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Two Sides of the Face: Midwinter Tales By Arthur Quiller-Couch Characters: 7487

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Well, this or something like it was the plan agreed on; and for candidates they managed to get the Duke's own son, Lord William, and a Major Dyngwall, a friend of his, very handsome to look at, but shy in the mouth-speech. With Dr. Macann the Tories put up a Mr. Saule, from Bristol, who took a terrible deal of snuff and looked wise, but had some maggot in his head that strong drink isn't good for a man. Why or how this should be he might have known but couldn't tell, being a desperate poor speaker, and, if possible, a worse hand at it than Major Dyngwall.

I won't take you through all the battle over the Poor Rate. You understand that the right of voting for Parliament belonged to all the inhabitants of the borough paying Scot and Lot; and who these were the Rate-sheet determined. So you may fancy the pillaloo that went up when the Overseers posted their new assessment on the church door and 'twas found they'd ruled out no less than sixty voters known, or suspected to be, in Dr. Macann's interest. The Tories appealed to Quarter Sessions, of course, and the Rate was quashed. On their side, Roger Newte and Bob Martin kept the Overseers up to the proper mark of stubbornness: so to London the matter went, and from London down came the order for a new assessment. But by this time Parliament's days were numbered; and, speculating on this, Mr. Newte (who was now Mayor of the Borough) played a stroke in a thousand. He persuaded the Overseers to make a return to the writ certifying they had obeyed it to the best of their skill and conscience, and drawn up a new list: which list they posted a fortnight later, and only seven days-as it turned out-before Parliament dissolved: and will you believe it, but the only difference between it and the old one was that they'd added the name of Christiana Lebow, widow-who, being a woman, hadn't a vote at all!

But wait a bit! The Overseers, choosing their time, had this new list posted in the church porch at ten o'clock one morning; and having posted it, stepped across the road to the "George and Dragon." The old inn used to stand slap opposite the church; and there, in the parlour-window, were assembled all the Duke's men-Squire Martin and his son, Roger Newte, John à Hall, the Parson, and, all the rest of the gang-as well to see how the people would take it as to give the timorous Overseers a backing. This was Newte's idea-to sit there in full view, put a bold face on it, and have the row-if row there was to be-over at once. And, to top it up, they had both the Whig candidates with them-these having arrived in Ardevora three days before, and begun their canvass, knowing that Parliament must be dissolved and the new writs issued in a few days at farthest.

Well, a crowd gathered at once about the list, and some ran off with the dare-devil news of it, while others hung about and grumbled and let out a few oaths every now and then and looked like men in two minds about stoning the windows opposite, where the Duke's gang lounged as careless as brass, sipping their punch and covering the poor Overseers, that half expected to be ducked in the harbour sooner or later for their morning's work.

For one solid hour they sat there, fairly daunting the crowd: but as the church clock struck eleven, Major Dyngwall, the candidate-that was talking to old Parson Polsue, and carrying it off very fairly-puts his eyeglass up of a sudden, and, says he, "Amazons, begad!" meaning, as I have heard it explained, that here were some out-of-the-common females.

And out of the common they were-Kit Lebow with her eight daughters, all wafting up the street like a bevy of peacocks in their best hoops and bonnets: Kit herself sailing afore, with her long malacca staff

tap-tapping the cobbles, and her tall daughters behind like a bodyguard- two and two-Maria, Constantia, Elizabeth Jane, Perilla, Christian the Younger, Marcella, Thomasine, and Lally. Along she comes, marches up to the board-the crowd making way for her-and reads down the list. "H'm," says she, and wheeling to the rightabout, marches straight across to the open window of the "George."

"Give you good morning, gentlemen," says she, dropping a curtsey. "I see you've a-put me on the Voters' List; and, with your leave, I'd like a look at your candidates."

"With pleasure, madam," says Lord William, starting up from the table where he was writing at the back of the room, and coming forward with a bow. And Major Dyngwall bowed likewise to her and to the whole company of her daughters spreading out behind her like a fan. "Take your glass down from your eye, young man," she said, addressing herself to the Major. "One window should be shelter enough for a sojer-and la! you're none so ill-featured for a pair of Whigs."

"Ay," put in John à Hall, "they'll stand comparisons with your Sammy Macann, mistress." And he pitched to sing a verse of his invention, that the Whigs of the town afterwards got by heart-

"Doctor Macann

's an Irishman,

He's got no business here;

Mister Saule

He's nothin' at all,

He won't lev us have no beer.

"Well, indeed now," answered Kitty, pitching her voice back for the crowd to hear, "'tis the Martins should know if the Macanns be Irish, and what business an Irishman has in Ardevora: for, if I recollect, the first Macann and the first Martin were shipwrecked together coming over from Dungarvan in a cattle-boat, and they do say 'twas Macann owned the cattle and Martin drove 'em. And as for Mr. Saule," she went on, while the crowd grinned to see John à Hall turning red in the gills, "if he stops off the beer in this town, 'tis yourself will be the healthier for it, whoever's hurt."

"May I have the pleasure to learn this lady's name?" asked Lord William very politely, turning to the old Squire.

"She's just an eccentric body, my Lord," said he; "and, I'm sorry to say, a violent enemy to your Lordship's cause."

"Hoity-me-toity!" says Kitty. "I'm Christian Lebow, that used to be Bottrell: which means that your forefathers and mine, my Lord, came over to England together, like the Macanns and the Martins, though maybe some time before, and not in a cattle-boat. No enemy am I to your Lordship, nor to the Major here, as I'll prove any day you choose to drink a dish of tea with me or to taste my White Ale; but only to the ill company you keep with these Martins and Newtes, that have robbed sixty honest men of their votes and given one to me that can't use it. I can't use it to keep you out of Parliament-house. I would if I could-honest fighting between gentlefolks; but I may use it before the Election's over to make these rogues laugh on the wrong side of their faces."

She used to say afterwards that the words came into her mouth like prophesying: but I believe she just spoke out in her temper, as women will. At any rate, Lord William smiled and bowed, and said he, "The Major and I will certainly do ourselves the pleasure of calling and tasting your ale, Mrs. Lebow."

"The recipe is three hundred years old," said Kitty, and swept him a curtsey, the like of which for stateliness you don't see nowadays: it wants practice and sea-room. And all her eight daughters curtsied to the daps behind her in a half-moon, to the delight of Major Dyngwall, that had been studying Lally the youngest (which is short for Eulalia), through his eyeglass. And with that, to the admiration of the multitude, they faced about and went sailing up the street.

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