“But your father was thinking of men of fortune.”
“Not at all;—of younger brothers, and barristers, and of men who have their way to make, as you have. Let me see,—can you dine here on Wednesday? There will be no party, of course, but papa will want to shake hands with you; and you legislators of the Lower House are more easily reached on Wednesdays than on any other day.”
“I shall be delighted,” said Phineas, feeling, however, that he did not expect much sympathy from Lord Brentford.
“Mr. Kennedy dines here;—you know Mr. Kennedy, of Loughlinter; and we will ask your friend Mr. Fitzgibbon. There will be nobody else. As for catching Barrington Erle, that is out of the question at such a time as this.”
“But going back to my being ruined—” said Phineas, after a pause.
“Don’t think of anything so disagreeable.”
“You must not suppose that I am afraid of it. I was going to say that there are worse things than ruin,—or, at any rate, than the chance of ruin. Supposing that I have to emigrate and skin sheep, what does it matter? I myself, being unencumbered, have myself as my own property to do what I like with. With Nelson it was Westminster Abbey or a peerage. With me it is parliamentary success or sheep-skinning.”
“There shall be no sheep-skinning, Mr. Finn. I will guarantee you.”
“Then I shall be safe.”
At that moment the door of the room was opened, and a man entered with quick steps, came a few yards in, and then retreated, slamming the door after him. He was a man with thick short red hair, and an abundance of very red beard. And his face was red,—and, as it seemed to Phineas, his very eyes. There was something in the countenance of the man which struck him almost with dread,—something approaching to ferocity.
There was a pause a moment after the door was closed, and then Lady Laura spoke. “It was my brother Chiltern. I do not think that you have ever met him.”
Mr. and Mrs. Low
That terrible apparition of the red Lord Chiltern had disturbed Phineas in the moment of his happiness as he sat listening to the kind flatteries of Lady Laura; and though Lord Chiltern had vanished as quickly as he had appeared, there had come no return of his joy. Lady Laura had said some word about her brother, and Phineas had replied that he had never chanced to see Lord Chiltern. Then there had been an awkward silence, and almost immediately other persons had come in. After greeting one or two old acquaintances, among whom an elder sister of Laurence Fitzgibbon was one, he took his leave and escaped out into the square. “Miss Fitzgibbon is going to dine with us on Wednesday,” said Lady Laura. “She says she won’t answer for her brother, but she will bring him if she can.”
“And you’re a member of Parliament now too, they tell me,” said Miss Fitzgibbon, holding up her hands. “I think everybody will be in Parliament before long. I wish I knew some man who wasn’t, that I might think of changing my condition.”