So far she went in her heresy, but no farther. It is a true saying that you will find twenty heroic women before you may meet one generous one; but Alice was not wholly without this rarest of qualities. The memory of a frank voice, very honest grey eyes, and a robust cheerfulness brought back some affection for the erring Lewis. The problem was beyond her reconciling efforts, so the poor girl, torn between common sense and feeling, and recognizing with painful clearness the complexity of life, found refuge in secret tears.
The honours of the contest, so far as Lewis’s party was concerned, fell to George Winterham, and this was the fashion of the event. He had been dragged reluctantly into the thing, foreseeing dire disaster for himself, for he knew little and cared less about matters political, though he was ready enough at a pinch to place his ignorance at his friend’s disposal. So he had been set to the dreary work of committee-rooms; and then, since his manners were not unpleasing, dispatched as aide-de-camp to any chance orator who enlivened the county. But at last a crisis arrived in which other use was made of him. A speaker of some pretensions had been announced for a certain night at the considerable village of Allerfoot. The great man failed, and as it was the very eve of the election none could be found for his place. Lewis was in despair, till he thought of George. It was a desperate chance, but the necessity was urgent, so, shutting himself up for an hour, he wrote the better part of a speech which he entrusted to his friend to prepare. George, having a good memory, laboriously learned it by heart, and clutching the friendly paper and whole-heartedly abusing his chief, he set out grimly to his fate.
Promptly at the hour of eight he was deposited at the door of the Masonic Hail in Allerfoot. The place seemed full, and a nervous chairman was hovering around the gate. News of the great man’s defection had already been received, and he was in the extremes of nervousness. He greeted George as a saviour, and led him inside, where some three hundred people crowded a small whitewashed building. The village of Allerfoot itself is a little place, but it is the centre of a wide pastoral district, and the folk assembled were brown-faced herds and keepers from the hills, plough-men from the flats of Glen Aller, a few fishermen from the near sea-coast, as well as the normal inhabitants of the village.
George was wretchedly nervous and sat in a cold sweat while the chairman explained that the great Mr. S—— deeply regretted that at the last moment he was unfortunately compelled to break so important an engagement, but that he had sent in his stead Mr. George Winterham, whose name was well known as a distinguished Oxford scholar and a rising barrister. George, who had been ploughed twice for Smalls and had eventually taken a pass degree, and to whom the law courts were