“Buller was not there,” said Mr. John Short to Mr. Oliver Smith, and from the absence of mirth amongst the gentlemen, Bessie conjectured that there was a general sense of failure and disappointment.
Mr. Cecil Burleigh preserved his dignified composure, and came up to Bessie, who said, “This is only the beginning?”
“Only the beginning—the real work is all to do,” said he, and entered into a low-toned exposition thereof quite calmly.
It was at this moment that Mr. John Short, happening to cast an eye upon the two, received one of those happy inspirations that visit in emergency men of superior resources and varied experience. At Lady Angleby’s behest the pretty ladies in blue bonnets set out to shop, pay calls in the town, and show their colors, and the agent attached himself to the party. They all left the “George” together, but it was not long before they divided, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Bessie, having nowhere particular where they wished to go, wandered towards the minster. Mr. John Short, without considering whether his company might be acceptable, adhered to them, and at length boldly suggested that they were not far from the thoroughfare in which the “Red Lion” was situated, and that a word from the aspirant candidate to Buller might not be thrown away.
It was the hour of the afternoon when the host of the “Red Lion” sat at the receipt of news and custom, smoking his pipe after dinner in the shade of an old elm tree by his own door. He was a burly man, with a becoming sense of his importance and weight in the world, and as honest a desire to do his share in mending it as his betters. He was not to be bought by any of the usual methods of electioneering sale and barter, but he had a soft place in his heart that Mr. John Short knew of, and was not therefore to be relinquished as altogether invulnerable.
Mr. Cecil Burleigh could not affect the jocose and familiar, but perhaps his plain way of address was a higher compliment to the publican’s understanding. “Is it true, Buller, that you balance about voting again for Bradley? Think of it, and see if you cannot return to the old flag,” was all he said.
“Sir, I mean to think of it,” replied Buller with equal directness. “I’m pleased with what I hear of you, and I like a gentleman, but Bradley explains his puzzling conduct very plausibly: it is no use being factious and hindering business in the House, as he says. And it can’t be denied that there’s Tory members in the House as factious as any of them pestilent Radical chaps that get up strikes out of doors. I’m not saying that you would be one of them, sir.”
“I hope not. For no party considerations would I hinder any advance or reform that I believe to be for the good of the country.”
“I am glad to hear it, sir; you would be what we call an independent member. My opinion is, sir, that sound progress feels its way and takes one step at a time, and if it tries to go too fast it overleaps itself.”