Mr. Bonteen was disposed to think that the trick was beyond the conjuring power even of Mr. Daubeny. "After all, you know, there is the party," he said to Mr. Ratler. Mr. Ratler's face was as good as a play, and if seen by that party would have struck that party with dismay and shame. The meaning of Mr. Ratler's face was plain enough. He thought so little of that party, on the score either of intelligence, honesty, or fidelity, as to imagine that it would consent to be led whithersoever Mr. Daubeny might choose to lead it. "If they care about anything, it's about the Church," said Mr. Bonteen.
"There's something they like a great deal better than the Church," said Mr. Ratler. "Indeed, there's only one thing they care about at all now. They've given up all the old things. It's very likely that if Daubeny were to ask them to vote for pulling down the Throne and establishing a Republic they'd all follow him into the lobby like sheep. They've been so knocked about by one treachery after another that they don't care now for anything beyond their places."
"It's only a few of them get anything, after all."
"Yes, they do. It isn't just so much a year they want, though those who have that won't like to part with it. But they like getting the counties, and the Garters, and the promotion in the army. They like their brothers to be made bishops, and their sisters like the Wardrobe and the Bedchamber. There isn't one of them that doesn't hang on somewhere,—or at least not many. Do you remember Peel's bill for the Corn Laws?"
"There were fifty went against him then," said Bonteen.
"And what are fifty? A man doesn't like to be one of fifty. It's too many for glory, and not enough for strength. There has come up among them a general feeling that it's just as well to let things slide,—as the Yankees say. They're down-hearted about it enough within their own houses, no doubt. But what can they do, if they hold back? Some stout old cavalier here and there may shut himself up in his own castle, and tell himself that the world around him may go to wrack and ruin, but that he will not help the evil work. Some are shutting themselves up. Look at old Quin, when they carried their Reform Bill. But men, as a rule, don't like to be shut up. How they reconcile it to their conscience,—that's what I can't understand." Such was the wisdom, and such were the fears of Mr. Ratler. Mr. Bonteen, however, could not bring himself to believe that the Arch-enemy would on this occasion be successful. "It mayn't be too hot for him," said Mr. Bonteen, when he reviewed the whole matter, "but I think it'll be too heavy."
They who had mounted higher than Mr. Ratler and Mr. Bonteen on the political ladder, but who had mounted on the same side, were no less astonished than their inferiors; and, perhaps, were equally disgusted, though they did not allow themselves to express their disgust as plainly. Mr. Gresham was staying in the country with his friend, Lord Cantrip, when the tidings reached them of Mr. Daubeny's speech to the electors of East Barsetshire. Mr. Gresham and Lord Cantrip had long sat in the same Cabinet, and were fast friends, understanding each other's views, and thoroughly trusting each other's loyalty. "He means it," said Lord Cantrip.
"He means to see if it be possible," said the other. "It is thrown out as a feeler to his own party."
"I'll do him the justice of saying that he's not afraid of his party. If he means it, he means it altogether, and will not retract it, even though the party should refuse as a body to support him. I give him no other credit, but I give him that."
Mr. Gresham paused for a few moments before he answered. "I do not know," said he, "whether we are justified in thinking that one man will always be the same. Daubeny has once been very audacious, and he succeeded. But he had two things to help him,—a leader, who, though thoroughly trusted, was very idle, and an ill-defined question. When he had won his leader he had won his party. He has no such tower of strength now. And in the doing of this thing, if he means to do it, he must encounter the assured conviction of every man on his own side, both in the upper and lower House. When he told them that he would tap a Conservative element by reducing the suffrage they did not know whether to believe him or not. There might be something in it. It might be that they would thus resume a class of suffrage existing in former days, but which had fallen into abeyance, because not properly protected. They could teach themselves to believe that it might be so, and those among them who found it necessary to free their souls did so teach themselves. I don't see how they are to free their souls when they are invited to put down the State establishment of the Church."
"He'll find a way for them."
"It's possible. I'm the last man in the world to contest the possibility, or even the expediency, of changes in political opinion. But I do not know whether it follows that because he was brave and successful once he must necessarily be brave and successful again. A man rides at some outrageous fence, and by the wonderful activity and obedient zeal of his horse is carried over it in safety. It does not follow that his horse will carry him over a house, or that he should be fool enough to ask the beast to do so."
"He intends to ride at the house," said Lord Cantrip; "and he means it because others have talked of it. You saw the line which my rash young friend Finn took at Tankerville."
"And all for nothing."
"I am not so sure of that. They say he is like the rest. If Daubeny does carry the party with him, I suppose the days of the Church are numbered."
"And what if they be?" Mr. Gresham almost sighed as he said this, although he intended to express a certain amount of satisfaction. "What if they be? You know, and I know, that the thing has to be done. Whatever may be our own individual feelings, or even our present judgment on the subject,—as to which neither of us can perhaps say that his mind is not so made up that it may not soon be altered,—we know that the present union cannot remain. It is unfitted for that condition of humanity to which we are coming, and if so, the change must be for good. Why should not he do it as well as another? Or rather would not he do it better than another, if he can do it with less of animosity than we should rouse against us? If the blow would come softer from his hands than from ours, with less of a feeling of injury to those who dearly love the Church, should we not be glad that he should undertake the task?"
"Then you will not oppose him?"
"Ah;—there is much to be considered before we can say that. Though he may not be bound by his friends, we may be bound by ours. And then, though I can hint to you at a certain condition of mind, and can sympathise with you, feeling that such may become the condition of your mind, I cannot say that I should act upon it as an established conviction, or that I can expect that you will do so. If such be the political programme submitted to us when the House meets, then we must be prepared."
Lord Cantrip also paused a moment before he answered, but he had his answer ready. "I can frankly say that I should follow your leading, but that I should give my voice for opposition."
"Your voice is always persuasive," said Mr. Gresham.
But the consternation felt among Mr. Daubeny's friends was infinitely greater than that which fell among his enemies, when those wonderful words were read, discussed, criticised, and explained. It seemed to every clergyman in England that nothing short of disestablishment could be intended by them. And this was the man to whom they had all looked for protection! This was the bulwark of the Church, to whom they had trusted! This was the hero who had been so sound and so firm respecting the Irish Establishment, when evil counsels had been allowed to prevail in regard to that ill-used but still sacred vineyard! All friends of the Church had then whispered among themselves fearfully, and had, with sad looks and grievous forebodings, acknowledged that the thin edge of the wedge had been driven into the very rock of the Establishment. The enemies of the Church were known to be powerful, numerous, and of course unscrupulous. But surely this Brutus would not raise a dagger against this Caesar! And yet, if not, what was the meaning of those words? And then men and women began to tell each other,—the men and women who are the very salt of the earth in this England of ours,—that their Brutus, in spite of his great qualities, had ever been mysterious, unintelligible, dangerous, and given to feats of conjuring. They had only been too submissive to their Brutus. Wonderful feats of conjuring they had endured, understanding nothing of the manner in which they were performed,—nothing of their probable results; but this feat of conjuring they would not endure. And so there were many meetings held about the country, though the time for combined action was very short.
Nothing more audacious than the speaking of those few words to the bucolic electors of East Barsetshire had ever been done in the political history of England. Cromwell was bold when he closed the Long Parliament. Shaftesbury was bold when he formed the plot for which Lord Russell and others suffered. Walpole was bold when, in his lust for power, he discarded one political friend after another. And Peel was bold when he resolved to repeal the Corn Laws. But in none of these instances was the audacity displayed more wonderful than when Mr. Daubeny took upon himself to make known throughout the country his intention of abolishing the Church of England. For to such a declaration did those few words amount. He was now the recognised parliamentary leader of that party to which the Church of England was essentially dear. He had achieved his place by skill, rather than principle,—by the conviction on men's minds that he was necessary rather than that he was fit. But still, there he was; and, though he had alarmed many,—had, probably, alarmed all those who followed him by his eccentric and dangerous mode of carrying on the battle; though no Conservative regarded him as safe; yet on this question of the Church it had been believed that he was sound. What might be the special ideas of his own mind regarding ecclesiastical policy in general, it had not been thought necessary to consider. His utterances had been confusing, mysterious, and perhaps purposely unintelligible; but that was matter of little moment so long as he was prepared to defend the establishment of the Church of England as an institution adapted for English purposes. On that point it was believed that he was sound. To that mast it was supposed he had nailed his own colours and those of his party. In defending that fortress it was thought that he would be ready to fall, should the defence of it require a fall. It was because he was so far safe that he was there. And yet he spoke these words without consulting a single friend, or suggesting the propriety of his new scheme to a single supporter. And he knew what he was doing. This was the way in which he had thought it best to make known to his own followers, not only that he was about to abandon the old Institution, but that they must do so too!
As regarded East Barsetshire itself, he was returned, and feted, and sent home with his ears stuffed with eulogy, before the bucolic mind had discovered his purpose. On so much he had probably calculated. But he had calculated also that after an interval of three or four days his secret would be known to all friends and enemies. On the day after his speech came the report of it in the newspapers; on the next day the leading articles, in which the world was told what it was that the Prime Minister had really said. Then, on the following day, the startled parsons, and the startled squires and farmers, and, above all, the startled peers and members of the Lower House, whose duty it was to vote as he should lead them, were all agog. Could it be that the newspapers were right in this meaning which they had attached to these words? On the day week after the election in East Barsetshire, a Cabinet Council was called in London, at which it would, of course, be Mr. Daubeny's duty to explain to his colleagues what it was that he did purpose to do.
In the meantime he saw a colleague or two.
"Let us look it straight in the face," he said to a noble colleague; "we must look it in the face before long."
"But we need not hurry it forward."
"There is a storm coming. We knew that before, and we heard the sound of it from every husting in the country. How shall we rule the storm so that it may pass over the land without devastating it? If we bring in a bill—"
"A bill for disestablishing the Church!" said the horror-stricken lord.
"If we bring in a bill, the purport of which shall be to moderate the ascendancy of the Church in accordance with the existing religious feelings of the population, we shall save much that otherwise must fall. If there must be a bill, would you rather that it should be modelled by us who love the Church, or by those who hate it?"
That lord was very wrath, and told the right honourable gentleman to his face that his duty to his party should have constrained him to silence on that subject till he had consulted his colleagues. In answer to this Mr. Daubeny said with much dignity that, should such be the opinion of his colleagues in general, he would at once abandon the high place which he held in their councils. But he trusted that it might be otherwise. He had felt himself bound to communicate his ideas to his constituents, and had known that in doing so some minds must be shocked. He trusted that he might be able to allay this feeling of dismay. As regarded this noble lord, he did succeed in lessening the dismay before the meeting was over, though he did not altogether allay it.
Another gentleman who was in the habit of sitting at Mr. Daubeny's elbow daily in the House of Commons was much gentler with him, both as to words and manner. "It's a bold throw, but I'm afraid it won't come up sixes," said the right honourable gentleman.
"Let it come up fives, then. It's the only chance we have; and if you think, as I do, that it is essentially necessary for the welfare of the country that we should remain where we are, we must run the risk."
With another colleague, whose mind was really set on that which the Church is presumed to represent, he used another argument. "I am convinced at any rate of this," said Mr. Daubeny; "that by sacrificing something of that ascendancy which the Establishment is supposed to give us, we can bring the Church, which we love, nearer to the wants of the people." And so it came about that before the Cabinet met, every member of it knew what it was that was expected of him.
Phineas and His Old Friends
Phineas Finn returned from Tankerville to London in much better spirits than those which had accompanied him on his journey thither. He was not elected; but then, before the election, he had come to believe that it was quite out of the question that he should be elected. And now he did think it probable that he should get the seat on a petition. A scrutiny used to be a very expensive business, but under the existing law, made as the scrutiny would be in the borough itself, it would cost but little; and that little, should he be successful, would fall on the shoulders of Mr. Browborough. Should he knock off eight votes and lose none himself, he would be member for Tankerville. He knew that many votes had been given for Browborough which, if the truth were known of them, would be knocked off; and he did not know that the same could be said of any one of those by which he had been supported. But, unfortunately, the judge by whom all this would be decided might not reach Tankerville in his travels till after Christmas, perhaps not till after Easter; and in the meantime, what should he do with himself?
As for going back to Dublin, that was now out of the question. He had entered upon a feverish state of existence in which it was impossible that he should live in Ireland. Should he ultimately fail in regard to his seat he must-vanish out of the world. While he remained in his present condition he would not even endeavour to think how he might in such case best bestow himself. For the present he would remain within the region of politics, and live as near as he could to the whirl of the wheel of which the sound was so dear to him. Of one club he had always remained a member, and he had already been re-elected a member of the Reform. So he took up his residence once more at the house of a certain Mr. and Mrs. Bunce, in Great Marlborough Street, with whom he had lodged when he first became a member of Parliament.
"So you're at the old game, Mr. Finn?" said his landlord.
"Yes; at the old game. I suppose it's the same with you?" Now Mr. Bunce had been a very violent politician, and used to rejoice in calling himself a Democrat.
"Pretty much the same, Mr. Finn. I don't see that things are much better than they used to be. They tell me at the People's Banner office that the lords have had as much to do with this election as with any that ever went before it."
"Perhaps they don't know much about it at the People's Banner office. I thought Mr. Slide and the People's Banner had gone over to the other side, Bunce?"
"Mr. Slide is pretty wide-awake whatever side he's on. Not but what he's disgraced himself by what he's been and done now." Mr. Slide in former days had been the editor of the People's Banner, and circumstances had arisen in consequence of which there had been some acquaintance between him and our hero. "I see you was hammering away at the Church down at Tankerville."
"I just said a word or two."
"You was all right, there, Mr. Finn. I can't say as I ever saw very much in your religion; but what a man keeps in the way of religion for his own use is never nothing to me;—as what I keeps is nothing to him."
"I'm afraid you don't keep much, Mr. Bunce."
"And that's nothing to you, neither, is it, sir?"
"But when we read of Churches as is called State Churches,—Churches as have bishops you and I have to pay for, as never goes into them—"
"But we don't pay the bishops, Mr. Bunce."
"Oh yes, we do; because, if they wasn't paid, the money would come to us to do as we pleased with it. We proved all that when we pared them down a bit. What's an Ecclesiastical Commission? Only another name for a box to put the money into till you want to take it out again. When we hear of Churches such as these, as is not kept up by the people who uses them,—just as the theatres are, Mr. Finn, or the gin shops,—then I know there's a deal more to be done before honest men can come by their own. You're right enough, Mr. Finn, you are, as far as churches go, and you was right, too, when you cut and run off the Treasury Bench. I hope you ain't going to sit on that stool again."
Mr. Bunce was a privileged person, and Mrs. Bunce made up for his apparent rudeness by her own affectionate cordiality. "Deary me, and isn't it a thing for sore eyes to have you back again! I never expected this. But I'll do for you, Mr. Finn, just as I ever did in the old days; and it was I that was sorry when I heard of the poor young lady's death; so I was, Mr. Finn; well, then, I won't mention her name never again. But after all there's been betwixt you and us it wouldn't be natural to pass it by without one word; would it, Mr. Finn? Well, yes; he's just the same man as ever, without a ha'porth of difference. He's gone on paying that shilling to the Union every week of his life, just as he used to do; and never got so much out of it, not as a junketing into the country. That he didn't. It makes me that sick sometimes when I think of where it's gone to, that I don't know how to bear it. Well, yes; that is true, Mr. Finn. There never was a man better at bringing home his money to his wife than Bunce, barring that shilling. If he'd drink it, which he never does, I think I'd bear it better than give it to that nasty Union. And young Jack writes as well as his father, pretty nigh, Mr. Finn, which is a comfort,"—Mr. Bunce was a journeyman scrivener at a law stationer's,—"and keeps his self; but he don't bring home his money, nor yet it can't be expected, Mr. Finn. I know what the young 'uns will do, and what they won't. And Mary Jane is quite handy about the house now,—only she do break things, which is an aggravation; and the hot water shall be always up at eight o'clock to a minute, if I bring it with my own hand, Mr. Finn."
And so he was established once more in his old rooms in Great Marlborough Street; and as he sat back in the arm-chair, which he used to know so well, a hundred memories of former days crowded back upon him. Lord Chiltern for a few months had lived with him; and then there had arisen a quarrel, which he had for a time thought would dissolve his old life into ruin. Now Lord Chiltern was again his very intimate friend. And there had used to sit a needy money-lender whom he had been unable to banish. Alas! alas! how soon might he now require that money-lender's services! And then he recollected how he had left these rooms to go into others, grander and more appropriate to his life when he had filled high office under the State. Would there ever again come to him such cause for migration? And would he again be able to load the frame of the looking-glass over the fire with countless cards from Countesses and Ministers' wives? He had opened the oyster for himself once, though it had closed again with so sharp a snap when the point of his knife had been withdrawn. Would he be able to insert the point again between those two difficult shells? Would the Countesses once more be kind to him? Would drawing-rooms be opened to him, and sometimes opened to him and to no other? Then he thought of certain special drawing-rooms in which wonderful things had been said to him. Since that he had been a married man, and those special drawing-rooms and those wonderful words had in no degree actuated him in his choice of a wife. He had left all those things of his own free will, as though telling himself that there was a better life than they offered to him. But was he sure that he had found it to be better? He had certainly sighed for the gauds which he had left. While his young wife was living he had kept his sighs down, so that she should not hear them; but he had been forced to acknowledge that his new life had been vapid and flavourless. Now he had been tempted back again to the old haunts. Would the Countesses' cards be showered upon him again?
One card, or rather note, had reached him while he was yet at Tankerville, reminding him of old days. It was from Mrs. Low, the wife of the barrister with whom he had worked when he had been a law student in London. She had asked him to come and dine with them after the old fashion in Baker Street, naming a day as to which she presumed that he would by that time have finished his affairs at Tankerville, intimating also that Mr. Low would then have finished his at North Broughton. Now Mr. Low had sat for North Broughton before Phineas left London, and his wife spoke of the seat as a certainty. Phineas could not keep himself from feeling that Mrs. Low intended to triumph over him; but, nevertheless, he accepted the invitation. They were very glad to see him, explaining that, as nobody was supposed to be in town, nobody had been asked to meet him. In former days he had been very intimate in that house, having received from both of them much kindness, mingled, perhaps, with some touch of severity on the part of the lady. But the ground for that was gone, and Mrs. Low was no longer painfully severe. A few words were said as to his great loss. Mrs. Low once raised her eyebrows in pretended surprise when Phineas explained that he had thrown up his place, and then they settled down on the question of the day. "And so," said Mrs. Low, "you've begun to attack the Church?" It must be remembered that at this moment Mr. Daubeny had not as yet electrified the minds of East Barsetshire, and that, therefore, Mrs. Low was not disturbed. To Mrs. Low, Church and State was the very breath of her nostrils; and if her husband could not be said to live by means of the same atmosphere it was because the breath of his nostrils had been drawn chiefly in the Vice-Chancellor's Court in Lincoln's Inn. But he, no doubt, would be very much disturbed indeed should he ever be told that he was required, as an expectant member of Mr. Daubeny's party, to vote for the Disestablishment of the Church of England.
"You don't mean that I am guilty of throwing the first stone?" said Phineas.
"They have been throwing stones at the Temple since first it was built," said Mrs. Low, with energy; "but they have fallen off its polished shafts in dust and fragments." I am afraid that Mrs. Low, when she allowed herself to speak thus energetically, entertained some confused idea that the Church of England and the Christian religion were one and the same thing, or, at least, that they had been brought into the world together.
"You haven't thrown the first stone," said Mr. Low; "but you have taken up the throwing at the first moment in which stones may be dangerous."
"No stones can be dangerous," said Mrs. Low.
"The idea of a State Church," said Phineas, "is opposed to my theory of political progress. What I hope is that my friends will not suppose that I attack the Protestant Church because I am a Roman Catholic. If I were a priest it would be my business to do so; but I am not a priest."
Mr. Low gave his old friend a bottle of his best wine, and in all friendly observances treated him with due affection. But neither did he nor did his wife for a moment abstain from attacking their guest in respect to his speeches at Tankerville. It seemed, indeed, to Phineas that as Mrs. Low was buckled up in such triple armour that she feared nothing, she might have been less loud in expressing her abhorrence of the enemies of the Church. If she feared nothing, why should she scream so loudly? Between the two he was a good deal crushed and confounded, and Mrs. Low was very triumphant when she allowed him to escape from her hands at ten o'clock. But, at that moment, nothing had as yet been heard in Baker Street of Mr. Daubeny's proposition to the electors of East Barsetshire! Poor Mrs. Low! We can foresee that there is much grief in store for her, and some rocks ahead, too, in the political career of her husband.
Phineas was still in London, hanging about the clubs, doing nothing, discussing Mr. Daubeny's wonderful treachery with such men as came up to town, and waiting for the meeting of Parliament, when he received the following letter from Lady Laura Kennedy:—
Dresden, November 18, ——
MY DEAR MR. FINN,
I have heard with great pleasure from my sister-in-law that you have been staying with them at Harrington Hall. It seems so like old days that you and Oswald and Violet should be together,—so much more natural than that you should be living in Dublin. I cannot conceive of you as living any other life than that of the House of Commons, Downing Street, and the clubs. Nor do I wish to do so. And when I hear of you at Harrington Hall I know that you are on your way to the other things.
Do tell me what life is like with Oswald and Violet. Of course he never writes. He is one of those men who, on marrying, assume that they have at last got a person to do a duty which has always hitherto been neglected. Violet does write, but tells me little or nothing of themselves. Her letters are very nice, full of anecdote, well written, —letters that are fit to be kept and printed; but they are never family letters. She is inimitable in discussing the miseries of her own position as the wife of a Master of Hounds; but the miseries are as evidently fictitious as the art is real. She told me how poor dear Lady Baldock communicated to you her unhappiness about her daughter in a manner that made even me laugh; and would make thousands laugh in days to come were it ever to be published. But of her inside life, of her baby, or of her husband as a husband, she never says a word. You will have seen it all, and have enough of the feminine side of a man's character to be able to tell me how they are living. I am sure they are happy together, because Violet has more common sense than any woman I ever knew.
And pray tell me about the affair at Tankerville. My cousin Barrington writes me word that you will certainly get the seat. He declares that Mr. Browborough is almost disposed not to fight the battle, though a man more disposed to fight never bribed an elector. But Barrington seems to think that you managed as well as you did by getting outside the traces, as he calls it. We certainly did not think that you would come out strong against the Church. Don't suppose that I complain. For myself I hate to think of the coming severance; but if it must come, why not by your hands as well as by any other? It is hardly possible that you in your heart should love a Protestant ascendant Church. But, as Barrington says, a horse won't get oats unless he works steady between the traces.
As to myself, what am I to say to you? I and my father live here a sad, sombre, solitary life, together. We have a large furnished house outside the town, with a pleasant view and a pretty garden. He does—nothing. He reads the English papers, and talks of English parties, is driven out, and eats his dinner, and sleeps. At home, as you know, not only did he take an active part in politics, but he was active also in the management of his own property. Now it seems to him to be almost too great a trouble to write a letter to his steward; and all this has come upon him because of me. He is here because he cannot bear that I should live alone. I have offered to return with him to Saulsby, thinking that Mr. Kennedy would trouble me no further,—or to remain here by myself; but he will consent to neither. In truth the burden of idleness has now fallen upon him so heavily that he cannot shake it off. He dreads that he may be called upon to do anything.
To me it is all one tragedy. I cannot but think of things as they were two or three years since. My father and my husband were both in the Cabinet, and you, young as you were, stood but one step below it. Oswald was out in the cold. He was very poor. Papa thought all evil of him. Violet had refused him over and over again. He quarrelled with you, and all the world seemed against him. Then of a sudden you vanished, and we vanished. An ineffable misery fell upon me and upon my wretched husband. All our good things went from us at a blow. I and my poor father became as it were outcasts. But Oswald suddenly retricked his beams, and is flaming in the forehead of the morning sky. He, I believe, has no more than he had deserved. He won his wife honestly;—did he not? And he has ever been honest. It is my pride to think I never gave him up. But the bitter part of my cup consists in this,—that as he has won what he has deserved, so have we. I complain of no injustice. Our castle was built upon the sand. Why should Mr. Kennedy have been a Cabinet Minister;—and why should I have been his wife? There is no one else of whom I can ask that question as I can of you, and no one else who can answer it as you can do.
Of Mr. Kennedy it is singular how little I know, and how little I ever hear. There is no one whom I can ask to tell me of him. That he did not attend during the last Session I do know, and we presume that he has now abandoned his seat. I fear that his health is bad,—or perhaps, worse still, that his mind is affected by the gloom of his life. I suppose that he lives exclusively at Loughlinter. From time to time I am implored by him to return to my duty beneath his roof. He grounds his demand on no affection of his own, on no presumption that any affection can remain with me. He says no word of happiness. He offers no comfort. He does not attempt to persuade with promises of future care. He makes his claim simply on Holy Writ, and on the feeling of duty which thence ought to weigh upon me. He has never even told me that he loves me; but he is persistent in declaring that those whom God has joined together nothing human should separate. Since I have been here I have written to him once,—one sad, long, weary letter. Since that I am constrained to leave his letters unanswered.
And now, my friend, could you not do for me a great kindness? For a while, till the inquiry be made at Tankerville, your time must be vacant. Cannot you come and see us? I have told Papa that I should ask you, and he would be delighted. I cannot explain to you what it would be to me to be able to talk again to one who knows all the errors and all the efforts of my past life as you do. Dresden is very cold in the winter. I do not know whether you would mind that. We are very particular about the rooms, but my father bears the temperature wonderfully well, though he complains. In March we move down south for a couple of months. Do come if you can.
Most sincerely yours,
If you come, of course you will have yourself brought direct to us. If you can learn anything of Mr. Kennedy's life, and of his real condition, pray do. The faint rumours which reach me are painfully distressing.
Coming Home from Hunting
Lady Chiltern was probably right when she declared that her husband must have been made to be a Master of Hounds,—presuming it to be granted that somebody must be Master of Hounds. Such necessity certainly does exist in this, the present condition of England. Hunting prevails; hunting men increase in numbers; foxes are preserved; farmers do not rebel; owners of coverts, even when they are not hunting men themselves, acknowledge the fact, and do not dare to maintain their pheasants at the expense of the much better-loved four-footed animal. Hounds are bred, and horses are trained specially to the work. A master of fox hounds is a necessity of the period. Allowing so much, we cannot but allow also that Lord Chiltern must have been made to fill the situation. He understood hunting, and, perhaps, there was nothing else requiring acute intelligence that he did understand. And he understood hunting, not only as a huntsman understands it,—in that branch of the science which refers simply to the judicious pursuit of the fox, being probably inferior to his own huntsman in that respect,—but he knew exactly what men should do, and what they should not. In regard to all those various interests with which he was brought in contact, he knew when to hold fast to his own claims, and when to make no claims at all. He was afraid of no one, but he was possessed of a sense of justice which induced him to acknowledge the rights of those around him. When he found that the earths were not stopped in Trumpeton Wood,—from which he judged that the keeper would complain that the hounds would not or could not kill any of the cubs found there,—he wrote in very round terms to the Duke who owned it. If His Grace did not want to have the wood drawn, let him say so. If he did, let him have the earths stopped. But when that great question came up as to the Gartlow coverts—when that uncommonly disagreeable gentleman, Mr. Smith, of Gartlow, gave notice that the hounds should not be admitted into his place at all,—Lord Chiltern soon put the whole matter straight by taking part with the disagreeable gentleman. The disagreeable gentleman had been ill used. Men had ridden among his young laurels. If gentlemen who did hunt,—so said Lord Chiltern to his own supporters,—did not know how to conduct themselves in a matter of hunting, how was it to be expected that a gentleman who did not hunt should do so? On this occasion Lord Chiltern rated his own hunt so roundly that Mr. Smith and he were quite in a bond together, and the Gartlow coverts were re-opened. Now all the world knows that the Gartlow coverts, though small, are material as being in the very centre of the Brake country.
It is essential that a Master of Hounds should be somewhat feared by the men who ride with him. There should be much awe mixed with the love felt for him. He should be a man with whom other men will not care to argue; an irrational, cut and thrust, unscrupulous, but yet distinctly honest man; one who can be tyrannical, but will tyrannise only over the evil spirits; a man capable of intense cruelty to those alongside of him, but who will know whether his victim does in truth deserve scalping before he draws his knife. He should be savage and yet good-humoured; severe and yet forbearing; truculent and pleasant in the same moment. He should exercise unflinching authority, but should do so with the consciousness that he can support it only by his own popularity. His speech should be short, incisive, always to the point, but never founded on argument. His rules are based on no reason, and will never bear discussion. He must be the most candid of men, also the most close;—and yet never a hypocrite. He must condescend to no explanation, and yet must impress men with an assurance that his decisions will certainly be right. He must rule all as though no man's special welfare were of any account, and yet must administer all so as to offend none. Friends he must have, but not favourites. He must be self-sacrificing, diligent, eager, and watchful. He must be strong in health, strong in heart, strong in purpose, and strong in purse. He must be economical and yet lavish; generous as the wind and yet obdurate as the frost. He should be assured that of all human pursuits hunting is the best, and that of all living things a fox is the most valuable. He must so train his heart as to feel for the fox a mingled tenderness and cruelty which is inexplicable to ordinary men and women. His desire to preserve the brute and then to kill him should be equally intense and passionate. And he should do it all in accordance with a code of unwritten laws, which cannot be learnt without profound study. It may not perhaps be truly asserted that Lord Chiltern answered this description in every detail; but he combined so many of the qualities required that his wife showed her discernment when she declared that he seemed to have been made to be a Master of Hounds.
Early in that November he was riding home with Miss Palliser by his side, while the huntsmen and whips were trotting on with the hounds before him. "You call that a good run, don't you?"
"No; I don't."
"What was the matter with it? I declare it seems to me that something is always wrong. Men like hunting better than anything else, and yet I never find any man contented."
"In the first place we didn't kill."
"You know you're short of foxes at Gartlow," said Miss Palliser, who, as is the manner with all hunting ladies, liked to show that she understood the affairs of the hunt.
"If I knew there were but one fox in a county, and I got upon that one fox, I would like to kill that one fox,—barring a vixen in March."
"I thought it very nice. It was fast enough for anybody."
"You might go as fast with a drag, if that's all. I'll tell you something else. We should have killed him if Maule hadn't once ridden over the hounds when we came out of the little wood. I spoke very sharply to him."
"I heard you, Lord Chiltern."
"And I suppose you thought I was a brute."
"Who? I? No, I didn't;—not particularly, you know. Men do say such things to each other!"
"He doesn't mind it, I fancy."
"I suppose a man does not like to be told that directly he shows himself in a run the sport is all over and the hounds ought to be taken home."
"Did I say that? I don't remember now what I said, but I know he made me angry. Come, let us trot on. They can take the hounds home without us."
"Good night, Cox," said Miss Palliser, as they passed by the pack. "Poor Mr. Maule! I did pity him, and I do think he does care for it, though he is so impassive. He would be with us now, only he is chewing the cud of his unhappiness in solitude half a mile behind us."
"That is hard upon you."
"Hard upon me, Lord Chiltern! It is hard upon him, and, perhaps, upon you. Why should it be hard upon me?"
"Hard upon him, I should have said. Though why it shouldn't be the other way I don't know. He's a friend of yours."
"And an especial friend, I suppose. As a matter of course Violet talks to me about you both."
"No doubt she does. When once a woman is married she should be regarded as having thrown off her allegiance to her own sex. She is sure to be treacherous at any rate in one direction. Not that Lady Chiltern can tell anything of me that might not be told to all the world as far as I am concerned."
"There is nothing in it, then?"
"Nothing at all."
"Oh,—honour as bright as it ever is in such matters as these."
"I am sorry for that,—very sorry."
"Why so, Lord Chiltern?"
"Because if you were engaged to him I thought that perhaps you might have induced him to ride a little less forward."
"Lord Chiltern," said Miss Palliser, seriously; "I will never again speak to you a word on any subject except hunting."
At this moment Gerard Maule came up behind them, with a cigar in his mouth, apparently quite unconscious of any of that displeasure as to which Miss Palliser had supposed that he was chewing the cud in solitude. "That was a goodish thing, Chiltern," he said.
"And the hounds hunted him well to the end."
"It's odd how the scent will die away at a moment. You see they couldn't carry on a field after we got out of the copse."
"Not a field."
"Considering all things I am glad we didn't kill him."
"Uncommon glad," said Lord Chiltern. Then they trotted on in silence a little way, and Maule again dropped behind. "I'm blessed if he knows that I spoke to him, roughly," said Chiltern. "He's deaf, I think, when he chooses to be."
"You're not sorry, Lord Chiltern."
"Not in the least. Nothing will ever do any good. As for offending him, you might as well swear at a tree, and think to offend it. There's comfort in that, anyway. I wonder whether he'd talk to you if I went away?"
"I hope that you won't try the experiment."
"I don't believe he would, or I'd go at once. I wonder whether you really do care for him?"
"Not in the least."
"Or he for you."
"Quite indifferent, I should say; but I can't answer for him, Lord Chiltern, quite as positively as I can for myself. You know, as things go, people have to play at caring for each other."
"That's what we call flirting."
"Just the reverse. Flirting I take to be the excitement of love, without its reality, and without its ordinary result in marriage. This playing at caring has none of the excitement, but it often leads to the result, and sometimes ends in downright affection."
"If Maule perseveres then you'll take him, and by-and-bye you'll come to like him."
"In twenty years it might come to that, if we were always to live in the same house; but as he leaves Harrington to-morrow, and we may probably not meet each other for the next four years, I think the chance is small."
Then Maule trotted up again, and after riding in silence with the other two for half an hour, he pulled out his case and lit a fresh cigar from the end of the old one, which he threw away. "Have a baccy, Chiltern?" he said.
"No, thank you, I never smoke going home; my mind is too full. I've all that family behind to think of, and I'm generally out of sorts with the miseries of the day. I must say another word to Cox, or I should have to go to the kennels on my way home." And so he dropped behind.
Gerard Maule smoked half his cigar before he spoke a word, and Miss Palliser was quite resolved that she would not open her mouth till he had spoken. "I suppose he likes it?" he said at last.
"Who likes what, Mr. Maule?"
"Chiltern likes blowing fellows up."
"It's a part of his business."
"That's the way I look at it. But I should think it must be disagreeable. He takes such a deal of trouble about it. I heard him going on to-day to some one as though his whole soul depended on it."
"He is very energetic."
"Just so. I'm quite sure it's a mistake. What does a man ever get by it? Folks around you soon discount it till it goes for nothing."
"I don't think energy goes for nothing, Mr. Maule."
"A bull in a china shop is not a useful animal, nor is he ornamental, but there can be no doubt of his energy. The hare was full of energy, but he didn't win the race. The man who stands still is the man who keeps his ground."
"You don't stand still when you're out hunting."
"No;—I ride about, and Chiltern swears at me. Every man is a fool sometimes."
"And your wisdom, perfect at all other times, breaks down in the hunting-field?"
"I don't in the least mind your chaffing. I know what you think of me just as well as though you told me."
"What do I think of you?"
"That I'm a poor creature, generally half asleep, shallow-pated, slow-blooded, ignorant, useless, and unambitious."
"Certainly unambitious, Mr. Maule."
"And that word carries all the others. What's the good of ambition? There's the man they were talking about last night,—that Irishman."
"Yes; Phineas Finn. He is an ambitious fellow. He'll have to starve, according to what Chiltern was saying. I've sense enough to know I can't do any good."
"You are sensible, I admit."
"Very well, Miss Palliser. You can say just what you like, of course. You have that privilege."
"I did not mean to say anything severe. I do admit that you are master of a certain philosophy, for which much may be said. But you are not to expect that I shall express an approval which I do not feel."
"But I want you to approve it."
"Ah!—there, I fear, I cannot oblige you."
"I want you to approve it, though no one else may."
"Though all else should do so, I cannot."
"Then take the task of curing the sick one, and of strengthening the weak one, into your own hands. If you will teach, perhaps I may learn."
"I have no mission for teaching, Mr. Maule."
"You once said that,—that—"
"Do not be so ungenerous as to throw in my teeth what I once said,—if I ever said a word that I would not now repeat."
"I do not think that I am ungenerous, Miss Palliser."
"I am sure you are not."
"Nor am I self-confident. I am obliged to seek comfort from such scraps of encouragement as may have fallen in my way here and there. I once did think that you intended to love me."
"Does love go by intentions?"
"I think so,—frequently with men, and much more so with girls."
"It will never go so with me. I shall never intend to love any one. If I ever love any man it will be because I am made to do so, despite my intentions."
"As a fortress is taken?"
"Well,—if you like to put it so. Only I claim this advantage,—that I can always get rid of my enemy when he bores me."
"Am I boring you now?"
"I didn't say so. Here is Lord Chiltern again, and I know by the rattle of his horse's feet that something is the matter."
Lord Chiltern came up full of wrath. One of the men's horses was thoroughly broken down, and, as the Master said, wasn't worth the saddle he carried. He didn't care a —— for the horse, but the man hadn't told him. "At this rate there won't be anything to carry anybody by Christmas."
"You'll have to buy some more," said Gerard Maule.
"Buy some more!" said Lord Chiltern, turning round, and looking at the man. "He talks of buying horses as he would sugar plums!" Then they trotted in at the gate, and in two minutes were at the hall door.
Before the 11th of November, the day on which Parliament was to meet, the whole country was in a hubbub. Consternation and triumph were perhaps equally predominant, and equally strong. There were those who declared that now at length was Great Britain to be ruined in actual present truth; and those who asserted that, of a sudden, after a fashion so wholly unexpected as to be divine,—as great fires, great famines, and great wars are called divine,—a mighty hand had been stretched out to take away the remaining incubus of superstition, priestcraft, and bigotry under which England had hitherto been labouring. The proposed disestablishment of the State Church of England was, of course, the subject of this diversity of opinion.
And there was not only diversity, but with it great confusion. The political feelings of the country are, as a rule, so well marked that it is easy, as to almost every question, to separate the sheep from the goats. With but few exceptions one can tell where to look for the supporters and where for the opponents of one measure or of another. Meetings are called in this or in that public hall to assist or to combat the Minister of the day, and men know what they are about. But now it was not so. It was understood that Mr. Daubeny, the accredited leader of the Conservatives, was about to bring in the bill, but no one as yet knew who would support the bill. His own party, to a man,—without a single exception,—were certainly opposed to the measure in their minds. It must be so. It could not but be certain that they should hate it. Each individual sitting on the Conservative side in either House did most certainly within his own bosom cry Ichabod when the fatal news reached his ears. But such private opinions and inward wailings need not, and probably would not, guide the body. Ichabod had been cried before, though probably never with such intensity of feeling. Disestablishment might be worse than Free Trade or Household Suffrage, but was not more absolutely opposed to Conservative convictions than had been those great measures. And yet the party, as a party, had swallowed them both. To the first and lesser evil, a compact little body of staunch Commoners had stood forth in opposition,—but nothing had come of it to those true Britons beyond a feeling of living in the cold shade of exclusion. When the greater evil arrived, that of Household Suffrage,—a measure which twenty years since would hardly have been advocated by the advanced Liberals of the day,—the Conservatives had learned to acknowledge the folly of clinging to their own convictions, and had swallowed the dose without serious disruption of their ranks. Every man,—with but an exception or two,—took the measure up, some with faces so singularly distorted as to create true pity, some with an assumption of indifference, some with affected glee. But in the double process the party had become used to this mode of carrying on the public service. As poor old England must go to the dogs, as the doom had been pronounced against the country that it should be ruled by the folly of the many foolish, and not by the wisdom of the few wise, why should the few wise remain out in the cold,—seeing, as they did, that by so doing no good would be done to the country? Dissensions among their foes did, when properly used, give them power,—but such power they could only use by carrying measures which they themselves believed to be ruinous. But the ruin would be as certain should they abstain. Each individual might have gloried in standing aloof,—in hiding his face beneath his toga, and in remembering that Rome did once exist in her splendour. But a party cannot afford to hide its face in its toga. A party has to be practical. A party can only live by having its share of Garters, lord-lieutenants, bishops, and attorney-generals. Though the country were ruined, the party should be supported. Hitherto the party had been supported, and had latterly enjoyed almost its share of stars and Garters,—thanks to the individual skill and strategy of that great English political Von Moltke Mr. Daubeny.
And now what would the party say about the disestablishment of the Church? Even a party must draw the line somewhere. It was bad to sacrifice things mundane; but this thing was the very Holy of Holies! Was nothing to be conserved by a Conservative party? What if Mr. Daubeny were to explain some day to the electors of East Barsetshire that an hereditary peerage was an absurdity? What if in some rural nook of his Boeotia he should suggest in ambiguous language to the farmers that a Republic was the only form of Government capable of a logical defence? Duke had already said to Duke, and Earl to Earl, and Baronet to Baronet that there must be a line somewhere. Bishops as a rule say but little to each other, and now were afraid to say anything. The Church, which had been, which was, so truly beloved;—surely that must be beyond the line! And yet there crept through the very marrow of the party an agonising belief that Mr. Daubeny would carry the bulk of his party with him into the lobby of the House of Commons.
But if such was the dismay of the Conservatives, how shall any writer depict the consternation of the Liberals? If there be a feeling odious to the mind of a sober, hardworking man, it is the feeling that the bread he has earned is to be taken out of his mouth. The pay, the patronage, the powers, and the pleasure of Government were all due to the Liberals. "God bless my soul," said Mr. Ratler, who always saw things in a practical light, "we have a larger fighting majority than any party has had since Lord Liverpool's time. They have no right to attempt it. They are bound to go out." "There's nothing of honesty left in politics," said Mr. Bonteen, declaring that he was sick of the life. Barrington Erle thought that the whole Liberal party should oppose the measure. Though they were Liberals they were not democrats; nor yet infidels. But when Barrington Erle said this, the great leaders of the Liberal party had not as yet decided on their ground of action.
There was much difficulty in reaching any decision. It had been asserted so often that the disestablishment of the Church was only a question of time, that the intelligence of the country had gradually so learned to regard it. Who had said so, men did not know and did not inquire;—but the words were spoken everywhere. Parsons with sad hearts,—men who in their own parishes were enthusiastic, pure, pious, and useful,—whispered them in the dead of the night to the wives of their bosoms. Bishops, who had become less pure by contact with the world at clubs, shrugged their shoulders and wagged their heads, and remembered comfortably the sanctity of vested interests. Statesmen listened to them with politeness, and did not deny that they were true. In the free intercourse of closest friendships the matter was discussed between ex-Secretaries of State. The Press teemed with the assertion that it was only a question of time. Some fervent, credulous friends predicted another century of life;—some hard-hearted logical opponents thought that twenty years would put an end to the anomaly:—a few stout enemies had sworn on the hustings with an anathema that the present Session should see the deposition from her high place of this eldest daughter of the woman of Babylon. But none had expected the blow so soon as this; and none certainly had expected it from this hand.
But what should the Liberal party do? Ratler was for opposing Mr. Daubeny with all their force, without touching the merits of the case. It was no fitting work for Mr. Daubeny, and the suddenness of the proposition coming from such a quarter would justify them now and for ever, even though they themselves should disestablish everything before the Session were over. Barrington Erle, suffering under a real political conviction for once in his life, was desirous of a positive and chivalric defence of the Church. He believed in the twenty years. Mr. Bonteen shut himself up in disgust. Things were amiss; and, as he thought, the evil was due to want of party zeal on the part of his own leader, Mr. Gresham. He did not dare to say this, lest, when the house door should at last be opened, he might not be invited to enter with the others; but such was his conviction. "If we were all a little less in the abstract, and a little more in the concrete, it would be better for us." Laurence Fitzgibbon, when these words had been whispered to him by Mr. Bonteen, had hardly understood them; but it had been explained to him that his friend had meant "men, not measures." When Parliament met, Mr. Gresham, the leader of the Liberal party, had not as yet expressed any desire to his general followers.
The Queen's Speech was read, and the one paragraph which seemed to possess any great public interest was almost a repetition of the words which Mr. Daubeny had spoken to the electors of East Barsetshire. "It will probably be necessary for you to review the connection which still exists between, and which binds together, the Church and the State." Mr. Daubeny's words had of course been more fluent, but the gist of the expression was the same. He had been quite in earnest when addressing his friends in the country. And though there had been but an interval of a few weeks, the Conservative party in the two Houses heard the paragraph read without surprise and without a murmur. Some said that the gentlemen on the Treasury Bench in the House of Commons did not look to be comfortable. Mr. Daubeny sat with his hat over his brow, mute, apparently impassive and unapproachable, during the reading of the Speech and the moving and seconding of the Address. The House was very full, and there was much murmuring on the side of the Opposition;—but from the Government benches hardly a sound was heard, as a young gentleman, from one of the Midland counties, in a deputy-lieutenant's uniform, who had hitherto been known for no particular ideas of his own, but had been believed to be at any rate true to the Church, explained, not in very clear language, that the time had at length come when the interests of religion demanded a wider support and a fuller sympathy than could be afforded under that system of Church endowment and State establishment for which the country had hitherto been so grateful, and for which the country had such boundless occasion for gratitude. Another gentleman, in the uniform of the Guards, seconded the Address, and declared that in nothing was the sagacity of a Legislature so necessary as in discerning the period in which that which had hitherto been good ceased to be serviceable. The status pupillaris was mentioned, and it was understood that he had implied that England was now old enough to go on in matters of religion without a tutor in the shape of a State Church.
Who makes the speeches, absolutely puts together the words, which are uttered when the Address is moved and seconded? It can hardly be that lessons are prepared and sent to the noble lords and honourable gentlemen to be learned by heart like a school-boy's task. And yet, from their construction, style, and general tone,—from the platitudes which they contain as well as from the general safety and good sense of the remarks,—from the absence of any attempt to improve a great occasion by the fire of oratory, one cannot but be convinced that a very absolute control is exercised. The gorgeously apparelled speakers, who seem to have great latitude allowed them in the matter of clothing, have certainly very little in the matter of language. And then it always seems that either of the four might have made the speech of any of the others. It could not have been the case that the Hon. Colonel Mowbray Dick, the Member for West Bustard, had really elaborated out of his own head that theory of the status pupillaris. A better fellow, or a more popular officer, or a sweeter-tempered gentleman than Mowbray Dick does not exist; but he certainly never entertained advanced opinions respecting the religious education of his country. When he is at home with his family, he always goes to church, and there has been an end of it.
And then the fight began. The thunderbolts of opposition were unloosed, and the fires of political rancour blazed high. Mr. Gresham rose to his legs, and declared to all the world that which he had hitherto kept secret from his own party. It was known afterwards that in discussion with his own dearly-beloved political friend, Lord Cantrip, he had expressed his unbounded anger at the duplicity, greed for power, and want of patriotism displayed by his opponent; but he had acknowledged that the blow had come so quick and so unexpectedly that he thought it better to leave the matter to the House without instruction from himself. He now revelled in sarcasm, and before his speech was over raged into wrath. He would move an amendment to the Address for two reasons,—first because this was no moment for bringing before Parliament the question of the Church establishment, when as yet no well-considered opportunity of expressing itself on the subject had been afforded to the country, and secondly because any measure of reform on that matter should certainly not come to them from the right honourable gentleman opposite. As to the first objection, he should withhold his arguments till the bill suggested had been presented to them. It was in handling the second that he displayed his great power of invective. All those men who then sat in the House, and who on that night crowded the galleries, remember his tones as, turning to the dissenters who usually supported him, and pointing over the table to his opponents, he uttered that well-worn quotation, Quod minime reris,—then he paused, and began again; Quod minime reris,—Graia pandetur ab urbe. The power and inflexion of his voice at the word Graia were certainly very wonderful. He ended by moving an amendment to the Address, and asking for support equally from one side of the House as from the other.
When at length Mr. Daubeny moved his hat from his brow and rose to his legs he began by expressing his thankfulness that he had not been made a victim to the personal violence of the right honourable gentleman. He continued the same strain of badinage throughout,—in which he was thought to have been wrong, as it was a method of defence, or attack, for which his peculiar powers hardly suited him. As to any bill that was to be laid upon the table, he had not as yet produced it. He did not doubt that the dissenting interests of the country would welcome relief from an anomaly, let it come whence it might, even Graia ab urbe, and he waved his hand back to the clustering Conservatives who sat behind him. That the right honourable gentleman should be angry he could understand, as the return to power of the right honourable gentleman and his party had been anticipated, and he might almost say discounted as a certainty.
Then, when Mr. Daubeny sat down, the House was adjourned.
The beginning of the battle as recorded in the last chapter took place on a Friday,—Friday, 11th November,—and consequently two entire days intervened before the debate could be renewed. There seemed to prevail an opinion during this interval that Mr. Gresham had been imprudent. It was acknowledged by all men that no finer speech than that delivered by him had ever been heard within the walls of that House. It was acknowledged also that as regarded the question of oratory Mr. Daubeny had failed signally. But the strategy of the Minister was said to have been excellent, whereas that of the ex-Minister was very loudly condemned. There is nothing so prejudicial to a cause as temper. This man is declared to be unfit for any position of note, because he always shows temper. Anything can be done with another man,—he can be made to fit almost any hole,—because he has his temper under command. It may, indeed, be assumed that a man who loses his temper while he is speaking is endeavouring to speak the truth such as he believes it to be, and again it may be assumed that a man who speaks constantly without losing his temper is not always entitled to the same implicit faith. Whether or not this be a reason the more for preferring the calm and tranquil man may be doubted; but the calm and tranquil man is preferred for public services. We want practical results rather than truth. A clear head is worth more than an honest heart. In a matter of horseflesh of what use is it to have all manner of good gifts if your horse won't go whither you want him, and refuses to stop when you bid him? Mr. Gresham had been very indiscreet, and had especially sinned in opposing the Address without arrangements with his party.
And he made the matter worse by retreating within his own shell during the whole of that Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning. Lord Cantrip was with him three or four times, and he saw both Mr. Palliser, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer under him, and Mr. Ratler. But he went amidst no congregation of Liberals, and asked for no support. He told Ratler that he wished gentlemen to vote altogether in accordance with their opinions; and it came to be whispered in certain circles that he had resigned, or was resigning, or would resign, the leadership of his party. Men said that his passions were too much for him, and that he was destroyed by feelings of regret, and almost of remorse.
The Ministers held a Cabinet Council on the Monday morning, and it was supposed afterwards that that also had been stormy. Two gentlemen had certainly resigned their seats in the Government before the House met at four o'clock, and there were rumours abroad that others would do so if the suggested measure should be found really to amount to disestablishment. The rumours were, of course, worthy of no belief, as the transactions of the Cabinet are of necessity secret. Lord Drummond at the War Office, and Mr. Boffin from the Board of Trade, did, however, actually resign; and Mr. Boffin's explanations in the House were heard before the debate was resumed. Mr. Boffin had certainly not joined the present Ministry,—so he said,—with the view of destroying the Church. He had no other remark to make, and he was sure that the House would appreciate the course which had induced him to seat himself below the gangway. The House cheered very loudly, and Mr. Boffin was the hero of ten minutes. Mr. Daubeny detracted something from this triumph by the overstrained and perhaps ironic pathos with which he deplored the loss of his right honourable friend's services. Now this right honourable gentleman had never been specially serviceable.
But the wonder of the world arose from the fact that only two gentlemen out of the twenty or thirty who composed the Government did give up their places on this occasion. And this was a Conservative Government! With what a force of agony did all the Ratlers of the day repeat that inappropriate name! Conservatives! And yet they were ready to abandon the Church at the bidding of such a man as Mr. Daubeny! Ratler himself almost felt that he loved the Church. Only two resignations;—whereas it had been expected that the whole House would fall to pieces! Was it possible that these earls, that marquis, and the two dukes, and those staunch old Tory squires, should remain in a Government pledged to disestablish the Church? Was all the honesty, all the truth of the great party confined to the bosoms of Mr. Boffin and Lord Drummond? Doubtless they were all Esaus; but would they sell their great birthright for so very small a mess of pottage? The parsons in the country, and the little squires who but rarely come up to London, spoke of it all exactly as did the Ratlers. There were parishes in the country in which Mr. Boffin was canonised, though up to that date no Cabinet Minister could well have been less known to fame than was Mr. Boffin.
What would those Liberals do who would naturally rejoice in the disestablishment of the Church,—those members of the Lower House, who had always spoken of the ascendancy of Protestant episcopacy with the bitter acrimony of exclusion? After all, the success or failure of Mr. Daubeny must depend, not on his own party, but on them. It must always be so when measures of Reform are advocated by a Conservative Ministry. There will always be a number of untrained men ready to take the gift without looking at the giver. They have not expected relief from the hands of Greeks, but will take it when it comes from Greeks or Trojans. What would Mr. Turnbull say in this debate,—and what Mr. Monk? Mr. Turnbull was the people's tribune, of the day; Mr. Monk had also been a tribune, then a Minister, and now was again—something less than a tribune. But there were a few men in the House, and some out of it, who regarded Mr. Monk as the honestest and most patriotic politician of the day.
The debate was long and stormy, but was peculiarly memorable for the skill with which Mr. Daubeny's higher colleagues defended the steps they were about to take. The thing was to be done in the cause of religion. The whole line of defence was indicated by the gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address. An active, well-supported Church was the chief need of a prosperous and intelligent people. As to the endowments, there was some confusion of ideas; but nothing was to be done with them inappropriate to religion. Education would receive the bulk of what was left after existing interests had been amply guaranteed. There would be no doubt,—so said these gentlemen,—that ample funds for the support of an Episcopal Church would come from those wealthy members of the body to whom such a Church was dear. There seemed to be a conviction that clergymen under the new order of things would be much better off than under the old. As to the connection with the State, the time for it had clearly gone by. The Church, as a Church, would own increased power when it could appoint its own bishops, and be wholly dissevered from State patronage. It seemed to be almost a matter of surprise that really good Churchmen should have endured so long to be shackled by subservience to the State. Some of these gentlemen pleaded their cause so well that they almost made it appear that episcopal ascendancy would be restored in England by the disseverance of the Church and State.
Mr. Turnbull, who was himself a dissenter, was at last upon his legs, and then the Ratlers knew that the game was lost. It would be lost as far as it could be lost by a majority in that House on that motion; and it was by that majority or minority that Mr. Daubeny would be maintained in his high office or ejected from it. Mr. Turnbull began by declaring that he did not at all like Mr. Daubeny as a Minister of the Crown. He was not in the habit of attaching himself specially to any Minister of the Crown. Experience had taught him to doubt them all. Of all possible Ministers of the Crown at this period, Mr. Daubeny was he thought perhaps the worst, and the most dangerous. But the thing now offered was too good to be rejected, let it come from what quarter it would. Indeed, might it not be said of all the good things obtained for the people, of all really serviceable reforms, that they were gathered and garnered home in consequence of the squabbles of Ministers? When men wanted power, either to grasp at it or to retain it, then they offered bribes to the people. But in the taking of such bribes there was no dishonesty, and he should willingly take this bribe. Mr. Monk spoke also. He would not, he said, feel himself justified in refusing the Address to the Crown proposed by Ministers, simply because that Address was founded on the proposition of a future reform, as to the expediency of which he had not for many years entertained a doubt. He could not allow it to be said of him that he had voted for the permanence of the Church establishment, and he must therefore support the Government. Then Ratler whispered a few words to his neighbour: "I knew the way he'd run when Gresham insisted on poor old Mildmay's taking him into the Cabinet." "The whole thing has gone to the dogs," said Bonteen. On the fourth night the House was divided, and Mr. Daubeny was the owner of a majority of fifteen.
Very many of the Liberal party expressed an opinion that the battle had been lost through the want of judgment evinced by Mr. Gresham. There was certainly no longer that sturdy adherence to their chief which is necessary for the solidarity of a party. Perhaps no leader of the House was ever more devoutly worshipped by a small number of adherents than was Mr. Gresham now; but such worship will not support power. Within the three days following the division the Ratlers had all put their heads together and had resolved that the Duke of St. Bungay was now the only man who could keep the party together. "But who should lead our House?" asked Bonteen. Ratler sighed instead of answering. Things had come to that pass that Mr. Gresham was the only possible leader. And the leader of the House of Commons, on behalf of the Government, must be the chief man in the Government, let the so-called Prime Minister be who he may.
The Deserted Husband
Phineas Finn had been in the gallery of the House throughout the debate, and was greatly grieved at Mr. Daubeny's success, though he himself had so strongly advocated the disestablishment of the Church in canvassing the electors of Tankerville. No doubt he had advocated the cause,—but he had done so as an advanced member of the Liberal party, and he regarded the proposition when coming from Mr. Daubeny as a horrible and abnormal birth. He, however, was only a looker-on,—could be no more than a looker-on for the existing short session. It had already been decided that the judge who was to try the case at Tankerville should visit that town early in January; and should it be decided on a scrutiny that the seat belonged to our hero, then he would enter upon his privilege in the following Session without any further trouble to himself at Tankerville. Should this not be the case,—then the abyss of absolute vacuity would be open before him. He would have to make some disposition of himself, but he would be absolutely without an idea as to the how or where. He was in possession of funds to support himself for a year or two; but after that, and even during that time, all would be dark. If he should get his seat, then again the power of making an effort would at last be within his hands.
He had made up his mind to spend the Christmas with Lord Brentford and Lady Laura Kennedy at Dresden, and had already fixed the day of his arrival there. But this had been postponed by another invitation which had surprised him much, but which it had been impossible for him not to accept. It had come as follows:—
November 9th, Loughlinter.
I am informed by letter from Dresden that you are in London on your way to that city with the view of spending some days with the Earl of Brentford. You will, of course, be once more thrown into the society of my wife, Lady Laura Kennedy.
I have never understood, and certainly have never sanctioned, that breach of my wife's marriage vow which has led to her withdrawal from my roof. I never bade her go, and I have bidden her return. Whatever may be her feelings, or mine, her duty demands her presence here, and my duty calls upon me to receive her. This I am and always have been ready to do. Were the laws of Europe sufficiently explicit and intelligible I should force her to return to my house,—because she sins while she remains away, and I should sin were I to omit to use any means which the law might place in my hands for the due control of my own wife. I am very explicit to you although we have of late been strangers, because in former days you were closely acquainted with the condition of my family affairs.
Since my wife left me I have had no means of communicating with her by the assistance of any common friend. Having heard that you are about to visit her at Dresden I feel a great desire to see you that I may be enabled to send by you a personal message. My health, which is now feeble, and the altered habits of my life render it almost impossible that I should proceed to London with this object, and I therefore ask it of your Christian charity that you should visit me here at Loughlinter. You, as a Roman Catholic, cannot but hold the bond of matrimony to be irrefragable. You cannot, at least, think that it should be set aside at the caprice of an excitable woman who is not able and never has been able to assign any reason for leaving the protection of her husband.
I shall have much to say to you, and I trust you will come. I will not ask you to prolong your visit, as I have nothing to offer you in the way of amusement. My mother is with me; but otherwise I am alone. Since my wife left me I have not thought it even decent to entertain guests or to enjoy society. I have lived a widowed life. I cannot even offer you shooting, as I have no keepers on the mountains. There are fish in the river doubtless, for the gifts of God are given let men be ever so unworthy; but this, I believe, is not the month for fishermen. I ask you to come to me, not as a pleasure, but as a Christian duty.
Phineas Finn, Esq.
As soon as he had read the letter Phineas felt that he had no alternative but to go. The visit would be very disagreeable, but it must be made. So he sent a line to Robert Kennedy naming a day; and wrote another to Lady Laura postponing his time at Dresden by a week, and explaining the cause of its postponement. As soon as the debate on the Address was over he started for Loughlinter.
A thousand memories crowded on his brain as he made the journey. Various circumstances had in his early life,—in that period of his life which had lately seemed to be cut off from the remainder of his days by so clear a line,—thrown him into close connection with this man, and with the man's wife. He had first gone to Loughlinter, not as Lady Laura's guest,—for Lady Laura had not then been married, or even engaged to be married,—but on her persuasion rather than on that of Mr. Kennedy. When there he had asked Lady Laura to be his own wife, and she had then told him that she was to become the wife of the owner of that domain. He remembered the blow as though it had been struck but yesterday, and yet the pain of the blow had not been long enduring. But though then rejected he had always been the chosen friend of the woman,—a friend chosen after an especial fashion. When he had loved another woman this friend had resented his defection with all a woman's jealousy. He had saved the husband's life, and had then become also the husband's friend, after that cold fashion which an obligation will create. Then the husband had been jealous, and dissension had come, and the ill-matched pair had been divided, with absolute ruin to both of them, as far as the material comforts and well-being of life were concerned. Then he, too, had been ejected, as it were, out of the world, and it had seemed to him as though Laura Standish and Robert Kennedy had been the inhabitants of another hemisphere. Now he was about to see them both again, both separately; and to become the medium of some communication between them. He knew, or thought that he knew, that no communication could avail anything.
It was dark night when he was driven up to the door of Loughlinter House in a fly from the town of Callender. When he first made the journey, now some six or seven years since, he had done so with Mr. Ratler, and he remembered well that circumstance. He remembered also that on his arrival Lady Laura had scolded him for having travelled in such company. She had desired him to seek other friends,—friends higher in general estimation, and nobler in purpose. He had done so, partly at her instance, and with success. But Mr. Ratler was now somebody in the world, and he was nobody. And he remembered also how on that occasion he had been troubled in his mind in regard to a servant, not as yet knowing whether the usages of the world did or did not require that he should go so accompanied. He had taken the man, and had been thoroughly ashamed of himself for doing so. He had no servant now, no grandly developed luggage, no gun, no elaborate dress for the mountains. On that former occasion his heart had been very full when he reached Loughlinter, and his heart was full now. Then he had resolved to say a few words to Lady Laura, and he had hardly known how best to say them. Now he would be called upon to say a few to Lady Laura's husband, and the task would be almost as difficult.
The door was opened for him by an old servant in black, who proposed at once to show him to his room. He looked round the vast hall, which, when he had before known it, was ever filled with signs of life, and felt at once that it was empty and deserted. It struck him as intolerably cold, and he saw that the huge fireplace was without a spark of fire. Dinner, the servant said, was prepared for half-past seven. Would Mr. Finn wish to dress? Of course he wished to dress. And as it was already past seven he hurried up stairs to his room. Here again everything was cold and wretched. There was no fire, and the man had left him with a single candle. There were candlesticks on the dressing-table, but they were empty. The man had suggested hot water, but the hot water did not come. In his poorest days he had never known discomfort such as this, and yet Mr. Kennedy was one of the richest commoners of Great Britain.
But he dressed, and made his way down stairs, not knowing where he should find his host or his host's mother. He recognised the different doors and knew the rooms within them, but they seemed inhospitably closed against him, and he went and stood in the cold hall. But the man was watching for him, and led him into a small parlour. Then it was explained to him that Mr. Kennedy's state of health did not admit of late dinners. He was to dine alone, and Mr. Kennedy would receive him after dinner. In a moment his cheeks became red, and a flash of wrath crossed his heart. Was he to be treated in this way by a man on whose behalf,—with no thought of his own comfort or pleasure,—he had made this long and abominable journey? Might it not be well for him to leave the house without seeing Mr. Kennedy at all? Then he remembered that he had heard it whispered that the man had become bewildered in his mind. He relented, therefore, and condescended to eat his dinner.
A very poor dinner it was. There was a morsel of flabby white fish, as to the nature of which Phineas was altogether in doubt, a beef steak as to the nature of which he was not at all in doubt, and a little crumpled-up tart which he thought the driver of the fly must have brought with him from the pastry-cook's at Callender. There was some very hot sherry, but not much of it. And there was a bottle of claret, as to which Phineas, who was not usually particular in the matter of wine, persisted in declining to have anything to do with it after the first attempt. The gloomy old servant, who stuck to him during the repast, persisted in offering it, as though the credit of the hospitality of Loughlinter depended on it. There are so many men by whom the tenuis ratio saporum has not been achieved, that the Caleb Balderstones of those houses in which plenty does not flow are almost justified in hoping that goblets of Gladstone may pass current. Phineas Finn was not a martyr to eating or drinking. He played with his fish without thinking much about it. He worked manfully at the steak. He gave another crumple to the tart, and left it without a pang. But when the old man urged him, for the third time, to take that pernicious draught with his cheese, he angrily demanded a glass of beer. The old man toddled out of the room, and on his return he proffered to him a diminutive glass of white spirit, which he called usquebaugh. Phineas, happy to get a little whisky, said nothing more about the beer, and so the dinner was over.
He rose so suddenly from his chair that the man did not dare to ask him whether he would not sit over his wine. A suggestion that way was indeed made, would he "visit the laird out o' hand, or would he bide awee?" Phineas decided on visiting the laird out of hand, and was at once led across the hall, down a back passage which he had never before traversed, and introduced to the chamber which had ever been known as the "laird's ain room." Here Robert Kennedy rose to receive him.