Page images
PDF
EPUB

for the result proved that such violent men as the Doctor are not the best friends to have at one's back in a contested election, any more than other critical situations in life.

CHAPTER XI.

THE CONQUERING HERO COMES.

“PIGWIDGEON for ever! Hurrah for Pigwidgeon!" No sooner had Dr. Page stepped into the street, than his ears were saluted with the foregoing animated cries, proceeding from a little mob collected round a stage-coach which had just that moment stopped at the Magpie Inn, which was situated in South-street, nearly opposite the principal front of Matthew Cox's house. Dr. Page hastened to the tobacconist's, where he found the Vicar, his wife, and old Hannah Hopkins, just arrived, in a state of great excitement, a letter having been received from Reuben which led them to expect his appearance every moment.

Mrs. Medlicott and Mrs. Hopkins were conducted by Mr. Cox to an upper apartment, which commanded a view of the streets in several directions, and where several buxom matrons and fair maidens of Chichester and the neighbourhood were already assembled, admirers of Reuben every one of them, and all palpitating with anxiety to witness his public entry. Mrs. Winning, of Sunbury, a fine old lady, and an ardent politician, was there among the rest. Some of the mothers had brought their sons with them to stimulate their talents and virtues by Mr Medlicott's splendid example, and three of these hopeful boys were his godchildren and namesakes, Reuben Gosling, Reuben Bliss, and Reuben Medlicott Robinson. Little Gosling took great airs on himself, as having been one of the deputation to London; but young Robinson

gave

him to understand he considered himself quite as important a personage, inasmuch as he was a Medlicott as well as a Reuben.

The Doctor having tied up his horse under the laburnums in the lane, stationed himself with the Vicar and Mr. Cox at the shop-door, whence they all had the satisfaction of hearing the first speech of the new candidate, who was haranguing from the top of the Wonder, brandishing a stick almost as large as Page's, and as white as a miller with the dust of the road.

“Pigwidgeon for ever! Hurrah for Pigwidgeon! Hurrah, hurrah-hear him, hear him !"

When we say that Mr. Cox and his friends heard the speech, we only mean that they heard the noise or the wind of it, quite enough to satisfy them that the orator had an unrivalled case of lungs in his chest, but not sufficient to warrant any conclusion as to the brains in his head, if upon that point they had not been satisfied already. His action, however, was tremendous. The air never got such a buffeting; and how the boxes and trunks which served for a rostrum held together under all the stamping, was truly miraculous. The windows had already flown up all along the street, and were soon filled with clusters of excited faces; the young tag-rag and bob-tail of the town climbed the lampposts like monkeys, and everybody who could clamber upon a waggon, a van, or a donkey-cart, did so.

“ He has words at will, at all events," said the Doctor.

“ Wonders will never cease," said the Vicar. “ I remember when everybody considered that fellow the greatest booby in Chichester, and now he is standing for the city, and will be returned for all that I know."

“ Never, sir,” said the Doctor energetically, and striking the floor with the end of the stick, as if that was the force that was to carry the election.

Mr. Cox shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say he had seen more marvellous things in his time.

Presently it was evident that the tobacconist's house was the object of the orator's attention.

“ He is, no doubt, honouring me with his abuse," said old Matthew, who was standing in the back-ground; “ I thank him for it

, sincerely, and only hope he will never take to praising me.”

At the same moment, a varlet from a lamp-post, who had once been sent by Mr. Cox to the House of Correction, proposed a groan for him, which was partially responded to by the rest of the tag-rag and bob-tail. But Page happening to draw to one side at the instant, this accidental movement brought the venerable old citizen into view, whereupon a very different demonstration took place; somebody from a window in Mr. Broad's house, called for a cheer in reply to the groan, and the call was so promptly, lustily, and heartily answered, that Mr. Cox could not but acknowledge it, which he did with a courteous and dignified bow, directed to the window where the cheer commenced.

The orator, never a whit abashed, very adroitly took off his hat, and with a prodigious flourish began most respectfully to salute the object of his late scurrility, and probably began to laud him at the same time in an equally disgusting strain—the one gift, as well as the other, having come to Mr. Pigwidgeon by descent from his grandmother, who it may be remembered) was “ a Beamish, or at all events a Murphy.” Presently he had an opportunity of making a still better hit, and, much as people might despise his abilities, he did not fail to turn it to advantage. A donkey, under a cart which stood not far off, began to bray as if the end of the world was at hand. There was no use in anyone else trying to be heard while the donkey held forth. Somebody vowed vengeance on the animal, and called “ Silence !” as if it had been an ass of the human species, upon which the orator exclaimed—“Gentlemen, hear Mr. Medlicott-I entreat you to hear Mr. Medlicott—fair play, gentlemen.” It was great fun to the crowd, and brought down thunders of applause from the lamp-posts and some of the windows, as far as the joke reached; but it made Mrs. Medlicott wild, and all the god-sons frantic. The Vicar, however, was much amused, and so was Mr. Cox; both more than the Doctor, who said it was an old electioneering joke, as long as he remembered anything of elections.

“I have observed,” said the Vicar, “ that jokes have their periodic times like the planets. They come round again as infallibly as the most regular of the heavenly bodies. Some return at Christmas, others at Easter, others come in with the grouse or the partridge. The Budget is sure to bring a budget of stale jests along with it. Did you ever know a session to close without a lament over the dropped bills, and a facetious allusion to the massacre of the innocents ?

A general election itself is only a septennial farce.”

** Yet a dissolution is no joke to some people,” said old Matthew.

"The turnip-tops are beginning to fly," said the Doctor, as several of those vegetables missiles now shot through the air in different directions. One of them, evidently aimed at the orator, struck him on the cheek, and he raised his hand to it.

“ I wonder what's good for that ?" said the Vicar.
“ This work is beginning too soon,” said Mr. Cox.

The general attention, however, was immediately engaged by a new

cause of excitement. Distant shouts were heard, and presently an opposition coach, called the Triumph, came thundering along, in a cloud of dust, and followed, like the other, with a running corps of ragamuffins, whose whoops and hurrahs, mingled with the blasts of the guard's horn, the barking of the curs, the bawling of Mr. Pigwidgeon, and the continued braying of his brother under the cart, made a din little short of fiendish. The women began to be frightened, just at the moment when they expected most to enjoy themselves, but the reflection that they were in a magistrate's house tended to reassure them.

“ I should not wonder if Reuben is come down by the Triumph,” said the Vicar, less composed now than he would have liked to admit.

The Doctor hoped Reuben would make his entry in a more imposing manner.

It was impossible as yet to distinguish anybody in the cloud of dust, but as the coach drew near, the cry of “Medlicott for ever! hurrah for Medlicott !” was heard distinctly.

The shouts of the two parties now began to mingle.
“ Hurrah for Medlicott, the friend of the world !"
“ Hurrah for Pigwidgeon, the friend of the people!"
“Medlicott for ever! Down with Pigwidgeon !"

" Pigwidgeon for ever! hurrah for Pigwidgeon! Down with Medlicott !"

“Medlicott and Reform !"
“ Medlicott and Sympathy !"
“Pigwidgeon and Purity of Election !"
"Down with Pigwidgeon !"
“ No Medlicotts !"
"No Pigwidgeons !"

Dr. Page began to forget himself in the general excitement and flourish his stick and bawl like the rest, until Mr. Cox called him to order, and showed him the absolute necessity of controlling his feelings, and setting a good example.

The Triumph, on its way to the Parrot, stopped within a few yards of the Wonder, for the very good reason that the throng prevented it from getting a step further; but the moment the dust subsided, it was plain that Mr. Medlicott was not among

the
passengers.

The Doctor rubbed his hands with glee. It would never have answered for Reuben to have entered the town on the top of a stage coach like his plebeian rival. Mr. Broad, however, was there, as his harbinger and precursor, and his

appearance answered nearly as well for the purpose of increasing the hubbub. Mr. Reynard was along with our friend

66

the cutler, but kept himself quiet: and the only other outside passenger seemed to be a foreigner, though, to judge by his vivacity, and the vehemence of his gesticulations, he appeared to be as deeply interested in all that was going forward, as if he had been an elector of the borough.

“ Just look at Mr. Broad,” said Mr. Cox to the Vicar. “He must make a fool of himself because other people are doing so. I remember when we could not get him to move a man out of the chair at the vestry, and now he promises to be as good an orator as the best of them."

“ He is at it, by all that's lovely," said the Doctor.

Mr. Broad had now got on the box, beside the coachman, and if he was not making a speech, he was certainly going through all the dumb show of one, moving his lips volubly, and shaking both his head and his hand, either at the people on the roof of the Wonder, or the faces in the windows of the Magpie. The foreigner had jumped up behind him on the luggage; his weapon was an old cotton umbrella, which he flourished by way of reply to Mr. Pigwidgeon's stick, while he roared as loud as the best Englishman of them all

I am for Monsieur Medlicott !—à bas Peegviggin.”

" That fool of a Frenchman had better hold his tongue,” said Mr. Cox, knowing the feelings of the English rabble towards their next-door neighbours of the Continent, and how apt they are, under any circumstances, to quarrel with and abuse them. But Monsieur persisted in his violent exclamations and antics ; defying the enemy with the parapluie, and crying—“ A bas Peegviggin! Medlicott for ever!” Even the coachman of the Triumph endeavoured to make him sit down, but to no purpose; his enthusiasm was not to be controlled, until at length he excited the feelings of which Mr. Cox was apprehensive, and a rush was made by some of the Pigwidgeonites to pull him off the box. This attempt he resisted furiously, keeping his place for some time with great courage and resolution, and making savage use of his umbrella, the spike at the end of which made it a formidable instrument. His assailants, however, were too many for him, and at last they succeeded in dragging him down into the street, where he would infallibly have been sadly maltreated, if Mr. Cox, followed by Dr. Page with his cudgel, had not promptly rushed to the spot, and rescued him almost as soon as he was in danger. Old Matthew collared the infuriated Frenchman, dragged him into his shop, and locked him up

« PreviousContinue »