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Phineas Finn the Irish Member

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<SPAN name="3"></SPAN>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>CHAPTER III</h3> <h3>Phineas Finn Takes His Seat<br />&nbsp;</h3> <p>Phineas had many serious, almost solemn thoughts on his journey towards London. I am sorry I must assure my female readers that very few of them had reference to Mary Flood Jones. He had, however, very carefully packed up the tress, and could bring that out for proper acts of erotic worship at seasons in which his mind might be less engaged with affairs of state than it was at present. Would he make a failure of this great matter which he had taken in hand? He could not but tell himself that the chances were twenty to one against him. Now that he looked nearer at it all, the difficulties loomed larger than ever, and the rewards seemed to be less, more difficult of approach, and more evanescent. How many members were there who could never get a hearing! How many who only spoke to fail! How many, who spoke well, who could speak to no effect as far as their own worldly prospects were concerned! He had already known many members of Parliament to whom no outward respect or sign of honour was ever given by any one; and it seemed to him, as he thought over it, that Irish members of Parliament were generally treated with more indifference than any others. There were O'B&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash; and O'C&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash; and O'D&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;, for whom no one cared a straw, who could hardly get men to dine with them at the club, and yet they were genuine members of Parliament. Why should he ever be better than O'B&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;, or O'C&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;, or O'D&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;? And in what way should he begin to be better? He had an idea of the fashion after which it would be his duty to strive that he might excel those gentlemen. He did not give any of them credit for much earnestness in their country's behalf, and he was minded to be very earnest. He would go to his work honestly and conscientiously, determined to do his duty as best he might, let the results to himself be what they would. This was a noble resolution, and might have been pleasant to him,&mdash;had he not remembered that smile of derision which had come over his friend Erle's face when he declared his intention of doing his duty to his country as a Liberal, and not of supporting a party. O'B&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash; and O'C&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash; and O'D&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash; were keen enough to support their party, only they were sometimes a little astray at knowing which was their party for the nonce. He knew that Erle and such men would despise him if he did not fall into the regular groove,&mdash;and if the Barrington Erles despised him, what would then be left for him?</p> <p>His moody thoughts were somewhat dissipated when he found one Laurence Fitzgibbon,&mdash;the Honourable Laurence Fitzgibbon,&mdash;a special friend of his own, and a very clever fellow, on board the boat as it steamed out of Kingston harbour. Laurence Fitzgibbon had also just been over about his election, and had been returned as a matter of course for his father's county. Laurence Fitzgibbon had sat in the House for the last fifteen years, and was yet well-nigh as young a man as any in it. And he was a man altogether different from the O'B&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;s, O'C&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;s, and O'D&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;&ndash;s. Laurence Fitzgibbon could always get the ear of the House if he chose to speak, and his friends declared that he might have been high up in office long since if he would have taken the trouble to work. He was a welcome guest at the houses of the very best people, and was a friend of whom any one might be proud. It had for two years been a feather in the cap of Phineas that he knew Laurence Fitzgibbon. And yet people said that Laurence Fitzgibbon had nothing of his own, and men wondered how he lived. He was the youngest son of Lord Claddagh, an Irish peer with a large family, who could do nothing for Laurence, his favourite child, beyond finding him a seat in Parliament.</p> <p>"Well, Finn, my boy," said Laurence, shaking hands with the young member on board the steamer, "so you've made it all right at Loughshane." Then Phineas was beginning to tell all the story, the wonderful story, of George Morris and the Earl of Tulla,&mdash;how the men of Loughshane had elected him without opposition; how he had been supported by Conservatives as well as Liberals;&mdash;how unanimous Loughshane had been in electing him, Phineas Finn, as its representative. But Mr. Fitzgibbon seemed to care very little about all this, and went so far as to declare that those things were accidents which fell out sometimes one way and sometimes another, and were altogether independent of any merit or demerit on the part of the candidate himself. And it was marvellous and almost painful to Phineas that his friend Fitzgibbon should accept the fact of his membership with so little of congratulation,&mdash;with absolutely no blowing of trumpets whatever. Had he been elected a member of the municipal corporation of Loughshane, instead of its representative in the British Parliament, Laurence Fitzgibbon could not have made less fuss about it. Phineas was disappointed, but he took the cue from his friend too quickly to show his disappointment. And when, half an hour after their meeting, Fitzgibbon had to be reminded that his companion was not in the House during the last session, Phineas was able to make the remark as though he thought as little about the House as did the old-accustomed member himself.</p> <p>"As far as I can see as yet," said Fitzgibbon, "we are sure to have seventeen."</p> <p>"Seventeen?" said Phineas, not quite understanding the meaning of the number quoted.</p> <p>"A majority of seventeen. There are four Irish counties and three Scotch which haven't returned as yet; but we know pretty well what they'll do. There's a doubt about Tipperary, of course, but whichever gets in of the seven who are standing, it will be a vote on our side. Now the Government can't live against that. The uphill strain is too much for them."</p> <p>"According to my idea, nothing can justify them in trying to live against a majority."</p> <p>"That's gammon. When the thing is so equal, anything is fair. But you see they don't like it. Of course there are some among them as hungry as we are; and Dubby would give his toes and fingers to remain in." Dubby was the ordinary name by which, among friends and foes, Mr. Daubeny was known: Mr. Daubeny, who at that time was the leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons. "But most of them," continued Mr. Fitzgibbon, "prefer the other game, and if you don't care about money, upon my word it's the pleasanter game of the two."</p> <p>"But the country gets nothing done by a Tory Government."</p> <p>"As to that, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. I never knew a government yet that wanted to do anything. Give a government a real strong majority, as the Tories used to have half a century since, and as a matter of course it will do nothing. Why should it? Doing things, as you call it, is only bidding for power,&mdash;for patronage and pay."</p> <p>"And is the country to have no service done?"</p> <p>"The country gets quite as much service as it pays for,&mdash;and perhaps a little more. The clerks in the offices work for the country. And the Ministers work too, if they've got anything to manage. There is plenty of work done;&mdash;but of work in Parliament, the less the better, according to my ideas. It's very little that ever is done, and that little is generally too much."</p> <p>"But the people&mdash;"</p> <p>"Come down and have a glass of brandy-and-water, and leave the people alone for the present. The people can take care of themselves a great deal better than we can take care of them." Mr. Fitzgibbon's doctrine as to the commonwealth was very different from that of Barrington Erle, and was still less to the taste of the new member. Barrington Erle considered that his leader, Mr. Mildmay, should be intrusted to make all necessary changes in the laws, and that an obedient House of Commons should implicitly obey that leader in authorising all changes proposed by him;&mdash;but according to Barrington Erle, such changes should be numerous and of great importance, and would, if duly passed into law at his lord's behest, gradually produce such a Whig Utopia in England as has never yet been seen on the face of the earth. Now, according to Mr. Fitzgibbon, the present Utopia would be good enough,&mdash;if only he himself might be once more put into possession of a certain semi-political place about the Court, from which he had heretofore drawn &pound;1,000 per annum, without any work, much to his comfort. He made no secret of his ambition, and was chagrined simply at the prospect of having to return to his electors before he could enjoy those good things which he expected to receive from the undoubted majority of seventeen, which had been, or would be, achieved.</p> <p>"I hate all change as a rule," said Fitzgibbon; "but, upon my word, we ought to alter that. When a fellow has got a crumb of comfort, after waiting for it years and years, and perhaps spending thousands in elections, he has to go back and try his hand again at the last moment, merely in obedience to some antiquated prejudice. Look at poor Jack Bond,&mdash;the best friend I ever had in the world. He was wrecked upon that rock for ever. He spent every shilling he had in contesting Romford three times running,&mdash;and three times running he got in. Then they made him Vice-Comptroller of the Granaries, and I'm shot if he didn't get spilt at Romford on standing for his re-election!"</p> <p>"And what became of him?"</p> <p>"God knows. I think I heard that he married an old woman and settled down somewhere. I know he never came up again. Now, I call that a confounded shame. I suppose I'm safe down in Mayo, but there's no knowing what may happen in these days."</p> <p>As they parted at Euston Square, Phineas asked his friend some little nervous question as to the best mode of making a first entrance into the House. Would Laurence Fitzgibbon see him through the difficulties of the oath-taking? But Laurence Fitzgibbon made very little of the difficulty. "Oh;&mdash;you just come down, and there'll be a rush of fellows, and you'll know everybody. You'll have to hang about for an hour or so, and then you'll get pushed through. There isn't time for much ceremony after a general election."</p> <p>Phineas reached London early in the morning, and went home to bed for an hour or so. The House was to meet on that very day, and he intended to begin his parliamentary duties at once if he should find it possible to get some one to accompany him; He felt that he should lack courage to go down to Westminster Hall alone, and explain to the policeman and door-keepers that he was the man who had just been elected member for Loughshane. So about noon he went into the Reform Club, and there he found a great crowd of men, among whom there was a plentiful sprinkling of members. Erle saw him in a moment, and came to him with congratulations.</p> <p>"So you're all right, Finn," said he.</p> <p>"Yes; I'm all right,&mdash;I didn't have much doubt about it when I went over."</p> <p>"I never heard of a fellow with such a run of luck," said Erle. "It's just one of those flukes that occur once in a dozen elections. Any one on earth might have got in without spending a shilling."</p> <p>Phineas didn't at all like this. "I don't think any one could have got in," said he, "without knowing Lord Tulla."</p> <p>"Lord Tulla was nowhere, my dear boy, and could have nothing to say to it. But never mind that. You meet me in the lobby at two. There'll be a lot of us there, and we'll go in together. Have you seen Fitzgibbon?" Then Barrington Erle went off to other business, and Finn was congratulated by other men. But it seemed to him that the congratulations of his friends were not hearty. He spoke to some men, of whom he thought that he knew they would have given their eyes to be in Parliament;&mdash;and yet they spoke of his success as being a very ordinary thing. "Well, my boy, I hope you like it," said one middle-aged gentleman whom he had known ever since he came up to London. "The difference is between working for nothing and working for money. You'll have to work for nothing now."</p> <p>"That's about it, I suppose," said Phineas.</p> <p>"They say the House is a comfortable club," said the middle-aged friend, "but I confess that I shouldn't like being rung away from my dinner myself."</p> <p>At two punctually Phineas was in the lobby at Westminster, and then he found himself taken into the House with a crowd of other men. The old and young, and they who were neither old nor young, were mingled together, and there seemed to be very little respect of persons. On three or four occasions there was some cheering when a popular man or a great leader came in; but the work of the day left but little clear impression on the mind of the young member. He was confused, half elated, half disappointed, and had not his wits about him. He found himself constantly regretting that he was there; and as constantly telling himself that he, hardly yet twenty-five, without a shilling of his own, had achieved an entrance into that assembly which by the consent of all men is the greatest in the world, and which many of the rich magnates of the country had in vain spent heaps of treasure in their endeavours to open to their own footsteps. He tried hard to realise what he had gained, but the dust and the noise and the crowds and the want of something august to the eye were almost too strong for him. He managed, however, to take the oath early among those who took it, and heard the Queen s speech read and the Address moved and seconded. He was seated very uncomfortably, high up on a back seat, between two men whom he did not know; and he found the speeches to be very long. He had been in the habit of seeing such speeches reported in about a column, and he thought that these speeches must take at least four columns each. He sat out the debate on the Address till the House was adjourned, and then he went away to dine at his club. He did go into the dining-room of the House, but there was a crowd there, and he found himself alone,&mdash;and to tell the truth, he was afraid to order his dinner.</p> <p>The nearest approach to a triumph which he had in London came to him from the glory which his election reflected upon his landlady. She was a kindly good motherly soul, whose husband was a journeyman law-stationer, and who kept a very decent house in Great Marlborough Street. Here Phineas had lodged since he had been in London, and was a great favourite. "God bless my soul, Mr. Phineas," said she, "only think of your being a member of Parliament!"</p> <p>"Yes, I'm a member of Parliament, Mrs. Bunce."</p> <p>"And you'll go on with the rooms the same as ever? Well, I never thought to have a member of Parliament in 'em."</p> <p>Mrs. Bunce really had realised the magnitude of the step which her lodger had taken, and Phineas was grateful to her.</p> <p><SPAN name="4"></SPAN>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>CHAPTER IV</h3> <h3>Lady Laura Standish<br />&nbsp;</h3> <p>Phineas, in describing Lady Laura Standish to Mary Flood Jones at Killaloe, had not painted her in very glowing colours. Nevertheless he admired Lady Laura very much, and she was worthy of admiration. It was probably the greatest pride of our hero's life that Lady Laura Standish was his friend, and that she had instigated him to undertake the risk of parliamentary life. Lady Laura was intimate also with Barrington Erle, who was, in some distant degree, her cousin; and Phineas was not without a suspicion that his selection for Loughshane, from out of all the young liberal candidates, may have been in some degree owing to Lady Laura's influence with Barrington Erle. He was not unwilling that it should be so; for though, as he had repeatedly told himself, he was by no means in love with Lady Laura,&mdash;who was, as he imagined, somewhat older than himself,&mdash;nevertheless, he would feel gratified at accepting anything from her hands, and he felt a keen desire for some increase to those ties of friendship which bound them together. No;&mdash;he was not in love with Lady Laura Standish. He had not the remotest idea of asking her to be his wife. So he told himself, both before he went over for his election, and after his return. When he had found himself in a corner with poor little Mary Flood Jones, he had kissed her as a matter of course; but he did not think that he could, in any circumstances, be tempted to kiss Lady Laura. He supposed that he was in love with his darling little Mary,&mdash;after a fashion. Of course, it could never come to anything, because of the circumstances of his life, which were so imperious to him. He was not in love with Lady Laura, and yet he hoped that his intimacy with her might come to much. He had more than once asked himself how he would feel when somebody else came to be really in love with Lady Laura,&mdash;for she was by no means a woman to lack lovers,&mdash;when some one else should be in love with her, and be received by her as a lover; but this question he had never been able to answer. There were many questions about himself which he usually answered by telling himself that it was his fate to walk over volcanoes. "Of course, I shall be blown into atoms some fine day," he would say; "but after all, that is better than being slowly boiled down into pulp."</p> <p>The House had met on a Friday, again on the Saturday morning, and the debate on the Address had been adjourned till the Monday. On the Sunday, Phineas determined that he would see Lady Laura. She professed to be always at home on Sunday, and from three to four in the afternoon her drawing-room would probably be half full of people. There would, at any rate, be comers and goers, who would prevent anything like real conversation between himself and her. But for a few minutes before that he might probably find her alone, and he was most anxious to see whether her reception of him, as a member of Parliament, would be in any degree warmer than that of his other friends. Hitherto he had found no such warmth since he came to London, excepting that which had glowed in the bosom of Mrs. Bunce.</p> <p>Lady Laura Standish was the daughter of the Earl of Brentford, and was the only remaining lady of the Earl's family. The Countess had been long dead; and Lady Emily, the younger daughter, who had been the great beauty of her day, was now the wife of a Russian nobleman whom she had persisted in preferring to any of her English suitors, and lived at St. Petersburg. There was an aunt, old Lady Laura, who came up to town about the middle of May; but she was always in the country except for some six weeks in the season. There was a certain Lord Chiltern, the Earl's son and heir, who did indeed live at the family town house in Portman Square; but Lord Chiltern was a man of whom Lady Laura's set did not often speak, and Phineas, frequently as he had been at the house, had never seen Lord Chiltern there. He was a young nobleman of whom various accounts were given by various people; but I fear that the account most readily accepted in London attributed to him a great intimacy with the affairs at Newmarket, and a partiality for convivial pleasures. Respecting Lord Chiltern Phineas had never as yet exchanged a word with Lady Laura. With her father he was acquainted, as he had dined perhaps half a dozen times at the house. The point in Lord Brentford's character which had more than any other struck our hero, was the unlimited confidence which he seemed to place in his daughter. Lady Laura seemed to have perfect power of doing what she pleased. She was much more mistress of herself than if she had been the wife instead of the daughter of the Earl of Brentford,&mdash;and she seemed to be quite as much mistress of the house.</p> <p>Phineas had declared at Killaloe that Lady Laura was six feet high, that she had red hair, that her figure was straggling, and that her hands and feet were large. She was in fact about five feet seven in height, and she carried her height well. There was something of nobility in her gait, and she seemed thus to be taller than her inches. Her hair was in truth red,&mdash;of a deep thorough redness. Her brother's hair was the same; and so had been that of her father, before it had become sandy with age. Her sister's had been of a soft auburn hue, and hers had been said to be the prettiest head of hair in Europe at the time of her marriage. But in these days we have got to like red hair, and Lady Laura's was not supposed to stand in the way of her being considered a beauty. Her face was very fair, though it lacked that softness which we all love in women. Her eyes, which were large and bright, and very clear, never seemed to quail, never rose and sunk or showed themselves to be afraid of their own power. Indeed, Lady Laura Standish had nothing of fear about her. Her nose was perfectly cut, but was rather large, having the slightest possible tendency to be aquiline. Her mouth also was large, but was full of expression, and her teeth were perfect. Her complexion was very bright, but in spite of its brightness she never blushed. The shades of her complexion were set and steady. Those who knew her said that her heart was so fully under command that nothing could stir her blood to any sudden motion. As to that accusation of straggling which had been made against her, it had sprung from ill-natured observation of her modes of sitting. She never straggled when she stood or walked; but she would lean forward when sitting, as a man does, and would use her arms in talking, and would put her hand over her face, and pass her fingers through her hair,&mdash;after the fashion of men rather than of women;&mdash;and she seemed to despise that soft quiescence of her sex in which are generally found so many charms. Her hands and feet were large,&mdash;as was her whole frame. Such was Lady Laura Standish; and Phineas Finn had been untrue to himself and to his own appreciation of the lady when he had described her in disparaging terms to Mary Flood Jones. But, though he had spoken of Lady Laura in disparaging terms, he had so spoken of her as to make Miss Flood Jones quite understand that he thought a great deal about Lady Laura.</p> <p>And now, early on the Sunday, he made his way to Portman Square in order that he might learn whether there might be any sympathy for him there. Hitherto he had found none. Everything had been terribly dry and hard, and he had gathered as yet none of the fruit which he had expected that his good fortune would bear for him. It is true that he had not as yet gone among any friends, except those of his club, and men who were in the House along with him;&mdash;and at the club it might be that there were some who envied him his good fortune, and others who thought nothing of it because it had been theirs for years. Now he would try a friend who, he hoped, could sympathise; and therefore he called in Portman Square at about half-past two on the Sunday morning. Yes,&mdash;Lady Laura was in the drawing-room. The hall-porter admitted as much, but evidently seemed to think that he had been disturbed from his dinner before his time. Phineas did not care a straw for the hall-porter. If Lady Laura were not kind to him, he would never trouble that hall-porter again. He was especially sore at this moment because a valued friend, the barrister with whom he had been reading for the last three years, had spent the best part of an hour that Sunday morning in proving to him that he had as good as ruined himself. "When I first heard it, of course I thought you had inherited a fortune," said Mr. Low. "I have inherited nothing," Phineas replied;&mdash;"not a penny; and I never shall." Then Mr. Low had opened his eyes very wide, and shaken his head very sadly, and had whistled.</p> <p>"I am so glad you have come, Mr. Finn," said Lady Laura, meeting Phineas half-way across the large room.</p> <p>"Thanks," said he, as he took her hand.</p> <p>"I thought that perhaps you would manage to see me before any one else was here."</p> <p>"Well;&mdash;to tell the truth, I have wished it; though I can hardly tell why."</p> <p>"I can tell you why, Mr. Finn. But never mind;&mdash;come and sit down. I am so very glad that you have been successful;&mdash;so very glad. You know I told you that I should never think much of you if you did not at least try it."</p> <p>"And therefore I did try."</p> <p>"And have succeeded. Faint heart, you know, never did any good. I think it is a man's duty to make his way into the House;&mdash;that is, if he ever means to be anybody. Of course it is not every man who can get there by the time that he is five-and-twenty."</p> <p>"Every friend that I have in the world says that I have ruined myself."</p> <p>"No;&mdash;I don't say so," said Lady Laura.</p> <p>"And you are worth all the others put together. It is such a comfort to have some one to say a cheery word to one."</p> <p>"You shall hear nothing but cheery words here. Papa shall say cheery words to you that shall be better than mine, because they shall be weighted with the wisdom of age. I have heard him say twenty times that the earlier a man goes into the House the better. There is much to learn."</p> <p>"But your father was thinking of men of fortune."</p> <p>"Not at all;&mdash;of younger brothers, and barristers, and of men who have their way to make, as you have. Let me see,&mdash;can you dine here on Wednesday? There will be no party, of course, but papa will want to shake hands with you; and you legislators of the Lower House are more easily reached on Wednesdays than on any other day."</p> <p>"I shall be delighted," said Phineas, feeling, however, that he did not expect much sympathy from Lord Brentford.</p> <p>"Mr. Kennedy dines here;&mdash;you know Mr. Kennedy, of Loughlinter; and we will ask your friend Mr. Fitzgibbon. There will be nobody else. As for catching Barrington Erle, that is out of the question at such a time as this."</p> <p>"But going back to my being ruined&mdash;" said Phineas, after a pause.</p> <p>"Don't think of anything so disagreeable."</p> <p>"You must not suppose that I am afraid of it. I was going to say that there are worse things than ruin,&mdash;or, at any rate, than the chance of ruin. Supposing that I have to emigrate and skin sheep, what does it matter? I myself, being unencumbered, have myself as my own property to do what I like with. With Nelson it was Westminster Abbey or a peerage. With me it is parliamentary success or sheep-skinning."</p> <p>"There shall be no sheep-skinning, Mr. Finn. I will guarantee you."</p> <p>"Then I shall be safe."</p> <p>At that moment the door of the room was opened, and a man entered with quick steps, came a few yards in, and then retreated, slamming the door after him. He was a man with thick short red hair, and an abundance of very red beard. And his face was red,&mdash;and, as it seemed to Phineas, his very eyes. There was something in the countenance of the man which struck him almost with dread,&mdash;something approaching to ferocity.</p> <p>There was a pause a moment after the door was closed, and then Lady Laura spoke. "It was my brother Chiltern. I do not think that you have ever met him."</p> <p>
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