In the meantime, the great news being no longer a secret, the utmost excitement prevailed in the world of politics. The Tories had quite made up their minds that the ministry would have resigned, and were sanguine, under such circumstances, of the result. The parliament, which the ministry was going to dissolve, was one which had been elected by their counsel and under their auspices. It was unusual, almost unconstitutional, thus to terminate the body they had created. Nevertheless, the Whigs, never too delicate in such matters, thought they had a chance, and determined not to lose it. One thing they immediately succeeded in, and that was, frightening their opponents. A dissolution with the Tories in opposition was not pleasant to that party; but a dissolution with a cry of “Cheap bread!” amid a partially starving population, was not exactly the conjuncture of providential circumstances which had long been watched and wished for, and cherished and coddled and proclaimed and promised, by the energetic army of Conservative wire-pullers.
Mr. Tadpole was very restless at the crowded Carlton, speaking to every one, unhesitatingly answering every question, alike cajoling and dictatorial, and yet, all the time, watching the door of the morning room with unquiet anxiety.
“They will never be able to get up the steam, Sir Thomas; the Chartists are against them. The Chartists will never submit to anything that is cheap. In spite of their wild fancies, they are real John Bulls. I beg your pardon, but I see a gentleman I must speak to,” and he rushed towards the door as Waldershare entered.
“Well, what is your news?” asked Mr. Tadpole, affecting unconcern.
“I come here for news,” said Waldershare. “This is my Academus, and you, Tadpole, are my Plato.”
“Well, if you want the words of a wise man, listen to me. If I had a great friend, which Mr. Waldershare probably has, who wants a great place, these are times in which such a man should show his power.”
“I have a great friend whom I wish to have a great place,” said Waldershare, “and I think he is quite ready to show his power, if he knew exactly how to exercise it.”
“What I am saying to you is not known to a single person in this room, and to only one out of it, but you may depend upon what I say. Lord Montfort’s cousin retires from Northborough to sit for the county. They think they can nominate his successor as a matter of course. A delusion; your friend Lord Beaumaris can command the seat.”
“Well, I think you can depend on Beaumaris,” said Waldershare, much interested.
“I depend upon you,” said Mr. Tadpole, with a glance of affectionate credulity. “The party already owes you much. This will be a crowning service.”
“Beaumaris is rather a queer man to deal with,” said Waldershare; “he requires gentle handling.”
“All the world says he consults you on everything.”
“All the world, as usual, is wrong,” said Waldershare. “Lord Beaumaris consults no one except Lady Beaumaris.”
“Well then we shall do,” rejoined Mr. Tadpole triumphantly. “Our man that I want him to return is a connection of Lady Beaumaris, a Mr. Rodney, very anxious to get into parliament, and rich. I do not know who he is exactly, but it is a good name; say a cousin of Lord Rodney until the election is over, and then they may settle it as they like.”
“A Mr. Rodney,” said Waldershare musingly; “well, if I hear anything I will let you know. I suppose you are in pretty good spirits?”
“I should like a little sunshine. A cold spring, and now a wet summer, and the certainty of a shocking harvest combined with manufacturing distress spreading daily, is not pleasant, but the English are a discriminating people. They will hardly persuade them that Sir Robert has occasioned the bad harvests.”
“The present men are clearly responsible for all that,” said Waldershare.
There was a reception at Lady Roehampton’s this evening. Very few Tories attended it, but Lady Beaumaris was there. She never lost an opportunity of showing by her presence how grateful she was to Myra for the kindness which had greeted Imogene when she first entered society. Endymion, as was his custom when the opportunity offered, rather hung about Lady Beaumaris. She always welcomed him with unaffected cordiality and evident pleasure. He talked to her, and then gave way to others, and then came and talked to her again, and then he proposed to take her to have a cup of tea, and she assented to the proposal with a brightening eye and a bewitching smile.
“I suppose your friends are very triumphant, Lady Beaumaris?” said Endymion.
“Yes; they naturally are very excited. I confess I am not myself.”
“But you ought to be,” said Endymion. “You will have an immense position. I should think Lord Beaumaris would have any office he chose, and yours will be the chief house of the party.”
“I do not know that Lord Beaumaris would care to have office, and I hardly think any office would suit him. As for myself, I am obliged to be ambitious, but I have no ambition, or rather I would say, I think I was happier when we all seemed to be on the same side.”
“Well, those were happy days,” said Endymion, “and these are happy days. And few things make me happier than to see Lady Beaumaris admired and appreciated by every one.”
“I wish you would not call me Lady Beaumaris. That may be, and indeed perhaps is, necessary in society, but when we are alone, I prefer being called by a name which once you always and kindly used.”
“I shall always love the name,” said Endymion, “and,” he added with some hesitation, “shall always love her who bears it.”
She involuntarily pressed his arm, though very slightly; and then in rather a hushed and hurried tone she said, “They were talking about you at dinner today. I fear this change of government, if there is to be one, will be injurious to you — losing your private secretaryship to Mr. Wilton, and perhaps other things?”
“Fortune of war,” said Endymion; “we must bear these haps. But the truth is, I think it is not unlikely that there may be a change in my life which may be incompatible with retaining my secretaryship under any circumstances.”
“You are not going to be married?” she said quickly.
“Not the slightest idea of such an event.”
“You are too young to marry.”
“Well, I am older than you.”
“Yes; but men and women are different in that matter. Besides, you have too many fair friends to marry, at least at present. What would Lady Roehampton say?”
“Well, I have sometimes thought my sister wished me to marry.”
“But then there are others who are not sisters, but who are equally interested in your welfare,” said Lady Beaumaris, looking up into his face with her wondrous eyes; but the lashes were so long, that it was impossible to decide whether the glance was an anxious one or one half of mockery.
“Well, I do not think I shall ever marry,” said Endymion. “The change in my life I was alluding to is one by no means of a romantic character. I have some thoughts of trying my luck on the hustings, and getting into parliament.”
“That would be delightful,” said Lady Beaumaris. “Do you know that it has been one of my dreams that you should be in parliament?”
“Ah! dearest Imogene, for you said I might call you Imogene, you must take care what you say. Remember we are unhappily in different camps. You must not wish me success in my enterprise; quite the reverse; it is more than probable that you will have to exert all your influence against me; yes, canvass against me, and wear hostile ribbons, and use all your irresistible charms to array electors against me, or to detach them from my ranks.”
“Even in jest, you ought not to say such things,” said Lady Beaumaris.
“But I am not in jest, I am in dreadful earnest. Only this morning I was offered a seat, which they told me was secure; but when I inquired into all the circumstances, I found the interest of Lord Beaumaris so great, that it would be folly for me to attempt it.”
“What seat?” inquired Lady Beaumaris in a low voice.
“Northborough,” said Endymion, “now held by Lord Montfort’s cousin, who is to come in for his county. The seat was offered to me, and I was told I was to be returned without opposition.”
“Lady Montfort offered it to you?” asked Imogene.
“She interested herself for me, and Lord Montfort approved the suggestion. It was described to me as a family seat, but when I looked into the matter, I found that Lord Beaumaris was more powerful than Lord Montfort.”
“I thought that Lady Montfort was irresistible,” said Imogene; “she carries all before her in society.”
“Society and politics have much to do with each other, but they are not identical. In the present case, Lady Montfort is powerless.”
“And have you formally abandoned the seat?” inquired Lady Beaumaris.
“Not formally abandoned it; that was not necessary, but I have dismissed it from my mind, and for some time have been trying to find another seat, but hitherto without success. In short, in these days it is no longer possible to step into parliament as if you were stepping into a club.”
“If I could do anything, however little?” said Imogene. “Perhaps Lady Montfort would not like me to interfere?”
“Oh! I do not know,” and then after some hesitation she added, “Is she jealous?”
“Jealous! why should she be jealous?”
“Perhaps she has had no cause.”
“You know Lady Montfort. She is a woman of quick and brilliant feeling, the best of friends and a dauntless foe. Her kindness to me from the first moment I made her acquaintance has been inexpressible, and I sincerely believe she is most anxious to serve me. But our party is not very popular at present; there is no doubt the country is against us. It is tired of us. I feel myself the general election will be disastrous. Liberal seats are not abundant just now, quite the reverse, and though Lady Montfort has done more than any one could under the circumstances, I feel persuaded, though you think her irresistible, she will not succeed.”
“I hardly know her,” said Imogene. “The world considers her irresistible, and I think you do. Nevertheless, I wish she could have had her way in this matter, and I think it quite a pity that Northborough has turned out not to be a family seat.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53