If she had allowed it, life would have been triste for Madam just now. But assuredly the gods must be with her, and if one believes in them as little as might be, that was not their affair. Let them do their part as she would do hers, thought Madam, who was always ready for a bargain. If the gods don't bargain … my faith, but they don't understand the joys of life!
The Captain would not bargain with anyone. He fought Transportation with a luxury of words such as might have imprisoned him if they had got into print. He annexed his favourite Punch's particular patter of the 'forties and quoted it up and down the country until everyone sang it. Riding stockmen in red shirts and hats of kangaroo-skin, beggars crouched from the rain in some hollow tree, jovial sheep-owners driving to a township for the markets … they were all at it.
"Wheel about and turn about,
And do jes' so.
Ebery time I turn about
I jump Jim Crow."
"And that, gentlemen," the Captain would shout continually from platforms, "that, per omnium diabolorum potentiam, is the policy of England and her colonial minions on the subject of Transportation."
He called the amazing decisions and indecisions of Government on an amazingly difficult problem "the Jim Crow somersault," and he never found anything laughable in it. Meanwhile Earl Grey, meeting the heads of the Van Diemen's Land churches in London, approached this problem from the moral side and announced that Transportation must cease. Then the colony, after rebelliously suffering differential duties which struck a shrewd blow at home exports, and resisting the dog tax with open warfare, began to tuck in its shirt and offer thanksgivings at the very hour page 110when someone else approached Earl Grey from the social side and roused him to an ultimatum that Transportation must continue. In the middle of the impasse which arose, Denison and his councillors, after plumping freely for Transportation, discovered that the entire loss of emigration with its consequent paralysis of industries would harm the country more deeply than could be covered by English grants for convict establishment, and said so.
And after that, Councillors Sorley and others in their progress down Macquarie Street to the Legislative Chambers were likely to be accompanied by small dirty boys somersaulting to the tune of:
"Wheel about and turn about."
James Sorley traced the beginning of all this to the Captain, and did not forget it when the time came. But at present he was too busy over the next election of councillors (there being as yet no parliament) and was perhaps a little nervous when he carried the war to the Captain's own stronghold of Trienna. Conrad Beverley of Tingvalley drove his yellow four-in-hand at a gallop down the grassy Main Street, yellow streamers and rosettes flying everywhere and all Tingvalley's towers gone mad with yellow flags. But Councillor Sorley in a sober coach of rifle-green, with a green coachman handling the high-stepping bays as one, snatched the victory from the great Viking somehow, although the deciding handful of votes was spiritedly contested with showers of dead cats, rotten eggs, and vegetables, and the two pairs of stocks by the police station were filled for days after.
It was all open voting then, with the hustings very merry; and Jenny, seeing from Tingvalley balconies her first free fight, almost fell through the railings in her joy. Down among the wagoners with their long whips, harvesters with new straw bands (they called them bo-yangs) below the knee, hairy shepherds hauling on their dogs, the Captain had climbed on an empty whisky-case to carry on his war to the last minute.
"Oh, la, la! Mon vieux," murmured Madam, tenderly page 111mocking. The Captain's rosy face between white top-hat and gill-collar was turning purple. One plump hand was tacked beneath his cutaway coat at his plump waist and the other clenched to hammer his periods home.
"And again I ask of you," he shouted, "will you return to office the vacillating tool of a nincompoop ministry which is forever landing the settler in deeper morasses, until he has not a leg to stand on unless he gets it into the pocket of officialdom——"
Here he was struck in the waistcoat with an egg which, oratorically considered, might have been the message of a friend; and Mab and William got away through the crowd, still protesting and very lively. On the balcony Mrs. Beverley, all importance and indecision, distributed handkerchief-wavings, finger-kissings, and frowns, while the young ladies palpitated and wished that Mab would come and tell them how the day was going. But Mab, thought Madam with a small sigh, the Mab of to-day with his haunted eyes and his manner of going through life like one who follows a quest he can see no end to, this Mab was not to be halted by a Beverley. Another spell was on him. And as to the business he and Julia had with each other, Madam could only feel that if le bon Dieu knew of it he was not quite the gentleman she had always believed him to be.
Down in the street Mab and William got the Captain into the Gentleman's Arms, where he jovially drank confusion to his enemies. But all the truculency went out of him when election results were posted, and he turned with great solemnity to his sons. "Hell's let loose. Hell's let loose, and may the Lord have mercy on our souls. Boys, come home and have another drink."
"In fact, he persists in seeing the worst of it," complained William to Susan, who said, "Yes, dear," and continued putting tucks in a new frock for little Charlotte. She would not have considered herself a good mother if she had not tucked the feminine part of her family as far up and as far down as she could, and in the holidays she regarded Humphrey's short long trousers regretfully. A few tucks to be let down at need …
Henry Sorley, refusing to break a friendship begun in petticoats, rode over to Clent with a flag of truce, but the Captain page 112would not see him. "All tarred with the same brush," he said, and William went out anxiously to Henry. Henry tried to smooth it over.
"My father is doing as he thinks right, William. His party will continue representation to the Queen and the English Parliament. It will continue to advance the proviso that, under certain circumstances, the colony might do better with Cessation. Bishop Nixon—an exceedingly sound man, although I believe he has not yet been granted his mandate—will make representations——"
"We have had our fill of representations, Henry. We want results."
"We shall have them, I do not doubt. It is only necessary to hold on. Ah …" He retreated shyly under the many capes of his overcoat; got out: "I am well aware that many of the landowners … We are such old friends, Bill … A little temporary accommodation, perhaps …"
William had just sold to old Merrick the Hereford bull which he had hoped to keep for breeding, and the money had gone for the Sorley mortgage. He feared that Henry knew, and became agitated in the blue twilight. "Not at all … Everything in excellent condition. I take it very kind of you, Henry. But … not at all."