The Fortunate Youth
William J. Locke
Part 5 out of 6
anti-Budget meeting convened by the Association. He spoke, and
repeated his success. The Conservative newspapers the next morning
gave a resume of his speech. His Sophie, coming to sign letters in
her presidential capacity, brought him the cuttings, a proceeding
which he thought adorable. The season ended triumphantly.
For a while he lost his Princess. She went to Cowes, then to stay
with French relations in a chateau in the Dordogne. Paul went off
yachting with the Chudleys and returned for the shooting to Drane's
Court. In the middle of September the Winwoods' new secretary
arrived and received instruction in his duties. Then came the
Princess to Morebury Park. "Dearest," she said, in his arms, "I
never want to leave you again. France is no longer France for me
since I have England in my heart."
"You remember that? My wonderful Princess!"
He found her more woman, more expansive, more bewitchingly
caressing. Absence had but brought her nearer. When she laid her
head on his shoulder and murmured in the deep and subtle tones of
her own language: "My Paul, it seems such a waste of time to be
apart," it took all his pride and will to withstand the maddening
temptation. He vowed that the time would soon come when he could
claim her, and went away in feverish search for worlds to conquer.
Then came October and London once more.
* * * * * *
Paul was dressing for dinner one evening when a reply-paid telegram
was brought to him.
"If selected by local committee will you stand for Hickney Heath?
He sat on his bed, white and trembling, and stared at the simple
question. The man-servant stood imperturbable, silver tray in hand.
Seeing the reply-paid form, he waited for a few moments.
"Is there an answer, sir?"
Paul nodded, asked for a pencil, and with a shaky hand wrote the
reply. "Yes," was all he said.
Then with reaction came the thrill of mighty exultation, and,
throwing on his clothes, he rushed to the telephone in his sitting
room. Who first to hear the wondrous news but his Princess? That
there was a vacancy in Hickney Heath he knew, as all Great Britain
knew; for Ponting, the Radical Member, had died suddenly the day
before. But it had never entered his head that he could be chosen as
"Mais j'y ai bien pense, moi," came the voice through the telephone.
"Why did Lord Francis tell you to go to Hickney Heath last July?"
How a woman leaps at things I With all his ambition, his astuteness,
his political intuition, he had not seen the opportunity. But it had
come. Verily the stars in their courses were fighting for him. Other
names, he was aware, were before the Committee of the Local
Association, perhaps a great name suggested by the Central Unionist
Organization; there was also that of the former Tory member, who,
smarting under defeat at the General Election, had taken but a
lukewarm interest in the constituency and was now wandering in the
Far East. But Paul, confident in his destiny, did not doubt that he
would be selected. And then, within the next fortnight--for
bye-elections during a Parliamentary session are matters of sweeping
swiftness--would come the great battle, the great decisive battle
of his life, and he would win. He must win. His kingdom was at stake--the
dream kingdom of his life into which he would enter with his
loved and won Princess on his arm. He poured splendid foolishness
through the telephone into an enraptured ear.
The lack of a sense of proportion is a charge often brought against
women; but how often do men (as they should) thank God for it? Here
was Sophie Zobraska, reared from childhood in the atmosphere of
great affairs, mixing daily with folk who guided the destiny of
nations, having two years before refused in marriage one of those
who held the peace of Europe in his hands, moved to tense excitement
of heart and brain and soul by the news that an obscure young man
might possibly be chosen to contest a London Borough for election to
the British Parliament, and thrillingly convinced that now Was
imminent the great momentous crisis in the history of mankind.
With a lack of the same sense of proportion, equal in kind, though
perhaps not so passionate in degree, did Miss Winwood receive the
world-shaking tidings. She wept, and, thinking Paul a phoenix,
called Frank Ayres an angel. Colonel Winwood tugged his long,
drooping moustache and said very little; but he committed the
astounding indiscretion of allowing his glass to be filled with
champagne; whereupon he lifted it, and said, "Here's luck, my dear
boy," and somewhat recklessly gulped down the gout-compelling
liquid. And after dinner, when Miss Winwood had left them together,
he lighted a long Corona instead of his usual stumpy Bock, and
discussed with Paul electioneering ways and means.
For the next day or two Paul lived in a whirl of telephones,
telegrams, letters, scurryings across London, interviews, brain-
racking questionings and reiterated declarations of political creed.
But his selection was a foregone conclusion. His youth, his absurd
beauty, his fire and eloquence, his unswerving definiteness of aim,
his magic that had inspired so many with a belief in him and had
made him the Fortunate Youth, captivated the imagination of the
essentially unimaginative. Before a committee of wits and poets,
Paul perhaps would not have had a dog's chance. But he appealed to
the hard-headed merchants and professional men who chose him very
much as the hero of melodrama appeals to a pit and gallery audience.
He symbolized to them hope and force and predestined triumph. One or
two at first sniffed suspiciously at his lofty ideals; but as there
was no mistaking his political soundness, they let the ideals pass,
as a natural and evanescent aroma.
So, in his thirtieth year, Paul was nominated as Unionist candidate
for the Borough of Hickney Heath, and he saw himself on the actual
threshold of the great things to which he was born. He wrote a
little note to Jane telling her the news. He also wrote to Barney
Bill: "You dear old Tory--did you ever dream that ragamuffin
little Paul was going to represent you in Parliament? Get out the
dear old 'bus and paint it blue, with 'Paul Savelli forever' in gold
letters, and, instead of chairs and mats, hang it with literature,
telling what a wonderful fellow P. S. is. And go through the streets
of Hickney Heath with it, and say if you like: 'I knew him when' he
was a nipper--that high.' And if you like to be mysterious and
romantic you can say: 'I, Barney Bill, gave him his first chance,'
as you did, my dear old friend, and Paul's not the man to forget it.
Oh, Barney, it's too wonderful"--his heart went out to the old
man. "If I get in I will tell you something that will knock you
flat. It will be the realization of all the silly rubbish I talked
in the old brickfield at Bludston. But, dear old friend, it was you
and the open road that first set me on the patriotic lay, and
there's not a voter in Hickney Heath who can vote as you can--for
his own private and particular trained candidate."
Jane, for reasons unconjectured, did not reply. But from Barney
Bill, who, it must be remembered, had leanings toward literature, he
received a postcard with the following inscription: "Paul, Hif I can
help you konker the Beastes of Effesus I will. Bill."
And then began the furious existence of an electioneering campaign.
His side had a clear start of the Radicals, who found some hitch in
the choice of their candidate. The Young England League leaped into
practical enthusiasm over their champion. Seldom has young candidate
had so glad a welcome. And behind him stood his Sophie, an inspiring
It so happened that for a date a few days hence had been fixed the
Annual General Meeting of the Forlorn Widows' Fund, when Report and
Balance Sheet were presented to the society. The control of this
organization Paul had not allowed to pass into the alien hands of
Townsend, the Winwoods' new secretary. Had not his Princess, for the
most delicious reasons in the world, been made President? He scorned
Ursula Winwood's suggestion that for this year he would allow
Townsend to manage affairs. "What!" cried he, "leave my Princess in
the lurch on her first appearance? Never!" By telephone he arranged
an hour for the next day, when they could all consult together over
this important matter.
"But, my dear boy," said Miss Winwood, "your time is not your own.
Suppose you're detained at Hickney Heath?"
"The Conqueror," he cried, with a gay laugh, "belongs to the
Detainers--not the Detained."
She looked at him out of her clear eyes, and shook an indulgent
"I know," said he, meeting her glance shrewdly. "He has got to use
his detaining faculty with discretion. I've made a study of the
little ways of conquerors. Ali! Dearest lady!" he burst out
suddenly, in his impetuous way, "I'm talking nonsense; but I'm so
"It does me good to look at you," she said.
PAUL leaned back in his leather writing chair, smoking a cigarette
and focussing the electioneering situation. Beside a sheet of
foolscap on which he had been jotting down notes lay in neat piles
the typewritten Report of the Forlorn Widows' Fund, the account book
and the banker's pass book. He had sat up till three o'clock in the
morning preparing for his Princess. Nothing now remained but the
formal "examined and found correct" report of the auditors. For the
moment the Forlorn Widows stood leagues away from Paul's thoughts.
He had passed a strenuous day at Hickney Heath, lunching in the
committee room on sandwiches and whisky and soda obtained from the
nearest tavern, talking, inventing, dictating, writing, playing upon
dull minds the flashes of his organizing genius. His committee was
held up for the while by a dark rift in the Radical camp. They had
not yet chosen their man. Nothing was known, save that a certain
John Questerhayes, K. C., an eminent Chancery barrister, who had of
late made himself conspicuous in the constituency, had been turned
down on the ground that he was not sufficiently progressive. Now for
comfort to the Radical the term "Progressive" licks the blessed word
Mesopotamia into a cocked hat. Under the Progressive's sad-coloured
cloak he need not wear the red tie of the socialist. Apparently Mr.
Questerhayes objected to the sad-coloured cloak, the mantle of
Elijah, M. P., the late member for Hickney Heath. "Wanted: an
Elisha," seemed to be the cry of the Radical Committee.
Paul leaned back, his elbows on the arms of his chair, his finger
tips together, a cigarette between his lips, lost in thought. The
early November twilight deepened in the room. He was to address a
meeting that night. In order to get ready for his speech he had not
allowed himself to be detained, and had come home early. His speech
had been prepared; but the Radical delay was a new factor of which
he might take triumphant advantage. Hence the pencil notes on the
sheet of foolscap, before him.
A man-servant came in, turned on the electric light, pulled the
curtains together and saw to the fire.
"Tea's in the drawing-room, sir."
"Bring me some here in a breakfast cup--nothing to eat," said
Even his dearest lady could not help him in his meditated attack on
the enemy whom the Lord was delivering into his hands.
The man-servant went away. Presently Paul heard him reenter the
room; the door was at his back. He threw out an impatient hand
behind him. "Put it down anywhere, Wilton, I'll have it when I want
"I beg pardon, sir," said the man, coming forward, "but it's not the
tea. There's a gentleman and a lady and another person would like to
see you. I said that you were busy, sir, but--"
He put the silver salver, with its card, in front of Paul. Printed
on the card was, "Mr. Silas Finn." In pencil was written: "Miss
Seddon, Mr. William Simmons."
Paul looked at the card in some bewilderment. What in the name of
politics or friendship were they doing in Portland Place? Not to
receive them, however, was unthinkable.
"Show them in," said he.
Silas Finn, Jane and Barney Bill! It was odd. He laughed and took
out his watch. Yes, he could easily give them half an hour or so.
But why had they come? He had found time to call once at the house
in Hickney Heath since his return to town, and then he had seen Jane
and Silas Finn together and they had talked, as far as he could
remember, of the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church and the
elevating influence of landscape painting on the human soul. Why had
they come? It could not be to offer their services during the
election, for Silas Finn in politics was a fanatical enemy. The
visit stirred a lively curiosity.
They entered: Mr. Finn in his usual black with many-coloured tie and
diamond ring, looking more mournfully grave than ever; Jane wearing
an expression half of anxiety and half of defiance; Barney Bill,
very uncomfortable in his well-preserved best suit, very restless
and nervous. They gave the impression of a deputation coming to
announce the death of a near relative. Paul received them cordially.
But why in the world, thought he, were they all so solemn? He pushed
"I got your postcard, Bill. Thanks so much for it."
Bill grunted and embraced his hard felt hat.
"I ought to have written to you," said Jane--"but---"
"She felt restrained by her duty towards me," said Mr. Finn. "I hope
you did not think it was discourteous on her part."
"My dear sir," Paul laughed, seating himself in his writing chair,
which he twisted away from the table, "Jane and I are too old
friends for that. In her heart I know she wishes me luck. And I hope
you do too, Mr. Finn," he added pleasantly--"although I know
you're on the other side."
"I'm afraid my principles will not allow me to wish you luck in this
election, Mr. Savelli."
"Well, well," said Paul. "It doesn't matter. If you vote against me
I'll not bear malice."
"I am not going to vote against you, Mr. Savelli," said Mr. Finn,
looking at him with melancholy eyes. "I am going to stand against
Paul sprang forward in his chair. Here was fantastic news indeed!
"Stand against me? You? You're the Radical candidate?"
Paul laughed boyishly. "Why, it's capital! I'm awfully glad."
"I was asked this morning," said Mr. Finn gravely. "I prayed God for
guidance. He answered, and I felt it my duty to come to you at once,
with our two friends."
Barney Bill cocked his head on one side. "I did my best to persuade
him not to, sonny."
"But why shouldn't he?" cried Paul courteously--though why he
should puzzled him exceedingly. "It's very good of you, Mr. Finn.
I'm sure your side," he went on, "could not have chosen a better
man. You're well known in the constituency--I am jolly lucky to
have a man like you as an opponent."
"Mr. Savelli," said Mr. Finn, "it was precisely so that we should
not be opponents that I have taken this unusual step."
"I don't quite understand," said Paul.
"Mr. Finn wants you to retire in favour of some other Conservative
candidate," said Jane calmly.
"Retire? I retire?"
Paul looked at her, then at Barney Bill, who nodded his white head,
then at Mr. Finn, whose deep eyes met his with a curious tragical
mournfulness. The proposal took his breath away. It was crazily
preposterous. But for their long faces he would have burst into
laughter. "Why on earth do you want me to retire?" he asked
"I will tell you," said Mr. Finn. "Because you will have God against
Paul saw a gleam of light in the dark mystery of the visit. "You may
believe it, Mr. Finn, but I don't. I believe that my war cry, 'God
for England, Savelli and Saint George,' is quite as acceptable to,
the Almighty as yours."
Mr. Finn stretched out two hands in earnest deprecation. "Forgive me
if I say it; but you don't know what you're talking about. God has
not revealed Himself to you. He has to me. When my fellow-citizens
asked me to stand as the Liberal candidate, I thought it was because
they knew me to be an upright man, who had worked hard on their
council, an active apostle in the cause of religion, temperance and
the suppression of vice. I thought I had merely deserved well in
their opinion. When I fell on my knees and prayed the glory of the
Lord spread about me and I knew that they had been divinely
inspired. It was revealed to me that this was a Divine Call to
represent the Truth in the Parliament of the nation."
"I remember your saying, when I first had the pleasure of meeting
you," Paul remarked, with unwonted dryness, "that the Kingdom of
Heaven was not adequately represented in the House of Commons."
"I have not changed my opinion, Mr Savelli. The hand of God has
guided my business. The hand of God is placing me in the House of
Commons to work His will. You cannot oppose God's purpose, Paul
Savelli--and that is why I beg you not to stand against me."
"You see, he likes yer," interjected Barney Bill, with anxiety in
his glittering eyes. "That's why he's a-doing of it. He says to
hisself, says he, 'ere's a young chap what I likes with his first
great chance in front of him, with the eyes of the country sot on
him--now if I comes in and smashes him, as I can't help myself
from doing, it'll be all u-p with that young chap's glorious career.
But if I warns him in time, then he can retire--find an honourable
retreat--that's what he wants yer to have--an honourable
retreat. Isn't that it, Silas?"
"Those are the feelings by which I am actuated," said Mr. Finn.
Paul stretched himself out in his chair, his ankles crossed, and
surveyed his guests. "What do you think of it, Jane?" said he, not
without a touch of irony.
She had been looking into the fire, her face in profile. Addressed,
she turned. "Mr. Finn has your interests very deep at heart," she
Paul jumped to his feet and laughed his fresh laugh. It was all so
comic, so incredible, so mad. Yet none of them appeared to see any
humour in the situation. There sat Jane and Barney Bill cowering
under the influence of their crazy fishmongering apostle; and there,
regarding him with a world of appeal in his sorrowful eyes, sat the
apostle himself, bolt upright in his chair, an odd figure with his
streaked black and white hair, ascetic face and
Methodistico-Tattersall raiment. And they all seemed to expect him
to obey this quaint person's fanatical whimsy.
"It's very kind indeed of you, Mr. Finn, to consult my interests in
this manner," said he. "And I'm most indebted to you for your
consideration. But, as I said before, I've as much reason for
believing God to be on my side as you have. And I honestly believe
I'm going to win this election. So I certainly won't withdraw."
"I implore you to do so. I will go on my knees and beseech you,"
said Mr. Finn, with hands clasped in front of him.
Paul looked round. "I'm afraid, Bill," said he, "that this is
getting rather painful."
"It is painful. It's more than painful. It's horrible! It's
ghastly!" cried Mr. Finn, in sudden shrill crescendo, leaping to his
feet. In an instant the man's demeanour had changed. The mournful
apostle had become a wild, vibrating creature with flashing eyes and
"Easy, now, Silas. Whoa! Steady!" said Barney Bill.
Silas Finn advanced on Paul and clapped his hands on his shoulders
and shouted hoarsely: "For the love of God--don't thwart me in
this. You can't thwart me. You daren't thwart me. You daren't thwart
Paul disengaged himself impatiently. The humour had passed from the
situation. The man was a lunatic, a religious maniac. Again he
addressed Barney Bill. "As I can't convince Mr. Finn of the
absurdity of his request, I must ask you to do so for me."
"Young man," cried Silas, quivering with passion, "do not speak to
God's appointed in your vanity and your arrogance. You--you--of
all human beings--"
Both Jane and Barney Bill closed round him. Jane clutched his arm.
"Come away. Do come away."
"Steady now, Silas," implored Barney Bill. "You see it's no use. I
told you so. Come along."
"Leave me alone," shouted Finn, casting them off. "What have I to do
with you? It is that young man there who defies God and me."
"Mr. Finn," said Paul, very erect, "if I have hurt your feelings I
am sorry. But I fight this election. That's final. The choice no
longer rests with me. I'm the instrument of my party. I desire to be
courteous in every way, but you must see that it would be useless to
prolong this discussion." And he moved to the door.
"Come away now, for Heaven's sake. Can't you realize it's no good?"
said Jane, white to the lips.
Silas Finn again cast her off and railed and raved at her. "I will
not go away," he cried in wild passion. "I will not allow my own son
to raise an impious hand against the Almighty."
"Lor' lumme!" gasped Barney Bill, dropping his hat. "He's done it."
There was a silence. Silas Finn stood shaking in the middle of the
room, the sweat streaming down his forehead.
Paul turned at the door and walked slowly up to him. "Your son? What
do you mean?"
Jane, with wringing hands and tense, uplifted face, said in a queer
cracked voice: "He promised us not to speak. He has broken his
"You broke your sacred word," said Barney Bill.
The man's face grew haggard. His passion left him as suddenly as it
had seized him. He collapsed, a piteous wreck, looked wide of the
three, and threw out his hands helplessly. "I broke my promise. May
God forgive me!"
"That's neither here nor there," said Paul, standing over him. "You
must answer my question. What do you mean?"
Barney Bill limped a step or two toward him and cleared his throat.
"He's quite correct, sonny. Silas Kegworthy's your father right
"Yes. Changed his name for business--and other reasons."
"He?" said Paul, half dazed for the moment and pointing at Silas
Finn. "His name is Kegworthy and he is my father?"
"Yes, sonny. 'Tain't my fault, or Jane's. He took his Bible oath he
wouldn't tell yer. We was afraid, so we come with him."
"Then?" queried Paul, jerking a thumb toward Lancashire.
"Polly Kegworthy? Yes. She was yer mother."
Paul set his teeth and drew a deep breath--not of air, but of a
million sword points, Jane watched him out of frightened eyes. She
alone, with her all but life-long knowledge of him, and with her
woman's intuition, realized the death-blow that he had received. And
when she saw him take it unflinching and stand proud and stern, her
heart leaped toward him, though she knew that the woman in the great
chased silver photograph frame on the mantelpiece, the great and
radiant lady, the high and mighty and beautiful and unapproachable
Princess, was the woman he loved. Paul touched his father on the
wrist, and motioned to a chair.
"Please sit down. You too, please,"--he waved a hand, and himself
resumed his seat in his writing chair. He turned it so that he could
rest his elbow on his table and his forehead in his palm. "You claim
to be my father," said he. "Barney Bill, in whom I have implicit
confidence, confirms it. He says that Mrs. Button is my mother--"
"She has been dead these six years," said Barney Bill.
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Paul.
"I didn't think it would interest yer, sonny," replied Barney Bill,
in great distress. "Yer see, we conspirated together for yer never
to know nothing at all about all this. Anyway, she's dead and won't
worry yer any more."
"She was a bad mother to me. She is a memory of terror. I don't
pretend to be grieved," said Paul; "any more than I pretend to be
overcome by filial emotion at the present moment. But, if you are my
father, I should be glad to know--in fact, I think I'm entitled to
know--why you've taken thirty years to reveal yourself, and why"--a
sudden fury swept him--"why you've come now to play hell with
"It is the will of God," said Silas Finn, in deep dejection.
Paul snapped three or four fingers. "Bah!" he cried. "Talk sense.
Talk facts. Leave God out of the question for a while. It's
blasphemy to connect Him with a sordid business like this. Tell me
about myself--my parentage--let me know where I am."
"You're with three people as loves yer, sonny," said Barney Bill.
"What passes in this room will never be known to another soul on
"That I swear," said Silas Finn.
"You can publish it broadcast in every newspaper in England," said
Paul. "I'm making no bargains. Good God! I'm asking for nothing but
the truth. What use I make of it is my affair. You can do--the
three of you--what you like. Let the world know. It doesn't
matter. It's I that matter--my life and my conscience and my soul
"Don't be too hard upon me," Silas besought him very humbly.
"Tell me about myself," said Paul.
Silas Finn wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and covered his
eyes with his hand. "That can only mean telling you about myself,"
he said. "It's raking up a past which I had hoped, with God's help,
to bury. But I have sinned to-night, and it is my punishment to tell
you. And you have a right to know. My father was a porter in Covent
Garden Market. My mother--I've already mentioned--"
"Yes--the Sicilian and the barrel organ--I remember," said Paul,
with a shiver.
"I had a hard boyhood. But I rose a little above my class. I
educated myself more or less. At last I became assistant in a
fishmonger's shop. Our friend Simmons here and I were boys together.
We fell in love with the same girl. I married her. Not long
afterward she gave way to drink. I found that in all kinds of ways I
had mistaken her character. I can't describe your own mother to you.
She had a violent temper. So had I. My life was a hell upon earth.
One day she goaded me beyond my endurance and I struck at her with a
knife. I meant at the bloodred instant to kill her. But I didn't. I
nearly killed her. I went to prison for three years. When I came out
she had vanished, taking you with her. In prison I found the Grace
of God and I vowed it should be my guide through life. As soon as I
was free from police supervision I changed my name--I believe it's
a good old Devonshire name; my father came from there--the prison
taint hung about it. Then, when I found I could extend a miserable
little business I had got together, I changed it again to suit my
trade. That's about all."
There was a spell of dead silence. The shrunken man, stricken with a
sense of his sin of oath-breaking, had Spoken without change of
attitude, his hand over his eyes. Paul, too, sat motionless, and
neither Jane nor Barney Bill spoke. Presently Silas Finn continued:
"For many years I tried to find my wife and son--but it was not
God's will. I have lived with the stain of murder on my soul"--his
voice sank--"and it has never been washed away. Perhaps it will be
in God's good time. . . . And I had condemned my son to a horrible
existence--for I knew my wife was not capable of bringing you up
in the way of clean living. I was right. Simmons has since told
me--and I was crushed beneath the burden of my sins."
After a pause he raised a drawn face and went on to tell of his
meeting, the year before, with Barney Bill, of whom he had lost
track when the prison doors had closed behind him. It had been in
one of his Fish Palaces where Bill was eating. They recognized each
other. Barney Bill told his tale: how he had run across Polly
Kegworthy after a dozen years' wandering; how, for love of his old
friend, he had taken Paul, child of astonishing promise, away from
"Do you remember, sonny, when I left you alone that night and went
to the other side of the brickfield? It was to think it out," said
Bill. "To think out my duty as a man."
Paul nodded. He was listening, with death in his heart. The whole
fantastic substructure of his life had been suddenly kicked away,
and his life was an inchoate ruin. Gone was the glamour of romance
in which since the day of the cornelian heart he had had his
essential being. Up to an hour ago he had never doubted his
mysterious birth. No real mother could have pursued an innocent
child with Polly Kegworthy's implacable hatred. His passionate
repudiation of her had been a cardinal article of his faith. On the
other hand, the prince and princess theory he had long ago consigned
to the limbo of childish things; but the romance of his birth, the
romance of his high destiny, remained a vital part of his spiritual
equipment. His looks, his talents, his temperament, his instincts,
his dreams had been irrefutable confirmations. His mere honesty, his
mere integrity, had been based on this fervent and unshakable creed.
And now it had gone. No more romance. No more glamour. No more
Vision Splendid now faded into the light of common and sordid day.
Outwardly listening, his gay, mobile face turned to iron, he lived
in a molten intensity of thought, his acute brain swiftly
coordinating the ironical scraps of history. He was the son of Polly
Kegworthy. So far he was unclean; but hitherto her blood had not
manifested itself in him. He was the son of this violent and
pathetic fanatic, this ex-convict; he had his eyes, his refined
face; perhaps he inherited from him the artistic temperament--he
recalled grimly the daubs on the man's walls, and his purblind
gropings toward artistic self-expression; and all this--the
Southern handsomeness, and Southern love of colour, had come from
his Sicilian grandmother, the nameless drab, with bright yellow
handkerchief over swarthy brows, turning the handle of a barrel
organ in the London streets. Instinct had been right in its
promptings to assume an Italian name; but the irony of it was of the
quality that makes for humour in hell. And his very Christian
name--Paul--the exotic name which Polly Kegworthy would not have
given to a brat of hers--was but a natural one for a Silas to give
his son, a Silas born of generations of evangelical peasants. His
eyes rested on the photograph of his Princess. She, first of all,
was gone with the Vision. An adventurer he had possibly been; but an
adventurer of romance, carried high by his splendid faith, and
regarding his marriage with the Princess but as a crowning of his
romantic destiny. But now he beheld himself only as a base-born
impostor. His Princess was gone from his life. Death was in his
He saw his familiar, luxurious room as in a dream, and Jane,
anxious-eyed, looking into the fire, and Barney Bill a little way
off, clutching his hard felt hat against his body; but his eyes were
fixed on the strange, many-passioned, unbalanced man who claimed to
be--nay, who was--his father.
"When I first met you that night my heart went out to you," he was
saying. "It overflowed in thankfulness to God that He had delivered
you out of the power of the Dog, and in His inscrutable mercy had
condoned that part of my sin as a father and had set you in high
With the fringe of his brain Paul recognized, for the first time,
how he brought into ordinary talk the habits of speech acquired in
addressing a Free Zionist congregation.
"It was only the self-restraint," Silas continued, "taught me by
bitter years of agony and a message from God that it was part of my
punishment not to acknowledge you as my son--"
"And what I told you, and what Jane told you about him," said Barney
Bill. "Remember that, Silas."
"I remember it--it was these influences that kept me silent. But
we were drawn together, Paul." He bent forward in his chair. "You
liked me. In spite of all our differences of caste and creed--you
"Yes, I was drawn to you," said Paul, and a strange, unknown note in
his voice caused Jane to glance at him swiftly. "You seemed to be a
man of many sorrows and deep enthusiasms--and I admit I was in
close sympathy with you." He paused, not moving from his rigid
attitude, and then went on: "What you have told me of your
sufferings--and I know, with awful knowledge, the woman who was my
mother--has made me sympathize with you all the more. But to
express that sympathy in any way you must give me time. I said you
had played hell with my life. It's true. One of these days I may be
able to explain. Not now. There's no time. We're caught up in the
wheels of an inexorable political machine. I address my party in the
constituency to-night." It was a cold intelligence that spoke, and
once more Jane flashed a half-frightened glance at him. "What I
shall say to them, in view of all this, I don't quite know. I must
have half an hour to think."
"I know I oughtn't to interfere, Paul," said Jane, "but you mustn't
blame Mr. Finn too much. Although he differs from you in politics
and so on, he loves you and is proud of you--as we all are--and
looks forward to your great career--I know it only too well. And
now he has this deep conviction that he has a call from on High to
ruin your career at the very beginning. Do understand, Paul, that he
feels himself in a very terrible position."
"I do," said Mr. Finn. "God knows that if it weren't for His
command, I should myself withdraw."
"I appreciate your position, perfectly," replied Paul, "but that
doesn't relieve me of my responsibilities."
Silas Finn rose and locked the fingers of both hands together and
stood before Paul, with appealing eyes. "My son, after what I have
said, you are not going to stand against me?"
Paul rose too. A sudden craze of passion swept him. "My country has
been my country for thirty years. You have been my father for five
minutes. I stand by my country."
Silas Finn turned away and waved a haphazard hand. "And I must stand
by my God."
"Very well. That bring; us to our original argument. 'Political
foes. Private friends.'"
Silas turned again and looked into the young man's eyes. "But father
and son, Paul."
"All the more honourable. There'll be no mud-throwing. The cleanest
election of the century."
The elder man again covered his face with both hands, and his black
and white streaked hair fell over his fingers and the great diamond
in his ring flashed oddly, and he rocked his head for a while to and
"I had a call," he wailed. "I had a call. I had a call from God. It
was clear. It was absolute. But you don't understand these things.
His will must prevail. It was terrible to think of crushing your
career--my only son's career. I brought these two friends to help
me persuade you not to oppose me. I did my best, Paul. I promised
them not to resort to the last argument. But flesh is weak. For the
first time since--you know--the knife--your mother--I lost
self-control. I shall have to answer for it to my God--" He
stretched out his arms and looked haggardly at Paul. "But it is
God's will. It is God's will that I should voice His message to the
Empire. Paul, Paul, my beloved son--you cannot flout Almighty
"Your God doesn't happen to be my God," said Paul, once more
suspicious--and now hideously so--of religious mania. "And
possibly the real God is somebody else's God altogether. Anyway,
England's the only God I've got left, and I'm going to fight for
The door opened and Wilton, the man-servant, appeared. He looked
round. "I beg your pardon, sir."
Paul crossed the room. "What is it?"
"Her Highness, sir," he said in his well-trained, low voice, "and
the Colonel and Miss Winwood. I told them you were engaged. But
they've been waiting for over half-an-hour, sir."
Paul drew himself up. "Why did you not tell me before? Her Highness
is not to be kept waiting. Present my respectful compliments to Her
Highness, and ask her and Colonel and Miss Winwood to have the
kindness to come upstairs."
"We had better go," cried Jane in sudden fear.
"No," said lie. "I want you all to stay."
IN the tense silence of the few moments of waiting Paul passed from
the boy to whom the earth had been a fairyland to the man grappling
with great realities. In those few moments he lived through his past
life and faced an adumbration of the future.
The door was thrown open and the Princess appeared, smiling, happy,
a black ostrich feather in her hat and a sable stole hanging loose
from her shoulders; a great and radiant lady. Behind her came the
Colonel and Ursula Winwood. Paul bent over the Princess's,
"A thousand pardons for keeping you waiting. I did not know you had
come. I was engaged with my friends. May I have the honour of
presenting them? Princess, this is Mr. Silas Finn, the managing
director of Fish Palaces Limited. These are two very dear friends,
Miss Seddon--Mr. Simmons. Miss Winwood--Colonel Winwood, may I?"
He waved an introductory hand. The Princess: bowed; then, struck by
their unsmiling faces and by Paul's strange manner, turned to him
"'Qu'est ce qu'il y a?"
"Je vais vous le dire."
He pushed a chair. She sat down. Ursula Winwood sat in Paul's
writing chair. The others remained standing.
"Mr. Finn called to inform me that he has been adopted as the
Liberal candidate for Hickney Heath."' "My felicitations," said the
Silas bowed to her gravely and addressed Colonel Winwood.
"We have been, sir--Mr. Savelli and I--for some time on terms of
personal friendship in the constituency."
"I see, I see," replied the Colonel, though he was somewhat puzzled.
"Very polite and friendly, I'm sure."
"Mr. Finn also urges me to withdraw my candidature," said Paul.
The Princess gave a little incredulous laugh. Ursula Winwood rose
and, with a quick protective step, drew nearer Paul. Colonel Winwood
"Withdraw? In Heaven's name why?"
Silas Finn tugged at his black-and-white-streaked beard and looked
at his son.
"Need we go into it again? There are religious reasons, which
perhaps, Madam"--Silas addressed the Princess--"you might
misunderstand. Mr. Savelli possibly thinks I am a fanatic. I can't
help it. I have warned him. That is enough. Good-bye, Mr. Savelli."
He held out his hand; but Paul did not take it. "You forget, Mr.
Finn, that I asked you to stay." He clutched the sides of his jacket
till his knuckles grew white, and he set his teeth. "Mr. Finn has
another reason for wishing me not to oppose him--"
"That reason you need never give," cried Silas in a loud voice, and
starting forward. "You know that I make no claims whatsoever."
"I know that," said Paul, coldly; "but I am going to give it all the
same." He paused, held up his hand and looked at the Princess. "Mr.
Silas Finn happens to be my father."
"Good God!" gasped the Colonel, after a flash of silence.
The Princess caught a quick breath and sat erect in her chair.
"Votre Pere, Paul?"
"Yes, Princess. Until half an hour ago I did not know it. Never in
my life did I know that I had a father living. My friends there can
bear witness that what I say is true."
"But, Paul dear," said Miss Winwood, laying her kind fingers on his
arm and searching his face, "you told us that your parents were dead
and that they were Italians."
"I lied," replied Paul calmly. "But I honestly believed the woman
who was my mother not to be my mother, and I had never heard of my
father. I had to account for myself to you. Your delicacy, Miss
Winwood, enabled me to invent as little as possible."
"But your name--Savelli?"
"I took it when I went on the stage--I had a few years' obscure
and unsuccessful struggle. You will remember I came to you starving
The Princess grew white and her delicate nostrils quivered.
"Et monsieur votre pere--" she checked herself. "And your
father, what do you say he is?"
Paul motioned to Silas to speak.
"I, Madam," said the latter, "am a self-made man, and by the
establishment of fried-fish shops all over London and the great
provincial towns, have, by the grace of God, amassed a considerable
"Fried fish?" said the Princess in a queer voice.
Silas looked at her out of his melancholy and unhumorous eyes.
"I have also learned," said Paul, "that my grandmother was a
Sicilian who played a street-organ. Hence my Italian blood."
Jane, standing by the door with Barney Bill, most agonized of old
men, wholly nervous, twisting with gnarled fingers the broken rim of
his hard felt hat, turned aside so that no one but Bill should see a
sudden gush of tears. For she had realized how drab and unimportant
she was in the presence of the great and radiant lady; also how the
great and radiant lady was the God-sent mate for Paul, never so
great a man as now when he was cutting out his heart for truth's
"I should like to tell you what my life has been," continued Paul,
"in the presence of those who know it already. That's why I asked
them to stay. Until an hour ago I lived in dreams. In my own fashion
I was an honest man. But now I've got this knowledge of my origin,
the dreams are swept away and I stand naked to myself. If I left
you, Miss Winwood, and Colonel Winwood, who have been so good to
me--and Her Highness, who has deigned to honour me with her
friendship--in a moment's doubt as to my antecedents I should be
"No, no, my boy," said Colonel Winwood, who was standing with hands
deep in trouser pockets and his head bent, staring at the carpet.
"No words like that in this house. Besides, why should we want to go
into all this?"
He had the Englishman's detestation of unpleasant explanations.
Ursula Winwood supported him.
"Yes, why?" she asked.
"But it would be very interesting," said the Princess slowly,
cutting her words.
Paul met her eyes, which she had hardened, and saw beneath them pain
and anger and wounded pride and repulsion. For a second he allowed
an agonized appeal to flash through his. He knew that he was
deliberately killing the love in her heart. He felt the monstrous
cruelty of it. A momentary doubt shook him. Was he justified? A
short while ago she had entered the room her face alight with love;
now her face was as stern and cold as his own. . Had he the right to
use the knife like this? Then certainty came. It had to be. The
swifter the better. She of all human beings must no longer be
deceived. Before her, at supreme cost, he must stand clean.
"It's not very interesting," said he. "And it's soon told. I was a
ragged boy in a slum in a Lancashire town. I slept on sacking in a
scullery, and very seldom had enough to eat. The woman whom I didn't
think was my mother ill-treated me. I gather now that she hated me
because she hated my father. She deserted him when I was a year old
and disappeared; she never spoke of him. I don't know exactly how
old I am. I chose a birthday at random. As a child I worked in a
factory. You know what child-labour in factories was some years ago.
I might have been there still, if my dear old friend there hadn't
helped me when I was thirteen to run away. He used to go through the
country in a van selling mats and chairs. He brought me to London,
and found me a lodging with Miss Seddon's mother. So, Miss Seddon
and I were children together. I became an artist's model. When I
grew too old for that to be a dignified ocupation, I went on the
stage. Then one day, starving and delirious, I stumbled through the
gates of Drane's Court and fell at Miss Winwood's feet. That's all."
"Since we've begun, we may as well finish and get it over," said
Colonel Winwood, still with bent head, but looking at Paul from
beneath his eyebrows. "When and how did you come across this
gentleman who you say is your father?"
Paul told the story in a few words.
"And now that you have heard everything," said he, would you think
me justified in withdrawing my candidature?"
"Certainly not," said the Colonel. "You've got your duty to the
"And you, Miss Winwood?"
"Can you ask? You have your duty to the country."
"And you, Princess?"
She met his challenging eyes and rose in a stately fashion.
"I am not equal to these complications of English politics, Mr.
Savelli," she said. She held herself very erect, but her lips
trembled and tears were very near her eyes. She turned to Miss
Winwood and held out her hand. "I am afraid we must postpone our
discussion of the Forlorn Widows. It is getting late. Au revoir,
"I will see you to your carriage."
On the threshold she turned, included Paul in a vague bow to the
company, and passed through the door which Colonel Winwood held
open. Paul watched her until she disappeared--disappeared
haughtily out of his life, taking his living heart with her, leaving
him with a stone very heavy, very cold, dead. And he was smitten as
with a great darkness. He remained quite still for a few moments
after the door had closed, then with a sudden jerk he drew himself
"Mr. Finn," said he, "as I've told you, I address my first meeting
to-night. I am going to make public the fact that I'm your son."
Silas put his hand to his head and looked at him wildly.
"No, no," he muttered hoarsely--"no."
"I see no reason," said Miss Winwood gently.
"I see every reason," said Paul. "I must live in the light now. The
truth or nothing."
"Then obey your conscience, Paul," she answered.
But Silas came forward with his outstretched hands.
"You can't do it. You can't do it, I tell you. It's impossible."
He replied in an odd voice, and with a glance at Miss Winwood. "I
must tell you afterwards."
"I will leave you," she said.
"Mr. Finn"--she shook hands with him--"I hope you're proud of
your son." And then she shook hands with Jane and Barney Bill. "I'm
glad to meet such old friends of Paul." And to Paul, as he held the
door open, she said, her clear kind eyes full on him, "Remember, we
want men in England."
"Thank God, we've got women," said he' with lips from which he could
not keep a sudden quiver.
He closed the door and came up to his father standing on the
"And now' why shouldn't I speak? Why shouldn't I be an honest man
instead of an impostor?"
"Out of pity for me, my son."
"Pity? Why, what harm would it do you? There's nothing dishonourable
in father and son fighting an election." He laughed without much
mirth. "It's what some people would call sporting. As for me,
personally, I don't see why you should be ashamed of owning me. My
record is clean enough."
"But mine isn't, Paul," said Silas mournfully.
For the first time Paul bowed his head. "I'm sorry," said he. "I
forgot." Then he raised it again. "But that's all over and buried in
"It may be unburied."
"Don't you see?" cried Jane. "Even I can. If you spring your
relationship upon the public, it will create an enormous sensation--it
will set the place on fire with curiosity. They'll dig up
everything they can about you--everything they can about him. Oh,
Paul, don't you see.
"It's up agin a man, sonny," said Barney Bill, limping towards them,
"it's up agin a candidate, you understand, him not being a Fenian or
a Irish patriot, that he's been in gaol. Penal servitude ain't a
nice state of life to be reminded of, sonny. Whereas if you leaves
things as they is, nobody's going to ask no questions."
"That's my point," said Silas Finn.
Paul looked from one to the other, darkly. In a kind of dull fierce
passion he had made up his mind to clear himself before the world,
to rend to tatters his garments of romance, to snap his fingers at
the stars and destiny and such-like deluding toys, to stand a young
Ajax defying the thunderbolts. Here came the first check.
"If they found out as how he'd done time, they'd find out for why,"
said Bill, cocking his head earnestly.
As Paul, engaged in sombre thought, made no reply, Silas turned
away, his hands uplifted in supplication, and prayed aloud. He had
sinned in giving way to his anger. He prostrated himself before the
divine vengeance. If this was his apportioned punishment, might God
give him meekness and strength to bear it. The tremulous, crying
voice, the rapt, fanatical face, and the beseeching attitude struck
a bizarre note in the comfortable and worldly room. Supported on
either side by Jane, helpless and anxious, and Barney Bill, crooked,
wrinkled, with his close-cropped white hair and little liquid
diamond eyes, still nervously tearing his hat-brim, he looked almost
grotesque. To Paul he seemed less a man than a creation of another
planet, with unknown and incalculable instincts and impulses, who
had come to earth and with foolish hand had wiped out the meaning of
existence. Yet he felt no resentment, but rather a weary pity for
the stranger blundering through an unsympathetic world. As soon as
there came a pause in the prayer, he said not ungently:
"The Almighty is not going to use me as an instrument to punish you,
if I can help it. I quite appreciate your point. I'll say nothing."
Barney Bill jerked his thumb towards the chair where the Princess
had been sitting:
"She won't give it away?"
Paul smiled sadly. "No, old man. She'll keep it to herself."
That marked the end of the interview. Paul accompanied the three
"I meant to act for the best, Paul," said Silas piteously, on
parting. "Tell me that I haven't made you my enemy."
"God forbid," said Paul.
He went slowly up to his room again and threw himself in his writing
chair. His eye fell upon the notes on the sheet of foolscap. The
Radical candidate having been chosen, they were no longer relevant
to his speech. He crumpled up the paper and threw it into the
waste-paper basket. His speech! He held his head in both hands. A
couple of hours hence he would be addressing a vast audience, the
centre of the hopes of thousands of his fellow countrymen. The
thought beat upon his brain. He had had the common nightmare of
standing with conductor's baton in front of a mighty orchestra and
being paralyzed by sense of impotence. No less a nightmare was his
present position. A couple of hours ago he was athrill with
confidence and joy of battle. But then he was a different man. The
morning stars, the stars of his destiny, sang together in the
ever-deepening glamour of the Vision Splendid. He was entering into
the lists of Camelot to fight for his Princess. He was the
Mysterious Knight, parented in fairy-far Avilion, the Fortunate
Youth, the Awakener of England. Now he was but a base-born young man
who had attained a high position by false pretences; an ordinary
adventurer with a glib tongue; a self-educated, self-seeking,
commonplace fellow. At least, so he saw himself in his Princess's
eyes. And he had meant that she should thus behold him. No longer
was he entering lists to fight for her. For what hopeless purpose
was he entering them? To awaken England? The awakener must have his
heart full of dreams and visions and glamour and joy and throbbing
life; and in his heart there was death.
He drew out the little cornelian talisman at the end of his
watch-chain and looked at it bitterly. It was but a mocking symbol
of illusion. He unhooked it and laid it on the table. He would carry
it about with him no longer. He would throw it away.
Ursula Winwood quietly entered the room.
"You must come down and have something to cat before the meeting."
Paul rose. "I don't want anything, thank you, Miss Winwood."
"But James and I do. So come and join us."
"Are you coming to the meeting?" he asked in surprise.
"Of course." She lifted her eyebrows. "Why not?"
"After what you have heard?"
"All the more reason for us to go." She smiled as she had smiled on
that memorable evening six years ago when she had stood with the
horrible pawn-ticket in her hand. "James has to support the Party. I
have to support you. James will do the same as I in a day or two.
Just give him time. His mind doesn't work very quickly, not as
quickly as a woman's. Come," she said. "When we have a breathing
space you can tell me all about it. But in the meantime I'm pretty
sure I understand."
"How can you?" he asked wearily. "You have other traditions."
"I don't know about traditions; but I don't give my love and take it
away again. I set rather too much value on it. I understand because
I love you."
"Others with the same traditions can't understand."
"I'm not proposing to marry you," she said bluntly. "That makes a
"It does," said he, meeting her eyes unflinchingly.
"If you weren't a brave man, I shouldn't say such a thing to you.
Anyhow I understand you're the last man in the world who should take
me for a fool."
"My God!" said Paul in a choky voice. "What can I do to thank you?"
"Win the election."
"You are still my dearest lady--my very very dearest lady," said
Her shrewd eyes fell upon the cornelian heart. She picked it tip and
held it out to him on her plump palm.
"Why have you taken this off your watch-chain?"
"It's a little false god," said he.
"It's the first thing yon asked for when you recovered from your
illness. You said you had kept it since you were a tiny boy. See? I
remember. You set great value on it then?"
"I believed in it," said Paul.
"And now you don't? But a woman gave it to you."
"Yes," said Paul, wondering, in his masculine way, how the deuce she
knew that. "I was a brat of eleven."
"Then keep it. Put it on your chain again. I'm sure it's a true
little god. Take it back to please me."
As there was nothing, from lapping up Eisel to killing a crocodile,
that Paul would not have done, in the fulness of his wondering
gratitude, for his dearest lady, he meekly attached the heart to his
chain and put it in his pocket.
"I must tell you," said he, "that the lady--she seemed a goddess
to me then--chose me as her champion in a race, a race of urchins
at a Sunday school treat, and I didn't win. But she gave me the
cornelian heart as a prize."
"But as my champion you will win," said Miss Winwood. "My dear boy,"
she said, and her eyes grew very tender as she laid her hand on the
young man's arm, "believe what an old woman is telling you is true.
Don't throw away any little shred of beauty you've ever had in your
life. The beautiful things are really the true ones, though they may
seem to be illusions. Without the trinket or what it stood for,
would you be here now?"
"I don't know," replied Paul. "I might have taken a more honest road
to get here."
"We took you to ourselves as a bright human being, Paul--not for
what you might or might not have been. By the way, what have you
decided as regards making public the fact of your relationship?"
"My father, for his own reasons, has urged me not to do so."
Miss Winwood drew a long breath.
"I'm glad to hear it," she said.
So Paul, comforted by one woman's amazing loyalty, went out that
evening and addressed his great meeting. But the roar of applause
that welcomed him echoed through void spaces of his being. He felt
neither thrill nor fear. The speech prepared by the Fortunate Youth
was delivered by a stranger to it, glowing and dancing eloquence.
The words came trippingly enough, but the informing Spirit was gone.
Those in the audience familiar with the magic of his smile were
disappointed. The soundness of his policy satisfied the hard-
headed, but he made no appeal to the imaginative. If his speech did
not fall flat, it was not the clarion voice that his supporters had
anticipated. They whispered together with depressed headshakings.
Their man was not in form. He was nervous. What he said was right
enough, but his utterance lacked fire. It carried conviction to
those already convinced; but it could make no proselytes. Had they
been mistaken in their choice? Too young a man, hadn't lie bitten
off a hunk greater than he could chew? So the inner ring of local
politicians. An election audience, however, brings its own
enthusiasms, and it must be a very dull dog indeed who damps their
ardour. They cheered prodigiously when Paul sat down, and a crowd of
zealots waiting outside the building cheered him again as he drove
off. But Paul knew that he had been a failure. He had delivered
another man's speech. To-morrow and the day after and the day after
that, and ever afterwards, if he held to the political game, he
would have to speak in his own new person. What kind of a person
would the new Paul be?
He drove back almost in silence with the Colonel and Miss Winwood,
vainly seeking to solve the problem. The foundations of his life had
been swept away. His foot rested on nothing solid save his own
manhood. That no shock should break down. He would fight. He would
win the election. He set his lips in grim determination. If life
held no higher meaning, it at least offered this immediate object
for existence. Besides he owed the most strenuous effort of his soul
to the devoted and loyal woman whose face he saw dimly opposite.
Afterwards come what might. The Truth at any rate. Magna est veritas
These were "prave 'orts" and valorous protestations.
But when their light supper was over and Colonel Winwood had
retired, Ursula Winwood lingered in the dining room, her heart
aching for the boy who looked so stern and haggard. She came behind
him and touched his hair.
"Poor boy," she murmured.
Then Paul--he was very young, barely thirty--broke down, as
perhaps she meant that he should, and, elbows sprawling amid the
disarray of the meal, poured out all the desolation of his soul, and
for the first time cried out in anguish for the woman he had lost.
So, as love lay a-bleeding mortally pierced, Ursula Win wood wept
unaccustomed tears and with tender fingers strove to staunch the
DAYS of strain followed: days of a thousand engagements, a thousand
interviews, a thousand journeyings, a thousand speeches; days in
which he was reduced to an unresisting automaton, mechanically
uttering the same formulas; days in which the irresistible force of
the campaign swept him along without volition. And day followed day
and not a sign came from the Princess Zobraska either of condonation
or resentment. It was as though she had gathered her skirts around
her and gone disdainfully out of his life for ever. If speaking were
to be done, it was for her to speak. Paul could not plead. It was he
who, in a way, had cast her off. In effect he had issued the
challenge: "I am a child of the gutter, an adventurer masquerading
under an historical name, and you are a royal princess. Will you
marry me now?" She had given her answer, by walking out of the room,
her proud head in the air. It was final, as far as he was concerned.
He could do nothing--not even beg his dearest lady to plead for
him. Besides, rumour had it that the Princess had cancelled her town
engagements and gone to Morebury. So he walked in cold and darkness,
uninspired, and though he worked with feverish energy, the heart and
purpose of his life were gone.
As in his first speech, so in his campaign, he failed. He had been
chosen for his youth, his joyousness, his magnetism, his radiant
promise of great things to come. He went about the constituency an,
anxious, haggard man, working himself to death without being able to
awaken a spark of emotion in the heart of anybody. He lost ground
daily. On the other hand, Silas Finn, with his enthusiasms, and his
aspect of an inspired prophet, made alarming progress. He swept the
multitude. Paul Savelli, the young man of the social moment, had an
army of helpers, members of Parliament making speeches, friends on
the Unionist press writing flamboyant leaders, fair ladies in
automobiles hunting for voters through the slums of Hickney Heath.
Silas Finn had scarcely a personal friend. But hope reigned among
his official supporters, whereas depression began to descend over
Paul's brilliant host.
"They want stirring up a bit," said the Conservative agent
despondently. "I hear old Finn's meetings go with a bang. They
nearly raised the roof off last night. We want some roof-raising on
"I do my best," said Paul coldly, but the reproach cut deep. He was
a failure. No nervous or intellectual effort could save him now,
though he spent himself to the last heartbeat. He was the sport of a
mocking Will o' the Wisp which he had taken for Destiny.
Once on coming out of his headquarters he met Silas, who was walking
up the street with two or three of his committee-men. In accordance
with the ordinary amenities of English political life, the two
candidates shook hands, and withdrew a pace or two aside to chat for
a while. This was the first time they had come together since the
afternoon of revelation, and there was a moment of constraint during
which Silas tugged at his streaked beard and looked with mournful
wistfulness at his son.
"I wish I were not your opponent, Paul," said he in a low voice, so
as not to be overheard.
"That doesn't matter a bit," Paul replied courteously. "I see you're
putting up an excellent fight."
"It's the Lord's battle. If it weren't, do you think I would not let
The same old cry. Through sheer repetition, Paul began almost to
believe in it. He felt very weary. In his father's eyes he
recognized, with a pang, the glow of a faith which he had lost.
Their likeness struck him, and he saw himself, his old self, beneath
the unquestioning though sorrowful eyes.
"That's the advantage of a belief in the Almighty's personal
interest," he answered, with a touch of irony: "whatever happens,
one is not easily disillusioned."
"That is true, my son," said Silas.
"Jane is well?" Paul asked, after an instant's pause, breaking off
the profitless discussion.
"And Barney Bill?"
"He upbraids me bitterly for what I have said."
Paul smiled at the curiously stilted phrase.
"Tell him from me not to do it. My love to them both."
They shook hands again, and Paul drove off in the motor car that had
been placed at his disposal during the election, and Silas continued
his sober walk with his committee-men up the muddy street. Whereupon
Paul conceived a sudden hatred for the car. It was but the final
artistic touch to this comedy of mockery of which he had been the
victim. . . . Perhaps God was on his father's side, after all--on
the side of them who humbly walked and not of them who rode in proud
chariots. But his political creed, his sociological convictions rose
in protest. How could the Almighty be in league with all that was
subversive of social order, all that was destructive to Imperial
cohesion, all that which inevitably tended to England's downfall?
He turned suddenly to his companion, the Conservative agent.
"Do you think God has got common sense?"
The agent, not being versed in speculations regarding the attributes
of the Deity, stared; then, disinclined to commit himself, took
refuge in platitude.
"God moves in a mysterious way, Mr. Savelli."
"That's rot," said Paul. "If there's an Almighty, He must move in a
common-sense way; otherwise the whole of this planet would have
busted up long ago. Do you think it's common sense to support the
"Certainly not," said the agent, fervently.
"Then if God supported it, it wouldn't be common sense on His part.
It would be merely mysterious?"
"I see what you're driving at," said the agent. "Our opponent
undoubtedly has been making free with the name of the Almighty in
his speeches. As a matter of fact he's rather crazy on the subject.
I don't think it would be a bad move to make a special reference to
it. It's all damned hypocrisy. There's a chap in the old French
play--what's his name?"
"That's it. Well, there you are. That speech of his yesterday--now
why don't you take it and wring religiosity and hypocrisy and
Tartuffism out of it? You know how to do that sort of thing. You can
score tremendously. I never thought of it before. By George! you can
get him in the neck if you like."
"But I don't like," said Paul. "I happen to know that Mr. Finn is
sincere in his convictions."
"But, my dear sir, what does his supposed sincerity matter in
"It's the difference between dirt and cleanliness," said Paul.
"Besides, as I told you at the outset, Mr. Finn and I are close
personal friends, and I have the highest regard for his character.
He has seen that his side has scrupulously refrained from
personalities with regard to me, and I insist on the same observance
with regard to him."
"With all due deference to you, Mr. Savelli, you were called only
the day before yesterday 'the spoiled darling of Duchesses'
"It wasn't with Mr. Finn's cognizance. I've found that out."
"Well," said the agent, leaning back-in the luxurious limousine, "I
don't see why somebody, without your cognizance, shouldn't call Mr.
Finn the spoiled minion of the Almighty's ante-chamber. That's a
devilish good catch-phrase," he added, starting forward in the joy
of his newborn epigram: "Devilish good. 'The spoiled minion of the
Almighty's ante-chamber.' It'll become historical."
"If it does," said Paul, "it will be associated with the immediate
retirement of the Conservative candidate."
"Do you really mean that?"
It was Paul's turn to start forward. "My dear Wilson," said he, "if
you or anybody else thinks I'm a man to talk through his hat, I'll
retire at once. I don't care a damn about myself. Not a little
tuppenny damn. What the devil does it matter to me whether I get
into Parliament or not? Nothing. Not a tuppenny damn. You can't
understand. It's the party and the country. For myself, personally,
the whole thing can go to blazes. I'm in earnest, dead earnest," he
continued, with a vehemence incomprehensible to Wilson. "If anybody
doesn't think so, I'll clear out at once"--he snapped his fingers.
"But while I'm candidate everything I say I mean. I mean it
intensely--with all my soul. And I say that if there's a single
insulting reference to Mr. Finn during this election, you'll be up
against the wreck of your own political career."
The agent watched the workings of his candidate's dark clear-cut
face. He was very proud of his candidate, and found it difficult to
realize that there were presumably sane people who would not vote
for him on sight. A lingering memory of grammar school days flashed
on him when he told his wife later of the conversation, and he
likened Paul to a wrathful Apollo. Anxious to appease the god, he
"It was the merest of suggestions, Mr. Savelli. Heaven knows we
don't want to descend to personalities, and your retirement would be
an unqualifiable disaster. But--you'll pardon my mentioning it--
you began this discussion by asking me whether the Almighty had
"Well, has He or not?"
"Of course," said Wilson.
"Then we're going to win this election," said Paul.
If he could have met enthusiasm with enthusiasm, all would have been
well. The awakener of England could have captivated hearts by
glowing pictures of a great and glorious future. It would have been
a counter-blaze to that lit by his opponent, which flamed in all the
effulgence of a reckless reformer's promise, revealing a Utopia in
which there would be no drunkenness, no crime, no poverty, and in
which the rich, apparently, would have to work very hard in order to
support the poor in comfortable idleness. But beyond proving
fallacies, Paul could do nothing--and even then, has there ever
been a mob since the world began susceptible to logical argument?
So, all through the wintry days of the campaign, Silas Finn carried
his fiery cross through the constituency, winning frenzied
adherents, while Paul found it hard to rally the faithful round the
drooping standard of St. George.
The days went on. Paul addressed his last meeting on the eve of the
poll. By a supreme effort he regained some of his former fire and
eloquence. He drove home exhausted, and going straight to bed slept
like a dog till morning.
The servant who woke him brought a newspaper to the bedside.
"Something to interest you, sir."
Paul looked at the headline indicated by the man.
"Hickney Heath Election. Liberal Candidate's Confession.
He glanced hurriedly down the column and read with amazement and
stabbing pain the matter that was of interest. The worst had
happened--the thing which during all his later life Silas Finn had
feared. The spectre of the prison had risen up against him.
Towards the end of Silas Finn's speech, at his last great meeting, a
man, sitting in the body of the hall near the platform, got up and
interrupted him. "What about your own past life? What about your
three years' penal servitude?" All eyes were turned from the man--
a common looking, evil man--to the candidate, who staggered as if
he had been shot, caught at the table behind him for support and
stared in greyfaced terror. There was an angry tumult, and the
interrupter would have fared badly, but for Silas Finn holding up
his hand and imploring silence.
"I challenge the candidate to deny," said the man, as soon as he
could be heard, "that his real name is Silas Kegworthy, and that he
underwent three years' penal servitude for murderously assaulting
Then the candidate braced himself and said: "The bare facts are
true. But I have lived stainlessly in the fear of God and in the
service of humanity for thirty years. I have sought absolution for a
moment of mad anger under awful provocation in unremitting prayer
and in trying to save the souls and raise the fortunes of my
fellow-men. Is that all you have against me?"
"That's all," said the man.
"It is for you, electors of Hickney Heath, to judge me."
He sat down amid tumultuous cheers, and the man who had interrupted
him, after some rough handling, managed to make his escape. The
chairman then put a vote of confidence in the candidate, which was
carried by acclamation, and the meeting broke up.
Such were the essential facts in the somewhat highly coloured
newspaper story which Paul read in stupefied horror. He dressed
quickly and went to his sitting-room, where he rang tip his father's
house on the telephone. Jane's voice met his ear.
"It's Paul speaking," he replied. "I've just this moment read of
last night. I'm shaken to my soul. How is my father?"
"He's greatly upset," came the voice. "He didn't sleep all night,
and he's not at all well this morning. Oh, it was a cruel, cowardly
"Dastardly. Do you know who it was?"
"No. Don't you?"
"I? Does either of you think that I--?"
"No, no," came the voice, now curiously tearful. "I didn't mean
that. I forgot you've not had time to find out."
"Who does he think it was?"
"Some old fellow prisoner who had a grudge against him."
"Were you at the meeting?"
"Yes. Oh, Paul, it was splendid to see him face the audience. He
spoke so simply and with such sorrowful dignity. He had their
sympathy at once. But it has broken him. I'm afraid he'll never be
the same man again. After all these years it's dreadful."
"It's all that's damnable. It's tragic. Give him my love and tell
him that words can't express my sorrow and indignation."
He rang off. Almost immediately Wilson was announced. He carne into
the room radiant.
"You were right about the divine common-sensicality," said he. "The
Lord has delivered our adversary into our hands with a vengeance."
He was a chubby little man of forty, with coarse black hair and
scrubby moustache, not of the type that readily appreciates the
delicacies of a situation. Paul conceived a sudden loathing for him.
"I would give anything for it not to have happened," he said.
Wilson opened his eyes. "Why? It's our salvation. An ex-convict--
it's enough to damn any candidate. But we want to make sure. Now
I've got an idea."
Paul turned on him angrily. "I'll have no capital made out of it
whatsoever. It's a foul thing to bring such an accusation up against
a man who has lived a spotless life for thirty years. Everything in
me goes out in sympathy with him, and I'll let it be known all
through the constituency."
"If you take it that way," said Wilson, "there's no more to be
"There's nothing to be done, except to find out who put up the man
to make the announcement."
"He did it on his own," Wilson replied warmly. "None of our people
would resort to a dirty trick like that."
"And yet you want me to take advantage of it now it's done."
"That's quite a different matter."
"I can't see much difference," said Paul.
So Wilson, seeing that his candidate was more unmanageable than
ever, presently departed, and Paul sat down to breakfast. But he
could not eat. He was both stricken with shame and moved to the
depths by immense pity. Far removed from him as Silas Finn was in
mode of life and ideals, he found much in common with his father.
Each had made his way from the slum, each had been guided by an
inner light--was Silas Finn's fantastic belief less of an ignis
fatuus than his own?--each had sought to get away from a past,
each was a child of Ishmael, each, in his own way, had lived
romantically. Whatever resentment against his father lingered in his
heart now melted away. He was very near him. The shame of the prison
struck him as it had struck the old man. He saw him bowed down under
the blow, and he clenched his hands in a torture of anger and
indignation. And to crown all, came the intolerable conviction, in
the formation of which Wilson's triumphant words had not been
necessary, that if he won the election it would be due to this
public dishonouring of his own father. He walked about the room in
despair, and at last halted before the mantelpiece on which still
stood the photograph of the Princess in its silver frame. Suddenly
he remembered that he had not told her of this incident in his
family history. She too would be reading her newspaper this morning.
He saw her proud lips curl. The son of a gaol-bird! He tore the
photograph from its frame and threw it into the fire and watched it
burn. As the paper writhed under the heat, the lips seemed to twist
into sad reproach. He turned away impatiently. That romantic madness
was over and done with. He had far sterner things to do than shriek
his heart out over a woman in an alien star. He had his life to
reconstruct in the darkness threatening and mocking; but at last he
had truth for a foundation; on that he would build in defiance of
In the midst of these fine thoughts it occurred to him that he had
hidden the prison episode in his father's career from the Winwoods
as well as from the Princess. His checks flushed; it was one more
strain on the loyalty of these dear devoted friends. He went
downstairs, and found the Colonel and Miss Winwood in the
dining-room. Their faces were grave. He came to them with
outstretched arms--a familiar gesture, one doubtless inherited
from his Sicilian ancestry.
"You see what has happened. I knew all the time. I didn't tell you.
You must forgive me."
"I don't blame you, my boy," said Colonel Winwood. "It was your
father's secret. You had no right to tell us."
"We're very grieved, dear, for both your sakes," Ursula added.
"James has taken the liberty of sending round a message of
As ever, these two had gone a point beyond his anticipation of their
loyalty. He thanked them simply.
"It's hateful," said he, "to think I may win the election on account
of this. It's loathsome." He shuddered.
"I quite agree with you," said the Colonel. "But in politics one has
often to put up with hateful things in order to serve one's country.
That's the sacrifice a high-minded man is called upon to make."
"Besides," said Miss Winwood, "let us hope it won't affect votes.
All the papers say that the vote of confidence was passed amid
scenes of enthusiasm."
Paul smiled. They understood. A little while later they drove off
with him to his committee room in the motor car gay with his
colours. There was still much to be done that day.
HICKNEY HEATH blazed with excitement. It is not every day that a
thrill runs through a dull London borough, not even every election
day. For a London borough, unlike a country town, has very little
corporate life of its own. You cannot get up as much enthusiasm for
Kilburn, say, as a social or historical entity, as you can for
Winchester or Canterbury. You may perform civic duties, if you are
public-spirited enough, with business-like zeal, and if you are
borough councillor you may be proud of the nice new public baths
which you have been instrumental in presenting to the community. But
the ordinary man in the street no more cares for Kilburn than he
does for Highgate. He would move from one to the other without a
pang. For neither's glory would he shed a drop of his blood. Only at
election times does it occur to him that he is one of a special
brotherhood, isolated from the rest of London; and even then he
regards the constituency as a convention defining. geographical
limits for the momentary range of his political passions. So that
the day when an electric thrill ran through the whole of Hickney
Heath was a rare one in its uninspiring annals.
The dramatic had happened, touching the most sluggish imaginations.
The Liberal candidate for Parliament, a respected Borough
Councillor, a notorious Evangelical preacher, had publicly confessed
himself an ex-convict. Every newspaper in London--and for the
matter of that, every newspaper in Great Britain--rang with the
story, and every man, woman and child in Hickney Heath read
feverishly every newspaper, morning and evening, they could lay
their hands on. Also, every man, woman and child in Hickney Heath
asked his neighbour for further details. All who could leave desk
and shop or factory poured into the streets to learn the latest,
tidings. Around the various polling stations the crowd was thickest.
Those electors who had been present at Silas Finn's meeting, the
night before, told the story at first-hand to eager groups. Rumours
of every sort spread through the mob. The man who had put the famous
question was an agent of the Tories. It was a smart party move.
Silas Finn had all the time been leading a double life. Depravities
without number were laid to his charge. Even now the police were
inquiring into his connection with certain burglaries that had taken
place in the neighbourhood. And where was he that day? Who had seen
him? He was at home drunk. He had committed suicide. Even if he
hadn't, and was elected, he would not be allowed to take his seat in
On the other hand, those in whose Radical bosoms burned fierce
hatred for the Tories, spoke loud in condemnation of their cowardly
tactics. There was considerable free-fighting in the ordinarily
dismal and decorous streets of Hickney Heath. Noisy acclamations
hailed the automobiles, carriages and waggonettes bringing voters of
both parties to the polls. Paul, driving in his gaily-decked car
about the constituency, shared all these demonstrations and heard
these rumours. The latter he denied and caused to be denied, as far
as lay in his power. In the broad High Street, thronged with folk,
and dissonant with tram cars and motor 'buses, he came upon a
quarrelsome crowd looking up at a window above a poulterer's shop,
from which hung something white, like a strip of wall paper.
Approaching, he perceived that it bore a crude drawing of a convict
and "Good old Dartmoor" for legend. White with anger, he stopped the
car, leaped out on to the curb, and pushing his way through the
crowd, entered the shop. He seized one of the white-coated
assistants by the arm. "Show me the way to that first-floor room,"
he cried fiercely.
The assistant, half-dragged, half-leading, and wholly astonished,
took him through the shop and pointed to the staircase. Paul sprang
up and dashed through the door into the room, which appeared to be
some business office. Three or four young men, who turned grinning
from the window, be thrust aside, and plucking the offending strip
from the drawing-pins which secured it to the sill, he tore it
across and across.
"You cads! You brutes!" he shouted, trampling on the fragments.
"Can't you fight like Englishmen?"
The young men, realizing the identity of the wrathful apparition,
stared open-mouthed, turned red, and said nothing. Paul strode out,
looking very fierce, and drove off in his car amid the cheers of the
crowd, to which he paid no notice.
"It makes me sick!" he cried passionately to Wilson, who was with
him. "I hope to God he wins in spite, of it!"
"What about the party?" asked Wilson.
Paul damned the party. He was in the overwrought mood in which a man
damns everything. Quagmire and bramble and the derision of
Olympus-that was the end of his vanity of an existence. Suppose he
was elected--what then? He would be a failure-the high gods in
their mirth would see to that--a puppet in Frank Ayres' hands
until the next general election, when be would have ignominiously to
retire. Awakener of England indeed! He could not even awaken Hickney
Heath. As he dashed through the streets in his triumphal car, he
hated Hickney Heath, hated the wild "hoorays" of waggon-loads of his
supporters on their way to the polls, hated the smug smiles of his
committee-men at polling stations. He forgot that he did not hate
England. A little black disk an inch or two in diameter if cunningly
focussed can obscure the sun in heaven from human eye. There was
England still behind the little black disk, though Paul for the
moment saw it not.
Wilson pulled his scrubby moustache and made no retort to Paul's
anathema. To him Paul was one of the fine flower of the Upper
Classes to which lower middle-class England still, with considerable
justification, believes to be imbued with incomprehensible and
unalterable principles of conduct. The grand old name of gentleman
still has its magic in this country--and is, by the way, not
without its influence in one or two mighty republics wherein the
equality of man is very loudly proclaimed. Wilson, therefore, gladly
suffered Paul's lunatic Quixotry. For himself he approved hugely of
the cartoon. If he could have had his way, Hickney Heath would have
flamed with poster reproductions of it. But he had a dim
appreciation of, and a sneaking admiration for, the aristocrat's
point of view, and, being a practical man, evaded a discussion on
the ethics of the situation.
The situation was rendered more extraordinary because the Liberal
candidate made no appearance in the constituency. Paul inquired
anxiously. No one had seen him. After lunch he drove alone to his
father's house. The parlour-maid showed him into the hideously
furnished and daub-hung dining-room. The Viennese horrors of plaster
stags, gnomes and rabbits stared fatuously on the hearth. No fire
was in the grate. Very soon Jane entered, tidy, almost matronly in
buxom primness, her hair as faultless as if it had come out of a
convoluted mould, her grave eyes full of light. She gave him her
"It's like you to come, Paul."
"It's only decent. My father hasn't shown up. What's the matter with
"It's a bit of a nervous breakdown," she said, looking at him
steadily. "Nothing serious. But the doctor--I sent for him--says
he had better rest--and his committee people thought it wiser for
him not to show himself."
"Can I see him?"
"Certainly not." A look of alarm came into her face. "You're both
too excited. What would you say to him?"
"I'd tell him what I feel about the whole matter."
"Yes. You would fling your arms about, and he would talk about God,
and a precious lot of good it would do to anybody. No, thank you.
I'm in charge of Mr. Finn's health."
It was the old Jane, so familiar. "I wish," said he, with a smile--
"I wish I had had your common sense to guide me all these years."
"If you had, you would now be a clerk in the City earning thirty
shillings a week."
"And perhaps a happier man."
"Bosh, my dear Paul!" she said, shaking her head slowly. "Rot!
Rubbish! I know you too well. You adding up figures at thirty
shillings a week, with a common sense wife for I suppose you mean
that--mending your socks and rocking the cradle in a second-floor
back in Hickney Heath! No, my dear"--she paused for a second or
two and her lips twitched oddly--"common sense would have been the
death of you."
He laughed in spite of himself. It was so true.
Common sense might have screwed him to a thirty shillings-a-week
desk: the fantastic had brought him to that very house, a candidate
for Parliament, in a thousand-guinea motor car. On the other hand--
and his laughter faded from his eyes--the fantastic in his life
was dead. Henceforward common sense would hold him in her cold and
unstimulating clasp. He said something of the sort to Jane. Once
more she ejaculated "Rot, rubbish and bosh!" and they quarrelled as
they had done in their childhood.
"You talk as if I didn't know you inside out, my dear Paul," she
said in her clear, unsmiling way. "Listen. All men are donkeys,
"For the sake of argument, I agree."
"Well--there are two kinds of donkeys. One kind is meek and mild
and will go wherever it is driven. The other, in order to get along,
must always have a bunch of carrots dangling before its eyes. That's
"But confound it all!" he cried, "I've lost my carrots--can't you
see? I'll never have any carrots again. That's the whole damned
For the first time she smiled--the smile of the woman wiser in
certain subtle things than the man. "my dear," she said, "carrots
are cheap." She paused for an instant and added, "Thank God!"
Paul squeezed her arms affectionately and they moved apart. He
sighed. "They're the most precious things in the world," said he.
"The most precious things in the world are those which you can get
for nothing," said Jane.
"You're a dear," said he, "and a comfort."
Presently he left her and returned to his weary round of the
constituency, feeling of stouter heart, with a greater faith in the
decent ordering of mundane things. .A world containing such women as
Jane and Ursula Winwood possessed elements of sanity. Outside one of
the polling stations he found Barney Bill holding forth excitedly to
a knot of working-men. He ceased as the car drove up, and cast back
a broad proud smile at the candidate's warm greeting.
"I got up the old 'bus so nice and proper, with all your colours and
posters, and it would have been a spectacular Diorama for these 'ere
poor people; but you know for why I didn't bring it out to-day,
don't you, sonny?"
"I know, dear old friend," said Paul.
"I 'adn't the 'cart to."
"What were you speechifying about when I turned up?"
Barney Bill jerked a backward thumb. "I was telling this pack of
cowardly Radicals that though I've been a Tory born and bred for
sixty odd years, and though I've voted for you, Silas Finn, for all
he was in prison while most of them were sucking wickedness and
Radicalism out of Nature's founts, is just as good a man as what you
are. They was saying, yer see, they was Radicals, but on account of
Silas being blown upon, they was going to vote for you. So I tells
'em, I says, 'Mr. Savelli would scorn your dirty votes. If yer feel
low and Radical, vote Radical. Mr. Savelli wants to play fair. I
know both of 'em,' I says, 'both of 'em intimately.' And they begins
to laugh, as if I was talking through my hat. Anyway, they see now I
know you, sonny."
Paul laughed and clapped the loyal old man on the shoulder. Then he
turned to the silent but interested group. "Gentlemen," said he, "I
don't want to inquire on which side you are; but you can take it
from me that whatever my old friend Mr. Simmons says about Mr. Finn
and myself is the absolute truth. If you're on Mr. Finn's side in
politics, in God's name vote for him. He's a noble, high-souled man
and I'm proud of his private friendship."
He drew Barney Bill apart. "You're the only Tory in the place who
can try to persuade people not to vote for me. I wish you would keep
on doing it."
"I've been a-doing of it ever since the polls opened this morning,"
said Barney Bill. Then he cocked his head on one side and his little
eyes twinkled: "It's an upside-down way of fighting an election to
persuade people not to vote for you, isn't it?"
"Everything is topsy-turvy with me, these days," Paul replied: "so
we've just got to stand on our heads and make the best of it."
And he drove off in the gathering dusk.
Night found him in the great chamber of the Town Hall, with his
agent and members of his committee. Present too were the Liberal
Agent and the members of the Liberal Committee. At one end of the
room sat the Mayor of the Borough in robe and chain of office,
presiding over the proceedings. The Returning Officer and his staff
sat behind long tables, on which were deposited the sealed ballot
boxes brought in from the various polling stations; and these were
emptied and the votes were counted, the voting papers for each
candidate being done up in bundles of fifty. Knots of committee-men
of both parties stood chatting in low voices. In an ordinary
election both candidates would have chatted together, in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred about golf, and would have made an engagement
to meet again in milder conflict that day week. But here Paul was
the only candidate to appear, and he sat in a cane-bottomed chair
apart from the lounging politicians, feeling curiously an interloper
in this vast, solemn and scantily-filled hall. He was very tired,
too tired in body, mind and soul to join in the small-talk of Wilson
and his bodyguard. Besides, they all wore the air of anticipated
victory, and for that he held them in detestation. He had detested
them the whole day long. The faces that yesterday had been long and
anxious to-day had been wreathed in smirks. Wherever he had gone he
had found promise of victory in his father's disgrace. Passionately
the young man, fronting vital issues, longed for his own defeat.
But for the ironical interposition of the high gods, it might have
been so different. Any other candidate against him, he himself
buoyed up with his own old glorious faith, his Princess, dazzling
meteor illuminating the murky streets--dear God! what would not
have been the joy of battle during the past week, what would not
have been the intense thrill, the living of a thousand lives in
these few hours of suspense now so dull with dreariness and pain! He
sat apart, his legs crossed, a hand over his eyes. Wilson and his
men, puzzled by his apparent apathy, left him alone. It is not much
use addressing a mute and wooden idol, no matter how physically
The counting went on slowly, relentlessly, and the bundles of fifty
on each side grew in bulk, and Paul's side bulked larger than Silas
At last Wilson could stand it no longer. He left the group with
which he was talking, and came to Paul. "We're far ahead already,"
he cried excitedly. "I told you last night would do the trick."
"Last night," said Paul, rising and stuffing his hands in his jacket
pockets, "my opponent's supporters passed a vote of confidence in
him in a scene of tumultuous enthusiasm."
"Quite so," replied Wilson. "A crowd is generous and easily swayed.
A theatrical audience of scalliwags and thieves will howl applause
at the triumph of virtue and the downfall of the villain; and each
separate member will go out into the street and begin to practise
villainy and say 'to hell with virtue.' If last night's meeting
could have polled on the spot, they would have been as one man.
To-day they're scattered and each individual revises his excited
opinion. Your hard-bitten Radical would sooner have a self-made man
than an aristocrat to represent him in Parliament; but, damn it all,
he'd sooner have an aristocrat than an ex-convict."
"But who the devil told you I'm an aristocrat?" cried Paul.
Wilson laughed. "Who wants to be told such an obvious thing? Anyhow,
you've only got to look and you'll see how the votes are piling
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