There he saw Violet Effingham, meeting her for the first time since he had parted from her on the great steps at Saulsby. Of course he spoke to her, and of course she was gracious to him. But her graciousness was only a smile and his speech was only a word. There were many in the room, but not enough to make privacy possible,—as it becomes possible at a crowded evening meeting. Lord Brentford was there, and the Bonteens, and Barrington Erle, and Lady Glencora Palliser, and Lord Cantrip with his young wife. It was manifestly a meeting of Liberals, semi-social and semi-political;—so arranged that ladies might feel that some interest in politics was allowed to them, and perhaps some influence also. Afterwards Mr. Palliser himself came in. Phineas, however, was most struck by finding that Laurence Fitzgibbon was there, and that Mr. Kennedy was not. In regard to Mr. Kennedy, he was quite sure that had such a meeting taken place before Lady Laura’s marriage, Mr. Kennedy would have been present. “I must speak to you as we go away,” said Phineas, whispering a word into Fitzgibbon’s ear. “I have been leaving notes for you all about the town.” “Not a duel, I hope,” said Fitzgibbon.
How pleasant it was,—that meeting; or would have been had there not been that nightmare on his breast! They all talked as though there were perfect accord between them and perfect confidence. There were there great men,—Cabinet Ministers, and beautiful women,—the wives and daughters of some of England’s highest nobles. And Phineas Finn, throwing back, now and again, a thought to Killaloe, found himself among them as one of themselves. How could any Mr. Low say that he was wrong?
On a sofa near to him, so that he could almost touch her foot with his, was sitting Violet Effingham, and as he leaned over from his chair discussing some point in Mr. Mildmay’s bill with that most inveterate politician, Lady Glencora, Violet looked into his face and smiled. Oh heavens! If Lord Chiltern and he might only toss up as to which of them should go to Patagonia and remain there for the next ten years, and which should have Violet Effingham for a wife in London!
“Come along, Phineas, if you mean to come,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon. Phineas was of course bound to go, though Lady Glencora was still talking Radicalism, and Violet Effingham was still smiling ineffably.
“I knew it was a duel;—bedad I did,” said Laurence Fitzgibbon, standing at the corner of Orchard Street and Oxford Street, when Phineas had half told his story. “I was sure of it from the tone of your voice, my boy. We mustn’t let it come off, that’s all;—not if we can help it.” Then Phineas was allowed to proceed and finish his story. “I don’t see any way out of it; I don’t, indeed,” said Laurence. By this time Phineas had come