The Pallisers, Part IV: After the Ball

Previously on The Pallisers: Glencora freaked out so thoroughly about meeting Burgo again she purposely got sick to avoid him. Alice, meanwhile, threw herself back into George’s arms.

Vavasor Hall. Grandpa tells Alice’s dad that he’s warming to the idea of Alice and George marrying, because it would keep her money (inherited from her dead mother) in the family. Dad’s clearly the smartest person in the family and realizes George’ll just squander the cash, along with everything else he inherits. Grandpa plans to settle the estate on their eldest son, so all George could access would be the income from the estate. What if they don’t have a son? What then? Does Matthew Crawley inherit? Dad still thinks George is a worthless scoundrel, and he says as much, just as Alice comes downstairs. She waits until her dad’s done railing against her future husband before coming into the dining room for a meeting with grandpa. Grandpa asks her if she’s fixed a date for the wedding, and of course she hasn’t, because this is Alice we’re talking about. These early episodes were apparently based on a Trollope novel that was all about Alice’s dithering and was so tiresome even his contemporaries made fun of it. Dad helpfully asks her why she broke her engagement to George before. She delicately responds that he “behaved unworthily.” I’ll say. Dad thinks George will behave just as poorly now, but Alice foolishly thinks he’s changed, and anyway, she’s older now and “much more understanding.” Excuse me? Is she saying she’d be cool with George screwing around on her?

Her father lays it out for her: George is an animal who’ll just grab any woman who comes across his path. Grandpa tells him to shut up and tells Alice he’ll receive George back at Vavasor Hall, as long as he apologizes for being a jerk in the past and realizes that the estate won’t be his ever, not really. The look on Alice’s face suggests she knows George isn’t going to like this at all.

George and Burgo are back in London, drinking and playing cards and talking about George’s upcoming marriage to Alice. Burgo asks George why he needs the old man’s money at all, when he’ll have Alice’s soon enough, but George says he won’t have Alice’s until they marry, and she hasn’t named a day yet. He brings up the by-election, which is now definitely happening, and how expensive it’s going to be. He mentions Burgo’s failed Christmas seduction, but Burgo, though tense, thinks he’ll have another shot soon, because Glencora and Plantagenet are returning to London in just a few days.

The Palliser London house is a grand place, and Glencora loves it, though Plantagenet seems to prefer the countryside. As they chat, Plantagenet thumbs through the mail and hands his wife a letter, which excites her so much she manages to tune him out completely for a little while. When he calls her back to earth (notably calling her by her nickname, Cora, at one point), she claims she was just daydreaming. He notices that she’s oddly distracted and sweetly asks if she’s feeling all right. She insists she is and changes the subject to the Chelsea by-election, asking Plantagenet if he could help George out a bit. Plantagenet says the by-election is unimportant, because George will just have to go through the whole process again in a couple of months during the general election.

George is meeting with his campaign manager, who commiserates about the by-election and general election coming so close together. He wastes little time hitting George up for more money, which he reluctantly hands over. George stupidly asks if the money he’s paid out by now will cover the by-election, and of course the manager, Scrooby, says no, because he’s clearly out to just bleed George dry. This is why you never, ever give any indication of how much you can spend at the outset. Scrooby asks for a further £3,000 for the general election. George asks him to promise not to ask for more than that and off he goes.

George goes right to see Alice, greeting her with a passionate kiss on the cheek and asking how the visit with grandpa went. She tells him about the estate being settled on their as yet unconceived kid, which pisses him off, naturally. She further informs him that he’ll be welcome at the Hall if he begs grandpa’s pardon, but doing so won’t get him any closer to his inheritance. George, now desperate for cash, asks Alice to name a wedding date, which she won’t do. She observes that he seems stressed out, and she correctly guesses that he needs cash, so she offers up her own once again. He tells her he won’t feel right touching her money until they’re married and asks her what the holdup is. She uses the recent breakup with Grey as an excuse and presses him to take her money, so he goes ahead and asks her for the £3,000 he needs. She’s taken aback by the sum (it was more than many people made in a whole year) but agrees to get it in a couple of days.

George goes back to Scrooby and tells him he’ll have the money in three days, explaining that it’s coming from his fiancée. A tradesman conveniently shows up begging for payment, giving Scrooby a chance to illustrate the danger of trusting candidates. Scrooby’s not willing to get to work on the second-hand word of a woman, but he agrees to do so, like he’s doing George a big favor.

Alice’s dad must be really desperate to get her away from George—and a really good father, too, because he’s gone to Grey to ask for his help in this matter. He knows about Alice fronting George the money and he’s certain George will just fleece her and then vanish. Grey is clearly crazy in love with her, for some reason, because he figures that, if this is the case, she might come crawling back to him. Why would you want her? This fickle woman who threw you over because she thought you were too dull and then settled for you once she was penniless? Seriously, Grey, get some self-respect. You’re a well-to-do, well educated, not too old, not terrible looking man. You can do better! Dad knows Alice a little better, though, and realizes that she’s too proud to take any port in a storm. If she’s penniless, she won’t go back to Grey.

Grey decides to pay the £3,000, along with any further sums George might ask for, to give Alice time to realize how useless George is. This way, at least, she won’t end up penniless. This seems like a really risk proposition. How long do you think this is going to take? And how much money does Grey have on hand? That was a pretty huge sum in those days. The dad realizes this would put Alice in Grey’s debt, and Grey says any obligation she’s under to him would be amply repaid by marrying him “if she will,” he adds, so as not to come across as completely creepy.

Alice receives a letter from Glencora that apparently begs her for a visit, because she goes to leave immediately, only to find Grey filling her doorway. He greets her very kindly, considering how horribly she’s treated him, and asks her for just a minute of her time. She agrees, and he asks her why she’s gone and agreed to marry George again. She tells him she can’t really explain it. He tells her he still loves her and, if things should change between her and George, he’d be happy to have her back. Alice quickly excuses herself.

Alice arrives at Glencora’s and is happily greeted by the lady of the house, who tells her that Burgo’s written. Alice rolls her eyes along with the rest of us and tells Glencora not to receive Burgo’s notes anymore and to remember she has a husband who loves her. Glencora says she has no such thing, and Plantagenet doesn’t really care for Alice either, because of the whole illness thing. Why is Alice getting the lion’s share of the blame for that? Glencora told Plantagenet that if he forbade them from going out they’d stay in, and he didn’t tell them not to go, so it’s more his fault than Alice’s.

The current Chancellor of the Exchequer is giving a speech about taxes that Bott and Plantagenet agree totally sucks. When he’s done, Plantagenet rises and gives his own opinion. I don’t know much about taxation or mid-19th century politics, so I won’t pretend to know what exactly is going on here, but I think it’s important to note that Plantagent speaks well and confidently. Barrington Earle heads out of the house while he’s speaking and meets up with St. Bungay outside. They agree that Plantagenet rocks and he’s just what’s needed in the government. Earle advises St. Bungay to appoint Plantagenet quickly, but St. Bungay wants to wait until after the election.

Plantagenet returns home and tells Glencora Bott’s coming to dinner. She counters that with the news that Alice was there earlier and will be joining them for dinner too. They start to argue about the guests and Glencora orders him not to say anything mean about her cousin, because Alice’s the only woman on earth she actually likes.

The guests are all gathered downstairs waiting for dinner, which is running late. Things are awkward, but Bott, surprisingly, saves things by mentioning Plantagenet’s success in the House that afternoon. Glencora asks Plantagenet why he didn’t tell her about it and he shortly says he didn’t think she’d be interested. Ouch. Probably right, but ouch. Alice asks what Plantagenet said and he starts to launch into a speech. Glencora interrupts to say that it’s all about money, and that Plantagenet will fix everything once he’s in charge. She then turns to her husband and tells him that she doesn’t understand everything he does, but she wants to see him succeed. Chastened, he thanks her.

Bott brings up the possibility of Plantagenet taking the Chancellorship, and Glencora asks why they don’t just appoint him at once. Alice explains that they can’t do that in the middle of a debate, and Glencora kids that they should do it then, because that’s when everyone will actually be there. Plantagenet pissily observes that she turns everything into a joke, but Alice defends Glencora’s lightheartedness, annoying Bott but reaching Plantagenet, who says he wishes he had a friend who spoke so well for him. He tells Alice he hopes to see her around more, and now all is well between them.

George has won his by-election and is partying at the pub with his drunken new constituents. The barman is delighted by the idea that they’ll get to do this all again soon. That brings George right back to earth, especially when the barman says people seem to get much thirstier during a general election.

George goes and tells Alice he’s won, and she hugs him excitedly, telling him how proud and happy she is. He has the grace to thank her for the cash before he asks for more, which she promises immediately. Once the initial euphoria wears off, Alice gets down to business, asking George what his plans are, now he’s in Parliament. He says he hopes to capitalize off his—or, rather, Alice’s—acquaintance with Plantagenet. He hopes Plantagenet might help him out in some way he doesn’t make clear immediately. He avoids further questions by making out with his ice-queen fiancée. She’s not at all into it and pushes him away, so George leaves, angrily. Her father comes in in George’s wake and delivers some bad news—grandpa’s very sick. She’s surprised to hear it, since he seemed well at Christmas. Since Kate’s all alone with the old man, he urges Alice to go join her. Alice quickly agrees, and now his work’s done, dad leaves, just as Glencora’s coming in. Glencora begs Alice not to leave, because Lady Monk’s ball is coming up and she wants Alice to be her wingwoman. Alice tells her not to go to the ball, but it’s not that simple, as we know. Glencora gives her a bouquet of flowers and leaves.

At the Hall, the two ladies read by the fire while grandpa drinks. He craps on George for a bit, reminding everyone that George couldn’t be bothered to come visit. Alice tries to make excuses, but grandpa knows that George is just too proud to beg for forgiveness. He reveals that he’s sent for the lawyer but won’t tell them what for.

Lady Monk flitters around, putting the finishing touches on her house ahead of the ball and lecturing Burgo not to spend the money she got for him stupidly. He promises not to and confirms one last time that Glencora really is coming this time.

So are the dreadful aunts. They’re both in their carriage en route. Adelaide, too, wonders if Glencora will really show, but Charlotte’s certain she will, and they’ll have to keep a lookout.

Glencora arrives, as promised, and greets her host and hostess. She doesn’t exactly seem thrilled to be there. Burgo makes a beeline for her, but since Plantagenet’s with her, all he can do is say hi. Earle observes to St. Bungay that Glencora seems excited. St. Bungay thinks she’s just excited to dance and believes she and Plantagenet have settled down quite well, which is good, because a girl with a fortune like hers needs a steady hand. Yeah, otherwise she’d just go out and blow it all on shoes. Women, right?

Plantagenet is chatting about the election with Bott while his wife looks bored and glances around at the other guests. When the men move off, she’s joined by St. Bungay, who urges her to get Plantagenet to dance. She tries, but Plantagenet brushes her off and continues his conversation with Bott.

Longstaffe rolls up to Burgo and asks him why he’s not dancing. Burgo says there’s nobody he wants to dance with, though that might change soon. Way to telegraph your intentions, Burgo.

Plantagenet decides to ditch the ball and return to the House, leaving Glencora with Bott. He tells her not to overtire herself with dancing, and then takes off. Glencora glances over the dance floor at Burgo; then off to her left at the aunts, who are both dressed in yellow and black, like hornets; and to her right, at Bott. The aunts close in, hemming her in next to Bott just as Burgo arrives to ask her for a dance. Charlotte tells him Glencora’s not dancing, but Glencora ignores them and starts to dance with Burgo. Bott grumbles that Plantagenet shouldn’t have left, and Charlotte sighs that Plantagenet will have to be told. Bott promises to take her home after this dance. St. Bungay pulls him aside and asks him why he’s got to go making mischief, while the aunts sniff that Bott seems a little too involved with Plantagenet’s family affairs.

Longstaffe and Earle talk about George’s plan to make his maiden speech in the house that night. Earle thinks it’s a mistake, because George should hang out and learn a bit first. They turn their attention back to the scandalous sight of Glencora and Burgo dancing. Bott growls to St. Bungay that he can see what’s happening, and St. Bungay says he just sees a young lady dancing with a young gentleman. I like him. Adelaide is quick to point out the young man is not her husband, and St. Bungay reminds them that her husband left, and one comes to a ball to dance, after all.

Burgo dances Glencora out to the relative privacy of the conservatory. He brings up their past and she urges him not to speak of it. He asks her why she didn’t come to Monkshade, and she tells him it would have been foolish, just as coming to the ball was. She moves in to kiss him.

The aunts observe that the couple’s disappeared, and they hurry into the conservatory, followed by Bott. Glencora and Burgo hurry away, and Bott says he’s got to go tell Plantagenet what’s going on. Adelaide finally agrees with him, thinking there’ll be greater mischief if he doesn’t.

Glencora and Burgo are back on the dancefloor, and Burgo says there’s something important he has to tell her. They continue their dance.

George is giving his speech. It seems to be about voter reform. Plantagenet’s listening attentively, and he’s not happy to be interrupted by Bott, who arrives to whisper a word in his ear. Plantagenet gets up and hurries out.

Back at the ball, Glencora and Burgo are still dancing. He tells her they could take off that very night, but she’s reluctant to go. She tells him they have to end the dance and he has to leave her alone, because the past is the past and they can’t go back to that. He draws her into another room and urges her to go abroad with him, where they could get married. She’s smart enough to know that’s incredibly unlikely and reminds him that, even if she wanted to go, she’s constantly surrounded by people, which makes slipping away difficult. As the aunts close in, they rejoin the dance and he hurriedly explains that she could slip away during the ball, he’s got it all planned out. Glencora looks up at the stairs and sees Plantagenet appear. She pulls away from Burgo and makes light of everything, saying they’ll probably meet again soon, at some party. Plantagenet makes a beeline for her and she says she thought he was going right home from the House. He says he had been planning to, but he thought he’d swing by and pick her up. She calls him a model husband, links arms with him, and politely bids Burgo good night. The aunts smile in triumph, and Lady Monk looks like she wants to kill someone. On their way out, Glencora tells Plantagenet that she won’t receive Mr. Bott in her home ever again.

After the ball, Burgo walks down the street, looking lost, while Glencora wanders around her darkened bedroom, looking anguished. Burgo arrives at her house and stands in the square, looking up at her window as she weeps inside. She finally extinguishes the last lamp, and he stumbles away, defeated.



One thought on “The Pallisers, Part IV: After the Ball

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.