Henry John Wrixon.

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under which, I will add, we all enjoy so many benefits.'

' Might I then ask, Mr. Hilljohn, why you took no part
in the late contest for Brassville ? From what I have heard
of you I think you will readily understand me when I say
that I ask not as a candidate looking for support, but as
an inquirer seeking for information.'

' To be sure, I quite understand your inquiry. Fact is,
there were two or three things that kept me out of it. For
one, though I knew little of Mr. Meeks, and never claimed
his services, I was not disposed to join in hounding him
down ; yet I could scarcely range myself as one of his
supporters. The system is more to blame than the man.'

' The system ? '

'Yes, the system by which localities are taught to
grasp from the Public Treasury all they can. And as to the
Member well, he is to bring back as full a bag from the
general grab as possible.'

In his indignation, the Irish impetuosity which lay deep
down in Hilljohn's nature, covered but not all suppressed by
his quiet exterior, had evidently outrun his natural courtesy
and that consideration for the feelings of his companion
which was instinctive in his nature.

' You must let me say, Mr. Hilljohn,' warmly responded
our politician, ' that, though I deplore the Government
largess and representative agency business as much as man
can, I absolutely deny that Members fulfil the functions
that you attribute to them, or that constituencies are so
wholly sordid as you appear to think. The thing is
tempered by the sense of public duty of the representative
and the forbearance of the constituency. For instance,' he
continued, as he grew warmer ' for instance, I have never said
a word in favour of this Reservoir scheme here, and, more
than that, I may tell you that I had resolved, if the Loan
had not failed, to have declared against it and taken my


' No, truly, you don't say that, do you ? Both of us
think alike then see through the Reservoir? That does
astonish me. For it was just the Reservoir that was
another reason why I kept out of the whole thing. All
the public people were going for it ; I thought you and
Meeks were at one on it, and that I would not care to work
for either. Audacious job, to be sure ! '

It was now our politician's turn to be amazed. Of all
the multiple appearances of this Reservoir, here was the
most astounding. A leading elector, with broad acres to
be watered, calling it an audacious job ! Here was a
unique experience indeed.

4 What ! do you then condemn the Reservoir, Mr. Hill-
john ? Why, they say it will add pounds per acre to the
value of all the land about.' Our politician had become
so accustomed to the plain direct selfish view of the subject,
that he could scarcely credit this condemnation of it by
one of the beneficiaries. He was afraid that there must
be some mistake, somewhere, which he would find out

' Well, perhaps it would,' quietly replied his companion,
' though that's rather exaggerated. But, if the undertaking
were to be carried out as promised, and the district to meet
its liabilities honestly under it, the rating on the land would
outweigh the value. It must be heavy for so great a work
in a small district like this. It would at least be two
shillings and sixpence in the pound. If it is meant to
evade this liability, under plausible devices, prolonging
times for repayment, reducing interest, writing off portions
of the debt upon one excuse or another, refloating loans,
funding liabilities, and so on then, why, the fact is that,
as a large landowner, I don't fancy the thing. It be-
comes such a network of make-believe, sham, delusion,
and humbug, that, personally, I would rather keep out
of it.'

Our politician looked at this new specimen of the genus
elector silently, with amazement. At last he broke out,
' You must really allow me, Mr. Hilljohn, to express my
admiration for the high and disinterested view that you
take of this Reservoir question. I confess to you that it


quite takes me by surprise ; for it seemed to me that all
the people, high and low, were for it, upon any terms or
any pretence.'

' To be sure, nearly all are. And can you wonder at
it ? Can you reasonably expect people to deny themselves
the filling of their own pockets when they have the chance,
lest the general public should suffer? It's just like, in
another form, the demand of the State workers to fix their
own rates of pay. Why not ? Would we not do the same
in their place? To be candid with you,' continued Hill-
john, with a slight laugh, ' the reason I feel as I do is
because I can afford to be unselfish. I have a good
property, and no one dependent upon me, except my
nephew. If I had a wife and six children I should be
like the rest.'

' But I thought it was bachelors who were selfish,' inter-
posed Frankfort

' Talk, my dear sir, talk the commonplace talk of
married people. The fact is, married people cannot afford
to be unselfish. No, the most unselfish and public-spirited
acts of the world have been done by single or at least
childless men. But this is rather by the way, is it not,
Mr. Frankfort ? Coming back to what you said about all
being for this Reservoir, the large majority certainly are.
These you are always meeting as you go about in politics.
You are always coming on the most demonstrative elements,
and perhaps the most objectionable phases of what is called
public opinion. It is a weakness in our political regime
that this passes for the whole. There should be freer scope
for independent ideas among the people, or else they will be
apt to wither, like a numbed limb, for want of use. That
is a danger that threatens Democracy.'

' Well, certainly, upon this Reservoir question if there
are independent men, we do not hear much of them. Why,
you are the only man I have met who objected to it.
Woodall, the bookseller, who is quite a high type of elector,
though he evidently did not believe in it, yet said that it
was not for him to refuse it if the State would give it.
There certainly are not many of you.'

' There are not many of us truly. Still, the active


politician rarely hears of even the few ; they are blotted
out for him all seem to say the same thing, at least where
local wants are concerned. That is what I wanted you to
bear in mind.'

' There were some other matters that my brother legis-
lator, Mr. Lamborn, mentioned, about Government buying
the Poisoned Wheat Patent, and giving half contribution
to the roads,' remarked our Politician, in some wonder and
expectancy as to what new light he might get upon these
matters from so independent a thinker as Mr. Hilljohn.

' Yes, well, as to those, of course I don't care to separate
from my neighbours ; but I don't really know that I can
quarrel with Brereton there. I am afraid that we all get
too much into the way of looking upon it as the proper
thing to get all wants supplied by the Government. We
regard the State as fair game, to be hunted down by every-
body. Sometimes I fear that we landed property men in
these young countries forget that old wise saw, that was
spoken years ago in my native land, about property having
duties as well as rights. I am for both. But come, we
will be better outside this bright morning, and we can look
at the property as we talk about it.'

And Hilljohn taking up his fowling-piece as naturally
as he would his walking-stick a habit that had been induced
by the continuous warfare with the rabbits the two walked
down the front lawn towards a small hill, or knoll, that was
beyond, upon the top of which was perched an old-fashioned
cannon, such as might have come out of a man-of-war fifty
years ago.

' You see my battery ? ' said the landowner. ' In the
early days, when the natives used to be here in numbers,
and at times to be rather troublesome, I got this old gun
fixed up there as a note of warning to them for its moral
effect upon the native mind.'

' And did you find it to serve the purpose ? '
' Yes, it did. It overawed the troublesome ones. But
it could tell a curious experience that old gun if it could
speak. You see, I was always fair to the blackfellows
never hunted them down even at times defended them
from the angry whites, when it was their turn to need


protection. So after a while they came to look upon my
home station as a place of refuge, and in particular to believe
that the big gun would protect them when they were chased,
which it did, as I allowed no wholesale raids upon them
here. Often I had half a tribe camped around the foot of
the knoll.'

' They were at times ill-used then ?

' It is the old story/ answered Hilljohn. ' They would
steal things, then they were hunted and killed, and then
they would become really dangerous. Even the savage
has his rude notions of justice. There is much the same
thing going on now on the Border. There was an outbreak
of the natives lately. You saw about it in the papers ? '

'Yes. Why, my friend, Surgeon Dillon, has been
attending a bugler boy, of the Rangers, who got a bad
wound. He and some of his company were surprised by
an ambuscade. Dillon is coming up from town to-night to
see how he is going on.'

1 Ah yes, there again is work for you political men.
The Border Rangers are quite out of hand disorganised.
The man killed and the boy wounded in that ambuscade
were sacrificed to the want of proper control. The Govern-
ment announce, I understand, that they are going to
reorganise the whole thing. I hope that Parliament will
support them. It is really too bad now.'

Here they were interrupted by Mrs. Coggan, who had
followed them down.

' If you please, sir, I'll want a pair of fowls for to-
morrow, if Mrs. Le Fanu is coming over.'

' All right, Mrs. Coggan, I will get them for you directly.
Send down one of the boys for them.'

Frankfort was beginning to wonder by what conjuring
arts the birds were to be produced, when they came opposite
to the poultry paddock, and his companion, singling out
two fat ones, soon laid them low with unerring aim from
his gun.

' I generally kill this way. It's quicker and more
merciful than hunting them about and chopping off their
heads. Half the sufferings of animals in their killing is
from fright. The thing itself is easy for man and beast.'


As they strolled on, a rough but comfortable -looking
log hut came in view, at the other side of the little hill.
Standing before it, smoking a large cigar made out of home-
grown tobacco, was a venerable but strong-looking old native,
whose rapidly-whitening hair stood out in contrast to the
dark skin. His dusky spouse, also well stricken in years,
sat on a log near, enjoying the solace of a short pipe.

1 You see the King and Queen,' said Hilljohn ' King
Billy and Queen Mary.'

' Was he really one of their kings ? '

' Certainly he was in the early days ; and rather a
troublesome king too. But I made peace with him and
treated him well, and he became quite attached to me. He
does not do much, but he is good with the horses ; only he
will do nothing for any one but me. He considers himself
a king still and an impudent king he was at times too.
I will never forget,' continued Hilljohn, with a smile, ' his
impertinence about his marriage.'

' About his marriage ? Is he married, then ? ' asked

' To be sure he is married ; but not exactly as he at
first wanted. It was this way. When I got him tamed
and settled down, I used to bid him go to his tribe and
bring in a wife, and I would provide the hut and rations
and blankets and everything for the two. In that early
time, you must know, we used to have emigrant ships calling
at Leadville with consignments of pauper girls for domestic
service mostly my own countrywomen, indeed and as
each ship arrived there would be plenty of talk about it
and the live cargo too among the station hands all around.
So one day His Majesty told me that he would get married
now. "Quite right," I said; "when will you bring her
down ? Just let me know, and I'll have all ready, parson and
all. Whom are you going to get, Billy ? " " Oh, Massa
John " as he always calls me for short " oh, Massa John,
I not 'tic'lar. One of those Irish girls do for me." The
scoundrel ! ' Hilljohn continued ; ' to insult my country to
my face. But I made him take one of his tribe, and he
has been good enough to her. They have got on fairly
well together. The chief use he makes of her now is, when



he pays a visit to Brassville, to have her walk behind him,
carrying the boots which he puts on, for the grandeur of it,
when he gets to the town. Here, Billy, here is Mr. Frank-
fort, our new Parliament man, in the place of your old
friend Mr. Meeks.'

King Billy advanced, looked quietly, but with keen,
scrutinising glance at the new Member, took his cigar out
of his mouth and remarked, in a quiet undertone, ' Missa
Frank, Parleman man ? A'rite. Dam lake. No go.' He
then replaced his cigar and puffed away vigorously, as if for
solace for loss of the lake.

' Ha ! ha ! ' laughed Hilljohn, ' there again you see the
force of public opinion about the Reservoir. You see, he is
quite of the general mind upon the subject, only he can't
manage the big word.'

1 Well, it does show,' returned Frankfort, ' how a popular
idea will diffuse itself, when we find this blackfellow just as
full of the Reservoir as all the rest. I was struck when my
little cousin, Teddy Fairlie, begged me to get the Reservoir,
as he wanted to sail his boats in it. But this beats that. I
don't seem to be finding out many of those dispassionate
citizens yet that you referred to, Mr. Hilljohn.'

' Well, I can't say that King Billy is one of them,' said
Hilljohn ; and then turning to the dark figure, that continued
smoking silently, ' Ah yes, Billy. No lake this time. You
and Mary must wash in the creek still.'

' Ah, bah, picaninny wash,' was the reply.

' I am afraid that Billy is getting infected with the
humbug of politics, when he sneers at the little wash in the
creek,' Hilljohn went on, turning to his companion, ' for this
I can certify, that if he and Mary had an ocean next door to
them, they wouldn't wash a little finger in it'

Here the prompt step of the active Quiggle was heard,
as that gentleman hurried up, anxious to press on with the
day's work. He knew that nothing of political value would
be got from the stay with Hilljohn ; so he remarked to
Frankfort, after a respectful salutation of his companion, 'All
the citizens of Glooscap await their Representative, sir, not
to speak of those whom we will meet on the road.'

' Yes, yes, I must not keep you,' said the landowner.


' Business is business, is it not, Mr. Quiggle ? Some time
when you have leisure, Mr. Frankfort, come and spend a few
days with me, and we can talk.'

'Just what I should like/ cordially replied our politician,
who felt that the differences between them were such as
would promote, not impair, conversation.

So they parted, and soon the buggy that bore Member
and Agent was hurrying along the King's highway to
Glooscap. Just as they were coming near the town, Quiggle
exclaimed, in a cheery tone of voice, ' Ah, to be sure ! I
knew it ! There he is ! '

1 Who is there ? ' inquired Frankfort.

' Why, of course, Jacob. Jacob himself, Jacob Shumate,
the political shoemaker. I'm sure I don't know when he
makes his shoes, for he is always in the streets. And he
can talk. We must try and keep him right. Why, what
are Lamborn and Hilljohn together on polling-day to Jacob ?
What are they ? I ask. Oh no, my good sir, two to one
on the outsider. Good day, Jacob. It's just our luck
again meeting you so soon. Here's Mr. Frankfort, our new
Member. He is a bit of a dab at talking, too, so you can run
in couples a while. If you will get out, sir, and wrestle with
Jacob,' said Quiggle aside to Frankfort, calling to mind his
Biblical reminiscences, ' I'll take the trap down the street
to the Red Parrot and be back again shortly.' Then, turning
to Jacob Shumate, he added in an explanatory manner :
' While I am putting the ponies up, Jacob, you and the
Professor can have it out.'

' I am much obliged to you for your permission,' answered
Mr. Shumate, with a certain dignified reserve in his manner,
as Quiggle, giving him a good-humoured nod, drove away.

Our politician, as he shook hands with the shoemaker,
recognised the man who had passed Mr. Keech and himself
so hurriedly in Brassville that he could only get a glance at
him. He was, now that he had a full view of him, struck
by his spare, almost attenuated figure, suggestive of privation
and self-denial ; his drawn, careworn face, marked with an
air of anxiety and discontent ; and his coal-black eyes, that
glanced round in a manner at once searching and furtive.
He was evidently a man with a grievance, and there is


often something wrong in the man with a grievance as well
as in the world of which he complains.

' Glad to meet you, Mr. Frankfort. You are our repre-
sentative man in the Parliament of the land.' He spoke
with a certain laboured air of deference, as if continued
oppression by the world weighed him down, but yet was by
no means meekly acquiesced in by him.

' Thank you, Mr. Shumate thank you. I am going
round for the purpose of meeting and conversing with
my constituents. I have seen my brother legislator, Mr.
Lamborn, this morning, and I have just left Mr. Hilljohn.'

' Ah yes. Quite the aristocracy. Mr. Hilljohn is an
aristocratic gentleman, truly. As for the properties, they are
both princely,' and the shoemaker gave a keen glance at the
new Member.

' The Blocks appears to be the better kept place of the
two. Fine estate The Blocks,' remarked our politician, wish-
ing to say something indifferent, waiting for Shumate, who
was evidently only anxious for opportunity to launch out
upon his favourite topics.

' Ah, you may indeed say so, Mr. Frankfort. It's forty
years next month,' said the shoemaker, with a wearied air,
' since I and the gentleman who owns The Blocks came out
in the same ship the old Argyle to Excelsior. We were
both in the steerage. Single men, sir. But as the immortal
Nelson, sir, once remarked, " Aft the more honour. Forward
the better man." We compared well with the cabin set, for all
the superficial advantages of their position, that we did, sir.'

' Why, a bad lot were they ? ' remarked our politician.

' Well, then, you had better ask the Honourable Mr.
Lamborn. Though, perhaps, now that I think of it,' said
the shoemaker, recurring to his deferential air ' perhaps he
would not care to be reminded of his old voyage with Jacob
Shumate. Possibly neither would his honourable lady.
People in high life have short memories for the past.'

' But, however he came out, he has made a place and a
name for himself now. I honour the man who rises by his
own exertions not born to the pillow,' said Frankfort in a
decisive tone.

' That's all very well, sir ; you have spoken very well,


sir, in one way. He has risen, as you say, sir, and made a
place for himself, as you remark, but how has he risen ?
How, sir ? '

' He has done nothing wrong, has he ? ' asked Frankfort,
a little disturbed lest he should be on the eve of some
startling revelations that would necessarily damage, in his
estimation, not only his brother legislator, but by implication
the family at The Blocks. He felt relieved when the shoe-
maker quietly replied, speaking very deliberately

' No, sir. He has risen by the wrong of society more
than his own. He and I humped our swags, staff in hand,
sir, to come up forty years ago to the wilderness here, and
now look at him and look at me.'

And Shumate faced round, extending his arms, as he
looked straight at his companion.

4 Well, to be sure, that's it,' remarked our politician,
uncertain as to what aspect of the social problem the shoe-
maker was pressed with. ' That's it, to be sure. Some men
have the knack of getting on : lucky fellows one in a
hundred, or rather one in a thousand.'

' But how was it done ? I ask, sir, how was it ? '

' Truly, I don't know. How was it ? '

' By the social robbery of the people's estate, the land/
replied the shoemaker. ' After a few years of bullock-driving,
and of what you call thrift, or sordid scraping, he gets a lot
of the forest at ten shillings an acre ten shillings an acre,
sir. Now it's worth four or five pounds. I think that tells
the tale how it was done,' and Shumate looked round, this
time fiercely.

' But it was not worth four or five pounds then, was it ? '

1 Perhaps not, sir. But who created the increased value ?
Not my distinguished fellow-passenger, but the public ; yet
he gets it.'

' The public, Mr. Shumate, have not done it all. He
has improved the land, cleared it, put his money into it. It
might be asked also why did not you take up land too.
You both started together. Society would have done the
same for you.'

4 No, sir, it would not,' replied the shoemaker in a positive


' Why not ? You could have taken up land as well as
he. You each had only your swags to start with.'

' Very good, sir. But permit me to remark that when
you state that the honourable gentleman put his money
into the land, you make a statement that is, if I may say
so, contrary to the fact'

' How so ? He must have put his money into it when
he cleared it and turned it from a forest into meadows.'

1 By your leave, sir, here we come on the twin Demons
the Ownership of Land and Banks and Financing. Young
Mr. Fairlie, relative of your own, I have the honour to
understand ' here Mr. Shumate inclined his head towards
Frankfort ' the then young Mr. Fairlie, just come to look
after the little Brassville Branch of the Imperial Bank, you
know, sir '

' Certainly, my uncle, and a very good uncle too.'

' Well, sir, he, as I was about to remark, took up, as the
bankers say, Mr. Lamborn and financed him. He advanced
the money, and the money got the land, and the land has
made Mr. Lamborn the distinguished person he is. It con-
tinued growing wealth all the time for him, even when he
and his esteemed family were in Europe enjoying themselves.
But who took me up ? Who gave me an advance ? And
how could I get the land without money ? I work hard, sir,
but no increase in the value of boots comes to help me, and
I gain nothing by the growing value of land. I have no
land except my plot of garden down the street there,
which I work with my own hands. It only gives me a few
vegetables for the children the wife is dead some years,
sir. No, I and my two young ones are the victims of an
unjust social state.' He stopped short, apparently checking
himself, and the anxious eyes turned full on Frankfort with
a beseeching, pained look, as if searching everywhere for
justice, but able nowhere to find it.

' Well, I certainly should have hoped that in this young
country an industrious man like yourself would have done
better in all that time,' remarked our politician, not without
real sympathy for the evidently sincere feelings and ideas of
the shoemaker. ' But Mr. Lamborn,' he continued, ' is not a
bad style of man either. He seems to take a great interest


in all your local affairs. He has this morning been speaking
about trying to get Government to purchase, for the use of
the Province, the Patent for the Poisoned Wheat, and
Government aid '

' Don't you help anything of the sort, sir ! ' exclaimed
Jacob Shumate, now with indignation rather than distress
marking his countenance.

' Why not ? The rabbits eat up the grass and destroy
everything where they don't wire-net them out.'

' You will excuse me, Professor Frankfort, if I say that
you don't quite grasp the facts of the Rabbit question ;
possibly, if I may say so without the least disrespect, from
conversing mainly with one branch of social life. Sir, the
rabbits eat the grass of the rich man, but give employment
to the poor man. Why, sir, there are fifty-three families in
and about Glooscap alone who are supported by trapping
rabbits, and I don't know how many more are employed by
the wire fencing.'

' But surely, Mr. Shumate, you would not preserve the
rabbits merely to bleed the landowners ? '

' Why not, sir, might I venture to ask ? They are the
messengers of Providence to distribute wealth. And if you
only will count all the value grasped by the landowners in

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 45)