Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 37

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Chapter LXXVII: The Travellers Return Home 

Mr Palliser did not remain long in Baden after the payment of Burgo's bill. Perhaps I shall not throw any undeserved discredit on his courage if I say that he was afraid to do so. What would he have said,—what would he have been able to say, if that young man had come to him demanding an explanation? So he hurried away to Strasbourg the same day, much to his wife's satisfaction.

The journey home from thence was not marked by any incidents. Gradually Mr Palliser became a little more lenient to his wife and slightly less oppressive in his caution. If he still inquired about the springs of the carriages, he did so in silence, and he ceased to enjoin the necessity of a day's rest after each day's journey. By the time that they reached Dover he had become so used to his wife's condition that he made but little fluttering as she walked out of the boat by that narrow gangway which is so contrived as to make an arrival there a serious inconvenience to a lady, and a nuisance even to a man. He was somewhat staggered when a big man, in the middle of the night, insisted on opening the little basket which his wife carried, and was uncomfortable when obliged to stop her on the plank while he gave up the tickets which he thought had been already surrendered; but he was becoming used to his position, and bore himself like a man.

During their journey home Mr Palliser had by no means kept his seat opposite to Lady Glencora with constancy. He had soon found that it was easier to talk to Mr Grey than to his wife, and, consequently, the two ladies had been much together, as had also the two gentlemen. What the ladies discussed may be imagined. One was about to become a wife and the other a mother, and that was to be their fate after each had made up her mind that no such lot was to be hers. It may, however, be presumed that for every one word that Alice spoke Lady Glencora spoke ten. The two men, throughout these days of close intimacy, were intent upon politics. Mr Palliser, who may be regarded as the fox who had lost his tail,—the tail being, in this instance, the comfort of domestic privacy,—was eager in recommending his new friend to cut off his tail also. "Your argument would be very well," said he, "if men were to be contented to live for themselves only."

"Your argument would be very well," said the other, "if it were used to a man who felt that he could do good to others by going into public life. But it is wholly inefficacious if it recommends public life simply or chiefly because a man may gratify his own ambition by public services."

"Of course there is personal gratification, and of course there is good done," said Mr Palliser.

"Is,—or should be," said Mr Grey.

"Exactly; and the two things must go together. The chief gratification comes from the feeling that you are of use."

"But if you feel that you would not be of use?"

We need not follow the argument any further. We all know its nature, and what between two such men would be said on both sides. We all know that neither of them would put the matter altogether in a true light. Men never can do so in words, let the light within themselves be ever so clear. I do not think that any man yet ever had such a gift of words as to make them a perfect exponent of all the wisdom within him. But the effect was partly that which the weaker man of the two desired,—the weaker in the gifts of nature, though art had in some respects made him stronger. Mr Grey was shaken in his quiescent philosophy, and startled Alice,—startled her as much as he delighted her,—by a word or two he said as he walked with her in the courts of the Louvre. "It's all hollow here," he said, speaking of French politics.