Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 4

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter XLIV: The Election for the Chelsea Districts 

March came, and still the Chancellor of the Exchequer held his position. In the early days of March there was given in the House a certain parliamentary explanation on the subject, which, however, did not explain very much to any person. A statement was made which was declared by the persons making it to be altogether satisfactory, but nobody else seemed to find any satisfaction in it. The big wigs of the Cabinet had made an arrangement which, from the language used by them on this occasion, they must be supposed to have regarded as hardly less permanent than the stars; but everybody else protested that the Government was going to pieces; and Mr Bott was heard to declare in clubs and lobbies, and wherever he could get a semi-public, political hearing, that this kind of thing wouldn't do. Lord Brock must either blow hot or cold. If he chose to lean upon Mr Palliser, he might lean upon him, and Mr Palliser would not be found wanting. In such case no opposition could touch Lord Brock or the Government. That was Mr Bott's opinion. But if Lord Brock did not so choose, why, in that case, he must expect that Mr Palliser, and Mr Palliser's friends, would—. Mr Bott did not say what they would do; but he was supposed by those who understood the matter to hint at an Opposition lobby, and adverse divisions, and to threaten Lord Brock with the open enmity of Mr Palliser,—and of Mr Palliser's great follower.

"This kind of thing won't do long, you know," repeated Mr Bott for the second or third time, as he stood upon the rug before the fire at his club, with one or two of his young friends around him.

"I suppose not," said Calder Jones, the hunting Member of Parliament whom we once met at Roebury. "Planty Pall won't stand it, I should say."

"What can he do?" asked another, an unfledged Member who was not as yet quite settled as to the leadership under which he intended to work.

"What can he do?" said Mr Bott, who on such an occasion as this could be very great,—who, for a moment, could almost feel that he might become a leader of a party for himself, and some day institute a Bott Ministry. "What can he do? You will very shortly see what he can do. He can make himself the master of the occasion. If Lord Brock doesn't look about him, he'll find that Mr Palliser will be in the Cabinet without his help."

"You don't mean to say that the Queen will send for Planty Pall!" said the young Member.

"I mean to say that the Queen will send for any one that the House of Commons may direct her to call upon," said Mr Bott, who conceived himself to have gauged the very depths of our glorious Constitution. "How hard it is to make any one understand that the Queen has really nothing to do with it!"

"Come, Bott, draw it mild," said Calder Jones, whose loyalty was shocked by the utter Manchesterialism of his political friend.

"Not if I know it," said Mr Bott, with something of grandeur in his tone and countenance. "I never drew it mild yet, and I shan't begin now. All our political offences against civilization have come from men drawing it mild, as you call it. Why is it that Englishmen can't read and write as Americans do? Why can't they vote as they do even in Imperial France? Why are they serfs, less free than those whose chains were broken the other day in Russia? Why is the Spaniard more happy, and the Italian more contented? Because men in power have been drawing it mild!" And Mr Bott made an action with his hand as though he were drawing up beer from a patent tap.

"But you can't set aside Her Majesty like that, you know," said the young Member, who had been presented, and whose mother's old-world notions about the throne still clung to him.

"I should be very sorry," said Mr Bott; "I'm no republican." With all his constitutional love, Mr Bott did not know what the word republican meant. "I mean no disrespect to the throne. The throne in its place is very well. But the power of governing this great nation does not rest with the throne. It is contained within the four walls of the House of Commons. That is the great truth which all young Members should learn, and take to their hearts."