There is probably more of the flavour of political aristocracy to be found still remaining among our liberal leading statesmen than among their opponents. A conservative Cabinet is, doubtless, never deficient in dukes and lords, and the sons of such; but conservative dukes and lords are recruited here and there, and as recruits, are new to the business, whereas among the old Whigs a halo of statecraft has, for ages past, so strongly pervaded and enveloped certain great families, that the power in the world of politics thus produced still remains, and is even yet efficacious in creating a feeling of exclusiveness. They say that "misfortune makes men acquainted with strange bedfellows". The old hereditary Whig Cabinet ministers must, no doubt, by this time have learned to feel themselves at home with strange neighbours at their elbows. But still with them something of the feeling of high blood, of rank, and of living in a park with deer about it, remains. They still entertain a pride in their Cabinets, and have, at any rate, not as yet submitted themselves to a conjuror. The Charles James Fox element of liberality still holds its own, and the fragrance of Cavendish is essential. With no man was this feeling stronger than with the Duke of St. Bungay, though he well knew how to keep it in abeyance,—even to the extent of self-sacrifice. Bonteens must creep into the holy places. The faces which he loved to see,—born chiefly of other faces he had loved when young,—could not cluster around the sacred table without others which were much less welcome to him. He was wise enough to know that exclusiveness did not suit the nation, though human enough to feel that it must have been pleasant to himself. There must be Bonteens;—but when any Bonteen came up, who loomed before his eyes as specially disagreeable, it seemed to him to be a duty to close the door against such a one, if it could be closed without violence. A constant, gentle pressure against the door would tend to keep down the number of the Bonteens.
"I am not sure that you are not going a little too quick in regard to Mr. Bonteen," said the elder duke to Mr. Gresham before he had finally assented to a proposition originated by himself,—that he should sit in the Cabinet without a portfolio.
"Palliser wishes it," said Mr. Gresham, shortly.
"He and I think that there has been some mistake about that. You suggested the appointment to him, and he felt unwilling to raise an objection without giving the matter very mature consideration. You can understand that."
"Upon my word I thought that the selection would be peculiarly agreeable to him." Then the duke made a suggestion. "Could not some special office at the Treasury be constructed for Mr. Bonteen's acceptance, having special reference to the question of decimal coinage?"
"But how about the salary?" asked Mr. Gresham. "I couldn't propose a new office with a salary above L2,000."
"Couldn't we make it permanent," suggested the duke;—"with permission to hold a seat if he can get one?"
"I fear not," said Mr. Gresham.
"He got into a very unpleasant scrape when he was Financial Secretary," said the Duke.
But whither would'st thou, Muse? Unmeet For jocund lyre are themes like these. Shalt thou the talk of Gods repeat, Debasing by thy strains effete Such lofty mysteries?
The absolute words of a conversation so lofty shall no longer be attempted, but it may be said that Mr. Gresham was too wise to treat as of no account the objections of such a one as the Duke of St. Bungay. He saw Mr. Bonteen, and he saw the other duke, and difficulties arose. Mr. Bonteen made himself very disagreeable indeed. As Mr. Bonteen had never absolutely been as yet more than a demigod, our Muse, light as she is, may venture to report that he told Mr. Ratler that "he'd be d—— if he'd stand it. If he were to be thrown over now, he'd make such a row, and would take such care that the fat should be in the fire, that his enemies, whoever they were, should wish that they had kept their fingers off him. He knew who was doing it." If he did not know, his guess was right. In his heart he accused the young duchess, though he mentioned her name to no one. And it was the young duchess. Then there was made an insidious proposition to Mr. Gresham,—which reached him at last through Barrington Erle,—that matters would go quieter if Phineas Finn were placed in his old office at the Colonies instead of Lord Fawn, whose name had been suggested, and for whom,—as Barrington Erle declared,—no one cared a brass farthing. Mr. Gresham, when he heard this, thought that he began to smell a rat, and was determined to be on his guard. Why should the appointment of Mr. Phineas Finn make things go easier in regard to Mr. Bonteen? There must be some woman's fingers in the pie. Now Mr. Gresham was firmly resolved that no woman's fingers should have anything to do with his pie.
How the thing went from bad to worse, it would be bootless here to tell. Neither of the two dukes absolutely refused to join the Ministry; but they were persistent in their objection to Mr. Bonteen, and were joined in it by Lord Plinlimmon and Sir Harry Coldfoot. It was in vain that Mr. Gresham urged that he had no other man ready and fit to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. That excuse could not be accepted. There was Legge Wilson, who twelve years since had been at the Treasury, and would do very well. Now Mr. Gresham had always personally hated Legge Wilson,—and had, therefore, offered him the Board of Trade. Legge Wilson had disgusted him by accepting it, and the name had already been published in connection with the office. But in the lists which had appeared towards the end of the week, no name was connected with the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no office was connected with the name of Mr. Bonteen. The editor of The People's Banner, however, expressed the gratification of that journal that even Mr. Gresham had not dared to propose Mr. Phineas Finn for any place under the Crown.
At last Mr. Bonteen was absolutely told that he could not be Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he would consent to give his very valuable services to the country with the view of carrying through Parliament the great measure of decimal coinage he should be President of the Board of Trade,—but without a seat in the Cabinet. He would thus become the Right Honourable Bonteen, which, no doubt, would be a great thing for him,—and, not busy in the Cabinet, must be able to devote his time exclusively to the great measure above-named. What was to become of "Trade" generally, was not specially explained; but, as we all know, there would be a Vice-President to attend to details.
The proposition very nearly broke the man's heart. With a voice stopped by agitation, with anger flashing from his eyes, almost in a convulsion of mixed feelings, he reminded his chief of what had been said about his appointment in the House. Mr. Gresham had already absolutely defended it. After that did Mr. Gresham mean to withdraw a promise that had so formally been made? But Mr. Gresham was not to be caught in that way. He had made no promise;—had not even stated to the House that such appointment was to be made. A very improper question had been asked as to a rumour,—in answering which he had been forced to justify himself by explaining that discussions respecting the office had been necessary. "Mr. Bonteen," said Mr. Gresham, "no one knows better than you the difficulties of a Minister. If you can act with us I shall be very grateful to you. If you cannot, I shall regret the loss of your services." Mr. Bonteen took twenty-four hours to consider, and was then appointed President of the Board of Trade without a seat in the Cabinet. Mr. Legge Wilson became Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the lists were completed, no office whatever was assigned to Phineas Finn. "I haven't done with Mr. Bonteen yet," said the young duchess to her friend Madame Goesler.
The secrets of the world are very marvellous, but they are not themselves half so wonderful as the way in which they become known to the world. There could be no doubt that Mr. Bonteen's high ambition had foundered, and that he had been degraded through the secret enmity of the Duchess of Omnium. It was equally certain that his secret enmity to Phineas Finn had brought this punishment on his head. But before the Ministry had been a week in office almost everybody knew that it was so. The rumours were full of falsehood, but yet they contained the truth. The duchess had done it. The duchess was the bosom friend of Lady Laura Kennedy, who was in love with Phineas Finn. She had gone on her knees to Mr. Gresham to get a place for her friend's favourite, and Mr. Gresham had refused. Consequently, at her bidding, half-a-dozen embryo Ministers—her husband among the number—had refused to be amenable to Mr. Gresham. Mr. Gresham had at last consented to sacrifice Mr. Bonteen, who had originally instigated him to reject the claims of Phineas Finn. That the degradation of the one man had been caused by the exclusion of the other all the world knew.
"It shuts the door to me for ever and ever," said Phineas to Madame Goesler.
"I don't see that."
"Of course it does. Such an affair places a mark against a man's name which will never be forgotten."
"Is your heart set upon holding some trifling appointment under a Minister?"
"To tell you the truth, it is;—or rather it was. The prospect of office to me was more than perhaps to any other expectant. Even this man, Bonteen, has some fortune of his own, and can live if he be excluded. I have given up everything for the chance of something in this line."
"Other lines are open."
"Not to me, Madame Goesler. I do not mean to defend myself. I have been very foolish, very sanguine, and am now very unhappy."
"What shall I say to you?"
"In truth, then, I do not sympathise with you. The thing lost is too small, too mean to justify unhappiness."
"But, Madame Goesler, you are a rich woman."
"If you were to lose it all, would you not be unhappy? It has been my ambition to live here in London as one of a special set which dominates all other sets in our English world. To do so a man should have means of his own. I have none; and yet I have tried it,—thinking that I could earn my bread at it as men do at other professions. I acknowledge that I should not have thought so. No man should attempt what I have attempted without means, at any rate to live on if he fail; but I am not the less unhappy because I have been silly."
"What will you do?"
"Ah,—what? Another friend asked me that the other day, and I told her that I should vanish."
"Who was that friend?"
"She is in London again now?"
"Yes; she and her father are in Portman Square."
"She has been an injurious friend to you."
"No, by heaven," exclaimed Phineas. "But for her I should never have been here at all, never have had a seat in Parliament, never have been in office, never have known you."
"And might have been the better without any of these things."
"No man ever had a better friend than Lady Laura has been to me. Malice, wicked and false as the devil, has lately joined our names together to the incredible injury of both of us; but it has not been her fault."
"You are energetic in defending her."
"And so would she be in defending me. Circumstances threw us together and made us friends. Her father and her brother were my friends. I happened to be of service to her husband. We belonged to the same party. And therefore—because she has been unfortunate in her marriage—people tell lies of her."
"It is a pity he should—not die, and leave her," said Madame Goesler slowly.
"Because then you might justify yourself in defending her by making her your wife." She paused, but he made no answer to this. "You are in love with her," she said.
"It is untrue."
"Well, what would you have? I am not in love with her. To me she is no more than my sister. Were she as free as air I should not ask her to be my wife. Can a man and woman feel no friendship without being in love with each other?"
"I hope they may," said Madame Goesler. Had he been lynx-eyed he might have seen that she blushed; but it required quick eyes to discover a blush on Madame Goesler's face. "You and I are friends."
"Indeed we are," he said, grasping her hand as he took his leave.
"I hope I'm not distrusted"
Gerard Maule, as the reader has been informed, wrote three lines to his dearest Adelaide to inform her that his father would not assent to the suggestion respecting Maule Abbey which had been made by Lady Chiltern, and then took no further steps in the matter. In the fortnight next after the receipt of his letter nothing was heard of him at Harrington Hall, and Adelaide, though she made no complaint, was unhappy. Then came the letter from Mr. Spooner,—with all its rich offers, and Adelaide's mind was for a while occupied with wrath against her second suitor. But as the egregious folly of Mr. Spooner,—for to her thinking the aspirations of Mr. Spooner were egregiously foolish,—died out of her mind, her thoughts reverted to her engagement. Why did not the man come to her, or why did he not write?
She had received from Lady Chiltern an invitation to remain with them,—the Chilterns,—till her marriage. "But, dear Lady Chiltern, who knows when it will be?" Adelaide had said. Lady Chiltern had good-naturedly replied that the longer it was put off the better for herself. "But you'll be going to London or abroad before that day comes." Lady Chiltern declared that she looked forward to no festivities which could under any circumstances remove her four-and-twenty hours travelling distance from the kennels. Probably she might go up to London for a couple of months as soon as the hunting was over, and the hounds had been drafted, and the horses had been coddled, and every covert had been visited. From the month of May till the middle of July she might, perhaps, be allowed to be in town, as communications by telegram could now be made day and night. After that, preparations for cub-hunting would be imminent, and, as a matter of course, it would be necessary that she should be at Harrington Hall at so important a period of the year. During those couple of months she would be very happy to have the companionship of her friend, and she hinted that Gerard Maule would certainly be in town. "I begin to think it would have been better that I should never have seen Gerard Maule," said Adelaide Palliser.
This happened about the middle of March, while hunting was still in force. Gerard's horses were standing in the neighbourhood, but Gerard himself was not there. Mr. Spooner, since that short, disheartening note had been sent to him by Lord Chiltern, had not been seen at Harrington. There was a Harrington Lawn Meet on one occasion, but he had not appeared till the hounds were at the neighbouring covert side. Nevertheless he had declared that he did not intend to give up the pursuit, and had even muttered something of the sort to Lord Chiltern. "I am one of those fellows who stick to a thing, you know," he said.
"I am afraid you had better give up sticking to her, because she's going to marry somebody else."
"I've heard all about that, my lord. He's a very nice sort of young man, but I'm told he hasn't got his house ready yet for a family." All which Lord Chiltern repeated to his wife. Neither of them spoke to Adelaide again about Mr. Spooner; but this did cause a feeling in Lady Chiltern's mind that perhaps this engagement with young Maule was a foolish thing, and that, if so, she was in a great measure responsible for the folly.
"Don't you think you'd better write to him?" she said, one morning.
"Why does he not write to me?"
"But he did,—when he wrote you that his father would not consent to give up the house. You did not answer him then."
"It was two lines,—without a date. I don't even know where he lives."
"You know his club?"
"Yes,—I know his club. I do feel, Lady Chiltern, that I have become engaged to marry a man as to whom I am altogether in the dark. I don't like writing to him at his club."
"You have seen more of him here and in Italy than most girls see of their future husbands."
"So I have,—but I have seen no one belonging to him. Don't you understand what I mean? I feel all at sea about him. I am sure he does not mean any harm."
"Certainly he does not."
"But then he hardly means any good."
"I never saw a man more earnestly in love," said Lady Chiltern.
"Oh yes,—he's quite enough in love. But—"
"He'll just remain up in London thinking about it, and never tell himself that there's anything to be done. And then, down here, what is my best hope? Not that he'll come to see me, but that he'll come to see his horse, and that so, perhaps, I may get a word with him." Then Lady Chiltern suggested, with a laugh, that perhaps it might have been better that she should have accepted Mr. Spooner. There would have been no doubt as to Mr. Spooner's energy and purpose. "Only that if there was not another man in the world I wouldn't marry him, and that I never saw any other man except Gerard Maule whom I even fancied I could marry."
About a fortnight after this, when the hunting was all over, in the beginning of April, she did write to him as follows, and did direct her letter to his club. In the meantime Lord Chiltern had intimated to his wife that if Gerard Maule behaved badly he should consider himself to be standing in the place of Adelaide's father or brother. His wife pointed out to him that were he her father or her brother he could do nothing,—that in these days let a man behave ever so badly, no means of punishing was within reach of the lady's friends. But Lord Chiltern would not assent to this. He muttered something about a horsewhip, and seemed to suggest that one man could, if he were so minded, always have it out with another, if not in this way, then in that. Lady Chiltern protested, and declared that horsewhips could not under any circumstances be efficacious. "He had better mind what he is about," said Lord Chiltern. It was after this that Adelaide wrote her letter:—
Harrington Hall, 5th April.
I have been thinking that I should hear from you, and have been surprised,—I may say unhappy,—because I have not done so. Perhaps you thought I ought to have answered the three words which you wrote to me about your father; if so, I will apologise; only they did not seem to give me anything to say. I was very sorry that your father should have 'cut up rough,' as you call it, but you must remember that we both expected that he would refuse, and that we are only therefore where we thought we should be. I suppose we shall have to wait till Providence does something for us,—only, if so, it would be pleasanter to me to hear your own opinion about it.
The Chilterns are surprised that you shouldn't have come back, and seen the end of the season. There were some very good runs just at last;—particularly one on last Monday. But on Wednesday Trumpeton Wood was again blank, and there was some row about wires. I can't explain it all; but you must come, and Lord Chiltern will tell you. I have gone down to see the horses ever so often;—but I don't care to go now as you never write to me. They are all three quite well, and Fan looks as silken and as soft as any lady need do.
Lady Chiltern has been kinder than I can tell you. I go up to town with her in May, and shall remain with her while she is there. So far I have decided. After that my future home must, sir, depend on the resolution and determination, or perhaps on the vagaries and caprices, of him who is to be my future master. Joking apart, I must know to what I am to look forward before I can make up my mind whether I will or will not go back to Italy towards the end of the summer. If I do, I fear I must do so just in the hottest time of the year; but I shall not like to come down here again after leaving London,—unless something by that time has been settled.
I shall send this to your club, and I hope that it will reach you. I suppose that you are in London.
Good-bye, dearest Gerard.
Yours most affectionately,
If there is anything that troubles you, pray tell me. I ask you because I think it would be better for you that I should know. I sometimes think that you would have written if there had not been some misfortune. God bless you.
Gerard was in London, and sent the following note by return of post:—
—— Club, Tuesday.
All right. If Chiltern can take me for a couple of nights, I'll come down next week, and settle about the horses, and will arrange everything.
Ever your own, with all my heart,
"He will settle about his horses, and arrange everything," said Adelaide, as she showed the letter to Lady Chiltern. "The horses first, and everything afterwards. The everything, of course, includes all my future happiness, the day of my marriage, whether to-morrow or in ten years' time, and the place where we shall live."
"At any rate, he's coming."
"Yes;—but when? He says next week, but he does not name any day. Did you ever hear or see anything so unsatisfactory?"
"I thought you would be glad to see him."
"So I should be,—if there was any sense in him. I shall be glad, and shall kiss him."
"I dare say you will."
"And let him put his arm round my waist and be happy. He will be happy because he will think of nothing beyond. But what is to be the end of it?"
"He says that he will settle everything."
"But he will have thought of nothing. What must I settle? That is the question. When he was told to go to his father, he went to his father. When he failed there the work was done, and the trouble was off his mind. I know him so well."
"If you think so ill of him why did you consent to get into his boat?" said Lady Chiltern, seriously.
"I don't think ill of him. Why do you say that I think ill of him? I think better of him than of anybody else in the world;—but I know his fault, and, as it happens, it is a fault so very prejudicial to my happiness. You ask me why I got into his boat. Why does any girl get into a man's boat? Why did you get into Lord Chiltern's?"
"I promised to marry him when I was seven years old;—so he says."
"But you wouldn't have done it, if you hadn't had a sort of feeling that you were born to be his wife. I haven't got into this man's boat yet; but I never can be happy unless I do, simply because—"
"You love him."
"Yes;—just that. I have a feeling that I should like to be in his boat, and I shouldn't like to be anywhere else. After you have come to feel like that about a man I don't suppose it makes any difference whether you think him perfect or imperfect. He's just my own,—at least I hope so;—the one thing that I've got. If I wear a stuff frock, I'm not going to despise it because it's not silk."
"Mr. Spooner would be the stuff frock."
"No;—Mr. Spooner is shoddy, and very bad shoddy, too."
On the Saturday in the following week Gerard Maule did arrive at Harrington Hall,—and was welcomed as only accepted lovers are welcomed. Not a word of reproach was uttered as to his delinquencies. No doubt he got the kiss with which Adelaide had herself suggested that his coming would be rewarded. He was allowed to stand on the rug before the fire with his arm round her waist. Lady Chiltern smiled on him. His horses had been specially visited that morning, and a lively report as to their condition was made to him. Not a word was said on that occasion which could distress him. Even Lord Chiltern when he came in was gracious to him. "Well, old fellow," he said, "you've missed your hunting."
"Yes; indeed. Things kept me in town."
"We had some uncommonly good runs."
"Have the horses stood pretty well?" asked Gerard.
"I felt uncommonly tempted to borrow yours; and should have done so once or twice if I hadn't known that I should have been betrayed."
"I wish you had, with all my heart," said Gerard. And then they went to dress for dinner.
In the evening, when the ladies had gone to bed, Lord Chiltern took his friend off to the smoking-room. At Harrington Hall it was not unusual for the ladies and gentlemen to descend together into the very comfortable Pandemonium which was so called, when,—as was the case at present,—the terms of intimacy between them were sufficient to warrant such a proceeding. But on this occasion Lady Chiltern went very discreetly upstairs, and Adelaide, with equal discretion, followed her. It had been arranged beforehand that Lord Chiltern should say a salutary word or two to the young man. Maule began about the hunting, asking questions about this and that, but his host stopped him at once. Lord Chiltern, when he had a task on hand, was always inclined to get through it at once,—perhaps with an energy that was too sudden in its effects. "Maule," he said, "you ought to make up your mind what you mean to do about that girl."
"Do about her! How?"
"You and she are engaged, I suppose?"
"Of course we are. There isn't any doubt about it."
"Just so. But when things come to be like that, all delays are good fun to the man, but they're the very devil to the girl."
"I thought it was always the other way up, and that girls wanted delay?"
"That's only a theoretical delicacy which never means much. When a girl is engaged she likes to have the day fixed. When there's a long interval the man can do pretty much as he pleases, while the girl can do nothing except think about him. Then it sometimes turns out that when he's wanted, he's not there."
"I hope I'm not distrusted," said Gerard, with an air that showed that he was almost disposed to be offended.
"Not in the least. The women here think you the finest paladin in the world, and Miss Palliser would fly at my throat if she thought that I said a word against you. But she's in my house, you see; and I'm bound to do exactly as I should if she were my sister."
"And if she were your sister?"
"I should tell you that I couldn't approve of the engagement unless you were prepared to fix the time of your marriage. And I should ask you where you intended to live."
"Wherever she pleases. I can't go to Maule Abbey while my father lives, without his sanction."
"And he may live for the next twenty years."
"Then you are bound to decide upon something else. It's no use saying that you leave it to her. You can't leave it to her. What I mean is this, that now you are here, I think you are bound to settle something with her. Good-night, old fellow."
Gerard Maule, as he sat upstairs half undressed in his bedroom that night didn't like it. He hardly knew what it was that he did not like,—but he felt that there was something wrong. He thought that Lord Chiltern had not been warranted in speaking to him with a tone of authority, and in talking of a brother's position,—and the rest of it. He had lacked the presence of mind for saying anything at the moment; but he must say something sooner or later. He wasn't going to be driven by Lord Chiltern. When he looked back at his own conduct he thought that it had been more than noble,—almost romantic. He had fallen in love with Miss Palliser, and spoken his love out freely, without any reference to money. He didn't know what more any fellow could have done. As to his marrying out of hand, the day after his engagement, as a man of fortune can do, everybody must have known that that was out of the question. Adelaide of course had known it. It had been suggested to him that he should consult his father as to living at Maule Abbey. Now if there was one thing he hated more than another, it was consulting his father; and yet he had done it. He had asked for a loan of the old house in perfect faith, and it was not his fault that it had been refused. He could not make a house to live in, nor could he coin a fortune. He had L800 a-year of his own, but of course he owed a little money. Men with such incomes always do owe a little money. It was almost impossible that he should marry quite at once. It was not his fault that Adelaide had no fortune of her own. When he fell in love with her he had been a great deal too generous to think of fortune, and that ought to be remembered now to his credit. Such was the sum of his thoughts, and his anger spread itself from Lord Chiltern even on to Adelaide herself. Chiltern would hardly have spoken in that way unless she had complained. She, no doubt, had been speaking to Lady Chiltern, and Lady Chiltern had passed it on to her husband. He would have it out with Adelaide on the next morning,—quite decidedly. And he would make Lord Chiltern understand that he would not endure interference. He was quite ready to leave Harrington Hall at a moment's notice if he were ill-treated. This was the humour in which Gerard Maule put himself to bed that night.
On the following morning he was very late at breakfast,—so late that Lord Chiltern had gone over to the kennels. As he was dressing he had resolved that it would be fitting that he should speak again to his host before he said anything to Adelaide that might appear to impute blame to her. He would ask Chiltern whether anything was meant by what had been said over-night. But, as it happened, Adelaide had been left alone to pour out his tea for him, and,—as the reader will understand to have been certain on such an occasion,—they were left together for an hour in the breakfast parlour. It was impossible that such an hour should be passed without some reference to the grievance which was lying heavy on his heart. "Late; I should think you are," said Adelaide laughing. "It is nearly eleven. Lord Chiltern has been out an hour. I suppose you never get up early except for hunting."
"People always think it is so wonderfully virtuous to get up. What's the use of it?"
"Your breakfast is so cold."
"I don't care about that. I suppose they can boil me an egg. I was very seedy when I went to bed."
"You smoked too many cigars, sir."
"No, I didn't; but Chiltern was saying things that I didn't like." Adelaide's face at once became very serious. "Yes, a good deal of sugar, please. I don't care about toast, and anything does for me. He has gone to the kennels, has he?"
"He said he should. What was he saying last night?"
"Nothing particular. He has a way of blowing up, you know; and he looks at one just as if he expected that everybody was to do just what he chooses."
"You didn't quarrel?"
"Not at all; I went off to bed without saying a word. I hate jaws. I shall just put it right this morning; that's all."
"Was it about me, Gerard?"
"It doesn't signify the least."
"But it does signify. If you and he were to quarrel would it not signify to me very much? How could I stay here with them, or go up to London with them, if you and he had really quarrelled? You must tell me. I know that it was about me." Then she came and sat close to him. "Gerard," she continued, "I don't think you understand how much everything is to me that concerns you."
When he began to reflect, he could not quite recollect what it was that Lord Chiltern had said to him. He did remember that something had been suggested about a brother and sister which had implied that Adelaide might want protection, but there was nothing unnatural or other than kind in the position which Lord Chiltern had declared that he would assume. "He seemed to think that I wasn't treating you well," said he, turning round from the breakfast-table to the fire, "and that is a sort of thing I can't stand."
"I have never said so, Gerard."
"I don't know what it is that he expects, or why he should interfere at all. I can't bear to be interfered with. What does he know about it? He has had somebody to pay everything for him half-a-dozen times, but I have to look out for myself."
"What does all this mean?"
"You would ask me, you know. I am bothered out of my life by ever so many things, and now he comes and adds his botheration."
"What bothers you, Gerard? If anything bothers you, surely you will tell me. If there has been anything to trouble you since you saw your father why have you not written and told me? Is your trouble about me?"
"Well, of course it is, in a sort of way."
"I will not be a trouble to you."
"Now you are going to misunderstand me! Of course, you are not a trouble to me. You know that I love you better than anything in the world."
"I hope so."
"Of course I do." Then he put his arm round her waist and pressed her to his bosom. "But what can a man do? When Lady Chiltern recommended that I should go to my father and tell him, I did it. I knew that no good could come of it. He wouldn't lift his hand to do anything for me."
"How horrid that is!"
"He thinks it a shame that I should have my uncle's money, though he never had any more right to it than that man out there. He is always saying that I am better off than he is."
"I suppose you are."
"I am very badly off, I know that. People seem to think that L800 is ever so much, but I find it to be very little."
"And it will be much less if you are married," said Adelaide gravely.
"Of course, everything must be changed. I must sell my horses, and we must cut and run, and go and live at Boulogne, I suppose. But a man can't do that kind of thing all in a moment. Then Chiltern comes and talks as though he were Virtue personified. What business is it of his?"
Then Adelaide became still more grave. She had now removed herself from his embrace, and was standing a little apart from him on the rug. She did not answer him at first; and when she did so, she spoke very slowly. "We have been rash, I fear; and have done what we have done without sufficient thought."
"I don't say that at all."
"But I do. It does seem now that we have been imprudent." Then she smiled as she completed her speech. "There had better be no engagement between us."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because it is quite clear that it his been a trouble to you rather than a happiness."
"I wouldn't give it up for all the world."
"But it will be better. I had not thought about it as I should have done. I did not understand that the prospect of marrying would make you—so very poor. I see it now. You had better tell Lord Chiltern that it is—done with, and I will tell her the same. It will be better; and I will go back to Italy at once."
"Certainly not. It is not done with, and it shall not be done with."
"Do you think I will marry the man I love when he tells me that by—marrying—me, he will be—banished to—Boulogne? You had better see Lord Chiltern; indeed you had." And then she walked out of the room.
Then came upon him at once a feeling that he had behaved badly; and yet he had been so generous, so full of intentions to be devoted and true! He had never for a moment thought of breaking off the match, and would not think of it now. He loved her better than ever, and would live only with the intention of making her his wife. But he certainly should not have talked to her of his poverty, nor should he have mentioned Boulogne. And yet what should he have done? She would cross-question him about Lord Chiltern, and it was so essentially necessary that he should make her understand his real condition. It had all come from that man's unjustifiable interference,—as he would at once go and tell him. Of course he would marry Adelaide, but the marriage must be delayed. Everybody waits twelve months before they are married; and why should she not wait? He was miserable because he knew that he had made her unhappy;—but the fault had been with Lord Chiltern. He would speak his mind frankly to Chiltern, and then would explain with loving tenderness to his Adelaide that they would still be all in all to each other, but that a short year must elapse before he could put his house in order for her. After that he would sell his horses. That resolve was in itself so great that he did not think it necessary at the present moment to invent any more plans for the future. So he went out into the hall, took his hat, and marched off to the kennels.
At the kennels he found Lord Chiltern surrounded by the denizens of the hunt. His huntsman, with the kennelman and feeder, and two whips, and old Doggett were all there, and the Master of the Hounds was in the middle of his business. The dogs were divided by ages, as well as by sex, and were being brought out and examined. Old Doggett was giving advice,—differing almost always from Cox, the huntsman, as to the propriety of keeping this hound or of cashiering that. Nose, pace, strength, and docility were all questioned with an eagerness hardly known in any other business; and on each question Lord Chiltern listened to everybody, and then decided with a single word. When he had once resolved, nothing further urged by any man then could avail anything. Jove never was so autocratic, and certainly never so much in earnest. From the look of Lord Chiltern's brow it almost seemed as though this weight of empire must be too much for any mere man. Very little notice was taken of Gerard Maule when he joined the conclave, though it was felt in reference to him that he was sufficiently staunch a friend to the hunt to be trusted with the secrets of the kennel. Lord Chiltern merely muttered some words of greeting, and Cox lifted the old hunting-cap which he wore. For another hour the conference was held. Those who have attended such meetings know well that a morning on the flags is apt to be a long affair. Old Doggett, who had privileges, smoked a pipe, and Gerard Maule lit one cigar after another. But Lord Chiltern had become too thorough a man of business to smoke when so employed. At last the last order was given,—Doggett snarled his last snarl,—and Cox uttered his last "My lord." Then Gerard Maule and the Master left the hounds and walked home together.
The affair had been so long that Gerard had almost forgotten his grievance. But now as they got out together upon the park, he remembered the tone of Adelaide's voice as she left him, and remembered also that, as matters stood at present, it was essentially necessary that something should be said. "I suppose I shall have to go and see that woman," said Lord Chiltern.
"Do you mean Adelaide?" asked Maule, in a tone of infinite surprise.
"I mean this new Duchess, who I'm told is to manage everything herself. That man Fothergill is going on with just the old game at Trumpeton."
"Is he, indeed? I was thinking of something else just at that moment. You remember what you were saying about Miss Palliser last night."
"Well;—I don't think, you know, you had a right to speak as you did."
Lord Chiltern almost flew at his companion, as he replied, "I said nothing. I do say that when a man becomes engaged to a girl, he should let her hear from him, so that they may know what each other is about."
"You hinted something about being her brother."
"Of course I did. If you mean well by her, as I hope you do, it can't fret you to think that she has got somebody to look after her till you come in and take possession. It is the commonest thing in the world when a girl is left all alone as she is."
"You seemed to make out that I wasn't treating her well."
"I said nothing of the kind, Maule; but if you ask me—"
"I don't ask you anything."
"Yes, you do. You come and find fault with me for speaking last night in the most good-natured way in the world. And, therefore, I tell you now that you will be behaving very badly indeed, unless you make some arrangement at once as to what you mean to do."
"That's your opinion," said Gerard Maule.
"Yes, it is; and you'll find it to be the opinion of any man or woman that you may ask who knows anything about such things. And I'll tell you what, Master Maule, if you think you're going to face me down you'll find yourself mistaken. Stop a moment, and just listen to me. You haven't a much better friend than I am, and I'm sure she hasn't a better friend than my wife. All this has taken place under our roof, and I mean to speak my mind plainly. What do you propose to do about your marriage?"
"I don't propose to tell you what I mean to do."
"Will you tell Miss Palliser,—or my wife?"
"That is just as I may think fit."
"Then I must tell you that you cannot meet her at my house."
"I'll leave it to-day."
"You needn't do that either. You sleep on it, and then make up your mind. You can't suppose that I have any curiosity about it. The girl is fond of you, and I suppose that you are fond of her. Don't quarrel for nothing. If I have offended you, speak to Lady Chiltern about it."
"Very well;—I will speak to Lady Chiltern."
When they reached the house it was clear that something was wrong. Miss Palliser was not seen again before dinner, and Lady Chiltern was grave and very cold in her manner to Gerard Maule. He was left alone all the afternoon, which he passed with his horses and groom, smoking more cigars,—but thinking all the time of Adelaide Palliser's last words, of Lord Chiltern's frown, and of Lady Chiltern's manner to him. When he came into the drawing-room before dinner, Lady Chiltern and Adelaide were both there, and Adelaide immediately began to ask questions about the kennel and the huntsmen. But she studiously kept at a distance from him, and he himself felt that it would be impossible to resume at present the footing on which he stood with them both on the previous evening. Presently Lord Chiltern came in, and another man and his wife who had come to stay at Harrington. Nothing could be more dull than the whole evening. At least so Gerard found it. He did take Adelaide in to dinner, but he did not sit next to her at table, for which, however, there was an excuse, as, had he done so, the new-comer must have been placed by his wife. He was cross, and would not make an attempt to speak to his neighbour, and, though he tried once or twice to talk to Lady Chiltern—than whom, as a rule, no woman was ever more easy in conversation—he failed altogether. Now and again he strove to catch Adelaide's eye, but even in that he could not succeed. When the ladies left the room Chiltern and the new-corner—who was not a sporting man, and therefore did not understand the question—became lost in the mazes of Trumpeton Wood. But Gerard Maule did not put in a word; nor was a word addressed to him by Lord Chiltern. As he sat there sipping his wine, he made up his mind that he would leave Harrington Hall the next morning. When he was again in the drawing-room, things were conducted in just the same way. He spoke to Adelaide, and she answered him; but there was no word of encouragement—not a tone of comfort in her voice. He found himself driven to attempt conversation with the strange lady, and at last was made to play whist with Lady Chiltern and the two new-corners. Later on in the evening, when Adelaide had gone to her own chamber, he was invited by Lady Chiltern into her own sitting-room upstairs, and there the whole thing was explained to him. Miss Palliser had declared that the match should be broken off.
"Do you mean altogether, Lady Chiltern?"
"Certainly I do. Such a resolve cannot be a half-and-half arrangement."
"I think you must know why, Mr. Maule."
"I don't in the least. I won't have it broken off. I have as much right to have a voice in the matter as she has, and I don't in the least believe it's her doing."
"I do not care; I must speak out. Why does she not tell me so herself?"
"She did tell you so."
"No, she didn't. She said something, but not that. I don't suppose a man was ever so used before; and it's all Lord Chiltern;—just because I told him that he had no right to interfere with me. And he has no right."
"You and Oswald were away together when she told me that she had made up her mind. Oswald has hardly spoken to her since you have been in the house. He certainly has not spoken to her about you since you came to us."
"What is the meaning of it, then?"
"You told her that your engagement had overwhelmed you with troubles."
"Of course; there must be troubles."
"And that—you would have to be banished to Boulogne when you were married."
"I didn't mean her to take that literally."
"It wasn't a nice way, Mr. Maule, to speak of your future life to the girl to whom you were engaged. Of course it was her hope to make your life happier, not less happy. And when you made her understand—as you did very plainly—that your married prospects filled you with dismay, of course she had no other alternative but to retreat from her engagement."
"I wasn't dismayed."
"It is not my doing, Mr. Maule."
"I suppose she'll see me?"
"If you insist upon it she will; but she would rather not."
Gerard, however, did insist, and Adelaide was brought to him there into that room before he went to bed. She was very gentle with him, and spoke to him in a tone very different from that which Lady Chiltern had used; but he found himself utterly powerless to change her. That unfortunate allusion to a miserable exile at Boulogne had completed the work which the former plaints had commenced, and had driven her to a resolution to separate herself from him altogether.
"Mr. Maule;" she said, "when I perceived that our proposed marriage was looked upon by you as a misfortune, I could do nothing but put an end to our engagement."
"But I didn't think it a misfortune."
"You made me think that it would be unfortunate for you, and that is quite as strong a reason. I hope we shall part as friends."
"I won't part at all," he said, standing his ground with his back to the fire. "I don't understand it, by heaven I don't. Because I said some stupid thing about Boulogne, all in joke—"
"It was not in joke when you said that troubles had come heavy on you since you were engaged."
"A man may be allowed to know, himself, whether he was in joke or not. I suppose the truth is you don't care about me?"
"I hope, Mr. Maule, that in time it may come—not quite to that."
"I think that you are—using me very badly. I think that you are—behaving—falsely to me. I think that I am—very—shamefully treated—among you. Of course I shall go. Of course I shall not stay in this house. A man can't make a girl keep her promise. No—I won't shake hands. I won't even say good-bye to you. Of course I shall go." So saying he slammed the door behind him.
"If he cares for you he'll come back to you," Lady Chiltern said to Adelaide that night, who at the moment was lying on her bed in a sad condition, frantic with headache.
"I don't want him to come back; I will never make him go to Boulogne."
"Don't think of it, dear."
"Not think of it! how can I help thinking of it? I shall always think of it. But I never want to see him again—never! How can I want to marry a man who tells me that I shall be a trouble to him? He shall never,—never have to go to Boulogne for me."
The Second Thunderbolt
The quarrel between Phineas Finn and Mr. Bonteen had now become the talk of the town, and had taken many various phases. The political phase, though it was perhaps the best understood, was not the most engrossing. There was the personal phase,—which had reference to the direct altercation that had taken place between the two gentlemen, and to the correspondence between them which had followed, as to which phase it may be said that though there were many rumours abroad, very little was known. It was reported in some circles that the two aspirants for office had been within an ace of striking each other; in some, again, that a blow had passed,—and in others, further removed probably from the House of Commons and the Universe Club, that the Irishman had struck the Englishman, and that the Englishman had given the Irishman a thrashing. This was a phase that was very disagreeable to Phineas Finn. And there was a third, —which may perhaps be called the general social phase, and which unfortunately dealt with the name of Lady Laura Kennedy. They all, of course, worked into each other, and were enlivened and made interesting with the names of a great many big persons. Mr. Gresham, the Prime Minister, was supposed to be very much concerned in this matter. He, it was said, had found himself compelled to exclude Phineas Finn from the Government, because of the unfortunate alliance between him and the wife of one of his late colleagues, and had also thought it expedient to dismiss Mr. Bonteen from his Cabinet,—for it had amounted almost to dismissal,—because Mr. Bonteen had made indiscreet official allusion to that alliance. In consequence of this working in of the first and third phase, Mr. Gresham encountered hard usage from some friends and from many enemies. Then, of course, the scene at Macpherson's Hotel was commented on very generally. An idea prevailed that Mr. Kennedy, driven to madness by his wife's infidelity, which had become known to him through the quarrel between Phineas and Mr. Bonteen,—had endeavoured to murder his wife's lover, who had with the utmost effrontery invaded the injured husband's presence with a view of deterring him by threats from a publication of his wrongs. This murder had been nearly accomplished in the centre of the metropolis,—by daylight, as if that made it worse,—on a Sunday, which added infinitely to the delightful horror of the catastrophe; and yet no public notice had been taken of it! The would-be murderer had been a Cabinet Minister, and the lover who was so nearly murdered had been an Under-Secretary of State, and was even now a member of Parliament. And then it was positively known that the lady's father, who had always been held in the highest respect as a nobleman, favoured his daughter's lover, and not his daughter's husband. All which things together filled the public with dismay, and caused a delightful excitement, giving quite a feature of its own to the season.
No doubt general opinion was adverse to poor Phineas Finn, but he was not without his party in the matter. To oblige a friend by inflicting an injury on his enemy is often more easy than to confer a benefit on the friend himself. We have already seen how the young Duchess failed in her attempt to obtain an appointment for Phineas, and also how she succeeded in destroying the high hopes of Mr. Bonteen. Having done so much, of course she clung heartily to the side which she had adopted;—and, equally of course, Madame Goesler did the same. Between these two ladies there was a slight difference of opinion as to the nature of the alliance between Lady Laura and their hero. The Duchess was of opinion that young men are upon the whole averse to innocent alliances, and that, as Lady Laura and her husband certainly had long been separated, there was probably—something in it. "Lord bless you, my dear," the Duchess said, "they were known to be lovers when they were at Loughlinter together before she married Mr. Kennedy. It has been the most romantic affair! She made her father give him a seat for his borough."
"He saved Mr. Kennedy's life," said Madame Goesler.
"That was one of the most singular things that ever happened. Laurence Fitzgibbon says that it was all planned,—that the garotters were hired, but unfortunately two policemen turned up at the moment, so the men were taken. I believe there is no doubt they were pardoned by Sir Henry Coldfoot, who was at the Home Office, and was Lord Brentford's great friend. I don't quite believe it all,—it would be too delicious; but a great many do." Madame Goesler, however, was strong in her opinion that the report in reference to Lady Laura was scandalous. She did not believe a word of it, and was almost angry with the Duchess for her credulity.
It is probable that very many ladies shared the opinion of the Duchess; but not the less on that account did they take part with Phineas Finn. They could not understand why he should be shut out of office because a lady had been in love with him, and by no means seemed to approve the stern virtue of the Prime Minister. It was an interference with things which did not belong to him. And many asserted that Mr. Gresham was much given to such interference. Lady Cantrip, though her husband was Mr. Gresham's most intimate friend, was altogether of this party, as was also the Duchess of St. Bungay, who understood nothing at all about it, but who had once fancied herself to be rudely treated by Mrs. Bonteen. The young Duchess was a woman very strong in getting up a party; and the old Duchess, with many other matrons of high rank, was made to believe that it was incumbent on her to be a Phineas Finnite. One result of this was, that though Phineas was excluded from the Liberal Government, all Liberal drawing-rooms were open to him, and that he was a lion.
Additional zest was given to all this by the very indiscreet conduct of Mr. Bonteen. He did accept the inferior office of President of the Board of Trade, an office inferior at least to that for which he had been designated, and agreed to fill it without a seat in the Cabinet. But having done so he could not bring himself to bear his disappointment quietly. He could not work and wait and make himself agreeable to those around him, holding his vexation within his own bosom. He was dark and sullen to his chief, and almost insolent to the Duke of Omnium. Our old friend Plantagenet Palliser was a man who hardly knew insolence when he met it. There was such an absence about him of all self-consciousness, he was so little given to think of his own personal demeanour and outward trappings,—that he never brought himself to question the manners of others to him. Contradiction he would take for simple argument. Strong difference of opinion even on the part of subordinates recommended itself to him. He could put up with apparent rudeness without seeing it, and always gave men credit for good intentions. And with it all he had an assurance in his own position,—a knowledge of the strength derived from his intellect, his industry, his rank, and his wealth,—which made him altogether fearless of others. When the little dog snarls, the big dog does not connect the snarl with himself, simply fancying that the little dog must be uncomfortable. Mr. Bonteen snarled a good deal, and the new Lord Privy Seal thought that the new President of the Board of Trade was not comfortable within himself. But at last the little dog took the big dog by the ear, and then the big dog put out his paw and knocked the little dog over. Mr. Bonteen was told that he had—forgotten himself; and there arose new rumours. It was soon reported that the Lord Privy Seal had refused to work out decimal coinage under the management, in the House of Commons, of the President of the Board of Trade.
Mr. Bonteen, in his troubled spirit, certainly did misbehave himself. Among his closer friends he declared very loudly that he didn't mean to stand it. He had not chosen to throw Mr. Gresham over at once, or to make difficulties at the moment;—but he would not continue to hold his present position or to support the Government without a seat in the Cabinet. Palliser had become quite useless,—so Mr. Bonteen said,—since his accession to the dukedom, and was quite unfit to deal with decimal coinage. It was a burden to kill any man, and he was not going to kill himself,—at any rate without the reward for which he had been working all his life, and to which he was fully entitled, namely, a seat in the Cabinet. Now there were Bonteenites in those days as well as Phineas Finnites. The latter tribe was for the most part feminine; but the former consisted of some half-dozen members of Parliament, who thought they saw their way in encouraging the forlorn hope of the unhappy financier.
A leader of a party is nothing without an organ, and an organ came forward to support Mr. Bonteen,—not very creditable to him as a Liberal, being a Conservative organ,—but not the less gratifying to his spirit, inasmuch as the organ not only supported him, but exerted its very loudest pipes in abusing the man whom of all men he hated the most. The People's Banner was the organ, and Mr. Quintus Slide was, of course, the organist. The following was one of the tunes he played, and was supposed by himself to be a second thunderbolt, and probably a conclusively crushing missile. This thunderbolt fell on Monday, the 3rd of May:—
Early in last March we found it to be our duty to bring under public notice the conduct of the member for Tankerville in reference to a transaction which took place at a small hotel in Judd Street, and as to which we then ventured to call for the interference of the police. An attempt to murder the member for Tankerville had been made by a gentleman once well known in the political world, who,—as it is supposed,—had been driven to madness by wrongs inflicted on him in his dearest and nearest family relations. That the unfortunate gentleman is now insane we believe we may state as a fact. It had become our special duty to refer to this most discreditable transaction, from the fact that a paper, still in our hands, had been confided to us for publication by the wretched husband before his senses had become impaired,—which, however, we were debarred from giving to the public by an injunction served upon us in sudden haste by the Vice-Chancellor. We are far from imputing evil motives, or even indiscretion, to that functionary; but we are of opinion that the moral feeling of the country would have been served by the publication, and we are sure that undue steps were taken by the member for Tankerville to procure that injunction.
No inquiries whatever were made by the police in reference to that attempt at murder, and we do expect that some member will ask a question on the subject in the House. Would such culpable quiescence have been allowed had not the unfortunate lady whose name we are unwilling to mention been the daughter of one of the colleagues of our present Prime Minister, the gentleman who fired the pistol another of them, and the presumed lover, who was fired at, also another? We think that we need hardly answer that question.
One piece of advice which we ventured to give Mr. Gresham in our former article he has been wise enough to follow. We took upon ourselves to tell him that if, after what has occurred, he ventured to place the member for Tankerville again in office, the country would not stand it;—and he has abstained. The jaunty footsteps of Mr. Phineas Finn are not heard ascending the stairs of any office at about two in the afternoon, as used to be the case in one of those blessed Downing Street abodes about three years since. That scandal is, we think, over,—and for ever. The good-looking Irish member of Parliament who had been put in possession of a handsome salary by feminine influences, will not, we think, after what we have already said, again become a burden on the public purse. But we cannot say that we are as yet satisfied in this matter, or that we believe that the public has got to the bottom of it,—as it has a right to do in reference to all matters affecting the public service. We have never yet learned why it is that Mr. Bonteen, after having been nominated Chancellor of the Exchequer,—for the appointment to that office was declared in the House of Commons by the head of his party,—was afterwards excluded from the Cabinet, and placed in an office made peculiarly subordinate by the fact of that exclusion. We have never yet been told why this was done;—but we believe that we are justified in saying that it was managed through the influence of the member for Tankerville; and we are quite sure that the public service of the country has thereby been subjected to grievous injury.
It is hardly our duty to praise any of that very awkward team of horses which Mr. Gresham drives with an audacity which may atone for his incapacity if no fearful accident should be the consequence; but if there be one among them whom we could trust for steady work up hill, it is Mr. Bonteen. We were astounded at Mr. Gresham's indiscretion in announcing the appointment of his new Chancellor of the Exchequer some weeks before he had succeeded in driving Mr. Daubeny from office;—but we were not the less glad to find that the finances of the country were to be entrusted to the hands of the most competent gentleman whom Mr. Gresham has induced to follow his fortunes. But Mr. Phineas Finn, with his female forces, has again interfered, and Mr. Bonteen has been relegated to the Board of Trade, without a seat in the Cabinet. We should not be at all surprised if, as the result of this disgraceful manoeuvring, Mr. Bonteen found himself at the head of the Liberal party before the Session be over. If so, evil would have worked to good. But, be that as it may, we cannot but feel that it is a disgrace to the Government, a disgrace to Parliament, and a disgrace to the country that such results should come from the private scandals of two or three people among us by no means of the best class.
The Browborough Trial
There was another matter of public interest going on at this time which created a great excitement. And this, too, added to the importance of Phineas Finn, though Phineas was not the hero of the piece. Mr. Browborough, the late member for Tankerville, was tried for bribery. It will be remembered that when Phineas contested the borough in the autumn, this gentleman was returned. He was afterwards unseated, as the result of a petition before the judge, and Phineas was declared to be the true member. The judge who had so decided had reported to the Speaker that further inquiry before a commission into the practices of the late and former elections at Tankerville would be expedient, and such commission had sat in the months of January and February. Half the voters in Tankerville had been examined, and many who were not voters. The commissioners swept very clean, being new brooms, and in their report recommended that Mr. Browborough, whom they had themselves declined to examine, should be prosecuted. That report was made about the end of March, when Mr. Daubeny's great bill was impending. Then there arose a double feeling about Mr. Browborough, who had been regarded by many as a model member of Parliament, a man who never spoke, constant in his attendance, who wanted nothing, who had plenty of money, who gave dinners, to whom a seat in Parliament was the be-all and the end-all of life. It could not be the wish of any gentleman, who had been accustomed to his slow step in the lobbies, and his burly form always quiescent on one of the upper seats just below the gangway on the Conservative side of the House, that such a man should really be punished. When the new laws regarding bribery came to take that shape the hearts of members revolted from the cruelty,—the hearts even of members on the other side of the House. As long as a seat was in question the battle should of course be fought to the nail. Every kind of accusation might then be lavished without restraint, and every evil practice imputed. It had been known to all the world,—known as a thing that was a matter of course,—that at every election Mr. Browborough had bought his seat. How should a Browborough get a seat without buying it,—a man who could not say ten words, of no family, with no natural following in any constituency, distinguished by no zeal in politics, entertaining no special convictions of his own? How should such a one recommend himself to any borough unless he went there with money in his hand? Of course, he had gone to Tankerville with money in his hand, with plenty of money, and had spent it—like a gentleman. Collectively the House of Commons had determined to put down bribery with a very strong hand. Nobody had spoken against bribery with more fervour than Sir Gregory Grogram, who had himself, as Attorney-General, forged the chains for fettering future bribers. He was now again Attorney-General, much to his disgust, as Mr. Gresham had at the last moment found it wise to restore Lord Weazeling to the woolsack; and to his hands was to be entrusted the prosecution of Mr. Browborough. But it was observed by many that the job was not much to his taste. The House had been very hot against bribery,—and certain members of the existing Government, when the late Bill had been passed, had expressed themselves with almost burning indignation against the crime. But, through it all, there had been a slight undercurrent of ridicule attaching itself to the question of which only they who were behind the scenes were conscious. The House was bound to let the outside world know that all corrupt practices at elections were held to be abominable by the House; but Members of the House, as individuals, knew very well what had taken place at their own elections, and were aware of the cheques which they had drawn. Public-houses had been kept open as a matter of course, and nowhere perhaps had more beer been drunk than at Clovelly, the borough for which Sir Gregory Grogram sat. When it came to be a matter of individual prosecution against one whom they had all known, and who, as a member, had been inconspicuous and therefore inoffensive, against a heavy, rich, useful man who had been in nobody's way, many thought that it would amount to persecution. The idea of putting old Browborough into prison for conduct which habit had made second nature to a large proportion of the House was distressing to Members of Parliament generally. The recommendation for this prosecution was made to the House when Mr. Daubeny was in the first agonies of his great Bill, and he at once resolved to ignore the matter altogether, at any rate for the present. If he was to be driven out of power there could be no reason why his Attorney-General should prosecute his own ally and follower,—a poor, faithful creature, who had never in his life voted against his party, and who had always been willing to accept as his natural leader any one whom his party might select. But there were many who had felt that as Mr. Browborough must certainly now be prosecuted sooner or later,—for there could be no final neglecting of the Commissioners' report,—it would be better that he should be dealt with by natural friends than by natural enemies. The newspapers, therefore, had endeavoured to hurry the matter on, and it had been decided that the trial should take place at the Durham Spring Assizes, in the first week of May. Sir Gregory Grogram became Attorney-General in the middle of April, and he undertook the task upon compulsion. Mr. Browborough's own friends, and Mr. Browborough himself, declared very loudly that there would be the greatest possible cruelty in postponing the trial. His lawyers thought that his best chance lay in bustling the thing on, and were therefore able to show that the cruelty of delay would be extreme,—nay, that any postponement in such a matter would be unconstitutional, if not illegal. It would, of course, have been just as easy to show that hurry on the part of the prosecutor was cruel, and illegal, and unconstitutional, had it been considered that the best chance of acquittal lay in postponement.
And so the trial was forced forward, and Sir Gregory himself was to appear on behalf of the prosecuting House of Commons. There could be no doubt that the sympathies of the public generally were with Mr. Browborough, though there was as little doubt that he was guilty. When the evidence taken by the Commissioners had just appeared in the newspapers,—when first the facts of this and other elections at Tankerville were made public, and the world was shown how common it had been for Mr. Browborough to buy votes,—how clearly the knowledge of the corruption had been brought home to himself,—there had for a short week or so been a feeling against him. Two or three London papers had printed leading articles, giving in detail the salient points of the old sinner's criminality, and expressing a conviction that now, at least, would the real criminal be punished. But this had died away, and the anger against Mr. Browborough, even on the part of the most virtuous of the public press, had become no more than lukewarm. Some papers boldly defended him, ridiculed the Commissioners, and declared that the trial was altogether an absurdity. The People's Banner, setting at defiance with an admirable audacity all the facts as given in the Commissioners' report, declared that there was not one tittle of evidence against Mr. Browborough, and hinted that the trial had been got up by the malign influence of that doer of all evil, Phineas Finn. But men who knew better what was going on in the world than did Mr. Quintus Slide, were well aware that such assertions as these were both unavailing and unnecessary. Mr. Browborough was believed to be quite safe; but his safety lay in the indifference of his prosecutors,—certainly not in his innocence. Any one prominent in affairs can always see when a man may steal a horse and when a man may not look over a hedge. Mr. Browborough had stolen his horse, and had repeated the theft over and over again. The evidence of it all was forthcoming,—had, indeed, been already sifted. But Sir Gregory Grogram, who was prominent in affairs, knew that the theft might be condoned.
Nevertheless, the case came on at the Durham Assizes. Within the last two months Browborough had become quite a hero at Tankerville. The Church party had forgotten his broken pledges, and the Radicals remembered only his generosity. Could he have stood for the seat again on the day on which the judges entered Durham, he might have been returned without bribery. Throughout the whole county the prosecution was unpopular. During no portion of his Parliamentary career had Mr. Browborough's name been treated with so much respect in the grandly ecclesiastical city as now. He dined with the Dean on the day before the trial, and on the Sunday was shown by the head verger into the stall next to the Chancellor of the Diocese, with a reverence which seemed to imply that he was almost as graceful as a martyr. When he took his seat in the Court next to his attorney, everybody shook hands with him. When Sir Gregory got up to open his case, not one of the listeners then supposed that Mr. Browborough was about to suffer any punishment. He was arraigned before Mr. Baron Boultby, who had himself sat for a borough in his younger days, and who knew well how things were done. We are all aware how impassionately grand are the minds of judges, when men accused of crimes are brought before them for trial; but judges after all are men, and Mr. Baron Boultby, as he looked at Mr. Browborough, could not but have thought of the old days.
It was nevertheless necessary that the prosecution should be conducted in a properly formal manner, and that all the evidence should be given. There was a cloud of witnesses over from Tankerville,—miners, colliers, and the like,—having a very good turn of it at the expense of the poor borough. All these men must be examined, and their evidence would no doubt be the same now as when it was given with so damnable an effect before those clean-sweeping Commissioners. Sir Gregory's opening speech was quite worthy of Sir Gregory. It was essentially necessary, he said, that the atmosphere of our boroughs should be cleansed and purified from the taint of corruption. The voice of the country had spoken very plainly on the subject, and a verdict had gone forth that there should be no more bribery at elections. At the last election at Tankerville, and, as he feared, at some former elections, there had been manifest bribery. It would be for the jury to decide whether Mr. Browborough himself had been so connected with the acts of his agents as to be himself within the reach of the law. If it were found that he had brought himself within the reach of the law, the jury would no doubt say so, and in such case would do great service to the cause of purity; but if Mr. Browborough had not been personally cognisant of what his agents had done, then the jury would be bound to acquit him. A man was not necessarily guilty of bribery in the eye of the law because bribery had been committed, even though the bribery so committed had been sufficiently proved to deprive him of the seat which he would otherwise have enjoyed. Nothing could be clearer than the manner in which Sir Gregory explained it all to the jury; nothing more eloquent than his denunciations against bribery in general; nothing more mild than his allegations against Mr. Browborough individually.
In regard to the evidence Sir Gregory, with his two assistants, went through his work manfully. The evidence was given,—not to the same length as at Tankerville before the Commissioners,—but really to the same effect. But yet the record of the evidence as given in the newspapers seemed to be altogether different. At Tankerville there had been an indignant and sometimes an indiscreet zeal which had communicated itself to the whole proceedings. The general flavour of the trial at Durham was one of good-humoured raillery. Mr. Browborough's counsel in cross-examining the witnesses for the prosecution displayed none of that righteous wrath,—wrath righteous on behalf of injured innocence,—which is so common with gentlemen employed in the defence of criminals; but bowed and simpered, and nodded at Sir Gregory in a manner that was quite pleasant to behold. Nobody scolded anybody. There was no roaring of barristers, no clenching of fists and kicking up of dust, no threats, no allusions to witnesses' oaths. A considerable amount of gentle fun was poked at the witnesses by the defending counsel, but not in a manner to give any pain. Gentlemen who acknowledged to have received seventeen shillings and sixpence for their votes at the last election were asked how they had invested their money. Allusions were made to their wives, and a large amount of good-humoured sparring was allowed, in which the witnesses thought that they had the best of it. The men of Tankerville long remembered this trial, and hoped anxiously that there might soon be another. The only man treated with severity was poor Phineas Finn, and luckily for himself he was not present. His qualifications as member of Parliament for Tankerville were somewhat roughly treated. Each witness there, when he was asked what candidate would probably be returned for Tankerville at the next election, readily answered that Mr. Browborough would certainly carry the seat. Mr. Browborough sat in the Court throughout it all, and was the hero of the day.
The judge's summing up was very short, and seemed to have been given almost with indolence. The one point on which he insisted was the difference between such evidence of bribery as would deprive a man of his seat, and that which would make him subject to the criminal law. By the criminal law a man could not be punished for the acts of another. Punishment must follow a man's own act. If a man were to instigate another to murder he would be punished, not for the murder, but for the instigation. They were now administering the criminal law, and they were bound to give their verdict for an acquittal unless they were convinced that the man on his trial had himself,—wilfully and wittingly,—been guilty of the crime imputed. He went through the evidence, which was in itself clear against the old sinner, and which had been in no instance validly contradicted, and then left the matter to the jury. The men in the box put their heads together, and returned a verdict of acquittal without one moment's delay. Sir Gregory Grogram and his assistants collected their papers together. The judge addressed three or four words almost of compliment to Mr. Browborough, and the affair was over, to the manifest contentment of every one there present. Sir Gregory Grogram was by no means disappointed, and everybody, on his own side in Parliament and on the other, thought that he had done his duty very well. The clean-sweeping Commissioners, who had been animated with wonderful zeal by the nature and novelty of their work, probably felt that they had been betrayed, but it may be doubted whether any one else was disconcerted by the result of the trial, unless it might be some poor innocents here and there about the country who had been induced to believe that bribery and corruption were in truth to be banished from the purlieus of Westminster.
Mr. Roby and Mr. Ratler, who filled the same office each for his own party, in and out, were both acquainted with each other, and apt to discuss parliamentary questions in the library and smoking-room of the House, where such discussions could be held on most matters. "I was very glad that the case went as it did at Durham," said Mr. Ratler.
"And so am I," said Mr. Roby. "Browborough was always a good fellow."
"Not a doubt about it; and no good could have come from a conviction. I suppose there has been a little money spent at Tankerville."
"And at other places one could mention," said Mr. Roby.
"Of course there has;—and money will be spent again. Nobody dislikes bribery more than I do. The House, of course, dislikes it. But if a man loses his seat, surely that is punishment enough."
"It's better to have to draw a cheque sometimes than to be out in the cold."
"Nevertheless, members would prefer that their seats should not cost them so much," continued Mr. Ratler. "But the thing can't be done all at once. That idea of pouncing upon one man and making a victim of him is very disagreeable to me. I should have been sorry to have seen a verdict against Browborough. You must acknowledge that there was no bitterness in the way in which Grogram did it."
"We all feel that," said Mr. Roby,—who was, perhaps, by nature a little more candid than his rival,—"and when the time comes no doubt we shall return the compliment."
The matter was discussed in quite a different spirit between two other politicians. "So Sir Gregory has failed at Durham," said Lord Cantrip to his friend, Mr. Gresham.
"I was sure he would."
"Ah;—why? How am I to answer such a question? Did you think that Mr. Browborough would be convicted of bribery by a jury?"
"No, indeed," answered Lord Cantrip.
"And can you tell me why?"
"Because there was no earnestness in the matter,—either with the Attorney-General or with any one else."
"And yet," said Mr. Gresham, "Grogram is a very earnest man when he believes in his case. No member of Parliament will ever be punished for bribery as for a crime till members of Parliament generally look upon bribery as a crime. We are very far from that as yet. I should have thought a conviction to be a great misfortune."
"Because it would have created ill blood, and our own hands in this matter are not a bit cleaner than those of our adversaries. We can't afford to pull their houses to pieces before we have put our own in order. The thing will be done; but it must, I fear, be done slowly,—as is the case with all reforms from within."
Phineas Finn, who was very sore and unhappy at this time, and who consequently was much in love with purity and anxious for severity, felt himself personally aggrieved by the acquittal. It was almost tantamount to a verdict against himself. And then he knew so well that bribery had been committed, and was so confident that such a one as Mr. Browborough could have been returned to Parliament by none other than corrupt means! In his present mood he would have been almost glad to see Mr. Browborough at the treadmill, and would have thought six months' solitary confinement quite inadequate to the offence. "I never read anything in my life that disgusted me so much," he said to his friend, Mr. Monk.
"I can't go along with you there."
"If any man ever was guilty of bribery, he was guilty!"
"I don't doubt it for a moment."
"And yet Grogram did not try to get a verdict."
"Had he tried ever so much he would have failed. In a matter such as that,—political and not social in its nature,—a jury is sure to be guided by what it has, perhaps unconsciously, learned to be the feeling of the country. No disgrace is attached to their verdict, and yet everybody knows that Mr. Browborough had bribed, and all those who have looked into it know, too, that the evidence was conclusive."
"Then are the jury all perjured," said Phineas.
"I have nothing to say to that. No stain of perjury clings to them. They are better received in Durham to-day than they would have been had they found Mr. Browborough guilty. In business, as in private life, they will be held to be as trustworthy as before;—and they will be, for aught that we know, quite trustworthy. There are still circumstances in which a man, though on his oath, may be untrue with no more stain of falsehood than falls upon him when he denies himself at his front door though he happen to be at home."
"What must we think of such a condition of things, Mr. Monk?"
"That it's capable of improvement. I do not know that we can think anything else. As for Sir Gregory Grogram and Baron Boultby and the jury, it would be waste of power to execrate them. In political matters it is very hard for a man in office to be purer than his neighbours,—and, when he is so, he becomes troublesome. I have found that out before to-day."
With Lady Laura Kennedy, Phineas did find some sympathy;—but then she would have sympathised with him on any subject under the sun. If he would only come to her and sit with her she would fool him to the top of his bent. He had resolved that he would go to Portman Square as little as possible, and had been confirmed in that resolution by the scandal which had now spread everywhere about the town in reference to himself and herself. But still he went. He never left her till some promise of returning at some stated time had been extracted from him. He had even told her of his own scruples and of her danger,—and they had discussed together that last thunderbolt which had fallen from the Jove of The People's Banner. But she had laughed his caution to scorn. Did she not know herself and her own innocence? Was she not living in her father's house, and with her father? Should she quail beneath the stings and venom of such a reptile as Quintus Slide? "Oh, Phineas," she said, "let us be braver than that." He would much prefer to have stayed away,—but still he went to her. He was conscious of her dangerous love for him. He knew well that it was not returned. He was aware that it would be best for both that he should be apart. But yet he could not bring himself to wound her by his absence. "I do not see why you should feel it so much," she said, speaking of the trial at Durham.
"We were both on our trial,—he and I."
"Everybody knows that he bribed and that you did not."
"Yes;—and everybody despises me and pats him on the back. I am sick of the whole thing. There is no honesty in the life we lead."
"You got your seat at any rate."
"I wish with all my heart that I had never seen the dirty wretched place," said he.
"Oh, Phineas, do not say that."
"But I do say it. Of what use is the seat to me? If I could only feel that any one knew—"
"Knew what, Phineas?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I understand. I know that you have meant to be honest, while this man has always meant to be dishonest. I know that you have intended to serve your country, and have wished to work for it. But you cannot expect that it should all be roses."
"Roses! The nosegays which are worn down at Westminster are made of garlick and dandelions!"
Some Passages in the Life of Mr. Emilius
The writer of this chronicle is not allowed to imagine that any of his readers have read the wonderful and vexatious adventures of Lady Eustace, a lady of good birth, of high rank, and of large fortune, who, but a year or two since, became almost a martyr to a diamond necklace which was stolen from her. With her history the present reader has but small concern, but it may be necessary that he should know that the lady in question, who had been a widow with many suitors, at last gave her hand and her fortune to a clergyman whose name was Joseph Emilius. Mr. Emilius, though not an Englishman by birth,—and, as was supposed, a Bohemian Jew in the earlier days of his career,—had obtained some reputation as a preacher in London, and had moved,—if not in fashionable circles,—at any rate in circles so near to fashion as to be brought within the reach of Lady Eustace's charms. They were married, and for some few months Mr. Emilius enjoyed a halcyon existence, the delights of which were, perhaps, not materially marred by the necessity which he felt of subjecting his young wife to marital authority. "My dear," he would say, "you will know me better soon, and then things will be smooth." In the meantime he drew more largely upon her money than was pleasing to her and to her friends, and appeared to have requirements for cash which were both secret and unlimited. At the end of twelve months Lady Eustace had run away from him, and Mr. Emilius had made overtures, by accepting which his wife would be enabled to purchase his absence at the cost of half her income. The arrangement was not regarded as being in every respect satisfactory, but Lady Eustace declared passionately that any possible sacrifice would be preferable to the company of Mr. Emilius. There had, however, been a rumour before her marriage that there was still living in his old country a Mrs. Emilius when he married Lady Eustace; and, though it had been supposed by those who were most nearly concerned with Lady Eustace that this report had been unfounded and malicious, nevertheless, when the man's claims became so exorbitant, reference was again made to the charge of bigamy. If it could be proved that Mr. Emilius had a wife living in Bohemia, a cheaper mode of escape would be found for the persecuted lady than that which he himself had suggested.
It had happened that, since her marriage with Mr. Emilius, Lady Eustace had become intimate with our Mr. Bonteen and his wife. She had been at one time engaged to marry Lord Fawn, one of Mr. Bonteen's colleagues, and during the various circumstances which had led to the disruption of that engagement, this friendship had been formed. It must be understood that Lady Eustace had a most desirable residence of her own in the country,—Portray Castle in Scotland,—and that it was thought expedient by many to cultivate her acquaintance. She was rich, beautiful, and clever; and, though her marriage with Mr. Emilius had never been looked upon as a success, still, in the estimation of some people, it added an interest to her career. The Bonteens had taken her up, and now both Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen were hot in pursuit of evidence which might prove Mr. Emilius to be a bigamist.