The Half-Hearted HTML version

11. The Pride Before A Fall
The result of the election was announced in Gledsmuir on the next Wednesday evening,
and carried surprise to all save Lewis's nearer friends. For Mr. Albert Stocks was duly
returned member for the constituency by a majority of seventy votes. The defeated
candidate received the news with great composure, addressed some good-humoured
words to the people, had a generous greeting for his opponent, and met his committee
with a smiling face. But his heart was sick within him, and as soon as he decently might
be escaped from the turmoil, found his horse, and set off up Glenavelin for his own
He had been defeated, and the fact, however confidently looked for, comes with a bitter
freshness to every man. He had lost a seat for his party-that in itself was bad. But he
had proved himself incompetent, unadaptable, a stick, a pedantic incapable. A dozen
stings rankled in his soul. Alice would be justified of her suspicions. Where would his
place be now in that small imperious heart? His own people had forsaken him for a
gross and unlikely substitute, and he had been wrong in his estimate alike of ally and
enemy. Above all came that cruelest stab--what would Wratislaw think of it? He had
disgraced himself in the eyes of his friend. He who had made a fetish of competence
had manifestly proved wanting; he who had loved to think of himself as the bold,
opportune man, had shown himself formal and hidebound.
As he passed Glenavelin among the trees the thought of Alice was a sharp pang of
regret. He could never more lift his eyes in that young and radiant presence. He
pictured the successful Stocks welcomed by her, and words of praise for which he
would have given his immortal soul, meted out lavishly to that owl-like being. It was a
dismal business, and ruefully, but half-humorously, he caught at the paradox of his fate.
Through the swiftly failing darkness the inn of Etterick rose before him, a place a little
apart from the village street. A noise of talk floated from the kitchen and made him halt
at the door and dismount. The place would be full of folk discussing the election, and he
would go in among them and learn the worst opinion which men might have of him.
After all, they were his own people, who had known him in his power as they now saw
him in his weakness. If he had failed he was not wholly foolish; they knew his few
redeeming virtues, and they would be generous.
The talk stopped short as he entered, and he saw through the tobacco reek half a
dozen lengthy faces wearing the air of solemnity which the hillman adopts in his
pleasures. They were all his own herds and keepers, save two whom he knew for
foresters from Glenavelin. He was recognized at once, and with a general nervous
shuffling they began to make room for the laird at the table. He cried a hasty greeting to