And now the important day of the election had arrived, and some men’s hearts beat quickly enough. To be or not to a member of the British Parliament is a question of very considerable moment in a man’s mind. Much is often said of the great penalties which the ambitious pay for enjoying this honour; of the tremendous expenses of election; of the long, tedious hours of unpaid labour: of the weary days passed in the House; but, nevertheless, the prize is one very well worth the price paid for it—well worth any price that can be paid for it short of wading through dirt and dishonour.
No other great European nation has anything like it to offer to the ambition of its citizens; for in no other great country of Europe, not even in those which are free, has the popular constitution obtained, as with us, true sovereignty and power of rule. Here it is so; and when a man lays himself out to be a member of Parliament, he plays the highest game and for the highest stakes which the country affords.
To some men, born silver-spooned, a seat in Parliament comes as a matter of course. From the time of their early manhood they hardly know what it is not to sit there; and the honour is hardly appreciated, being too much a matter of course. As a rule, they never know how great a thing it is to be in Parliament; though, when reverse comes, as reverses occasionally will come, they fully feel how dreadful it is to be left out.
But to men aspiring to be members, or to those who having been once fortunate have again to fight the battle without assurance of success, the coming election must be matter of dread concern. Of, how delightful to hear that the long-talked of rival has declined the contest, and that the course is clear! or to find by a short canvass that one’s majority is safe, and the pleasures of crowing over an unlucky, friendless foe quite secured!
No such gratification as this filled the bosom of Mr Moffat on the morning of the Barchester election. To him had been brought no positive assurance of success by his indefatigable agent, Mr Nearthewinde. It was admitted on all sides that the contest would be a very close one; and Mr Nearthewinde would not do more than assert that they ought to win unless things went wrong with them.
Mr Nearthewinde had other elections to attend to, and had not been remaining at Courcy Castle ever since the coming of Miss Dunstable: but he had been there, and at Barchester, as often as possible, and Mr Moffat was made greatly uneasy by reflecting how very high the bill would be.
The two parties had outdone each other in the loudness of their assertions, that each would on his side conduct the election in strict conformity to law. There was to be no bribery. Bribery! who indeed in these days would dare to bribe; to give absolute money for an absolute vote, and pay for such an article in downright palpable sovereigns? No. Purity was much too rampant for that, and the means of detection too well understood. But purity was to be carried much further than this. There should be no treating; no hiring of two hundred votes to act as messengers at twenty shillings a day in looking up some four hundred other voters; no bands were to be paid for; no carriages furnished; no ribbons supplied. British voters were to vote, if vote they would, for the love and respect they bore to their chosen candidate. If so actuated, they would not vote, they might stay away; no other inducement would be offered.
So much was said loudly—very loudly—by each party; but, nevertheless, Mr Moffat, early in these election days, began to have some misgivings about the bill. The proclaimed arrangement had been one exactly suitable to his taste; for Mr Moffat loved his money. He was a man in whose breast the ambition of being great in the world, and of joining himself to aristocratic people was continually at war with the great cost which such tastes occasioned. His last election had not been a cheap triumph. In one way or another money had been dragged from him for purposes which had been to his mind unintelligible; and when, about the middle of his first session, he had, with much grumbling, settled all demands, he had questioned with himself whether his whistle was worth its cost.
He was therefore a great stickler for purity of election; although, had he considered the matter, he should have known that with him money was his only passport into that Elysium in which he had now lived for two years. He probably did not consider it; for when, in those canvassing days immediately preceding the election, he had seen that all the beer-houses were open, and half the population was drunk, he had asked Mr Nearthewinde whether this violation of the treaty was taking place only on the part of the opponent, and whether, in such case, it would not by duly noticed with a view to a possible petition.
Mr Nearthewinde assured him triumphantly that half at least of the wallowing swine were his own especial friends; and that somewhat more than half of the publicans of the town were eagerly engaged in fighting his, Mr Moffat’s battle. Mr Moffat groaned, and would have expostulated had Mr Nearthewinde been willing to hear him. But that gentleman’s services had been put into requisition by Lord De Courcy rather than by the candidate. For the candidate he cared but little. To pay the bill would be enough for him. He, Mr Nearthewinde, was doing his business as he well knew how to do it; and it was not likely that he should submit to be lectured by such as Mr Moffat on a trumpery score of expense.
It certainly did appear on the morning of the election as though some great change had been made in that resolution of the candidates to be very pure. From and early hour rough bands of music were to be heard in every part of the usually quiet town; carts and gigs, omnibuses and flys, all the old carriages from all the inn-yards, and every vehicle of any description which could be pressed into the service were in motion; if the horses and post-boys were not to be paid for by the candidates, the voters themselves were certainly very liberal in their mode of bringing themselves to the poll. The election district of the city of Barchester extended for some miles on each side of the city, so that the omnibuses and flys had enough to do. Beer was to be had at the public-houses, almost without question, by all who chose to ask for it; and rum and brandy were dispensed to select circles within the bars with equal profusion. As for ribbons, the mercers’ shops must have been emptied of that article, as far as scarlet and yellow were concerned. Scarlet was Sir Roger’s colour, while the friends of Mr Moffat were decked with yellow. Seeing what he did see, Mr Moffat might well ask whether there had not been a violation of the treaty of purity!
At the time of this election there was some question whether England should go to war with all her energy; or whether it would not be better for her to save her breath to cool her porridge, and not meddle more than could be helped with foreign quarrels. The last view of the matter was advocated by Sir Roger, and his motto of course proclaimed the merits of domestic peace and quiet. ‘Peace abroad and a big loaf at home’, was consequently displayed on four or five huge scarlet banners, and carried waving over the heads of the people. But Mr Moffat was a staunch supporter of the Government, who were already inclined to be belligerent, and ‘England’s honour’ was therefore the legend under which he selected to do battle. It may, however, be doubted whether there was in all Barchester one inhabitant—let alone one elector—so fatuous to suppose that England’s honour was in any special manner dear to Mr Moffat; or that he would be whit more sure of a big loaf than he was now, should Sir Roger happily become a member of the legislature.
And then the fine arts were resorted to, seeing that language fell short in telling all that was found necessary to be told. Poor Sir Roger’s failing as regards the bottle were too well known; and it was also known that, in acquiring this title, he had not quite laid aside the rough mode of speech which he had used in his early years. There was, consequently, a great daub painted up on sundry walls, on which a navvy, with a pimply, bloated face, was to be seen standing on a railway bank, leaning on a spade holding a bottle in one hand, while he invited a comrade to drink. ‘Come, Jack, shall us have a drop of some’at short?’ were the words coming out of the navvy’s mouth; and under this was painted in huge letters,
THE LAST NEW BARONET
But Mr Moffat hardly escaped on easier terms. The trade by which his father had made his money was as well known as that of the railway contractor; and every possible symbol of tailordom was displayed in graphic portraiture on the walls and hoardings of the city. He was drawn with his goose, his scissors, with his needle, with his tapes; he might be seen measuring, cutting, pressing, carrying home his bundle and presenting his little bill; and under each of these representations was repeated his own motto: ‘England’s honour’.
Such were the pleasant little amenities with which the people of Barchester greeted the two candidates who were desirous of the honour of serving them in Parliament.
The polling went briskly and merrily. There were somewhat above nine hundred registered voters, of whom the greater portion recorded their votes early in the day. At two o’clock, according to Sir Roger’s committee, the numbers were as follows:—
Whereas, by the light afforded by Mr Moffat’s people, they stood in a slightly different ratio to each other, being written thus:—
This naturally heightened the excitement, and gave additional delight to the proceedings. At half-past two it was agreed by both sides that Mr Moffat was ahead; the Moffatites claiming a majority of twelve, and the Scatcherdites allowing a majority of one. But by three o’clock sundry good men and true, belonging to the railway interest, had made their way to the booth in spite of the efforts of a band of roughs from Courcy, and Sir Roger was again leading, by ten or a dozen, according to his own showing.
One little transaction which took place in the earlier part of the day deserves to be recorded. There was in Barchester an honest publican—honest as the world of publicans goes—who not only was possessed of a vote, but possessed of a son who was a voter. He was one Reddypalm in earlier days, before he had learned to appreciate the full value of an Englishman’s franchise, he had been a declared Liberal and a friend of Roger Scatcherd’s. In latter days he had governed his political feelings with more decorum, and had not allowed himself to be carried away by such foolish fervour as he had evinced in his youth. On this special occasion, however, his line of conduct was so mysterious as for a while to baffle even those who knew him best.
His house was apparently open in Sir Roger’s interest. Beer, at any rate, was flowing there as elsewhere; and scarlet ribbons going in-not perhaps, in a state of perfect steadiness—came out more unsteady than before. Still had Mr Reddypalm been deaf to the voice of that charmer, Closerstil, though he had charmed with all his wisdom. Mr Reddypalm had stated, first his unwillingness to vote at all:— he had, he said, given over politics, and was not inclined to trouble his mind again with the subject; then he had spoken of his great devotion to the Duke of Omnium, under whose grandfathers his grandfather had been bred: Mr Nearthewinde had, as he said, been with him, and proved to him beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would show the deepest ingratitude on his part to vote against the duke’s candidate.
Mr Closerstil thought he understood all this, and sent more, and still more men to drink beer. He even caused—taking infinite trouble to secure secrecy in the matter—three gallons of British brandy to be ordered and paid for as the best French. But, nevertheless, Mr Reddypalm made no sign to show that he considered that the right thing had been done. On the evening before the election, he told one of Mr Closerstil’s confidential men, that he had thought a good deal about it, and that he believed he should be constrained by his conscience to vote for Mr Moffat.
We have said that Mr Closerstil was accompanied by a learned friend of his, one Mr Romer, a barrister, who was greatly interested in Sir Roger, and who, being a strong Liberal, was assisting in the canvass with much energy. He, hearing how matters were likely to go with this conscientious publican, and feeling himself peculiarly capable of dealing with such delicate scruples, undertook to look into the case in hand. Early, therefore, on the morning of the election, he sauntered down the cross street in which hung out the sign of the Brown Bear, and, as he expected, found Mr Reddypalm near his own door.
Now it was quite an understood thing that there was to be no bribery. This was understood by no one better than Mr Romer, who had, in truth, drawn up many of the published assurances to that effect. And, to give him his due, he was fully minded to act in accordance with these assurances. The object of all the parties was to make it worth the voters’ while to give their votes; but to do so without bribery. Mr Romer had repeatedly declared that he would have nothing to do with any illegal practising; but he had also declared that, as long as all was done according to law, he was ready to lend his best efforts to assist Sir Roger. How he assisted Sir Roger, and adhered to the law, will now be seen.
Oh, Mr Romer! Mr Romer! is it not the case with thee that thou ‘wouldst not play false, and yet wouldst wrongly win?’ Not in electioneering, Mr Romer, any more than in any other pursuits, can a man touch pitch and not be defiled; as thou, innocent as thou art, wilt soon learn to thy terrible cost.
‘Well, Reddypalm,’ said Mr Romer, shaking hands with him. Mr Romer had not been equally cautious as Neatherwinde, and had already drunk sundry glasses of ale at the Brown Bear, in the hope of softening the stern Bear-warden. ‘How is it today? Which is to be the man?’
‘If any one knows that, Mr Romer, you must be the man. A poor numbskull like me knows nothing of them matters. How should I? All I looks to, Mr Romer, is selling a trifle of drink now and then—selling it, and getting paid for it, you know, Mr Romer.’
‘Yes, that’s important, no doubt. But come, Reddypalm, such an old friend as Sir Roger as you are, a man he speaks of as one of his intimate friends, I wonder how you can hesitate about it? Now with another man, I should think that he wanted to be paid for voting —’
‘Oh, Mr Romer! fie—fie—fie!’
‘I know it’s not the case with you. It would be an insult to offer you money, even if money were going. I should not mention this, only as money is not going, neither, on our side nor on the other, no harm can be done.’
‘Mr Romer, if you speak of such a thing, you’ll hurt me. I know the value of an Englishman’s franchise too well to wish to sell it. I would not demean myself so low; no, not though five-and-twenty pound a vote was going, as there was in the good old times—and that’s not so long either.’
‘I am sure you wouldn’t, Reddypalm; I’m sure you wouldn’t. But an honest man like you should stick to old friends. Now, tell me,’ and putting his arm through Reddypalm’s, he walked with him into the passage of his own house; ‘Now, tell me—is there anything wrong? It’s between friends, you know. Is there anything wrong?’
‘I wouldn’t sell my vote for untold gold,’ said Reddypalm, who was perhaps aware that untold gold would hardly be offered to him for it.
‘I am sure you would not,’ said Mr Romer.
‘But,’ said Reddypalm, ‘a man likes to be paid his little bill.’
‘Surely, surely,’ said the barrister.
‘And I did say two years since, when your friend Mr Closerstil brought a friend of his down to stand here—it wasn’t Sir Roger then—but when he brought a friend of his down, and when I drew two or three hogsheads of ale on their side, and when my bill was questioned, and only half-settled, I did say that I wouldn’t interfere with no election no more. And no more I will, Mr Romer—unless it be to give a quiet vote for the nobleman under whom I and mine always lived respectable.’
‘Oh!’ said Mr Romer.
‘A man do like to have his bill paid, you know, Mr Romer.’
Mr Romer could not but acknowledge that this was a natural feeling on the part of an ordinary mortal publican.
‘It goes agin the grain with a man not to have his little bill paid, and specially at election time,’ again urged Mr Reddypalm.
Mr Romer had not much time to think about it; but he knew well that matters were so nearly balanced, that the votes of Mr Reddypalm and his son were of inestimable value.
‘If it’s only about your bill,’ said Mr Romer, ‘I’ll see to have it settled. I’ll speak to Closerstil about that.’
‘All right!’ said Reddypalm, seizing the young barrister’s hand, and shaking it warmly; ‘all right!’ And late in the afternoon when a vote or two became matter of intense interest, Mr Reddypalm and his son came up to the hustings and boldly tendered theirs for their old friend Sir Roger.
There was a great deal of eloquence heard in Barchester on that day. Sir Roger had by this time so far recovered as to be able to go through the dreadfully hard work of canvassing and addressing the electors from eight in the morning till near sunset. A very perfect recovery, most men will say. Yes; a perfect recovery as regarded the temporary use of his faculties, both physical and mental; though it may be doubted whether there can be any permanent recovery from such a disease as his. What amount of brandy he consumed to enable him to perform this election work, and what lurking evil effect the excitement have on him—of these matters no record was kept in the history of those proceedings.
Sir Roger’s eloquence was of a rough kind; but not perhaps the less operative on those for whom it was intended. The aristocracy of Barchester consisted chiefly of clerical dignitaries, bishops, deans, prebendaries, and such like: on them and theirs it was not probable that anything said by Sir Roger would have much effect. Those men would either abstain from voting, or vote for the railway hero, with the view of keeping out the De Courcy candidate. Then came the shopkeepers, who might also be regarded as a stiff-necked generation, impervious to electioneering eloquence. They would, generally, support Mr Moffat. But there was an inferior class of voters, ten-pound freeholders, and such like, who, at this period, were somewhat given to have an opinion of their own, and over them it was supposed that Sir Roger did obtain some power by his gift of talking.
‘Now, gentlemen, will you tell me this,’ said he, bawling at the top of his voice from the portico which graced the door of the Dragon of Wantley, at which celebrated inn Sir Roger’s committee sat:—‘Who is Mr Moffat, and what has he done for us? There have been some picture-makers about the town this week past. The Lord knows who they are; I don’t. These clever fellows do tell you who I am, and what I’ve done. I ain’t very proud of the way they’ve painted me, though there’s something about it I ain’t ashamed of either. See here,’ and he held up on one side of him one of the great daubs oh himself —‘just hold it there till I can explain it,’ and, he handed the paper to one of his friends. ‘That’s me,’ said Sir Roger, putting up his stick, and pointing to the pimply-nosed representation of himself.
‘Hurrah! Hur-r-rah! more power to you—we all know who you are, Roger. You’re the boy! When did you get drunk last?’ Such-like greetings, together with a dead cat which was flung at him from the crowd, and which he dexterously parried with his stick, were the answers which he received to this exordium.
‘Yes,’ said he, quite undismayed by this little missile which had so nearly reached him: ‘that’s me. And look here; this brown, dirty-looking broad streak here is intended for a railway; and that thing in my hand—not the right hand; I’ll come to that presently —’
‘How about the brandy, Roger?’
‘I’ll come to that presently. I’ll tell you about the brandy in good time. But that thing in my left hand is a spade. Now, I never handled a spade, and never could; but, boys, I handled a chisel and mallet; and many a hundred block of stone has come out smooth from under that hand;’ and Sir Roger lifted up his great broad palm wide open.
‘So you did, Roger, and well we minds it.’
‘The meaning, however, of that spade is to show that I made the railway. Now I’m very much obliged to those gentlemen over at the White Horse for putting up this picture of me. It’s a true picture, and it tells you who I am. I did make that railway. I have made thousands of miles of railway; I am making thousands of miles railways—some in Europe, some in Asia, some in America. It’s a true picture,’ and he poked his stick right through it and held it up to the crowd. ‘A true picture: but for that spade and that railway, I shouldn’t be now here asking your votes; and, when next February comes, I shouldn’t be sitting in Westminster to represent you, as by God’s grace, I certainly will do. That tells you who I am. But now, will you tell me who Mr Moffat is?’
‘How about the brandy, Roger?’
‘Oh, yes, the brandy! I was forgetting that and the little speech that is coming out of my mouth—a deal shorter speech, and a better one than what I am making now. Here, in the right hand you see a brandy bottle. Well, boys, I am not ashamed of that; as long as a man does his work—and the spade shows that—it’s only fair he should have something to comfort him. I’m always able to work, and few men work much harder. I’m always able to work, and no man has a right to expect more of me. I never expect more than that from those who word with me.’
‘No more you don’t, Roger: a little drop’s very good, ain’t it, Roger? Keeps the cold from the stomach, eh, Roger?’
‘Then as to this speech, “Come, Jack, let’s have a drop of some’at short”. Why, that’s a good speech too. When I do drink I like to share with a friend; and I don’t care how humble that friend is.’
‘Hurrah! more power. That’s true too, Roger; may you never be without a drop to wet your whistle.’
‘They say I’m the last new baronet. Well, I ain’t ashamed of that; not a bit. When will Mr Moffat get himself made a baronet? No man can truly say I’m too proud of it. I have never stuck myself up; no, nor stuck my wife up either: but I don’t see much to be ashamed of because the bigwigs chose to make a baronet of me.’
‘Nor, no more thee h’ant, Roger. We’d all be barrownites if so be we knew the way.’
‘But now, having polished off this bit of picture, let me ask you who Mr Moffat is? There are pictures enough about him, too; though Heaven knows where they all come from. I think Sir Edwin Landseer must have done this one of the goose; it is so deadly natural. Look at it; there he is. Upon my word, whoever did that ought to make his fortune at some of these exhibitions. Here he is again, with a big pair of scissors. He calls himself “England’s honour”; what the deuce England’s honour has to do with tailoring, I can’t tell you: perhaps Mr Moffat can. But mind you, my friends, I don’t say anything against tailoring: some of you are tailors, I dare say.’
‘Yes, we be,’ said a little squeaking voice from out of the crowd.
‘And a good trade it is. When I first know Barchester there were tailors here could lick any stone-mason in the trade; I say nothing against tailors. But it isn’t enough for a man to be a tailor unless he’s something else along with it. You’re not so fond of tailors that you’ll send one up to Parliament merely because he is a tailor.’
‘We won’t have no tailors. No; nor yet no cabbaging. Take a go of brandy, Roger; you’re blown.’
‘No, I’m not blown yet. I’ve a deal more to say about Mr Moffat before I shall be blown. What has he done to entitle him to come here before you and ask you to send him to Parliament? Why; he isn’t even a tailor. I wish he were. There’s always some good in a fellow who knows how to earn his own bread. But he isn’t a tailor; he can’t even put a stitch in towards mending England’s honour. His father was a tailor; not a Barchester tailor, mind you, so as to give him any claim on your affections; but a London tailor. Now the question is, do you want to send the son of a London tailor up to Parliament to represent you?’
‘No, we don’t; nor yet we won’t either.’
‘I rather think not. You’ve had him once, and what has he done for you? has he said much for you in the House of Commons? Why, he’s so dumb a dog that he can’t bark even for a bone. I’m told it’s quite painful to hear him fumbling and mumbling and trying to get up a speech there over at the White Horse. He doesn’t belong to the city; he hasn’t done anything for the city; and he hasn’t the power to do anything for the city. Then, why on earth does he come here? I’ll tell you. The Earl de Courcy brings him. He’s going to marry the Earl de Courcy’s niece; for they say he’s very rich—this tailor’s son—only they do say also that he doesn’t much like to spend his money. He’s going to marry Lord de Courcy’s niece, and Lord de Courcy wishes that his nephew should be in Parliament. There, that’s the claim which Mr Moffat has here on the people of Barchester. He’s Lord de Courcy’s nominee, and those who feel themselves bound hand and foot, heart and soul, to Lord de Courcy, had better vote for him. Such men have my leave. If there are enough of such at Barchester to send him to Parliament, the city in which I was born must be very much altered since I was a young man.’
And so finishing his speech, Sir Roger retired within, and recruited himself in the usual manner.
Such was the flood of eloquence at the Dragon of Wantly. At the White Horse, meanwhile, the friends of the De Courcy interest were treated perhaps to sounder political views; though not expressed in periods so intelligibly fluent as those of Sir Roger.
Mr Moffat was a young man, and there was no knowing to what proficiency in the Parliamentary gift of public talking he might yet attain; but hitherto his proficiency was not great. He had, however, endeavoured to make up by study for any want of readiness of speech, and had come to Barchester daily, for the last four days, fortified with a very pretty harangue, which he had prepared for himself in the solitude of his chamber. On the three previous days matters had been allowed to progress with tolerable smoothness, and he had been permitted to deliver himself of his elaborate eloquence with few other interruptions than those occasioned by his own want of practice. But on this, the day of days, the Barchesterian roughs were not so complaisant. It appeared to Mr Moffat, when he essayed to speak, that he was surrounded by enemies rather than friends; and in his heart he gave great blame to Mr Nearthewinde for not managing matters better for him.
‘Men of Barchester,’ he began, in a voice which was every now and then preternaturally loud, but which, at each fourth or fifth word, gave way from want of power, and descended to its natural weak tone. ‘Men of Barchester—electors and non-electors —’
‘We is hall electors; hall on us, my young kiddy.’
‘Electors and non-electors, I now ask your suffrages, not for the first time —’
‘Oh! we’ve tried you. We know what you’re made on. Go on, Snip; don’t you let ’em put you down.’
‘I’ve had the honour of representing you in Parliament for the last two years and —’
‘And a deuced deal you did for us, didn’t you?’
‘What could you expect from the ninth part of a man? Never mind, Snip—go on; don’t you be out by any of them. Stick to your wax and thread like a man—like the ninth part of a man—go on a little faster, Snip.’
‘For the last two years—and—and —’ Here Mr Moffat looked round to his friends for some little support, and the Honourable George, who stood close behind him, suggested that he had gone through it like a brick.
‘And—and I went through it like a brick,’ said Mr Moffat, with the gravest possible face, taking up in his utter confusion the words that were put into his mouth.
‘Hurray!—so you did—you’re the real brick. Well done, Snip; go it again with the wax and thread!’
‘I am a thorough-paced reformer,’ continued Mr Moffat, somewhat reassured by the effect of the opportune words which his friend had whispered into his ear. ‘A thorough-paced reformer—a thorough-paced reformer —’
‘Go on, Snip. We all know what that means.’
‘A thorough-paced reformer —’
‘Never mind your paces, man; but get on. Tell us something new. We’re all reformers, we are.’
Poor Mr Moffat was a little thrown back. It wasn’t so easy to tell these gentlemen anything new, harnessed as he was at this moment; so he looked back at his honourable supporter for some further hint. ‘Say something about their daughters,’ whispered George, whose own flights of oratory were always on that subject. Had he counselled Mr Moffat to way a word or two about the tides, his advice would not have been less to the purpose.
‘Gentlemen,’ he began again —‘you all know that I am a thorough-paced reformer —’
‘Oh, drat your reform. He’s a dumb dog. Go back to your goose, Snippy; you never were made for this work. Go to Courcy Castle and reform that.’
Mr Moffat, grieved in his soul, was becoming inextricably bewildered by such facetiae as these, when an egg—and it may be feared not a fresh egg—flung with unerring precision, struck him on the open part of his well-plaited shirt, and reduced him to speechless despair.
An egg is a means of delightful support when properly administered; but it is not calculated to add much spirit to a man’s eloquence, or to ensure his powers of endurance, when supplied in the manner above described. Men there are, doubtless, whose tongues would not be stopped even by such an argument as this; but Mr Moffat was not one of them. As the insidious fluid trickled down beneath his waistcoat, he felt that all further powers of coaxing the electors out of their votes, by words flowing from his tongue sweeter than honey, was for that occasion denied him. He could not be self-confident, energetic, witty, and good-humoured with a rotten egg, drying through his clothes. He was forced, therefore, to give way, and with sadly disconcerted air retired from the open window at which he had been standing.
It was in vain that the Honourable George, Mr Nearthewinde, and Frank endeavoured again to bring him to the charge. He was like a beaten prize-fighter, whose pluck has been cowed out of him, and who, if he stands up, only stands up to fall. Mr Moffat got sulky also, and when he was pressed, said that Barchester and the people in it might be d —-. ‘With all my heart,’ said Mr Nearthewinde. ‘That wouldn’t have any effect on their votes.’
But, in truth, it mattered very little whether Mr Moffat spoke, or whether he didn’t speak. Four o’clock was the hour for closing the poll, and that was now fast coming. Tremendous exertions had been made about half-past three, by a safe emissary sent from Nearthewinde, to prove to Mr Reddypalm that all manner of contingent advantages would accrue to the Brown Bear if it should turn out that Mr Moffat should take his seat for Barchester. No bribe was, of course offered or even hinted at. The purity of Barchester was not contaminated during the day by one such curse as this. But a man, and a publican, would be required to do some great deed in the public line. To open some colossal tapp to draw beer for the million; and no one would be so fit as Mr Reddypalm—if only it might turn out that Mr Moffat should, in the coming February, take his seat as member for Barchester.
But Mr Reddypalm was a man of humble desires, whose ambitions scored no higher than this—that his little bills should be duly settled. It was wonderful what love an innkeeper has for his bill in its entirety. An account, with a respectable total of five or six pounds, is brought to you, and you complain but of one article; that fire in the bedroom was never lighted; or that second glass of brandy and water was never called for. You desire to have the shilling expunged, and all your host’s pleasure in the whole transaction is destroyed. Oh! my friends, pay for the brandy and water, though you never drank it; suffer the fire to pass, though it never warmed you. Why make a good man miserable for such a trifle?
It became notified to Reddypalm with sufficient clearness that his bill for the past election should be paid without further question; and therefore, at five o’clock the Mayor of Barchester proclaimed the results of the contests in the following figures:—
Mr Reddypalm’s two votes had decided the question. Mr Nearthewinde immediately went up to town; and the dinner party at Courcy Castle that evening was not a particularly pleasant meal.
This much, however, had been absolutely decided before the yellow committee concluded their labour at the White Horse: there should be a petition. Mr Nearthewinde had not been asleep, and already knew something of the manner in which Mr Reddypalm’s mind had been quieted.
Last updated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 20:41