Page:Court Royal.djvu/59

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is almost the attachment of friendship between them—as far as friendship can subsist between two so widely removed in the social scale. I hope that eventually my son will succeed to the stewardship. Of course he is young now, and the affairs demand an old head——' He paused, and moved uneasily. ‘Altogether the Marquess is a most charming man.’

‘Quite so,’ said Mr. Crudge.

‘There is our Vicar,’ pursued the steward. ‘An agreeable person, but tiresome. To-morrow he will dine with a gentleman of means, but no birth, in the town, and be quite Liberal, if not Radical, when his feet are beneath his mahogany. He leads a life of it; he is pulled this way and that by the ladies of his congregation, who have their various and discordant views.’

‘That,’ said Mr. Crudge, ‘strikes me as the weakness of the Church of England. She is trying to balance herself between two stools, a position neither dignified nor secure.

‘Still,’ said the steward, ‘with this abatement he is a charming man.’ Then he held up his finger: ‘His Grace is speaking.’

‘I do not myself see how we can escape a complete political and social revolution,’ said the Duke to the Vicar, Sir Edward Sheepwash, and the Archdeacon of Wellington. ‘If the franchise is entrusted to the Have-nots, the Haves must go down. They must go down for this reason——'

‘Which is the Ducal family?’ whispered Crudge. ‘Haves or Have-nots, or Have and Have-not in one?’

‘Hush,’ said Worthivale.

‘They must go down for this reason, that the appeal to the electors will be an appeal to Cerberus, and Cerberus must be given cakes. Now, it is absurd to affect indignation against bribery and corruption in boroughs, and yet extend the franchise to the needy. If the needy have the franchise, you must appeal to their cupidity. It is the only appeal they can understand. The new class of electors are earthworms, all stomach. Whichever party desires to get into power must appeal to their cupidity, or for evermore stand out of power. Hitherto bribery has meant the candidate throwing away his own money; henceforth he will throw away that of others, and that will not be bribery. I bribe the electors of Kingsbridge if I allow them to shoot rabbits over my preserves. I do not bribe if I promise them the land of the aristocracy and the tithes of the Church.’

‘Already,’ said the Archdeacon, ‘the farmers are crying out that they are crushed by the rates.