He was about to leave the room when the Earl stopped him. "Will you give me your word," said the Earl, "that you will think no more of Miss Effingham?" Phineas stood silent, considering how he might answer this proposal, resolving that nothing should bring him to such a pledge as that suggested while there was yet a ledge for hope to stand on. "Say that, Mr. Finn, and I will forgive everything."
"I cannot acknowledge that I have done anything to be forgiven."
"Say that," repeated the Earl, "and everything shall be forgotten."
"There need be no cause for alarm, my lord," said Phineas. "You may be sure that Miss Effingham will not think of me."
"Will you give me your word?"
"No, my lord;—certainly not. You have no right to ask it, and the pursuit is open to me as to any other man who may choose to follow it. I have hardly a vestige of a hope of success. It is barely possible that I should succeed. But if it be true that Miss Effingham be disengaged, I shall endeavour to find an opportunity of urging my suit. I would give up everything that I have, my seat in Parliament, all the ambition of my life, for the barest chance of success. When she had accepted your son, I desisted,—of course. I have now heard, from more sources than one, that she or he or both of them have changed their minds. If this be so, I am free to try again." The Earl stood opposite to him, scowling at him, but said nothing. "Good morning, my lord."
"Good morning, sir."
"I am afraid it must be good-bye, for some long days to come."
"Good morning, sir," And the Earl as he spoke rang the bell. Then Phineas took up his hat and departed.
As he walked away his mind filled itself gradually with various ideas, all springing from the words which Lord Brentford had spoken. What account had Lord Chiltern given to his father of the duel? Our hero was a man very sensitive as to the good opinion of others, and in spite of his bold assertion of his own knowledge of what became a gentleman, was beyond measure solicitous that others should acknowledge his claim at any rate to that title. He thought that he had been generous to Lord Chiltern; and as he went back in his memory over almost every word that had been spoken in the interview that had just passed, he fancied that he was able to collect evidence that his antagonist at Blankenberg had not spoken ill of him. As to the charge of deceit which the Earl had made against him, he told himself that the Earl had made it in anger. He would not even think hardly of the Earl who had been so good a friend to him, but he believed in his heart that the Earl had made the accusation out of his wrath and not out of his judgment. "He cannot think that I have been false to him," Phineas said to himself. But it was very sad to him that he should have to quarrel with all the family of the Standishes, as he could not but feel that it was they who had put him on his feet. It seemed as though he were never to see Lady Laura again except when they chanced to meet in company,—on which occasions he simply bowed to her. Now the Earl had almost turned him out of his house. And though there had been to a certain extent a reconciliation between him and Lord Chiltern, he in these days never saw the friend who had once put him upon Bonebreaker; and now,—now that Violet Effingham was again free,—how was it possible to avoid some renewal of enmity between them? He would, however, endeavour to see Lord Chiltern at once.
And then he thought of Violet,—of Violet again free, of Violet as again a possible wife for himself, of Violet to whom he might address himself at any rate without any scruple as to his own unworthiness. Everybody concerned, and many who were not concerned at all, were aware that he had been among her lovers, and he thought that he could perceive that those who interested themselves on the subject, had regarded him as the only horse in the race likely to run with success against Lord Chiltern. She herself had received his offers without scorn, and had always treated him as though he were a favoured friend, though not favoured as a lover. And now even Lady Baldock was smiling upon him, and asking him to her house as though the red-faced porter in the hall in Berkeley Square had never been ordered to refuse him a moment's admission inside the doors. He had been very humble in speaking of his own hopes to the Earl, but surely there might be a chance. What if after all the little strain which he had had in his back was to be cured after such a fashion as this! When he got to his lodgings, he found a card from Lady Baldock, informing him that Lady Baldock would be at home on a certain night, and that there would be music. He could not go to Lady Baldock's on the night named, as it would be necessary that he should be in the House;—nor did he much care to go there, as Violet Effingham was not in town. But he would call and explain, and endeavour to curry favour in that way.
He at once wrote a note to Lord Chiltern, which he addressed to Portman Square. "As you are in town, can we not meet? Come and dine with me at the —— Club on Saturday." That was the note. After a few days he received the following answer, dated from the Bull at Willingford. Why on earth should Chiltern be staying at the Bull at Willingford in May?
The old Shop at W——, Friday.
I can't dine with you, because I am down here, looking after the cripples, and writing a sporting novel. They tell me I ought to do something, so I am going to do that. I hope you don't think I turned informer against you in telling the Earl of our pleasant little meeting on the sands. It had become necessary, and you are too much of a man to care much for any truth being told. He was terribly angry both with me and with you; but the fact is, he is so blindly unreasonable that one cannot regard his anger. I endeavoured to tell the story truly, and, so told, it certainly should not have injured you in his estimation. But it did. Very sorry, old fellow, and I hope you'll get over it. It is a good deal more important to me than to you.
There was not a word about Violet. But then it was hardly to be expected that there should be words about Violet. It was not likely that a man should write to his rival of his own failure. But yet there was a flavour of Violet in the letter which would not have been there, so Phineas thought, if the writer had been despondent. The pleasant little meeting on the sands had been convened altogether in respect of Violet. And the telling of the story to the Earl must have arisen from discussions about Violet. Lord Chiltern must have told his father that Phineas was his rival. Could the rejected suitor have written on such a subject in such a strain to such a correspondent if he had believed his own rejection to be certain? But then Lord Chiltern was not like anybody else in the world, and it was impossible to judge of him by one's experience of the motives of others.
Shortly afterwards Phineas did call in Berkeley Square, and was shown up at once into Lady Baldock's drawing-room. The whole aspect of the porter's countenance was changed towards him, and from this, too, he gathered good auguries This had surprised him; but his surprise was far greater, when, on entering the room, he found Violet Effingham there alone. A little fresh colour came to her face as she greeted him, though it cannot be said that she blushed. She behaved herself admirably, not endeavouring to conceal some little emotion at thus meeting him, but betraying none that was injurious to her composure. "I am so glad to see you, Mr. Finn," she said. "My aunt has just left me, and will be back directly."
He was by no means her equal in his management of himself on the occasion; but perhaps it may be acknowledged that his position was the more difficult of the two. He had not seen her since her engagement had been proclaimed to the world, and now he had heard from a source which was not to be doubted, that it had been broken off. Of course there was nothing to be said on that matter. He could not have congratulated her in the one case, nor could he either congratulate her or condole with her on the other. And yet he did not know how to speak to her as though no such events had occurred. "I did not know that you were in town," he said.
"I only came yesterday. I have been, you know, at Rome with the Effinghams; and since that I have been—; but, indeed, I have been such a vagrant that I cannot tell you of all my comings and goings. And you,—you are hard at work!"
"That is right. I wish I could be something, if it were only a stick in waiting, or a door-keeper. It is so good to be something." Was it some such teaching as this that had jarred against Lord Chiltern's susceptibilities, and had seemed to him to be a repetition of his father's sermons?
"A man should try to be something," said Phineas.
"And a woman must be content to be nothing,—unless Mr. Mill can pull us through! And now, tell me,—have you seen Lady Laura?"
"Nor Mr. Kennedy?"
"I sometimes see him in the House." The visit to the Colonial Office of which the reader has been made aware had not at that time as yet been made.
"I am sorry for all that," she said. Upon which Phineas smiled and shook his head. "I am very sorry that there should be a quarrel between you two."
"There is no quarrel."
"I used to think that you and he might do so much for each other,—that is, of course, if you could make a friend of him."
"He is a man of whom it is very hard to make a friend," said Phineas, feeling that he was dishonest to Mr. Kennedy in saying so, but thinking that such dishonesty was justified by what he owed to Lady Laura.
"Yes;—he is hard, and what I call ungenial. We won't say anything about him,—will we? Have you seen much of the Earl?" This she asked as though such a question had no reference whatever to Lord Chiltern.
"Oh dear,—alas, alas!"
"You have not quarrelled with him too?"
"He has quarrelled with me. He has heard, Miss Effingham, of what happened last year, and he thinks that I was wrong."
"Of course you were wrong, Mr. Finn."
"Very likely. To him I chose to defend myself, but I certainly shall not do so to you. At any rate, you did not think it necessary to quarrel with me."
"I ought to have done so. I wonder why my aunt does not come." Then she rang the bell.
"Now I have told you all about myself," said he; "you should tell me something of yourself."
"About me? I am like the knife-grinder, who had no story to tell,—none at least to be told. We have all, no doubt, got our little stories, interesting enough to ourselves."
"But your story, Miss Effingham," he said, "is of such intense interest to me." At that moment, luckily, Lady Baldock came into the room, and Phineas was saved from the necessity of making a declaration at a moment which would have been most inopportune.
Lady Baldock was exceedingly gracious to him, bidding Violet use her influence to persuade him to come to the gathering. "Persuade him to desert his work to come and hear some fiddlers!" said Miss Effingham. "Indeed I shall not, aunt. Who can tell but what the colonies might suffer from it through centuries, and that such a lapse of duty might drive a province or two into the arms of our mortal enemies?"
"Herr Moll is coming," said Lady Baldock, "and so is Signor Scrubi, and Pjinskt, who, they say, is the greatest man living on the flageolet. Have you ever heard Pjinskt, Mr. Finn?" Phineas never had heard Pjinskt. "And as for Herr Moll, there is nothing equal to him, this year, at least." Lady Baldock had taken up music this season, but all her enthusiasm was unable to shake the conscientious zeal of the young Under-Secretary of State. At such a gathering he would have been unable to say a word in private to Violet Effingham.
Madame Goesler's Politics
It may be remembered that when Lady Glencora Palliser was shown into Madame Goesler's room, Madame Goesler had just explained somewhat forcibly to the Duke of Omnium her reasons for refusing the loan of his Grace's villa at Como. She had told the Duke in so many words that she did not mean to give the world an opportunity of maligning her, and it would then have been left to the Duke to decide whether any other arrangements might have been made for taking Madame Goesler to Como, had he not been interrupted. That he was very anxious to take her was certain. The green brougham had already been often enough at the door in Park Lane to make his Grace feel that Madame Goesler's company was very desirable,—was, perhaps, of all things left for his enjoyment, the one thing the most desirable. Lady Glencora had spoken to her husband of children crying for the top brick of the chimney. Now it had come to this, that in the eyes of the Duke of Omnium Marie Max Goesler was the top brick of the chimney. She had more wit for him than other women,—more of that sort of wit which he was capable of enjoying. She had a beauty which he had learned to think more alluring than other beauty. He was sick of fair faces, and fat arms, and free necks. Madame Goesler's eyes sparkled as other eyes did not sparkle, and there was something of the vagueness of mystery in the very blackness and gloss and abundance of her hair,—as though her beauty was the beauty of some world which he had not yet known. And there was a quickness and yet a grace of motion about her which was quite new to him. The ladies upon whom the Duke had of late most often smiled had been somewhat slow,—perhaps almost heavy,—though, no doubt, graceful withal. In his early youth he remembered to have seen, somewhere in Greece, such a houri as was this Madame Goesler. The houri in that case had run off with the captain of a Russian vessel engaged in the tallow trade; but not the less was there left on his Grace's mind some dreamy memory of charms which had impressed him very strongly when he was simply a young Mr. Palliser, and had had at his command not so convenient a mode of sudden abduction as the Russian captain's tallow ship. Pressed hard by such circumstances as these, there is no knowing how the Duke might have got out of his difficulties had not Lady Glencora appeared upon the scene.
Since the future little Lord Silverbridge had been born, the Duke had been very constant in his worship of Lady Glencora, and as, from year to year, a little brother was added, thus making the family very strong and stable, his acts of worship had increased; but with his worship there had come of late something almost of dread,—something almost of obedience, which had made those who were immediately about the Duke declare that his Grace was a good deal changed. For, hitherto, whatever may have been the Duke's weaknesses, he certainly had known no master. His heir, Plantagenet Palliser, had been always subject to him. His other relations had been kept at such a distance as hardly to be more than recognised; and though his Grace no doubt had had his intimacies, they who had been intimate with him had either never tried to obtain ascendancy, or had failed. Lady Glencora, whether with or without a struggle, had succeeded, and people about the Duke said that the Duke was much changed. Mr. Fothergill,—who was his Grace's man of business, and who was not a favourite with Lady Glencora,—said that he was very much changed indeed. Finding his Grace so much changed, Mr. Fothergill had made a little attempt at dictation himself, but had receded with fingers very much scorched in the attempt. It was indeed possible that the Duke was becoming in the slightest degree weary of Lady Glencora's thraldom, and that he thought that Madame Max Goesler might be more tender with him. Madame Max Goesler, however, intended to be tender only on one condition.
When Lady Glencora entered the room, Madame Goesler received her beautifully. "How lucky that you should have come just when his Grace is here!" she said.
"I saw my uncle's carriage, and of course I knew it," said Lady Glencora.
"Then the favour is to him," said Madame Goesler, smiling.
"No, indeed; I was coming. If my word is to be doubted in that point, I must insist on having the servant up; I must, certainly. I told him to drive to this door, as far back as Grosvenor Street. Did I not, Planty?" Planty was the little Lord Silverbridge as was to be, if nothing unfortunate intervened, who was now sitting on his granduncle's knee.
"Dou said to the little house in Park Lane," said the boy.
"Yes,—because I forgot the number."
"And it is the smallest house in Park Lane, so the evidence is complete," said Madame Goesler. Lady Glencora had not cared much for evidence to convince Madame Goesler, but she had not wished her uncle to think that he was watched and hunted down. It might be necessary that he should know that he was watched, but things had not come to that as yet.
"How is Plantagenet?" asked the Duke.
"Answer for papa," said Lady Glencora to her child.
"Papa is very well, but he almost never comes home."
"He is working for his country," said the Duke. "Your papa is a busy, useful man, and can't afford time to play with a little boy as I can."
"But papa is not a duke."
"He will be some day, and that probably before long, my boy. He will be a duke quite as soon as he wants to be a duke. He likes the House of Commons better than the strawberry leaves, I fancy. There is not a man in England less in a hurry than he is."
"No, indeed," said Lady Glencora.
"How nice that is," said Madame Goesler.
"And I ain't in a hurry either,—am I, mamma?" said the little future Lord Silverbridge.
"You are a wicked little monkey," said his grand-uncle, kissing him. At this moment Lady Glencora was, no doubt, thinking how necessary it was that she should be careful to see that things did turn out in the manner proposed,—so that people who had waited should not be disappointed; and the Duke was perhaps thinking that he was not absolutely bound to his nephew by any law of God or man; and Madame Max Goesler,—I wonder whether her thoughts were injurious to the prospects of that handsome bold-faced little boy.
Lady Glencora rose to take her leave first. It was not for her to show any anxiety to force the Duke out of the lady's presence. If the Duke were resolved to make a fool of himself, nothing that she could do would prevent it. But she thought that this little inspection might possibly be of service, and that her uncle's ardour would be cooled by the interruption to which he had been subjected. So she went, and immediately afterwards the Duke followed her. The interruption had, at any rate, saved him on that occasion from making the highest bid for the pleasure of Madame Goesler's company at Como. The Duke went down with the little boy in his hand, so that there was not an opportunity for a single word of interest between the gentleman and the lady.
Madame Goesler, when she was alone, seated herself on her sofa, tucking her feet up under her as though she were seated somewhere in the East, pushed her ringlets back roughly from her face, and then placed her two hands to her sides so that her thumbs rested lightly on her girdle. When alone with something weighty on her mind she would sit in this form for the hour together, resolving, or trying to resolve, what should be her conduct. She did few things without much thinking, and though she walked very boldly, she walked warily. She often told herself that such success as she had achieved could not have been achieved without much caution. And yet she was ever discontented with herself, telling herself that all that she had done was nothing, or worse than nothing. What was it all, to have a duke and to have lords dining with her, to dine with lords or with a duke itself, if life were dull with her, and the hours hung heavy! Life with her was dull, and the hours did hang heavy. And what if she caught this old man, and became herself a duchess,—caught him by means of his weakness, to the inexpressible dismay of all those who were bound to him by ties of blood,—would that make her life happier, or her hours less tedious? That prospect of a life on the Italian lakes with an old man tied to her side was not so charming in her eyes as it was in those of the Duke. Were she to succeed, and to be blazoned forth to the world as Duchess of Omnium, what would she have gained?
She perfectly understood the motive of Lady Glencora's visit, and thought that she would at any rate gain something in the very triumph of baffling the manoeuvres of so clever a woman. Let Lady Glencora throw her aegis before the Duke, and it would be something to carry off his Grace from beneath the protection of so thick a shield. The very flavour of the contest was pleasing to Madame Goesler. But, the victory gained, what then would remain to her? Money she had already; position, too, she had of her own. She was free as air, and should it suit her at any time to go off to some lake of Como in society that would personally be more agreeable to her than that of the Duke of Omnium, there was nothing to hinder her for a moment. And then came a smile over her face,—but the saddest smile,—as she thought of one with whom it might be pleasant to look at the colour of Italian skies and feel the softness of Italian breezes. In feigning to like to do this with an old man, in acting the raptures of love on behalf of a worn-out duke who at the best would scarce believe in her acting, there would not be much delight for her. She had never yet known what it was to have anything of the pleasure of love. She had grown, as she often told herself, to be a hard, cautious, selfish, successful woman, without any interference or assistance from such pleasure. Might there not be yet time left for her to try it without selfishness,—with an absolute devotion of self,—if only she could find the right companion? There was one who might be such a companion, but the Duke of Omnium certainly could not be such a one.
But to be Duchess of Omnium! After all, success in this world is everything;—is at any rate the only thing the pleasure of which will endure. There was the name of many a woman written in a black list within Madame Goesler's breast,—written there because of scorn, because of rejected overtures, because of deep social injury; and Madame Goesler told herself often that it would be a pleasure to her to use the list, and to be revenged on those who had ill-used and scornfully treated her. She did not readily forgive those who had injured her. As Duchess of Omnium she thought that probably she might use that list with efficacy. Lady Glencora had treated her well, and she had no such feeling against Lady Glencora. As Duchess of Omnium she would accept Lady Glencora as her dearest friend, if Lady Glencora would admit it. But if it should be necessary that there should be a little duel between them, as to which of them should take the Duke in hand, the duel must of course be fought. In a matter so important, one woman would of course expect no false sentiment from another. She and Lady Glencora would understand each other;—and no doubt, respect each other.
I have said that she would sit there resolving, or trying to resolve. There is nothing in the world so difficult as that task of making up one's mind. Who is there that has not longed that the power and privilege of selection among alternatives should be taken away from him in some important crisis of his life, and that his conduct should be arranged for him, either this way or that, by some divine power if it were possible,—by some patriarchal power in the absence of divinity,—or by chance even, if nothing better than chance could be found to do it? But no one dares to cast the die, and to go honestly by the hazard. There must be the actual necessity of obeying the die, before even the die can be of any use. As it was, when Madame Goesler had sat there for an hour, till her legs were tired beneath her, she had not resolved. It must be as her impulse should direct her when the important moment came. There was not a soul on earth to whom she could go for counsel, and when she asked herself for counsel, the counsel would not come.
Two days afterwards the Duke called again. He would come generally on a Thursday,—early, so that he might be there before other visitors; and he had already quite learned that when he was there other visitors would probably be refused admittance. How Lady Glencora had made her way in, telling the servant that her uncle was there, he had not understood. That visit had been made on the Thursday, but now he came on the Saturday,—having, I regret to say, sent down some early fruit from his own hot-houses,—or from Covent Garden,—with a little note on the previous day. The grapes might have been pretty well, but the note was injudicious. There were three lines about the grapes, as to which there was some special history, the vine having been brought from the garden of some villa in which some ill-used queen had lived and died; and then there was a postscript in one line to say that the Duke would call on the following morning. I do not think that he had meant to add this when he began his note; but then children, who want the top brick, want it so badly, and cry for it so perversely!
Of course Madame Goesler was at home. But even then she had not made up her mind. She had made up her mind only to this,—that he should be made to speak plainly, and that she would take time for her reply. Not even with such a gem as the Duke's coronet before her eyes, would she jump at it. Where there was so much doubt, there need at least be no impatience.
"You ran away the other day, Duke, because you could not resist the charm of that little boy," she said, laughing.
"He is a dear little boy,—but it was not that," he answered.
"Then what was it? Your niece carried you off in a whirl-wind. She was come and gone, taking you with her, in half a minute."
"She had disturbed me when I was thinking of something," said the Duke.
"Things shouldn't be thought of,—not so deeply as that." Madame Goesler was playing with a bunch of his grapes now, eating one or two from a small china plate which had stood upon the table, and he thought that he had never seen a woman so graceful and yet so natural. "Will you not eat your own grapes with me? They are delicious;—flavoured with the poor queen's sorrows." He shook his head, knowing that it did not suit his gastric juices to have to deal with fruit eaten at odd times. "Never think, Duke. I am convinced that it does no good. It simply means doubting, and doubt always leads to error. The safest way in the world is to do nothing."
"I believe so," said the Duke.
"Much the safest. But if you have not sufficient command over yourself to enable you to sit in repose, always quiet, never committing yourself to the chance of any danger,—then take a leap in the dark; or rather many leaps. A stumbling horse regains his footing by persevering in his onward course. As for moving cautiously, that I detest."
"And yet one must think;—for instance, whether one will succeed or not."
"Take that for granted always. Remember, I do not recommend motion at all. Repose is my idea of life;—repose and grapes."
The Duke sat for a while silent, taking his repose as far as the outer man was concerned, looking at his top brick of the chimney, as from time to time she ate one of his grapes. Probably she did not eat above half-a-dozen of them altogether, but he thought that the grapes must have been made for the woman, she was so pretty in the eating of them. But it was necessary that he should speak at last. "Have you been thinking of coming to Como?" he said.
"I told you that I never think."
"But I want an answer to my proposition."
"I thought I had answered your Grace on that question." Then she put down the grapes, and moved herself on her chair, so that she sat with her face turned away from him.
"But a request to a lady may be made twice."
"Oh, yes. And I am grateful, knowing how far it is from your intention to do me any harm. And I am somewhat ashamed of my warmth on the other day. But still there can be but one answer. There are delights which a woman must deny herself, let them be ever so delightful."
"I had thought,—" the Duke began, and then he stopped himself.
"Your Grace was saying that you thought,—"
"Marie, a man at my age does not like to be denied."
"What man likes to be denied anything by a woman at any age? A woman who denies anything is called cruel at once,—even though it be her very soul." She had turned round upon him now, and was leaning forward towards him from her chair, so that he could touch her if he put out his hand.
He put out his hand and touched her. "Marie," he said, "will you deny me if I ask?"
"Nay, my lord; how shall I say? There is many a trifle I would deny you. There is many a great gift I would give you willingly."
"But the greatest gift of all?"
"My lord, if you have anything to say, you must say it plainly. There never was a woman worse than I am at the reading of riddles."
"Could you endure to live in the quietude of an Italian lake with an old man?" Now he touched her again, and had taken her hand.
"No, my lord;—nor with a young one,—for all my days. But I do not know that age would guide me."
Then the Duke rose and made his proposition in form. "Marie, you know that I love you. Why it is that I at my age should feel so sore a love, I cannot say."
"So sore a love!"
"So sore, if it be not gratified. Marie, I ask you to be my wife."
"Duke of Omnium, this from you!"
"Yes, from me. My coronet is at your feet. If you will allow me to raise it, I will place it on your brow."
Then she went away from him, and seated herself at a distance. After a moment or two he followed her, and stood with his arm upon her shoulder. "You will give me an answer, Marie?"
"You cannot have thought of this, my lord."
"Nay; I have thought of it much."
"And your friends?"
"My dear, I may venture to please myself in this,—as in everything. Will you not answer me?"
"Certainly not on the spur of the moment, my lord. Think how high is the position you offer me, and how immense is the change you propose to me. Allow me two days, and I will answer you by letter. I am so fluttered now that I must leave you." Then he came to her, took her hand, kissed her brow, and opened the door for her.
It happened that there were at this time certain matters of business to be settled between the Duke of Omnium and his nephew Mr. Palliser, respecting which the latter called upon his uncle on the morning after the Duke had committed himself by his offer. Mr. Palliser had come by appointment made with Mr. Fothergill, the Duke's man of business, and had expected to meet Mr. Fothergill. Mr. Fothergill, however, was not with the Duke, and the uncle told the nephew that the business had been postponed. Then Mr. Palliser asked some question as to the reason of such postponement, not meaning much by his question,—and the Duke, after a moment's hesitation, answered him, meaning very much by his answer. "The truth is, Plantagenet, that it is possible that I may marry, and if so this arrangement would not suit me."
"Are you going to be married?" asked the astonished nephew.
"It is not exactly that,—but it is possible that I may do so. Since I proposed this matter to Fothergill, I have been thinking over it, and I have changed my mind. It will make but little difference to you; and after all you are a far richer man than I am."
"I am not thinking of money, Duke," said Plantagenet Palliser.
"Of what then were you thinking?"
"Simply of what you told me. I do not in the least mean to interfere."
"I hope not, Plantagenet."
"But I could not hear such a statement from you without some surprise. Whatever you do I hope will tend to make you happy."
So much passed between the uncle and the nephew, and what the uncle told to the nephew, the nephew of course told to his wife. "He was with her again, yesterday," said Lady Glencora, "for more than an hour. And he had been half the morning dressing himself before he went to her."
"He is not engaged to her, or he would have told me," said Plantagenet Palliser.
"I think he would, but there is no knowing. At the present moment I have only one doubt,—whether to act upon him or upon her."
"I do not see that you can do good by going to either."
"Well, we will see. If she be the woman I take her to be, I think I could do something with her. I have never supposed her to be a bad woman,—never. I will think of it." Then Lady Glencora left her husband, and did not consult him afterwards as to the course she would pursue. He had his budget to manage, and his speeches to make. The little affair of the Duke and Madame Goesler, she thought it best to take into her own hands without any assistance from him. "What a fool I was," she said to herself, "to have her down there when the Duke was at Matching!"
Madame Goesler, when she was left alone, felt that now indeed she must make up her mind. She had asked for two days. The intervening day was a Sunday, and on the Monday she must send her answer. She might doubt at any rate for this one night,—the Saturday night,—and sit playing, as it were, with the coronet of a duchess in her lap. She had been born the daughter of a small country attorney, and now a duke had asked her to be his wife,—and a duke who was acknowledged to stand above other dukes! Nothing at any rate could rob her of that satisfaction. Whatever resolution she might form at last, she had by her own resources reached a point of success in remembering which there would always be a keen gratification. It would be much to be Duchess of Omnium; but it would be something also to have refused to be a Duchess of Omnium. During that evening, that night, and the next morning, she remained playing with the coronet in her lap. She would not go to church. What good could any sermon do her while that bauble was dangling before her eyes? After church-time, about two o'clock, Phineas Finn came to her. Just at this period Phineas would come to her often;—sometimes full of a new decision to forget Violet Effingham altogether, at others minded to continue his siege let the hope of success be ever so small. He had now heard that Violet and Lord Chiltern had in truth quarrelled, and was of course anxious to be advised to continue the siege. When he first came in and spoke a word or two, in which there was no reference to Violet Effingham, there came upon Madame Goesler a strong wish to decide at once that she would play no longer with the coronet, that the gem was not worth the cost she would be called upon to pay for it. There was something in the world better for her than the coronet,—if only it might be had. But within ten minutes he had told her the whole tale about Lord Chiltern, and how he had seen Violet at Lady Baldock's,—and how there might yet be hope for him. What would she advise him to do? "Go home, Mr. Finn," she said, "and write a sonnet to her eyebrow. See if that will have any effect."
"Ah, well! It is natural that you should laugh at me; but somehow, I did not expect it from you."
"Do not be angry with me. What I mean is that such little things seem to influence this Violet of yours."
"Do they? I have not found that they do so."
"If she had loved Lord Chiltern she would not have quarrelled with him for a few words. If she had loved you, she would not have accepted Lord Chiltern. If she loves neither of you, she should say so. I am losing my respect for her."
"Do not say that, Madame Goesler. I respect her as strongly as I love her." Then Madame Goesler almost made up her mind that she would have the coronet. There was a substance about the coronet that would not elude her grasp.
Late that afternoon, while she was still hesitating, there came another caller to the cottage in Park Lane. She was still hesitating, feeling that she had as yet another night before her. Should she be Duchess of Omnium or not? All that she wished to be, she could not be;—but to be Duchess of Omnium was within her reach. Then she began to ask herself various questions. Would the Queen refuse to accept her in her new rank? Refuse! How could any Queen refuse to accept her? She had not done aught amiss in life. There was no slur on her name; no stain on her character. What though her father had been a small attorney, and her first husband a Jew banker! She had broken no law of God or man, had been accused of breaking no law, which breaking or which accusation need stand in the way of her being as good a duchess as any other woman! She was sitting thinking of this, almost angry with herself at the awe with which the proposed rank inspired her, when Lady Glencora was announced to her.
"Madame Goesler," said Lady Glencora, "I am very glad to find you."
"And I more than equally so, to be found," said Madame Goesler, smiling with all her grace.
"My uncle has been with you since I saw you last?"
"Oh yes;—more than once if I remember right. He was here yesterday at any rate."
"He comes often to you then?"
"Not so often as I would wish, Lady Glencora. The Duke is one of my dearest friends."
"It has been a quick friendship."
"Yes;—a quick friendship," said Madame Goesler. Then there was a pause for some moments which Madame Goesler was determined that she would not break. It was clear to her now on what ground Lady Glencora had come to her, and she was fully minded that if she could bear the full light of the god himself in all his glory, she would not allow herself to be scorched by any reflected heat coming from the god's niece. She thought she could endure anything that Lady Glencora might say; but she would wait and hear what might be said.
"I think, Madame Goesler, that I had better hurry on to my subject at once," said Lady Glencora, almost hesitating as she spoke, and feeling that the colour was rushing up to her cheeks and covering her brow. "Of course what I have to say will be disagreeable. Of course I shall offend you. And yet I do not mean it."
"I shall be offended at nothing, Lady Glencora, unless I think that you mean to offend me."
"I protest that I do not. You have seen my little boy."
"Yes, indeed. The sweetest child! God never gave me anything half so precious as that."
"He is the Duke's heir."
"So I understand."
"For myself, by my honour as a woman, I care nothing. I am rich and have all that the world can give me. For my husband, in this matter, I care nothing. His career he will make for himself, and it will depend on no title."
"Why all this to me, Lady Glencora? What have I to do with your husband's titles?"
"Much;—if it be true that there is an idea of marriage between you and the Duke of Omnium."
"Psha!" said Madame Goesler, with all the scorn of which she was mistress.
"It is untrue, then?" asked Lady Glencora.
"No;—it is not untrue. There is an idea of such a marriage."
"And you are engaged to him?"
"No;—I am not engaged to him."
"Has he asked you?"
"Lady Glencora, I really must say that such a cross-questioning from one lady to another is very unusual. I have promised not to be offended, unless I thought that you wished to offend me. But do not drive me too far."
"Madame Goesler, if you will tell me that I am mistaken, I will beg your pardon, and offer to you the most sincere friendship which one woman can give another."
"Lady Glencora, I can tell you nothing of the kind."
"Then it is to be so! And have you thought what you would gain?"
"I have thought much of what I should gain:—and something also of what I should lose."
"You have money."
"Yes, indeed; plenty,—for wants so moderate as mine."
"Well, yes; a sort of position. Not such as yours, Lady Glencora. That, if it be not born to a woman, can only come to her from a husband. She cannot win it for herself."
"You are free as air, going where you like, and doing what you like."
"Too free, sometimes," said Madame Goesler.
"And what will you gain by changing all this simply for a title?"
"But for such a title, Lady Glencora! It may be little to you to be Duchess of Omnium, but think what it must be to me!"
"And for this you will not hesitate to rob him of all his friends, to embitter his future life, to degrade him among his peers,—"
"Degrade him! Who dares say that I shall degrade him? He will exalt me, but I shall no whit degrade him. You forget yourself, Lady Glencora."
"Ask any one. It is not that I despise you. If I did, would I offer you my hand in friendship? But an old man, over seventy, carrying the weight and burden of such rank as his, will degrade himself in the eyes of his fellows, if he marries a young woman without rank, let her be ever so clever, ever so beautiful. A Duke of Omnium may not do as he pleases, as may another man."
"It may be well, Lady Glencora, for other dukes, and for the daughters and heirs and cousins of other dukes, that his Grace should try that question. I will, if you wish it, argue this matter with you on many points, but I will not allow you to say that I should degrade any man whom I might marry. My name is as unstained as your own."
"I meant nothing of that," said Lady Glencora.
"For him;—I certainly would not willingly injure him. Who wishes to injure a friend? And, in truth, I have so little to gain, that the temptation to do him an injury, if I thought it one, is not strong. For your little boy, Lady Glencora, I think your fears are premature." As she said this, there came a smile over her face, which threatened to break from control and almost become laughter. "But, if you will allow me to say so, my mind will not be turned against this marriage half so strongly by any arguments you can use as by those which I can adduce myself. You have nearly driven me into it by telling me I should degrade his house. It is almost incumbent on me to prove that you are wrong. But you had better leave me to settle the matter in my own bosom. You had indeed."
After a while Lady Glencora did leave her,—to settle the matter within her own bosom,—having no other alternative.
The Letter That Was Sent to Brighton
Monday morning came and Madame Goesler had as yet written no answer to the Duke of Omnium. Had not Lady Glencora gone to Park Lane on the Sunday afternoon, I think the letter would have been written on that day; but, whatever may have been the effect of Lady Glencora's visit, it so far disturbed Madame Goesler as to keep her from her writing-table. There was yet another night for thought, and then the letter should be written on the Monday morning.
When Lady Glencora left Madame Goesler she went at once to the Duke's house. It was her custom to see her husband's uncle on a Sunday, and she would most frequently find him just at this hour,—before he went up-stairs to dress for dinner. She usually took her boy with her, but on this occasion she went alone. She had tried what she could do with Madame Goesler, and she found that she had failed. She must now make her attempt upon the Duke. But the Duke, perhaps anticipating some attack of the kind, had fled. "Where is his Grace, Barker?" said Lady Glencora to the porter. "We do not know, your ladyship. His Grace went away yesterday evening with nobody but Lapoule." Lapoule was the Duke's French valet. Lady Glencora could only return home and consider in her own mind what batteries might yet be brought to bear upon the Duke, towards stopping the marriage, even after the engagement should have been made,—if it were to be made. Lady Glencora felt that such batteries might still be brought up as would not improbably have an effect on a proud, weak old man. If all other resources failed, royalty in some of its branches might be induced to make a request, and every august relation in the peerage should interfere. The Duke no doubt might persevere and marry whom he pleased,—if he were strong enough. But it requires much personal strength,—that standing alone against the well-armed batteries of all one's friends. Lady Glencora had once tried such a battle on her own behalf, and had failed. She had wished to be imprudent when she was young; but her friends had been too strong for her. She had been reduced, and kept in order, and made to run in a groove,—and was now, when she sat looking at her little boy with his bold face, almost inclined to think that the world was right, and that grooves were best. But if she had been controlled when she was young, so ought the Duke to be controlled now that he was old. It is all very well for a man or woman to boast that he,—or she,—may do what he likes with his own,—or with her own. But there are circumstances in which such self-action is ruinous to so many that coercion from the outside becomes absolutely needed. Nobody had felt the injustice of such coercion when applied to herself more sharply than had Lady Glencora. But she had lived to acknowledge that such coercion might be proper, and was now prepared to use it in any shape in which it might be made available. It was all very well for Madame Goesler to laugh and exclaim, "Psha!" when Lady Glencora declared her real trouble. But should it ever come to pass that a black-browed baby with a yellow skin should be shown to the world as Lord Silverbridge, Lady Glencora knew that her peace of mind would be gone for ever. She had begun the world desiring one thing, and had missed it. She had suffered much, and had then reconciled herself to other hopes. If those other hopes were also to be cut away from her, the world would not be worth a pinch of snuff to her. The Duke had fled, and she could do nothing to-day; but to-morrow she would begin with her batteries. And she herself had done the mischief! She had invited this woman down to Matching! Heaven and earth!—that such a man as the Duke should be such a fool!—The widow of a Jew banker! He, the Duke of Omnium,—and thus to cut away from himself, for the rest of his life, all honour, all peace of mind, all the grace of a noble end to a career which, if not very noble in itself, had received the praise of nobility! And to do this for a thin, black-browed, yellow-visaged woman with ringlets and devil's eyes, and a beard on her upper lip,—a Jewess,—a creature of whose habits of life and manners of thought they all were absolutely ignorant; who drank, possibly; who might have been a forger, for what any one knew; an adventuress who had found her way into society by her art and perseverance,—and who did not even pretend to have a relation in the world! That such a one should have influence enough to intrude herself into the house of Omnium, and blot the scutcheon, and,— what was worst of all,—perhaps be the mother of future dukes! Lady Glencora, in her anger, was very unjust to Madame Goesler, thinking all evil of her, accusing her in her mind of every crime, denying her all charm, all beauty. Had the Duke forgotten himself and his position for the sake of some fair girl with a pink complexion and grey eyes, and smooth hair, and a father, Lady Glencora thought that she would have forgiven it better. It might be that Madame Goesler would win her way to the coronet; but when she came to put it on, she should find that there were sharp thorns inside the lining of it. Not a woman worth the knowing in all London should speak to her;—nor a man either of those men with whom a Duchess of Omnium would wish to hold converse. She should find her husband rated as a doting fool, and herself rated as a scheming female adventuress. And it should go hard with Lady Glencora, if the Duke were not separated from his new Duchess before the end of the first year! In her anger Lady Glencora was very unjust.
The Duke, when he left his house without telling his household whither he was going, did send his address to,—the top brick of the chimney. His note, which was delivered at Madame Goesler's house late on the Sunday evening, was as follows:—"I am to have your answer on Monday. I shall be at Brighton. Send it by a private messenger to the Bedford Hotel there. I need not tell you with what expectation, with what hope, with what fear I shall await it.—O." Poor old man! He had run through all the pleasures of life too quickly, and had not much left with which to amuse himself. At length he had set his eyes on a top brick, and being tired of everything else, wanted it very sorely. Poor old man! How should it do him any good, even if he got it? Madame Goesler, when she received the note, sat with it in her hand, thinking of his great want. "And he would be tired of his new plaything after a month," she said to herself. But she had given herself to the next morning, and she would not make up her mind that night. She would sleep once more with the coronet of a duchess within her reach. She did do so; and woke in the morning with her mind absolutely in doubt. When she walked down to breakfast, all doubt was at an end. The time had come when it was necessary that she should resolve, and while her maid was brushing her hair for her she did make her resolution.
"What a thing it is to be a great lady," said the maid, who may probably have reflected that the Duke of Omnium did not come here so often for nothing.
"What do you mean by that, Lotta?"
"The women I know, madame, talk so much of their countesses, and ladyships, and duchesses. I would never rest till I had a title in this country, if I were a lady,—and rich and beautiful."
"And can the countesses, and the ladyships, and the duchesses do as they please?"
"Ah, madame;—I know not that."
"But I know. That will do, Lotta. Now leave me." Then Madame Goesler had made up her mind; but I do not know whether that doubt as to having her own way had much to do with it. As the wife of an old man she would probably have had much of her own way. Immediately after breakfast she wrote her answer to the Duke, which was as follows:—
Park Lane, Monday.
MY DEAR DUKE OF OMNIUM,
I find so great a difficulty in expressing myself to your Grace in a written letter, that since you left me I have never ceased to wish that I had been less nervous, less doubting, and less foolish when you were present with me here in my room. I might then have said in one word what will take so many awkward words to explain.
Great as is the honour you propose to confer on me, rich as is the gift you offer me, I cannot accept it. I cannot be your Grace's wife. I may almost say that I knew it was so when you parted from me; but the surprise of the situation took away from me a part of my judgment, and made me unable to answer you as I should have done. My lord, the truth is, that I am not fit to be the wife of the Duke of Omnium. I should injure you; and though I should raise myself in name, I should injure myself in character. But you must not think, because I say this, that there is any reason why I should not be an honest man's wife. There is none. I have nothing on my conscience which I could not tell you,—or to another man; nothing that I need fear to tell to all the world. Indeed, my lord, there is nothing to tell but this,—that I am not fitted by birth and position to be the wife of the Duke of Omnium. You would have to blush for me, and that no man shall ever have to do on my account.
I will own that I have been ambitious, too ambitious, and have been pleased to think that one so exalted as you are, one whose high position is so rife in the eyes of all men, should have taken pleasure in my company. I will confess to a foolish woman's silly vanity in having wished to be known to be the friend of the Duke of Omnium. I am like the other moths that flutter near the light and have their wings burned. But I am wiser than they in this, that having been scorched, I know that I must keep my distance. You will easily believe that a woman, such as I am, does not refuse to ride in a carriage with your Grace's arms on the panels without a regret. I am no philosopher. I do not pretend to despise the rich things of the world, or the high things. According to my way of thinking a woman ought to wish to be Duchess of Omnium;—but she ought to wish also to be able to carry her coronet with a proper grace. As Madame Goesler I can live, even among my superiors, at my ease. As your Grace's wife, I should be easy no longer; —nor would your Grace.
You will think perhaps that what I write is heartless, that I speak altogether of your rank, and not at all of the affection you have shown me, or of that which I might possibly bear towards you. I think that when the first flush of passion is over in early youth men and women should strive to regulate their love, as they do their other desires, by their reason. I could love your Grace, fondly, as your wife, if I thought it well for your Grace or for myself that we should be man and wife. As I think it would be ill for both of us, I will restrain that feeling, and remember your Grace ever with the purest feeling of true friendship.
Before I close this letter, I must utter a word of gratitude. In the kind of life which I have led as a widow, a life which has been very isolated as regards true fellowship, it has been my greatest effort to obtain the good opinion of those among whom I have attempted to make my way. I may, perhaps, own to you now that I have had many difficulties. A woman who is alone in the world is ever regarded with suspicion. In this country a woman with a foreign name, with means derived from foreign sources, with a foreign history, is specially suspected. I have striven to live that down, and I have succeeded. But in my wildest dreams I never dreamed of such success as this,—that the Duke of Omnium should think me the worthiest of the worthy. You may be sure that I am not ungrateful,—that I never will be ungrateful. And I trust it will not derogate from your opinion of my worth, that I have known what was due to your Grace's highness.
I have the honour to be, My Lord Duke, Your most obliged and faithful servant,
MARIE MAX GOESLER.
"How many unmarried women in England are there would do the same?" she said to herself, as she folded the paper, and put it into an envelope, and sealed the cover. The moment that the letter was completed she sent it off, as she was directed to send it, so that there might be no possibility of repentance and subsequent hesitation. She had at last made up her mind, and she would stand by the making. She knew that there would come moments in which she would deeply regret the opportunity that she had lost,—the chance of greatness that she had flung away from her. But so would she have often regretted it, also, had she accepted the greatness. Her position was one in which there must be regret, let her decision have been what it might. But she had decided, and the thing was done. She would still be free,—Marie Max Goesler,—unless in abandoning her freedom she would obtain something that she might in truth prefer to it. When the letter was gone she sat disconsolate, at the window of an up-stairs room in which she had written, thinking much of the coronet, much of the name, much of the rank, much of that position in society which she had flattered herself she might have won for herself as Duchess of Omnium by her beauty, her grace, and her wit. It had not been simply her ambition to be a duchess, without further aim or object. She had fancied that she might have been such a duchess as there is never another, so that her fame might have been great throughout Europe, as a woman charming at all points. And she would have had friends, then,—real friends, and would not have lived alone as it was now her fate to do. And she would have loved her ducal husband, old though he was, and stiff with pomp and ceremony. She would have loved him, and done her best to add something of brightness to his life. It was indeed true that there was one whom she loved better; but of what avail was it to love a man who, when he came to her, would speak to her of nothing but of the charms which he found in another woman!
She had been sitting thus at her window, with a book in her hand, at which she never looked, gazing over the park which was now beautiful with its May verdure, when on a sudden a thought struck her. Lady Glencora Palliser had come to her, trying to enlist her sympathy for the little heir, behaving, indeed, not very well, as Madame Goesler had thought, but still with an earnest purpose which was in itself good. She would write to Lady Glencora and put her out of her misery. Perhaps there was some feeling of triumph in her mind as she returned to the desk from which her epistle had been sent to the Duke;—not of that triumph which would have found its gratification in boasting of the offer that had been made to her, but arising from a feeling that she could now show the proud mother of the bold-faced boy that though she would not pledge herself to any woman as to what she might do or not do, she was nevertheless capable of resisting such a temptation as would have been irresistible to many. Of the Duke's offer to her she would have spoken to no human being, had not this woman shown that the Duke's purpose was known at least to her, and now, in her letter, she would write no plain word of that offer. She would not state, in words intelligible to any one who might read, that the Duke had offered her his hand and his coronet. But she would write so that Lady Glencora should understand her. And she would be careful that there should be no word in the letter to make Lady Glencora think that she supposed herself to be unfit for the rank offered to her. She had been very humble in what she had written to the Duke, but she would not be at all humble in what she was about to write to the mother of the bold-faced boy. And this was the letter when it was written:—
MY DEAR LADY GLENCORA,
I venture to send you a line to put you out of your misery;—for you were very miserable when you were so good as to come here yesterday. Your dear little boy is safe from me;—and, what is more to the purpose, so are you and your husband,—and your uncle, whom, in truth, I love. You asked me a downright question which I did not then choose to answer by a downright answer. The downright answer was not at that time due to you. It has since been given, and as I like you too well to wish you to be in torment, I send you a line to say that I shall never be in the way of you or your boy.
And now, dear Lady Glencora, one word more. Should it ever again appear to you to be necessary to use your zeal for the protection of your husband or your child, do not endeavour to dissuade a woman by trying to make her think that she, by her alliance, would bring degradation into any house, or to any man. If there could have been an argument powerful with me, to make me do that which you wished to prevent, it was the argument which you used. But my own comfort, and the happiness of another person whom I value almost as much as myself, were too important to be sacrificed even to a woman's revenge. I take mine by writing to you and telling you that I am better and more rational and wiser than you took me to be.
If, after this, you choose to be on good terms with me, I shall be happy to be your friend. I shall want no further revenge. You owe me some little apology; but whether you make it or not, I will be contented, and will never do more than ask whether your darling's prospects are still safe. There are more women than one in the world, you know, and you must not consider yourself to be out of the wood because you have escaped from a single danger. If there arise another, come to me, and we will consult together.
Dear Lady Glencora, yours always sincerely,
MARIE M. G.
There was a thing or two besides which she longed to say, laughing as she thought of them. But she refrained, and her letter, when finished, was as it is given above.
On the day following, Lady Glencora was again in Park Lane. When she first read Madame Goesler's letter, she felt herself to be annoyed and angry, but her anger was with herself rather than with her correspondent. Ever since her last interview with the woman whom she had feared, she had been conscious of having been indiscreet. All her feelings had been too violent, and it might well have been that she should have driven this woman to do the very thing that she was so anxious to avoid. "You owe me some little apology," Madame Goesler had said. It was true,—and she would apologise. Undue pride was not a part of Lady Glencora's character. Indeed, there was not enough of pride in her composition. She had been quite ready to hate this woman, and to fight her on every point as long as the danger existed; but she was equally willing to take the woman to her heart now that the danger was over. Apologise! Of course she would apologise. And she would make a friend of the woman if the woman wished it. But she would not have the woman and the Duke at Matching together again, lest, after all, there might be a mistake. She did not show Madame Goesler's letter to her husband, or tell him anything of the relief she had received. He had cared but little for the danger, thinking more of his budget than of the danger; and would be sufficiently at his ease if he heard no more rumours of his uncle's marriage. Lady Glencora went to Park Lane early on the Tuesday morning, but she did not take her boy with her. She understood that Madame Goesler might perhaps indulge in a little gentle raillery at the child's expense, and the mother felt that this might be borne the more easily if the child were not present.
"I have come to thank you for your letter, Madame Goesler," said Lady Glencora, before she sat down.
"Oh, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war, or to dance at our bridal?" said Madame Goesler, standing up from her chair and laughing, as she sang the lines.
"Certainly not to dance at your bridal," said Lady Glencora.
"Alas! no. You have forbidden the banns too effectually for that, and I sit here wearing the willow all alone. Why shouldn't I be allowed to get married as well as another woman, I wonder? I think you have been very hard upon me among you. But sit down, Lady Glencora. At any rate you come in peace."
"Certainly in peace, and with much admiration,—and a great deal of love and affection, and all that kind of thing, if you will only accept it."
"I shall be too proud, Lady Glencora;—for the Duke's sake, if for no other reason."
"And I have to make my apology."
"It was made as soon as your carriage stopped at my door with friendly wheels. Of course I understand. I can know how terrible it all was to you,—even though the dear little Plantagenet might not have been in much danger. Fancy what it would be to disturb the career of a Plantagenet! I am far too well read in history, I can assure you."
"I said a word for which I am sorry, and which I should not have said."
"Never mind the word. After all, it was a true word. I do not hesitate to say so now myself, though I will allow no other woman to say it,—and no man either. I should have degraded him,—and disgraced him." Madame Goesler now had dropped the bantering tone which she had assumed, and was speaking in sober earnest. "I, for myself, have nothing about me of which I am ashamed. I have no history to hide, no story to be brought to light to my discredit. But I have not been so born, or so placed by circumstances, as make me fit to be the wife of the Duke of Omnium. I should not have been happy, you know."
"You want nothing, dear Madame Goesler. You have all that society can give you."
"I do not know about that. I have much given to me by society, but there are many things that I want;—a bright-faced little boy, for instance, to go about with me in my carriage. Why did you not bring him, Lady Glencora?"
"I came out in my penitential sheet, and when one goes in that guise, one goes alone. I had half a mind to walk."
"You will bring him soon?"
"Oh, yes. He was very anxious to know the other day who was the beautiful lady with the black hair."
"You did not tell him that the beautiful lady with the black hair was a possible aunt, was a possible—? But we will not think any more of things so horrible."
"I told him nothing of my fears, you may be sure."
"Some day, when I am a very old woman, and when his father is quite an old duke, and when he has a dozen little boys and girls of his own, you will tell him the story. Then he will reflect what a madman his great-uncle must have been, to have thought of making a duchess out of such a wizened old woman as that."
They parted the best of friends, but Lady Glencora was still of opinion that if the lady and the Duke were to be brought together at Matching, or elsewhere, there might still be danger.
Showing How the Duke Stood His Ground
Mr. Low the barrister, who had given so many lectures to our friend Phineas Finn, lectures that ought to have been useful, was now himself in the House of Commons, having reached it in the legitimate course of his profession. At a certain point of his career, supposing his career to have been sufficiently prosperous, it becomes natural to a barrister to stand for some constituency, and natural for him also to form his politics at that period of his life with a view to his further advancement, looking, as he does so, carefully at the age and standing of the various candidates for high legal office. When a man has worked as Mr. Low had worked, he begins to regard the bench wistfully, and to calculate the profits of a two years' run in the Attorney-Generalship. It is the way of the profession, and thus a proper and sufficient number of real barristers finds its way into the House. Mr. Low had been angry with Phineas because he, being a barrister, had climbed into it after another fashion, having taken up politics, not in the proper way as an assistance to his great profession, but as a profession in itself. Mr. Low had been quite sure that his pupil had been wrong in this, and that the error would at last show itself, to his pupil's cost. And Mrs. Low had been more sure than Mr. Low, having not unnaturally been jealous that a young whipper-snapper of a pupil,—as she had once called Phineas,—should become a Parliament man before her husband, who had worked his way up gallantly, in the usual course. She would not give way a jot even now,—not even when she heard that Phineas was going to marry this and that heiress. For at this period of his life such rumours were afloat about him, originating probably in his hopes as to Violet Effingham and his intimacy with Madame Goesler. "Oh, heiresses!" said Mrs. Low. "I don't believe in heiresses' money till I see it. Three or four hundred a year is a great fortune for a woman, but it don't go far in keeping a house in London. And when a woman has got a little money she generally knows how to spend it. He has begun at the wrong end, and they who do that never get themselves right at the last."
At this time Phineas had become somewhat of a fine gentleman, which made Mrs. Low the more angry with him. He showed himself willing enough to go to Mrs. Low's house, but when there he seemed to her to give himself airs. I think that she was unjust to him, and that it was natural that he should not bear himself beneath her remarks exactly as he had done when he was nobody. He had certainly been very successful. He was always listened to in the House, and rarely spoke except on subjects which belonged to him, or had been allotted to him as part of his business. He lived quite at his ease with people of the highest rank,—and those of his own mode of life who disliked him did so simply because they regarded with envy his too rapid rise. He rode upon a pretty horse in the park, and was careful in his dress, and had about him an air of comfortable wealth which Mrs. Low thought he had not earned. When her husband told her of his sufficient salary, she would shake her head and express her opinion that a good time was coming. By which she perhaps meant to imply a belief that a time was coming in which her husband would have a salary much better than that now enjoyed by Phineas, and much more likely to be permanent. The Radicals were not to have office for ever, and when they were gone, what then? "I don't suppose he saves a shilling," said Mrs. Low. "How can he, keeping a horse in the park, and hunting down in the country, and living with lords? I shouldn't wonder if he isn't found to be over head and ears in debt when things come to be looked into." Mrs. Low was fond of an assured prosperity, of money in the funds, and was proud to think that her husband lived in a house of his own. "L19 10s. ground-rent to the Portman estate is what we pay, Mr. Bunce," she once said to that gallant Radical, "and that comes of beginning at the right end. Mr. Low had nothing when he began the world, and I had just what made us decent the day we married. But he began at the right end, and let things go as they may he can't get a fall." Mr. Bunce and Mrs. Low, though they differed much in politics, sympathised in reference to Phineas.
"I never believes, ma'am, in nobody doing any good by getting a place," said Mr. Bunce. "Of course I don't mean judges and them like, which must be. But when a young man has ever so much a year for sitting in a big room down at Whitehall, and reading a newspaper with his feet up on a chair, I don't think it honest, whether he's a Parliament man or whether he ain't." Whence Mr. Bunce had got his notions as to the way in which officials at Whitehall pass their time, I cannot say; but his notions are very common notions. The British world at large is slow to believe that the great British housekeeper keeps no more cats than what kill mice.
Mr. Low, who was now frequently in the habit of seeing Phineas at the House, had somewhat changed his opinions, and was not so eager in condemning Phineas as was his wife. He had begun to think that perhaps Phineas had shown some knowledge of his own aptitudes in the career which he had sought, and was aware, at any rate, that his late pupil was somebody in the House of Commons. A man will almost always respect him whom those around him respect, and will generally look up to one who is evidently above himself in his own daily avocation. Now Phineas was certainly above Mr. Low in parliamentary reputation. He sat on a front bench. He knew the leaders of parties. He was at home amidst the forms of the House. He enjoyed something of the prestige of Government power. And he walked about familiarly with the sons of dukes and the brothers of earls in a manner which had its effect even on Mr. Low. Seeing these things Mr. Low could not maintain his old opinion as stoutly as did his wife. It was almost a privilege to Mr. Low to be intimate with Phineas Finn. How then could he look down upon him?
He was surprised, therefore, one day when Phineas discussed the matter with him fully. Phineas had asked him what would be his chance of success if even now he were to give up politics and take to the Bar as the means of earning his livelihood. "You would have uphill work at first, as a matter of course," said Mr. Low.
"But it might be done, I suppose. To have been in office would not be fatal to me?"
"No, not fatal, Nothing of the kind need be fatal. Men have succeeded, and have sat on the bench afterwards, who did not begin till they were past forty. You would have to live down a prejudice created against yourself; that is all. The attorneys do not like barristers who are anything else but barristers."
"The attorneys are very arbitrary, I know," said Phineas.
"Yes;—and there would be this against you—that it is so difficult for a man to go back to the verdure and malleability of pupildom, who has once escaped from the necessary humility of its conditions. You will find it difficult to sit and wait for business in a Vice-Chancellor's Court, after having had Vice-Chancellors, or men as big as Vice-Chancellors, to wait upon you."
"I do not think much of that."
"But others would think of it, and you would find that there were difficulties. But you are not thinking of it in earnest?"
"Yes, in earnest."
"Why so? I should have thought that every day had removed you further and further from any such idea."
"The ground I'm on at present is so slippery."
"Well, yes. I can understand that. But yet it is less slippery than it used to be."
"Ah;—you do not exactly see. What if I were to lose my seat?"
"You are safe at least for the next four years, I should say."
"Ah;—no one can tell. And suppose I took it into my head to differ from the Government?"
"You must not do that. You have put yourself into a boat with these men, and you must remain in the boat. I should have thought all that was easy to you."
"It is not so easy as it seems. The very necessity of sitting still in the boat is in itself irksome,—very irksome. And then there comes some crisis in which a man cannot sit still."
"Is there any such crisis at hand now?"
"I cannot say that;—but I am beginning to find that sitting still is very disagreeable to me. When I hear those fellows below having their own way, and saying just what they like, it makes me furious. There is Robson. He tried office for a couple of years, and has broken away; and now, by George, there is no man they think so much of as they do of Robson. He is twice the man he was when he sat on the Treasury Bench."
"He is a man of fortune;—is he not?"
"I suppose so. Of course he is, because he lives. He never earns anything. His wife had money."
"My dear Finn, that makes all the difference. When a man has means of his own he can please himself. Do you marry a wife with money, and then you may kick up your heels, and do as you like about the Colonial Office. When a man hasn't money, of course he must fit himself to the circumstances of a profession."
"Though his profession may require him to be dishonest."
"I did not say that."
"But I say it, my dear Low. A man who is ready to vote black white because somebody tells him, is dishonest. Never mind, old fellow. I shall pull through, I daresay. Don't go and tell your wife all this, or she'll be harder upon me than ever when she sees me." After that Mr. Low began to think that his wife's judgment in this matter had been better than his own.
Robson could do as he liked because he had married a woman with money. Phineas told himself that that game was also open to him. He, too, might marry money. Violet Effingham had money;—quite enough to make him independent were he married to her. And Madame Goesler had money;—plenty of money. And an idea had begun to creep upon him that Madame Goesler would take him were he to offer himself. But he would sooner go back to the Bar as the lowest pupil, sooner clean boots for barristers,—so he told himself,—than marry a woman simply because she had money, than marry any other woman as long as there was a chance that Violet might be won. But it was very desirable that he should know whether Violet might be won or not. It was now July, and everybody would be gone in another month. Before August would be over he was to start for Ireland with Mr. Monk, and he knew that words would be spoken in Ireland which might make it indispensable for him to be, at any rate, able to throw up his office. In these days he became more anxious than he used to be about Miss Effingham's fortune.
He had never spoken as yet to Lord Brentford since the day on which the Earl had quarrelled with him, nor had he ever been at the house in Portman Square. Lady Laura he met occasionally, and had always spoken to her. She was gracious to him, but there had been no renewal of their intimacy. Rumours had reached him that things were going badly with her and her husband; but when men repeated such rumours in his presence, he said little or nothing on the subject. It was not for him, at any rate, to speak of Lady Laura's unhappiness. Lord Chiltern he had seen once or twice during the last month, and they had met cordially as friends. Of course he could ask no question from Lord Chiltern as to Violet; but he did learn that his friend had again patched up some reconciliation with his father. "He has quarrelled with me, you know," said Phineas.
"I am very sorry, but what could I do? As things went, I was obliged to tell him."
"Do not suppose for a moment that I am blaming you. It is, no doubt, much better that he should know it all."
"And it cannot make much difference to you, I should say."
"One doesn't like to quarrel with those who have been kind to one," said Phineas.
"But it isn't your doing. He'll come right again after a time. When I can get my own affairs settled, you may be sure I'll do my best to bring him round. But what's the reason you never see Laura now?"
"What's the reason that everything goes awry?" said Phineas, bitterly.
"When I mentioned your name to Kennedy the other day, he looked as black as thunder. But it is not odd that any one should quarrel with him. I can't stand him. Do you know, I sometimes think that Laura will have to give it up. Then there will be another mess in the family!"
This was all very well as coming from Lord Chiltern; but there was no word about Violet, and Phineas did not know how to get a word from any one. Lady Laura could have told him everything, but he could not go to Lady Laura. He did go to Lady Baldock's house as often as he thought he could with propriety, and occasionally he saw Violet. But he could do no more than see her, and the days and weeks were passing by, and the time was coming in which he would have to go away, and be with her no more. The end of the season, which was always to other men,—to other working men such as our hero,—a period of pleasurable anticipation, to him was a time of sadness, in which he felt that he was not exactly like to, or even equal to, the men with whom he lived in London. In the old days, in which he was allowed to go to Loughlinter or to Saulsby, when all men and women were going to their Loughlinters and their Saulsbys, it was very well with him; but there was something melancholy to him in his yearly journey to Ireland. He loved his father and mother and sisters as well as do other men; but there was a falling off in the manner of his life which made him feel that he had been in some sort out of his own element in London. He would have liked to have shot grouse at Loughlinter, or pheasants at Saulsby, or to have hunted down at Willingford,—or better still, to have made love to Violet Effingham wherever Violet Effingham might have placed herself. But all this was closed to him now; and there would be nothing for him but to remain at Killaloe, or to return to his work in Downing Street, from August to February. Mr. Monk, indeed, was going with him for a few weeks; but even this association did not make up for that sort of society which he would have preferred.
The session went on very quietly. The question of the Irish Reform Bill was postponed till the next year, which was a great thing gained. He carried his bill about the Canada Railway, with sundry other small bills appertaining to it, through the House in a manner which redounded infinitely to his credit. There was just enough of opposition to give a zest to the work, and to make the affair conspicuous among the affairs of the year. As his chief was in the other house, the work fell altogether into his hands, so that he came to be conspicuous among Under-Secretaries. It was only when he said a word to any leaders of his party about other matters,—about Irish Tenant-right, for instance, which was beginning to loom very large, that he found himself to be snubbed. But there was no room for action this year in reference to Irish Tenant-right, and therefore any deep consideration of that discomfort might be legitimately postponed. If he did by chance open his mouth on the subject to Mr. Monk, even Mr. Monk discouraged him.
In the early days of July, when the weather was very hot, and people were beginning to complain of the Thames, and members were becoming thirsty after grouse, and the remaining days of parliamentary work were being counted up, there came to him news,—news that was soon known throughout the fashionable world,—that the Duke of Omnium was going to give a garden party at a certain villa residence on the banks of the Thames above Richmond. It was to be such a garden party as had never been seen before. And it would be the more remarkable because the Duke had never been known to do such a thing. The villa was called The Horns, and had, indeed, been given by the Duke to Lady Glencora on her marriage; but the party was to be the Duke's party, and The Horns, with all its gardens, conservatories, lawns, shrubberies, paddocks, boat-houses, and boats, was to be made bright and beautiful for the occasion. Scores of workmen were about the place through the three first weeks of July. The world at large did not at all know why the Duke was doing so unwonted a thing,—why he should undertake so new a trouble. But Lady Glencora knew, and Madame Goesler shrewdly guessed, the riddle. When Madame Goesler's unexpected refusal had reached his Grace, he felt that he must either accept the lady's refusal, or persevere. After a day's consideration, he resolved that he would accept it. The top brick of the chimney was very desirable; but perhaps it might be well that he should endeavour to live without it. Then, accepting this refusal, he must either stand his ground and bear the blow,—or he must run away to that villa at Como, or elsewhere. The running away seemed to him at first to be the better, or at least the more pleasant, course; but at last he determined that he would stand his ground and bear the blow. Therefore he gave his garden party at The Horns.
Who was to be invited? Before the first week in July was over, many a bosom in London was fluttering with anxiety on that subject. The Duke, in giving his short word of instruction to Lady Glencora, made her understand that he would wish her to be particular in her invitations. Her Royal Highness the Princess, and his Royal Highness the Prince, had both been so gracious as to say that they would honour his fete. The Duke himself had made out a short list, with not more than a dozen names. Lady Glencora was employed to select the real crowd,—the five hundred out of the ten thousand who were to be blessed. On the Duke's own private list was the name of Madame Goesler. Lady Glencora understood it all. When Madame Goesler got her card, she thought that she understood it too. And she thought also that the Duke was behaving in a gallant way.
There was, no doubt, much difficulty about the invitations, and a considerable amount of ill-will was created. And they who considered themselves entitled to be asked, and were not asked, were full of wrath against their more fortunate friends, instead of being angry with the Duke or with Lady Glencora, who had neglected them. It was soon known that Lady Glencora was the real dispenser of the favours, and I fancy that her ladyship was tired of her task before it was completed. The party was to take place on Wednesday, the 27th of July, and before the day had come, men and women had become so hardy in the combat that personal applications were made with unflinching importunity; and letters were written to Lady Glencora putting forward this claim and that claim with a piteous clamour. "No, that is too bad," Lady Glencora said to her particular friend, Mrs. Grey, when a letter came from Mrs. Bonteen, stating all that her husband had ever done towards supporting Mr. Palliser in Parliament,—and all that he ever would do. "She shan't have it, even though she could put Plantagenet into a minority to-morrow."
Mrs. Bonteen did not get a card; and when she heard that Phineas Finn had received one, her wrath against Phineas was very great. He was "an Irish adventurer," and she regretted deeply that Mr. Bonteen had ever interested himself in bringing such an upstart forward in the world of politics. But as Mr. Bonteen never had done anything towards bringing Phineas forward, there was not much cause for regret on this head. Phineas, however, got his card, and, of course, accepted the invitation.
The grounds were opened at four. There was to be an early dinner out in tents at five; and after dinner men and women were to walk about, or dance, or make love—or hay, as suited them. The haycocks, however, were ready prepared, while it was expected that they should bring the love with them. Phineas, knowing that he should meet Violet Effingham, took a great deal with him ready made.
For an hour and a half Lady Glencora kept her position in a saloon through which the guests passed to the grounds, and to every comer she imparted the information that the Duke was on the lawn;—to every comer but one. To Madame Goesler she said no such word. "So glad to see you, my dear," she said, as she pressed her friend's hand: "if I am not killed by this work, I'll make you out again by-and-by." Then Madame Goesler passed on, and soon found herself amidst a throng of acquaintance. After a few minutes she saw the Duke seated in an arm-chair, close to the river-bank, and she bravely went up to him, and thanked him for the invitation. "The thanks are due to you for gracing our entertainment," said the Duke, rising to greet her. There were a dozen people standing round, and so the thing was done without difficulty. At that moment there came a notice that their royal highnesses were on the ground, and the Duke, of course, went off to meet them. There was not a word more spoken between the Duke and Madame Goesler on that afternoon.
Phineas did not come till late,—till seven, when the banquet was over. I think he was right in this, as the banqueting in tents loses in comfort almost more than it gains in romance. A small picnic may be very well, and the distance previously travelled may give to a dinner on the ground the seeming excuse of necessity. Frail human nature must be supported,—and human nature, having gone so far in pursuit of the beautiful, is entitled to what best support the unaccustomed circumstances will allow. Therefore, out with the cold pies, out with the salads, and the chickens, and the champagne. Since no better may be, let us recruit human nature sitting upon this moss, and forget our discomforts in the glory of the verdure around us. And dear Mary, seeing that the cushion from the waggonet is small, and not wishing to accept the too generous offer that she should take it all for her own use, will admit a contact somewhat closer than the ordinary chairs of a dining-room render necessary. That in its way is very well;—but I hold that a banquet on narrow tables in a tent is displeasing.
Phineas strolled into the grounds when the tent was nearly empty, and when Lady Glencora, almost sinking beneath her exertions, was taking rest in an inner room. The Duke at this time was dining with their royal highnesses, and three or four others, specially selected, very comfortably within doors. Out of doors the world had begun to dance,—and the world was beginning to say that it would be much nicer to go and dance upon the boards inside as soon as possible. For, though of all parties a garden party is the nicest, everybody is always anxious to get out of the garden as quick as may be. A few ardent lovers of suburban picturesque effect were sitting beneath the haycocks, and four forlorn damsels were vainly endeavouring to excite the sympathy of manly youth by playing croquet in a corner. I am not sure, however, that the lovers beneath the haycocks and the players at croquet were not actors hired by Lady Glencora for the occasion.
Phineas had not been long on the lawn before he saw Lady Laura Kennedy. She was standing with another lady, and Barrington Erle was with them. "So you have been successful?" said Barrington, greeting him.
"Successful in what?"
"In what? In getting a ticket. I have had to promise three tide-waiterships, and to give deep hints about a bishopric expected to be vacant, before I got in. But what matters? Success pays for everything. My only trouble now is how I'm to get back to London."
Lady Laura shook hands with Phineas, and then as he was passing on, followed him for a step and whispered a word to him. "Mr. Finn," she said, "if you are not going yet, come back to me presently. I have something to say to you. I shall not be far from the river, and shall stay here for about an hour."
Phineas said that he would, and then went on, not knowing exactly where he was going. He had one desire,—to find Violet Effingham, but when he should find her he could not carry her off, and sit with her beneath a haycock.
While looking for Violet Effingham, Phineas encountered Madame Goesler, among a crowd of people who were watching the adventurous embarkation of certain daring spirits in a pleasure-boat. There were watermen there in the Duke's livery, ready to take such spirits down to Richmond or up to Teddington lock, and many daring spirits did take such trips,—to the great peril of muslins, ribbons, and starch, to the peril also of ornamental summer white garments, so that when the thing was over, the boats were voted to have been a bore.
"Are you going to venture?" said Phineas to the lady.
"I should like it of all things if I were not afraid for my clothes. Will you come?"
"I was never good upon the water. I should be sea-sick to a certainty. They are going down beneath the bridge too, and we should be splashed by the steamers. I don't think my courage is high enough." Thus Phineas excused himself, being still intent on prosecuting his search for Violet.
"Then neither will I," said Madame Goesler. "One dash from a peccant oar would destroy the whole symmetry of my dress. Look. That green young lady has already been sprinkled."
"But the blue young gentleman has been sprinkled also," said Phineas, "and they will be happy in a joint baptism." Then they strolled along the river path together, and were soon alone. "You will be leaving town soon, Madame Goesler?"
"And where do you go?"
"Oh,—to Vienna. I am there for a couple of months every year, minding my business. I wonder whether you would know me, if you saw me;—sometimes sitting on a stool in a counting-house, sometimes going about among old houses, settling what must be done to save them from tumbling down. I dress so differently at such times, and talk so differently, and look so much older, that I almost fancy myself to be another person."
"Is it a great trouble to you?"
"No,—I rather like it. It makes me feel that I do something in the world."
"Do you go alone?"
"Quite alone. I take a German maid with me, and never speak a word to any one else on the journey."
"That must be very bad," said Phineas.
"Yes; it is the worst of it. But then I am so much accustomed to be alone. You see me in society, and in society only, and therefore naturally look upon me as one of a gregarious herd; but I am in truth an animal that feeds alone and lives alone. Take the hours of the year all through, and I am a solitary during four-fifths of them. And what do you intend to do?"
"I go to Ireland."
"Home to your own people. How nice! I have no people to go to. I have one sister, who lives with her husband at Riga. She is my only relation, and I never see her."
"But you have thousands of friends in England."
"Yes,—as you see them,"—and she turned and spread out her hands towards the crowded lawn, which was behind them. "What are such friends worth? What would they do for me?"
"I do not know that the Duke would do much," said Phineas laughing.
Madame Goesler laughed also. "The Duke is not so bad," she said. "The Duke would do as much as any one else. I won't have the Duke abused."
"He may be your particular friend, for what I know," said Phineas.
"Ah;—no. I have no particular friend. And were I to wish to choose one, I should think the Duke a little above me."
"Oh, yes;—and too stiff, and too old, and too pompous, and too cold, and too make-believe, and too gingerbread."
"The Duke is all buckram, you know."
"Then why do you come to his house?"
"To see you, Madame Goesler."
"Is that true, Mr. Finn?"
"Yes;—it is true in its way. One goes about to meet those whom one likes, not always for the pleasure of the host's society. I hope I am not wrong because I go to houses at which I like neither the host nor the hostess." Phineas as he said this was thinking of Lady Baldock, to whom of late he had been exceedingly civil,—but he certainly did not like Lady Baldock.
"I think you have been too hard upon the Duke of Omnium. Do you know him well?"
"Personally? certainly not. Do you? Does anybody?"
"I think he is a gracious gentleman," said Madame Goesler, "and though I cannot boast of knowing him well, I do not like to hear him called buckram. I do not think he is buckram. It is not very easy for a man in his position to live so as to please all people. He has to maintain the prestige of the highest aristocracy in Europe."
"Look at his nephew, who will be the next Duke, and who works as hard as any man in the country. Will he not maintain it better? What good did the present man ever do?"
"You believe only in motion, Mr. Finn;—and not at all in quiescence. An express train at full speed is grander to you than a mountain with heaps of snow. I own that to me there is something glorious in the dignity of a man too high to do anything,—if only he knows how to carry that dignity with a proper grace. I think that there should be breasts made to carry stars."
"Stars which they have never earned," said Phineas.
"Ah;—well; we will not fight about it. Go and earn your star, and I will say that it becomes you better than any glitter on the coat of the Duke of Omnium." This she said with an earnestness which he could not pretend not to notice or not to understand. "I too may be able to see that the express train is really greater than the mountain."
"Though, for your own life, you would prefer to sit and gaze upon the snowy peaks?"
"No;—that is not so. For myself, I would prefer to be of use somewhere,—to some one, if it were possible. I strive sometimes."
"And I am sure successfully."
"Never mind. I hate to talk about myself. You and the Duke are fair subjects for conversation; you as the express train, who will probably do your sixty miles an hour in safety, but may possibly go down a bank with a crash."
"Certainly I may," said Phineas.
"And the Duke, as the mountain, which is fixed in its stateliness, short of the power of some earthquake, which shall be grander and more terrible than any earthquake yet known. Here we are at the house again. I will go in and sit down for a while."
"If I leave you, Madame Goesler, I will say good-bye till next winter."
"I shall be in town again before Christmas, you know. You will come and see me?"
"Of course I will."
"And then this love trouble of course will be over,—one way or the other;—will it not?"
"Ah!—who can say?"
"Faint heart never won fair lady. But your heart is never faint. Farewell."
Then he left her. Up to this moment he had not seen Violet, and yet he knew that she was to be there. She had herself told him that she was to accompany Lady Laura, whom he had already met. Lady Baldock had not been invited, and had expressed great animosity against the Duke in consequence. She had gone so far as to say that the Duke was a man at whose house a young lady such as her niece ought not to be seen. But Violet had laughed at this, and declared her intention of accepting the invitation. "Go," she had said; "of course I shall go. I should have broken my heart if I could not have got there." Phineas therefore was sure that she must be in the place. He had kept his eyes ever on the alert, and yet he had not found her. And now he must keep his appointment with Lady Laura Kennedy. So he went down to the path by the river, and there he found her seated close by the water's edge. Her cousin Barrington Erle was still with her, but as soon as Phineas joined them, Erle went away. "I had told him," said Lady Laura, "that I wished to speak to you, and he stayed with me till you came. There are worse men than Barrington a great deal."
"I am sure of that."
"Are you and he still friends, Mr. Finn?"
"I hope so. I do not see so much of him as I did when I had less to do."
"He says that you have got into altogether a different set."
"I don't know that. I have gone as circumstances have directed me, but I have certainly not intended to throw over so old and good a friend as Barrington Erle."
"Oh,—he does not blame you. He tells me that you have found your way among what he calls the working men of the party, and he thinks you will do very well,—if you can only be patient enough. We all expected a different line from you, you know,—more of words and less of deeds, if I may say so;—more of liberal oratory and less of government action; but I do not doubt that you are right."
"I think that I have been wrong," said Phineas. "I am becoming heartily sick of officialities."
"That comes from the fickleness about which papa is so fond of quoting his Latin. The ox desires the saddle. The charger wants to plough."
"And which am I?"
"Your career may combine the dignity of the one with the utility of the other. At any rate you must not think of changing now. Have you seen Mr. Kennedy lately?" She asked the question abruptly, showing that she was anxious to get to the matter respecting which she had summoned him to her side, and that all that she had said hitherto had been uttered as it were in preparation of that subject.