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- OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 110/159 -


'Did he now? Well, well. We all have our troubles, I suppose.'

'I have mine, I know,' said Emily, 'and very, very heavy they are. I cannot tell you what I have had to suffer.'

'Isn't he good to you?'

'I cannot talk about it, Mrs Parker. What you tell me about yourself has added greatly to my sorrows. My husband is talking of going away--to live out of England.'

'Yes, at a place they call,--I forgot what they call it, but I heard it.'

'Guatemala,--in America.'

'I know. Sexty told me. He has no business to go anywhere, while he owes Sexty such a lot of money. He has taken everything, and now he is going to Kattymaly!' At this moment Mr Wharton knocked at the door and entered the room. As he did so Mrs Parker got up and curtsied.

'This is my father, Mrs Parker,' said Emily. 'Papa, this is Mrs Parker. She is the wife of Mr Parker, who is Ferdinand's partner. She has come here with bad news.'

'Very bad news, indeed, sir,' said Mrs Parker, curtseying again. Mr Wharton frowned, not as being angry with the woman, but feeling that some further horror was to be told him of his son- in-law. 'I can't help coming, sir,' continued Mrs Parker. 'Where am I to go if I don't come? Mr Lopez, sir, has ruined us root and branch,--root and branch.'

'That at any rate is not my fault,' said Mr Wharton,

'But she is his wife, sir. Where am I to go if not to where he lives? Am I to put up with everything gone, and my poor husband in the right way to go to Bedlam, and not to say a word about it to the grand relations of him who did it all?'

'He is a bad man,' said Mr Wharton. 'I cannot make him otherwise.'

'Will he do nothing for us?'

'I will tell you all I know about him.' Then Mr Wharton did tell her all that he knew, as to the appointment at Guatemala and the amount of salary which was to be attached to it. 'Whether he will do anything for you, I cannot say;--I should think not, unless he be forced. I should advise you to go to the offices of the Company in Coleman Street and try to make some terms there. But I fear,--I fear that it will all be useless.'

'Then we may starve.'

'It is not her fault,' said Mr Wharton, pointing to his daughter. 'She has had no hand in it. She knows less of it than you do.'

'It is my fault,' said Emily, bursting out in self-reproach,-- 'my fault that I married him.'

'Whether married or single he would have preyed upon Mr Parker to the same extent.'

'Like enough,' said the poor wife. 'He'd prey upon anybody as he could get hold of. And so, Mr Wharton, you think that you can do nothing for me.'

'If your want be immediate I can relieve it,' said the barrister. Mrs Parker did not like the idea of accepting direct charity, but, nevertheless, on going away did take the five sovereigns which Mr Wharton offered to her.

After such an interview as that the evening between the father and the daughter was not very happy. She was eaten up by remorse. Gradually she had learned how frightful was the thing she had done in giving herself to a man of whom she had known nothing. And it was not only that she had degraded herself by loving such a man, but that she had been persistent in clinging to him though her father and all his friends had told her of the danger which she was running. And now it seemed that she had destroyed her father as well as herself! All that she could do was to be persistent in her prayer that he would let her go. 'I have done it,' she said that night, 'and I could bear it better, if you would let me bear it alone.' But he only kissed her, and sobbed over her, and held her close to his heart with his clinging arms,--in a manner in which he had never held her in their old happy days.

He took himself to his own rooms before Lopez returned, but she of course had to bear her husband's presence. As she had declared to her father more than once, she was not afraid of him. Even though he should strike her,--though he should kill her,-- she would not be afraid of him. He had already done worse to her than anything that could follow. 'Mrs Parker has been here to- day,' she said to him that night.

'And what did Mrs Parker have to say?'

'That you ruined her husband.'

'Exactly. When a man speculates and doesn't win of course he throws the blame on someone else. And when he is too much of a cur to come himself, he sends his wife.'

'She says you owe him money.'

'What business have you to listen to what she says? If she comes again, do not see her. Do you understand me?'

'Yes, I understand. She saw papa also. If you owe him money, should it not be paid?'

'My dearest love, everybody who owes anything to anybody should always pay it. That is so self-evident that one would almost suppose that it might be understood without being enunciated. But the virtue of paying debts is incompatible with an absence of money. Now, if you please, we will not say anything more about Mrs Parker. She is not at any rate a fit companion for you.'

'It was you who introduced her.'

'Hold your tongue about her,--and let that be an end of it. I little knew what a world of torment I was preparing for myself when I allowed you to come and live in your father's house.'

CHAPTER 56

WHAT THE DUCHESS THOUGHT OF HER HUSBAND.

When the session began it was understood in the political world that a very strong opposition was to be organized against the Government under the guidance of Sir Orlando Drought, and that the great sin to be imputed to the Cabinet was an utter indifference to the safety and honour of Great Britain, as manifested by their neglect of the navy. All the world knew that Sir Orlando had deserted the Coalition because he was not allowed to build new ships, and of course Sir Orlando would make the most of his grievance. With him was joined Mr Boffin, the patriotic Conservative who had never listened to the voice of the seducer, and the staunch remainder of the Tory party. And with them the more violent of the Radicals were prepared to act, not desirous, indeed, that new ships should be built, or that a Conservative Government should be established,--or, indeed, that anything should be done,--but animated by intense disgust that so mild a politician as the Duke of Omnium should be Prime Minister. The fight began at once, Sir Orlando objecting violently to certain passages in the Queen's Speech. It was all very well to say that the country was at present at peace with all the world; but how was peace to be maintained without a fleet? Then Sir Orlando paid a great many compliments to the Duke, and ended his speech by declaring him to be the most absolutely faineant minister that had disgraced the country since the Duke of Newcastle. Mr Monk defended the Coalition, and assured the House that the navy was not only the most powerful navy existing, but that it was the most powerful that ever had existed in the possession of this or any other country, and was probably in absolute efficiency superior to the combined navies of all the world. The House was not shocked by statements absolutely at variance with each other, coming from two gentlemen who had lately been members of the same Government, and who must be supposed to know what they are talking about, but seemed to think that upon the whole Sir Orlando had done his duty. For though there was complete confidence in the navy as a navy, and though a very small minority would have voted for any considerably increased expense, still it was well that there should be an opposition. And how can there be an opposition without a subject for grumbling,-- some matter on which a minister can be attacked? No one really thought that the Prussians and French combined would invade our shores and devastate our fields, and plunder London, and carry our daughters away into captivity. The state of the funds showed very plainly that there was no such fear. But a good cry was a very good thing,--and it is always well to rub up the officials of the Admiralty by a little wholesome abuse. Sir Orlando was thought to have done his business well. Of course he did not risk a division upon the address. Had he done so he would have been 'nowhere'. But, as it was, he was proud of his achievement.

The ministers generally would have been indifferent to the very hard words that were said of them, knowing what they were worth, and feeling aware that a ministry which had everything too easy was very sore on the subject. The old Duke's work at this time consisted almost all together in nursing the younger Duke. It did sometimes occur to his elder Grace that it might be well to let his brother retire, and that a Prime Minister, malgre lui, could not be a successful Prime Minister, or a useful one. But if the Duke of Omnium went the Coalition must go too, and the Coalition had been the offspring of the old statesman. The country was thriving under the Coalition, and there was no real reason why it should not last for the next ten years. He continued, therefore, his system of coddling, and was ready at any moment, or at every moment, to pour, if not comfort, at any rate consolation into the ears of his unhappy friend. In the present emergency, it was the falsehood and general baseness of Sir Orlando which nearly broke the heart of the Prime Minister. 'How is one to live,' he said, 'if one has to do with men of that kind?'


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