“I promised my mother to ask you a question, Uncle Dennis. You know of my attachment, I believe?”
Lord Dennis nodded.
“Well, I have joined my life to this lady’s. There will be no scandal, but I consider it my duty to resign my seat, and leave public life alone. Is that right or wrong according to, your view?”
Lord Dennis looked at his nephew in silence. A faint flush coloured his brown cheeks. He had the appearance of one travelling in mind over the past.
“Wrong, I think,” he said, at last.
“Why, if I may ask?”
“I have not the pleasure of knowing this lady, and am therefore somewhat in the dark; but it appears to me that your decision is not fair to her.”
“That is beyond me,” said Miltoun.
Lord Dennis answered firmly:
“You have asked me a frank question, expecting a frank answer, I suppose?”
“Then, my dear, don’t blame me if what I say is unpalatable.”
“I shall not.”
“Good! You say you are going to give up public life for the sake of your conscience. I should have no criticism to make if it stopped there.”
He paused, and for quite a minute remained silent, evidently searching for words to express some intricate thread of thought.
“But it won’t, Eustace; the public man in you is far stronger than the other. You want leadership more than you want love. Your sacrifice will kill your affection; what you imagine is your loss and hurt, will prove to be this lady’s in the end.”
Lord Dennis continued very dryly and with a touch of malice:
“You are not listening to me; but I can see very well that the process has begun already underneath. There’s a curious streak of the Jesuit in you, Eustace. What you don’t want to see, you won’t look at.”
“You advise me, then, to compromise?”
“On the contrary, I point out that you will be compromising if you try to keep both your conscience and your love. You will be seeking to have, it both ways.”
“That is interesting.”
“And you will find yourself having it neither,” said Lord Dennis sharply.
Miltoun rose. “In other words, you, like the others, recommend me to desert this lady who loves me, and whom I love. And yet, Uncle, they say that in your own case——”
But Lord Dennis had risen, too, having lost all the appanage and manner of old age.
“Of my own case,” he said bluntly, “we won’t talk. I don’t advise you to desert anyone; you quite mistake me. I advise you to know yourself. And I tell you my opinion of you—you were cut out by Nature for a statesman, not a lover! There’s something dried-up in you, Eustace; I’m not sure there isn’t something dried-up in all our caste. We’ve had to do with forms and ceremonies too long. We’re not good at taking the lyrical point of view.”