Chippinge borough, p.1
Chippinge Borough, p.1Stanley John Weyman
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2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
Author of "The Long Night," Etc.
NEW YORK McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO. MCMVI
_Copyright_, 1906, _by_ McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
Copyright, 1905, 1905, by Stanley J. Weyman.
I. The Dissolution.
II. The Spirit of the Storm.
III. Two Letters.
IV. Tantivy! Tantivy! Tantivy!
V. Rosy-fingered Dawn.
VI. The Patron of Chippinge.
VII. The Winds of Autumn.
VIII. A Sad Misadventure.
IX. The Bill for Giving Everybody Everything.
X. The Queen's Square Academy for Young Ladies.
XI. Don Giovanni Flixton.
XII. A Rotten Borough.
XIII. The Vermuyden Dinner.
XIV. Miss Sibson's Mistake.
XV. Mr. Pybus's Offer.
XVI. Less than a Hero.
XVII. The Chippinge Election.
XVIII. The Chippinge Election (_Continued_).
XIX. The Fruits of Victory.
XX. A Plot Unmasked.
XXI. A Meeting of Old Friends.
XXII. Women's Hearts.
XXIII. In the House.
XXIV. A Right and Left.
XXV. At Stapylton.
XXVI. The Scene in the Hall.
XXVII. Wicked Shifts.
XXVIII. Once More, Tantivy!
XXIX. Autumn Leaves.
XXX. The Mayor's Reception in Queen's Square.
XXXI. Sunday in Bristol.
XXXII. The Affray at the Palace.
XXXIV. Hours of Darkness.
XXXV. The Morning of Monday.
XXXVII. In the Mourning Coach.
XXXVIII. Threads and Patches.
It was April 22, 1831, and a young man was walking down Whitehall inthe direction of Parliament Street. He wore shepherd's plaid trousersand the swallow-tail coat of the day, with a figured muslin cravatwound about his wide-spread collar. He halted opposite the PrivyGardens, and, with his face turned skywards, listened until the soundof the Tower guns smote again on the ear and dispelled his doubts. Tothe experienced, his outward man, neat and modestly prosperous,denoted a young barrister of promise or a Treasury clerk. His figurewas good, he was above the middle height, and he carried himself withan easy independence. He seemed to be one who both held a fair opinionof himself and knew how to impress that opinion on his fellows; yetwas not incapable of deference where deference was plainly due. He wasneither ugly nor handsome, neither slovenly nor a _petit-maitre_;indeed, it was doubtful if he had ever seen the inside of Almack's.But his features were strong and intellectual, and the keen grey eyeswhich looked so boldly on the world could express both humour and goodhumour. In a word, this young man was one upon whom women, even greatladies, were likely to look with pleasure, and one woman--but he hadnot yet met her--with tenderness.
He was only one among a dozen, who within the space of a few yards hadbeen brought to a stand by the sound; who knew what the salute meant,and in their various ways were moved by it. The rumour which had flownthrough the town in the morning that the King was about to dissolvehis six-months-old Parliament was true, then! so true that already inthe clubs, from Boodle's to Brooks's, men were sending off despatches,while the long arms of the semaphore were carrying the news to theContinent. Persons began to run by Vaughan--the young man's name wasArthur Vaughan; and behind him the street was filling with a multitudehastening to see the sight, or so much of it as the vulgar might see.Some ran towards Westminster without disguise. Some, of a higherstation, walked as fast as dignity and their strapped trouserspermitted; while others again, who thought themselves wiser than theirneighbours, made quickly for Downing Street and the different openingswhich led into St. James's Park, in the hope of catching a glimpse ofthe procession before the crowd about the Houses engulfed it.
Nine out of ten, as they ran or walked--nay, it might be said moretruly, ninety-nine out of a hundred--evinced a joy quite out of thecommon, and such as no political event of these days produces. Onecried, "Hip! Hip! Hip!"; one flung up his cap; one swore gaily.Strangers told one another that it was a good thing, bravely done! Andwhile the whole of that part of the town seemed to be moving towardsthe Houses, the guns boomed on, proclaiming to all the world that theunexpected had happened; that the Parliament which had passed thePeople's Bill by one--a miserable one in the largest House which hadever voted--and having done that, had shelved it by some shift, somesubterfuge, was meeting the fate which it deserved.
No man, be it noted, called the measure the Reform Bill, or anythingbut the Bill, or, affectionately, the People's Bill. But they calledit that repeatedly, and in their enthusiasm, exulted in the fall ofits enemies as in a personal gain. And though here and there amid thegeneral turmoil a man of mature age stood aside and scowled on thecrowd as it swept vociferating by him, such men were but as straws ina backwater of the stream--powerless to arrest the current, and liableat any moment to be swept within its influence.
That generation had seen many a coach start laurel-clad from St.Martin's and listened many a time to the salvoes that told ofvictories in France or Flanders. But it was no exaggeration to saythat even Waterloo had not flung abroad more general joy, nor sown thedingy streets with brighter faces, than this civil gain. For now--now,surely--the People's Bill would pass, and the people be trulyrepresented in Parliament! Now, for certain, the Bill's ill-wisherswould get a fall! And if every man--about which some doubts werewhispered even in the public-houses--did not get a vote which he couldsell for a handful of gold, as his betters had sold their votes timeout of mind, at least there would be beef and beer for all! Or, if notthat, something indefinite, but vastly pleasant. Few, indeed, knewprecisely what they wished and what they were going to gain, but
_Hurrah for Mr. Brougham!_ _Hurrah for Gaffer Grey!_ _Hurrah for Lord John!_
Hurrah, in a word, for the Ministry, hurrah for the Whigs! And aboveall, three cheers for the King, who had stood by Lord Grey anddissolved this niggling, hypocritical Parliament of landowners.
Meanwhile the young man who has been described resumed his course; butslowly, and without betraying by any marked sign that he shared thegeneral feeling. Still, he walked with his head a little higher thanbefore; he seemed to sniff the battle; and there was a light in hiseyes as if he saw a wider arena before him. "It is true, then," hemuttered. "And for to-day I shall have my errand for my pains. He willhave other fish to fry, and will not see me. But what of that! Anotherday will do as well."
At this moment a ragamuffin in an old jockey-cap attached himself tohim, and, runni
"Run, your honour," he croaked in gin-laden accents, "and you'll 'avea good place! And I'll drink your honour's health, and Billy theKing's! Sure he's the father of his country, and seven besides. Comeon, your honour, or they'll be jostling you!"
Vaughan glanced down and shook his head. He waved the man away.
But the lout looked only to his market, and was not easily repulsed."He's there, I tell you," he persisted. "And for threepence I'll getyou to see him. Come on, your honour! It's many a Westminster electionI've seen, and beer running, from Mr. Fox, that was the gentleman hadalways a word for the poor man, till now, when maybe it's yourhonour's going to stand! Anyway, it's, Down with the mongers!"
A man who was clinging to the wall at the corner of DowningStreet waved his broken hat round his head. "Ay, down with theborough-mongers!" he cried. "Down with Peel! Down with the Dook! Downwith 'em all! Down with everybody!"
"And long live the Bill!" cried a man of more respectable appearanceas he hurried by. "And long live the King, God bless him!"
"They'll know what it is to balk the people now," chimed in a fourth."Let 'em go back and get elected if they can. Ay, let 'em!"
"Ay, let 'em! Mr. Brougham'll see to that!" shouted the other. "Hurrahfor Mr. Brougham!"
The cry was taken up by the crowd, and three cheers were given for theChancellor, who was so well known to the mob by the style under whichhe had been triumphantly elected for Yorkshire that his peerage wasignored.
Vaughan, however, heard but the echo of these cheers. Like most youngmen of his time, he leant to the popular side. But he had no taste forthe populace in the mass; and the sight of the crowd, which was fastoccupying the whole of the space before Palace Yard and even surgingback into Parliament Street, determined him to turn aside. He shookoff his attendant and, crossing into Whitehall Place, walked up anddown, immersed in his reflections.
He was honestly ambitious, and his thoughts turned naturally on theinfluence which this Bill--which must create a new England, and formany a new world--was likely to have on his own fortunes. The owner ofa small estate in South Wales, come early to his inheritance, he hadsickened of the idle life of an officer in peacetime; and after threeyears of service, believing himself fit for something higher, he hadsold his commission and turned his mind to intellectual pursuits. Hehoped that he had a bent that way; and the glory of the immortalthree, who thirty years before had founded the "Edinburgh Review,"and, by so doing, made this day possible, attracted him. Why shouldnot he, as well as another, be the man who, in the Commons, thecockpit of the nation, stood spurred to meet all comers--in an uproarwhich could almost be heard where he walked? Or the man who, in thelists of Themis, upheld the right of the widow and the poor man'scause, and to whom judges listened with reluctant admiration? Or bestof all, highest of all, might he not vie with that abnormal andremarkable man who wore at once the three crowns, and whether asEdinburgh Reviewer, as knight of the shire for York, or as Chancellorof England, played his part with equal ease? To be brief, it wasprizes such as these, distant but luminous, that held his eyes,incited him to effort, made him live laborious days. He believed thathe had ability, and though he came late to the strife, he brought hisexperience. If men living from hand to mouth and distracted byhousehold cares could achieve so much, why should not he who had hisindependence and his place in the world? Had not Erskine been suchanother? He, too, had sickened of barrack life. And Brougham and thetwo Scotts, Eldon and Stowell. To say nothing of this young Macaulay,whose name was beginning to run through every mouth; and of a dozenothers who had risen to fame from a lower and less advantageousstation.
The goal was distant, but it was glorious. Nor had the eighteen monthswhich he had given to the study of the law, to attendance at theAcademic and at a less ambitious debating society, and to the outputof some scientific feelers, shaken his faith in himself. He had notyet thought of a seat at St. Stephen's; for no nomination had fallento him, nor, save from one quarter, was likely to fall. And hisincome, some six hundred a year, though it was ample for a bachelor,would not stretch to the price of a seat at five thousand for theParliament, or fifteen hundred for the Session--the quotations whichhad ruled of late. A seat some time, however, he must have; it was anecessary stepping-stone to the heights he would gain. And the subjectin his mind as he paced Whitehall Place was the abolition of the closeboroughs and the effect which the transfer of electoral power to themiddle-class would have on his chances.
A small thing--no more than a quantity of straw laid thickly beforeone of the houses--brought his thoughts down to the present. By anatural impulse he raised his eyes to the house; by a coincidence,less natural, a hand, even as he looked, showed itself behind one ofthe panes of a window on the first floor, and drew down the blind.Vaughan stood after that, fascinated, and watched the lowering ofblind after blind. And the solemn contrast between his busy thoughtsand that which had even then happened in the house--between that whichlay behind the darkened windows and the bright April sunshine abouthim, the twittering of the sparrows in the green, and the tumult ofdistant cheering--went home to him.
He thought of the lines, so old and so applicable:
_Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium_ _Versatur urna, serius, ocius_, _Sors exitura, et nos in aeternum_ _Exilium impositura cymbae_.
He was still rolling the words on his tongue with that love of theclassical rhythm which was a mark of his day--and returns no more thanthe taste for the prize-ring which was coeval with it--when the doorof the house opened and a man came clumsily and heavily out, closedthe door behind him, and, with his head bent low and the ungainlymovements of an automaton, made off down the street.
The man was very stout as well as tall, his dress slovenly anddisordered. His hat was pulled awry over his eyes, and his hands wereplunged deep in his breeches pockets. Vaughan saw so much. Then thedoor opened again, and a face, unmistakably that of a butler, lookedout.
The servant's eyes met his, and though the man neither spoke norbeckoned, his eyes spoke for him. Vaughan crossed the way to him."What is it?" he asked.
The man was blubbering. "Oh, Lord; oh, Lord!" he said. "My lady's gonenot five minutes, and he'll not be let nor hindered! He's to theHouse, and if the crowd set upon him he'll be murdered. For God'ssake, follow him, sir! He's Sir Charles Wetherell, and a better masternever walked, let them say what they like. If there's anybody withhim, maybe they'll not touch him."
"I will follow him," Vaughan answered. And he hastened after the stoutman, who had by this time reached the corner of the street.
Vaughan was surprised that he had not recognised Wetherell. For inevery bookseller's window caricatures of the "Last of theBoroughbridges," as the wits called him, after the pocket borough forwhich he sat, were plentiful as blackberries. Not only was he thehighest of Tories, but he was a martyr in their cause; for,Attorney-General in the last Government, he had been dismissed forresisting the Catholic Claims. Since then he had proved himself, ofall the opponents of the Bill, the most violent, the most witty, and,with the exception of Croker perhaps, the most rancorous. At this datehe passed for the best hated man in England; and representative to thepublic mind of all that was old-fashioned and illiberal and exclusive.Vaughan knew, therefore, that the servant's fears were not unfounded,and with a heart full of pity--for he remembered the darkenedhouse--he made after him.
By this time Sir Charles was some way ahead and already involved inthe crowd. Fortunately the throng was densest opposite Old PalaceYard, whence the King was in the act of departing; and the spacebefore the Hall and before St. Stephen's Court--the buildings aboutwhich abutted on the river--though occupied by a loosely movingmultitude, and presenting a scene of the utmost animation, was notimpassable. Sir Charles was in the heart of the crowd before he wasrecognised; and then his stolid unconsciousness and the generalgood-humour, born of victory, served him well. He was too familiar afigure to pass altogether unknown; and here
Wetherell had barely noticed the rudeness. But he noted theintervention by a backward glance. "Much obliged," he grunted. "Knowyou, too, again, young gentleman." And he went heavily on and passedout of the crowd into the court, followed by a few scattered hisses.
Behind the officers of the House who guarded the entrance a group ofexcited talkers were gathered. They were chiefly members who had justleft the House and had been brought to a stand by the sight of thecrowd. On seeing Wetherell, surprise altered their looks. "Good G--d!"cried one, stepping forward. "You've come down, Wetherell?"
"Ay," the stricken man answered without lifting his eyes or giving theleast sign of animation. "Is it too late?"
"By an hour. There's nothing to be done. Grey and Bruffam have got theKing body and soul. He was so determined to dissolve, he swore thathe'd come down in a hackney-coach rather than not come. So they say!"
"But I hope," a second struck in, in a tone of solicitude, "that asyou are here, Lady Wetherell has rallied."
"She died a quarter of an hour ago," he muttered. "I could do no more.I came here. But as I am too late, I'll go back."
Yet he stood awhile, as if he had no longer anything to draw him oneway more than another; with his double chin and pendulous cheeksresting on his breast and his leaden eyes sunk to the level of thepavement. And the others stood round him with shocked faces, fromwhich his words and manner had driven the flush of the combat.Presently two members, arguing loudly, came up, and were silenced by aglance and a muttered word. The ungainly attitude, the ill-fittingclothes, did but accentuate the tragedy of the central figure. Theyknew--none better--how fiercely, how keenly, how doggedly he hadstruggled against death, against the Bill.
And yet, had they thought of it, the vulgar caricatures that had hurther, the abuse that had passed him by to lodge in her bosom, wouldhurt her no more!
Meanwhile, Vaughan, as soon as he had seen Sir Charles within theentrance reserved for members, had betaken himself to the main door ofthe Hall, a few paces to the westward. He had no hope that he wouldnow be able to perform the errand on which he had set forth; for theChancellor, for certain, would have other fish to fry and other peopleto see. But he thought that he would leave a card with the usher, sothat Lord Brougham might know that he had not failed to come, andmight make a fresh appointment if he still wished to see him.
Of the vast congeries of buildings which then encased St. Stephen'sChapel and its beautiful but degraded cloisters, little more than theHall is left to us. The Hall we have, and in the main in the conditionin which the men of that generation viewed it; as Canning viewed it,when with death in his face he paced its length on Peel's arm, andsuspecting, perhaps, that they two would meet no more, proved toall men the good-will he bore his rival. Those among us whose memoriesgo back a quarter of a century, and who can recall its aspect interm-time, with three score barristers parading its length, and thriceas many suitors and attorneys darting over its pavement--all under thelofty roof which has no rival in Europe--will be able to picture it asVaughan saw it when he entered. To the bustle attending the courts oflaw was added on this occasion the supreme excitement of the day. Inevery corner, on the steps of every court, eager groups wrangled anddebated; while above the hubbub of argument and the trampling of feet,the voices of ushers rose monotonously, calling a witness or enjoiningorder.
Vaughan paused beside the cake-stall at the door and surveyed thescene. As he stood, one of two men who were pacing near saw him, andwith a whispered word left his companion and came towards him.
"Mr. Vaughan," he said, extending his hand with bland courtesy, "Ihope you are well. Can I do anything for you? We are dissolved, but afrank is a frank for all that--to-day."
"No, I thank you," Vaughan answered. "The truth is, I had anappointment with the Chancellor for this afternoon. But I suppose hewill not see me now."
The other's eyebrows met, with the result that his face looked lessbland. He was a small man, with keen dark eyes and bushy greywhiskers, and an air of hawk-like energy which sixty years had nottamed. He wore the laced coat of a sergeant at law, powdered on theshoulders, as if he had but lately and hurriedly cast off his wig."Good G--d!" he said. "With the Chancellor!" And then, pulling himselfup, "But I congratulate you. A student at the Bar, as I believe youare, Mr. Vaughan, who has appointments with the Chancellor, hasfortune indeed within his grasp."
Vaughan laughed. "I fear not," he said. "There are appointments andappointments, Sergeant Wathen. Mine is not of a professional nature."
Still the sergeant's face, do what he would, looked grim. He had hisreasons for disliking what he heard. "Indeed!" he said drily. "Indeed!But I must not detain you. Your time," with a faint note of sarcasm,"is valuable." And with a civil salutation the two parted.
Wathen went back to his companion. "Talk of the Old One!" he said. "Doyou know who that is?"
"No," the other answered. They had been discussing the comingelection. "Who is it?"
"One of my constituents."
His friend laughed. "Oh, come," he said. "I thought you had but one,sergeant--old Vermuyden."
"Only one," Wathen answered, his eyes travelling from group to group,"who counts; or rather, who did count. But thirteen who poll. Andthat's one of them." He glanced frowning in the direction whichVaughan had taken. "And what do you think his business is here,confound him?"
"An appointment with old Wicked Shifts."
"With the Chancellor? Pheugh!"
"Ay," the sergeant answered morosely, "you may whistle. There's someblack business on foot, you may depend upon it. And ten to one it'sabout my seat. He's a broom," he continued, tugging at the whiskerswhich the late King had stamped with the imprimatur of fashion, "thatwill make a clean sweep of us if we don't take care. Whatever he does,there's something behind it. Some bedchamber plot, or some intrigue toget A. out and put B. in. If it was a charwoman's place he wanted,he'd not ask for it and get it. That wouldn't please him. But he'dtunnel and tunnel and tunnel--and so he'd get it."
"Still," the other replied, with secret amusement--for he had no seat,and the woes of our friends, especially our better-placed friends,have their comic side--"I thought that you had a safe thing, Wathen?That old Vermuyden's nomination at Chippinge was as good as an orderon the Bank of England?"
"It was," Wathen answered drily. "But with the country wild for theBill, there's no saying what may happen anywhere. Safe!" he continued,with a snarl. "Was there ever a safer seat than Westbury? Or a man whohad a place in better order than old Lopes, who owned it, and diedlast month; taken from the evil to come, Jekyll said, for he nevercould have existed in a world without rotten boroughs! It's not farfrom Chippinge, so I know--know it well. And I tell you his system wasbeautiful--beautiful! Yet when Peel was there--after he had rattled onthe Catholic Claims and been thrown out at Oxford, Lopes made way forhim, you remember?--he would not have got in, no, by G--d, he wouldn'thave got in if there had been a man against him. And the state inwhich the country was then, though there was a bit of a Protestantcry, too, wasn't to compare with what it will be now. That man"--heshook his fist stealthily in the direction of the Chancellor'sCourt--"has lighted a fire in England that will never be put out tillit has consumed King, Lords, and Commons--ay, every stick and stone ofthe old Constitution. You take my word for it. And to think--tothink," he added still more savagely, "that it is the Whigs have donethis. The Whigs! who own more than half the land in the country; whoare
"In the meantime--there'll be dead cats and bad eggs flying, youthink?"
Wathen groaned. "If that were the end of it," he said, "I'd not mind."
"Still, with it all, you are pretty safe, I suppose?"
"With that fellow closeted with the Chancellor? No, no!"
"Who is the young spark!" the other asked carelessly. "He looked adecentish kind of fellow. A little of the prig, perhaps."
"He's that!" Wathen answered. "A d----d prig. What's more, a cousin ofold Vermuyden's. And what's worse, his heir. That's why they put himin the corporation and made him one of the thirteen. Thought the votesafe in the family, you see? And cheaper?" He winked. "But there's nolove lost between him and old Sir Robert. A bed for a night once ayear, and one day in the season among the turnips, and glad to seeyour back, my lad! That's about the position. Now I wonder if Broughamis going to try--but Lord! there's no guessing what is in that man'shead! He's fuller of mischief than an egg of meat!"
The other was about to answer when one of the courts, in which a caseof some difficulty had caused a late sitting, discharged its noisy,wrangling, perspiring crowd. The two stepped aside to avoid theevasion, and did not resume their talk. Wathen's friend made his wayout by the main door near which they had been standing; while thesergeant, with looks which mirrored the gloom that a hundred Toryfaces wore on that day, betook himself to the robing-room. There hehappened upon another unfortunate. They fell to talking, and theirtalk ran naturally upon the Chancellor, upon old Grey's folly inletting himself be led by the nose by such a rogue; finally, upon themistakes of their own party. They differed on the last topic, and inthat natural and customary state we may leave them.
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