Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/183

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
[Feb. 18, 1860.


pump, the family at home never have enough for all purposes of cleanliness, and the fatigue of the fetching and carrying is out of all proportion to the supply obtained.

Mr. Jackson says, however, that he could afford both kinds of accommodation if a row of half-a-dozen dwellings was in question. A well and pump for common use would, in that case, be provided in the rear.

Harriet Martineau.




"Yes, sir, I do object to smoking," said the pudsy little man; "and so the sooner you and your friend there throw away those filthy cigars, the better."

Charlie Davis and I had taken some pains to secure a carriage to ourselves, and had tipped the guard half-a-crown not to allow us to be disturbed; when, just at the last moment, as we had made ourselves comfortable, and settled down for a quiet smoke all the way to Z——, in pops this puffy old fellow, with his Counterblast against tobacco, delivered in the offensive form above set forth.

The appearance of our persecutor was "podgy"—emphatically "podgy." He had no neck; his waist was the broadest portion of his person; he stood five feet five in his square-toed boots. His hair was aggressive and defiant; his face very red; his eyes very black and bright; the brim of his hat curled up in an insulting manner; and such was the supernatural stiffness and ferocity of his shirt collars, that I wondered they did not slice his ears off each time he moved his head.

Away went the train: Charlie and I put out our weeds, and resigned ourselves to our fate; whilst our companion sate bolt upright, glaring savagely out of the window at nothing at all.

"Wonderful thing steam, sir!" said Charlie, with a wink at me. He was a bit of a wag was Charlie, in his way, and wanted to draw out the "old bird," as he subsequently designated our fellow-traveller. "Thank you, sir, for the information!" replied the old gentleman, suddenly throwing his body forward, and staring Charlie full in the face: "I'll take a note of it. And in return, allow me to give you a piece of news—Queen Anne's dead."

Charlie collapsed.

"Would you like to see the paper, sir?" said I, perceiving that our companion was not to be chaffed, and offering him my "Times," deferentially.

"No, sir!" was his reply, turning round so sharply upon me, that I winced, half expecting a blow. "I read everything worth reading in the 'Times' four hours ago—before you were out of your bed, I'll be sworn—it took me just ten minutes."

Having given utterance to this polite speech, he sate bolt upright again, and glared as before.

Giving up the attempt to engage him in conversation as useless, Charlie and I moved to the other end of the carriage, and read our newspapers in silence.

"By Jove, Charlie!" said I, after a while, "just read the evidence given yesterday before the Wakefield Election Commission—there's bribery and corruption for you."

"Bribery and corruption!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in a tone compared with which his former observations were calm and courteous: "don't talk to me about bribery and corruption!"

"Excuse me, sir, I did not talk to you at all," was my rejoinder. I intended this withering sarcasm should crush the old fellow, but it didn't.

"Bah!" he exclaimed, excitedly, not heeding me. "Bribery and corruption, indeed! Do you call the miserable huxtering for votes you are reading about there, bribery and corruption? Boys shouldn't talk about what they don't understand."

I was about to make some angry reply to this fresh piece of impertinence, when Charlie gave me an admonitory kick on the shin. He saw that by accident we had mounted the old boy on his hobby; and that, with a little tact, he might be made to perform a rapid piece of horsemanship upon it for our especial amusement. Charlie was right.

"I perfectly agree with you, sir," he said, looking as grave as a judge: "such trumpery proceedings do not deserve those good old titles, 'bribery and corruption.'"

The old gentleman was delighted. "Permit me to shake you by the hand, sir," he cried; "allow me to make your acquaintance: my name is Minkinshaw."

"What the Minkinshaw?" asked Charlie, in a mysterious tone. (The rogue had never heard the name before in the whole course of his life.)

Our eccentric companion smiled blandly. "You have read my pamphlet upon the necessity of re-establishing rotten boroughs, as a means of supplying statesmen and orators for Parliament, then?" he whispered in his ear.

"Admirable!" Charlie replied, throwing up his head, and frowning, as in duty bound, when speaking of so recondite a work—"admirable!"

"We shall never be able to govern the country without them."


"Never, by Jove! never!"

"And so little is known about them by the present generation!" said Charlie, with a sigh.

"They are as ignorant as pigs upon the subject," replied Mr. Minkinshaw, indignantly. "They indulge in some parrot's talk about Gatton and Old Sarum, just as if those were the only rotten boroughs! Who knows now of Corfe Castle, a borough in the Isle of Purbeck, which consisted of twelve thatched cottages, eight of which belonged to one landlord: of Northallerton, which returned two members to Parliament, to represent the chimneys of Lord Harewood's cow-houses, which were once on a time what the lawyers call 'burgage tenures:' or of Midhurst, which had not house nor inhabitant, but one hundred and eighteen stones, marking where so many of such tenures had stood: or of Launceston, in Cornwall, where the Corporation, consisting of fifteen members under the thumb of the Duke of Northumberland, would have returned his black