AT LAST—AT LAST.
Too Long; Didn't ReadAs he took his ticket Phineas sent his message to the Prime Minister, taking that personage literally at his word. The message was, No. When writing it in the office it seemed to him to be uncourteous, but he found it difficult to add any other words that should make it less so. He supplemented it with a letter on his arrival in London, in which he expressed his regret that certain circumstances of his life which had occurred during the last month or two made him unfit to undertake the duties of the very pleasant office to which Mr. Gresham had kindly offered to appoint him. That done, he remained in town but one night, and then set his face again towards Matching. When he reached that place it was already known that he had refused to accept Mr. Gresham's offer, and he was met at once with regrets and condolements. "I am sorry that it must be so," said the Duke,—who was sorry, for he liked the man, but who said not a word more upon the subject. "You are still young, and will have further opportunities," said Lord Cantrip, "but I wish that you could have consented to come back to your old chair." "I hope that at any rate we shall not have you against us," said Sir Harry Coldfoot. Among themselves they declared one to another that he had been so completely upset by his imprisonment and subsequent trial as to be unable to undertake the work proposed to him. "It is not a very nice thing, you know, to be accused of murder," said Sir Gregory, "and to pass a month or two under the full conviction that you are going to be hung. He'll come right again some day. I only hope it may not be too late."
"So you have decided for freedom?" said Madame Goesler to him that evening,—the evening of the day on which he had returned.
"I have nothing to say against your decision now. No doubt your feelings have prompted you right."
"Now that it is done, of course I am full of regrets," said Phineas.
"That is simple human nature, I suppose."
"Simple enough; and the worst of it is that I cannot quite explain even to myself why I have done it. Every friend I had in the world told me that I was wrong, and yet I could not help myself. The thing was offered to me, not because I was thought to be fit for it, but because I had become wonderful by being brought near to a violent death! I remember once, when I was a child, having a rocking-horse given to me because I had fallen from the top of the house to the bottom without breaking my neck. The rocking-horse was very well then, but I don't care now to have one bestowed upon me for any such reason."