It was in this happy spirit that they approached Mr. Franklin Forrester the next day, Jack having had a chat with him through the telephone.

Mr. Forrester was delighted—at his own sagacity in playing his hand so as to win Mrs. Wingfield to his side. He took care to make his principals aware of his sagacity in this particular, and they also were delighted. They smiled, of course, at the suggestion that the seat might be taken by his friend Wingfield, but he would come forward and contest it in their interest, and that was something. People, especially those of the opposition, must not get it into their heads that The Party could not put a man into the field to oppose Lawford, who would, of course, win the seat, but not so easily as he expected—not so easily as to reflect seriously upon the resources of The Party who were running Wingfield.

That was the way the leaders of the organization to which Forrester belonged looked at the candidature of Wingfield. And the way Forrester himself looked at it was that the fact of his being able to bring Wingfield up to the scratch—that was his metaphor in referring to his success—would raise him to the extent of another rung in the political ladder which he had set himself to climb some years before, and up which he had already made a creditable ascent.

One thing he saw clearly, and that was that his candidate’s having married the daughter of a farmer—not a gentleman farmer nor an amateur farmer, but a farmer, and a farmer, too, who was well known to make his business pay—was a distinct point in his favour. It would assuredly be accounted to him for righteousness by a constituency like Nuttingford, which was so largely agricultural.

He mentioned this to Jack, who, he found, was fully alive to the importance of making every legitimate use of this claim upon the electorate. So far as he could make out, it was the solitary claim which he had to their attention, and this made him value it all the more highly. He delighted Mr. Forrester by the ease with which he showed himself ready to adapt himself to circumstances and circumstances to his candidature. Most high class men, Mr. Forrester’s experience had shown him, had been at first inclined to take a very high tone on approaching a constituency, striking the attitude of a patriot or a philanthropist and assuring him that if they could not be returned solely on their own merits without such adventitious aids as family interests or business interests or the interest which attaches to an interesting wife, they would much prefer not to be returned at all. Such high-toned men very soon got such nonsense knocked out of them. One of them, who was the father of two little girls with lovely eyes, had the mortification of seeing his antagonist romp in ahead of him solely because he had appeared every morning on the balcony of the hotel carrying on his shoulder a flaxen-curled little boy in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, though he had only borrowed the child for the election.

“What did the crowds outside the hotel care whether the boy was his or not?” cried Mr. Forrester. “They gave him their votes; and there was the other man thrown out, though he might have played off his two lovely little girls against the borrowed brat with every chance of success. Oh, children are simply thrown away upon superior men like that!”

But Wingfield showed himself superior to such ridiculous affectations of superiority and high-tonedness. He knew enough about practical politics to be aware of the affinity of the cult to the pastry industry of the roadside. To attain success in the making of mud pies one must not be over-careful of one’s hands. There is no making mud pies without mud, and there is no dabbling in politics if you mean to devote your best energies to the culture of lilies—not the speckled variety nor even the golden, but the pure saint of flowerland, the snow-white sort.

Of this fact Jack Wingfield was well aware, so he did not resent—certainly not openly—Mr. Forrester’s advice: “You must run your wife’s connection with farming for all that it’s worth.”

“And it’s worth a good deal,” assented the candidate. “Yes, we’ll rub it in, never fear.”

And Priscilla also showed herself to be quite alive to the value of this connection.

“I’ll give a practical lesson daily on ‘How to make farming pay,’” she cried. “I’ll take care that he has not a monopoly of the farm in his speeches.”

“Oh! those speeches are what I dread,” groaned Jack. “Psha! you’ve no idea how simple this part of it is,” said Mr. Forrester. “All you’ve got to do is to get well grounded on about half a dozen topics and speak all you know of all of them at every meeting. Don’t on any account commit anything to memory, for so long as you don’t make use of the same words no one will recognize any sameness or repetition in what you say. I’ll take care that you have a proper number of repartees made out for you upon every occasion. These will be typewritten on slips of paper, and placed in order on the table in front of you, so that when the conscientious objectors, for whom we will arrange, ask you their questions from the body of the hall or the gallery, you will have nothing to do but glance at the repartee before you and repeat it with whatever inflection you may think necessary. Only you mustn’t forget to turn down each repartee when you have delivered it, or you’ll find yourself at sea.”

“I can easily believe that,” said the candidate.

“And then we shall have to arrange for an effective interruption now and again. But your appeal for the man to be allowed to remain and your joke on the matter will also be typewritten in front of you. Some men prefer to commit the joke to memory, but it’s never safe to do this. Oh, you’ll have no trouble when once you get into the stride of the thing.”

“I’ll do my best to accommodate my faltering steps to its majestic swing,” said Jack. “This is a nice business I’m learning, Priscilla,” he added, turning to his wife.

“It’s the most interesting game ever invented—so much is clear to me,” said she. “It’s the game of musical chairs on a heroic scale. You face the music, and the moment it stops you make a struggle for a seat, and if you don’t mind a little rough-and-tumble business you’ll get your seat, Jack—I see that clearly.”

This coaching took place during the first day or two after Jack’s announcement of his decision. And then he went off with Priscilla to the town of Nuttingford to make the acquaintance of the local organization of The Party, and to be grounded on all local questions, so that the soundness of his views on these points might never be open to suspicion. Then at the right moment the member for the division, Sir Christopher Cotton, applied for the appointment of Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern, and this being an office of emolument, his seat automatically became vacant, but he did not offer himself for re-election.

His valedictory address appeared in all the papers, and it contained a very handsome recognition of the abilities of the gentleman who had, he said, come forward at considerable personal sacrifice to solicit the suffrages of his friends in his place. He could not doubt, he added, that the electorate would view with a friendly eye the candidature of Mr. John Wingfield, who, though not personally connected with the division, had many interests in common with the electors and was sound on all matters of Imperial bearing.

Beneath this graceful tribute to the worth of a gentleman of whom he knew absolutely nothing, appeared the address of that gentleman himself. It was of the simple, straightforward, manly type—and its burden was the shameful way in which the agricultural industry—the most important industry in the country—had been neglected not by one Government only, but by all. He frankly admitted that the one aim of his life was the placing of agriculture on a sound basis, and whether he was returned to Parliament or not, his opinion would remain unaltered, that prosperity to the country meant prosperity to the agricultural interests of the country. At that point in the address the candidate’s frankness became even more apparent.

“I am prepared to hear it alleged,” his address went on, “that my views on this matter are not wholly disinterested, that in fact my own interests are largely bound up with the agricultural industry. Gentlemen, I own that it would be futile for me to make an attempt to deny this accusation. My own interests are identical with those of agriculture. It is for you to say if this fact disqualifies me from being regarded as a fitting representative of such a constituency as yours.”

Now, considering that Jack Wingfield and Priscilla his wife had composed this address without the least aid from Franklin Forrester, the encomiums which it received from that critic were accepted by them with pride—of a certain sort. But when it is known that Jack, after reading over the address in the newspaper out loud, appealed to Priscilla to say if it contained a single false statement, and that she replied that it really did not contain a paragraph that was absolutely untrue, it may be gathered that their pride in its composition was tempered by some misgivings. When two people find it necessary to assure each other from time to time of the purity of their motives, one may perhaps go so far as to assume that neither of them is absolutely convinced on this point. It is understood that during an election certain ethical indulgence is allowed to the candidates and their immediate supporters, just as, at certain times of fasting, the representatives of the most rigid form of Church government grant exemption to some persons from obedience to the strict letter of the law, and just as ingenious Jews have in all ages contrived to effect a compromise with their conscience in the acceptance of the Mosaic injunctions in regard to the observance of the Sabbath (though the Jew has always paid in something on account, so to speak). But whether or not such an explanation of the ethics of the easy-going may be considered satisfactory by the Judge Flynns—the “high-toneder” people of the world, Jack Wingfield and Priscilla his wife soon found themselves too busy to subject themselves to any tests of the searching character of those that Farmer Wadhurst’s daughter had instituted in his dairy. The use of a spiritual lactometer would be extremely inconvenient during a contested election, and the contest at Nuttingford promised to be an unusually brisk one.

They both plunged into it. They had got the start of the other candidate—a solicitor by profession, who had made a former appeal to the same constituency—and they meant to keep ahead of him.

From the first it was seen that the sagacity of Mr. Forrester had not misled him when he had suggested that Mrs. Wingfield’s presence would tell largely in favour of the candidate of The Party. Priscilla stood by her husband at all times; but she refused to say to anyone:

“I want you to give your vote to my husband.”

“It’s entirely a matter between yourselves and him,” she would say with a smile and a wave of her hand. “If you think him the man for you, as I know him to be the man for me, you can’t do better than send him into Parliament as your representative; but if you don’t, well, there’s no harm done—I’ll have the more of him to myself.”

Moreover, she never made a suggestion to him as to what the character of any of his speeches should be. It was only when he talked over some question with her and asked her advice that she put forward an opinion.

She saw as clearly as did Mr. Forrester that Jack’s form of oratory was the sort that must tell at an election meeting. It was not classical; it was far better: it was colloquial. He told stories by the score, and everyone of them bearing upon his own experience in many countries—just the sort of stories that people like—about lions and tigers and killing things—about niggers (with a sly word or two about the scantiness of their attire)—about a cricket match in the South Seas which had lasted three weeks with a hundred and twenty on each side, and a free fight at the close—about a football match in Africa, where the football was a cocoanut in its original husk, and how they kicked it to pieces with, their bare feet, and how the referee was treated almost as badly as he is upon occasions in the Midlands. “But the great pull that those chaps have over us is of course that a black eye is never noticed.” This commentary was received with laughter and cheers; and under the cover of this demonstration Priscilla scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, and pushed it before him. When the yells had passed away, he resumed:

“I suppose you think that that about the black eyes has nothing to do with us at this election. Well, you’re wrong. I was about to say when you interrupted me—there really was nothing to laugh at. Do you think a black eye is something to laugh at? (Great laughter.) Well, you’re wrong again! (More laughter.) I should know, for I’ve had many a one myself. (Renewed laughter.) In fact, at one time of my life I had so many black eyes that my friends used to call me not blackeyed Susan, but black-eyed Jack. (Great laughter.) My mother said, ‘This can’t be my own beautiful boy, for my son had lovely dreamy blue eyes, and this boy’s are—’ (The remainder of the sentence was inaudible owing to the laughter and cheers.) But to come to the point. I was about to say that my opponent’s disclaimer with regard to the labourers’ cottages resembled that nigger’s black eyes. He declares that the opinions which I said were his were not his opinions at all. Ladies and gentlemen, if you had asked that nigger if he had a pair of black eyes he would have denied it. My opponent holds those opinions without knowing it, and we accept his disclaimer, feeling sure that he made it in good faith—as good faith as the nigger’s who denied his lovely black eyes, and so we part good friends.” (Loud cheers.)

That was his style of oratory, and it did very well. But of course, he was not always so successful as he was upon this occasion in dragging in a connection between one of his stories and an election topic. Priscilla was not always at hand to give him a hint of the possibility of turning a story to good account. But his audience cared no more for the appropriateness of a story to an election issue than children care for the moral of a fable. They wanted to be entertained and he entertained them, and they found him a jolly good fellow, and affirmed their belief in varying keys the moment he got upon his legs and the moment he sat down.

Mr. Forrester began to feel that there was more than a likelihood that the Wingfields would win. He took care to arrange with the local organization to have a sufficient number of sound dull speakers to precede Jack’s efforts and to follow them up. The difficulty of providing such speakers is never insuperable in an agricultural constituency, or for that matter, in any other constituency.

But the coup de theatre of Jack’s campaign was due to the happy accident of a conscientious objector—not one of those who had been provided by the management—being present in the gallery one night, when Mr. Wingfield had been affirming (for the fiftieth time) that he was heart and soul an agriculturist.

“Look here, mister,” this person sang out. “Look here, we’ve heard a deal about you and the lady (cheers and cries of ‘Turn him out!’) No, nobody will turn me out.”

“You’re right there, my lad,” cried Jack. “We don’t want anybody turned out. We want somebody turned in—into Parliament, and I’ve the authority of that person for saying that he doesn’t want to be turned in by turning other people out. Go on, my friend. It’s a free country.”

“So I was hoping, sir. Well, what I want to know is this. Did ever you or your lady do a real day’s work yourselves? That’s what I want to know.”

There was some laughter and some confusion at the back of the hall, for it seemed that there were conscientious ejectors present as well as the conscientious objector. While order was being restored, Priscilla said something in Jack’s ear, and at once he held up his hand for silence.

“Our friend has thrown us down a challenge, and we’re only too glad to take it up,” he cried. “Has either of us ever done a real day’s work? he asks. Well, here’s my wife’s answer. Here we are in this hall to-night. Now, to-morrow morning at 10 o’clock my wife will show all who honour her with a visit in this place whether anyone in this neighbourhood can tell her something she doesn’t know in dairy work. She’ll do a day’s butter making with her own hands, and you’ll be able to judge for yourselves whether or not I have been over or under the mark in my claim that we understand what we’re talking about. If my speeches here haven’t contained much butter it’s not because we don’t know what the real thing is or that one of us at least can’t make it with it the best in the land. There’s no duchess in this country or any other that can beat Mrs. Wingfield at butter making (laughter), but it’s not for me to talk to you of it; you come here, any of you that know what butter is, and you can judge for yourselves to-morrow and maybe the day after. One friend up there talked of a single day’s real work. Well, we accept his challenge and double the task—two days—three—four—if he insists. Now, mind you, this is no joke. You’ll find that it’s no joke if any of you hope to beat the butter that will be made here to-morrow and as much longer as you please.”

He sat down “amid a scene of indescribable enthusiasm,” as the local newspapers had it, only they said that “he resumed his seat.” The man who had asked that question from the gallery was the driver of a traction engine, and he had long been suspected of harbouring unworthy socialistic theories. He thought it prudent to leave the hall before the close of the meeting.

“How will you get out of it?” asked Mr. Forrester of Priscilla. “That husband of yours has either made himself or marred himself by his attempt to get the better of that man in the gallery. How does he mean you to get out of the business?”

“He doesn’t,” replied Priscilla. “It was I who told him to take up the challenge. Oh, Mr. Forrester, we’re all sick to death of this vulgar talk, talk, talk day after day and night after night. Thank goodness that I have now a chance of turning from that unwholesome stuff to a good clean worthy job of butter making. I’ll win this election for my husband in the legitimate way of work as opposed to words.”

And she did win it for him.

By eleven o’clock the next morning she had turned the hall into a dairy, and in the daintiest dairymaid’s costume that had ever been seen, with her white arms bare to the elbow, she churned her milk and turned out pat after pat of the finest butter that had ever been seen in that neighbourhood. By the evening she had produced sufficient to stock a shop for a day, and she had leisure to make all the farmers’ daughters acquainted with the scientific tests by whose aid alone could the best results be obtained.

The only trouble that there was in carrying out her scheme was in regard to the regulation of the crowds of people who flocked from every quarter to see Mrs. Wingfield respond to the challenge that her husband had accepted on her behalf. The local police were quite unequal to the duty of marshalling the crowd. Volunteer stewards had to assist them to prevent the hall being rushed. But in spite of all their exertions the doors had to be closed several times during the afternoon. At the dinner hour of the working population the whole street was packed with interested young women and still more interested young men, and the sound of their cheering was as continuous as the firing of a battery of machine guns.

“What chance have I against that kind of thing, Forrester?” enquired Jack’s opponent of the manager of Mr. Wingfield’s party. “I suppose this is another of your clever tricks” he added, “I should be proud to be able to father it, but I am not,” said Mr. Forrester.

“You mean to say that you did not arrange for that challenge?”

“I do indeed. It was sprung on us—the whole thing was sprung on us. I give you my word for it. The fellow sang out some rot from the gallery, and while they were calling to put him out, Mrs. Wingfield saw her chance. She put Wingfield up to it, and he only did what she told him. I didn’t know where I was standing when I heard him accept the challenge; but in a minute or two I saw what could be made of it.”

“Butter! I don’t know what we are coming to in England when the grave issues of an election contest are decided in this way—I really don’t.”

“I’m not sure that that young woman hasn’t inaugurated, a new state of things. Speech-making is played out as an election force.”

“And butter-making is to take its place! Why not have a milking match between the candidates to decide which of them should be returned? Mrs. Wingfield is a clever young woman, and her husband’s a lucky man. We all thought him a bit of a juggins.”

“So he was; but she has made a man of him.”

“She has made a member of Parliament of him,” said Jack’s opponent; and whatever enthusiasm he may have felt at the thought, he managed to prevent it from being noticed in his voice.

He spoke the truth. Mrs. Wingfield’s husband was returned as the Parliamentary representative of the Nuttingford division of Nethershire by a majority of eleven hundred and sixty-one votes.

When the enthusiastic electors and non-electors—the latter are invariably the more enthusiastic—blocked the street in front of the hotel and shouted for Mrs. Wingfield, that lady appeared on the balcony, but after a long interval.

Everyone saw that she was smiling, but only those people who were close to her saw that her smile was that of a woman who has wept and is still weeping.

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