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CHAPTER XL.

The result of Miss Marjoribanks's wise precaution and reticence was that Sir John Eichmond and the Doctor and Colonel Chiley were all on Mr Ashburton's committee. They might not agree with his principles; but then when a man does not state any very distinct principles, it is difficult for any one, however well disposed, to disagree with him; and the fact that he was the man for Carlingford was so indisputable, that nobody attempted to go into the minor matters. "Mr Ashburton is a gentleman known to us all," Sir John said, with great effect, in his nomination speech; and it was a sentence which went to the hearts of his audience. The other candidate had been a long time from home, and it was longer still since anybody in Carlingford could be said to have benefited by his residence there. He had had all his things down from town, as Mr Holden, the upholsterer, pithily remarked—and that made a great difference to start with. As for Mr Ashburton, though it is true nobody knew what he thought about Reform or the Income-tax, everybody knew that he lived at the Firs, and was supplied in a creditable way by George Street tradesmen. There was no mystery whatever about him. People knew how much he had a-year, and how much he paid for everything, and the way in which his accounts were kept, and all about him. Even when he had his wine direct from the growers (for naturally his own county could not supply the actual liquor), it was put in Carlingford bottles, and people knew the kinds he had, and how much, and a hundred agreeable details. And then, "he was a gentleman as was always ready to give his advice," as some of the people said. All this furnished an immense body of evidence in his favour, and made Sir John's remark eloquent. And then Carlingford, as a general rule, did not care the least in the world about Reform. There were a few people who had once done so, and it was remarked in Grove Street that Mr Tozer had once been in a dreadful state of mind about it. But he was quite tranquil on the subject now, and so was the community in general. And what was really wanted, as Lucilla's genius had seen at a glance, was not this or that opinion, but a good man. But at the same time it would be vain to deny that Miss Marjoribanks looked forward to a possible visit from Mr Cavendish with a certain amount of anxiety. She was not frightened, for she knew her own powers; but she was a little excited and stimulated by the idea that he might come in at any minute, bringing back a crowd of recollections with him; and it was a perpetual wonder to her how he would take the inevitable difference, whether he would accept it as natural, or put on the airs of an injured man. Lucilla did not go out the two afternoons after her meeting with Mrs Woodburn, partly that she might not miss him if he called—for it was better to have it over; but Mr Cavendish did not come on either of these days. After that, of course, she did not wait for him any longer. But on the third or fourth day, when she was in Miss Brown's photographing room (the eldest Miss Brown was not married, and was a mother to the younger girls, and always enthusiastic about sitters), Mr Ashburton called about business, and Thomas came to fetch Miss Marjoribanks. She was sitting with the greatest good-nature for half-a-dozen pictures, knowing in her secret heart all the time that she would look a perfect fright, and that all Carlingford would see her grinning with imbecile amiability out of the hazy background of Miss Brown's cartes. Lucilla knew this, and had hitherto avoided the process with success; but now she gave in; and as the Major was there, of course they talked of the coming election, which, indeed, at present was almost the only topic of conversation in Grange Lane.

"Of course, you are on Mr Ashburton's committee," said Lucilla; "you must be, or going to be, after what you said the other day at lunch"

"What did I say 1" asked Major Brown, with an air of dismay; for, to tell the truth, his heart inclined a little towards poor Mr Cavendish, who was an old neighbour, and to whom Major Brown could not but think the Marjoribanks and others had behaved rather cruelly. But then in these electioneering matters one never knows what one may have done to compromise one's self without meaning it; and the Major was a little anxious to find out what he had said.

"Dear Major Brown," said Lucilla, seriously, " I am so sorry if you did not mean it. I am sure it was that as much as anything that influenced Mr Ashburton. He was turning it all over in his mind, you know, and was afraid the people he most esteemed in Carlingford would not agree with him, and did not know what to do; and then you said, What did it matter about opinions, if it was a good man ?—that was what decided him," said Miss Marjoribanks, with sad yet gentle reproachfulness. "I am so sorry if you did not mean what you said"

"Good heavens! I don't remember saying anything of the sort," said Major Brown. "I—I am sure I never thought of influencing anybody. It is true enough about a good man, you know; but if I had imagined for an instant that any one was paying attention By George! it was you that said it, Lucilla

—I remember now."

"Please don't make fun of me," said Miss Marjoribanks; "as if anybody cared what / say about politics. But I know that was what decided poor Mr Ashburton. Indeed, he told me so; and when he finds you did not mean anything"

"But, good heavens !—I—I did mean something," cried the accused, with dismay. And he grew quite inarticulate in his confusion, and red in the face, and lost his head altogether, while Lucilla sat calmly looking on with that air of virtue at once severe and indulgent, which pities, and blames, and hopes that perhaps there is not so much harm done as might have been expected. This was the position of affairs when Thomas came to say that Miss Marjoribanks was wanted, as she had told him to do when her candidate came; for, to be sure, it was only next door. It was terrible to hear the soft sigh she gave when she shook hands with Major Brown. "I hope he will not feel it so much as I think; but I should be afraid to tell him," said Lucilla; and she went away, leaving the

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