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mercy, and, probably, in controlling the interference of policemen.

"It will be deuced hard if I can't get five or six shies at him,"
said Frank, again clutching his weapon almost spasmodically. Oh, Mr
Moffat! five or six shies with such a whip, and such an arm! For
myself, I would sooner join in a second Balaclava gallop than
encounter it.

At ten minutes before four these two heroes might be seen walking up
Pall Mall, towards the - - Club. Young Baker walked with an eager
disengaged air. Mr Moffat did not know his appearance; he had,
therefore, no anxiety to pass along unnoticed. But Frank had in some
mysterious way drawn his hat very far over his forehead, and had
buttoned his shooting-coat up round his chin. Harry had recommended
to him a great-coat, in order that he might the better conceal his
face; but Frank had found that the great-coat was an encumbrance to
his arm. He put it on, and when thus clothed he had tried the whip,
he found that he cut the air with much less potency than in the
lighter garment. He contented himself, therefore, with looking down
on the pavement as he walked along, letting the long point of the
whip stick up from his pocket, and flattering himself that even Mr
Moffat would not recognise him at the first glance. Poor Mr Moffat!
If he had but had the chance!

And now, having arrived at the front of the club, the two friends for
a moment separate: Frank remains standing on the pavement, under the
shade of the high stone area-railing, while Harry jauntily skips up
three steps at a time, and with a very civil word of inquiry of the
hall porter, sends in his card to Mr Moffat -


MR HARRY BAKER


Mr Moffat, never having heard of such a gentleman in his life,
unwittingly comes out into the hall, and Harry, with the sweetest
smile, addresses him.

Now the plan of the campaign had been settled in this wise: Baker
was to send into the club for Mr Moffat, and invite that gentleman
down into the street. It was probable that the invitation might
be declined; and it had been calculated in such case that the two
gentlemen would retire for parley into the strangers' room, which was
known to be immediately opposite the hall door. Frank was to keep his
eye on the portals, and if he found that Mr Moffat did not appear
as readily as might be desired, he also was to ascend the steps and
hurry into the strangers' room. Then, whether he met Mr Moffat there
or elsewhere, or wherever he might meet him, he was to greet him with
all the friendly vigour in his power, while Harry disposed of the
club porters.

But fortune, who ever favours the brave, specially favoured Frank
Gresham on this occasion. Just as Harry Baker had put his card
into the servant's hand, Mr Moffat, with his hat on, prepared for
the street, appeared in the hall; Mr Baker addressed him with his
sweetest smile, and begged the pleasure of saying a word or two as
they descended into the street. Had not Mr Moffat been going thither
it would have been very improbable that he should have done so at
Harry's instance. But, as it was, he merely looked rather solemn
at his visitor - it was his wont to look solemn - and continued the
descent of the steps.

Frank, his heart leaping the while, saw his prey, and retreated two
steps behind the area-railing, the dread weapon already well poised
in his hand. Oh! Mr Moffat! Mr Moffat! if there be any goddess to
interfere in thy favour, let her come forward now without delay; let
her now bear thee off on a cloud if there be one to whom thou art
sufficiently dear! But there is no such goddess.

Harry smiled blandly till they were well on the pavement, saying some
nothing, and keeping the victim's face averted from the avenging
angel; and then, when the raised hand was sufficiently nigh, he
withdrew two steps towards the nearest lamp-post. Not for him was the
honour of the interview; - unless, indeed, succouring policemen might
give occasion for some gleam of glory.

But succouring policemen were no more to be come by than goddesses.
Where were ye, men, when that savage whip fell about the ears of the
poor ex-legislator? In Scotland Yard, sitting dozing on your benches,
or talking soft nothings to the housemaids round the corner; for ye
were not walking on your beats, nor standing at coign of vantage, to
watch the tumults of the day. But had ye been there what could ye
have done? Had Sir Richard himself been on the spot Frank Gresham
would still, we may say, have had his five shies at that unfortunate
one.

When Harry Baker quickly seceded from the way, Mr Moffat at once saw
the fate before him. His hair doubtless stood on end, and his voice
refused to give the loud screech with which he sought to invoke the
club. An ashy paleness suffused his cheeks, and his tottering steps
were unable to bear him away in flight. Once, and twice, the cutting
whip came well down across his back. Had he been wise enough to stand
still and take his thrashing in that attitude, it would have been
well for him. But men so circumstanced have never such prudence.
After two blows he made a dash at the steps, thinking to get back
into the club; but Harry, who had by no means reclined in idleness
against the lamp-post, here stopped him: "You had better go back into
the street," said Harry; "indeed you had," giving him a shove from
off the second step.

Then of course Frank could not do other than hit him anywhere. When a
gentleman is dancing about with much energy it is hardly possible to
strike him fairly on his back. The blows, therefore, came now on his
legs and now on his head; and Frank unfortunately got more than his
five or six shies before he was interrupted.

The interruption however came, all too soon for Frank's idea of
justice. Though there be no policeman to take part in a London row,
there are always others ready enough to do so; amateur policemen,
who generally sympathise with the wrong side, and, in nine cases
out of ten, expend their generous energy in protecting thieves and
pickpockets. When it was seen with what tremendous ardour that
dread weapon fell about the ears of the poor undefended gentleman,
interference there was at last, in spite of Harry Baker's best
endeavours, and loudest protestations.

"Do not interrupt them, sir," said he; "pray do not. It is a family
affair, and they will neither of them like it."

In the teeth, however, of these assurances, rude people did
interfere, and after some nine or ten shies Frank found himself
encompassed by the arms, and encumbered by the weight of a very stout
gentleman, who hung affectionately about his neck and shoulders;
whereas, Mr Moffat was already receiving consolation from two
motherly females, sitting in a state of syncope on the good-natured
knees of a fishmonger's apprentice.

Frank was thoroughly out of breath: nothing came from his lips but
half-muttered expletives and unintelligible denunciations of the
iniquity of his foe. But still he struggled to be at him again. We
all know how dangerous is the taste of blood; now cruelty will become
a custom even with the most tender-hearted. Frank felt that he had
hardly fleshed his virgin lash: he thought, almost with despair, that
he had not yet at all succeeded as became a man and a brother; his
memory told him of but one or two of the slightest touches that had
gone well home to the offender. He made a desperate effort to throw
off that incubus round his neck and rush again to the combat.

"Harry - Harry; don't let him go - don't let him go," he barely
articulated.

"Do you want to murder the man, sir; to murder him?" said the stout
gentleman over his shoulder, speaking solemnly into his very ear.

"I don't care," said Frank, struggling manfully but uselessly. "Let
me out, I say; I don't care - don't let him go, Harry, whatever you
do."

"He has got it prettily tidily," said Harry; "I think that will
perhaps do for the present."

By this time there was a considerable concourse. The club steps were
crowded with the members; among whom there were many of Mr Moffat's
acquaintance. Policemen also now flocked up, and the question arose
as to what should be done with the originators of the affray. Frank
and Harry found that they were to consider themselves under a gentle
arrest, and Mr Moffat, in a fainting state, was carried into the
interior of the club.

Frank, in his innocence, had intended to have celebrated this little
affair when it was over by a light repast and a bottle of claret
with his friend, and then to have gone back to Cambridge by the mail
train. He found, however, that his schemes in this respect were
frustrated. He had to get bail to attend at Marlborough Street
police-office should he be wanted within the next two or three days;
and was given to understand that he would be under the eye of the
police, at any rate until Mr Moffat should be out of danger.

"Out of danger!" said Frank to his friend with a startled look.
"Why I hardly got at him." Nevertheless, they did have their slight
repast, and also their bottle of claret.

On the second morning after this occurrence, Frank was again sitting
in that public room at the Tavistock, and Harry was again sitting
opposite to him. The whip was not now so conspicuously produced
between them, having been carefully packed up and put away among
Frank's other travelling properties. They were so sitting, rather
glum, when the door swung open, and a heavy, quick step was heard
advancing towards them. It was the squire; whose arrival there had
been momentarily expected.

"Frank," said he - "Frank, what on earth is all this?" and as he spoke
he stretched out both hands, the right to his son and the left to his
friend.

"He has given a blackguard a licking, that is all," said Harry.

Frank felt that his hand was held with a peculiarly warm grasp; and
he could not but think that his father's face, raised though his
eyebrows were - though there was on it an intended expression of
amazement and, perhaps, regret - nevertheless he could not but think
that his father's face looked kindly at him.

"God bless my soul, my dear boy! what have you done to the man?"

"He's not a ha'porth the worse, sir," said Frank, still holding his
father's hand.

"Oh, isn't he!" said Harry, shrugging his shoulders. "He must be made
of some very tough article then."

"But my dear boys, I hope there's no danger. I hope there's no
danger."

"Danger!" said Frank, who could not yet induce himself to believe
that he had been allowed a fair chance with Mr Moffat.

"Oh, Frank! Frank! how could you be so rash? In the middle of Pall
Mall, too. Well! well! well! All the women down at Greshamsbury will
have it that you have killed him."

"I almost wish I had," said Frank.

"Oh, Frank! Frank! But now tell me - "

And then the father sat well pleased while he heard, chiefly from
Harry Baker, the full story of his son's prowess. And then they did
not separate without another slight repast and another bottle of
claret.

Mr Moffat retired to the country for a while, and then went abroad;
having doubtless learnt that the petition was not likely to give him
a seat for the city of Barchester. And this was the end of the wooing
with Miss Gresham.




CHAPTER XXII

Sir Roger Is Unseated


After this, little occurred at Greshamsbury, or among Greshamsbury
people, which it will be necessary for us to record. Some notice was,
of course, taking of Frank's prolonged absence from his college; and
tidings, perhaps exaggerated tidings, of what had happened in Pall
Mall were not slow to reach the High Street of Cambridge. But that
affair was gradually hushed up; and Frank went on with his studies.

He went back to his studies: it then being an understood arrangement
between him and his father that he should not return to Greshamsbury
till the summer vacation. On this occasion, the squire and Lady
Arabella had, strange to say, been of the same mind. They both wished
to keep their son away from Miss Thorne; and both calculated, that
at his age and with his disposition, it was not probable that any
passion would last out a six months' absence. "And when the summer
comes it will be an excellent opportunity for us to go abroad," said
Lady Arabella. "Poor Augusta will require some change to renovate her
spirits."

To this last proposition the squire did not assent. It was, however,
allowed to pass over; and this much was fixed, that Frank was not to
return home till midsummer.

It will be remembered that Sir Roger Scatcherd had been elected
as sitting member for the city of Barchester; but it will also be
remembered that a petition against his return was threatened. Had
that petition depended solely on Mr Moffat, Sir Roger's seat no doubt
would have been saved by Frank Gresham's cutting whip. But such
was not the case. Mr Moffat had been put forward by the de Courcy
interest; and that noble family with its dependants was not to go to
the wall because Mr Moffat had had a thrashing. No; the petition was
to go on; and Mr Nearthewinde declared, that no petition in his hands
had half so good a chance of success. "Chance, no, but certainty,"
said Mr Nearthewinde; for Mr Nearthewinde had learnt something with
reference to that honest publican and the payment of his little bill.

The petition was presented and duly backed; the recognisances were
signed, and all the proper formalities formally executed; and Sir
Roger found that his seat was in jeopardy. His return had been a
great triumph to him; and, unfortunately, he had celebrated that
triumph as he had been in the habit of celebrating most of the very
triumphant occasions of his life. Though he was than hardly yet
recovered from the effects of his last attack, he indulged in another
violent drinking bout; and, strange to say, did so without any
immediate visible bad effects.

In February he took his seat amidst the warm congratulations of
all men of his own class, and early in the month of April his case
came on for trial. Every kind of electioneering sin known to the
electioneering world was brought to his charge; he was accused of
falseness, dishonesty, and bribery of every sort: he had, it was said
in the paper of indictment, bought votes, obtained them by treating,
carried them off by violence, conquered them by strong drink, polled
them twice over, counted those of dead men, stolen them, forged them,
and created them by every possible, fictitious contrivance: there was
no description of wickedness appertaining to the task of procuring
votes of which Sir Roger had not been guilty, either by himself or
by his agents. He was quite horror-struck at the list of his own
enormities. But he was somewhat comforted when Mr Closerstil told him
that the meaning of it all was that Mr Romer, the barrister, had paid
a former bill due to Mr Reddypalm, the publican.

"I fear he was indiscreet, Sir Roger; I really fear he was. Those
young men always are. Being energetic, they work like horses; but
what's the use of energy without discretion, Sir Roger?"

"But, Mr Closerstil, I knew nothing about it from first to last."

"The agency can be proved, Sir Roger," said Mr Closerstil, shaking
his head. And then there was nothing further to be said on the
matter.

In these days of snow-white purity all political delinquency is
abominable in the eyes of British politicians; but no delinquency is
so abominable as that of venality at elections. The sin of bribery is
damnable. It is the one sin for which, in the House of Commons, there
can be no forgiveness. When discovered, it should render the culprit
liable to political death, without hope of pardon. It is treason
against a higher throne than that on which the Queen sits. It is a
heresy which requires an _auto-da-fé_. It is a pollution to the whole
House, which can only be cleansed by a great sacrifice. Anathema
maranatha! out with it from amongst us, even though the half of our
heart's blood be poured forth in the conflict! out with it, and for
ever!

Such is the language of patriotic members with regard to bribery;
and doubtless, if sincere, they are in the right. It is a bad thing,
certainly, that a rich man should buy votes; bad also that a poor man
should sell them. By all means let us repudiate such a system with
heartfelt disgust.

With heartfelt disgust, if we can do so, by all means; but not with
disgust pretended only and not felt in the heart at all. The laws
against bribery at elections are now so stringent that an unfortunate
candidate may easily become guilty, even though actuated by the
purest intentions. But not the less on that account does any
gentleman, ambitious of the honour of serving his country in
Parliament, think it necessary as a preliminary measure to provide
a round sum of money at his banker's. A candidate must pay for no
treating, no refreshments, no band of music; he must give neither
ribbons to the girls nor ale to the men. If a huzza be uttered in
his favour, it is at his peril; it may be necessary for him to prove
before a committee that it was the spontaneous result of British
feeling in his favour, and not the purchased result of British beer.
He cannot safely ask any one to share his hotel dinner. Bribery hides
itself now in the most impalpable shapes, and may be effected by the
offer of a glass of sherry. But not the less on this account does a
poor man find that he is quite unable to overcome the difficulties of
a contested election.

We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels
with ease. For what purpose is it that we employ those peculiarly
safe men of business - Messrs Nearthewinde and Closerstil - when we
wish to win our path through all obstacles into that sacred recess,
if all be so open, all so easy, all so much above board? Alas! the
money is still necessary, is still prepared, or at any rate expended.
The poor candidate of course knows nothing of the matter till the
attorney's bill is laid before him, when all danger of petitions has
passed away. He little dreamed till then, not he, that there had been
banquetings and junketings, secret doings and deep drinkings at his
expense. Poor candidate! Poor member! Who was so ignorant as he!
'Tis true he has paid such bills before; but 'tis equally true that
he specially begged his managing friend, Mr Nearthewinde, to be
very careful that all was done according to law! He pays the bill,
however, and on the next election will again employ Mr Nearthewinde.

Now and again, at rare intervals, some glimpse into the inner
sanctuary does reach the eyes of ordinary mortal men without;
some slight accidental peep into those mysteries from whence
all corruption has been so thoroughly expelled; and then, how
delightfully refreshing is the sight, when, perhaps, some ex-member,
hurled from his paradise like a fallen peri, reveals the secret of
that pure heaven, and, in the agony of his despair, tells us all
that it cost him to sit for - - through those few halcyon years!

But Mr Nearthewinde is a safe man, and easy to be employed with but
little danger. All these stringent bribery laws only enhance the
value of such very safe men as Mr Nearthewinde. To him, stringent
laws against bribery are the strongest assurance of valuable
employment. Were these laws of a nature to be evaded with ease, any
indifferent attorney might manage a candidate's affairs and enable
him to take his seat with security.

It would have been well for Sir Roger if he had trusted solely to
Mr Closerstil; well also for Mr Romer had he never fished in those
troubled waters. In due process of time the hearing of the petition
came on, and then who so happy, sitting at his ease at his London
Inn, blowing his cloud from a long pipe, with measureless content, as
Mr Reddypalm? Mr Reddypalm was the one great man of the contest. All
depended on Mr Reddypalm; and well he did his duty.

The result of the petition was declared by the committee to be as
follows: - that Sir Roger's election was null and void - that the
election altogether was null and void - that Sir Roger had, by his
agent, been guilty of bribery in obtaining a vote, by the payment
of a bill alleged to have been previously refused payment - that Sir
Roger himself knew nothing about it; - this is always a matter of
course; - but that Sir Roger's agent, Mr Romer, had been wittingly
guilty of bribery with reference to the transaction above described.
Poor Sir Roger! Poor Mr Romer.

Poor Mr Romer indeed! His fate was perhaps as sad as well might be,
and as foul a blot to the purism of these very pure times in which
we live. Not long after those days, it so happening that some
considerable amount of youthful energy and quidnunc ability were
required to set litigation afloat at Hong-Kong, Mr Romer was sent
thither as the fittest man for such work, with rich assurance of
future guerdon. Who so happy then as Mr Romer! But even among the
pure there is room for envy and detraction. Mr Romer had not yet
ceased to wonder at new worlds, as he skimmed among the islands of
that southern ocean, before the edict had gone forth for his return.
There were men sitting in that huge court of Parliament on whose
breasts it lay as an intolerable burden, that England should be
represented among the antipodes by one who had tampered with the
purity of the franchise. For them there was no rest till this great
disgrace should be wiped out and atoned for. Men they were of that
calibre, that the slightest reflection on them of such a stigma
seemed to themselves to blacken their own character. They could not
break bread with satisfaction till Mr Romer was recalled. He was
recalled, and of course ruined - and the minds of those just men were
then at peace.

To any honourable gentleman who really felt his brow suffused with
a patriotic blush, as he thought of his country dishonoured by Mr
Romer's presence at Hong-Kong - to any such gentleman, if any such
there were, let all honour be given, even though the intensity of his
purity may create amazement to our less finely organised souls. But
if no such blush suffused the brow of any honourable gentleman; if Mr
Romer was recalled from quite other feelings - what then in lieu of
honour shall we allot to those honourable gentlemen who were most
concerned?

Sir Roger, however, lost his seat, and, after three months of the
joys of legislation, found himself reduced by a terrible blow to the
low level of private life.

And the blow to him was very heavy. Men but seldom tell the truth of
what is in them, even to their dearest friends; they are ashamed of
having feelings, or rather of showing that they are troubled by any
intensity of feeling. It is the practice of the time to treat all
pursuits as though they were only half important to us, as though
in what we desire we were only half in earnest. To be visibly eager
seems childish, and is always bad policy; and men, therefore,
nowadays, though they strive as hard as ever in the service of
ambition - harder than ever in that of mammon - usually do so with
a pleasant smile on, as though after all they were but amusing
themselves with the little matter in hand.

Perhaps it had been so with Sir Roger in those electioneering days
when he was looking for votes. At any rate, he had spoken of his seat
in Parliament as but a doubtful good. "He was willing, indeed, to
stand, having been asked; but the thing would interfere wonderfully
with his business; and then, what did he know about Parliament?
Nothing on earth: it was the maddest scheme, but nevertheless, he was
not going to hang back when called upon - he had always been rough and
ready when wanted, - and there he was now ready as ever, and rough
enough too, God knows."

'Twas thus that he had spoken of his coming parliamentary honours;
and men had generally taken him at his word. He had been returned,
and this success had been hailed as a great thing for the cause and
class to which he belonged. But men did not know that his inner heart
was swelling with triumph, and that his bosom could hardly contain
his pride as he reflected that the poor Barchester stone-mason was
now the representative in Parliament of his native city. And so, when
his seat was attacked, he still laughed and joked. "They were welcome
to it for him," he said; "he could keep it or want it; and of the
two, perhaps, the want of it would come most convenient to him. He
did not exactly think that he had bribed any one; but if the bigwigs
chose to say so, it was all one to him. He was rough and ready, now
as ever," &c., &c.

But when the struggle came, it was to him a fearful one; not the
less fearful because there was no one, no, not one friend in all the



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 23 of 49)