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STORAGE-ITEH HAIN LIBRARI

LPA-B529

U.B.C. LIBRARY

THE TRAVELLERS* LIBRARY

ANGELS AND MINISTERS

THE TRAVELLER S' LIBRARY

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SUPER-TRAMP

by W. H. Davies

EARLHAM by Pcrcy Lubbock

SELECTED PREJUDICES by H. L. Menckcn

THE BLACK DOG by A. E. Coppard

WIDE SEAS AND MANY LANDS by Arthur Mason

CAN SUCH THINGS BE by Ambrose Bierce

BABBITT by Sinclair Lewis

THE CRAFT OF FICTION by Percy Lubbock

THE MIND IN THE MAKING by James Harvey Robinson

THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler

EREWHON by Samuel Butler

EREWHON REVISITED by Samucl Butler

THE DREAM by H. G. Wells

ADAM AND EVE AND PINCH ME by A. E. Coppard

TWILIGHT IN ITALY by D. H. Lawrcncc DOG AND DUCK by Arthur Machen DUBLiNERS by Jamcs Joyce

Uniform with this volume

ANGELS AND MINISTERS

AND OTHER VICTORIAN PLAYS

by LAURENCE HOUSMAN

LONDON JONATHAN CAPE 30 BEDFORD SQUARE

Afigels and Ministers and Possession were first PUBLISHED IN 1921 AND Dethronements in 1922

REPRINTED IN TRAVELLERS' LIBRARY 1 926

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

Introduction

THE Victorian era has ceased to be a thing of yesterday; it has become history; and the fixed look of age, no longer contemporary in character, which now grades the period, grades also the once living material which went to its making.

With this period of history those who were once participants in its life can deal more intimately and with more verisimilitude than can those whose literary outlook comes later. We can write of it as no sequent generation will find possible ; for we are bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh ; and when we go, something goes with us which will require for its reconstruction, not the natural piety of a returned native, such as I claim to be, but the cold, calculating art of literary excursionists whose domicile is else- where.

Some while ago, before Mr. Strachey had made the name of Victoria to resound as triumphantly as it does now, a friend asked why I should trouble to resuscitate these Victorian remains. My answer is because I myself am Victorian, and because the Vic- torianism to which I belong is now passing so rapidly into history, henceforth to present to the world a colder aspect than that which endears it to my own mind.

The bloom upon the grape only fully appears when it i? ripe for death. Then, at a touch, it passes, delicate and evanescent as the frailest blossoms of spring. Just at this moment the Victorian age has that bloom upon it autumnal, not spring-Hke which, in the nature of things, cannot last. Thnt bloom I have tried to illumine before time wipes it away.

Under this rose-shaded lamp of history, domesti- cally designed, I would have these old characters look young again, or not at least as though they belonged to another age. This wick which I have kindled is short, and will not last ; but, so long as it does, it throws on them the commentary of a con- temporary light. In another generation the bloom which it seeks to irradiate will be gone ; nor will anyone then be able to present them to us as they really were.

Contents

PART ONE : ANGELS AND MINISTERS

PAGE

I. The Queen: God Bless Her! . . 15 (A Scene from Home-Life in the Highlands)

II. His Favourite Flower . , . •47

(A Political Myth Explained)

III. The Comforter ...... 63

(A Political Finale)

PART TWO

IV. Possession ....... 89

(A Peep-Show in Paradise)

PART THREE : DETHRONEMENTS

V. The King-Maker 13

(Brighton October, 1 89 1 )

VI. The Man of Business . . . 35

(Highbury August, 191 3)

V'^II. The Instrument 71

(Washington March, 192 1)

Part One

Angels and Ministers

The Queen: God Bless Her I

n

Dramatis Personae

Qleen Victoria Lord Beaconsfield

Mr John Brown A Footman

The Queen : God Bless Her !

A Scene from Home-Life in the Highlands

7 he august Lady is sitting in a garden-tent on the lawn of Balmoral Castle. Her parasol leans beside her. Writing-materials are on the table before her^ and a small fan^ for it is hot weather ; also a dish of peaches. Sunlight sufuses the tent interior.^ softening the round contours of the face, and caressing pleasantly the small plump hand busy at letter-writing. The even flow of her penmanship is suddenly disturbed; picking up her parasol^ she indulgently beats some unseen object, lying concealed against her skirts.

QUEEN. No : don't scratch ! Naughty! Naughty!

i^She then picks up a hand-bell, rings it, and continues her writing. Presently a fine figure of a man in Highland costume appears in the tent-door. He waits awhile, then speaks in the strong Doric of his native wilds)

IS

MR. J. BROWN. Was your Majesty wanting any- thing, or were you ringing only for the fun ?

(To this brusque delivery her Majesty responds with a cosy smile, for the special junction oj Mr, John Brown is not to he a courtier ; and, knowing what is expected oj him^ he lives up to it)

QUEEN. Bring another chair, Brown. And take Mop with you : he wants his walk.

MR. J. B. What kind of a chair are you wanting, Ma'am ? Is it to put your feet on ?

QUEEN. No, no. It is to put a visitor on. Choose a nice one with a lean-back.

MR. J. B. With a lean back ? Ho ! Ye mean one that you can lean back in. What talk folk will bring with them from up south, to be sure ! Yes, I'll get it for ye, Ma'am. Come, Mop, be a braw little wee mon, and tak' your walk !

{And while his Royal Mistress resumes her writing, taking Mop by his " lead^"* he prepares jor departure)

Have ye seen the paper this morning yet ? Ma'am.

{^he address oj respect is thrown in by way oj ajterthought, or, as it were, reluctantly. Having to be in character, his way is to tread heavily on the border-line which divides jamiliarity jrom respect) i6

QUEEN. Not yet.

MR. J. B. {departing). I'll bring it for ye, now.

QUEEN. You had better send it.

J. B. {turning about). What did ye say ? . . , Ma'am.

QUEEN. " Send it," Brown, I said. Mop mustn't be hurried. Take him round by the stables.

{He goes : and the Queen, with a soft, indul- gent smile, that slowly flickers out as the labour of composition proceeds, resumes her zvriting)

{Presently enters a liveried Footman, who stands at attention with the paper upon a salver, touching the table at her side as an indication, the Queen continues to write. With gingerly reverence the man lays down the paper and goes. Twice she looks at it before taking it up ; then she unfolds it ; then lays it down, and takes out her glasses ; then begins read- ing. Evidently she comes on some- thing she does not like ; she pats the table impatiently, then exclaims :

Most extraordinary !

{A wasp settles on the peaches)

And I wish one could kill all wicked pests as easily as you.

17

{^She makes a dab with the paper-knife, the wasp escapes)

Most extraordinary !

{Relinquishi7ig the pursuit of zoasps, she resumes her reading)

(In a little while il/r. John Brown returns, both hands occupied. The chair he deposits by the tent door, and hitches Mop's " lead " to the back of that on which the Queen is sitting. With the small beginni?igs of a smile she lowers the paper, and looks at him and his accom- paniments)

Queen. Well, Brown ? Oh, yes ; that's quite a nice one. . . . I'm sure there's a wasps' nest some- where ; there are so many of them about.

J. B. Eh, don't fash yourself ! Wasps have a way of being aboot this time of year. It's the fruit they're after.

QUEEN. Yes : hke Adam and Eve.

J. B, That's just it, Ma'am.

QUEEN. You'd better take it away. Brown, or cover it ; it's too tempting.

J. B. {removing the fruit). Ah! Now if God had only done that, maybe we'd still all be running aboot naked.

QUEEN. I'm glad He didn't, then. i8

J, B. Ye're right, Ma'am.

QUEEN. The Fall made the human race decent, even if it did no good otherwise. Brown, I've dropped my glasses.

{He picks them up and returns them)

QUEEN. Thank you, Brown.

J. B. So you're expecting a visitor, ye say ?

QUEEN. Yes. You haven't seen Lord Beacons- field yet, I suppose ?

J. B. Since he was to arrive off the train, you mean. Ma'am ? No : he came early. He's in his room.

QUEEN. I hope they have given him a comfortable one.

J. B. It's the one I used to have. There's a good spring-bed in it, and a kettle-ring for the whisky.

QUEEN. Oh, that's all right, then.

J. B. Will he be staying for long r Ma'am.

QUEEN. Only for a week, I'm afraid. Why ?

J. B. It's about the shooting I was thinking: whether it was the deer or the grouse he'd want to be after.

QUEEN. I don't think Lord Beaconsfield is a sportsman.

J. B. I know that, Ma'am, well enough. But there's many who are not sportsmen that think

19

they've got to do it when they come north of the Tweed.

QUEEN. Lord Beaconsfield will not shoot, I'm sure. You remember him, Brown, being here before ?

J. B. Eh! Many years ago, that was; he was no but Mr. Disraeli then. But he was the real thing, Ma'am : oh, a nice gentleman.

QUEEN. He is always very nice to me.

J. B. I remember now, when he first came, he put a tip into me hand. And when I let him know the Hberty he had taken, " Well, Mr. Brown," he said, " I've made a mistake, but I don't take it back again ! "

QUEEN. Very nice and sensible.

J. B. And indeed it was. Ma'am. Many a man would never have had the wit to leave well alone by just apologising for it. But there was an under- standingness about him, that often you don't find. After that he always talked to me like an equal just Hke yourself might do. But Lord, Ma'am, his ignorance, it was surprising !

QUEEN. Most extraordinary you should think that, Brown !

J. B. Ah ! You haven't talked to him as I have, Ma'am : only about poHtics, and poetry, and things like that, where, maybe, he knows a bit more than I do (though he didn't know his Burns so well as a man ought that thinks to make laws for Scotland !). 20

But to hear him talking about natural fact.^, you'd think he was just inventing for to amuse himself ! Do you know, Ma'am, he thought stags had white tails like rabbits, and that 'twas only when they wagged them so as to show, that you could shoot them. - And he thought that you pulled a salmon out o' the water as soon as you'd hooked him. .And he thought that a haggis was made of a sheep's head boiled in whisky. Oh, he's very innocent, Ma'am, if you get him where he's not expecting you.

QUEEN. Well, Brown, there are some things you can teach him, I don't doubt ; and there are some things he can teach you. I'm sure he has taught me a great deal.

J. B. Ay ? It's a credit to ye both, then.

QUEEN. He lets me think for myself. Brown; and that's what so many of my ministers would rather I didn't. They want me to be merely the receptacle of their own opinions. No, Brown, that's what we Stewarts are never going to do !

J. B. Nor would I, Ma'am, if I were in your shoes. But believe me, you can do more, being a mere woman, so to speak, than many a king can do.

QUEEN. Yes ; being a woman has its advantages, I know.

J. B. For you can get round 'em. Ma'am ; and you can put 'em off ; and you can make it very awkward for them very awkward to hav*; a difference of opinion with you.

21

QUEEN {good-humour edly). You and I have had differences of opinion sometimes, Brown.

J. B. True, Ma'am ; that has happened ; I've known it happen. And I've never regretted it, never ! But the difference there is, Ma'am, that I'm not your Prime Minister. Had I been you'd 'a been more stiff about giving in naturally ! Now there's Mr. Gladstone, Ma'am ; I'm not denying he's a great man ; but he's got too many ideas for my liking, far too many ! I'm not against temperance any more than he is put in its right place. But he's got that crazy notion of " local option " in his mind ; he's coming to it, gradually. And he doesn't think how giving " local option," to them that don't take the wide view of things, may do harm to a locality. You must be wide in your views, else you do some- body an injustice.

QUEEN. Yes, Brown ; and that is why I Hke being up in the hills, where the views are wide.

J. B. I put it this way, Ma'am. You come to a locaHty, and you find you can't get served as you are accustomed to be served. Well ! you don't go there again, and you tell others not to go ; and so the place gets a bad name. I've a brother who keeps an inn down at Aberlochy on the coach route, and he tells me that more than half his customers come from outside the locality.

QUEEN. Of course ; naturally!

J. B. Well now, Ma'am, it'll be for the bad

22

locality to have half the custom that comes to it turned away, because of local option ! And bcHeve me, Ma'am, that's what it will come to. People living in it won't see till the shoe pinches them ; and by that time my brother, and others like him, will have been ruined in their business.

QUEEN. Local option is not going to come yet. Brown.

J. B. {firmly). No, Ma'am, not while I vote con- servative, it won't. But I was looking ahead ; I was talking about Mr. Gladstone.

QUEEN. Mr. Gladstone has retired from politics. At least he is not going to take ofhce again.

J. B. Don't you believe him. Ma'am. Mr. Glad- stone is not a retiring character. He's in to-day's paper again columns of him ; have ye seen ?

QUEEN. Yes ; quite as much as I wish to see.

J. B. And there's something in what he says, I don't deny.

QUEEN. There's a great deal in what he says, I don't understand, and that I don't wish to.

J. B. Now you never said a truer thing than that in your Ufe, Ma'am ! That's just how I find him. Oh, but he's a great man ; and it's wonderful how he appreciates the Scot, and looks up to his opinion.

(But this is a line of conversation in which his Royal Mistress declines to he inter- ested. And she is helped, at that moment^

23

by something which really does interest her)

QUEEN. Brown, how did you come to scratch your leg?

J. B. 'Twas not me, Ma'am ; 'twas the stable cat did that just now while Mop was having his walk.

QUEEN. Poor dear Brown ! Did she fly at you ?

J. B. Well, 'twas like this, Ma'am ; first Mop went for her, then she went for him. And I tell ye she'd have scraped his eyes out if I'd left it to a

finish.

QUEEN. Ferocious creature ! She must be mad.

J. B. Well, Ma'am, I don't know whether a cat- and-dog fight is a case of what God hath joined together ; but it's the hard thing for man to put asunder ! And that's the scraping I got for it, when I tried.

QUEEN. You must have it cauterised. Brown. I won't have you getting hydrophobia.

J. B. You generally get that from dogs.

QUEEN. Oh, from cats too ; any cat that a mad dog has bitten.

J. B. They do say. Ma'am, that if a mad dog bites you you have to die barking. So if it's a cat-bite I'm going to die of, you'll hear me mewing the day, maybe.

QUEEN. I don't hke cats : I never did. Treacher-

ous, deceitful creatures ! Now a dog always looks up to you.

J. B. Yes, Ma'am ; they are tasteful, attractive animals ; and that, maybe, is the reason. They give you a good conceit of yourself, dogs do. You never have to apologise to a dog. Do him an injury you've only to say you forgive him, and he's friends again.

{Accepting his views with a nodding smile ^ she resumes her pen^ and spreads paper ^

QUEEN. Now, Brown, I must get to work again. I have writing to do. See that I'm not disturbed.

J. B. Then when were you wanting to see your visitor. Ma'am ? There's his chair waiting.

QUEEN. Ah, yes, to be sure. But I didn't want to worry him too soon. What is the time ?

J. B. Nearly twelve. Ma'am.

QUEEN. Oh ! then I think I may. Will you go and tell him : the Queen's compliments, and she would like to see him, now ?

J. B. I will go and tell him, Ma'am.

QUEEN. And then I shan't want you any more till this afternoon.

J. B. Then I'll just go across and take lunch at home. Ma'am.

QUEEN. Yes, do ! That will be nice for you. And^ Brown, mind you have that leg seen to !

25

(Mr. John Brozvn has started to go, when his step is arrested!)

J. B. His lordship is there in the garden, Ma'am, talking to the Princess.

QUEEN. What, before he has seen me ? Go, and take him away from the Princess, and tell him to come here !

J. B. I will, Ma'am.

QUEEN. And you had better take Mop with you. Now, dear Brown, do have your poor leg seen to, at once !

J. B. Indeed, and I will. Ma'am. Come, Mop, man ! Come and tell his lordship he's wanted.

(Exit Mr. John Brown, nicely accompanied by Mop)

(Left to herself the Queen administers a feminine touch or two to dress and cap and hair ; then with dignified composure she resumes her zvriting, and continues to write even when the shadow of her favourite minister crosses the entrance, and he stands hat in hand before her, flawlessly arrayed in a gay frock suit suggestive of the period when male attire was still not only a fashion but an art.

Despite, however, the studied correctness of his costume, face and deportment give signs of haggard fatigue ; and when he hows 26

it is the droop of a weary man^ slow in the recovery. Just at the fitting moment for full acceptance of his silent salutation^ the Royal Lady lays dozvn her pe7i)

QUEEN. Oh, how do you do, my dear Lord Beaconsfield ! Good morning ; and welcome to Balmoral.

LORD B. {as he kisses the hand extended to him). That word from your Majesty brings all its charms to life ! What a prospect of beauty I see around me !

QUEEN. You arrived early ? I hope you are sufficiently rested.

LORD B. Refreshed, Madam ; rest will come later.

QUEEN. You have had a long, tiring journey, I fear.

LORD B. It was long, Madam.

QUEEN. I hope that you slept upon the train ?

LORD B. I lay upon it. Ma'am. That is all I can say truly.

QUEEN. Oh, I'm sorry !

LORD B. There were compensations, Ma'am. In my vigil I was able to look forward to that which is now before me. The morning is beautiful ! May I be permitted to enquire if your Majesty's health has benefited ?

QUEEN. I'm feeling " bonnie," as we sa}' in Scotland. Life out of doors suits me.

27

LORD B. Ah ! This tent light is charming ! Then my eyes had not deceived me ; your Majesty is already more than better. The tempered sunlight, so tender in its reflections, gives an interior,- one may say of almost floral delicacy ; making these canvas walls like the white petals of an enfolding flower.

QUEEN. Are you writing another of your novels, Lord Beaconsfield ? That sounds like composition.

LORD B. Believe me, Madam, only an impromptu.

QUEEN. Now, my dear Lord, pray sit down ! I had that chair specially brought for you. Generally I sit here quite alone.

LORD B. Such kind forethought. Madam, over- whelms me ! Words are inadequate. I accept, gratefully, the repose you offer me.

{He sinks into the chair, and sits motionless and mute, in a weariness that is not the less genuine because it provides an effect. But from one seated in the Royal Presence much is expected ; and so it is in a tone of sprightly expectancy that his Royal Mistress now prompts him to his task of entertaining her.)

QUEEN. Well ? And how is everything ?

LORD B. {rousing himself with an effort). Oh ! Pardon ! Your Majesty would have me speak on 28

politics, and affairs of State ? I was rapt away for the moment.

QUEEN. Do not be in any hurry, dear Prime Minister.

LORD B. Ah ! That word from an indulgent Mistress spurs me freshly to my task. But, Madam, there is almost nothing to tell : politics, like the rest of us, have been taking holiday.

QUEEN. I thought that Mr. Gladstone had been speaking.

LORD B. {with an airy -flourish oj courtly disdain)^ Oh, yes ! He has been speaking.

QUEEN. In Edinburgh, quite lately.

LORD B. And in more other places than I can count. Speaking speaking speaking. But I have to confess, Madam, that I have not read his speeches. They are composed for brains which can find more leisure than yours, Madam or mine.

QUEEN. I have read some of them.

LORD B. Your Majesty does him great honour and yourself some inconvenience, I fear. Those speeches, so great a strain to understand, or even to Hsten to my hard duty for now some forty years are a far greater strain to read.

QUEEN.' They annoy me intensely. I have no patience with him !

LORD B. Pardon me, Madam ; if you have read

29

one of his speeches, your patience has been extra- ordinary.

QUEEN. Can't you stop it ?

LORD B. Stop ? stop what, Madam ? Niagara, the Flood ? That which has no beginning, no limit, has also no end : till, by the operation of nature, it runs dry.

QUEEN. But, surely, he should be stopped when he speaks on matters which may, any day, bring us into war !

LORD B. Then he would be stopped. When the British nation goes to war, Madam, it ceases to listen to reason. Then it is only the beating of its own great heart that it hears : to that goes the marching of its armies, with victory as the one goal. Then, Madam, above reason rises instinct. Against that he will be powerless.

QUEEN. You think so ?

LORD B. I am sure. Madam. If we are drawn into war, his opposition becomes futile. If we are not : well, if we are not, it will not be his doing that we escape that dire necessity.

QUEEN. But you do think it necessary, don't you ?

(To the Sovereign's impetuous eagerness, so creditable to her heart, he replies with the oracular solemnity by which caution can be sublimated)

LORD B. I hope it may not be, Madam. We must 30

all say that up till the last moment. It is the only thing we can say, to testify the pacifity of our intention when challenged by other Powers.

QUEEN {touching the newspaper). This morning's news isn't good, I'm afraid. The Russians are getting nearer to Constantinople.

LORD B. They will never enter it, Madam.

QUEEN. No, they mustn't ! We will not allow it.

LORD B. That, precisely, is the policy of your Majesty's Government. Russia knows that we shall not allow it ; she knows that it will never be. Never- theless, we may have to make a demonstration.

QUEEN. Do you propose to summon Parliament ?

LORD B. Not Parliament ; no, Madam. Your Majesty's Fleet will be sufficient.

{^his lights a spark ; and the royal mind darts into strategy)

QUEEN. If I had my way. Lord Beaconsfield, my Fleet would be in the Baltic to-morrow ; and before another week was over, Petersburg would be under bombardment.

LORD B. {considerately providing this castle in the air with its necessary foundations). And Cronstadt would have fallen.

QUEEN {puzzled for a moment at this naming of a place which had not entered her calculations). Cron- stadt ? Why Cronstadt *

31

LORD B. Merely preliminary, Madam. When that fortified suburb has crumbled the rest will be easy.

QUEEN. Yes ! And what a good lesson it will teach them ! The Crimea wasn't enough for them, I suppose.

LORD B. The Crimea ! Ah, what memories of heroism that word evokes ! " Magnificent, but not war ! "

QUEEN. Oh ! There is one thing. Lord Beacons- field, on which I want your advice.

LORD B. Always at your Majesty's disposal.

QUEEN. I wish to confer upon the Sultan of Turkey my Order of the Garter.

LORD B. Ah ! how generous, how generous an instinct ! How Hke you. Madam, to wish it !

QUEEN. What I want to know is, whether, as Prime Minister, you have any objection ?

LORD B. "As Prime Minister." How hard that makes it for me to answer ! How willingly would I say " None " ! How reluctantly, on the contrary, I have to say, " It had better wait."

QUEEN. Wait ? Wait till when ? I want to do it now.

LORD B. Yes, so do I. But can you risk, Madam, conferring that most illustrious symbol of honour, and chivalry, and power, on a defe-ated monarch ? Your royal prestige, Ma'am, must be considered

32

Great and generous hearts need, more than most, to take prudence into their counsels.

QUEEN. But do you think, Lord Beaconsfield, that the Turks are going to be beaten .?

LORD B. The Turks are beaten. Madam, . . . But England will never be beaten. We shall dictate terms moderating the demands of Russia ; and under your Majesty's protection the throne of the Kahphat will be safe once more. That, Madam, is the key to our Eastern poHcy : a grateful Kahphat, claiming allegiance from the whole Mahometan world, bound to us by instincts of self-preservation and we hold henceforth the gorgeous East in fee with redoubled security. His power may be a declining power ; but ours remains. Some day, \\ho knows ? Egypt, possibly even Syria, Arabia, may be our destined reward.

{J^ike a cat over a howl of cream^ England's Majesty sits lapping all this up. But, when he has done, her commentary is shrewd and to the point)

QUEEN. The French won't like that !

LORD B. They won't, Madam, they won't. But has it ever been England's policy, Madam, to mind what the French don't Hke ?

QUEEN i^ith relish). No, it never has been, has

33

it ? Ah ! you are the true statesman, Lord Beacons- field. Mr. Gladstone never talked to me like that.

LORD B. {courteously surprised at what does not at all surprise him). No ? . . . You must have had interesting conversations with him, Madam, in the past.

QUEEN {very emphatically). I have never once had a conversation with Mr. Gladstone, in all my life, Lord Beaconsfield. He used to talk to me as if I were a pubHc meeting and one that agreed with him, too !

LORD B. Was there, then, any applause. Madam ?

QUEEN. No, indeed ! I was too shy to say what I thought. I used to cough sometimes.

LORD B. Rather Hke coughing at a balloon, I fear. I have always admired his flights regarded as a mere tour de force so buoyant, so sustained, so incalculable ! But, as they never touch earth to any serviceable end, that I could discover of what use are they ? Yet if there is one man who has helped me in my career to whom, therefore, I should owe gratitude it is he.

QUEEN. Indeed ? Now that does surprise me ! Tell me. Lord Beaconsfield, how has he ever helped you ?

LORD B. In our party system, Madam, we live l>y the mistakes of our opponents. The balance of

34

the popular verdict swings ever this way and that, relegating us either to victory or defeat, to office or to opposition Many times have I trodden the road to power, or passed from it again, over ruins the origin of which I could recognise either as my own work or that of another ; and most of all h'-»-9 it been over the disappointments, the disaffections, the disgusts, the disillusionments chiefly among his own party which my great opponent has left me to profit by. I have gained experience from what he has been morally blind to ; what he has lacked in under- standing of human nature he has left for me to discover. Only to-day I learn that he has been in the habit of addressing as you. Madam, so wittily phrased it of addressing, " as though she were a public meeting," that Royal Mistress, whom it has ever been my most difficult task not to address sometimes as the most charming, the most accom- plished, and the most fascinating woman of the epoch which bears her name. {He pauses, then resumes) How strange a fatality directs the fate of each one of us ! How fortunate is he who knows the limits that destiny assigns to him : Hmits beyond which no word must be uttered.

{His oratorical flight, so buoyant and sus- tained, having come to its calculated end, he drops deftly to earth, eJicountering directly for the first time the flattered smile with which the Queen has listened io him.)

35

Madam, your kind silence reminds me, in the gentlest, the most considerate way possible, that I am not here to reHeve the tedium of a life made lonely by a bereavement equal to your own, in con- versation however beguiling, or in quest of a sympathy of which, I dare to say, I feel assured. For, in a sense, it is as to a pubHc assembly, or rather as to a great institution, immemorially venerable and august that I have to address myself when, obedient to your summons, I come to be consulted as your Majesty's First Minister of State. If, therefore, your royal mind have any inquiries, any further commands to lay upon me, I am here. Madam, to give effect to them in so far as I can.

i^his time he has really finished^ hut with so artful an abbreviation at the point where her interest has been most roused that the Queen would fain have him go on. And so the conversation continues to flow along intimate channels.)

QUEEN. No, dear Lord Beaconsfield, not to-day ! Those official matters can wait. After you have said so much, and said it so beautifully, I would rather still talk with you as a friend. Of friends you and I have not many ; those who make up our world, for the most part, we have to keep at a distance. But while I have many near relatives, children and descendants, I remember that you have none. So your case is the harder.

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LORD B, Ah, no, Madam, indeed ! I have my children descendants who will live after me, I trust in those policies which, for the welfare of my beloved country, I confide to the care of a Sovereign whom I revere and love. ... I am not unhappy in my life. Madam ; far less in my fortune ; only, as age creeps on, I find myself so lonely, so solitary, that sometimes I have doubt whether I am really alive, or whether the voice, with which now and then I seek to reassure myself, be not the voice of a dead man.

QUEEN {almost tearfully). No, no, my dear Lord Beaconsfield, you mustn't say that !

LORD B. {gallantly). I won't say anything, Madam, that you forbid, or that you dislike. You invited me to speak to you as a friend ; so I have done, so I do. I apologise that I have allowed sadness, even for a moment, to trouble the harmony the sweetness of our conversation.

QUEEN. Pray, do not apologise ! It has been a very great privilege ; I beg that you will go on ! Tell me you spoke of bereavement I wish you would tell me more about your wife.

{^he sudden request touches some latent chord ; and it is with genuine emotion that he answers)

LORD B. Ah ! My wife ! To her I owed every- thing.

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QUEEN. She was devoted to you, wasn't she ?

*■ LORD B. I never read the depth of her devotion ^

till after her death. Then, Madam this I have

told to nobody but yourself then I found among

her papers addressed " to my dear husband " a

message, written only a few days before her death,

with a hand shaken by that nerve-racking and fatal

malady which she endured so patiently begging me

to marry again.

(^he Queen is now really crying^ and finds speech difficult)

QUEEN. And you, you f Dear Lord Beacons- field ; did you mean had you ever meant ?

LORD B. I did not then, Madam ; nor have I ever done so since. It is enough if I allow myself to love.

QUEEN. Oh, yes, yes ; I understand better than others would. For that has always been my own feeling.

LORD B. In the history of my race. Madam, there has been a great tradition of faithfulness between husbands and wives. For the hardness of our hearts, we are told, Moses permitted us to give a writing of divorcement. But we have seldom acted on it. In my youth I became a Christian ; I married a Chris- tian. But that was no reason for me to desert the nobler traditions of my race for they are in the blood and in the heart. When my wife died I had

38

no thought to marry again ; and when I came upon that tender wish, still I had no thought for it ; my mind would not change. Circumstances that have happened since have sealed irrevocably my resolu- tion— never to marry again.

QUEEN. Oh, I think that is so wise, so right, so noble of you !

{^he old Statesman rises, pauses, appears to hesitate, then in a voice charged with emotion says)

LORD B. Madam, will you permit me to kiss your hand ?

{The hand graciously given, and the kiss fervently impla7ited, he falls hack once more to a respectful distance. But the emotional excitement of the interview has told upon him, and it is in a wavering voice of weariness that he now speaks)

LORD B. You have been very forbearing with me, Madam, not to indicate that I have outstayed either my welcome or your powers of endurance. Yet so much conversation must necessarily have tired you. May I then crave permission, Madam, to withdraw r For, to speak truly, I do need some rest.

QUEEN. Yes, my dear friend, go and rest yourself ! But before you go, will you not wait, and take a glass of wine with me r

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{He bows, and she rings)

And there is just one other thing I wish to say before we part.

LORD B. Speak, Madam, for thy servant heareth.

i^he other servant is now also standing to attention, awaiting orders)

QUEEN. Bring some wine.

(^he Attendant goes.)

That Order of the Garter which I had intended to confer upon the Sultan have you, as Prime Minister, any objection if I bestow it nearer home, on one to whom personally I cannot say more on yourself, I mean.

{At that 'pronouncement of the royal favour, the Minister stands, exhausted of energy, in an attitude of drooping humility. The eloquent silence is broken presently by the Queen)

QUEEN. Dear Lord Beaconsfield, I want your answer.

LORD B. Oh, Madam ! What adequate answer can these poor lips make to so magnificent an offer ? Yet answer I must. We have spoken together briefly to-day of our policies in- the Near East. Madam, let me come to you again when I have 40

saved Constantinople, and secured once more upon a firm basis the peace of Europe. Then ask me again whether I have any objection, and I will own—" I have none ! "

(Re-enters Attendant. He deposits a tray with decanter and glasses^ and retires again ^1

QUEEN. Very well, Lord Beaconsfield. And if you do not remind me, I shall remind you. {She 'points to the tray) Pray, help yourself !

{Jle takes up the decanter)

LORD B. I serve you, Madam ?

QUEEN. Thank you.

{He Jills the two glasses ; presents hers to the Queen, and takes up his own)

LORD B. May I propose for myself a toast. Madam ?

{The Queen sees what is comings and bows graciously)

LORD B. The Queen ! God bless her !

{He drains the glass, then breaks it against the pole of the tent, and throws away the stem)

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An old custom, Madam, observed by loyal defenders of the House of Stewart, so that no lesser health might ever be drunk from the same glass. To ray old hand came a sudden access of youthful enthusiasm an ardour which I could not restrain. Your pardon, Madam !

QUEEN i^ery gently). Go and He down, Lord Beaconsfield ; you need rest.

LORD B. Adieu, Madam.

QUEEN. Draw your curtains, and sleep well !

{For a moment he stands gazing at her with a look of deep emotion ; he tries to speak. Ordinary words seem to fail; he falters into poetry^

" When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering Angel, thou ! "

{Ji has been beautifully said, they both feel. Silent and slow, with head reverentially bowed, he backs from the Presence.)

(The Queen sits and looks after the retreating figure, then at the broken fragments of glass. She takes up the hand-bell and rings. The Attendant enters.)

QUEEN. Pick up that broken glass.

{The Attendant collects it_ on the hand-tray which he carries)

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Bring it to me ! . . . Leave it !

{7 he Attendant deposits the tray before her^ and GOES. Gently the Queen handles the broken pieces, ^hen in a voice of tearful emotion she speaks)