Henry John Wrixon.

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

. (page 21 of 45)
Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Mayor was not an orator, so he only spoke a few



222 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

plain words. They wanted the money from the Govern-
ment. The Representative for the district had only to put
it in the right way to the Minister to get it. He concluded
his brief remarks by saying that they had all such confidence
in their Member that they were sure he would leave ' no stone
unturned to secure them their rights.'

Our politician, who was still somewhat new to the
business, could not help asking how he was to present this
claim on the Government for what was the work of the
Corporation and to be paid for by its rates, when Mr. Birnie
Farrar, the Town Clerk, whose custom it was to take up
the running upon all questions of importance and difficulty,
interposed, with a deferential bow to His Worship.

' If I might be allowed to add just one word to the full
and clear statement of His Worship. True it is, as our
honourable Member would appear to indicate, that this work
primarily belongs to the district. But what are the facts ?
The swamp to be drained adjoins the main road, over which
the traffic from the whole Province comes. The road
cannot be properly made till the swamp is drained. The
Government have always, in special cases, given assistance to
main roads. Is the whole cost of making and maintaining
this highway for the Province is it, I respectfully ask, all to
fall on this comparatively poor district ? Surely, sir, we only
ask justice from the Government, and from our Member.'

But here all attention was diverted from the road question
by a lively stir in the crowd at the lower end of the room,
and the vigorous efforts of some one to push himself to the
front. Soon the spare figure and grievance-laden countenance
of Jacob Shumate appeared, struggling through the closely-
packed throng, and right on even into the civic circle itself.
Having at last made good his footing, he bowed to the
Mayor, and especially to the Town Clerk, half-deferentially
and half-sarcastically.

' I heard just now, Mr. Mayor and gentlemen ' he
spoke with marked deliberation, and his keen eyes glanced
restlessly round from our politician to the Deputation ' a
demand for justice. I am here as a burgess of the town of
Glooscap to demand justice too.'

1 Quite right, Mr. Shumate,' interposed the Town Clerk ;



AFTER THE ELECTION 223

' if there is any point we have missed like in putting the case
in our demand for justice for this Council '

' Excuse me, Mr. Town Clerk, the justice I demand is
not on behalf of the Council. It is against the Council : on
behalf of the plundered citizens of Glooscap.'

' Why, what are you on to now, Mr. Shumate ? What's
gone wrong this time ? What are you, or any of the
citizens, ill-convenienced about this town ? Ain't we doing
all we know, straight running for the borough ? ' Thus the
Mayor spoke, at unusual length for him, stirred as he was in
his civic soul by the impeachment of the shoemaker.

' Only this, Mr. Mayor, if you will be pleased to permit
me ' and Shumate bowed his half-deferential bow, as before
' only this, Mr. Mayor : I desire to bring before our worthy
Representative here the proposed malversation of the funds
of this borough by this Corporation.'

He spoke with great deliberation, and the ' worthy,' as
applied to the Representative, was so prolonged in pronuncia-
tion that a critical observer might have taken the word to
convey the contrary of its ordinary meaning. At his words
the burgesses assembled were roused up at once by varying
emotions, and testified to their excitement by exclamations
of a conflicting description ; some evidently regarding the
speaker as Glooscapian Joe Hume, or even John Wilkes,
defying the authorities, while others frowned upon him, as
openly flouting all civic dignity, not to say social respect-
ability. A residuum, and not an inconsiderable residuum,
cared nothing about either the civic economy or the civic
dignity just then, and only shook themselves up to enjoy
the fun.

' Oh, come, come, Citizen Shumate,' promptly interposed
the Town Clerk, who felt that this was a matter that called
imperatively for his personal handling ' come, come,
Citizen Shumate, this won't do, you know. Words like
these ain't to be used with impunity in the presence of His
Worship, and of Parliamentary authority, and the burgesses
assembled. I am answerable for the accounts, and I call
upon you here, in the presence of this great representative
gathering, to make good your words, or to take the con-
sequences of legal, obnoxious defamation ' ; and Mr. Birnie



224 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

Farrar looked round confidently to his supporters. He was
a popular man in his own line, and not a few citizens were
personally indebted to him in regard to rates and other
matters. So his men supported him with their vigorous
plaudits, while the followers of the shoemaker kept encouraging
him by exhortations ' To wire in,' ' To go straight from the
shoulder,' ' To knock the wind out of them, and not to mind
the dander,' ' To face the music, and keep up the ball,' and
other inspiring and appropriate exclamations.

Jacob was in his glory. It was one of the few moments
in his soured life in which he really enjoyed himself. The
reproaches and demonstrations of feeling levelled against
him he relished quite as much as the approbation of his
own party. He had persuaded himself that he had a
grievance. Power and smug respectability were combined to
deny the right. The greater the anger and excitement
against him, the more important he felt himself, and this
exaltation, temporary though it was, was some relief from
the dull routine of making shoes, and not making them very
well or selling them very successfully. So there was some
vigour and style in his manner as, glancing round at Birnie
Farrar, he responded to that gentleman's appeal.

' With all respect to you, Mr. Town Clerk, may I be
allowed to say that I am not at present alluding to your
accounts. I am talking of the malversation of the burgesses'
money by the Corporation of Glooscap voting i a week
pension to the retiring Town Surveyor, Sandy M'Givern.'

Hereupon a great tumult arose in the crowd, and that
many -headed and many-tongued fraternity, the People,
was agitated by conflicting emotions. The prevailing feel-
ing was, undoubtedly, one of sympathy with the object of
the shoemaker to discredit the pension, and, if possible, have
it disallowed. Yet the objector was not a very popular
man. He was known as an unsuccessful man among his
neighbours, and as an unsocial one too, who was always
going upon ideas and methods of his own which were out of
touch with those of the common man. The dislike to
see any other person get a pension was thus the mainstay
of his backing by the public. And, on the other hand, all
the more substantial people, the ' respectable ' part of the



v AFTER THE ELECTION 22$

community, had no feeling against the aged M'Givern get-
ting his >i a. week, and gave their moral weight in support
of the Council.

When the first effervescence of the excitement had
subsided, and the crowd of citizens no longer swayed to and
fro like the standing corn on the farms that surround
Glooscap when blown upon by varying breezes, Birnie Farrar
stood forth before the whole assemblage to vindicate the
Council and to rebuke the man who did not hesitate to bring
injurious charges against the authorities.

' I am positively astonished, Mr. Mayor and our Honour-
able Member ! ' he exclaimed, ' that one solitary burgess of
Glooscap could be found to raise an objection to the
allowance to that venerable servant of this borough, Mr.
Sandy M'Givern, who has done the work of the citizens for
the past thirty years. Who laid out the wide streets of
this town ? Who marked off the recreation ground ? Who
designed the bridge ? Who would have dammed the Creek
if Government red tape had not stopped him ? And now, at
threescore and ten, is he not to be looked after as well as
one of the cows upon his own common. I own, Mr. Mayor,'
he wound up, ' that did I not know Jacob Shumate of old,
that his bark is worse than his bite, I should blush for any
citizen of Glooscap going to raise such a point against a
man who was working for this town before it was here at
all, surveying right up the Glooscap Creek.'

' Excuse me, gentlemen,' calmly responded the shoe-
maker, his eyes twinkling this time with satisfaction ; ' if the
worthy Town Clerk, instead of doing the blushing for me,
would condescend to explain what are the services that Mr.
M'Givern rendered to this town before it was here, for which
we are now to donate him money out of our hard-earned
wages, I will be more indebted to him than I am to
Mr. Sandy M'Givern. Why, may I inquire of Mr. Town
Clerk, could not his late colleague, the Surveyor, save a little
out of his handsome salary for his threescore and ten, like
the rest of us ? I only hope that Mr. Town Clerk will do
so himself; else we all shall have in due time to pension
him too.'

Here the plebs of Glooscap began to applaud vigorously,

VOL. I Q



226 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

and to encourage Shumate by a number of cries and exhorta-
tions which all had reference to the various incidents in a
pugilistic encounter. When quiet was a little restored, the
Mayor, who was rather disconcerted by the warmth of the
reception given to Shumate's remarks, and hoped, by a
display of mayoral deference to him, to conciliate the
popular tribune, turned to Shumate, and extending his hands
in a deprecating manner, remarked : ' Arter all, Mr. Shumate,
a note a week ain't much.'

' His Worship the Mayor, from his position of affluence,
may not regard one pound sterling a week, to which I under-
stand he refers, as much ; but I would respectfully like to
ask His Worship how many of the bog holes in the main road
to Brassville from this borough would one pound a week fill
up ? The farmers for miles around/ exclaimed the shoe-
maker, directing his sharp glance right down the room ' the
farmers daily have their drays bogged in the ruts along the
road going to market, in order that Mr. Sandy M'Givern,
having drawn a good salary for the past thirty years, may
now draw a good pension for the next twenty years ! '

Here the applause became louder than ever, as several
farmers present recalled their own unpleasant experiences in
getting bogged on that particular road. Two of them had,
in fact, suffered that very mishap that morning in coming in,
and they were all impressed by finding their own personal
troubles thus connected with the largess to Sandy M'Givern.
Shumate had, without having read any books of rhetoric,
quite naturally hit upon a very effective argumentum ad
hominem. Turning round upon our politician, he remarked,
in the quiet, deprecating tone that he loved to especially
assume, amid all the excitement, ' I only desire to ask
protection for the burgesses from the honourable gentleman
who represents us in Parliament.' He laid considerable
stress on the ' honourable.'

Our politician was not a little perplexed by the question
thus presented to his notice. The facts were new to him,
and though Quiggle had early in the episode whispered to
him to 'keep her free keep her free,' this advice laboured
under the defect that so often mars the value of advice,
namely, the difficulty of its practical application. How was



v AFTER THE ELECTION 227

he to keep her free and easy before the wind in this local
squall which had blown up so suddenly? His chief
difficulty was to think how he, as their Representative in
Parliament, was concerned in this municipal dispute. Mr.
Shumate had for days before thumbed over and over the
soiled pages of a tattered copy of the Provincial Municipal
Institutions Act, and with a keen, though small, ingenuity
framed for himself an interpretation of certain sections that
he considered supported his view of the question. He was
quite pleased, therefore, when Frankfort inquired

' But, Mr. Shumate, how can I control the Borough
Council, in any view we may take of the matter?'

Producing his worn, soiled copy of the Act, which opened
naturally at the page that had so often lately been turned
to, the shoemaker held it up to our politician, pointing to
Sections 133 to 136 with his long, lean ringer, and reading
the marginal note of the first section.

' I think I can relieve the difficulty felt by our Honour-
able Member, by simply referring him to those portions of
the Act which give power to the Minister, in certain cases
of misappropriation of the borough funds, to interpose. This
case,' he added in a sort of resigned tone, looking round
upon his supporters ' this case is a clear one.'

The paternal control of the Government was the remedy
that first and naturally presented itself to the mind of
Burgess Shumate.

1 There, sir,' he continued, indignantly pointing to the
crumpled clauses ' there, sir ; we, the citizens, only ask you,
our Representative, to interview the Honourable the Minister,
and call upon him to save the municipality of Glooscap from
organised and premeditated plunder. Sir, we are sheep at
sea, without a shepherd, clutching at the fur robes of His
Worship to save ourselves, or even at the coat tails of the
Town Clerk ' -here he scornfully eyed the rusty suit of
Birnie Farrar ' and clutching, I regret to say, in vain.'

Loud cheers, as the shoemaker afterwards remarked,
' calling aloud from the public conscience,' greeted this vigor-
ous sentiment and mixed metaphor ; while the aristocracy
present made what counter-demonstrations they could. Our
politician concluded that the safest way to proceed would be



228 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

to get Mr. Shumate to reduce his views to writing ; and he
was confirmed in this by Quiggle, who, passing close behind
him, as if going to the other side of the room, whispered, as
he went by, ' Keep her free. Let Jacob scribble it.' So he
requested Mr. Shumate to put, in the form of a letter to the
Minister, his view of the Act, as it applied to M'Givern's
case, promising to consider it himself, and, if he saw reason-
able cause, to submit it to the Minister. The idea of
drawing up a State paper that the Cabinet Minister was to
study and ponder over quite satisfied Mr. Shumate for the
present, and indeed gave him interesting occupation every
evening for the next week.

Seeing a lull brought about in the conflict, the Town
Clerk dexterously announced that, as the business was now
concluded, His Worship would meet the civic guests in the
dining-room for the usual half-yearly reception. Thither,
then, the citizens repaired, including Shumate himself, whom
both the Town Clerk and Quiggle allured on to the festivi-
ties, more, it must be confessed, from prudential reasons
than from feelings of regard for the shoemaker. A trouble-
some, dangerous sort of man is always sure of having a
great deal of attention paid to him. Even the Mayor and
the surrounding magnates unbent and welcomed Shumate
with fair words, addressing him by his Christian name in a
free-and-easy, hail-fellow-well-met sort of way, while he
went about, with a somewhat mollified aspect, quite enjoy-
ing his importance. As a quiet, honest shoemaker, people
would scarcely have noticed him. They were deferential to
him as Shumate, the agitator. He was well aware of this,
and was more pleased to be feared than he would have been
to be loved.

It is surprising how many sorts of toasts and sentiments
can be improvised at festive gatherings as an excuse for the
glass. But the feature of the long and varied list upon this
occasion was that Jacob Shumate himself was got to propose
one of them. It was even thus. When it was seen that the
accusing burgess was gradually softening under the influence
of the generous wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Quiggle suggested to the Town Clerk, who prompted the
Mayor, to call upon Shumate for a toast. He was a little



v AFTER THE ELECTION 229

disconcerted, but his bitter feelings had been somewhat
mollified by the influences of the genial hour, and, besides
that, he could not resist the pleasure of making another
speech. Still, he was keen enough to know that he must not
barter away for any mess of pottage his grievance against
the Mayor and Corporation of Glooscap ; so he gave in
an emphatic speech, ' Kindred Institutions ' ; and, amid all
his wine -warmed fervour, he avoided saying a word in
depreciation or withdrawal of his recent accusation of the
borough authorities. To be sure, the next day, when the
fervour of the feast was over, he had some prickings of
conscience and Jacob Shumate had a conscience as to
whether it was quite consistent of him, politically, to join in the
festivities of a Corporation that he had just been accusing of
malversation. But he quieted these by the reflection that it
was the duty of every citizen to take part in all civic demon-
strations, and particularly by remembering that he had been
careful to choose such a non-committal subject for his toast.
He then applied himself with renewed vigour to preparing
his indictment of the Borough Council, for the consideration
of the Minister. If any reader should still feel doubts about
the validity of the shoemaker's vindication from the charge
of inconsistency, he may at least be assured of this, that it is
quite as good an explanation as many greater men than
Jacob Shumate are able to give of certain passages in their
political careers.

The inventive powers of this Glooscapian gathering in
the devising of toasts were now getting exhausted, and our
politician was anxiously looking for a good opportunity for
leaving, so that he could return to Brassville in time to dine
with Myles Dillon, when from the end of the room were heard
the rich Milesian tones of Rimigius M'Glumpy, demanding
leave from His Worship to propose one more sentiment.

' Certainly, Mr. M'Glumpy,' the Town Clerk called out,
taking on himself to speak on behalf of his chief ' certainly.
What is it ? ' He was half afraid, in truth, of Shumate
opening out in some new line, and was not sorry to see a
diversion created by the jovial M'Glumpy.

' I only desire,' said that citizen, pushing up towards the
front of the gathering ' I only desire, and I have it in my



230 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

heart to propose, just this one congenial sentiment : " To the
health, long life, and happiness of the future Mrs. Frankfort,
and all the little Frankies, and plenty of them too, by all
that's propitious to the destinies of the town of Glooscap ! "

Much kind feeling and some enthusiasm was evoked by
this tender toast. Reference to and sentiments concerning
marriage and the other sex have ever excited interest in any
assemblage of men, and no doubt will continue to do so as
long as man endures, or at least until woman's rights are
established. When our politician had replied, as well as he
could, to the good wishes of ' his friend, Mr. M'Glumpy,' for
the interesting unknown, Quiggle whispered in his ear that
the least he could do now was to grant ' his friend ' the
interview of which he was desirous. So, taking a cordial
farewell of the Mayor, Councillors, and constituents, which
farewell included a rather formal bow from Shumate, our
politician, M'Glumpy, and Quiggle were soon walking to-
gether down the broad road which constituted the main
street of the village.

' It was very good of you, Mr. M'Glumpy, to think of my
future wife if there is to be one not to say the children.
It's more than I have ever done myself,' observed Frankfort.

' What ? You don't say the word, do ye ? An' all the
time I've been supposing that you were only delaying like
till you got into Parliament to go straight in and win the
other too. It would be so complate now,' he remarked,
turning round to his Member confidentially : 'M.H.R., married,
children, fine home, rest like from Parliament. Well, and a
man ain't complate without it. Them is the very words that
the Honourable Mr. Lamborn, at The Blocks there, says to
our Jerry when he got his bit of land. " Jerry," says he
Mr. Lamborn often has a bit of a joke handy somewhere
about him " Jerry," says he, " what's a farm without the live
stock ? " " The live stock, Mr. Lamborn ? " asks Jerry, quite
simple. " Yes ; the best of live stock a good wife," says he.
And, sure enough, Jerry took heed on him ; and isn't Maggie
Heffernan, the best girl in the country, mistress there now ? '

' Ah well, happy Jerry ! I am sorry I have no such
bright vision before me,' remarked our politician.

' Well, well, Rimy, let us come on now from love to



v AFTER THE ELECTION 231

business, for our Member has to be off directly ! ' exclaimed
the little agent, who was quite aware that this tender proem
on the marriage question was only Mr. M'Glumpy's polite way
of leading on to the more serious objects of the interview.

4 Business ? What business, Mr. Quiggle ? ' exclaimed
the other.

' Why, you know, Rimy, what you wanted to see us
about/ The agent always identified himself and principal
in this way. ' Spit it out, old man spit it out,' said Quiggle,
in a tone of cheerful exhortation.

' That ? Oh, that's nothing. I needn't have stopped ye
at all about that. I've no call to trespass upon the Member
for myself. It's me sister-in-law at the Post Office that
wanted to have a word with him. And here we are, to be
sure, if you wouldn't mind stepping in a minute.'

They were at the Glooscap Post Office, as Mr. M'Glumpy
had remarked ; but the building was not wholly devoted to
His Majesty's service. Over the door of the little shop was
the name, ' Mary Garvin,' in large letters. On the right-
hand front window were two large E.R.'s, and above was
the inscription, ' Glooscap Post Office, Mary Garvin, Post-
mistress ' ; while on the left was a window-front such as is
often seen in an Irish village. For Mary Garvin, in changing
her country, brought with her unchanged her native character
and tastes. In this window were displayed specimens of the
varied wares sold within. Bits of ladies' millinery, set off by
sundry faded plates from fashionable society journals ; a
small collection of children's toys, whose dusty and faded
appearance indicated a venerable age quite in contrast with
their juvenile purpose ; a few dingy packets of hard-looking
note-paper, and very sharp, steely-looking steel pens, on which
dingy paper, however, another Iliad or Paradise Lost could
have been inscribed, if only the right person got hold
of the steely pens ; the usual and inevitable dirty glass jar,
half-full of cloudy -looking sugar-candy, often gazed upon
from the street by the children, who enjoyed even a good
look at the sweets, and sundry stale cakes, fringed with
packets of tape and papers of pins these, with some
odds and ends of fancy articles, occupied one portion of
the window. Adjoining these, but collected together by



232 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

themselves, was a selection of things chiefly ecclesiastical,
and belonging to the ancient Latin branch of the Christian
Church, consisting of sundry rosaries (and beads) and
clerical books, together with highly -coloured portraits of
various saints (Saint Patrick himself occupying the place of
honour), and of several venerated living prelates, including
one that displayed, as well as a rough picture could, the noble
profile and benevolent countenance of Leo the Thirteenth.
Close to this clerical division was a secular, or rather a
political, department, the chief interest of which appeared
to centre in the episode of Robert Emmet being con-
demned to death in the law courts for fighting for Ireland.
A few very green books, containing selections from the
songs of Ireland, a worn copy of the second volume of
O'Connell's speeches, a couple of small, bright little volumes
of Tom Moore's national poems, a few much-bethumbed
threepenny editions of Napoleon's Book of Fate, and sundry
almanacs of the last year, composed the bulk of the literature
on view in the window. Dotted on the border, round the
whole of the wares, and in some cases hanging down by
long strings from the top, were some aged specimens of fruit,
including one pineapple in the centre that had once been
good-looking, but which had swung there for weeks, like a
too fastidious ballroom beauty, admired by all, but not
claimed by any.

It appeared further, from a notice that was written on a
large square piece of cardboard, and placed on the top of
some oranges in this window, that the Postmistress under-
took homely, but very useful, services for certain of the
King's female subjects, as well as official ones for His



Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 45)