The Prime Minister
Part 7 out of 16
day or two and settle when I am to go down for the absolute
canvass. I shall have to go with my hat in my hand to every
blessed inhabitant in that dirty little town, and ask them all to
be kind enough to drop in a paper for the most humble of their
servants, Ferdinand Lopez.'
'I suppose all candidates have to do the same.'
'Oh yes;--your friend, Master Fletcher, will have to do it.' She
winced at this. Arthur Fletcher was her friend, but at the
present moment he ought not so to have spoken of him. 'And from
all I hear, he is just the sort of fellow that will like the
doing of it. It is odious to me to ask a fellow that I despise
'Why should you despise them?'
'Low, ignorant, greasy cads, who have no idea of the real meaning
of political privileges;--men who would all sell their votes for
thirty shillings each, if that game had not been made a little
'If they are like that I would not represent them.'
'Oh yes, you would;--when you came to understand the world.
It's a fine thing to be in Parliament, and that is the way to get
in. However, on this visit I shall only see the great men of the
town,--the Sprouts and Sprugeons.'
'Shall you go to Gatherum Castle?'
'Oh, heavens no! I may go anywhere now rather than there. The
Duke is supposed to be in absolute ignorance of the very names of
the candidates, or whether there are candidates. I don't suppose
that the word Silverbridge will be even whispered in his ear till
the thing is over.'
'But you are to get in by his friendship.'
'Or by hers;--at least I hope so. I have no doubt that the
Sprouts and the Sprugeons have been given to understand by the
Lococks and the Pritchards what are the Duchess's wishes, and
that it has also been intimated in some subtle way that the Duke
is willing to oblige the Duchess. There are ever so many ways,
you know, of killing a cat.'
'And the expense?' suggested Emily.
'Oh,--ah; the expense. When you come to talk of the expense
things are not so pleasant. I never saw such a set of
meaningless asses in my life as those men at the club. They talk
and talk, but there is not one of them who knows how to do
anything. Now at the club over the way, they do arrange matters.
It's a common cause, and I don't see what right they have to
expect that one man should bear all the expense. I've a deuced
good mind to leave them in the lurch.'
'Don't do it, Ferdinand, if you can't afford it.'
'I shall go with it now. I can't help feeling that I've been a
little let in among them. When the Duchess first promised me it
was to be a simple walk over. Now that they've got their
candidate, they go back from that and open the thing to any
comer. I can't tell you what I think of Fletcher for taking
advantage of such a chance. And then the political committee of
the club coolly say that they've got no money. It isn't honest,
'I don't understand all that,' said Emily sadly. Every word that
he said about Fletcher cut her to the heart;--not because it
grieved her that Fletcher should be abused, but that her husband
should condescend to abuse him. She escaped from further
conflict at the moment by proclaiming her ignorance of the whole
matter; but she knew enough of it to be well aware that Arthur
Fletcher had as good a right to stand as her husband, and that
her husband lowered himself by personal animosity to the man.
Then Lopez took his departure. 'Oh, Ferdinand,' she said, 'I do
so hope you may be successful.'
'I don't think he can have a chance. From what people say, he
must be a fool to try. That is, the Castle is true to me. I
shall know more about it when I come back.'
That afternoon she dined with her father, and there met Mrs Roby.
It was of course known that Lopez had gone down to Silverbridge,
and Emily learned in Manchester Square that Everett had gone with
him. 'From all I hear, they're two fools for their pains,' said
'The Duke has given the thing up.'
'But still his interest remains.'
'No such thing! If there is an honest man in England it is the
Duke of Omnium, and when he says a thing he means it. Left to
themselves the people of a little town like Silverbridge are sure
to return a Conservative. They are half of them small farmers,
and of course will go that way if not made to go to the other.
If the club mean to pay the cost--'
'The club will pay nothing, papa.'
'Then I can only hope that Lopez is doing well in his business!'
After that nothing further was said about the election, but she
perceived that her father was altogether opposed to the idea of
her husband being in Parliament, and that his sympathies and even
his wishes were on the other side. When Mrs Roby suggested that
it would be a very nice thing for them all to have Ferdinand in
Parliament,--she always called him Ferdinand now,--Mr Wharton
railed at her. 'Why should it be a nice thing? I wonder whether
you have any idea of a meaning in your head when you say that.
Do you suppose that a man gets 1000 pounds a year by going into
'Laws, Mr Wharton; how uncivil you are! Of course I know that
members of Parliament aren't paid.'
'Where's the niceness then? If a man has his time at his command
and has studied the art of legislation it be nice, because he
will be doing his duty;--or if he wants to get into the
government ruck like your brother-in-law, it may be nice;--or if
he be an idle man with a large fortune it may be nice to have
some place to go. But why should it be nice for Ferdinand Lopez.
I cannot understand. Everett has some idea in his head when he
talks about Parliament,--though I cannot say that I agree with
him.' It may easily be understood that after this Emily would
say nothing further in Manchester Square as to her husband's
prospects at Silverbridge.
Lopez was at Silverbridge for a couple of days, and then
returned, as his wife thought, by no means confident of success.
He remained in town nearly a week, and during that time he
managed to see the Duchess. He had written to her saying that he
would do himself the honour of calling on her, and when he came
was admitted. But the account he gave to his wife of the visit
did not express much satisfaction. It was quite late in the
evening before he told her whither he had been. He had intended
to keep the matter to himself, and at last spoke of it,--guided
by the feeling which induces all men to tell their secrets to
their wives,--because it was a comfort to him to talk to someone
who would not openly contradict him. 'She's a sly creature after
all,' he said.
'I had always thought that she was too open rather than sly,'
said his wife.
'People always try to get a character just opposite to what they
deserve. When I hear that a man is always to be believed, I know
that he is the most dangerous liar going. She hummed and hawed
and would not say a word about the borough. She went so far as
to tell me that I wasn't to say a word about it to her.'
'Wasn't that best if her husband wished her not to talk of it?'
'It is all humbug and falsehood to the very bottom. She knows
that I am spending money about it, and she ought to be on the
square with me. She ought to tell me what she can do and what
she can't. When I asked her whether Sprugeon might be trusted,
she said that she really wished I wouldn't say anything more to
her about it. I call that dishonest and sly. I shouldn't at all
wonder but that Fletcher has been with the Duke. If I find that
out, won't I expose them both!'
'WHAT BUSINESS IS IT OF YOURS?'
Things had not gone altogether smoothly with the Duchess herself
since the breaking up of the party at Gatherum Castle,--nor
perhaps quite smoothly with the Duke. It was now March. The
House was again sitting, and they were both in London,--but till
they came to town they had remained at the Castle, and that huge
mansion had not been found to be more comfortable by either of
them as it became empty. For a time the Duchess had been cowed
by her husband's stern decision; but as he again became gentle to
her,--almost seeming by his manner to apologize for his unwonted
roughness,--she plucked up her spirit and declared herself that
she would not give up the battle. All that she did,--was it not
for his sake? And why should she not have her ambition in life
as well as he have his? And had she not succeeded in all that
she had done? Could it be right that she should be asked to
abandon everything, to own herself to have been defeated, to be
shown to have failed before all the world, because such a one as
Major Pountney had made a fool of himself? She attributed it all
to Major Pountney;--very wrongly. When a man's mind is veering
towards some decision, some conclusion which he has been perhaps
slow in reaching, it is probably a little thing which at last
fixes his mind and clenches his thoughts. The Duke had been
gradually teaching himself to hate the crowd around him and to
reprobate his wife's strategy, before he had known that there was
a Major Pountney under his roof. Others had offended him, and
first and foremost among them his own colleague, Sir Orlando.
The Duchess hardly read his character aright, and certainly did
not understand his present motives, when she thought that all
might be forgotten as soon as the disagreeable savour of the
Major should have passed away.
But in nothing, as she thought, had her husband been so silly as
in his abandonment of Silverbridge. When she heard that the day
was fixed for declaring the vacancy, she ventured to ask him a
question. His manner to her lately had been more than urbane,
more than affectionate,--it had almost been that of a lover. He
had petted her and caressed her when they met, and once even said
that nothing should really trouble him as long as he had her with
him. Such a speech as that never in his life had he made before
to her! So she plucked up her courage and asked her question,--
not exactly on that occasion, but soon afterwards. 'May I not
say a word to Sprugeon about the election?'
'Not a word!' And he looked at her as he had looked on that day
when he had told her of the Major's sins. She tossed her head
and pouted her lips and walked on without speaking. If it was to
be so, then indeed would she have failed. And, therefore, though
in his general manner he was loving to her, things were not going
smooth with her.
And things were not going smooth with him because there had
reached him a most troublous dispatch from Sir Orlando Drought
only two days before the Cabinet meeting at which the points to
be made in the Queen's speech were to be decided. It had been
already agreed that a proposition should be made to Parliament by
the Government, for an extension of the country suffrage, with
some slight redistribution of seats. The towns with less than
20,000 inhabitants were to take in some increased portion of the
country parishes around. But there was not enough of a policy in
this to satisfy Sir Orlando, nor was the conduct of the bill
through the House to be placed in his hands. That was to be
entrusted to Mr Monk, and Mr Monk would be, if not nominally the
leader, yet the chief man of the Government of the House of
Commons. This was displeasing to Sir Orlando, and he had,
therefore, demanded from the Prime Minister more of a 'policy'.
Sir Orlando's present idea of a policy was the building of four
bigger ships of war than had ever been built before,--with
larger guns, and more men, and thicker iron plates, and, above
all, with a greater expenditure of money. He had even gone so
far as to say, though not in his semi-official letter to the
Prime Minister, that he thought that 'The Salvation of the
Empire' should be the cry of the Coalition party. 'After all,'
he said, 'what the people care about is the Salvation of the
Empire!' Sir Orlando was at the head of the Admiralty; and if
glory was to be achieved by the four ships, it would rest first
on the head of Sir Orlando.
Now the Duke thought that the Empire was safe, and had been
throughout his political life averse to increasing the army and
the navy estimates. He regarded the four ships as altogether
unnecessary,--and when reminded that he might in this way
consolidate the Coalition, said that he would rather do without
the Coalition and the four ships than have to do with both of
them together,--an opinion which was thought by some to be
almost traitorous to the party as now organized. The secrets of
Cabinets are not to be disclosed lightly, but it came to be
understood,--as what is done at Cabinet meetings generally does
come to be understood,--that there was something like
disagreement. The Prime Minister, the Duke of St Bungay, and Mr
Monk were altogether against the four ships. Sir Orlando, who
was supported by Lord Drummond and another of his old friends.
At the advice of the elder Duke, a paragraph was hatched, in
which it was declared that her Majesty, 'having regard to the
safety of the nation and the possible, though happily not
probable, chances of war, thought that the present strength of
the navy should be considered'. 'It will give him scope for a
new gun-boat on an altered principle,' said the Duke of St
Bungay. But the Prime Minister, could he have his own way, would
have given Sir Orlando no scope whatever. He would have let the
Coalition have gone to the dogs and have fallen himself into
infinite political ruin, but that he did not dare that men should
thereafter say of him that this attempt at government had failed
because he was stubborn, imperious, and self-confident. He had
known when he took his present place he must yield to others; but
he had not known how terrible it would be to have to yield when a
principle is in question,--how great was the suffering when a
man finds himself compelled to do that which he thinks should not
be done! Therefore, though he had been strangely loving to his
wife, the time had not gone smoothly with him.
In direct disobedience to her husband the Duchess did speak a
word to Mr Sprugeon. When at the Castle she was frequently
driven through Silverbridge, and on one occasion had her carriage
stopped at the ironmonger's door. Out came Mr Sprugeon, and
there were at first half-a-dozen standing by who could hear what
she said. Millepois the cook wanted to have some new kind of
iron plate erected in the kitchen. Of course she had provided
herself beforehand with her excuse. As a rule, when the cook
wanted anything done, he did not send word to the tradesman by
the Duchess. But on this occasion the Duchess was personally
most anxious. She wanted to see how the iron plate would work.
It was to be a particular kind of iron plate. Then, having
watched her opportunity, she said her word, 'I suppose we shall
be safe with Mr Lopez?' When Mr Sprugeon was about to reply, she
shook her head and went on about the iron plate. This would be
quite enough to let Mr Sprugeon understand that she was still
anxious about the borough. Mr Sprugeon was an intelligent man,
and possessed of discretion to a certain extent. As soon as he
saw the little frown and shake of the head, he understood it all.
He and the Duchess had a secret together. Would not everything
about the Castle in which a morsel of iron was employed want
renewing? And would not the Duchess take care that it should all
be renewed by Sprugeon? But then he must be active, and his
activity would be of no avail unless others helped him. So he
whispered a word to Sprout, and it soon became known that the
Castle interest was all alive.
But unfortunately the Duke was also on the alert. The Duke had
been very much in earnest when he made up his mind that the old
custom should be abandoned at Silverbridge and had endeavoured to
impress that determination of his upon his wife. The Duke knew
more about his property and was better acquainted with its
details than his wife or others believed. He heard that in spite
of all his orders the Castle interest was being maintained, and a
word was said to him which seemed to imply that this was his
wife's doings. It was then about the middle of February, and
arrangements were in process for the removal of the family to
London. The Duke had already been up to London for the meeting
of Parliament, and had now come back to Gatherum, purporting to
return to London with his wife. Then it was that it was hinted
to him that her Grace was still anxious as to the election,--and
had manifested her anxiety. The rumour hurt him, though he did
not in the least believe it. It showed to him, as he thought,
not that his wife had been false to him,--as in truth she had
been,--but that even her name could not be kept free from
slander. And when he spoke to her on the subject, he did so
rather with the view of proving to her how necessary it was that
she should keep herself altogether aloof from such matters, than
with any wish to make further inquiry. But he elicited the whole
truth. 'It is so hard to kill an old-established evil,' he said.
'What evil have you failed to kill now?'
'Those people at Silverbridge still say I want to return a member
'Oh; that's the evil! You know I think instead of killing an
evil, you have murdered an excellent institution.' This at any
rate was very imprudent on the part of the Duchess. After that
disobedient word spoken to Mr Sprugeon, she should have been more
on her guard.
'As to that, Glencora, I must judge for myself.'
'Oh yes,--you have been jury, and judge, and executioner.'
'I have done as I thought right to do. I am sorry that I should
fail to carry you with me in such a matter, but even failing in that
I must do my duty. You will at any rate agree with me that when
I say the thing should be done, it should be done.'
'If you wanted to destroy the house, and cut down all the trees,
and turn the place into a wilderness, I suppose you would only
have to speak. Of course I know it would be wrong that I should
have an opinion. As "man" you are of course to have your own
way.' She was in one of her most aggravating moods. Though he
might compel her to obey, he could not compel her to hold her
'Glencora, I don't think you know how much you add to my
troubles, or you would not speak to me like that.'
'What am I to say? It seems to me that any more suicidal thing
than throwing away the borough never was done. Who will thank
you? What additional support will you get? How will it increase
your power? It's like King Lear throwing off his clothes in the
storm because his daughters turned him out. And you didn't do it
because you thought it right.'
'Yes, I did,' he said, scowling.
'You did it because Major Pountney disgusted you. You kicked him
out. Why wouldn't that satisfy without sacrificing the borough?
It isn't what I think or say about it, but that everybody is
thinking and saying the same thing.'
'I choose that it will be so.'
'And I don't choose your name shall be mixed up in it. They say
at Silverbridge that you are canvassing for Mr Lopez.'
'Who says so?'
'I presume it's not true.'
'Who says so, Plantagenet?'
'It matters not who has said so. If it be untrue, I presume it
to be false.'
'Of course it is false.' Then the Duchess remembered her word to
Mr Sprugeon, and the cowardice of the lie was heavy on her. I
doubt whether she would have been so shocked by the idea of
falsehood as to have been kept back from it had she before
resolved that it would save her; but she was not in her practice
a false woman, her courage being too high for falsehood. It now
seemed to her that by this lie she was owning herself to be
quelled and brought into absolute subjection by her husband. So
she burst forth the truth. 'Now I think of it, I did say a word
to Mr Sprugeon. I told him that, that I hoped Mr Lopez would be
returned. I don't know whether you call that canvassing.'
'I desired you not to speak to Mr Sprugeon.'
'That's all very well, Plantagenet, but if you desire me to hold
my tongue altogether, what am I to do?'
'What business is this of yours?'
'I suppose I may have my political sympathies as well as another.
Really you are becoming so autocratic that I shall have to go in
for women's rights.'
'You mean me to understand then that you intend to put yourself
in opposition to me.'
'What a fuss you make about it all!' she said. 'Nothing that one
can do is right! You make me wish that I was a milkmaid or a
farmer's wife.' So saying she bounced out of the room, leaving
the Duke sick at heart, low in spirit, and doubtful whether he
were right or wrong in his attempts to manage his wife. Surely
he must be right in feeling that in his high office a clearer
conduct and cleaner way of walking was expected from him than
from other men! Noblesse oblige! To his uncle the privilege of
returning a member to Parliament had been a thing of course; and
when the radical newspapers of the day abused his uncle, his
uncle took that abuse as a thing of course. The old Duke acted
after his kind, and did not care what others said of him. And he
himself, when he first came to his dukedom, was not as he was
now. Duties, though they were heavy enough, were lighter then.
Serious matters were less serious. There was this and that
matter of public policy on which he was intent, but, thinking
humbly of himself, he had not yet learned to conceive that he
must fit his public conduct in all things to a straight rule of
patriotic justice. Now it was different with him, and though the
change was painful, he felt it to be imperative. He would fain
have been as other men, but he could not. But in this change it
was so needful to him that should carry with him the full
sympathies of one person;--that she who was nearest to him of
all should act with him! And now she had not only disobeyed him,
but had told him, as some grocer's wife might tell her husband,
that he was 'making a fuss of it all'!
And then, as he thought of the scene which has been described, he
could not quite approve of himself. He knew that he was too
self-conscious,--that he was thinking too much about his own
conduct and the conduct of others to him. The phrase had been
odious to him, but still he could not acquit himself of 'making a
fuss'. Of one thing only was he sure,--that a grievous calamity
had befallen him when circumstances compelled him to become the
Queen's Prime Minister.
He said nothing further to his wife till they were in London
together, and then he was tempted to caress her again, to be
loving to her, and to show her that he had forgiven her. But
she was brusque to him, as though she did not wish to be
forgiven. 'Cora,' he said, 'do not separate yourself from me.'
'Separate myself! What on earth do you mean? I have not dreamed
of such a thing.' The Duchess answered him as though he had
alluded to some actual separation.
'I do not mean that. God forbid that a misfortune such as that
should ever happen! Do not disjoin yourself from me in all these
'What am I to do when you scold me? You must know pretty well by
this time that I don't like being scolded. "I desired you not to
speak to Mr Sprugeon!"' As she repeated his words she imitated
his manner and voice closely. 'I shouldn't dream of addressing
the children with such magnificence of anger. "What business is
it of yours!" No woman likes that sort of thing, and I'm not
sure that I am acquainted with any woman who likes it much less
than--Glencora, Duchess of Omnium.' As she said these last
words in a low whisper, she curtsied down to the ground.
'You know how anxious I am,' he began, 'that you should share
everything with me,--even in politics. But in all things there
must at last be one voice that shall be the ruling voice.'
'And that is to be yours,--of course.'
'In such a matter it must be.'
'And, therefore, I like to do a little business of my own behind
your back. It's human nature, and you've got to put up with it.
I wish you had a better wife. I dare say there are many who
would be better. There is the Duchess of St Bungay who never
troubles her husband about politics, but only scolds him because
the wind blows from the east. It is just possible that there
might be worse.'
'You had better make the best you can of your bargain and not
expect too much from her. And don't ride over her with a very
high horse. And let her have her own way a little if you really
believe that she has your interest at heart.'
After this he was quite aware that she had got the better of him
altogether. On that occasion he smiled and kissed her, and went
his way. But he was by no means satisfied. That he should be
thwarted by her, ate into his very heart,--and it was a wretched
thing to him that he could not make her understand his feeling in
that respect. If it were to go on he must throw up everything.
Ruat coelum fiat--proper subordination from his wife in regard
to public matters! No wife had a fuller allowance of privilege,
or more complete power in her hands, as to things fit for a
woman's management. But it was intolerable to him that she
should seek to interfere with him in matters of a public nature.
And she was constantly doing so. She had always this or that
aspirant for office on hand,--this or that job to be carried,
though the jobs were not perhaps much in themselves;--this or
that affair to be managed by her own political allies, such as
Barrington Erle and Phineas Finn. And in his heart he suspected
her of a design of managing the Government in her own way, with
her own particular friend, Mrs Finn, for her Prime Minister. If
he could in no other way put an end to such evils as these, he
must put an end to his own political life. Ruat coelum fiat
justitia. Now 'justitia' to him was not compatible with feminine
interference in his own special work.
It may therefore be understood that things were not going very
smoothly with the Duke and Duchess; and it may also be understood
why the Duchess had very little to say to Mr Lopez about the
election. She was aware that she owed something to Mr Lopez,
whom she had certainly encouraged to stand for the borough, and
she had therefore sent her card to his wife and was prepared to
invite them both to her parties;--but just at present she was a
little tired of Ferdinand Lopez, and perhaps unjustly disposed to
couple him with the unfortunate wretch, Major Pountney.
SHOWING THAT A MAN SHOULD NOT HOWL.
Arthur Fletcher, in his letter to Mrs Lopez, had told her that
when he found out who was to be his antagonist at Silverbridge,
it was too late for him to give up the contest. He was, he said,
bound in faith to continue it by what had passed between himself
and others. But in truth he had not reached this conclusion
without some persuasion from others. He had been at Longbarns
with his brother when he first heard that Lopez intended to
stand, and he at once signified his desire to give way. The
information reached him from Mr Frank Gresham, of Greshambury, a
gentleman connected with the De Courcys who was now supposed to
represent the De Courcy interest in the county, and who had first
suggested to Arthur that he should come forward. It was held at
Longbarns that Arthur was bound in honour to Mr Gresham and to Mr
Gresham's friends, and to this opinion he had yielded.
Since Emily Wharton's marriage her name had never been mentioned
at Longbarns in Arthur's presence. When he was away,--and of
course his life was chiefly passed in London,--old Mrs Fletcher
was free enough in her abuse of the silly creature who had
allowed herself to be taken out of her own rank by a Portuguese
Jew. But she had been made to understand by her elder son, the
lord of Longbarns, that not a word was to be said when Arthur was
there. 'I think he ought to be taught to forget her.' Mrs
Fletcher had said. But John in his own quiet but imperious way,
had declared that there were some men to whom such lessons could
not be taught, and that Arthur was one of them. 'Is he never to
get a wife, then?' Mrs Fletcher had asked. John wouldn't
pretend to answer the question, but was quite sure that his
brother would not be tempted into other matrimonial arrangements
by anything that could be said against Emily Lopez. When Mrs
Fletcher declared her extreme anger that Arthur was a fool for
his trouble, John did not contradict her, but declared that the
folly was of a nature to require tender treatment.
Matters were in this condition at Longbarns when Arthur
communicated to his brother the contents of Mr Gresham's letter,
and expressed his own purpose of giving up Silverbridge. 'I
don't quite see that,' said John.
'No;--and it is impossible that you should be expected to see
it. I don't quite know how to talk about it even to you, though
I think you are about the softest-hearted fellow out.'
'I don't acknowledge the soft heart,--but go on.'
'I don't want to interfere with that man. I have a sort of
feeling that as he has got her he might as well have the seat
'The seat, as you call it, is not there for his gratification or
for yours. The seat is there in order that the people of
Silverbridge may be represented in Parliament.'
'Let them get somebody else. I don't want to put myself in
opposition to him, and I certainly do not want to oppose her.'
'They can't change their candidate in that way at a day's notice.
You would be throwing Gresham over, and, if you ask me, I think
that is a thing you have no right to do. This objection of yours
is sentimental, and there is nothing of which a man should be so
much in dread is sentimentalism. It is not your fault that you
oppose Mr Lopez. You were in the field first, and you must go on
with it.' John Fletcher, when he spoke in this way, was, at
Longbarns, always supposed to be right; and on the present
occasion he, as usual, prevailed. Then Arthur Fletcher wrote his
letter to the lady. He would not have liked to have had it known
that the composition and copying of that little note had cost him
an hour. He had wished that she should understand his feelings,
and yet it was necessary that he should address her in words that
should be perfectly free from affection or emotion. He must let
her know that, though he wrote to her, the letter was for her
husband as well as for herself, and he must do this in a manner
which would not imply any fear that his writing to her would be
taken amiss. The letter when completed was at any rate simple
and true; and yet, as we know, it was taken very much amiss.
Arthur Fletcher had by no means recovered from the blow he had
received that day when Emily had told him everything down by the
river side; but then, it must be said of him, that he had no
intention of recovery. He was as a man who, having taken a
burden on his back, declares to himself that he will, for certain
reasons, carry it throughout his life. The man knows that with
the burden he cannot walk as men walk who are unencumbered, but
for those reasons of his he has chosen to lade himself, and
having done so he abandons regret and submits to his
circumstances. So had it been with him. He would make no
attempts to throw off the load. It was now far back in his life,
as much at least as three years, since he at first assured
himself of his desire to make Emily Wharton the companion of his
life. From that day she had been the pivot on which his whole
existence had moved. She had refused his offers more than once,
but had done so with so much tender kindness, that, though he had
found himself to be wounded and bruised, he had never abandoned
his object. Her father and all his own friends encouraged him.
He was continually told that her coldness was due to the simple
fact that she had not yet learned to give her heart away. And so
he had persevered, being ever thoroughly intent on his purpose,
till he was told by herself that her love was given to this other
Then he knew that it behoved him to set some altered course of
life before him. He could not shoot his rival or knock him over
the head, nor could he carry off his girl, as used to be done in
rougher times. There was nothing now for a man in such a
catastrophe as this but submission. But he might submit and
shake off his burden, or submit and carry it hopelessly. He told
himself that he would do the latter. She had been his goddess,
and he would not now worship at another shrine. And then ideas
came into his head,--hot hopes, or purposes, or a belief even in
any possibility,--but vague ideas, mere castles in the air, that
a time might come in which it might be in his power to serve her,
and to prove to her beyond doubting what had been the nature of
his love. Like others of his family, he thought ill of Lopez,
believing the man to be an adventurer, one who would too probably
fall into misfortune, however high he might now seem to hold his
head. He was certainly a man not standing on the solid basis of
land, or of the Three Per Cents,--those solidities to which such
as the Whartons and the Fletchers are wont to trust. No doubt,
should there be such fall, the man's wife would have other help
than that of her rejected lover. She had a father, brother, and
cousins, who would also be there to aid her. The idea was,
therefore, but a castle in the air. And yet it was dear to him.
At any rate he resolved that he would live for it, and that the
woman should still be his goddess, though she was the wife of
another man, and might now perhaps never even be seen by him.
Then came upon him, immediately almost after their marriage, the
necessity of writing to her. The task was one which, of course,
he did not perform lightly.
He never said a word of this to anybody else;--but his brother
understood it all, and in a somewhat silent fashion fully
sympathized with him. John could not talk to him about love, or
mark passages of poetry for him to read, or deal with him at all
romantically; but he could take care that his brother had the
best horses to ride, and the warmest corner out shooting, and
that everything in the house could be done for his brother's
comfort. As the squire looked and spoke at Longbarns, others
looked and spoke,--so that everybody knew than Mr Arthur was to
be contradicted in nothing. Had he, just at this period, ordered
a tree in the park cut down, it would, I think, have been cut
down, without reference to the master! But, perhaps, John's
power was most felt in the way in which he repressed the
expressions of his mother's high indignation. 'Mean slut!' she
once said, speaking of Emily in her elder son's hearing. For the
girl, to her thinking, had been mean and had been a slut. She
had not known,--so Mrs Fletcher thought,--what birth and blood
required of her.
'Mother,' John Fletcher had said, 'you would break Arthur's heart
if he heard you speak of her in that way, and I am sure you would
drive him from Longbarns. Keep it to yourself.' The old woman
had shaken her head angrily, but she had endeavoured to do as she
had been bid.
'Isn't your brother riding that horse a little rashly?' Reginald
Cosgrave said to John Fletcher in the hunting field one day.
'I didn't observe,' said John; 'but whatever horse he's on he
always rides rashly.' Arthur was mounted on a long, raking
thorough-bred black animal, which he had bought himself about a
month ago, and which, having been run at steeplechase, rushed at
every fence as though he was going to swallow it. His brother
had begged him to put some rough-rider up till the horse could be
got to go quietly, but Arthur had persevered. And during the
whole of this day the squire had been in a tremor, lest there
should be some accident.
'He used to have a little more judgement, I think,' said
Cosgrave. 'He went at that double just now as hard as the brute
could tear. If the horse hadn't done it all, where would he have
'In the further ditch, I suppose. But you see the horse did it
This was all very well as an answer to Reginald Cosgrave,--to
whom it was not necessary that Fletcher should explain the
circumstances. But the squire had known as well as Cosgrave that
his brother had been riding rashly, and he had understood the
reason why. 'I don't think a man ought to break his neck,' he
said, 'because he can't get everything that he wishes.' The two
brothers were standing then together before the fire in the
squire's own room, having just come in from hunting.
'Who is going to break his neck?'
'They tell me you tried to-day.'
'Because I was riding a pulling horse. I'll back him to be the
biggest leaper and the quickest horse in Hertfordshire.'
'I dare say,--though for the matter of that the chances are very
much against it. But a man shouldn't ride so as to have those
things said of him.'
'What is a fellow to do if he can't ride a horse?'
'Get off him.'
'That's nonsense, John.'
'No, it's not. You know what I mean very well. If I were to
lose half my property tomorrow, don't you think it would cut me
up a good deal?'
'It would me, I know.'
'But what would you think of me if I howled about it?'
'Do I howl?' asked Arthur angrily.
'Every man howls who is driven out of is ordinary course by any
trouble. A man howls if he goes about frowning always.'
'Do I frown?'
'Do I laugh?'
'Or galloping over the country like a mad devil who wants to get
rid of his debts by breaking his neck. Aeqam mememto--You
remember all that, don't you?'
'I remember it, but it isn't so easy to do, is it?'
'Try. There are other things to be done in life except getting
married. You are going into Parliament.'
'I don't know that.'
'Gresham tells me there isn't a doubt about it. Think of that.
Fix your mind upon it. Don't take it only as an accident, but as
the thing you're to live for. If you'll do that,--if you'll
manage that there shall be something to be done in Parliament
which only you can do, you won't ride a runaway horse as you did
that brute to-day.' Arthur looked up into his brother's face
almost weeping. 'We expect much of you, you know. I'm not a man
to do anything except be a good steward for the family property,
and keep the old house from falling down. You're a clever
fellow,--so that between us, if we both do our duty, the
Fletchers may still thrive in the land. My house shall be your
house, and my wife your wife, and my children your children. And
then the honour you win shall be my honour. Hold up your head,--
and sell the beast.' Arthur Fletcher squeezed his brother's hand
and went away to dress.
THE SILVERBRIDGE ELECTION.
About a month after this affair with the runaway horse Arthur
Fletcher went to Greshambury, preparatory to his final sojourn at
Silverbridge for the week previous to the election. Greshambury,
the seat of Francis Gresham, Esq., who was a great man in these
parts, was about twenty miles from Silverbridge, and the tedious
work of canvassing the electors could not therefore be done from
thence;--but he spent a couple of pleasant days with his old
friend, and learned what was being said and what was being done
in and about the borough. Mr Gresham was a man, not as yet quite
forty years of age, very popular, with a large family, of great
wealth, and master of the county hounds. His father had been an
embarrassed man, with a large estate, but this Gresham had
married a lady with immense wealth, and had prospered in the
world. He was not an active politician. He did not himself care
for Parliament, or for the good things which political power can
give, and was on this account averse to the Coalition. He
thought that Sir Orlando Drought and the others were touching
pitch and had defiled themselves. But he was conscious that in
so thinking he was one of but a small minority. And, bad as the
world around him certainly was, terrible as had been the fall of
the glory of old England, he was nevertheless content to live
without loud grumbling as long as the farmers paid him their
wages, and the land when sold would fetch thirty years' purchase.
He had not therefore been careful to ascertain that Arthur
Fletcher would pledge himself to oppose the Coalition before he
proffered his assistance in this matter of the borough. It would
not be easy to find such a candidate, or perhaps possible to
bring him in when found. The Fletchers had always been good
Conservatives, and were proper people to be in Parliament. A
Conservative in Parliament is, of course, obliged to promote a
great many things which he does not really approve. Mr Gresham
quite understood that. You can't have tests and qualifications,
rotten boroughs and the divine right of kings, back again. But
as the glorious institutions of the country are made to perish,
one after the other, it is better that they should receive the
coup de grace tenderly from loving hands than be roughly
throttled by the Radicals. Mr Gresham would thank his stars that
he could still preserve foxes down in his own country, instead of
doing any of this dirty work,--for let the best be made of such
work, still it was dirty,--and was willing, now as always, to
give his assistance, and if necessary to spend a little money, to
put a Fletcher into Parliament and to keep a Lopez out.
There was to be a third candidate. That was the first news that
Fletcher heard. 'It will do us all the good in the world,' said
Mr Gresham. 'The rads in the borough are not satisfied with Mr
Lopez. They say they don't know him. As long as a certain set
could make it be believed that he was the Duke's nominee they
were content to accept him--even though he was not proposed
directly by the Duke's people in the usual way. But the Duke has
made himself understood at last. You have seen the Duke's
letter?' Arthur had not seen the Duke's letter, which had only
been published in the "Silverbridge Gazette" of that week, and he
read it, sitting in Mr Gresham's magistrate's-room, as a certain
chamber in the house had been called since the days of the
present squire's great-grandfather.
The Duke's letter was addressed to his recognized man of business
in those parts, and was as follows:
Carlton Terrace,--March, 187-
MY DEAR MR MORETON
(Mr Moreton was the successor of one Mr Fothergill, who had
reigned supreme in those parts under the old Duke.)
I am afraid that my wishes with regard to the borough and
the forthcoming election there of a member of Parliament
are not yet clearly understood, although I endeavoured to
declare them when I was at Gatherum Castle. I trust that
no elector will vote for this or that gentleman with an
idea that the return of any special candidate will please
me. The ballot will of course prevent me or any other
man from knowing how an elector may vote;--but I beg to
assure the electors generally that should they think fit
to return a member pledged to oppose the Government of
which I form part, it would not in any way change my
cordial feelings towards the town. I may perhaps be
allowed to add that, in my opinion, no elector can do his
duty except by voting for the candidate whom he thinks
best qualified to serve the country. In regard to the
gentlemen who are now before the constituency, I have no
feeling for one rather than for the other; and had I any
such feeling I should not wish it to actuate the vote of
a single elector. I should be glad if this letter could
be published so as to be brought under the eyes of the
When the Duke said that he feared that his wishes were not
understood, and spoke of the inefficacy of his former
declaration, he was alluding of course to the Duchess and to Mr
Sprugeon. Mr Sprugeon guessed that it might be so, and, still
wishing to have the Duchess for his good friend, was at once
assiduous in explaining to his friends in the borough that even
this letter did not mean anything. A Prime Minister was bound to
say that kind of thing! But the borough, if it wished to please
the Duke, must return Lopez in spite of the Duke's letter. Such
was Mr Sprugeon's doctrine. But he did not carry Mr Sprout with
him. Mr Sprout at once saw his opportunity, and suggested to Mr
Du Boung, the local brewer, that he should come forward. Du
Boung was a man rapidly growing into provincial eminence, and
jumped at the offer. Consequently there were three candidates.
Du Boung came forward as a Conservative prepared to give a
cautious, but very cautious, support to the Coalition. Mr Du
Boung in his printed address said very sweet things of the Duke
generally. The borough was blessed by the vicinity of the Duke.
But, looking at the present perhaps unprecedented crisis in
affairs, Mr Du Boung was prepared to give no more than a very
cautious support to the Duke's Government. Arthur Fletcher read
Mr Du Boung's address immediately after the Duke's letter.
'The more the merrier,' said Arthur.
'Just so. Du Boung will not rob you of a vote, but he will cut
the ground altogether from under the other man's feet. You see
that as far as the actual political programme goes there isn't
much to choose between any of you. You are all Government men.'
'With a difference.'
'One man in these days is so like another,' continued Gresham
sarcastically, 'that it requires eyes to meet the shades of the
'Then you had better support Du Boung,' said Arthur.
'I think you've just a turn in your favour. Besides I couldn't
really carry a vote myself. As for Du Boung, I'd sooner have him
than a foreign cad like Lopez.' Then Arthur frowned and Mr
Gresham became confused, remembering the catastrophe about the
young lady whose story he had heard. 'Du Boung used to be plain
English as Bung before he got rich and made his name beautiful,'
continued Gresham, 'but I suppose Mr Lopez does come of foreign
'I don't know what he comes from,' said Arthur moodily. 'They
tell me he's a gentleman. However, as we are to have a contest,
I hope he mayn't win.'
'Of course you do. And he shan't win. Nor shall the great Du
Boung. You shall win, and become Prime Minister, and make me a
peer. Would you like papa to be Lord Greshambury?' he said to a
little girl, who then rushed into the room.
'No, I wouldn't. I'd like my papa to give me the pony which the
man wants to sell out in the yard.'
'She's quite right, Fletcher,' said the squire, 'I'm much more
likely to be able to buy them ponies as simple Frank Gresham than
I should be if I had a lord's coronet to pay for.'
This was on a Saturday, and on the following Monday Mr Gresham
drove the candidate over to Silverbridge and started him on his
work of canvassing. Mr Du Boung had been busy ever since Mr
Sprout's brilliant suggestion had been made, and Lopez had been
in the field even before him. Each one of the candidates called
at the house of every elector in the borough,--and every man in
the borough was an elector. When they had been at work for four
or five days each candidate assured the borough that he had
already received promises of votes sufficient to insure his
success, and each candidate was as anxious as ever,--nay was
more rabidly anxious than ever,--to secure the promise of a
single vote. Hints were made by honest citizens of the pleasure
they would have in supporting this or that gentleman,--for the
honest citizens assured one gentleman after the other of the
satisfaction they had in seeing so all-sufficient a candidate in
the borough,--if the smallest pecuniary help were given them,
even a day's pay, so that their poor children might not be
injured by their going to the poll. But the candidates and their
agents were stern in their replies to such temptations. 'That's
a dodge of the rascal Sprout,' said Sprugeon to Mr Lopez.
'That's one of Sprout's men. If he could get half-a-crown from
you it would be all up with us.' But tough Sprugeon called
Sprout a rascal, he laid it in the same bait both for Du Boung
and for Fletcher;--but laid it in vain. Everybody said that it
was a very clean election. 'A brewer standing, and the devil a
glass of beer!' said one old elector who had remembered better
things when the borough never heard of a contest.
On the third day of his canvass Arthur Fletcher with his gang of
agents and followers behind him met Lopez with his gang in the
street. It was probable that they would so meet, and Fletcher
had resolved what he would do when such a meeting took place. He
walked up to Lopez, and with a kindly smile offered his hand.
The two men, though they had never been intimate, had known each
other, and Fletcher was determined to show that he would not
quarrel with a man because that man had been his favoured rival.
In comparison with that other matter this affair of the
candidature was of course trivial. But Lopez who had, as the
reader may remember, made some threat about a horsewhip, had come
to a resolution of a very different nature. He put his arms
akimbo, resting his hands on his hips, and altogether declined to
proffered civility. 'You had better walk on,' he said, and then
stood, scowling, on the spot till the other should pass by.
Fletcher looked at him for a moment, then bowed and passed on.
At least a dozen men saw what had taken place, and were aware
that Mr Lopez had expressed his determination to quarrel
personally with Mr Fletcher, in opposition to Mr Fletcher's
expressed wish for amity. And before they had gone to bed that
night all the dozen knew the reason why. Of course there was
someone at Silverbridge clever enough to find out that Arthur
Fletcher had been in love with Miss Wharton, but that Miss
Wharton had lately been married to Mr Lopez. No doubt the
incident added a pleasurable emotion to the excitement caused by
the election at Silverbridge generally. A personal quarrel is
attractive everywhere. The expectation of such an occurrence
will bring together the whole House of Commons. And of course
this quarrel was very attractive at Silverbridge. There were
some Fletcherites and Lopezites in the quarrel; as there were
able Du Boungites, who maintained that when gentlemen could not
canvass without quarrelling in the streets they were manifestly
unfit to represent such a borough as Silverbridge in Parliament;
--and that therefore Mr Du Boung should be returned.
Mr Gresham was in the town that day, though not till after the
occurrence, and Fletcher could not avoid speaking of it. 'The
man must be a cur,' said Gresham.
'It would make no difference in the world to me,' said Arthur,
struggling hard to prevent signs of emotion from showing
themselves in his face, 'were it not that he has married a lady
whom I have long known and whom I greatly esteem.' He felt that
he could hardly avoid all mention of the marriage, and yet he was
determined that he would say no word that his brother would call
'There has been no previous quarrel, or offence?' asked Gresham.
'None in the least.' When Arthur so spoke he forgot altogether
the letter he had written; nor, had he then remembered it, would
he have thought it possible that that letter should have given
offence. He had been the sufferer, not Lopez. This man had
robbed him of his happiness; and, though it would have been
foolish in him to make a quarrel for a grievance such as that,
there might have been some excuse had he done so. It had taken
him some time to perceive that greatly as this man had injured
him, there had been no injustice done to him, and that therefore
there should be no complaint made by him. But that this other
man should complain was to him unintelligible.
'He is not worth your notice,' said Mr Gresham. 'He is simply
not a gentleman, and does not know how to behave himself. I am
very sorry for the young lady;--that's all.' At this allusion
to Emily Arthur felt his face become red with rising blood; and
he felt also that his friend should not have spoken thus openly,
--this irreverently,--on so sacred a subject. But at the moment
he said nothing further. As far as his canvass was concerned it
had been successful, and he was beginning to feel sure that he
would be the new member. He endeavoured therefore to drown his
sorrow in this coming triumph.
But Lopez had been by no means gratified with his canvass or with
the conduct of the borough generally. He had already begun to
feel that the Duchess and Mr Sprugeon and the borough had thrown
him over shamefully. Immediately on his arrival in Silverbridge
a local attorney had with the blandest possible smile asked him
for a cheque for 500 pounds. Of course there must be money spent
at once, and of course the money must come out of the candidate's
pocket. He had known all this beforehand, and yet the demand for
the money had come upon him as an injury. He gave the cheque,
but showed clearly by his manner that he resented the
application. This did not tend to bind him more closely to the
services of those who were present when the demand was made. And
then, as he began his canvass, he found that he could not conjure
at all with the name of the Duke, or even with that of the
Duchess; and was told on the second day by Mr Sprugeon himself
that he had better fight the battle 'on his own hook'. Now his
own hook in Silverbridge was certainly not a strong hook. Mr
Sprugeon was still of the opinion that a good deal might be done
by judicious manipulation, and went so far as to suggest that
another cheque for 500 pounds in the hands of Mr Wise, the
lawyer, would be effective. But Lopez did not give the other
cheque, and Sprugeon whispered to him that the Duke had been too
many for the Duchess. Still he had persevered, and a set of
understrappers around him, who would make nothing out of the
election without his candidature, assured him from time to time
that he would even as yet come out all right at the ballot.
But, on the morning of the day on which he met Fletcher in the
street, Mr Du Boung had called upon him accompanied by two of the
Du Boung agents and by Mr Sprugeon himself,--and had suggested
that he, Lopez, should withdraw from the contest, so that Du
Boung might be returned, and that the 'liberal interests' of the
borough might not be sacrificed.
This was a heavy blow, and one which Ferdinand Lopez was not the
man to bear with equanimity. From the moment in which the
Duchess had mentioned the borough to him, he had regarded the
thing as certain. After a while he had understood that his return
must be accompanied by more trouble and greater expense than he
had at first anticipated;--but still he had thought that it was
all but sure. He had altogether misunderstood the nature of the
influence exercised by the Duchess, and the nature also of the
Duke's resolution. Mr Sprugeon had of course wished to have a
candidate, and had allured him. Perhaps he had in some degree
been ill-treated by the borough. But he was a man, whom the
feeling of injustice to himself would drive him almost to frenzy,
though he never measured the amount of his own injustice to
others. When the proposition was made to him, he scowled at them
all, and declared that he would fight the borough to the last.
'Then you'll let Mr Fletcher in to a certainty.'said Mr Sprout.
Now there was an idea in the borough that, although all the
candidates were ready to support the Duke's government, Mr Du
Boung and Mr Lopez were the two Liberals. Mr Du Boung was
sitting in the room when the appeal was made, and declared that
he feared that such would be the result. 'I'll tell you what
I'll do,' said Lopez. 'I'll toss up which of us retires.' Mr
Sprout, on behalf of Mr Du Boung, protested against that
proposition. Mr Du Boung, who was a gentleman of great local
influence, was in possession of four-fifths of the liberal
interests in the borough. Even were he to retire, Mr Lopez could
not get in. Mr Sprout declared that this was known to all the
borough at large. He, Sprout, was sorry that a gentleman like Mr
Lopez should have been brought down there under false ideas. He
had all through told Mr Sprugeon that the Duke had been in
earnest, but Mr Sprugeon had not comprehended the position. It
had been a pity. But anybody who understood the borough could
see with one eye that Mr Lopez had not a chance. If Mr Lopez
would retire Mr Du Boung would no doubt be returned. If Mr Lopez
went to the poll, Mr Fletcher would probably be the new member.
This was the picture as it was painted by Mr Sprout,--who had,
even then, heard something of the loves of the two candidates, and
who had thought that Lopez would be glad to injure Arthur
Fletcher's chances of success. So far he was not wrong;--but
the sense of injury done to himself oppressed Lopez so much that
he could not guide himself by reason. The idea of retiring was
very painful to him, and he did not believe these men. He
thought it to be quite possible that they were there to
facilitate the return of Arthur Fletcher. He had never even
heard of Du Boung till he had come to Silverbridge two or three
days ago. He still could not believe that Du Boung would be
returned. He thought over it all for a moment, and then he gave
his answer. 'I've been brought down here to fight, and I'll
fight it to the last,' he said. 'Then you'll hand over the
borough to Mr Fletcher,' said Sprout, getting up and ushering Mr
Du Boung out of the room.
It was after that, but on the same day, that Lopez and Fletcher
met each other in the street. The affair did not take a minute,
and then they parted, each on his own way. In the course of the
evening Mr Sprugeon told his candidate that he, Sprugeon, could
not concern himself any further in that election. He was very
sorry for what had occurred,--very sorry indeed. It was no
doubt a pity that the Duke had been so firm. 'But,'--and Mr
Sprugeon shrugged his shoulders as he spoke,--'when a nobleman
like the Duke chooses to have a way of his own, he must have it.'
Mr Sprugeon went on to declare that any further candidature would
be a waste of money, waste of time, and waste of energy, and then
signified his intention of retiring, as far as the election went,
into private life. When asked, he acknowledged that they who had
been acting with him had come to the same resolve. Mr Lopez had
in fact come there as the Duke's nominee, and as the Duke had no
nominee, Mr Lopez was in fact 'nowhere'.
'I don't suppose that any man was ever so treated before, since
members were first returned to Parliament,' said Lopez.
'Well, sir;--yes, sir; it is a little hard. But, you see, sir,
her Grace meant the best. Her Grace did mean the best, no doubt.
It may be, sir, there was a little misunderstanding;--a little
misunderstanding at the Castle, sir.' Then Mr Sprugeon retired,
and Lopez understood that he was to see nothing more of the
Of course there was nothing for him now but to retire;--to shake
the dust off his feet and get out of Silverbridge as quickly as
he could. But his friends had all deserted him and he did not
know how to retire. He had paid 500 pounds, and he had a strong
opinion that a portion at least of the money should be returned
to him. He had a keen sense of ill-usage, and at the same time a
feeling that he ought not to run out of the borough like a whipt
dog, without showing his face to any one. But his strongest
suspicion at this moment was one of hatred against Arthur
Fletcher. He was sure that Arthur Fletcher would be the new
member. He did not put the least trust in Mr Du Boung. He had
taught himself really to think that Fletcher had insulted him by
writing to his wife, and that a further insult had been offered
to him at that meeting in the street. He had told his wife that
he would ask Fletcher to give up the borough, and that he would
make the request with a horsewhip in his hand. It was too late
now to say anything of the borough, but it might not be too late
for the horsewhip. He had a great desire to make good that
threat as far as the horsewhip was concerned,--having an idea
that he would thus lower Fletcher in his wife's eyes. It was not
that he was jealous,--not jealous in the ordinary meaning of the
word. His wife's love to himself had been too recently given and
too warmly maintained for such a feeling as that. But there was
a rancorous hatred in his heart against the man, and a conviction
that his wife at any rate esteemed a man whom he hated. And then
would he not make his retreat from the borough with more honour
if before he left he could horsewhip his successful antagonist?
We, who know the feeling of Englishmen generally better than Mr
Lopez did, would say--certainly not. We would think that such
an incident would by no means redound to the credit of Mr Lopez.
And he himself, probably, at cooler moments, would have seen the
folly of such an idea. But anger about the borough had driven
him mad, and now in his wretchedness the suggestion had for him a
certain charm. The man had outraged all propriety by writing to
his wife. Of course he would be justified in horsewhipping him.
But there were difficulties. A man is not horsewhipped simply
because you wish to horsewhip him.
In the evening, as he was sitting alone, he got a note from Mr
Sprugeon. 'Mr Sprugeon's compliments. Doesn't Mr Lopez think an
address to the electors should appear in tomorrow's "Gazette",--
very short and easy;--something like the following.' Then Mr
Sprugeon added a very 'short and easy letter' to the electors of
the borough of Silverbridge, in which Mr Lopez was supposed to
tell them that although his canvass had promised him every
success, he felt that he owed it to the borough to retire, lest
he should injure the borough by splitting the Liberal interest
with their much respected fellow-townsman, Mr Du Boung. In the
course of the evening he did copy that letter, and sent it out to
the newspaper office. He must retire, and it was better for him
that he should retire after some recognized fashion. But he
wrote another letter also, and sent it over to the opposition
hotel. The other letter was as follows:
Before this election began you were guilty of gross
impertinence in writing a letter to my wife,--to her
extreme annoyance and to my most justifiable anger. Any
gentleman would think that the treatment you had already
received at her hands would have served to save her from
such insult, but there are men who will never take a
lesson without a beating. And now, since you have been
here, you have presumed to offer to shake hands with me
in the street, though you ought to have known that I
should not choose to meet you on friendly terms after
what has taken place. I now write to tell you that I
shall carry a horsewhip while I am here, and that if I
meet you in the streets again before I leave the town I
shall use it.
Mr Arthur Fletcher.
This letter he sent at once to his enemy, and then sat late into
the night thinking of the threat and the manner in which he would
follow it up. If he could only get one fair blow at Fletcher his
purpose, he thought, would be achieved. In any matter of
horsewhipping the truth hardly ever gets itself correctly known.
The man who has given the first blow, is generally supposed to
have thrashed the other. What might follow, though it might be
inconvenient, must be borne. The man had insulted him by writing
to his wife, and the sympathies of the world, he thought, would
be with him. To give him his due, it must be owned that he had
no personal fear as to the encounter.
That night Arthur Fletcher had gone over the Greshambury, and on
the following morning he returned with Mr Gresham. 'For heaven's
sake, look at that!' he said, handing the letter to his friend.
'Did you ever write to his wife?' asked Gresham, when he read it.
'Yes,--I did. All this is dreadful to me:--dreadful. Well;--
you know how it used to be with me. I need not go into all that,
'Don't say a word more than you think necessary.'
'When you asked me to stand for the place I had not heard that he
thought of being a candidate. I wrote and told her so, and told
her also that had I known it before I would not have come here.'
'I don't quite see that,' said Gresham.
'Perhaps not;--perhaps I was a fool. But we needn't go into
that. At any rate there was no insult to him. I wrote in the
'Looking at it all round I think you had better not have
'You wouldn't say so if you saw the letter. I'm sure you
wouldn't. I had known her all my life. My brother is married to
her cousin. Oh heavens! we had been all but engaged. I would
have done anything for her. Was it not natural that I should
tell her? As far as the language was concerned the letter was
one to be read at Charing Cross.'
'He says that she was annoyed and insulted.'
'Impossible! It was a letter that any man might have written to
'Well;--you have got to take care of yourself at any rate. What
will you do?'
'What ought I to do?'
'Go to the police.' Mr Gresham had himself once, when young,
thrashed a man who had offended him, and had then thought himself
much aggrieved because the police had been called in. But that
had been twenty years ago, and Mr Gresham's opinions had been
matured and, perhaps, corrected by age.
'No; I won't do that,' said Arthur Fletcher.
'That's what you ought to do.'
'I couldn't do that.'
'Then take no notice of the letter, and carry a fairly big stick.
It should be big enough to hurt him a good deal, but not to do
him any serious damage.' At that moment an agent came in with
the news of the man's retirement from the contest. 'Has he left
the town?' asked Gresham. No;--he had not left the town, nor
had he been seen by any one that morning. 'You had better let me
go out and get the stick, before you show yourself,' said
Gresham. And so the stick was selected.
As the two walked down the street together, almost the first
thing they saw was Lopez standing at his hotel door with a
cutting whip in his hand. He was at that moment quite alone, but
on the opposite side of the street was a policeman,--one of the
borough constables,--very slowly making his way along the
pavement. His movement, indeed, was so slow that anyone watching
him would have come to the conclusion that that particular part
of the High Street had some attraction for him at that special
moment. Alas, alas! How age will alter the spirit of a man!
Twenty years since Frank Gresham would have thought any one to be
a mean miscreant who would have interposed a policeman between
him and his foe. But it is to be feared that while selecting
that stick he had said a word which was causing the constable to
loiter on the pavement!
'Do you usually walk around attended by a policeman?' said Lopez.
'I didn't know that the man was here,' said Fletcher.
'You may tell that to the marines. All the borough shall know
what a coward you are.' Then he turned round and addressed the
street, but still under the shadow, as it were, of the
policeman's helmet. 'This man who presumes to offer himself as a
candidate to represent Silverbridge in Parliament has insulted my
wife. And now, because he fears that I shall horsewhip him, he
goes about the street under the care of a policeman.'
'This is intolerable,' said Fletcher, turning to his friend.
'Mr Lopez,' said Gresham. 'I am sorry to say that I must give
you in charge;--unless you will undertake to leave the town
without interfering further with Mr Fletcher, either by word or
'I will undertake nothing,' said Lopez. 'The man has insulted my
wife, and is a coward.'
About two o'clock on the afternoon of that day Mr Lopez appeared
before the Silverbridge bench of magistrates, and was there sworn
to keep the peace to Mr Fletcher for the next six months. After
that he was allowed to leave the town, and was back in London
with his wife in Belgrave Mansions, to dinner that evening.
On the day but one after this the ballot was taken and at eight
o'clock on the evening of that day Arthur Fletcher was declared
to be duly elected. But Mr Du Boung ran him very hard.
The numbers were--
FLETCHER . . . . . . .315
DU BOUNG . . . . . . .308
Mr Du Boung's friends during these last two days had not
hesitated to make what use they could on behalf of their own
candidate of the Lopez and Fletcher quarrel. If Mr Fletcher had
insulted he other man's wife, surely he could not be a proper
member for Silverbridge. And then the row was declared to have
been altogether discreditable. Two strangers had come into this
peaceful town and had absolutely quarrelled with sticks and whips
in the street, calling each other opprobrious names. Would it
not be better that they should elect their own respectable
townsman? All this was nearly effective. But, in spite of all,
Arthur Fletcher was at last returned.
LOPEZ BACK IN LONDON.
Lopez, as he returned to town, recovered something of his senses,
though he still fancied that Arthur Fletcher had done him a
positive injury by writing to his wife. But something of that
madness left him which had come from a deep sense of injury, both
as to the letter and as to the borough, and he began to feel that
he had been wrong about the horsewhip. He was very low in
spirits on this return journey. The money which he had spent
had been material to him, and the loss of it for the moment left
him nearly bare. While he had before his eyes the hope of being
a member of Parliament he had been able to buoy himself up. The
position itself would have gone very far with Sexty Parker, and
would, he thought, have had some effect even with his father-in-
law. But now he was returning a beaten man. Who is there that
has not felt that fall from high hope to utter despair which
comes from some single failure? As he thought of this he was
conscious that his anger had led him into great imprudence at
Silverbridge. He had not been circumspect, as it specially
behoved a man to be surrounded by such difficulties as his. All
his life he had been schooling his temper so as to keep it under
control,--sometimes with great difficulty, but always with a
consciousness that in his life everything might depend on it. Now
he had, alas, allowed it to get the better of him. No doubt he
had been insulted,--but, nevertheless, he had been wrong to
speak of a horsewhip.
His one great object must now be to conciliate his father-in-law,
and he had certainly increased his difficulty in doing this by
his squabble down at Silverbridge. Of course the whole thing
would be reported in the London papers, and of course the story
would be told against him, as the respectabilities of the town
had been opposed to him. But he knew himself to be clever, and
he still hoped that he might overcome these difficulties. Then
it occurred to him that in doing this he must take care to have
his wife entirely on his side. He did not doubt her love; he did
not in the least doubt her rectitude--but there was that
lamentable fact that she thought well of Arthur Fletcher. It
might be that he had been a little too imperious with his wife.
It suited his disposition to be imperious within his own
household;--to be imperious out of it, if that were possible;--
but he was conscious of having had a fall at Silverbridge, and he
must for a while take in some sail.
He had telegraphed to her, acquainting her with his defeat, and
telling her to expect his return. 'Oh, Ferdinand,' she said, 'I
am so unhappy about this. It has made me so wretched!'
'Better luck next time,' he said with his sweetest smile. 'It is
not good groaning over spilt milk. They haven't treated me
really well,--have they?'
'I suppose not,--though I do not quite understand it all.'
He was burning to abuse Arthur Fletcher, but he abstained. He
would abstain at any rate for the present moment. 'Dukes and
duchesses are no doubt very grand people,' he said, 'but it is a
pity they should not know now to behave honestly, as they expect
others to behave to them. The Duchess has thrown me over in the
most infernal way. I really can't understand it. When I think
of it I am in wonder. The truth, I suppose, is, that there has
been some quarrel between him and her.'
'Who will get in?'
'Oh Du Boung, no doubt.' He did not think so, but he could not
bring himself to declare the success of his enemy to her. 'The
people there know him. Your old friend is as much a stranger
there as I am. By-the-way, he and I had a little row in the
'A row, Ferdinand?'
'You needn't look like that, my pet. I haven't killed him. But
he came up to speak to me in the street, and I told him what I
thought about his writing to you.' On hearing this Emily looked
very wretched. 'I could not restrain myself from doing that.
Come,--you must admit that he shouldn't have written.'
'He meant it in kindness.'
'Then he shouldn't have meant it. Just think of it. Suppose
that I had making up to any girl,--which by-the-way I never did
but to one in my life,'--then he put his arm round her waist and
kissed her, 'and she were to have married someone else. What
would have been said of me if I had begun to correspond with her
immediately? Don't suppose I am blaming you, dear.'
'Certainly I do not suppose that,' said Emily.
'But you must admit that it was rather strong.' He paused, but
she said nothing. 'Only I suppose you can bring yourself to
admit nothing against him. However, so it was. There was a row,
and a policeman came up, and they made me give a promise that I
didn't mean to shoot him or anything of that kind.' As she heard
this she turned pale, but said nothing. 'Of course I didn't want
to shoot him. I wished him to know what I thought about it, and
I told him. I hate to trouble you with all this, but I couldn't
bear that you shouldn't know it all.'
'It is very sad!'
'Sad enough! I have had plenty to bear I can tell you.
Everybody seemed to turn away from me there. Everybody deserted
me.' As he said this he could perceive that he must obtain her
sympathy by recounting his own miseries and not Arthur Fletcher's
sins. 'I was all alone and hardly knew how to hold up my head
against so much wretchedness. And then I found myself called
upon to pay an enormous sum for my expenses.'
'Think of their demanding 500 pounds!'
'Did you pay it?'
'Yes, indeed. I had no alternative. Of course they took care to
come for that before they talked of my resigning. I believe it
was all planned beforehand. The whole thing seems to me to have
been a swindle from beginning to end. By heaven, I'm almost
inclined to think that the Duchess knew all about it herself!'
'About the 500 pounds!'
'Perhaps not the exact sum, but the way in which the thing was to
be done. In these days one doesn't know whom to trust. Men, and
women too, have become so dishonest that nobody is safe anywhere.
It has been awfully hard upon me,--awfully hard. I don't
suppose that there was ever a moment in my life when the loss of
500 pounds would have been so much to me as it is now. The
question is, what will your father do for us?' Emily could not
but remember her husband's intense desire to obtain money from
her father not yet three months since, as though all the world
depended on his getting it,--and his subsequent elation as
though all his sorrows were over for ever, because the money had
been promised. And now,--almost immediately,--he was again in
the same position. She endeavoured to judge him kindly, but a
feeling of insecurity in reference to his affairs struck her at
once and made her heart cold. Everything had been achieved, then,
by a gift of 3,000 pounds,--surely a small sum to effect such a
result with a man living as her husband lived. And now the whole
3,000 pounds was gone;--surely a large sum to have vanished in
so short a time! Something of the uncertainty of business she
could understand, but a business must be perilously uncertain if
subject to such vicissitudes as these! But as ideas of this
nature crowded themselves into her mind she told herself again
and again that she had taken him for better and for worse. If
the worse were already coming, she would still be true to her
promise. 'You had better tell papa everything.'
'Had it not better come from you?'
'No, Ferdinand. Of course I will do as you bid me. I will do
anything that I can do. But you had better tell him. His nature
is such that he will respect you more if it come from yourself.
And then it is so necessary that he should know all;--all.' She
put whatever emphasis she knew how to use upon this word.
'You could tell him--all, as well as I.'
'You would not bring yourself to tell it to me, nor could I
understand it. He will understand everything, and if he thinks
that you have told him everything, he will at any rate respect
He sat silent for a while meditating, feeling always more and
more acutely that he had been ill-used,--never thinking for an
instant that he had ill-used others. '3,000 pounds, you know,
was no fortune for your father to give you!' She had no answer
to make, but she groaned in spirit as she heard the accusation.
'Don't you feel that yourself?'
'I know nothing of money, Ferdinand. If you had told me to speak
to him about it before we were married, I would have done so.'
'He ought to have spoken to me. It is marvellous how close-
fisted an old man can be. He can't take it with him.' Then he
sat for half an hour in moody silence, during which she was busy
with her needle. After that he jumped up, with a manner
altogether altered,--gay, only that the attempt was too visible
to deceive even her,--and shook himself, as though he were
ridding himself of his trouble. 'You are right, old girl. You
are always right,--almost. I will go to your father to-morrow,
and tell him everything. It isn't so very much that I want him
to do. Things will all come right again. I'm ashamed that you
should have seen me in this way,--but I have been disappointed
about the election, and troubled about that Mr Fletcher. You
shall not see me give way again like this. Give me a kiss, old
She kissed him, but she could not even pretend to recover her
self as he had done. 'Had we not better give up the brougham?'
'Certainly not. For heaven's sake do not speak in that way! You
do not understand things.'
'No; certainly I do not.'
'It isn't that I haven't the means of living, but that my
business money is so often required for instant use. And
situated as I am at the present an addition to my capital would
enable me to do so much!' She certainly did not understand it,
but she had sufficient knowledge of the world and sufficient
common sense to be aware that their present rate of expenditure
ought to be a matter of importance to a man who felt the loss of
500 pounds as he felt that loss at Silverbridge.
On the next morning Lopez was at Mr Wharton's chambers early,--
so early that the lawyer had not yet reached them. He had
resolved,--not that he would tell everything, for such men never
even intend to tell everything,--but that he would tell a good deal.
He must, if possible, affect the mind of the old man in two ways.
He must ingratiate himself;--and at the same time make it
understood that Emily's comfort in life would depend very much on
her father's generosity. The first must be first accomplished,
if possible,--and then the second, as to which he could certainly
produce at any rate belief. He had not married a rich man's daughter
without an intention of getting the rich man's money! Mr Wharton
would understand that. If the worst came to the worst, Mr
Wharton must of course maintain his daughter,--and his
daughter's husband! But things had not come to the worst as yet,
and he did not intend on the present occasion to present that
view of his affairs to his father-in-law.
Mr Wharton when he entered his chambers found Lopez seated there.
He was himself at this moment very unhappy. He had renewed his
quarrel with Everett,--or Everett rather had renewed the quarrel
with him. There had been words between them about money lost at
cards. Hard words had been used, and Everett had told his father
that if either of them were a gambler it was not he. Mr Wharton
had resented this bitterly and had driven his son from his
presence,--and now the quarrel with him had made him very
wretched. He certainly was sorry that he had called his son a
gambler, but his son had been, as he thought, inexcusable in the
retort which he had made. He was a man to whom his friends gave
credit for much sternness;--but still he was one who certainly
had no happiness in the world independent of his children. His
daughter had left him, not as he thought under happy auspices,--
and he was now, at this moment, soft-hearted and tender in his
regards as to her. What was there in the world for him but his
children? And now he felt himself to be alone and destitute. He
was already tired of whist at the Eldon. That which would have
been a delight to him once or twice a week, became almost
loathsome when it was renewed from day to day;--and not the less
when his son told him that he also was a gambler. 'So you have
come back from Silverbridge?' he said.
'Yes, sir; I have come back not exactly triumphant. A man should
not expect to win always.' Lopez had resolved to pluck up his
spirit and carry himself like a man.
'You seem to have got into some scrape down there, besides losing
'Oh; you have seen that in the papers already. I have come to
tell you of it. As Emily is concerned in it you ought to know.'
'Emily concerned! How is she concerned?'
Then Lopez told the whole story,--after his own fashion, and yet
with no palpable lie. Fletcher had written to her a letter which
he had thought to be very offensive. On hearing this, Mr Wharton
looked very grave, and asked for the letter. Lopez said that he
had destroyed it, not thinking that such a document should be
preserved. Then he went on to explain that it had had reference
to the election, and that he had thought it to be highly improper
that Fletcher should write to his wife on that or on any other
subject. 'It depends very much on the letter,' said the old man.
'But on any subject,--after what has passed.'
'They were very old friends.'
'Of course I will not agree with you, Mr Wharton; but I own that
it angered me. It angered me very much,--very much indeed. I
took it to be an insult to her, and when he accosted me in the
street down at Silverbridge I told him so. I may not have been
very wise, but I did it on her behalf. Surely you can understand
that such a letter might make a man angry.'
'What did he say?'
'That he would do anything for her sake,--even retire from
Silverbridge if his friends would let him.' Mr Wharton scratched
his head, and Lopez saw that he was perplexed. 'Should he have
offered to do anything for her sake, after what has passed?'
'I know the man so well,' said Mr Wharton, 'that I cannot and do
not believe him to have harboured an improper thought in
reference to my child.'
'Perhaps it was an indiscretion only.'
'Perhaps so. I cannot say. And then they took you before the
'Yes,--in my anger I had threatened him. Then there was a
policeman and a row. And I had to swear that I would not hurt
him. Of course I had no wish to hurt him.'
'I suppose it ruined your chance at Silverbridge?'
'I suppose it did.' This was a lie, as Lopez had retired before
the row took place. 'What I care for most now is that you should
think I have misbehaved myself.'
The story had been told very well, and Mr Wharton was almost
disposed to sympathize with his son-in-law. That Arthur Fletcher
had meant nothing that could be regarded as offensive to his
daughter he was quite sure;--but it might be that in making an
offer intended to be generous he had used language which the
condition of the persons concerned made indiscreet. 'I suppose,'
he said, 'that you spent a lot of money at Silverbridge?' This
gave Lopez the opening he wanted, and he described the manner in
which the 500 pounds had been extracted from him. 'You can't
play that game for nothing,' said Mr Wharton.
'And just at present I could ill afford it. I should not have
done it if I had not felt it a pity to neglect such a chance of
rising in the world. After all, a seat in the British House of
Commons is an honour.'
'And the Duchess, when she spoke to me about it, was so certain.'
'I will pay the 500 pounds,' said Mr Wharton.
'Oh, sir, that is generous!' Then he got up and took the old
man's hands. 'Some day, when you are at liberty, I hope that you
will allow me to explain to you the exact state of my affairs.
When I wrote to you from Como I told you that I would wish to do
so. You do not object?'
'No,' said the lawyer,--but with infinite hesitation in his
voice. 'No, I don't object. But I do not know how I could serve
them. I shall be busy just now, but I will give you the cheque.
And if you and Emily have nothing better to do, come and dine to-
morrow.' Lopez with real tears in his eyes took the cheque, and
promised to come on the morrow. 'And in the meantime I wish you
would see Everett.' Of course he promised that he would see
Again he was exalted, on this occasion not so much by the
acquisition of the money as by the growing conviction that his
father-in-law was a cow capable of being milked. And the quarrel
between Everett and his father might clearly be useful to him.
He might either serve the old man by reducing Everett to proper
submission, or he might manage to creep into the empty space
which his son's defection would make in the father's heart and
the father's life. He might at any rate make himself necessary
to the old man, and become such a part of the household in
Manchester Square as to be indispensable. Then the old man would
every day become older and more in want of assistance. He
thought that he saw the way to worm himself into confidence, and,
so on into possession. The old man was not a man of iron as he
had feared, but quite human, and if properly managed, soft and
He saw Sexty Parker in the city that day, and used his cheque for
500 pounds in some triumphant way, partly cajoling and partly
bullying his poor victim. To Sexty also he had to tell his own
story about the row down at Silverbridge. He had threatened to
thrash the fellow in the street, and the fellow had not dared to
come out of his house without a policeman. Yes;--he had lost
his election. The swindling of those fellows at Silverbridge had
been too much for him. But he flattered himself that he had got
the better of Master Fletcher. That was the tone in which he
told the story to his friend in the city.
Then, before dinner, he found Everett at the club. Everett
Wharton was to be found there now almost every day. His excuse
to himself lay in the political character of the institution.
The club intended to do great things,--to find Liberal
candidates for all the boroughs and counties in England which had
not hitherto been furnished, and then to supply the candidates
with money. Such was the great purpose of the Progress. It had
not as yet sent out many candidates or collected much money. And
yet it was, politically, almost quiescent. And therefore Everett
Wharton, whose sense of duty took him there, spent his afternoons
either in the whist-room or at the billiard-table.
The story of Silverbridge had to be told yet again, and was told
nearly with the same incidents as had been narrated to the
father. He could of course abuse Arthur Fletcher more roundly,
and be more confident in the assertion that Fletcher had insulted
his wife. But he came as quickly as he could to the task which
he had on hand. 'What's all this between you and your father?'
'Simply this. I sometimes play a game of whist, and therefore he
called me a gambler. Then I reminded him that he also sometimes
played a game of whist, and I asked him what deduction was to be
'He is awfully angry with you.'
'Of course I was a fool. My father has the whip-hand of me,
because he has money and I have none, and it was simply kicking
against the pricks to speak as I did. And then too there isn't a
fellow in London has a higher respect for his father than I have,
not yet a warmer affection. But it is hard to be driven in that
way. Gambler is a nasty word.'
'Yes, it is very nasty. But I suppose a man does gamble when he
loses so much money that he has to ask his father to pay it for
'If he does so often, he gambles. I never asked him for money to
pay what I had lost before in my life.'
'I wonder you told him.'
'I never lie to him, and he ought to know that. But he is just
the man to be harder to his own son than to anybody else in the
world. What does he want me to do now?'
'I don't know that he wants you to do anything,' said Lopez.
'Did he send you to me?'
'Well;--no; I can't say that he did. I told him that I should
see you as a matter of course, and he said something rough,--
about your being an ass.'
'I dare say he did.'
'But if you ask me,' said Lopez, 'I think he would take it kindly
of you if you were to go and see him. Come and dine to-day, just
as if nothing had happened.'
'I could not do that,--unless he asked me.'
'I can't say that he asked you, Everett, I would say so, in spite
of its being a lie, if I didn't fear that your father might say
something unkind, so that the lie would be detected by both of
'And yet you ask me to go and dine there!'
'Yes, I do. It's only going away if he does cut up rough. And
if he takes it well,--why then,--the whole thing is done.'
'If he wants me, he can ask me.'
'You talk about it, my boy, just as if a father were the same as
anybody else. If I had a father with a lot of money, by George
he should knock me about with his stick if he liked, and I would
be just the same next day.'
'Unfortunately I am of a stiffer nature,' said Everett, taking
some pride to himself for his stiffness, and being perhaps as
little 'stiff' as any young man of his day.
That evening after dinner at Manchester Square, the conversation
between the father-in-law and the son-in-law turned almost
exclusively to the son and brother-in-law. Little or nothing was
said about the election, and the name of Arthur Fletcher was not
mentioned. But out of his full heart the father spoke. He was
wretched about Everett. Did Everett mean to cut him?
'He wants you to withdraw some name you called him,' said Lopez.
'Withdraw some name,--as he might ask some hot-headed fellow to
do, if his own age, like himself, some fellow that he had
quarrelled with! Does he expect his father to send him a written
apology? He had been gambling, and I told him that he was a
gambler. Is that too much for a father to say?' Lopez shrugged
his shoulders, and declared that it was a pity. 'He will break
my heart if he goes on like this,' said the old man.
'I asked him to come and dine to-day, but he didn't seem to like
'Like it! No. He likes nothing but that infernal club.'
When the evening was over Lopez felt that he had done a good
stroke of work. He had not exactly made up his mind to keep the
father and son apart. That was not a part of his strategy,--at
any rate as yet. But he did intend to make himself necessary to
the old man,--to become the old man's son, and if possible the
favourite son. And now he thought that he had already done much
towards the achievement of his object.
THE JOLLY BLACKBIRD.
There was great triumph at Longbarns when the news of Arthur's
victory reached the place;--and when he arrived there himself
with his friend Mr Gresham, he was received as a conquering hero.
But of course the tidings of 'the row' had gone before him, and
it was necessary that both he and Mr Gresham should tell the
story;--nor could it be told privately. Sir Alured Wharton was
there, and Mrs Fletcher. The old lady had heard of the row, and
of course required to be told all the particulars. This was not
pleasant to the hero, as in talking of the man it was impossible
for them not to talk of the man's wife. 'What a terrible
misfortune for poor Mr Wharton,' said the old lady, nodding her
head at Sir Alured. Sir Alured sighed and said nothing.
Certainly a terrible misfortune, and one which affected more or
less the whole family of Whartons!
'Do you mean to say that he was going to attack Arthur with a
whip?' asked John Fletcher.
'I only know that he was standing there with a whip in his hand,'
said Mr Gresham.
'I think he would have had the worst of that.'
'You would have laughed,' said Arthur, 'to see me walking
majestically along the High Street with a cudgel which Gresham
had just bought for me as being of the proper medium size. I
don't doubt he meant to have a fight. And then you should have
seen the policeman sloping over and putting himself in the way.
I never quite understood where the policeman came from.'
'They are very well off for policemen in Silverbridge,' said
Gresham. 'They've always got them going about.'
'He must be mad,' said John.
'Poor unfortunate young woman!' said Mrs Fletcher, holding up
both her hands. 'I must say that I cannot but blame Mr Wharton.
If he had been firm, it never would have come to that. I wonder
whether he ever sees him.'
'Of course he does,' said John. 'Why shouldn't he see him?
You'd see him if he'd married a daughter of yours.'
'Never!' exclaimed the old woman. 'If I had a child so lost to
all respect as that, I do not say that I would not have seen her.
Human nature might have prevailed. But I would never willingly
have put myself into contact with one who had degraded me and
'I shall be very anxious to know what Mr Wharton does about his
money,' said John.
Arthur allowed himself but a couple of days among his friends,
and then hurried up to London to take his seat. When there he
was astonished to find how many questions were asked him about
'the row', and how much was known about it,--and at the same
time how little was really known. Everybody had heard that there
had been a row, and everybody knew that there had been a lady in
the case. But there seemed to be a general idea that the lady
had been in some way misused, and that Arthur Fletcher had come
forwards like a Paladin to protect her. A letter had been
written, and the husband, ogre-like, had intercepted the letter.
The lady was the most unfortunate of human beings,--or would
have been but for that consolation which she must have in the
constancy of her old lover. As to all these matters the stories
varied; but everybody agreed on one point. All the world knew
that Arthur Fletcher had gone to Silverbridge, had stood for the
borough, and taken the seat away from his rival,--because that
rival had robbed him of his bride. How the robbery had been
effected the world could not quite say. The world was still of
the opinion that the lady was violently attached to the man she
had not married. But Captain Gunner explained it all clearly to
Major Pountney by asserting that the poor girl had been coerced
into the marriage by her father. And thus Arthur Fletcher found
himself almost as much a hero in London as at Longbarns.
Fletcher had not been above a week in town, and had become
heartily sick of the rumours which in various shapes made their
way round to his own ears, when he received an invitation from Mr
Wharton to go and dine with him at a tavern called the Jolly
Blackbird. The invitation surprised him,--that he should be
asked by such a man to dine at such a place,--but he accepted it
as a matter of course. He was indeed much interested in a bill
for the drainage of common lands which was to be discussed in the
House that night, there was a good deal of common land round
Silverbridge, and he had some idea of making his first speech,--
but he calculated that he might get his dinner and yet be back in
time for the debate. So he went to the Jolly Blackbird,--a very
quaint old-fashioned law dining-house in the neighbourhood of
Portugal Street, which had managed not to get itself not pulled
down a dozen years ago on behalf of the Law Courts which are to
bless some coming generation. Arthur had never been there before
and was surprised at the black wainscotting, the black tables,
the old-fashioned grate, the two candles on the table, and the
'I wanted to see you Arthur,' said the old man pressing his hand
in a melancholy way, 'but I couldn't ask you to Manchester
Square. They come in sometimes in the evening, and it might have
been unpleasant. At your young men's clubs they let strangers
dine. We haven't anything of that kind at the Eldon. You'll
find they'll give you a very good bit of fish here, and a fairish
steak.' Arthur declared that he thought it a capital place,--
the best fun in the world. 'And they've a very good bottle of
claret;--better than we get at the Eldon, I think. I don't know
that I can say much for their champagne. We'll try it. You
young fellows always like champagne.'
'I hardly ever touch it,' said Arthur. 'Sherry and claret are my
'Very well;--very well. I did want to see you, my boy. Things
haven't turned out just as we wanted;--have they?'
'Not exactly, sir.'
'No indeed. You know the old saying, "God disposes all". I have
to make the best of it,--and so no doubt have you.'
'There's no doubt about it, sir,' said Arthur, speaking in a low
but almost angry voice. They were not in a room by themselves,
but in a recess which separated them from the room. 'I don't
know that I want to talk about it, but to me it is one of those
things for which there is no remedy. When a man loses his leg,
he hobbles on, and sometimes has a good time of it at last;--but
there he is, without a leg.'
'It wasn't my fault, Arthur.'
'There has been no fault but my own. I went in for the running,
and got distanced. That's simply all about it, and there's no
more to be said.'
'You ain't surprised that I should wish to see you.'
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