Henry John Wrixon.

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hope ? ' said the Secretary. ' It would spoil the outlook from
your Lecture rooms if it did go wrong.'

' No, I came about quite another matter,' answered
Frankfort. ' The fact is, I am thinking of standing at the
General Election that's coming on, and I'm told that an
all - important matter, where I'm going, is the Brassville

Here he was disturbed by a sort of involuntary exclama-
tion that seemed to issue from the floor, near where Wally
Crane was down upon his knees busily polishing the leg of a
large cedar side -table. He looked round, and there was
Crane polishing harder than ever ; he had, in fact, got right
down to the floor itself, in his anxiety to make a good job
of it. To look at him, he seemed as if he had not uttered
a word for a long time. But, unless the whole theory of
causation is at fault, either he or the leg of the side - table
must have produced the sound.

When, then, our would-be politician looked round, Crane
was still polishing, in fact, going strong at the polishing ;
and Lavender, a little disturbed by the exclamation himself,
and thinking that possibly his visitor would rather discuss
the matter with him alone, said, ' That'll do, Crane. You
need not wait ; but let me know if the Minister is in, and if
I can see him for a minute. Yes, Professor,' he continued,
addressing his visitor, ' I can tell you all about it. It has
been with us for years. I call it the Meeks' Freehold and
Bunker's Reversion. But I'd just like to get the Minister's
permission to give you all the facts show you the papers,
maps, and so on ; so that if you do go down you will be well
armed. You're for Brassville, I think you said ? '

In a minute or so a low tap at the door announced
Mr. Crane, who just looked half in, with his usual bow, and
stated that His Excellency the Minister was in and would
see His Honour the Secretary. When Lavender returned


he remarked, ' It's all right. The Minister is quite pleased
that you are standing. So I can show you the whole thing.
Just look at this tracing over here,' he continued, going to the
side-table on the leg of which Crane had bestowed so much
attention. ' Here you are. Brassville, Leadville along the
coast side of the Divide ; Silveracre on the other side,
inland. You're for Brassville, are you not ? '

' Yes, I think of standing for Brassville.'

' Well, there you are, that's the site of the Reservoir,'
said the Secretary, making a mark with a very large blue
pencil at a point on the tracing near that town.

' It is to be a big affair, is it not ? ' asked Frankfort. ' I
understand it is expected to cost about a quarter of a

' Well, yes, about that,' replied the Secretary. ' The Loan
we are just going to float is to be for five millions yes, it will
be about a quarter of a million out of that.' He made a rapid
calculation on a blank sheet with the blue pencil, and added,
' It might run into three hundred thousand ; these things do
stretch out so. It'll set up the Brassville people, if they get
it ; and you too, Professor. I should say that the seat would
be yours for life.'

' But the site's disputed, is it not ? I have heard a good
authority say that it was.'

' Oh, of course,' interjected Lavender ; ' of course it's
disputed. But you said you were going for Brassville,
didn't you ? '

1 Yes, and I am going for Brassville ; but I want to
understand the merits of the matter.'

' The merits ? ' queried the Secretary.

' Yes, the merits of the question of site. I want to
know if the Reservoir ought to be put at the point there
that you mark with your pencil. Is that the true and
proper place to construct it ? '

' The true and proper place ? ' repeated Lavender,
looking rather pointedly at him.

'Yes, don't you see, Lavender, if I'm returned, I must
think for the whole country as well as for Brassville ;
and I want to know, ought the Reservoir to be there in
the general public interest ? '


He spoke explicitly, as the Secretary, though generally
very quick, seemed to be at some loss to understand his

' Why, then, perhaps you'd better go through the papers
for yourself/ and the Secretary touched his bell. Directly
the door opened a little way and Crane looked in at the
door to see what was wanted.

' Just ask Mr. Twining to give you the file of papers of
the Brassville Reservoir,' said the Secretary. And looking at
Frankfort ' You'd better have the Leadville lot too, and
what there is from Silveracre. You want all sides, you say?'

' Yes, please, I want all the papers on the subject.'

1 Well, well, you hear, Crane ; ask Mr. Twining for them
all. You'll find them pretty voluminous ; but, to be sure,
there's a deal of repetition.'

Crane, lowering his head deferentially, disappeared on
his errand, and soon returned, almost breathless, with two
ponderous piles of papers one marked 'Brassville' in red ink,
and the other ' Leadville ' in blue ink ; while under both was
a thin slip of documents marked on the first sheet, in pencil,
' Silveracre.'

'Put them on the side -table there for the Professor.
Look over them quietly, Frankfort, you won't disturb me,'
said Lavender. And Crane placed them down as he was told,
only stopping to give one more polish to the shining leg of
the table, and stealing, while doing so, an inquiring, half-
perplexed look at the visitor.

The latter settled to his work with the trained aptitude
of the student, and soon discovered that, though the two
piles seemed so formidable, their substance was by no means
equal to their bulk. There was, in fact, a striking similarity
between the contents of the two. Each contained petitions
for the Reservoir, estimates of cost and of revenue returns,
highly favourable reports from divers persons signing C.E.
after their names, long rows of statistics, and calculations of
income from rating and income from revenue in distinct
columns, requests for the receiving of deputations, appoint-
ments therefor, reports of proceedings thereat, memoranda
as to separate interviews with the Minister or the Secretary,
all interspersed with clippings from newspapers, containing


leading articles, long reports of meetings, letters from
' Indignant Patriot,' also ' Disgusted Patriot,' each demanding
a National policy for their town, and proving that it would
be rewarded by from six to seven per cent interest on the

The general conclusion to be gathered from each set of
papers appeared also to be much the same. In either case,
the Reservoir, at the spot that each contended for, was
advocated upon the ground of its being an essentially National
and obviously reproductive work, the primary cost of which
belonged to the Public Treasury. Yet, as in both cases it
was so clearly shown that the returns from the sale of the
water would yield a handsome interest on the quarter of a
million, it would seem to an observer that the districts
concerned were making a mistake in not keeping such a
profitable undertaking to themselves. The calculations as
to the exact returns in cash from the Reservoir in each
case filled long columns of figures, in some cases worked
out to decimals ; but in the result they were much the same.
Those from Brassville showed four and a half per cent for
direct interest, and one and a half per cent for sinking fund ;
while those from Leadville, made out upon a different plan,
yet showed six and a quarter per cent for straight out
interest, with no provision for a sinking fund.

Further, there were certain special claims which each
district made to the Reservoir. It seemed that each had
been distinctly promised that it should have the Reservoir,
at one time or another, by different but competent political
authorities, and that numbers of citizens had taken up land
from the Government and begun farming and other opera-
tions upon the faith of the promise in each case. Further,
it was averred by each that it would be impossible to
continue to pay the State rent for the land unless the said
State fulfilled its part of the contract and supplied the
water that was necessary for the proper cultivation of the
soil. Not only so, but the failure to construct this National
work would lead (in each case) to the depopulation of each
respective district, and to the people being driven to herd
together in the overcrowded towns.

Thus, as to both Brassville and Leadville, the cases were


clear and well supported by figures for each. But what
about Silveracre? Frankfort was struck by the limited
and scrappy nature of the records relating to that centre ;
yet, as far as one could judge from these records, decisive
action followed not long after the intervention of Silveracre.
It was not easy to trace how, for in fact the papers were
few from that important mining district. There were some
returns, evidently prepared by a skilled hand, which spoke
for themselves, and unless they were entirely fabricated, de-
monstrated that the Reservoir at either Brassville or Leadville
could not pay one and a half per cent on the cost ; while, if
on the other side of the Divide, the return from the existing
mines would be handsome, without at present calculating on
the ever-growing expansion of the mining industry. There
were no appointments for deputations, though there were
one or two reports from the local paper of indignation
meetings in the mining districts, at which leading mine
managers proposed very strongly worded resolutions de-
nouncing the claims of both Brassville and Leadville. There
were also some memoranda, torn from the office scribbling
tablet, fixing times for interviews between gentlemen known
to the mining world and the Minister or the Secretary. As
these scrappy memoranda thinned out to a close, the only thing
noticed was a visit by the Minister to start the new engine
works of the famous Van-Dorland Mine, near Silveracre.
Finally, there was a telegram from him, dated from that town-
ship itself, to the Secretary, telling him to postpone the
reception of a proposed deputation from Brassville for the
present. The next thing that happened chronologically was
the appearance of the Government Schedule of proposed
works (under the last Loan floated), with the Reservoir,
whether on the one side of the Dividing Range or the other,
left out altogether.

When Frankfort turned round from his papers, Lavender
asked him if he had got to the rights of the question now.

' Really, it is not so easy to do that,' he answered.
' They both bring forward much the same facts and figures.
And what about the Silveracre men ? They seem to say
little, but to do a lot. There are very few papers about them,
only down the Minister goes and the thing seems done.'


' Don't you understand how that is ? ' replied the
Secretary, as he went on to explain it. ' You see they are
the great mine -owners there. They get up their facts
carefully, and speak with weight. Of course they're thinking
of themselves they want the Reservoir on their side of the
Range. But then they do all quietly, they want no fuss,
no popular cry against the big mine-owners.'

' And the Minister ? ' queried Frankfort.

' Well, the truth is, as you will have all the facts, he
can't but admit that they're right as to it's not being on the
coast side no one can doubt that but it does not follow
that he will put it where they want. And in any case he
too wants no fuss on their part. He doesn't want to appear
to be mixed up with them in this matter. That's the whole
of it, of course you don't mind the common gossip about

' Well, but what does the Department say to all this ? '
persisted Frankfort. ' Where, in fact, do the engineers say
that this Reservoir should be? that is what I want to
get at.'

' The Department ! the engineers ! ' exclaimed Lavender.

' Yes, the simple question I want answered is, where in
the public interest should this thing be ? ' said Frankfort,
trying to be as explicit as possible.

'That's not so simple a question as you seem to think,'
answered Lavender. ' It depends upon many things, and is
to be ultimately determined by the Minister and then by
Parliament. I hope you'll be there.'

'Well, but surely your engineer- in -chief and your
professional men have their opinion as to where it ought to
be. What do they say ? '

' You'd like to have Blanksby's opinion, would you ? I
fear it won't help your cause much you're for Brassville,

aren't you ? but of course, if you like ' The Secretary

here touched the bell, and the alert Crane again insinuated
his head at the door.

' Just give the engineer-in-chief my compliments and say
that I should be obliged if he would step in here for a few
minutes. Say we won't keep him long.' ' I know,' he
added, turning to Frankfort, 'that he has to attend the


Minister at four o'clock. You've met him you know his
way. He doesn't say much, does he ? indeed, I've often to
expand his ideas myself but then he's so solid.'

Soon Mr. Blanksby, C.E., appeared, and solid he certainly
seemed to be. On his large bald head even a phrenologist
would have had a difficulty in saying where the intellectual
lines terminated and the moral began. He also presented
rather a battered appearance and a blurred countenance,
probably the result of exposure to rough weather, and of
hardships undergone in exploring the Ranges in the early
days. He was solemn of aspect, slow of movement, few of
words, and honest of purpose.

'Ah, Blanksby, here's the Professor; you've met before,'
said Lavender. ' He's come to see you not about the
Elizabeth Borland Lake this time. Fact is, he's thinking of
standing at the election for Brassville, and the Minister says
that we can give him all the information he asks for about
the Reservoir. You're the man to make it all clear.'

Blanksby silently shook the Professor's hand, and looked
down upon the tracing of the country on both sides of the
Dividing Range with his large, heavy eyes. Of course, he
could not answer questions till they were asked.

' Yes,' said Frankfort, after a slight pause, ' Lavender
says that you can tell me all about it.'

' What ? ' inquired the engineer, partly looking round at

' About the Brassville Reservoir.'

' What, there ? ' said Blanksby, completing his look
round at him.

' Why, the plain thing is,' resumed Frankfort, in a half-
expostulating tone, ' where should this Reservoir be built ?
To begin with, should it be here ? ' and he marked the point
with Lavender's blue pencil, near the town of Brassville.

' Na, na,' said Blanksby, with a slow shake of his

' Why, then do you go for Leadville ? '

' Nary a bit,' replied Blanksby, looking down fixedly at
the tracing.

' Ah, I knew that, Frankfort,' broke in Lavender ;
' Blanksby don't believe in having the Reservoir along the


coast side of the Range at all. The great interests of the
country, he considers, require '

' Well, but,' interposed Frankfort, becoming perplexed by
what he had heard, and more anxious than ever to get at
the true rights of the matter, 'does Mr. Blanksby go for
Silveracre then ? '

' Where ? ' asked the engineer, looking again upon the

' There,' he replied, marking the spot with the blue
pencil. ' In fact, Mr. Blanksby, if you could do just as
you liked, would you put the Reservoir there ? '

'Yes if I owned the mines,' he answered, looking up,
with a slight nod to Frankfort.

' Just so,' interposed Lavender, with a short cough, ' there's
great force in what Blanksby says. It comes to this, if
you spend a quarter of a million at Silveracre, you're really
giving it to the great mine -owners. It's true, you assist
mining, but mainly by swelling the pockets of the proprietors.
There's great force, I certainly think, in what Blanksby says,
that the man who builds the Reservoir there ought to own
the mines.'

Our politician was getting rather distracted by the
difficulties that seemed to be in the way of his quest for the
true site of this Reservoir. Blanksby continued to look on
the tracing unmoved. He had answered every question
so far.

' But then, Mr. Blanksby,' said Frankfort decisively,
' where do you say that this Reservoir should be ? Where
is the true site Nature's site, so to speak ?

' There,' answered the engineer, promptly grasping the
blue pencil and marking a point in the Ranges about seventy
miles beyond Silveracre. ' There gathering ground ' ; and
as he waved the pencil towards the Brassville and Lead-
ville direction, taking in Silveracre in the flourish, he said
' Channels.'

He looked straight at Frankfort, to see if he fully
understood the subject now.

1 Of course we're only talking among ourselves now, and
you wanted to know the real facts, you see, Frankfort,'
interposed Lavender ; ' but there is no doubt that the view


of the Department is that which Blanksby here puts so
clearly. How can you get away from what he has said ?
First find what you truly call Nature's site, and what
Blanksby equally truly describes as the gathering ground.
First fill the bowl and then ladle away. First get your store
of water, then distribute it. That, you see, is Blanksby's
view. Secure your big supply first, then comes his con-
clusion channels east, west, north, south, here and here and
here. I confess, speaking for myself, I think that the way
he puts it is unanswerable. But this is only between our-
selves. You are for Brassville, to be sure. 1

Here the gentle tap of Crane was heard at the door, the
rather bald head was pushed in softly, and ' His Excellency
the Minister wants His Honour Mr. Blanksby ' was heard.
' Good -day till ye,' remarked the engineer, in one of his
longest verbal efforts, as he disappeared slowly, Crane
following behind, with a slight bowing motion as he walked.

' Well, I think you've got all the facts now, Frankfort,'
remarked Lavender ; ' and though you are for Brassville,
still perhaps it's just as well to know the facts. Forewarned,
forearmed, you know.'

' Yes, thank you very much ; I think I know the
situation now and an awkward situation it is for me.
Perhaps, though/ he continued slowly, ' if the matter was
clearly explained to them, they'd be content with the
channels. They would get the water all the same perhaps
better fuller supply.'

' Yes, but what about the quarter of a million ? How-
ever,' Lavender went on, slightly elevating his eyebrows,
'you wanted to know the whole case, and you've got it.
You're for Brassville,' he continued cheerfully ; ' every one
puts their best foot foremost. You're for Brassville, the
coming man, I hope.'

As Frankfort walked down that long flight of stairs, he
certainly felt that he was a wiser man upon one topic at least
than when he walked up perhaps a sadder man, too. He
was rather absorbed in his reflections, when he suddenly
became sensible of some soft movement behind him, and,
looking round, beheld the assiduous Crane creeping down
after him, respectfully attending him to the street.


' An' it's I that hope your Honour will be in Parliament
for Brassville. Honourable Mr. Meeks very nice gentleman,
but dreadful with that Reshavor, calling and waiting and
comin' agin, and deputationing and interviews, and notes
and scraps and wires and telephones ; why, at times
he might as well have shlept here, your Honour, as he
threatened to do onst.' And Crane added, bending low in a
parting obeisance, as they got to the end of the steps, 'An'
my prayer is, that your Honour may get the Reshavor.'

1 That's all right, Crane ! ' exclaimed Frankfort. ' So you
want them to get the Reservoir too, do you ? '

' Of course, your Honour,' replied Crane, stretching out
his head after our politician as he stepped out on the
pathway ' of course, your Honour, for then wouldn't we be
quit of it ? '

Thus it seemed that divers different interests were
enlisted on the side of the Brassville Reservoir. The people
of that town wanted it for the sake of having it in the right
place, and for the sake of the quarter of a million ; Frank-
fort was to want it for the sake of the seat in Parliament ;
and Crane wanted it put somewhere in order to get rid of
a nuisance. Possibly the Minister and the Secretary might
sympathise with the view of Mr. Crane.

Lavender had given Frankfort a copy of Blanksby's
confidential report on the Reservoir, telling him that it
was to be regarded as private. ' But you might like to
consider it ; though really it's nothing more than he has
told you.'

When he got home he read the report, which was
what the engineer had said, only put more fully and
explicitly. He was evidently more at home with his pen
than with his tongue. He showed that there was no true
gathering ground on the coast side of the Divide for either
Brassville or Leadville ; that the estimates of revenue in
either case were palpably unreliable ; that there was neither
population nor were there natural products to justify any
such expenditure of the public money ; and, finally, that all
the legitimate needs of that side of the country could be
met by a tunnel coming out at some point between the two
competing towns.


The plot thus seemed to be thickening about our would-
be politician. He felt that it would be impossible for him
to consent to secure an entrance into public life by pledging
himself to use his power as a representative of the country
to secure what was obviously misappropriation of public
money. What would be thought of a private trustee who
dealt thus with his trust funds ? Lavender's remark that
it would secure the seat to him for life only brought it home
to him as being something very like a personal embezzle-
ment. On the other hand, how was he to get in without
it ? And might there not be similar perplexities in any
other constituency ? Was he, then, either to be debarred
from political life or to enter it under conditions that would
rob it of its usefulness ? Truly a depressing alternative, a
perplexing outlook ! Where was the scope for the states-
manship for which he had been preparing himself? The
essence of statesmanship was taking broad views of the
interests of the whole people.

After due reflection, he determined to go on with his
candidature for the present, and until he could for himself
ascertain the real feelings of the people at Brassville.
Especially did he feel bound to consult his uncle, Mr.
Fairlie, to whom he was so much indebted, and who had
shown him such continued kindness, before he should finally
determine. Mr. Fairlie certainly could be relied upon to
let him know truly what would be expected of him, if he
stood for the constituency, with regard to this Reservoir.

In a day or two he received the formal consent of the
Board of Overseers of the University to his standing for
Parliament, accompanied by a complimentary note from the
President himself, saying that both he and the Board ' were
fully satisfied that Professor Frankfort would never, either
in public or in private life, adopt any line of conduct that
would reflect the slightest discredit either upon himself
personally or upon the University in which he was such a
distinguished teacher.' Though this laudatory strain bore
no special reference to any particular matter, yet to Frank-
fort its high moral tone seemed to be quite reproachful to
any possible temptation to palter away his principles on
this Reservoir question. However, he wrote to Mr. Fairlie


to say that he would stand, published a short announcement
of that fact to the electors, and, as his uncle had suggested,
engaged the services of Mr. Louis Quiggle to manage the
election on his behalf. That clever agent soon made the
usual preparations : advertisements in, placards out ; meetings
announced, with notification of further meetings to be there-
after specified ; committees arranged ; local celebrities
interviewed and ' kept sweet,' as Quiggle somewhat enig-
matically phrased it ; suitable paragraphs inserted in the
local papers ; discussions of the pavement, on the merits of
the candidate and the demerits of his opponent, warmly
maintained by suitable emissaries ; canards contradicted
perhaps circulated. After he had spent nearly a week in
this useful work, Quiggle wrote to his candidate to say that
he had better not further delay his personal canvass, and
proposed that he should come down by the following Friday

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 45)