“You would not be a drone in the hive always?”
“As far as I can see, sir, we who call ourselves lords generally are drones.”
“I deny it,” said the Earl, becoming quite energetic as he defended his order. “I deny it utterly. I know no class of men who do work more useful or more honest. Am I a drone? Have I been so from my youth upwards? I have always worked, either in the one House or in the other, and those of my fellows with whom I have been most intimate have worked also. The same career is open to you.”
“You mean politics?”
“Of course I mean politics.”
“I don’t care for politics. I see no difference in parties.”
“But you should care for politics, and you should see a difference in parties. It is your duty to do so. My wish is that you should go into Parliament.”
“I can’t do that, sir.”
“And why not?”
“In the first place, sir, you have not got a
seat to offer me.
You have managed matters among you in such a way that poor little
Loughton has been swallowed up. If I were to canvass the electors of
Smotherem, I don’t think that many would look very sweet on me.”
“There is the county, Oswald.”
“And whom am I to turn out? I should spend four or five thousand pounds, and have nothing but vexation in return for it. I had rather not begin that game, and indeed I am too old for Parliament. I did not take it up early enough to believe in it.”
All this made the Earl very angry, and from these things they went on to worse things. When questioned again as to the future, Lord Chiltern scowled, and at last declared that it was his idea to live abroad in the summer for his wife’s recreation, and somewhere down in the shires during the winter for his own. He would admit of no purpose higher than recreation, and when his father again talked to him of a nobleman’s duty, he said that he knew of no other special duty than that of not exceeding his income. Then his father made a longer speech than before, and at the end of it Lord Chiltern simply wished him good night. “It’s getting late, and I’ve promised to see Violet before I go to bed. Good-bye.” Then he was off, and Lord Brentford was left there, standing with his back to the fire.
After that Lord Chiltern had a discussion with Violet, which lasted nearly half the night; and during the discussion she told him more than once that he was wrong. “Such as I am you must take me, or leave me,” he said, in anger. “Nay; there is no choice now,” she answered. “I have taken you, and I will stick by you,—whether you are right or wrong. But when I think you wrong, I shall say so.” He swore to her as he pressed her to his heart that she was the finest, grandest, sweetest woman that ever the world had produced. But still there was present on his palate, when he left her, the bitter taste of her reprimand.