Henry John Wrixon.

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

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' My dear boy,' said the Banker, assuming his most
urbane tone, ' why all this ? You are our advocate, why
become our judge, and a stern one too ? '

' Uncle Fairlie, if elected, I become representative and
trustee for the whole country. It would be a swindle upon
my part to get public money misappropriated, really to buy
a seat in Parliament for myself.'

He spoke emphatically, as he saw that Mr. Fairlie did
not realise his difficulty.

' Well, you see,' said the Banker, turning round to the
table and adjusting and readjusting the big blotting-pad,
just as was his custom when he was conducting some trouble-
some financial arrangement (for the matter now began to
appear to him in a more serious light than it did at first)
' you see each constituency must speak through its
Representative. They tell him what they want. He tells the
Government. The Government have the responsibility of
deciding. In court you know the lawyer defends the
murderer ; he puts the case as well as he can. You were
near being in the law yourself.'


'Ah yes, but let us look at it fairly. The cases are
quite different.' Frankfort spoke on rapidly in his anxiety
to say all that he wanted. ' The cases are quite different.
The advocate is known not to pledge his own opinion. If
the Representative were admitted to be a mere advocate,
it would be an honest business, though a petty one.
But what is the fact ? He would be no use unless he
professes and pretends himself to believe in the justice
of the demands that he makes, and he must use his
public position to advance them. How am I to urge on
this Reservoir " hammer and tongs," as you say, to bully
the Government, to pawn my political influence for it, and
wire- pull with other districts? And for what? Working
hard for my constituents is the phrase, and so to be sure it
is. But why for them ? Not truly for any special love I
have for them, or for their Reservoir, but to secure a seat
for myself in the House of Representatives and $ a. week
salary. It's no use ; I could not do it.'

During this rather long harangue the Banker had sat at
the table listening, with outward composure, to his nephew's
impetuous remarks. Long custom had given him the habit
of hearing, without apparent perturbation, the most serious
and disturbing statements. Before him was a substantial
paper stand containing blank cheques upon all the banks in
the Province. He had often reached over to these in
discussions with clients and others, about reducing over-
drafts, discounting bills, strengthening accounts, starting
new enterprises, meeting, or partially meeting, long-standing
liabilities, and other delicate and critical financial operations.
He would say : ' You might as well sign a cheque for the
amount ; as further security, you know. Of course it
needn't be used.' Or ' Perhaps it would be better if you
would give us a cheque to hold, just to strengthen your
position.' Or ' Half bill, half cheque might be the simplest
way, don't you think ? '

On this occasion also, while his nephew was speaking,
the Banker reached over and took out a cheque ; but not
for the purpose of challenging his visitor in any such manner
as we have indicated. He slowly tore it up into exceedingly
small pieces. These he gathered together in one little white


heap on the solid and polished surface of the Bank parlour
table, and round this little heap he placed a few of the bits
in a circle with regular intervals between them. It might
be taken to represent planets circling round their sun ; or,
to look at it in another way, hungry hounds closing round
a stag at bay. When Frankfort had finished his rather
impassioned declaration of his principles, the Banker, closing
up to the table with a business-like shrug of his shoulders,
as if he were now going to finally dispose of this matter,

' That's all very well, Edward ; but now let us come to
the facts. You see that little heap there ? '

' Certainly.'

' And these little bits all round ? '

' To be sure I do.'

' Well, then,' he continued, ' the little heap in the middle
is the five millions that the Government are hoping to get
by the Loan they are trying to float. These little bits right
round are all the constituencies in Excelsior, baying away
for as much as they can get out of it. The voice to do the
baying for each constituency is the Representative. Now,
you can't change this system ; you can't do so at once, at
least. Indeed, you don't pretend to. But you say to this
little hungry hound Brassville, we'll call him " Come, my
brave little man, have me and high principles and let the
quarter of a million go to Leadville, or to some place on
the other side of the Divide." Now, I ask you, as a man of
some common-sense, can you expect us to agree to that ? '

' You put the case only for Brassville true, you can ask
for anything. I have to think for myself; am I to pledge
myself to anything ? ' remarked Frankfort.

' Well, we must think for ourselves and our means of
living. The thing speaks for itself. A quarter of a million
spent here makes this place. The labourers, the farmers,
the artisans, the shopkeepers, the landowners, the merchants
all have an immediate personal interest in it. And the vote
of all governs. No privileged class here to check the
general wish. They will all be richer if it goes on poorer
if it does not go on. Bankers too some of our accounts
here are rather shaky. That sum of money pouring in and


enriching all would set up most of my constituents and
relieve me of a good deal of anxiety. I dare not, in the
face of my Directors, support a man who would send it all
away to Leadville or Silveracre. I must think for your
aunt and the youngsters, as well as for the country at large.
As a fact, I cannot afford to stop and consider whether your
principles in the matter are sound or not. No, Edward,
if you go forward, condemning the Reservoir, I'll vote
and work all I am able for Meeks much as I despise the
man.' He added, as he drew back from the table a little
and looked straight at his nephew, ' I'm rather taken aback
by all this.'

So was Frankfort He sat silent for a few moments.
He felt that he was in the jaws of it now. If his kind
uncle would work for Meeks, what could he expect of the

And yet he saw the situation at a glance. He was to
sell his soul to gain his seat. He could not do it. What
would his old companions, with whom he had so often
maintained that high principle and noble purpose were
essential to any true political life what would they say if
they were to see him begin with a notable job ? What
would they say of him ? Nay more, what would he say of
himself? And what would be the value of a public career
to a man of his nature if, to gain it, he had to lose his own
individuality ?

O ye many-sided troubles and perplexities of us poor
men, likened as we are by the poets to the leaves of the
forest, ever trembling, often falling! The solemn -looking
clock ticked on solemnly. The sombre room grew darker
in the deepening shades ; the portrait of the Chairman
looked more and more grave in the growing obscurity, as
these two men sat facing one another, in mutual perplexity.
Many grave, not a few distressing, interviews had from time
to time taken place in this very room. Tradesmen begging
for support to save them from failure ; sanguine speculators
clutching at some last chance, that would at length make
their fortunes and end their cares ; ruined men begging for
forbearance, in whose shady mishaps the keen scrutiny of
the Banker was laying bare fraud mingling with their


misfortunes. But here was a new kind of trouble one
with a tragedy all its own.

Frankfort was resolved what to do. He would go to
his meeting, declare the truth about the Reservoir, and fall
fighting for the right. But he saw that his uncle was
somewhat moved by this, to him, new development ; and
he felt that it would be only considerate not to announce
himself absolutely on the moment. So he only said :

' Thanks, uncle, for your frank expressions and saying so
plainly how you look at it. If you could not go for me,
who could ? I have to go over to the hotel now. I will
send you a line before the meeting, telling you what I have
finally resolved.'

As they came out into the hall, they met Mrs. Fairlie
and the children, who had just returned from The Blocks.
Mrs. Fairlie urged her nephew to stay to tea with them, but
he had little time to lose, as Quiggle was to come for him
at a quarter to eight o'clock, and he had several things to
settle before then.

Young Edward, the sprightly son of the Banker, aged
nine years, called out from the stairs as he was beginning to
go up ' Cousin Ted, cousin Ted, Eilly Lamborn says I was
to tell you that you're to get the Reserved, and then I'm to
sail my boats in it ; only Eilly says I mustn't get drownded
in it. I've two boats and Minnie's only got a little one.'
Master Edward, as he walked up the stairs, completed his
information, by bawling out at the top of his voice
' Minnie's is a little one, and it won't float neither. Only
don't tell her so.'

As our would-be politician hurried away to the Lake
Reservoir Hotel, he muttered to himself, ' I'll be the first
to be drowned in the confounded thing. . . . The very child
in the nursery, and, gracious heavens ! that young girl,
Eilly Lamborn, begging for this cursed thing too ! ' In all
the tumult of his thoughts, he could not help this last idea
rushing in upon him, though it was absurd, for what could
it matter to him whether Miss Lamborn chimed in with the
rest or not?

He got to the hotel depressed in spirit, but determined
upon his course. He would go to the meeting and fight it


out Was there a chance that, if he clearly explained to
them that they would get a full supply of water by means of
the tunnel, according to Blanksby's plan, and at the same
time escape the crushing rating that the quarter of a million
would necessitate, they might come round ? No, it really
seemed to be hopeless. So he thought it would be right to
send a note to the Honourable Mr. Borland, the President of
his University, informing him that he had found it impossible
to support the Reservoir at Brassville, and that therefore
there was so little hope of his success that he would not have
to claim the full extent of his leave from College work, as he
expected to return immediately after the polling day, and
possibly before. He marked his note ' private,' as being for
the present only for the President's own information.

Having sent it off to post, he was writing a hurried line
to his uncle telling him what he had determined, when he
heard the mellow tones of Myles Dillon on the landing
outside his door. As well as he could distinguish, Dillon
was endeavouring to persuade the housemaid to get one of
the large baths partially filled by means of a bucket by
the morning ; while that young person adhered to her old
opinion on the subject, and declared that nothing of the
kind could possibly be done until something else happened
first. Though he did not clearly hear, he could not for a
moment doubt what was the event to which the deprecating
remarks of the young person pointed. When Dillon came
into the room he turned round to take off and shake his coat
the dust was bad at Brassville saying as he did so

There, now, I've tried again, and I can't persuade that
young lady out there that half a bucket is better than no
bath. I wanted her to get a drop or two brought up by the
morning ; but no, nothing can be done in the new bathroom,
she says, at present; we must wait for the inauguration of the
great National work of the century, the Reservoir. However,
you're all right meanwhile ; in you sail on it. They all

remark say they to me But what's wrong wi' you ?

You're not making your will there on that sheet of paper, are
you ? ' He said this as he looked round from shaking his
coat, on Frankfort's troubled countenance.

' Fact is, Dillon, I'm done for this time this election.


I can't stand this Reservoir.' He spoke as he did to Mr.
Fairlie emphatically. He had not much time to lose.
Quiggle would be calling for him in less than an hour.

' Why, what's the matter with it ? ' asked Dillon, quite
staggered. ' I thought it was the Pride of the Mornin' with

' It's a rank job, Dillon.'

1 Well, well but in politics, you know now, there are at
times such things, by the way, you know, entre nous, as the
French say.' He was rather perplexed how to go on. He
had heard something to the same effect in casual conversation
with Lavender, but he was taken by surprise at his friend's
emphatic announcement, as Frankfort had not disclosed his
feelings upon the subject before. He did not want to
aggravate the serious nature of the position into which things
had got. Even he could see that his friend's candidature
was hopeless if he made such an announcement at the
coming meeting. So he went on talking, being certainly at
sea upon the subject, though by no means going ' easy before
the wind,' as Quiggle would say.

' Why, Edward Fairlie, you take me fairly aback, you do
now. It's all up if you talk in that style at the Town
Hall just now. Dear, dear, how's it come about? An' I
was looking for you to get me a good place under Govern-
ment when you wrote M.H.R. after E. F. F.'

1 No joking, Myles, it's too serious ! I delayed deciding
till I got all the facts and had talked the matter over with
Mr. Fairlie. It won't do. How can I link my start in public
life with jobbery and make-believe and the abandonment of
political principle ? I don't care to be a mere tool a hack
like poor Meeks a political bagman, as they call him, and
not honest at that. Why, Myles Dillon, when I think of the
high aspirations that used to animate us young men as we
talked of true politics by the wayside, on our summer walks
there in the old land the nobleness of the public career, the
high purpose of public life '

Myles saw that the situation was desperate. He rather
regretted to himself that his friend had ever thought of
stepping out from the calm atmosphere of the University.
He had had a feeling of that kind all along. But he



deeply sympathised with him in his present perplexity. In
graver tones than usual, and with a sympathetic air that
he rarely assumed, he sat down right opposite Frankfort,

' Well, well, now, Edward Fairlie, let us have a little
quiet talk over this. You've got to go to this meeting pretty
soon, so you'd better give the thing a final turn over in your
mind. You see I look at it this way, when a man has to
act under a system he must make the best of it. No one
can get just what he wants under any system ; he gets as
near as he can. He must then act under it, or not act at
all '

Here he was interrupted by hearing Tom Hilton, the
landlord, talking to some one in loud and agitated tones, as
he hurried up the stairs. Hilton never stood much on
ceremony with his guests ; and now he burst straight into
the room without preface or introduction.

' Why, here's a go ! ' he exclaimed, flourishing a telegram
in his hand ' here's a go ! Well, I never '

' What's the matter, landlord ? There is not a fire any-
where about, is there ? ' Dillon asked quietly.

' What's the matter ? Why, here's the news just come
down from town, and blessed if the five million Loan hasn't
gone and failed. Water Policy of Government withdrawn
everything slides, upset, obfuscated, undone. Where are we

now ? I ask ' gasped Mr. Hilton, unable to find words in

this crisis.

' Well, well,' said Dillon. ' Dear me, now, that's bad.'

' Bad ? why, sir, there's the Reservoir gone again till-
Here we're out again. If that Meeks had got us in the

' You wouldn't be after making a bit of a Reservoir just
for yourselves, ye know?' said Dillon, nodding in an inquiring

' Make a Reservoir ourselves ? Where's the money ? I
can't understand what you '

' The infirmity is mutual, landlord,' remarked Dillon, look-
ing up at Mr. Hilton with the simplest air possible. ' For I
was only thinking now of what I saw in the papers there, that
the Reservoir would pay six or seven per cent, and you might


get the money for that, ye know ye might now these
times money so cheap, ye see.'

The landlord glanced at Dillon for a moment. He
understood he was a medical man, and concluded that he was
connected with the Lunatic Asylum, and a little touched
himself. However, he had no time to lose, so he flung him-
self out of the room and down the stairs, eager to discuss the
disastrous intelligence with his agitated fellow -citizens in
the street.

When he was gone Dillon got up and carefully shut the
door, which Mr. Hilton, in his excitement, had left half-open.
He then turned to Frankfort, who had said nothing, being
for the moment quite taken aback by the complete change in
his position that had been made by the failure of the Loan
and the withdrawal of the Government Water Policy and all
its works.

' Teddy/ said Dillon, ' you're in luck this time.'

'Well, Myles, I certainly see that a great difficulty has
been removed," answered Frankfort, at the same time tearing
up the half-written note to his uncle. ' To be sure, all these
Brassville people will be rather disappointed

' Come now, Teddy, that'll do. None of that with me.
Keep those polite remarks a few minutes till you're address-
ing the free and independents. It's a queer elector of
Brassville I'd be. I'd vote for you, Reservoir or no Reservoir.
No, Teddy, don't forget to sacrifice fat hecatombs to the Fates
to-night for gettin' you out of such a hole.'

' Yes, from all they tell me I ought to beat Meeks now,'
replied Frankfort.

' How can you help it, Edward Fairlie ? Instead of your
being drowned in the Reservoir, Meeks will be smothered
in the Beer, as I heard several intelligent citizens say on
Saturday. Bye-bye, Teddy, I'll leave you now. I must go
back to have another look at this bugler boy in the Hospital.
Nasty wound those Border Natives give. His pulse was
a bit high when I left. If he's all right, I'll have a look
round at your meeting. I want to ask you a question.'

' A question, Myles?' inquired Frankfort, who had scarcely
collected all his wits about him, after the crisis he had gone


' Yes, I'll just want to ask the candidate if he'll pledge
himself to resign his seat if he don't get a special loan of
half- a- million for the Brassville Reservoir to be floated at
once. That'll give you an opportunity of airing those noble
principles of yours.'

' All right, Myles,' said Frankfort, now recovering his
spirits. ' I'll tell Quiggle to have one of the boys ready for
you with his shillelah, just as you stand up.'

It turned out as Dillon had said. The Reservoir being
out of the way for the present, there was nothing to save
Meeks from being smothered in the Beer. Indeed, the
indignation against him for not getting Brassville into the
first Loan was rendered more inexorable than ever by the
failure of the present one. Here they were, argued the
public of that city, with the Reservoir again indefinitely
postponed ; whereas, if the Member had been alert and
resourceful, they might have been provided for in the last
Loan, the great work already in progress, and the non-success
of this Loan a matter of perfect indifference to them. The
general public were thus implacable against Meeks, and this
left him quite at the mercy of the party of Gazelle and
Co., that condemned him perhaps even more bitterly
for his enormous treason, as they considered it, to their
cause. The accusation, or even the suspicion, that his vote
upon the momentous Beer question was the result of some
quiet arrangement with the Empire Palace Hotel Company,
Limited, was fatal, as far as they were concerned. Indeed,
Miss Gazelle was possessed of a moral conviction that he had
the money, though, when challenged for the facts upon which
her belief rested, it would appear from her replies that it was
founded rather upon faith than upon knowledge. It was
certainly unsatisfactory, not to say unfair, to poor Meeks.
At one of his meetings he challenged that lady to bring for-
ward her evidence. Her only reply was, that he knew all
about it. If he did not, who did ?

Our politician lent no countenance to the slander, and
Quiggle himself kept very quiet about it, as he felt assured
of success ' without anything unpleasant on our part,' as he
remarked to his committee. The Trumpeter continued to
denounce the old member in each issue, three times a week,


regularly ; and it rather taxed the literary resources of the
editor to find a sufficient variety of language for the effective
treatment of the same aspect of the subject. The indigna-
tion against Meeks became so intense, immediately after the
failure of the Loan was announced, that the Scorcher had to
abandon its Bunyan's Waterman's attitude, and the editor,
who was partial to illustrations from Shakespeare, had to
admit, in an important leader, ' that fortune was flitting from
the standard of Meeks, while the very stars in their courses
were fighting for the meteor flag of Frankfort.'

So it turned out on the polling day. Our politician
was returned by a large majority over his opponent. He
took his good fortune, as the reader will expect, without any
undue expression of exultation, and, in particular, he was
careful, in moving the customary vote of thanks to the
returning officer, to make a civil reference to Meeks. That
gentleman was present, and stood forth to second the motion
as part of the sad day's work. He did not seem to be
embittered by the accusations and slanders levelled at him.
He still took off his hat respectfully to Miss Gazelle, and
included Mr. Seth Pride in the returning sweep as he was
placing it on his head again. He bore malice to no man,
and of course not to any woman. It was all in the day's
work. He quietly observed to Ouiggle, just as if he was
saying something about the weather, that he, Quiggle, had
worked it up admirably for his man, and that, as for his
placards, some of them were works of genius. The election
did him credit ; but he doubted if he would find it so easy
the next time. In seconding Frankfort's motion, he said
that he acknowledged the honourable way in which his
opponent had conducted the contest, assisted by his esteemed
friend Mr. Quiggle. He wished him every success as a
Representative in working for the district, so long as he did
represent it. ' But, Mr. Returning Officer,' he went on to
say, ' I shall feel it a sacred duty to this noble constituency
at the first opportunity to again present myself for its
honourable service ; and let me say, sir, that I have a con-
viction, as sacred as is my personal faith as a man ' (here he
laid his hand impressively upon his breast, bowing low as
he did so), ' that when that opportunity arrives I shall be


returned once more to occupy the proud position of Member
of Parliament for Brassville.'

There is in every crowd of men descended from or
connected with the Saxon race a certain sympathy with
those who are down ; but some of the electors could not
help relieving their feelings at the audacity of Meeks by
hurried remarks to one another.

' The impudence of that fellow to talk of again repre-
senting us putting out our man. It's positively heroic,'
remarked Hedger, the lawyer, to Dr. Delane and a few
others who stood around smiling at poor Meeks.

' He's off his head a bit,' said the Doctor ; ' enough to
make him. How's he to live unless he can get back ? '

' Don't know about that,' half spoke, half croaked Neal
Nickerson, the schoolmaster, who had given his boys a half-
holiday in honour of the election, and was come down to
hear the result of the poll ' don't know about that. Stranger
things have happened,' he croaked out, as he edged himself
in among the upper-class circle.

' There goes old Nick again,' solemnly remarked Mr.
Hakes, the man of many acres but few words.

' He will be talking, my masters,' said Hedger, drawing
himself up straight, as he turned, with a slight look of con-
tempt, upon the doubled-up figure of the schoolmaster,
putting his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat as he
did so.

They all laughed again, and closing round Frankfort,

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 45)