Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 1, Ch. 26

[+] | [-] | reset

Chapter XXVI: Lady Midlothian 

A week or ten days after this, Alice, when she came down to the breakfast-parlour one morning, found herself alone with Mr Bott. It was the fashion at Matching Priory for people to assemble rather late in the day. The nominal hour for breakfast was ten, and none of the ladies of the party were ever seen before that. Some of the gentlemen would breakfast earlier, especially on hunting mornings; and on some occasions the ladies, when they came together, would find themselves altogether deserted by their husbands and brothers. On this day it was fated that Mr Bott alone should represent the sterner sex, and when Alice entered the room he was standing on the rug with his back to the fire, waiting till the appearance of some other guest should give him the sanction necessary for the commencement of his morning meal. Alice, when she saw him, would have retreated had it been possible, for she had learned to dislike him greatly, and was, indeed, almost afraid of him; but she could not do so without making her flight too conspicuous.

"Do you intend to prolong your stay here, Miss Vavasor?" said Mr Bott, taking advantage of the first moment at which she looked up from a letter which she was reading.

"For a few more days, I think," said Alice.

"Ah—I'm glad of that. Mr Palliser has pressed me so much to remain till he goes to the Duke's, that I cannot get away sooner. As I am an unmarried man myself, I can employ my time as well in one place as in another;—at this time of the year at least."

"You must find that very convenient," said Alice.

"Yes, it is convenient. You see in my position,—Parliamentary position, I mean,—I am obliged, as a public man, to act in concert with others. A public man can be of no service unless he is prepared to do that. We must give and take, you know, Miss Vavasor."

As Miss Vavasor made no remark in answer to this, Mr Bott continued—"I always say to the men of my party,—of course I regard myself as belonging to the extreme Radicals."

"Oh, indeed!" said Alice.

"Yes. I came into Parliament on that understanding; and I have never seen any occasion as yet to change any political opinion that I have expressed. But I always say to the gentlemen with whom I act, that nothing can be done if we don't give and take. I don't mind saying to you, Miss Vavasor, that I look upon our friend, Mr Palliser, as the most rising public man in the country. I do, indeed."

"I am happy to hear you say so," said his victim, who found herself driven to make some remark.

"And I, as an extreme Radical, do not think I can serve my party better than by keeping in the same boat with him, as long as it will hold the two. 'He'll make a Government hack of you,' a friend of mine said to me the other day. 'And I'll make a Manchester school Prime Minister of him,' I replied. I rather think I know what I'm about, Miss Vavasor."

"No doubt," said Alice.

"And so does he;—and so does he. Mr Palliser is not the man to be led by the nose by any one. But it's a fair system of give and take. You can't get on in politics without it. What a charming woman is your relative, Lady Glencowrer! I remember well what you said to me the other evening."

"Do you?" said Alice.

"And I quite agree with you that confidential intercourse regarding dear friends should not be lightly made."