediately on leaving the old Duke's house, the late Premier
went home to his wife, and finding that she was out, waited for
her return. Now that he had put his own decision beyond his
power he was anxious to let her know how it was to be with them.
'I think it is settled at last,' he said.
'Are you coming back?'
'Certainly not that. I believe I may say that Mr Gresham is
'Then he oughtn't to be,' said the Duchess crossly.
'I am sorry that I must differ from you, my dear, because I think
he is the fittest man in England for the place.'
'I am a private gentleman who will now be able to devote more of
his time to his wife and children than has hitherto been possible
'How very nice! Do you mean to say that you like it?'
'I am sure that I ought to like it. At the present moment I am
thinking more of what you would like.'
'If you ask me, Plantagenet, you know I shall tell the truth.'
'Then tell the truth.'
'After drinking brandy so long I hardly think that 12s claret
will agree with my stomach. You ask for the truth, and there it
'You asked, you know.'
'And I am glad to have been told, even though that which you tell
me is not pleasant hearing. When a man has been drinking too
much brandy, it may be well that he should be put on a course of
'He won't like it; and then,--it's kill or cure.'
'I don't think you've gone so far, Cora, that we need fear that
the remedy will be fatal.'
'I am thinking of you rather than myself. I can make myself
generally disagreeable, and get excitement in that way. But what
will you do? It's all very well to talk of me and the children,
but you can't bring in a bill for reforming us. You can't make
us go by decimals. You can't increase our consumption by
lowering our taxation. I wish you had gone back to some Board.'
This she said looking up into his face with an anxiety which was
half real and half burlesque.
'I had made up my mind to go back on to no Board,--for the
present. I was thinking that we could spend some months in Italy,
'What; for the summer,--so as to be in Rome in July! After that
we could utilize winter by visiting Norway.'
'We might take Norway first.'
'And be eaten up by mosquitoes! I've got to be too old to like
'What do you like, dear?'
'Nothing;--except being the Prime Minister's wife; and upon my
word there were times when I didn't like that very much. I don't
know anything that I am fit for. I wonder whether Mr Gresham
would have me as a housekeeper? Only we should have to lend him
Gatherum, or there would be no room for the display of my
abilities. Is Mr Monk in?'
'He keeps his office.'
'And Mr Finn?'
'I believe so; but in what place I don't know.'
'And who else?'
'Our old friend the Duke and Lord Cantrip, and Mr Wilson,--and
Sir Gregory will be Lord Chancellor.'
'Just the old stupid Liberal team. Put their names in a bag and
shake them, and you can always get a ministry. Well, Plantagenet;--
I'll go anywhere you like to take me. I'll have something for
the malaria at Rome, and something for the mosquitoes in Norway,
and will make the best of it. But I don't see why you should run
away in the middle of the Session. I would stay and pitch into
them, all round, like a true ex-minister and independent member
of Parliament.' Then as he was leaving her she fired a last
shot. 'I hope you made Sir Orlando and Sir Timothy peers before
you gave up.'
It was not until two days after this that she read in one of the
daily papers that Sir Timothy Beeswax was to be Attorney-General,
and then her patience almost deserted her. To tell the truth,
her husband had not dared to mention the appointment when he
first saw her after hearing it. Her explosion fell on the head
of Phineas Finn, whom she found at home with his wife, deploring
the necessity which had fallen upon him of filling the faineant
office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. 'Mr Finn,' she
said, 'I congratulate you on your colleagues.'
'Your Grace is very good. I was at any rate introduced to many
of them under the Duke's auspices.'
'And ought, I think, to have seen enough of them to be ashamed of
them. Such a regiment to march through Coventry with!'
'I do not doubt that we shall be good enough men for any enemies
we may meet.'
'It cannot be that you should conquer all the world with such a
hero among you as Sir Timothy Beeswax. The idea of Sir Timothy
coming back again! What do you feel about it?'
'Very indifferent, Duchess. He won't interfere much with me, as
I have an Attorney-General of my own. You see I'm especially
'I do believe men would do anything,' said the Duchess, turning
to Mrs Finn. 'Of course I mean in the way of politics! But I
did not think it possible that the Duke of St Bungay should again
be in the same Government with Sir Timothy Beeswax.'
THE WHARTON WEDDING.
It was at last settled that the Wharton marriage should take
place during the second week in June. There were various reasons
for the postponement. In the first place Mary Wharton, after a
few preliminary inquiries, found herself forced to declare that
Messrs Muddocks and Cramble could not send her forth equipped as
she ought to be equipped for such a husband in so short a time.
'Perhaps they do it quicker in London,' she said to Everett with
a soft regret, remembering the metropolitan glories of her
sister's wedding. And then Arthur Fletcher could be present
during the Whitsuntide holidays, and the presence of Arthur
Fletcher was essential. And it was not only his presence at the
altar that was needed;--Parliament was not so exacting but that
he might have given that;--but it was considered by the united
families to be highly desirable that he should on this occasion
remain some days in the country. Emily had promised to attend
the wedding, and would of course be at Wharton for at least a
week. As soon as Everett had succeeded in wresting a promise
from his sister, the tidings were conveyed to the Fletchers.
It was a great step gained. When in London she was her own
mistress; but surrounded as she would be down in Hertfordshire by
Fletchers and Whartons, she must be stubborn indeed if she should
still refuse to be taken back into the flock, and be made once
more happy by marrying the man whom she confessed that she loved
with her whole heart. The letter to Arthur Fletcher containing
the news was from his brother John, and was written in a very
businesslike fashion. 'We have put off Mary's marriage for a few
days, so that you and she should be down here together. If you
mean to go on with it, now is your time.' Arthur, in answer to
this, merely said he would spend the Whitsuntide holidays at
It is probable that Emily herself had some idea in her own mind
of what was being done to entrap her. Her brother's words to her
had been so strong, and the occasion of the marriage was itself
so sacred to her, that she had not been able to refuse his
request. But from the moment that she had made the promise, she
felt that she had greatly added to her own difficulties. That she
could yield to Arthur never occurred to her. She was certain of
her own persistency. Whatever might be the wishes of others, the
fitness of things required that Arthur Fletcher's wife should not
have been the widow of Ferdinand Lopez,--and required also that
the woman who had married Ferdinand Lopez should bear the results
of her own folly. Though since his death she had never spoken a
syllable against him,--if those passionate words be excepted
which Arthur himself had drawn from her,--still she had not
refrained from acknowledging the truth to herself. He had been a
man disgraced,--and she as his wife, having become his wife in
opposition to the wishes of all her friends, was disgraced also.
Let them do what they will with her, she would not soil Arthur
Fletcher's name with his infamy. Such was still her steadfast
resolution; but she knew that it would be, not endangered, but
increased in difficulty by this visit to Hertfordshire.
And there were other troubles. 'Papa,' she said, 'I must get a
dress for Everett's marriage.'
'I can't bear, after all that I have cost you, putting you to
such useless expense.'
'It is not useless, and such expenses as that I can surely afford
without groaning. Do it handsomely and you will please me best.'
Then she went forth and chose her dress,--a grey silk, light
enough not to throw quite a gloom on the brightness of the day,
and yet dark enough to declare that she was not as other women
are. The very act of purchasing this, almost blushing at her own
request as she sat at the counter in her widow's weeds, was a
pain to her. But she had no one whom she could employ. On such
an occasion she could not ask her aunt Harriet to act for her, as
her aunt was distrusted and disliked. And then there was the
fitting on of the dress,--very grievous to her, as it was the
first time since the heavy black mourning came home that she had
clothed herself in other garments.
The day before that fixed for the marriage she and her father
went down to Hertfordshire together, the conversation on the way
being all in respect to Everett. Where was he to live? What was
he to do? What income would he require till he should inherit
the good things which destiny had in store for him? The old man
seemed to feel that Providence, having been so very good to his
son in killing that other heir, had put rather a heavy burden on
himself. 'He'll want a house of his own, of course,' he said, in
a somewhat lachrymose tone.
'I suppose he'll spend a good deal of his time at Wharton.'
'He won't be content to live in another man's house altogether,
my dear, and Sir Alured can allow him nothing. It means, of
course, that I must give him a thousand a year. It seems very
natural to him, I dare say, but he might have asked the question
before he took a wife to himself.'
'You won't be angry with him, papa!'
'It's no good being angry. No;--I'm not angry. Only it seems
that everybody is uncommonly well pleased without thinking who
has to pay for the piper.'
On that evening, at Wharton, Emily still wore her mourning dress.
No one, indeed, dared to speak to her on the subject, and Mary
was even afraid lest she might appear in black on the following
day. We all know in what condition is a house on the eve of a
marriage,--how the bride feels that all the world is going to be
changed, and that therefore everything is for the moment
disjointed; and how the rest of the household, including the
servants, are led to share the feeling. Everett was of course
away. He was over at Longbarns with the Fletchers, and was to be
brought to Wharton Church on the following morning. Old Mrs
Fletcher was at Wharton Hall,--and the bishop, whose services
had been happily secured. He was formally introduced to Mrs
Lopez, the use of the name for the occasion being absolutely
necessary, and with all the smiling urbanity, which as a bishop
he was bound to possess, he was hardly able not to be funereal as
he looked at her and remembered her story. Before the evening
was over Mrs Fletcher did venture to give a hint. 'We are so
glad you have come, my dear.'
'I could not stay away when Everett said he wished it.'
'It would have been very wrong; yes, my dear,--wrong. It is
your duty, and the duty of us all, to subordinate our feelings to
those of others. Even sorrow may be selfish.' Poor Emily
listened, but could make no reply. 'It is sometimes harder for
us to be mindful of others in our grief than in our joy. You
should remember, dear, that there are some who will never be
light-hearted till they see you smile.'
'Do not say that, Mrs Fletcher.'
'It is quite true;--and right that you should think of it. It
will be particularly necessary that you should think of it to-
morrow. You will have to wear a light dress, and--'
'I have come provided,' said the widow.
'Try then to make you heart as light as your frock. You will be
doing it for Everett's sake, and for your father's, and for
Mary's sake--and Arthur's. You will be doing it for the sake of
all of us on a day that should be joyous.' She could not make
any promise in reply to this homily, but in her heart of hearts
she acknowledged that it was true, and declared to herself that
she would make the effort required of her.
On the following morning the house was of course in confusion.
There was to be a breakfast after the service, and after the
breakfast the bride was to be taken away in a carriage and four
as far as Hereford on her route to Paris;--but before the great
breakfast there was of course a subsidiary breakfast,--or how
could a bishop, bride, or bridesmaids have sustained the
ceremony? At this meal Emily did not appear, having begged for a
cup of tea in her own room. The carriages to take the party to
the church, which was but the other side of the park, were
ordered at eleven, and at a quarter before eleven she appeared
for the first time in her grey silk dress, and without a widow's
cap. Everything was very plain, but the alteration was so great
that it was impossible not to look at her. Even her father had
not seen the change before. Not a word was said, though old Mrs
Fletcher's thanks were implied by the graciousness of her smile.
As there were four bridesmaids and four other ladies besides the
bride herself, in a few minutes she became obscured by the
brightness of the others,--and then they were all packed in
their carriages and taken to the church. The eyes which she most
dreaded did not meet hers till they were all standing round the
altar. It was only then that she saw Arthur Fletcher, who was
there as her brother's best man, and it was then that he took her
hand and held it for half a minute as though he never meant to
part with it, hidden behind the widespread glories of the
The marriage was sweet and solemn as a kind-hearted bishop could
make it, and all the ladies looked particularly well. The veil
from London--with the orange wreath, also metropolitan--was
perfect, and as for the dress, I doubt whether any woman would
have it known it to be provincial. Everett looked the rising
baronet, every inch of him, and the old barrister smiled and
seemed, at least, to be well pleased. Then came the breakfast,
and the speech-making, in which Arthur Fletcher shone
triumphantly. It was a very nice wedding, and Mary Wharton--as
she then and still was--felt herself for a moment to be a
heroine. But, through it all, there was present to the hearts of
most of them a feeling that much more was to be effected, if
possible, than this simple and cosy marriage, and that the fate
of Mary Wharton was hardly so important to them as that of Emily
When the carriage and four was gone there came upon the household
the difficulty usual on such occasions of getting through the
rest of the day. The bridesmaids retired and repacked their
splendours so that they might come out fresh for other second-
rate needs, and with the bridesmaids went the widow. Arthur
Fletcher remained at Wharton with all the other Fletchers for the
night, and was prepared to renew his suit on that very day, if an
opportunity were given him, but Emily did not again show herself
till a few minutes before dinner, and then she came down with all
the appurtenances of mourning which she usually wore. The grey
silk had been put on for the marriage ceremony, and for that
only. 'You should have kept your dress at any rate for the day,'
said Mrs Fletcher. She replied that she had changed it for
Everett, and that as Everett was gone there was no further need
for to wear clothes unfitted for her position. Arthur would have
cared very little for the clothes could he have had his way with
the woman who wore them;--could he have had his way even so far
as to have found himself alone with her for half-an-hour. But no
such chance was his. She retreated from the party early, and did
not show herself on the following morning till after he had
started for Longbarns.
All the Fletchers went back,--not, however, with any intention
on the part of Arthur to abandon his immediate attempt. The
distance between the houses was not so great but that he could
drive himself over at any time. 'I shall go now,' he said to Mr
Wharton, 'because I have promised John to fish with him to-
morrow, but I shall come over on Monday or Tuesday, and stay till
I go back to town. I hope she will at any rate let me speak to
her.' The father said he would do his best, but that that
obstinate resumption of her weeds on her brother's very wedding
day had nearly broken his heart.
When the Fletchers were back at Longbarns, the two ladies were
very severe on her. 'It was downright obstinacy,' said the
squire's wife, 'and it almost makes me think that it would serve
her right to leave her as she is.'
'It's pride,' said the old lady. 'She won't give way. I said
ever so much to her, but it's no use. I feel it the more because
we have gone so much out of the way to be good to her after she
made such a fool of herself. If it goes on much longer, I shall
never forgive her again.'
'You'll have to forgive her, mother,' said her eldest son, 'let
her sins be what they may,--or else you will have to quarrel
'I do think it's very hard,' said the old lady, taking herself
out of the room. And it was hard. The offence in the first
instance had been very great and the forgiveness very difficult.
But Mrs Fletcher had lived long enough to know that when sons are
thoroughly respectable a widowed mother has to do their bidding.
Emily, through the whole wedding day, and the next day, and day
after day, remembered Mrs Fletcher's words. 'There are some who
will never be light-hearted again till they see you smile.' And
the old woman had named her dearest friends, and had ended by
naming Arthur Fletcher. She had then acknowledged to herself
that it was her duty to smile in order that others might smile
also. But how is one to smile with a heavy heart? Should one
smile and lie? And how long and to what good purpose can such
forced contentment last? She had marred her whole life. In
former days she had been proud of all her virgin glories,--proud
of her intellect, proud of her beauty, proud of that obeisance
which beauty, birth, and intellect combined, exact from all
comers. She had been ambitious as to her future life;--had
intended to be careful not to surrender herself to some empty
fool;--had thought herself well qualified to pick her own steps.
And this had come of it! They told her that she might still make
everything right, annul the past and begin the world again as
fresh as ever;--if she would only smile and study to forget! Do
it for the sake of others, they said, and then it will be done
for yourself also. But she could not conquer the past. The fire
and water of repentance, adequate as they may be for eternity,
cannot burn out or wash away the remorse of this life. They
scorch and choke,--and unless it be so there is no repentance.
So she told herself,--and yet it was her duty to be light-
hearted that others around her might not be made miserable by her
sorrow! If she could in truth be light-hearted, then would she
know herself to be unfeeling and worthless.
On the third day after the marriage Arthur Fletcher came back to
Wharton with the declared intention of remaining there till the
end of the holiday. She could make no objection to such an
arrangement, nor could she hasten her own return to London. That
had been fixed before her departure, and was to made together
with her father. She felt that she was being attacked with
unfair weapons, and that undue advantage was taken of the
sacrifice which she had made for her brother's sake. And yet,--
yet how good to her they all were! How wonderful it was that
after the thing she had done, after the disgrace she had brought
on herself and them, after the destruction of all that pride
which had once been hers, they should still wish to have her
among them! As for him,--of whom she was always thinking,--of
what nature must be his love, when he was willing to take to
himself as his wife such a thing as she had made of herself!
But, thinking of this, she would only tell herself that, as he
would not protect himself, she was bound to be his protector.
Yes;--she would protect him, though she could dream of a world
of joy that might be hers if she could do as he would ask her.
He caught her at last, and forced her to come out with him into
the grounds. He could tell his tale better as he walked by her
side than sitting restlessly on a chair and moving awkwardly
about the room, as on such an occasion he would be sure to do.
Within four walls she would have some advantage over him. She
could sit still and be dignified in her stillness. But in the
open air, when they would both be on their legs, she might not be
so powerful with him, and he perhaps might be stronger with her.
She could not refuse him when he asked her to walk with him. And
why should she refuse him? Of course he must be allowed to utter
his prayer,--and then she must be allowed to make her answer.
'I think the marriage went off very well,' he said.
'Very well. Everett ought to be a happy man.'
'No doubt he will be,--when he settles down to something.
Everything will come right for him. With some people things seem
to go smooth, don't they? They have not hitherto gone smoothly
with you and me, Emily.'
'You are prosperous. You have everything before you that a man
can wish, if only you will allow yourself to think so. Your
profession is successful, and you are in Parliament, and everyone
'It is all nothing.'
'That is the general discontent of the world.'
'It is all nothing--unless I have you too. Remember that I had
said so long before I was successful, when I did not dream of
Parliament; before we had heard the name of the man who came
between us and my happiness. I think I am entitled to be
believed when I say so. I think I know my own mind. There are
many men who would have been changed by the episode of such a
'You ought to be changed by it,--and by its result.'
'It had no such effect. Here I am, after it all, telling you as
I used to tell you before. I have to look to you for my
'You should be ashamed to confess it, Arthur.'
'Never;--not to you, nor to all the world. I know what it has
been. I know you are not now as you were then. You have been
his wife, and are now his widow.'
'That should be enough.'
'But, such as you are, my happiness is in your hands. If it were
not so, do you think that all my family as well as yours would
join in wishing that you may become my wife? There is nothing to
conceal. When you married this man, you know what my mother
thought of it, and what John thought of it, and his wife. They
had wanted you to be my wife; and they want it now--because they
are anxious for my happiness. And your father wishes it, and
your brother wishes it,--because they trust me, and I think that
I should be a good husband to you.'
'Good!' she exclaimed, hardly knowing what she meant by repeating
'After that you have no right to set yourself to judge what may
be best for my happiness. They who know how to judge are all
united. Whatever you may have been, they believe that it will be
good for me that you should now be my wife. After that you must
talk about me no longer, unless you will talk of my wishes.'
'Do you think that I am not anxious for your happiness?'
'I do not know;--but I shall find out in time. That is what I
have to say about myself. And as to you, is it not much the
same? I know you love me. Whatever the feeling was that
overcame you as to that other man,--it has gone. I cannot now
stop to be tender and soft in my words. The thing to be said is
too serious to me. And every friend you have wants you to marry
the man you love, and to put an end to the desolation which you
have brought on yourself. There is not one among us, Fletchers
and Whartons, whose comfort does not more or less depend on your
sacrificing the luxury of your own woe.'
'Yes; luxury. No man ever had a right to say more positively to
a woman that it is her duty to marry him, than I have to you.
And I do say it. I say it on behalf of all of us, that it is
your duty. I won't talk of my own love now, because you know it.
But I say that it is your duty to give up drowning us all in
tears, burying us in desolation. You are one of us, and should
do as all of us wish you. If, indeed, you could not love me it
would be different. There! I have said what I have got to say.
You are crying, and I will not take your answer now. I will come
again to-morrow, and then you shall answer me. But, remember when
you do so that the happiness of many people depends on what you
say.' Then he left her very suddenly and hurried back to the
house by himself.
He had been very rough with her,--but not once attempted to
touch her hand or even her arm, had spoken no soft word to her,
speaking of his own love as a thing too certain to need further
words; and he had declared himself to be so assured of her love
that there was no favour for him now to ask, nothing for which he
was bound to pray as a lover. All that was past. He had simply
declared it to be her duty to marry him, and he had told her so
with much sternness. He had walked fast, compelling her to
accompany him, had frowned at her, and had more than once stamped
his foot upon the ground. During the whole interview she had
been so near to weeping that she could hardly speak. Once or
twice she had almost thought him to be cruel;--but he had forced
her to acknowledge to herself that all that he had said was true
and unanswerable. Had he pressed her for an answer at that
moment she would have known in what words to couch a refusal.
And yet as she made her way alone back to the house she assured
herself that she would have refused.
He had given her four-and-twenty hours, and at the end of that
time she would be bound to give him an answer,--and answer which
must then be final. And as she said this to herself she found
that she was admitting a doubt. She hardly knew how not to
doubt, knowing as she did, that all whom she loved were on one
side, while on the other was nothing but the stubbornness of her
own convictions. But still the conviction was left to her. Over
and over again she declared to herself that it was not fit,
meaning thereby to assure herself that a higher duty even than
that which she owed to her friends, demanded from her that she
should be true to her convictions. She met him that day at
dinner, but he hardly spoke to her. They sat together in the
same room during the evening, but she hardly once heard his
voice. It seemed to her that he avoided even looking at her.
When they separated for the night, he parted from her almost as
though they had been strangers. Surely he was angry with her
because she was stubborn,--thought evil of her because she would
not do as others wished her! She lay awake during the long night
thinking of it all. If it might be so! Oh;--if it might be so!
If it might be done without utter ruin to her own self-respect as
In the morning she was down early,--not having anything to say,
with no clear purpose as yet before her;--but still with a
feeling that perhaps that morning might alter all things for her.
He was the latest of the party, not coming in for prayers as he
did all the others, but taking his seat when the others had half
finished their breakfast. As he sat down he gave a general half-
uttered greeting to them all, but spoke no special word to any of
them. It chanced that his seat was next to hers, but to her he
did not address himself at all. Then the meal was over, and the
chairs were withdrawn, and the party grouped itself about with
vague, uncertain movements, as men and women do before they leave
the breakfast table for the work of the day. She meditated her
escape, but felt that she could not leave the room before Lady
Wharton or Mrs Fletcher;--who had remained at Wharton to keep
her mother company for a while. At last they went;--but then,
just as she was escaping, he put his hand upon her and reminded
her of her appointment. 'I shall be in the hall in a quarter of
an hour,' he said. 'Will you meet me there?' Then she bowed her
head to him and passed on.
She was there at the time named, and found him standing by the
hall door, waiting for her. His hat was already on his head and
his back was almost turned to her. He opened the door, and,
allowing her to pass out first, led the way to the shrubbery. He
did not speak to her till he had closed behind her the little
iron gate which separated the walk from the garden, and then he
turned upon her with one word. 'Well?' he said. She was silent
for a moment, and then he repeated his eager question: 'Well;--
'I should disgrace you,' she said, not firmly, as before, but
whispering the words.
He waited for no other assent. The form of the words told him
that he had won the day. In a moment his arms were round her,
and her veil was off, and his lips were pressed to hers;--and
when she could see his countenance the whole form of his face was
altered to her. It was bright as it used to be bright in the old
days, and he was smiling on her as he used to smile. 'My own,'
he said;--'my wife--my own!' And she had no longer the power
to deny him. 'Not yet, Arthur; not yet,' was all that she could
THE LAST MEETING AT MATCHING.
The ex-Prime Minister did not carry out his purpose of leaving
London in the middle of the season and travelling either to Italy
or Norway. He was away from London at Whitsuntide longer perhaps
than he might have been if still in office, and during this
period regarded himself as a man from whose hands all work had
been taken--as one who had been found unfit to carry any longer
a burden serviceably; but before June was over he and the Duchess
were back in London, and gradually he allowed himself to open his
mouth on this or that subject in the House of Lords,--not
pitching into everybody all round, as his wife had recommended,--
but expressing an opinion now and again, generally in support of
his friends, with the dignity which should belong to a retired
Prime Minister. The Duchess too recovered much of her good
temper,--as far at least as the outward show went. One or two
who knew her, especially Mrs Finn, were aware that her hatred and
her ideas of revenge were not laid aside; but she went on from
day to day anathematizing her special enemies, and abstained from
reproaching her husband for his pusillanimity. Then came the
question as to the autumn. 'Let's have everybody down at
Gatherum, just as we had before,' said the Duchess.
The proposition almost took away the Duke's breath. 'Why do you
want a crowd, like that?'
'Just to show them that we are not beaten because we are turned
'But inasmuch as we were turned out, we were beaten. And what
has a gathering of people at my house to do with a political
manoeuvre? Do you especially want to go to Gatherum?'
'I hate the place. You know I do.'
'Then why should you propose to go there?' He hardly yet knew
his wife well enough to understand that the suggestion had been a
joke. 'If you don't wish to go abroad--'
'I hate going abroad.'
'Then we'll remain at Matching. You don't hate Matching.'
'Ah dear! There are memories there too. But you like it.'
'My books are there.'
'Blue-books,' said the Duchess.
'And there is plenty of room if you wish to have friends.'
'I suppose we must have somebody. You can't live without your
'You can ask whom you please,' he said almost fretfully.
'Lady Rosina, of course,' suggested the Duchess. Then he turned
to the papers before him, and wouldn't say another word. The
matter ended in a party much as usual being collected at Matching
about the middle of October,--Telemachus having spent the early
part of the autumn with Mentor at Long Royston. There might
perhaps be a dozen guests in the house and among them were
Phineas Finn and his wife. And Mr Grey was there, having come
back from his eastern mission,--whose unfortunate abandonment of
his seat at Silverbridge had cause so many troubles,--and Mrs
Grey, who in days now long passed had been almost as necessary to
Lady Glencora, as was now her later friend Mrs Finn,--and the
Cantrips, and for a short time the St Bungays. But Lady Rosina
De Courcy on this occasion was not present. There were few there
whom my patient readers have not seen at Matching before; but
among those few was Arthur Fletcher.
'So it is to be,' said the Duchess to the member for Silverbridge
one morning. She had by this time become intimate with 'her
member', as she would sometimes call him in a joke, and had
concerned herself much as to his matrimonial prospects.
'Yes, Duchess, it is to be,--unless some unforeseen circumstance
'Ladies and gentlemen do sometimes change their minds;--but in
this case I do not think it likely.'
'And why ain't you being married now, Mr Fletcher?'
'We have agreed to postpone it till next year;--so that we may
be quite sure of our own minds.'
'I know you are laughing at me; but nevertheless I am very glad
that it is settled. Pray tell her from me that I shall again
call soon as ever she is Mrs Fletcher, though I don't think she
repaid either of the last two visits I made her.'
'You must make excuses for her, Duchess.'
'Of course. I know. After all she is a most fortunate woman.
And as for you,--I regard you as a hero among lovers.'
'I'm getting used to it,' she said one day to Mrs Finn.
'Of course you'll get used to it. We get used to anything that
chance sends us in a marvellously short time.'
'What I mean is that I can go to bed and sleep, and get up and
eat my meals without missing the sound of trumpets so much as I
did at first. I remember hearing of people who lived in a mill,
and couldn't sleep when the mill stopped. It was like that with
me when our mill stopped at first. I had got myself so used to
the excitement of it, that I could hardly live without it.'
'You might have all the excitement still, if you pleased. You
need not be dead to politics because your husband is not Prime
'No; never again,--unless he should come back. If anyone had
told me ten years ago that I should have taken an interest in
this or that man being in Government, I should have laughed him
to scorn. It did not seem possible to me then that I should care
what became of men like Sir Timothy Beeswax and Mr Roby. But I
did get to be anxious about it when Plantagenet was shifted from
one office to another.'
'Of course you did. Do you think I am not anxious about
'But when he became Prime Minister, I gave myself up to it
altogether. I shall never forget what I felt when he came to me
and told me that perhaps it might be so;--but told me also that
he would escape from it if it were possible. I was the Lady
Macbeth of the occasion all over;--whereas he was so scrupulous,
so burdened with conscience! As for me, I would have taken it by
any means. Then it was the old Duke played the part of the three
witches to a nicety. Well, there hasn't been any absolute
murder, and I haven't quite gone mad.'
'Nor need you be afraid though all the woods of Gatherum should
come to Matching.'
'God forbid! I will never see anything of Gatherum again. What
annoys me most is, and always was, that he wouldn't understand
what I felt about it;--how proud I was that he should be Prime
Minister, how anxious that he should be great and noble in his
office;--how I worked for him, and not at all for any pleasure
of my own.'
'I think he did feel it.'
'No;--not as I did. At last he liked the power,--or rather
feared the disgrace of losing it. But he had no idea of the
personal grandeur of the place. He never understood that to be
Prime Minister in England is as much as to be an Emperor in
France, and much more than being President of America. Oh, how I
did labour for him,--and how did he scold me for it in those
quiet little stinging words of his! I was vulgar!'
'Is that a quiet word?'
'Yes;--as he used it;--and indiscreet, and ignorant, and
stupid. I bore it all, though sometimes I was dying with
vexation. Now it's all over, and here we are as humdrum as
anyone else. And the Beeswaxes, and the Robys, and the Droughts,
and the Pountneys, and the Lopezes, have all passed over the
scene. Do you remember that Pountney affair, and how he turned
the poor man out of the house?'
'It served him right.'
'It would have served them all right to be turned out;--only
they were there for a purpose. I did like it in a way, and it
makes me sad to think that the feeling can never come back again.
Even if they should have him back again, it would be a very lame
affair to me then. I can never again rouse myself to the effort
of preparing food and lodging for half the Parliament and their
wives. I shall never again think that I can help to rule England
by coaxing unpleasant men. It is done and gone, and can never
come back again.'
Not long after this the Duke took Mr Monk, who had come down to
Matching for a few days, out to the very spot on which he had sat
when he indulged himself in lecturing Phineas Finn on
Conservatism and Liberalism generally, and then asked the
Chancellor of the Exchequer what he thought of the present state
of public affairs. He himself had supported Mr Gresham's
government, and did not belong to it because he could not at
present reconcile himself to filling any office. Mr Monk did not
scruple to say that in his opinion the present legitimate
division of parties was preferable to the Coalition which had
existed for three years. 'In such an arrangement,' said Mr Monk,
'there must always be a certain amount of distrust, and such a
feeling is fatal to any great work.'
'I think I distrusted no one till separation came,--and when it
did come it was not caused by me.'
'I am not blaming anyone now,' said the other; 'but men who have
been brought up with opinions altogether different, even with
different instincts as to politics, who from their mother's milk
have been nourished on codes of thought altogether opposed to
each other, cannot work together with confidence even though they
may desire the same thing. The very ideas which are sweet as
honey to the one are bitter as gall to the other.'
'You think, then, that we made a great mistake?'
'I will not say that,' said Mr Monk. 'There was a difficulty at
the time, and that difficulty was overcome. The Government was
carried on, and was on the whole respected. History will give
you credit for patriotism, patience, and courage. No man could
have done it better than you did;--probably no other man of the
day so well.'
'But it was not a great part to play?' The Duke in his
nervousness, as he said this, could not avoid the use of that
questioning tone which requires an answer.
'Great enough to satisfy the heart of a man who has fortified
himself against the evil of ambition. After all, what is it that
the Prime Minister of such a country as this should chiefly
regard? Is it not the prosperity of the country? Is it not often
that we want great measures, or new arrangements that shall be
vital to the country. Politicians now look for grievances, not
because grievances are heavy, but trusting that the honour of
abolishing them may be great. It is the old story of the needy
knife-grinder who, if left to himself, would have no grievance of
which to complain.'
'But there are grievances,' said the Duke. 'Look at monetary
denominations. Look at our weights and measures.'
'Well; yes. I will not say that everything has as yet been
reduced to divine order. But when we took office three years ago
we certainly did not intend to settle those difficulties.'
'No, indeed,' said the Duke, sadly.
'But we did do all that we were meant to do. For my own part,
there is only one thing that I regret, and one only which you
should regret also till you have resolved to remedy it.'
'What thing is that?'
'Your retirement from official life. If the country is to lose
your services for the long course of years during which you will
probably sit in Parliament, then I shall think that the country
has lost more than it gained by the Coalition.'
The Duke sat for a while silent, looking at the view, and, before
answering Mr Monk,--while arranging his answer,--once or twice
in a half-absent way, called his companion's attention to the
scene before him. But during this time he was going through an
act of painful repentance. He was condemning himself for a word
or two that had been ill-spoken by himself, and which, since the
moment of its utterance, he had never ceased to remember with shame.
He told himself now, after his own secret fashion, that he must
do penance for these words by the humiliation of a direct
contradiction of them. He must declare that Caesar would at some
future time be prepared to serve under Pompey. Then he made his
answer. 'Mr Monk,' he said, 'I should be false if I were to deny
that it pleases me to hear you say so. I have thought much of
all that for the last two or three months. You may probably have
seen that I am not a man endowed with that fortitude which
enables many to bear vexations with an easy spirit. I am given
to fretting, and I am inclined to think that a popular minister
in a free country should be so constituted as to be free from
that infirmity. I shall certainly never desire to be at the head
of Government again. For a few years I would prefer to remain
out of office. But I will endeavour to look forward to a time
when I may again perhaps be of some humble use.'
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