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[-210-] 

CHAPTER LXVIII

THE ELECTION.

"WELL - it is all right! " exclaimed Mr. Greenwood, the moment he entered the drawing-room his countenance radiant with joy, and his eyes expressive of triumph.
    "What is all right?" demanded both the baronet and Chichester in the same breath.
    "Why - have you not heard that the election for Rottenborough took place yesterday?" said Greenwood.
    "Oh! to be sure - I forgot that! " observed the baronet. " But you surely never have beaten Lord Tremordyn's candidate?"
    "Yes - I was returned triumphantly - 814 against 102," said Greenwood.
    "I wish you joy, my dear fellow, "exclaimed Chichester.  "I suppose you astonished the natives of Rottenborough ? but how the devil did you manage this victory? "
    "I will give you a brief sketch of the whole proceeding," said Greenwood, throwing himself upon the sofa, and playing with his elegant guard-chain. "The fact is, I learnt in the latter part of December that the representative of Rottenborough intended to accept the Chiltern Hundreds when the Houses met in February. You know that I was at [-211-] that time very intimate with Lord Tremordyn, your worthy and much revered father-in-law, Sir Rupert  —"
    "Ah! worthy, indeed!" ejaculated the baronet impatiently.
    I accordingly spoke to Lord Tremordyn, continued Greenwood; "and, after a little delicate manoeuvring, received his promise to support me, - in  fact, to get me in for Rottenborough. It had been arranged that Count Alteroni and his family were to pass the month of January and a portion of February with Lord and Lady Tremordyn; but in the mean time, the count learned something about me, as I before told you, which he did not like; and he rejected me as a suitor for his daughter's hand. That did not grieve me much. My only motives for making up to the signora at all were, because I really liked the girl, and because she is a nobleman's daughter. But the count did not stop there. He seat ass apology to Lord and Lady Tremordyn, and declined the invitation. Off goes his lordship to Richmond, and calls upon the count. The count spoke so ill of me, it appears, that his lordship determined to cut me. There seemed at first ins insurmountable obstacle to my hopes relative to Rottenborough."
    "Yes - but you are never dismayed at any thing," said Chichester.
    "Never. There is no such word as impossible in my vocabulary," returned Greenwood; "and as for improbable - that is a word which can only intimidate cowards. I made up my mind to exert all my energies to obtain the gratification of my wishes. I had set my mind upon becoming an M.P. I had dreamt of it - thought upon it for hours together - and had even based certain calculations and schemes upon the event. I was not to be disappointed. I immediately went down to Rottenborough, and put up at the principal inn. I looked about me for a day or two, and at length saw something that suited me - an old mansion in such a ruined and dilapidated state, that it would require three or four thousand pounds to restore it to a habitable and comfortable condition. It belonged to the banker of the place. I bought it without haggling, and thus made a friend of him. I then set all the masons, carpenters, decorators, and upholsterers in the place to work, paid a considerable sum into the banker's hands, and appointed the head solicitor in the town to be my agent. I moreover gave him certain secret instructions relative to my ultimate views, and returned to London. Every Saturday I went down to Rottenborough - it is only twenty-four miles from London, you know - and paid all the bills without demanding discount. I also sent fifty pounds to the clergyman of the parish to lay out in purchasing blankets for the poor; and paid the coal merchant for fifty tons of coals also for charitable distribution. I always remained at Rottenborough until Monday morning., and went to church three times on the Sundays. No one spoke tile responses louder than I did - no one dwelt with such holy delight upon the clergyman's sermons as myself. I moreover won the hearts of the churchwardens, by placing a ten-pound note in the plate, after a charity sermon; and I secured the overseer by visiting the workhouse with him, tasting the soup, and pronouncing the dietary-scale to amount to absolute luxuries. In this manner, I was soon talked about. 'Who is this Mr. Greenwood?' was the universal question. 'A wealthy capitalist of London,' answered the lawyer. Thus, every thing progressed well."
    "So I should imagine," observed the baronet. 
    "Well - parliament met - the representative of Rottenborough resigned his seat; and the next morning by eight o'clock, my lawyer-agent had secured every inn, tavern, and public-house in Rottenborough in my name. Placards were posted all over the town, announcing my intention to come forward in the liberal interest, Lord Tremordyn having always supported the opposite side. Down goes Lord Tremordyn with his candidate, and is quite astonished to see all the walls and houses covered with posters, on which the name of Greenwood appeared in monster-type. But if he were surprised at first, how much more was he compelled to marvel, and how deeply was he annoyed, when not an inn - not a tavern - not even a public-house, would receive him, or his horses. His lordship drove to the rector's. The parson 'was excessively glad to see his lordship, and hoped his lordship would make his (the rector's) house his home; but he (the rector) could not think of entertaining the Conservative candidate also, as he had promised his vote to a gentleman who intended to settle in the place, and who had already done a vast amount of good there.' Lord Tremordyn was astounded. He went to the banker's. Precisely the same answer. The brewer, the coal-merchant, the Chairman of the Board of Poor Law Guardians (who had heard that I admired the soup and considered gruel at nineteen out of twenty-one meals every week, to be actually encouraging in the poor a taste for luxuries) all spoke well of me. Lord Tremordyn grew livid with rage; and he wee compelled to take up his quarters, with the new candidate, at the house of the undertaker, whose services I had neglected to secure, not having known upon what possible pretence to order a few coffins."
    "Capital!" ejaculated Sir Rupert: " I am glad the old lord was taken in at last - he who fancied himself Omnipotent at Rottenborough."
    "Every engine of Tory tactics was now put into execution by Lord Tremordyn, his candidate, and his agents. All his tenants who had not paid up their arrears of rent, were menaced with executions and ejectments if they did not vote for the Conservative. My lawyer knew how to counteract this in finance. He found out all the tenants who were in arrears, and proffered them loans payable at very distant dates. This accommodation was gladly accepted; and they were of course given to understand that the assistance emanated from me. 'At the same time,' said my lawyer, you must not think that this is a mere electioneering manoeuvre to secure your support. No - remain free and independent electors. Mr. Greenwood's wishes and objects were merely to defeat tyranny and annihilate intimidation.' In this way we completely weaned his own tenants away from Lord Tremordyn and his cause."
    "All this must have cost you a great deal of money," said Chichester.
    "Not near so much as you would fancy. But, whatever it was, it was well spent. The position of an M. P. to me is worth thousands and thousands: - I know how to avail myself of it."
    "I wish I had your head, Greenwood," exclaimed Sir Rupert Harborough, with a sigh.
    "My dear baronet, if you had my head and lacked my perseverance, my industry, and my power of self-command, you would be but little benefited. Let me, however, continue my narrative of the electioneering proceedings. There was now nothing but placarding and counter-placarding. My canvassers were most eloquent in my cause. 'Do not look,' said they, 'to whether a man be Whig or Tory - Radical or Conservative: ascertain whether he will benefit the town - whether he will be charitable to [-212-] the poor, will support the tradesmen, and will dwell during the recess amongst the inhabitants of Rotten borough. What good have the candidates of the Tremordyn interest ever done for ye, O Rottenboroughers? Has the present candidate an account at the banker's? Has he given away blankets and coals wholesale? has he come regularly on Sundays to attend divine service in our parish church three times? has he employed the greater portion of the tradesmen of the town? No - he appears amongst you as a stranger-making fine promises, but having given an earnest of nothing. Look at Greenwood - a man of enormous wealth - known probity - vast. experience - high character - splendid qualifications - unlimited charity - and undoubted piety.'"
    " I suppose you wrote out all that for your canvassers?" said Chichester.
    "No :  my lawyer copied a character for me out of an old romance; and it seemed to be admirably appreciated. At length the eventful day - yesterday - came. You may depend upon it, I was up early. My band and colours commenced parading about the town at seven o clock; and my lawyer had very prudently hired the clown and pantaloon of Richardson's Theatre to attend the band, and amuse the people with their antics during the intervals between the different airs. This told wonderfully well, and,  as I afterwards learnt, won thirty-three votes away from Lord Tremordyn's candidate."
    " A fact which speaks volumes in favour of the intellectual qualifications of the people of Rottenborough," observed the baronet.
    "But the beauty of it was," continued Greenwood,  "that my lawyer had the clown in the Guildhall, when my opponent addressed the electors; and the fellow imitated the gesticulations and the facial contortions of Lord Tremordyn's candidate so well, that the speech was drowned in roars of laughter."
    "And I suppose that your speech was listened to with the greatest attention?" said Chichester. 
    "The very greatest," returned Greenwood; "and I can assure you that I pitched them the gammon in the very finest possible style. 'Gentlemen,' I said, 'it is well known that not a single town in this empire contains a more enlightened, intellectual, and independent population than Rottenborough. The inhabitants of Rottenborough are the envy of surrounding cities, and the admiration of the universe. History has ever been busy with the name of Rottenborough ; and never has a gallant Rottenborougher  disgraced his name, his country, or his cause. This is the chosen home of freedom: if you seek for independence, you will find it in the peaceful groves and delicious retreats of Rottenborough. Famous also is this town for the loveliness and virtue of its women; and beauteous and faithful wives make their husbands and sons good and great. Oh! supremely blessed is the town of Rottenborough, situate in its happy valley, and through whose streets sweep balmy gales, laden with perfume and delicious odour.'  -  At this moment, the voice of some purblind Tory exclaimed, 'What do you say to the putrid black ditch at the back of the church?' Of course one of my own supporters smashed this ruffian's hat over his eyes; and I then proceeded thus: 'Gentlemen, free and independent electors of Rottenborough! I offer myself as your representative! I throw myself into your arms! I undertake your cause! Tory influence has long blunted your energies: Tory machinations have for years dimmed the bright and brilliant intellects of the Rottenboroughers. Do you ask me what are my principles? I will tell you. I am a liberal in every sense of the word. I am anxious that every free and independent elector or Rottenborough shall have his beef and beer for nothing - which shall be the case to-morrow, if I am returned to-day. I am desirous that the industrious classes should be improved in condition - that they should have more food and less treadmill, and be supplied with flannel to expel the bleak and nipping cold of winter. This want it shall be my duty to supply. But that is not all: I hope to see the day arrive when every pauper in the workhouse at Rottenborough shall thank God for his happy condition, and receive an extra half ounce of bacon for the dinner of the Sabbath ! These are my fond aspirations - these are my aims ! If I seem to promise much - I am ready to perform it all. Trust me - try me - place me in a condition to he useful to you. I have now expounded to you all my views - I have laid bare my secret soul to your eyes; and a heaven can attest the sincerity of my intentions. Under these circumstances I confidently claim your suffrage ;- but if it should happen that I am disappointed - if I am forced to shut up the mansion which I have purchased in this neighbourhood, suspend all the works, and fly for ever from the peaceful retreats and delicious haunts of Rottenborough, I shall at least —' Here it was arranged between my lawyer and me that my voice was to falter and that I should seem as if I was about to faint. I accordingly wound up the farce with a little bit of melodrama : and from that instant the cause of my opponent was desperate beyond all chances of redemption.
    "You deserved success, after that brilliant speech," said Chichester, laughing heartily at this narrative.
    "The polling was continued briskly until four o'clock, when the mayor closed the books and announced that George Greenwood, Esquire, Gentleman, was duly returned to serve in Parliament as the representative of Rottenborough."
    "When shall you 'take your oaths and your seat,' as the papers say?" demanded Chichester.
    "This evening," answered Greenwood. "And of course you will range yourself amongst the liberals? "
    "How can you fancy that I shall be guilty of such egregious folly?" cried the new Member of Parliament. "The reign of the Liberals is drawing to a close: a Tory administration within a year or eighteen months is inevitable."
    "But you stood forward as a Liberal, and were returned as such."
    "Very true - very true, my dear fellow. But do you imagine that I became a Member of Parliament  to meet the interests and wishes of a pack of strangers, or to suit my own?"
    "And at the next election —"
    "I shall be returned again. Mark my word for that. A politician is not worth a fig who has not a dozen excuses ready for the most flagrant tergiversation; and money - money will purchase all the free and independent electors of Rottenborough."
    Lady Cecilia Harborough returned to the drawing-room at this moment. She scarcely noticed Chichester - who was "her aversion" - but welcomed Greenwood in the most cordial manner. The a baronet observed "that he should leave Mr. Greenwood to amuse Lady Cecilia with an account of his electioneering exploits; " and then withdrew, accompanied by his "shadow" Mr. Chichester.
    "You have succeeded, George?" said Lady Cecilia, the moment they were alone together.
    "To my heart's content, dearest Cecilia," answered Greenwood, placing his arm around the delicate [-213-] waist of the frail fair one, and drawing her close to him as they stood before the fire.
    "I am delighted with this result," said Lady Cecilia; " although my own father has sustained a  defeat in the person of his candidate."
    "All fair in the political world, dear Cecilia," replied the new Member of Parliament. " But you have not yet appeared to understand that I came hither the moment I returned from Rottenborough,- to bear to you, first and foremost, the news of my success."
    "Ah! dearest George, how can I ever sufficiently testify my gratitude to thee for all thy proofs of ardent love?" whispered Lady Cecilia, in a soft and melting tone.
    "Yes - I love you - I love you well," answered Greenwood, who in a moment of tenderness declared with the lips far more than he really felt with the heart ;- and he imprinted a thousand kisses upon her mouth, her cheeks, and her brow.
    She returned them, while her countenance glowed with a deep crimson dye ;- but neither the kisses nor the blushes were those of a pure and sacred affection; they were the offspring of a licentious and illicit flame.
    A slight noise in the room startled the guilty pair.
    They hastily withdrew from each other's embrace, and glanced around.
    Mr. Chichester was advancing towards the table in the middle of the apartment.
    Lady Cecilia uttered a faint cry, and sank upon the sofa.
    "I beg you a thousand pardons," said Chichester, affecting the utmost indifference of manner, "but I had left this parcel behind me; " - and, taking up the small package containing hia dice and cards, he withdrew.
    "Merciful heavens!" ejaculated Lady Cecilia: "we are discovered - we are betrayed! That wretch will ruin us!"
    "Do not fear - do not alarm yourself, sweetest lady," returned Greenwood: "I will undertake to stop that man's mouth! One moment - and I return."
    He hurried after Mr. Chichester, whom he over-took half-way down the stairs.
    "Chichester, one word with you," said Greenwood.
    "A dozen, if you like, my dear fellow. "
    "You came into the drawing-room a minute ago - unexpectedly —"
    "And I apologised for my rudeness."
    "Yes - but you are not the less possessed of a secret which involves the honour of a lady - the a happiness of an entire family —"
    "Greenwood, I am a man of the world: you can rely upon me," interrupted Chichester. "Fear nothing on that score. You have now asked your favour, and obtained is of me: let me request one of you."
    "Command me in any way you choose."
    "I am at this moment embarrassed for a hundred pounds or so —"
    "Say no more: they are yours," returned Greenwood; and he forthwith handed a bank-note for the amount mentioned, to Mr. Chichester.
    "Thank you," said that individual; and he hastened to rejoin the baronet, who was waiting for him in the square.
    "Well - have you found your implements?" said Sir Rupert, as he took his friend's arm.
    "Yes - and a hundred pounds into the bargain," returned Chichester drily.
    "A hundred pounds! Impossible!"
    "There is the bank-note. it is just what we required."
    "But how—"
    " Greenwood was coming down stairs, and I mustered up courage to ask him for a loan. He complied without a moment's hesitation. Indeed," added Chichester, with a sneer, "I almost think that I shall be enabled, in case of emergency, to obtain another supply from the same quarter."
    "This is fortunate - most fortunate!" exclaimed  Harborough. " Let us go and dine at Long's or Stephen's this evening,, and see if we can pick up a flat."

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