Page 16 of The Husband Season

 ‘They are not just hungry, they are starving,’ Adam had answered, referring to Michaelson’s workforce. ‘Starving men cannot work well.’

 ‘So you feed ’em, too.’

 ‘If I give my workers a dinner, that is my affair, not yours, Sir John.’

 ‘If we don’t stand together, we won’t win,’ the man said truculently.

 ‘I have no doubt that is what the men are saying,’ he had said.

 ‘And you, no doubt, know exactly what they are saying. I am disgusted with you. You are a traitor to your heritage.’

 * * *

 Adam was soon back at Wyndham House and settled down in the library to write his speech. He was not a natural orator like Henry Hunt and had never made a public speech before, except to talk to his workers. He believed in keeping them informed of how the business was doing, telling them when a big contract had come their way and how long they had to fulfil it and congratulating them if they fulfilled it on time, paying them a bonus, as well. They worked the better for it. Now he had to make a speech to his peers, men who probably held the same views as Sir John and whom he had to persuade. He had covered several sheets of paper, all of which he had screwed up and thrown aside, when Mark came in.

 ‘You look as if you’ve been busy,’ his cousin commented.

 ‘All to no purpose. I can’t seem to find the right words.’

 ‘The words you used the other night sounded good to me.’

 ‘Two or three sentences when I have to write a whole speech. And my audience will be less sympathetic than you.’

 ‘Make your speech to me and I will act as devil’s advocate.’ Mark laughed. ‘I will even heckle you, if you like, and see how you deal with it.’

 * * *

 An hour later Adam was feeling a great deal better about the ordeal.

 ‘You are much more convincing when you speak from the heart,’ Mark told him. ‘You don’t need to write out the whole speech. Simple notes will suffice to get you going.’

 ‘Do you think I have a chance of swaying any of them?’

 ‘Those who are undecided, perhaps, but the diehards will be more difficult. You might have more luck in the Commons, if you could find a sympathetic member to take up the cudgels.’

 ‘I know neither of the members for Lancashire will do anything. They are in Sir John’s pocket. Two members of parliament for a whole populous county and two for a little place like Dunwich, which has all but disappeared into the German Ocean, is ridiculous. Parliamentary reform is long overdue.’

 ‘I agree, but you will hardly persuade the members for those rotten boroughs to give up their seats.’

 ‘Now, if workingmen could vote, that would be different,’ Adam went on. ‘And if they could also stand for election, we might have a more equitable means of governing the country.’

 Mark laughed. ‘And that is what you advocate, is it? I advise you to take one step at a time, coz, if you don’t want to sink your whole argument. Now, you have done enough. I am hungry. What do you say to repairing to the club for something to eat? Then I will tell you my plans and you can advise me.’

                       Chapter Three

 Sophie decided she needed some ribbon for the evening gown she intended to wear for Mark’s concert. It was a rose-pink gauze worn over a white silk underdress. In her view it was too plain and needed a long ribbon tied in floating ends beneath the bust and to embellish the puffed sleeves. She had suggested as much to Jane when she was altering it, but her sister had said it was fine as it was. On the other hand, she really could not allow herself to be outshone by Cassandra. ‘You never know whom I shall meet,’ she said to Bessie. ‘Mark might contrive to introduce me to eligibles of his acquaintance. I wonder if his cousin will be there. He is staying at Wyndham House, you know.’

 ‘No, I did not know. Do you know the gentleman?’

 ‘I don’t know. I might have met him at my sisters’ wedding.’

 ‘He cannot have made much of an impression if you cannot remember him.’

 ‘I might if I knew his name, but Mark did not mention it when he told us a cousin was staying with him. I wonder if he is like Mark?’

 ‘So you are adding frippery to impress someone you do not know.’

 ‘Certainly not. I simply want to look my best. Wyndham House is quite grand, you know, and no doubt Mark’s friends are top of the trees. I know Cassandra will be showing herself off. I cannot be seen to lag behind.’