May 19, 1860.]
THE PREVIOUS QUESTION.
game which I was about to commence worth playing, after all? Surely the jasmine and honeysuckle odours of our little garden at Marigold Lodge were sweeter than the perfumes of the Lobby, or of a Committee Room. Dear Flora was decidedly a lovelier object to look upon even than Mr. Speaker himself, and I should be perfectly willing to leave the decision upon this point to the candid judgment of England’s First Commoner in person.
Great men have their moments of weakness, and this was mine. All thoughts of hesitation were driven fairly out of my mind by the appearance of my excellent little consort, who had walked down to a particular bend of the road known as “The Miller’s Thumb” to meet me. F. had brought the two children with her, and stood between them like the mother of the Gracchi awaiting the return of their lord from some public struggle of a terrific nature. There was not wanting a certain tinge of solemnity in the demonstrations of F.’s affection upon this memorable occasion; and indeed I felt that she addressed me with more respect than was usual with her, for her long familiarity with the innermost workings of my mind had not inspired my wife with that degree of reverence for me which the most harmless husband would naturally desire. She would not, at first, permit me to speak of the events of the day, inasmuch as in her opinion it was the duty of the wife to soothe, comfort, and console her husband when overtasked and overburdened with the weight of public affairs. There must, however, have been some degree of latent curiosity lurking in the sweet recesses of her mind, for, just as we got up to the smith’s forge, she intimated to me, that if it would be at all a relief to me to make any disclosures to her upon the occurrences of the last eight hours her ears were open, and her sympathies at my command. Of course I asked no better than to put my day’s exertions in a proper point of view before her. I had not done much, to be sure, in the sense of work actually done; but at least I saw my way to a good opening. That was a great point. Flora was very indignant with P. Poladek, the Cornish patriot—she had frequently noticed that he was a soured and disappointed man—but that came of people thrusting themselves into situations for which they were unfit. With Mr. Milkwell, our county member, on whose behalf I had taken so much trouble, F. had not “common patience,” and instantly organised in her mind a little retaliatory drama, to be carried out, in fact, upon the very next occasion when Mr. Milkwell solicited our vote and interest. With Moon she was delighted—he was a true friend. But the mystery connected with the Sloth was the most attractive feature in the day’s proceedings. She did me the honour of supposing that if the gentleman known by that unpleasing sobriquet could but once see and converse with me, he would instantly perceive that in me he had at last found an instrument capable of carrying out his most ambitious designs, and that he would at once take me into his confidence, and impart to me all his projects, both with regard to foreign and domestic policy. I could not help thinking that F. was a little sanguine.
I wish I were not deterred by considerations of space from giving in detail the particulars of that charming evening. It was the triumph without the perils of the conflict. If F. was ambitious, it