Chapter 160140718

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160140718
Full Date1881-01-29
Page Number36
Corrections0
Word Count1859
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleEndymion
article text

CHAPTER VIII.

What unexpectedly tosk place in the southern part of England, and especially in the maritime counties, during the autumn of 1830, seemed rather to confirm the intimations of Baron

Bergius. The people in the rural districts had become disaffected. Their discontent was gene rally attributed to the abuses of the Poor Law and to the lowness of their wages. But the abuses of the Poor Law, though intolerable, were generally in favour of the labourer, and though wages in some parts were unquestion ably low, it was observed that the tumultuous assemblies, ending frequently in riot, were held in districts where this cause did not prevail. The most fearful feature of the approaohing anarchy was the frequent acts of incendiaries. The blazing homesteads baffled the feeble police and the helpless Magistrates; and the Govern ment had reason to believe that foreign agents were actively promoting these mysterious

crimes.

Amid partial discontent and general dejec tion came the crash of the Wellington Ministry, and it required all the inspiration of Zenobia to sustain William Perrars under the trial. But she was nndannted and sanguine, as a morn ing in spring. Nothing could persuade her that the Whigs could ever form a Government, and she was quite sure that the clerks in the public offices alone could turn them out. When the Whig Government was formed, and its ter rible programme announced, she laughed it to scorn, and derided with inexhaustible merriment the idea of the House of Commons passing the Beform Bill. She held a great assembly the night that General Gascoyne defeated the first measnre by a majority of one, and passed an evening of ecstasy in giving and receiving con gratulations. The morrow brought a graver brow, but still an indomitable spirit, and through all these tempestuous times Zenobia never quailed, though mobs burnt the castles of dukes and the palaces of bishops.

Serious as was the state of affairs to William Ferrars, his condition was not so desperate as that of some of his friends. His seat at least was safe in the new Parliament that was to pass a Beform Bill. As for the Tories generally, they were swept off the board. Scarcely a consti tuency in which was a popular element was faithful to them. The counties in those days were the great expounders of popular principles, and whenever England was excited, which was rare, she spoke through her freeholders. In this instance almost every Tory knight of the shire lost bis seat exoept Lord Ohandos, the member for Buckinghamshire, who owed his sueeess entirely to his personal popularity. " Never mind," said Zenobia. "What does it signify ? The Lords will throw it ont."

And bravely and unceasingly she worked for this end. To assist thia purpose it was neces sary that a lengthened and powerfol resistance to the measure should be made in the Commons, that the pnblie mind should be impressed with its dangerous principles, and its promoters cheapened by the exposure of their corrupt arrangements and their inaccurate details. It most be confessed that these objeets were resolutely kept in view, and that the Tory Opposition evinced energy and abilities not

unworthy of a great Parliamentary oocasion. Ferrars particular]; distinguished himself. He

rose immensely in the estimation of the House, I end soon the public began to talk of him. His statistics about the condemned boroughs were astounding and unanswerable; he was the only man who seemed to know anything of the elements of the new ones. He was as eloquent too as exact—sometimes as fervent as Burke, and always as accurate as Cocker.

'• I never thought it was in William Ferrars," said a member, musingly, to a companion as they walked home one nigbt;" I always thought him a good man of business, and all that sort of thing—but, somehow or other, I did not think

this was in him."

" Well, he has a good deal at stake; and that brings it out of a fellow," said his friend.

It was, however, pouring water upon sand. Any substantial resistance to the measure was from the first out of the question. Lord Chandos accomplished the only important feat, and that was the enfranchisement of the farmers. This perpetual struggle, however, occasioned a vast deal of excitement, and the actors in it often indulged in the wild credu lity of impossible expectations. The saloon of Zenobia was ever thronged, and she was never more confident than when the Bill passed the Commons. She knew that the King would never give his assent to the Bill. His Majesty had had quite enough of going down in hackney coaches to carry revolutions. After all, he was the son of good King George, and the Court would save the country, as it hsd often done before. " But it will not come to that," she added; " the Lords will do their duty."

" But Lord Waverley tells me," said Ferrars, " that there are forty of them who were against the Bill last yrar who will vote for the second reading."

" Never mind Lord Waverley and such addle brains," said Zenobis, with a smile of trium phant mystery. " So long as we have the Court, the Duke, and Lord Lyndhurst on our side, we can afford to langh at such conceited poltroons. His mother was my dearest friend, and I know he used to have fits. Lcok bright," she con tinued ; " things never were better. Before a week has passed these people will be nowhere."

" But how is it possible ?" " l'rnst me."

" I always do—and yet"

"You never were nearer being a Cabinet Minister," she said with a radiant glance.

And Zenobia was right. Though the Govern ment, with the aid of the waverers, carried the second reading of the Bill, a week afterwards, on May 7, Lord Lyndhnrst rallied the waverers again to his standard and carried his fam jus rt solution that the enfranchising clauses should precede the disfranchisement in the great mea sure. Lord Grey and bis colleagues resigned, and the King sent for Lord Lyndhnrst. The bold Chief Baron advised His Majesty to consult the Dnke of Welliogton, and was himself the bearer of the King's message to Apsley House. The Dnke fonnd the King " in great distress," and he therefore did not hesitate in pro mising to endeavour to form a Ministry.

"Who was right?" said Zenobia to Mr. Ferrars. " He is so busy he could not write to yon, bnt he told me to tell yon to call at Apsley

Honse at twelve to-morrow. Yon will be in the Cabinet."

" I have got it at last!" said Ferrars to him eelf. " It is worth living for, and at any peril. AH the cares of life sink into insignificance nnder such circumstances. The difficulties are

great, bnt their very greatness will furnish the

means of their solution. The Crown cannot be

dragged in the mnd, and the Dnke was born

for conquest."

A day passed, and another day, and Ferrars Was not again summoned. The affair seemed to bang fire. Zenobia was still brave, but Ferrars, who knew her thoroughly, could detect her lurking anxiety. Then she told him in confi dence that Sir Robert made difficulties; "but there is nothing in it," she added. " The Duke has provided for everything, and he means Sir

Robert to be Premier. He could not refuse that; it would be almost an act of treason." Two days after she sent for Mr. Ferrars, early in the morning, and received him in her bou doir. Her countenance was excited, bnt serious " Don't be alarmed," Bhe said; " nothing will prevent a Government being formed, but Sir Robert has thrown ns over; I never had confi dence in him. It is most provoking, as Mr. Baring had joined as, and it was such a good name for the Oily. But the failure of one man is the opportunity of another. We want

leader in the House of Commons. He must be a man who can speak; of experience, who knows the Honse, its forms, and all that. There is only one man indicated. Youcannotdonbtabout him. I told yon honours would be tumbling on your head. Yon are the man; yon are to have one of the highest offices in the Cabinet, and lead the Honse of Commons.

"Peel declines," said Ferrars, speaking slowly, and shaking his head. " That is very

serious."

" Fer himself," said Zenobis, "Not for you. It makes your fortune."

" The difficulties seem too great to contend

with."

" What difficulties are there ? You have got the Court, and yon have got the House of Lords. Mr. Pitt was never so well off, for he had never been in office, and had at the same time to fight Lord North and that wicked Mr. Fox, the orator of the day, while you have only gat Lord Althorp, who can't order his own dinner."

" I am in amazement," said Ferrors, and he seemed plunged in thought.

" But you do not hesitate ?"

" No," he said, looking up dreamily, for he had been lost in abstraction, and speaking in a measured and hollow voice, " I do notheBitate." Then resuming a brisk tone, he said, " This is not an age for hesitation; it asked, I will do the deed."

At this moment there was a tap at the doer, and the Groom of the Chambers brought in a note for Mr. Ferrars, which bad been forwarded from hiB own residence, and which requested his pre sence at Apsley House. Having read it, he gave it to Zenobia, who exclaimed with delight, " Do not lose a moment. Iam so glad to have got rid of Sir Robert, with his doubts and his difficul ties. We want new blood."

That was a wonderful walk for William Ferrars from St. James's-square to Apsley House. As he moved along he was testing his courage and capacity for the sharp trials that awaited biro. He felt himself not unequal to conjectures in which he had never previously indulged even in imagination. HiB had been an ambitious rather than a soaring spirit. He had never - contem plated the possession of power exoept under the aegis of some commanding chief. Now, it was fer him to control Senates and guide Councils. He screwed himself up to the stick ing-point. Desperation is' sometimes as power ful an inBpirer as genius.

The great man was alone—calm, easy, and conrteous. _ He had sent for Mr. Ferrars, berause having had one interview with him, in which his co-operation had been requested in the conduct of affairs, the Duke thought it was due to him to give him the earliest intimation of the change of circumstances. The vote of the Honse of Commons, on the motion of Lord Ebrington, bad placed an insurmountable barrier to the formation of a Government, and His Grace had accordingly relinqniahed the oommisaion with which be bad been entrusted by the King.