“Claptrap!” said Phineas.
“It’s what I call downright Radical nonsense,” said Mrs. Low, nodding her head energetically. “Portrait indeed! Why should we want to have a portrait of ignorance and ugliness? What we all want is to have things quiet and orderly.”
“Then you’d better have a paternal government at once,” said Phineas.
“Just so,” said Mr. Low,—“only that what you call a paternal government is not always quiet and orderly. National order I take to be submission to the law. I should not think it quiet and orderly if I were sent to Cayenne without being brought before a jury.”
“But such a man as you would not be sent to Cayenne,” said Phineas,
“My next-door neighbour might be,—which would be almost as bad. Let him be sent to Cayenne if he deserves it, but let a jury say that he has deserved it. My idea of government is this,—that we want to be governed by law and not by caprice, and that we must have a legislature to make our laws. If I thought that Parliament as at present established made the laws badly, I would desire a change; but I doubt whether we shall have them better from any change in Parliament which Reform will give us.”
“Of course not,” said Mrs. Low. “But we shall have a lot of beggars put on horseback, and we all know where they ride to.”
Then Phineas became aware that it is not easy to convince any man or any woman on a point of politics,—not even though he who argues may have an eloquent letter from a philosophical Cabinet Minister in his pocket to assist him.
Phineas Finn Makes Progress
February was far advanced and the new Reform Bill had already been brought forward, before Lady Laura Kennedy came up to town. Phineas had of course seen Mr. Kennedy and had heard from him tidings of his wife. She was at Saulsby with Lady Baldock and Miss Boreham and Violet Effingham, but was to be in London soon. Mr. Kennedy, as it appeared, did not quite know when he was to expect his wife; and Phineas thought that he could perceive from the tone of the husband’s voice that something was amiss. He could not however ask any questions excepting such as referred to the expected arrival. Was Miss Effingham to come to London with Lady Laura? Mr. Kennedy believed that Miss Effingham would be up before Easter, but he did not know whether she would come with his wife. “Women,” he said, “are so fond of mystery that one can never quite know what they intend to do.” He corrected himself at once however, perceiving that he had seemed to say something against his wife, and explained that his general accusation against the sex was not intended to apply to Lady Laura. This, however, he did so awkwardly as to strengthen the feeling with Phineas that something assuredly was wrong. “Miss Effingham,” said Mr. Kennedy, “never seems to know her own mind.” “I suppose she is like other beautiful girls