Rachel Ray, by Anthony Trollope

Electioneering

And now, in these days — the days immediately following the departure of Luke Rowan from Baslehurst — the Tappitt family were constrained to work very hard at the task of defaming the young man who had lately been living with them in their house. They were constrained to do this by the necessities of their position; and in doing so by no means showed themselves to be such monsters of iniquity as the readers of the story will feel themselves inclined to call them. As for Tappitt himself, he certainly believed that Rowan was so base a scoundrel that no evil words against him could be considered as malicious or even unnecessary. Is it not good to denounce a scoundrel? And if the rascality of any rascal be specially directed against oneself and one’s own wife and children, is it not a duty to denounce that rascal, so that his rascality may be known and thus made of no effect? When Tappitt declared in the reading-room at the Dragon, and afterwards in the little room inside the bar at the King’s Head, and again to a circle of respectable farmers and tradesmen in the Corn Market, that young Rowan had come down to the brewery and made his way into the brewery-house with a ready prepared plan for ruining him — him, the head of the firm — he thought that he was telling the truth. And again, when he spoke with horror of Rowan’s intention of setting up an opposition brewery, his horror was conscientious. He believed that it would be very wicked in a man to oppose the Bungall establishment with money left by Bungall, that it would be a wickedness than which no commercial rascality could be more iniquitous. His very soul was struck with awe at the idea. That anything was due in the matter to the consumer of beer, never occurred to him. And it may also be said in Tappitt’s favour that his opinion — as a general opinion — was backed by those around him. His neighbours could not be made to hate Rowan as he hated him. They would not declare the young man to be the very Mischief, as he did. But that idea of a rival brewery was distasteful to them all. Most of them knew that the beer was almost too bad to be swallowed; but they thought that Tappitt had a vested interest in the manufacture of bad beer — that as a manufacturer of bad beer he was a fairly honest and useful man — and they looked upon any change as the work, or rather the suggestion of a charlatan.

“This isn’t Staffordshire,” they said. “If you want beer like that you can buy it in bottles at Griggs’s.”

“He’ll soon find where he’ll be if he tries to undersell me,” said young Griggs. “All the same, I hope he’ll come back, because he has left a little bill at our place.”

And then to other evil reports was added that special evil report — that Rowan had gone away without paying his debts. I am inclined to think that Mr Tappitt can be almost justified in his evil thoughts and his evil words.

I cannot make out quite so good a case for Mrs Tappitt and her two elder daughters — for even Martha, Martha the just, shook her head in these days when Rowan’s name was mentioned — but something may be said even for them. It must not be supposed that Mrs Tappitt’s single grievance was her disappointment as regarded Augusta. Had there been no Augusta on whose behalf a hope had been possible, the predilection of the young moneyed stranger for such a girl as Rachel Ray would have been a grievance to such a woman as Mrs Tappitt. Had she not been looking down on Rachel Ray and despising her for the last ten years? Had she not been wondering among her friends, with charitable volubility, as to what that poor woman at Bragg’s End was to do with her daughter? Had she not been regretting that the young girl should be growing up so big, and promising to look so coarse? Was it not natural that she should be miserable when she saw her taken in hand by Mrs Butler Cornbury, and made the heroine at her own party, to the detriment of her own daughters, by the fashionable lady in catching whom she had displayed so much unfortunate ingenuity? Under such circumstances how could she do other than hate Luke Rowan — than believe him to be the very Mischief — than prophesying all manner of bad things for Rachel — and assist her husband tooth and nail in his animosity against the sinner?

Augusta was less strong in her feelings than her parents, but of course she disliked the man who could admire Rachel Ray. As regards Martha, her dislike to him — or rather her judicial disapproval — was founded on his social and commercial improprieties. She understood that he had threatened her father about the business — and she had been scandalised in that matter of the champagne. Cherry was very brave, and still stood up for him before her mother and sisters — but even Cherry did not dare to say a word in his favour before her father. Mr Tappitt had been driven to forget himself, and to take a poker in his hand as a weapon of violence! After that let no one speak a word on the offender’s behalf in Tappitt’s house and within Tappitt’s hearing!

In that affair of the champagne Rowan was most bitterly injured. He had ordered it, if not at the request, at least at the instigation of Mrs Tappitt — and he had paid for it. When he left Baslehurst he owed no shilling to any man in it; and, indeed, he was a man by no means given to owing money to any one. He was of a spirit masterful, self-confident, and perhaps self-glorious — but he was at the same time honest and independent. That wine had been ordered in some unusual way — not at the regular counter, and in the same way the bill for it had been paid. Griggs, when he made his assertion in the bar-room at the King’s Head, had stated what he believed to be the truth. The next morning he chanced to hear that the account had been settled, but not, at the moment, duly marked off the books. As far as Griggs went that was the end of it. He did not again say that Rowan owed money to him; but he never contradicted his former assertion, and allowed the general report to go on — that report which had been founded on his own first statement. Thus before Rowan had been a week out of the place it was believed all over the town that he had left unpaid bills behind him.

“I am told that young man is dreadfully in debt,” said Mr Prong to Mrs Prime. At this time Mr Prong and Mrs Prime saw each other daily, and were affectionate in their intercourse — with a serious, solemn affection; but affairs were by no means settled between them. That affection was, however, strong enough to induce Mr Prong to take a decided part in opposing the Rowan alliance. “They say he owes money all over the town.”

“So Miss Pucker tells me,” said Mrs Prime.

“Does your mother know it?”

“Mother never knows anything that other people know. But he has gone now, and I don’t suppose we shall hear of him or see him again.”

“He has not written to her, Dorothea?”

“Not that I know of.”

“You should find out. You should not leave them in this danger. Your mother is weak, and you should give her the aid of your strength. The girl is your sister, and you should not leave her to grope in darkness. You should remember, Dorothea, that you have a duty in this matter.”

Dorothea did not like being told of her duty in so pastoral a manner, and resolved to be more than ever particular in the protection of her own pecuniary right before she submitted herself to Mr Prong’s marital authority once and for ever. By Miss Pucker she was at any rate treated with great respect, and was allowed perhaps some display of pastoral manner on her own part. It began to be with her a matter of doubt whether she might not be of more use in that free vineyard which she was about to leave, than in that vineyard with closed doors and a pastoral overseer, which she was preparing herself to enter. At any rate she would be careful about the money. But, in the mean time, she did agree with Mr Prong that Rowan’s proper character should be made known to her mother, and with this view she went out to the cottage and whispered into Mrs Ray’s astonished ears the fact that Luke was terribly in debt.

“You don’t say so!”

“But I do say so, mother. Everybody in Baslehurst is talking about it. And they all say that he has treated Mr Tappitt shamefully. Has anything come from him since he went?”

Then Mrs Ray told her elder daughter of the letter, and told her also that she intended to consult Mr Comfort. “Oh, Mr Comfort!” said Mrs Prime, signifying her opinion that her mother was going to a very poor counsellor. “And what sort of a letter was it?” said Mrs Prime, with a not unnatural desire to see it.

“It was an honest letter enough — very honest to my thinking; and speaking as though everything between them was quite settled.”

“That’s nonsense, mother.”

“Perhaps it may be nonsense, Dorothea; but I am only telling you what the letter said. He called his mother a goose; that was the worst thing in it.”

“You cannot expect that such a one as he should honour his parents.”

“But his mother thinks him the finest young man in the world. And I must say this for him, that he has always spoken of her as though he loved her very dearly; and I believe he has been a most excellent son. He shouldn’t have said goose — at any rate in a letter — not to my way of thinking. But perhaps they don’t mind those things up in London.”

“I never knew a young man so badly spoken of at a place he’d left as he is in Baslehurst. I think it right to tell you; but if you have made up your mind to ask Mr Comfort —”

“Yes; I have made up my mind to ask Mr Comfort. He has sent to say he will call the day after tomorrow.” Then Mrs Prime went back home, having seen neither the letter nor her sister.

It may be remembered that an election was impending over the town of Baslehurst, the coming necessities of which had induced Mrs Butler Cornbury to grace Mrs Tappitt’s ball. It was now nearly the end of July, and the election was to be made early in September. Both candidates were already in the field, and the politicians of the neighbourhood already knew to a nicety how the affair would go. Mr Hart, the great clothier from Houndsditch and Regent Street — Messrs Hart and Jacobs of from 110 to 136 Houndsditch, and about as many more numbers in Regent Street — would come in at the top of the poll with 173 votes, and Butler Cornbury, whose forefathers had lived in the neighbourhood for the last four hundred years and been returned for various places in Devonshire to dozens of parliaments, would be left in the lurch with 171 votes. A petition might probably unseat the Jew clothier; but then, as was well known, the Cornbury estate could not bear the expenditure of the necessary five thousand pounds for the petition, in addition to the twelve hundred which the election itself was computed to cost. It was all known and thoroughly understood; and men in Baslehurst talked about the result as though the matter were past a doubt. Nevertheless there were those who were ready to bet on the Cornbury side of the question.

But though the thing was thus accurately settled, and though its termination was foreseen by so many and with so perfect a certainty, still the canvassing went on. In fact there were votes that had not even yet been asked, much less promised — and again, much less purchased. The Hart people were striving to frighten the Cornbury people out of the field by the fear of the probable expenditure; and had it not been for the good courage of Mrs Butler Cornbury would probably have succeeded in doing so. The old squire was very fidgety about the money, and the young squire declared himself unwilling to lean too heavily upon his father. But the lady of the household declared her conviction that there was more smoke than fire, and more threats of bribery than intention of bribing. She would go on, she declared; and as her word passed for much at Cornbury grange, the battle was still to be fought.

Among the votes which certainly had not as yet been promised was that of Mr Tappitt. Mr Hart in person had called upon him, but had not been quite satisfied with his reception. Mr Tappitt was a man who thought much of his local influence and local privileges, and was by no means disposed to make a promise of his vote on easy terms, at a moment when his vote was becoming of so much importance. He was no doubt a liberal as was also Mr Hart; but in small towns politics become split, and a man is not always bound to vote for a Liberal candidate because he is a Liberal himself. Mr Hart had been confident in his tone, and had not sufficiently freed himself from all outer taint of his ancient race to please Mr Tappitt’s taste. “He’s an impudent low Jew,” he had said to his wife. “As for Butler Cornbury he gives himself airs, and is too grand even to come and ask. I don’t think I shall vote at all.” His wife had reminded him how civil to them Mrs Cornbury had been — this was before the morning of the poker — but Tappitt had only sneered, and declared he was not going to send a man to Parliament because his wife had come to a dance.

But we, who know Tappitt best, may declare now that his vote was to have been had by anyone who would have joined him energetically in abuse of Luke Rowan. His mind was full of his grievance. His heart was laden with hatred of his enemy. His very soul was heavy with that sorrow. Honyman, whom he had not yet dared to desert, had again recommended submission to him, submission to one of the three terms proposed. Let him take the thousand a year and go out from the brewery. That was Honyman’s first advice. If not that, then let him admit his enemy to full partnership. If that were too distasteful to be possible, then let him raise ten thousand pounds on a mortgage on the whole property, and buy Rowan out. Honyman thought that the money might be raised if Tappitt were willing to throw into the lump the moderate savings of his past life. But in answer to either proposal Tappitt only raved. Had Mr Hart known all about this, he might doubtless have secured Tappitt’s vote.

Butler Cornbury refused to call at the brewery. “The man’s a Liberal,” he said to his wife, “and what’s the use? Besides he’s just the man I can’t stand. We’ve always hated each other.”

Whereupon Mrs B Cornbury determined to call on Mrs Tappitt, and to see Tappitt himself if it were possible. She had heard something of the Rowan troubles, but not all. She had heard, too, of Rowan’s liking for Rachel Ray, having also seen something of it, as we know. But, unfortunately for her husband’s parliamentary interests, she had not learned that the two things were connected together. And, very unfortunately also for the same interests, she had taken it into her head that Rachel should be married to young Rowan. She had conceived a liking for Rachel; and being by nature busy, fond of employment, and apt at managing other people’s affairs, she had put her finger on that match as one which she would task herself to further. This, I say, was unfortunate as regards her husband’s present views. Her work, now in hand, was to secure Tappitt’s vote; and to have carried her point in that quarter, her surest method would have been to have entered the brewery open-mouthed against Luke Rowan and Rachel Ray.

But the conversation, almost at once, led to a word in praise of Rachel, and to following words in praise of Luke. Martha only was in the room with her mother. Mrs Cornbury did not at once begin about the vote, but made, as was natural, certain complimentary speeches about the ball. Really she didn’t remember when she had seen anything better done; and the young ladies looked so nice. She had indeed gone away early; but she had done so by no means on her own account, but because Rachel Ray had been tired. Then she said a nice good-natured genial word or two about Rachel Ray and her performance on that occasion. “It seemed to me”, she added, “that a certain young gentleman was quite smitten.”

Then Mrs Tappitt’s brow became black as thunder, and Mrs Cornbury knew at once that she had trodden on unsafe ground — on ground which she should specially have avoided.

“We are all aware”, Mrs Tappitt said, “that the certain young gentleman behaved very badly — disgracefully, I may say — but it wasn’t our fault, Mrs Cornbury.”

“Upon my word, Mrs Tappitt, I didn’t see anything amiss.”

“I’m afraid everybody saw it. Indeed, everybody has been talking of it ever since. As regards him, what he did then was only of a piece with his general conduct, which it doesn’t become me to name in the language which it deserves. His behaviour to Mr T. has been shameful — quite shameful.”

“I had heard something, but I did not know there was anything like that. I’m so sorry I mentioned his name.”

“He has disagreed with papa about the brewery business,” said Martha.

“It’s more than that Martha, as you know very well,” continued Mrs Tappitt, still speaking in her great heat. “He has shown himself bad in every way — giving himself airs all over the town, and then going away without paying his debts.”

“I don’t think we know that, mamma.”

“Everybody says so. Your own father heard Sam Griggs say with his own ears that there was a shop bill left there of I don’t know how long. But that’s nothing to us. He came here under false pretences, and now he’s been turned out, and we don’t want to have any more to do with him. But, Mrs Cornbury, I am sorry about that poor foolish girl.”

“I didn’t think her poor or foolish at all,” said Mrs Cornbury, who had quite heart enough to forget the vote her husband wanted in her warmth for her young friend.

“I must say, then, I did — I thought her very foolish, and I didn’t at all like the way she went on in my house and before my girls. And as for him, he doesn’t think of her any more than he thinks of me. In the first place, he’s engaged to another girl.”

“We are not quite sure that he’s engaged mamma,” said Martha.

“I don’t know what you call being sure, my dear. I can’t say I’ve ever heard it sworn to, on oath. But his sister Mary told your sister Augusta that he was. I think that’s pretty good evidence. But, Mrs Cornbury, he’s one of those that will be engaged to twenty, if he can find twenty foolish enough to listen to him. And for her, who never was at a dance before, to go on with him like that — I must say that I thought it disgraceful!”

“Well, Mrs Tappitt,” said Mrs Cornbury, speaking with much authority in her voice, “I can only say that I didn’t see it. She was under my charge, and if it was as you say I must be very much to blame — very much indeed.”

“I’m sure I didn’t mean that,” said Mrs Tappitt, frightened.

“I don’t suppose you did — but I mean it. As for the young gentleman, I know very little about him. He may be everything that is bad.”

“You’ll find that he is, Mrs Cornbury.”

“But as to Miss Ray, whom I’ve known all my life, and whose mother my father has known for all her life, I cannot allow anything of the kind to be said. She was under my charge; and when young ladies are under my charge I keep a close eye upon them — for their own comfort’s sake. I know how to manage for them, and I always look after them. On the night of your party I saw nothing in Miss Ray’s conduct that was not nice, ladylike, and well-behaved. I must say so; and if I hear a whisper to the contrary in any quarter, you may be sure that I shall say so open-mouthed. How d’you do, Mr Tappitt? I’m so glad you’ve come in, as I specially wanted to see you.” Then she shook hands with Mr Tappitt, who entered the room at the moment, and the look and manner of her face was altered.

Mrs Tappitt was cowed. If her husband has not come in at that moment she might have said a word or two in her own defence, being driven to do so by the absence of any other mode of retreating. But as he came in so opportunely, she allowed his coming to cover her defeat. Strong as was her feeling on the subject, she did not dare to continue her attack upon Rachel in opposition to the defiant bravery which came full upon her from Mrs Cornbury’s eyes. The words had been bad, but the determined fire of those eyes had been worse. Mrs Tappitt was cowed, and allowed Rachel’s name to pass away without further remark.

Mrs Cornbury saw it all at a glance — saw it all and understood it. The vote was probably lost; but it would certainly be lost if Tappitt and his wife discussed the matter before he had pledged himself. The vote would probably be lost, even though Tappitt should, in his ignorance of what had just passed, pledge himself to give it. All that Mrs Cornbury perceived, and knew that she could lose nothing by an immediate request.

“Mr Tappitt,” said she. “I have come canvassing. The fact is this: Mr Cornbury says you are a Liberal, and that therefore he has not the face to ask you. I tell him that I think you would rather support a neighbour from the county, even though there may be a shade of difference in politics between you, than a stranger, whose trade and religion cannot possibly recommend him, and whose politics, if you really knew them, would probably be quite as much unlike your own as are my husband’s.”

The little speech had been prepared beforehand, but was brought out quite as naturally as though Mrs Cornbury had been accustomed to speak on her legs for a quarter of a century.

Mr Tappitt grunted. The attack came upon him so much by surprise that he knew not what else to do but to grunt. If Mr Cornbury had come with the same speech in his mouth, and could have then sided off into some general abuse of Luke Rowan, the vote would have been won.

“I’m sure Mrs Tappitt will agree with me,” said Mrs Cornbury, smiling very sweetly upon the foe she had so lately vanquished.

“Women don’t know anything about it,” said Tappitt, meaning to snub no one but his own wife, and forgetting that Mrs Cornbury was a woman. He blushed fiery red when the thought flashed upon him, and wished that his own drawing-room floor would open and receive him; nevertheless he was often afterwards heard to boast how he had put down the politician in petticoats when she came electioneering to the brewery.

“Well, that is severe,” said Mrs Cornbury, laughing.

“Oh, T.! you shouldn’t have said that before Mrs Cornbury!”

“I only meant my own wife, ma’am; I didn’t indeed.”

“I’ll forgive your satire if you’ll give me your vote,” said Mrs Cornbury, with her sweetest smile. “He owes it me now; doesn’t he, Mrs Tappitt?”

“Well — I really think he do.” Mrs Tappitt, in her double trouble — in her own defeat and her shame on behalf of her husband’s rudeness — was driven back, out of all her latter-day conventionalities, into the thoughts and even into the language of old days. She was becoming afraid of Mrs Cornbury, and submissive, as of old, to the rank and station of Cornbury Grange. In her terror she was becoming a little forgetful of niceties learned somewhat late in life. “I really think he do.” said Mrs Tappitt.

Tappitt grunted again.

“It’s a very serious thing,” he said.

“So it is,” said Mrs Cornbury, interrupting him. She knew that her chance was gone if the man were allowed to get himself mentally upon his legs. “It is very serious; but the fact that you are still in doubt shows that you have been thinking of it. We all know how good a churchman you are, and that you would not willingly send a Jew to Parliament.”

“I don’t know,” said Tappitt. “I’m not for persecuting the Jews even — not when they pay their way and push themselves honourably in commerce.”

“Oh, yes; commerce! There is nobody who has shown himself more devoted to the commercial interests than Mr Cornbury. We buy everything in Baslehurst. Unfortunately our people won’t drink beer because of the cider.”

“Tappitt doesn’t think a bit about that, Mrs Cornbury.”

“I’m afraid I shall be called upon in honour to support my party,” said Tappitt.

“Exactly; but which is your party? Isn’t the Protestant religion of your country your party? These people are creeping down into all parts of the kingdom, and where shall we be if leading men like you think more of shades of difference between Liberal and Conservative than of the fundamental truths of the Church of England? Would you depute a Jew to get up and speak your own opinions in your own vestry-room?”

“That you wouldn’t, T.,” said Mrs Tappitt, who was rather carried away by Mrs Cornbury’s eloquence.

“Not in a vestry, because it’s joined on to a church,” said Tappitt.

“Or would you like a Jew to be mayor in Baslehurst — a Jew in the chair where you yourself were sitting only three years ago?”

“That wouldn’t be seemly, because our mayor is expected to attend in church on Roundabout Sunday,” Roundabout Sunday, so called for certain local reasons which it would be long to explain, followed immediately on the day of the mayor’s inauguration.

“Would you like to have a Jew partner in your own business?”

Mrs Butler Cornbury should have said nothing to Mr Tappitt as to any partner in the brewery, Jew or Christian.

“I don’t want any partner, and what’s more, I don’t mean to have any.”

“Mrs Cornbury is in favour of Luke Rowan; she takes his side,” said Mrs Tappitt, some portion of her courage returning to her as this opportunity opened upon her. Mr Tappitt turned his head full round and looked upon Mrs Cornbury with an evil eye. That lady knew that the vote was lost, lost unless she would denounce the man whom Rachel loved; and she determined at once that she would not denounce him. There are many things which such a woman will do to gain such an object. She could smile when Tappitt was offensive; she could smile again when Mrs Tappitt talked like a kitchenmaid. She could flatter them both, and pretend to talk seriously with them about Jews and her own Church feelings. She could have given up to them Luke Rowan — if he had stood alone. But she could not give up the girl she had chaperoned, and upon whom, during that chaperoning, her goodwill and kindly feelings had fallen. Rachel had pleased her eye, and gratified her sense of feminine nicety. She felt that a word said against Rowan would be a word said also against Rachel; and therefore, throwing her husband over for the nonce, she resolved to sacrifice the vote and stand up for her friend, “Well, yes; I do,” said she, meeting Tappitt’s eye steadily. She was not going to be looked out of countenance by Mr Tappitt.

“She thinks he’ll come back to marry that young woman at Bragg’s End,” said Mrs Tappitt; “but I say that he’ll never dare to show his face in Baslehurst again.”

“That young woman is making a great fool of herself,” said Tappitt, “if she trusts to a swindler like him.”

“Perhaps, Mrs Tappitt,” said Mrs Cornbury, “we needn’t mind discussing Miss Ray. It’s not good to talk about a young lady in that way, and I’m sure I never said that I thought she was engaged to Mr Rowan. Had I done so I should have been very wrong, for I know nothing about it. What little I saw of the gentleman I liked;” and as she used the word gentleman she looked Tappitt full in the face; “and for Miss Ray, I’ve a great regard for her, and think very highly of her. Independently of her acknowledged beauty and pleasant, ladylike manners, she’s a very charming girl. About the vote, Mr Tappitt — at any rate you’ll think of it.”

But had he not been defied in his own house? And as for her, the mother of those three finely educated girls, had not every word said in Rachel’s favour been a dagger planted in her own maternal bosom? Whose courage would not have risen under such provocation?

Mrs Cornbury had got up to go, but the indignant, injured Tappitts resolved mutually, though without concert, that she should be answered.

“I’m an honest man, Mrs Cornbury,” said the brewer, “and I like to speak out my mind openly. Mr Hart is a Liberal, and I mean to support my party. Will you tell Mr Cornbury so with my compliments? It’s all nonsense about Jews not being in Parliament. It’s not the same as being mayors or churchwardens, or anything like that. I shall vote for Mr Hart; and, what’s more, we shall put him in.”

“And, Mrs Cornbury, if you have so much regard for Miss Rachel, you’d better advise her to think no more of that young man. He’s no good; he’s not indeed. If you ask, you’ll find he’s in debt everywhere.”

“Swindler!” said Tappitt.

“I don’t suppose it can be very bad with Miss Rachel yet, for she only saw him about three times — though she was so intimate with him at our party.”

Mrs Butler Cornbury curtsied and smiled, and got herself out of the room. Mrs Tappitt, as soon as she remembered herself, rang the bell, and Mr Tappitt, following her down to the hall door, went through the pretence of putting her into her carriage.

“She’s a nasty meddlesome woman,” said Tappitt, as soon as he got back to his wife.

“And however she can stand up and say all those things for that girl, passes me!” said Mrs Tappitt, holding up both her hands. “She was flighty herself, when young; she was, no doubt; and now I suppose she likes others to be the same. If that’s what she calls manners, I shouldn’t like her to take my girls about.”

“And him a gentleman!” said Tappitt. “If those are to be our gentlemen I’d sooner have all the Jews out of Jerusalem. But they’ll find out their gentleman; they’ll find him out! He’ll rob that old mother of his before he’s done; you mark my words else.” Comforting himself with this hope he took himself back to his counting-house.

Mrs Cornbury had smiled as she went, and had carried herself through the whole interview without any sign of temper. Even when declaring that she intended to take Rachel’s part open-mouthed, she had spoken in a half-drolling way which had divested her words of any tone of offence. But when she got into her carriage, she was in truth very angry. “I don’t believe a word of it,” she said to herself; “not a word of it.” That in which she professed to herself her own disbelief was the general assertion that Rowan was a swindler, supported by the particular assertion that he had left Baslehurst over head and ears in debt. “I don’t believe it.” And she resolved that it should be her business to find out whether the accusation were true or false. She knew the ins and outs of Baslehurst life and Baslehurst doings with tolerable accuracy, and was at any rate capable of unravelling such a mystery as that. If the Tappitts in their jealousy were striving to rob Rachel Ray of her husband by spreading false reports, she would encourage Rachel Ray in her love by spreading the truth — if, as she believed, the truth should speak in Rowan’s favour. She would have considerable pleasure in countermining Mr and Mrs Tappitt.

As to Mr Tappitt’s vote for the election — that was gone!

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