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The polling would take place on the last day of March. On the day previous to that of nomination Glazzard and Serena Mumbray were to be married. Naturally, not at Mr. Vialls' church; they made choice of St. Luke's, which was blessed with a mild, intellectual incumbent. Mrs. Mumbray, consistently obstinate on this one point, refused to be present at the ceremony.
"There will be no need of me," she said to Serena. "Since you choose to be married as if you were ashamed of it, your father's presence will be quite enough. I have always looked forward to very different things; but when were my wishes and hopes consulted? I am not angry with you; we shall part on perfectly good terms, and I shall wish you every happiness. I hope to hear from you occasionally. But I cannot be a witness of what I so strongly disapprove."
William Glazzard--who saw nothing amiss in his brother's choice of a wife, and was greatly relieved by the thought of Serena's property --would readily have gone to the church, but it was decided, in deference to the bride's wish, that Ivy should come in his stead.
Ivy had felt herself neglected lately. Since the announcement that her uncle Eustace was to marry Serena, she had seen very little of the friend with whom alone she could enjoy intimate converse. But on the eve of the wedding-day they spent an hour or two together in Serena's room. Both were in a quiet mood, thoughtful rather than talkative.
"This day week," said Serena, breaking a long silence, "I shall be somewhere in Sicily--perhaps looking at Mount Etna. The change comes none to soon. I was getting into a thoroughly bad state of mind. Before long you would have refused to associate with me."
"I think not, dear."
"If not, then I should have done you harm--and that would be a burden on my conscience. I had begun to feel a pleasure in saying and doing things that I believed to be wrong. You never had that feeling?"
Ivy looked up with wonder in her gentle, dreamy eyes.
"It must be very strange."
"I have thought about it, and I believe it comes from ignorance. You know, perhaps what I said and did wasn't really wrong, after all-- if one only understood."
The listener was puzzled.
"But we won't talk about it. Before long I shall understand so many things, and then you shall have the benefit of my experience. I believe I am going to be very happy."
It was said as if on a sudden impulse, with a tremulous movement of the body.
"I hope and believe so, dear," replied the other, warmly.
"And you--I don't like to think of you being so much alone. There's a piece of advice I should like to give you. Try and make friends with Mrs. Quarrier."
"Yes--I have a good reason--I think she would suit you exactly. I had a long talk with her about a fortnight ago, and she seemed to me very nice--nicer than any one I have ever known, except you."
"Perhaps I shall have an opportunity"----
"Make one. Go and see her, and ask her to come and see you."
They fell again into musing, and the rest of their talk was mainly about the arrangements for the morrow.
About the time that Ivy Glazzard was going home, her uncle left Polterham by train. He travelled some thirty miles, and alighted at a large station, which, even thus late, was full of noise and bustle. After drinking a cup of coffee in the refreshment-room, he crossed to another platform, and then paced up and down for a quarter of an hour, until the ringing of a bell gave notice that a train which he awaited was just arriving. It steamed into the station, and Glazzard's eye, searching among the passengers who got out, quickly recognized a tall, thin figure.
"So, here you are," he said, holding his hand to Northway, who smiled doubtfully, and peered at him with sleepy eyes. "I have a room at the station hotel--come along."
They were presently at their ease in a sitting-room, with a hot supper on the table. Northway ate heartily; his entertainer with less gusto, though he looked in excellent spirits, and talked much of the impending elections. The meal dismissed, Glazzard lit a cigar (Northway did not smoke) and broached the topic of their meeting.
"Now, what I am going to propose to you may seem disagreeable. I take it for granted that we deal honourably--for my own purpose is nothing to be ashamed of; and if, after hearing what I ask, you don't care to undertake it, say so at once, and there's no harm done."
"Well, let me know what it is?" replied the other, plucking at his throat.
"Plainly then, I am engaged in election work. My motives are political."
"The man of whom we spoke the other day is standing as candidate for a borough not very far from here--not this town. Not long ago I discovered that secret of his private life. I am going to use it against him--to floor him with this disgrace. You understand?"
"Which side is he?"
"Liberal. But to a man of your large views, that of course makes no difference."
"Not a bit!" Northway replied, obviously flattered. "You are a Conservative, then?"
"Yes; I am Conservative. I think (as I am sure you do) that Liberalism is a mere name, used for the most part by men who want to make tools of the people."
"Yes, I agree with that," said Northway, putting his head aside and drawing in his cheeks.
Glazzard repressed a smile, and smoked for a moment.
"What I want you to do," he continued, "is this. To-morrow, by an early train, you will go down to this borough I speak of. You will find your way to the Court-house, and will get leave to make an appeal for the magistrate's advice. When you come forward, you will say that your wife has deserted you--that a friend of yours has seen her in that town, and has discovered that she has committed bigamy--that you wish for the magistrate's help--his advice how to take proceedings. And, finally, you will state in a particularly clear voice that your wife is Mrs. So-and-so, illegally married to Mr. So-and-so, Liberal candidate."
He spoke in hurrying accents, and as he ceased the cigar fell from his fingers.
"But I thought you said that they weren't married at all?"
"They are not. But you mustn't know it. Your friend--who informed you (say it was a man casually in the town, a commercial traveller, who knew your wife formerly by sight)--took it for granted they were married. If you knew she had not broken the law, you would have no excuse for going into Court, you see."
Northway pondered the matter, clicking with his tongue.
"You remember, I hope," pursued Glazzard, "all I told you at Clifton about the position of these people?"
"Yes, I remember. How long have they been together?"
"About two years."
"Has she a child?"
"No. Now, are you disposed to serve me? If you consent, you will gain the knowledge of your wife's whereabouts and the reward I promised--which I shall pay now. If you take the money and then spoil my scheme, you will find it has been useless dishonesty. To-morrow, in any case, the facts will be made public."
Northway glanced at him ill-humouredly.
"You needn't be so anxious about my honesty, Mr. Marks. But I should like to be made a little surer that you have been telling me the truth. How do I know that my wife is really living as you say? It seems to me I ought to have a sight of her before I go talking to magistrates."
"Nobody," pursued the other, "would make such a charge just on hearsay evidence. It would only be common sense for me to see her first."
"That objection is reasonable. If you knew how well-assured I am of this lady's identity, you would understand why your view of the matter never occurred to me. You must say that you have seen her, that's all--seen her coming out of her house."
But Northway was still unsatisfied. He desired to know how it was that a public man had succeeded in deceiving all his friends in such an affair as that of his marriage, and put various other questions, which reminded Glazzard how raw a hand he was at elaborate artifice. Whilst the discussion was going on, Northway took from his pocket an envelope, and from the envelope drew a small photograph.
"You showed me one the other day," he said. "Now, do you recognize that?"
"Undoubtedly. That is Miss Lilian Allen--four years ago, I dare say."
"H'm! not a bad guess. It's four years old, as near as can be. I see you know all about her, though how you found out I can't understand, unless she"----
He paused, peering at Glazzard suspiciously.
"It doesn't matter how I learnt what I know," said the latter, in a peremptory tone. "Let us stick to the point. It's lucky you have brought this carte-de-visite; it will enable you to assure yourself, before going to the Court-house, that you are not being fooled. As soon as you land in the town, ask your way to the shop of a bookseller called Ridge (make a note of the name)--tell Mr. Ridge that you have found a pocket-book with that photograph in it, and ask him if he can help you to identify the person. You'll hear his answer. And in this way, by-the-bye, you could dispense with telling the magistrate that you have seen your wife. Produce the portrait in Court, and declare that it has been recognized by people in the town."
Northway appeared content.
"Well, that sounds better. And what am I to do after speaking to the magistrate?"
"I should advise you to have an interview with the man himself, the Liberal candidate, and ask him how it happens that your wife is living with him. In that way--when he learns what step you have already taken--you will no doubt get hold of the truth. And then," he smiled, "you can spend the rest of the day in contradicting your statement that Mrs. So-and-so has committed bigamy; making it known that she is merely a counterfeit wife."
"Making known to whom?"
"Why, to the hundreds of people who will crowd about you. My dear sir, you will be the most important person in the town! You will turn an electicn--overthrow the hopes of a party! Don't you want to know the taste of power? Won't it amuse you to think, and to remember, that in the elections of 1880 you exercised an influence beyond that of Gladstone or Beaconsfield? It's the wish for power that excites all this uproar throughout the country. I myself, now --do you think I am a political agent just for the money it brings me? No, no; but because I have delight in ruling men! If I am not mistaken, you have it in you to become a leader in your way, and some day you'll remember my words."
Northway opened his eyes very wide, and with a look of gratification.
"You think I'm cut out for that kind of thing?"
"Judging from what I have heard of your talk. But not in England, you understand. Try one of the new countries, where the popular cause goes ahead more boldly. You're young enough yet."
The listener mused, smiling in a self-conscious way that obliged Glazzard to avert his face for a moment lest he should betray contemptuous amusement.
"Shall you be there--in that town--to-morrow?" asked the young man.
"No, I have business in quite another part. That election," he added, with an air of importance, "is not the only one I am looking after."
There was silence, then Glazzard continued:
"It's indifferent to me whether it comes out that I planned this stratagem, or not. Still, in the interests of my party, I admit that I had rather it were kept quiet. So I'll tell you what. If, in a month's time, I find that you have kept the secret, you shall receive at any address you like a second five-pound note. It's just as you please. Of course, if you think you can get more by bargaining with the Liberals--but I doubt whether the secret will be worth anything after the explosion."
"All right. I'll give you an address, so that if you keep in the same mind"----
He mentioned it. And Glazzard made a note.
"Then we strike a bargain, Mr. Northway?"
"Yes, I'll go through with it," was the deliberate reply.
"Very well. Then you shall have the particulars."
Thereupon Glazzard made known the names he had kept in reserve. Northway jotted them down on the back of an envelope, his hand rather unsteady.
"There's a train to Polterham," said Glazzard, "at nine o'clock in the morning. You'll be there by ten--see Ridge the bookseller, and be at the Court-house in convenient time. I know there's a sitting to-morrow; and on the second day after comes out the Polterham Tory paper. You will prepare them such an item of news in their police reports as they little look for. By that time the whole truth will be known, of course, and Mr. Quarrier's candidature will be impossible."
"What will the Liberals do?"
"I can't imagine. We shall look or and enjoy the situation-- unprecedented, I should think."
Northway again smiled; he seemed to enter into the jest.
"You sleep here," said Glazzard. "Your expenses are paid. I'll take leave of you now, and I sha'n't see you again, as I have to leave by the 3.40 up-train."
The money he had promised was transferred to Northway's pocket, and they shook hands with much friendliness.
Glazzard quitted the hotel. His train back to Polterham left at 1.14, and it was past midnight.
He went into the station, now quiet and deserted. A footstep occasionally echoed under the vault, or a voice sounded from a distance. The gas was lowered; out at either end gleamed the coloured signal-lights, and above them a few faint stars.
It was bitterly cold. Glazzard began to walk up and down, his eyes straying vaguely. He felt a miserable sinking of the heart, a weariness as if after great exertion.
An engine came rolling slowly along one of the lines; it stopped just beyond the station, and then backed into a siding. There followed the thud of carriage against carriage: a train was being made up, he went to watch the operation. The clang of metal, the hiss of steam, the moving about of men with lanterns held his attention for some time, and so completely that he forgot all else.
Somewhere far away sounded a long-drawn whistle, now faint, now clearer, a modulated wail broken at moments by a tremolo on one high note. It was like a voice lamenting to the dead of night. Glazzard could not endure it; he turned back into the station and tramped noisily on the stone platform.
Then the air was disturbed by the dull roar of an approaching train, and presently a long string of loaded waggons passed without pause. The engine-fire glowed upon heavy puffs of smoke, making them a rich crimson. A freight of iron bars clanged and clashed intolerably. When remoteness at length stilled them, there rose again the long wailing whistle; it was answered by another like it from still greater distance.
Glazzard could stand and walk no longer. He threw himself on a seat, crossed his arms, and remained motionless until the ringing of a bell and a sudden turning on of lights warned him that his train drew near.
On the way to Polterham he dozed, and only a fortunate awaking at the last moment saved him from passing his station. It was now close upon two o'clock, and he had a two-mile walk to Highmead. His brother believed that he was spending the evening with an acquaintance in a neighbouring town; he had said he should probably be very late, and a side door was to be left unbarred that he might admit himself with a latch-key.
But for a policeman here and there, the streets were desolate. Wherever the lamplight fell upon a wall or hoarding, it illumined election placards, with the names of the candidates in staring letters, and all the familiar vulgarities of party advertising. "Welwyn-Baker and the Honour of Old England!"--"Vote for Quarrier, the Friend of the Working Man!"--"No Jingoism!" "The Constitution in Danger! Polterham to the Rescue!" These trumpetings to the battle restored Glazzard's self-satisfaction; he smiled once more, and walked on with lighter step.
Just outside the town, in a dark narrow road, he was startled by the sudden rising of a man's figure. A voice exclaimed, in thick, ebrious tones: "Who are you for? What's you're colour?"
"Who are you for?" called out Glazzard, in return, as he walked past.
The politician--who had seemingly been asleep in the ditch-- raised himself to his full height and waved his arms about.
"I'm a Radical!--Quarrier for ever!--Come on, one and all of you --I'm ready: fist or argument, it's all one to me!--You and your Welwyn-Baker--gurr! What's he ever done for the people?-- that's what I want to know!--Ya-oo-oo-oo! Quarrier for ever!-- Down with the aristocrats as wants to make war at the expense of the working man! What's England coming to?--tell me that! You've no principles, you haven't, you Tory skunks; you've not half a principle among you.--I'm a man of principle, I am, and I vote for national morality, I do!--You're running away, are you?-- Ya-oo-oo!--stop and fight it out, if you're a man!--Down with 'em, boys! Down with 'em!--Quarrier for ever!"
The shouts of hiccoughy enthusiasm came suddenly to an end, and Glazzard, looking back, saw that, in an attempt to run, the orator had measured his length in the mud.
By three o'clock he was seated in his bedroom, very tired but not much disposed to turn into bed. He had put a match to the fire, for his feet were numbed with cold, in spite of a long walk. Travelling-bags and trunks in readiness for removal told of his journey on the morrow. All his arrangements were made; the marriage ceremony was to take place at ten o'clock, and shortly after eleven he and his wife would leave for London on their way to the Continent.
Too soon, of course, to hear the result of Northway's visit to the Court-house. There would be the pleasure of imagining all that he left behind him, and in a day or two the papers would bring news. He had always sympathized with Guy Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators: how delightful to have fired the train, and then, at a safe distance, have awaited the stupendous explosion.
Poor little Lilian! That was the only troublesome thought. Yet was he in truth harming her? Quarrier would take her abroad, and, in a life of retirement, she would have far more happiness than was possible to her under the present circumstances. Northway would sue for a divorce, and thus leave her free to enter upon legitimate marriage. Perhaps he was doing her the greatest kindness in his power.
When his feet were thoroughly warm he went to bed, and slept well until the servant call him at half-past seven. It was a very bright morning; he drew up the blind and let a flood of sunshine into the room. Contrary to his expectations, no despondency weighed upon him; by breakfast time he was more than usually cheerful.
"Ivy," he said to his niece, "I have promised to call at the Quarriers' on our way. We had better start at a quarter to nine; that will give us five minutes with them."
Of his brother he took leave with much cordiality. William would probably not be much longer at Highmead, and might perhaps join his relatives abroad before the end of the year. In that case, Ivy would accompany him; and she thought with timid pleasure of thus renewing her friendship with Serena under brighter skies.
Two vehicles came up to the door--in one the luggage was despatched to the station; the other carried the bridegroom and his niece into Polterham.
Quarrier awaited them on his threshold, watch in hand, for he had no time to lose on the eve of nomination day.
"Come in!" he cried, joyously. "Such weather as this is a good omen. How do you do, Miss Glazzard? Here is Lilian all excitement to see you; she would give her little finger to go to the wedding."
They entered the house.
"Decidedly," said Denzil, turning to Lilian, "his appearance is a compliment to Miss Mumbray. When did you see him looking so well and animated?"
Lilian coloured, and tried to speak in the same tone, but it was with difficulty that she used her voice at all. Glazzard's departure from Polterham promised her such relief of mind that she could not face him without a sense of shame.
"Telegraph the result, if it is favourable," said Glazzard. "You shall have an address in time for that."
"If it is favourable? Why, my dear fellow, we shall poll two to one, at the lowest computation! I've half lost my pleasure in the fight; I feel ashamed to hit out with all my strength when I make a speech --it's like pounding an invalid!"
"Then I congratulate you in advance, Mrs. Quarrier. If we are long away from England, the chances arc I shall have to make my next call upon you in Downing Street!"
"Some day, old boy--some day!" assented Denzil, with a superb smile.
There followed much handshaking, and the visitors returned to their carriage. As it moved away, Glazzard put his head out of the window, waved his hand, and cried merrily:
"Quarrier for ever!"
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