The Prime Minister
Part 4 out of 16
long run,' said the baronet. This was the manner in which they
tried to be merry that evening after dinner at Wharton Hall. The
two girls sat listening to their seniors in contented silence,--
listening or perhaps thinking of their own peculiar troubles,
while Arthur Fletcher held some book in his hand which he strove
to read with all his might.
There was not one there in the room who did not know that it was
the wish of the united families that Arthur Fletcher should marry
Emily Wharton, and also that Emily had refused him. To Arthur of
course the feeling that it was so could not but be an additional
vexation; but the knowledge had grown up and had become common in
the two families without any power on his part to prevent so
disagreeable a condition of affairs. There was not one in that
room, unless it was Mary Wharton, who was not more or less angry
with Emily, thinking her to be perverse and unreasonable. Even
to Mary her cousin's strange obstinacy was a matter of surprise and
sorrow,--for to her Arthur Fletcher was one of those demigods,
who should never be refused, who are not expected to do more than
express a wish and be accepted. Her own heart had not strayed
that way because she thought but little of herself, knowing
herself to be portionless, and believing from long thought on the
subject that it was not her destiny to the wife of any man. She
regarded Arthur Fletcher as being of all men the most lovable,--
though, knowing her own condition, she did not dream of loving
him. It did not become her to be angry with another girl on such
a cause;--but she was amazed that Arthur Fletcher should sigh in
The girl's folly and perverseness on this head were known to them
all,--but as yet her greater folly and worse perverseness, her
vitiated taste and dreadful partiality for the Portuguese
adventurer, were known but to the two old men and to poor Arthur
himself. When that sternly magnificent old lady Mrs Fletcher,--
whose ancestors had been Welsh kings in the time of the Romans,--
when she should hear this story, the roof of the old hall would
hardly be able to hold her wrath and her dismay! The old kings
had died away, but the Fletchers and the Vaughans,--of whom she
had been one,--and the Whartons remained, a peculiar people in
an age that was then surrendering itself to quick perdition, and
with peculiar duties. Among these duties, the chiefest of them
incumbent on females was that of so restraining their affections
that they should never damage the good cause by leaving it. They
might marry within the pale,--or remain single, as might be
their lot. She would not take upon herself to say that Emily
Wharton was bound to accept Arthur Fletcher, merely because such
a marriage was fitting,--although she did think that there was
much perverseness in the girl, who might have taught herself, had
she not been so stubborn, to comply with the wishes of the
families. But to love one so below herself, a man without a
father, a foreigner, a black Portuguese Jew, merely because he
had a bright eye, and a hook nose, and a glib tongue,--that a
girl from the Whartons should do this,--! It was so unnatural
to Mrs Fletcher that it would be hardly possible to her to be
civil to the girl after she had heard that her mind and taste were so
astray. All this Sir Alured knew and the barrister knew it,--
and they feared her indignation the more because they sympathized
with the old lady's feelings.
'Emily Wharton doesn't seem to me to be a bit more gracious than
she used to be,' Mrs Fletcher said to Lady Wharton that night.
The two old ladies were sitting together upstairs, and Mrs John
Fletcher was with them. In such conferences Mrs Fletcher always
domineered,--to perfect contentment of old Lady Wharton, but not
equally so to that of her daughter-in-law.
'I'm afraid she's not very happy,' said Lady Wharton.
'She has everything that ought to make a girl happy, and I don't
know what it is she wants. It makes me quite angry to see her so
discontented. She doesn't say a word, but sits there as glum as
death. If I were Arthur I would leave her for six months, and
never speak to her during that time.'
'I suppose, mother,' said the younger Mrs Fletcher,--who called
her husband's mother, mother, and her own mother, mamma,--'a
girl needn't marry a man unless she likes him.'
'But she should try to like him if it's suitable in other
respects. I don't mean to take any trouble about it. Arthur
needn't beg for any favour. Only I wouldn't have come here if I
had thought that she had intended to sit silent like that
'It makes her unhappy, I suppose,' said Lady Wharton, 'because
she can't do what we all want.'
'Fall, lall! She'd have wanted it herself if nobody else had
wished it. I'm surprised that Arthur should be so much taken
'You'd better say nothing more about it, mother.'
'I don't mean to say anything more about it. It's nothing to me.
Arthur can do very well in the world without Emily Wharton. Only
a girl like that will sometimes make a disgraceful match; and we
should all feel that.'
'I don't think Emily will do anything disgraceful,' said Lady
Wharton. And so they parted.
In the meantime the two brothers were smoking their pipes in the
housekeeper's room, which, at Wharton, when the Fletchers or
Everett were there, was freely used for that purpose.
'Isn't it rather quaint of you,' said the elder brother, 'coming
down here in the middle of term time?'
'It doesn't matter much.'
'I should have thought it would matter;--that is, if you mean to
go on with it.'
'I'm not going to make a slave of myself about it, if you mean
that. I don't suppose I shall ever marry,--and for rising to be
a swell in the profession, I don't care about it.'
'You used to care about it,--very much. You used to say that if
you didn't get to the top it shouldn't be your own fault.'
'And I have worked;--and I do work. But things get changed
somehow. I've half a mind to give it all up,--to raise a lot of
money, and to start off with a resolution to see every corner of
the world. I suppose a man could do it in about thirty years if
he lived so long. It's the kind of thing that would suit me.'
'Exactly. I don't know of any fellow who has been more into
society, and therefore you are exactly the man to live alone for
the rest of your life. You've always worked hard, I will say
that for you;--and therefore you're just the man to be contented
with idleness. You've always been ambitious and self-confident,
and therefore it will suit you to a T, to be nobody, and to do
nothing.' Arthur sat silent, smoking his pipe with all his
might, and his brother continued,--'Besides,--you read
sometimes, I fancy.'
'I should read all the more.'
'Very likely. But what you have read, in the old plays, for
instance, must have taught you that when a man is cut about a
woman,--which I suppose is your case just at present,--he never
does get over it. He never gets all right after a time,--does
he? Such a one had better go and turn monk at once, as the world
is over for him altogether;--isn't it? Men don't recover after
a month or two, and go on just the same. You've never seen that
kind of thing yourself?'
'I'm not going to cut my throat or turn monk either.'
'No. There are so many steamboats and railways now that
travelling seems easier. Suppose you go as far as St Petersburg,
and see if that does you any good. If it don't, you needn't go
on, because it will be hopeless. If it does,--why, you can come
back, because the second journey will do the rest.'
'There never was anything, John, that wasn't a matter for chaff
'And I hope there never will be. People understand it when logic
would be thrown away. I suppose the truth is the girl cares for
somebody else.' Arthur nodded his head. 'Who is it? Anyone I
'I think not.'
'Anyone you know?'
'I have met the man.'
'Disgustingly indecent, I should say.' John looked very black,
for even with him the feeling about the Whartons and the Vaughans
and the Fletchers was very strong. 'He's a man I should say you
wouldn't let into Longbarns.'
'There might be various reasons for that. It might be that you
wouldn't care to meet him.'
'Well;--no,--I don't suppose I should. But without that you
wouldn't like him. I don't think he's an Englishman.'
'He has got a foreign name.'
'An Italian nobleman?'
'I don't think he's noble in any country.'
'Who the d-d is he?'
'His name is--Lopez.'
'Yes,--Everett's friend. I ain't very much obliged to Master
Everett for what he has done.'
'I've seen the man. Indeed I may say I know him,--for I dined
with him at Manchester Square. Old Wharton himself must have
asked him there.'
'He was there as Everett's friend. I only heard all this to-day,
you know,--though I had heard about it before.'
'And therefore you want me to set out your travels. As far as I
saw I should say he was a clever fellow.'
'I don't doubt that.'
'And a gentleman.'
'I don't know that he is not,' said Arthur. 'I've no right to
say word against him. From what Wharton says I suppose he's
'He's good-looking too;--at least he's the sort of man that
women like to look at.'
'Just so. I've no cause to quarrel with him,--nor with her.
'Yes, my friend. I see it all,' said the elder brother. 'I
think I know all about it. But running away is not the thing.
One may be pretty nearly sure that one is right when one says
that a man shouldn't run away from anything.'
'The thing is to be happy if you can,' said Arthur.
'No;--that's not the thing. I'm not much of a philosopher, but
as far as I can see there are two philosophies in the world. The
one is to make one's self happy, and the other is to make other
people happy. The latter answers the best.'
'I can't add to her happiness by hanging about London.'
'That's a quibble. It isn't her happiness we are talking about,
--nor yet your hanging about London. Gird yourself up and go on
with what you've got to do. Put your work before your feelings.
What does a poor man do, who goes out hedging and ditching with a
dead child lying in his house? If you get a blow in the face,
return it if it ought to be returned, but never complain of the
pain. If you must have your vitals eaten into,--have them eaten
into like a man. But mind you,--these ain't your vitals.'
'It goes pretty near.'
'These ain't your vitals. A man gets cured of it,--almost
always. I believe always; though some men get hit so hard they
can never bring themselves to try it again. But tell me this.
Has old Wharton given his consent?'
'No. He has refused,' said Arthur with strong emphasis.
'How is to be, then?'
'He has dealt very fairly by me. He has done all he could to get
rid of the man,--both with him and with her. He has told Emily
that he will have nothing to do with the man. And she will do
nothing without his sanction.'
'Then it will remain as it is.'
'No, John; it will not. He has gone on to say that though he has
refused,--and has refused roughly enough,--he must give way if
he sees that she has really set her heart upon him. And she
'Has she told you so?'
'No;--but he has told me. I shall have it out with her to-
morrow, if I can. And then I shall be off.'
'You'll be here for the shooting on the 1st?'
'No. I dare say you're right in what you say about sticking to
my work. It does seem unmanly to run away because of a girl.'
'Because of anything! Stop and face it, whatever it is.'
'Just so;--but I can't stop and face her. It would do no good.
For all our sakes I should be better away. I can get shooting
with Musgrave and Carnegie in Perthshire. I dare say I shall go
there, and take a share with them.'
'That's better than going into all quarters of the globe.'
'I didn't mean that I was to surrender and start at once. You
take a fellow up so short. I shall do very well, I've no doubt,
and shall be hunting here as jolly as ever at Christmas. But a
fellow must say it all to somebody.' The elder brother put his
hand out and laid it affectionately upon the younger one's arm.
'I'm not going to whimper about the world like a whipped dog.
The worst of it is so many people have known of this.'
'You mean down here.'
'Oh;--everywhere. I have never told them. It has been a kind
of family affair and thought to be fit for general discussions.'
'That'll wear away.'
'In the meantime, it's a bore. But that shall be the end of it.
Don't you say another word to me about it, and I won't to you.
And tell mother not to, or Sarah.' Sarah was John Fletcher's
wife. 'It has got to be dropped, and let us drop it as quickly
as we can. If she does marry this man, I don't suppose she'll be
much at Longbarns or Wharton.'
'Not at Longbarns certainly, I should say,' replied John. 'Fancy
mother having to curtsey to her as Mrs Lopez! And I doubt
whether Sir Alured would like him. He isn't of our sort. He's
too clever, too cosmopolitan,--a sort of man whitewashed of all
prejudices, who wouldn't mind whether he ate horseflesh or beef
if horseflesh were as good as beef, and never had on any occasion
in his life. I'm not sure that he's not on the safest side.
Good-night, old fellow. Pluck up, and send us plenty of grouse
if you do go to Scotland.'
John Fletcher, as I hope may have been already seen, was by no
means a weak man or an indifferent brother. He was warm-hearted,
sharp-witted, and though perhaps a little self-opinionated,
considered throughout the county to be one of the most prudent in
it. Indeed no one ever ventured to doubt his wisdom on all
practical matters,--save his mother, who seeing him almost every
day, had a stronger bias towards her younger son. 'Arthur has
been hit hard about that girl,' he said to his wife that night.
'Yes;--your cousin Emily. Don't say anything to him, but be as
good to him as you know how.'
'Good to Arthur! Am I not always good to him?'
'Be a little more than usually tender with him. It makes one
almost cry to see such a fellow hurt like that. I can understand
it, though I never had anything of it myself.'
'You never had, John,' said the wife leaning close upon the
husband's breast as she spoke. 'It all came very easily to you;
--too easily perhaps.'
'If any girl had refused me, I should have taken her at her word.
I can tell you. There would have been no second "hop" to that
'Then I suppose I was right to catch it the first time?'
'I don't say how that may be.'
'I was right. Oh, dear me!--Suppose I had doubted, just for
once, and you had gone off. You should have tried once more,--
'You'd have gone about it like a broken-winged old hen, and have
softened me in that way.'
'And now Arthur has had his wing broken.'
'You mustn't let on to know it's broken, and the wing will be
healed in due time. But what fools girls are!'
'Indeed they are, John,--particularly me.'
'Fancy a girl like Emily Wharton,' said he, not condescending to
notice her little joke, 'throwing herself over a fellow like
Arthur for a greasy, black foreigner.'
'Yes,--a man named Lopez. Don't say anything about it at
present. Won't she live to find out the difference, and to know
what she has done! I can tell her of one who won't pity her.'
Arthur Fletcher received his brother's teaching as true, and took
his brother's advice in good part,--so that, before the morning
following, he had resolved that however the deep the wound might
be, he would so live before the world, that the world should not
see his wound. What people already knew they must know,--but
they should learn nothing further either by words or by signs
from him. He would, as he had said to his brother, 'have it out
with Emily'; and then, if she told him plainly that she loved the
man, he would bid her adieu, simply expressing regret that their
course for life should be divided. He was confident that she
would tell him the entire truth. She would be restrained neither
by false modesty, nor by any assumed unwillingness to discuss her
own affairs with a friend so true to her as he had been. He knew
her well enough to be sure that she recognized the value of his
love though she could not bring herself to accept it. There are
rejected lovers who, merely because they are lovers, become
subject to the scorn and even the disgust of the girls they love.
But again there are men who, even when they are rejected, are
almost loved, who are considered to be worthy of the reverence,
almost of worship;--and yet the worshippers will not love them.
Not analysing all this, but somewhat conscious of the light in
which this girl regarded him, he knew that what he might say
would be treated with deference. As to shaking her,--as to
talking her out of one purpose and into another,--that to him
did not for a moment seem to be practicable. There was no hope
of that. He hardly knew why he should endeavour to say a word to
her before he left Wharton. And yet he felt that it must be
said. Were he to allow her to be married to this man, without
any further previous word between them, it would appear that he
had resolved to quarrel with her for ever. But now, at this very
moment of time, as he lay in his bed, as he dressed himself in
the morning, as he sauntered about among the new hay-stacks with
his pipe in his mouth after breakfast, he came to some conclusion
in his mind very much averse to such quarrelling.
He had loved her with all his heart. It had not been mere
drawing-room love begotten between a couple of waltzes, and
fostered by five minutes in a crush. He knew himself to be a man
of the world, and he did not wish to be other than he was. He
could talk among men as men talked, and act as men acted;--and
he could do the same with women. But there was one person who
had been to him above all, and round everything, and under
everything. There had been a private nook within him into which
there had been no entrance but for one image. There had been a
holy of holies, which he had guarded within himself, keeping it
free from all outer contamination for his own use. He had
cherished the idea of a clear fountain of ever-running water
which would at last be his, always ready for the comfort of his
own lips. Now all his hope was shattered, his trust was gone,
and his longing disappointed. But the person was the same
person, though she could not be his. The nook was there, though
she would not fill it. The holy of holies was not less holy,
though he himself might not dare to lift the curtain. The
fountain would still run,--still the clearest fountain of all,--
though he might not put his lips to it. He would never allow
himself to think of it with lessened reverence, or with changed
ideas as to her nature.
And then, as he stood leaning against a ladder which still kept
its place against one of the hay-stacks, and filled his second
pipe unconsciously, he had to realize to himself the probable
condition of his future life. Of course she would marry this man
with very little further delay. Her father had already declared
himself to be too weak to interfere much longer with her wishes.
Of course Mr Wharton would give way. And then,--what sort of
life would be her life? No one knew anything about the man.
There was an idea that he was rich,--but wealth such as his,
wealth that is subject to speculation, will fly away at a
moment's notice. He might be cruel, a mere adventurer, or a
thorough ruffian for all that was known of him. There should,
thought Arthur Fletcher to himself, be more stability in the
giving and taking of wives than could be reckoned upon here. He
became old in that half-hour, taking home to himself and
appreciating many saws of wisdom and finger-direction experience
which hitherto had been to him matters almost of ridicule. But
he could only come to this conclusion,--that as she was still to
be to him his holy of holies though he might not lay his hand
upon the altar, his fountain though he might not drink of it, the
one image which alone could have filled that nook, he would not
cease to regard her happiness when she should have become the
wife of this stranger. With the stranger himself he never could
be on friendly terms;--but for the stranger's wife there should
always be a friend, if the friend were needed.
About an hour before lunch John Fletcher, who had been hanging
about the house all the morning in a manner very unusual to him,
caught Emily Wharton as she was passing through the hall, and
told her that Arthur Fletcher was in a certain part of the
grounds and wished to speak to her. 'Alone?' she asked. 'Yes,
certainly alone.' 'Ought I to go to him, John?' she asked again.
'Certainly I think you ought.' Then he had done his commission
and was able to apply himself to whatever business he had in
Emily at once put on her hat, took her parasol, and left the
house. There was something distasteful to her in the idea of
this going out at lover's bidding, to meet him; but like all
Whartons and all Fletchers, she trusted John Fletcher. And then
she was aware that there were circumstances which might make a
meeting such as this serviceable. She knew nothing of what had
taken place during the last four-and-twenty hours. She had no
idea that in consequence of words spoken to him by her father and
his brother, Arthur Fletcher was about to abandon his suit.
There would have been no doubt about her going to meet him had
she thought of it. She supposed that she would have to hear
again the old story. If so, she would hear it, and would then
have an opportunity of telling him that her heart had been given
entirely to another. She knew all that she owed to him. After a
fashion she did love him. He was entitled to the kindest
consideration from her hands. But he should be told the truth.
As she entered the shrubbery he came out to meet her, giving her
his hand with a frank, easy air and pleasant smile. His smile
was as bright as the ripple of the sea, and his eye would then
gleam, and the slightest sparkle of white teeth would be seen
between his lips, and the dimple of his chin would show itself
deeper than at other times. 'It is very good of you. I thought
you'd come. John asked you, I suppose.'
'Yes;--he told me you were here, and he said I ought to come.'
'I don't know about ought, but I think it better. Will you mind
walking on, as I've something that I want to say?' Then he
turned and she turned with him into the little wood. 'I'm not
going to bother you any more my darling,' he said. 'You are
still my darling, though I will not call you so after this.' Her
heart sank almost in her bosom as she heard this,--though it was
exactly what she would have wished to hear. But now there must
be some close understanding between them and some tenderness.
She knew how much she had owed him, how good he had been to her,
how true had been his love; and she felt that words would fail
her to say that which ought to be said. 'So you have given
yourself to--one Ferdinand Lopez!'
'Yes,' she said, in a hard, dry voice. 'Yes, I have. I do not
know who told you; but I have.'
'Your father told me. It was better,--was it not?--that I
should know. You are not sorry that I should know?'
'It is better.'
'I am not going to say a word against him.'
'No;--do not do that.'
'Nor against you. I am simply here now to let you know that--I
'You will not quarrel with me, Arthur?'
'Quarrel with you! I could not quarrel with you, if I would.
No;--there shall be no quarrel. But I do not suppose we shall
see each other very often.'
'I hope we may.'
'Sometimes, perhaps. A man should not, I think, affect to be
friends with a successful rival. I dare say he is an excellent
fellow; but how is it possible that he and I should get on
together? But you will always have one,--one beside him,--who
will love you best in this world.'
'It must be so. There will be nothing wrong in that. Everyone
has some dearest friend, and you will always be mine. If
anything of evil should ever happen to you,--which of course
there won't,--there would always be someone who would--. But I
don't want to talk buncombe; I only want you to believe me.
Good-bye, and God bless you.' Then he put out his right hand,
holding his hat under his left arm.
'You are not going away?'
'To-morrow perhaps. But I will say my real good-bye to you here,
now to-day. I hope you may be happy. I hope with all my heart.
Good-bye. God bless you!'
'Oh, Arthur!' Then she put her hand in his.
'Oh, I have loved you so dearly. It has been with my whole
heart. You have never quite understood me, but it has been as
true as heaven. I have thought sometimes that had I been a
little less earnest about it, I should have been a little less
stupid. A man shouldn't let it get the better of him, as I have
done. Say good-bye to me, Emily.'
'Good-bye,' she said, still leaving her hand in his.
'I suppose that's about all. Don't let them quarrel with you
here if you can help it. Of course at Longbarns they won't like
it for a time. Oh,--if it could have been different!' Then he
dropped her hand, and turning his back quickly upon her, went
away along the path.
She had expected and had almost wished that he should kiss her.
A girl's cheek is never so holy to herself as it is to her lover,
--if he do love her. There would have been something of
reconciliation, something of a promise of future kindness in a
kiss, which even Ferdinand would not have grudged. It would, for
her, have robbed the parting of that bitterness of pain which his
words had given to it. As to all that he had made no
calculation; but the bitterness was there for him, and he could
have done nothing that would have expelled it.
She wept bitterly as she returned to the house. There might have
been cause for joy. It was clear enough that her father, though
he had shown no sign of yielding, was nevertheless prepared to
yield. It was her father who had caused Arthur Fletcher to take
himself off, as a lover really dismissed. But, at this moment,
she could not bring herself to look at that aspect of the affair.
Her mind would revert to all those choicest moments in her early
years in which she had been happy with Arthur Fletcher, in which
she had first learned to love him, and had then taught herself to
understand by some confused and perplexed lesson that she did not
love him as men and women love. But why should she not so have
loved him? Would she not have done so could she then have
understood how true and firm he was? And then, independently of
herself, throwing herself aside for the time as she was bound to
do when thinking of one so good to her as Arthur Fletcher, she
found that no personal joy could drown the grief which she shared
with him. For a moment the idea of a comparison between the men
forced itself upon her,--but she drove it from her as she
hurried back into the house.
THE DUKE OF OMNIUM THINKS OF HIMSELF.
The blaze made by the Duchess of Omnium during the three months
of the season up in London had been very great, but it was little
in comparison with the social incursion expected to be achieved
at Gatherum Castle,--little at least as far as public report
went, and the general opinion of the day. No doubt the house in
Carlton Gardens had been thrown open as the house of no Prime
Minister, perhaps of no duke, had been opened before in this
country; but it had been done by degrees, and had not been
accomplished by such a blowing of trumpets as was sounded with
reference to the entertainments at Gatherum. I would not have it
supposed that the trumpets were blown by the direct order of the
Duchess. The trumpets were blown by the customary trumpeters as
it became known that great things were to be done,--all
newspapers and very many tongues lending their assistance, till
the sounds of the instruments almost frightened the Duchess
herself. 'Isn't it odd,' she said to her friend Mrs Finn, 'that
one can't have a few friends down in the country without such a
fuss abut it as the people are making?' Mrs Finn did not think
it was odd, and so she said. Thousands of pounds were being
spent in a very conspicuous way. Invitations to the place even
for a couple of days,--for twenty-four hours,--had been begged
for abjectly. It was understood everywhere that the Prime
Minister was bidding for greatness and popularity. Of course the
trumpets were blown very loudly. 'If people don't take care,'
said the Duchess, 'I'll put everybody off and have the whole
place shut up. I'd do it for sixpence now.'
Perhaps of all the persons, much or little concerned, the one who
heard the least of the trumpets,--or rather who was the last to
hear them,--was the Duke himself. He could not fail to see
something in the newspapers, but what he did see did not attract
him so frequently or so strongly as did the others. It was a
pity, he thought, that a man's social and private life should be
subject to so many remarks, but this misfortune was one of those
to which wealth and rank are liable. He had long recognized that
fact, and for a time endeavoured to believe that his intended
sojourn at Gatherum Castle was not more public than are the
autumn doings of other dukes and other prime ministers. But
gradually the trumpets did reach even his ears. Blind as he was
to many things himself, he always had near to him that other duke
who was never blind to anything. 'You are going to do great
things at Gatherum this year,' said the Duke.
'Nothing particular, I hope,' said the Prime Minister, with an
inward trepidation,--for gradually there had crept upon him a
fear that his wife was making a mistake.
'I thought it was going to be very particular.'
'It's Glencora's doing.'
'I don't doubt but that her Grace is right. Don't suppose that I
am criticizing your hospitality. We are to be at Gatherum
ourselves about the end of the month. It will be the first time
I shall have seen the place since your uncle's time.'
The Prime Minister at this moment was sitting in his own
particular room at the Treasury Chambers, and before the entrance
of his friend had been conscientiously endeavouring to define for
himself not a future policy, but the past policy of the last
month or two. It had not been for him a very happy occupation.
He had become the Head of Government,--and had not failed, for
there he was, still the Head of Government, with a majority at
his back, and the six months' vacation before him. They who were
entitled to speak to him confidentially as to his position, were
almost vehement in declaring his success. Mr Rattler, about a
week ago, had not seen any reason why the Ministry should not
endure at least for the next four years. Mr Roby, from the other
side, was equally confident. But, on looking back at what he had
done, and indeed on looking forward into his future intentions,
he could not see why he, of all men, should be Prime Minister.
He had once been Chancellor of the Exchequer, filling that office
through two halcyon sessions, and he had known the reason why he
had held it. He had ventured to assure himself at the time that
he was the best man whom his party could then have found for that
office, and he had been satisfied. But he had none of that
satisfaction now. There were men under him who were really at
work. The Lord Chancellor had legal reforms on foot. Mr Monk
was busy, heart and soul, in regard to income taxes and brewers'
licences,--making our poor Prime Minister's mouth water. Lord
Drummond was active among the colonies. Phineas Finn had at any
rate his ideas about Ireland. But with the Prime Minister,--so
at least the Duke told himself,--it was all a blank. The policy
confided to him and expected at his hands was that of keeping
together a Coalition Ministry. That was a task that did not
satisfy him. And now, gradually,--very slowly indeed at first,
but still with a sure step,--there was creeping upon him the
idea that this power of cohesion was sought for, and perhaps
found not in his political capacity, but in his rank and wealth.
It might in fact, be the case that it was his wife the Duchess--
that Lady Glencora of whose wild impulses and general
impracticability he had always been in dread,--that she with her
dinner parties and receptions, with her crowded saloons, her
music, her picnics, and social temptations, was Prime Minister
rather than he himself. It might be that this had been
understood by the coalesced parties,--by everybody, in fact,
except himself. It had, perhaps, been found that in the state of
things then existing, a ministry could be kept together, not by
parliamentary capacity, but by social arrangements, such as his
Duchess, and his Duchess alone, could carry out. She and she
only would have the spirit and the money and the sort of
cleverness required. In such a state of things he of course, as
her husband, must be the nominal Prime Minister.
There was no anger in his bosom as he thought of this. It would
be hardly just to say that there was jealousy. His nature was
essentially free from jealousy. But there was shame,--and self-
accusation at having accepted so great an office with so little
fixed purpose as to great work. It might be his duty to
subordinate even his pride to the service of his country, and to
consent to be a faineant minister, a gilded Treasure log, because
by remaining in that position he would enable the Government to
be carried on. But how base the position, how mean, how
repugnant to that grand idea of public work which had hitherto
been the motive power of all his life! How would he continue to
live if this thing were to go on from year to year,--he
pretending to govern while others governed,--taking the highest
place at all tables, receiving mock reverence, and known to all
men as faineant First Lord of the Treasury? Now, as he had been
thinking of all this, the most trusted of his friends had come to
him, and had at once alluded to the very circumstances which had
been pressing so heavily on his mind. 'I was delighted,'
continued the elder Duke, 'when I heard that you had determined
to go to Gatherum this year.'
'If a man has a big house I suppose he ought to live in it,
'Certainly. It was for such purposes as this now intended that
your uncle built it. He never became a public man, and
therefore, though he went there, every year I believe, he never
really used it.'
'He hated it,--in his heart. And so do I. And so does
Glencora. I don't see why any man should have his private life
interrupted by being made to keep a huge caravansary open for
persons he doesn't care a straw about.'
'You would not like to live alone.'
'Alone,--with my wife and children,--I would certainly, during
a portion of the year at least.'
'I doubt whether such a life, even for a month, even for a week,
is compatible with your duties. You would hardly find it
possible. Could you do without your private secretaries? Would
you know enough of what is going on, if you did not discuss
matters with others? A man cannot be both private and public at
the same time.'
'And therefore one has to be chopped up, like a reed out of the
river, as the poet said, and yet not give sweet music
afterwards.' The Duke of St Bungay said nothing in answer to
this, as he did not understand the chopping of the reed. 'I'm
afraid I've been wrong about this collection of people down at
Gatherum,' continued the younger Duke. 'Glencora is impulsive,
and has overdone the thing. Just look at that.' And he handed a
letter to his friend. The old Duke put on his spectacles and
read the letter through,--which ran as follows.
MY LORD DUKE,
I do not doubt but that your Grace is aware of my
position in regard to the public press of the country,
and I beg to assure your Grace that my present
proposition is made, not on account of the great honour
and pleasure which would be conferred upon myself should
your Grace accede to it, but because I feel assured that
I might so be best enabled to discharge an important duty
for the benefit of the public generally.
Your Grace is about to receive the whole fashionable
world of England and many distinguished foreign
ambassadors at your ancestral halls, not solely for
social delight,--for a man in your Grace's high position
is not able to think only of a pleasant life,--in order
that the prestige of your combined Ministry may be so
best maintained. That your Grace is thereby doing a duty
to your country no man who understands the country can
doubt. But it must be the case that the country at large
should interest itself in your festivities, and should
demand to have accounts of the gala doings of your ducal
palace. Your Grace will probably agree with me that
these records could be better given by one empowered by
yourself to give them, by one who had less present, and
who would write in your Grace's interest, than by some
interloper who would receive his tale only at second
It is my purport now to inform your Grace that should I
be honoured by an invitation to your Grace's party at
Gatherum, I should obey such a call with the greatest
alacrity, and would devote my pen and the public organ
which is at my disposal to your Grace's service with the
I have the honour to be,
My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's obedient
and very humble servant
The old Duke, when he had read the letter, laughed heartily.
'Isn't that a terribly bad sign of the times?' said the younger.
'Well;--hardly that, I think. The man is both a fool and a
blackguard; but I don't think we are therefore to suppose that
there are many fools and blackguards like him. I wonder what he
really has wanted.'
'He has wanted me to ask him to Gatherum.'
'He can hardly have expected that. I don't think he can have
been such a fool. He may have thought that there was a possible
off chance, and that he would not lose even that for want of
asking. Of course you won't have noticed it.'
'I have asked Warburton to write to him, saying that he cannot be
received at my house. I have all letters answered unless they
seem to have come from insane persons. Would it not shock you if
your private arrangements were invaded in that way?'
'He can't invade you.'
'Yes he can. He does. That is an invasion. And whether he is
there or not, he can and will write about my house. And though
no one else will make himself such a fool as he has done by this
letter, nevertheless even that is a sign of what others are
doing. You yourself were saying just now that we were going to
do something,--something particular, you said.'
'It was your word, and I echoed it. I suppose you are going to
have a great many people?'
'I am afraid Glencora has overdone it. I don't know why I should
trouble you by saying so, but it makes me uneasy.'
'I can't see why.'
'I fear she has got some idea into her head of astounding the
world by display.'
'I think she has got an idea of conquering the world by
graciousness and hospitality.'
'It is as bad. It is, indeed, the same thing. Why should she
want to conquer what we call the world? She ought to want to
entertain my friends, because they are my friends; and if from
my public position I have more so-called friends than would
trouble me in a happier condition of private life, why, then, she
must entertain more people, as you call it, by feeding them, is
to me abominable. If it goes on it will drive me mad. I shall
have to give up everything, because I cannot bear the burden.'
This he said with more excitement, with stronger passion, than
his friend had ever seen in him before; so much so that the old
Duke was frightened. 'I ought never to have been where I am,'
said the Prime Minister, getting up from his chair and walking
about the room.
'Allow me to assure you that in that you are decidedly mistaken,'
said his Grace of St Bungay.
'I cannot make even you see the inside of my heart in such a
matter as this,' said his Grace of Omnium.
'I think I do. It may be that in saying so I claim for myself
greater power than I possess, but I think I do. But let your
heart say what it may on the subject. I am sure of this,--that
when the Sovereign, by the advice of two outgoing Ministers, and
with the unequivocally expressed assent of the House of Commons,
calls on a man to serve her and the country, that man cannot be
justified in refusing, merely by doubts about his own fitness.
If your health is failing you, you may know it, and say so. Or
it may be that your honour,--your faith in others,--should
forbid you to accept the position. But of your own general
fitness you must take the verdict given by such general consent.
They have seen clearer than you have done what is required, and
know better than you can know that which is wanted is to be
'If I am to be here and do nothing, am I to remain?'
'A man cannot keep together the Government of a country and do
nothing. Do not trouble yourself about this crowd at Gatherum.
The Duchess, easily, almost without exertion, will do that which
to you, or to me either, would be impossible. Let her have her
way, and take no notice of the Quintus Slides.' The Prime
Minister smiled, as though this repeated allusion to Mr Slide's
letter had brought back his good humour, and said nothing further
then as to his difficulties. There were a few words to be spoken
as to some future Cabinet meeting, something perhaps to be
settled as to some man's work or position, a hint to be given,
and a lesson to be learned,--for of these inner Cabinet Councils
between these two statesmen there was frequent use; and then the
Duke of St Bungay took his leave.
Our Duke, as soon as his friend had left him, rang for his
private secretary, and went to work diligently, as though nothing
had disturbed him. I do not know that his labours on that
occasion were of a very high order. Unless there be some special
effort of law-making before the country, some reform bill to be
passed, some attempt at education to be made, some fetters to be
forged or to be relaxed, a Prime Minister is not driven hard by
the work of his portfolio,--as are his colleagues. But many men
were in want of many things, and contrived by many means to make
their wants known to the Prime Minister. A dean would fain to be
a bishop, or a judge a chief justice, or a commissioner a
chairman, or a secretary a commissioner. Knights would fain be
baronets, baronets barons, and barons earls. In one guise or
another the wants of gentlemen were made known, and there was
work to be done. A ribbon cannot be given away without breaking
the hearts of, perhaps, three gentlemen and of their wives and
daughters. And then he went down to the House of Lords,--for
the last time this Session as far as work was concerned. On the
morrow legislative work would be over, and the gentlemen of
Parliament would be sent to their country houses, and to their
pleasant country joys.
It had been arranged that on the day after the prorogation of
Parliament the Duchess of Omnium should go down to Gatherum to
prepare for the coming of the people, which was to commence about
three days later, taking her ministers, Mrs Finn and Locock, with
her, and that her husband with his private secretaries and
dispatch boxes was to go for those three days to Matching, a
smaller place than Gatherum, but one to which they were much
better accustomed. If, as the Duchess thought to be not
unlikely, the Duke should prolong his stay for a few days at
Matching, she felt confident that she would be able to bear the
burden of the Castle on her own shoulders. She had thought it to
be very probable that he would prolong his stay at Matching, and
if the absence were not too long, this might be well explained to
the assembled company. In the Duchess's estimation a Prime
Minister would lose nothing by pleading the nature of his
business as an excuse for such absence,--or by having such a
plea made for him. Of course he must appear at last. But as to
that she had no fear. His timidity, and his conscience also,
would both be too potent to allow him to shirk the nuisance of
Gatherum altogether. He would come, she was sure; but she did
not much care how long he deferred his coming. She was,
therefore, not a little surprised when he announced to her an
alteration in his plans. This he did not many hours after the
Duke of St Bungay had left him at the Treasury Chambers. 'I
think I shall go down with you at once to Gatherum,' he said.
'What is the meaning of that?' The Duchess was not skilled in
hiding her feelings, at any rate from him, and declared to him at
once by her voice and eye that the proposed change was not
gratifying to her.
'It will be better. I had thought that I would get a quiet day
or two at Matching. But as the thing has to be done, it may as
well be done at first. A man ought to receive his own guests. I
can't say that I look forward to any great pleasure in doing so
on this occasion;--but I shall do it.' It was very easy to
understand also the tone of his voice. There was in it something
of offended dignity, something of future marital tensions,--
something also of the weakness of distress.
She did not want him to come at once to Gatherum. A great deal
of money was being spent, and the absolute spending was not yet
quite perfected. There might still be possibility of
interference. The tents were not all pitched. The lamps were
not as yet all hung in the conservatories. Waggons would still
be coming in and workmen still be going out. He would think less
of what had been done if he could be kept from seeing it while it
was being done. And the greater crowd which would be gathered
there by the end of the first week would carry off the vastness
of the preparations. As to money, he had given her almost carte
blanche, having at one vacillatory period of his Prime
Ministership been talked by her into some agreement with her own
plans. And in regard to money he would say to himself that he
ought not to interfere with any whim of hers on that score,
unless he thought it right to crush the whim on some other score.
Half what he possessed had been hers, and even if during this
year he were to spend more than his income,--if he were to
double or even treble the expenditure of past years,--he could
not consume the additions to his wealth which had accrued and
heaped themselves since his marriage. He had therefore written a
line to his banker, and a line to his lawyer, and he had himself
seen Locock, and his wife's hands had been loosened. 'I didn't
think, your Grace,' said Locock, 'that his Grace would be so
very,--very,--very--' 'Very what, Locock?' 'So very free, your
Grace.' The Duchess, as he thought of it, declared to herself
that her husband was the truest nobleman in all England. She
revered, admired, and almost loved him. She knew him to be
infinitely better than herself. But she could hardly sympathize
with him, and was quite sure that he did not sympathize with her.
He was so good about the money! But yet it was necessary that he
should be kept in the dark as the spending of a good deal of it.
Now he was going to upset a portion of her plans by coming to
Gatherum before he was wanted. She knew him to be obstinate; but
it might be possible to turn him back to his old purpose by
'Of course it would be much nicer for me,' she said.
'That alone would be sufficient.'
'Thanks, dear. But we had arranged for people to come at first
whom I thought you would not specially care to meet. Sir Orlando
and Mr Rattler will be there with their wives.'
'I have become quite used to Sir Orlando and Mr Rattler.'
'No doubt, and therefore I wanted to spare you something of their
company. The Duke, whom you really do like, isn't coming yet. I
thought, too, you would have your work to finish off.'
'I fear it is of a kind that won't bear finishing off. However,
I have made up my mind, and have already told Locock to send word
to the people at Matching to say I shall not be there yet. How
long will all this last at Gatherum?'
'Who can say?'
'I should have thought you could. People are not coming, I
suppose, for an indefinite time.'
'As one set leaves, one asks others.'
'Haven't you asked enough as yet? I should like to know when we
may expect to get away from the place.'
'You needn't stay to the end, you know.'
'But you must.'
'And I should wish you to go with me when we do go to Matching.'
'Oh, Plantagenet,' said the wife, 'what a Darby and Joan kind of
thing you like to have it!'
'Yes I do. The Darby and Joan kind of thing is what I like.'
'Only Darby is to be in an office all day, and in Parliament all
night,--and Joan is to stay at home.'
'Would you wish me not to be in an office, and not to be in
Parliament? But don't let us misunderstand each other. You are
doing the best you can to further what you think are my
'I am,' said the Duchess.
'I love you the better for it, day by day.' This so surprised
her that, as she took him by the arm, her eyes were filled with
tears. 'I know that you are working for me quite as hard as I
work myself, and that you are doing so with the pure ambition of
seeing your husband a great man.'
'And myself as a great man's wife.'
'It is the same thing. But I would not have you overdo your
work. I would not have you make yourself conspicuous by anything
like display. There are ill-natured people who will say things
that you do not expect, and to which I should be more sensitive
than I ought to be. Spare me such pain as this if you can.' He
still held her hand as he spoke, and she answered him only by
nodding her head. 'I will go down with you to Gatherum on
Friday.' Then he left her.
The Duke and Duchess with their children and personal servants
reached Gatherum Castle the day before the first crowd of
visitors was expected. It was on a lovely autumn afternoon, and
the Duke, who had endeavoured to make himself pleasant during the
journey, had suggested that as soon as the heat would allow them
they would saunter around the grounds and see what was being
done. They could dine late, at half-past eight or nine, so that
they might be walking from seven to eight. But the Duchess when
she reached the Castle declined to fall in with this arrangement.
The journey had been hot and dusty, and she was a little cross.
They reached the place about five, and then she declared that she
would have a cup of tea and lie down; she was too tired to walk;
and the sun, she said, was still scorchingly hot. He then asked
that the children might go with him, but the two little girls
were very weary and travel-worn, and the two boys, the elder of
whom was home from Eton and the younger from some minor Eton,
were already about the place after their own pleasures. So the
Duke started for his walk alone.
The Duchess certainly did not wish to have to inspect the works
in conjunction with her husband. She knew how much there was
that she ought still to do herself, how many things that she
herself ought to see. But she could neither do anything nor see
anything to any purpose under his wing. As to lying down, that
she knew to be quite out of the question. She had already found
out that the life which she had adopted was one of incessant
work. But she was neither weak nor idle. She was quite prepared
to work,--if only she might work after her own fashion and with
companions chosen by herself. Had not her husband been so
perverse, she would have travelled down with Mrs Finn, whose
coming was now postponed for two days, and Locock would have been
with her. The Duke had given directions, which made it necessary
that Locock's coming should be postponed for a day, and this was
another grievance. She was put out a good deal, and began to
speculate whether her husband was doing this on purpose to
torment her. Nevertheless, as soon as she knew that he was out
of the way, she went to her work. She could not go out among the
tents and lawns and conservatories, as she would probably meet
him. But she gave orders as to bedchambers, saw to the
adornments of the reception-rooms, had an eye to the banners and
martial trophies suspended in the vast hall, and the busts and
statues which adorned the corners, looked in on the plate which
was being prepared for the great dining-room, and superintended
the moving about of chairs, sofas, and tables generally. 'You
may take it as certain, Mrs Pritchard,' she said to the
housekeeper, 'that their will never be less than forty for the
next two months.'
'Forty to sleep, my lady?' To Pritchard the Duchess had for many
years been Lady Glencora, and she perhaps understood that her
mistress liked the old appellation.
'Yes, forty to sleep, and forty to eat, and forty to drink. But
that's nothing. Forty to push through twenty-four hours every
day! Do you think you've got everything you want?'
'It depends, my lady, how long each of 'em stays.'
'One night! No--say two nights on an average.'
'That makes shifting the beds very often; doesn't it, my lady?'
'Send up Puddick's for sheets tomorrow. Why wasn't that thought
'It was, my lady,--and I think we shall do. We've got the
steam-washery put up.'
'Towels!' suggested the Duchess.
'Oh, yes, my lady. Puddick's did send a great many things;--a
whole waggon load there was come from the station. But the
tablecloths ain't none of 'em long enough for the big table.'
The Duchess's face fell. 'Of course there must be two. On them
very long tables, my lady, there always is two.'
'Why didn't you tell me, so that I could have had them made?
It's impossible,--impossible that one brain should think of it
all. Are you sure you've enough hands in the kitchen?'
'Well, my lady;--we couldn't do with more; and they ain't an
atom of use,--only just in the way,--if you don't know
something about 'em. I suppose Mr Millepois will be down soon.'
This name, which Mrs Pritchard called Milleypoise, indicated a
French cook who was at yet unknown at the Castle.
'He'll be here tonight.'
'I wish he could have been here a day or two sooner, my lady, so
as just to see about him.'
'And how should we have got our dinner in town? He won't make
any difficulties. The confectioner did come?'
'Yes, my lady; and to tell the truth out at once, he was that
drunk last night that--; oh, dear, we didn't know what to do with
'I don't mind that before the affair begins. I don't suppose
he'll get tipsy while he has to work for all these people.
You've plenty of eggs?'
These questions went on so rapidly that in addition to the asking
of them the Duchess was able to go through all the rooms before
she dressed for dinner, and in every room she saw something to
speak of, noting either perfection or imperfection. In the
meantime the Duke had gone out alone. It was still hot, but he
had made up his mind that he would enjoy his first holiday out of
town by walking about his own grounds, and he would not allow the
heat to interrupt him. He went out through the vast hall, and
the huge front door, which was so huge and so grand that it was
very seldom used. But it was now open by chance, owing to some
incident of this festival time, and he passed through it and
stood upon the grand terrace, with the well-known and much-lauded
portico overhead. Up to the terrace, though it was very high,
there ran a road, constructed upon arches, so grand that guests
could drive almost up to the house. The Duke, who was never
grand himself, as he stood there looking at the far-stretching
view before him, could not remember that he had ever but once
before placed himself on that spot. Of what use had been the
portico, the marbles, and the huge pile of stone,--of what use
the enormous hall just behind him, cutting the house in two,
declaring aloud by its own aspect and the proportions that it had
been built altogether for show and in no degree for use or
comfort? And now as he stood there he could already see that men
were at work about the place, that ground had been moved here,
and grass laid down there, and a new gravel road constructed in
another place. Was it not possible that his friends should be
entertained without all these changes to the gardens? Then he
perceived the tents, and descending from the terrace and turning
left towards the end of the house he came upon a new
conservatory. The exotics with which it was to be filled were at
this moment being brought in on great barrows. He stood for a
moment and looked, but said not a word to the men. They gazed at
him but evidently did not know him. How should they know him,--
him, who was seldom there, and who when there never showed
himself about the place? Then he went farther afield from the
house and came across more and more men. A great ha-ha fence had
been made, enclosing on three sides and open at one end to the
gardens, containing, as he thought, about an acre. 'What are you
doing this for?' he said to one of the labourers. The man stared
at him, and at first seemed hardly inclined to make him an
answer. 'It be for the quality to shoot their bows and harrows,'
he said at last, as he continued the easy task of patting with
his spade the completed work. He evidently regarded this
stranger as an intruder who was not entitled to ask questions,
even if he was permitted to wander about the grounds.
From one place he went on to another, and found changes, and new
erections, and some device for throwing away money everywhere.
It angered him to think that there was so little of simplicity
left in the world that a man could not entertain his friends
without such a fuss as this. His mind applied itself frequently
to the consideration of the money, not that he grudged the loss
of it, but the spending of it in such a cause. And then perhaps
there occurred to him an idea that all this should not have been
done without a word of consent from himself. Had she come to him
with some scheme for changing everything about the place, making
him think that the alterations were a matter of taste or of mere
personal pleasure, he would probably given his consent at once,
thinking nothing of the money. But all this was utter display.
Then he walked up and saw the flag waving over the Castle,
indicating that he, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, was
present there on his own soil. That was right. That was as it
should be, because the flag was waving in compliance with an
acknowledged ordinance. Of all that properly belonged to his
rank and station he could be very proud, and would allow no
diminution of that outward respect to which they were entitled.
Were they to be trenched on by his fault in his person, the
rights of others to their enjoyment would be endangered, and the
benefits accruing to his country from established marks of
reverence would be imperilled. But here was an assumed and
preposterous grandeur that was as much within the reach of some
rich swindler or some prosperous haberdasher as of himself,--
having, too, a look of raw newness about it which was very
distasteful to him. And then, too, he knew that nothing of this
would have been done unless he had become Prime Minister. Why,
on earth, should a man's grounds be knocked about because he
becomes Prime Minister? He walked on arguing this within his own
bosom, till he had worked himself almost up to anger. It was
clear that he must henceforth take things more into his own
hands, or would be made to be absurd before the world.
Indifference he knew he could bear. Harsh criticism he thought
he could endure. But to ridicule he was aware that he was
pervious. Suppose the papers were to say of him that he built a
new conservatory and made an archery ground for the sake of
maintaining the Coalition!
When he got back to the house he found his wife alone in the
small room in which they intended to dine. After all her labours
she was now reclining for the few minutes her husband's absence
might allow her, knowing that after dinner there were a score of
letters for her to write. 'I don't think,' said she, 'I was ever
so tired in my life.'
'It isn't such a very long journey after all.'
'But it's a very big house, and I've been, I think, into every
room since I have been here, and I've moved most of the furniture
in the drawing-rooms with my own hand, and I've counted the
pounds of butter, and inspected the sheets and the tablecloths.'
'Was it necessary, Glencora?'
'If I had gone to bed instead, the world, I suppose, would have
gone on, and Sir Orlando Drought would still have led the House
of Commons;--but things should be looked after, I suppose.'
'There are many people to do it. You are like Martha, troubling
yourself with many things.'
'I always felt that Martha was very ill-used. If there were no
Martha there would never be anything fit to eat. But it's odd
how sure a wife is to be scolded. If I did nothing at all, that
wouldn't please a busy, hard-working man like you.'
'I don't know that I have scolded,--not as yet.'
'Are you going to begin?'
'Not to scold, my dear. Looking back, can you remember that I
ever scolded you?'
'I can remember a great many times when you ought.'
'But to tell you the truth, I don't like all that you have done
here. I cannot see that it was necessary.'
'People make changes in their gardens without necessity
'But these changes are made because of your guests. Had they been
made to gratify your own taste, I would have said nothing,--
although even in that case I think you might have told me what
you proposed to do.'
'What;--when you are so burdened with work that you do not know
how to turn?'
'I am never so burdened that I cannot turn to you. But, as you
know, that is not what I complain of. If it were done for
yourself, though it were the wildest vagary, I would learn to
like it, but it distresses me to think what might have been good
enough for our friends before should be thought insufficient
because of the office I hold. There is a--a--a--I was almost
going to say vulgarity about it which distresses me.'
'Vulgarity!' she exclaimed, jumping up from the sofa.
'I retract the word. I would not for the world say anything that
should annoy you;--but pray, pray do not go on with it.' Then
again he left her.
Vulgarity! There was no other word in the language so hard to
bear as that. He had, indeed, been careful to say that he did
not accuse her of vulgarity;--but nevertheless the accusation
had been made. Could you call your friend a liar more plainly
than by saying to him that you would not say that he lied? They
dined together, the two boys, also, dining with them, but very
little was said at dinner. The horrid word was clinging to the
lady's ears, and the remembrance of having uttered the word was
heavy on the man's conscience. He had told himself very plainly
that the thing was vulgar, but he had not meant to use the word.
But it had been uttered; and, let what apology there may be made,
a word uttered cannot be retracted. As he looked across the
table at his wife, he saw that the word had been taken in deep
She escaped, to the writing of her letters she said, almost
before the meal was done. 'Vulgarity!' She uttered the word
aloud to herself as she sat herself down in the little room
upstairs which she had assigned to herself for her own use. But
though she was very angry with him, she did not, even in her own
mind, contradict him. Perhaps it was vulgar. But why shouldn't
she be vulgar, if she could most surely get what she wanted by
vulgarity? Of course she was prepared to do things,--was daily
doing things,--which would have been odious to her had not her
husband been a public man. She submitted, without unwillingness,
to constant contact with disagreeable people. She lavished her
smiles,--so she now said to herself,--on butchers and tinkers.
What she said, what she read, what she wrote, what she did,
whither she went, to whom she was kind and to whom unkind,--was
it not all said and done and arranged with reference to his and
her own popularity? When a man wants to be Prime Minister he has
to submit to vulgarity, and must give up his ambition if the task
be too disagreeable to him. The Duchess thought that that had
been understood, at any rate ever since the days of Coriolanus.
'The old Duke kept out of it,' she said to herself, 'and chose to
live in the other way. He had his choice. He wants it to be
done. And when I do it for him because he can't do it for
himself, he calls it by an ugly name!' Then it occurred to her
that the world tells lies every day,--telling on the whole much
more lies than truth,--but that the world has wisely agreed that
the world shall not be accused of lying. One doesn't venture to
express open disbelief even of one's wife; and with the world at
large a word spoken, whether lie or not, is presumed to be true,
of course,--because spoken. Jones has said it, and therefore
Smith,--who has known the lie to be a lie,--has asserted his
assured belief, lying again. But in this way the world is able
to live pleasantly. How was she to live pleasantly if her
husband accused her of vulgarity? Of course it was all vulgar,
but why should he tell her so? She did not do it from any
pleasure that she got from it.
The letters remained long unwritten, and then there came a moment
in which she resolved that they should not be written. The work
was very hard, and what good would come of it? Why should she
make her hands dirty, so that even her husband accused her of
vulgarity? Would it not be better to give it all up, and be a
great woman, une grande dame, of another kind,--difficult of
access, sparing of her favour, aristocratic to the back-bone,--a
very Duchess of duchesses. The role would be one very easy to
play. It required rank, money, and a little manner,--and these
she possessed. The old Duke had done it with ease, without the
slightest trouble to himself, and had been treated almost like a
god because he had secluded himself. She could make the change
even yet,--and as her husband told her that she was vulgar, she
thought she would make it.
But at last, before she had abandoned her desk and paper, there
had come another thought. Nothing to her was so distasteful as
failure. She had known that there would be difficulties, and had
assured herself that she would be firm and brave in overcoming
them. Was not this accusation of vulgarity simply one of the
difficulties which she had to overcome? Was her courage already
gone from her? Was she so weak that a single word should knock
her over,--and a word evidently repented of as soon as it was
uttered? Vulgar! Well,--let her be vulgar as long as she
gained her object. There had been no penalty of everlasting
punishment against vulgarity. And then a higher idea touched
her, not without effect,--an idea which she could not analyse,
but which was hardly on that account the less effective. She did
believe thoroughly in her husband, to the extent of thinking him
the fittest man in all the country to be its Prime Minister. His
fame was dear to her. Her nature was loyal; and though she might
perhaps, in her younger days have been able to lean upon him with
a more loving heart had he been other than he was, brighter, more
gay, given to pleasures, and fond of trifles, still, she could
recognize merits with which her sympathy was imperfect. It was
good that he should be England's Prime Minister, and therefore
she would do all she could to keep him in that place. The
vulgarity was a necessity essential. He might not acknowledge
this,--might even, if the choice were left to him, refuse to be
Prime Minister on such terms. But she need not, therefore, give
way. Having in this way thought it all out, she took up her pen
and completed the batch of letters before she allowed herself to
go to bed.
SIR ORLANDO'S POLICY.
When the guests began to arrive our friend the Duchess had
apparently got through her little difficulties, for she received
them with that open, genial hospitality which is so delightful as
coming evidently from the heart. There had not been another word
between her and her husband as to the manner in which the thing
was to be done, and she had determined that the offensive word
should pass altogether out of her memory. The first comer was
Mrs Finn,--who came indeed rather as an assistant hostess than
as a mere guest, and to her the Duchess uttered a few playful
hints as to her troubles. 'Considering the time, haven't we done
marvels? Because it does look nice,--doesn't it? There are no
dirt heaps about, and it's all as green as though it had been
there since the conquest. He doesn't like it because it looks
new. And we've got forty-five bedrooms made up. The servants
are all turned out over the stables somewhere,--quite
comfortable, I assure you. Indeed they like it. And by knocking
down the ends of two passages we've brought everything together.
And the rooms are all numbered, just like an inn. It was the
only way. And I keep one book myself, and Locock has another. I
have everybody's room, and where it is, and how long the tenant
is to be allowed to occupy it. And here's the way everybody is
to take everybody down to dinner for the next fortnight. Of
course that must be altered, but it is easier when we have a sort
of settled basis. And I have some private notes as to who should
flirt with whom.'
'You'd better not let that lie about.'
'Nobody could understand a word of it if they had it. A. B.
always means X.Y.Z. And this is the code of the Gatherum Archery
Ground. I never drew a bow in my life,--not a real bow in the
flesh, that is, my dear,--and yet I've made 'em all out, and had
them printed. The way to make a thing go down is to give it some
special importance. And I've gone through the bill of fare for
the first week with Millepois, who is a perfect gentleman,--
perfect.' Then she gave a little sigh as she remembered that
word from her husband, which had wounded her. 'I used to think
that Plantagenet worked hard when he was doing his decimal
coinage; but I don't think he ever stuck to it as I have done.'
'What does the Duke say to it all?'
'Ah; well, upon the whole he behaves like an angel. He behaves
so well that half my time I think I'll shut it all up and have
done with it,--for his sake. And then, the other half, I'm
determined to go on with it,--again for his sake.'
'He has not been displeased?'
'Ask no questions, my dear, and you'll hear no stories. You
haven't been married twice without knowing that women can't have
everything smooth. He only said one word. It was rather hard to
bear, but it has passed away.'
That afternoon there was quite a crowd. Among the first comers
were Mr and Mrs Roby, and Mr and Mrs Rattler. And there were Sir
Orlando and Lady Drought, Lord Ramsden and Sir Timothy Beeswax.
These gentlemen with their wives represented, for the time, the
ministry of which the Duke was the head, and had been asked in
order that their fealty and submission might be thus rivetted.
There were also there Mr and Mrs Boffin, with Lord Thrift and his
daughter Angelica, who had belonged to former ministries,--one
on the Liberal and one on the Conservative side,--and who were
now among the Duke's guests, in order that they and others might
see how wide the Duke wished to open his hands. And there was
our friend Ferdinand Lopez, who had certainly made the best use
of his opportunities in securing for himself so great a social
advantage as an invitation to Gatherum Castle. How could any
father, who was simply a barrister, refuse to receive as his son-
in-law a man who had been a guest of the Duke of Omnium's country
house? And then there were certain people from the
neighbourhood;--Frank Gresham of Greshambury, with his wife and
daughter, the master of the hounds in those parts, a rich squire
of old blood, and head of the family to which one of the aspirant
Prime Ministers of the day belonged. And Lord Chiltern, another
master of fox hounds, two counties off;--and also an old friend
of ours,--had been asked to meet him, and had brought his wife.
And there Lady Rosina de Courcy, an old maid, the sister of the
present Earl de Courcy, who lived not far off, and had been
accustomed to come to Gatherum Castle on state occasions for the
last thirty years,--the only relic in those parts of a family
which had lived there for many years in great pride of place, for
the elder brother, the Earl, was a ruined man, and her younger
brothers were living with their wives abroad, and her sisters had
married, rather lowly in the world, and her mother now was dead,
and Lady Rosina lived alone in a little cottage outside the old
park palings, and still held fast within her bosom all the old
pride of the De Courcys. And then there were Captain Gunner and
Major Pountney, two middle-aged young men, presumably belonging
to the army, whom the Duchess had lately enlisted among her
followers as being useful in their way. They could eat their
dinners without being shy, dance on occasions, though very
unwillingly, talk a little, and run on messages;--and they knew
the peerage by heart, and could tell the details of every
unfortunate marriage for the last twenty years. Each thought
himself, especially since this last promotion, to be
indispensably necessary to the formation of London society, and
was comfortable in a conviction that he had thoroughly succeeded
in life by acquiring the privilege of sitting down to dinner
three times a week with peers and peeresses.
The list of guests has by no means been made as complete here as
it was to be found in the county newspapers, and in the "Morning
Post" of the time, but enough of names has been given to show of
what nature was the party. 'The Duchess has got rather a rough
lot to begin with,' said the Major to the Captain.
'Oh, yes. I knew that. She wanted me to be useful, so of course
I came. I shall stay here this week, and then be back in
September.' Up to that moment Captain Gunner had not received
any invitation for September, but then there was no reason why he
should not do so.
'I've been getting up the archery code with her,' said Pountney,
'and I was pledged to come down and set it going. That little
Gresham girl isn't a bad-looking thing.'
'Rather flabby,' said Captain Gunner.
'Very nice colour. She'll have a lot of money, you know.'
'There's a brother,' said the Captain.
'Oh, yes; there's a brother, who will have the Greshambury
property, but she's to have her mother's money. There's a very
odd story about all that, you know.' Then the Major told the
story, and told every particular of it wrongly. 'A man might do
worse than look there,' said the Major. A man might have done
worse, because Miss Gresham was a very nice girl; but of course
the Major was all wrong about the money.
'Well;--now you've tried it, what do you think about it?' This
question was put by Sir Timothy to Sir Orlando as they sat in a
corner of the archery ground, under the shelter of a tent looking
on while Major Pountney taught Mrs Boffin how to fix an arrow on
to her bow string. It was quite understood that Sir Timothy was
inimical to the Coalition though he still belonged to it, and
that he would assist in breaking it up if only there was a fair
chance of his belonging to the party which would remain in power.
Sir Timothy had been badly treated, and did not forget it. Now
Sir Orlando had also of late shown some symptoms of a disturbed
ambition. He was the Leader of the House of Commons, and it had
become an almost recognized law of the Constitution that the
leader of the House of Commons should be the First Minister of
Crown. It was at least understood by many that such was Sir
Orlando's reading of the laws of the Constitution.
'We've got along, you know,' said Sir Orlando.
'Yes;--yes. We've got along. Can you imagine any possible
concatenation of circumstances in which we should not get along?
There's always too much good sense in the House for an absolute
collapse. But are you contented?'
'I won't say I'm not,' said the cautious baronet. 'I didn't look
for very great things from a Coalition, and I didn't look for
very great things from the Duke.'
'It seems to me that the one achievement to which we've all
looked has been the reaching the end of the Sessions in safety.
We've done that certainly.'
'It is a great thing to do, Sir Timothy. Of course the main work
of Parliament is to raise supplies,--and, when that has been
done with ease, when all the money wanted has been voted without
a break-down, of course Ministers are very glad to get rid of the
Parliament. It is as much a matter of course that a Minister
should dislike Parliament now as that a Stuart King should have
done so two hundred and fifty years ago. To get a Session over
and done with is an achievement and a delight.'
'No ministry can go on long on that far niente principle, and no
Minister who accedes to it will remain long in any ministry.'
Sir Timothy in saying this might be alluding to the Duke, or the
reference might be to Sir Orlando himself. 'Of course, I'm not
in the Cabinet, and am not entitled to say a word; but I think
that if I were in the Cabinet, and I were anxious,--which I
confess I'm not,--for a continuation of the present state of
things, I should endeavour to obtain from the Duke some idea of
his policy for the next Session.' Sir Orlando was a man of
certain parts. He could speak volubly,--and yet slowly,--so
that reporters and others could hear him. He was patient, both
in the House and in his office, and had the great gift of doing
what he was told by men who understood things better than he did
himself. He never went very far astray in his official business,
because he always obeyed the clerks and followed precedents. He
had been a useful man,--and would still have remained so had he
not been lifted a little too high. Had he been only one in the
ruck on the Treasury Bench he would have been useful to the end;
but special honour and special place had been assigned to him,
and therefore he desired still bigger things. The Duke's
mediocrity of talent and of energy and of general governing power
had been so often mentioned of late in Sir Orlando's hearing,
that Sir Orlando had gradually come to think that he was the
Duke's equal in the Cabinet, and perhaps it behoved him to lead
the Duke. At the commencement of their joint operations he had
held the Duke in some awe, and perhaps something of that feeling
in reference to the Duke personally still restrained him. The
Duke of Omnium had always been big people. But still it might be
his duty to say a word to the Duke. Sir Orlando assured himself
that if ever convinced of the propriety of doing so, he could say
a word even to the Duke of Omnium. 'I am confident that we
should not go on quite as we are at present,' said Sir Timothy as
he closed the conversation.
'Where did they pick him up?' said the Major to the Captain,
pointing with his head to Ferdinand Lopez, who was shooting with
Angelica Thrift and Mr Boffin and one of the Duke's private
'The Duchess found him somewhere. He's one of those fabulously
rich fellows out of the City who make a hundred thousand pounds
at a blow. They say his people were grandees of Spain.'
'Does anybody know him?' asked the Major.
'Everybody will soon know him,' answered the Captain. 'I think I
heard that he's going to stand for some place in the Duke's
interest. He don't look like the sort of fellow I like; but he's
got money and he comes, and he's good-looking,--and therefore
he'll be a success.' In answer to this the Major only grunted.
The Major was a year or two older than the Captain, and therefore
less willing even than his friend to admit the claims of new
comers to the social honours.
Just at this moment the Duchess walked across the ground up to
the shooters, accompanied by Mrs Finn and Lady Chiltern. She had
not been seen in the gardens before that day, and of course a
little concourse was made around her. The Major and the Captain,
who had been driven away by the success of Ferdinand Lopez,
returned with their sweetest smiles. Mr Boffin put down his
treatise on the nature of Franchises, which he was studying in
order that he might lead an opposition against the Ministry next
Session, and even Sir Timothy Beeswax, who had done his work with
Sir Orlando, joined the throng.
'Now I do hope,' said the Duchess, 'that you are all shooting by
the new code. That is, and is to be, the Gatherum Archery Code,
and I shall break my heart if anybody rebels.'
'There are only two men,' said Major Pountney very gravely, 'who
won't take the trouble to understand it.'
'Mr Lopez,' said the Duchess, pointing her finger at our friend,
'are you that rebel?'
'I fear I did suggest--' began Mr Lopez.
'I will have no suggestions,--nothing but obedience. Here are
Sir Timothy Beeswax and Mr Boffin, and Sir Orlando Drought is not
far off; and here is Mr Rattler, than whom no authority on such a
subject can be better. Ask them whether in other matters
suggestions are wanted.'
'Of course not,' said Major Pountney.
'Now, Mr Lopez, will you or will you not be guided by a strict
and close interpretation of the Gatherum Code. Because, if not,
I'm afraid we shall feel constrained to accept your resignation.'
'I won't resign and I will obey,' said Lopez.
'A good ministerial reply,' said the Duchess.
'I don't doubt but that in time you'll ascend to high office and
become a pillar of the Gatherum constitution. How does he shoot,
'He will shoot very well indeed, Duchess, if he goes on and
practises,' said Angelica, whose life for the past seven years
had been devoted to archery. Major Pountney retired far away
into the park, a full quarter of a mile off, and smoked a cigar
under a tree. Was it for that he had absolutely given up a month
to drawing out this code of rules, going backwards and forwards,
two or three times to the printers in his desire to carry out the
Duchess's wishes? 'Women are so d-d ungrateful!' This fellow
Lopez, had absolutely been allowed to make a good score off his
own intractable disobedience.
The Duchess's little joke about Ministers generally, and the
advantages of submission on their part to their chief, was
thought by some who heard it not to have been made in good taste.
The joke was just a joke as the Duchess would be sure to make,--
meaning very little, but still not altogether pointless. It was
levelled rather at her husband than at her husband's colleagues
who were present, and was so understood by those who really knew
her,--as did Mrs Finn and Mr Warburton, the private secretary.
But Sir Orlando and Sir Timothy and Mr Rattler, who were all
within hearing, thought that the Duchess had intended to allude
to the servile nature of their position; and Mr Boffin, who hear
it, rejoiced within himself, comforting himself with the
reflection that his withers were unwrung, and thinking with what
pleasure he might carry the anecdote into the farthest corners of
the clubs. Poor Duchess! It is pitiful to think that after such
Herculean labours she should injure the cause by one slight
unconsidered word, more, perhaps, than she had advanced in all
During this time the Duke was at the Castle; but he showed
himself seldom to his guests,--so acting, as the reader will I
hope understand, from no sense of importance of his own personal
presence, but influenced by a conviction that a public man should
not waste his time. He breakfasted in his own room, because he
could thus eat his breakfast in ten minutes. He read all the
papers in solitude, because he was thus enabled to give his mind
to their contents. Life had always been too serious to him to be
wasted. Every afternoon he walked for the sake of exercise, and
would have accepted any companion if any companion had especially
offered himself. But he went off by some side-door, finding the
side-door to be convenient, and therefore when seen by others was
supposed to desire to remain unseen. 'I had no idea there was so
much pride about the Duke,' Mr Boffin said to his old colleague,
Sir Orlando. 'Is it pride?' asked Sir Orlando. 'It may be
shyness,' said the wise Boffin. 'The two things are so alike you
can never tell the difference. But the man who is cursed by
either should hardly be a Prime Minister.'
It was on the day after this, that Sir Orlando thought that the
moment had come in which it was his duty to say that salutary
word to the Duke, which it was clearly necessary that some
colleague should say, and which no colleague could have so good a
right to say as he was who was Leader of the House of Commons.
He understood clearly that though they were gathered together
then at Gatherum Castle for festive purposes, yet that no time
was unfit for the discussion of State matters. Does not all the
world know that when in autumn the Bismarcks of the world, or
they who are bigger than Bismarcks, meet at this or that
delicious haunt of salubrity, the affairs of the world are then
settled in little conclaves, with greater ease, rapidity, and
certainty than in large parliaments or the dull chambers of
public offices? Emperor meets Emperor, and King meets King, and
as they wander among rural glades in fraternal intimacy, wars are
arranged, and swelling territories are enjoyed in anticipation.
Sir Orlando hitherto had known all this, but hardly as yet
enjoyed it. He had been long in office, but these sweet
confidences can of their very nature belong only to a very few.
But now the time had manifestly come.
It was Sunday afternoon, and Sir Orlando caught the Duke in the
very act of leaving the house for his walk. There was no
archery, and many of the inmates of the Castle were asleep.
There had been a question as to the propriety of Sabbath archery,
in discussing which reference had been made to Laud's book of
sports, and the growing idea that the National Gallery should be
opened on the Lord's-day. But the Duchess would not have the
archery. 'We are just the people who shouldn't prejudge the
question,' said the Duchess. The Duchess with various ladies,
with the Pountneys and Gunners, and other obedient male
followers, had been to church. None of the Ministers had of
course been able to leave the swollen pouches which are always
sent out from London on Saturday night,--probably, we cannot but
think,--as arranged excuses for such defalcation, and had passed
their mornings comfortably dozing over new novels. The Duke,
always right in his purpose but generally wrong in his practice,
had stayed at home working all the morning, thereby scandalizing
the strict, and had gone to church in the afternoon, thereby
offending the social. The church was close to the house, and he
had gone back to change his coat and hat, and to get his stick.
But as he was stealing our of the little side-gate, Sir Orlando
was down upon him. 'If your Grace is going for a walk, and will
admit of company, I shall be delighted to attend you,' said Sir
Orlando. The Duke professed himself to be well-pleased. He
would be glad to increase his personal intimacy with his
colleague if it might be done pleasantly.
They had gone nearly a mile across the park, watching the stately
movements of the herds of deer, and talking of this and that
trifle, before Sir Orlando could bring about an opportunity for
uttering his word. At last, he did it somewhat abruptly. 'I
think upon the whole we did pretty well this Session,' he said,
standing still under an old oak-tree.
'Pretty well,' re-echoed the Duke.
'And I suppose we have not much to afraid of next Session?'
'I am afraid of nothing,' said the Duke.
'But--;' then Sir Orlando hesitated. The Duke, however, said not
a word to help him on. Sir Orlando thought that the Duke looked
more ducal than he had ever seen him look before. Sir Orlando
remembered the old Duke, and suddenly found that the uncle and
nephew were very like each other. But it does not become the
leader of the House of Commons to be afraid of anyone. 'Don't
you think,' continued Sir Orlando, 'we should try and arrange
among ourselves something of a policy? I am not quite sure that
a ministry without a distinct course of action before it can long
enjoy the confidence of the country. Take the last half century.
There have been various policies, commanding more or less of
general assent; free trade--.' Here Sir Orlando gave a kindly
wave of his hand, showing that on behalf of a companion he was
willing to place at the head of the list a policy which had not
always commanded his own assent;--'continued reform in
Parliament, to which I have, with my whole heart, given my poor
assistance.' The Duke remembered how the bathers' clothes were
stolen, and that Sir Orlando had been one of the most nimble-
fingered of thieves. 'No popery, Irish grievances, the ballot,
retrenchment, efficiency of the public service, all have had
'Things to be done offer themselves, I suppose, because they are
in themselves desirable; not because it is desirable to have
something to do.'
'Just so;--no doubt. But still, if you will think of it, no
ministry can endure without a policy. During the latter part of
the last Session, it was understood that we had to get ourselves
in harness together, and nothing more was expected from us; but I
think we should be prepared with a distinct policy for the coming
year. I fear that nothing can be done in Ireland.'
'Mr Finn has ideas--'
'Ah, yes,--well, your Grace. Mr Finn is a very clever young man
certainly; but I don't think we can support ourselves by his plan
of Irish reform.' Sir Orlando had been a little carried away by
his own eloquence and the Duke's tameness, and had interrupted
the Duke. The Duke again looked ducal, but on this occasion Sir
Orlando did not observe his countenance. 'For myself, I think, I
am in favour of increased armaments. I have been applying my
mind to the subject, and I think I see that the people of this
country do not object to a slightly rising scale of estimates in
that direction. Of course there is the county suffrage--'
'I will think of what you have been saying,' said the Duke.
'As to the county suffrage--'
'I will think it over,' said the Duke. 'You see the oak. That
is the largest tree we have here at Gatherum; and I doubt whether
there be a larger one in this part of England.' The Duke's voice
and words were not uncourteous, but there was something in them
which hindered Sir Orlando from referring again on that occasion
to county suffrages or increased armaments.
THE DUCHESS'S NEW SWAN.
When the party had been about a week collected at Gatherum
Castle, Ferdinand Lopez had manifestly become the favourite of
the Duchess for the time, and had, at her instance, promised to
remain there for some further days. He had hardly spoken to the
Duke since he had been in the house,--but then but few of that
motley assembly did talk much with the Duke. Gunner and Pountney
had gone away,--the Captain having declared his dislike of the
upstart Portuguese to be so strong that he could not stay in the
same house with him any longer, and the Major, who was of a
stronger mind, having resolved that he would put the intruder
down. 'It is horrible to think what power money has in these
days,' said the Captain. The Captain had shaken the dust of
Gatherum altogether from his feet, but the Major had so arranged
that a bed was to be found for him in October,--for another
happy week; but he was not to return till bidden by the Duchess.
'You won't forget;--now will you, Duchess?' he said, imploring
her to remember him as he took his leave. 'I did take a deal of
trouble about the code;--didn't I?' 'They don't seem to me to
care for the code,' said the Duchess, 'but, nevertheless, 'I'll
'Who, in the name of all that's wonderful, was that I saw you
with in the garden?' the Duchess said to her husband one
'It was Lady Rosina De Courcy, I suppose!'
'Heaven and earth!--what a companion for you to choose.'
'Why not?--why shouldn't I talk to Lady Rosina De Courcy?'
'I'm not jealous a bit, if you mean that I don't think Lady
Rosina will steal your heart from me. But why you should pick
her out of all the people here, when there are so many would think
their fortunes made if you would only take a turn with them, I
'But I don't want to make anyone's fortune,' said the Duke: 'and
certainly not in that way.'
'What could you be saying to her?'
'She was talking about her family. I rather like Lady Rosina.
She is living all alone, it seems and almost in poverty. Perhaps
there is nothing so sad in the world as the female scions of a
noble but impoverished stock.'
'Nothing so dull, certainly.'
'People are not dull to me, if they are real. I pity that poor
lady. She is proud of her blood and yet not ashamed of her
'Whatever might come of her blood she has been all her life
willing enough to get rid of her poverty. It isn't above three
years since she was trying her best to marry that brewer at
Silverbridge. I wish you could give your time a little to some
of the other people.'
'To go and shoot arrows?'
'No;--I don't want you to shoot arrows. You might act the part
of host without shooting. Can't you walk about with anybody
except Lady Rosina De Courcy?'
'I was walking about with Sir Orlando Drought last Sunday, and I
very much prefer Lady Rosina.'
'There has been no quarrel?' asked the Duchess sharply.
'Oh dear no.'
'Of course he's an empty-headed idiot. Everybody has always
known that. And he's put above his place in the House. But it
wouldn't do to quarrel with him now.'
'I don't think I am a quarrelsome man, Cora. I don't remember at
this moment that I have ever quarrelled with anybody to your
knowledge. But I may perhaps be permitted to--'
'Snub a man, you mean. Well I wouldn't ever snub Sir Orlando
very much, if I were you; though I can understand that it might
be both pleasant and easy.'
'I wish you wouldn't put slang phrases into my mouth, Cora. If I
think that a man intrudes upon me, I am of course bound to let
know my opinion.'
'Sir Orlando has--intruded!'
'By no means. He is in a position which justifies his saying
many things to me which another might not say. But then, again,
he is a man whose opinion does not go far with me, and I have not
the knack of seeming to agree with a man while I let his words
pass idly by me.'
'That is quite true, Plantagenet.'
'And, therefore, I was uncomfortable with Sir Orlando, while I
was able to sympathize with Lady Rosina.'
'What do you think of Ferdinand Lopez?' asked the Duchess, with
'Think of Mr Lopez! I haven't thoughy of him at all. Why should
I think of him?'
'I want you to think of him. I think he's a very pleasant
fellow, and I'm sure he's a rising man.'
'You might think the latter, and perhaps feel sure of the former.'
'Very well. Then, to oblige you, I'll think the latter and feel
sure of the former. I suppose it's true that Mr Grey is going on
this mission to Persia?' Mr Grey was the Duke's intimate friend,
and was at this time member for the neighbouring borough of
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