Read CHAPTER XIV - THE LEADING ARTICLE AND MR. TIMOTHY TURBOT of Beauchamp Career, free online book, by George Meredith, on ReadCentral.com.

Nevil declined to come to Steynham, clearly owing to a dread of hearing Dr. Shrapnel abused, as Rosamund judged by the warmth of his written eulogies of the man, and an ensuing allusion to Game.  He said that he had not made up his mind as to the Game Laws.  Rosamund mentioned the fact to Mr. Romfrey.  ’So we may stick by our licences to shoot to-morrow,’ he rejoined.  Of a letter that he also had received from Nevil, he did not speak.  She hinted at it, and he stared.  He would have deemed it as vain a subject to discourse of India, or Continental affairs, at a period when his house was full for the opening day of sport, and the expectation of keeping up his renown for great bags on that day so entirely occupied his mind.  Good shots were present who had contributed to the fame of Steynham on other opening days.  Birds were plentiful and promised not to be too wild.  He had the range of the Steynham estate in his eye, dotted with covers; and after Steynham, Holdesbury, which had never yielded him the same high celebrity, but both lay mapped out for action under the profound calculations of the strategist, ready to show the skill of the field tactician.  He could not attend to Nevil.  Even the talk of the forthcoming Elections, hardly to be avoided at his table, seemed a puerile distraction.  Ware the foe of his partridges and pheasants, be it man or vermin!  The name of Shrapnel was frequently on the tongue of Captain Baskelett.  Rosamund heard him, in her room, and his derisive shouts of laughter over it.  Cecil was a fine shot, quite as fond of the pastime as his uncle, and always in favour with him while sport stalked the land.  He was in gallant spirits, and Rosamund, brooding over Nevil’s fortunes, and sitting much alone, as she did when there were guests in the house, gave way to her previous apprehensions.  She touched on them to Mr. Stukely Culbrett, her husband’s old friend, one of those happy men who enjoy perceptions without opinions, and are not born to administer comfort to other than themselves.  As far as she could gather, he fancied Nevil Beauchamp was in danger of something, but he delivered his mind only upon circumstances and characters:  Nevil risked his luck, Cecil knew his game, Everard Romfrey was the staunchest of mankind:  Stukely had nothing further to say regarding the situation.  She asked him what he thought, and he smiled.  Could a reasonable head venture to think anything in particular?  He repeated the amazed, ‘You don’t say so’ of Colonel Halkett, on hearing the name of the new Liberal candidate for Bevisham at the dinner-table, together with some of Cecil’s waggish embroidery upon the theme.

Rosamund exclaimed angrily, ’Oh! if I had been there he would not have dared.’

‘Why not be there?’ said Stukely.  ’You have had your choice for a number of years.’

She shook her head, reddening.

But supposing that she had greater privileges than were hers now?  The idea flashed.  A taint of personal pique, awakened by the fancied necessity for putting her devotedness to Nevil to proof, asked her if she would then be the official housekeeper to whom Captain Baskelett bowed low with affected respect and impertinent affability, ironically praising her abroad as a wonder among women, that could at one time have played the deuce in the family, had she chosen to do so.

‘Just as you like,’ Mr. Culbrett remarked.  It was his ironical habit of mind to believe that the wishes of men and women ­women as well as men ­were expressed by their utterances.

‘But speak of Nevil to Colonel Halkett,’ said Rosamund, earnestly carrying on what was in her heart.  ’Persuade the colonel you do not think Nevil foolish ­not more than just a little impetuous.  I want that marriage to come off!  Not on account of her wealth.  She is to inherit a Welsh mine from her uncle, you know, besides being an only child.  Recall what Nevil was during the war.  Miss Halkett has not forgotten it, I am sure, and a good word for him from a man of the world would, I am certain, counteract Captain Baskelett’s ­are they designs?  At any rate, you can if you like help Nevil with the colonel.  I am convinced they are doing him a mischief.  Colonel Halkett has bought an estate ­and what a misfortune that is! ­close to Bevisham.  I fancy he is Toryish.  Will you not speak to him?  At my request?  I am so helpless I could cry.

‘Fancy you have no handkerchief,’ said Mr. Culbrett, ’and give up scheming, pray.  One has only to begin to scheme, to shorten life to half-a-dozen hops and jumps.  I could say to the colonel, “Young Beauchamp’s a political cub:  he ought to have a motherly wife."’

‘Yes, yes, you are right; don’t speak to him at all,’ said Rosamund, feeling that there must be a conspiracy to rob her of her proud independence, since not a soul could be won to spare her from taking some energetic step, if she would be useful to him she loved.

Colonel Halkett was one of the guests at Steynham who knew and respected her, and he paid her a visit and alluded to Nevil’s candidature, apparently not thinking much the worse of him.  ’We can’t allow him to succeed,’ he said, and looked for a smiling approval of such natural opposition, which Rosamund gave him readily after he had expressed the hope that Nevil Beauchamp would take advantage of his proximity to Mount Laurels during the contest to try the hospitality of the house.  ’He won’t mind meeting his uncle?’ The colonel’s eyes twinkled.  ’My daughter has engaged Mr. Romfrey and Captain Baskelett to come to us when they have shot Holdesbury.’

And Captain Baskelett! thought Rosamund; her jealousy whispering that the mention of his name close upon Cecilia Halkett’s might have a nuptial signification.

She was a witness from her window ­a prisoner’s window, her ’eager heart could have termed it ­of a remarkable ostentation of cordiality between the colonel and Cecil, in the presence of Mr. Romfrey.  Was it his humour to conspire to hand Miss Halkett to Cecil, and then to show Nevil the prize he had forfeited by his folly?  The three were on the lawn a little before Colonel Halkett’s departure.  The colonel’s arm was linked with Cecil’s while they conversed.  Presently the latter received his afternoon’s letters, and a newspaper.  He soon had the paper out at a square stretch, and sprightly information for the other two was visible in his crowing throat.  Mr. Romfrey raised the gun from his shoulder-pad, and grounded it.  Colonel Halkett wished to peruse the matter with his own eyes, but Cecil could not permit it; he must read it aloud for them, and he suited his action to his sentences.  Had Rosamund been accustomed to leading articles which are the composition of men of an imposing vocabulary, she would have recognized and as good as read one in Cecil’s gestures as he tilted his lofty stature forward and back, marking his commas and semicolons with flapping of his elbows, and all but doubling his body at his periods.  Mr. Romfrey had enough of it half-way down the column; his head went sharply to left and right.  Cecil’s peculiar foppish slicing down of his hand pictured him protesting that there was more and finer of the inimitable stuff to follow.  The end of the scene exhibited the paper on the turf, and Colonel Halkett’s hand on Cecil’s shoulder, Mr. Romfrey nodding some sort of acquiescence over the muzzle of his gun, whether reflective or positive Rosamund could not decide.  She sent out a footman for the paper, and was presently communing with its eloquent large type, quite unable to perceive where the comicality or the impropriety of it lay, for it would have struck her that never were truer things of Nevil Beauchamp better said in the tone befitting them.  This perhaps was because she never heard fervid praises of him, or of anybody, delivered from the mouth, and it is not common to hear Englishmen phrasing great eulogies of one another.  Still, as a rule, they do not object to have it performed in that region of our national eloquence, the Press, by an Irishman or a Scotchman.  And what could there be to warrant Captain Baskelett’s malicious derision, and Mr. Romfrey’s nodding assent to it, in an article where all was truth?

The truth was mounted on an unusually high wind.  It was indeed a leading article of a banner-like bravery, and the unrolling of it was designed to stir emotions.  Beauchamp was the theme.  Nevil had it under his eyes earlier than Cecil.  The paper was brought into his room with the beams of day, damp from the presses of the Bevisham Gazette, exactly opposite to him in the White Hart Hotel, and a glance at the paragraphs gave him a lively ardour to spring to his feet.  What writing!  He was uplifted as ‘The heroical Commander Beauchamp, of the Royal Navy,’ and ’Commander Beauchamp, R.N., a gentleman of the highest connections’:  he was ’that illustrious Commander Beauchamp, of our matchless, navy, who proved on every field of the last glorious war of this country that the traditional valour of the noble and indomitable blood transmitted to his veins had lost none of its edge and weight since the battle-axes of the Lords de Romfrey, ever to the fore, clove the skulls of our national enemy on the wide and fertile campaigns of France.’  This was pageantry.

There was more of it.  Then the serious afflatus of the article condescended, as it were, to blow a shrill and well-known whistle: ­the study of the science of navigation made by Commander Beauchamp, R.N., was cited for a jocose warranty of a seaman’s aptness to assist in steering the Vessel of the State.  After thus heeling over, to tip a familiar wink to the multitude, the leader tone resumed its fit deportment.  Commander Beauchamp, in responding to the invitation of the great and united Liberal party of the borough of Bevisham, obeyed the inspirations of genius, the dictates of humanity, and what he rightly considered the paramount duty, as it is the proudest ambition, of the citizen of a free country.

But for an occasional drop and bump of the sailing gasbag upon catch-words of enthusiasm, which are the rhetoric of the merely windy, and a collapse on a poetic line, which too often signalizes the rhetorician’s emptiness of his wind, the article was eminent for flight, sweep, and dash, and sailed along far more grandly than ordinary provincial organs for the promoting or seconding of public opinion, that are as little to be compared with the mighty metropolitan as are the fife and bugle boys practising on their instruments round melancholy outskirts of garrison towns with the regimental marching full band under the presidency of its drum-major.  No signature to the article was needed for Bevisham to know who had returned to the town to pen it.  Those long-stretching sentences, comparable to the very ship Leviathan, spanning two Atlantic billows, appertained to none but the renowned Mr. Timothy Turbot, of the Corn Law campaigns, Reform agitations, and all manifestly popular movements requiring the heaven-endowed man of speech, an interpreter of multitudes, and a prompter.  Like most men who have little to say, he was an orator in print, but that was a poor medium for him ­his body without his fire.  Mr. Timothy’s place was the platform.  A wise discernment, or else a lucky accident (for he came hurriedly from the soil of his native isle, needing occupation), set him on that side in politics which happened to be making an established current and strong headway.  Oratory will not work against the stream, or on languid tides.  Driblets of movements that allowed the world to doubt whether they were so much movements as illusions of the optics, did not suit his genius.  Thus he was a Liberal, no Radical, fountain.  Liberalism had the attraction for the orator of being the active force in politics, between two passive opposing bodies, the aspect of either of which it can assume for a menace to the other, Toryish as against Radicals; a trifle red in the eyes of the Tory.  It can seem to lean back on the Past; it can seem to be amorous of the Future.  It is actually the thing of the Present and its urgencies, therefore popular, pouring forth the pure waters of moderation, strong in their copiousness.  Delicious and rapturous effects are to be produced in the flood of a Liberal oration by a chance infusion of the fierier spirit, a flavour of Radicalism.  That is the thing to set an audience bounding and quirking.  Whereas if you commence by tilling a Triton pitcher full of the neat liquor upon them, ’you have to resort to the natural element for the orator’s art of variation, you are diluted ­and that’s bathos, to quote Mr. Timothy.  It was a fine piece of discernment in him.  Let Liberalism be your feast, Radicalism your spice.  And now and then, off and on, for a change, for diversion, for a new emotion, just for half an hour or so-now and then the Sunday coat of Toryism will give you an air.  You have only to complain of the fit, to release your shoulders in a trice.  Mr. Timothy felt for his art as poets do for theirs, and considered what was best adapted to speaking, purely to speaking.  Upon no creature did he look with such contempt as upon Dr. Shrapnel, whose loose disjunct audiences he was conscious he could, giving the doctor any start he liked, whirl away from him and have compact, enchained, at his first flourish; yea, though they were composed of ‘the poor man,’ with a stomach for the political distillery fit to drain relishingly every private bogside or mountain-side tap in old Ireland in its best days ­the illicit, you understand.

Further, to quote Mr. Timothy’s points of view, the Radical orator has but two notes, and one is the drawling pathetic, and the other is the ultra-furious; and the effect of the former we liken to the English working man’s wife’s hob-set queasy brew of well-meant villany, that she calls by the innocent name of tea; and the latter is to be blown, asks to be blown, and never should be blown without at least seeming to be blown, with an accompaniment of a house on fire.  Sir, we must adapt ourselves to our times.  Perhaps a spark or two does lurk about our house, but we have vigilant watchmen in plenty, and the house has been pretty fairly insured.  Shrieking in it is an annoyance to the inmates, nonsensical; weeping is a sickly business.  The times are against Radicalism to the full as much as great oratory is opposed to extremes.  These drag the orator too near to the matter.  So it is that one Radical speech is amazingly like another ­they all have the earth-spots.  They smell, too; they smell of brimstone.  Soaring is impossible among that faction; but this they can do, they can furnish the Tory his opportunity to soar.  When hear you a thrilling Tory speech that carries the country with it, save when the incendiary Radical has shrieked?  If there was envy in the soul of Timothy, it was addressed to the fine occasions offered to the Tory speaker for vindicating our ancient principles and our sacred homes.  He admired the tone to be assumed for that purpose:  it was a good note.  Then could the Tory, delivering at the right season the Shakesperian ‘This England...’ and Byronic ­’The inviolate Island...’ shake the frame, as though smiting it with the tail of the gymnotus electricus.  Ah, and then could he thump out his Horace, the Tory’s mentor and his cordial, with other great ancient comic and satiric poets, his old Port of the classical cellarage, reflecting veneration upon him who did but name them to an audience of good dispositions.  The Tory possessed also an innate inimitably easy style of humour, that had the long reach, the jolly lordly indifference, the comfortable masterfulness, of the whip of a four-in-hand driver, capable of flicking and stinging, and of being ironically caressing.  Timothy appreciated it, for he had winced under it.  No professor of Liberalism could venture on it, unless it were in the remote district of a back parlour, in the society of a cherishing friend or two, and with a slice of lemon requiring to be refloated in the glass.

But gifts of this description were of a minor order.  Liberalism gave the heading cry, devoid of which parties are dogs without a scent, orators mere pump-handles.  The Tory’s cry was but a whistle to his pack, the Radical howled to the moon like any chained hound.  And no wonder, for these parties had no established current, they were as hard-bound waters; the Radical being dyked and dammed most soundly, the Tory resembling a placid lake of the plains, fed by springs and no confluents.  For such good reasons, Mr. Timothy rejoiced in the happy circumstances which had expelled him from the shores of his native isle to find a refuge and a vocation in Manchester at a period when an orator happened to be in request because dozens were wanted.  That centre of convulsions and source of streams possessed the statistical orator, the reasoning orator, and the inspired; with others of quality; and yet it had need of an ever-ready spontaneous imperturbable speaker, whose bubbling generalizations and ability to beat the drum humorous could swing halls of meeting from the grasp of an enemy, and then ascend on incalescent adjectives to the popular idea of the sublime.  He was the artistic orator of Corn Law Repeal ­the Manchester flood, before which time Whigs were, since which they have walked like spectral antediluvians, or floated as dead canine bodies that are sucked away on the ebb of tides and flung back on the flow, ignorant whether they be progressive or retrograde.  Timothy Turbot assisted in that vast effort.  It should have elevated him beyond the editorship of a country newspaper.  Why it did not do so his antagonists pretended to know, and his friends would smile to hear.  The report was that he worshipped the nymph Whisky.

Timothy’s article had plucked Beauchamp out of bed; Beauchamp’s card in return did the same for him.

’Commander Beauchamp?  I am heartily glad to make your acquaintance, sir; I’ve been absent, at work, on the big business we have in common, I rejoice to say, and am behind my fellow townsmen in this pleasure and lucky I slept here in my room above, where I don’t often sleep, for the row of the machinery ­it ’s like a steamer that won’t go, though it’s always starting ye,’ Mr. Timothy said in a single breath, upon entering the back office of the Gazette, like unto those accomplished violinists who can hold on the bow to finger an incredible number of notes, and may be imaged as representing slow paternal Time, that rolls his capering dot-headed generation of mortals over the wheel, hundreds to the minute.  ’You’ll excuse my not shaving, sir, to come down to your summons without an extra touch to the neck-band.’

Beauchamp beheld a middle-sized round man, with loose lips and pendant indigo jowl, whose eyes twinkled watery, like pebbles under the shore-wash, and whose neck-band needed an extra touch from fingers other than his own.

‘I am sorry to have disturbed you so early,’ he replied.

’Not a bit, Commander Beauchamp, not a bit, sir.  Early or late, and ay ready ­with the Napiers; I’ll wash, I’ll wash.’

’I came to speak to you of this article of yours on me.  They tell me in the office that you are the writer.  Pray don’t “Commander” me so much. ­It’s not customary, and I object to it.’

‘Certainly, certainly,’ Timothy acquiesced.

’And for the future, Mr. Turbot, please to be good enough not to allude in print to any of my performances here and there.  Your intentions are complimentary, but it happens that I don’t like a public patting on the back.’

‘No, and that’s true,’ said Timothy.

His appreciative and sympathetic agreement with these sharp strictures on the article brought Beauchamp to a stop.

Timothy waited for him; then, smoothing his prickly cheek, remarked:  ’If I’d guessed your errand, Commander Beauchamp, I’d have called in the barber before I came down, just to make myself decent for a ’first introduction.’

Beauchamp was not insensible to the slyness of the poke at him.  ’You see, I come to the borough unknown to it, and as quietly as possible, and I want to be taken as a politician,’ he continued, for the sake of showing that he had sufficient to say to account for his hasty and peremptory summons of the writer of that article to his presence.  ’It’s excessively disagreeable to have one’s family lugged into notice in a newspaper ­especially if they are of different politics.  I feel it.’

All would, sir,’ said Timothy.

‘Then why the deuce did you do it?’

Timothy drew a lading of air into his lungs.  ’Politics, Commander Beauchamp, involves the doing of lots of disagreeable things to ourselves and our relations; it ’s positive.  I’m a soldier of the Great Campaign:  and who knows it better than I, sir?  It’s climbing the greasy pole for the leg o’ mutton, that makes the mother’s heart ache for the jacket and the nether garments she mended neatly, if she didn’t make them.  Mutton or no mutton, there’s grease for certain!  Since it’s sure we can’t be disconnected from the family, the trick is to turn the misfortune to a profit; and allow me the observation, that an old family, sir, and a high and titled family, is not to be despised for a background of a portrait in naval uniform, with medal and clasps, and some small smoke of powder clearing off over there: ­that’s if we’re to act sagaciously in introducing an unknown candidate to a borough that has a sneaking liking for the kind of person, more honour to it.  I’m a political veteran, sir; I speak from experience.  We must employ our weapons, every one of them, and all off the grindstone.’

‘Very well,’ said Beauchamp.  ’Now understand; you are not in future to employ the weapons, as you call them, that I have objected to.’

Timothy gaped slightly.

‘Whatever you will, but no puffery,’ Beauchamp added.  ’Can I by any means arrest ­purchase ­is it possible, tell me, to lay an embargo ­stop to-day’s issue of the Gazette?’

‘No more ­than the bite of a mad dog,’ Timothy replied, before he had considered upon the monstrous nature of the proposal.

Beauchamp humphed, and tossed his head.  The simile of the dog struck him with intense effect.

‘There’d be a second edition,’ said Timothy, ’and you might buy up that.  But there’ll be a third, and you may buy up that; but there’ll be a fourth and a fifth, and so on ad infinitum, with the advertisement of the sale of the foregoing creating a demand like a rageing thirst in a shipwreck, in Bligh’s boat, in the tropics.  I’m afraid, Com ­Captain Beauchamp, sir, there’s no stopping the Press while the people have an appetite for it ­and a Company’s at the back of it.’

’Pooh, don’t talk to me in that way; all I complain of is the figure you have made of me,’ said Beauchamp, fetching him smartly out of his nonsense; ’and all I ask of you is not to be at it again.  Who would suppose from reading an article like that, that I am a candidate with a single political idea!’

‘An article like that,’ said Timothy, winking, and a little surer of his man now that he suggested his possession of ideas, ’an article like that is the best cloak you can put on a candidate with too many of ’em, Captain Beauchamp.  I’ll tell you, sir; I came, I heard of your candidature, I had your sketch, the pattern of ye, before me, and I was told that Dr. Shrapnel fathered you politically.  There was my brief!  I had to persuade our constituents that you, Commander Beauchamp of the Royal Navy, and the great family of the Earls of Romfrey, one of the heroes of the war, and the recipient of a Royal Humane Society’s medal for saving life in Bevisham waters, were something more than the Radical doctor’s political son; and, sir, it was to this end, aim, and object, that I wrote the article I am not ashamed to avow as mine, and I do so, sir, because of the solitary merit it has of serving your political interests as the liberal candidate for Bevisham by counteracting the unpopularity of Dr. Shrapnel’s name, on the one part, and of reviving the credit due to your valour and high bearing on the field of battle in defence of your country, on the other, so that Bevisham may apprehend, in spite of party distinctions, that it has the option, and had better seize upon the honour, of making a M.P. of a hero.’

Beauchamp interposed hastily:  ’Thank you, thank you for the best of intentions.  But let me tell you I am prepared to stand or fall with Dr. Shrapnel, and be hanged to all that humbug.’

Timothy rubbed his hands with an abstracted air of washing.  ’Well, commander, well, sir, they say a candidate’s to be humoured in his infancy, for he has to do all the humouring before he’s many weeks old at it; only there’s the fact! ­he soon finds out he has to pay for his first fling, like the son of a family sowing his oats to reap his Jews.  Credit me, sir, I thought it prudent to counteract a bit of an apothecary’s shop odour in the junior Liberal candidate’s address.  I found the town sniffing, they scented Shrapnel in the composition.’

‘Every line of it was mine,’ said Beauchamp.

’Of course it was, and the address was admirably worded, sir, I make bold to say it to your face; but most indubitably it threatened powerful drugs for weak stomachs, and it blew cold on votes, which are sensitive plants like nothing else in botany.’

’If they are only to be got by abandoning principles, and by anything but honesty in stating them, they may go,’ said Beauchamp.

’I repeat, my dear sir, I repeat, the infant candidate delights in his honesty, like the babe in its nakedness, the beautiful virgin in her innocence.  So he does; but he discovers it’s time for him to wear clothes in a contested election.  And what’s that but to preserve the outlines pretty correctly, whilst he doesn’t shock and horrify the optics?  A dash of conventionalism makes the whole civilized world kin, ye know.  That’s the truth.  You must appear to be one of them, for them to choose you.  After all, there’s no harm in a dyer’s hand; and, sir, a candidate looking at his own, when he has won the Election...’

‘Ah, well,’ said Beauchamp, swinging on his heel, ’and now I’ll take my leave of you, and I apologize for bringing you down here so early.  Please attend to what I have said; it’s peremptory.  You will give me great pleasure by dining with me to-night, at the hotel opposite.  Will you?  I don’t know what kind of wine I shall be able to offer you.  Perhaps you know the cellar, and may help me in that.’

Timothy grasped his hand, ’With pleasure, Commander Beauchamp.  They have a bucellas over there that ’s old, and a tolerable claret, and a Port to be inquired for under the breath, in a mysteriously intimate tone of voice, as one says, “I know of your treasure, and the corner under ground where it lies.”  Avoid the champagne:  ’tis the banqueting wine.  Ditto the sherry.  One can drink them, one can drink them.’

‘At a quarter to eight this evening, then,’ said Nevil.

‘I’ll be there at the stroke of the clock, sure as the date of a bill,’ said Timothy.

And it’s early to guess whether you’ll catch Bevisham or you won’t, he reflected, as he gazed at the young gentleman crossing the road; but female Bevisham’s with you, if that counts for much.  Timothy confessed, that without the employment of any weapon save arrogance and a look of candour, the commander had gone some way toward catching the feminine side of himself.