by Kelly Evans
“I’ve decided to enter the cutthroat and unforgiving arena of political life,” Frederick announced.
Mother looked up from her book. “Whatever for, Freddie?”
“I’m a natural born leader and others should benefit from my vast life experience.”
“And how do you plan to enter this world?” Frederick’s younger sister Constance smiled wryly.
Frederick sat on the settee and swung a leg casually over the arm. “I’ve discovered our local school requires a new governor, a perfect place for me to cut my teeth, politically speaking.”
“Perfect? What do you know about politics in general, and being a school governor in particular, brother dear?”
Frederick sniffed derisively. “How difficult can it be? I can appeal to anyone, particularly children. Oh, I know, no one really likes children, despite what they say, but the very young can be fooled.”
Mother looked over at her eldest child, an eyebrow raised. “Dear, it’s not the children who vote you in.”
“Well, who then? The teachers?” He waved a hand dismissively. “Small carefully chosen gifts will take care of that. Teachers are notoriously simple types, the tiniest gesture may win their gratitude.”
“It’s not the teachers either.”
“Well who then?” Frederick frowned, an action he usually reserved for special occasions.
“It’s the parents who vote for the governor.” Mother had obviously not noticed her son’s frown. This, coupled with the delivered news, perturbed Frederick. He was silent, thinking; the act shocked his parent as it was so rarely done. “Frederick, are you unwell?”
“I’m fine mother,” he said, shaking off her worried expression.
Constance interrupted his thoughts. “You have no friends among the parents, do you?”
Frederick shook a finger in the air. “No, no, there must be someone.”
They all sat deep in thought. Then Constance sat up suddenly. “What about the Blackwoods?”
“The parents of that awful little fat boy, what’s his name? Piggy? Pudgy?”
“You mean Pugsley?”
“That’s the horror. No, there was an ‘incident’.”
“An incident, Frederick?”
“On a nature walk.” Frederick frowned again, this time involuntarily.
Constance snorted, earning her a disapproving look from her mother. “When were you ever on a nature walk?”
Frederick scowled. “I was trying to impress one of the Miss Simpsons, I don’t recall which one, there are so many.” He saw they were all staring at him expectantly. Sighing, he continued. “The Pugsley child was there, he accidently fell down a gully and tragically broke his arm.”
It was neither tragic nor an accident but no one dared to comment. “What about the Williams? You babysat for them once, did you not?”
Frederick, in an uncharacteristic display of decency, looked embarrassed. “There was another incident.” None of the family felt inclined to ask for details.
No further suggestions were forthcoming and the matter was dropped, the family believing this would go the way of most of Frederick’s schemes.
But Frederick was not deterred. He invited the most influential parents to a gathering at his social club a few days before the election, tempting them with fine wine and classic good food.
“Fine evening, Freddie, fine evening.” Frederick flinched as a large fleshy hand patted him on the shoulder.
“Mathers, glad you’re enjoying yourself. Just my way of giving back to the community.”
The large widower eyed him suspiciously. “Giving back? You?”
“Of course. And should anyone see fit to reward my altruism with a vote in the upcoming governorship election I would make no complaint.”
Mathers grinned. “I see your plan now. Capital!” He chuckled, causing the folds on his chin to wobble. “You may have my vote,” he held up a beefy hand, “but I need you to do something for me in return.”
Frederick’s eyes narrowed. “What would that be?”
Mathers leaned towards Frederick and in a conspiratorial tone said, “I wish for you to persuade Miss Thomson to dine with me.”
“And how do you propose I accomplish this feat?”
“Oh, I’m certain a man of your resources will manage.” He winked at Frederick, who sighed, nodded his head, and allowed himself to be distracted by the canapés.
A short while later the very person to whom he wished to speak appeared. “Miss Thomson, how lovely to see you! So glad you could attend this evening.”
“Freddie dear, I wouldn’t dream of missing one of your events.”
After a few minutes of mindless talk about the weather and the problems faced by the local operatic society this season Frederick broached the subject he had been hitherto hesitating to mention. “Miss Thomson, I don’t know if you are aware but you have an admirer.”
“I have many admirers, Freddie. Did another declare his undying love for me?”
“Perhaps not undying love but a keen desire to break bread with you.”
Miss Thomson raised an eyebrow. “And who is this mystery man?”
“Archibald Mathers.” They both looked in the direction of the buffet table. Miss Thomson shrugged. “Why would I have dinner with him?”
Frederick smiled graciously. “He’s a gentleman and a scholar with many varied interests.” Miss Thomson looked unconvinced. “Plus he’s enormously wealthy.”
He saw the glint in Miss Thomson’s eye. “Why have you suddenly become a matchmaker Freddie?”
Frederick decided the truth would be best. “I’m doing a favour.”
Miss Thomson shook her head. “Since when are you so obliging? No, there’s something else going on here which I’m sure is all very dull and tedious. But as I have so enjoyed myself this evening I’ll consent to sharing a meal with your well-heeled friend.” Frederick’s relief was short-lived. “But there IS something you must do for me.”
“So you see, Miss Thomson’s brother requires a history tutor and of course I immediately thought of you.” Frederick had actually already asked four other people.
Henry Basingthorpe was at first flattered then apprehensive. “What’s in it for you?”
Frederick waved a hand airily. “Oh, you know, just being a good neighbour.”
“Hmm, I doubt that. Well, I won’t question your motives, suspect though they may be. I would of course help the young man with his studies, it’s just I find myself terribly occupied at present with trying to obtain a place on the next county hunt…”
Frederick grimaced, trying to smile. “I think I may be able to help you there, Basingthorpe.”
“I just don’t understand it.” Frederick and Mother were in the conservatory, drinking gin and tonics. “I certainly promised enough favours. These people are obviously not intelligent enough for my kind of leadership.” He sniffed.
“You spent all of that money, time, and effort. You owe them all favours. You didn’t get elected. And THEY are unintelligent?”
For the remainder of the day Frederick could be found in the study, frowning into a newspaper.