‘He would have us all in Poor Street,’ someone shouted.
Adam ignored him and continued, ‘The Corn Laws ought to be repealed. They serve no useful purpose.’
‘Rubbish!’ another voice piped up.
He smiled. ‘I hesitate to call a law of this country rubbish, but perhaps you are right and we should throw it out.’
One or two people smiled at this, but most were too angry to see the humour.
‘We all have to live, and the world will be a better, more prosperous place, if we live in harmony,’ he went on. ‘To that end we must educate the men so that they understand about how business is conducted, a little of economics and how to express themselves succinctly. Educated men, interested men, well-fed men with healthy families, will work all the better for it. They will not impoverish the country. It is not in their interests to do so. They should have a say in how the country governs itself, to help decide the laws that will have a bearing on their lives...’
‘He’s spreading sedition.’
He waited silently for the booing and shouting to die down, which it did eventually when they realised he was not going to sit down. ‘Men who have reached a certain standard of education ought to have the franchise, an education which we must provide for all...’
This was too much for some and there was more heckling. ‘Do you want a reign of terror here in England?’
‘Look what happened in France!’
‘Make him sit down!’
‘Is this the way our revered parliament carries on its business?’ he shouted above the din. ‘Like a crowd of schoolboys deprived of their favourite toys?’
This was again too much for some, and they began throwing their papers at him. From the gallery, where a few spectators had come to listen to the debate, came rotten eggs.
Adam, with egg running down his superfine coat, sat down in despair. Others rose to have their say, but none supported him except Mark, who said it was the right of every man to be heard with courtesy, whether you agreed with him or not, but he was shouted down as having no knowledge of industrial affairs and would do better to stick to agriculture.
After everyone had calmed down, the debate moved on to how trouble could be contained if any rose among the workers. There was talk of militia and even the cavalry and a ban on all gatherings with the rope as a punishment for infringement. Adam jumped up once or twice to protest at the harsh measures being put forward, but no one listened.
‘My only hope is that Hunt will read the report of the proceedings and come to me,’ he told Mark as they walked back to Wyndham House.
‘What will you say to him? Will you advise him not to demonstrate?’
‘No. It is the only way they will be heard, but I want to be sure any demonstration is orderly and peaceful and not an armed uprising. He must give the militia no excuse to intervene.’
‘Amen to that.’
* * *
Sophie, unaware of Viscount Kimberley’s serious mission, had come to the conclusion he was in town to find himself a second wife. And though she told herself she had no interest in what he did, she found herself wondering what sort of lady he was looking for and if any of her acquaintances would capture him. Cassie, perhaps? It would not be for want of trying on Cassie’s part, she thought with a wry smile. She did not think Mrs Malthouse would spare any money or effort promoting her daughter, and the dance afforded an opportunity. ‘We shall see,’ she murmured to herself when undressing for bed the night before the event.
* * *
Lady Cartrose decided to rest the following day and had no engagements. Teddy was nowhere to be found and Sophie had nothing to do. She sat in the garden to finish the library book she had been reading, then enlisted Bessie to go with her to change it.
They were walking along Bond Street when they met Teddy and Captain Moore. ‘Ah, my dear little sister,’ Teddy said, stopping in front of her. He was swaying slightly and his words were slurred. ‘You have not met my friend, Captain Toby Moore, have you, Sophie? Allow me to present him. Toby, my sister, Miss Sophie Cavenhurst.’
The man bowed. ‘How do you do, Miss Cavenhurst. Teddy speaks of you often with great affection.’
‘Then, you have the advantage,’ she said. ‘He has never mentioned you to me.’
‘No reason to,’ her brother murmured.
‘I believe you are going to attend the Rowlands’ dance this evening,’ Captain Moore went on. ‘I shall look forward to seeing you there. Perhaps you will consent to stand up with me.’