The New Machiavelli

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Plutus, our agent, was scared out of his wits when the thing began.

“They're ascribing all sorts of queer ideas to you about the Family,” he said.

“I think the Family exists for the good of the children,” I said; “is that queer?”

“Not when you explain it—but they won't let you explain it. And about marriage—?”

“I'm all right about marriage—trust me.”

“Of course, if YOU had children,” said Plutus, rather inconsiderately....

They opened fire upon me in a little electioneering rag call the HANDITCH SENTINEL, with a string of garbled quotations and misrepresentations that gave me an admirable text for a speech. I spoke for an hour and ten minutes with a more and more crumpled copy of the SENTINEL in my hand, and I made the fullest and completest exposition of the idea of endowing motherhood that I think had ever been made up to that time in England. Its effect on the press was extraordinary. The Liberal papers gave me quite unprecedented space under the impression that I had only to be given rope to hang myself; the Conservatives cut me down or tried to justify me; the whole country was talking. I had had a pamphlet in type upon the subject, and I revised this carefully and put it on the book-stalls within three days. It sold enormously and brought me bushels of letters. We issued over three thousand in Handitch alone. At meeting after meeting I was heckled upon nothing else. Long before polling day Plutus was converted.

“It's catching on like old age pensions,” he said. “We've dished the Liberals! To think that such a project should come from our side!”

But it was only with the declaration of the poll that my battle was won. No one expected more than a snatch victory, and I was in by over fifteen hundred. At one bound Cossington's papers passed from apologetics varied by repudiation to triumphant praise. “A renascent England, breeding men,” said the leader in his chief daily on the morning after the polling, and claimed that the Conservatives had been ever the pioneers in sanely bold constructive projects.

I came up to London with a weary but rejoicing Margaret by the night train.



To any one who did not know of that glowing secret between Isabel and myself, I might well have appeared at that time the most successful and enviable of men. I had recovered rapidly from an uncongenial start in political life; I had become a considerable force through the BLUE WEEKLY, and was shaping an increasingly influential body of opinion; I had re-entered Parliament with quite dramatic distinction, and in spite of a certain faltering on the part of the orthodox Conservatives towards the bolder elements in our propaganda, I had loyal and unenvious associates who were making me a power in the party. People were coming to our group, understandings were developing. It was clear we should play a prominent part in the next general election, and that, given a Conservative victory, I should be assured of office. The world opened out to me brightly and invitingly. Great schemes took shape in my mind, always more concrete, always more practicable; the years ahead seemed falling into order, shining with the credible promise of immense achievement.

And at the heart of it all, unseen and unsuspected, was the secret of my relations with Isabel—like a seed that germinates and thrusts, thrusts relentlessly.

From the onset of the Handitch contest onward, my meetings with her had been more and more pervaded by the discussion of our situation. It had innumerable aspects. It was very present to us that we wanted to be together as much as possible—we were beginning to long very much for actual living together in the same house, so that one could come as it were carelessly—unawares—upon the other, busy perhaps about some trivial thing. We wanted to feel each other in the daily atmosphere. Preceding our imperatively sterile passion, you must remember, outside it, altogether greater than it so far as our individual lives were concerned, there had grown and still grew an enormous affection and intellectual sympathy between us. We brought all our impressions and all our ideas to each other, to see them in each other's light. It is hard to convey that quality of intellectual unison to any one who has not experienced it. I thought more and more in terms of conversation with Isabel; her possible comments upon things would flash into my mind, oh!—with the very sound of her voice.

I remember, too, the odd effect of seeing her in the distance going about Handitch, like any stranger canvasser; the queer emotion of her approach along the street, the greeting as she passed. The morning of the polling she vanished from the constituency. I saw her for an instant in the passage behind our Committee rooms.

“Going?” said I.

She nodded.

“Stay it out. I want you to see the fun. I remember—the other time.”

She didn't answer for a moment or so, and stood with face averted.

“It's Margaret's show,” she said abruptly. “If I see her smiling there like a queen by your side—! She did—last time. I remember.” She caught at a sob and dashed her hand across her face impatiently. “Jealous fool, mean and petty, jealous fool!... Good luck, old man, to you! You're going to win. But I don't want to see the end of it all the same....”

“Good-bye!” said I, clasping her hand as some supporter appeared in the passage....

I came back to London victorious, and a little flushed and coarse with victory; and so soon as I could break away I went to Isabel's flat and found her white and worn, with the stain of secret weeping about her eyes. I came into the room to her and shut the door.

“You said I'd win,” I said, and held out my arms.

She hugged me closely for a moment.

“My dear,” I whispered, “it's nothing—without you—nothing!”

We didn't speak for some seconds. Then she slipped from my hold. “Look!” she said, smiling like winter sunshine. “I've had in all the morning papers—the pile of them, and you—resounding.”

“It's more than I dared hope.”

“Or I.”

She stood for a moment still smiling bravely, and then she was sobbing in my arms. “The bigger you are—the more you show,” she said—“the more we are parted. I know, I know—”

I held her close to me, making no answer.

Presently she became still. “Oh, well,” she said, and wiped her eyes and sat down on the little sofa by the fire; and I sat down beside her.

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