Henry John Wrixon.

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

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Applause from the Ministerial Benches greeted him as
he sat down, and indeed in the House generally, and in the
galleries, there was, for the time, sympathy for the speaker
and his cause.

The House then adjourned the debate for a fortnight,
in order to give the country time to understand ' the startling
proposals ' which had been made, as Sir Donald termed

The great question of reorganising the Rangers, and
particularly of pensions or no pensions, was thus fairly
launched before the people of Excelsior. To the observer
from the outside of politics it would seem, as has been said,
to be a not difficult question. The force ought clearly to
be placed upon a sound footing, and whatever means were
best for securing that end ought obviously to be taken.
Any clear-headed practical man could say what to do, after
a few hours' inquiry into the facts. But the simple-minded
looker-on, who should conclude that this was the only, or
even the primary, question that now agitated those who had
to deal with the matter would be misled by the outward
appearances which play so large a part in all human affairs,
but particularly in the affairs of Government, whatever the
form of Government may be autocratic, aristocratic, or
democratic. There were factors in the political equation
that was to be worked out quite independent of any plan
for organising the Rangers. They were not set down in
black and white in the sum, but nevertheless they were there.

Firstly, there was the standing issue : Liberals versus
Conservatives. Could the Conservatives be defeated on this
Border Rangers question ? If so, what Liberal can hesitate
about securing the triumph of his principles ? When looked
at from behind the scenes, this abstract controversy between
the Liberals and Conservatives becomes in the concrete the
question whether Sir Donald should not be in office instead
of Mr. Brereton. And here again a variety of personal
ambitions, discontents, grudges, dislikes, come into play, and
votes are given for reasons quite disconnected with the best
plan for reorganising the Rangers.


Then there was the dissatisfaction of some of the great
business interests of the Province with Mr. Brereton. The
fact that Mr. Dorland and the Silver power distrusted him
on the Currency question was not a logical reason for
opposing his plan for dealing with the Rangers, but yet it
might, in fact, determine several votes on the division.
Added to this was the hostility of many of the country
party on account of the Premier's obstinacy about Govern-
ment aid for suppressing the rabbits. The fecundity of
rabbits therefore indirectly influenced the result.

Mingling in the crisis, too, came the other causes, in-
terests, platforms, propaganda, all thinking about themselves
more than about the Rangers the Temperance party, the
Labour party, the Socialists, the Capitalists, the City interest,
the lately victorious Woman's party. Further, there was
the feeling that turn about is fair play. And had not Mr.
Brereton and his party had their legitimate turn ? This,
again, is a practical rather than a logical reason for voting
against his plan for reorganising the Rangers. But it is a

Still, when we have taken into account all these different
forces, social and political, we have not yet reached the
determining factor in the solution of this problem. That
determining factor was, in truth, none other than Seeker

The threatened political crisis had stimulated Seeker
Secretary into a high condition of activity, much in the way
as the first touch of summer heat sends the restless flies
buzzing about upon their mission in life. His immediate
purpose now was to secure the adoption and passing into
law of his Bill for classifying the State Service, the principal
proposals of which, it will be remembered, he had mentioned
to our politician at the Brassville interview. He would
prefer getting his Bill from the Liberals, for he was a
thorough Liberal in all things, except his own personal
affairs, but he would much rather get it from the Conserva-
tives than not get it at all. Whichever party would give
him that Bill would have his support and the active aid
of the Association and the organisation that it commanded.
That organisation was spread over the whole Province.


This being the position of Seeker Secretary, he lost no
time, after hearing the Premier's statement introducing the
Rangers Bill, in ascertaining how the facts stood which
would determine his action. He respectfully asked for an
interview with the Premier, and when they met, in a defer-
ential manner begged his attention for the session just
opened to the Bill to Classify the Workers. He did not
make the least reference to the Rangers Bill, or the probable
action of the Opposition with regard to it. Far from it, he
looked frankly into Brereton's honest countenance, as he
merely asked about the Classification Bill, and expressed
the anxiety of the Workers ' to know their fate,' as he
expressed it.

William Brereton was a sanguine man. He was rather
misled by the good reception of his speech introducing his
Bill. He believed that the public feeling was with him in
regard to the Rangers. All things considered, he determined
to hold by what he had said when Seeker Secretary last saw
him that the rates of payments and increases proposed in
the Workers Bill he could not ' swallow,' but as to some
minor points of the regulations, he might meet them, though
' he would say straight out that he liked the tinkering of his
own Bill better.'

He was civil, for he knew Seeker's power ; but he made
so little actual concession that at last that gentleman rose
to go, with the feeling that he had small hopes from the
Government. As usual, the Premier had been rather dis-
cursive in his observations. So Mr. Seeker, as he stood
calmly folding up the two Bills which had been the subject
of the conversation, observed with an aggrieved look :

' Why, then, Mr. Premier, I think the only remaining
inquiry I have to make is, to ask in what terms you would
like me to present your answer, as Head of the Government,
to the respectful request of the State workers ? '

The only answer that honest William Brereton could sug-
gest was that the State had not the money to meet their
demands. Where was it ? Did they expect him to fill a
lucky stocking for them, so that they should find all they
wanted in the morning ?

' Well, then, Mr. Premier, I think that the interview


that you have done me the honour to grant me may
here terminate, and that I may respectfully take my leave,
with many thanks,' observed Seeker. Brereton briefly said
' Bye-bye,' as he waved his hand in adieu.

As the Secretary walked slowly away from the Premier's
office, he felt that he could not calculate upon any willing
action by the Government, though of course it might be
possible to force their hand. It was a question whether
that would be the wiser course, or whether it would be
better to join Sir Donald MacLever and turn them out on
this Pensions issue. It was important then to know what
Sir Donald would be ready to do about the Workers'
Classification Bill. So he directed his steps next to that
honourable gentleman's office. The first person he met
there was Du Tell, who informed him that his chief had
gone to the country for a brief holiday, being somewhat
indisposed ; but he was going up to see him next day,
and would carry any message for him that Mr. Seeker might
like to send.

Seeker Secretary was aware that it was Sir Donald's
habit to make himself difficult of access when a political
crisis was impending ; while Du Tell was always in the
way in fact, he was never out of the way to make
statements, which, from his known intimacy with his chief,
had weight with the public, yet were not binding on the
principal. Seeker was not deceived as to the true position
of affairs ; but, after a moment's hesitation, resolved that it
was better to confide to Du Tell his wish, with a view to
future action, to know Sir Donald's attitude to the Workers
Bill. Could he, Seeker, tell his Executive that Sir Donald
was right on the Bill ? Du Tell assured Seeker that Sir
Donald was right; but that he would see the Secretary
when he got back to town, and would let him know

The two friends parted for, personally, friends they were
each understanding the position of the other in this
negotiation ; and a couple of days later Du Tell was back
in town, and met Seeker Secretary with the satisfactory
intelligence that he had seen Sir Donald, and, just as he
anticipated, he was liberal on the Workers Bill. Of course,


he (Du Tell) could not give pledges on details, as he had
not a copy of Seeker's Bill with him, but as to justice to the
State workers, he might be relied upon for it. The Secretary
asked a few general questions, apparently for information,
but really to get time to think whether it would be worth
while to try to exact a more specific pledge. Then he
warmly pressed Du Tell's hand, thanked him for his valued
service, and took his departure, only remarking

' It is pleasant to deal with honourable men, Mr. Du Tell.
I take to them naturally.'

He went straight to the central office of the State
Workers' Association, and passed through the outer rooms
into his private apartment, saying to the messenger in a
peremptory tone, as he passed, ' Let no one disturb me.
He sat down at his desk, and swung round in his revolving
chair in an unconscious sort of way, till the handsome
portrait of Major Stephen Trounce, the Chairman of the
Association, which was hanging on the wall, faced him as he
turned. To any one then able to look into the room un-
observed, it would have seemed as though he was intently
studying the aristocratic features of the Major. But, as a
fact, he was not thinking of the Major at all did not even
realise that his portrait was before him. He was deeply
cogitating over the question whether it would be wiser for
the State workers to join Sir Donald and put out the Govern-
ment on the Pensions question, or to use their power in
the House to keep Brereton in, to let him know this and
exact the best terms from him. He had to decide at once,
and he knew that his decision was that of the Association.

Seeker felt some difficulty in making up his mind.
True, he mused, old Brereton won't now agree to what I
want, but though he is an honest sort of fellow, yet all men
have an eye to the main chance, and if I can persuade him
that I have a majority of members for my Bill, he might
come to some compromise rather than be beaten by Sir
Donald. But I am not sure about Sir Donald, if he was
once firmly seated. Still, Brereton has absolutely refused
my demands. All new Governments are pliable at first.
Brereton has been in for the natural term of a Government ;
would it not be wise to make friends with the coming party ?


I may not trust Sir Donald, but then it would be to his
interest to work with me. And what a lesson to politicians
to turn out the Government ostensibly on the Rangers Bill,
but to let it be understood that it was really because they
refused justice to the State workers ? Finally, the Opposition
would certainly raise the cry against Pensions, and could he
refuse to join it ? And, on the other hand, what a capital
cry it would be and shall be, he concluded, bringing down
his hand emphatically, it so happened, on the bell on the
table, which he had not noticed, as he was still gazing uncon-
sciously at the portrait of Major Trounce.

The messenger promptly came to the door, and stood
waiting for orders. The fate of both Rangers Bill and
Ministry was sealed on the stroke of that bell. Seeker, in
his calm, measured tone, instructed the man to go round to
the Public Offices to Major Trounce, and ask when it would
be convenient to him to see the Secretary. Soon the
answer came back from the Major that he would himself
call upon Mr. Seeker after office hours ; and when the two
met later in the afternoon, it was arranged that the Execu-
tive should be summoned without delay to finally settle the
draft of the Bill to regulate the State workers. At the
meeting of the Executive the proceedings were private ; but
it was understood that the details of the Bill took a long
time to finally settle.

However this might be, what was certain was, that
immediately after the meeting a strong opposition to the
Government measure for reorganising the Border Rangers
seemed to spring up spontaneously and simultaneously in
a number of different directions.

The Sweet -Brier had hitherto opposed the Bill, but
not in its really fierce style. Now it came out with one
of those scalping articles that its readers so much admired,
which was said to be written by Mons. Froessolecque him-
self, but discerning readers held it must have been from the
pen of even a greater man than Mons. Froessolecque. As
Slater Scully remarked when he read it, it came refresh-
ingly straight from the shoulder. It called loudly on the
country to take vengeance on a Government whose policy
unblushingly disclosed the twin monsters of Despotism and


Corruption the corrupt Pension system of England together
with the autocratic militarism of Germany.

The note thus sounded by the Sweet-Brier was faithfully
repeated by a number of journals throughout the Province,
who made it a point to be on the Liberal side of every
question once it was declared by the Sweet-Brier what the
Liberal side was. Meetings were organised ; speeches were
made ; statistics were furnished ; figures spoke as they were
wanted to. At a vast mass gathering in the City Hall, Mr.
Du Tell, having apologised for the absence of Sir Donald
MacLever owing to a cold, made an impressive speech,
announcing that the issue before the people was whether
their industry was to be mortgaged for all time to provide
pensions for Billy Brereton's nominees. Mr. Theodore
Bunker, M.P. for Leadville, concluded a stirring oration by
assuring his hearers that the people from his side of the
country would rise as one man and fight to the last man
against the nefarious and mediaeval proposals of the Govern-
ment. What the last epithet meant, many in the hall were
not clear, yet it was felt to be effective. But the impas-
sioned speech of the evening was made by Mr. Slater
Scully, the Member for Biggleswade. He declared that at
last the old Tories had been and done it : had brought the
poisoned arrow out of the quiver, the stone from the sling,
the bolt from the blue. The Pension system was to be
inaugurated in Excelsior : the corrupt pension systems of
Europe in their fair Province. The brow of the country
grew pale at the proposals openly avowed to adopt in their
fair new land the worst devices of the worn-out countries of
the old world. Let the men of Excelsior, nay, let the lately
enfranchised women, the one in their might, the other in
their loveliness, arise as one man and declare in tones of
thunder that they would never be enslaved in this, their
native land, by one of the most hoary abuses of the old

Other inspiriting addresses were delivered, and at the
close a vote of thanks to the council for the use of the hall
was moved by our old acquaintance, Mr. Meeks, the late
Member for Brassville. He was brief, but said with emotion
that though at present retired from politics, his soul was so


stirred by the daring nature of the recent proposals of the
Government that he could hold his peace no longer. They
knew that he was a man of few words, and quiet words too,
but he felt his spirit so moved by the monstrous evils which
they were threatened with, that he was afraid himself of
getting beyond his own control if he did not sit down with-
out saying all he felt, which accordingly he did.

Other meetings throughout the Province followed, and
the public mind gradually got agitated, like the sea, by the
process of continued blowing upon it. It was coming home
to all politicians that they must be up and doing upon this
burning question. Among others, it was coming home to
our politician. What was his attitude with regard to it ? He
was inexperienced, and had started by considering the ques-
tion upon its own merits, just as a man outside of politics
might have done. Thus considered, it appeared to be plain
enough. The plan of General Dowden seemed well adapted
to secure the desired end the proper control of the Rangers.
It was, in fact, upon the lines that any business man or
business institution would have adopted in similar circum-
stances. He did not know the inner history of the fierce
agitation that had sprung up against the Bill ; nor had he
realised the political aspect of the subject the need of turn-
ing out Brereton, and the excellent cry for such a purpose
that the proposals for pensions might be made to serve.
This had not occurred to him, and, as he was in the habit
of saying what he thought, he soon found himself drawn
into an embarrassing position, from which he could extricate
himself only by recanting views that he had openly ex-
pressed, and which he did hold. He had, in fact, forgotten
Quiggle's advice, to keep her free. We can only stand by
and wish him a safe deliverance.

He now frequently went to the Opposition Room at the
House, for the purpose of meeting with his brother Members
and discussing the impending crisis with them. Here he
found waiting for him daily his bundle of letters. Dealing
with these was always a perplexing business for him.

' What a bother these letters from constituents are ! ' he
involuntarily exclaimed, as the jovial presence of Slater
Scully presented itself at the door.


' That they are, my friend, if you make them so ; but
they are not if you don't make them so,' cheerily replied
that legislator, with glances towards Frankfort that might be
termed glowing ; for he wore large gold-rimmed spectacles
that appeared to be of high magnifying power. His eyes
looked large and mellow behind them.

'Why, Mr. Scully ' began our politician.

' Slater Scully, if you please,' interposed the bearer of
that name. He attached importance to the Slater, as it in-
dicated his connection, remote though it was, with the family
of the famous fox-hunting Slaters in his native Ireland.

' Oh, I beg pardon Mr. Slater Scully. You'll excuse
me, I know. But how can you avoid the trouble of these
letters ? '

' Simple as lying, my good sir. Do as I do. Only
open your box once a month. Then you will find one-
third of the letters have settled themselves ; another third,
concerning subscriptions, you couldn't, at least I couldn't,
settle whenever I opened them ; and as for the third
third '

' Yes, the other third ! ' exclaimed Frankfort, laughing.

' Well, as to the third third, I send, in reply, answers
mainly composed of imprecations on the red-tapeism, delays,
bungling, haggling, belated doings and dilatory transactions of
an unpunctual, postliminious, and utterly Tory Government.
The two or three things of real importance will have kept,
and you can fix them up then, if they are fixable, you see.'

And Slater Scully glared on our politician in a confi-
dential manner.

' Truly, not a bad way either ; but are your constituents
satisfied ? '

1 My constituents ? Of course they are, or would I be
here to-day to tell the tale ? Every now and then I give
the noble men of Biggleswade and now the dear women
will have it too a harangue of a thrilling nature on some
question that touches them up, like this Pensions business ;
or on the imperious need of at once constructing a railway
out of their town to nowhere in particular, as a distinctly
national work; or, if there is none such to the fore, then
something on the primeval and inalienable rights of men in


general and now of women to carry out their own en-
lightened wills in all things, and they forget about their
letters for the time. When you are a bit longer in the yard
here, you'll find out all about it'

And Slater Scully looked tenderly on our politician
through his spectacles, as feeling for a beginner. Then
wheeling round in his chair, he exclaimed, with emphasis
' Grand topic, these blessed pensions.'

' But, do you know, Mr. Slater Scully,' said our politician,
not wishing to have his position misunderstood, ' I am afraid
I must differ from you there. I saw the report of your
eloquent speech at the City Hall. I must confess that the
Government plan seems to me to be fair enough.'

Slater Scully looked round at him with some surprise in
his countenance, which soon, however, gave way to a musing,
contemplative look as he exclaimed ' Differ from me, dear
friend ? Or I differ from you ? Wherefore ? Can indi-
vidualistic differences have place in the even tramp of
heroes marching in the same regiment ? Do differences
exist? As to that I never administer interrogatories. The
question is, to be or not to be in the ranks ? There's the
respect that makes the sea of troubles of so long political
life to the euphemistic politician.' And Slater Scully went
out to the verandah to have a quiet cigar.

Our politician, in his amused interest in Slater Scully's
frank exposition of his principles and confused metaphors,
had not noticed Mr. Du Tell coming into the room. Turn-
ing round he found that Honourable Member's keen eyes
peering down his neck, apparently, as he stood behind him.

' Government plan fair enough ? ' he repeated interroga-
tively to Frankfort. Du Tell had already some experience of
Frankfort's impracticable way of conducting himself, but was
quite taken aback by hearing, in the very Opposition Room
itself, a distinct avowal that the Government plan was fair.
He knew that Sir Donald calculated positively on putting
out Brereton and Company, as he, rather gaily for him,
phrased it ; and as for himself, he was already considering
what office he had the best chance of getting in the new
Ministry. He scarcely knew how to proceed with such an
unusual and also dangerous display of mutiny in the ranks.


At this moment the deep tones of Sir Donald Mac-
Lever's voice were heard on the verandah complimenting
Mr. Slater Scully on his last speech on the great Pensions
issue, and congratulating that gentleman and some other
Members who were standing around on the near triumph that
was in store for their principles. He now entered the room
and greeted our politician with more cordiality than usual.
This was no time for private likes and dislikes. Having
recovered from his recent cold, he was now busy gathering
his party together for the coming struggle. He was not,
perhaps, more amiable than before, but he was ever prudent.
He therefore greeted Frankfort with some cordiality, and in
a mode slightly hilarious.

' Why, yes, I rather think it is done this time,' he
remarked, continuing the thread of what he had been saying
outside ' I think it is done this time. As for the Honour-
able William Brereton, sometimes irreverently styled Billy
Brereton, B.B., we may promote him in the alphabet, and
declare him now D.D., with a dash.'

And he did smile, relaxing into unwonted cheerfulness
at the prospect, and evidently enjoying his ponderous joke.

' But, sir, here's the Professor approves the Government
plan, and says that it is fair enough,' remarked, or rather
gasped out, Du Tell.

The style of Slater Scully could not exaggerate the
sudden fall in the countenance of Sir Donald as he heard
these few words from his faithful henchman. He saw the
seriousness of the position. For though there was much
noisy feeling abroad about the Government Bill, there was
also, and still to be dealt with, the good sense of the country,
that cared little for the party aspect of the question. In
the House of Representatives this element was fairly strong;
so that, while he spoke to his followers in confident tones,
he, in fact, expected to have only a small majority against
the Bill. This odd-man-out might possibly influence two or
three votes to support the Government proposal, and then
where would the majority be ? Three going from one side
to the other counted on a division as six. The prospect
was serious.

So Sir Donald composed his features as well as he could


into their usual staid and slightly scornful aspect, and sitting
down as if proposing to enter fully into the question,
observed to Frankfort, in a tone of constrained quiet

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 45)