Phineas Finn eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 986 pages of information about Phineas Finn.

“He isn’t worth above fifty,” said Lord Chiltern.

“But I’ll give you the three hundred,” said Piles.

“You couldn’t ride him if you’d got him,” said Lord Chiltern.

“Oh, couldn’t I!” said Piles.  But Mr. Piles did not continue the conversation, contenting himself with telling his friend Grogram that that red devil Chiltern was as drunk as a lord.

CHAPTER XX

The Debate on the Ballot

Phineas took his seat in the House with a consciousness of much inward trepidation of heart on that night of the ballot debate.  After leaving Lord Chiltern he went down to his club and dined alone.  Three or four men came and spoke to him; but he could not talk to them at his ease, nor did he quite know what they were saying to him.  He was going to do something which he longed to achieve, but the very idea of which, now that it was so near to him, was a terror to him.  To be in the House and not to speak would, to his thinking, be a disgraceful failure.  Indeed, he could not continue to keep his seat unless he spoke.  He had been put there that he might speak.  He would speak.  Of course he would speak.  Had he not already been conspicuous almost as a boy orator?  And yet, at this moment he did not know whether he was eating mutton or beef, or who was standing opposite to him and talking to him, so much was he in dread of the ordeal which he had prepared for himself.  As he went down to the House after dinner, he almost made up his mind that it would be a good thing to leave London by one of the night mail trains.  He felt himself to be stiff and stilted as he walked, and that his clothes were uneasy to him.  When he turned into Westminster Hall he regretted more keenly than ever he had done that he had seceded from the keeping of Mr. Low.  He could, he thought, have spoken very well in court, and would there have learned that self-confidence which now failed him so terribly.  It was, however, too late to think of that.  He could only go in and take his seat.

He went in and took his seat, and the chamber seemed to him to be mysteriously large, as though benches were crowded over benches, and galleries over galleries.  He had been long enough in the House to have lost the original awe inspired by the Speaker and the clerks of the House, by the row of Ministers, and by the unequalled importance of the place.  On ordinary occasions he could saunter in and out, and whisper at his ease to a neighbour.  But on this occasion he went direct to the bench on which he ordinarily sat, and began at once to rehearse to himself his speech.  He had in truth been doing this all day, in spite of the effort that he had made to rid himself of all memory of the occasion.  He had been collecting the heads of his speech while Mr. Low had been talking to him, and refreshing his quotations in the presence of Lord Chiltern and the dumb-bells.  He had taxed his memory and his intellect with various tasks, which,

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Phineas Finn from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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