“Your friend Mr. Mordaunt has promised to support my candidature. You, of course, will be in the opposite camp.”
Lewis said he did not think so-that he had lost interest in party politics, and would lie low.
Mr. Stocks bowed in acquiescence.
“And what do you think of my chances?”
Lewis replied that he should think about equal betting. “You see the place is Radical in the main, with the mills at Gledfoot and the weavers at Gledsmuir. Up in Glenavelin they are more or less Conservative. Merkland gets in usually by a small majority because he is a local man and has a good deal of property down the Gled. If two strangers fought it the Radical would win; as it is it is pretty much of a toss-up either way.”
“But if Sir Robert resigns?”
“Oh, that scare has been raised every time by the other party. I should say that there’s no doubt that the old man will keep on for years.”
Mr. Stocks looked relieved. “I heard of his resignation as a certainty, and I was afraid that a stronger man might take his place.”
So it fell out that the day which began with pastoral closed, like many another day, with politics. Since Lewis refrained from controversy, Mr. Stocks seemed to look upon him as a Gallio from whom no danger need be feared, nay, even as a convert to be fostered. He became confident and talked jocularly of the tricks of his trade. Lewis’s boredom was complete by the time they reached the farmhouse and found the Glenavelin party ready to start.
“We want to see Etterick, so we shall come to lunch to-morrow, Lewie,” said his aunt. “So be prepared, my dear, and be on your best behaviour.”
Then, with his two friends, he turned towards the lights of his home.
THE MAKERS OF EMPIRE
The day before the events just recorded two men had entered the door of a certain London club and made their way to a remote little smoking-room on the first floor. It was not a handsome building, nor had it any particular outlook or position. It was a small, old-fashioned place in a side street, in style obviously of last century, and the fittings within were far from magnificent. Yet no club carried more distinction in its membership. Its hundred possible inmates were the cream of the higher professions, the chef and the cellar were things to wonder at, and the man who could write himself a member of the Rota Club had obtained one of the rare social honours which men confer on one another. Thither came all manner of people—the distinguished foreigner travelling incognito, and eager to talk with some Minister unofficially on matters of import, the diplomat on a secret errand, the traveller home for a brief season, the soldier, the thinker, the lawyer. It was a catholic assembly, but exclusive—very. Each man bore the stamp of competence on his face, and there was no cheap talk of the “well-informed” variety. When the members spoke seriously they spoke like experts; otherwise they were apt to joke very much like schoolboys let loose. The Right Hon. Mr. M—— was not above twitting Lord S—— with gunroom stories, and suffering in turn good-natured libel.