Sir George Tressady — Volume I

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Meehan, and Project Distributed Proofreaders

SIR GEORGE TRESSADY, VOLUME I

IN TWO VOLUMES
BY
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
AUTHOR OF “MARCELLA,” “THE HISTORY OF DAVID GRIEVE,”
“ROBERT ELSMEKE,” ETC.

To my Brother and friend

WILLIAM THOMAS ARNOLD
I INSCRIBE THIS BOOK

VOLUME I.

PART I

CHAPTER I

“Well, that’s over, thank Heaven!”

The young man speaking drew in his head from the carriage-window. But
instead of sitting down he turned with a joyous, excited gesture and
lifted the flap over the little window in the back of the landau,
supporting himself, as he stooped to look, by a hand on his companion’s
shoulder. Through this peephole he saw, as the horses trotted away, the
crowd in the main street of Market Malford, still huzzaing and waving,
the wild glare of half a dozen torches on the faces and the moving forms,
the closed shops on either hand, the irregular roofs and chimneys
sharp-cut against a wintry sky, and in the far distance the little
lantern belfry and taller mass of the new town-hall.

“I’m much astonished the horses didn’t bolt!” said the man addressed.
“That bay mare would have lost all the temper she’s got in another
moment. It’s a good thing we made them shut the carriage—it has turned
abominably cold. Hadn’t you better sit down?”

And Lord Fontenoy made a movement as though to withdraw from the hand on
his shoulder.

The owner of the hand flung himself down on the seat, with a word of
apology, took off his hat, and drew a long breath of fatigue. At the same
moment a sudden look of disgust effaced the smile with which he had taken
his last glimpse at the crowd.

“All very well!—but what one wants after this business is a moral tub!
The lies I’ve told during the last three weeks—the bunkum I’ve
talked!—it’s a feeling of positive dirt! And the worst of it is, however
you may scrub your mind afterwards, some of it must stick.”

He took out a cigarette, and lit it at his companion’s with a rather
unsteady hand. He had a thin, long face and fair hair; and one would have
guessed him some ten years younger than the man beside him.

“Certainly—it will stick,” said the other. “Election promises nowadays
are sharply looked after. I heard no bunkum. As far as I know, our party
doesn’t talk any. We leave that to the Government!”

Sir George Tressady, the young man addressed, shrugged his shoulders. His
mouth was still twitching under the influence of nervous excitement. But
as they rolled along between the dark hedges, the carriage-lamps shining
on their wet branches, green yet, in spite of November, he began to
recover a half-cynical self-control. The poll for the Market Malford
Division of West Mercia had been declared that afternoon, between two and
three o’clock, after a hotly contested election; he, as the successful
candidate by a very narrow majority, had since addressed a shouting mob
from the balcony of the Greyhound Hotel, had suffered the usual taking
out of horses and triumphal dragging through the town, and was now
returning with his supporter and party-leader, Lord Fontenoy, to the
great Tory mansion which had sent them forth in the morning, and had been
Tressady’s headquarters during the greater part of the fight.

“Did you ever see anyone so down as Burrows?” he said presently, with a
little leap of laughter. “By George! it is hard lines. I suppose he
thought himself safe, what with the work he’d done in the division and
the hold he had on the miners. Then a confounded stranger turns up, and
the chance of seventeen ignorant voters kicks you out! He could hardly
bring himself to shake hands with me. I had come rather to admire him,
hadn’t you?”

Lord Fontenoy nodded.

“I thought his speeches showed ability,” he said indifferently, “only of
a kind that must be kept out of Parliament—that’s all. Sorry you have
qualms—quite unnecessary, I assure you! At the present moment, either
Burrows and his like knock under, or you and your like. This time—by
seventeen votes—Burrows knocks under. Thank the Lord! say I”—and the
speaker opened the window an instant to knock off the end of his cigar.

Tressady made no reply. But again a look, half-chagrined,
half-reflective, puckered his brow, which was smooth, white, and boyish
under his straight, fair hair; whereas the rest of the face was subtly
lined, and browned as though by travel and varied living. The nose and
mouth, though not handsome, were small and delicately cut, while the
long, pointed chin, slightly protruding, made those who disliked him say
that he was like those innumerable portraits of Philip IV., by and after
Velasquez, which bestrew the collections of Europe. But if the Hapsburg
chin had to be admitted, nothing could be more modern, intelligent,
alert, than the rest of him.

The two rolled along a while in silence. They were passing through an
undulating midland country, dimly seen under the stars. At frequent
intervals rose high mounds, with tall chimneys and huddled buildings
beside them or upon them which marked the sites of collieries; while the
lights also, which had begun to twinkle over the face of the land, showed
that it was thickly inhabited.

Suddenly the carriage rattled into a village, and Tressady looked out.

“I say, Fontenoy, here’s a crowd! Do you suppose they know? Why,

Gregson’s taken us another way round!”

Lord Fontenoy let down his window, and identified the small mining
village of Battage.

“Why did you bring us this way, Gregson?” he said to the coachman.

The man, a Londoner, turned, and spoke in a low voice. “I thought we
might find some rioting going on in Marraby, my lord. And now I see
there’s lots o’ them out here!”

Indeed, with the words he had to check his horses. The village street was
full from end to end with miners just come up from work. Fontenoy at once
perceived that the news of the election had arrived. The men were massed
in large groups, talking and discussing, with evident and angry
excitement, and as soon as the well-known liveries on the box of the new
member’s carriage were identified there was an instant rush towards it.
Some of the men had already gone into their houses on either hand, but at
the sound of the wheels and the uproar they came rushing out again. A
howling hubbub arose, a confused sound of booing and groaning, and the
carriage was soon surrounded by grimed men, gesticulating and shouting.

“Yer bloated parasites, yer!” cried a young fellow, catching at the
door-handle on Lord Fontenoy’s side; “we’ll make a d——d end o’ yer
afore we’ve done wi’ yer. Who asked yer to come meddlin in
Malford—d——n yer!”

“Whativer do we want wi’ the loikes o’ yo representin us!” shouted
another man, pointing at Tressady. “Look at ‘im; ee can’t walk, ee can’t;
mus be druv, poor hinnercent! When did yo iver do a day’s work, eh? Look
at my ‘ands! Them’s the ‘ands for honest men—ain’t they, you fellers?”

There was a roar of laughter and approval from the crowd, and up went a
forest of begrimed hands, flourishing and waving.

George calmly put down the carriage-window, and, leaning his arms upon
it, put his head out. He flung some good-humoured banter at some of
the nearest men, and two or three responded. But the majority of the
faces were lowering and fierce, and the horses were becoming
inconveniently crowded.

“Get on, Gregson,” said Fontenoy, opening the front window of the
brougham.

“If they’ll let me, your lordship,” said Gregson, rather pale,
raising his whip.

The horses made a sudden start forward. There was a yell from the crowd,

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