Corridors of Power

Free Corridors of Power by C. P. Snow

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Authors: C. P. Snow
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Tory MP to write. That was part of his offence. ‘He’s not exactly their favourite character, should you say?’ said Margaret. She was frowning at herself, and her dress, in the glass. She was not quite so uncompetitive, these days, as she would have had me think.
    I could guess what Diana had said to Caro. At dinner the topic was not mentioned, and I began to hope that we were, for the time being, safely through. The conversation had the half-intimacy, the fatigue, the diminuendo, of the close of a long weekend. Since there was no host, the men did not stay long round the dining-table, and in the drawing-room afterwards, we sat round in a semi-circle, Diana, impresario-like, placing herself between Collingwood and Roger, encouraging them to talk across her.
    Suddenly Lord Bridgewater, open-faced, open-eyed, cleared his throat. We knew what was coming. He hadn’t been born in this society, but he had taken its colour. At home he was an amiable man, but he had a liking for unpleasant jobs. He spoke across the width of the room to Caro. ‘I hope we shan’t hear any more of Sammikins, you know what I mean.’ For once, almost for the first time, I saw Caro put out. She flushed. She had to control herself: she hated doing so. It was in her nature not only not to give a damn, but to say that she didn’t. After a pause, she replied, a little feebly: ‘Horace, I’m sorry, but I’m not my brother’s keeper.’ Sammikins was a couple of years younger than she was, and listening, I was sure that she loved him.
    ‘Some people,’ said Collingwood, ‘would say that he could do with one.’
    ‘They’d better say that to him,’ said Caro, ‘that’s all.’
    ‘He’s not doing any good to the Party,’ said Lord Bridgewater, ‘he’s not doing any good at all.’
    Collingwood looked at Caro. His eyes brightened in women’s company, but his manner did not change and he said straight at her: ‘It’s got to be stopped.’
    ‘What do you mean?’
    ‘I mean, that if Sammikins won’t stop it himself, we shall have to stop him.’
    In Collingwood’s difficult, senatorial tone, the nickname sounded more than ever ridiculous. Caro was still just keeping her temper.
    ‘I don’t think,’ she replied, ‘that any of you have the slightest idea what he’s like.’
    ‘That doesn’t enter,’ said Collingwood. ‘I mean, that if he writes anything like this again, or makes any more speeches on the same lines, we can’t have anything more to do with him.’
    On the other side of Diana, I saw Roger’s frowning face. He was gazing at his wife. She, dark with shame, was shaking her head as though telling him to keep quiet. Up to now, she knew – better than anyone there – that he had not made a false move, or one not calculated, since he entered the Government. This wasn’t the time to let go.
    Caro gave Collingwood a social smile.
    ‘You mean,’ she said, ‘you’re ready to take the whip away?’
    ‘Certainly.’
    ‘That wouldn’t matter much, for him.’
    I believed that, for an instant, she was talking professional politics in the sense Collingwood would understand. Her brother, as heir to his father’s title, could not reckon on a serious political career.
    ‘That’s not all,’ said Collingwood. ‘No one likes – being right out of things.’
    There was a pause. Caro thought successively of things to say, discarded them all.
    ‘I utterly disagree with nearly everything you’ve said.’ It was Roger’s voice, not quietened, addressed to the room as well as to Collingwood. He must have been enraged by the choice he had to make: now he had made it, he sounded spontaneous and free.
    Like Caro, I had been afraid of this. Now that it had happened, I felt excited, upset, and at the same time relieved.
    ‘I don’t know how you can.’ Collingwood looked lofty and cold.
    ‘I assure you that I do. I have the advantage, of course, of knowing the man very well. I don’t think many of you have that advantage,

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