The New Machiavelli

Page 60 of 114

She seemed at that time unconscious of sex, though she has told me since how full she was of protesting curiosities and restrained emotions. She spoke, as indeed she has always spoken, simply, clearly, and vividly; schoolgirl slang mingled with words that marked ample voracious reading, and she moved quickly with the free directness of some graceful young animal. She took many of the easy freedoms a man or a sister might have done with me. She would touch my arm, lay a hand on my shoulder as I sat, adjust the lapel of a breast-pocket as she talked to me. She says now she loved me always from the beginning. I doubt if there was a suspicion of that in her mind those days. I used to find her regarding me with the clearest, steadiest gaze in the world, exactly like the gaze of some nice healthy innocent animal in a forest, interested, inquiring, speculative, but singularly untroubled....


Polling day came after a last hoarse and dingy crescendo. The excitement was not of the sort that makes one forget one is tired out. The waiting for the end of the count has left a long blank mark on my memory, and then everyone was shaking my hand and repeating: “Nine hundred and seventy-six.”

My success had been a foregone conclusion since the afternoon, but we all behaved as though we had not been anticipating this result for hours, as though any other figures but nine hundred and seventy-six would have meant something entirely different. “Nine hundred and seventy-six!” said Margaret. “They didn't expect three hundred.”

“Nine hundred and seventy-six,” said a little short man with a paper. “It means a big turnover. Two dozen short of a thousand, you know.”

A tremendous hullaboo began outside, and a lot of fresh people came into the room.

Isabel, flushed but not out of breath, Heaven knows where she had sprung from at that time of night! was running her hand down my sleeve almost caressingly, with the innocent bold affection of a girl. “Got you in!” she said. “It's been no end of a lark.”

“And now,” said I, “I must go and be constructive.”

“Now you must go and be constructive,” she said.

“You've got to live here,” she added.

“By Jove! yes,” I said. “We'll have to house hunt.”

“I shall read all your speeches.”

She hesitated.

“I wish I was you,” she said, and said it as though it was not exactly the thing she was meaning to say.

“They want you to speak,” said Margaret, with something unsaid in her face.

“You must come out with me,” I answered, putting my arm through hers, and felt someone urging me to the French windows that gave on the balcony.

“If you think—” she said, yielding gladly

“Oh, RATHER!” said I.

The Mayor of Kinghamstead, a managing little man with no great belief in my oratorical powers, was sticking his face up to mine.

“It's all over,” he said, “and you've won. Say all the nice things you can and say them plainly.”

I turned and handed Margaret out through the window and stood looking over the Market-place, which was more than half filled with swaying people. The crowd set up a roar of approval at the sight of us, tempered by a little booing. Down in one corner of the square a fight was going on for a flag, a fight that even the prospect of a speech could not instantly check. “Speech!” cried voices, “Speech!” and then a brief “boo-oo-oo” that was drowned in a cascade of shouts and cheers. The conflict round the flag culminated in the smashing of a pane of glass in the chemist's window and instantly sank to peace.

“Gentlemen voters of the Kinghamstead Division,” I began.

“Votes for Women!” yelled a voice, amidst laughter—the first time I remember hearing that memorable war-cry.

“Three cheers for Mrs. Remington!”

“Mrs. Remington asks me to thank you,” I said, amidst further uproar and reiterated cries of “Speech!”

Then silence came with a startling swiftness.

Isabel was still in my mind, I suppose. “I shall go to Westminster,” I began. I sought for some compelling phrase and could not find one. “To do my share,” I went on, “in building up a great and splendid civilisation.”

I paused, and there was a weak gust of cheering, and then a renewal of booing.

“This election,” I said, “has been the end and the beginning of much. New ideas are abroad—”

“Chinese labour,” yelled a voice, and across the square swept a wildfire of booting and bawling.

It is one of the few occasions when I quite lost my hold on a speech. I glanced sideways and saw the Mayor of Kinghamstead speaking behind his hand to Parvill. By a happy chance Parvill caught my eye.

“What do they want?” I asked.


“What do they want?”

“Say something about general fairness—the other side,” prompted Parvill, flattered but a little surprised by my appeal. I pulled myself hastily into a more popular strain with a gross eulogy of my opponent's good taste.

“Chinese labour!” cried the voice again.

“You've given that notice to quit,” I answered.

The Market-place roared delight, but whether that delight expressed hostility to Chinamen or hostility to their practical enslavement no student of the General Election of 1906 has ever been able to determine. Certainly one of the most effective posters on our side displayed a hideous yellow face, just that and nothing more. There was not even a legend to it. How it impressed the electorate we did not know, but that it impressed the electorate profoundly there can be no disputing.


Kinghamstead was one of the earliest constituencies fought, and we came back—it must have been Saturday—triumphant but very tired, to our house in Radnor Square. In the train we read the first intimations that the victory of our party was likely to be a sweeping one.

Then came a period when one was going about receiving and giving congratulations and watching the other men arrive, very like a boy who has returned to school with the first batch after the holidays. The London world reeked with the General Election; it had invaded the nurseries. All the children of one's friends had got big maps of England cut up into squares to represent constituencies and were busy sticking gummed blue labels over the conquered red of Unionism that had hitherto submerged the country. And there were also orange labels, if I remember rightly, to represent the new Labour party, and green for the Irish. I engaged myself to speak at one or two London meetings, and lunched at the Reform, which was fairly tepid, and dined and spent one or two tumultuous evenings at the National Liberal Club, which was in active eruption. The National Liberal became feverishly congested towards midnight as the results of the counting came dropping in. A big green-baize screen had been fixed up at one end of the large smoking-room with the names of the constituencies that were voting that day, and directly the figures came to hand, up they went, amidst cheers that at last lost their energy through sheer repetition, whenever there was record of a Liberal gain. I don't remember what happened when there was a Liberal loss; I don't think that any were announced while I was there.

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