Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

When Lord Lipton returned home, he was glad to see that things were progressing nicely without his having to have been there to oversee things personally. It pleased him to note that things could go on swimmingly without his having to supervise them directly, as that allowed him to see the progress and be able to deal with the travel time between his estate and London. The knowledge that eight days of travel and whatever days of London in business did not mean that people stopped doing what they should was a pleasure to him, and increased his confidence in his household staff.

Lord Lipton did not intend to stay in Yorkshire very long, but there was business to conduct here before it was time to go to London for the winter. He visited his neighbors and found them to be friendly and gracious, and who enjoyed that he was fine with both a ragout or a plain dish, without being overly critical about the difference between his own living standard and their own. Lord Lipton did not make it obvious that he had been an ordinary member of the pseudogentry for many years before rising to title, as he thought it was rather gouche to talk about such matters of class to others as a means of trying to charm them and win them over. He was simply a gracious person with good manners and a friendly disposition and despite his natural reserve, his genuine enjoyment of the conversation and company of others and good food was evident for all. That he was kind to others was evident by the way he would dance with others who lacked a partner and carried on polite conversation without seeking to overpower them with charm either or to make them uncomfortable by being too forward.

Lord Lipton could see the harvest was going well on his own estates. Not only were his own crops doing well, but he was able to quietly send some help to his tenants, especially those superannuated servants whose health prevented them from an active life. He had remembered his promise to hear their stories and there was much to enjoy there as well. He got the feeling before too long that he understood his grandfather better and the people that were around him while he had energy and fun before the ravages of time and his final illness, all of which he had missed. When had he last seen his grandfather? He did not make many trips back to England after their family moved to the colonies, but surely there had been at least one or two trips back to the home estate, right? How long had it been, he wondered, before the horrors of war and politics had taken up so much of his life and formed so large a share of his cares?

While he was at his home, he saw how his cousin was faring with her governess. He was pleased to see that the governess had identified skills and was teaching deportment as well as improving her reading in English as well as the modern languages. His cousin had a taste for singing and dancing, which was easy to approve of, and was at least a willing student of history and literature and geography, which would be important to someone whose interests were as wide as that of Lord Lipton’s family. Even if his maternal relatives were merchants, they were merchants with international interests and that was something he enjoyed. He was a bit disappointed that his uncle did not come to have a conversation about the settlement that was due to Clarissa, but he was not inclined to be nasty about it. It was not as if the upkeep of the girl was any great expense to him, given that he was not a person of extravagant tastes himself. He was pleased to see as well that Miss Wood seemed to be enjoying her time as a governess. Not everyone enjoyed the work that it took to educate the young and some people were resentful that their families had declined to a level where they had to labor in order to support themselves in the manner of commonfolk.

Lord Lipton had a discussion with his carpenter and saw that the tools for allowing him to move around on bad gout days were going along nicely. Before the winter was done and he had returned from London it would be likely that he would have what he needed to get around no matter how his gout was afflicting him, and that pleased him.

With one person he met with often, and that was Mr. Housewell, who was seeking to be the member of Parliament for Lord Lipton’s little village. Nether-Otteringham-Over-Scar was a pleasant village, named (somehow) in the Domesday Book, and a thriving little hamlet that occasionally drew those interested in the lead mining that took place in the area as well as the pleasant woods and the hills and dales that were in the area. The village had been in his family’s hands since the first Lord Lipton purchased it from its bankrupt holder upon making his fortune in tea importing decades ago. As such it was a desirable seat in Parliament, and Lord Lipton was not surprised that Mr. Housewell would want such a worthwhile seat to represent in Parliament. What he did want to know is why the incumbent had made himself so scarce. He wanted to talk with his grandfather’s man, to let him know that the change was not personal, but it did not appear as if the outgoing member of Parliament wanted to talk at all. It was quite ungentlemanly.

Mr. Housewell, for one, was very interested in finding out what sort of politics were expected of him. He was pleased to find out that Lord Lipton was not one of those people who had a narrow and partisan turn to him. Observing him closely, he saw him to be one of those reformers of a kind that was not doctrinaire in his approach but rather encouraged reform from a thoughtful Christian perspective that sought to bring one’s behavior in line with one’s beliefs, and one’s beliefs in line with the principles of scripture. If he was a high-minded person in such a way, he was not censorious of others, not inclined to ban dancing or alcohol, not inclined to create a heaven on earth that would be a hell for less virtuous souls. What political interests did Lord Lipton represent? He was friendly to commerce and industry, but wished for that industry to not only benefit those with capital but also those who worked, so that profit could come to all who worked hard on the land, in the factory, or anywhere else for that matter. He was hostile to slavery as that robbed profit to those who work and made those who worked the mere property of those who held them and exploited them. He was hostile to the slave trade as being detrimental to the well-being of those who worked, by lowering their status and the status of labor in general to that approaching a slave. He was also highly patriotic and supported the well-being of England. He had a fair amount of local patriotism as was common in Yorkshire, proud of its ways and of being a native Yorkie even if he had spent many years abroad. His patriotism was not of the noisy or quarrelsome sort, but rather of the kind that rejoiced in his background and understood that others might rejoice in their own much the same way, without being bothered by the warm feelings others had for their own identity so long as they did not begrudge him his own.

When faced with such a man, it was not hard to realize that what Lord Lipton expected of him was not as someone who was identical to him but someone whose interests were those of the self-evident good, that which would serve Nether-Otteringham-Over-Scar well, serve Yorkshire well, serve England well, serve humanity well. There was to be no necessary contradiction between serving humanity as a whole and serving a small village with woods and lovely hills and dales. Those who served God with skill and wisdom served the best interests of all people in all areas, but it was best not to coerce them into righteousness where their will and the will of God separated. In conversations over food as well as in the library and sitting room, Mr. Housewell found Lord Lipton to be remarkably free of the sort of political cant that was expected of someone who had spent so long in America.

The two of them worked together to set up a feast that would celebrate the harvest that had taken place, allow Lord Lipton to be generous without being ostentatiously so, and also provide an opportunity for some political speeches that would open up the campaign for Lord Lipton’s seat. If the lack of competition that had shown itself continued, Mr. Housewell figured that he might not lose very much money spending for the seat, which would be a great comfort to him.

It would have been a great comfort to see what the opposition had in mind, but so far they were not willing to show their hand. They were not willing to speak publicly in opposition to the Lord or to Mr. Housewell. That did not mean that they did not exist, it just means that they had other means of expressing their opposition rather than making themselves amenable to logical refutation. Lord Lipton would have liked to have been able to deal with them openly and honorably, but they were not honorable men and had no intention of being bested in open competition. If the landlord of a rotten borough had made his opposition to them plain, there was no sense in trying to spend money to counteract his power, even if that lord was like Lord Lipton in not wishing to compel his tenants to vote according to his ways. Why would one spend thousands of pounds to lose in a borough of only a handful of voters, most of whom had already made themselves clear they were in opposition by one means or another when one could spend the same amount in a city like Hull where one could use scare tactics to ensure that merchants supported a particular line in fear that their wealth would be destroyed by the hostility to the slave trade.

So it was that Mr. Housewell convened often with Lord Lipton to work out the logistics of a large harvest meal that would provide a celebration for the neighborhood and the opportunity to hear and make speeches. The planning went as well as such things normally do, and all that it took would be a good day for the event to take place. And so the food was readied, and it simply awaited the glorious rays of the sun for it to happen. And they did not have to wait long, although it must be admitted that there were a few gray and wet days that fall before the sun shone through to remind people that it existed, and that no outdoor event need fear the coming of the rains or snows. Such a day was likely not to be repeated for very long, and so once it came, everyone rushed to conclusion what had previously been planned. And so it came time for them all to celebrate the joy of politics and the celebration of the harvest that had been nearly completed at that point.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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