Henry John Wrixon.

Jacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) online

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the rain, is non est. He asks, " Where is your banker ? "
We ask, " Where is your astronomer ? " " Where is your cash
ledger ? " says he. " Where are your weather tables ? " say
we. And,' continued the agent, as Frankfort looked half
amused at his explanation, ' ain't we right ? Where can
we get the rent except from the ground ? And how is it
to come from the ground unless we get the rain as the
Government astronomer promised ? Can we get cheques in
the air? Not till he gets moisture there. Oh no, there's
reason in everything, even in the boiling of potatoes,' again
mused the agent.

' But really I can't see still ' began Frankfort.

1 Good sir,' interposed Mr. Quiggle, ' surely you don't say

that men, citizens, electors men who vote, please observe

are to pay for the land if they don't make out of it ?

And how's it to be done ? Where's it to come from ?


Highlander and his breeks old story great truth. My
dear sir,' he continued earnestly, 'you'll have to be careful
about some points. Why, there's a good hundred of Crown
tenants in our side of the country.'

' True enough, the rent must come out of the land,' said
Frankfort. Then, changing the subject, he asked, ' Are
they much interested in this currency silver question ? of
which I have heard something. I suppose they are likely
to ask one's creed upon it ? '

' The Currency question ? You needn't bother about that,
sir. Our interest in the currency centres in the two fifty
thousand out of the five million Loan. If they give us the

Reservoir '

Here the whistle from the engine announced that they
were coming to some station. Frankfort inquired where
they were.

' This is old Mother Dole's, near the top of the Divide.
Stop at her hut for a few minutes. Be sure you take a cup
of her coffee,' advised the agent ; ' though she can't vote
herself, she makes the others vote, and as she tells them

' Really, is she so much thought of as that ? '
' Thought of? she makes them think of her,' answered
Quiggle. ' Oh, she's lots of go she ought to have been a
man, she ought.'

The train here came to a standstill for a while, as it
seemed there were some trucks to move on before it could
come up. So Frankfort sought, while they waited, to learn
more about Mother Dole.

' What is she, then ? What is her history ?
' Why, what's any one's history ? ' asked Quiggle in
return. ' Who can tell ? She says herself that the earliest
thing she remembers is the Duke of Cambridge asking how
old she was, sixty years ago, when he visited the charity
school where she was brought up in Canterbury. " Says he,"
says she, " ' Well, my little girl, and how old are you ? '
' Mary Dole is just nine, may it please your Royal Highness,'
answers the Matron. Those were his very words," says she.
I've never got much further with her history myself but I
can tell you it's quite a feather in her cap still. They all


look up to her, democratic as we are and it isn't every one
that a Royal Duke asks their age of, is it ? '

' Certainly not. We are to take her coffee then ? '

' Bless you, you know you needn't drink it. Just take
it, and when you saunter round the hut you can drop it
behind a gin case as you sit down. You'd soon be floored
electioneering if you took in all you take up. Why/ con-
tinued Quiggle cheerfully, falling back in his seat, and at
the same time recalling one of his large stock of electioneer-
ing stories to fill up the few minutes while they were kept
at a standstill ' why, when I was running Smirke for the
Silvertop district, away at the end of the electorate, up in
the Ranges, at Rowdy Vale, I got in with a real hard-drink-
ing lot bound to keep them right couldn't refuse to join
in glass after glass such whisky too. What did I do ? '

' I suppose what you advise me to do.'

'Just that; nobbier after nobbier shout after shout.
Gordon Fancy Gordon they called him he was wild and
rough as a buffalo wanted to do me as he was rather
against Smirke he didn't know why look or something.
So he plied away at me. I took it all smiling, and quietly
dropped it about the clay floor of the shanty, and was fresh
and ready every new round. At last says he, looking at
me rather admiring like

' " Well, Quiggle, you have a head and for a mere colt
like you ! I'll say that for you, you have a head."

' " Yes, Mr. Gordon," says I, " I have a fair head."

' " Blest if I don't vote for Smirke," says he, " if he's a
patch on you." " Quite as good a head as me, Mr. Gordon,"
says I, " in fact, rather better. He'll do you credit. He'll
be worthy of Rowdy Vale. Smirke and I have good heads,"
I added to myself quietly, " but not as you mean, old
Buffalo." '

' So you managed them ? ' said Frankfort.

' Yes, I took them in, not the liquor,' laughed the little
man. 'And, would you believe it,' he continued quite solemnly.
' Fancy Gordon and the whole lot went first thing the next
day, just after morning nip, and voted straight for Smirke ?
They knew nothing really about the election, you see ; and
it was only as they were going back down the road that


they learnt that Smirke was a Rechabite. My word, you
should have seen them ! Fancy Gordon wanted to go back
and break open the ballot-box only to get his own vote
out, he said, " he didn't oughter to interfere with no one else."
But Dowdy Tom told him it wouldn't be constitutional. I
had to keep out of the way, I can tell you,' concluded the
agent, with a significant nod at his companion.

By the time this instructive illustration of electioneering
tactics had been finished, the line had been cleared, and the
train had drawn up at a rude station opposite Mother Dole's
hut, which was only a few chains away.

Mother Dole stood at the rough bench in her shanty,
ready to serve out the coffee. She was aged but strong,
evidently full of force and vigour, her garments, though plain
and bush-like, neat and clean, her voice manly, her manner
decisive. She seemed to govern in an absolute style not only
a couple of girls who were busy preparing the coffee, but a
circle of lounging lanky men and boys who had come up to
see the train come in (the event of the day) and to hear the
news. Though seemingly out of the world here amongst
the mountains, Mother Dole got the papers regularly, and
read them too each evening ; and moreover formed upon
the information thus obtained certain independent opinions
of her own. The railways, branching right through a
country, penetrating daily to the wildest and most distant
places, freighted with newspapers containing the latest infor-
mation and the newest ideas, borne from all the centres ot
civilisation in the great world, produce a community of
intelligence between even the most distant settlements and
the busy haunts of men in the great cities.

' Ah, Madam Dole, here is our new Member, as I may
call him, come up to ask your influence and have a cup ot
your lovely coffee/ cheerfully exclaimed the agent as they
walked into the shanty.

1 Glad to see ye, Mr. Quiggle ; and the same to ye, Mr.
Franker. Meeks is gone lame, foundered like, no more go
in him griped too, I guess,' said the gruff voice ; and it
added in still gruffer tones, ' Kitty, sharp with that coffee
there. Mr. Brickwood's not goin' to spend the day here to
oblige you nor the afternoon neither.' Great respect was


paid by all the population to Government officials, and even
Mother Dole rendered reverence to so important a personage
as the senior guard on the line.

' Ah, thank you, Mrs. Dole ; this is your own coffee,
just the thing for a cold day. And our new Member is just
the man for you,' remarked Quiggle, grasping in his hand
a large cup of dark substance, known in the Ranges as
coffee, and stirring it vigorously with a worn-out spoon of
some dark metal. He had not tasted the coffee yet, but was
moving towards the door, ostensibly to interview some of
the electors who were standing there. As he did so, he con-
tinued speaking, ' Yes, Mrs. Dole, our new Member is just
the man for you. He's for Woman's Rights, and for every-
thing else that's right. Ah, Ben, and how are you ? How
is Mr. Benjamin ? ' and the agent seated himself on an empty
cask at the end of the hut where Ben was.

' You're for Woman's Rights, are ye, and votin' away
and a' that ! ' exclaimed Mother Dole, looking at Frank-
fort, as he leaned on the pine-board bench, stirring his coffee.
She leaned too, only more heavily and squarely, upon her
side of the counter. Her voice seemed to be more deep and
massive than ever.

'Certainly, Mrs. Dole,' he replied. 'Join men and
women together in the work of life strong pull all
together. I hope you think with '

'Yes, I do think, and I'll tell you what I think,' said Mother
Dole, bearing down upon Frankfort solidly with her strong
hazel eyes. ' If I've got to get my dray along the bog road
there, I put a team of bullocks till it. If I mixed them half
heifers and half steers, the dray would get stuck there
well,' continued Mrs. Dole, looking round triumphantly upon
the lanky youths, who appeared to follow her words with
deep attention ' stuck there, well till I'd begun to say my
prayers. By that sign,' she added, turning to our politician,
' I hope ye'll be getting us a bit of money from Guv'ment
for that same road.'

' But really, Mrs. Dole,' urged Frankfort, still stirring his
mixture with one of the worn-out dark spoons, ' unless you
accustom women to exercise their full rights, how can you
expect them to work with us in '


'Work expect them to work,' indignantly interposed
Mrs. Dole ; ' I wish ye would expect them to work and learn
them to work too. It's as much as I'm strong for, to get
these girls out of bed of a mornin', and what's their work of
an afternoon ? Stickin' bits of ribbon in their heads and
starin' about at the passengers but that don't wash the
clothes, nor boil the pumpkins neither.' Here the lanky
youths grinned in approval of Mrs. Dole's sentiments ;
but that lady, who was severe on the girls herself, was too
much of a man to join with the boys against them. So she
turned somewhat fiercely upon the latter. ' An' what are ye
grinnin' at? Nice work ye'd teach the girls, if ye'd your
own way. An' it's precious little ye'd do of work if it
warn't for me. There now, Tim and Mike, standin' and
gossipin' and talkin' there, have you rounded in them cattle
for the sale yet ? I suppose, when Mr. Looker comes to the
auction in the afternoon, ye expect the beasts will trot up
to be sold when ye whistle on them like old Tramp there.
An',' she added, giving a vigorous push up and down the
counter with a big rough duster ' an' it's little good votin'
will do ye either, unless they first vote a bit of gumption
intil yer heads.'

' All right, Missus Dole, we'll be a-goin' 'rectly Mr. Brick-
wood's away,' pleaded Tim.

' An' what have ye along wi' Mr. Brick wood to keep ye
hangin' about here, I'd like to know ? I s'pose ye're
lookin' to him to get ye on under Guv'ment. An' ye may
look, I'm thinkinV

Frankfort felt that he had little hope of maintaining
enlightened views here, against Madam Dole and under all
the disadvantages of an unfriendly audience (for even the
girls seemed to sympathise with Mrs. Dole), and was not
sorry when Quiggle called to him from the other end of the
hut : ' Come over and give me a hand here, Mr. Frankfort.
I'm nonplussed. I'll be bogged, like Mrs. Dole's dray : I
can't manage Ben here I can't indeed, no way.'

He went over and found the agent engaged in a vigorous
but half-laughing dispute with a tall countryman, who was
dressed in a substantially- made suit of good clothes, that bore
outward testimony to his prosperous condition.


' Ah, bad man bad man, I'm afraid ; Ben, I'm quite
ashamed of you,' Quiggle pursued in his most jocular and
winning style ; for he was anxious to conciliate, if possible,
Mr. Ben Levey, who was a rather important elector among
the farmers on the adjacent plains.

'Why, what's the matter, Quiggle? Nothing wrong
with my friend here, I trust ? Good day, sir ; hope you're
well,' said Frankfort, feeling that now the electioneering was
beginning in earnest.

' What's the matter ? ' asked the agent, still smiling as
gaily as possible ' what's the matter ? Plenty matter.
Why, here's my old friend my chum, I may call him Mr.
Ben Levey, the big man on the plains we call him the
Pride of the Prairie if he isn't agoin' to go and vote for

'.Ah well, if Mr. Levey, you know/ said Frankfort, speak-
ing in a conciliatory manner, but yet not untruly, ' if he really
thinks that Mr. Meeks would be the truer exponent of the
principles he holds, why '

' Ah, that's just it, Ben,' laughed Quiggle ; ' it's not the
principles you hold, but the land you hold, that fetches you.
Be straight now, Ben : tell the future Member here what your
principles are.'

' An' sure it's I that ain't ashamed of them. An' I'll
tell Mr. Frankfort here plain enough. Shouldn't we stand
by them as stands by us ? I'll vote for Meeks 'cause he got
me my bit of land there, and I'd like to see the Bank that
could lay a finger on it now. Them's my principles and I
aren't ashamed of them. Stand by them as stands by

' All right, Ben all right, Ben ; got you yer land, that's
right enough. But how, Ben ? straight now straight, Ben,'
urged Quiggle.

' Yes, an' I'm the man to be straight ; I'll not cocker ye
up with a lie. He got me the land, though I hadn't resided
on it accordin' to the law. That's what I'm beholden to
him for.'

' There you are, Ben there you are ; you didn't comply
with the law.'

' An' what would I have wanted with Mr. Meeks if I had


complied with the law ? It's the frien' in need that comes in

'That's all right, Ben, and I admire you for it, Ben.
But still now, when you come to pick your public man, you
know to make your laws, ye see trustee for the public,
Mr. Frankfort here calls it really, Ben, you ought leading
man in the district too bell wether, lots follow you really,
Ben, now ' Quiggle urged.

' Why, how did Mr. Meeks manage to get the land for
you if you had not resided ? ' interposed our politician, who
did not fancy this controversy with Mr. Levey into which he
was being drawn.

1 Easy enough,' answered Mr. Levey ' easy enough. He
goes to Minister and represents the rights of it, at the right
time, ye see.' " But, Meeks," says the Minister, " this Mr.
Levey has never resided on it to work it according to the
Act. It's like making him a present of the land. It's worth
3 or 4 an acre."

1 " Never mind, Mr. Minister," says Meeks, " the wife's re-
sided there a lot better half for the whole, ye see." With that
he laughs, does Mr. Meeks, and says he, " The Guv'ment
want to settle the people on the land, don't they ? "

' " Well," says the Minister, " the Guv'ment do want to
settle the right people on the land." So all I know is, that
down comes Meeks with Mr. Brickwood's train a few days
after, and pops into me hand the Crown grant. An' am I
agoin' to turn agin him after that ? Not me. Them as
sticks by me, I stick by. An' so ye've got the boilin'-down
of my votin' for Meeks, meanin' no offence to the gentleman
here as is in training for the Brassville stakes.'

' Right you are, Ben ! But vote for us this time, an'
we'll get you that lot you want next the swamp, you know ;
handy for the summer, Ben,' said the agent cheerfully.

But here the conversation was interruped by a peremptory
call from Hiram Brick wood.

' All aboard here, all aboard, no more time for fooling
round there.' This summons had no reference to any par-
ticular episode that might be in progress, but was merely
Hiram's way and method of exhorting the passengers to
prompt attention. It was accompanied by a vigorous and


peremptory flourish round of his arm, as he hurried towards
the pine -plank platform at which the train was standing.
No offence could be justly taken by any one in particular
at this brisk summons, as it and the flourishing arm were
directed towards them all generally, just as the efforts of
Mike and Tim were shortly afterwards addressed to the whole
mob of Mrs. Dole's cattle, when they were rounding them up
for Mr. Looker's sale. With hurried adieus to that lady,
most respectful too on the part of Quiggle (which she re-
turned with a decisive but not unfriendly nod, arms reso-
lutely fixed on counter as before), he and Frankfort promptly
followed Hiram, and soon were safe in their compartment.
As they steamed away, Quiggle, when he sat down, having
waved farewells to the group of electors at the station, ex-
claimed gaily, as if partly for Frankfort's information and
partly as an instruction to himself ' Chalk her up- chalk
her up ! H. B., M. D. safe. B. L. doubtful very.'

1 Who H. B., M. D. ? ' asked Frankfort, catching im-
perfectly what he said.

' I'm just a-sayin', Hiram Brickwood and Mother Dole
safe. Ben Levey well, leave her free, leave her free de-
pends on circumstances. Circumstances mean in this case
swamp frontages,' said the agent, with a quiet laugh.

' But how about Madam Dole and the Woman's
Rights ? ' remarked our politician, giving the go-by to this
last point of Quiggle's.

' Bless you ! ' he replied, ' she don't care either way, she
don't. It's all one to her. Vote or no vote, she'll rule them
about here. Seth Pride and Hannah Gazelle and all their
bills can't make her bigger than she is. A vote is only along
the footpath it ain't the whole pike road,' he continued,
addressing this last remark rather to himself. Then he
remained silent for a while, as if the sentiment which had
escaped him involuntarily deserved some thinking over.

' Mr. Levey seems to be for Meeks, right enough,' con-
tinued Frankfort.

' Well, though I joked him,' replied the agent, ' really
now how can we expect him to go against Meeks ? unless
we get him the other lot too. Then,' he mused to himself,
' he can put the two in the scales and weigh them.'



' Ah, I fear I cannot beat Meeks in that line. It seems
to me,' said Frankfort, ' that if the man is not entitled to
the land, it's like making away with public property to give
it to him.'

' Now, my dear sir, that's not quite the way to look at it.
You know Dalby the Honourable Mr. Dalby, Minister of
Public Territory an honest man, you'll admit, quite straight,
respectable, all that ? '

' Yes, I understand he is all that.'

' Well, it's this way, d'ye see. Policy of country to settle
people on the land poor man especially somehow or some-
way. Ben Levey large family, wife industrious, hard-working
miner, pegs out land, can't leave mine, can't work above
ground and underground at one and the same time, can he ?
So law not complied with. Ready to settle now, saved
money to work with, wife and six children waiting, smiling
homestead, poor man helped, object of law gained, liberal
policy my dear sir, what's the odds ? ' And Quiggle
paused, looking at Frankfort.

' What's the odds in what ? ' the latter asked.

' What's the odds, I say, if we do add, Meeks, M.H.R.,
or Frankfort, M.H.R., placated support liberal Minister
and King's Government carried on many-sided question
there you are,' and Quiggle stretched out his hands, as if he
were holding in them, and presenting bodily to our politician,
a clear and fair exposition of the whole situation.

Just then their attention was diverted by the train
beginning to slacken speed in the middle of a dense forest.
At last it came to a standstill. Many heads promptly
appeared at the carriage windows, and the usual demonstra-
tions of curiosity and inquiry as to the cause of the stoppage
were made, as Guard Brickwood came along the footboards,
unlocked the doors, and briefly announced that, as they had
to stay a while, they might get out of the carriages if they

'What's the matter?' asked Frankfort, as Hiram hurried

' Stay a moment, my dear sir,' said Quiggle. ' Hiram
Brickwood at times is inclined to be a little short, if he's
bothered with questions. You can see he's a bit put out.'


' I only wanted to know what's wrong, and how long we
have to wait.'

' Just leave it to me,' pursued the agent. ' I'll have it
out of him on the quiet' And quietly did he follow the
ruffled Brickwood, and after an interview, made judiciously
short, returned to his companion with a light, relieved

1 It's all right nothing much one of the engine tubes
gone wrong. Hiram's sent on to the next station to wire to
Brassville for a fresh engine.'

' How long is it likely to be coming ? ' asked Frankfort.

' Not long, he says. He expects one up in a couple of
hours,' replied Quiggle cheerfully.

For the anathemas that one usually hears hurled against
the railway company in the old land in case of similar mis-
haps there, our politician found substituted here a respectful
silence and submissive acquiescence, much the same as that
with which we bow before the evils decreed to us by
Providence. Somebody was at fault, but that was not a
matter to be too narrowly scrutinised. The railways were a
monopoly, but a monopoly approved by the people. In
Excelsior there was a broad and generous sentiment against
any severe exaction of efficiency from your brother man.
Live and let live. If the public are inconvenienced at times,
that is considered a lesser evil than would be the enforce-
ment of perhaps a stern discipline upon the thousands who
serve the public. Indeed, the thing could not be done.
Who is to do it ?

So the passengers quietly accepted the situation.
Quiggle circulated among them the only explanation that
the guard would, or perhaps could, give ; and, as the after-
noon threatened to be showery, they, for the most part, sat
in the carriages, whiling away the time as best they could
with cards, smoking, and stories. The only malcontent was
a commercial traveller from abroad, who was in the com-
partment next to that in which Frankfort and Quiggle
were. He had evidently lost his temper ; for he was heard
to be distinctly complaining, off and on, during the two
hours, something about his business engagements being
upset owing to the train not keeping time. At length,


however, the distant rumble of an approaching engine was
heard, and Hiram Brick wood came round the carriages
demanding tickets and locking the doors again. The
temper of the commercial traveller apparently had not
improved ; nor, for the matter of that, had Mr. Brickwood's,
who, to do him justice, was really annoyed and concerned
at the breakdown. So when the guard demanded the
traveller's ticket, as well as Frankfort could hear, a sort of
altercation sprang up, the traveller maintaining that it was
a waste of time, and, in fact, an insult, turning out all the
tickets again, when nothing could have got in from the
forest, unless a native bear. ' Keeping us over two hours by

your bungling, and then delaying over these tickets '

his voice was heard thus, upbraiding even the authorities.
Quite alone was he, this grumbler, a sort of railway
passenger Thersites. But not more swift was the stick, or
sceptre, of the chieftain of old upon the shoulders of that
ancient reviler of authority than was the avenging rebuke
of Guard Brickwood, straight down upon the malcontent

' What's the matter with ye ? Would ye like to manage
them engines yourself ? I'd like to see the likes of you at
it. It's charging ye for shelter and sittin' accommodation
all this time that the Department should be doing.'

And Hiram rather banged the door in his wrath. As he
faced, with lowering brow, into the compartment where our
travellers were, they at once respectfully presented their
tickets, the agent just getting time to exclaim, with an
approving look and laugh, before the irate guardian of the
train hurried on, ' All right, Hiram, that's you all over
you'll stand no nonsense from either Government or public ! '

So they were soon on their way again, and nothing
happened for the rest of the journey, except a slight delay
at Upper End station, a few miles from Brassville. Frank-
fort remarked to Quiggle that it rather upset their plans
getting in so late in the afternoon.

' The less we say about it the better, Mr. Frankfort,'
answered Quiggle. ' Besides, it's just as well being late a
bit. Saves too many people coming bothering. There's

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 45)