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Phineas Finn the Irish Member

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<SPAN name="46"></SPAN>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>CHAPTER XLVI</h3> <h3>The Mousetrap<br />&nbsp;</h3> <p>Phineas had certainly no desire to make love by an ambassador,&mdash;at second-hand. He had given no commission to Lady Laura, and was, as the reader is aware, quite ignorant of what was being done and said on his behalf. He had asked no more from Lady Laura than an opportunity of speaking for himself, and that he had asked almost with a conviction that by so asking he would turn his friend into an enemy. He had read but little of the workings of Lady Laura's heart towards himself, and had no idea of the assistance she was anxious to give him. She had never told him that she was willing to sacrifice her brother on his behalf, and, of course, had not told him that she was willing also to sacrifice herself. Nor, when she wrote to him one June morning and told him that Violet would be found in Portman Square, alone, that afternoon,&mdash;naming an hour, and explaining that Miss Effingham would be there to meet herself and her father, but that at such an hour she would be certainly alone,&mdash;did he even then know how much she was prepared to do for him. The short note was signed "L.," and then there came a long postscript. "Ask for me," she said in a postscript. "I shall be there later, and I have told them to bid you wait. I can give you no hope of success, but if you choose to try,&mdash;you can do so. If you do not come, I shall know that you have changed your mind. I shall not think the worse of you, and your secret will be safe with me. I do that which you have asked me to do,&mdash;simply because you have asked it. Burn this at once,&mdash;because I ask it." Phineas destroyed the note, tearing it into atoms, the moment that he had read it and re-read it. Of course he would go to Portman Square at the hour named. Of course he would take his chance. He was not buoyed up by much of hope;&mdash;but even though there were no hope, he would take his chance.</p> <p>When Lord Brentford had first told Phineas of his promotion, he had also asked the new Lord of the Treasury to make a certain communication on his behalf to his son. This Phineas had found himself obliged to promise to do;&mdash;and he had done it. The letter had been difficult enough to write,&mdash;but he had written it. After having made the promise, he had found himself bound to keep it.</p> <p>"Dear Lord Chiltern," he had commenced, "I will not think that there was anything in our late encounter to prevent my so addressing you. I now write at the instance of your father, who has heard nothing of our little affair." Then he explained at length Lord Brentford's wishes as he understood them. "Pray come home," he said, finishing his letter. "Touching V. E., I feel that I am bound to tell you that I still mean to try my fortune, but that I have no ground for hoping that my fortune will be good. Since the day on the sands, I have never met her but in society. I know you will be glad to hear that my wound was nothing; and I think you will be glad to hear that I have got my foot on to the ladder of promotion.&mdash;Yours always,</p> <p class="ind15"><span class="smallcaps">"Phineas Finn</span>."<br />&nbsp;</p> <p>Now he had to try his fortune,&mdash;that fortune of which he had told Lord Chiltern that he had no reason for hoping that it would be good. He went direct from his office at the Treasury to Portman Square, resolving that he would take no trouble as to his dress, simply washing his hands and brushing his hair as though he were going down to the House, and he knocked at the Earl's door exactly at the hour named by Lady Laura.</p> <p>"Miss Effingham," he said, "I am so glad to find you alone."</p> <p>"Yes," she said, laughing. "I am alone,&mdash;a poor unprotected female. But I fear nothing. I have strong reason for believing that Lord Brentford is somewhere about. And Pomfret the butler, who has known me since I was a baby, is a host in himself."</p> <p>"With such allies you can have nothing to fear," he replied, attempting to carry on her little jest.</p> <p>"Nor even without them, Mr. Finn. We unprotected females in these days are so self-reliant that our natural protectors fall off from us, finding themselves to be no longer wanted. Now with you,&mdash;what can I fear?"</p> <p>"Nothing,&mdash;as I hope."</p> <p>"There used to be a time, and that not so long ago either, when young gentlemen and ladies were thought to be very dangerous to each other if they were left alone. But propriety is less rampant now, and upon the whole virtue and morals, with discretion and all that kind of thing, have been the gainers. Don't you think so?"</p> <p>"I am sure of it."</p> <p>"All the same, but I don't like to be caught in a trap, Mr. Finn."</p> <p>"In a trap?"</p> <p>"Yes;&mdash;in a trap. Is there no trap here? If you will say so, I will acknowledge myself to be a dolt, and will beg your pardon."</p> <p>"I hardly know what you call a trap."</p> <p>"You were told that I was here?"</p> <p>He paused a moment before he replied. "Yes, I was told."</p> <p>"I call that a trap."</p> <p>"Am I to blame?"</p> <p>"I don't say that you set it,&mdash;but you use it."</p> <p>"Miss Effingham, of course I have used it. You must know,&mdash;I think you must know that I have that to say to you which has made me long for such an opportunity as this."</p> <p>"And therefore you have called in the assistance of your friend."</p> <p>"It is true."</p> <p>"In such matters you should never talk to any one, Mr. Finn. If you cannot fight your own battle, no one can fight it for you."</p> <p>"Miss Effingham, do you remember our ride at Saulsby?"</p> <p>"Very well;&mdash;as if it were yesterday."</p> <p>"And do you remember that I asked you a question which you have never answered?"</p> <p>"I did answer it,&mdash;as well as I knew how, so that I might tell you a truth without hurting you."</p> <p>"It was necessary,&mdash;is necessary that I should be hurt sorely, or made perfectly happy. Violet Effingham, I have come to you to ask you to be my wife;&mdash;to tell you that I love you, and to ask for your love in return. Whatever may be my fate, the question must be asked, and an answer must be given. I have not hoped that you should tell me that you loved me&mdash;"</p> <p>"For what then have you hoped?"</p> <p>"For not much, indeed;&mdash;but if for anything, then for some chance that you might tell me so hereafter."</p> <p>"If I loved you, I would tell you so now,&mdash;instantly. I give you my word of that."</p> <p>"Can you never love me?"</p> <p>"What is a woman to answer to such a question? No;&mdash;I believe never. I do not think I shall ever wish you to be my husband. You ask me to be plain, and I must be plain."</p> <p>"Is it because&mdash;?" He paused, hardly knowing what the question was which he proposed to himself to ask.</p> <p>"It is for no because,&mdash;for no cause except that simple one which should make any girl refuse any man whom she did not love. Mr. Finn, I could say pleasant things to you on any other subject than this,&mdash;because I like you."</p> <p>"I know that I have nothing to justify my suit."</p> <p>"You have everything to justify it;&mdash;at least I am bound to presume that you have. If you love me,&mdash;you are justified."</p> <p>"You know that I love you."</p> <p>"I am sorry that it should ever have been so,&mdash;very sorry. I can only hope that I have not been in fault."</p> <p>"Will you try to love me?"</p> <p>"No;&mdash;why should I try? If any trying were necessary, I would try rather not to love you. Why should I try to do that which would displease everybody belonging to me? For yourself, I admit your right to address me,&mdash;and tell you frankly that it would not be in vain, if I loved you. But I tell you as frankly that such a marriage would not please those whom I am bound to try to please."</p> <p>He paused a moment before he spoke further. "I shall wait," he said, "and come again."</p> <p>"What am I to say to that? Do not tease me, so that I be driven to treat you with lack of courtesy. Lady Laura is so much attached to you, and Mr. Kennedy, and Lord Brentford,&mdash;and indeed I may say, I myself also, that I trust there may be nothing to mar our good fellowship. Come, Mr. Finn,&mdash;say that you will take an answer, and I will give you my hand."</p> <p>"Give it me," said he. She gave him her hand, and he put it up to his lips and pressed it. "I will wait and come again," he said. "I will assuredly come again." Then he turned from her and went out of the house. At the corner of the square he saw Lady Laura's carriage, but did not stop to speak to her. And she also saw him.</p> <p>"So you have had a visitor here," said Lady Laura to Violet.</p> <p>"Yes;&mdash;I have been caught in the trap."</p> <p>"Poor mouse! And has the cat made a meal of you?"</p> <p>"I fancy he has, after his fashion. There be cats that eat their mice without playing,&mdash;and cats that play with their mice, and then eat them; and cats again which only play with their mice, and don't care to eat them. Mr. Finn is a cat of the latter kind, and has had his afternoon's diversion."</p> <p>"You wrong him there."</p> <p>"I think not, Laura. I do not mean to say that he would not have liked me to accept him. But, if I can see inside his bosom, such a little job as that he has now done will be looked back upon as one of the past pleasures of his life;&mdash;not as a pain."</p> <p><SPAN name="47"></SPAN>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>CHAPTER XLVII</h3> <h3>Mr. Mildmay's Bill<br />&nbsp;</h3> <p>It will be necessary that we should go back in our story for a very short period in order that the reader may be told that Phineas Finn was duly re-elected at Loughton after his appointment at the Treasury Board. There was some little trouble at Loughton, and something more of expense than he had before encountered. Mr. Quintus Slide absolutely came down, and was proposed by Mr. Vellum for the borough. Mr. Vellum being a gentleman learned in the law, and hostile to the interests of the noble owner of Saulsby, was able to raise a little trouble against our hero. Mr. Slide was proposed by Mr. Vellum, and seconded by Mr. Vellum's clerk,&mdash;though, as it afterwards appeared, Mr. Vellum's clerk was not in truth an elector,&mdash;and went to the poll like a man. He received three votes, and at twelve o'clock withdrew. This in itself could hardly have afforded compensation for the expense which Mr. Slide or his backers must have encountered;&mdash;but he had an opportunity of making a speech, every word of which was reported in the <i>People's Banner</i>; and if the speech was made in the language given in the report, Mr. Slide was really possessed of some oratorical power. Most of those who read the speech in the columns of the <i>People's Banner</i> were probably not aware how favourable an opportunity of retouching his sentences in type had been given to Mr. Slide by the fact of his connection with the newspaper. The speech had been very severe upon our hero; and though the speaker had been so hooted and pelted at Loughton as to have been altogether inaudible,&mdash;so maltreated that in point of fact he had not been able to speak above a tenth part of his speech at all,&mdash;nevertheless the speech did give Phineas a certain amount of pain. Why Phineas should have read it who can tell? But who is there that abstains from reading that which is printed in abuse of himself?</p> <p>In the speech as it was printed Mr. Slide declared that he had no thought of being returned for the borough. He knew too well how the borough was managed, what slaves the electors were;&mdash;how they groaned under a tyranny from which hitherto they had been unable to release themselves. Of course the Earl's nominee, his lacquey, as the honourable gentleman might be called, would be returned. The Earl could order them to return whichever of his lacqueys he pleased.&mdash;There is something peculiarly pleasing to the democratic ear in the word lacquey! Any one serving a big man, whatever the service may be, is the big man's lacquey in the <i>People's Banner</i>.&mdash;The speech throughout was very bitter. Mr. Phineas Finn, who had previously served in Parliament as the lacquey of an Irish earl, and had been turned off by him, had now fallen into the service of the English earl, and was the lacquey chosen for the present occasion. But he, Quintus Slide, who boasted himself to be a man of the people,&mdash;he could tell them that the days of their thraldom were coming to an end, and that their enfranchisement was near at hand. That friend of the people, Mr. Turnbull, had a clause in his breeches-pocket which he would either force down the unwilling throat of Mr. Mildmay, or else drive the imbecile Premier from office by carrying it in his teeth. Loughton, as Loughton, must be destroyed, but it should be born again in a better birth as a part of a real electoral district, sending a real member, chosen by a real constituency, to a real Parliament. In those days,&mdash;and they would come soon,&mdash;Mr. Quintus Slide rather thought that Mr. Phineas Finn would be found "nowhere," and he rather thought also that when he showed himself again, as he certainly should do, in the midst of that democratic electoral district as the popular candidate for the honour of representing it in Parliament, that democratic electoral district would accord to him a reception very different from that which he was now receiving from the Earl's lacqueys in the parliamentary village of Loughton. A prettier bit of fiction than these sentences as composing a part of any speech delivered, or proposed to be delivered, at Loughton, Phineas thought he had never seen. And when he read at the close of the speech that though the Earl's hired bullies did their worst, the remarks of Mr. Slide were received by the people with reiterated cheering, he threw himself back in his chair at the Treasury and roared. The poor fellow had been three minutes on his legs, had received three rotten eggs, and one dead dog, and had retired. But not the half of the speech as printed in the <i>People's Banner</i> has been quoted. The sins of Phineas, who in spite of his inability to open his mouth in public had been made a Treasury hack by the aristocratic influence,&mdash;"by aristocratic influence not confined to the male sex,"&mdash;were described at great length, and in such language that Phineas for a while was fool enough to think that it would be his duty to belabour Mr. Slide with a horsewhip. This notion, however, did not endure long with him, and when Mr. Monk told him that things of that kind came as a matter of course, he was comforted.</p> <p>But he found it much more difficult to obtain comfort when he weighed the arguments brought forward against the abominations of such a borough as that for which he sat, and reflected that if Mr. Turnbull brought forward his clause, he, Phineas Finn, would be bound to vote against the clause, knowing the clause to be right, because he was a servant of the Government. The arguments, even though they appeared in the <i>People's Banner</i>, were true arguments; and he had on one occasion admitted their truth to his friend Lady Laura,&mdash;in the presence of that great Cabinet Minister, her husband. "What business has such a man as that down there? Is there a single creature who wants him?" Lady Laura had said. "I don't suppose anybody does want Mr. Quintus Slide," Phineas had replied; "but I am disposed to think the electors should choose the man they do want, and that at present they have no choice left to them." "They are quite satisfied," said Lady Laura, angrily. "Then, Lady Laura," continued Phineas, "that alone should be sufficient to prove that their privilege of returning a member to Parliament is too much for them. We can't defend it." "It is defended by tradition," said Mr. Kennedy. "And by its great utility," said Lady Laura, bowing to the young member who was present, and forgetting that very useless old gentleman, her cousin, who had sat for the borough for many years. "In this country it doesn't do to go too fast," said Mr. Kennedy. "And then the mixture of vulgarity, falsehood, and pretence!" said Lady Laura, shuddering as her mind recurred to the fact that Mr. Quintus Slide had contaminated Loughton by his presence. "I am told that they hardly let him leave the place alive."</p> <p>Whatever Mr. Kennedy and Lady Laura might think about Loughton and the general question of small boroughs, it was found by the Government, to their great cost, that Mr. Turnbull's clause was a reality. After two months of hard work, all questions of franchise had been settled, rating and renting, new and newfangled, fancy franchises and those which no one fancied, franchises for boroughs and franchises for counties, franchises single, dual, three-cornered, and four-sided,&mdash;by various clauses to which the Committee of the whole House had agreed after some score of divisions,&mdash;the matter of the franchise had been settled. No doubt there was the House of Lords, and there might yet be shipwreck. But it was generally believed that the Lords would hardly look at the bill,&mdash;that they would not even venture on an amendment. The Lords would only be too happy to let the matter be settled by the Commons themselves. But then, after the franchise, came redistribution. How sick of the subject were all members of the Government, no one could tell who did not see their weary faces. The whole House was sick, having been whipped into various lobbies, night after night, during the heat of the summer, for weeks past. Redistribution! Why should there be any redistribution? They had got, or would get, a beautiful franchise. Could they not see what that would do for them? Why redistribute anything? But, alas, it was too late to go back to so blessed an idea as that! Redistribution they must have. But there should be as little redistribution as possible. Men were sick of it all, and would not be exigeant. Something should be done for overgrown counties;&mdash;something for new towns which had prospered in brick and mortar. It would be easy to crush up a peccant borough or two,&mdash;a borough that had been discovered in its sin. And a few boroughs now blessed with two members might consent to be blessed only with one. Fifteen small clauses might settle the redistribution, in spite of Mr. Turnbull,&mdash;if only Mr. Daubeny would be good-natured.</p> <p>Neither the weather, which was very hot, nor the tedium of the session, which had been very great, nor the anxiety of Ministers, which was very pressing, had any effect in impairing the energy of Mr. Turnbull. He was as instant, as oratorical, as hostile, as indignant about redistribution as he had been about the franchise. He had been sure then, and he was sure now, that Ministers desired to burke the question, to deceive the people, to produce a bill that should be no bill. He brought out his clause,&mdash;and made Loughton his instance. "Would the honourable gentleman who sat lowest on the Treasury bench,&mdash;who at this moment was in sweet confidential intercourse with the right honourable gentleman now President of the Board of Trade, who had once been a friend of the people,&mdash;would the young Lord of the Treasury get up in his place and tell them that no peer of Parliament had at present a voice in sending a member to their House of Commons,&mdash;that no peer would have a voice if this bill, as proposed by the Government, were passed in its present useless, ineffectual, conservative, and most dishonest form?"</p> <p>Phineas, who replied to this, and who told Mr. Turnbull that he himself could not answer for any peers,&mdash;but that he thought it probable that most peers would, by their opinions, somewhat influence the opinions of some electors,&mdash;was thought to have got out of his difficulty very well. But there was the clause of Mr. Turnbull to be dealt with,&mdash;a clause directly disfranchising seven single-winged boroughs, of which Loughton was of course one,&mdash;a clause to which the Government must either submit or object. Submission would be certain defeat in one way, and objection would be as certain defeat in another,&mdash;if the gentlemen on the other side were not disposed to assist the ministers. It was said that the Cabinet was divided. Mr. Gresham and Mr. Monk were for letting the seven boroughs go. Mr. Mildmay could not bring himself to obey Mr. Turnbull, and Mr. Palliser supported him. When Mr. Mildmay was told that Mr. Daubeny would certainly go into the same lobby with Mr. Turnbull respecting the seven boroughs, he was reported to have said that in that case Mr. Daubeny must be prepared with a Government. Mr. Daubeny made a beautiful speech about the seven boroughs;&mdash;the seven sins, and seven stars, and seven churches, and seven lamps. He would make no party question of this. Gentlemen who usually acted with him would vote as their own sense of right or wrong directed them;&mdash;from which expression of a special sanction it was considered that these gentlemen were not accustomed to exercise the privilege now accorded to them. But in regarding the question as one of right and wrong, and in looking at what he believed to be both the wish of the country and its interests, he, Mr. Daubeny,&mdash;he, himself, being simply a humble member of that House,&mdash;must support the clause of the honourable gentleman. Almost all those to whom had been surrendered the privilege of using their own judgment for that occasion only, used it discreetly,&mdash;as their chief had used it himself,&mdash;and Mr. Turnbull carried his clause by a majority of fifteen. It was then 3 <span class="smallcaps">a.m.</span>, and Mr. Gresham, rising after the division, said that his right honourable friend the First Lord of the Treasury was too tired to return to the House, and had requested him to state that the Government would declare their purpose at 6 <span class="smallcaps">p.m.</span> on the following evening.</p> <p>Phineas, though he had made his little speech in answer to Mr. Turnbull with good-humoured flippancy, had recorded his vote in favour of the seven boroughs with a sore heart. Much as he disliked Mr. Turnbull, he knew that Mr. Turnbull was right in this. He had spoken to Mr. Monk on the subject, as it were asking Mr. Monk's permission to throw up his office, and vote against Mr. Mildmay. But Mr. Monk was angry with him, telling him that his conscience was of that restless, uneasy sort which is neither useful nor manly. "We all know," said Mr. Monk, "and none better than Mr. Mildmay, that we cannot justify such a borough as Loughton by the theory of our parliamentary representation,&mdash;any more than we can justify the fact that Huntingdonshire should return as many members as the East Riding. There must be compromises, and you should trust to others who have studied the matter more thoroughly than you, to say how far the compromise should go at the present moment."</p> <p>"It is the influence of the peer, not the paucity of the electors," said Phineas.</p> <p>"And has no peer any influence in a county? Would you disfranchise Westmoreland? Believe me, Finn, if you want to be useful, you must submit yourself in such matters to those with whom you act."</p> <p>Phineas had no answer to make, but he was not happy in his mind. And he was the less happy, perhaps, because he was very sure that Mr. Mildmay would be beaten. Mr. Low in these days harassed him sorely. Mr. Low was very keen against such boroughs as Loughton, declaring that Mr. Daubeny was quite right to join his standard to that of Mr. Turnbull on such an issue. Mr. Low was the reformer now, and Phineas found himself obliged to fight a losing battle on behalf of an acknowledged abuse. He never went near Bunce; but, unfortunately for him, Bunce caught him once in the street and showed him no mercy. "Slide was a little 'eavy on you in the <i>Banner</i> the other day,&mdash;eh, Mr. Finn?&mdash;too 'eavy, as I told him."</p> <p>"Mr. Slide can be just as heavy as he pleases, Bunce."</p> <p>"That's in course. The press is free, thank God,&mdash;as yet. But it wasn't any good rattling away at the Earl's little borough when it's sure to go. Of course it'll go, Mr. Finn."</p> <p>"I think it will."</p> <p>"The whole seven on 'em. The 'ouse couldn't but do it. They tell me it's all Mr. Mildmay's own work, sticking out for keeping on 'em. He's very old, and so we'll forgive him. But he must go, Mr. Finn."</p> <p>"We shall know all about that soon, Bunce."</p> <p>"If you don't get another seat, Mr. Finn, I suppose we shall see you back at the Inn. I hope we may. It's better than being member for Loughton, Mr. Finn;&mdash;you may be sure of that." And then Mr. Bunce passed on.</p> <p>Mr. Turnbull carried his clause, and Loughton was doomed. Loughton and the other six deadly sins were anathematized, exorcised, and finally got rid of out of the world by the voices of the gentlemen who had been proclaiming the beauty of such pleasant vices all their lives, and who in their hearts hated all changes that tended towards popular representation. But not the less was Mr. Mildmay beaten; and, in accordance with the promise made by his first lieutenant immediately after the vote was taken, the Prime Minister came forward on the next evening and made his statement. He had already put his resignation into the hands of Her Majesty, and Her Majesty had graciously accepted it. He was very old, and felt that the time had come in which it behoved him to retire into that leisure which he thought he had, perhaps, earned. He had hoped to carry this bill as the last act of his political life; but he was too old, too stiff, as he said, in his prejudices, to bend further than he had bent already, and he must leave the completion of the matter in other hands. Her Majesty had sent for Mr. Gresham, and Mr. Gresham had already seen Her Majesty. Mr. Gresham and his other colleagues, though they dissented from the clause which had been carried by the united efforts of gentlemen opposite to him, and of gentlemen below him on his own side of the House, were younger men than he, and would, for the country's sake,&mdash;and for the sake of Her Majesty,&mdash;endeavour to carry the bill through. There would then, of course, be a dissolution, and the future Government would, no doubt, depend on the choice of the country. From all which it was understood that Mr. Gresham was to go on with the bill to a conclusion, whatever might be the divisions carried against him, and that a new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs must be chosen. Phineas understood, also, that he had lost his seat at Loughton. For the borough of Loughton there would never again be an election. "If I had been Mr. Mildmay, I would have thrown the bill up altogether," Lord Brentford said afterwards; "but of course it was not for me to interfere."</p> <p>The session was protracted for two months after that,&mdash;beyond the time at which grouse should have been shot,&mdash;and by the 23rd of August became the law of the land. "I shall never get over it," said Mr. Ratler to Mr. Finn, seated one terribly hot evening on a bench behind the Cabinet Ministers,&mdash;"never. I don't suppose such a session for work was ever known before. Think what it is to have to keep men together in August, with the thermometer at 81&deg;, and the river stinking like,&mdash;like the very mischief." Mr. Ratler, however, did not die.</p> <p>On the last day of the session Laurence Fitzgibbon resigned. Rumours reached the ears of Phineas as to the cause of this, but no certain cause was told him. It was said that Lord Cantrip had insisted upon it, Laurence having by mischance been called upon for some official statement during an unfortunate period of absence. There was, however, a mystery about it;&mdash;but the mystery was not half so wonderful as the triumph to Phineas, when Mr. Gresham offered him the place.&#160;</p> <p>"But I shall have no seat," said Phineas.</p> <p>"We shall none of us have seats to-morrow," said Mr. Gresham.</p> <p>"But I shall be at a loss to find a place to stand for."</p> <p>"The election will not come on till November, and you must look about you. Both Mr. Monk and Lord Brentford seem to think you will be in the House."</p> <p>And so the bill was carried, and the session was ended.</p> <p>
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