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- OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 40/159 -
'And I suppose we have not much to afraid of next Session?'
'I am afraid of nothing,' said the Duke.
'But--;' then Sir Orlando hesitated. The Duke, however, said not a word to help him on. Sir Orlando thought that the Duke looked more ducal than he had ever seen him look before. Sir Orlando remembered the old Duke, and suddenly found that the uncle and nephew were very like each other. But it does not become the leader of the House of Commons to be afraid of anyone. 'Don't you think,' continued Sir Orlando, 'we should try and arrange among ourselves something of a policy? I am not quite sure that a ministry without a distinct course of action before it can long enjoy the confidence of the country. Take the last half century. There have been various policies, commanding more or less of general assent; free trade--.' Here Sir Orlando gave a kindly wave of his hand, showing that on behalf of a companion he was willing to place at the head of the list a policy which had not always commanded his own assent;--'continued reform in Parliament, to which I have, with my whole heart, given my poor assistance.' The Duke remembered how the bathers' clothes were stolen, and that Sir Orlando had been one of the most nimble- fingered of thieves. 'No popery, Irish grievances, the ballot, retrenchment, efficiency of the public service, all have had their time.'
'Things to be done offer themselves, I suppose, because they are in themselves desirable; not because it is desirable to have something to do.'
'Just so;--no doubt. But still, if you will think of it, no ministry can endure without a policy. During the latter part of the last Session, it was understood that we had to get ourselves in harness together, and nothing more was expected from us; but I think we should be prepared with a distinct policy for the coming year. I fear that nothing can be done in Ireland.'
'Mr Finn has ideas--'
'Ah, yes,--well, your Grace. Mr Finn is a very clever young man certainly; but I don't think we can support ourselves by his plan of Irish reform.' Sir Orlando had been a little carried away by his own eloquence and the Duke's tameness, and had interrupted the Duke. The Duke again looked ducal, but on this occasion Sir Orlando did not observe his countenance. 'For myself, I think, I am in favour of increased armaments. I have been applying my mind to the subject, and I think I see that the people of this country do not object to a slightly rising scale of estimates in that direction. Of course there is the county suffrage--'
'I will think of what you have been saying,' said the Duke.
'As to the county suffrage--'
'I will think it over,' said the Duke. 'You see the oak. That is the largest tree we have here at Gatherum; and I doubt whether there be a larger one in this part of England.' The Duke's voice and words were not uncourteous, but there was something in them which hindered Sir Orlando from referring again on that occasion to county suffrages or increased armaments.
THE DUCHESS'S NEW SWAN.
When the party had been about a week collected at Gatherum Castle, Ferdinand Lopez had manifestly become the favourite of the Duchess for the time, and had, at her instance, promised to remain there for some further days. He had hardly spoken to the Duke since he had been in the house,--but then but few of that motley assembly did talk much with the Duke. Gunner and Pountney had gone away,--the Captain having declared his dislike of the upstart Portuguese to be so strong that he could not stay in the same house with him any longer, and the Major, who was of a stronger mind, having resolved that he would put the intruder down. 'It is horrible to think what power money has in these days,' said the Captain. The Captain had shaken the dust of Gatherum altogether from his feet, but the Major had so arranged that a bed was to be found for him in October,--for another happy week; but he was not to return till bidden by the Duchess. 'You won't forget;--now will you, Duchess?' he said, imploring her to remember him as he took his leave. 'I did take a deal of trouble about the code;--didn't I?' 'They don't seem to me to care for the code,' said the Duchess, 'but, nevertheless, 'I'll remember.'
'Who, in the name of all that's wonderful, was that I saw you with in the garden?' the Duchess said to her husband one afternoon.
'It was Lady Rosina De Courcy, I suppose!'
'Heaven and earth!--what a companion for you to choose.'
'Why not?--why shouldn't I talk to Lady Rosina De Courcy?'
'I'm not jealous a bit, if you mean that I don't think Lady Rosina will steal your heart from me. But why you should pick her out of all the people here, when there are so many would think their fortunes made if you would only take a turn with them, I cannot imagine.'
'But I don't want to make anyone's fortune,' said the Duke: 'and certainly not in that way.'
'What could you be saying to her?'
'She was talking about her family. I rather like Lady Rosina. She is living all alone, it seems and almost in poverty. Perhaps there is nothing so sad in the world as the female scions of a noble but impoverished stock.'
'Nothing so dull, certainly.'
'People are not dull to me, if they are real. I pity that poor lady. She is proud of her blood and yet not ashamed of her poverty.'
'Whatever might come of her blood she has been all her life willing enough to get rid of her poverty. It isn't above three years since she was trying her best to marry that brewer at Silverbridge. I wish you could give your time a little to some of the other people.'
'To go and shoot arrows?'
'No;--I don't want you to shoot arrows. You might act the part of host without shooting. Can't you walk about with anybody except Lady Rosina De Courcy?'
'I was walking about with Sir Orlando Drought last Sunday, and I very much prefer Lady Rosina.'
'There has been no quarrel?' asked the Duchess sharply.
'Oh dear no.'
'Of course he's an empty-headed idiot. Everybody has always known that. And he's put above his place in the House. But it wouldn't do to quarrel with him now.'
'I don't think I am a quarrelsome man, Cora. I don't remember at this moment that I have ever quarrelled with anybody to your knowledge. But I may perhaps be permitted to--'
'Snub a man, you mean. Well I wouldn't ever snub Sir Orlando very much, if I were you; though I can understand that it might be both pleasant and easy.'
'I wish you wouldn't put slang phrases into my mouth, Cora. If I think that a man intrudes upon me, I am of course bound to let know my opinion.'
'Sir Orlando has--intruded!'
'By no means. He is in a position which justifies his saying many things to me which another might not say. But then, again, he is a man whose opinion does not go far with me, and I have not the knack of seeming to agree with a man while I let his words pass idly by me.'
'That is quite true, Plantagenet.'
'And, therefore, I was uncomfortable with Sir Orlando, while I was able to sympathize with Lady Rosina.'
'What do you think of Ferdinand Lopez?' asked the Duchess, with studied abruptness.
'Think of Mr Lopez! I haven't thoughy of him at all. Why should I think of him?'
'I want you to think of him. I think he's a very pleasant fellow, and I'm sure he's a rising man.'
'You might think the latter, and perhaps feel sure of the former.'
'Very well. Then, to oblige you, I'll think the latter and feel sure of the former. I suppose it's true that Mr Grey is going on this mission to Persia?' Mr Grey was the Duke's intimate friend, and was at this time member for the neighbouring borough of Silverbridge.
'I think he will go. I've no doubt about it. He is to go after Christmas.'
'And will give up his seat?'
The Duke did not answer her immediately. It had only just been decided,--decided by his friend and himself,--that the seat should be given up when the journey to Persia was undertaken. Mr
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