Henry John Wrixon.

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

. (page 31 of 45)
Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

shown that there was much in the question calling for
debate, and for limitation as to how far the reform ought at
present to go. We will not say, as was said of the country
parson's sermon on the existence of the Deity, that he raised
doubts as well as satisfied them ; but nevertheless his speech
had operated like the letting -out of waters. Those who
opposed the Bill on principle took courage, and urged
their objections with a new-found boldness. The women
champions also roused themselves for this new aspect of the
fray, and the evil designs of the Ministry were, for the
moment, lost sight of in the merits of the question itself.
The more the matter was discussed, the more it seemed to
want discussion. One or two Members from country dis-
tricts declared that they felt themselves placed in a condition
of difficulty, owing to the fact that the opinions of their
constituents were nearly equally divided upon the question ;
while some other Members, who were generally rather silent
men, went with much practical force into the subject,
generally, however, ending by supporting the Bill rather
unwillingly, as they admitted.

But arguments no more alter party feeling in the House
of Representatives of Excelsior than they do in older Parlia-
ments, and before long the debate naturally worked round
again to the conduct of the Government in taking up
Woman's Rights at all. The battle now raged fiercely
round this point of attack, and, as the more pronounced


friends of woman were on the Opposition side, laudation of
the Bill was mixed with dire invective against Mr. Brereton,
who sat looking as jolly as ever, and occupied himself with
making happy shots of interjection whenever the enemy
gave him an opening.

As the renewed attack in this direction showed so strong
a development, it occurred to Sir Donald that an amend-
ment, stating that while this House was determined to do
justice to woman, it declined to accept it in the discreditable
manner in which it was now presented to it, might succeed.
This, he observed to Slater Scully, Du Tell, and a few other
friends near, would at once oust the Government, which, as
he observed, was a matter of more importance to the country
than even the immediate Liberation of Woman. When the
Liberal party came in, they could pass the Emancipation in
a more complete form, including also the right to sit in
Parliament. Gait Birnie, the young and useful Member for
Crick Creek, was put up to speak against time, while Du Tell
went round their side of the House to ascertain (entirely on
his own account, and without any reference to Sir Donald)
whether the friends of woman would agree to this temporary
postponement of the Reform, in order to oust the Govern-
ment He mentioned confidentially that he knew that if
they would accept this proposal they might consider the
admission of women to sit in Parliament, as well as to vote,
as good as in the Bill that the new Government would at
once introduce. As he crept along at the back of the
benches, from Member to Member, with head anxiously in-
clined and keen, inquiring gaze, asking each Member for his
support, he found that he was making good way, especially
with those who felt that the best part of their speeches had
been their attack upon the Ministry. But some were too
deeply pledged to the principle of woman's freedom to vote
against it in any shape, while others wanted to know what
Professor Frankfort would do, as he had been recognised
in the Woman's Rights' League manifesto as one of their
representative men, and he had shown such earnest interest
in the cause that night. Were he to oppose such an amend-
ment as endangering woman's cause, what would the Woman's
League outside say if they were to support it ? Du Tell


felt the force of this, and hastily slipped back from the end
of the benches to his seat near Frankfort.

' We have it this time, Professor, safe as houses. It's all
right. Sure to win the double event/ he whispered.

'What's all right? Double event what?' inquired
our politician.

1 Put out this untrustworthy lot on the Government
Benches, and then make Woman's Emancipation complete.'

' I don't understand you, Du Tell. There is nothing
before us but the second reading of the Bill.'

' Ah, but there will be soon if we hold together ' ; and
Du Tell explained to him the nature of the proposed

' And does Sir Donald approve of that ? ' asked our

' Well, you see, I am just inquiring round what they
think. But I have little doubt indeed, I know that I can
get him to speak again, and support the amendment when it
is moved.'

' Why, I could not agree to that ! ' exclaimed our
politician. ' I want to see the Bill pass, and pass now.
If such an amendment were to be moved, I must speak
against it.'

' Speak against it ! ' replied Du Tell, whispering his
loudest and clearest, and in his most measured tones, while
he looked in an uneasy way, apparently at Frankfort's
waistcoat pocket. ' Speak against it, when I tell you,
between ourselves, that he would be sure to speak for it ! '

' I am truly sorry, then,' replied our politician, ' not to
be able to support it.'

Du Tell had already some idea that our politician was
an impracticable sort of fellow, so he only raised his eyes
with a baffled air as he observed, as a last hope

' But his Bill would put women straight into Parliament,
as well as give the vote. Do you particularly want to keep
the old Tories in ? '

Frankfort felt the awkwardness of differing from his
party. Still, the whole thing appeared so clear to him. He
was asked to defeat a measure of great public value in order
to get the Ministry out of office, upon what even its pro-


posers would admit to be a mere subterfuge. The promise
of another Bill might or might not be effectually carried
out. And as to the added bait of its including women
sitting in Parliament, which was thrown in on the spur of the
moment, though of course that must come in due time, he was
inclined to think it would be better taken up by itself after the
first step in reform was secured. The noble principle of the
elevation of woman seemed all at once to become involved
in an atmosphere of trickery, insincerity, and mere selfish
purposes. And how could he agree to this after having
earnestly urged the House in his speech to pass the Bill ?
So, facing the questioner as directly as he could a man who
would only look at him askance, he replied :

1 No, I really could not vote for it, Du Tell. I am very
sorry. But I want to see this Bill pass, and pass now. I
am pledged to it.'

Frankfort's decisive tone sent away the perplexed
strategist in despair to his master. The countenance of
Sir Donald fell when he heard of his rebellion. Had he
then looked into the sweetest dairy there would have been
small hope for the cream that day. He calculated for a few
moments, and then determined that it would not do to risk
the defeat that the defection of this impracticable politician
and those who would follow him might entail. So he told
Du Tell to beckon to Gait Birnie to stop, and to let the Bill
be passed at once on the voices. Nothing more was to be
said of Du Tell's mission round the House. In fact, it was
to be ignored. The Bill passed in triumph, the few declared
opponents not caring to call for a division.

Our politician felt pleased that the evening's work had
ended so well, though it had begun in an unsatisactory
manner. The great cause of justice to woman had triumphed.
He was glad that he had spoken, and he felt that he had
spoken well. It was the right thing to have a full discussion
of so large a question. As for Sir Donald, an instinctive
distaste that he had felt from the first for our politician was
certainly not mitigated by the events of the evening. His
dissent was responsible for the failure of the project to defeat
the Government by the amendment that was to be suddenly
sprung upon them. Clever though MacLever was, he was


not such an expert at clearing away the look of ill-humour
from his countenance at the proper time as one would have
expected an experienced politician to be. Seeker Secretary
was quite a master of that art compared with Sir Donald.
Though he was anxious to conceal his dissatisfaction, there
was an unmistakable air of vexation about him as he looked
in the direction of, rather than at, Frankfort, when he passed
him going out, and observed

' If you had not got up, Professor, we could have taken
the division hours ago. We have lost an evening over it.'

' But surely, Sir Donald, it is a question worthy of
discussion,' answered our politician.

' I thought that you wanted the Bill passed,' drily
remarked Sir Donald.

' Certainly I did.'

' Well, it could have been passed before dinner if we had
kept quiet ; unless we wanted to glorify the Government
over it or Professor Frankfort.'

Sir Donald then promptly passed on out of hearing of
any reply that might be coming. This was a habit of his
when he had said anything that he meant to be decisively

' Do you know, sir, I am thinking,' remarked Du Tell
in an undertone as he hurried up beside him ' I am
thinking that we have not made much by the change at
Brassville. Meeks would have agreed to anything. Safer
man !'

' Much,' responded Sir Donald.

This, however, was not the general feeling. Frankfort,
as he walked among the Members who were standing about
after the House had risen, received many congratulations,
especially from the ardent champions of woman, who hailed
him as their spokesman. It made his heart glad to feel that
his first effort in Parliament had been to further the cause
of humanity and progress. As he passed along one of the
corridors he became sensible that some one was quietly
following him. He looked round, and there was Walter
Crane sidling along, looking straight before him, with the
mildest expression possible on his countenance, bearing the
bag of M'Grorty, which that gentleman had just given him.



He had been an attentive listener to the debate from the
gallery. In a moment Wally's cap was off and his bald,
venerable head bowing down towards the flags.

' Ah, Crane ! You there ? Why, have you been here all
the evening ? '

' To be sure, your Honer, in the back seats there
beyond. Haven't I to wait for His Excellency's bag ? '

' Oh, to be sure, yes ! And what did you think of the
debate, Crane ? '

' Very fine speech your Honer made. All the people
about praising your Honer. Thanks be to Heaven ! '

' Why, then, Crane, are you one of our side ? You stand
up for Woman's Rights too ? ' said our politician, gratified to
find enlightened principles permeating, even though slowly,
the humblest ranks.

' I, your Honer ? '

' Yes, what do you say about it, Crane ? '

' I say, your Honer ? Why, then, to be sure, I say
that the likes of me look to what your Honer and the other
honourable gentlemen say and the wishdom of Parliament to
tell us poor folks to explain these things like to us, so that
we may come to understand them. Yes, your Honer, that
we may come to understand them,' said Crane, casting his
eyes meekly from one side to the other, as if he were looking
all round for information on the subject

Walter Crane, as has been said, made it a fixed rule of
his public life never to express any opinions about politics,
except on Sundays to his most private and select circle of
acquaintances at his nephew's cottage down in Grubb Lane.
There he used to declare the most profound contempt for
Woman's Rights in every possible aspect. For, truth to say,
his own experiences had been rather unfortunate with the
other sex, and not such as to conduce to an elevated view
of their mission in life.

' What nonshense, Mick,' he would say in a self-assertive
manner that would have astonished any one who had only
seen him bending low about the Water Bureau ' what
nonshense, Mick, this woman's rights and privileges and
things cock and hen business for managing any decent
man's poultry-yard.'


' Why, then, ole man, which do you go for cocks or
hens ? ' Mick would cheerfully inquire.

' Either, me boy, would be better than the two trying it
on together, and the hens flappin' their wings about and
trying to crow as if they were cocks.'

This figurative way of putting the question was much
admired by the company in Grubb Lane, which consisted
wholly of the male sex. Mick was unmarried, and Crane,
ever since he had become a widower, never willingly was
in the same room with a woman, except when his official
duties required him to conduct some fair constituent on
business to His Excellency the Minister. Once he had to
show the way to a deputation from the Woman's Rights
League. Though groaning inwardly in spirit, he main-
tained a placid countenance and bowed his lowest as he
led on. But the next Sunday he relieved his feelings in
Grubb Lane by sundry vigorous criticisms on the personnel
of the party that were immensely enjoyed by the company
there, though they do not admit of being set down here.

But outside of Grubb Lane Walter Crane was dumb and
inexplicable as the Sphinx upon this and all other public
questions. So he only repeated to our politician, ' Yes, your
Honer, we looks to the like of your Honer and to the
wishdom of Parliament to fix us up in our minds like on all
these great questions ' ; and with his old bow he disappeared
down the steps with the M'Grorty bag, which was full of the
Bills designed to exercise this wisdom for the next few

As our politician followed on towards the street, he heard
some hurried footsteps coming on behind, and felt the touch
of a hand on his shoulder as he looked round. It was the
hand of Mr. Seeker, and walking arm-in-arm with him was
Mons. Froessolecque, the editor of the Sweet-Brier. They
apparently had no time to lose, so they pressed on, and in
passing Seeker Secretary could only hastily observe, as he
looked round at Frankfort :

' Thank you, Professor thank you. Noble ! noble ! '

A stranger who heard this might have been in doubt to
what it referred. But could the man who had just delivered
a successful speech on Woman's Rights be ? Frankfort was


quite pleased to think that an experienced politician like
Mr. Seeker thought so highly of his speech.

When our politician reached the quiet seclusion of his
rooms and stretched himself in his chair to enjoy the bed-
time pipe, his retrospect of this, to him, eventful day was
certainly pleasurable. He had undoubtedly spoken with
effect He was recognised as the exponent of the just
claims of woman. Many men in the Legislature of Excelsior
felt a satisfaction in honestly acting up to their principles,
but none more deeply or sincerely than our politician.
After all, there was something worth living for, even in
this much-aspersed public life. What could be nobler than
to fight for justice to your fellow-creatures ? What he had
done that evening was at least one good work scored up to
the credit of his life's labour completed, beyond the power of
envious Fate. Certainly the episode of the proposed amend-
ment and Du Tell's efforts to get him to agree to it was
unpleasant. But, looking back upon the incident, he felt
quite satisfied that he was right. Were questions that
concerned directly the happiness and welfare of men and
women to be made mere counters in the political game ?
As he lay in his bed, the sour visage of Sir Donald seemed
to appear before him. Grim-looking customer he is, to be
sure, he thought. However, what need he care for him ?
He wanted nothing from him. Seeker was certainly com-
plimentary about his speech, and he was a power in politics
deep man too. He did not know Froessolecque, who was
going away with him, except by appearance ; but Seeker
was said to have great influence over him, so perhaps
the Sweet-Brier would be complimentary too. As for
himself, our politician was conscious that his object in
public life was to be of use to his country. So he sank
to sleep a happy man.

It would be vain to deny that the next morning he
opened the daily papers with some trepidation. Would
they give a good report of his speech ? Would they praise
him or belittle him ? Would there be any mention of the
contemplated amendment that was to throw out the
Government by the temporary sacrifice of the Bill ? It
is an agitating thing to the beginner to see his name, his


own particular proper name, flaring in print, the subject of
observation and comment by that great impersonal power,
the Press, and through it made, as the beginner thinks, the
common talk of all men. A great power, truly ! Some one
gets hold of a machine, by means of which he can scatter
broadcast among millions of men whatever he pleases to put
upon the flying sheets. He may be wise or foolish, judicious
or the reverse, acquainted with the facts or not acquainted,
nay, he may be a good man or a bad man ; but anyway he
has got the machine, and by it he can plant in print what he
likes in every home in the land. Overnight he makes his
machine put upon the white, innocent paper, ' Smith is an
unmistakable rogue,' and before the morning is well advanced
hundreds of thousands of Smith's brother-men read that fact
(as it is termed). Smith may not be a rogue at all, but
nevertheless the world is well assured of the fact about Smith
before the day is over. But has Smith no remedy ? Yes,
he has a remedy. Society says to him, ' Dear Citizen Smith,
if, as you say, you are not an unmistakable rogue, and if
you have money, you can bring an action against the man
with the machine, and in a year or so, if the judge makes no
mistake and the jury don't disagree, you can have a verdict
stating that you are not an unmistakable rogue to leave
as a soothing legacy to your children.' Such is the remedy
of Citizen Smith.

Our politician, however, had little cause to complain of the
press. The Rising Sun congratulated him upon his effective
treatment of the Woman's question, while it expressed sur-
prise at his making no reference to the peculiar position of
the Government in dealing with the question at all. The
News Letter declared that Mr. Frankfort's speech was the
one of the debate, so far as treatment of the subject was
concerned. The little unpleasantness about the amend-
ment did not seem to have spread outside the Parlia-
mentary circle, so far as these papers were concerned. He
had not seen the Sweet - Brier yet. He did not know
much about it, except that it was generally understood that
the editor, Mons. Froessolecque, was a friend of both Seeker
and Du Tell. But then Du Tell made it a point of business
to know everybody. Sir Donald himself always nodded to


the editor in the street in a rather less abrupt manner than
he did to other people ; and Lady MacLever used, before she
went to England, occasionally to invite him to her ' At
Homes.' But she would explain to her select circle that
at these public entertainments she did not mind what
Calibans she asked the wilder the better. She rather
liked the mauvais goilt, she said, and plenty of it. And
yet all that was against poor Froessolecque was that years
ago, in his native Paris, he was accused of being one of a
party of patriots who attempted, in the cause of freedom,
to blow up the Prince President of the Republic with a
destructive bomb. To avoid difficulty he fled to Excelsior,
where he had lived ever since, his destructive tendencies
being gradually mitigated, and now only displayed in
attempts to destroy the enemies of Freedom there by
explosive articles in the Sweet-Brier.

The tone that the paper was recently taking was believed,
by those who were behind the scenes, to be owing to the fact
that Seeker Secretary was becoming more and more dissatisfied
with the prospects of getting his Bill to Classify the Workers
adopted by the Government. It was quite a question
whether he would not throw over the Government altogether
and attach himself to Sir Donald. However, this is what our
politician read when he opened the Sweet-Brier:

The work done in the House of Representatives last night
was more than noble. Plus royaliste que le Roi. Woman's fetters
were knocked off. Poor Mr. Brandreth, with his belated mumblings
about home life ! We trust that they are acceptable to the sheep of
Towrie. They certainly are not so to the men, much less to the
women, of Excelsior ! The feature of the evening was Sir Donald
MacLever's crushing and irrefragable indictment of the Ministry for
seeking to shelter themselves from the indignation of an at-length-
awakened people by parading before them a Liberal measure that
they had no right to contaminate with their soiled touch. His
denunciation of hiding behind petticoats was grand, and will long
ring in the ears of the people of Excelsior. Professor Frankfort, the
lately-returned Member for Brassville, also spoke at some length,
but seemed to miss the real point of the debate whether a Govern-
ment by appropriating, and that dishonestly, a Liberal measure
should be held thereby to atone for a lengthened career of political
turpitude. That Brereton and Company ought to have been kicked
out by an indignant amendment is indisputable. It was freely


rumoured in the House among Members that this would have been
done only for the pusillanimity or treachery that was suddenly and
unexpectedly developed in a certain quarter that shall at present be
nameless. Au revoir.

Pusillanimity or treachery ! Could that refer to him ?
It really looked rather like it. How unjust ! And how
could the Sweet-Brier people have heard of the whispered
conversation between Du Tell and himself? Then Seeker,
who was known to have influence with the editor, had praised
his speech. Noble, he called it. The paragraph surely could
not point to him. At any rate, he had done the right thing,
let them slander him as they pleased. This was a consola-
tion. Whether it was sufficient to quite deaden the sting of
a public accusation of cowardice or treachery must be left
undetermined, or left, at least, for each reader to determine
for himself. But what was his surprise and indignation
when he opened the Sweet-Brier the next morning to read
as follows :


Suspicious very. It is, we regret to say, positively rumoured
in political circles that the failure to move the righteous Want of
Confidence Amendment on the second reading of the Woman's
Emancipation Bill was a good deal owing to a questionable
influencing of several members of the Opposition by the Honour-
able and newly-returned Member for Brassville. It is positively,
but we hope inaccurately, stated that that honourable gentleman,
though sitting on the Opposition Benches, came on this critical
occasion, for some unknown reason, to the rescue of the Govern-
ment that he opposes ! All sincere friends of the learned gentleman,
who are, like ourselves, anxious that his escutcheon should be without
stain in this early portion of his political career, will be anxious to
have an explicit contradiction of this unpleasant and, we trust,
erroneous suspicion.

' Just look at that ; it is really monstrous ! I will write
to them at once ! ' our politician exclaimed to Myles Dillon
when that gentleman called in on his way down town to
have a laugh about the paragraph, which had also caught
his eye on looking over the Sweet-Brier.

' I will contradict it at once,' he repeated.

' Do nothing of the sort, my noble M.H.R.,' said Dillon.


' Why not ? The thing is so untrue. I spoke to no
one but Du Tell to answer his question.'

' That's all very right, Mr. Frankfort. This thing is
untrue. But as you get hardened things may be put in
these paragraphs that are not untrue. If you contradict
now and not then, where are you ? '

' But is a man to have no remedy, no protection against
slanders like this ? '

' My dear boy, if your character is not strong enough for
the place it's not my fault,' remarked Myles Dillon, looking
round the room in his easy-going manner.

4 But I called in to say,' he continued, ' that I want to
ask myself to dinner here with you this evening.'

' I hope you will come ; I want so much to have a talk
with you.'

1 Yes, that's what I want too ; I want to cut up your
speech a bit. None of the papers criticise it properly.'

' All right. I will be ready for you. Dinner and argu-

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 45)