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The three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) online

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to open all barriers, even those with which the
sanctity of Sunday had surrounded the prisoner.
Mr. Outerman, and the bailiff', and the messen-
ger, had all been paid their fall claims, and Char-
ley, with his combs and brushes, had returned to
the more benign custody of Mrs. Eichards.

" And why didn't he come down with you ? "
said Katie to Norman, who had gone up to her
bedroom to give her the good tidings.

Norman looked at Mrs. Woodward, but made
no reply.

" He would probably prefer remaining in to^vn
at present," said Mrs. Woodward. " It will be
more comfortable for him to do so."

And then Katie was left alone to meditate
why Charley should be more comfortable after
his arrest in London than at Hampton ; and
after a while she thought that she had surmised
the truth. " Poor Charley ! perhaps he is
ashamed. He need not be ashamed to come
at any rate to me."



The electors for the Tillietndlem district burglis,
disgusted hj tlie roguery of Mr. M^'Buffer, and
anxiously on tlie alert to replace liim by a strictly
honest man, returned our friend Undy by a
glorious majority. He had no less than 312
votes, as opposed to 297, and though threatened
with the pains and penalties of a petition, he was
not a little elated by his success. A petition
with regard to the Tillietudlem burghs was almost
as much a matter of course as a contest : at any
rate the threat of a petition was so. Undy, how-
ever, had lived through this before, and did not
fear but that he might do so again. Threatened
folks live long, parliamentary petitions are very
costly, and TJndy's adversaries vv^ere, if possible,
even in more need of money than himself.

He communicated his good fortune to his
friend Alaric in the following letter : —

" Bellenden Arms,

''Tillietudlem, Jiihj 185—.

Here I am once more a constituent part
of the legislative wisdom of the United Kingdom,


thanks to tlie patriotic discretion of tlie pot-
wallopers, burgage tenants, and ten pound free-
holders of these loyal towns. The situation is a
proud one ; I could only wish that it had been
less expensive. I am plucked as clean as ever
was pigeon ; and over and above the loss of every
feather I carried, old M'^Cleury, my agent here,
will have a bill against me that will hardly be
settled before the next election. I do not com-
plain however; a man cannot have luxuries
without paying for them ; and this special luxury
of serving one's country in Parliament is one for
which a man has so often to pay, without the
subsequent fruition of the thing paid for, that a
successful candidate should never grumble, how-
ever much he may have been mulcted. They
talk of a petition ; but thank God there are still
such things as recognizances ; and, moreover, to
give M*^Cleury his due, I do not think he has
left a hole open for them to work at. He is a
thorough rascal, but no man does better work.

" I find there is already a slight rise in the
West Corks. Keep your eye open. If you find
you can realsie 4/. 4s. or even 4/. sell, and let
the West of Cork and Bally dehob go straight to
the devil. We should then be able to do better
with our money. But I doubt of such a sale
with so large a stock as we hold. I got a letter
yesterday from that Cork attorney, and I find
that he is quite prepared to giv^ way about the


brancli. He wants his price, of course ; and lie
must liave it. When once we have carried that
point, then it v/ill be plain sailing; our only
regret then will be that we didn't go further
into it. The calls of course must be met ; I shall
be able to do something in October, but shall not
have a shilling sooner, — unless I sell, which I
will not do under 80s.

" I was delighted to hear of your promotion ;
not that you'll remain in the shop long, but it
gives you a better name and a better claim. Old
Golightly was buried yesterday, as of course you
have heard. Mrs. Yal quite agrees with me that
3''our name had better be put in as that of Clem's
trustee. She's going to marry that d French-
man, ^^^lat an unmitigated ass that cousin of
yours must be. I can't say I admire her taste ;
but nevertheless she is welcome for me. It would,
hov\rever, be most scandalous if we were to allow
him to get possession of her money. He would,
as a matter of course, make ducks and drakes of
it in no time. Speculate probably in some
Russian railway, or Polish mine, and lose every
shilling. You wiU of course see it tied up tight
in the hands of the trustees, and merely pay him,
or if possible her, the interest of it. Now that I am
once more in, I do hope we shall be able to do some-
thing to protect the fortunes of married women.

" You v/ill be quite safe in laying out Clem's
money, or a portion of it, in the West Corks.


Indeed I don't know how you could well do
better with it. You will find Figgs a mere
shadow. I think we can pull through in this

manner. If not we must get to take

our joint bill. He would sooner do that than
have the works stopped. But then we should
have to pay a tremendous price for it.

"So we were well out of the Mary Janes at
last. The take, last month, was next to nothing,
and now she's full of water. Many lodes hung
on till just the last, and yet got out on his
feet after all. That fellow will make a mint of
money yet. What a pity that he should be such
a rogue ! If he were honest, honest enough I
mean to be trusted, he might do anything.

" I shall leave this on Wednesday night, take
the oaths on Thursday, and will see you in the
evening. McCarthy Desmond will at once move
that I be put on the West Cork Committee, in
j^lace of Nogo, who won't act. My shares are
all at present registered in Yal's name. It will be
well, however, to have them all transferred to you.

" Yours ever,

"U. S."

" M^Cleury has pledged himself to put me in
again without further expense, if I have to stand
before the general election, in consequence of
taking place under Government. I earnestly hoj^e
his sincerity may be tried."


During tlie month of July Alaric was busy
enouo'li. He had to do the work of his new
office, to attend to his somewhat critical duties
as director of the West Cork Eailway, to look
after the interests of Miss Golightly whose
marriage was to take place in August, and to
watch the parliamentary career of his friend
Undy, mth whose pecuniary affairs he was now
bound up in a manner which he could not avoid
feeling to be very perilous.

Nor vv^as he altogether happy. He had, it is
true, much pleasure in taking his seat in a
leathern arm-chair, at Sir Gregory's right hand,
and in feeling that by his own unaided exertions
he had raised himself to this position, v^diile he
was. yet under thirty years of age. He had
pleasure in his well-furnished room, in the state
and rank and appanage of his office, and in the
comfortable certainty of his increased income.
He had, too, an honest and most praiseworthy
pleasure in feeling that he had a scope for his
energy, and room in which to exercise his talents.
All this was delightful ; and he might have been
a happy man, had he allowed himself to be con-
tent with this. But a career of official industr}-
had not been sufficient to satisfy his aspirations.

He had seen that men grew rich around him,
men endowed mtli no talents higher than his
own, with no brighter genius, no more enduring
energies ; he had watched how nameless nobodies


had suddenly sprung forth to the world's view as
possessors of boundless wealth ; of boundless
wealth, and therefore of boundless honour. Villas
and mansions were built on all sides, containing
all the luxuries of a luxurious age, and were in-
habited as soon as built, by men who had begun
the world as empty handed as himself. He had
seen this, and had determined not to be last in
the race, not to be beaten in the struggle. Why
should not he fill his game bag as well as another,
— he to whom he felt in the pride of his heart,
Grod had given so much ? There was something
dastardly in remaining poor, when the great
contest going on around him was all for riches.
A man who, left to himself, would be contented
to walk slowly enough along life's highways, is
allured to a quick pace, when those around him
are hurrying on. One does not choose to be
passed by every one on one's way !

Thus in thinking, as men do think, of the
career before him, he had ever tempted himself
to spring onwards, — upwards he would have said
himself. And faulty as his feelings were, there
was nevertheless something noble in his aspira-
tions. He cared little for pleasure, or if he did
he was the more noble in resisting the temptation.
He laboured hard and truly in his vocation. He
put himself honestly to work, to cure what was
bad, and promote what was good, in his official
career. He aspired to take high station among


great people ; but he also aspired when there to
use his srreatness for the benefit of those below
him. " That last infirmity of noble minds/' if
it be an infirmity, had with him nothing mean
in it. He wished to rule. Grreat men have ever
wished to do so. The wealth he coveted, the
houses and gardens, the fast horses and liveried
servants wdiich he desired, were coveted only as
the means to a further end, were desired as being
in themselves conducive to greatness, not as the
rewards which greatness brings.

So far let us vindicate his motives, and make
for him such excuse before the bar of private
judgment, as private judgment may be per-
mitted to receive. Before the world's outer bar
no excuse can avail anything. With his purblind
worldly eyes he had failed to discover that
onwards and upwards were not the same ; that
to advance v/as not necessarily to ascend. To
this he had been blind, and such blindness is
fatal to true worth.

But even yet he was not utterly dead to
feelings of honesty; though with that fearful
callousness which when encouraged so quickly
envelopes the conscience, he had contrived to
quiet the inner voice which told him that so
much that he did was dishonest. He was not
yet all dishonest. He made a thousand excuses
to himself ; and reasoning to himself with falsest
logic, gilded over the pill which he forced himself


to swallow. His youthful trusting brow had grown
dark and sombre — his eye had become suspicious,
as do the eyes of all false men. He hurried to and
from his home, and had no time to linger with his
wife or play with his baby. Grertrude, though she
felt this keenly, did not blame liim. She knew how
ambitious was his nature, how hard he worked
for her and for her child, how intense was his
anxiety to rise by his own labours to power and
high place ; and that his anxiety was for her
sake as much as for his own. She knew all this,
and forbore to reprove him when he left her to
pass her lonely evenings with no companion but
her infant.

But he was not happy. Let him smother his
better feelings with false logic as he could ; let
him listen at night as he might to the arguments
with which Undy Scott proved that he only did
what all mankind were doing, still he had within
him a sufficient perception of the immutable rules
of right and wrong, to make hira uneasy in his
career. And then Undy Scott became tyrannical
in his logic, and sneered at Alaric's scruples when
Alaric had no longer the power, even if he had
the will, to pay back the sneers with scorn.

July passed by and was now over, and members
were looking to be relieved from their sultry
labours, and to be alloAved to seek air and exercise
on the mountains. The Bally dehob branch line
had received the sanction of Parliament through


the means wliicli the crafty Undy had so well
understood how to use ; but from some cause,
hitherto not suffiiciently fathomed, the shares had
continued to he depressed in value in spite of that
desirable event. It was necessary, however, that
calls should be ]3aid up to the amount of 5/. a
share, and as Undy and Alaric held nearly a
thousand shares between them, a large amount of
money was required. This, however, was made to
be forthcoming from Miss Golightly's fortune.

On the first of August that interesting young
lady was married to the man — shall we say of
her heart or of her feet ? The marriage went off
very nicely, but as we have already had one
wedding, and as others may perhaps be before us,
we cannot spare much time or many pages to
describe how Miss Grolightly became Madame
Jaquetanape. The lady seemed well pleased with
everything that was done, and had even in secret
but one care in the world. There was to be a
dance after she and her Yictoire were gone, and
she could not join in it !

We, however, are in the position as regards
Clementina, in which needy gentlemen not
unfrequently place themselves with reference to
rich heiresses. We have more concern with her
mone}?- than herself. She was married, and M.
Jaquetanape became the happy possessor of an
income of 800/. a year. Everybody conceived
him to behave well on the occasion. He acknov,r-


ledged that lie had very little means of his own —
about 4,000 francs a year, from rents in Paris.
He expressed himself willing to agree to any
settlement, thinking, perhaps with wisdom, that
he might in this way best make sure of his
wife's income, and was quite content when in-
formed that he would receive his quarterly pay-
ments from so respectable a source as one of Her
Majesty's Commissioners for the regulation of
the Civil Service. The Bank of France could
not have offered better security.

Thus Alaric obtained full control of Miss
Golightly's fortune, for Figgs, his co-trustee, was,
as has been said, a shadow. He obtained the
full control of 20,000/., and out of it he paid the
calls due upon the West Cork shares, held both
by himself and Undy Scott. But he put a salve
upon his conscience, and among his private
memoranda appertaining to that lady's money
affairs he made an entry, intelligible to any who
might read it, that he had so invested this money
on her behalf The entry was in itself a lie —
a foolish palpable lie — and yet he found in it
something to quiet remorse and stupify his

We have said that Undy Scott became
tyrptunical in his logic as soon as he had persuaded
Alaric to make use of a portion of Madame
Jaquetanape's marriage portion. " You have
taken a portion of the girl's money," was TJndy's


argument ; " you have already converted to your
owTi purposes so much of her fortune ; it is absurd
for you now to talk of conscience and honesty,
of your high duties as a trustee, of the inviolable
distinction between meum and tuum. You have
already shown that the distinction is not
in\dolable ; let us have no more such nonsense ;
there are still left 15,000/. on v/hich we can trade ;
open the till, and let us go on swimmingly with
the business."

Alaric was not addressed absolutely in these
words ; he would not probably have allovv^ed the
veil with which he still shrouded his dishonesty
to be withdrawn with so rough a hand; but that
which was said, was in effect the same. In
September he left town for a few weeks and went
down to Scotland, still with Undy Scott. He
had at first much liked tliis man's society, for
Scott was gay, lively, clever, and a good com^^anion
at all points. But latterly he had become weary
of him. He now put up with him as men in
business have to put up with partners whom they
may not like ; or, perhaps, to speak the truth
openly, he bore with him as a rogue bears A\dth
his confederate, though he absolutely hates his
brother rogue on account of his very roguery.
Alaric Tudor was now a rogue ; despite his high
office, his grand ideas, his exalted ambition ;
despite his talent, zeal, and well-directed official
labours, he was a rogue, a thief, a villain who
had stolen the money of the orplian, who had


undertakeii a trust merely that he might break
it ; a robber, doubly disgraced by being a robber
with an education, a Bill Sykes without any of
those excuses which a philanthropist cannot but
make for wretches brought up in infamy.

Alas, alas, how is it that in these days such
men become rogues ? How is it that we see in
such frightful and repeated instances the impo-
tency of educated men to withstand the allure-
ments of Avealth ? Men are not now more keen
after the pleasures which wealth can buy than
were their forefathers. One would rather sav that
they are less so. The rich labour now, and work
with an assiduity that often puts to shame the
sweat in which the poor man earns his bread.
The rich rogue, or the rogue that would be rich,
is always a laborious man. He allows himself
but little recreation, for dishonest labour admits
of no cessation. His wheel is one which cannot
rest without disclosing the nature of the works
which move it.

It is not for pleasure, that men

Put rancours in the vessel of their peace ;

nor yet primarily, for ambition. . Men do not
wish to rise by treachery, or to become great
through dishonesty. The object, the ultimate
object, which a man sets before himself is
generally a good one. But he sets it up in so
enviable a point of vievv^, his imagination makes
it so richly desirable, by being gazed at it


becomes so necessary to existence, that its attain-
ment is imperative. The object is good, but the
means of attaining it — the path to the object.
Ah ! there is the slip. Expediency is the
dangerous wind by which so many of us have
wrecked our little boats.

And we do so more now than ever, because
great ships, swimming in deepest waters, have
unluckily come safe to haven though wafted
there by the same pernicious wind. Every great
man who gains a great end by dishonest means,
does more to deteriorate his country and lower
the standard of his countrymen, than legions of
vulgar thieves, or nameless unaspiring rogues.
Wlio has injured us so much in this way as he
whose name still stands highest among modem
politicians ? Who has given so great a blow to
political honesty, has done so much to banish
from men's minds the idea of a life-rulino:
principle as Sir Eobert Peel ?

It would shock many Avere we to attribute to
liim the roguery of the Sadleirs and Camerons,
of the Eobsons and Hedpaths of the present day ;
but could we analyze causes and effects, we might
perhaps do so with no injustice. He has taught us
as a great lesson that a man who has before him
a mighty object may dispense with those old-
fashioned rules of truth to his neighbours and
honesty to his own principles, which should
guide us in ordinary life. At Avhat point


ordinary life ends, at wliat crisis objects may be
considered great enough to justify the use of a
dispensing power, that he has not taught us ;
that no Sir Bobert Peel can teach us ; that must
unfortunately be left to the judgment of the
individual. How ]3i'one we are, each of us, to
look on our own object as great, how ready to
make excuses for receiving such a lesson for our
guide, how willing to think that we may be
allowed to use this dispensing power ourselves —
this experience teaches his in very plain language.

Thrice in his political life did Sir Robert Peel
change his political creed, and carry, or assist to
carry, with more or less of self-gratulation the
measures of his adversaries. Thrice by doing so
he kept to himself that political power which he
had fairly forfeited by previous apposition to the
requirements of his country. Such an apposition
of circumstances is at any rate suspicious. But
let us give him credit for the expression of a true
belief ; of a belief at first that the corn-laws
should be maintained, and then of a belief that
they should not ; let us with a forced confidence
in his personal honesty declare so much of him ;
nevertheless, he should surely have felt, had he
been politically as well as personally honest, that
he was not the man to repeal them.

But it was necessary, his apologist will say,
that the corn-laws should be repealed ; he saw
the necessity and yielded to it. It certainly was


necessary, very necessary, very unavoidable,
absolutely necessary one may say, a fact, which
the united efforts of all the Peels of the day
could in nowise longer delay, having alread}^
delayed it to the utmost extent of their power.
It was essential that the corn-laws should be
repealed ; but by no means essential that this
should be done by Sir Eobert Peel.

It was a matter of indifference to us English-
men who did the deed. But to Sir Eobert Peel
it was matter of great moment that he should
do it. He did it, and posterity will point at him
as a politician without policy, as a statesman
without a principle, as a worshipper at the altar of
expediency, to whom neither vows sworn to
friends, nor declarations made to his country,
were in any way binding. Had Sir Robert Peel
lived, and did the people now resolutely desire
that the Church of England should be aban-
doned, that lords and commons should bow
the neck, that the Crown should fall, who can
believe that Sir Eobert Peel would not be ready
to carry out their views ? Eeaders, it may be
that to you such deeds as those are horrible even
to be thought of or expressed ; to me I own that
they are so. So also to Sir Eobert Peel was
Catholic Emancipation horrible, so was reform of
Parliament, so was the Corn Law Eepeal. They
were horrible to him, horrible to be thought of,
horrible to be expressed. But the people re-



quired these measures, and therefore he carried
them, arguing on their behalf with all the as-
tuteness of a practised statesman.

That Sir Robert Peel should be a worship-
per of expediency might be matter of small
moment to any but his biographer, were it not
that we are so prone to copy the example of those
whose names are ever in our mouths. It has
now become the doctrine of a large class of
politicians that political honesty is unnecessary,
slow, subversive to a man's interests, and incom-
patible with quick onward movement. Such a
doctrine in politics is to be deplored ; but alas !
who can confine it to politics ? It creeps with
gradually, but still with sure and quick motion,
into all the doings of our daily life. How shall
the man who has taught himself that he may be
false in the House of Commons, how shall he be
true in the Treasury Chambers ? or if false there,
how true on the Exchange ? and if false there,
how shall he longer have any truth within him ?
And thus Alaric Tudor had become a rogue,
and was obliged, as it were in his own defence,
to consort with a rogue. He went doT\Ti to
Scotland with Undy leaving his mfe and child
at home, not because he could thus best amuse
his few leisure days, but because this new work
of his, this laborious trade of roguery, allowed
him no leisure days. When can villany have
either days or hours of leisure ?


Among other things to be done in the north,
Alaric was to make acquaintance with the con-
stituents of the little borough of Strathbogy,
which it was his ambition to represent in the
next Parliament. Strathbogy was on the confines
of the Gaberlunzie property ; and indeed the
lord's eldest son, who was the present member,
lived almost within the municipal boundary.
Ca'stocks Cottage, as his residence was called,
was but a humble house for a peer's eldest son ;
but Mr. Scott was not ashamed to live there, and
there for a while he entertained his brother Undy
and Alaric Tudor. Mr. Scott intended, when the
present session was over, to retire from the labours
of parliamentary life. It may be that he thought
that he had done enough for his country ; it
may be that the men of Strathbogy thought
that he had not done enough for them ; it may
be that there was. some family understanding
between him and his brother. This, however,
was clear, that he did not intend to stand again
himself, and that he professed himself ready to
put forward Alaric Tudor as a worthy successor,
and to give him the fuU benefit and weight of
the Graberlunzie interest.

But not for nothing was Alaric to receive such
important assistance.

"There are but 31.2 electors altogether," said

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