The American Senator, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter II

The Senator’s Letter

Soon after this Senator Gotobed went down, alone, to Dillsborough and put himself up at the Bush Inn. Although he had by no means the reputation of being a rich man, he did not seem to care much what money he spent in furthering any object he had taken in hand. He never knew how near he had been to meeting the direst inhospitality at Mr. Runciman’s house. That worthy innkeeper, knowing well the Senator’s sympathy with Goarly, Scrobby and Bearside, and being heart and soul devoted to the Rufford interest, had almost refused the Senator the accommodation he wanted. It was only when Mrs. Runciman represented to him that she could charge ten shillings a day for the use of her sitting-room, and also that Lord Rufford himself had condescended to entertain the gentleman, that Runciman gave way. Mr. Gotobed would, no doubt, have delighted in such inhospitality. He would have gone to the second-rate inn, which was very second-rate indeed, and have acquired a further insight into British manners and British prejudices. As it was, he made himself at home in the best upstairs sitting-room at the Bush, and was quite unaware of the indignity offered to him when Mr. Runciman refused to send him up the best sherry. Let us hope that this refusal was remembered by the young woman in the bar when she made out the Senator’s bill.

He stayed at Dillsborough for three or four days during which he saw Goarly once and Bearside on two or three occasions — and moreover handed to that busy attorney three bank notes for five pounds each. Bearside was clever enough to make him believe that Goarly would certainly obtain serious damages from the lord. With Bearside he was fairly satisfied, thinking however that the man was much more illiterate and ignorant than the general run of lawyers in the United States; but with Goarly he was by no means satisfied. Goarly endeavoured to keep out of his way and could not be induced to come to him at the Bush. Three times he walked out to the house near Dillsborough Wood, on each of which occasions Mrs. Goarly pestered him for money, and told him at great length the history of her forlorn goose. Scrobby, of whom he had heard, he could not see at all; and he found that Bearside was very unwilling to say anything about Scrobby. Scrobby, and the red herrings and the strychnine and the dead fox were, according to Bearside, to be kept quite distinct from the pheasants and the wheat. Bearside declared over and over again that there was no evidence to connect his client with the demise of the fox. When asked whether he did not think that his client had compassed the death of the animal, he assured the Senator that in such matters, he never ventured to think.

“Let us go by the evidence, Mr. Gotobed,” he said.

“But I am paying my money for the sake of getting at the facts.”

“Evidence is facts, sir,” said the attorney. “Any way let us settle about the pheasants first”

The condition of the Senator’s mind may perhaps be best made known by a letter which he wrote from Dillsborough to his especial and well-trusted friend Josiah Scroome, a member of the House of Representatives from his own state of Mickewa. Since he had been in England he had written constantly to his friend, giving him the result of his British experiences.

Bush Inn, Dillsborough, Ufford County, England, December 16, 187-.

MY DEAR SIR,

Since my last I have enjoyed myself very well and I am I trust beginning to understand something of the mode of thinking of this very peculiar people. That there should be so wide a difference between us Americans and these English, from whom we were divided, so to say, but the other day, is one of the most peculiar physiological phenomena that the history of the world will have afforded. As far as I can hear a German or even a Frenchman thinks much more as an Englishman thinks than does an American. Nor does this come mainly from the greater prevalence with us of democratic institutions. I do not think that any one can perceive in half an hour’s conversation the difference between a Swiss and a German; but I fancy, and I may say I flatter. myself, that an American is as easily distinguished from an Englishman, as a sheep from a goat or a tall man from one who is short.

And yet there is a pleasure in associating with those here of the highest rank which I find it hard to describe, and which perhaps I, ought to regard as a pernicious temptation to useless luxury. There is an ease of manner with them which recalls with unfavourable reminiscences the hard self-consciousness of the better class of our citizens. There is a story of an old hero who with his companions fell among beautiful women and luscious wine, and, but that the hero had been warned in time, they would all have been turned into filthy animals by yielding to the allurements around them. The temptation here is perhaps the same. I am not a hero; and, though I too have been warned by the lessons I have learned under our happy Constitution, I feel that I might easily become one of the animals in question.

And, to give them their due, it is better than merely beautiful women and luscious wine. There is a reality about them, and a desire to live up to their principles which is very grand. Their principles are no doubt bad, utterly antagonistic to all progress, unconscious altogether of the demand for progressive equality which is made by the united voices of suffering mankind. The man who is born a lord and who sees a dozen serfs around him who have been born to be half-starved ploughmen, thinks that God arranged it all and that he is bound to maintain a state of things so comfortable to himself, as being God’s vicegerent here on earth. But they do their work as vicegerents with an easy grace, and with sweet pleasant voices and soft movements, which almost make a roan doubt whether the Almighty has not in truth intended that such injustice should be permanent. That one man should be rich and another poor is a necessity in the present imperfect state of civilisation; — but that one man should be born to be a legislator, born to have everything, born to be a tyrant — and should think it all right, is to me miraculous. But the greatest miracle of all is that they who are not so born, who have been born to suffer the reverse side — should also think it to be all right.

With us it is necessary that a man, to shine in society, should have done something, or should at any rate have the capacity of doing something. But here the greatest fool that you meet will shine, and will be admitted to be brilliant, simply because he has possessions. Such a one will take his part in conversation though he knows nothing, and, when inquired into, he will own that he knows nothing. To know anything is not his line in life. But he can move about, and chatter like a child of ten, and amuse himself from morning to night with various empty playthings — and be absolutely proud of his life!

I have lately become acquainted with a certain young lord here of this class who has treated me with great kindness, although I have taken it into my head to oppose him as to a matter in which he is much interested. I ventured to inquire of him as to the pursuits of his life. He is a lord, and therefore a legislator, but he made no scruple to tell me that he never goes near the Chamber in which it is his privilege to have a seat. But his party does not lose his support. Though he never goes near the place, he can vote, and is enabled to trust his vote to some other more ambitious lord who does go there. It required the absolute evidence of personal information from those who are themselves concerned to make me believe that legislation in Great Britain could be carried on after such a fashion as this! Then he told me what he does do. All the winter he hunts and shoots, going about to other rich men’s houses when there is no longer sufficient for him to shoot left on his own estate. That lasts him from the 1st of September to the end of March, and occupies all his time. August he spends in Scotland, also shooting other animals. During the other months he fishes, and plays cricket and tennis, and attends races, and goes about to parties in London. His evenings he spends at a card table when he can get friends to play with him. It is the employment of his life to fit in his amusements so that he may not have a dull day. Wherever he goes he carries his wine with him and his valet and his grooms; and if he thinks there is anything to fear, his cook also. He very rarely opens a book. He is more ignorant than a boy of fifteen with us, and yet he manages to have something to say about everything. When his ignorance has been made as clear as the sun at noon-day, he is no whit ashamed. One would say that such a life would break the heart of any man; but upon my word, I doubt whether I ever came across a human being so self-satisfied as this young lord.

I have come down here to support the case of a poor man who is I think being trampled on by this do-nothing legislator. But I am bound to say that the lord in his kind is very much better than the poor man in his. Such a wretched, squalid, lying, cowardly creature I did not think that even England could produce. And yet the man has a property in land on which he ought to be able to live in humble comfort. I feel sure that I have leagued myself with a rascal, whereas I believe the lord, in spite of his ignorance and his idleness, to be honest. But yet the man is being hardly used, and has had the spirit, or rather perhaps has been instigated by others, to rebel. His crops have been eaten up by the lord’s pheasants, and the lord, exercising plenary power as though he were subject to no laws, will only pay what compensation he himself chooses to award. The whole country here is in arms against the rebel, thinking it monstrous that a man living in a hovel should contest such a point with the owner of half-a-dozen palaces. I have come forward to help the man for the sake of seeing how the matter will go; and I have to confess that though those under the lord have treated me as though I were a miscreant, the lord himself and his friends have been civil enough.

I say what I think wherever I go, and I do not find it taken in bad part. In that respect we might learn something even from Englishmen. When a Britisher over in the States says what he thinks about us, we are apt to be a little rough with him. I have, indeed, known towns in which he couldn’t speak out with personal safety. Here there is no danger of that kind. I am getting together the materials for a lecture on British institutions in general, in which I shall certainly speak my mind plainly, and I think I shall venture to deliver it in London before I leave for New York in the course of next spring. I will, however, write to you again before that time comes.

Believe me to be,
Dear Sir,
With much sincerity,
Yours truly,
Elias Gotobed.
The Honble. Josiah Scroome,
25, Q Street,
Minnesota Avenue,
Washington.

On the morning of the Senator’s departure from Dillsborough, Mr. Runciman met him standing under the covered way leading from the inn yard into the street. He was waiting for the omnibus which was being driven about the town, and which was to call for him and take him down to the railway station. Mr. Runciman had not as yet spoken to him since he had been at the inn, and had not even made himself personally known to his guest. “So, Sir, you are going to leave us,” said the landlord, with a smile which was intended probably as a smile of triumph.

“Yes, sir,” said the Senator. “It’s about time, I guess, that I should get back to London.”

“I dare say it is, Sir,” said the landlord. “I dare say you’ve seen enough of Mr. Goarly by this time.”

“That’s as may be. I don’t know whom I have the pleasure of speaking to.”

“My name is Runciman, Sir. I’m the landlord here.”

“I hope I see you well, Mr. Runciman. I have about come to an end of my business here.”

“I dare say you have, sir. I should say so. Perhaps I might express an opinion that you never came across a greater blackguard than Goarly either in this country or your own.”

“That’s a strong opinion, Mr. Runciman.”

“It’s the general opinion here, sir. I should have thought you’d found it out before this.”

“I don’t know that I am prepared at this moment to declare all that I have found out”

“I thought you’d have been tired of it by this time, Mr. Gotobed.”

“Tired of what?”

“Tired of the wrong side, sir.”

“I don’t know that I am on the wrong side. A man may be in the right on one point even though his life isn’t all that it ought to be.”

“That’s true, sir; but if they told you all that they know up street,”— and Runciman pointed to the part of the town in which Bearside’s office was situated — “I should have thought you would have understood who was going to win and who was going to lose. Good day, sir; I hope you’ll have a pleasant journey. Much obliged to you for your patronage, sir;” and Runciman, still smiling unpleasantly, touched his hat as the Senator got into the omnibus.

The Senator was not very happy as to the Goarly business. He had paid some money and had half promised more, and had found out that he was in a boat with thoroughly disreputable persons. As he had said to the landlord, a man may have the right on his side in an action at law though he be a knave or a rascal; and if a lord be unjust to a poor man, the poor man should have justice done him, even though he be not quite a pattern poor man. But now he was led to believe by what the landlord had said to him that he was being kept in the dark, and that there were facts generally known that he did not know. He had learned something of English manners and English institutions by his interference, but there might be a question whether he was not paying too dearly for his whistle. And there was growing upon him a feeling that before he had done he would have to blush for his colleagues.

As the omnibus went away Dr. Nupper joined Mr. Runciman under the archway. “I’m blessed if I can understand that man,” said Runciman. “What is it he’s after?”

“Notoriety,” said the doctor, with the air of a man who has completely solved a difficult question.

“He’ll have to pay for it, and that pretty smart,” said Runciman. “I never heard of such a foolish thing in all my life. What the dickens is it to him? One can understand Bearside, and Scrobby too. When a fellow has something to get, one does understand it. But why an old fellow like that should come down from the moon to pay ever so much money for such a man as Goarly, is what I don’t understand.”

“Notoriety,” said the doctor.

“He evidently don’t know that Nickem has got round Goarly,” said the landlord.

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