Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 1, Ch. 23

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Chapter XXIII: Dinner at Matching Priory 

Alice found herself seated near to Lady Glencora's end of the table, and, in spite of her resolution to like Mr Palliser, she was not sorry that such an arrangement had been made. Mr Palliser had taken the Duchess out to dinner, and Alice wished to be as far removed as possible from her Grace. She found herself seated between her bespoken friend Jeffrey Palliser and the Duke, and as soon as she was seated Lady Glencora introduced her to her second neighbour. "My cousin, Duke," Lady Glencora said, "and a terrible Radical."

"Oh, indeed; I'm glad of that. We're sadly in want of a few leading Radicals, and perhaps I may be able to gain one now."

Alice thought of her cousin George, and wished that he, instead of herself, was sitting next to the Duke of St Bungay. "But I'm afraid I never shall be a leading Radical," she said.

"You shall lead me at any rate, if you will," said he.

"As the little dogs lead the blind men," said Lady Glencora.

"No, Lady Glencora, not so. But as the pretty women lead the men who have eyes in their head. There is nothing I want so much, Miss Vavasor, as to become a Radical;—if I only knew how."

"I think it's very easy to know how," said Alice.

"Do you? I don't. I've voted for every liberal measure that has come seriously before Parliament since I had a seat in either House, and I've not been able to get beyond Whiggery yet."

"Have you voted for the ballot?" asked Alice, almost trembling at her own audacity as she put the question.

"Well; no, I've not. And I suppose that is the crux. But the ballot has never been seriously brought before any House in which I have sat. I hate it with so keen a private hatred, that I doubt whether I could vote for it."

"But the Radicals love it," said Alice.

"Palliser," said the Duke, speaking loudly from his end of the table, "I'm told you can never be entitled to call yourself a Radical till you've voted for the ballot."

"I don't want to be called a Radical," said Mr Palliser,—"or to be called anything at all."

"Except Chancellor of the Exchequer," said Lady Glencora in a low voice.

"And that's about the finest ambition by which a man can be moved," said the Duke. "The man who can manage the purse-strings of this country can manage anything." Then that conversation dropped and the Duke ate his dinner.

"I was especially commissioned to amuse you," said Mr Jeffrey Palliser to Alice. "But when I undertook the task I had no conception that you would be calling Cabinet Ministers over the coals about their politics."

"I did nothing of the kind, surely, Mr Palliser. I suppose all Radicals do vote for the ballot, and that's why I said it."

"Your definition was perfectly just, I dare say, only—"

"Only what?"

"Lady Glencora need not have been so anxious to provide specially for your amusement. Not but what I'm very much obliged to her,—of course. But Miss Vavasor, unfortunately I'm not a politician. I haven't a chance of a seat in the House, and so I despise politics."

"Women are not allowed to be politicians in this country."