Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 35

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Chapter XXXV: The Lowest Deep

Sullen, disappointed, desperate, I strode along the streets that evening, careless whither I went. The People's Cause was lost—the Charter a laughing-stock. That the party which monopolizes wealth, rank, and, as it is fancied, education and intelligence, should have been driven, degraded, to appeal to brute force for self-defence—that thought gave me a savage joy; but that it should have conquered by that last, lowest resource!—That the few should be still stronger than the many, or the many still too cold-hearted and coward to face the few—that sickened me. I hated the well-born young special constables whom I passed, because they would have fought. I hated the gent and shop-keeper special constables, because they would have run away. I hated my own party, because they had gone too far—because they had not gone far enough. I hated myself, because I had not produced some marvellous effect—though what that was to have been I could not tell—and hated myself all the more for that ignorance.

A group of effeminate shop-keepers passed me, shouting, "God save the
Queen!" "Hypocrites!" I cried in my heart—"they mean 'God save our shops!'
Liars! They keep up willingly the useful calumny, that their slaves and
victims are disloyal as well as miserable!"

I was utterly abased—no, not utterly; for my self-contempt still vented itself—not in forgiveness, but in universal hatred and defiance. Suddenly I perceived my cousin, laughing and jesting with a party of fashionable young specials: I shrank from him; and yet, I know not why, drew as near him as I could, unobserved—near enough to catch the words.

"Upon my honour, Locke, I believe you are a Chartist yourself at heart."

"At least I am no Communist," said he, in a significant tone. "There is one little bit of real property which I have no intention of sharing with my neighbours."

"What, the little beauty somewhere near Cavendish Square?"

"That's my business."

"Whereby you mean that you are on your way to her now? Well, I am invited to the wedding, remember."

He pushed on laughingly, without answering. I followed him fast—"near Cavendish Square!"—the very part of the town where Lillian lived! I had had, as yet, a horror of going near it; but now an intolerable suspicion scourged me forward, and I dogged his steps, hiding behind pillars, and at the corners of streets, and then running on, till I got sight of him again. He went through Cavendish Square, up Harley Street—was it possible? I gnashed my teeth at the thought. But it must be so. He stopped at the dean's house, knocked, and entered without parley.

In a minute I was breathless on the door-step, and knocked. I had no plan, no object, except the wild wish to see my own despair. I never thought of the chances of being recognized by the servants, or of anything else, except of Lillian by my cousin's side.

The footman came out smiling, "What did I want?"

"I—I—Mr. Locke."

"Well you needn't be in such a hurry!" (with a significant grin). "Mr.
Locke's likely to be busy for a few minutes yet, I expect."

Evidently the man did not know me.

"Tell him that—that a person wishes to speak to him on particular business." Though I had no more notion what that business was than the man himself.

"Sit down in the hall."

And I heard the fellow, a moment afterwards, gossiping and laughing with the maids below about the "young couple."

To sit down was impossible; my only thought was—where was Lillian?