Henry John Wrixon.

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

. (page 24 of 45)
Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the workers and discontent ; or rather, I should say, more
important even still, the difference between justice and
injustice.'

v I see that in your scale of rates you give all alike,
strong and weak, efficient and inefficient.'

' How can you, my dear Professor, I would ask you as a
sensible man, distinguish in a general scale ? Do you wish
to introduce official patronage and favouritism ? Besides,'
added the Secretary, extending his arm, and looking at
Frankfort in an expostulatory manner, ' is it not obviously
better for the Province to keep the old and feeble doing



v AFTER THE ELECTION 255

something than to have to keep them doing nothing in our
asylums ? '

' Well, then, Mr. Seeker, I shall carefully consider this
Bill, and endeavour to do what is fair to both the public and
the workers. There is no other point, I think ? ' remarked
our politician, not unwilling to bring this critical discussion
to a close.

' Nothing ; that's all, Professor. Of course, after the
new Classification Bill is introduced, the second reading will
be postponed for a couple of months so that the different
branches can consider the details. It's a long Bill, sir. No
joke to master all the particulars of the schedules, and each
little band of workers has to be considered.'

' I am not very familiar with Parliamentary practice yet,
but I should suppose that the time you want could be got,
and what is fair to all parties done.'

' Ah ! that's just it fair to all. I trust the Government
will be that I do, indeed. Of course, if they absolutely
refuse to give us justice which I don't for a moment
anticipate why, then possibly '

' But surely,' interposed Frankfort, ' we may expect that
free open discussion of your claims will show the real merits
of the questions at issue.'

' My dear sir, that is what I am saying. I was only
about to add, when you favoured me with your last remark,
that if those charged with the adminstration of public affairs
should fail in this primary duty and seek to prevent Parlia-
ment from acting for us, why, then

Frankfort seemed about to interpose again with some
remark or inquiry, but the Secretary quietly continued ' if
they should fail, nay, what then ? Why, Parliamentary
complications would naturally ensue, in which it would soon
be seen who were for justice to the workers.' The Secretary
pronounced ' Parliamentary ' with marked emphasis on each
syllable of that many-syllabled word.

' Why, if any claim is proper to be entertained by
Parliament,' remarked our politician, ' we surely need not
anticipate ill from the House, or any section of it, Govern-
ment or other.'

' Just so, Professor ; but in the supposititious case I was



256 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

putting we might I only say we might I trust not, but
we might have to ask fair-minded men men,' said the
Secretary with emphasis, ' whom we can cheerfully and
unitedly support at the polling booths, to go a little
further

' A little further than justice ? '

' No, but this : looking beyond the mere question raised
by the particular issue, to deal with a Government that would
perpetrate a wrong a public wrong, sir,' said the Secretary,
turning slowly in his chair as if in deep thought, and look-
ing on one side of Frankfort to the window beyond. Then
he added with vehemence, ' Is the man, or the set of men,
who would wrong the poorest pick and shovel man fit, I
would ask with confidence, to be trusted with the interests
of the whole people ? '

' Certainly not, and I am quite ready to do justice, only
I must first see what justice is,' replied our politician
decisively.

' Ah ! hope I don't intrude, indeed I do. I shouldn't
have dared to disturb our Lord the King here ! ' exclaimed
Quiggle, bustling into the room, waving his hand deferentially
at the mighty Secretary, and speaking in that way described
as half jest, whole earnest, ' but Hiram is below, and says
that he must see you and can't wait much longer some-
thing about passes on the Trams and Rails for the holidays.
He is rather short at times, is Hiram. I told him I'd make
bold to let you know.'

' Ah, well, then, I think we have finished, Professor. I
am glad to learn your generally enlightened views. On be-
half of the workers, I wish you a brilliant Parliamentary
career, and trust that we shall always find you foremost in
the Representative's first duty the redress of wrongs.' And
shaking hands with our politician in a rather stately manner,
while he honoured with a nod Quiggle (whose pleasantry he
excused on the principle that a cat may look upon an
emperor), he departed, and soon was settling with Hiram
Brickwood the details of the demand for free Tram passes
for the holidays. He was by no means satisfied with the
attitude of our politician ; but he was too good a judge of
men to push matters further with him just then. Were he



v AFTER THE ELECTION 257

dealing with Meeks, he would have laid down directly the
conditions upon which he could have the support of the
Association. But he recognised the value of an independent,
impartial advocate such as the new Member for Brassville
would be, were he once convinced of the justice of their
claims ; and he rightly judged that it would be better, if
possible, to convince him than to try to coerce him. All
the same, he made a mental note of the first official nomina-
tion of Professor Frankfort.

On the other hand, our politician, upon a review of the
whole matter, as shown at the meeting of the State Workers
reported in the Rising Sun, and as further developed by
Seeker Secretary, could not but feel the sympathy natural to
every thoughtful, not to say humane, man with the efforts of
labour to improve its lot, and a satisfaction at the strong
position it holds in our times, when it can fearlessly, and even
aggressively, advance its claims to consideration. That some
of these claims might be unreasonable was only natural.
The difficulty was owing to the system, not to any fault of
the men who worked under it. All classes try to secure
the most that they can for themselves, being good advo-
cates but bad judges of their own cause. This is natural,
to be expected, and not to be complained of. John
Bright said that the English aristocracy made the public
service a system of outdoor relief for their families. And if
the workers have now their turn, it is certainly better so
than to have them voiceless and oppressed. The trouble
comes in when the political element gets mixed with the
industrial, and the State being the employer in commercial
concerns, the numerous ranks of employees are at once its
servants and its masters : its servants in the workshop and
its master at the ballot-box. Then they become, from mere
claimants of what they want, judges of what they should get ;
and politics and industry become mingled up in a way that
is injurious to both.

As a matter of fact, we all get less wages than we want
and think right. This has been partly owing to the injustice
of men ; but the root difficulty is the Decree of Providence,
alluded to in Genesis, ch. iii. verses 17, 18, and 19. Young
sparsely- peopled lands do not feel this at first, but if the

VOL. I S



258 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

whole of the wage fund available, say, in England were to be
divided among those in employment and wanting employ-
ment, from the Lord Chancellor downwards, it would only
give a miserable pittance to each. When laws are made
fixing wages for certain classes (that all would allow to be right,
if we can pay them) which are above what the natural
productiveness of the work would return, the difference must
be paid, in one form or another, by those who are outside
the protected circle.

Here was the problem. At the same time, the discus-
sions at the meeting and the conference with Seeker Secretary
suggested some correcting influences to excesses. One was
the difficulty of uniting the whole army of State workers
upon the demands that were to be insisted on. There were
natural divisions among them even, as in the rest of the
Social State ; also there were many men in their ranks who
were actuated by a sense of public duty and were ready to
make sacrifices for it. The other was in that great hope of
all free institutions and all progress the general public
opinion of the country. If a sufficiently large mass of the
people could be kept independent of Government employ-
ment, there would always be an outside judgment, not directly
interested, to appeal to. But there was no denying that the
more the sphere of politics extended over industry, the more
the general Government and the general weal of the people
became subordinated to the domination of the State's army of
employees. If the ideal of Socialism the State, or popular
bodies under it, carrying on all industry were realised,
Government by universal suffrage would become impossible.
The parts would become greater than the whole.

' Long talk, then, with Seeker Secretary ? Hope all went
straight free and easy to come and go a bit,' remarked
Quiggle. ' Deep one Seeker, dear sir. What he don't
know, you needn't go up for examination in. He knows,
bless you ! what's what, who's who, why's why, where's
where, and especially when's when. Yes, that does Norrie
Seeker, Esq., General Secretary, etc. etc. You are tired a
bit over it, Mr. Frankfort, I can observe that,' continued
the cheerful agent.

' Yes, I am a bit tired. What Mr. Seeker said requires



v AFTER THE ELECTION 259

considering. Several points want thinking over. And then
he claims to be such a power, with all those votes behind him.
It is like arguing with the master of big battalions.'

' Well, well,' said Quiggle good-naturedly, ' if you want
to spell a bit give old Karl Brumm a turn. You ought to
see him, and he'll do all the talking and you have only to
listen. Some won't even do that, but you will ; he will
interest you, I guess he will.'

' Why, who is Karl Brumm ? '

'Karl? Karl Brumm? He's our hotch-hotch philo-
sopher that's what Hedger, the lawyer, calls him, as he
says that he contains a lot of valuable assets, but all mixed
up together. Yes, you ought to see him. He will do all
the talking ; and then, you know, he has a deal a great
deal, mind you to do with the German vote ; though he
himself has been so long from Fatherland, as he calls it,
that he has almost lost the accent.'

' What are the valuable assets, then ? ' asked our
politician. ' Ideas, information, principles ? '

' All rolled up together,' replied Quiggle, ' and worth
listening to, too ; though, you know, he is such an original
funny, not to say queer a point or two off in some
things, but full of ideas, only the parcels come out upside
down, so oddly. I can't make him quite out myself.
Sometimes I'm inclined to laugh a bit. He says that in
Germany, as a young fellow, he worshipped Karl Marx
and that he does so still, with variations. Has new
and original theories for everything only asks for people
to listen to them. If you'll only do that, out they will
come, one after the other, like sausages out of Maley's
machine down the street there.'

' I suppose he is a scholar, then, is Mr. Brumm ? '

' Certainly he is, in his own way. He'll give you some-
thing to digest too, will Karl. He talks, and his Helsa, Mrs.
Brumm, and the parrots look on. They live in their little
cottage in the wood, about a mile from Upper End. The
place looks lonely ; but, bless you ! they ain't lonely. The
fowl paddock alone is a sight, one of the best in the
district and the parrots. He is full of his theories and
she of her parrots, and there is nothing more welcome to



26o JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

all three than a visitor, to listen to both theories and
screeching, as I may remark. You needn't say nothing ;
you needn't think nothing, if you don't like,' said the agent,
winding up his account of the Bush philosopher with a laugh.
' Easier than tackling Seeker Secretary,' he murmured, half
to himself.

As he was rattling on, our politician felt his interest
in the German was rather aroused by Quiggle's description,
so it ended in the two going that afternoon to Upper End
Station on a goods train, by the special permit of Hiram
Brickwood. But before he went, our politician did not
forget to write to town about the M'Glumpy absurdity.
He thought it best to send a private note to the Postmaster-
General, as it was really a foolish sort of thing to put in a
formal official correspondence ; and besides, writing at once
to the head of the Department, the thing could be stopped
from going through. That official received it a couple of
days after, when he next attended at the Post Office (his
duties being divided between that Department and the
Bureau of Education and Public Knowledge, of which he
was also Minister), and soon forgot all about it, it being
such a small matter. It so fell out, therefore, that the
appointment having been already passed with a large batch
of other minor nominations, it never came before the
Minister again, and M'Glumpy junior was, in fact, duly-
installed as letter-carrier at Glooscap by the Postmistress,
and used to clean out the shop for her and deliver letters
occasionally as she directed him.

It was still early in the afternoon when they arrived at
Upper End. The walk from the train through the forest to
the cottage was a short one, and they were soon there. It
was small, but bright-looking and scrupulously neat and
clean, and did seem, at first view, lonely, buried quite among
the trees. But when you got near, a scene of busy life
presented itself in the poultry paddock that Quiggle had
referred to.

This consisted of about three acres in front of the
cottage, leased on easy terms from the Government, in one-
half of which Mrs. Brumm's fowl disported themselves, and
carried on their daily life, to serve, unknown to them, the



v AFTER THE ELECTION 261

purposes of man. The warm, light, dry soil, the convenient
trees for shade and shelter, the clumps of bushes to cover
nests, the clear, full pond, the fresh sand patches provided
by that lady's care, and the snug fowl-house for the night
(daily cleaned out by Mr. Brumm himself), all made it
quite an ideal home for poultry. And here they were, in
all their varied kinds, dense Conservatives, in fact, old Tory
fowl, disporting themselves in this new world in their several
ways, but all in strict accordance with the fowl precedents
of ancient days and other lands. There was the turkey-
cock still going on in the old absurd way, turning round
and round, inflating his comb, repeating his gobble-gobble
exclamation, and puffing out his plumage in a desperate
style, as if making a last effort to attract public notice, and
no one heeding him, except his own meek hens, even if they
do ; for, from the quiet wearied way in which they look on, it
seems as if it was quite a question with them whether the
thing was not carried too far, and overdone. And there
the domestic hen, seeking anxiously still her safe, secret
place wherein to lay the daily egg, impelled solely by her
provident care to have a full nest to hatch at the proper
time, but all the while really providing for the wants of
egg- devouring man. Joyfully she proclaims with loud
cackle her new-laid one, as the chief event of her day, but
she is, in fact, only announcing another morsel for his
breakfast-table. There also the fretful failure of a mother,
with her one or two lonely-looking chickens following her
about, and she all the time scraping and pecking and
quarrelling and exclaiming as if she had a big brood on her
mind ; while the successful hen of the world sails easily along,
attended by her dozen chicks, readily providing for them
all by a few well-directed scratches, given in a triumphant
manner on the right spot, that is fertile with insects suitable
for the young. The little ducklings are there, all so new
and as yet clean -looking in their soft downy yellow, the
heart of the mother hen distracted with fears in this hemi-
sphere as in the other, when her alien children paddle away
from her in the pond ; and all the while the knowing old
ducks sailing philosophically about, as if quite content that
the stranger should have the worry of bringing up the



262 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

troublesome youngsters. The juvenile cocks, too, were to
be seen, still filled with the old insane desire to have every
now and then casual, but apparently desperate, sets-to one
with another ; each suddenly stopping and eyeing the
adversary with deadly intent, then making one or two
spasmodic darts each at the enemy's comb, and finally
flitting aside to the peaceful hens, just as if it had on the
moment occurred to them that cock-fighting was a mistake.
Nor was there wanting the cock that will (flapping his
wings to strengthen himself for each fresh effort) always
keep crowing the same crow, at regular intervals, but in a
manner that is sadly monotonous to every one but, appar-
ently, to himself; though what he wants to say, and why he
does not get tired of repeating it so often, remains as much
a mystery in Excelsior as it is in Europe. Here too was
plain evidence that change of climate did not modify the
unamiable traits in fowl character. Still the poor unfor-
tunate that by some early ill-luck got marked by a scar
was pecked at and hunted by all the rest, as being dis-
reputable and not fit for good society ; the public opinion
of the poultry world evidently not only disregarding the
English principle, not to hit a man when he is down, but
unanimously holding the very contrary, and one and all
agreeing that you should peck a bird that is unfortunate.
Generally also through the little mob of fowl were to be seen
sundry birds, young and old, who were evidently bent on
picking quarrels promiscuously with their neighbours,
exclaiming violently against them, chasing one for a moment
and then desisting, only to turn at some one else, darting
at the food in their comrade's mouth, though the heap was
there to pick from themselves, getting in the quiet ones'
way and obstructing them, and on the whole doing all they
could to make themselves disagreeable and to needlessly
add to the troubles of life. One-half of the paddock, that
devoted to fowl generally, owned the sway of Mrs. Brumm ;
but the other, which was nearer the cottage and just before
the little flower-plot in front, was set apart for the use of a
fine flock of geese, in which the old German himself took an
especial interest, having a high opinion of geese generally,
and priding himself upon the breed of his birds as being



v AFTER THE ELECTION 263

something remarkable. He used to say that President
Hayes, of the United States, was a very sensible man. He
had kept a poultry farm, on retiring from the kingship of
sixty millions of people.

As our two travellers came near, the hissing of the dis-
turbed geese and the screeching of several parrots, who were
perched in cages or on stands about the verandah, made
known to Mr. Brumm the arrival of strangers, and soon he
was at the door, advancing to meet them. His appearance
was the signal for a general rising among the fowl, geese,
and parrots, testified by renewed screechings, hissings, chuck-
ling, and agitation, and a universal flocking together in the
poultry part of the paddock, as if they all believed, or made
believe, that feeding time was come again prematurely.
Our politician beheld a man of nearly seventy, hale and
venerable, but presenting a somewhat wearied aspect, as
if, though still strong bodily, he was getting mentally tired
of the many problems and perplexities that life presents.
He had that broad, expansive forehead which at times is
to be seen in very ordinary men, which bespeaks indeed
intelligence, but intelligence of a diffused rather than a
concentrated description, and his large mild eyes, as they
looked kindly but wearily around, told of a sensitive and
sympathetic nature. Judging from his appearance, you
would say that, while Nature, in mixing the ingredients
for making Karl Brumm, might have missed in forming
a genius, she had fully succeeded in furnishing forth a
philanthropist.

' Good day to you, Mr. Karl. You are quite well, I see ;
and I hope Mrs. Helsa is well too ? Here is our new
Member, Mr. Frankfort, or rather I should say Professor
Frankfort in fact, one philosopher coming to see another.
I am only like the little wire that connects two of those
highly-charged what d'ye call them things together. Ha,
ha ! so I am indeed,' gently laughed the little agent.

' Come in come in, Mr. Frankfort. I thought, from the

extra noise the geese were making, that something unusual

was coming. Helsa, dear, this is our Parliamentary Deputy

or Representative, I should say. You know Mr. Louis

Quiggle of time before.' And a stout German lady, of over



264 JACOB SHUMATE CHAP.

sixty, stopped for a moment from the cleaning of a parrot's
cage to give a kindly recognition to the visitors. In one
corner of the small and cosy-looking room was an ancient
spinning-wheel, and on an old table near it a German Bible
and a book of Luther's Hymns, which comprised her
literature ; while a small bookshelf over the mantelpiece
contained that of her husband. The names on the backs of
these books soon caught Frankfort's eye Karl Marx, Henry
George, Fabian Tracts, among the foremost. Goethe's Faust t
one volume of Carlyle's Frederick the Great (from Woodall's
Lending Library in Brassville), one or two of Scott's novels,
an ancient edition of Burns's poems, and a few unbound copies
of Reviews which contained articles that had struck the old
German as being of special value these, with such current
literature as he could afford, made up his library. The
furniture about the little room was old, but well-preserved
and comfortable-looking ; and as the pure, peaceful ray of
the afternoon sun shot into the quiet scene, it seemed to
come to rest in congenial surroundings.

' I made a point of bringing our Member to you, Mr.
Karl, as you took the trouble to come in and vote. And
you vote straight. He votes straight, does he not, Mrs.
Helsa?' rattled on the agent, turning, with a pleasant look,
to the wife. 'But now I'll away and leave you two learned
gentlemen together, while I go and look up our friends
beyond in the Forest. I'll tell them, Mr. Frankfort, to call
at the Lake Reservoir when they are in at the cattle sale
to-morrow ; and, if you please, sir, we'll meet at Upper End
Station, evening train, 7. 1 5 o'clock, Government time. Your
humble servant, Mrs. Helsa, and yours obediently, Mr. Karl.
By-by ' ; and, with an affectionate wave of the hand, the little
man was off, to ' look up,' as he had said, the electors in the
Forest.

' Pleasant quiet place you have here, Mr. Brumm. You
don't feel it at all lonely, do you, you and your good wife
here ? ' remarked Frankfort.

' No, I can't say that we do, do we, Helsa ? You see
we have such good watchers about us.'

' Dogs ? '

' No, geese. I used to have dogs, but they are stupid



v AFTER THE ELECTION 265

things compared with geese. Parrots are very good watchers
for the day, but they, like the dogs, go asleep at night
geese never, but, at the slightest approach, night or day,
hissing and quacking they warn you. You are a scholar,
sir. You remember how in old Rome the insidious advance
on the Capitoline Hill was frustrated by the cackling of the
geese.'

' To be sure that is so, Mr. Brumm. Well, I am glad
I have come out to see you and acknowledge the trouble
you took in coming in to vote.'

' Thank you,' replied Karl Brumm, looking round calmly ;
' it is fair that I should tell you that I voted for Mr. Meeks.'

' Indeed, that is a little disappointing to me. But no
doubt you had good reason, Mr. Brumm.'

' Yes, I had. Mr. Meeks quite agrees with me on the
great foundation question of our time the land. I could
not desert him.'

' Certainly not,' replied our politician, speaking quite
sincerely, ' if he is the best exponent of your views. But
what, may I ask, is the particular phase of the land question
that you refer to ? '

' Why, mine friend, the simple question : Whether the
people are to be robbed of their inalienable ownership of the
earth by what is called private property in land. If it is
right for a man to own one acre, it is equally right that he
should own the whole earth. And what, then, do the people
of the earth become ? His slaves.'

' Would you then lay hands on all landed property and
confiscate it ? That would soon kill industry and thrift too.'

' Mine friend, what is thrift ? The gospel of sordid



Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 45)