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in such a way; but then poor Barbara was not precisely a lady, and thought it right to look as if it did not matter. She went up to read the numbers of the poll—in the sight of everybody; and she clasped her hands together with ecstatic satisfaction as she read; and young Carmine, her brother, dashed into the midst of the fray, and shouted "Cavendish for ever! hurrah for Cavendish !" and could scarcely be drawn back again to take his sister home. Even when she withdrew, she did not go home, but went slowly up and down Grange Lane with her rustling train behind her, with the intention of coming back for further information. Lady Biehmond and Mrs Woodburn both lost all thought of the election as they watched; and lo! when their wandering thoughts came back again, the tide had turned.
The tide had turned. Whether it was Barbara, or whether it was fate, or whether it was the deadly unanimity of those Dissenters, who, after all their wavering, had at last decided for the man who "dealt" in George Street—no one could tell; but by two o'clock Mr Ashburton was so far ahead that he felt himself justified in sending another bulletin to Lucilla—so far that there was no reasonable hope of the opposite candidate ever making up his lost ground. Mrs Woodburn was not a woman to be content when reasonable hope was over—she clung to the last possibility desperately, with a pertinacity beyond all reason, and swore in her heart that it was Barbara that had done it, and cursed her with her best energies; which, however, as these are not melodramatic days, was a thing which did the culprit no possible harm. When Barbara herself came back from her promenade in Grange Lane, and saw the altered numbers, she again clasped her hands together for a moment, and looked as if she were going to faint; and it was at that moment that Mr Cavendish's eyes fell upon her, as ill fortune would have it. They were all looking at him as if it was his fault; and the sight of that sympathetic face was consoling to the defeated candidate. He took off his hat before everybody; probably, as his sister afterwards said, he would have gone and offered her his arm had he been near enough. How could anybody wonder, after that, that things had gone against him, and that, notwithstanding all his advantages, he was the loser in the fight?
As for Lucilla, she had gone back to her worstedwork when she got Mr Ashburton's first note, in which his rival's name stood above his own. She looked quite composed, and aunt Jemima went on teasing with her senseless questions. But Miss Marjoribanks put up with it all; though the lingering progress of these hours from one o'clock to four, the sound of cabs furiously driven by, the distant shouts, the hum of indefinite din that filled the air, exciting every moment a keener curiosity, and giving no satisfaction or information, would have been enough, to have driven a less large intelligence out of its wits. Lucilla bore it, doing as much as she could of her worsted-work, and saying nothing to nobody, except, indeed, an occasional word to aunt Jemima, who would have an answer. She was not walking about Grange Lane repeating a kind of prayer for the success of her candidate, as Barbara Lake was doing; but perhaps, on the whole, Barbara had the easiest time of it at that moment of uncertainty. When the next report came, Lucilla's fingers trembled as she opened it, so great was her emotion; but after that she recovered herself as if by magic. She grew pale, and then gave a kind of sob, and then a kind of laugh, and finally put her worsted-work back into her basket, and threw Mr Ashburton's note into the fire.
"It is all right," said Lucilla. "Mr Ashburton is a hundred ahead, and they can never make up that. I am so sorry for poor Mr Cavendish. If he only had not been so imprudent on Saturday night!"
"I am sure I don't understand you," said aunt Jemima. "After being so anxious about one candidate, how can you be so sorry for the other? I suppose you did not want them both to win?"
"Yes, I think that was what I wanted," said Lucilla, drying her eyes; and then she awoke to the practical
exigencies of the position. "There will be quantities of people coming to have a cup of tea, and I must speak to Nancy," she said, and went down-stairs with a cheerful heart. It might be said to be as good as decided, so far as regarded Mr Ashburton; and when it came for her final judgment, what was it that she ought to say?
It was very well that Miss Marjoribanks's unfailing foresight led her to speak to Nancy; for the fact was, that after four o'clock, when the polling was over, everybody came in to tea. All Lady Richmond's party came, as a matter of course, and Mr Ashburton himself, for a few minutes, bearing meekly his new honours; and so many more people besides, that but for knowing it was a special occasion, and that "our gentleman" was elected, Nancy's mind never could have borne the strain. And the tea that was used was something frightful. As for aunt Jemima, who had just then a good many thoughts of her own to occupy her, and did not care so much as the rest for all the chatter that was going on, nor for all those details about poor Barbara and Mr Cavendish's looks, which Lucilla received with such interest, she could not but make a calculation in passing as to this new item of fashionable expenditure into which her niece was plunging so wildly. To be sure, it was an occasion that never might occur again, and everybody was so
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excited as to forget even that Lucilla was in mourning, and that such a number of people in the house so soon might be more than she could bear. And she was excited herself, and forgot that she was not able for it. But still aunt Jemima, sitting by, could not help thinking, that even five-o'clock teas of good quality and unlimited amount would very soon prove to be impracticable upon two hundred a-year.