Rachel Ray, by Anthony Trollope

The Election at Baslehurst

Towards the end of September the day of the election arrived, and with it arrived Luke Rowan at Baslehurst. The vacancy had been occasioned by the acceptance of the then sitting member of that situation under the crown which is called the stewardship of the manor of Helpholme. In other words an old gentleman who had done his life’s work retired and made room for someone more young and active. The old member had kept his seat till the end of the session, just leaving time for the moving for a new writ, and now the election was about to be held, almost at the earliest day possible. It had been thought that a little reflection would induce the Baslehurst people to reject the smiles of the Jew tailor from London, and therefore as little time for reflection was given to them as possible. The wealth, the Liberal politics, the generosity, and the successes of Mr Hart were dinned into their ears by a succession of speeches, and by an overpowering flight of enormous posters; and then the Jewish hero, the tailor himself, came among them, and astonished their minds by the ease and volubility of his speeches. He did not pronounce his words with any of those soft slushy Judaic utterances by which they had been taught to believe he would disgrace himself. His nose was not hookey, with any especial hook, nor was it thicker at the bridge than was becoming. He was a dapper little man, with bright eyes, quick motion, ready tongue, and a very new hat. It seemed that he knew well how to canvass. He had a smile and a good word for all — enemies as well as friends. The task of abusing the Cornbury party he left to his committee and backers. He spent a great deal of money — throwing it away in every direction in which he could do so, without laying himself open to the watchful suspicion of the other side. He ate and drank like a Christian, and only laughed aloud when some true defender of the Protestant faith attempted to scare him away out of the streets by carrying a gammon of bacon up on high. Perhaps his strength as a popular candidate was best shown by his drinking a pint of Tappitt’s beer in the little parlour behind the bar at the Dragon.

“He beats me there,” said Butler Cornbury, when he heard of that feat.

But the action was a wise one. The question as to Tappitt’s brewery and Tappitt’s beer was running high at Baslehurst, and in no stronger way could Mr Hart have bound to him the Tappitt faction than by swallowing in public that pint of beer. “Let me have a small glass of brandy at once,” said Mr Hart to his servant, having retired to his room immediately after the performance of the feat. His constitution was good, and I may as well at once declare that before half an hour had passed over his head he was again himself, and at his work.

The question of Tappitt’s beer and Tappitt’s brewery was running high in Baslehurst, and had gotten itself involved in the mouths of the people of Baslehurst, not only with the loves and sorrows of poor Rachel Ray, but with the affairs of this election. We know how Tappitt had been driven to declare himself a stanch supporter of the Jew. He has become very stanch — stanch beyond the promising of his own vote — stanch even to a final sitting on the Jew’s committee, and an active canvasser on the Jew’s behalf. His wife, whose passions were less strong than his own and her prudence greater, had remonstrated with him on the matter. “You can vote against Cornbury, if you please,” she had said, “but do it quietly. Keep your toe in your pump and say nothing. Just as we stand at present about the business of Rowan’s, it would almost be better that you shouldn’t vote at all.” But Tappitt was an angry man, at this moment uncontrollable by the laws of prudence, and he went into these election matters heart and soul, to his wife’s great grief. Butler Cornbury, or Mrs Butler Cornbury — it was all the same to him which — had openly taken up Rowan’s part in the brewery controversy. A rumour had reached Tappitt that the inmates of Cornbury Grange had loudly expressed a desire for good beer! Under such circumstances it was not possible for him not to rush to the fight. He did rush in to the thick of it, and boasted among his friends that the Jew was safe. I think he was right — right at any rate as regarded his own peace of mind. Nothing gives a man such spirit for a fight, as the act of fighting. During these election days he was almost regardless of Rowan. He was to second the nomination of the Jew, and so keen was he as to the speech that he would make, and as to the success of what he was doing against Mr Cornbury, that he was able to talk down his wife, and browbeat Honyman in his own office. Honyman was about to vote for Butler Cornbury, was employed in the Cornbury interest, and knew well on which side his bread was buttered. Sharpit and Longfite were local attorneys for the Jew, and in this way Tappitt was thrown into close intercourse with that eminent firm. “Of course we wouldn’t interfere,” said Sharpit confidently to the brewer. “We never do interfere with the clients of another firm. We never did such a thing yet, and don’t mean to begin. We find people drop into us quick enough without that. But in a friendly way, Mr Tappitt, let me caution you, not to let your fine business be injured by that young sharper.”

Mr Tappitt found this to be very kind — and very sensible too. He gave no authority to Sharpit on that occasion to act for him; but he thought of it, resolving that he would set his shoulders firmly to that wheel as soon as he had carried through this business of the election.

But even in the matter of the election everything did not go well with Tappitt. He had appertaining to his establishment a certain foreman of the name of Worts, a heavy, respectable, useful man, educated on the establishment by Bungall and bequeathed by Bungall to Tappitt — a man by no means ambitious of good beer, but very ambitious of profits to the firm, a servant indeed almost invaluable in such a business. But Tappitt had ever found him deficient in this — that he had a certain objectionable pride in having been Bungall’s servant, and that as such he thought himself absolved from the necessity of subserviency to his latter master. Once a day indeed he did touch his cap, but when that was done he seemed to fancy that he was almost equal to Mr Tappitt upon the premises. He never shook in his shoes if Tappitt were angry, nor affected to hasten his steps if Tappitt were in a hurry, nor would he even laugh at Tappitt’s jokes, if — as was too usual — such jokes were not mirth-moving in their intrinsic nature. Clearly he was not at all points a good servant, and Tappitt in some hours of his prosperity had ventured to think that the brewery could go on without him. Now, since the day in which Rowan’s treachery had first loomed upon Tappitt, he had felt much inclined to fraternise on easier terms with his foreman. Worts when he touched his cap had been received with a smile — and his advice had been asked in a flattering tone — not demanded as belonging to the establishment by right. Then Tappitt began to talk of Rowan to his man, and to speak evil things of him, as was natural, expecting a reciprocity of malignity from Worts. But Worts on such occasions had been ominously silent. “H— m, I bean’t so sure o’ that,” Worts had once said, thus differing from his master on some fundamental point of Tappitt strategy as opposed to Rowan strategy. “Ain’t you?” said Tappitt, showing his teeth. “You’d better go now and look after those men at the carts.” Worts had looked after the men at the carts, but he had done so with an idea in his head that perhaps he would not long look after Tappitt’s men or Tappitt’s carts. He had not himself been ambitious of good beer, but the idea had almost startled him into acquiescence by its brilliancy.

Now Worts had a vote in the borough, and it came to Tappitt’s ears that his servant intended to give that vote to Mr Cornbury. “Worts,” said he, a day or two before the election, “of course you intend to vote for Mr Hart?”

Worts touched his cap, for it was the commencement of the day.

“I don’t jest know,” said he. “I was thinking of woting for the young squoire. I’ve know’d him ever since he was born, and I ain’t never know’d the Jew gentleman; never at all.”

“Look here, Worts; if you intend to remain in this establishment I shall expect you to support the Liberal interest, as I support it myself. The Liberal interest has always been supported in Baslehurst by Bungall and Tappitt ever since Bungall and Tappitt have existed.”

“The old maister, he wouldn’t a woted for ere a Jew in Christendom — not agin the squoire. The old maister was allays for the Protestant religion.”

“Very well, Worts; there can’t be two ways of thinking here, that’s all; especially not at such a time as this, when there’s more reason than ever why those connected with the brewery should all stand shoulder to shoulder. You’ve had your bread out of this establishment, Worts, for a great many years.”

“And I’ve ‘arned it hard — no man can’t say otherwise. The sweat o’ my body belongs to the brewery, but I didn’t ever sell ’em my wote — and I don’t mean.” Saying which words, with an emphasis that was by no means servile, Worts went out from the presence of his master.

“That man’s turning against me,” said Tappitt to his wife at breakfast time, in almost mute despair.

“What? Worts?” said Mrs Tappitt.

“Yes — the ungrateful hound. He’s been about the place almost ever since he could speak, for more than forty years. He’s had two pound a week for the last ten years — and now he’s turning against me.”

“Is he going over to Rowan?”

“I don’t know where the d — he’s going. He’s going to vote for Butler Cornbury, and that’s enough for me.”

“Oh, T., I wouldn’t mind that; especially not just now. Only think what a help he’ll be to that man!”

“I tell you he shall walk out of the brewery the week after this, if he votes for Cornbury. There isn’t room for two opinions here, and I won’t have it.”

For a moment or two Mrs Tappitt sat mute, almost in despair. Then she took courage and spoke out.

“T.,” said she, “it won’t do.”

“What won’t do?”

“All this won’t do. We shall be ruined and left without a home. I don’t mind myself; I never did; but think of the girls! What would they do if we was turned out of this?”

“Who’s to turn you out?”

“I know. I see it. I am beginning to understand. T., that man would not go against you and the brewery if he didn’t know which way the wind is blowing. Worts is wide awake — quite wide; he always was. T., you must take the offer Rowan has made of a regular income and live retired. If you don’t do it — I shall!” And Mrs Tappitt, as she spoke the audacious words, rose up from her chair, and stood with her arms leaning upon the table.

“What!” said Tappitt, sitting aghast with his mouth open.

“Yes, T.; if you don’t think of your family I must. What I’m saying Mr Honyman has said before; and indeed all Baslehurst is saying the same thing. There’s an offer made to you that will put your family on a footing quite genteel — no gentlefolks in the county more so; and you, too, that are getting past your work!”

“I ain’t getting past my work.”

“I shouldn’t say so, T., if it weren’t for your own good — and if I’m not to know about that, who is? It’s all very well going about electioneering; and indeed it’s just what gentlefolks is fit for when they’re past their regular work. And I’m sure I shan’t begrudge it so long as it don’t cost anything; but that’s not work you know, T.”

“Ain’t I in the brewery every day for seven or eight hours, and often more?”

“Yes, T., you are; and what’s like to come of it if you go on so? What would be my feelings if I saw you brought into the house struck down with apoplepsy and paralepsy because I let you go on in that way when you wasn’t fit? No, T.; I know my duty and I mean to do it. You know Dr Haustus said only last month that you were that bilious —”

“Pshaw! bilious! it’s enough to make any man bilious!”

“Or any dog,” he would have added, had he thought of it. Thereupon Tappitt rushed away from his wife, back into his little office, and from that soon made his way to the Jew’s committee-room at the Dragon, at which he was detained till nearly eleven o’clock at night.

“It’s a kind of work in which one has to do as much after dinner as before,” he said to his wife when he got back.

“For the matter of that,” said she, “I think the after-dinner work is the chief part of it.”

On the day of the election Luke Rowan was to be seen standing in the High Street talking to Butler Cornbury the candidate. Rowan was not an elector, for the cottages had not been in his possession long enough to admit of his obtaining from them a qualification to vote; but he was a declared friend of the Cornbury party. Mrs Butler Cornbury had sent a message to him saying that she hoped to see him soon after the election should be over: on the following day or on the next, and Butler Cornbury himself had come to him in the town. Though absent from Baslehurst Rowan had managed to declare his opinions before that time, and was suspected by many to have written those articles in “the Baslehurst Gazette “ which advocated the right of any constituency to send a Jew to Parliament if it pleased, but which proved at the same time that any constituency must be wrong to send any Jew to Parliament, and that the constituency of Baslehurst would in the present instance be specially wrong to send Mr Hart to Parliament. “We have always advocated”, said one of these articles, “the right of absolute freedom of choice for every borough and every county in the land; but we trust that the day is far distant in which the electors of England shall cease to look to their nearest neighbours as their best representatives.” There wasn’t much in the argument but it suited the occasion, and added strength to Rowan’s own cause in the borough. All the staunch Protestants began to feel a want of good beer. Questions very ill-natured as toward Tappitt were asked in the newspapers. “Who owns the Spotted Dog at Busby Porcorum; and who compels the landlord to buy his liquor at Tappitt’s brewery?” There were scores of questions of the same nature, all of which Tappitt attributed, wrongly, to Luke Rowan. Luke had written that article about freedom of election, but he had not condescended to notice the beer at the Spotted Dog.

And there was another quarrel taking place in Baslehurst, on the score of that election, between persons with whom we are connected in this story. Mr Prong had a vote in the borough, and was disposed to make use of it; and Mrs Prime, regarding her own position as Mr Prong’s affianced bride, considered herself at liberty to question Mr Prong as to the use which he proposed to make of that vote. To Mrs Prime it appeared that anything done in any direction for the benefit of a Jew was a sin not to be forgiven. To Mr Prong it seemed to be as great a sin not to do anything in his power for the hindrance and vexation of those with whom Dr Harford and Mr Comfort were connected by ties of friendship. Mrs Prime, who, of the two, was the more logical, would not disjoin her personal and her scriptural hatreds. She also hated Dr Harford; but she hated the Jews more. She was not disposed to support a Jew in Baslehurst because Mr Comfort, in his doctrines, had fallen away from the purity of his early promise. Her idea was that a just man and a good Christian could not vote for either of the Baslehurst candidates under the present unhappy local circumstances — but that under no cimumstances should a Christian vote for a Jew. All this she said, in a voice not so soft as should be the voice of woman to her betrothed.

“Dorothea,” said Mr Prong very solemnly — they were sitting at the time in his own little front parlour, as to the due arrangement of the furniture in which Mrs Prime had already ventured to make some slight alterations which had not been received favourably by Mr Prong —“Dorothea, in this matter you must allow me to be the best judge. Voting for Members of Parliament is a thing which ladies naturally are not called upon to understand.”

“Ladies can understand as well as gentlemen”, said Mrs Prime, “that a curse has gone out from the Lord against that people; and gentlemen have no more right than ladies to go against the will of the Lord.”

It was in vain that Mr Prong endeavoured to explain to her that the curse attached to the people as a nation, and did not necessarily follow units of that people who had adopted other nationalities.

“Let the units become Christians before they go into Parliament,” said Mrs Prime.

“I wish they would,” said Mr Prong. “I heartily wish they would: and Mr Hart, if he be returned, shall have my prayers.”

But this did not at all suffice for Mrs Prime, who, perhaps, in the matter of argument had the best of it. She told her betrothed to his face that he was going to commit a great sin, and that he was tempted to this sin by grievous worldly passions. When so informed Mr Prong closed his eyes, crossed his hands meekly on his breast, and shook his head.

“Not from thee, Dorothea,” said he, “not from thee should this have come.”

“Who is to speak out to you if I am not?” said she.

But Mr Prong sat in silence, and with closed eyes again shook his head.

“Perhaps we had better part,” said Mrs Prime, after an interval of five minutes. “Perhaps it will be better for both of us.”

Mr Prong, however, still shook his head in silence; and it was difficult for a lady in Mrs Prime’s position to read accurately the meaning of such shakings under such circumstances. But Mrs Prime was a woman sufficiently versed in the world’s business to be able to resolve that she would have an answer to her question when she required an answer.

“Mr Prong,” she said, “I remarked just now that perhaps we had better part.”

“I heard the words,” said Mr Prong —“I heard the cruel words.” But even then he did not open his eyes, or remove his hands from his breast. “I heard the words, and I heard those other words, still more cruel. You had better leave me now that I may humble myself in prayer.”

“That’s all very well, Mr Prong, and I’m sure I hope you will; but situated as we are, of course I should choose to have an answer. It seems to me that you dislike that kind of interference which I regard as a wife’s best privilege and sweetest duty. If this be so, it will be better for us to part — as friends of course.”

“You have accused me of a great sin,” he said; “of a great sin — of a great sin!”

“And so in my mind it would be.”

“Judge not, lest ye be judged, Dorothea; remember that.”

“That doesn’t mean, Mr Prong, that we are not to have our opinions, and that we are not to warn those that are near us when we see them walking in the wrong path. I might as well say the same to you, when you —”

“No, Dorothea; it is my bounden duty. It is my work. It is that to which I am appointed as a minister. If you cannot see the difference I have much mistaken your character — have much mistaken your character.”

“Do you mean to say that nobody but a clergyman is to know what’s right and what’s wrong? That must be nonsense, Mr Prong. I’m sorry to say anything to grieve you —” Mr Prong was now shaking his head again, with his eyes most pertinaciously closed —“but there are some things which really one can’t bear.”

But he only shook his head. His inward feelings were too many for him, so that he could not at the present moment bring himself to give a reply to the momentous proposition which his betrothed had made him. Nor, indeed had he at this moment fixed his mind as to the step which Duty and Wisdom combined would call upon him to take in this matter. The temper of the lady was not certainly all that he had desired. As an admiring member of his flock she had taken all his ghostly counsels as infallible; but now it seemed to him as though most of his words and many of his thoughts and actions were made subject by her to a bitter criticism. But in this matter he was inclined to rely much upon his own strength. Should he marry the lady, as he was still minded to do for many reasons, he would be to her a loving, careful husband; but he would also be her lord and master — as was intended when marriage was made a holy ordinance. In this respect he did not doubt himself or his own powers. Hard words he could bear, and, as he thought, after a time control. So thinking, he was not disposed to allow the lady to recede from her troth to him, simply because in her anger she expressed a wish to do so. Therefore he had wisely been silent, and had shaken his head in reproach. But unfortunately the terms of their compact had not been finally settled with reference to another heading. Mrs Prime had promised to be his wife, but she had burdened her promise with certain pecuniary conditions which were distasteful to him — which were much opposed to that absolute headship and perfect mastery, which, as he thought, should belong to the husband as husband. His views on this subject were very strong. and he was by no means inclined to abate one jot of his demand. Better remain single in his work than accept the name of husband without its privileges! But he had hoped that by mingled firmness and gentle words he might bring his Dorothea round to a more womanly way of thinking. He had flattered himself that there was a power of eloquence in him which would have prevailed over her. Once or twice he thought that he was on the brink of success. He knew well that there were many points in his favour. A woman who has spoken of herself, and been spoken of as being on the point of marriage, does not like to recede; and his Dorothea, though not specially womanly among women, was still a woman. Moreover he had the law on his side — the old law as coming from the Scriptures. He could say that such a pecuniary arrangement as that proposed by his Dorothea was sinful. He had said so — as he had then thought not without effect; but now she retaliated upon him with accusation of another sin! It was manifestly in her power to break away from him on that money detail. It seemed now to be her wish to break away from him; but she preferred doing so on that other matter. He began to fear that he must lose his wife, seeing that he was resolved never to yield on the money question; but he did not choose to be entrapped into an instant resignation of his engagement by Dorothea’s indignation on a point of abstruse Scripturo-political morality. His Dorothea had assumed her indignation as a cloak for her pecuniary obstinacy. It might be that he must yield; but he would not surrender thus at the sound of a false summons. So he closed his eyes very pertinaciously and shook his head.

“I think upon the whole”, said she again, “that we had better make up our minds to part.” Then she stood up, feeling that she should thus employ a greater power in forcing an answer from him. He must have seen her motion through some cranny of his pertinaciously closed eyes, for he noticed it by rising from his own chair, with both his hands firmly fixed upon the table; but still he did not open his eyes — unless it might be to the extent of that small cranny.

“Goodbye, Mr Prong,” said she.

Then he altered the form of his hands, and taking them from the table he dashed them together before his face. “God bless you, Dorothea!” said he. “God bless you! God bless you!” And he put out his hands as though blessing her in his darkness. She, perceiving the inutility of endeavouring to shake hands with a man who wouldn’t open his eyes, moved away from her chair towards the door, purposely raising a sound of motion with her dress, so that he might know that she was going. In that I think she took an unnecessary precaution, for the cranny at the corner of his eye was still at his disposal.

“Goodbye, Mr Prong,” she said again, as she opened the door for herself.

“God bless you, Dorothea!” said he. “May God bless you!”

Then, without assistance at the front door she made her way out into the street, and as she stepped along the pavement, she formed a resolve — which no eloquence from Mr Prong could ever overcome — that she would remain a widow for the rest of her days.

At twelve o’clock on the morning of the election Mr Hart was declared by his own committee to be nine ahead, and was admitted to be six ahead by Mr Cornbury’s committee. But the Cornbury folk asserted confidently that in this they saw certain signs of success. Their supporters were not men who could be whipped up to the poll early in the day, whereas Hart’s voters were all, more or less, under control, and had been driven up hurriedly to the hustings so as to make this early show of numbers. Mr Hart was about everywhere speaking, and so was Butler Cornbury; but in the matters of oratory I am bound to acknowledge that the Jew had by much the mastery over the Christian. There are a class of men — or rather more than a class, a section of mankind — to whom a power of easy expression by means of spoken words comes naturally. English country gentlemen, highly educated as they are, undaunted as they usually are, self-confident as they in truth are at the bottom, are clearly not in this section. Perhaps they are further removed from it, considering the advantages they have for such speaking, than any other class of men in England — or I might almost say elsewhere. The fact, for it is a fact, that some of the greatest orators whom the world has known have been found in this class, does not in any degree affect the truth of my proposition. The best grapes in the world are perhaps grown in England, though England is not a land of grapes. And for the same reason. The value of the thing depends upon its rarity, and its value instigates the efforts for excellence. The power of vocal expression which seems naturally to belong to an American is to an ordinary Englishman very marvellous; but in America the talking man is but little esteemed. “Very wonderful power of delivery — that of Mr So-and-So,” says the Englishman, speaking of an American.

“Guess we don’t think much of that kind of thing here,” says the Yankee. “There’s a deal too much of that coin in circulation.”

English country gentlemen are not to be classed among that section of mankind which speaks easily in public, but Jews, I think, may be so classed. The men who speak thus easily and with natural fluency, are also they who learn languages easily. They are men who observe rather than think, who remember rather than create, who may not have great mental powers, but are ever ready with what they have, whose best word is at their command at a moment, and is then serviceable though perhaps incapable of more enduring service.

At any rate, as regarded oratory in Baslehurst the dark little man with the bright new hat from London was very much stronger than his opponent — so much stronger that poor Butler Cornbury began to sicken of elections and to wish himself comfortably at home at Cornbury Grange. He knew that he was talking himself down while the Israelitish clothier was talking himself up. “It don’t matter,” Honyman said to him comfortably. “It’s only done for the show of the thing and to fill up the day. If Gladstone were here he wouldn’t talk a vote out of them one way or the other — nor yet the devil himself.” This consoled Butler Cornbury, but nevertheless he longed that the day might be over.

And Tappitt spoke too more than once — as did also Luke Rowan, in spite of various noisy interruptions in which he was told that he was not an elector, and in spite also of an early greeting with a dead cat. Tappitt, in advocating the claims of Mr Hart to be returned to Parliament as member for Baslehurst, was clever enough to introduce the subject of his own wrongs. And so important had this brewery question become that he was listened to with every sign of interest when he told the people for how many years Bungall and Tappitt had brewed beer for them, there in Baslehurst. Doubtless he was met by sundry interruptions from the Rowanites.

“What sort of tipple has it been, T.?” was demanded by one voice.

“Do you call that beer?” said a second.

“Where do you buy your hops?” asked a third.

But he went on manfully, and was buoyed up by a strong belief that he was fighting his own battle with success.

Nor was Rowan slow to answer him. He was proud to say that he was Bungall’s heir, and as such he intended to continue Bungall’s business. Whether he could improve the quality of the old tap he didn’t know, but he would try. People had said a few weeks ago that he had been hounded out of Baslehurst, and did not mean to come back again. Here he was. He had bought property in Baslehurst. He meant to live in Baslehurst. He pledged himself to brew beer in Baslehurst. He already regarded himself as belonging to Baslehurst. And, being a bachelor, he hoped that he might live to marry a wife out of Baslehurst. This last assurance was received with unqualified applause, from both factions and went far in obtaining for Rowan that local popularity which was needful to him. Certainly the Rowan contest added much to the popular interest of that election.

At the close of the poll on that evening it was declared by the mayor that Mr Butler Cornbury had been elected to serve the borough in Parliament by a majority of one vote.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01