The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 56

The News is Sent to Matching

There were nine days of this work, during which Lord Silverbridge became very popular and made many speeches. Tregear did not win half so many hearts, or recommend himself so thoroughly to the political predilections of the borough; — but nevertheless he was returned. It would probably be unjust to attribute his success chiefly to the young Lord’s eloquence. It certainly was not due to the strong religious feelings of the rector. It is to be feared that even the thoughtful political convictions of the candidate did not altogether produce the result. It was that chief man among the candidates, guides, and friends, that leading philosopher who would not allow anybody to go home from the rain, and who kept his eyes so sharply open to the pecuniary doings of the Carbottleites, that Mr Carbottle’s guides and friends had hardly dared to spend a shilling; — it was he who had in truth been efficacious. In every attempt they had made to spend their money they had been looked into and circumvented. As Mr Carbottle had been brought down to Polpenno on purpose that he might spend money — as he had nothing but his money to recommend him, and as he had not spent it — the free and independent electors of the borough had not seen their way to vote for him. Therefore the Conservatives were very elate with their triumph. There was a great conservative reaction. But the electioneering guide, philosopher, and friend, in the humble retirement of his own home — he was a tailor in the town, whose assistance at such periods had long been in requisition — he knew very well how the seat had been secured. Ten shillings a head would have sent three hundred Liberals to the ballot-boxes! The mode of distributing the money had been arranged; but the conservative tailor had been too acute, and not a half-sovereign could be passed. The tailor got twenty-five pounds for his work, and that was smuggled in among the bills for printing.

Mr Williams, however, was sure that he had so opened out the iniquities of the dissenters as to have convinced the borough. Yes, every Salem and Zion and Ebenezer in his large parish would be closed. ‘It is a great thing for the country,’ said Mr Williams.

‘He’ll make a capital member,’ said Silverbridge, clapping his friend on the back.

‘I hope he’ll never forget,’ said Mr Williams, ‘that he owes his seat to the protestant and Church-of-England principles which have sunk so deeply into the minds of the thoughtful portion of the inhabitants of this borough.’

‘Whom should they elect but Tregear?’ said the mother, feeling that her rector took too much of the praise himself.

‘I think you have done more for us than anyone else,’ whispered Miss Tregear to the young Lord. ‘What you said was so reassuring!’ The father before he went to bed expressed to his son, with some trepidation, a hope that all this would lead to no great permanent increase of expenditure.

That evening before he went to bed Lord Silverbridge wrote to his father an account of what had taken place at Polpenno.

‘Polwenning, 15 December

‘MY DEAR FATHER,

‘Among us all we have managed to return Tregear. I am afraid you will not be quite pleased because it will be a vote lost to your party. But I really think that he is just the fellow to be in Parliament. If he were on your side I’m sure he’s just the kind of man you’d like to bring into office. He is always thinking about those sort of things. He says that, if there were no Conservatives, such Liberals as you and Mr Monk would be destroyed by the Jacobins. There is something in that. Whether a man is Conservative or not himself, I suppose there ought to be Conservatives.’

The Duke as he read this made a memorandum in his own mind that he would explain to his son that every carriage should have a drag to its wheels, but that an ambitious soul would choose to be the coachman rather than the drag.

‘It was beastly work!’ The Duke made another memorandum to instruct his son that no gentleman above the age of schoolboy should allow himself to use such a word in such a sense. ‘We had to go about in the rain up to our knees in mud for eight or nine days, always saying the same thing. And of course all that we said was bosh.’ Another memorandum — or rather two, one as to the slang, and another as to the expediency of teaching something to the poor voters on such occasions. ‘Our only comfort was that the Carbottle people were as quite badly off as us.’ Another memorandum as to the grammar. The absence of Christian charity did not at the moment affect the Duke. ‘I made ever so many speeches, till at last it seemed quite easy.’ Here there was a very grave memorandum. Speeches easy to young speakers are generally very difficult to old listeners. ‘But of course it was all bosh.’ This required no separate memorandum.

‘I have promised to go up to town with Tregear for a day or two. After that I will stick to my purpose of going to Matching again. I will be there about the twenty-second, and then will stay over Christmas. After that I am going to the Brake country for some hunting. It is such a shame to have a lot of horses and never to ride them! ‘Your most affectionate Son, ‘SILVERBRIDGE.’

The last sentence gave rise in the Duke’s mind to the necessity of a very elaborate memorandum on the subject of amusements generally.

By the same post another letter went from Polpenno to Matching which also gave rise to some mental memoranda. It was as follows;

‘MY DEAR MABEL,

I am a Member of the British House of Commons! I have sometimes regarded myself as being one of the most peculiarly unfortunate men in the world, and yet now I have achieved that which all commoners in England think to be the greatest honour within their reach, and have done so at an age at which very few achieve it but the sons of the wealthy and the powerful.

‘I now come to my misfortunes. I know that as a poor man I ought not to be a Member of Parliament. I ought to be earning my bread as a lawyer or a doctor. I have no business to be what I am, and when I am forty I shall find that I have eaten up all my good things instead of having them to eat.

‘I have once chance before me. You know very well what it is. Tell her that my pride in being a Member of Parliament is much more on her behalf than on my own. The man who dares to love her ought at any rate to be something in the world. If it might be — if ever it may be — I should wish to be something for her sake. I am sure you will be glad of my success yourself, for my own sake.

‘Your affectionate Friend and Cousin, ‘FRANCIS TREGEAR.’

The first mental memorandum in regard to this came from the writer’s assertion that he at forty would have eaten up all his good things. No! He being a man might make his way to good things though he was not born to them. But what good things were in store for her? What chance of success was there for her? But the reflection on which the most bitter to her of all came from her assurance that his love for that other girl was so genuine. Even when he was writing to her there was no spark left of the old romance! Some hint of a recollection of past feelings, some half-concealed reference to the former passion might have been allowed to him! She as a woman — as a woman all whose fortune must depend on marriage — could indulge in so such allusion; but surely he need not have been so hard!

But still there was another memorandum. At the present moment she would do all that he desired as far as it was in her power. She was anxious that he should marry Lady Mary Palliser, though so anxious also that something of his love should remain with herself! She was quite willing to convey that message — if it might be done without offence to the Duke. She was there with the object of ingratiating herself with the Duke. She must not impede her favour with the Duke by making herself the medium of any secret communications between Mary and her lover.

But how should she serve Tregear without risk of offending the Duke? She read the letter again and again, and thinking it to be a good letter she determined to show it to the Duke.

‘Mr Tregear has got in at Polpenno,’ she said on the day on which she and the Duke had received the letters.

‘So I hear from Silverbridge.’

‘It will be a good thing for him I suppose.’

‘I do not know,’ said the Duke coldly.

‘He is my cousin, and I have always been interested in his welfare.’

‘That is natural.’

‘And a seat in Parliament will give him something to do.’

‘Certainly it ought,’ said the Duke.

‘I do not think he is an idle man.’ To this the Duke made no answer. He did not wish to be made to talk about Tregear. ‘May I tell you why I say all this?’ she asked softly, pressing her hand on the Duke’s arm every so gently. To this the Duke assented, but still coldly. ‘Because I want to know what I ought to do. Would you mind reading that letter? Of course you will remember that Frank and I have been brought up almost as brother and sister.’

The Duke took the letter in his hand and read it, very slowly. ‘What he says about young men without means going into Parliament is true enough.’ This was not encouraging, but as the Duke went on reading, Mabel did not think it necessary to argue the matter. He had to read the last paragraph twice before he understood it. He did read it twice, and then folding the letter very slowly gave it back to his companion.

‘What ought I to do?’ asked Lady Mabel.

‘As you and I, my dear, are friends, I think that any carrying of a message to Mary would be breaking confidence. I think that you should not speak to Mary about Mr Tregear.’ Then he changed the subject. Lady Mabel of course understood that after that she could not say a word to Mary about the election at Polpenno.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43