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choose myself to be a leader, and if they wanted a political Paladin why was I put where I am? Then, again, about my Irish tour-how hard people are to please; I thought that everybody would regard that as a display of real vigour. And I rather liked it, too, in some respects: I am not sure that I enjoy anything more than playing écarté in the cabin of the Pandora, at least when it is not too rough. But that, of course, is not the point. Somebody ought to have reminded me that I could not pose as the hero of Orange demonstrations without transferring to myself that hatred which the Leaguers were gradually nursing up against Gladstone. Would Beaconsfield have made such a mistake? Probably not; and then Salisbury was too prudent to share it with me-just as he was too cool to join in our motion about the Suez Canal when we contrived to whitewash our opponents by rallying their parliamentary majority just at the moment when public opinion had unanimously condemned them. That was a newsvendor's blunder; the man from the bookstall is always prone to over-estimate the influence of the press. I hardly know why I revert to this very unpleasant topic, especially when everybody and everything is so uncomfortable. Ah! I often wish I was Gladstone's private secretary again, or that he had made me Chairman of Customs or Inland Revenue, and taken me away from this endless strife of tongues."

The sad soliloquy ceases. The hands of perplexity desist from travelling up and down the sleeves of irresolution. The knocker has sounded; the door opens, and Eliphaz is announced. His demeanour is almost obsequious, his deference really charming; but he has been observing with anxiety the result of certain recent elections, and he has thought it well that certain conclusions at which he has arrived, should be submitted to his leader. The Central Committee-here a gentle sigh escapes his listener—seem scarcely to have appreciated the particular circumstances of a particular constituency. It is true that the vacancy had come rather suddenly at last; but it had been well known for years that old Sir Thomas would never stand another contest, and another candidate might surely have been kept in readiness for the seat whenever Sir Thomas retired. Then, too, there had been some considerable difficulty in getting the Electoral Junta together. Two of them were immersed in Blue Books, which they had to master in order to take part in the great debate at the end of the week. Another had gone home to his distant country-house, and declined to take any notice of the telegrams imploring him to return. One only of their number was really accessible, and he was totally unacquainted with the locality and circumstances of the constituency to be contested. However, they had got together a sort of scratch meeting in the Whips' Room for ten minutes, immediately before question time, and they had determined that Sir F. B. should be invited to offer himself. This decision had been telegraphed to the constituency,

and Sir F. B. had consented to come forward. But a telegram from the chairman of the local association, received a few hours later, conveyed a most uncompromising refusal to adopt the worthy Baronet, who, with most laudable alacrity, had already started for the scene of action. As it was impossible to reassemble the Committee, and the Whips flatly declined to become responsible for any independent action, an ex-Cabinet Minister had with great difficulty been induced to telegraph after the unwelcome candidate to request him to return to town. Meanwhile, a further report from the local secretary had announced that the two principal leaders of the party in the constituency had issued addresses and commenced a very spirited contest, which must necessarily result in handing over the seat to the enemy. Matters having become so urgent, two members of the Junta had met again, and suggested that Sir Thomas should be requested to retain his seat. This he had with considerable difficulty been induced to do, when he received an urgent letter from the Whips asking him to lose no time in applying for the Chiltern Hundreds. This he had accordingly done; and on the appearance of a Liberal candidate in the field one of the Conservatives had retired. The split in the party had, however, assumed such formidable dimensions that a large section of their oldest supporters had gone over to the enemy. Under these circumstances, a friend of the sole surviving Conservative candidate had called at the Central Office requesting to be put in communication with some good and trusty person who could be employed to manipulate the constituency by certain occult agencies. But as he, Eliphaz, fortunately happened to be at St. Stephen's when this indiscreet application was made, he had lost no time in informing the applicant that elections nowadays were not to be won in that way, and had, in fact, kicked down-stairs this unfortunate representative of a corrupt epoch. The Liberal candidate bad since been returned by a majority of 300; and he ventured to say that throughout the whole transaction everybody had behaved ill and foolishly, except himself.

It would be tedious to recapitulate the numberless instances by which Eliphaz enforced his argument. But it is enough to say that he always deduced from them the same conclusion-viz. that the existing party machinery was hopelessly defective and he was the only man qualified to set it to rights. When asked to indicate his methods of reform, it is true that he became a little vague, talking chiefly of the importance of stimulating local energy, and the necessity of breaking with bad old traditions. There could hardly be much comfort derived from such generalities, but the visitor had apparently achieved his object; for he rose to go just as another and louder peal at the bell heralded the announcement of Zophar and Bildad, who came in together.

Their visit, however, appeared to have been dictated only by a

spirit of politeness. Some disquieting rumour as to the state of their Chief's health had engendered in them an earnest solicitude to be informed of his well-being. Yet was their very presence evidently distressful to the object of their sympathy, who appeared to be not a little puzzled as to whether this occasion could be improved so as to obtain from them, if not an expression of regret for the past, at least some assurance of submission for the future. But that terrible letter-followed, as it had been, by various contributions of opinion in all the morning papers-seemed to paralyze its victim's efforts to assert his authority. It was too plain that he was the culprit on whose pusillanimity and inaction rested the whole responsibility for all party reverses, past, present, and future. Zophar was very good-natured, and introduced one or two anecdotes possessing a peculiar interest; but his companion seemed rather moody and silent, as if he had rather come to observe the effects of his exhortation than to follow it up by any very immediate application. Had he not shown his magnanimity by coming to have ten minutes of friendly conversation with the man whom he had just held up to public scorn as a hopeless incapable? And was not the mere fact of his sitting in that arm-chair a sort of indication of the superiority so contemptuously taken for granted?

Now that the door is shut upon them, and the victim of so much sympathy has fallen back upon his sofa, may it be permitted to take up the part of the one remaining interlocutor of the ancient dialogue, and to submit one or two not very palatable home truths for the consideration of both parties in this controversy, as well as of the public? The misadventures of the Conservative party are so numerous, its mismanagement so glaring, its leadership so unsatisfactory, that those who are regarded as responsible for its conduct ought not to be surprised if their frequent disasters are continually attributed by candid friends solely to their own errors. Yet it may be contended that, to the best of their ability, they have striven to do their duty in positions which they could not have come to occupy except by the act of others. On the other hand, a grave responsibility rests on those who in the first instance make the difficulties of their party the theme of public discussion. They may be the people, and wisdom may die with them-if, indeed, she be not dead already. Even if Sir Stafford Northcote be as feeble and incapable as his critics have so frequently declared him to be, the declaration, although it may benefit those who make it, can hardly be expected to produce any very great advantage to the party whose leader is thus aspersed. It may suit the purposes of a rising young politician who seeks to fill the public eye to achieve notoriety in this way; it may even ultimately benefit the country, if it should be found, ten or twenty years hence, that the position so obtained has been utilised for the public good. But the party, the unlucky party

in whose interest all these public exhortations have professedly been delivered the party can only be an immediate loser by their publication. The friends of Job unquestionably were not without some warrant for the general propositions which they advanced. But succeeding ages have rather questioned how far their advice was opportune or directly applicable to the circumstances of the case. At the same time it must be confessed that Job himself did not escape without some very sound and searching admonition from the critic of his critics. His existence was renewed, it is true; but it was renewed on the basis of an entirely fresh departure. He had to break absolutely with the past and all its associations. A fresh lease of life and prosperity was granted to him; but the life was to be lived in a new atmosphere, the prosperity was to be built up upon altogether fresh foundations. The potsherds were all to be thrown away, and the renovated chief was to find a worthier occupation than an aimless friction with the baser relics of his former importance. Adversity, as we know, has its sweet uses; perhaps not the least precious of these is that it gives you an opportunity of breaking with the parasites and impostors who have degraded your former station. Hapless, indeed, is the man who after the evil spirit has been cast out allows him to return with seven imps more contemptible than himself. And he has ill studied the chastening lesson of calamity who strives to reconstruct the shattered edifice on the same plan and with the same hands which prepared his former ruin.

It is only too probable that this, like other good advice, is addressed to deaf ears. A man may dislike his companions; he may be uncertain as to his present position, and doubtful as to what the future may bring him; he may even distrust himself, and in a general sort of way condemn his own past proceedings; but he will rarely be brought to acquiesce in any particular censure of his former acts, or to separate himself by a supreme effort from the vicious customs which have become ingrained in him. Yet, as the whirligig of time has once more brought the Conservative leaders within a measurable distance of office, it may be not amiss to inflict upon them a few words of counsel, designed, not so much to harass or perplex their present action, as to direct their eyes to the causes of their former failure.

Most people attribute the overthrow of Lord Beaconsfield's Administration to Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian oratory. Some, however, especially those who observed the elections in the North of England, have convinced themselves that slack trade and declining industries had at least as large a share in bringing about a change of Government. Some few innocent folks have clung to the belief that the errors and adventures of an aged and almost exhausted statesman had provoked that unprecedented outburst of popular feeling. There

is one cause which has yet to be stated, and deserves at least as much consideration. Lord Beaconsfield, like other men of great ability who have owed their position, under Providence, to their abilities alone, had a great distrust and dislike for anything which might pretend to be a rival genius, unless, at least, it was half stifled by a coronet. As soon as he became the undisputed leader of the party which he had so long nominally led, he naturally, perhaps excusably, sought to reinforce his influence in the Cabinet by the introduction of colleagues upon whose votes he could count. In and after the year 1874, gentlemen who would say "Ditto" to Mr. Disraeli were in request. Wherever he saw a man of business he made much of him; when he discovered an obsequious plutocrat he recruited him. Hence it came to pass that when that commanding presence was withdrawn from the Treasury Bench, the House of Commons and the country became-at first, perhaps insensibly-aware of the almost inconceivable incapacity of the colleagues whom he left behind him. The year 1879 marked probably the nadir of Ministerial influence in the Lower Chamber. Never before, and as certainly never again, will an Opposition have to contend with Ministers so barren in ideas, so irresolute in decision, so weak in utterance and so timid in action, as the five or six persons who huddled round the bell-wether of the Treasury, trembling at the first sound of an Irish brogue, and fleeing in stuttering disorder whensoever Mr. Gladstone thought proper to use against such poor creatures the weapons so often tried against a worthier foe.

If it were not so disadvantageous to the country, which requires an adequate representation of Conservative as well as of Liberal ideas, it would be laughable to contemplate the antics of these official Lilliputians since the storm of 1880 swept them into the gutter. They have picked themselves up again, furtively helping each other to rub the mud off their clothes, and latterly displaying quite a cheerful alacrity in skipping about whenever they can get out of earshot of the Prime Minister, with feeble little sputterings of mutual admiration or inane twaddle, which they mistake for invective. Just as their presence on the Treasury Bench brought about the disasters of the last Dissolution, so have their small activities in Opposition tended to maintain the power of the Government which they assail. Terrible indeed was the disaster which overtook the Tory party at the last general election; but it was less terrible in respect of what it took away than of what it left behind. If the destroying angel who moved along the other Benches had made his presence felt on that occupied by the expropriated Ministers, from Westminster to Lincoln, the Conservative party would have been appreciably stronger. Sir Robert Peel at the head of his one hundred and thirty followers in 1832 had in Parliament and the country twice the influence possessed by Sir Stafford Northcote with two hundred and forty adhe

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