Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 27

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Chapter LXVII: The Last Kiss 

Alice, on her return from Westmoreland, went direct to Park Lane, whither Lady Glencora and Mr Palliser had also returned before her. She was to remain with them in London one entire day, and on the morning after that they were to start for Paris. She found Mr Palliser in close attendance upon his wife. Not that there was anything in his manner which at all implied that he was keeping watch over her, or that he was more with her, or closer to her than a loving husband might wish to be with a young wife; but the mode of life was very different from that which Alice had seen at Matching Priory!

On her arrival Mr Palliser himself received her in the hall, and took her up to his wife before she had taken off her travelling hat. "We are so much obliged to you, Miss Vavasor," he said. "I feel it quite as deeply as Glencora."

"Oh, no," she said; "it is I that am under obligation to you for taking me."

He merely smiled, and shook his head, and then took her up-stairs. On the stairs he said one other word to her: "You must forgive me if I was cross to you that night she went out among the ruins." Alice muttered something,—some little fib of courtesy as to the matter having been forgotten, or never borne in mind; and then they went on to Lady Glencora's room. It seemed to Alice that he was not so big or so much to be dreaded as when she had seen him at Matching. His descent from an expectant, or more than an expectant, Chancellor of the Exchequer, down to a simple, attentive husband, seemed to affect his gait, his voice, and all his demeanour. When he received Alice at the Priory he certainly loomed before her as something great, whereas now his greatness seemed to have fallen from him. We must own that this was hard upon him, seeing that the deed by which he had divested himself of his greatness had been so pure and good!

"Dear Alice, this is so good of you! I am all in the midst of packing, and Plantagenet is helping me." Plantagenet winced a little under this, as the hero of old must have winced when he was found with the distaff. Mr Palliser had relinquished his sword of state for the distaff which he had assumed, and could take no glory in the change. There was, too, in his wife's voice the slightest hint of mockery, which, slight as it was, he perhaps thought she might have spared. "You have nothing left to pack," continued Glencora, "and I don't know what you can do to amuse yourself."

"I will help you," said Alice.

"But we have so very nearly done. I think we shall have to pull all the things out, and put them up again, or we shall never get through to-morrow. We couldn't start to-morrow;—could we, Plantagenet?"

"Not very well, as your rooms are ordered in Paris for the next day."

"As if we couldn't find rooms at every inn on the road. Men are so particular. Now in travelling I should like never to order rooms,—never to know where I was going or when I was going, and to carry everything I wanted in a market-basket." Alice, who by this time had followed her friend along the passage to her bedroom, and had seen how widely the packages were spread about, bethought herself that the market-basket should be a large one. "And I would never travel among Christians. Christians are so slow, and they wear chimney-pot hats everywhere. The further one goes from London among Christians, the more they wear chimney-pot hats. I want Plantagenet to take us to see the Kurds, but he won't."

"I don't think that would be fair to Miss Vavasor," said Mr Palliser, who had followed them.