Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

audible? Who smashed all the front windows of the “Roebuck ?": Colonel Newcome had not words to express his indignation at proceedings so unfair. When Sir Barnes and his staff were hustled in the market-place and most outrageously shoved, jeered, and jolted, the Colonel from the “ King's Arms” organized a rapid sally, which he himself headed with his bamboo-cane; cut out Sir Barnes and his followers from the hands of the mob, and addressed those ruffians in a noble speech, of which the bamboo-cane-Englishman-shame-fairplay, were the most emphatic expressions. The mob cheered Old Tom, as they called him-they made way for Sir Barnes, who shrunk pale and shuddering back into his hotel again—who always persisted in saying that that old villain of a dragoon had planned both the assault and the rescue.

. “When the dregs of the people--the scum of the rabble, sir, banded together by the myrmidons of Sir Barnes Newcome, attacked

glass at one volley, besides knocking off the gold unicorn's head and the tail of the British lion, it was fine, sir,” F. B. said, “ to see how the Colonel came forward, and the coolness of the old boy in the midst of the action. He stood there in front, sir, with his old hat off, never samuch as once bobbing his old head, and I think he spoke rather better under fire than he did when there was no danger. Between ourselves, he ain't much of a speaker, the old Colonel; he hems and hahs, and repeats himself a good deal. He hasn't the gift of natural eloquence which some men have, Pendennis. You should have heard my speech, sir, on the Thursday in the Town Hall--that was something like a speech. Potts was jealous of it, and always reported me most shamefully.”

In spite of his respectful behaviour to the gentlemen in black coats, his soup-tickets and his flannel-tickets, his own pathetic lectures and his sedulous attendance at other folks' sermons, poor Barnes could not. keep up his credit with the serious interest at Newcome, and the meeting-houses and their respective pastors and frequenters turned their backs upon him. The case against him was too flagrant; his. enemy, the factory-man, worked it with an extraordinary skill, malice, and pertinacity. Not a single man, woman, or child in Newcome but was made acquainted with Sir Barnes's early peccadillo. Ribald ballads were howled through the streets describing his sin and his deserved punishment. For, very shame, the reverend dissenting gentlemen were obliged to refrain from voting for him ; such as ventured, believing in the sincerity of his repentance, to give him their voices, were yelled away from the polling places. A very great number" who would have been his friends, were compelled to bow to decency and public opinion, and supported the Colonel.

Hooted away from the hustings and the public places whence the rival candidates addressed the free and independent electors, this wretched and persecuted Sir Barnes invited his friends and supporters to meet him at the “Athenæum Room”-scene of his previous eloquent performances. But though this apartment was defended by tickets, the people burst into it; and Nemesis, in the shape of the persevering factory-man, appeared before the scared Sir Barnes and his puzzled committee. The man stood up and bearded the pale Baronet. He had a good cause, and was in truth a far better master of debate than our banking friend, being a great speaker amongst his brother operatives, by whom political questions are discussed, and the conduct of political men examined, with a ceaseless interest and with an ardour and eloquence which are often unknown in what is called superior society. This man and his friends round about him fiercely silenced the clamour of “ Turn him out," with which his first appearance was assailed by Sir Barnes's hangers-on. He said, in the name of justice he would speak up; if they were fathers of families, and loved their wives and daughters, he dared them to refuse him a hearing. Did they love their wives and their children? it was a shame that they should take such a man as that yonder for their representative in Parliament. But the greatest sensation he made was when, in the middle of his speech, after inveighing against Barnes's cruelty and parental ingratitude, he asked, “Where were Barnes's children ?" and actually thrust forward two, to the amazement of the committee and the ghastly astonishment of the guilty Baronet himself.

“Look at them," says the man: “ they are almost in rags, they have to put up with scanty and hard food; contrast them with his other children, whom you see lording it in gilt carriages, robed in purple and fine linen, and scattering mud from their wheels over us humble people as we walk the streets; ignorance and starvation is good enough for these, for those others nothing can be too fine or too dear. What can a factory-girl expect from such a fine, high-bred, white-handed, aristocratic gentleman as Sir Barnes Newcome, Baronet, but to be cajoled, and seduced, and deserted, and left to starve ! When she has served my lord's pleasure, her natural fate is to be turned into the street; let her go and rot there, and her children beg in the gutter.”

“ This is the most shameful imposture,” gasps out Sir Barnes; 46 these children are not-are not- "

The man interrupted him with a bitter laugh. “No," says he, .66 they are not his; that's true enough, friends. It's Tom Martin's girl and boy, a precious pair of lazy little scamps. But, at first, he thought they were his children. See how much he knows about them! He hasn't seen his children for years; he would have left them and

their mother to starve, and did, but for shame and fear. The old man, his father, pensioned them, and he hasn't the heart to stop their wages now. Men of Newcome, will you have this man to represent you in Parliament ?" And the crowd roared out “ No;" and Barnes and his shame-faced committee slunk out of the place, and no wonder the dissenting clerical gentlemen were shy of voting for him.

A brilliant and picturesque diversion in Colonel Newcome's favour was due to the inventive genius of his faithful aide-de-camp, F. B. On: the polling-day, as the carriages full of voters came up to the marketplace, there appeared nigh to the booths an open barouche, covered all over with ribbon, and containing Frederick Bayham, Esq., profusely decorated with the Colonel's colours, and a very old woman and her female attendant, who were similarly ornamented. It was good old Mrs. Mason, who was pleased with the drive and the sunshine, though she scarcely understood the meaning of the turmoil, with her maid by her side, delighted to wear such ribbons, and sit in such a post of honour. Rising up in the carriage, F. B. took off his hat, bade his men of brass be silent, who were accustomed to bray “ See the Conquering Hero comes," whenever the Colonel, or Mr. Bayham, his brilliant aide-de-camp, made their appearance ;-bidding, we say, the musicians and the universe to be silent, F. B. rose, and made the citizens of Newcome a splendid speech. Good old unconscious Mrs. Mason was the theme of it, and the Colonel's virtues and faithful gratitude in tending her. “ She was his father's old friend. She was Sir Barnes Newcome's grandfather's old friend. She had lived for more than forty years at Sir Barnes Newcome's door, and how often had he been to see her? Did he go every week? No. Every month? No. Every year? No. Never in the whole course of his life had he set his foot into her doors !” (Loud yells, and cries of “Shame!") “Never had he done her one single act of kindness. Whereas for: years and years past, when he was away in India, heroically fighting the battles of his country, when he was distinguishing himself at Assaye, and-and--Mulligatawny and Seringapatam, in the hottest of the fight and the fiercest of the danger, in the most terrible moment of the conflict and the crowning glory of the victory, the good, the brave, the kind old Colonel,-—why should he say Colonel ? why should he not say Old Tom at once?” (immense roars of applause) “ always. remembered his dear old nurse and friend. Look at that shawl, boys, which she has got on! My belief is that Colonel Newcome took that shawl in single combat, and on horseback, from the prime minister of Tippoo Sahib." (Immense cheers and cries of “Bravo, Bayham!") “Look at that brooch the dear old thing wears !” (he kissed her hand whilst so apostrophizing her.) “ Tom Newcome never brags about his military achievements, he is the most modest as well as the bravest man in the world. What if I were to tell you that he cut that brooch from the throat of an Indian rajah ? He's man enough to do it.” (“He is ! he is !" from all parts of the crowd.) “What, you want to take the horses out, do you?” (to the crowd, who were removing those quadrupeds.) “I ain't agoing to prevent you; I expected as much of you. Men of Newcome, I expected as much of you, for I know you ! Sit still, old lady; don't be frightened, ma'am: they are only going to pull you to the ‘King's Arms, and show you to the Colonel.”

This, indeed, was the direction in which the mob (whether inflamed by spontaneous enthusiasm, or excited by cunning agents placed amongst the populace by F. B., I cannot say,) now took the barouche and its three occupants. With a myriad roar and shout the carriage was dragged up in front of the “ King's Arms," from the balconies of which a most satisfactory account of the polling was already placarded. The extra noise and shouting brought out the Colonel, who looked at first with curiosity at the advancing procession, and then, as he caught sight of Sarah Mason, with a blush and a bow of his kind old head.

“ Look at him, boys!” cried the enraptured F. B., pointing up to the old man. “Look at him; the dear old boy! Isn't he an old trump? which will you have for your Member, Barnes Newcome or Old Tom ?"

And as might be supposed, an immense shout of “ Old Tom!" arose from the multitude; in the midst of which, blushing and bowing still, the Colonel went back to his committee-room: and the bands played “ See the Conquering Hero" louder than ever; and poor Barnes in the course of his duty having to come out upon his balcony at the “Roebuck” opposite, was saluted with a yell as vociferous as the cheer for the Colonel had been; and old Mrs. Mason asked what the noise was about; and after making several vain efforts, in dumb show, to the crowd, Barnes slunk back into his hole again as pale as the turnip which was flung at his head: and the horses were brought, and Mrs. Mason driven home; and the day of election came to an end.

Reasons of personal gratitude, as we have stated already, prevented his Highness the Prince de Montcontour from taking a part in this family contest. His brethren of the House of Higg, however, very much to Florac's gratification, gave their second votes to Colonel Newcome, carrying with them a very great number of electors: we know that in the present Parliament, Mr. Higg and Mr. Bunce sit for the Borough of Newcome. Having had monetary transactions with Sir Barnes Newcome, and entered largely into railway speculations with him, the Messrs. Higg had found reason to quarrel with the Baronet; accuse him of sharp practices to the present day, and have long stories to tell which do not concern us about Sir Barnes's strata

[ocr errors]

gems, grasping, and extortion. They and their following, deserting Sir Barnes, whom they had supported in previous elections, voted for the Colonel, although some of the opinions of that gentleman were rather too extreme for such sober persons.

Not exactly knowing what his politics were when he commenced the canvass, I can't say to what opinions the poor Colonel did not find himself committed by the time when the election was over. The worthy gentleman felt himself not a little humiliated by what he had to say and to unsay, by having to answer questions, to submit to familiarities, to shake hands, which, to say truth, he did not care for grasping at all. His habits were aristocratic; his education had been military; the kindest and simplest soul alive, he yet disliked all familiarity, and expected from common people the sort of deference which he had received from his men in the regiment. The contest saddened and mortified him; he felt that he was using wrong means to obtain an end that perhaps was not right (for so his secret conscience must have told him); he was derogating from his own honour in tampering with political opinions, submitting to familiarities, condescending to stand by whilst his agents solicited vulgar suffrages or uttered claptraps about retrenchment and reform. “I felt I was wrong," he said to me in after days, “ though I was too proud to own my error in those times, and you and your good wife and my boy were right in protesting against that mad election.” Indeed, though we little knew what events were speedily to happen, Laura and I felt very little satisfaction when the result of the Newcome election was made known to us, and we found Sir Barnes Newcome third, and Col. Thomas Newcome second upon the poll.

Ethel was absent with her children at Brighton. She was glad, she wrote, not to have been at home during the election. Mr. and Mrs. C. were at Brighton, too. Ethel had seen Mrs. C. and her child once or twice. It was a very fine child. “My brother came down to us," she wrote, “after all was over. He is furious against M. de Montcontour, who, he says, persuaded the Whigs to vote against him, and turned the election."

« AnteriorContinuar »