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As the election approached, it became gradually the one absorbing object of interest in Carlingford. The contest was so equal that everybody took a certain share in it, and became excited as the decisive moment drew nigh. Most of the people in Grange Lane were for Mr Ashburton, but then the Eector, who was a host in himself, was for Mr Cavendish; and the coquetting of the Dissenting interest, which was sometimes drawn towards the liberal sentiments of the former candidate, but sometimes could not help reflecting that Mr Ashburton "dealt" in George Street; and the fluctuations of the bargemen, who were, many of them, freemen, and a very difficult part of the population, excited the most vivid interest. Young Mr Wentworth, who had but lately come to Carlingford, had already begun to acquire a great influence at Wharfside, where most of the bargees lived, and the steady ones would no doubt have been largely swayed by him had his inclinations been the same as the Rector's; but Mr Wentworth, perversely enough, had conceived that intuitive repugnance for Mr Cavendish which a high-principled and not very tolerant young man often feels for the middle-aged individual who still conceives himself to have some right to be called young, and whose antecedents are not entirely beyond suspicion. Mr Wentworth's disinclination (and he was a man rather apt to take his own way) lay like a great boulder across the stream of the Eector's enthusiasm, and unquestionably interrupted it a little. Both the candidates and both the committees had accordingly work enough to do up to the last moment. Mr Cavendish all at once became a connoisseur in hams, and gave a magnificent order in the most complimentary way to Tozer, who received it with a broad smile, and "booked" it, as he said. "It ain't ham he's awanting," the butterman said, not without amusement; for Tozer was well to do, and, except that he felt the honour of a mark of confidence, was not to be moved one way or another by one order. "If he dealt regular, it might be different. Them's the sort of folks as a man feels drawn to," said the true philosopher. Mr Ashburton, on the other side, did not make the impression which his friends thought he ought to have made in Prickett's Lane; but at least nobody could say that he did not stick very close to
his work. He went at it like a man night and day, and neglected no means of carrying it to a successful issue; whereas, as Mr Centum and Mr Woodburn mourned in secret to each other, Cavendish required perpetual egging on. He did not like to get up in the morning, and get early to his work. It went against all his habits—as if his habits mattered in the face of so great an emergency; and in the afternoon it was hard to prevent him from lounging into some of his haunts, which were utterly out of the way of business. He would stay in Masters's for an hour at a time, though he knew Mr Wentworth, who was Masters's great patron, did not care for him, and that his favour for such a Tractarian sort of place was bitter to the Rector. Anything for a little idleness and waste of time, poor Mr Centum said, who was two stone lighter on the eve of the election than when the canvass began. Such a contrast would make any man angry. Mr Cavendish was goaded into more activity as the decisive moment approached, and performed what seemed to himself unparalleled feats. But it was only two days before the moment of fate when the accident happened to him which brought such dismay to all his supporters. Our own opinion is, that it did not materially affect the issue of the contest one way or other; but that was the reverse of the feeling which prevailed in Grange Lane.
It was just two days before the election, and all seemed going on sufficiently well. Mr Cavendish had been meeting a Dissenting committee, and it was on leaving them that he found himself at the corner of Grove Street, where, under ordinary circumstances, he had no occasion to be. At a later period he was rather fond of saying that it was not of his own motion that he was there at all, but only in obedience to the committee, which ordered him about like a nigger. The spring afternoon was darkening, and the Dissenters (almost wholly unimpressed by his arguments, and remarking more strongly than ever where Mr Ashburton "dealt," and how thoroughly everybody knew all about him) had all dispersed. It was but natural, when Mr Cavendish came to the corner of Grove Street, where, in other days, he had played a very different part, that certain softening influences should take possession of his soul. "What a voice she had, by Jove!" he said to himself; "very different from that shrill pipe of Lucilla's." To tell the truth, if there was one person in Carlingford whom he felt a resentment against, it was Lucilla. She had never done him any harm to speak of, and once she had unquestionably done him a great deal of good. But, on the other hand, it was she who first showed herself candidly conscious that he had grown stout, and who all along had supported and encouraged his rival. It was possible, no doubt, that this might be pique; and, mixed with his anger for her sins against him, Mr Cavendish had, at the same time, a counterbalancing sense that there still remained to him in his life one supereminently wise thing that he still could do—and that was, to go down Grange Lane instantly to the Doctor's silenced house, and go down on his knees, or do any other absurdity that might be necessary to make Lucilla marry him; after which act he would henceforward be, pecuniarily and otherwise (notwithstanding that she was poor), a saved man. It did not occur to him that Lucilla would never have married him, even had he gone down on his knees; but perhaps that would be too much to ask any man to believe of any woman ; and his feeling that this was the right thing to do, rather strengthened than otherwise the revolt of his heart against Lucilla. It was twilight, as we have said, and he had done a hard day's work, and there was still an hour before dinner which he seemed to have a right to dispose of in his own way; and he did hesitate at the corner of Grove Street, laying himself open, as it were, to any temptation that might offer itself. Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought; and thus, on the very eve of the election, a grievous accident happened to Mr Cavendish. It might have happened at any time, to be sure, but this was the most inoppor