I must certainly acknowledge that the first seven years of my official life were neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service. These seven years were passed in London, and during this period of my life it was my duty to be present every morning at the office punctually at 10 A.M. I think I commenced my quarrels with the authorities there by having in my possession a watch which was always ten minutes late. I know that I very soon achieved a character for irregularity, and came to be regarded as a black sheep by men around me who were not themselves, I think, very good public servants. From time to time rumours reached me that if I did not take care I should be dismissed; especially one rumour in my early days, through my dearly beloved friend Mrs. Clayton Freeling 鈥?who, as I write this, is still living, and who, with tears in her eyes, besought me to think of my mother. That was during the life of Sir Francis Freeling, who died 鈥?still in harness 鈥?a little more than twelve months after I joined the office. And yet the old man showed me signs of almost affectionate kindness, writing to me with his own hand more than once from his death-bed. That sounds as if he were foolhardy, said Allegra. 贵州全天pk赛车计划 鈥榃ell, what Mamma will do unless you help her this Christmas, is more than I can tell,鈥?she said. 鈥楥oal is up now to winter prices, and Mamma鈥檚 cellar is so small that she can鈥檛 get in enough to last her through. And it鈥檚 little enough that I can do for her, for with John at home it鈥檚 like having two young lions to feed, and how to save from the house-money you give me I don鈥檛 see. I dare say it would be better if Mamma got rid of Blenheim for what it would fetch and went into furnished lodgings.鈥? Keeling picked up the Singleton Morte d鈥橝rthur and carefully blew a grain of cigarette ash from the opened page. 鈥渋s born to blush unseen 鈥楴o, you needn鈥檛 do that,鈥?he said. 鈥業t鈥檚 a handsome book enough. And then there is another Omar Khayyam.鈥? By no amount of description or asseveration could I succeed in making any reader understand how much these characters with their belongings have been to me in my latter life; or how frequently I have used them for the expression of my political or social convictions. They have been as real to me as free trade was to Mr. Cobden, or the dominion of a party to Mr. Disraeli; and as I have not been able to speak from the benches of the House of Commons, or to thunder from platforms, or to be efficacious as a lecturer, they have served me as safety-valves by which to deliver my soul. Mr. Plantagenet Palliser had appeared in The Small House at Allington, but his birth had not been accompanied by many hopes. In the last pages of that novel he is made to seek a remedy for a foolish false step in life by marrying the grand heiress of the day 鈥?but the personage of the great heiress does not appear till she comes on the scene as a married woman in Can You Forgive Her? He is the nephew and heir to a duke 鈥?the Duke of Omnium 鈥?who was first introduced in Doctor Thorne, and afterwards in Framley Parsonage, and who is one of the belongings of whom I have spoken. In these personages and their friends, political and social, I have endeavoured to depict the faults and frailties and vices 鈥?as also the virtues, the graces, and the strength of our highest classes; and if I have not made the strength and virtues predominant over the faults and vices, I have not painted the picture as I intended. Plantagenet Palliser I think to be a very noble gentleman 鈥?such a one as justifies to the nation the seeming anomaly of an hereditary peerage and of primogeniture. His wife is in all respects very inferior to him; but she, too, has, or has been intended to have, beneath the thin stratum of her follies a basis of good principle, which enabled her to live down the conviction of the original wrong which was done to her, and taught her to endeavour to do her duty in the position to which she was called. She had received a great wrong 鈥?having been made, when little more than a child, to marry a man for whom she cared nothing 鈥?when, however, though she was little more than a child, her love had been given elsewhere. She had very heavy troubles, but they did not overcome her. Tho sea was darker than when she fell asleep. There was the dull crimson of a stormy sunset yonder, behind the jutting promontory of Bordighera, while the sky above was[Pg 244] barred with long, black clouds, and the wind was howling across the great deep valley like an evil spirit tortured and imprisoned, shrieking to his gods for release. Exactly opposite her, as she stood in the deep cleft of the hills, a solitary vessel was labouring under press of canvas towards the point upon whose dusky summit the chapel of the Madonna della Guardia gleamed whitely in the dying day. The vessel was a schooner yacht, of considerable tonnage, certainly larger than the Vendetta. 鈥楤ut since people are such fools,鈥?he said, 鈥榙oes it matter?鈥?