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My Novel - Book 11 - Chapter 6 Post by :Reevco Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3291

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My Novel - Book 11 - Chapter 6


When Harley was gone, Egerton sunk back on his chair, as if in extreme physical or mental exhaustion, all the lines of his countenance relaxed and jaded.

"To go back to that place--there--there--where--Courage, courage! what is another pang?"

He rose with an effort, and folding his arms tightly across his breast, paced slowly to and fro the large, mournful, solitary room. Gradually his countenance assumed its usual cold and austere composure,--the secret eye, the guarded lip, the haughty, collected front. The man of the world was himself once more.

"Now to gain time, and to baffle the usurer," murmured Egerton, with that low tone of easy scorn, which bespoke consciousness of superior power and the familiar mastery over hostile natures. He rang the bell: the servant entered.

"Is Baron Levy still waiting?"

"Yes, sir."

"Admit him." Levy entered.

"I beg your pardon, Levy," said the ex-minister, "for having so long detained you. I am now at your commands."

"My dear fellow," returned the baron, "no apologies between friends so old as we are; and I fear that my business is not so agreeable as to make you impatient to discuss it."

EGERTON (with perfect composure).--"I am to conclude, then, that you wish to bring our accounts to a close. Whenever you will, Levy."

THE BARON (disconcerted and surprised).--"Peste! mon cher, you take things coolly. But if our accounts are closed, I fear you will have but little to live upon."

EGERTON.--"I can continue to live on the salary of a Cabinet Minister."

BARON.--"Possibly; but you are no longer a Cabinet Minister."

EGERTON.--"You have never found me deceived--in a political prediction. Within twelve months (should life be spared to me) I shall be in office again. If the same to you, I would rather wait till then formally and amicably to resign to you my lands and this house. If you grant that reprieve, our connection can thus close without the eclat and noise which may be invidious to you, as it would be disagreeable to me. But if that delay be inconvenient, I will appoint a lawyer to examine your accounts, and adjust my liabilities."

THE BARON (soliloquizing).--"I don't like this. A lawyer! That may be awkward."

EGERTON (observing the baron, with a curl on his lip). "Well, Levy, how shall it be?"

THE BARON.--"You know, my dear fellow, it is not my character to be hard on any one, least of all upon an old friend. And if you really think there is a chance of your return to office, which you apprehend that an esclandre as to your affairs at present might damage, why, let us see if we can conciliate matters. But, first, mon cher, in order to become a minister, you must at least have a seat in parliament; and pardon me the question, how the deuce are you to find one?"

EGERTON.--"It is found."

THE BARON.--"Ah, I forgot the L5,000 you last borrowed."

EGERTON.--"NO; I reserve that sum for another purpose."

THE BARON (with a forced laugh).--"Perhaps to defend yourself against the actions you apprehend from me?"

EGERTON.--"You are mistaken. But to soothe your suspicions I will tell you plainly, that finding any sum I might have insured on my life would be liable to debts preincurred, and (as you will be my sole creditor) might thus at my death pass back to you; and doubting whether, indeed, any office would accept my insurance, I appropriate that sum to the relief of my conscience. I intend to bestow it, while yet in life, upon my late wife's kinsman, Randal Leslie. And it is solely the wish to do what I consider an act of justice, that has prevailed with me to accept a favour from the hands of Harley L'Estrange, and to become again the member for Lansmere."

THE BARON.--"Ha!--Lansmere! You will stand for Lansmere?"

EGERTON (wincing).--"I propose to do so."

THE BARON.--"I believe you will be opposed, subjected to even a sharp contest. Perhaps you may lose your election."

EGERTON.--"If so, I resign myself, and you can foreclose on my estates."

THE BARON (his brow clearing).--"Look you, Egerton, I shall be too happy to do you a favour."

EGERTON (with stateliness).--"Favour! No, Baron Levy, I ask from you no favour. Dismiss all thought of rendering me one. It is but a consideration of business on both sides. If you think it better that we shall at once settle our accounts, my lawyer shall investigate them. If you agree to the delay I request, my lawyer shall give you no trouble; and all that I have, except hope and character, pass to your hands without a struggle."

THE BARON.--"Inflexible and ungracious, favour or not--put it as you will--I accede, provided, first, that you allow me to draw up a fresh deed, which will accomplish your part of the compact; and secondly, that we saddle the proposed delay with the condition that you do not lose your election."

EGERTON.--"Agreed. Have you anything further to say?"

THE BARON.--"Nothing, except that, if you require more money, I am still at your service."

EGERTON.--"I thank you. No; I shall take the occasion of my retirement from office to reduce my establishment. I have calculated already, and provided for the expenditure I need, up to the date I have specified, and I shall have no occasion to touch the L5,000 that I still retain."

"Your young friend, Mr. Leslie, ought to be very grateful to you," said the baron, rising. "I have met him in the world,--a lad of much promise and talent. You should try and get him also into parliament."

EGERTON (thoughtfully).--"You are a good judge of the practical abilities and merits of men, as regards worldly success. Do you really think Randal Leslie calculated for public life--for a parliamentary career?"

THE BARON.--"Indeed I do."

EGERTON (speaking more to himself than Levy).--"Parliament without fortune,--'t is a sharp trial; still he is prudent, abstemious, energetic, persevering; and at the onset, under my auspices and advice, he might establish a position beyond his years."

THE BARON. "It strikes me that we might possibly get him into the next parliament; or, as that is not likely to last long, at all events, into the parliament to follow,--not for one of the boroughs which will be swept away, but for a permanent seat, and without expense."

EGERTON.--"Ay,--and how?"

THE BARON.--"Give me a few days to consider. An idea has occurred to me. I will call again if I find it practicable. Good-day to you, Egerton, and success to your election for Lansmere."

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BOOK ELEVENTH CHAPTER VAudley Egerton stands on his hearth alone. During the short interval that has elapsed since we last saw him, events had occurred memorable in English history with we have nought to do in a narrative studiously avoiding all party politics even when treating of politicians. The new ministers had stated the general programme of their policy, and introduced one measure in especial that had lifted them at once to the dizzy height of popular power. But it became clear that this measure could not be carried without a fresh appeal to the people. A dissolution of parliament, as