Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Part 3 out of 4
matches on the table, or a match lying on the floor and it would
start the craze in him. I am using his own words--a "craze"--that's
what he called it when he told Miss Lawson all about it, and she
promised to cure him of it. She would have, too. Only, as I say,
Pupkin found that what he had mistaken for attraction was only
respect. And there's no use worrying a woman that you respect about
It was from Mallory Tompkins that Pupkin learned all about the
Mariposa people, because Pupkin came from away off--somewhere down in
the Maritime Provinces--and didn't know a soul. Mallory Tompkins used
to tell him about Judge Pepperleigh, and what a wonderfully clever
man he was and how he would have been in the Supreme Court for
certain if the Conservative Government had stayed in another fifteen
or twenty years instead of coming to a premature end. He used to talk
so much about the Pepperleighs, that Pupkin was sick of the very
name. But just as soon as he had seen Zena Pepperleigh he couldn't
hear enough of them. He would have talked with Tompkins for hours
about the judge's dog Rover. And as for Zena, if he could have
brought her name over his lips, he would have talked of her forever.
He first saw her--by one of the strangest coincidences in the
world--on the Main Street of Mariposa. If he hadn't happened to be
going up the street and she to be coming down it, the thing wouldn't
have happened. Afterwards they both admitted that it was one of the
most peculiar coincidences they ever heard of. Pupkin owned that he
had had the strangest feeling that morning as if something were going
to happen--a feeling not at all to be classed with the one of which
he had once spoken to Miss Lawson, and which was, at the most, a mere
anticipation of respect.
But, as I say, Pupkin met Zena Pepperleigh on the 26th of June, at
twenty-five minutes to eleven. And at once the whole world changed.
The past was all blotted out. Even in the new forty volume edition
of the "Instalment Record of Humanity" that Mallory Tompkins had just
received--Pupkin wouldn't have bothered with it.
She--that word henceforth meant Zena--had just come back from her
boarding-school, and of all times of year coming back from a
boarding-school and for wearing a white shirt waist and a crimson tie
and for carrying a tennis racket on the stricken street of a
town--commend me to the month of June in Mariposa.
And, for Pupkin, straight away the whole town was irradiated with
sunshine, and there was such a singing of the birds, and such a
dancing of the rippled waters of the lake, and such a kindliness in
the faces of all the people, that only those who have lived in
Mariposa, and been young there, can know at all what he felt.
The simple fact is that just the moment he saw Zena Pepperleigh,
Mr. Pupkin was clean, plumb, straight, flat, absolutely in love with
Which fact is so important that it would be folly not to close the
chapter and think about it.
The Fore-ordained Attachment of Zena Pepperleigh and Peter Pupkin
Zena Pepperleigh used to sit reading novels on the piazza of the
judge's house, half hidden by the Virginia creepers. At times the
book would fall upon her lap and there was such a look of unstilled
yearning in her violet eyes that it did not entirely disappear even
when she picked up the apple that lay beside her and took another
bite out of it.
With hands clasped she would sit there dreaming all the beautiful
day-dreams of girlhood. When you saw that faraway look in her eyes,
it meant that she was dreaming that a plumed and armoured knight was
rescuing her from the embattled keep of a castle beside the Danube.
At other times she was being borne away by an Algerian corsair over
the blue waters of the Mediterranean and was reaching out her arms
towards France to say farewell to it.
Sometimes when you noticed a sweet look of resignation that seemed to
rest upon her features, it meant that Lord Ronald de Chevereux was
kneeling at her feet, and that she was telling him to rise, that her
humbler birth must ever be a bar to their happiness, and Lord Ronald
was getting into an awful state about it, as English peers do at the
least suggestion of anything of the sort.
Or, if it wasn't that, then her lover had just returned to her side,
tall and soldierly and sunburned, after fighting for ten years in the
Soudan for her sake, and had come back to ask her for her answer and
to tell her that for ten years her face had been with him even in the
watches of the night. He was asking her for a sign, any kind of
sign,--ten years in the Soudan entitles them to a sign,--and Zena was
plucking a white rose, just one, from her hair, when she would hear
her father's step on the piazza and make a grab for the Pioneers of
Tecumseh Township, and start reading it like mad.
She was always, as I say, being rescued and being borne away, and
being parted, and reaching out her arms to France and to Spain, and
saying good-bye forever to Valladolid or the old grey towers of
And I don't mean that she was in the least exceptional or romantic,
because all the girls in Mariposa were just like that. An Algerian
corsair could have come into the town and had a dozen of them for the
asking, and as for a wounded English officer,--well, perhaps it's
better not to talk about it outside or the little town would become a
regular military hospital.
Because, mind you, the Mariposa girls are all right. You've only to
look at them to realize that. You see, you can get in Mariposa a
print dress of pale blue or pale pink for a dollar twenty that looks
infinitely better than anything you ever see in the city,--especially
if you can wear with it a broad straw hat and a background of maple
trees and the green grass of a tennis court. And if you remember,
too, that these are cultivated girls who have all been to the
Mariposa high school and can do decimal fractions, you will
understand that an Algerian corsair would sharpen his scimitar at the
very sight of them.
Don't think either that they are all dying to get married; because
they are not. I don't say they wouldn't take an errant knight, or a
buccaneer or a Hungarian refugee, but for the ordinary marriages of
ordinary people they feel nothing but a pitying disdain. So it is
that each one of them in due time marries an enchanted prince and
goes to live in one of the little enchanted houses in the lower part
of the town.
I don't know whether you know it, but you can rent an enchanted house
in Mariposa for eight dollars a month, and some of the most
completely enchanted are the cheapest. As for the enchanted princes,
they find them in the strangest places, where you never expected to
see them, working--under a spell, you understand,--in drug-stores and
printing offices, and even selling things in shops. But to be able to
find them you have first to read ever so many novels about Sir
Galahad and the Errant Quest and that sort of thing.
Naturally then Zena Pepperleigh, as she sat on the piazza, dreamed of
bandits and of wounded officers and of Lord Ronalds riding on
foam-flecked chargers. But that she ever dreamed of a junior bank
teller in a daffodil blazer riding past on a bicycle, is pretty hard
to imagine. So, when Mr. Pupkin came tearing past up the slope of
Oneida Street at a speed that proved that he wasn't riding there
merely to pass the house, I don't suppose that Zena Pepperleigh was
aware of his existence.
That may be a slight exaggeration. She knew, perhaps, that he was the
new junior teller in the Exchange Bank and that he came from the
Maritime Provinces, and that nobody knew who his people were, and
that he had never been in a canoe in his life till he came to
Mariposa, and that he sat four pews back in Dean Drone's church, and
that his salary was eight hundred dollars. Beyond that, she didn't
know a thing about him. She presumed, however, that the reason why he
went past so fast was because he didn't dare to go slow.
This, of course, was perfectly correct. Ever since the day when Mr.
Pupkin met Zena in the Main Street he used to come past the house on
his bicycle just after bank hours. He would have gone past twenty
times a day but he was afraid to. As he came up Oneida Street, he
used to pedal faster and faster,--he never meant to, but he couldn't
help it,--till he went past the piazza where Zena was sitting at an
awful speed with his little yellow blazer flying in the wind. In a
second he had disappeared in a buzz and a cloud of dust, and the
momentum of it carried him clear out into the country for miles and
miles before he ever dared to pause or look back.
Then Mr. Pupkin would ride in a huge circuit about the country,
trying to think he was looking at the crops, and sooner or later his
bicycle would be turned towards the town again and headed for Oneida
Street, and would get going quicker and quicker and quicker, till the
pedals whirled round with a buzz and he came past the judge's house
again, like a bullet out of a gun. He rode fifteen miles to pass the
house twice, and even then it took all the nerve that he had.
The people on Oneida Street thought that Mr. Pupkin was crazy, but
Zena Pepperleigh knew that he was not. Already, you see, there was a
sort of dim parallel between the passing of the bicycle and the last
ride of Tancred the Inconsolable along the banks of the Danube.
I have already mentioned, I think, how Mr. Pupkin and Zena
Pepperleigh first came to know one another. Like everything else
about them, it was a sheer matter of coincidence, quite inexplicable
unless you understand that these things are fore-ordained.
That, of course, is the way with fore-ordained affairs and that's
where they differ from ordinary love.
I won't even try to describe how Mr. Pupkin felt when he first spoke
with Zena and sat beside her as they copied out the "endless chain"
letter asking for ten cents. They wrote out, as I said, no less than
eight of the letters between them, and they found out that their
handwritings were so alike that you could hardly tell them apart,
except that Pupkin's letters were round and Zena's letters were
pointed and Pupkin wrote straight up and down and Zena wrote on a
slant. Beyond that the writing was so alike that it was the strangest
coincidence in the world. Of course when they made figures it was
different and Pupkin explained to Zena that in the bank you have to
be able to make a seven so that it doesn't look like a nine.
So, as I say, they wrote the letters all afternoon and when it was
over they walked up Oneida Street together, ever so slowly. When they
got near the house, Zena asked Pupkin to come in to tea, with such an
easy off-hand way that you couldn't have told that she was half an
hour late and was taking awful chances on the judge. Pupkin hadn't
had time to say yes before the judge appeared at the door, just as
they were stepping up on to the piazza, and he had a table napkin in
his hand and the dynamite sparks were flying from his spectacles as
he called out:
"Great heaven! Zena, why in everlasting blazes can't you get in to
tea at a Christian hour?"
Zena gave one look of appeal to Pupkin, and Pupkin looked one glance
of comprehension, and turned and fled down Oneida Street. And if the
scene wasn't quite as dramatic as the renunciation of Tancred the
Troubadour, it at least had something of the same elements in it.
Pupkin walked home to his supper at the Mariposa House on air, and
that evening there was a gentle distance in his manner towards Sadie,
the dining-room girl, that I suppose no bank clerk in Mariposa ever
showed before. It was like Sir Galahad talking with the tire-women of
Queen Guinevere and receiving huckleberry pie at their hands.
After that Mr. Pupkin and Zena Pepperleigh constantly met together.
They played tennis as partners on the grass court behind Dr.
Gallagher's house,--the Mariposa Tennis Club rent it, you remember,
for fifty cents a month,--and Pupkin used to perform perfect
prodigies of valour, leaping in the air to serve with his little body
hooked like a letter S. Sometimes, too, they went out on Lake
Wissanotti in the evening in Pupkin's canoe, with Zena sitting in the
bow and Pupkin paddling in the stern and they went out ever so far
and it was after dark and the stars were shining before they came
home. Zena would look at the stars and say how infinitely far away
they seemed, and Pupkin would realize that a girl with a mind like
that couldn't have any use for a fool such as him. Zena used to ask
him to point out the Pleiades and Jupiter and Ursa minor, and Pupkin
showed her exactly where they were. That impressed them both
tremendously, because Pupkin didn't know that Zena remembered the
names out of the astronomy book at her boarding-school, and Zena
didn't know that Pupkin simply took a chance on where the stars were.
And ever so many times they talked so intimately that Pupkin came
mighty near telling her about his home in the Maritime Provinces and
about his father and mother, and then kicked himself that he hadn't
the manliness to speak straight out about it and take the
Please don't imagine from any of this that the course of Mr. Pupkin's
love ran smooth. On the contrary, Pupkin himself felt that it was
absolutely hopeless from the start.
There were, it might be admitted, certain things that seemed to
In the course of the months of June and July and August, he had taken
Zena out in his canoe thirty-one times. Allowing an average of two
miles for each evening, Pupkin had paddled Zena sixty-two miles, or
more than a hundred thousand yards. That surely was something.
He had played tennis with her on sixteen afternoons. Three times he
had left his tennis racket up at the judge's house in Zena's charge,
and once he had, with her full consent, left his bicycle there all
night. This must count for something. No girl could trifle with a man
to the extent of having his bicycle leaning against the verandah post
all night and mean nothing by it.
More than that--he had been to tea at the judge's house fourteen
times, and seven times he had been asked by Lilian Drone to the
rectory when Zena was coming, and five times by Nora Gallagher to tea
at the doctor's house because Zena was there.
Altogether he had eaten so many meals where Zena was that his meal
ticket at the Mariposa lasted nearly double its proper time, and the
face of Sadie, the dining-room girl, had grown to wear a look of
melancholy resignation; sadder than romance.
Still more than that, Pupkin had bought for Zena, reckoning it
altogether, about two buckets of ice cream and perhaps half a bushel
of chocolate. Not that Pupkin grudged the expense of it. On the
contrary, over and above the ice cream and the chocolate he had
bought her a white waistcoat and a walking stick with a gold top, a
lot of new neckties and a pair of patent leather boots--that is,
they were all bought on account of her, which is the same thing.
Add to all this that Pupkin and Zena had been to the Church of
England Church nearly every Sunday evening for two months, and one
evening they had even gone to the Presbyterian Church "for fun,"
which, if you know Mariposa, you will realize to be a wild sort of
escapade that ought to speak volumes.
Yet in spite of this, Pupkin felt that the thing was hopeless: which
only illustrates the dreadful ups and downs, the wild alternations of
hope and despair that characterise an exceptional affair of this
Yes, it was hopeless.
Every time that Pupkin watched Zena praying in church, he knew that
she was too good for him. Every time that he came to call for her and
found her reading Browning and Omar Khayyam he knew that she was too
clever for him. And every time that he saw her at all he realized
that she was too beautiful for him.
You see, Pupkin knew that he wasn't a hero. When Zena would clasp her
hands and talk rapturously about crusaders and soldiers and firemen
and heroes generally, Pupkin knew just where he came in. Not in it,
that was all. If a war could have broken out in Mariposa, or the
judge's house been invaded by the Germans, he might have had a
chance, but as it was--hopeless.
Then there was Zena's father. Heaven knows Pupkin tried hard to
please the judge. He agreed with every theory that Judge Pepperleigh
advanced, and that took a pretty pliable intellect in itself. They
denounced female suffrage one day and they favoured it the next. One
day the judge would claim that the labour movement was eating out the
heart of the country, and the next day he would hold that the hope of
the world lay in the organization of the toiling masses. Pupkin
shifted his opinions like the glass in a kaleidoscope. Indeed, the
only things on which he was allowed to maintain a steadfast
conviction were the purity of the Conservative party of Canada and
the awful wickedness of the recall of judges.
But with all that the judge was hardly civil to Pupkin. He hadn't
asked him to the house till Zena brought him there, though, as a
rule, all the bank clerks in Mariposa treated Judge Pepperleigh's
premises as their own. He used to sit and sneer at Pupkin after he
had gone till Zena would throw down the Pioneers of Tecumseh Township
in a temper and flounce off the piazza to her room. After which the
judge's manner would change instantly and he would relight his corn
cob pipe and sit and positively beam with contentment. In all of
which there was something so mysterious as to prove that Mr. Pupkin's
chances were hopeless.
Nor was that all of it. Pupkin's salary was eight hundred dollars a
year and the Exchange Bank limit for marriage was a thousand.
I suppose you are aware of the grinding capitalistic tyranny of the
banks in Mariposa whereby marriage is put beyond the reach of ever so
many mature and experienced men of nineteen and twenty and
twenty-one, who are compelled to go on eating on a meal ticket at the
Mariposa House and living over the bank to suit the whim of a group
Whenever Pupkin thought of this two hundred dollars he understood all
that it meant by social unrest. In fact, he interpreted all forms of
social discontent in terms of it. Russian Anarchism, German
Socialism, the Labour Movement, Henry George, Lloyd George,--he
understood the whole lot of them by thinking of his two hundred
When I tell you that at this period Mr. Pupkin read Memoirs of the
Great Revolutionists and even thought of blowing up Henry Mullins
with dynamite, you can appreciate his state of mind.
But not even by all these hindrances and obstacles to his love for
Zena Pepperleigh would Peter Pupkin have been driven to commit
suicide (oh, yes; he committed it three times, as I'm going to tell
you), had it not been for another thing that he knew stood once and
for all and in cold reality between him and Zena.
He felt it in a sort of way, as soon as he knew her. Each time that
he tried to talk to her about his home and his father and mother and
found that something held him back, he realized more and more the
kind of thing that stood between them. Most of all did he realize it,
with a sudden sickness of heart, when he got word that his father and
mother wanted to come to Mariposa to see him and he had all he could
do to head them off from it.
Why? Why stop them? The reason was, simple enough, that Pupkin was
ashamed of them, bitterly ashamed. The picture of his mother and
father turning up in Mariposa and being seen by his friends there and
going up to the Pepperleigh's house made him feel faint with shame.
No, I don't say it wasn't wrong. It only shows what difference of
fortune, the difference of being rich and being poor, means in this
world. You perhaps have been so lucky that you cannot appreciate what
it means to feel shame at the station of your own father and mother.
You think it doesn't matter, that honesty and kindliness of heart are
all that counts. That only shows that you have never known some of
the bitterest feelings of people less fortunate than yourself.
So it was with Mr. Pupkin. When he thought of his father and mother
turning up in Mariposa, his face reddened with unworthy shame.
He could just picture the scene! He could see them getting out of
their Limousine touring car, with the chauffeur holding open the door
for them, and his father asking for a suite of rooms,--just think of
it, a suite of rooms!--at the Mariposa House.
The very thought of it turned him ill.
What! You have mistaken my meaning? Ashamed of them because they were
poor? Good heavens, no, but because they were rich! And not rich in
the sense in which they use the term in Mariposa, where a rich person
merely means a man who has money enough to build a house with a
piazza and to have everything he wants; but rich in the other
sense,--motor cars, Ritz hotels, steam yachts, summer islands and all
that sort of thing.
Why, Pupkin's father,--what's the use of trying to conceal it any
longer?--was the senior partner in the law firm of Pupkin, Pupkin and
Pupkin. If you know the Maritime Provinces at all, you've heard of
the Pupkins. The name is a household word from Chedabucto to
Chidabecto. And, for the matter of that, the law firm and the fact
that Pupkin senior had been an Attorney General was the least part of
it. Attorney General! Why, there's no money in that! It's no better
than the Senate. No, no, Pupkin senior, like so many lawyers, was
practically a promoter, and he blew companies like bubbles, and when
he wasn't in the Maritime Provinces he was in Boston and New York
raising money and floating loans, and when they had no money left in
New York he floated it in London: and when he had it, he floated on
top of it big rafts of lumber on the Miramichi and codfish on the
Grand Banks and lesser fish in the Fundy Bay. You've heard perhaps of
the Tidal Transportation Company, and Fundy Fisheries Corporation,
and the Paspebiac Pulp and Paper Unlimited? Well, all of those were
Pupkin senior under other names. So just imagine him in Mariposa!
Wouldn't he be utterly foolish there? Just imagine him meeting Jim
Eliot and treating him like a druggist merely because he ran a drug
store! or speaking to Jefferson Thorpe as if he were a barber simply
because he shaved for money! Why, a man like that could ruin young
Pupkin in Mariposa in half a day, and Pupkin knew it.
That wouldn't matter so much, but think of the Pepperleighs and
Zena! Everything. would be over with them at once. Pupkin knew just
what the judge thought of riches and luxuries. How often had he heard
the judge pass sentences of life imprisonment on Pierpont Morgan and
Mr. Rockefeller. How often had Pupkin heard him say that any man who
received more than three thousand dollars a year (that was the
judicial salary in the Missinaba district) was a mere robber, unfit
to shake the hand of an honest man. Bitter! I should think he was!
He was not so bitter, perhaps, as Mr. Muddleson, the principal of the
Mariposa high school, who said that any man who received more than
fifteen hundred dollars was a public enemy. He was certainly not so
bitter as Trelawney, the post-master, who said that any man who got
from society more than thirteen hundred dollars (apart from a
legitimate increase in recognition of a successful election) was a
danger to society. Still, he was bitter. They all were in Mariposa.
Pupkin could just imagine how they would despise his father!
And Zena! That was the worst of all. How often had, Pupkin heard her
say that she simply hated diamonds wouldn't wear them, despised them,
wouldn't give a thank you for a whole tiara of them! As for motor
cars and steam yachts,--well, it was pretty plain that that sort of
thing had no chance with Zena Pepperleigh. Why, she had told Pupkin
one night in the canoe that she would only marry a man who was poor
and had his way to make and would hew down difficulties for her sake.
And when Pupkin couldn't answer the argument she was quite cross and
silent all the way home.
What was Peter Pupkin doing, then, at eight hundred dollars in a bank
in Mariposa? If you ask that, it means that you know nothing of the
life of the Maritime Provinces and the sturdy temper of the people. I
suppose there are no people in the world who hate luxury and
extravagance and that sort of thing quite as much as the Maritime
Province people, and, of them, no one hated luxury more than Pupkin
Don't mistake the man. He wore a long sealskin coat in winter, yes;
but mark you, not as a matter of luxury, but merely as a question of
his lungs. He smoked, I admit it, a thirty-five cent cigar, not
because he preferred it, but merely through a delicacy of the thorax
that made it imperative. He drank champagne at lunch, I concede the
point, not in the least from the enjoyment of it, but simply on
account of a peculiar affection of the tongue and lips that
positively dictated it. His own longing--and his wife shared it--was
for the simple, simple life--an island somewhere, with birds and
trees. They had bought three or four islands--one in the St.
Lawrence, and two in the Gulf, and one off the coast of
Maine--looking for this sort of thing. Pupkin senior often said that
he wanted to have some place that would remind him of the little old
farm up the Aroostook where he was brought up. He often bought little
old farms, just to try them, but they always turned out to be so near
a city that he cut them into real estate lots, without even having
had time to look at them.
But--and this is where the emphasis lay--in the matter of luxury for
his only son, Peter, Pupkin senior was a Maritime Province man right
to the core, with all the hardihood of the United Empire Loyalists
ingrained in him. No luxury for that boy! No, sir! From his
childhood, Pupkin senior had undertaken, at the least sign of luxury,
to "tan it out of him," after the fashion still in vogue in the
provinces. Then he sent him to an old-fashioned school to get it
"thumped out of him," and after that he had put him for a year on a
Nova Scotia schooner to get it "knocked out of him." If, after all
that, young Pupkin, even when he came to Mariposa, wore cameo pins
and daffodil blazers, and broke out into ribbed silk saffron ties on
pay day, it only shows that the old Adam still needs further tanning
even in the Maritime Provinces.
Young Pupkin, of course, was to have gone into law. That was his
father's cherished dream and would have made the firm Pupkin, Pupkin,
Pupkin, and Pupkin, as it ought to have been. But young Peter was
kept out of the law by the fool system of examinations devised since
his father's time. Hence there was nothing for it but to sling him
into a bank; "sling him" was, I think, the expression. So his father
decided that if Pupkin was to be slung, he should be slung good and
far--clean into Canada (you know the way they use that word in the
Maritime Provinces). And to sling Pupkin he called in the services of
an old friend, a man after his own heart, just as violent as himself,
who used to be at the law school in the city with Pupkin senior
thirty years ago. So this friend, who happened to live in Mariposa,
and who was a violent man, said at once: "Edward, by Jehoshaphat!
send the boy up here."
So that is how Pupkin came to Mariposa. And if, when he got there,
his father's friend gave no sign, and treated the boy with roughness
and incivility, that may have been, for all I know, a continuation of
the "tanning" process of the Maritime people.
Did I mention that the Pepperleigh family, generations ago, had taken
up land near the Aroostook, and that it was from there the judge's
father came to Tecumseh township? Perhaps not, but it doesn't matter.
But surely after such reminiscences as these the awful things that
are impending over Mr. Pupkin must be kept for another chapter.
The Mariposa Bank Mystery
Suicide is a thing that ought not to be committed without very
careful thought. It often involves serious consequences, and in some
cases brings pain to others than oneself.
I don't say that there is no justification for it. There often is.
Anybody who has listened to certain kinds of music, or read certain
kinds of poetry, or heard certain kinds of performances upon the
concertina, will admit that there are some lives which ought not to
be continued, and that even suicide has its brighter aspects.
But to commit suicide on grounds of love is at the best a very
dubious experiment. I know that in this I am expressing an opinion
contrary to that of most true lovers who embrace suicide on the
slightest provocation as the only honourable termination of an
existence that never ought to have begun.
I quite admit that there is a glamour and a sensation about the thing
which has its charm, and that there is nothing like it for causing a
girl to realize the value of the heart that she has broken and which
breathed forgiveness upon her at the very moment when it held in its
hand the half-pint of prussic acid that was to terminate its beating
But apart from the general merits of the question, I suppose there
are few people, outside of lovers, who know what it is to commit
suicide four times in five weeks.
Yet this was what happened to Mr. Pupkin, of the Exchange Bank of
Ever since he had known Zena Pepperleigh he had realized that his
love for her was hopeless. She was too beautiful for him and too good
for him; her father hated him and her mother despised him; his salary
was too small and his own people were too rich.
If you add to all that that he came up to the judge's house one night
and found a poet reciting verses to Zena, you will understand the
suicide at once. It was one of those regular poets with a solemn
jackass face, and lank parted hair and eyes like puddles of molasses.
I don't know how he came there--up from the city, probably--but
there he was on the Pepperleighs' verandah that August evening. He
was reciting poetry--either Tennyson's or Shelley's, or his own, you
couldn't tell--and about him sat Zena with her hands clasped and Nora
Gallagher looking at the sky and Jocelyn Drone gazing into infinity,
and a little tubby woman looking at the poet with her head falling
over sideways--in fact, there was a whole group of them.
I don't know what it is about poets that draws women to them in this
way. But everybody knows that a poet has only to sit and saw the air
with his hands and recite verses in a deep stupid voice, and all the
women are crazy over him. Men despise him and would kick him off the
verandah if they dared, but the women simply rave over him.
So Pupkin sat there in the gloom and listened to this poet reciting
Browning and he realized that everybody understood it but him. He
could see Zena with her eyes fixed on the poet as if she were hanging
on to every syllable (she was; she needed to), and he stood it just
about fifteen minutes and then slid off the side of the verandah and
disappeared without even saying good-night.
He walked straight down Oneida Street and along the Main Street just
as hard as he could go. There was only one purpose in his
mind,--suicide. He was heading straight for Jim Eliot's drug store on
the main corner and his idea was to buy a drink of chloroform and
drink it and die right there on the spot.
As Pupkin walked down the street, the whole thing was so vivid in his
mind that he could picture it to the remotest detail. He could even
see it all in type, in big headings in the newspapers of the
APPALLING SUICIDE. PETER PUPKIN POISONED.
He perhaps hoped that the thing might lead to some kind of public
enquiry and that the question of Browning's poetry and whether it is
altogether fair to allow of its general circulation would be fully
ventilated in the newspapers.
Thinking of that, Pupkin came to the main corner.
On a warm August evening the drug store of Mariposa, as you know, is
all a blaze of lights. You can hear the hissing of the soda-water
fountain half a block away, and inside the store there are ever so
many people--boys and girls and old people too--all drinking
sarsaparilla and chocolate sundaes and lemon sours and foaming drinks
that you take out of long straws. There is such a laughing and a
talking as you never heard, and the girls are all in white and pink
and cambridge blue, and the soda fountain is of white marble with
silver taps, and it hisses and sputters, and Jim Eliot and his
assistant wear white coats with red geraniums in them, and it's just
as gay as gay.
The foyer of the opera in Paris may be a fine sight, but I doubt if
it can compare with the inside of Eliot's drug store in Mariposa--for
real gaiety and joy of living.
This night the store was especially crowded because it was a Saturday
and that meant early closing for all the hotels, except, of course,
Smith's. So as the hotels were shut, the people were all in the drug
store, drinking like fishes. It just shows the folly of Local Option
and the Temperance Movement and all that. Why, if you shut the hotels
you simply drive the people to the soda fountains and there's more
drinking than ever, and not only of the men, too, but the girls and
young boys and children. I've seen little things of eight and nine
that had to be lifted up on the high stools at Eliot's drug store,
drinking great goblets of lemon soda, enough to burst them--brought
there by their own fathers, and why? Simply because the hotel bars
What's the use of thinking you can stop people drinking merely by
cutting off whiskey and brandy? The only effect is to drive them to
taking lemon sour and sarsaparilla and cherry pectoral and caroka
cordial and things they wouldn't have touched before. So in the long
run they drink more than ever. The point is that you can't prevent
people having a good time, no matter how hard you try. If they can't
have it with lager beer and brandy, they'll have it with plain soda
and lemon pop, and so the whole gloomy scheme of the temperance
people breaks down, anyway.
But I was only saying that Eliot's drug store in Mariposa on a
Saturday night is the gayest and brightest spot in the world.
And just imagine what a fool of a place to commit suicide in!
Just imagine going up to the soda-water fountain and asking for five
cents' worth of chloroform and soda! Well, you simply can't, that's
That's the way Pupkin found it. You see, as soon as he came in,
somebody called out: "Hello, Pete!" and one or two others called:
"Hullo, Pup!" and some said: "How goes it?" and others: "How are you
toughing it?" and so on, because you see they had all been drinking
more or less and naturally they felt jolly and glad-hearted.
So the upshot of it was that instead of taking chloroform, Pupkin
stepped up to the counter of the fountain and he had a bromo-seltzer
with cherry soda, and after that he had one of those aerated
seltzers, and then a couple of lemon seltzers and a bromo-phizzer.
I don't know if you know the mental effect of a bromo-seltzer.
But it's a hard thing to commit suicide on.
You feel so buoyant.
Anyway, what with the phizzing of the seltzer and the lights and the
girls, Pupkin began to feel so fine that he didn't care a cuss for
all the Browning in the world, and as for the poet--oh, to blazes
with him! What's poetry, anyway?--only rhymes.
So, would you believe it, in about ten minutes Peter Pupkin was off
again and heading straight for the Pepperleighs' house, poet or no
poet, and, what was more to the point, he carried with him three
great bricks of Eliot's ice cream--in green, pink and brown layers.
He struck the verandah just at the moment when Browning was getting
too stale and dreary for words. His brain was all sizzling and jolly
with the bromo-seltzer, and when he fetched out the ice cream bricks
and Zena ran to get plates and spoons to eat it with, and Pupkin went
with her to help fetch them and they picked out the spoons together,
they were so laughing and happy that it was just a marvel. Girls, you
know, need no bromo-seltzer. They're full of it all the time.
And as for the poet--well, can you imagine how Pupkin felt when Zena
told him that the poet was married, and that the tubby little woman
with her head on sideways was his wife?
So they had the ice cream, and the poet ate it in bucketsful. Poets
always do. They need it. And after it the poet recited some stanzas
of his own and Pupkin saw that he had misjudged the man, because it
was dandy poetry, the very best. That night Pupkin walked home on air
and there was no thought of chloroform, and it turned out that he
hadn't committed suicide, but like all lovers he had commuted it.
I don't need to describe in full the later suicides of Mr. Pupkin,
because they were all conducted on the same plan and rested on
something the same reasons as above.
Sometimes he would go down at night to the offices of the bank below
his bedroom and bring up his bank revolver in order to make an end of
himself with it. This, too, he could see headed up in the newspapers
BRILLIANT BOY BANKER BLOWS OUT BRAINS.
But blowing your brains out is a noisy, rackety performance, and
Pupkin soon found that only special kinds of brains are suited for
it. So he always sneaked back again later in the night and put the
revolver in its place, deciding to drown himself instead. Yet every
time that he walked down to the Trestle Bridge over the Ossawippi he
found it was quite unsuitable for drowning--too high, and the water
too swift and black, and the rushes too gruesome--in fact, not at
all the kind of place for a drowning.
Far better, he realized, to wait there on the railroad track and
throw himself under the wheels of the express and be done with it.
Yet, though Pupkin often waited in this way for the train, he was
never able to pick out a pair of wheels that suited him. Anyhow, it's
awfully hard to tell an express from a fast freight.
I wouldn't mention these attempts at suicide if one of them hadn't
finally culminated in making Peter Pupkin a hero and solving for him
the whole perplexed entanglement of his love affair with Zena
Pepperleigh. Incidentally it threw him into the very centre of one of
the most impenetrable bank mysteries that ever baffled the ingenuity
of some of the finest legal talent that ever adorned one of the most
enterprising communities in the country.
It happened one night, as I say, that Pupkin decided to go down into
the office of the bank and get his revolver and see if it would blow
his brains out. It was the night of the Firemen's Ball and Zena had
danced four times with a visitor from the city, a man who was in the
fourth year at the University and who knew everything. It was more
than Peter Pupkin could bear. Mallory Tompkins was away that night,
and when Pupkin came home he was all alone in the building, except
for Gillis, the caretaker, who lived in the extension at the back.
He sat in his room for hours brooding. Two or three times he picked
up a book--he remembered afterwards distinctly that it was Kant's
Critique of Pure Reason--and tried to read it, but it seemed
meaningless and trivial. Then with a sudden access of resolution he
started from his chair and made his way down the stairs and into the
office room of the bank, meaning to get a revolver and kill himself
on the spot and let them find his body lying on the floor.
It was then far on in the night and the empty building of the bank
was as still as death. Pupkin could hear the stairs creak under his
feet, and as he went he thought he heard another sound like the
opening or closing of a door. But it sounded not like the sharp
ordinary noise of a closing door but with a dull muffled noise as if
someone had shut the iron door of a safe in a room under the ground.
For a moment Pupkin stood and listened with his heart thumping
against his ribs. Then he kicked his slippers from his feet and
without a sound stole into the office on the ground floor and took
the revolver from his teller's desk. As he gripped it, he listened to
the sounds on the back-stairway and in the vaults below.
I should explain that in the Exchange Bank of Mariposa the offices
are on the ground floor level with the street. Below this is another
floor with low dark rooms paved with flagstones, with unused office
desks and with piles of papers stored in boxes. On this floor are the
vaults of the bank, and lying in them in the autumn--the grain
season--there is anything from fifty to a hundred thousand dollars in
currency tied in bundles. There is no other light down there than the
dim reflection from the lights out on the street, that lies in
patches on the stone floor.
I think as Peter Pupkin stood, revolver in hand, in the office of the
bank, he had forgotten all about the maudlin purpose of his first
coming. He had forgotten for the moment all about heroes and love
affairs, and his whole mind was focussed, sharp and alert, with the
intensity of the night-time, on the sounds that he heard in the vault
and on the back-stairway of the bank.
Straight away, Pupkin knew what it meant as plainly as if it were
written in print. He had forgotten, I say, about being a hero and he
only knew that there was sixty thousand dollars in the vault of the
bank below, and that he was paid eight hundred dollars a year to look
As Peter Pupkin stood there listening to the sounds in his stockinged
feet, his faced showed grey as ashes in the light that fell through
the window from the street. His heart beat like a hammer against his
ribs. But behind its beatings was the blood of four generations of
Loyalists, and the robber who would take that sixty thousand dollars
from the Mariposa bank must take it over the dead body of Peter
Pupkin walked down the stairs to the lower room, the one below the
ground with the bank vault in it, with as fine a step as any of his
ancestors showed on parade. And if he had known it, as he came down
the stairway in the front of the vault room, there was a man crouched
in the shadow of the passage way by the stairs at the back. This man,
too, held a revolver in his hand, and, criminal or not, his face was
as resolute as Pupkin's own. As he heard the teller's step on the
stair, he turned and waited in the shadow of the doorway without a
There is no need really to mention all these details. They are only
of interest as showing how sometimes a bank teller in a corded
smoking jacket and stockinged feet may be turned into such a hero as
even the Mariposa girls might dream about.
All of this must have happened at about three o'clock in the night.
This much was established afterwards from the evidence of Gillis, the
caretaker. When he first heard the sounds he had looked at his watch
and noticed that it was half-past two; the watch he knew was
three-quarters of an hour slow three days before and had been gaining
since. The exact time at which Gillis heard footsteps in the bank
and started downstairs, pistol in hand, became a nice point
afterwards in the cross-examination.
But one must not anticipate. Pupkin reached the iron door of the bank
safe, and knelt in front of it, feeling in the dark to find the
fracture of the lock. As he knelt, he heard a sound behind him, and
swung round on his knees and saw the bank robber in the half light of
the passage way and the glitter of a pistol in his hand. The rest was
over in an instant. Pupkin heard a voice that was his own, but that
sounded strange and hollow, call out: "Drop that, or I'll fire!" and
then just as he raised his revolver, there came a blinding flash of
light before his eyes, and Peter Pupkin, junior teller of the bank,
fell forward on the floor and knew no more.
At that point, of course, I ought to close down a chapter, or volume,
or, at least, strike the reader over the head with a sandbag to force
him to stop and think. In common fairness one ought to stop here and
count a hundred or get up and walk round a block, or, at any rate,
picture to oneself Peter Pupkin lying on the floor of the bank,
motionless, his arms distended, the revolver still grasped in his
hand. But I must go on.
By half-past seven on the following morning it was known all over
Mariposa that Peter Pupkin the junior teller of the Exchange had been
shot dead by a bank robber in the vault of the building. It was known
also that Gillis, the caretaker, had been shot and killed at the foot
of the stairs, and that the robber had made off with fifty thousand
dollars in currency; that he had left a trail of blood on the
sidewalk and that the men were out tracking him with bloodhounds in
the great swamps to the north of the town.
This, I say, and it is important to note it, was what they knew at
half-past seven. Of course as each hour went past they learned more
and more. At eight o'clock it was known that Pupkin was not dead, but
dangerously wounded in the lungs. At eight-thirty it was known that
he was not shot in the lungs, but that the ball had traversed the pit
of his stomach.
At nine o'clock it was learned that the pit of Pupkin's stomach was
all right, but that the bullet had struck his right ear and carried
it away. Finally it was learned that his ear had not exactly been
carried away, that is, not precisely removed by the bullet, but that
it had grazed Pupkin's head in such a way that it had stunned him,
and if it had been an inch or two more to the left it might have
reached his brain. This, of course, was just as good as being killed
from the point of view of public interest.
Indeed, by nine o'clock Pupkin could be himself seen on the Main
Street with a great bandage sideways on his head, pointing out the
traces of the robber. Gillis, the caretaker, too, it was known by
eight, had not been killed. He had been shot through the brain, but
whether the injury was serious or not was only a matter of
conjecture. In fact, by ten o'clock it was understood that the bullet
from the robber's second shot had grazed the side of the caretaker's
head, but as far as could be known his brain was just as before. I
should add that the first report about the bloodstains and the swamp
and the bloodhounds turned out to be inaccurate. The stains may have
been blood, but as they led to the cellar way of Netley's store they
may have also been molasses, though it was argued, to be sure, that
the robber might well have poured molasses over the bloodstains from
It was remembered, too, that there were no bloodhounds in Mariposa,
although, mind you, there are any amount of dogs there.
So you see that by ten o'clock in the morning the whole affair was
settling into the impenetrable mystery which it ever since remained.
Not that there wasn't evidence enough. There was Pupkin's own story
and Gillis's story, and the stories of all the people who had heard
the shots and seen the robber (some said, the bunch of robbers) go
running past (others said, walking past), in the night. Apparently
the robber ran up and down half the streets of Mariposa before he
But the stories of Pupkin and Gillis were plain enough. Pupkin
related that he heard sounds in the bank and came downstairs just in
time to see the robber crouching in the passage way, and that the
robber was a large, hulking, villainous looking man, wearing a heavy
coat. Gillis told exactly the same story, having heard the noises at
the same time, except that he first described the robber as a small
thin fellow (peculiarly villainous looking, however, even in the
dark), wearing a short jacket; but on thinking it over, Gillis
realized that he had been wrong about the size of the criminal, and
that he was even bigger, if anything, than what Mr: Pupkin thought.
Gillis had fired at the robber; just at the same moment had Mr.
Beyond that, all was mystery, absolute and impenetrable.
By eleven o'clock the detectives had come up from the city under
orders from the head of the bank.
I wish you could have seen the two detectives as they moved to and
fro in Mariposa--fine looking, stern, impenetrable men that they
were. They seemed to take in the whole town by instinct and so
quietly. They found their way to Mr. Smith's Hotel just as quietly as
if it wasn't design at all and stood there at the bar, picking up
scraps of conversation--you know the way detectives do it.
Occasionally they allowed one or two bystanders--confederates,
perhaps,--to buy a drink for them, and you could see from the way
they drank it that they were still listening for a clue. If there had
been the faintest clue in Smith's Hotel or in the Mariposa House or
in the Continental, those fellows would have been at it like a flash.
To see them moving round the town that day--silent, massive,
imperturbable--gave one a great idea of their strange, dangerous
calling. They went about the town all day and yet in such a quiet
peculiar way that you couldn't have realized that they were working
at all. They ate their dinner together at Smith's cafe and took an
hour and a half over it to throw people off the scent. Then when they
got them off it, they sat and talked with Josh Smith in the back bar
to keep them off. Mr. Smith seemed to take to them right away. They
were men of his own size, or near it, and anyway hotel men and
detectives have a general affinity and share in the same impenetrable
silence and in their confidential knowledge of the weaknesses of the
Mr. Smith, too, was of great use to the detectives. "Boys," he said,
"I wouldn't ask too close as to what folks was out late at night: in
this town it don't do."
When those two great brains finally left for the city on the
five-thirty, it was hard to realize that behind each grand,
impassible face a perfect vortex of clues was seething.
But if the detectives were heroes, what was Pupkin? Imagine him with
his bandage on his head standing in front of the bank and talking of
the midnight robbery with that peculiar false modesty that only
heroes are entitled to use.
I don't know whether you have ever been a hero, but for sheer
exhilaration there is nothing like it. And for Mr. Pupkin, who had
gone through life thinking himself no good, to be suddenly exalted
into the class of Napoleon Bonaparte and John Maynard and the Charge
of the Light Brigade--oh, it was wonderful. Because Pupkin was a
brave man now and he knew it and acquired with it all the brave man's
modesty. In fact, I believe he was heard to say that he had only done
his duty, and that what he did was what any other man would have
done: though when somebody else said: "That's so, when you come to
think of it," Pupkin turned on him that quiet look of the wounded
hero, bitterer than words.
And if Pupkin had known that all of the afternoon papers in the city
reported him dead, he would have felt more luxurious still.
That afternoon the Mariposa court sat in enquiry,--technically it
was summoned in inquest on the dead robber--though they hadn't found
the body--and it was wonderful to see them lining up the witnesses
and holding cross-examinations. There is something in the
cross-examination of great criminal lawyers like Nivens, of Mariposa,
and in the counter examinations of presiding judges like Pepperleigh
that thrills you to the core with the astuteness of it.
They had Henry Mullins, the manager, on the stand for an hour and a
half, and the excitement was so breathless that you could have heard
a pin drop. Nivens took him on first.
"What is your name?" he said.
"Henry August Mullins."
"What position do you hold?"
"I am manager of the Exchange Bank."
"When were you born?"
"December 30, 1869."
After that, Nivens stood looking quietly at Mullins. You could feel
that he was thinking pretty deeply before he shot the next question
"Where did you go to school?"
Mullins answered straight off: "The high school down home," and
Nivens thought again for a while and then asked:
"How many boys were at the school?"
"How many masters?"
After that Nivens paused a long while and seemed to be digesting the
evidence, but at last an idea seemed to strike him and he said:
"I understand you were not on the bank premises last night. Where
"Down the lake duck shooting."
You should have seen the excitement in the court when Mullins said
this. The judge leaned forward in his chair and broke in at once.
"Did you get any, Harry?" he asked.
"Yes," Mullins said, "about six."
"Where did you get them? What? In the wild rice marsh past the
river? You don't say so! Did you get them on the sit or how?"
All of these questions were fired off at the witness from the court
in a single breath. In fact, it was the knowledge that the first
ducks of the season had been seen in the Ossawippi marsh that led to
the termination of the proceedings before the afternoon was a quarter
over. Mullins and George Duff and half the witnesses were off with
shotguns as soon as the court was cleared.
I may as well state at once that the full story of the robbery
of the bank of Mariposa never came to the light. A number of
arrests--mostly of vagrants and suspicious characters--were made, but
the guilt of the robbery was never brought home to them. One man was
arrested twenty miles away, at the other end of Missinaba county,
who not only corresponded exactly with the description of the robber,
but, in addition to this, had a wooden leg. Vagrants with one leg
are always regarded with suspicion in places like Mariposa, and
whenever a robbery or a murder happens they are arrested in batches.
It was never even known just how much money was stolen from the bank.
Some people said ten thousand dollars, others more. The bank, no
doubt for business motives, claimed that the contents of the safe
were intact and that the robber had been foiled in his design.
But none of this matters to the exaltation of Mr. Pupkin. Good
fortune, like bad, never comes in small instalments. On that
wonderful day, every good thing happened to Peter Pupkin at once. The
morning saw him a hero. At the sitting of the court, the judge
publicly told him that his conduct was fit to rank among the annals
of the pioneers of Tecumseh Township, and asked him to his house for
supper. At five o'clock he received the telegram of promotion from
the head office that raised his salary to a thousand dollars, and
made him not only a hero but a marriageable man. At six o'clock he
started up to the judge's house with his resolution nerved to the
most momentous step of his life.
His mind was made up.
He would do a thing seldom if ever done in Mariposa. He would propose
to Zena Pepperleigh. In Mariposa this kind of step, I say, is seldom
taken. The course of love runs on and on through all its stages of
tennis playing and dancing and sleigh riding, till by sheer notoriety
of circumstance an understanding is reached. To propose straight out
would be thought priggish and affected and is supposed to belong only
to people in books.
But Pupkin felt that what ordinary people dare not do, heroes are
allowed to attempt. He would propose to Zena, and more than that, he
would tell her in a straight, manly way that he was rich and take the
And he did it.
That night on the piazza, where the hammock hangs in the shadow of
the Virginia creeper, he did it. By sheer good luck the judge had
gone indoors to the library, and by a piece of rare good fortune Mrs.
Pepperleigh had gone indoors to the sewing room, and by a happy trick
of coincidence the servant was out and the dog was tied up--in fact,
no such chain of circumstances was ever offered in favour of mortal
What Zena said--beyond saying yes--I do not know. I am sure that when
Pupkin told her of the money, she bore up as bravely as so fine a
girl as Zena would, and when he spoke of diamonds she said she would
wear them for his sake.
They were saying these things and other things--ever so many other
things--when there was such a roar and a clatter up Oneida Street as
you never heard, and there came bounding up to the house one of the
most marvellous Limousine touring cars that ever drew up at the home
of a judge on a modest salary of three thousand dollars. When it
stopped there sprang from it an excited man in a long sealskin
coat--worn not for the luxury of it at all but from the sheer
chilliness of the autumn evening. And it was, as of course you know,
Pupkin's father. He had seen the news of his son's death in the
evening paper in the city. They drove the car through, so the
chauffeur said, in two hours and a quarter, and behind them there was
to follow a special trainload of detectives and emergency men, but
Pupkin senior had cancelled all that by telegram half way up when he
heard that Peter was still living.
For a moment as his eye rested on young Pupkin you would almost have
imagined, had you not known that he came from the Maritime Provinces,
that there were tears in them and that he was about to hug his son to
his heart. But if he didn't hug Peter to his heart, he certainly did
within a few moments clasp Zena to it, in that fine fatherly way in
which they clasp pretty girls in the Maritime Provinces. The
strangest thing is that Pupkin senior seemed to understand the whole
situation without any explanations at all.
Judge Pepperleigh, I think, would have shaken both of Pupkin senior's
arms off when he saw him; and when you heard them call one another
"Ned" and "Phillip" it made you feel that they were boys again
attending classes together at the old law school in the city.
If Pupkin thought that his father wouldn't make a hit in Mariposa, it
only showed his ignorance. Pupkin senior sat there on the judge's
verandah smoking a corn cob pipe as if he had never heard of Havana
cigars in his life. In the three days that he spent in Mariposa that
autumn, he went in and out of Jeff Thorpe's barber shop and Eliot's
drug store, shot black ducks in the marsh and played poker every
evening at a hundred matches for a cent as if he had never lived any
other life in all his days. They had to send him telegrams enough to
fill a satchel to make him come away.
So Pupkin and Zena in due course of time were married, and went to
live in one of the enchanted houses on the hillside in the newer part
of the town, where you may find them to this day.
You may see Pupkin there at any time cutting enchanted grass on a
little lawn in as gaudy a blazer as ever.
But if you step up to speak to him or walk with him into the
enchanted house, pray modulate your voice a little musical though it
is--for there is said to be an enchanted baby on the premises whose
sleep must not lightly be disturbed.
The Great Election in Missinaba County
Don't ask me what election it was, whether Dominion or Provincial or
Imperial or Universal, for I scarcely know.
It must, of course, have been going on in other parts of the country
as well, but I saw it all from Missinaba County which, with the town
of Mariposa, was, of course, the storm centre and focus point of the
I only know that it was a huge election and that on it turned issues
of the most tremendous importance, such as whether or not Mariposa
should become part of the United States, and whether the flag that
had waved over the school house at Tecumseh Township for ten
centuries should be trampled under the hoof of an alien invader, and
whether Britons should be slaves, and whether Canadians should be
Britons, and whether the farming class would prove themselves
Canadians, and tremendous questions of that kind.
And there was such a roar and a tumult to it, and such a waving of
flags and beating of drums and flaring of torchlights that such parts
of the election as may have been going on elsewhere than in Missinaba
county must have been quite unimportant and didn't really matter.
Now that it is all over, we can look back at it without heat or
passion. We can see,--it's plain enough now,--that in the great
election Canada saved the British Empire, and that Missinaba saved
Canada and that the vote of the Third Concession of Tecumseh Township
saved Missinaba County, and that those of us who carried the third
concession,--well, there's no need to push it further. We prefer to
be modest about it. If we still speak of it, it is only quietly and
simply and not more than three or four times a day.
But you can't understand the election at all, and the conventions and
the campaigns and the nominations and the balloting, unless you first
appreciate the peculiar complexion of politics in Mariposa.
Let me begin at the beginning. Everybody in Mariposa is either a
Liberal or a Conservative or else is both. Some of the people are or
have been Liberals or Conservatives all their lives and are called
dyed-in-the-wool Grits or old-time Tories and things of that sort.
These people get from long training such a swift penetrating insight
into national issues that they can decide the most complicated
question in four seconds: in fact, just as soon as they grab the city
papers out of the morning mail, they know the whole solution of any
problem you can put to them. There are other people whose aim it is
to be broad-minded and judicious and who vote Liberal or Conservative
according to their judgment of the questions of the day. If their
judgment of these questions tells them that there is something in it
for them in voting Liberal, then they do so. But if not, they refuse
to be the slaves of a party or the henchmen of any political leader.
So that anybody looking for henches has got to keep away from them.
But the one thing that nobody is allowed to do in Mariposa is to have
no politics. Of course there are always some people whose
circumstances compel them to say that they have no politics. But that
is easily understood. Take the case of Trelawney, the postmaster.
Long ago he was a letter carrier under the old Mackenzie Government,
and later he was a letter sorter under the old Macdonald Government,
and after that a letter stamper under the old Tupper Government, and
so on. Trelawney always says that he has no politics, but the truth
is that he has too many.
So, too, with the clergy in Mariposa. They have no politics--
absolutely none. Yet Dean Drone round election time always announces
as his text such a verse as: "Lo! is there not one righteous man in
Israel?" or: "What ho! is it not time for a change?" And that is a
signal for all the Liberal business men to get up and leave their
Similarly over at the Presbyterian Church, the minister says that his
sacred calling will not allow him to take part in politics and that
his sacred calling prevents him from breathing even a word of
harshness against his fellow man, but that when it comes to the
elevation of the ungodly into high places in the commonwealth (this
means, of course, the nomination of the Conservative candidate) then
he's not going to allow his sacred calling to prevent him from saying
just what he thinks of it. And by that time, having pretty well
cleared the church of Conservatives, he proceeds to show from the
scriptures that the ancient Hebrews were Liberals to a man, except
those who were drowned in the flood or who perished, more or less
deservedly, in the desert.
There are, I say, some people who are allowed to claim to have no
politics,--the office holders, and the clergy and the school teachers
and the hotel keepers. But beyond them, anybody in Mariposa who says
that he has no politics is looked upon as crooked, and people wonder
what it is that he is "out after."
In fact, the whole town and county is a hive of politics, and people
who have only witnessed gatherings such as the House of Commons at
Westminster and the Senate at Washington and never seen a
Conservative Convention at Tecumseh Corners or a Liberal Rally at the
Concession school house, don't know what politics means.
So you may imagine the excitement in Mariposa when it became known
that King George had dissolved the parliament of Canada and had sent
out a writ or command for Missinaba County to elect for him some
other person than John Henry Bagshaw because he no longer had
confidence in him.
The king, of course, is very well known, very favourably known, in
Mariposa. Everybody remembers how he visited the town on his great
tour in Canada, and stopped off at the Mariposa station. Although he
was only a prince at the time, there was quite a big crowd down at
the depot and everybody felt what a shame it was that the prince had
no time to see more of Mariposa, because he would get such a false
idea of it, seeing only the station and the lumber yards. Still, they
all came to the station and all the Liberals and Conservatives mixed
together perfectly freely and stood side by side without any
distinction, so that the prince should not observe any party
differences among them. And he didn't,--you could see that he didn't.
They read him an address all about the tranquillity and loyalty of
the Empire, and they purposely left out any reference to the trouble
over the town wharf or the big row there had been about the location
of the new post-office. There was a general decent feeling that it
wouldn't be fair to disturb the prince with these things: later on,
as king, he would, of course, _have_ to know all about them, but
meanwhile it was better to leave him with the idea that his empire
So they deliberately couched the address in terms that were just as
reassuring as possible and the prince was simply delighted with it. I
am certain that he slept pretty soundly after hearing that address.
Why, you could see it taking effect even on his aides-de-camp and the
people round him, so imagine how the prince must have felt!
I think in Mariposa they understand kings perfectly. Every time that
a king or a prince comes, they try to make him see the bright side of
everything and let him think that they're all united. Judge
Pepperleigh walked up and down arm in arm with Dr. Gallagher, the
worst Grit in the town, just to make the prince feel fine.
So when they got the news that the king had lost confidence in John
Henry Bagshaw, the sitting member, they never questioned it a bit.
Lost confidence? All right, they'd elect him another right away.
They'd elect him half a dozen if he needed them. They don't mind;
they'd elect the whole town man after man rather than have the king
worried about it.
In any case, all the Conservatives had been wondering for years
how the king and the governor-general and men like that had tolerated
such a man as Bagshaw so long.
Missinaba County, I say, is a regular hive of politics, and not the
miserable, crooked, money-ridden politics of the cities, but the
straight, real old-fashioned thing that is an honour to the country
side. Any man who would offer to take a bribe or sell his convictions
for money, would be an object of scorn. I don't say they wouldn't
take money,--they would, of course, why not?--but if they did they
would take it in a straight fearless way and say nothing about it.
They might,--it's only human,--accept a job or a contract from the
government, but if they did, rest assured it would be in a broad
national spirit and not for the sake of the work itself. No, sir.
Not for a minute.
Any man who wants to get the votes of the Missinaba farmers and the
Mariposa business men has got to persuade them that he's the right
man. If he can do that,--if he can persuade any one of them that he
is the right man and that all the rest know it, then they'll vote for
The division, I repeat, between the Liberals and the Conservatives,
is intense. Yet you might live for a long while in the town, between
elections, and never know it. It is only when you get to understand
the people that you begin to see that there is a cross division
running through them that nothing can ever remove. You gradually
become aware of fine subtle distinctions that miss your observation
at first. Outwardly, they are all friendly enough. For instance, Joe
Milligan the dentist is a Conservative, and has been for six years,
and yet he shares the same boat-house with young Dr. Gallagher, who
is a Liberal, and they even bought a motor boat between them. Pete
Glover and Alf McNichol were in partnership in the hardware and paint
store, though they belonged on different sides.
But just as soon as elections drew near, the differences in politics
became perfectly apparent. Liberals and Conservatives drew away from
one another. Joe Milligan used the motor boat one Saturday and Dr.
Gallagher the next, and Pete Glover sold hardware on one side of the
store and Alf McNichol sold paint on the other. You soon realized
too that one of the newspapers was Conservative and the other was
Liberal, and that there was a Liberal drug store and a Conservative
drug store, and so on. Similarly round election time, the Mariposa
House was the Liberal Hotel, and the Continental Conservative, though
Mr. Smith's place, where they always put on a couple of extra bar
tenders, was what you might call Independent-Liberal-Conservative,
with a dash of Imperialism thrown in. Mr. Gingham, the undertaker,
was, as a natural effect of his calling, an advanced Liberal, but at
election time he always engaged a special assistant for embalming
So now, I think, you understand something of the general political
surroundings of the great election in Missinaba County.
John Henry Bagshaw was the sitting member, the Liberal member, for
The Liberals called him the old war horse, and the old battle-axe,
and the old charger and the old champion and all sorts of things of
that kind. The Conservatives called him the old jackass and the old
army mule and the old booze fighter and the old grafter and the old
John Henry Bagshaw was, I suppose, one of the greatest political
forces in the world. He had flowing white hair crowned with a fedora
hat, and a smooth statesmanlike face which it cost the country
twenty-five cents a day to shave.
Altogether the Dominion of Canada had spent over two thousand dollars
in shaving that face during the twenty years that Bagshaw had
represented Missinaba County. But the result had been well worth it.
Bagshaw wore a long political overcoat that it cost the country
twenty cents a day to brush, and boots that cost the Dominion fifteen
cents every morning to shine.
But it was money well spent.
Bagshaw of Mariposa was one of the most representative men of the
age, and it's no wonder that he had been returned for the county for
five elections running, leaving the Conservatives nowhere. Just think
how representative he was. He owned two hundred acres out on the
Third Concession and kept two men working on it all the time to
prove that he was a practical farmer. They sent in fat hogs to the
Missinaba County Agricultural Exposition and the World's Fair every
autumn, and Bagshaw himself stood beside the pig pens with the
judges, and wore a pair of corduroy breeches and chewed a straw all
afternoon. After that if any farmer thought that he was not properly
represented in Parliament, it showed that he was an ass.
Bagshaw owned a half share in the harness business and a quarter
share in the tannery and that made him a business man. He paid for a
pew in the Presbyterian Church and that represented religion in
Parliament. He attended college for two sessions thirty years ago,
and that represented education and kept him abreast with modern
science, if not ahead of it. He kept a little account in one bank and
a big account in the other, so that he was a rich man or a poor man
at the same time.
Add to that that John Henry Bagshaw was perhaps the finest orator in
Mariposa. That, of course, is saying a great deal. There are speakers
there, lots of them that can talk two or three hours at a stretch,
but the old war horse could beat them all. They say that when John
Henry Bagshaw got well started, say after a couple of hours of talk,
he could speak as Pericles or Demosthenes or Cicero never could have
You could tell Bagshaw a hundred yards off as a member of the House
of Commons. He wore a pepper-and-salt suit to show that he came from
a rural constituency, and he wore a broad gold watch-chain with
dangling seals to show that he also represents a town. You could see
from his quiet low collar and white tie that his electorate were a
Godfearing, religious people, while the horseshoe pin that he wore
showed that his electorate were not without sporting instincts and
knew a horse from a jackass.
Most of the time, John Henry Bagshaw had to be at Ottawa (though he
preferred the quiet of his farm and always left it, as he said, with
a sigh). If he was not in Ottawa, he was in Washington, and of course
at any time they might need him in London, so that it was no wonder
that he could only be in Mariposa about two months of the year.
That is why everybody knew, when Bagshaw got off the afternoon train
one day early in the spring, that there must be something very
important coming and that the rumours about a new election must be
Everything that he did showed this. He gave the baggage man
twenty-five cents to take the check off his trunk, the 'bus driver
fifty cents to drive him up to the Main Street, and he went into
Callahan's tobacco store and bought two ten-cent cigars and took them
across the street and gave them to Mallory Tompkins of the
Times-Herald as a present from the Prime Minister.
All that afternoon, Bagshaw went up and down the Main Street of
Mariposa, and you could see, if you knew the signs of it, that there
was politics in the air. He bought nails and putty and glass in the
hardware store, and harness in the harness shop, and drugs in the
drug store and toys in the toy shop, and all the things like that
that are needed for a big campaign.
Then when he had done all this he went over with McGinnis the Liberal
organizer and Mallory Tompkins, the Times-Herald man, and Gingham
(the great Independent-Liberal undertaker) to the back parlour in the
You could tell from the way John Henry Bagshaw closed the door before
he sat down that he was in a pretty serious frame of mind.
"Gentlemen," he said, "the election is a certainty. We're going to
have a big fight on our hands and we've got to get ready for it."
"Is it going to be on the tariff?" asked Tompkins.
"Yes, gentlemen, I'm afraid it is. The whole thing is going to turn
on the tariff question. I wish it were otherwise. I think it madness,
but they're bent on it, and we got to fight it on that line. Why they
can't fight it merely on the question of graft," continued the old
war horse, rising from his seat and walking up and down, "Heaven only
knows. I warned them. I appealed to them. I said, fight the thing
on graft and we can win easy. Take this constituency,--why not have
fought the thing out on whether I spent too much money on the town
wharf or the post-office? What better issues could a man want? Let
them claim that I am crooked and let me claim that I'm not. Surely
that was good enough without dragging in the tariff. But now,
gentlemen, tell me about things in the constituency. Is there any
talk yet of who is to run?"
Mallory Tompkins lighted up the second of his Prime Minister's cigars
and then answered for the group:
"Everybody says that Edward Drone is going to run."
"Ah!" said the old war horse, and there was joy upon his face, "is he?
At last! That's good, that's good--now what platform will he run on?"
"Excellent," said Mr. Bagshaw. "Independent, that's fine. On a
programme of what?"
"Just simple honesty and public morality."
"Come now," said the member, "that's splendid: that will help
enormously. Honesty and public morality! The very thing! If Drone
runs and makes a good showing, we win for a certainty. Tompkins, you
must lose no time over this. Can't you manage to get some articles in
the other papers hinting that at the last election we bribed all the
voters in the county, and that we gave out enough contracts to simply
pervert the whole constituency. Imply that we poured the public money
into this county in bucketsful and that we are bound to do it again.
Let Drone have plenty of material of this sort and he'll draw off
every honest unbiassed vote in the Conservative party.
"My only fear is," continued the old war horse, losing some of his
animation, "that Drone won't run after all. He's said it so often
before and never has. He hasn't got the money. But we must see to
that. Gingham, you know his brother well; you must work it so that we
pay Drone's deposit and his campaign expenses. But how like Drone it
is to come out at this time!"
It was indeed very like Edward Drone to attempt so misguided a thing
as to come out an Independent candidate in Missinaba County on a
platform of public honesty. It was just the sort of thing that anyone
in Mariposa would expect from him.
Edward Drone was the Rural Dean's younger brother,--young Mr. Drone,
they used to call him, years ago, to distinguish him from the rector.
He was a somewhat weaker copy of his elder brother, with a simple,
inefficient face and kind blue eyes. Edward Drone was, and always had
been, a failure. In training he had been, once upon a time, an
engineer and built dams that broke and bridges that fell down and
wharves that floated away in the spring floods. He had been a
manufacturer and failed, had been a contractor and failed, and now
lived a meagre life as a sort of surveyor or land expert on goodness
In his political ideas Edward Drone was and, as everybody in Mariposa
knew, always had been crazy. He used to come up to the autumn
exercises at the high school and make speeches about the ancient
Romans and Titus Manlius and Quintus Curtius at the same time when
John Henry Bagshaw used to make a speech about the Maple Leaf and ask
for an extra half holiday. Drone used to tell the boys about the
lessons to be learned from the lives of the truly great, and Bagshaw
used to talk to them about the lessons learned from the lives of the
extremely rich. Drone used to say that his heart filled whenever he
thought of the splendid patriotism of the ancient Romans, and Bagshaw
said that whenever he looked out over this wide Dominion his heart
Even the youngest boy in the school could tell that Drone was
foolish. Not even the school teachers would have voted for him.
"What about the Conservatives?" asked Bagshaw presently; "is there
any talk yet as to who they'll bring out?" Gingham and Mallory
Tompkins looked at one another. They were almost afraid to speak.
"Hadn't you heard?" said Gingham; "they've got their man already."
"Who is it?" said Bagshaw quickly. "They're going to put up Josh
"Great Heaven!" said Bagshaw, jumping to his feet; "Smith! the hotel
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Gingham, "that's the man."
Do you remember, in history, how Napoleon turned pale when he heard
that the Duke of Wellington was to lead the allies in Belgium? Do you
remember how when Themistocles heard that Aristogiton was to lead the
Spartans, he jumped into the sea? Possibly you don't, but it may help
you to form some idea of what John Henry Bagshaw felt when he heard
that the Conservatives had selected Josh Smith, proprietor of Smith's
You remember Smith. You've seen him there on the steps of his
hotel,--two hundred and eighty pounds in his stockinged feet. You've
seen him selling liquor after hours through sheer public spirit, and
you recall how he saved the lives of hundreds of people on the day
when the steamer sank, and how he saved the town from being destroyed
the night when the Church of England Church burnt down. You know that
hotel of his, too, half way down the street, Smith's Northern Health
Resort, though already they were beginning to call it Smith's British
So you can imagine that Bagshaw came as near to turning pale as a man
in federal politics can.
"I never knew Smith was a Conservative," he said faintly; "he always
subscribed to our fund."
"He is now," said Mr. Gingham ominously; "he says the idea of this
reciprocity business cuts him to the heart."
"The infernal liar!" said Mr. Bagshaw.
There was silence for a few moments. Then Bagshaw spoke again.
"Will Smith have anything else in his platform besides the trade
"Yes," said Mr. Gingham gloomily, "he will."
"What is it?"
"Temperance and total prohibition!"
John Henry Bagshaw sank back in his chair as if struck with a club.
There let me leave him for a chapter.
The Candidacy of Mr. Smith
"Boys," said Mr. Smith to the two hostlers, stepping out on to the
sidewalk in front of the hotel,--"hoist that there British Jack over
the place and hoist her up good."
Then he stood and watched the flag fluttering in the wind.
"Billy," he said to the desk clerk, "get a couple more and put them
up on the roof of the caff behind the hotel. Wire down to the city
and get a quotation on a hundred of them. Take them signs 'American
Drinks' out of the bar. Put up noo ones with 'British Beer at all
Hours'; clear out the rye whiskey and order in Scotch and Irish, and
then go up to the printing office and get me them placards."
Then another thought struck Mr. Smith.
"Say, Billy," he said, "wire to the city for fifty pictures of King
George. Get 'em good, and get 'em coloured. It don't matter what they
"All right, sir," said Billy.
"And Billy," called Mr. Smith, as still another thought struck him
(indeed, the moment Mr. Smith went into politics you could see these
thoughts strike him like waves), "get fifty pictures of his father,
old King Albert."
"All right, sir."
"And say, I tell you, while you're at it, get some of the old queen,
Victorina, if you can. Get 'em in mourning, with a harp and one of
them lions and a three-pointed prong."
It was on the morning after the Conservative Convention. Josh Smith
had been chosen the candidate. And now the whole town was covered
with flags and placards and there were bands in the streets every
evening, and noise and music and excitement that went on from morning
Election times are exciting enough even in the city. But there the
excitement dies down in business hours. In Mariposa there aren't any
business hours and the excitement goes on _all_ the time.
Mr. Smith had carried the Convention before him. There had been a
feeble attempt to put up Nivens. But everybody knew that he was a
lawyer and a college man and wouldn't have a chance by a man with a
broader outlook like Josh Smith.
So the result was that Smith was the candidate and there were
placards out all over the town with SMITH AND BRITISH ALLEGIANCE in
big letters, and people were wearing badges with Mr. Smith's face on
one side and King George's on the other, and the fruit store next to
the hotel had been cleaned out and turned into committee rooms with a
gang of workers smoking cigars in it all day and half the night.
There were other placards, too, with BAGSHAW AND LIBERTY, BAGSHAW AND
PROSPERITY, VOTE FOR THE OLD MISSINABA STANDARD BEARER, and up town
beside the Mariposa House there were the Bagshaw committee rooms with
a huge white streamer across the street, and with a gang of Bagshaw
workers smoking their heads off.
But Mr. Smith had an estimate made which showed that nearly two
cigars to one were smoked in his committee rooms as compared with
the Liberals. It was the first time in five elections that the
Conservative had been able to make such a showing as that.
One might mention, too, that there were Drone placards out,--five or
six of them,--little things about the size of a pocket handkerchief,
with a statement that "Mr. Edward Drone solicits the votes of the
electors of Missinaba County." But you would never notice them. And
when Drone tried to put up a streamer across the Main Street with
DRONE AND HONESTY the wind carried it away into the lake.
The fight was really between Smith and Bagshaw, and everybody knew it
from the start.
I wish that I were able to narrate all the phases and the turns of
the great contest from the opening of the campaign till the final
polling day. But it would take volumes.
First of all, of course, the trade question was hotly discussed in
the two newspapers of Mariposa, and the Newspacket and the
Times-Herald literally bristled with statistics. Then came interviews
with the candidates and the expression of their convictions in regard
to tariff questions.
"Mr. Smith," said the reporter of the Mariposa Newspacket, "we'd like
to get your views of the effect of the proposed reduction of the
"By gosh, Pete," said Mr. Smith, "you can search me. Have a cigar."
"What do you think, Mr. Smith, would be the result of lowering the
_ad valorem_ British preference and admitting American goods at a
"It's a corker, ain't it?" answered Mr. Smith. "What'll you take,
lager or domestic?"
And in that short dialogue Mr. Smith showed that he had
instantaneously grasped the whole method of dealing with the press.
The interview in the paper next day said that Mr. Smith, while
unwilling to state positively that the principle of tariff
discrimination was at variance with sound fiscal science, was firmly
of opinion that any reciprocal interchange of tariff preferences with
the United States must inevitably lead to a serious per capita
reduction of the national industry.
"Mr. Smith," said the chairman of a delegation of the manufacturers
of Mariposa, "what do you propose to do in regard to the tariff if
"Boys," answered Mr. Smith, "I'll put her up so darned high they
won't never get her down again."
"Mr. Smith," said the chairman of another delegation, "I'm an old
"Put it there," said Mr. Smith, "so'm I. There ain't nothing like
"What do you think about imperial defence?" asked another questioner.
"Which?" said Mr. Smith.
"Who says it?" said Mr. Smith.
"Everybody is talking of it."
"What do the Conservative boys at Ottaway think about it?" answered
"They're all for it."
"Well, I'm fer it too," said Mr. Smith.
These little conversations represented only the first stage, the
argumentative stage of the great contest. It was during this period,
for example, that the Mariposa Newspacket absolutely proved that the
price of hogs in Mariposa was decimal six higher than the price of
oranges in Southern California and that the average decennial import
of eggs into Missinaba County had increased four decimal six eight
two in the last fifteen years more than the import of lemons in New
Figures of this kind made the people think. Most certainly.
After all this came the organizing stage and after that the big
public meetings and the rallies. Perhaps you have never seen a county
being "organized." It is a wonderful sight.
First of all the Bagshaw men drove through crosswise in top buggies
and then drove through it again lengthwise. Whenever they met a
farmer they went in and ate a meal with him, and after the meal they
took him out to the buggy and gave him a drink. After that the man's
vote was absolutely solid until it was tampered with by feeding a
In fact, the only way to show a farmer that you are in earnest is to
go in and eat a meal with him. If you won't eat it, he won't vote for
you. That is the recognized political test.
But, of course, just as soon as the Bagshaw men had begun to get the
farming vote solidified, the Smith buggies came driving through in
the other direction, eating meals and distributing cigars and turning
all the farmers back into Conservatives.
Here and there you might see Edward Drone, the Independent candidate,
wandering round from farm to farm in the dust of the political
buggies. To each of the farmers he explained that he pledged himself
to give no bribes, to spend no money and to offer no jobs, and each
one of them gripped him warmly by the hand and showed him the way to
the next farm.
After the organization of the county there came the period of the
public meetings and the rallies and the joint debates between the
candidates and their supporters.
I suppose there was no place in the whole Dominion where the trade
question--the Reciprocity question--was threshed out quite so
thoroughly and in quite such a national patriotic spirit as in
Mariposa. For a month, at least, people talked of nothing else. A man
would stop another in the street and tell him that he had read last
night that the average price of an egg in New York was decimal ought
one more than the price of an egg in Mariposa, and the other man
would stop the first one later in the day and tell him that the
average price of a hog in Idaho was point six of a cent per pound
less (or more,--he couldn't remember which for the moment) than the
average price of beef in Mariposa.
People lived on figures of this sort, and the man who could
remember most of them stood out as a born leader.
But of course it was at the public meetings that these things were
most fully discussed. It would take volumes to do full justice to all
the meetings that they held in Missinaba County. But here and there
single speeches stood out as masterpieces of convincing oratory.
Take, for example, the speech of John Henry Bagshaw at the Tecumseh
Corners School House. The Mariposa Times-Herald said next day that
that speech would go down in history, and so it will,--ever so far
Anyone who has heard Bagshaw knows what an impressive speaker he is,
and on this night when he spoke with the quiet dignity of a man old
in years and anxious only to serve his country, he almost surpassed
himself. Near the end of his speech somebody dropped a pin, and the
noise it made in falling fairly rattled the windows.
"I am an old man now, gentlemen," Bagshaw said, "and the time must
soon come when I must not only leave politics, but must take my way
towards that goal from which no traveller returns."
There was a deep hush when Bagshaw said this. It was understood to
imply that he thought of going to the United States.
"Yes, gentlemen, I am an old man, and I wish, when my time comes to
go, to depart leaving as little animosity behind me as possible. But
before I _do_ go, I want it pretty clearly understood that there are
more darn scoundrels in the Conservative party than ought to be
tolerated in any decent community. I bear," he continued, "malice
towards none and I wish to speak with gentleness to all, but what I
will say is that how any set of rational responsible men could
nominate such a skunk as the Conservative candidate passes the bounds
of my comprehension. Gentlemen, in the present campaign there is no
room for vindictive abuse. Let us rise to a higher level than that.
They tell me that my opponent, Smith, is a common saloon keeper.
Let it pass. They tell me that he has stood convicted of horse
stealing, that he is a notable perjurer, that he is known as the
blackest-hearted liar in Missinaba County. Let us not speak of it.
Let no whisper of it pass our lips.
"No, gentlemen," continued Bagshaw, pausing to take a drink of water,
"let us rather consider this question on the high plane of national
welfare. Let us not think of our own particular interests but let us
consider the good of the country at large. And to do this, let me
present to you some facts in regard to the price of barley in
Then, amid a deep stillness, Bagshaw read off the list of prices of
sixteen kinds of grain in sixteen different places during sixteen
"But let me turn," Bagshaw went on to another phase of the national
subject, "and view for a moment the price of marsh hay in Missinaba
When Bagshaw sat down that night it was felt that a Liberal vote in
Tecumseh Township was a foregone conclusion.
But here they hadn't reckoned on the political genius of Mr. Smith.
When he heard next day of the meeting, he summoned some of his
leading speakers to him and he said:
"Boys, they're beating us on them statissicks. Ourn ain't good
Then he turned to Nivens and he said:
"What was them figures you had here the other night?"
Nivens took out a paper and began reading.
"Stop," said Mr. Smith, "what was that figure for bacon?"
"Fourteen million dollars," said Nivens.
"Not enough," said Mr. Smith, "make it twenty. They'll stand for it,
Nivens changed it.
"And what was that for hay?"
"Two dollars a ton."
"Shove it up to four," said Mr. Smith: "And I tell you," he added,
"if any of them farmers says the figures ain't correct, tell them to
go to Washington and see for themselves; say that if any man wants
the proof of your figures let him go over to England and ask,--tell
him to go straight to London and see it all for himself in the
After this, there was no more trouble over statistics. I must say
though that it is a wonderfully convincing thing to hear trade
figures of this kind properly handled. Perhaps the best man on this
sort of thing in the campaign was Mullins, the banker. A man of his
profession simply has to have figures of trade and population and
money at his fingers' ends and the effect of it in public speaking is
No doubt you have listened to speakers of this kind, but I question
whether you have ever heard anything more typical of the sort of
effect that I allude to than Mullins's speech at the big rally at the
Mullins himself, of course, knows the figures so well that he never
bothers to write them into notes and the effect is very striking.
"Now, gentlemen," he said very earnestly, "how many of you know just
to what extent the exports of this country have increased in the last
ten years? How many could tell what per cent. of increase there has
been in one decade of our national importation?"--then Mullins paused
and looked round. Not a man knew it.
"I don't recall," he said, "exactly the precise amount myself,--not
at this moment,--but it must be simply tremendous. Or take the
question of population," Mullins went on, warming up again as a born
statistician always does at the proximity of figures, "how many of
you know, how many of you can state, what has been the decennial
percentage increase in our leading cities--?"
There he paused, and would you believe it, not a man could state it.
"I don't recall the exact figures," said Mullins, "but I have them at
home and they are positively colossal."
But just in one phase of the public speaking, the candidacy of Mr.
Smith received a serious set-back.
It had been arranged that Mr. Smith should run on a platform of
total prohibition. But they soon found that it was a mistake. They
had imported a special speaker from the city, a grave man with a
white tie, who put his whole heart into the work and would take
nothing for it except his expenses and a sum of money for each
speech. But beyond the money, I say, he would take nothing.
He spoke one night at the Tecumseh Corners social hall at the same
time when the Liberal meeting was going on at the Tecumseh Corners
"Gentlemen," he said, as he paused half way in his speech,--"while
we are gathered here in earnest discussion, do you know what is
happening over at the meeting place of our opponents? Do you know
that seventeen bottles of rye whiskey were sent out from the town
this afternoon to that innocent and unsuspecting school house?
Seventeen bottles of whiskey hidden in between the blackboard and the
wall, and every single man that attends that meeting,--mark my
words, every single man,--will drink his fill of the abominable stuff
at the expense of the Liberal candidate!"
Just as soon as the speaker said this, you could see the Smith men at
the meeting look at one another in injured surprise, and before the
speech was half over the hall was practically emptied.
After that the total prohibition plank was changed and the committee
substituted a declaration in favour of such a form of restrictive
license as should promote temperance while encouraging the
manufacture of spirituous liquors, and by a severe regulation of the
liquor traffic should place intoxicants only in the hands of those
fitted to use them.
Finally there came the great day itself, the Election Day that
brought, as everybody knows, the crowning triumph of Mr. Smith's
career. There is no need to speak of it at any length, because it has
become a matter of history.
In any case, everybody who has ever seen Mariposa knows just what
election day is like. The shops, of course, are, as a matter of
custom, all closed, and the bar rooms are all closed by law so that
you have to go in by the back way. All the people are in their best
clothes and at first they walk up and down the street in a solemn
way just as they do on the twelfth of July and on St. Patrick's Day,
before the fun begins. Everybody keeps looking in at the different
polling places to see if anybody else has voted yet, because, of
course, nobody cares to vote first for fear of being fooled after all
and voting on the wrong side.
Most of all did the supporters of Mr. Smith, acting under his
instructions, hang back from the poll in the early hours. To Mr.
Smith's mind, voting was to be conducted on the same plan as
"Hold back your votes, boys," he said, "and don't be too eager. Wait
till she begins to warm up and then let 'em have it good and hard."
In each of the polling places in Mariposa there is a returning
officer and with him are two scrutineers, and the electors, I say,
peep in and out like mice looking into a trap. But if once the
scrutineers get a man well into the polling booth, they push him in
behind a little curtain and make him vote. The voting, of course, is
by secret ballot, so that no one except the scrutineers and the
returning officer and the two or three people who may be round the
poll can possibly tell how a man has voted.
That's how it comes about that the first results are often so
contradictory and conflicting. Sometimes the poll is badly arranged
and the scrutineers are unable to see properly just how the ballots
are being marked and they count up the Liberals and Conservatives in
different ways. Often, too, a voter makes his mark so hurriedly and
carelessly that they have to pick it out of the ballot box and look
at it to see what it is.
I suppose that may have been why it was that in Mariposa the results
came out at first in such a conflicting way. Perhaps that was how it
was that the first reports showed that Edward Drone the Independent
candidate was certain to win. You should have seen how the excitement
grew upon the streets when the news was circulated. In the big
rallies and meetings of the Liberals and Conservatives, everybody had
pretty well forgotten all about Drone, and when the news got round
at about four o'clock that the Drone vote was carrying the poll, the
people were simply astounded. Not that they were not pleased. On
the contrary. They were delighted. Everybody came up to Drone and
shook hands and congratulated him and told him that they had known
all along that what the country wanted was a straight, honest,
non-partisan representation. The Conservatives said openly that they
were sick of party, utterly done with it, and the Liberals said that
they hated it. Already three or four of them had taken Drone aside
and explained that what was needed in the town was a straight, clean,
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