But to yield such a triumph to the Ratlers and Bonteens whom he left behind him,—to let them have their will over him,—to know that they would rejoice scurrilously behind his back over his downfall! The feeling was terrible to him. The last words which Bonteen had spoken made it impossible to him now not to support his old friend Mr. Monk. It was not only what Bonteen had said, but that the words of Mr. Bonteen so plainly indicated what would be the words of all the other Bonteens. He knew that he was weak in this. He knew that had he been strong, he would have allowed himself to be guided,—if not by the firm decision of his own spirit,—by the counsels of such men as Mr. Gresham and Lord Cantrip, and not by the sarcasms of the Bonteens and Ratlers of official life. But men who sojourn amidst savagery fear the mosquito more than they do the lion. He could not bear to think that he should yield his blood to such a one as Bonteen.
And he must yield his blood, unless he could vote for Mr. Monk’s motion, and hold his ground afterwards among them all in the House of Commons. He would at any rate see the session out, and try a fall with Mr. Bonteen when they should be sitting on different benches,—if ever fortune should give him an opportunity. And in the meantime, what should he do about Madame Goesler? What a fate was his to have the handsomest woman in London with thousands and thousands a year at his disposal! For,—so he now swore to himself,—Madame Goesler was the handsomest woman in London, as Mary Flood Jones was the sweetest girl in the world.
He had not arrived at any decision so fixed as to make him comfortable when he went home and dressed for Mrs. Gresham’s party. And yet he knew,—he thought that he knew that he would be true to Mary Flood Jones.
The Prime Minister’s House
The rooms and passages and staircases at Mrs. Gresham’s house were very crowded when Phineas arrived there. Men of all shades of politics were there, and the wives and daughters of such men; and there was a streak of royalty in one of the saloons, and a whole rainbow of foreign ministers with their stars, and two blue ribbons were to be seen together on the first landing-place, with a stout lady between them carrying diamonds enough to load a pannier. Everybody was there. Phineas found that even Lord Chiltern was come, as he stumbled across his friend on the first foot-ground that he gained in his ascent towards the rooms. “Halloa,—you here?” said Phineas. “Yes, by George!” said the other, “but I am going to escape as soon as possible. I’ve been trying to make my way up for the last hour, but could never get round that huge promontory there. Laura was more persevering.” “Is Kennedy here?” Phineas whispered. “I do not know,” said Chiltern, “but she was determined to run the chance.”
A little higher up,—for Phineas was blessed with more patience than Lord Chiltern possessed,—he came upon Mr. Monk. “So you are still admitted privately,” said Phineas.